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Tag Archives: Running

Beating Myself

I have long been accused of being a competitive person. I can’t deny that I am. And sometimes that competitiveness comes out in ugly ways. When I played a lot of tennis in my younger days, I was the John McEnroe of College Greens (the neighborhood where I grew up). I kicked my tennis racket. Threw my tennis racket. Hit tennis balls in anger over the fence. Screamed at myself. You get the idea.

But it was never about winning. About beating my opponent. Whether in tennis or softball or in the various board games and card games I’ve played over the years. No. My competitive fire is entirely internal. It’s about beating myself.

Back to those days on the tennis court. When I threw my racket, it wasn’t because I lost a point or a set or a match. It was because I didn’t make a play I thought I should have made. When I played backgammon or pinochle, it wasn’t about winning. It was about figuring the ins and outs and the best way to play the game.

Enter running and the proof of my theory.

When I started running, I just wanted to get to the point where I could run three miles in thirty minutes without needing to take a walking break. It took me a few months to get there. A few months where it seemed that, no matter what, I always needed to walk after about fifteen minutes of running. One day I decided I was going to keep running through that fifteen minute wall. I did and I learned that beyond that wall is the best part of the run — when your breathing evens out, your legs lose that initial stiffness and ache, and you feel like you may just be able to run forever.

And what happened? I started logging every run. Distance, time, average speed. I set out to run further, faster and both further and faster. I wasn’t competing against anybody else. I was trying to beat myself. To always step it up a notch.

My thirty minute three mile runs turned into runs of all distances up to half marathon length where I could run at a nine minute pace, and for shorter runs, a faster pace. One of my favorite things back then was to go to the gym at lunch time and see how much distance I could put on a treadmill in thirty minutes. I was beating myself.

And then came the groin tear while playing soccer. And the second groin tear while playing soccer. And the third groin tear while playing soccer. And I have a bit of self-inflicted damage that prevents me from running the distances I did before.

It’s been years of struggling with the motivation to run ever since that injury. When I first started back to it, I decided to try to eliminate the endless tracking of distance and pace from the equation. No more logging my runs, no more stop watch on my wrist. Just a generalized idea of the distance of my runs. I even stopped paying attention to how many minutes my runs were. I wanted to take a more relaxed attitude to the whole thing. I was trying to change my own personal dynamic.

I knew that my pace had slowed from those nine minute mile days, but in my head I could tell myself it didn’t matter. What mattered was getting out there three or four days a week and running three to five miles each time. Or running 30-60 minutes each time. Somewhere in between those goalposts. And I’d stay healthy and fit. That was what needed to matter.

The problem is that I struggled with the motivation to keep running. Far too frequently, I found excuses not to run and those three or four days of running per week frequently turned into no runs per week. Or two runs on the weekend followed by absolutely nothing during the week.

A few months ago, a friend started posting pictures from an app on her phone. Runkeeper. The images showed a picture of her after her run with the time, distance, and pace of her run. As I watched those pictures over the last few months, I saw that her pace was steadily improving, as was her distance. And I thought I could do that. If only I could get motivated again.

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded the Runkeeper app to my phone. I’ve gone for seven runs since. Today was my first four mile run since starting this up again.

I may have just re-learned a thing about myself. It’s about beating myself. Let’s see if I can do it again.

I Did A Dangerous Thing

Regular readers will know that I’ve been struggling with remaining physically active since tearing a groin muscle four or five years ago.  After about five years of running regularly, including running four half marathons, my running ground to a halt while I tried to rehab the muscle tear.  The rehab never really took, and I’ve tried off and on to start running again.  Each time I do so I tell myself that my objective is to be able to run three to five miles three or four times a week.  And nothing more.  I’ve been doing better at that over the past six months, but I went through a lull for a few months.  Until about a month ago.  I decided I had to get back to running.  For several reasons.  First, just for the overall health benefits.  Second, because I’m going on my first backpacking trip next month and I need to have some level of fitness to do that.

So, I started running regularly again a couple of weeks ago.  Just three to five miles several times a week.  That’s all.  Nothing more.  There is no half marathon in my future, so longer distances are unnecessary.  I’m just doing this for the general health benefits.  Right?  Right.

This weekend, I did this.  On Saturday, I went for a three or four mile hike near Auburn.  I was breaking in my new hiking boots and exploring the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River.  On Sunday, I went for a run.  Five miles.  As I approached the end, I was itching for more because things were feeling good.  This is the thing I have noticed about running.  The first couple of miles are always difficult.  My calves are typically tight and a joint here or a muscle there complains.  But then things start to loosen up, the endorphins kick in, my breathing evens out, and I get in a rhythm.  The tightness and discomfort of those first couple of miles go away and the next few miles are almost … enjoyable.  Which leads me to consider more miles.

I didn’t do that on Sunday because I figured with the day off on Monday, I could go for another run.  Which I did.  7.5 miles and when I stopped I was still in that “I could run further” zone.

Which all leads to why this is a dangerous thing.  If I can run 7.5 miles relatively comfortably, can I run 13.1?

I’ve told myself that I’ll never run that distance again.

Yes, I’ve told myself that.

But…

The Reconstruction Continues

According to Running World’s readers, this is the second best running song there is:

 

The song that came in first was by Eminem and since I simply cannot stand him, I couldn’t go there.  Okay, fine, I should have an open mind.  I just listened to it.  Here it is:

 

Relevance, you ask.  I think I’m officially a runner again.  After a couple of months of working up to it, I went for a 7.5 mile run yesterday.  I was hoping for 6 miles, but felt good and kept going.  And then … and then … this morning, I went out again, with the idea I would go for a shorter, easier run.  Maybe 3.5 or 4 miles.  6.5 miles later I was done.  I’m slower than I was a few years ago.  Back then, I could run at a 9 minute per mile pace for longer runs and a bit faster for shorter runs.  When I started up a couple of months ago, I was slower than 11 minutes per mile.  Both runs this weekend were closer to 10 minutes per mile.  Which is good.  But it also shouldn’t matter.  I’m trying to kill the internal competitor (maybe it needs to go to the same place as the ol’ internal editor) and be more concerned about time spent running rather than how fast I’m running.  When I accomplish that I will have officially achieved peace.

Anyway, 14 miles of running … no, wait, I don’t run, I jog … this weekend.  And things worked the way they were supposed to.  Nothing more than the usual aches and pains.  Yes, the ol’ groin gets tight and I have weakness in my right leg stretching from my groin to the knee, but it’s not slowing me down and it’s not interfering with things after a run.

My running life is back.  And it feels good.

It’s All About the Running

I have gone for a run five times in the last eight days.  Each run was between three and four miles in length, and while I’m running about two minutes per mile slower than I was a few years ago, I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to do this.  And, so far, my groin isn’t a problem.

So, why’s it all about the running?  It’s amazing how much my mood has improved this week.  In so many ways, just being able to exercise, and making the commitment to it, has done wonders for me.  So, now I just need to keep it up.  Running at a distance and pace that won’t overdo it, keep doing the exercises to strengthen things, and enjoy the benefits.

This and That

Back when I was running regularly, which is now three years ago, the barefoot running craze was starting to explode.  Both running truly barefoot and running in very lightweight shoes that had very little padding were the trendy thing to do.  Being somebody who would love to be able to live barefoot, the craze fascinated me and I was dedicated to giving it a try.  My groin injury ended running and I have yet to recover from the muscle tear enough to run.  (I know, I know.  As soon as we get back from Cabo next month, I’m going back to the sports doc.)

A couple of months ago. Running to Her Dreams  posted a piece about Be Real Shoes — a new entry into the minimal shoe category.  I signed up on their website and got a discount offer.  A couple of weeks I ordered a pair of their shoes.  Here they are on my little toesies…

IMG_0487

 

 

Back when I ran my last half marathon — the one in which I spent the last six miles dragging my right leg along because of the aforementioned groin injury — I participated in a training program for the first time.  The leaders spoke regularly about the importance of eliminating heel strike in your stride.  Of trying to land as much as possible on the pads of your feet.  Heel strikes slow a runner down and send more of the pounding and shock of the foot strike into your legs and joints than a pad strike.  Or so the theory goes.  As long as I’ve run in traditional running shoes, I’ve struggled with putting the theory into practice.  It’s just too easy to fall into the stride that has been ingrained into my muscles for years.

So, I got these shoes.  This morning I went for my first walk in them.  They are incredible — the closest thing to walking barefoot without actually walking barefoot.  So lightweight and comfortable it doesn’t feel like there’s anything on my feet.  And with almost no padding on the bottom it’s just like walking barefoot.  Because I can’t help it, even though my groin tear is still a problem, I tried small amounts of jogging during the walk.  And almost immediately was able to switch to pad strikes instead of heel strikes.  Back when I was running, people who had made the switch wrote and talked about how it’s pretty much inevitable that these shoes will pretty much force you to change your stride.  I’m a believer now.

Thing is … it’s a different stride that puts much more of the effort into the calves.  I probably only jogged about a mile in my walk of almost four miles.  But my calves were burning at the end.  If I keep this up, I will have calves that will be able to kill a person.  I also think they may just make it possible for me to run reasonable distances without aggravating my groin tear because the stride puts so much into the calves and takes off some of the pressure and effort from other parts of my legs.  Or maybe I’m just dreaming.

Anyway, love the shoes.

* * * * * * *

I de-activated my FB account this morning.  Spur of the moment decision built upon months if not years of recognizing that it’s a complete waste of time.  At least for me it is.

* * * * * * *

I’m in the midst of reading a self-published book.  It’s a well-packaged book with a great attention- grabbing blurb.  Problem is the story is bordering on complete crap.  I’ll never claim that my self-published works are great literature and I certainly have made mistakes in the self-publishing process, but there are so many fundamental flaws in this story I’ve had enough of it.  My bigger problem with the book is that I’ve seen fellow bloggers/self-published writers assist in the PR campaign for this book by reblogging posts about it, etc.  When I see those reblogged posts I always wonder if the bloggers doing the reblogging have even read the book and if they haven’t, why are they doing that?  See, my belief is that pushing all self-published writers, regardless of the quality, hurts all of us.  I don’t understand how you can support a book or author you haven’t read.  And I don’t know how you could support this book, even if you’ve read it.  I’d love to see us self-published writers rally around quality rather than supporting anybody who self-publishes.

That’s my two cents.

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