Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Flight

(L-R: Molly Nunn, Caitlin Chrisman, Jay Holder, Boriana B, Bert Rodriguez cool down)

Might want to grab a drink. This is going to be a long one.

Doing the first race of your new training cycle is like going on a date with a beautiful someone.

Think about it.

You get nervous for the date because you have absolutely NO IDEA if the beautiful someone likes you. You contemplate all the 1943734986 different scenarios of how the date could potentially play out. If the date goes bad, you want to get over with it sooner. If the date goes great, you never want it to end. After the date, everyone calls you to see how you liked it, how it went, and if you think you'll do it again. Afterwards, you think of what you could have done different to make the beautiful person like you more or what you did wrong or what went great. You could also say that you feel successful at the end of the date if you get a kiss - the trophy of the date! :o)

Now apply this to your first race in over three months. You get really nervous for the race because you have NO IDEA what kind of racing shape you are in. You contemplate the 21433934 different races strategies that could happen. If the race goes bad, you want it to end ASAP but you know that it won't since you are probably running slower and want to keel over onto the side of the road. If the race goes great, you still do want it to end, but not so much the post-race festivities (especially if there is free beer). After the race, all of your friends call you, facebook you, text you to see how it went and if you would run that race course again. Using your running sense, you analyze every single aspect of the race: your mind, the course, the organization, the food, the awards...and the list goes on...At the end, you anxiously await to discover whether or not you will be receiving an overall or an age group trophy.

In so many ways, I had my first blind date with a road race in over three months yesterday in Salisbury at the Winter Flight 8k. There is something truly unique about racing that allows you to truly put your fitness to a test and to prove that the training has paid off. As far as I could tell, yesterday proved successful for most everyone in the Charlotte Running community who raced.

To start from the beginning, my team of Boriana and Jay met in the parking lot to pick up our race packets. Immediately we saw a slew of Charlotte running people who were out there to cheer us all on, which was extremely exciting. Like a true teammate, since the day boasted temperatures in the upper 60s, Jay was kind enough to bring his sport sunscreen so that this semi-albino's skin would not burn during the race. Teammate #2, Boriana, was also kind enough to let us store our stinky shoes in her car and be our driver for the day's activities.

After lathering up, we were off for the warmup. Knowing that we all had the support from our fellow countrymen, I began feeling excited to put everything on the line. Although my legs did not feel fantastic on the warmup, that is typically the way I like to start a race (never have raced well when my legs feel fan-freaking-tastic in the warmup). I will admit that I had several different doubts going through my head during this time. I was wondering if my breathing would be okay because my throat seemed really tight, as though I was coming down with a bad head cold. I pushed these thoughts aside because I really knew that the most important task at hand was to race to best of my potential on that day given the circumstances.

We made it to the start line to check out our competition. It looked like there were at least four girls who looked capable to run sub-30:00. Alana and I situated ourselves behind Bill Shires and, although it was hard to hear, the National Anthem was played. Immediately before the gun, we all gave each other a fist slap (is that what it's called??) as good luck. The race director blew the horn and we were off!

I could feel two people on my shoulder and instead of worrying about that, I focused on staying relaxed through the first mile. I settled into a groove with Molly, some guy in a red shirt, and Alana. It was nice to settle in behind red shirt guy so that I could get a slight break from the wind. First mile: 5:44. Perfect - ish. After a while I could feel the pace slowing and knew I needed to make a move to maintain the pace I wanted - 5:50s. Luckily, after the first mile, there was a decent downhill, which is where I pushed down and left the red shirt guy and the two girls. I said good job in my mind to them!

After the move, there were two other guys about 20 meters ahead that I could focus on for the next two miles over the rolling hills. I got a boost of energy when I saw Chris Jones and Todd Mayes at the top of the second big hill, especially because they told me that it flattened out from there. Thanks Chris and Todd!

However, I rounded one other turn and then there was a hill, or two, or three...again. I chuckled to myself, but instead of worrying about the hills, I focused on the guy that I was reeling in. I ran my fastest miles during four (5:40) and five (would have been 5:44), mainly due to the fact that I caught the guy that had been in sixth place and was trying to catch the guy in fifth place (never did). After running up the 400m hill in the last mile, we turned back into the Catawba campus, where a beautiful downhill awaited the runners before they entered the track for the finish. Running onto the track was fun and I felt fantastic considering it was fairly hot and the course a bit hillier than I had expected. As I rounded the last turn on the track, I saw my time ticking away the seconds - 28:37, 28:38, 28:39 - and I pushed harded so that I would get my reach goal of 28:50-ish.

As I stumbled through the chute, I was directed to a table where a woman wrote down my name and time with a pen on a piece of paper. Very old school, but very cool at the same time. I felt like I was in high school again. I met up with Jay and Bert and we waited for the next Charlotte crew. We cheered in Alana, Molly, Chad, Allen, Boriana, Larry, and Scott.

My favorite part of the race was cooling down with Molly, Alana (for a bit), Jay, Boriana, and Bert. It was refreshing to know that everyone else didn't feel like going faster than 8 minute pace on our cool down and also that none of else wanted to run up another hill. It was great to share stories of how everyone felt at different parts of the race, especially for Jay since he literally had NO ONE to race with the entire time.

The awards ceremony took place in the college gym and the trophies were probably the biggest I've ever seen. I did come away with $100 so I'm only $1400 away from my goal race earnings for the year. :o)

Really Big Trophies

While the majority of the success stemmed from the individual efforts each person has exerted over the past months in their own training, I also believe that a part of that success may also be attributed to the amazing support that was out there on Sunday (and Saturday too at Cupid's Cup!). The list of people who came just to watch was extensive: Théoden Janes, Chris Jones, Todd Mayes, Garrett Bullock, Lauren Robbins, the Hadley family, Terri Nunn, Kathy Seavers, and there were probably even more people that I didn't know their names! Clearly, what we've got going on in the Charlotte Running community is just amazing. Every person is so supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic about everyone else's success that it feels like we all make up a very large family.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Playing for the Pure Sport, and nothing Else...

Last night during the Men's Mogul Finals, those who watched saw Dale Begg-Smith get second to Alex Bilodeau, giving Canada it's first gold on home soil. While I know little to nothing about mogul skiing, I did experience a huge take-away while watching a little biographical segment on Begg-Smith that NBC had inserted in between the finalists' races. This seemingly free-spirited guy who comes across as a huge jerk to the media, because of his unusually quiet, mysterious demeanor and tendency to plan "flights" in the middle of press conferences, immediately interested me.

Essentially, Dale used to ski for Canada. In between skiing, he happened to found some spyware company, and his Canadian coaches scolded him for spending too much time on the seemingly fledgling business and too little on his sport. Dale, a defiant teenager, decided to quit Canada at the age of 16 and to take advantage of his dual citizenship in Australia to ski for their team. After three years of hard work, he brought his business to be worth millions and also proved to be successful under the Australian training regime. Fast forward nine years and he has won several medals, including the Gold at the Winter Olympics in 2006. This year, according to NBC's blurb, he is the Olympics biggest man of mystery because he refuses to talk to any media really besides Australia media.

NBC asserted that he skis for the pure joy of the sport...not for the money, not for the attention, and not for the groupies who may follow him. Instead, Dale skis for himself (and perhaps also for a higher being, but no one will ever know that considering he doesn't talk to the media). As opposed to many other athletes who really put themselves in the camera's front path in attempts to get sponsors or other endorsement deals, it seems as Dale sees the media as a useless hurdle that keeps throwing itself into his path in an effort to slow him down. Instead, Dale tosses those hurdles aside by merely ignoring them, and focusing purely on the task at hand - competing to his fullest potential utilizing all of the skills, techniques and other tactics that he has acquired and cultivated for over three (or more!) years of dedication, hard work, and determination in preparation for the Olympics.

What I like most about Dale is that he puts himself into a bubble that blocks out all potential deterrents to his path of success. By doing so, his mind is devoid of any outside distractions and he is immersed into a world of quiet calm. What a blissful, mentally powerful way to start a competition.

I bring up Dale because in many ways, you can parallel such a calm confidence to many runners. If someone wins a race, their mom might ask them afterwards: "Did you hear me cheering for you at mile five? I was the only one around...". Undoubtedly, that person did not hear their own mother cheering for them because they had immersed themselves into a different reality, one that focuses solely on the breathing and the rhythmic pit-pat of their feet hitting the pavement.

I also thought of Garrett when NBC was providing an explanation for Dale's mysterious ways. When seeing Garrett's face when he gets onto the mound, it is obvious that his mind is transcending into a world completely quiet, void of the clutter that fills the external world. His mind is focused in such a way that it's almost as though his mind is in a different place than his body, as though in a dream state, where the only reality that matters is the one starring the catcher, the batter, and the pitcher (and maybe some of the players trying to steal bases).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Garrett Bullock's Spring Training

Garrett must report in Kissimmee, Florida on Friday, March 5th for spring training. That is about four and a half weeks away. Since advance planning is really not a part of minor league baseball, I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting to figure out when I'll actually be able to visit him in Florida. Until then, I'll be checking this website frequently:

Can't wait to find out where he'll be for the summer....

Lexington, KY? (Class A, Sally League)
Lancaster, CA? (Class A-Advanced, Carolina League)
Corpus Christis, TX? (Class AA, Texas League)

Keep ya posted!

Bringin' Daddy Back

On Thursday night my dad arrived in Charlotte for his first visit here since September 2008. It had been about a year and a half since he had last visited with my mom, so suffice to say I was very happy to have him as my guest! Obviously, having the parental unit (minus one) in Charlotte is always a good thing because I get to catch up on life and I get to be daddy’s little girl again. To further elaborate, immediately after his arrival, we drove to Costco, where my very generous dad bought me inordinate amounts of organic produce that we would eat the entire weekend. He also made me salad every night and fresh juice every morning. He put on his wet gear to go schlepping around the wet streets of Charlotte in 34 degree rain. He took out my trash and recycling…twice!

Reading the above paragraph, I sound pretty spoiled from Dad’s visit. I will note that I did buy my dad a massage the night he got into town so that he could start off his mini vacation relaxed and feeling good. I also had to make up for all the stuff that I knew he was going to do for me, since he’s always the helpful one. In fact, I think I’ve convinced him it will be a good idea for him to come again with my mom and that we can all make a little garden on my back patio. Of course, it would be a family team effort, and something that I know both of them would love to do, so I’m almost certain that they will be coming to visit Charlotte again, perhaps in the fall.

What was most eye opening about my dad’s visit is that he told me: “Caitlin, your schedule is hard to keep up with!”. He said that I was tiring him out, and in my mind, I was thinking that we hadn’t even done anything. It mainly came down to the running. He was amazed that I could fit in running 70 miles a week into a full time work schedule and still maintain a social life. To him, social life means texting and talking on the phone. Little does he know that to most 20-somethings, a social life means going out to the bars, which is something I really haven’t done much of this past year. This truly is how I like it to be, and I save those special moments for going out past midnight (such as visiting my sister in LA or reunions with Wake teammates in DC). Most of my social life revolves around experimental dinners with Matt, running really far with other people, and chatting with my roommate in the kitchen. Point is that my dad thinks I’m a social butterfly and running machine, who manages to find time to cover her living expenses through a job at Bank of America.

It was nice to see my dad’s perspective on things as he was an active participant in Caitlin’s game of Life in Charlotte. Will be nice to see what changes the next time he visits.

Treadmill Funk

Last Sunday, January 31, I ran 16 miles on a treadmill. Bad idea.

There was about two inches of snow on the ground, along with an inch of ice on the streets of Greenville, NC (boyfriend’s hometown). This mixture had melted some the night before, frozen over, and created a hellish of a footing situation for crazy people such as myself, who wanted to run on it for over 16 miles. Unfortunately, there are no parks in Greenville in which I could actually try to avoid the sloppy mess on the roads. After talking with my high school coach who urged me to just run on a treadmill, I grudgingly decided that I would do it.

Not entirely confident that I would actually complete the entire 16 miles I intended on running, I paid fifteen dollars to get into Gold’s Gym and hopped onto the best and worst machine ever invented for runners. Worst part of all, I had no iPod (forgot it in Charlotte) and I had no handheld radio that would allow me to tune into the TV channel (who has those anymore anyways?). Apparently, this Gold’s Gym did not have the most up-to-date treadmills with personal TVs. I was up a creek without a paddle. In the end, I ran 16 miles in 30 minute increments, which meant that I had to stop every 30 minutes and start the treadmill back up. Quite annoying at first, but I soon appreciated how it broke up my run into four increments. After the first 30 minutes at sub 7 pace, I decided that the faster I ran, the sooner I would be off of the treadmill, so I dipped down into the low 6’s and then eased off towards the last increment to 6:50s for a “cool down.” After losing about five pounds from the amount of sweat I produced, I was done. Ready to eat, shower, and lie down and do nothing.

The next day I took off from running because my legs felt entirely different than they typically do after a normal long run on soft surfaces. I decided then that I hated the Life Fitness Treadmill I had used at Gold’s Gym. It became my forever enemy, one that I wished to never face again. At first I thought that I had beaten the treadmill, but, on Monday, the treadmill had won the battle.

Tuesday came around and my legs still felt heavy, as though a million needles had been packed into my muscular fibrous tissues to send piercing pressure to new found knots throughout my quad. Somehow I managed to do a revised workout of 5-4-3-2-1 with half rest instead of the 7x800m track workout I had on tap. There was cold rain and (perhaps as a blessing), the JCSU track had flooded out.

Friday came around, a day in which I was supposed to run 50 minutes at 630 pace. Yet again another cold, rainy day, I had no motivation to do this on my own. Megan was originally supposed to run with me, but she opted for the treadmill, which I politely said no thanks, and scrambled to find my own motivational running partner. I immediately thought of Jordan because I knew that his work schedule was flexible. Jordan and I decided to meet around 130 at the Park Road Shopping Center and to run around Freedom Park and Myers Park.

My dad and I pulled on our cold weather gear, and drove to meet up with Jordan. While Jordan and I ran, my dad ran much slower behind us, but still braved the weather at sixty years old. Do I want to be like him when I’m sixty? Yes, please!

Throughout the entire run with Jordan, we had a nice chat, and I felt more tired than usual. It could have been the six inch puddles we were running through, or the inches of rain that were pouring on our faces and soaking into our clothing, making us five pounds heavier. Regardless, when Jordan told me that we had averaged 6:30 pace, I was much happier. Most of all, it was great to have him around for company. Once I got home, my legs were unusually sore, AGAIN, which I still account to the treadmill run.

All in all, I spent a week of running in cold, wet conditions with a leg that is beat up from Life Fitness (and probably also the 70 miles I’ve been doing for the past two weeks)