Friday, August 11, 2017

On renewing your spirit.....

Yes, that's me! Running the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was awesome and surreal at the same time. To run in such beauty and such majesty, renewed my soul. I've been struggling with my fitness since 2010 - and although I've had some great running moments since, it's never been like pre-2010. Pre-2010 was when I was queen of my running and fitness universe. And running on that South Rim, brought back the same feelings and emotions, and made me want to get back to my pre-2010 fitness.

But to do that, I needed to renew my spirit. I have become more and more caught up in running forums and groups and spend less time actually thinking about, and doing my own running. I am too busy commenting on everyone else's running! That has merit, and is a great thing, but it takes so much time and energy. Pre-2010 me spent time running, gyming and blogging. And that worked so well for me. It's not that I don't enjoy the social interaction, it's that I enjoy it a bit too much. And I spend too much time getting involved in other people's virtual lives.

I love running. Always have, always will. And I was a pretty decent runner before all those surgeries in 2011 and being so sick. The rot which started in 2010, started gripping deeper and deeper, and my running kept slipping further down my list of priorities, until it was just something I needed to do in a day's work, rather than the highlight of my life.

I arranged for a few sessions with a coach to discuss this in 2012. And she told me to redefine what it means "to go for a run". My mind was no longer in the right place to follow the rigid (but enjoyable) schedule I had once done, but I couldn't find a way out of the overwhelming rot taking over my life. And I couldn't understand it. Seven years is a long time to work things out, but cells take 7 years to renew themselves, and I'd like to add, so does one's spirit. It needs 7 years. Or rather, I needed 7 years. And now I am back to where I started, ready to undertake that journey again. This time with the wisdom and understanding and experience of 7 years of struggle and hardship, and lots of tears and frustration! 

Running is a funny old beast. I always thought I would not allow it to be the thing that defines me, but it is the thing that makes me happy. And happiness is found in the beauty of running. As the Navajo pray: 
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty below me I walk
In beauty all is made whole
In beauty all is restored
In my youth I am aware of it, and
In old age I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail
In beauty it is begun
In beauty it is ended.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Humboldt Redwoods Marathon

This was a training run before the 50K.  I can't say it was the best of times, as I really wanted to do the Bizz Johnson marathon the week before.  However, due to lack of organisation, I couldn't find accommodation, and it was just all too rushed.  So I ended up doing the Redwoods marathon up in Humboldt Park.

It was raining cats and dogs, driving up, and I was not looking forward to this.  I had done two 20 milers, and several other longer runs, but I was feeling a bit anxious- even though it was a training run. I think it was the rain, and wind, and general cold! Yes, I was feeling wimpy. I hate being cold.  It is the one thing I can't really deal with - though I might have to learn to deal with that if I want to run in Antarctica! Anyway, I was just not in the mood for this race.

The morning of the race was cold and rainy. And I kept wondering if I should change down to the half! Back and forth, back and forth.  Anyway, I decided to suck it up, and go for what I had signed up for. Because of the bad weather, a lot of people had changed down to the half - which meant a very small field for the marathon.  Which I don't normally mind, but the weather was relentless and also, I didn't really feel like it. But I also learned how to run and see something through when it's tough and I'm off my mental game.

So off we went.  It was so beautiful out there, and I just ran. Well, it wasn't the best mental approach, but I kept my head screwed on, finished the race, and ticked off 26.2 miles.

I am an Ultra Runner - Autumn Leaves 50K

On October 29, 2016, I ran my first 50K, and became an ultra runner! Me, yes me :-) What a journey it's been. Running that race up in Oregon was exhilarating, scary and exciting. And I did it.  And now I know for sure what I am - an ultra runner.  When I started this blog back in 2008, I didn't know if I wanted to be a runner, a triathlete or an ultra runner.  Having tried all 3 of those things, I now know.

We arrived in Oregon at the race packet pick up on Friday evening, with minutes to spare.The weather was awful on the way up, but so beautiful to see Mount Shasta and Mount Hood. But it was very misty and rainy so it wasn't all clear and lovely to take pics. But what a lovely trip!  Oregon is definitely on my list to visit again. It rained heavily all night, and it was scheduled to rain all day on Saturday too.  Rain is no big deal, but I didn't quite fancy it - having run a marathon 2 weeks prior in pouring rain!  Still, 3 days before my race, I met my other god of running, Dean Karnazes, again, and he wished me good luck.  Ok, that's definitely a good omen - especially since it's thanks to him that I got into ultra running.

So, the race start was at 7am sharp, and we were told to wear headlamps as it would be a full hour before sunrise.  Wow, it wasn't just dark, it was pitch black when we arrived, and there were no lamps, lights or anything else.  So headlamps and torches went on immediately. Got to the start, organised the drop bag and it was time to start.  It was raining as we lined up. And then off we went, punctually, at 7am. I didn't even have a chance to feel anxious or worried! Just started running and felt myself immediately.

After mile 1, I realised it was going to be a tough day at the office.  My legs were tired!  Two weeks prior I had run a trail marathon, and that was not enough time for me to recover for the 50K.  I have only been running again since June, and spent June and July testing out my foot and just getting back to it.  I was scared that if I have any more foot issues, I would need an op, and that would put me out of commission for quite a while.  So I decided to go for it.  In 4 months I went from zero to half marathon, to marathon, to ultra. I thought about all those things that morning, running in the darkness, listening to the birds - and before I knew it, 6 miles were done and the sun was up. What a glorious sight greeted me.  Piles and piles of leaves, and beautiful pine trees. It was quite a small race, with around 200 people: half doing the 50K, the other half doing the 50 miler.

For my first attempt I think I ran a good race.  My goal was to finish - that was never in doubt - and if the foot didn't hold up, I would have walked. I saw quite a few people drop, which was surprising.  But I did learn what true pain feels like.  When it's easier to run than walk! And I really learned what I was capable of - putting up with a lot of pain. And smiling all the way through.  How do I know that? Because competitors and aid station volunteers all commented on that.  My head was screwed on, my nutrition was on point, and I was in the zone.

To run in such beauty, with such fantastic people, restored my soul.  It was just what I needed.  I am happy with what I did.  Of course there is always room for improvement, but that's not what this journey was about. I had to do this, and I did it! It was amazing, and I loved every minute of it.
When I finished that race, it was like being reborn.  2015 was the worse year of my life.  I lost my fitness, I was injured for almost the whole year, and I was just sick the whole year. I never thought I would get out of that situation.  But running has always been my compass and anchor.  I love running. I'm not very fast, but I don't run to compete with others, I run to please myself and achieve my goals. I completely forgot all about that in 2015 because I was so busy being miserable about not being able to run any more.
And now, onwards and upwards.  I could hardly walk that night.  Had a shower, ate and was in bed fast asleep by 6:30pm!  But man, did I feel like a queen the next day, and weeks thereafter :-)

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Clo Cow HM

I love cows.  So it was no surprise that I signed up for the Clo Cow half marathon.  I think I got a bit carried away at the thought of green trees, cows and glorious sunshine.  When I went to pick up the race packet, I was shocked at how hot it was!  It was baking, and there seemed to be lots and lots of hills, which made me start wondering at the wisdom of this move.  Well, I'd signed up for it, so there was nothing for it, but to turn up and run.
The next morning saw a 7am start - thank goodness, as it was probably 90*F when I finished.  We started off, and the first mile was all uphill. Right. The next mile was also uphill.  OK. And so it continued. But it was all very delightful.  I loved the early, silent morning - the soft mooing of the cows, and the screaming thigh muscles. I was very glad that I had elected to wear a hydration pack, as those uphills did me in.  True I walked a lot of them, because I have not been doing any hill training, but I have been doing a lot of run-walk, so that I am not in agony at the end of a long race.
It wasn't a big race - around 300 people, but it was so well organised. And the cheer team were amazing!  They were in it 100%.  I had a great time.
The last mile and a half, I ran barefoot.  My foot was bothering me a bit, and there was instant relief running freely.  I just wish I was ready to run completely barefoot. My feet may need a lot more training and exposure before I get to the point of running long distances like that.
This was probably my slowest HM ever, but it was one that I enjoyed the most. If not the most ever.  I was/am in a totally different frame of mind re my running. I am finally feeling excited about it again. It's taken long enough, but I am starting to enjoy my running again. And I think this race pic shows it. Typically I would not post such a pic, as I can think of all the things I don't like about it.  But there are more things that I love about it, and Sunday was such a happy, joyful run! Watch this space for further developments!