Friday, July 27, 2012

My own pace

When Pikagirls run
They always go their own pace
and run their own race

#haiku #amrunning

Today we ran hill repeats and this week the goal was to beat last week's time.  My ambitious goal was to run a 4th hill repeat - unfortunately the flesh was willing but the spirit was weak as I still have "The Blithedale Romance" running through my head and the looming 12 page (minimum) cultural criticism in reference to Utopian communes and how that helps the reader understand the book.

Yeah... that's what I do to earn my teaching certification so I can continue to warp little minds at the elementary school.

As a result I had to fall back on beating last week's time which, according to my Nike+, I did by 30 seconds so take that Nathaniel Hawthorne!

Add this to beating my time for 11 sections on Wednesday by a minute and this week was a success.  My August goals will be to push myself to go a little faster and a little further.  Come Wednesday morning I'll be at Harvard Stadium ready to start pushing to a full tour by the end of the month and 5 hill repeats in Brookline.  Once I can do a full tour and 5 repeats, I'll be able to start pushing my pace.

For now, I'll throw myself into Hawthorne the way I threw myself at the hill this morning and the stadium the other day and plan to run another day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Halfway Point - 18 sections done, 18 section to go

View from the top after
17 sections
 There are 37 sections at Harvard Stadium and there are about 31 steps in each section.  On  July 3rd I was able to make it up and down three sections and spent several days wishing I could sit down without wincing.  I ate a lot of ibuprofen, drank a lot of water and prayed for the pain to stop.

The prayers worked... well, time worked and by the time the next work out rolled around I was ready to try again.  I made it up and down 5 sections and the next day I could sit without thinking about it and without ibuprofen.  Last week I made it through 11 sections and today, the goal was 15 sections.

When I got there, Brogan challenged me.  He asked my goal and then said, "Not to pressure you but we talk about half tours and full tours, shoot for a half tour."

Ummmm...right.  Fifteen maybe, but 18 sections?

I got to 11 and took a deep breath.  I knew I could push past this point and kept going.  Stopping at the top of each section, for a minute or so to assess and evaluate where I was: 15 sections and my goal.  Then slowly I ascended a 16th section, paused and came down before looking at the 17th section.  I started up and the steps again: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  I got to the top and smiled.  I did it, I was going to meet the 1/2 tour challenge when I went the rest of the way around and climbed to the top of section one.

As always, my fellow November Project members kept me going when my mind wanted to quit.  Between high 5's as I dragged myself up the stairs and the shouts of encouragement.

I made it all the way to the top of section one and yelled, "SHIT YEAH THAT MAKES 18!!!" and the response was cheers and applause from the folks who had finished before me.

For those who think that workouts are for losing weight or maybe about strengthening the body, but it's more than that.  It's about changing a perspective.

The feeling of invigoration after making a half tour was really amazing.  On the way home, I needed to pick up some half and half for my morning coffee and some OJ.  As I stood in the supermarket aisle, I noticed the yogurt and thought, "I haven't made a smoothie in a while and I think I still have some frozen berries in the fridge....."

Next thing I know, a container of Greek yogurt was in the basket and it wasn't long before I home and whipping up an old favorite: a cup of OJ, a container of yogurt and a cup of frozen berries.

Not that long ago a workout in the morning would have been justification to hit the drive through for an  egg and cheese sandwich and count it as healthy.  It's not that it's not healthy, it's just not the healthiest choice (particularly when you add some bacon... because an eggamuffin without bacon is just boring) or subbing that bland English Muffin for a tasty biscuit.  Maybe it would be the justification for a donut (hey I just did half a tour of Harvard Stadium, I can have a donut) or some other crazy thing.  It was easy to pass the drive through today, something that wasn't so easy my first time through when I stopped to get coffee and that oreo donut looked pretty good.

My work may not always show at the scale, but it certainly is showing in being able to push a bit harder along with little changes that will add up to a healthier life style overall.

Friday, July 20, 2012

uphill, downhill, lather, rinse, repeat

A haiku for the day:

What would be our sign?
Crazy runners in the road!
(we make this look good)

The hill we do repeats on Friday mornings rises 317 feet over the course of about 1/3 of a mile.  It's a steep grade and making it up the hill can be tough.

This week the goal was 3 hill repeats and it looked doubtful at first.  I went to the Warped Tour yesterday and wore flip-flops most of the day.  My left instep hates me and my calves aren't happy.  I wasn't sure if I'd make it this morning but pushed myself out the door.

I got to the hill and told myself: "I'll walk up the hill and run down it and see what happens."  At the bottom of the hill after the first round, I thought, "I can match last week's 2 up & backs."  One step at a time: right foot, left foot; I made it to the top and ran down.  I wasn't sure if I had a 3rd in me, but I told myself that I could make it to a set of traffic cones half way up.  Then it was making it to the summit, which was in sight.... which was in sight.... which was - hey, why does the summit keep moving?  Oh wait, there it is!

I averaged around a 15 minute mile, finishing the 3 repeats in around 36 minutes.

My instep felt much better with the support of my shoes.  Looking at my 5 workouts with November Project so far:

wk 1: stairs 3 full sections, a bunch of half sections in 27 minutes
wk 2: stairs 5 full sections in 25 minutes; 2 hill repeats in 25:33
wk 3: stairs 11 full sections in 29 minutes; 3 hill repeats in 37 minutes

What will week 4 bring?  It's hard to say, but I do feel my legs getting stronger and my breathing getting easier.

But the real highlight for me today was the older man who lives in the neighborhood struggling in his walk up the hill.  I passed him at one point and on my way down, we made eye contact.  I gave him a thumbs up and he gave me a big smile.  That and poetry are always a good way to start the day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Don't be a quitter

Today I pushed myself on the stairs at Harvard. Two weeks ago I made it up 3 full flights, last week it was 5 and today the goal was 7-10. I managed to make it up 11 flights.  My level of soreness also has shifted.  After that first day, I hurt for 3 days and could barely move. Last week my legs were all wobbly for a while, but the soreness wasn't there.  Today just feels good.

But I didn't do it alone.

Here's the cool thing about this group, we help each other. I was struggling a bit up part of the way through when someone high-dived me and said, "You can do it!"  With a renewed smiled, I pushed on.  As I sat at the bottom after 10, I figured I was done. Someone sat down next to me and we chatted as she took a break. She told me I had one more in me. She convinced me that I had one more in me and I figured, "Why not try?"

I pushed myself slowly up, one step at a time, until I reached the top. There I was, facing the end zone and the word CRIMSON in big white letters. I had done it. Eleven flights, 100 yards, 330 or so steps.

Today I fell back on one of my music standards to drive me on. Flatfoot 56 is a Celtic punk band from Chicago. I love the steady rhythm and they have one of the best pipers out there. (I love Spicy McHaggis from the Dropkicks, but Flatfoot's piper is better.) The other thing about Flatfoot is they have inspirational lyrics. Being a Christian band, sometimes the message can get a bit heavy handed but then you hear something like, "Be a man, don't be a quitter," when you're thinking you can't move another step and suddenly you feel the right foot step up, then the left until I was standing at the top.

Next week the goal is 15 sections. Friday I'm pushing for 3 hill repeats.that will make 5 workouts with November Project this month. I hope to get back to yoga soon and swimming next week when my schedule lightens up a bit. In the meantime, I'll use the insanity of these work outs to keep myself sane.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Out of my control

Sometimes I figure I need to let other things control a run. Today I took that challenge.

First I set my Nike+ to 30 minutes instead of a distance. That way it was as far as I could run in that time span. Next I set my music for shuffle and started off.

The music was everything from Bach's Brandenburg concertos to ZZ Top to Beck to whatever. It was an odd eclectic mix as I ran 2.5 miles in the humid morning. Sometimes it's good to let go like that and just see what happens.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Let your colors burst

'Cause baby you're a firework
come on and show them what you're worth
make 'em go "Oh oh oh"
as you shoot across the sky-sky-sky

There are days when music can really inspire a run.  Today was one of those days where the music and the run all synced up nicely and one of the songs that did it was Katy Perry's song "Firework."

We all have days when self-esteem is at a low and the "I can't do this" starts to kick in.  Recently, as I struggle to finish up classes (and everything else on my plate), I sometimes find myself overwhelmed.  I will sit for a period of time playing puzzle games: solitaire, tetris, word puzzles, mancala... you name it; as I sort through the checklists in my mind.  Those are the days when I need a run more than ever but finding the motivation to get dressed and get out there.  I am that plastic bag drifting in the wind on those days - which seem to be more frequent as some of the the assignments feel more and more pointless.

Recently I've used the motivation of the November Project to keep myself in motion.  Last week and this week I showed up to run the stairs at Harvard Stadium.  Today I made it to Road in Brookline to do hill repeats.  It's a steep, steep hill and my goal was to get one good up and down in.

Then Katy Perry broke through.  Like all songs, there is that one line that jumps out in those moments, in this time it was "you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine."

That little line was enough to make me ring the pole at the bottom and shoot back up to the top.  Running 30 seconds, walking 60, running 30, walking 60... until I got to the top and then run back down again.  Two up and backs.  Boom, boom, boom.

Next Friday the goal will be 3 up and backs.  Today was a reminder to myself that I can do this and I'm stronger than I sometimes feel.  Between now and Wednesday I'll get another run in because I'm strong enough to keep this going.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It gets easier

I went back to run Harvard Stadium this morning. This time I made it 5 full sections and 10 half sections. Instead of stiffening up like last week, my legs felt a hair wobbly for a few minutes and then they felt fine. I went swimming at lunch time and felt strong.

I'm planning on the Friday morning hill repeats with November Project. I'm going back to Harvard next Wednesday and I'm setting a goal of 7-10 full sections and continuing on with half sections from there. I'm also continuing on with yoga. After all, the reasons I run? I'm strong and amazing... And pretty bad ass.

Friday, July 06, 2012

We should all look this good

Yesterday the soreness from Tuesday had let up quite a bit so I went swimming.  I was excited that the senior center water aerobics ladies are back.  These women are funny, social women with a wonderful sense of snarkiness that never fails to make me smile.  There are also a couple of senior gentlemen that come with the group and they do laps while the women pretend to do some aerobics with the life guards.

One of the men is an older Asian man with a fascinating background.  Every time he's there, the women squeal and hug him.  They are always asking why he wasn't at dinner.... does he want to join them for dinner.... the bus is going, do you want to join us....  This guy gets more action than a lot of college kids at a party school!

While chatting with him and one of the women doing laps, I discovered he will be 100 in a month or so!  You could have knocked me over with a feather, he is so active and doesn't look that old.  He only learned to swim a few years back and he is lean and fit.

This morning on the news was a report that, according to a Canadian study, lack of exercise is more dangerous to our health than smoking or other well known risk factors.  I think about the seniors at the pool and how young all of them feel - in spite of quadruple bypasses, strokes and other things that come with aging.  There is a lesson here and may we all look, and feel, this good when we're their age.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Vertigo or The Real Stair Master

These are the stairs around Harvard Stadium, 37 sections of them. It seemed like a good idea joining The November Project when I woke up this morning, now I'm glad I joined them but I am totally questioning why I thought I could do this.

For 35 minutes we ran up the "big" stairs (the wide platforms for seating) and walked down the "small" stairs (the stairs you normally use to go up and down to your seats), section by section.  It doesn't sound like much - running up and down stairs - but there's a reason this is what athletes do to condition.  It's hard work.

Then there was a problem I didn't anticipate: vertigo from the top of the bowl when you're going down.  I got to the top of that first section and turned around and it was like a zoom lens was going back and forth as I looked at the bottom, looked at where I was and looked at the bottom again.  Gingerly I stepped back down one step at a time and tried the second section only to have it happen again.  By the 3rd section, I knew this was going to be all of the "official" workout I'd be able to do.  I then proceeded to only walk up the small stairs, grabbing handrails when possible, turn around and shield my eyes so I could only see my feet as I walked back down.

After 5 sections I knew this was all I would be able to do today.  I then started walking up about 1/3 of the way and back down again until my legs were like jelly.  I walked about a third of the way around the bowl to keep doing the 1/3's, maybe pushing it to the top of the entry tunnels if I felt braver.  I finished the bowl in 27 minutes by doing it that way and felt a bit like a wuss.

When all was said and done, I began talking to folks and learned I was not alone.  The down piece bothers a lot of people when they first start out and eventually you get used to it.  I'll see how I do next Wednesday morning.

Things I learned: this is wicked hard. I learned I have vertigo. I learned my legs hate me now. I learned my limit and pushed it a bit beyond which truly makes me somewhat bad assed.