Saturday, January 22, 2011

Granola, lipstick, rottweilers, blahblahblah.

Last week after basketball practice, I drop-kicked my cell phone down a flight of stairs. It was a total freak accident. So I went to the Verizon store to activate a new one. The Verizon man didn’t believe a person could drop-kick a cell phone unless they were inebriated, and the more I protested the more he didn’t believe me. But honestly, who plays basketball drunk? I have a hard time playing well sober. Anyway, the Verizon man winked at me, and I couldn’t figure out why because I thought America was over the wink. But then he gave me the head nod, told me he was reactivating a new cell for free (hello $20 that will remain in my pocket), and winked again. I was so annoyed. I kept thinking that if he had an actual conversation with me, there’d be less winking and more blinking…because he’d be falling asleep. Because I drop more facts about the brain than a sailor drops curse words. But I didn’t tell him that. Instead, I took that $20 to the grocery store and bought 6 boxes of generic-brand granola. Growing up is hard.

I like being a girl, not only because it increases my allotment of granola but also because I can do this if I want, and it’s totally okay:

Plus, girls are better at managing pain, long-term planning, and metabolizing fat over the long haul, so we’re really made to ultrarun. I used to think boys had an advantage over girls in sports, and in many ways they do. Their lungs and hearts are bigger. They have more muscles. And while they were doing formative athletic things in their youth, I was playing hair salon with my collection of “My Little Ponies” and decorating my face with my mother’s lipstick.
("I'm asking you to trust me. I've done this to myself at least 7 or 8 times.")

In basketball, I’m at a disadvantage because the boys are more aggressive. But I try to make up for it in positivity and in the simple joy I get in running around. The ability to run 100s covers a number of ills. I can feign competency and am always fit enough to hang on. True confessions: I like when they set a pick and I run right into it. Maybe I’m wrong, but picks and screens are like conflictual hugs. And it’s nice, like oh, you were thinking of me and blocked me with a wall.

Oh, gosh. I was just thinking that I hope none of my professors ever, ever, ever come across my blog because I would lose all credibility as a mature thinker.

This weekend, my training is very important because I am using it to determine what I will race in February. On the table are a 50K, a 50-miler, and a 100-miler. Depending on how I feel and how this weekend goes distance-wise, I will pick one of them. The 100-mile is my wheelhouse (definition 3), but I have a lot of speedwork built up now from basketball, cold morning sprints, and from the two families on Route 565 in Vernon who think their rottweilers know they’re on underground invisible fences. THEY DON'T KNOW. THEY HAVE NO IDEA.

In summary, girls are awesome, and I’m heading out for a run now. Ready set go.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remember Pants.

On Friday, I got the flu. It was the kind of flu that makes you feel like you’re working harder than you ever have in your entire life, but you’re actually barely moving. I love that kind of flu—not because it’s comfortable or something to strive for—but because it felt philosophically dramatic, and I tucked it away in my mind to someday use as a metaphor when I need to say something meaningful and poignant.

I slept all day. That evening, I met up with my brother over dinner, and we talked about the following morning, which would be his first attempt at an ultra, the MHRRC Recover from the Holidays 50K. I wanted to give him some anti-advice, (i.e. Sprint out really hard in the beginning. Fill your water bottle with milk. It’s okay to run in blue jeans. Fanny packs? Yes. Wear at least two.) But he kept grumbling in nervous agitation, calling the dinner his “last supper,” so I was supportive instead.

Saturday morning, I woke up early. My life was enshrouded in darkness, metaphorically as pertaining to my illness and because it was pre-sunrise. I wandered into the kitchen, flipped on the lights, and found a note from my brother, to himself.

1. Remember food.
2. Remember pants.
3. Stretch.

WHOA. It looks like he figured out the sport of ultrarunning. Cracked the code, discerned the three secrets of the sport: food, pants, and stretching.

I started to pack some food for the day and got tired. Flu. So I took a nap on the floor. My bro walked in and found me there. “Feeling okay?” Teddy asked. I shook my head, sweeping my curls across the kitchen floor. “Nooooooope. I feel like the opposite of okay.”

I wouldn’t be racing that day, but I figured I'd get a few miles as long as I was there. I went to the course and saw Pete Colaizzo, the RD. We caught up a little on life and sports. He’s also the Marist track coach—thug life, right?! The MHRRC has grown considerably over the past few years. They have a full calendar of exciting races and training opportunities coming up, so if you’re in the area, check them out:

The gun went off, and I went with the lead pack, hanging on and chatting with the herd, to ultimately manage a 25K of training, which on that course meant five repeats of 2.5K out-and-backs. The road was covered in ice and snow. I would run up the hills and slide back down, like Sisyphus, when the net worth of your struggles amounts to zero. It was COLD. The air was basically made of ice cubes, and you had to bite them. You had to bite the air to chew out some oxygen or else you couldn’t breathe. I kept my HR steady and low (in the moderate trot/aerobic zone), while chewing the ice-cube-air until my day was done. The runners ran on, and I waved goodbye.
(Check it. That's a struggle-face. Misery and distress jog.)

On the way home, I sang some Justin Bieber. This is uncool; I know that. But my singing voice is best after I go running. After 100 miles, forget about it; get me a record contract.

While I’m bummed I didn’t get to race, I have to keep it in perspective. For me, winter races and anything under 50 miles exist as a test of fitness to get me where I need to be when it counts. It’s demoralizing to train hard for something and not be able to compete, but I know I’m getting stronger. This brings me to my next point:

In this sport, a common saying is, “Ultrarunning is 90% mental.” Like this:

Or, they say, “Ultrarunning is 90% mental. And the final 10% is mental”…which is cute and catchy but probably erroneous. And the philosopher in me is wondering how the mind is functioning without implicating flesh and if I have to be a substance idealist to keep running.

I think it’s more like this:

You need to get in shape on two fronts: mental and physical. The mental determines how far you can physically push yourself. Ideally, you want to be at 100% in both categories because (and you can see this played out in yourself on race day) you physically race what you deserve from your training. But your emotive and intellective constitutions (your mind) can easily prevent you from running full-out what you should. So by all means, prep your mind. The strongest runners are focused and passionate. But work out like a dog, too, or you won’t make it far past the starting line.

I PROMISE, THIS IS THE MOST BORING THING I WILL TYPE EVER AGAIN IN MY BLOG. I just needed to get it out because sometimes, colloquial expressions are false. But people keep saying them! It’s like that inspirational saying, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” And I’m thinking, no you won’t. The moon is much closer than stars. If you miss, you probably didn’t exceed Earth’s escape velocity, and you’ll come right back down and burn up in the atmosphere.

The other day, I was at the gym, trying to find a magazine to read on the stationary bike. The table was covered in mostly academic periodicals. “Uhhhh,” the girl next to me said. “This place has the worst magazines.” She looked over, and I was clearly, visibly drooling over a science periodical with a brain on the front. I froze. Oh, my gosh. She’s going to realize I’m a nerd. Think of something cool to say! Think of something cool to say! But I couldn’t think of anything. She sized me up. Dang. Next time I’ll have something prepared, like, “I know right?! Worst magz ever. Did you know BeyoncĂ©’s not really pregnant. Just a rumor.” It’s the small battles in life that make the world exciting.

This week so far:
Monday: 35 miles (20 and 15) + core work
Tuesday: 10 miles + 90 min. cardio + leg lifting
Wednesday: 38 miles (24 +14) + core work, light lifting

Whachaaa! Happy trails, friends! Have a great week.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I know about Ke$ha and raisins.

(winter training...blechhhhh)

When I was 8 or 9, I was sitting in the bleachers at a football game with my friend’s family when I noticed the lady next to me was knitting a sweater. I told her she was talented, and she answered that she needed to knit to keep her hands busy because she recently quit smoking. Knitting instead of smoking. I said that was the coolest thing ever, and my friend and I excused ourselves to go practice cartwheels behind the bleachers. About 11 years later, I remembered the woman, as I worked in a behavior modification lab in college.

Rule number one: You cannot simply desist a negative behavior. You need to replace it with a new positive one. So while vowing to consume less soda, you should have a conjunctive goal of drinking more water each day. And if you want to watch less TV, maybe couple it with the positive goal of increasing athletic activity…like…say, maybe running more. You’ll find that it is SO fun.

Anyway, try to take that into account with your New Year’s resolutions. This year, I have resolved to:

1. Be the kind of girl who consistently lets people merge into traffic ahead of her.
2. Make every training mile count. Focus.

My New Year started in the best possible way. No alcohol, but I find that the post-ultramarathon state is a lot like a hangover, without the inexorable accompaniment of the cerebellular obfuscation implicit in inebriation. Your body gets pretty trashed—but in the most salubrious sort of way—and you’ll be back on your feet full-force after some rest and hydration. I know a LOT about alcohol since I’m such a fan of Ke$ha’s music, but it’s not really my thing. However, I eat so many raisins! Raisins are old grapes, so they’re... basically…wine…

(You can get buzzed at breakfast! It's 5 o'clock somewhere...)

On December 31st, I did a sunset run around the hills of Charlottesville. I covered myself in spandex—as much spandex as you can wear before you run out of surface area. So much spandex. It was a beautiful run because C-ville is a real babe of a town. Then I heralded in 2011 with the Howard fam.

January 1st was the best. Sophie Speidel and Vince Bowman organized a trail run to meet on top of Black Rock Summit in the mountains between Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. There were lots of climbs, and it was the best day ever.
(one of Sophie's pics)

At one point, Gentry was talking about his 2011 race schedule, saying he’s keeping his 100-milers pretty casual so he can pound out his 48-hour run in May. I got all choked up and couldn’t even talk for a second because I was so thrilled to hear that—not specifically that Gentry is concentrating on the 48-hour—but I realized after all these years of living my life in the same way with nobody who really understood, I have finally found my people. The VHTRC! They live in Virginia and have normal-people jobs during the daytime, but as a hobby they run as far as they can and have an awesome time doing it. Anyway, it was SO GREAT.

The biker boys up front were blasting down the mountains, which was a neat opportunity to practice my technical downhills—less braking, more free-falls. At one point, we paused on the trail to wait for the rest of the runners to catch up. One of the boys had a Ziploc® bag of baked goods that he found on the trail, so THEY ATE ITS CONTENTS. They offered me some, and I cast a sanctimonious glare and then giggled. Everybody secretly wants to eat food off of the ground. It’s human nature, and if you say no, you’re lying or have never been a child. Plus, I was eyeing the carrot sticks in the grass alongside the trail…MMMmmmMMMMMmmmm, right?

Later, I wiped out hard. I tripped, and before my whole body had struck the ground, I was already screaming, “I’m okaaaaaaaay.” My tights got ripped, and my hand was pretty bloody. For the remaining miles, I tried to hold it as still as I could so none of the blood would sweat off before I showed it to the boys.

I said goodbye and drove off—back up north to see friends in Arlington, Virginia. The problem was, in my fall, I guess I jammed my middle finger. The middle one! The way my hand rested on the steering wheel, it stuck straight out so that I was flipping off all the cars that passed. I decided to curve my hand around the wheel to direct it back toward myself. I gave myself the middle finger the entire 2.5-hour drive.

I was sweaty and dirty and covered in hand blood, but it was the best way to start the new year. Next Saturday is my first race of the year—the MHRRC 50K, which I last ran in 2007.
(2007 podium)

Happy New Year, Happy Winter, and Happy Trails!