Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Day October 8, 2011

I made it to the starting line!  After months of training, a few weeks of losing my focus and falling off the horse (so they say) with my exercise, after the highs and lows of training, today was race day!  My stomach was in knots the entire car ride to the event, so much so that I skipped breakfast (a BIG no no for runners).  My sister-in-law met me there, a few weeks ago she had agreed to run/walk the race with me; I think she could see my motivation start to go out the window when she say things like "how's training going?" and I'd shuffle my feet, avoid eye contact, and reply "oh, you know, not bad."  I was so glad she was there!

Nervously, I approached the tent to get my packet of goodies and race timer.  After some fiddling for 10 minutes (I had neglected to bring pins, which an expert would have known to bring), I was able to attach my number to the front of my shirt.  It didn't look fancy like the other runners, but at least it was on!  The Fit at 5K was being sponsored by our local Channel 6 News team, and while I waited for them to call us to the starting line, I was able to sit back and do a little celeb seeing (sight seeing for local celebrities).  It was fun to see the familiar TV faces, until it dawned on me that the race itself would be aired on TV, meaning there would be a chance for ME to end up on TV too!  At that point, there went the stomach again, tied in knots and I wondered why I had chosen such a public race for my debut!  I thought again how grateful I was that my sister-in-law would be next to me; there always seems to be safety in numbers!

The announcer finally called runners to the starting line and I joined the crowd, a bit unsure of where to stand.  I chose to be in the middle of the pack, reasoning that, just like my students at school, nobody wants to be in the front where you can be noticed (unless you are really serious about this running stuff and really really good).  The adrenaline started to take over and I jogged in place a bit, loosening up, wanting so much to just go!  Kelly LeBreque, from Channel 6 News, made a brief speech that served to pump us up and turned us all into "woo" girls (and guys).  And then, just like that, we were off!

I started out running with virtually everyone, although I was quickly passed by many of the more seasoned athletes.  I didn't care, I wasn't last and I planned on pacing myself so I could finish.  I wasn't in a race with anyone but myself that day!  About 10 minutes into the race, out of sight of the cameras interestingly enough, the majority of the runners stopped and began a brisk power walk.  The runners destined to place well in the race, quickly were out of sight, as the rest of us settled into a beautiful jaunt along the Back Cove of Portland.  My sister-in-law and I were able to keep up a constant conversation, even if a bit breathless, as we admired the fancy houses and the beautiful ocean and city views.  After a brief discussion on how much we thought these houses were worth, we came to our first water station.  A smile crossed my face and I turned to my sister-in-law, "We should run and get the water, like we see in the marathon.  It will give us the full experience!"  We both broke into a slow jog as the volunteers held out a Dixie cup of water to each of us as we passed by.  I realized two things at that moment: trying to drink out of a Dixie cup while running is tough business, and dropping your used Dixie cups on the ground during a race is not considered littering.  I'm sure some amazing volunteer cleaned up after us.  But, still, it felt odd to just drop my cup and go!

The race route wound through some residential sections and volunteers were stationed every so often to tell you which way to go.  They were really wonderful people, offering cheers and words of encouragement and a few jokes along the way.  There were some hilly areas that my sister-in-law and I dutifully walked (I had not trained for running up hill at this point in the program).  We walked a good portion of the race, but I didn't care.  I wasn't going to come in last, the day was beautiful, I had wonderful company and at least I was brave enough to be here!

Towards the end, we rounded the top of a hill that brought us back to the starting/finish line.  We both broke into a run at that point and I was pumped!  I could not stop grinning from ear to ear as I heard my friends and family cheer me home.  My sister-in-law and I gave each other a high five as we crossed under the balloon arbor that marked the end of the race.  I had made it!  Not only that, I wasn't last and I had finished in under an hour!  Setting out, those were my only goals, and I did it!!  The feeling was amazing!!!

So, couch potatoes, it CAN be done!  We CAN set our goals and reach them, with a little sweat and maybe a few tears.  Now the only question I have is, what will my next challenge be and who will join me?  Come on, you know you can make it!  I'll be right there beside you, like my sister-in-law was for me!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beating the Heat August 17, 2011

Running in Maine is definitely an experience, especially when the weather does not cooperate.  The problem is getting your body used to running in specific temperatures.  There are no specific temperatures in Maine.  For instance, yesterday it was rainy with a high of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Today, it is sunny and in the 80s.  That's a difference of 30 degrees in less than 24 hours!  Running in 80 degree weather, after experiencing 50 degree weather, is tough for a beginner.  This summer, I have yet to figure out the best way to adjust my body to the temperatures while still making gains in my program.  Each warm or hot day feels like a setback and it is very frustrating!

Although, during the last stint of rainy weather, as I was on the couch watching TV, I came across a program on Maine PBS.  Did you know that there are actual people who run races out in Death Valley?   I had no idea that there were people that, let's say, unique.  The races are usually run in February, during the "cold" season (about 70 or 80 degrees), but these diehards were running it in the summer where the temperature was a crazy 130 degrees!  I still can't tell whether I am impressed with their bravery, or dismayed at their "throw caution to the wind" mentality.  But, I will say one thing for them, they are definitely dedicated runners!  I can respect them!  And, in the words of my friend Sarah (who said it best), "I have respect for anyone who wants to run anywhere!"   

I guess that is one of the biggest differences between myself and these hardcore runners.  They seem to get pleasure out of their running WHILE they are running.  I have realized that, for the most part, I don't.  I can appreciate my accomplishment after I finish, but during the actual running I find it far from pleasurable.  I know, in the end, it is good for me and it will help me lead a healthier and happier life.  But, at times like today, when my motivation is out the window, I have to reflect on the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who encourages us to ask ourselves "Will it make you happy?"  And, while running may not be pleasurable everyday, in the long run it can help make us happy!  So, keep running and remember, you could always be running in 130 degree weather in Death Valley.  There is always a bright side to everything!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

June 29, 2011 My Spiritual Moment in Zion

Now, I know the Grand Canyon is supposed to be the most impressive place in the lower 48.  I know people flock there from all over the world to wonder at how vast it is.  I admit, I went and I was impressed, but it was not my most favorite place to see when I went out West.  That honor has to belong to, none other, than Zion National Park.

I am not a particularly religious person, although I can appreciate the sense of community and the comfort that an organized religion can give someone.  I tend to lean towards my own brand of spirituality, taking the best of what I have learned from others and attempting to apply it towards my own life.  That is why, I was a bit skeptical that a place called Zion would be of huge interest to me.  I was wrong!  I have been to many beautiful places, but this is the first time I could feel what it might mean to have a "religious experience." 
Great Basin Desert

The day before, on our way to the Grand Canyon, my friends and I had traveled through The Great Basin Desert.  It was a land both beautiful and desolate.  Huge mesas lined one side of the highway, while the other side was scrub land as far as the eye could see.  Much of the land that we saw had been given to the Paiute Tribe of American Indians by our own government many years ago.  As we drove through this area, we kept commenting on how difficult it must be to earn a living here, how this land did not seem to have much usefulness.  It was a barren wasteland that could support very little life.

Zion National Park

   Which is why, I did not expect that, 20 minutes from this arid land, would be a place so majestic and bountiful.  The day after seeing the Grand Canyon, we drove into Zion National Park and could not believe what we were witnessing.  A cold, meandering river; green trees; and green grass stuck, seemingly, in the middle of nowhere.  A hidden canyon full of lush vegetation and animal life!  Never, in my life, have I been somewhere that was in such stark contrast to it's surroundings.  I could picture early pioneers, many of them Mormon farmers from Salt Lake, crossing the Great Basin desert, feeling thirsty and tired and maybe a bit disheartened.  As they traveled, they would slowly begin to see trees and grass and know that hope might be nearby.  What did they feel when their eyes first took in Zion?  I think it must have been a spiritual experience for them.  I think they may have felt that God had given them this place as a reward for crossing the treacherous desert.  In fact, the Mormons named Zion Kolob, which roughly translated,  means the heavenly place nearest the residence of God.  I can see why, after toiling through deserts and rough terrain, the Mormons would have stopped here and found their promised land.

Court of Patriarchs Zion
My friends and I took the shuttle bus through the canyon, stopping at each stop to get out and wander around.  I loved how interactive Zion was, you could touch the rocks, swim in the cool river, and wander the trails to your hearts content.  One day was certainly not enough to get the full experience.  Next time I will spend more, and maybe even attempt some of the hikes around the river and the canyon.  For now, I will be glad that I was able to see a place this unexpected and beautiful!

Happy travels and I hope you can find a place in your life that can make you feel "nearer to God."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6, 2011 Baldpate Mt

Today I just couldn't get motivated to run.  Now that I have officially signed up for an actual road race, bragged about it to all of my friends, and invited my family to come watch (as if this was my college graduation all over again), I've started to panic.  Sure, it's easy to go jogging when you have nobody to please but yourself.  But, now that I've committed to this race, I'm feeling the pressure.  Especially when it seems like everyone I know is a racer or starting to race.  Gosh, they make it look so easy!

So, to give myself a break, I decided to take Bella and head up into the woods for a hike.  There is something peaceful about hiking that has always held the ability to calm me down.  The trailhead begins not far from 5 Field Farms in Bridgton and there are several different trails or loops to choose from.  You can hike the entire trail system (about 14K I'm told) or just some.  Each trail segment is about 1/2 to 1 mile depending on what you choose.  The terrain is gradual and much of it is spent in the woods.  These are great beginner trails for anyone wanting to get out into the fresh air. 

Today I hiked up an easy trail to the summit and skipped the loops; I will save those for another day.  The majority of the hike is spent in the woods and now and then you come to a spot with a nice view.  The views look out over the surrounding Western Maine foothills and ponds, namely Holt and Peabody Pond.  At the summit, there is a flat rocky area, surrounded by pine trees, that is perfect for a picnic. 

Bella enjoyed the day immensley, crashing through the woods, chasing squirrels, and sniffing anything that was worth sniffing.  She is not much of a water dog, but get her into the woods and she is in her element.  Although I am not a hunter, I think she would have made a great hunting dog.  Or, perhaps, a search and rescue dog as her nose seldom leaves the ground when she's hiking.  I have also noticed that she, having 4 legs to my 2, can go much faster than I can, but will stop several feet up ahead to wait for me.  On the way back down, she will tend to lie down to wait for me, which I find a bit insulting; I am not that slow of a hiker and she certainly will not have time for a quick nap while she waits for me.  

Overall, a lovely day and a great place to clear one's head!  I'm sure tomorrow I will hear the Couch to 5K training plan calling my name.  But, until then, it is time for some much needed couch potato time!

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn." - Muir

June 30, 2011 or why Hippies make great hostel guests

Today found me about as far away from home as I have been in awhile.  After a 6 hour plane ride and an 8 hour drive, I had arrived in Moab, UT.  If you have never had the chance to see the Western half of the United States, I highly recommend it, especially if you are from the East.  It can really put an entirely new perspective on things. 

Moab is an interesting little town stuck, literally, in the middle of the desert.  As my friends and I made our way East, on I70, we came to a sign that was a little concerning.  The sign dutifully informed us that this was the last exit with gas, food or real bathrooms for the next 200 miles.  Gas and food I figured we'd be ok.  Our "Lil Mule" (aka: the little Ford Fiesta that could) had very good gas mileage.  No, the lack of bathrooms was what I was the most concerned about.

What the sign did not tell us was that, this was going to be the very last building we would see for the next 200 miles.  As we continued, the desert stretched out before us, flat and colorful and uninhabited.  Giant rock formations, cliffs and mesas surrounded us in a broken, but amazingly beautiful landscape.  It was what, I imagined, driving on Mars might be like.

We arrived in Moab late in the day, thankful that we had made it safely and no longer had to be cramped in the car.  The thing about Utah, on the map the distance didn't seem so great, but in reality things were very far apart.  Moab seemed such an odd place, just a decent sized town stuck in the middle of nowhere.  Out on the highway, we did see cars, but it was not exactly rush hour traffic.  In Moab, the streets were packed and there were people everywhere.  Where did they come from?  How did they get here?  It is really the strangest, most random little town I have ever seen. 

At first we couldn't find the Lazy Lizard Hostel, that would be our home for the night.  We passed by some fancier hotels, noting with envy, the pools and air conditioned rooms.  Then we spotted an A1 Storage Building, the kind of place where you rent out units to store your belongings in when you have accumulated too much clutter for your home.  The directions said it was behind the A1 Storage Building, but we didn't realize how accurate that was.  When we pulled in, we were immediately greeted by 2 men, wearing tie dye shirts, who tried to invite us into a game of frisbee.  They looked like the sort of young men who spend their days roaming from town to town looking for adventures in the outdoors.  How they fund their adventures is beyond me.  We were shown to our cabin, which on first glanced looked ok.  Once inside, the 3 of us began laughing hysterically when we were introduced to the wooden bunk beds, a duct taped plastic window, and an air conditioner that had been jerry rigged to move the warm air around.

But, hey, what did we expect for $12 per night.  We knew there would have to be some concessions.  We unpacked, settled in, and took a trip down to the communal bathhouse (which reminded me so much of my camp counselor days).  When we returned, an RV had parked right next to our cabin and had rigged up a plastic sheet tacked onto a corner of our building and a corner of their RV.  Not exactly sure why, we immediately went inside and locked the doors, laughing some more at our fancy accommodations.  A few hours later, as we were getting to sleep, we realized why there was a need for the plastic sheet as a strange, funky, 60's era odor started creeping through the holes of our cabin.  A few moments later, we began to hear the drum of bongos, as the hippie party got underway.  This elicited more hysterical laughter from us as we discussed how much we missed the Super 8 we had stayed at a few days prior.  Who knew the Super 8 would feel like the Hilton after this experience!

So, if you are ever in Moab, I recommend visiting Arches National Park and the shops in town.  But, unless you wear tie dye on a daily basis, I'd skip the Lazy Lizard Hostel.    

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011 Ahh...HERE is the sun!

Gloomy weather has not helped me in my Couch to 5K challenge.  In fact, it has not helped me in any area of life.  It is hard to stay motivated when the sun is hiding away, taking any bit of warmth with it.  I've already told you about my issues with the treadmill, it is no substitute for jogging in the sun along the lake. 

Although, 1 plus about exercising within the privacy of your own home is that nobody sees you.  This means you can be as silly as you want to be, which can be very helpful.  I stepped it up a notch to try the Week 4 excercise (technically I have been doing this for 6 weeks).  This consists of 3 minutes of jogging, 2 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of jogging, 3 minutes of walking...and repeat!  When I first printed out this routine, oh so many weeks ago, and noticed all the jogging, I began to panic, "I can't do this.  Who can do this?  Only crazy people jog for 16 minutes total!"  And, friends, I will say that this part of the workout did  hurt just a little bit.  In fact, the day after I first tried it I was at school and had to bend down to pick up a pencil, I had a moment I wasn't sure I was going to get back up again.  My hamstrings were screaming at me and asking, "Why on Earth did you do this to us!  Here we were, content to just lounge on the couch watching Oprah's last season!  Why, why, why, why...." 

This is a perfect example of my body, my brain and my heart not exactly being on the same page.  But, I did it anyway, despite the protest of my hammies and managed to get through it.  Now, this was accomplished in the confines of my home on the treadmill, which meant I could talk to myself and say things like, "Go, your almost there, don't give up, booya, woohoo, you rock, yeeha!"  Had I done this outside in public I would have more than likely ended up checked into the local hospital for an evaluation.  But, inside, I found giving myself affirmations a great way to get through that LAST little bit that your just not sure you can do.  So, my advice for you, hoot and holler all you want and celebrate the time you are off the couch!  It can make a big difference in how you feel after!  Oh, and NEVER be afraid to boast a little bit to friends, family and social networking sites, you've worked hard and you've earned it! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why I Love and Hate Running

May 2, 2011

I have a love/hate relationship with running.  I hate that I get shin splints.  I hate that I sweat and get really red in the face so that I look like a raddish.  Believe you me, I don't think that running is going to make me particularly attractive to the opposite sex (at least, not while I'm running).  I have yet to buy those cute running outfits that all the fitness magazines show on their front covers.  Nope, give me sweats and a t-shirt, put my hair up into a pony tail and I'm pretty much good to go.

What I Hope Is My Before Picture

What I LOVE about running is that it gets you out into the community.  My town is small and picturesque, the quaint New England vacation town.  It pretty much closes up in the Winter time, but around April you begin to see the first people emerge from their hibernation states.  It's small at first, one or two people taking pictures down by the lake.  By May, there are people everywhere: window shopping downtown, having a picnic in the park, or doing their own run/walk routine.  And most people are very friendly!  Today was no exception when, my dog being the social animal she is, we met another woman with her dog.  Actually, I had no immediate plans to stop, I had hit the "zone" in my running routine.  My dog had other ideas and stubbornly sat down until I let her go and sniff her new friend.  Dogs apparently do not care about time or laps or exercise reps.  Friendly dog and human greetings were exchanged (both in ENTIRELY different ways) and we left with the feeling we'd probably bump into each other again.  I think this shouldn't be too hard in a town with only 700 people (if not less) in it.

 We also met a little Corgi that had broken loose from it's line and came charging at us full tilt.  This was a slightly less exciting event because I wasn't sure how my pup would react.  One of the things I love about Bella is that she is a very friendly, passive dog.  She won't start any trouble with other dogs.  BUT, she is also not afraid to "throw down" if another dog starts trouble.  Luckily, the Corgi seemed to be friendly enough and I left, breathing a sigh of relief (after notifying the owner that their dog was loose of course).  

Running is also a great way to multi-task.  For example, today I ran into my car mechanic, which was convienent because I needed to give him a call anyway.  It's nice when you can accomplish 2 things at once!  And, at the rate my car is going, I may need to rely more on my running muscles than ever before.  It is one thing to "go green" voluntarily, but an enitrely different matter when your forced to.  Ah well, if it is good for me and the environment then so be it! 

So, to all of you out there reading my blog, enjoy your running and I hope you accomplish a lot of things as you multi-task your workout.  Also, watch out for Corgis and mud puddles (a story for another time).  Cheers!