Thursday, February 28, 2013

Respecting Progress

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing and about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."
C.S. Lewis
In my almost 29 years of life, I've made more than my fair share of mistakes.

I've said awfully hurtful things to those that love and support me the most,
I've consciously made the wrong decision on purpose on several occasions,
I've continually allowed myself to be blinded by my selfish desires,
And, I've let myself lose sight on what life is really about.

I'm not perfect.
Never have been and never will be.

Sometimes I learn from my short comings, and sometimes I don't.
It happens because I'm just like everyone else where I often get caught up the the less important parts of life and miss those monumentally great life lessons.

After beating the crapola out of myself last year, I finally came to my senses late fall and decided it was time to give the running and racing thing a bit of rest. Stop pining away at my senseless goals that make me turn all Natalie Portman in Black Swan and take care of myself. After all, life is short and you only get one shot where if you don't take care of yourself who can you really expect to? 

So, I took 2 weeks off of running to let my body rest and that pesky foot heal.
Then I slowly started running again. Not too much, but just enough to regain a bit of my sanity.
At first the miles didn't feel easy and I wasn't convinced that my fitness would ever come back.

But I've kept on. Slow and steady.

Progress is hard to describe, and noticing it's imprints in my own life isn't one of my strengths. I've spent my entire life chasing it down, measuring, logging, charting, graphing, and blabbering on and on and on about it till I've bored myself and others to death. Uuughh, nauseating. 

But a funny thing has happened recently, and I've finally begun to grasp the concept of what progress really means. I've spent a lot of time thinking that I have complete and utter control of my rate of progress for everything, especially running. The I want, therefore it shall be way of thinking has been relentlessly breaking my heart since the 90's.

Turns out that once you stop obsessing over the rate at which things evolve will be the moment things start to make a turn in the right direction.

While the snowy trails can put a damper on planned workouts,
they can do wonders for the soul.
...they shall be white as snow.

The time I took off wasn't the miracle cure to my over trained body and it hasn't magically created lightening speeds radiating from my legs. But it has given me perspective and appreciate of the process of growth within myself. Monday I was able to do something that was unthinkable and physically impossible to me 6 to 8 months ago, I was able to tempo.

4 painfully hilly tempo miles where my lungs were burning and my heart was fervently bleeding passion anticipating the next foot strike. 

It hurt, my mind wandered, my splits were all over the place, and those hills played me for a fool.

But I managed to make it through the workout in one piece and still be a functioning person afterwords.   My splits weren't anything brag worthy, and this workout didn't exactly put me on the fast track into the elite world, but it was a baby step in the right direction for me and for that I'm extremely grateful.
"As long as you trust that things happen for a reason and just put your head down, focus and just keep working hard, then things usually work out."
Amy Hasting in the January issue of Competitor Magazine 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fighting the URGE

Tomorrow, at exactly 12 pm Central Time, registration opens up for THE Chicago Marathon. 

Even though I've made a promise to myself to not get too invested into training this year for a wide array of reasons, I can't say that I haven't thought about just throwing all that logic out the window and pulling the registration trigger on CM13. After all, Chicago is my favorite city in the world and nothing makes me happier than running 26.2 miles with a goofy grin on my face through the streets of practically every neighborhood in the whole dang city. Still can't erase those skyline views from my mind from the last go-around.

There has been a lot of speculation and hype about how long it's going to take to fill up. 
Some think hours, and I've even heard other speculate minutes. 

Yes, minutes.

I honestly don't think that it would even be possible for 45,000 people to sign up within the matter of minutes. But, I'll probably be wrong and end up being shut out. Won't be the first time I was wrong, and it most certainly will not be the last.

Last year I registered for this race in early February when I was riding high off of a successful start and adjustment to my heavily-loaded-yet-highly-ambitious training cycle. Things were going well and I was more than certain that I was well on my way to a sub 3:05 finish. At the time I was even thinking that I would be able to squeak in just under 3.

In the 8 months since I dropped the $150 for what I was convinced would be "the race of my life" and when it came time to toe-the-line, a million and one obstacles got in the way of that dream race. Some avoidable and others not where I had to adjust my plan and expectations. Instead, the events which ended up unfolding that day turned out to be heartwarming and more memorable than any PR would have been where I had the time of my life with Mr. Chicago Runner Girl. That left a lofty marathon goal has to be shelved for another more appropriate and yet TBD time.

With registration opening a mere 16 hours from now, I'm really starting to miss the days when you didn't have to set an alarm to make sure you get one of those highly coveted race slots and instead could wait out the year a bit and not get shut out. What happened to those days???

The days when you didn't have to commit to a marathon 9 months in advance?
The days when you actually had the opportunity to make sure you were healthy enough to toe the line of your goal race for the year?
The days when you didn't have to shell out $175 to run a marathon?
The days when you didn't have to sit like a fool in front of your computer clicking away like a crazed-maniac seconds after race registrations opened?

I miss those days.

Hoping they come back soon.

But until they do, I'll be keeping myself far far away from any and all internet surfing devices on Chicago Marathon registration day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gettin' dirty

This pretty much sums up how my speed session went today

Mud all the way up to my rump.

Those Brooks Cadence 2's were really cute until I made the ever-SO-wise decision to hit up some freshly thawed limestone trails for an interval session.

Headed out the door on this warm and sunny winter afternoon for a bit of focused speed work. Last month I decided to register for the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k on April 7th. It's one of my all time favorite Chicagoland races, where this will be my 7th year racing this event. I've had a pretty decent streak with this race where I've always managed to squeak out some type of PR whether I was prepared or not on race day.

While I don't really have any expectations for this race other than to have fun, it would be nice if I could keep the streak going for at least another year. With just under 8 weeks until race day, I've got nothing but time to slowly start getting myself back on the racing bandwagon.

On tap for today was 3 sets of 2x400's & 1x800
1:29, 1:30, 3:10
1:27, 1:30, 2:56
1:29, 1:24, 3:04

Still trying to figure out where my fitness levels currently are, which is basically a shot in the dark as of right now. At this point in time I'm still avoiding heavily loaded speedwork and instead focusing my efforts on being patient. Just like it has taken time for my speed and endurance to disappear, it's going to take time to build it back up. Feeling mighty thankful today that my body is as forgiving as it is, really don't deserve the healing compassion that it continues to bestow on me when I time and time again ask more and more. Avoiding setting any unrealistic expectations for myself at this time and instead just taking workouts for what they are, learning lessons and dress rehearsals. 

Maybe I lacked a bit of consistency here today, but my legs felt great. 
Every interval was controlled and I ended the workout feeling like I could have gone through another set of intervals. For me that is more important than splits.

Who else is running the Shamrock Shuffle 8k on April 7th?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

all those other runs...

You know, the ones most runners DON'T want to talk about. The one that you feel like hell through and you just want to throw in the towel quickly erasing them from your memory.

Yeah, those runs.

Well, I've had A LOT of them lately.

Honestly, I don't really expect much at this time from my running or body because I realize that it is just plain crazy to think that I could step back from focused training for 6+ months to get back at it like it's all a breeze and I haven't lost any fitness. It hasn't been, and I've lost quite a bit. Building my mileage back up has been challenging where these days I'm sitting pretty happy right around 40 mpw.

It's been a slow and often times sluggishly frustrating build.
Just a non-stop pursuit of one foot steadily planted on the ground before the other takes flight.

Most of my runs have been very unimpressive, challenging, and of the same monotonously dull pace. Seems only logical that when I headed out the door today with my scratchy-raw-winter throat for my first loosely "focused" speed work since August (or even April/May 2012 for that matter) that things weren't going to be all gumdrops and rainbows. They weren't, and I feel physically slow compared to where my mind thinks my fitness level currently is.

Not such a big deal as fitness peaks are meant to come and go, and as long as the mind is sharp thats really all that matters. 

Eventually it'll come back. Just a long and slow road ahead before I can even dream about making progress or shooting for any PR's.

Keeping things exciting for myself by taking on one of my most dreaded of all things...
Inclines and hills.

Running on the lakefront for nearly a decade made me tough in regards to handling all different types of weather, but soft in the elevation change category. The Chicago lakefront is quite possibly the flattest path to ever exist and has maybe a 50 ft elevation change along the almost 20 miles it covers. It's wonderful. Out here in the uncivilized world that I'm now living in, there seem to be lots of short climbs that to me seem like giant never ending hills making my heart want to beat out of my chest.

That run was a doozy

Doesn't look like much, but always gets me

What can I say? I'm a sucker for flat and fast.

Even though I'm feeling lightyears away from where I was last year at this time, feeling good about my 40 mpw average and know that there is only up to go from here.
Plenty of hard work and patience ahead.

Hills/ em or hate em?