Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fun in the Slow Lane, Fast Lane, Any Lane!

After reading numerous posts on Theoden's Blog and other links on his Facebook page relating to slow marathon run/walkers, I decided to research the topic a little more. I found a great New York Times Article from the Times Topic on running. You should definitely bookmark the Times Topic on your browser because it constantly updates with any articles they write on, well, running.

Much of what I have read focuses on two main things:

(1) People in the back of the pack are getting in the way of the faster runners
(2) "Plodders" get to see things that people up front would tend to miss because they are supposedly blazing by everything unnoticed.

These articles also seem to pick at the "fast" runners, assuming that we are all the ones saying plodders are getting in our way. I would like to reject this assumption. Plodders don't get in my way; instead, they inspire me. In fact, I know that the person who is running 6 minute miles and the person who is running 10 minute miles in the marathon, or whatever race, are all feeling the same pain. After all, we are all running the same race, with the same distance, and the same weather conditions. I have never heard someone win a huge race and tell the media or their friends "Wow, that didn't hurt at all." Instead, their energy stores are just as depleted as the honorable woman who finishes third from last to raise $12,839 towards the cure for Breast Cancer.

While running the Army 10 Miler Race, I ran by several soldiers who had lost a leg in the line of duty. Yet, here they were, running 10 miles with a prosthetic leg. Quite possibly one of the most humbling moments and inspiring races of my life, I realized as I passed the first amputee finisher minutes before the finish, that if he can run 10 miles missing one leg, then anything truly is possible. Technically, these men could be considered slower runners, but really, they were people going out there to enjoy what every person in America is free to do: run. By doing so, they were inspiring so many other runners, including the ones that they beat.

Yes, I will admit that at the Army 10 Miler, Matt and I had to dodge around several 10 minute pace runners in the first mile, but it didn't slow us down. In fact, it gave me something to focus on and made the first mile really seem like an obstacle course, which definitely put some spice into the race strategy. When it comes down to it, if there are not corrals based on pace, then why should I get a closer pick to the starting line? We all are going to finish at some point or another, and I'll have nine miles to make up for the five seconds I had to slow down to dodge a runner or two.

For the second claim, that the faster runners tend to miss out on their surrounding, this is not always entirely true. I assert that there are moments when every runner of any pace sometimes just takes moments to focus solely on themselves. Suddenly, you don't hear any people cheering, or the wind gusting at your back. All that is left is your breathing and the pit-pat of your feet as they rhythmically hit the pavement. At that moment, every runner is not aware of anything but that. Once we snap out of that momentary lapse, suddenly everything comes back, louder, bigger, and more real than ever. For instance, while running the Outer Banks Half Marathon, I was alone practically the entire race. Sure, I focused on my race strategy by my mind wandered.

As I went into the runner's mentalsphere, each time I came back to reality and my observations churned: the crowd is louder than ever...man, that was nice of that family to come out and watch us from their porch so early in the morning...am I on a golf course right now?....oh, that building is beautiful and, gosh, the ocean sure does look pretty, i really should just jump off this bridge right now to swim with the fishies....okay, focus on the hill or did I just see a man in a Pirate costume?...the cops never cheer for runners when they block traffic...wow, there are more people cheering at the finish this year than last year!

And then they all stopped when I crossed the finish line. Perhaps if I had been running slower I would have observed some more, but I do believe that there are two parts to running a race: the personal, introspective part and the outward, observatory part. Can't all runners participate in both pieces? While the elite runner may be observant of the other super fast professional around them, and the slow runner is observant of the cityscape, isn't it all the same?

Finally, do not forget that all fast runners will someday be slow, so we'll come back to you....Aaron, I am hoping that old age will get to you and that I will beat you eventually. Watch out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charlotte Running Club's First Social!!!!

I have been counting down for the Charlotte Running Club’s Social since I got back from the OBX Half Marathon. The main reason why I’m so excited is because there are so many people in the club and in the entire Charlotte running community that I haven’t even met yet. I’m excited to finally put a face to the name of a person that I emailed welcoming them to the Club, or a name that I perused over while searching results in Theoden’s blog. I hope everyone that can make it comes out and has a great time! Looking forward to it!!

Techie Irony

Today I ran across a New York Times article titled “Is There a Method in Cellphone Madness?” that explored the cellphone craze going on in America. Not only did it show us that an economist wouldn’t even agree with the billing plan logic, but it also showcased the skyrocketing average texts sent per month. You can read the article for yourself if you would like to learn more about how cell phone companies truly are ripping us off, and how the Europeans are using a much more economical model.

However, the point of my blog today is not to recap this article, but to discuss where the line should be drawn on how much time we spend using technology gadgets like our laptop, cell phones, illegal TV downloads, and the list goes on. Mainly, I got quite scared at how vastly different my life from when I was 12 varies from how it is now in terms of my internet consumption. Back when I was younger, I was outdoors all the time. I played in the woods or in the stream with Willa or my brother when he wasn’t mad at me. I swung on vines (sometimes they did break) or I walked to groom the horses in the field across the way. My parents made it a regular event to go hiking at one of the local nature preserves every so often on the weekends. If I was not outdoors, I was caught up in a book, and as soon as I finished that book, my nose would already be in the next book.

Now, it’s a different story. Granted, I do have a full time job that requires me to be connected wirelessly for at least 9 hours a day, but even when I get home, when I’m not running, I choose to spend the rest of my personal time on the computer. It’s rather pathetic when I think about all the other ways that I could be intellectually stimulating my mind, such as reading a book or studying for the GMAT. This past weekend the weather was 70 degrees outside and I didn’t even go hiking. I did go outside for a walk around the neighborhoods, but it definitely is not the same as being surrounded by a mass of beautiful trees that could quite possibly be 343934 times my age. If I actually tracked the amount of time that my computer or cell phone is in front of my face, it could quite possibly add up to 13 hours during the weekdays, and even more if I was feeling extremely compelled to facebook stalk even more people that I have not seen or talked to in over eight years.

Perhaps I should take notes from Garrett, who happens to despise most technology. In fact, I’m quite certain that he only uses such devices because it’s mandatory in this day and age, and, not to mention, his girlfriend would have a conniption fit if he threw out the cell phone when he was away in the minor leagues. To get by, he texts sparingly (only in response to me to keep me satisfied), uses his email account that I created for him mainly to figure out his private pitching lessons or to send me cute youtube videos, and only talks to about three people on his cell phone regularly.

I’d like to take a step back and learn from my technological-disconnected boyfriend, but at the same time…I sure do love to send 300+ texts a month or facebook stalk one person for more than one hour or even “blow up someone’s facebook wall” so that they get a ton of emails with my name in it from Facebook. Even if I just put Facebook on timeout for one hour every day, then I would get more sleep, read more, run more, eat more...I used to think that someday I would “outgrow” facebook, but now that my parents are on there, and it is the main way to “keep up” with my friends and family, I highly doubt that will happen.

Of course, here I sit, writing this blog on my computer, and after I am done, the blog will be automatically imported to Facebook for all the world to continue our craze with technology.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beautifully Painful

The Outer Banks Half Marathon came and went in less than 1 hour, 20 minutes, and 24 seconds. Of course, if you account for the warmup, cooldown, and awards, the time would actually span from 5am to 1030am, for a total of five and a half hours of anxiety, excitement, exhaustion, pain, fulfillment, excitement, and every other emotion few and far between.

In the end, I came away with over a two minute PR and $650 richer in my third half marathon of life. I was also lucky enough to be considered as an "elite" athlete, even though I did not make the qualifying time coming into the half. Forunately, the race director was kind to let several of the Charlotte runners into this category because Megan and Ben submitted all of us as a very large group (thanks, guys!). I know that Bill and I will definitely be back next year to enjoy in the fun again!

The best part of OBX is the beautiful scenery coupled with the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. There are some great places to check out - Garrett and I went to the Wright Brothers Memorial, which was absolutely astounding and inspiring all in one. Except for the moment when Megan's car got hit in the driveway, the weekend was relaxing, enjoyable, and exhilirating.

In a brief race recap, I was alone for the entire race with the exception of the first two miles, when a Russian was running alongside me. This proved to make things a little bit tougher on me mentally, but I still managed to run right on my target pace for the first 8 miles. Once I got to the bridge around mile 9, my pace began to drop, the lowest point reaching a 6:33 mile on the atrocious hill. By the time I got my pace back under control, I only had one more mile and, at that time, I really just wanted the finish line to be migrated to the 12 mile mark because I was spent. The finish was pretty ugly as I could feel my form falling apart in the last 800m.

As I now relfect on my race splits, there are definitely race items to improve upon and focus on for the upcoming training cycle. For 2010 training, I need to run some more tempos as well as hill repeats. It would be ideal to have the Bueana Vista hill from when I was in college moved to Charlotte. If anyone knows of a good 800m hill in Charlotte near Dilworth or Myers Park, please let me know!

Now that OBX is over, it is back to running base miles for the next two months with minimal workouts and continuously easing back up to higher mileage to peak at 75 miles in late January. I'm not sure what's on the plate for next year's spring races, but the main goals are:

1) Foster the growth of the Charlotte Running Club.
2) Have fun.
3) Enjoy the company.
4) Achieve one new PR
5) Win at least $2000 in race earnings for the year.

Should be some good times ahead!

PS So proud of my sister who is getting back into running and training for her first half marathon!

PPS Proud of Molly N for making a tough, but smart decision during the race this past weekend. You can get your goals in the next one!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

2009 Training comes to a close with OBX

This Sunday is the Outer Banks Half Marathon, a race that I have had my eyes set on since March of this year. Coming into this race, I need to look at my 2009 year in running to see how I've prepared for this race, the pinnacle of my training for the past four months.

The first half of 2009 was almost a complete joke compared to the second half. In the spring, I couldn't break 18:15 on the flattest course for the life of me. I struggled with low iron through the South Park Race Fest Half marathon. My calf got strained in May...and the list goes on.

After that calf strain, a string of seemingly magical events unfolded that led to a turn around of my training. Aaron, Jay and I teamed up to get the Charlotte Running Club rolling, and suddenly I had five guys to run with. Then I had 10 guys to run with...and the there were 20 people on our long runs at Davidson in the summer. The next magical event was that we started doing things after runs at the Hepp-Hovis Training Facility after long runs...taking a dip in Lake Norman with some great company.

I also took a step away from the track, and instead focused on building my strength again, by increasing my mileage steadily without doing workouts. Aaron and I completely transformed our spring training plan, making it less track-centered and more quality-centered. Most of our runs were based on feel, and we cared less about the distance, and more about the effort (following the Kara Goucher plan). Instead of doing mile repeats, we ran hard for 6 minutes.

Most importantly, I began having more fun. Running because the social highlight of my day and I enjoyed practically every step that I pounded out there with Megan, Ben, Dan, Val, Danielle and Chad, Thomas, Jay, Aaron, Matt, Jocelyn, Kylee, Mike, Bill, and whoever else that may have joined us all. It's been a blast getting to know everyone, and it's cool to think that we're all helping each other in the same endeavor: to beat our latest PR.

Good luck to everyone this weekend!!!