Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Today, I'm supposed to race.

I say "supposed to," because I've pretty much decided I'm not taking part in the actual event.  Yes,  I know that sounds bad, but I do have my reasons.

First, I signed up for this race as a way to stay motivated to run through October, November and December.  I'm pretty confident that as someone new to this running thing, it would be too easy to hibernate through the winter months rather than getting out and actually running - whether at the gym or in the great outdoors.  That was my sole purpose for signing up.  Well, and I got a running jacket out of the deal.  Mission: Accomplished.

Second, I really wasn't thinking about the logistics.  I live outside of a large city.  I work downtown and the office is open for a half day today, which means at noon I go home.  Outside of the city and it's about an hour commute.  The last thing I really want to do is trek all the way back downtown where the race is.  Along with everyone else heading downtown for the NYE festivities.  To run in the cold, snow and potentially ice, ahhhh the weather of Southern Alberta.

Third, the race is not actually timed.  I mean, sure, they'll have the big clocks up which will give me a gun time, but I know how events like this work, I know I'll place myself toward the back at which point the gun time will make me sad when I cross the finish line.  Not that I'm expecting a PB on ice and snow, but it'd be nice to have a shot at seeing a lower time for my finish.  And maybe I just prefer a timed race because I do get that feedback and can see how my running has improved.  Officially.  Because, you know, that treadmill is a lying liar who lies...

Fourth, race reports I have read indicate that the route is shorter than the expected 5K.  Yes, this gives me a better shot at seeing a great number on the clock at the end, but it also gives me the knowledge (with my trusty Garmin to confirm) that the actual number means nothing if the course does measure short.  Boo-urns, short course race, boo-urns.

Fifth, races are frustrating.  I place myself toward the back of the pack every time.  I mean, I'll be AT THE BACK. I  wait until just before the event begins then put myself at the end of the line.  Then others do the same and put themselves behind me.  And then the race starts and I'm dodging walkers, strollers and small children while trying to stay out of the way of the faster runners who put themselves at the back of the pack.  I then get passed by walkers which, frankly, is not a great feeling.

From what I've said above, you probably get the feeling that I hate races - I do not.  A well-organized, timed event is a pleasure to run, even in bad weather and with the start line frustrations.  And while it sucks to be near last, having official times that I can compare from race to race is motivating and gives me some benchmarks for improvement.  There are many benefits to running races.

For me, this race just doesn't hold those benefits.

BUT.  I can still get that feedback today.  After work, I will be running a 5K, just on my own.  It will be timed and it will be the full 5K.  I'll still get that feedback on actual race time and I'll be able to see if I've improved since my last event in August.

With the added bonus that I can do it in the afternoon and have the evening free to do NYE-type things.  And I won't be angry, frustrated and feeling defeated.  I hope.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Struggling with Speed

Or, why I hate being slow.

After spending some time in some running groups, I've learned that a runner always prefaces his or her time with "I know it's slow but..."  Sometimes, that comes across as false modesty - especially to someone who is struggling to hit and maintain a 15 minute mile pace.

But then I realized it isn't.  They, just like me, feel as though they can do better.  That they should do better.  They should be faster, so it is slow.  It shows that they are continuing to try to improve and get faster.  And as runners, that's what we need to do.  We always need to be reaching, improving, working harder and getting faster.

A part of me thinks that if I ever hit a 12 minute mile pace, I'll be happy.  I'll just run at that speed, finish my races and be that runner.  And then I think that even if I do hit a sustainable 12 minute mile, I'm going to want to hit a 10 minute mile.  And if I can hit a 10 minute mile, why not try to break that barrier?

But for now, the reality is I'm painfully slow.  It's part of why I don't really like running outside yet.  I feel like I've run forever and I've hardly gone anywhere.  Although when my family found out how far I ran on Christmas morning before all the festivities, they were impressed.  All I thought was, "but it's only 2.5 miles!  And I'm slow!"  But they don't know that.  And they don't care.   They don't run, so the fact that I got out there in the cold and the snow on a holiday was a big deal.

And it is, given where I've come from in this journey.  Running has taught me a lot about what my body can do, and also what it can't do - like running a half marathon when I'm not ready (but I finished!).  The most important thing it's taught me is that I can live my life, even if I am overweight.  I don't have to wait to do things until  I lose weight (like running a half marathon).

Now, if only I could get a better selection of good quality technical gear in plus sizes without breaking the bank.  I don't plan to need to wear them for a long time, but they'd really help me get where I'm going.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Benefit of Consistency

In December, I've done one thing - one simple thing.  I've run consistently.  Three times a week, I've hit the treadmill and run.  I've done intervals.  I've done long (for me), steady runs.  I've had to break up runs with walking when I just couldn't push through.  And at the end of the month, I finally see progress.

It's not much, maybe a 10% gain in speed over where I started.  Ten percent doesn't sound all that exciting, does it?

It's over a minute/mile increase in a month.

In addition to that - it's injury free.  Injury-free is something I haven't been in awhile when it comes to running.  And to be honest, it's still a bit of a novelty that my feet aren't killing me when I'm done a run.  Or the morning after a run.

It seems that consistency is really the best thing for me right now.  I know, it should go without saying, right?  The more you run, the better you'll run.

And the easier it is to WANT to run.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays

And welcome to Run. Stretch. Fly.

I'm actually struggling with the holidays this year.  I'm feeling bummed and disconnected and more like Scrooge and the Grinch than Cindy-Lou Who.  My husband decided last night that one of the reasons for that was putting the tree up in mid-November. He's probably right.

But I might also argue that it's because I've done no Christmas baking this year.  Not a single cookie.  Not a single batch of fudge.  Not even a cupcake.

This is a change for me.  I love baking (and eating the results).  But that's part of how I've become who I am - an obese woman struggling to do the things she loves while wishing she could hide from the world.

And so, I made a decision to not bake.  And then I decided I would bake.  And then I came to my senses before I bought the ingredients and I returned to my decision not to bake.  Because I know that when I get home for Christmas, Mom will have made every cookie, square and candy that could be considered festive.

Thankfully I've developed a nut allergy and she struggles to make anything without throwing in a handful of nuts.  My niece and I can sit safely away from all the goodies.


And the reality is that I'm working very hard toward some pretty big goals in 2014.  I just have to keep that in mind.

I'm a runner.

I'm an obese runner.

Think about that for a moment.

And understand that it isn't as unusual as it might sound.  We're out there, even if it is hard to find technical gear that fits.  Even if we feel like everyone is staring at us while we run - on treadmills, tracks, trails and streets.

And as a runner, I know that every extra pound I carry makes me slower. lose makes me faster.  And every cookie I eat makes me slower.  Which is undesirable.

I ran a half marathon 2 years ago.  Ok, I ran/walked.  At a walking pace.  But I finished.  And then I spent a lot time recovering from injuries caused by my stubbornness.

I have another half marathon next fall.  My goal for this is simple again - finish. Wait, no.  Finish healthy. 

To finish, I'll have to also be faster.  My original race time, while good enough for the RnR half in Vegas, is not good enough for my planned race.  I have to bring my time in under the 15 minute mile for the entire race.  And I'm close to that number for a 5K right now - which is quite exciting after so many injuries and setbacks over the last two years.

It probably also means that many people stopped reading there.

Why would reading the blog of someone so slow be valuable to someone faster?

Maybe it won't be.  But at the end of the day, we're all trying to be faster.  We're all disappointed by our times.  And often when I see the times and paces that people are disappointed with, I get discouraged since that isn't even in my sights.  Yet.  A 12 min/mile pace for a 5k?  Or a half?  Maybe.  Someday.

But getting faster is going to take the same hard work for me at 16 min/mile that it will take for someone trying to break 10 min/mile.

And, you know what?  There are other people like me, trying to move from their first successful 5Ks where they just focused on finishing to setting and meeting time goals and achieving personal bests.  And who doesn't want to give advice to the struggling newbie?

I'm a success story that's just begun.