Friday, February 26, 2010

Running in the Snow

As I mentioned earlier, the idea of running outside in February, during the winter of snowpocalypse, was probably my one true anxiety of this whole training process. Sure, the whole program is new to me, but pushing myself physically was not necessarily scary. The idea of learning two new sports (swimming and cycling) was so exciting it pretty much overshadowed any apprehensions I had about them. No one can get left behind in a pool or on a stationary bike but outside winter running, on the other hand, has its fair share of issues and I just didn’t know how I would handle them. First, the obvious, is it is 6:30am in February! This little Florida girl has worked really REALLY hard getting used to dealing with 8am winter weather just to get to work and she will even wear the ever embarrassing parka without a seconds hesitation if it means she stays toasty warm. Long story short: Cold and I do not get along. Second, running, out of the three sports, is the only one I’ve ever attempted and have never had any success in. I had to run in the off season (soccer) and I was never very good at speed and I was always the one holding up the 14 girls running around the soccer complex. In addition, with soccer, you never do true long distance running but focus more on sprints, conditioning drills and transitions. So, because I’ve never ran more than 2 or maybe 2 ½ miles at a time, when they said we’d be STARTING with 4… I freaked.

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I did what anyone would do to prepare… I went shopping. Then, the week before we began, I went to the gym and declared I would not leave until I suffered through my first 4 miles, because suffering alone through the first time might be slightly more dignified. I did it! Granted, I didn’t run the entire time, but the few number of walking breaks did surprise me and gave me the confidence I needed to actually show up on Day One of running. Yes, I ran on a treadmill, inside, during mid-afternoon, so there were still many obstacles to overcome, but how was I going to find out unless I just showed up bearing a slightly crooked smile.

The day came, I arrived… and I survived! We were told we were doing 3.6 miles: down to and around the Monument and then back up to the gym. First and foremost, I did not turn into a popsicle… and near the end I even took off my gloves! It was a shaky start considering it was actually snowing when we set off. In my head all I could think about was that I was now that person I used to see running by my bus stop in the morning and at whom I used to silently scream “Freak! Have you never heard of a gym?”. Second, I was not the slowest! Surprisingly, it had never crossed my mind that any of the other “newbies” weren’t marathon runners either. There still was ample ice patches everywhere and as we cautiously ran over them (which looked more like a fast paced tip-toe) I couldn’t help but hear my mother say “stop running like a girl!”… a phrase I often heard growing up. After making my way back to the gym, I stood in the shower grinning ear to ear. I did it! and did it without looking like a complete idiot. Now, I just had to overcome my fear of falling asleep exhausted on my keyboard that afternoon.
Looking forward to the day when I can just bike the easy downhill 1.5 miles to the gym… a day that’s not freezing, or has ice, or snow, or 60 mph winds. Until then, I’m stuck with the VERY unreliable Metro bus… *dreaming of warmer weather*

First Week of Training: Swimming

The first week of training is like the ever feared first week of school. Lots of anticipation of how you are going to do, who you are going to meet… and God please don’t let me get picked last for kickball! Everyone has to introduce themselves and people start making new friends, catching up with old ones. Since there are both “Newbies” and “Vets” in my program it’s not quite as easy as going away to summer camp where no one knew anyone else, but everyone is nice enough, and you can always assume the other newbies have the same apprehensions as you… at least one of them has too, right? You also readjust from your “summer schedule” to “school hours”. You sit there on the bus at 5:30am thinking, it was only last week when my earliest mornings began at 8am *sigh*.

On my first day of swimming our hour was filled mainly with drills. Since I have never swam professionally I didn’t completely understand the point of the exercises, but I went through the motions expecting to understand more later. There was a lot of focus on kicking: kicking from the hip and keeping your knee and ankle flexible but not floppy. The purpose of kicking is to keep your bottom half up and even with your upper half (the straighter you are the less drag). We also worked on the proper upper body form especially when taking a breath. Your head should be down and eyes looking slightly ahead, but don’t allow your head to be cocked up, again causing drag and limiting your stroke length, not to mention being very uncomfortable. When taking a breath make sure you are turning your head to the side, not up and over, and instead of just turning your head/neck, focus on your entire body pivoting to the side. This allows you to keep the sleek shape, momentum, and allows you to reach your stroke even further.

To be honest, it’s just nice to get back in a pool. Being from Florida, I’m used to swimming being as common as walking. This whole northern concept of only swimming between Memorial and Labor Day is just a crock!

Refreshing to wake up when the sun is already up, rather then ridiculously early, beating the sun at its own game. (Enjoying training day off)
“The expression ‘misery loves company’ is meant for winter running. As I’m lying in bed on dark, cold mornings, it’s a lot harder to talk myself out of getting up when I know I’m accountable to other people.”

Jason Lehmkuhle, of Team USA Minnesota, runner-up at 2008 U.S. Half-Marathon Championships

Shopping for a Sport You've Never Played (Part 1)

It’s February in Washington, DC. It’s not just any winter thought, it’s snowpocalypse! In the four winters I’ve lived in this city, I have not seen more then a day of snow each season, not to mention that it usually didn’t even stick. But of course, the winter I decide to sign up for a program that will have me running outside before the crack of dawn (literally), the ice age arrives! Of course I didn’t realize we would be running outside when I signed up. I remember sitting in the Y for the Orientation, all excited with my two good friends who signed up with me, almost a month after we registered and put money down for this crazy adventure. We were finally going to find out, in specifics, what these 18 weeks were going to entail! Truthfully, all I remember from the hour plus presentation, was Larry (organizer) stating, almost as an after thought, that the running groups would meet in the lobby for their OUTDOOR runs. What about the indoor track? Now I know this sounds slightly melodramatic, but you have to understand, I am from Florida!

Anyway, this launched my mission to make sure I had all I needed to be prepared.

Running Shoes: Nothing beats going to a running store like Georgetown Running Co. or Fleet Feet and getting a professional to fit you, especially if you are not an experienced runner. There are just way too many details to be able to figure it out on your own. If you really can’t afford to shell out $100, go in anyway, get a fitting, get their advice and then go online shopping for the one or two options they gave you for a discounted price. I found my Mizuno’s for $30 cheaper then the store was offering and free shipping on Amazon!

At the Beginning

You are applying to masters programs who you hope might, maybe accept you, your boyfriend of almost 4 years decides he’s “not happy” and is gone within one week. You know you’re moving in 6 months, but not where…

What do you do when your life as you know it and your future as you’ve planned it are suspended in the air, just out of reach… just waiting? You train for a triathlon! This is going to be the story of how I take hold of my 6 month hiatus by challenging myself to do something different… really different. So why am I here? I’m assuming for the same reasons as most Newbies (what my training program has so appropriately named us first timers): to challenge, to change, or to try something new. I want to prove to myself that “I can” in so many ways: in accomplishing a triathlon, in being independent, in uplifting my life and starting fresh… again. In the next couple months I’m going to write about not only my aspiration of completing a triathlon, but more importantly how I’m going to accomplish that goal and whatever other ones I choose to set for myself along the way. I’ll be experimenting with different ways of training, how hard to push myself, how to balance this with the rest of my life (because having a life is just as important to your health), and all the mistakes I will most definitely make along the way.

Though I’ve always been somewhat “athletic” (soccer mostly) I have never trained or participated in any form of race. I’ve tried participating in DC’s plethora of pick up games from kick-ball to soccer, but I’m really excited to take part in a sport that is independent in nature while team spirit full in training.

Not more then a month or so ago, a friend of mine ran a 5K and then a 10K two weekends in a row and I thought “Are you out of your mind!!” This last week she asked if I wanted to join her on a 10 miler in April, and though it turned out the race was sold-out (hello dear friend Murphy), it felt awesome that my first reaction was “Yea, I should be able to do that by then.”

So as I run, swim, bike and sweat I hope you’ll join me on my journey, and hopefully start your own towards change and challenge.