Monday, October 26, 2009

13 Miles!

I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am when I run.   It seems that every time I go up to Moscow Mountain, I experience something different and beautiful - new views, new textures beneath my feet, and new sensations in my body.  Yesterday I ran on trails I had never run before, and I felt the soft, dark soil under me.  In places the trails were covered in pine needles and a blanket of orange, yellow, and purpley leaves. I breathed in moist, earthy air; I breathed in my first autumn on Moscow Mountain.

Another first happened to me yesterday without even knowing it: I found out how it feels to complete a 13-mile trail run. 13 miles! Can you even believe it? When I saw that number on the ol' GPS, I could barely contain myself. Sure my feet were tired, sure my hamstrings felt so tight they could've snapped at any moment, and sure my shirt was completely saturated. But when I saw that number, I felt so... well, I just felt so good. I am doing something now that I didn't think I was capable of, and I am continually inspired to do more and get better.

(Anyone remember Bridge to Terabithia?)


All of a sudden my goal for my first half marathon seems too distant.  I may have to start looking for races soon.  Really soon.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Side Stitches

Ever since my first day running, I have struggled with side aches. In my first few weeks, I got them only seconds into my runs. They always occurred on my right side, and they would only go away when I stopped running. Frustrated by my ailment, I asked friends and experts about the cause. Some said they had to do with cramping in my diaphragm; some said they resulted from my breathing; and some said they were related to my diet and fitness level.

Months later, I still get the darned things, and I can't help but feel a little frustrated. When my breathing is good and I don't feel like I am going to pass out, when my legs feel strong and aren't begging me to walk, when my mind is in a place that wants to move forward instead of plan my next walk break, I do not want to stop running!

So, what should I do?

I went online today and found conflicting schools of thought in regard to pain (including side aches) and running. Some people advise runners to listen to their bodies, walk for a while, and then start running more. The opposing side - the "No one has ever drowned in sweat" side - seems to believe that pain is a part of progress. They "run through the pain," claiming that side aches are temporary annoyances that will go away if ignored.

When given these two options, I like the bad-ass side. I have always believed that the best things in life aren't easy to attain, and I like the idea of physical and mental toughness.

So I tried to run through my pain yesterday on Moscow Mountain. After about 1.6 miles, my right side felt like someone was trying to put a knife under my ribs. I kept running. Breathing became increasingly difficult, and I felt my body try to stoop over in an attempt to ease the pain. But I concentrated on my breathing, stood upright, and kept running.

At about 2.8 miles, my side was still killing me. One knife was replaced by two bigger ones. My only defense was my voice. I started yelling. Quietly and then louder came my chant, "One two three four, Two two three four" and so on. When I could no longer count, I yelled at my side and told it that I wasn't going to walk. I not only kept running, but I sped up along the final stretch as rain started to fall on my head and cold, bare legs. At 3.1 miles I slowed to a jog and then to a walk.

After only two minutes of walking, my side ache was completely gone.

So what does this experience prove to me? First, I think it is a myth that side aches go away if you just keep running. I ran a mile and a half with a side ache, and it never went away. Second, I am stubborn. There was nothing short of a missing leg that could have kept me from running that last mile and a half. As a result, I think I ran one of my fastest miles ever. And third, I may be a little bit crazy. What would people say if they saw a lone runner yelling a cadence as she sprinted in the rain?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Spirit of the Marathon

Yesterday I went on a 5.5 mile run on Moscow Mountain. Having taken two days off because of a sore calf muscle, my legs felt rested, energetic, and strong. I was glad to be back on trails. Although I walked almost all of the uphills, I ran the flats and downhills faster than usual, and I remember looking down at the dirt and feeling a flying sensation for a second or two. (This particular sensation, if that is what it is even called, is new to me.) It was a great, although brief, experience.

After the run, I rented Spirit of the Marathon, a film that follows six runners through their trainings for and competitions in the Chicago Marathon. It was awesome to watch how running has impacted those people's lives, and I could see the power that human beings have within them.

As the credits started rolling, I started Googling marathons and half-marathons. What's the recipe for catching the marathon bug? Apparently a strong run in the morning and Spirit of the Marathon in the afternoon. My goal - recorded here on this blog so that it will be harder to back out on - is to sign up for my first half marathon by March and my first full marathon by the end of the summer. Are these realistic goals? I don't know. But after watching the grace and speed of Deena Kastor and the determination of Leah Caille, I am 100% inspired.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

200 Miles

When I went on my first run - on July 29, 2009 - I didn't know about the journey I was about to embark upon.  I didn't know how running could make me feel, how it could transform my body, how it could show me places in the world that I would otherwise miss.  

On that warm, summer day in Denver, I didn't know if I even wanted to be a runner.  After all, running was always just a part of other sports for me, and I had never been particularly fast or graceful or good.

My first run, consisting of multiple laps around the pond near my brother's house, was painful.  My heels quickly bloodied, and I could take exactly sixty steps before my side ached and my legs begged me to let them walk.  Even as I was running, I didn't consider myself a runner.
I entered my first 5K three days later on August 1.  I ran in black yoga pants, a black shirt, and my K-Swiss tennis shoes.  I finished in 37:49, and I couldn't wait to tell my running friend back in Pullman how I had done.  I didn't think I was fast, mind you, but I was happy about my accomplishment and felt - for the first time in a long time - the pleasure one feels when her muscles are in absolute anguish but her heart and mind are happy and satisfied.

In the past 2.5 months, I have been loving this surprise journey of running.  Whereas I had once thought that running was only for those being chased, I now chase my own goals and hopes down the paved paths of Chipman Trail, down the railroad tracks behind Jack in the Box, through the hills of the Palouse, and to the peak of Paradise Point.  Whereas I used to gaze upon the mountains from a distance, I am now jogging through their trees and feeling the dirt and rocks and pine needles beneath my feet.  My entire perception of running has changed.

Yesterday I ran my 200th mile, and with that, I think another change is in order: a change in my own self-perception.  As I write this now, I do not feel like a woman who runs;  I feel like a runner.  So today I am creating this blog so that I can share my thoughts and successes and struggles with anyone who might be interested.  My vision for this blog is that it is not just a record of my runs, but an album of sorts that documents my journey.  And I will compile my album with images and with words written from my heart.  <3