Monday, July 12, 2010

Palouse Double

I ran another race this weekend.  Although it was not as huge or emotional as my half marathon last weekend, it was unique for two reasons: 1) it was a two-day race, and 2) I was a co-director of the event.

Our race was called the Palouse Double, and it took place in two states - on Moscow Mountain in Idaho and on Kamiak Butte in Washington.  Basically, the goal of the race is to run as many loops as possible (or as desired) in a seven-hour window.  Runners, walkers, and hikers of varying abilities and levels of seriousness came out, and it was a lot of fun.  Here are the highlights (for me as a runner, not as a director).

Day 1:

The day was beautiful, and after the .8-mile climb to the trail head (carrying camp chairs, Gatorade, and other race items), the race began at 8:00 AM.

I decided to run my first lap with another runner, and we had a great time just taking it slow and easy.  We enjoyed the shady, fern-bordered trail; the open, meadow-y areas; and even the switchbacks that took us up the mountain and back down again.  We joked about how the trail seemed to be uphill both ways, and we never worried about our 20-minute/mile pace.

A little over half way down the mountain, the other director of the race (and the one who was attempting to run 28 miles that day) caught up with us.  Surprisingly, he decided to finish the lap with us, even though my left knee had started hurting something awful and we were going even slower than before.

Once we finished the first lap, I decided to ice my knee and play cheerleader for the other participants.  And when no one was around, I soaked up the sun, watched chipmunks dart here and there, and attempted to finish an unexpectedly difficult crossword puzzle.

After my ice was melted, and my knee was sufficiently numb, I decided to do a second lap.  I don't have much to say about this lap other than my mind was glad that I did it even though my body wasn't.  My knee hurt almost immediately, and I ended up walking almost 100% of the loop.

At the end of the day, I was happy to have completed 8 miles on the race course, and an additional mile or so on the road leading up to the trail head.  Not too shabby for a Saturday on Moscow Mountain!

Day 2:

I awoke around 2 AM with pains down my left leg.  My knee was sore, and my IT Band felt like it was seizing up.  I took some anti-inflammatories and tried to get back to sleep.

I awoke again around 4 and again sometime before my alarm was scheduled to go off at 5:45 AM.  Needless to say, I was not rested, nor was my body excited about the second day of the Palouse Double.  I gave my attitude a pep talk before reaching Kamiak Butte, saying, "You've felt this pain before, and it is temporary.  Right now you just need to toughen up, find some energy reserves, and be excited for this race that you helped create.  You can do this!"

About an hour after the official start time, I decided to make my way up the butte.  The 1-mile climb to the top is brutal on the ol' lungs, and my heart was beating about a mile a minute.  I felt the burn in my calves and tried to change my climbing technique to use other muscles.  Once I reached the summit, I took a big breath and could feel the relief throughout my body.

The ridge of Kamiak Butte is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen.  It is just magnificent.  I spent a lot of time up there taking pictures, getting photos taken of me, enjoying the view, and talking to other hikers.  (I know, I know.  I was supposed to be "racing," but sometimes I believe that talking to people trumps original plans.  I met a couple of really neat people up there who reminded me to take care of my body, to take lots of pictures to remember my favorite moments, and to enjoy the beauty around me.)

After a very painful descent to the bottom of the butte, I decided that my first lap was going to be my only lap.  I took a seat in my camp chair, put some ice on my knee, and fell asleep.

I only ran 2.5 miles, and it took over an hour, but I was proud to be one of the race's only "doublers."


In the end, the two-day race experience was a good one.  I completed a total of over 10 miles, and came in first in my division (even though I was the only one in my division).  Woo Hoo!  


Thursday, July 8, 2010

My First Half

So I did it.  I ran my first half marathon, and even though my legs are still sore, I feel a smile coming on every time I think about crossing that finish line.

Here's how it happened:

Over the past two weeks, I have been doing lots of exercises on my left leg, paying special attention to my hip.  I've been working my muscles and stretching my IT Band whenever possible.  I even visited Brandon at ProFormance Physical Therapy to have him do Graston on me again.  It was that important to me to finish my race.

On the morning of the Foot Traffic Flat, I have to admit that I was nervous.  I worried about everything I could think of, namely disappointing my family and friends for not finishing and damaging my knee.  But I didn't let the dark thoughts stay with me.  As it got closer to race time, I made my third trip to the bathroom (by 6:45 AM), adjusted my brand new iPod Shuffle, stretched, prayed a little, and gave myself pep talks - "The important thing is that you finish - not win - the race" and "You know you can do this.  Trust your legs and your training."

At 7:00, the gun went off, and I crossed the timing mat and pushed "start" on my Garmin.  I remembered not to start off too fast, but I liked looking down at my Garmin to see that I was way ahead of my virtual partner (who was set at an 11:45 pace).

Before I knew it, the first mile had come and gone, and I remember thinking, "One mile already?  Shoot, I only have to do another twelve of these and I am done!"

Oh, silly me!  Around mile 4, my left knee started to give me trouble.  I caught myself feeling angry at my body.  But, I kept running, and even though the pain never ceased, it didn't really worsen until the last couple of miles.  The exercise, training, rest and ice had paid off.  I wasn't going to let my knee beat me.

The course was beautiful and flat, and when I wasn't concentrating on my time or my gait or my iPod, I took in the scenery.  I was happy to be alive, surrounded by green farmland, running my first half.
I smiled and ran.  I lip sync-ed to Taylor Swift and Billy Idol.  I proudly wiped away the sweat dripping down my jawbone and smiled some more.

At mile 8, I came face-to-face with the mental challenges of running.  Admittedly, I kind of wanted to cry.  I passed the mile marker, did the math, and felt discouraged that I still had another five miles to go.  The miles seemed to be getting longer.  As I ran, I visualized brontosauruses shaking the earth as they walked, for that was how heavy my body felt as its weight slammed down on my knees.

At mile 10, my virtual partner started to mock me.  She told me that I was behind my goal pace, and even though I wanted to tell her what's what, I couldn't; my tired legs just couldn't seem to pick up the pace. I ran when I could and walked the rest.

At mile 11 or so, Scott passed me up.  This was both good and bad.  For a split second I felt sorry for myself that a marathoner (someone running twice the distance) was passing me.  But then I got over it and was glad to see a familiar face.

"How you doing?" he called out to me. 

"I'm dying," I replied without thinking.

"Me too," he said as he moved farther and farther ahead of me.

At that point I decided to make a deal with myself - I was allowed to walk until the 12.1-mile mark (on my Garmin), and then I was going to run with everything I had for the last mile.

11.9 miles, 12.0 miles, 12.1miles...

And my once-stubborn legs picked up the pace.  I knew better than to try to sprint with a mile to go, but nothing short of the Divine Hand of God could have kept me from running my best for that last mile.

Right around then, a gentleman who I had been following started to walk.  Apparently unable to mind my own business, I told him that he didn't want to walk now; we only had another mile to go.  I asked him if he wanted to "run it in with me."  He said "yes," told me his name was Ken, and admitted that this was his first half marathon. "Mine too," I said with a smile.

With only two-tenths of a mile to go, a strange thing happened - my eyes started welling up and getting blurry.  Now for those of you who know me, that may not seem like a big deal; after all, I have been known to cry at the movies and because of sad books (or kind gestures or especially beautiful words), but I really didn't think that I would be one of those runners who cried at the end of her race.  I guess I always envisioned myself as the smiley girl at the end of the race, beaming with joy. 

But that isn't what happened.  Instead, I sprinted forward, and through blurry vision, I ran towards my friends at the finish line.  Two hours and thirty-seven minutes after I started the race, I finished.

Once my legs took me across the timing mat, my emotions (and a fair amount of snot) flowed out of me.  I cried first for the accomplishment, second for my sore knees, and third for my tired body.

I was happy and sore and relieved and proud all at the same time. I had done it.

Four days later, I am sitting here in front of my computer thinking about my race, and a part of me feels like it was all a dream.  I think I am still kind of in shock that I actually ran a 13.1-mile race.  But when I close my eyes and remember all of the emotions I felt - as I ran and when I finished - I know that it was real, and I want to keep running.  I don't know what my next goal is, but for now that doesn't matter.  I think that for a few more days, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy my accomplishment. 

<3 and thanks for the encouragement...