Thursday, February 27, 2014

The bad run.

You plan. You train. You do everything you can think of. You wear your lucky socks. You eat the same breakfast before each run. Nothing is left to chance...

And yet it still happens.

The cosmos aren't aligned. The humidity index is just 1% too much. Your shoelaces feel tight. Your fuel belt has suddenly out of nowhere started to chafe.

Something doesn't feel just right. And then suddenly everything feels wrong.

Every runner experiences it.

Every runner beats themselves up over it, too.

My latest bad run happen to take place on a grand stage: Disney World. During this year's Princess Half Marathon weekend, I signed up to run the Enchanted 10k.

6.2 miles? That's an easy run. I won't be fast, but my stamina will keep me going, I said to myself when I signed up in June.

Fast forward to this past weekend.
I hadn't been training as hard over the last 3 months due to lingering medical issues. Last week I did a dry run, 6 miles non stop. I was a tiny bit over pace, but I blamed the weather. I had to slow down due to the cold air burning my lungs. But deep down inside I was worried.

Come the day of the 10k and everything that could go wrong at the starting line did. I got about half a mile when I felt like someone stabbed me in the lower back. I recognized the pain. Kidney stones. Nice. 

I slow down but keep going. At the first mile marker, I double over in pain. Now I'm nauseous. I drink some water from bottle, and decide to walk until I no longer feel like throwing up.

By mile 2, I receive my first warning that I'm falling behind the "fabled balloon ladies." (The balloon ladies are ladies with balloons tied to their waists. They walk the required speed, and if you behind them, the "sweepers" will sweep you from the course, stick you on a bus, and haul you away to the finish line. Game over, you just got a DNF.)

I tried to speed up and ran full out for about half a mile to catch up to the ladies and prevent myself from getting swept, but I knew it was over. I couldn't catch up. I stopped running and began walking again. I was already composing my Facebook status update in my head: "Balloon Ladies got me. I think I'll go cry now."

There were others around me, equally struggling, and I tried to put in a brave front. I smiled at the MarathonPhotogs. I joked with the medical bikers circling up every so often about how I was going to require an ambulance at the finish line. Heck, I even told one of the sweepers on the bikes, when asked if I needed something, I said yes... Don't sweep me and let me finish.

I did finish... Walking... so very very slowly. My neck seized. My lower back ached. My belt chafed. But I finished, even if it took close to 2 hours.

Honestly, at the starting line I felt hopeful. 
At mile 1, I felt pain.
At mile 2, I felt fear.
At mile 3, I felt despair.
At mile 4, I felt numb.
At mile 5, I felt punch drunk.
At mile 6, I felt hope return.
At mile 6.2, I genuinely smiled for the first time that whole day... Because it meant I could finally stop moving.

This is not just a bad run.

This was THE bad run.

 I will forever remember this  when ever I have another bad run, because nothing can ever match the range of emotions I felt during those hellish two hours. And I got through it.

You will too.

It's just a bad run.

Try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

That last half mile...

I've been running for a couple of years now and I've noticed a constant in my training...

Sometimes I don't feel my best and my pace suffers, or I cut a long run short.

Sometimes I feel pretty good and I decide halfway into my run, to add another mile or to tempo the last mile and speed things up.

Sometimes I run 3 miles, sometimes I'll run 9. (I'm still trying to work my way up to 13.1)

The constant is simply this:

When I commit to a distance, no matter how fast or slow I go, no matter how far I run, as soon as I get half a mile from my finish, I mentally shut down and I feel every ache and pain in my body. I get exhausted. I find myself glancing at my GPS every 2 seconds. I get thirsty beyond the capacity of my bottles.

In short, that last half mile kills me.

It's the hardest 5/10ths of my life.

Why is that?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You're a runner?!

When I first tell people that I am a recreational runner, I usually get the stupefied goldfish look in return.

"You run?!"

Yes, I run. 

I know I don't have the traditional runner's physique. I'm not lean, or aerodynamic to say the least. I carry much more weight on my frame than is necessary. In short, I am fat.

That's where running comes in for me. I run in order to manage my weight and hopefully that will lead to sustained weight loss. It's working, too. It just takes a while. I don't mind, however, as gradual weight loss still counts.

But I digress.

I find it humorous to see the different expressions cross the faces of those folks who've discovered that the rare and oft undocumented creature known as "The Fat Runner" not only exists, but is now standing in front of them.

Runners come in all shapes and sizes. We come in all age varieties, racial make-ups, and socio-economic backgrounds. Yet on the track, or race course, we're all equal regardless of our pace.

Yes, I'm a runner.

Why aren't you?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Happiest PACE on Earth


If you're a runner, casual or competitive, just the mention of it gets you giddy. If you're not a runner, you may ask yourself, "What the heck is a RunDisney?" You may also ask yourself, "Why am I reading a blog about running?" 

RunDisney are a series of runs sponsored by Disney that take place at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. There's all kinds of distances to choose from... 5Ks (3.1 miles) all the way up to Marathons (26.2 miles). 

Each run is themed. Each earns you a medal (cooler medals for the Half and Full Marathons, of course!) And the best part, each allows you to run through the park. That's right, the park gets closed and you get to use it as your track.

As a newbie runner, the idea of one day participating blew my mind. That's what really got me into actually wanting to increase my mileage and complete a half marathon. I wanted to run through Disney and walk away with a cool medal and the memories.

The experienced runners whose collective minds I'd pick as I transformed myself from lump of mashed potatoes to a lump that runs, would tell me that a RunDisney event was beyond a regular race; that it was something to experience to understand it fully.

So I decided I'd do one. I'd do a baby run. I signed up for one if their Family 5Ks. The difference between the 5k run and its corresponding half marathon is pressure and, well distance obviously. The 5k is less formal and less strict in terms of pace requirements. I figured I could do that.

Now, keep this in mind as I regale you with the rest of my tale... 5Ks are generally viewed as lesser runs than a half marathon or above. I can understand to a certain point. There *is* the distance factor. It seems like most consider a 5k to be a stepping stone to the longer distance races. Even Disney categorizes the 5Ks as less, as their medals are not as fancy. To a beginner it can seem overwhelming having just conquered a 5k, to have a more experienced and fit runner or event organizer seem to degrade a distance you fought so hard to reach... But I digress.

I did the Jingle Jungle during the Wine & Dine weekend. It was a beautiful morning run through Animal Kingdom with a few hundred folks and my best friend, who I somehow conned into joining my new running lifestyle. 

It was the most fun I believe I've ever had on a run. The atmosphere was relaxed, yet hyper, and everyone just seemed incredibly happy to be there. 

I wore the medal all day as we park hopped and rode the rides, and every cast member congratulated us as if we had accomplished some great feat. We were treated as high and mighty as those running the half marathon. And *that* I think is the Disney difference no one could put their finger on when they tried to describe a RunDisney event.

It's the perfect storm of runners uniting at the happiest place on Earth, and being treated as rock stars.

We signed up immediately for another RunDisney event after that day. We did Everest Challenge... But that's a story for another post.

Monday, April 15, 2013



What words cannot express, impressions do.

Sounds of people saying, "We need help" heard over the sounds of panic and explosions.

Photographs of bloody running shoes, and downed runners. Still life, frozen forever.

News accounts not playing up the death toll, but of injuries with an emphasis on "Amputations."

And yet we saw footage of marathon runners heading straight into the explosion and aftermath, towards the injured; towards the finish line.

If you have to ask why they didn't stop and run in the opposite direction, you wouldn't understand the answer anyway.

Runners go only in one direction: Forward.

May we follow that example in the aftermath, and keep running forward.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Runner down.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does it feels too often.

I'm talking about hearing the words: "Runner down."

There are many reasons you may hear those words at a run, but it all comes down to one thing... A runner went down. A runner fell and could not get back up and continue.

What you do as runner in this situation says more about you than in anything in any other situation... It separates the runners and racers. A racer is so worried about their finish that they will run past this situation. A runner stops and helps a fellow runner in anyway possible, pace and PR be damned.

Runners don't run against each other. They run WITH each other. Fast, slow, elite or recreational, runners are pack animals.

Racers are lone wolves. And they eat their own.

The reason I'm waxing poetic regarding this topic is that a member of my pack, a local runner, a mainstay at many of our local events went down at a recent event. He went down, and never got back up.

Cardiac arrest I was told.

I was sick and did not attend, but I know he was much faster than I. And I also know I would have come up right in the thick of things should I have participated.

I may not have been able to provide much in terms help, but I know I would have stopped. Reading the results of run in the paper, there was no mention of this incident other than next to one runner's time where it read: DNF (did not finish) stopped to assist down runner.

ONE solitary runner stopped to assist?

I hope it's just a case of our traditionally faulty newspaper reporting in our area, because otherwise that just's plain shitty.

I choose to run. I do not choose to race.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You never forget your first.

I signed up for my first 5K within 4 weeks of starting my Couch-to-5K training program.

I had read in running magazines and running sites that signing up for a run would provide a goal, and an accountability. A run on the horizon would supposedly focus my training and keep me from slacking off.

Since I had made it past my initial "I must be batshit crazy thinking my fatass could be a runner" system shock, I figured a 5K was a doable distance. I could interval it (walk/run/walk) and go at my own snailish speed.

I did not have any expectations, but I would be lying if I said my ego did not demand some sort of goal. Keep in mind, my whole journey to becoming a runner started with a blow to my ego and a challenge. So I set an attainable goal, being that I had yet to reach 2 miles in my training... One hour. I wanted to finish the 5K in less than 60 minutes. I aimed for 59.

A lesser goal came to me on the day of the run as I stood among the crowd: "Don't be last." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The night before my run, I was a live wire. I prepared my gear. I drank enough water to drown a fish. I went to bed early... And I tossed and turned and could not for the life of me, fall asleep. 5AM came quickly and I was exhausted.

I arrived at the run an hour before the start time. It was a chilly November morning, and I couldn't get warm. I paced. I visited the restroom and basically fretted the whole hour.

Why was I nervous? Well, as I mentioned before, the furthest I had managed to go in training was about 2 miles, and quite frankly, those 2 miles just about killed me.

What I hadn't mentioned before is that my training took place on rural trails by myself. I'd never run with anyone else around. Yes, vanity is indeed the name of the game. I knew I looked stupid when running, and now as the other runners were starting to show I realized I was a fraud. I wasn't a runner. I was a wannabe. I didn't deserve to be there. What the hell was I thinking?!

The runners were instructed to line up. I saw folks I knew lining up at the front. I hid. I lined up in the back, with the elderly and strollers. As I looked around I decided that it was too late to pull out, and if I was going to go down I might as well go down in a blaze. I was going to do everything I could to not come in last.

I didn't hear the start of the race. I know there must have been some kind of signal or announcement, but I wasn't aware of it. All I was aware of was the mass of people around me suddenly moving... So I moved with them.

I put my earplugs in, and turned on my iPod and decided to drown out the world and pretend I was alone on the trails. I walked one song, ran two. I kept up that without paying attention to time or distance. Before I knew it I was at the water station... Halfway mark!

As I began to pass people I started to feel like less of a fraud. I know I was passed more than I passed, but I didn't pay attention to those pulling ahead. I figured for every person I passed that was one less person I finished after. Even if I only finished in front of one person, that meant I wasn't last.

At some point my playlist started to speak to me. It was during U2's Elevation that I saw the 3 mile marker, and saw the turn into the finishing chute. I had .1 of a mile left, time to gun it and go out in that blaze. (Granted, I was already a slow runner, and I was exhausted so "gunning it" was more mental than physical.)

I crossed the finish line at 56 minutes.

It was under an hour.

I wasn't last.

I didn't collapse and die.

I was feeling pretty okay about it, and then it happened... a person I knew came out of no where and hugged me and congratulated me. Then another person told me I did a great job. Then a stranger came up to me and said they were behind me the whole way and was using my pacing and walk breaks to keep themselves going.

I was accepted.

I was welcomed.

I was encouraged.

I wasn't a fraud.

I was a runner.

The following week, I signed up for another three 5Ks.