She Runs with Winged Feet

She Runs with Winged Feet
...the life and adventures of a runner

Monday, September 22, 2014

My First 5K, and Other Mistakes You Should Avoid

The day of my very first-ever race of any sort dawned with me being so nervous I couldn't eat or drink. That was a total win, honestly, as I didn't want to divert from the race course to find a port-a-potty. I ran with my running partner, whom for our internet purposes we shall perhaps call...Blonde Barbie. I mean that in a loving way. A totally loving and brunette way. Or I'll call her Hazel, because I do that in real life as well.

Anyhoo, so BB/Hazel and I run together (when I'm not sidelined by some nagging and ridiculous injury) on my glorious trails at the state park nearby. (Nearby as in we can actually run to the park and then in the park, conveniently, like the fleet-footed deer we see frequently.)(Note: I do not clear fences nearly as gracefully as a fleet-footed deer.)

She has run many, many races. 5ks, 10ks, that a thing? Anyway. Lots. I have run approximately none. Running and I got together later in life. I feel like saying, "Midway through my life's journey I came to a wood..." There are definitely parallels between running and Dante's Inferno, in case you didn't recognize that immediately as the beginning lines. I have certainly abandoned all hope, ye who enter here many a time or two as I head down the trail.

I digress.

So Hazel and I run together and she wanted to run a 5k together and I was excited and couldn't believe I was going to really run a race since I suck at running and we all know it but it doesn't matter because the competition is you vs. you go sports slogans YAY! And had I trained right? Not according to my husband, aka The Man, who runs like a goddamned gazelle and makes running look like a beautifully graceful and fast ballet of coordination and skill. I look like a winded and wounded giraffe on the savannah, about to be taken down by a pack of hyenas and/or lions, and you look away because you know it's one of THOSE nature shows. Thanks a lot, Discovery. Nature is a serial killer.

In other words, I didn't train enough and/or train right. My speed wasn't good, I was probably dehydrated (if by probably, we mean definitely), I wasn't able to eat so I was hungry verging on hangry, and I was nervous enough that I needed the sweet, sweet comfort that only Immodium can bring. FYI: runner's diarrhea is a real and often tragic thing. Especially if your state park locks the bloody restrooms every fall. What, do people only have to use restrooms in summer? That's CRAZY TALK.

And yet race day came, as days typically do. We headed out ridiculously early - and it was chilly enough that I was glad for my hoodie thing. We got signed in, our time chips, blah blah blah, and get your ass to the start line. Yay! I was ready! (Picture that with me chanting like Spongebob.) I felt good, stretched, got my ipod music ready. What, those WALKERS behind us? P'shaw, that's no thing - I have a TIMER CHIP because I'm SERIOUS. And we were off. Hazel? Oh, she was gone. But wait! I'm almost caught up and, nope. And now I'm hot. Now I'm DYING. HEATSTROKE. I have to get this damnable hoodie off...

But I'm running and my running partner has pinned my bib through my hoodie and into my shirt underneath and now I am attempting a fucking Houdini escape in the middle of a run with Kenyans flying past me. Wait a minute, that Kenyan didn't even have a bib or a timer. Wait, he was from the untimed, unwashed masses behind me? Oh well that's just great. Where is my arm? Don't know! Stuck in the hoodie straightjacket. And now my arm band is caught. That's cool, I'll just slow down and, oh shit, get hit by a stroller. Wait. Why the fuck is there a stroller? Did some nanny get lost on her way to the zoo? What's happening? Oh, it's a non-timer running with a run stroller. What the ever loving HELL is that about?! No worries, I almost have my arm free...and my hoodie is down, hoodie is down - stop grab the hoodie and...jesus Papaw where did you come from? But you're fast, fast for someone who is about 89 and you're not madly fighting to get out of a hoodie that's pinned to your back. That's okay, I'm finally free! Now I can really get going!

And by get going, I mean try not to die. Nice socks, freak show. Because my inner Buddhist totally comes out when I'm having a shit run. And I'm hangry. So I see these crazy socks and I think, by now, this is turning ugly. I mean, ugly. I see my car, I'm running right. past. my. car. The keys are in my armband. It would be so simple to run down the stairs, sit in the comfort of my car, and drive myself to Hardees. I mean, it's still breakfast menu food - biscuits for SURE. No, wait! What am I thinking?! I'm not going to quit. All ideas of a good race time are gone, I mean G O N E. Here comes Ugly Socks. Oh no you don't, you bloody damned hipster. I may not make good time, I may not even ever FIND my bff who left me to die, but I will not be beaten by you and your Urban Outfitters socks.

We round the corner and I can figure out the layout of the course. Here comes some water. I don't drown myself so that's a win, and I'm no savage, so I actually make the garbage as I run, unlike you filthy heathens. I'm almost therrrr...... Nope. That was a fake out. There's still another mile? Really? Why the hell did I sign up for this? This is in a city on city streets - I'm a trail runner, hills, over branches and ice and fighting off wily serial killers (in my mind). This should be no problem-o. And yet... Is that the finish line? No? Dammit. Damn it. But Ugly Socks is way back, ha! HAHAHAHAHA! Finally, finish line. Oh look, Hazel had time to sit with her family and knit a sweater for homeless children, and eat a burrito. That's cool. I'm going to make it, I'm going to...

And I cross. That's it. My first 5k, in the bag. I beat Ugly Socks. I was beaten by lots and LOTS of other people. Some of them 1000 years old, and some pushing strollers, and some who entered the race purely by accident on their way to Starbucks.

Pretty much the UNIVERSE is faster than I am. So I do what a very mature lady would do and I go home and cry bitterly to anyone who will listen. The Man is very kind and sympathetic as he says, "That's just how it is. I got beaten by some fat guy at the Mini. Running is like that." I'd like to add that The Man's mini-marathon time was a freakshow of athleticism. Freak. show. He has a body built for athletics, I have a body built for...lounging? Chilling? Writing? Nothing about me screams "runner" or "athlete." It might mutter "procrastinator" or something, but that's about it.

My first race was a horrible, horrible mental defeat. Go ahead, friends and family, cheer me on but I'll have none of it. I'll sit and rage at myself and my horrible time and my dehydration and my improper training regimen and I'll ignore every nice thing you say, so there. Keep it to yourself, you damned nice people!

Then I did what I usually do. I got determined. Determined to become a goddamned Kenyan, that's what. I read article after article on speed and increasing endurance and plyometrics and I even asked The Man to help me train. I hope you understand my state of mind if I asked the most athletic human I've ever known to help train me in a thing he's really good at. That was like when he wanted my help studying for the English part of a military test. Mwahahaha. Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.

Then, before I could become a Kenyan, and before I could use any of my knewfound knowledge to PR (personal record) a race or a run, I tore my MCL. I had a vision of my summer ending in glory and fast race times... only to have my good-weather runs ended by the Universe and/or my defective ligament.

I'd love to tell you there is some deep lesson of the soul here, and there may be; however, it's time for me to do my knee exercises so I have some prayer of running again before I turn 100. Although some of those mothers can RUN.

Basically, every single run and every single race IS you vs. you. You can choose someone like Ugly Socks to get you over the hump, and to get you past that urge to quit and lie down in the peace and joy of the cool morning dew-covered grass, but it's you in your head, you with your angry lectures and demands of running like a zippy African racer, THAT is who you have to beat. And she's NOT easy to beat. She ignores that you've only run for a few years. She doesn't seem to care that you overcame shin fractures, and foot fractures, and nagging doubt. She doesn't care that you endured bone scans and MRIs to get and stay healthy. She just wanted you to beat Ugly Socks, or to quit and lie down, or to find Hazel and cry that you couldn't stay at pace.

She's the same voice that gripes during PT, and would rather just read a book because WHY BOTHER. But she's a lying whore, a lot of the time. So there's that. Get your ass off the couch and get that first set of 10 knocked out. You have races to run and times to beat; but not with that negative attitude mister. Be proud of your run; even if you're the last one through, period. You still did it. And so did I.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Running is Going to Take You Down

New blog, first post! Woo! And because my life is about 85% irony and 15% insanity, I can't even write about me running; because I can't actually run right this minute. For the last 2 months (see also: AMAZING running weather) I haven't been able to run.

I tore a ligament in my knee (MCL for anyone keeping track) and now I'm wearing a flashy Robocop brace that looks weird and doesn't even help me fight crime. I'm also supposed to be doing physical therapy because my quads have decided to abandon the fight and wither and atrophy and all that jazz. Note: physical therapy is tedious and horrible, and physical theraPISTS will only laugh uproariously when you tell them that they're horrible people. Apparently they hear this sort of thing a lot. Settle down, Marquis de Sade, I don't need to do that many reps of your pain-game exercises.

So this post is about Not Running, mainly. Again, start a running blog, can't run = irony for anyone not totally clear on the concept (which would be just about 95% of the people I see using the term ironic and/or irony).

Here is the bitter, cold, heartless truth of running. You WILL get injured. But Sammo, you say, full of hope and shining dreams of your next 5k, 10k, halfsie marathon, "I stretch and train properly and run and have a chart and shoes with just the right mileage on them." "I'll never get hurt," you continue, as you sip your recovery drink and lounge in your Dri-fit wear. Your middle name should be Hubris! Hubris! I once announced how lucky I had been to dodge the knee problems that plagued other ladies I know. Wow, we have the same wider hips, I'm just such a lucky, luck girl and my knees are fiiiiiine.

Challenge accepted, replied the Universe. My knee pain was annoying at first, but being the stalwart runner I am, I thought that doing some lengthy trail runs up and down hills in the woods would help. Note: I cannot emphasize enough how much it did NOT help. Oh the runs themselves went okay, just the usual thunderous echo of my Asics pounding the beaten down trail dirt, and the laborious wheeze of my inhalations. Then I found I needed to ice-ice-baby my knee. Stiff as an octogenarian's joints I tell you.

I decided to stop running and give it a bit. Probably just irritated something, no big deal, I thought it my silly optimistic head. Then we went on vacation and walked miles and miles looking at touristy things and wandering hither and yon in search of not-too-diabetic sweet tea. My knee was possibly literally on fire. I mean that sucker was flaaaaamingly irritated. I spent half the vaca propping my knee up and icing it whenever I could find any vaguely chilly product.

Time for a doctor you say? Why sure 'nuff! Said doctor is a damned miracle worker, bet your ass. My husband has been given a decade of joint usage by this surgeon's blessed hands. The doc ordered up an MRI and it showed...a tear. An angry, unhappy little tear.

"It's weird, but for whatever reason, women have a tough time healing from this injury." Oh, good. Good news. I'm a woman, and I'm a shit healer anyway, and now I have a magical injury that women (average ones I assume, and not even shit healers) linger with? Cool story Dr. bro, tell it again.

Then I got my Robocop brace and here we are. I'm braced up and doing random quad stretches and exercises to support all my...supportive stuff. Then I'm trying to motivate my own damnable ligament to do its job and heal, for the love of Jesus. It isn't taking me up on the offer. It's still annoyed and I can feel the injury if I move the wrong way and I guess they should probably put me in the Ortho Surgeon medical book for "And here is a rare, stupid thing that only a few people ever get."

You say the word "rare" involving a medical thing, and I'm your gal. Rare reaction that is in the fine print? That's me, alllllll day long.

So I'm rare like steak in a French restaurant, and my ligament is doing it's best "I don't wannnnna heal" thing and my trails are growing cold and sad without me. I'm being the world's biggest not running baby, and refuse to listen to almost all of my ipod running playlist because then I want to punch my knee in the face, but it's my face and that would be a whole situation.

The bottom line is: you may have been down with an injury, or you're going down - there is no in between. I don't care who you are, even if you're some running phenom freaking Kenyan. You're going to be tired one day and roll your ankle on a curb. You're going to trip over a root on a trail, or spaz out trying to avoid a snake (that happened last spring), or see your ex and make a mad dash into the trees - but you ARE going down.

Running is a demanding mistress. You're just the poor sap who is destined to Facebook stalk her. Maybe she'll love you here and there; but make no mistake, you love her WAY more than she loves you. In fact, you might be in an abusive relationship already, just like I am with Running.

Eventually you'll be the poor shmuck doing 3 sets of 10 leg lifts because you pulled or tore or broke something. Doesn't matter that you have shoes fit for you at some fancy running store. Doesn't matter that you warm up religiously and make sure you're training right. None of it matters.

It's like motorcycles, of which my love affair is the stuff of legend. My god in heaven, for the right Suzuki Hyabusa I would launch a thousand ships! (Come on, you know you dig that mythology reference. Quality work, that's what I do, folks.) Much like motorcycles, there are two types of riders: those who have gone down and those who are going down. Have I been down? Yep. I was just lucky that it was in a parking lot, and once on my driveway/yard when we came in too hot. We know people who have gone down HARD.

Do I still love bikes? YES. You just have to be willing to take the risks for the rewards and know which one outweighs the other.

I'm not trying to be all Debbie Downer! Make no mistake, the second my dirty, dirty MCL pulls itself together, you'll find me right back on my trails, huffing along and run-dancing to all the righteous rock songs in my playlist.

If you're a runner, that's the thing: it owns you - like heroin but without all the nodding and early death.

You've seen friends wearing weird wraps and sleeves and gadgets and new shoes and orthotics... but none of you; NONE of you are hanging up the shoes for the couch. True story: I told the lady before my MRI that maybe I should stay on the couch because it's less dicey. She said that the injuries you get from being out of shape and sedentary are worse than the ones you get from being active. (Couch hammy pull? Potato-chip-dippers wrist?)

Is she right? Well y'all, I'm banking on it. I plan to be out there, soon, running until I pull/tear/strain my next pull-able/tear-able/strain-able body part. If you're part of the insane, masochistic, nutty Runner's Family, you'll be out there, too. See you mothers in PT!