Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seven Miles in My Head

My Nike+ is no longer calibrating correctly, so I am forced to run (gasp! shudder!) tech-free until I get a new one.  Since I can't make notes about my runs on the Nike+ website, I figured I would come here and tell the Interwebs of my running revelations.

Distance run:  7 miles 

Time: 1:29:31 

Route:  East on Franklin, past John Marshall High, down the west side of Silverlake Reservoir and back.

This is my first run back after being sick with the Wretchedness for two weeks.

We went to Billings a couple weekends ago to celebrate my stepmother's 50th birthday, and my sweet niece, Isla, gave us all her cold.  Seriously, with this face, I ask you, could you stop yourself from picking her up and smooching her?

(Uncle D.R. was very proud of her choice of toy)

(Blue eyes in the bath)

("Little Girl, Big Dreams")

While completely worth it, I have felt like an elephant on fire has been sitting on my chest for two weeks.  Today was the first day that I felt my lungs could handle some real work.  


I read an article a while back about a man that can run an entire marathon on a treadmill with no music or background noise.  He has honed this ability over many years, focusing on his breathing and how his body feels at any given moment.  He is very present, almost yogic, in his running.

I cannot relate.

I am an iPod runner.  I need that music pumping in my ears to get me through the tough spots.  The Nike+ understands this so well, it has the option of a "Powersong".  A song of choice is programmed (currently, mine is Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You"), and when that last mile is nothing but wheezing, burning, and shuffling . . . Kelly saves the day.  I.  Need.  My.  Ipod.  Moreover, the thought of running 26 miles in one place is like death to me.  I can't run the same 3-mile route for more than a week, let alone on a treadmill.  I need changing scenery, uneven roads to maneuver, people that walk 3-bodies wide on a sidewalk so I can sigh disapprovingly at them when I pass.  Oh, excuse me!  Am I in the way of your Humvee stroller and chihuahua on a 37-foot long lead?  

I do yoga.  I love yoga.  I do it as a counter-balance to the heart-pumping, body-pounding, glory-seeking that is running.  Yes, yoga has great mental benefits and forces me to focus on my breathing and stretching.  But, to be honest, I am not waiting for a moment of enlightenment; I am waiting for my hip to loosen enough so I'm a little more Warrior 3, and a little less Wobbly 1.5.  I proudly admit that I am a results-oriented person. 

I'm sure there are runners like me that start the run . . . then immediately place their focus on the end of the run.  Just get it over with!  Then, I thought about people that have asked my why I run.  I never answer, "Well, the sooner you start, the sooner it's over!"  I explain that, running is about proving to myself that my body can do something even when my brain is telling me it's a horrible idea.  It is about overcoming all those voices that said I could never be an athlete.  It is about finding solace in motion.

The thought occurred to me that maybe I need to focus on feeling that way while the run is in progress.  Mr. Marathon on a Treadmill presents an interesting challenge:  be present in your body at the time you are requiring the most of it.

I set a goal to adopt this "meditative running" for a period of 6 months, with the caveat that they did not have to be consecutive.  Whenever I feel like challenging myself, or when my running play list turns boring, I can turn it all off and just listen to (and hopefully subside) the traffic in my head.

Lucky me, October is one of my chosen months.


I've been fulfilling my goal with the Nike+ because it offers the option of no music while you run, but still has the voice that reminds you how far you have gone.  Very helpful.  With no audio mile-markers to look forward to, I really had to implore my brain to be my ally today.

I always find that for the first mile, I am asking my body to remember how great running feels and get on board for the journey.  OK, everybody, remember this:  one foot goes down, then the other?  I find it takes at least the first mile for all body parts to get in sync and play nice with each other. 

The second mile was very hilly.  I reminded myself to shorten my steps and keep the cadence the same.  "The body's form and speed should not change because of a hill," says some running dude at Runner's World.  I actually enjoy hills because it gives my brain something on which to focus.  It's when I'm running flats that my brain starts to wander.   Today, my brain wandered right into Nelly's "Ride Wit Me" lyrics.  I have no idea why.  I haven't heard it on the radio.  It's not on my iPod.  And, I don't really know the song, so I just kept repeating, "If you wanna go and take a ride with me . . . Hey! Must be the money!"  

Miles three and four were on the path around the reservoir, which means I was doing a lot of stroller/dog-walker/unobservant runner dodging.  Not having music made me more aware of my rage at people who do not adhere to path etiquette. 

Mile six was the reverse of the hills of mile two.  I had to give myself a pep-talk.  Out loud.  I didn't care if anyone could hear me, and I don't really know what I said.  I do remember repeatedly saying, "It's all mental . . . it's all mental."  Kelly Clarkson would've been helpful here.

The rest of the way home, I concentrated on the ground I could see under my hat brim.  I didn't lift my chin to see how far I had to go.  No.  I covered the 10 feet I could see under my hat brim, then I worried about the next 10 feet.  What can I control right now when my body is on the verge of revolt?  My legs are heavy.  My feet are burning.  That fucking en fuego elephant is back lounging on my chest!  Those ten feet were all I could handle.  

I was afraid of that seven miles, so I'm grateful and proud that I completed it.  But, I'm saving my victory dance because I had a moment of stark clarity before entering our apartment:  I am closer to achieving my goal than I am to starting my goal.  I am past the halfway point.  It's going to get harder before it gets easier.  

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