Anecdotes: First long run

Anecdote number four.

Long story short: The summer before my freshman year of college, I finished reading Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run and wanted to jump up and run to Ann Arbor from home, a distance of about 23 miles. Thankfully, my dad nixed that idea, but suggested an alternate loop that he ran, which was closer to 17 miles (and, although he didn’t say it, would be easier to pick me up on if I needed saving). I seem to have a knack for choosing hot summer days for my key running moments, because this was a high-80s July afternoon. I took 8 oz. of water and a blueberry NutriGrain bar and set off. It was a good run – hot and tiring, but good. The loop was a basic square formed out of three dirt roads and the rails-to-trails trail. When that trail finally came into view, I started laughing because I was so glad. I knew I only had a couple more miles to go, and I knew that I could do that. I got home and begged my little brother to get a bottle of red Gatorade from the basement for me, because my legs would not be doing those stairs, thank you very much. I spent the remained of the day going to friends’ graduation parties with my parents, which worked out nicely because I was ravenous and those parties are overflowing with food. Boy, did I sleep well that night. I went to bed with a glow, I’m sure.


Anecdotes: High school cross country

Anecdote number three.

High school was nothing like the books said it would be. I wasn’t picked on, there weren’t cliques of bitches stalking the hallways, band people could be friends with athletes, et cetera. I was in band (playing bass clarinet) and cross country; those were my two groups. I had brief stints in the theatre group and track, both freshman year, but opted out in the years to come. (Our women’s track coach was insane and, frankly, I didn’t try hard enough to see that track could be fun.) I kept a diary then (and still do). Flipping through all four years, I can see easily how my life began to transition more and more towards running. Early entries focus on typical diary things: friends, how I was feeling or thinking, family things, etc. Then they begin to take a different shape. Less social information, more about running. Finally, in senior year, they all read basically the same:

“School was fine. Ran x miles at y pace. Felt z. No injuries. Ate q. Bed at 11.” Which is more or less how they read to this day, except with Work thrown in.

Looking back, I really could have tried harder in high school cross country, especially freshman and sophomore years. I think I shied away from pushing myself simply because it was hard. It was uncomfortable. Unless I was having one of those magical Good Days when I could keep up a good pace, I just couldn’t be bothered. I was one of those annoying people who claims injury when they don’t want to race. I dreaded race days. I only came last in one race, but I was never at the top. I didn’t know why, but I just Did Not Like Racing. Now I realize it was because I didn’t want to push myself, so I was never really satisfied with my results; plus, I wasn’t a fan of the physical discomfort of pushing it. Breathing hard? Sore legs? No thanks. So I’d come in around 25 minutes, shrug, and cool down. I didn’t think I had anything more in me. (My first meet, I ran 27 something. I met my mom at the finish and proudly said, “I got 27:xx! That’s the fastest I’ve ever run!”)

Junior year I stepped it up a bit more, but still wasn’t near my full potential. Then, the summer before my senior year, I ran my first half-marathon. I’d run 11 miles a couple times before, including one terrible, terrible run, so I thought I was prepared. It was a hot, muggy July morning, and the course was on fairly hilly dirt roads. I pushed through the last two (never-ending) miles and finished in just under two hours, completely exhausted, dehydrated, proud… and vowing to never do it again. Marathoners were crazy, I said. I didn’t know how they did it.

Senior year I kicked it in and had a PR of 21:36 or thereabouts on the last race of the season, regionals, where I always PR’d. (It was always chilly, rainy, and windy, and still, I always PR’d.) Still not fast fast, but I could live with it. I wasn’t fast enough to be on varsity – I think I was about 12th on the team – but because I was a senior, Carney let me come to the pre-States dinner that only varsity got to attend. I got to Pet the Donkey (the lucky donkey that varsity petted before States for good luck). It was a little disappointing that I couldn’t run at States, but we also had a really fast team when I was there (I think we had 5 or 6 girls in the 18s), so I felt okay about it.

The morning of my high school commencement, I ran my second half-marathon. It was another hot morning and I, in the infinite wisdom of invincible youth, decided that I didn’t need water, stopping would just be a waste of time, and I was in good shape. Talk about bad choices. I sprinted into the uphill finish, under a giant arch of balloons, and began to walk… when I heard people saying, “Almost there! You can do it!”

I’m sorry. WHAT.

The real finish was another two or three blocks away, so I picked up running again and basically jogged in right around two hours. I was angry at the misleading celebratory balloon arch, I was hot, and everything looked really, really bright. My dad found me and I told him the latter fact, which he recognized as a sign of heat exhaustion and called and EMT over. Ultimately, I was fine, I just had to drink a lot of water and sit in the shade for a while. My little brother looked at me like a crazy woman.

I was one of Them now. The crazy runners I’d marveled at the first day of cross country practice.

Anecdotes: First day of cross country

Anecdote Number Two.

First day of cross country. During seventh and eighth grade, I played volleyball. I was by no means good, but I did have one shining moment: I bumped the ball so far to the back of the other team’s side that everyone thought it was out – but it was in, and we won the game. Other than that, no physical activity, maybe some casual bike rides here and there. No running. So I was fairly surprised to find myself at the first day of cross country practice two weeks before school started, convinced by my friend Katie (with whom I had been friends in middle school) that it was fun and a good way to get in shape. My parents were pleased with my decision; my mom dropped me off and wished me good luck. As she drove away, I looked up the little hill to where everyone was gathered by the red track shed. I was a typical freshman: timid, worried I wouldn’t fit in or make friends, unsure of how to talk to people, etc. I didn’t have proper running clothes, just some cotton shorts that looked like pajama pants and a tank top. I didn’t think to bring water. And, scanning the crowd, I didn’t see Katie.

Social panic set in. I was now at the top of the hill, alone at the edge of a crowd of chattering, confident-looking runners. The coach, Tom Carney, spied me and called out, “Ah, the new person, scared to death. Best decision you’ve ever made!” (I doubted that.)

Let me interject here with a bit about Carney. He is a tan, fit, dark-haired guy of anywhere between 35 and 45 (I don’t actually know). You can see at first glance that he is a serious runner. He has Those Calves and is perpetually wearing a pair of Brooks, cargo shorts, a running t-shirt, and running sunglasses. He is a completely spastic ball of positive energy and he is a wonderful coach. I know him now, but my first impression of him was an odd mix of intimidation, almost like he wanted to haze the freshmen with running, and excitement that you were there. He focused on the varsity kids, but he’d run with us too. He made everyone on the team feel appreciated and accomplished. He noted everyone’s PRs, whether it was dropping from 18:01 to 17:59 or from 30:01 to 29:59. He made sure we were having fun, but he definitely made sure we knew when to focus. Before races, he’d have us all lay down and close our eyes, envisioning the race. Take the first mile slightly easy, kick it for the middle mile, and cruise into the third. If it was good weather or a good course, he’d point those out as positives; in bad weather or on tough courses, he’d tell us to view it as a challenge that we should push through and come out on top. Then we’d break and do our strides and head to the line. And he’d be there along the course, not just for the top five, but for the stragglers too, yelling encouragement and tips. Keep your eyes up. Fists loose. Catch this girl, she’s ten feet in front of you. And then – GO. GO NOW.

Back to the story. Being pointed out was the last thing I wanted, but it did let Katie know that I was here. She bounced over, said hi, and led me over to introduce her friends. “This is Camille and Brittany.” Camille seemed shy but energetic, and Brittany was a little sunny bubble bursting with energy and happiness. Little did I know that I would be close friends with these two girls for many years to come; I was just relieved to have someone to hang out with. They seemed nice and welcoming.

We started practice by going into the woods around the school to bury a shoe. I had no idea what was going on – the shoe was significant somehow, but I didn’t know. I just went along with the crowd. (ask around to find out what that was.) Then came the Running part of cross country, for which I was woefully unprepared. It was supposed to be an easy 4 or 5 miles, but I couldn’t even make it to the spot a mile away where we stretched. I found myself walking along the trail alone, tired, and very much regretting my decision to come. I could always quit, I thought; I don’t have to come back. Then Brittany came up behind me and walked with me. Turns out, she was slow too. Together we walked along, talking about how crazy these cross country people were, and decided to call ourselves the Turtles because we were slow. We’d be Turtles together.

The girls’ coach ran back to us and told us to try to run, even just on and off, and we tried. We did. But finally she said we could just start heading back for the high school because we were so far back. It was disheartening, but I no longer regretted coming. Maybe I can do this, I thought.

If I traveled back in time and told first-day-of-practice me that I’d run 50 miles and have plans beyond that one day, I would never, ever have believed me. It would have been so far beyond my comprehension. Just goes to show how far you can come.

Anecdotes: First time running

First installment!

I was in maybe sixth grade and very much in the stage of coming home after school, grabbing a big snack bowl, and watching TV. The private school that I attended for K-8 only had basketball, volleyball, and eventually soccer. (And cheerleading, but that’s all I’m saying about that.) This being the case, I had basically zero interest in anything athletic – not because it didn’t appeal to me, but because it didn’t occur to me.

That summer, I went with my mom to watch my dad run a local 5k. With building excitement I watched him start the race in the middle of the pack, caught him at the halfway point, and finally cheered him through the finish. I remember being there at the finish line, surrounded by sweaty runners (who, my mom warned me, might spit), and thinking something along the lines of, “Wow, this looks really fun and exciting, I want to try it!” So as soon as we got home, I took off jogging around my subdivision in some cotton shorts and a t-shirt. I probably two miles, maybe a little more. The heat and the fact that I had never really run before left me hot and sweaty, but bursting with pride, as I did a little sprint to my driveway. My parents were sitting on the porch; I walked up to them and told them that I’d just run around the subdivision. “The whole way?” they asked. “Yep!” I said. I can just see my sixth-grade self puffing up with joy. The rest of that summer, I ran a couple times a week, just doing loops around the pond in our subdivision (about half a mile). I’d go around that two or three times. When my dad got home from work, I’d run up to him and say, “Hi daddy! I ran around the pond three times today!” And he’d smile and say Good Job and generally encourage me; my mom did too, as she was getting back into running around that time as well.

Unfortunately, I trailed off once school started, although once I did go out and run around the pond 10 times, with Guns N Roses on repeat. I was so proud of that. Every time I went by, our neighbors across the street would ask how many loops I had done. I don’t remember how long it took, but when I told my parents, they didn’t believe me at first. When I told my friends at school the next day that I’d run five miles, they were amazed. (I get that reaction to my running nowadays too.)

So, 100 before 21…

…yeah, not gonna happen. I’m not going to make my goal of a 100M before 21.

It’s just not realistic, at all, at this point. I haven’t really been running since January, I’m currently officially on stress fracture rest, and I turn 21 in December. And I’m surprisingly okay with this fact – I think because I’m not missing my goal because I’ve been slacking, but because I’ve had bona fide injuries, and now I’m finally being smart about it. And I’m still going to try to do one as soon as possible, while staying injury-free.

But the problem remains: what to do about the blog? I don’t want to stop writing about my running, so should I change the title/URL? Or just keep it to avoid confusion?

How’s 100M-ASAP sound?


Biking thoughts

Since I’m still out of commission from running for at least another three weeks (not too bad, but I’m so looking forward to my first run back!), I’ll provide a few thoughts on biking. That’s what I’ve been doing, primarily.

  1. Speed. The speed in biking is nice. There’s speed in running sometimes, workouts and the ends of races and powering up hills, but not this kind of speed. Wind rushing by as you go down the road at 20 mph, bumping up and down trails and fearing for your life… at no point in running will I find myself hurtling down a hilly dirt road at 35 mph in a torrential downpour, whooping in exhilaration (I tend to startle drivers). It’s purely a different form of motion and it is good.
  2. Distance. Or rather, a greater distance over the same period of time. Biking allows for a much larger range covered. Running 18 miles takes me what, just under three hours? I bike that in a third of the time. And while I haven’t done any Long Rides (I usually do 15-20, or 60-80 minutes), that option is available, and without much preparation.
  3. Enjoyment. For some reason, when I’m able to run and I think about biking, it just doesn’t seem fun – probably just because I love running so damn much. But in a way, not being able to run has opened my mind to other things like biking, yoga, interval workouts (HIIT), and strength training… and theoretically swimming. But whenever I do hop on a bike, whether it be road or mountain, I love it. Especially once I’m in good enough biking shape to actually power up hills rather than doing whatever the biking equivalent of trudging is. Slogging, maybe? Anyway, it’s something good and different, a nice change of pace. (Literally.)

So yeah, biking’s been good to me. I’ve been slacking on abs and yoga, but biking consistently and finally getting back on track with being a Good Little Vegan. And, because I need to fill these waning days of summer with something, I’m going to do a mini-series of anecdotes from my running career thus far.

peace love and (for now) biking!