Monthly Archives: November 2013

Half Shy

How (in the HELL) am I going to run 14 miles tomorrow?

It is what is on my training agenda for the half marathon in February, but I am slightly terrified. Even at the slowest wog, 10 miles still just sucks the life out of me, puts an ache throbbing through my muscles and joints.

How am I going to add 4 miles to that? How am I going to jog on for nearly 3 hours?

Simply put, it’s intimidating. It is the goal; it is what I have been working toward these past couple years. It’s what gets me to running with Carmen in New Orleans on Super Bowl Sunday. Slow as shit or not, it will be a fucking half marathon.

I know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’m going to wog pathetically slow mile after mile. I’m going to keep pushing when my muscles burn and my breath tries to betray me. I’m going to tell myself I can keep going even when I just want to fall over and die.

Like Cripple Creek, I’m just nervous. Like Cripple Creek, it’s another big step and a new challenge. Feeling the idea begin to breach the present just has a little pressure sitting on my chest. I need to do it, put it behind me, and shift it from goal to accomplishment.

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Turkey Trot

This year, I decided to get a preemptive burn on my calories and overindulgence. Since I can’t drop pounds to save my damn life, I might as well do what I can to curb the gain.

No matter how many miles I run myself to death, no matter how many calories I count, NOTHING. Beyond frustrating but on I wog.

Michelle commissioned this brilliant idea, and Trisha and I followed suit.

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5K remains the hardest distance for me. 5 miles, 10K, even 10 miles on a good day are just easier. The longer I run, the farther out my float waits for me. With the 5K, I am striving the first two miles, thinking I should be able to run it faster, then float barely at the end when the dry heaves are bubbling.

And I do not get faster. For all that I run, my speed has not changed in probably over a year. I run much farther, and the runs get much smoother but always the same zombie turtle pace. Speed is just not my strong suit, or priority, and 5Ks are not my distance.

That all being said, it was not a bad race at all. The sun was bright, but the air was crisp. The Turkey Trot is apparently THE run to do in Colorado Springs, so the route was nothing but a bobbing pack of bodies the entire duration. I was weaving and getting passed perpetually; it was high traffic. Nearly the first two miles were uphill, which got my heater going.

I just jogged it out and waited for my float. When the float washed over me, I remembered, as I always do in that instant, that I don’t do this for the workout, for the calorie burn, for weight loss–I do it for the sanity. I do it for the float, for that momentary feeling of bliss and clarity, for those brief glimpses of euphoria, for the teasing dances with accomplishment.

My muscles, weak from 6.5 miles the night before, released their acid. I felt the sensation spread under my skin. I ignored it and held my slow and steady pace. I crossed the finish at my normal Colorado 5K time and jogged right into Thanksgiving.


Guest blog (Trisha): “On Running with Christina”

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Saturday morning, 7am – my alarm goes off and reminds me that I need to wake up and run 10 miles.  It’s 23 degrees outside and the ground is dusted with that beautiful early winter snow.  My bed is warm – so very, very warm – and I’m tempted to bail.  I know that to do so would mean later retribution from the queen of guilt, a lovely Catholic trait we share, and zero sense of accomplishment, so I leap out of bed and into my cold weather gear.  Egg, toast, a little coffee, layers, sunscreen, keys – out the door.

Thankfully, today it’s not all that windy and the sun is glowing just behind a light curtain of clouds. It’s actually beautiful up on the Sante Fe trail and I’m excited to tackle 10 miles again.  We gear up, secure layers, and walk just to the first downhill to start.  10 miles.  I can do this.  Slowly.

It’s hard to believe some days that I’ve become this dedicated runner.  When I started running last Spring, I hated it.  I felt good about myself, I dropped a few pounds and probably added years to my life because of the stress release, but I hated pretty much every mile.  I was going it largely alone, and I always felt unaccomplished.

I really was ready to drop the whole idea until Christina moved back from Tennessee and foiled my plans.  We ran the Garden of the Gods 5k in May and I caught the bug – that little accomplishment fueled the next few weeks of workouts.

Then there was Summer.  I hated Summer – it was hot and I am apparently not built for heat.  After each Wednesday Run Club 5k loop I wanted to quit.  I hurt, I was sick, and it never got any better.  Somehow, I kept going.  And under other Christina coercion, I started running longer distances.  Wait, 5 miles?  7?  A 10K race?

My “running breakthrough” came in that 10K race at Venetucci Farm.  Running cross country through a working farm in the cool morning was amazing.  I crushed my goals, I felt accomplished.  I was in for at least another few weeks.  Even my painful trudge through Denver’s City Park last weekend left me feeling like I was growing and gaining strength.  So Christina won – she’s molded me into a suitable running partner, though I’m aware there’s a lot more work to do.

The last time we attempted 10 miles I was apparently not really doing much breathing.  I have asthma, which is usually not an issue, but I’d been so stressed out at school that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t really breathing.  There were miles of wogging and more walking than I ever wanted to do.  I’m a little terrified each time I run that it’ll be like that again – that I’ll burn out a mile in because there’s not enough oxygen in the air at 6500 feet to feed my lungs, let alone my brain and muscles.  I keep running, though.

There’s something about running with Christina that makes the bad runs feel a little less horrible and the good ones feel like a real victory.  Maybe it’s that she and I just work that way – a 25 year relationship has to matter in the equation.  It definitely helped when she admitted that she hates the first two miles every time, that she wants to puke when she’s done at a race, that it took her months to find her pace.  I have to remember that I’m still pretty new at this, and that I am in competition with no one.

Today, 10 miles felt amazing.  I’d like to do them about 15 minutes faster, but 10 miles on Sante Fe is no joke, and I feel like a fucking champion when we creep up the final hill. Then she drops the bomb – “so 14 on Sunday?”

Yes Christina, 14 on Sunday.  Call me your companion in zombie turtle paced masochism.  I hope it snows again.


The Price

Right now, I have compound blisters on the side of my big toes, the balls of my feet, and on the sides of the arches of my feet.

I have scabs on my back from where my bra has rubbed through the skin.

I have knots coiled in my traps and neck from where my bra straps sit, making it painful to turn my head.

My leg muscles are perpetually exhausted, strained, and whining.

Last week, I did 30 miles total. It was too much; my body nearly went on strike. I could do it without dying, obviously, but now it does not want to do anything else.

Yet I keep going back for larger doses. More frequently. Like any addict.


Run for Pie

Well, let’s see. So far…

I have run for sight at night.
I have run for breast cancer (twice).
I have run for arthritis.
I have run for color (three times).
I have run for vampires.
I have run for beer (twice).
I have run for gays.
I have run for diabetes.
I have run for chocolate and fondue.

Now, I have run for pumpkin pie, as well.

May I never utter the words “This race will be cake” again. Both times, they have turned around to bite me square in the ass. I was lulled by the course description. “Flat and fast.” Surely, it was going to be easy. I was just going to blaze my way around it. I had been seeing so much progress lately; how could I not?

Earlier in the week, I ran 6.5 for our run club. Then the preceding day, I ran 6.5 for my weekly morning run with Christina. My muscles were fairly burnt, and my feet were growing blisters on top of blisters. Still, I thought, no problem.

The 10K began after the 5K finished so later in the morning. An unseasonably warm November sun beat down on us. When we finally wormed our way out of the starting chute, I dropped into my normal pace, holding back my race excitement and confidence that I would breeze through the route.

The race retaliated nearly immediately. The first mile was so long. Wave after wave passed my steady jog. The heat welled up inside me, tempting nausea. And I felt every step of the week’s miles. My legs felt exhausted already, moving like slabs of lead. My ass cheeks ached and whined. I told myself to keep wogging because the first two miles are always the hardest.

And it did get better after the first two miles. It just did not get good.

I continued to plug along, waiting for my float, hoping to hit my stride. Bursts of ease seemed to tease at the idea but never manifest. I had to work for every stride. I just felt tired and slow. I found myself wishing that I could just look like a runner, instead of a flustered, buffing basset hound. I wished I could just run and have it feel easy, just improve to what I considered to be other runners.

I tried to focus on the scene, trick myself into finding some euphoria and distraction. When I race, I never wear headphones. I don’t want to put my mind somewhere else to make it through the time. I want to be in the moment; I want to be present. Even through the pain. I focused on the bright sun igniting the fall leaves against the downtown buildings and the flocks of geese taking off in a froth of tiny waves on the lake.

It wasn’t quite enough. But I just kept wogging. I didn’t stop or walk or slow down. I just kept wogging.

The route snaked through the park ahead of me in a mass of bobbing bodies. It looped around through the start and began again. There were several switchbacks. For the first couple, I folded back to see Trisha jogging along behind me. I reached out to give her a high five. Each time, I was energized. I wasn’t alone; someone was wogging with me.

When I passed the halfway point, I saw the clock counting up from 35 minutes. I knew I would not make my goal of 1:05. I was not surprised with how I felt, but I will still disappointed. Now it was about finishing.

I found my body looking for hills. My legs were anticipating pushing hard up the incline then coasting down the decline. I used to live on flat. I have spent the past six months fantasizing about running easy on the flat. Now the flat has become challenging and problematic. Foreign. I never thought I would see the day.

Twenty degrees cooler on rested muscles would have been a different run, but that doesn’t matter. This is the race I ran. It didn’t make me happy. It didn’t feel good; I didn’t float or find any euphoria; I was not pleased with my performance. But it just was what it was. Have to keep running.

Then there was pie. It was cold pie out of a box with no whipped cream, but it was still pretty tasty as we walked back to the hotel. It wasn’t my worst race, but it was far from my best.

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We made a weekend out of the race since it was in Denver. We went up Friday night, got our packets, checked into the hotel, and went out for drinks. Then after the race, we went to lunch then to Dave and Buster’s to meet a friend who was with me in Iraq. The awesome bookending the less-than-awesome run experience helped make it totally worth it.


Night Running

Running in the dark with no streetlights, not my favorite thing. I much prefer the twilight painting the sky and the autumn colors swelling around us. Running down a washed out trail by headlamp, even less my favorite thing. Daylight savings time strikes the Muldooniacs 10K.

My first 5K was at night, and it was awesome. Crisp night around a lake. I was hooked. But there was a well defined and well lit route as well.

Darkness really robbed the experience. It lacked the transcendence of the other fall runs lately. The night collapsed the world around us into just the road bobbing in our headlamps. All the views that had dazzled us the previous time were concealed and cloaked. I knew they were there beneath the dark and dots of lights painting the hills of the cityscape. And I missed them.

It was just the run. It was just block after block. On the curb. Off the curb. On the curb. Off the curb. Faceless headlights whooshing by.

The sounds of the passing cars robbed us of the proper running mate conversation. We both fell silently into our strides. I tracked Trisha by the angle of her headlamp shining behind me. If it cast lower, I slowed down. As it rose again, I stepped back up to match pace.

I didn’t really think about anything, aside from sporadically writing this post in my head. My mind was surprisingly empty, like the scenery had become around me.

I was spoiled now; I demanded to be in awe.

I found myself missing dark morning runs on the Riverwalk. The large moon reflecting off the eerily placid water as moonlight danced in the air. The lightpoles emerging as beacons in the low hanging fog. The sun just starting to fracture the night as we sprinted into our cooldown. And, as always, I missed the sweet fishies in the concrete, denoting each half mile.

In the miniaturized sunlight of Trisha’s headlamp, I watched my silhouette jog on the path ahead of me. My shadow resembled a pear-shaped old woman, woefully misshapen, bouncing pathetically slowly along. The reflection was disappointing, and I was suddenly glad I have never had to run near a mirror. I never need to actually see the basset hound-esque zombie turtle of my form.

After a nebulizer treatment, Trisha could breathe again. She kept a good pace and rarely had to stop. Making excellent progress. I floated so hard through the second half that I had to willfully hold myself back to not abandon Trisha.

It was a strange, mixed run. The temperature was crisp. The physical run felt great even after 7 miles just the night before. Trisha did awesome. Yet I found myself inventorying my annoyances about the night and feeling devoid of my new-found transcendence into euphoria. Suddenly, just a good run wasn’t enough. I craved that perfect bliss. Like an addict.

Yet I was smiling run-drunk over a margarita at the end just the same.


Winter Running

Winter running is officially here. I am no stranger to winter running; it was always my favorite season to run in the South. I have run in the cold, the bitter cold–Southern wet cold. However, snow and especially wind are new. There is no wind in the Tennessee Valley (which makes it hellish in the summer), and snow is a rarity.

So today, when I planned to run after work, I packed all my winter gear for the dreaded cold and wind and snow forecasted. Like all Colorado forecasts, it was just a lie, but I was prepared anyway.

When I was released from my last meeting and collecting my things to hit the trail, I checked my phone. I had an email from the publishing company to which I submitted my novella. They want to offer me a publishing contract; they want to publish my novella.

To say I was elated would be an understatement. I think I utterly floated through my first mile or two on sheer excitement and possibility. Snowflakes were teasing the air. To the west, I watched the storm drop a veil over the mountains then slide that curtain over the plains towards me. Unfortunately, the winter did not last before the storm swept south, revealing the mountains tangled in trailing clouds and leaving only a chill in the air.

I ran too fast at first. I let my excitement get the best of me, quickening my step beyond my pace. I couldn’t resist it. My momentum failed me halfway up the killer hill. I felt myself slowing, slowing until I felt like I could be rolling backwards. As nausea writhed in my stomach and bubbled up against my throat, I took a deep breath and lengthened my strides.

I was huffing, puffing, and roasting by the top of the hill. My muscles were crying, and I kind of wanted to puke. I dropped to my safe wog and breathed it out, forcing myself to cool down while still running. As I started along the next leg of the run, I heard myself trying to talk myself out of 7 miles. I felt myself querying my body for excuses. I even heard myself think I should cut out early to get home to my daughter sooner.

No. Hell no. 7 fucking miles.

I pushed past the delayed burn and found my actual float. I let my music infect my mind and distract my body. I let the cold air piercing my cheeks call me out of my excuses.

Just keep running… Just keep running…

By the time I looped and started back on the final round, I was in it again. I felt fine; I felt like I could run forever. I had mashed myself through the wall. By the time I climbed into my car, I was fucking flying. The runner’s high practically made me dizzy; the sweet exhaustion in my muscles had me buzzing.

It was worth it.

Running brings out my alter-ego apparently. In real life, I am a cranky pessimist. I don’t try hard at anything. Running, however, I’m a fucking transcendentalist. And I just keep going. My euphoria hasn’t been from mania; it’s been this.

Let the addiction continue.