I think most of us have been told at some point to “know your limit.” Whether it is with exercise, food, work, or even driving a car, that phrase often pops up from someone a little older and a little wiser. Back in November when I impulsively registered for my first marathon (and registered for a hard one), my logic was that this goal would help me through a time of moving, job changing, financial instability, and the winter blues. But as I got settled back in Vermont (yay, Vermont!), I realized that although these areas of my life were in an upswing, marathon training put a significant amount of stress on an already stressful few months. Living between three homes, dodging snowy and icy days, and starting a new job constantly collided with my training schedule. I began getting nervous that I was behind in my running and I had nightmares of falling to pieces on mile 1 of the race. I cursed the Vermont snow when I would normally be its top cheerleader, and I began getting angry with myself for not being in better running shape.
A few weeks ago I called my veteran-marathoner and still super-athlete dad for some advice. His logic is always much more direct than mine. With a simple “don’t be crazy” and a suggestion of changing my race to the half marathon and registering for a full fall marathon, I sighed a bit of relief. He reminded me that there is no reason to risk injury or to add more stress to life. The half marathon is certainly doable, and it is still a wonderful accomplishment. Now, I am enjoying my runs and not worrying too much about my schedule.
I’ve also realized that I have a “limit” to competition. I have some power-house friends who run the NYC and Boston marathons and average 6-7 minute miles, friends who will be out running 13 miles in -10 degree weather, and friends who cannot even comprehend skipping a day of running (or running with me and my solid 10-minute mile pace). Me? Meh-not so much. I’m competitive to a certain degree—I like to climb hard and reach new goals, and I like to “feel the burn” on workouts—but I have zero desire to do what these crazy friends of mine do (although I fully support their “craziness”). And I think I got caught up in their definitions of competition instead of sticking to my comfortable competitive zone. We all have different athletic needs, different bodies, and different goals. I’m starting to feel comfortable as a runner, and I have found running partners with similar mid-competitive goals. As always, it’s important to know and be comfortable with your mind and body.
So, cheers to the half marathon in June and cheers to knowing my limits!
At some point, we all shower, get dressed for work, make coffee and then realize it is a Saturday, when we don’t work on Saturdays. Or, we go through our Thursday schedule and somewhere around 2pm realize it is only Tuesday. And my personal favorite is when we go about a Monday morning like it’s Sunday—whoops, late for work. But what happens when you lose track of your training schedule? Jumping back into your schedule where you left off may not be the healthiest route and, if you’re like me, it’s a mental debacle.
January has been rough for my marathon training. I moved, I got the flu followed by some food poisoning, and I’ve just been out-of-running spirits. (Not to mention the -19 wind-chill outside). But who said marathon training wouldn’t come with obstacles, right? There is no giving up—I am conquering this feat with my feet—and if there was ever a time when I need a goal like this, it is now. So my plan to get back on track begins with a look at where I jumped the rails and how I should’ve handled barriers. And then, how I will handle them now.
1. Moving: run to pack and pack to run
Everything about moving is stressful: packing boxes, cleaning, packing the uhaul, driving 15 hours (with dogs), and then, of course, unpacking. As you can imagine, it gets even more difficult to get out and run when you have packed your running clothes and shoes in various boxes. Lesson 1: pack a small bag with all your running gear and leave it far away from your boxes.
2. Flu: too sick to run and then sick of running
The flu wiped me out for 6 days—a big schedule interrupter. But the worst part about it was that when I was feeling better I lost my drive to run. Being on the couch for a week made me into a couch potato. And for someone who is not normally a couch potato, it was nice. Lesson 2: force yourself into a recovery jog just to remind yourself of why you like to run.
3. Winter-blues: wimpy is as wimpy does
As I’ve mentioned before, winter-running can be awful, and awfully slippery. But winter even without the running can bring all sorts of woes, and I have found that once winter brings my spirits down my running falls flat too. Lesson 3: do fun winter-only activities to remember that winter ‘aint so bad.
My new schedule:
Rather than following my schedule this month, I have been running whenever I feel up to it. Bad idea. Knowing that this mentality is nothing but a lazy way of staying in shape, I’ve re-written my schedule and did a priority check on my lifestyle. Running had fallen below moving, writing, cooking, and sleeping. It needs to crawl back up and claim its spot under “waking up.” So, in attempt to regain my strength and schedule, I’m posting my new marathon training schedule beginning tomorrow. And this time I mean it.
|1||2 miles||–||3 miles||Xtrain 30 min||3 miles||–||6 miles|
|2||–||Yoga||4 miles||Xtrain 30 min||4 miles||–||8 miles|
|3||–||Yoga||4 miles||Xtrain 30 min||4 miles||–||9 miles|
|4||–||Yoga||4 miles||Xtrain 30 min||4 miles||–||8 miles|
|5||–||Yoga||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||5 miles||–||10 miles|
|6||–||Yoga||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||6 miles||–||11 miles|
|7||–||Yoga||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||5 miles||–||10 miles|
|8||–||Yoga||6 miles||Xtrain 30 min||6 miles||–||12 miles|
|9||–||Yoga||6 miles||Xtrain 45 min||7 miles||–||14 miles|
|10||–||–||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||4 miles||–||9 miles|
|11||–||Yoga||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||6 miles||–||16 miles|
|12||–||–||5 miles||Xtrain 45 min||5 miles||–||11 miles|
|13||–||Yoga||6 miles||Xtrain 30 min||7 miles||–||18 miles|
|14||–||–||5 miles||Xtrain 39 min||5 miles||–||10 miles|
|15||–||Yoga||6 miles||Xtrain 45 min||7 miles||–||15 miles|
|16||–||Yoga||7 miles||Xtrain 45 min||7 miles||–||20 miles|
|17||–||–||5 miles||Xtrain 30 min||5 miles||–||10 miles|
|18||–||Yoga||5 miles||Xtrain 45 min||4 miles||–||8 miles|
|19||–||Yoga||4 miles||Xtrain 30 min||3 miles||–||6 miles|
|20||–||Yoga||3 miles||–||2 miles||RACE DAY!|
I don’t shy away from snow. I’m from upstate New York where blizzards are welcomed and I’ve lived in Vermont where, well, blizzards are welcomed. I’ve skied since infancy, I ice climb, and I make a damn good snowman. But now I’m in a bit of ignorant territory: how do you practice a non-winter sport in the heart of winter? It’s easy to understand how to snap on crampons and carry ice tools to a frozen waterfall, and it certainly makes sense to pop on some skies and follow a slope. But, running? In winter?
Spending the holidays in New Hampshire and during a blizzard has made this week’s training a bit difficult … and a bit painful. Before the blizzard hit, Jeremy and I decided to try a trail run. Because there was very little snow or ice, we found the run to be enjoyable and not very dangerous. It was a beautiful day, and aside from Jeremy’s bloody nose (in which he plugged with moss), we had a nice 3-mile run in the woods. However, later that night as my arches were throbbing and my knees creaked, I started to realize that a frozen trail, even without snow or ice, can be rough on the body. Because the ground was uneven and frozen, my joints took many hard hits. I abandoned the trail running in winter idea.
The morning before the blizzard hit I had a solid 4-mile run on the roads of Milford, NH. Fighting the beginning flurries, I wrapped up the run feeling good but worried that my next run would have to be postponed many days. The blizzard soon dumped about one foot of snow on Milford (light compared to our surrounding states), and I waited three days to try a winter run again.
To my surprise, snow was not my nemesis. Instead, that deceitful black ice took no pity on my rubber soles. After one mile of dodging snow piles and frozen mounds of slush, my right sneaker lost control on a patch of black ice and swung rapidly above my head. Attempting to catch my fall, I jaggedly landed on my right wrist. After a few moments of disciplining that patch of ice, I walked my bruised wrist home to pout about my winter running defeat. Winter 1, Liz 0.
I see now that to start training for a marathon during the heart of winter in the Northeast may have been a bad decision. And since I cannot afford to put money into a gym membership, I think this battle against winter will be a struggle. But, on the upside, I will have some spectacular cross-training days. Like this nice afternoon of snowshoeing in New Hampshire…
Although I’m a cup-of-tea kind of gal, sometimes I need a good kick-in-the-pants kind of drink. And there is no time like the holidays to want (and need) a real drink. Over the past few days, some friends have asked me for the Snowmantini recipe that I had mentioned in a previous post. For those of you who need a “I’m snowed in with family” drink, this one’s for you!
Equal amount of the following …
Baileys Irish Cream
Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
And, a splash of cream
Drinks like these don’t make training any easier. I don’t drink often, but when I do it certainly will be a high-calorie, high-booze, dessert-like drink. This was this week’s problem number 1. Problem number 2 was not necessarily feeling wimpy like I did last week, but rather battling the exhaustion and unpredictability of traveling.
Traveling does everything you don’t want it to: screws up your routine, alters your eating habits, causes stress, and tramples your energy. For me, my excitement to reach my destination often gets lost in the tediousness of the long drive, the spastic dog, and the stiff neck, butt, and legs. It is all, of course, worth the exhaustion when you pull into snowy Vermont, where billboards disappear, moose cross the street, and maple candy seems to find its way into every gas station and corner store. The moment I picked up that piece of Vermont maple this week I forgot about my 18 hours of driving and forgot about the fact that I could not move my neck to the right.
But I also forgot about training. During the trip, I often used phrases like, “Oh, I’ll want to run when I get there because I sat so long” and “I’ll find time in the morning before breakfast.” But then when I got there I was too tired to run, and breakfast came awfully early the next morning. Before I knew it, I was three days behind schedule. So how do you manage training while travelling? How do you balance your unpredictable schedule and exhaustion with your need to run?
I wish I could tell friends and family that I need to run before we can have breakfast or that I’ll catch up with them after my run, but I can’t get myself to put that run as my first priority. Instead, my plan is to not have a plan. I’m not going to write in a time during the day to run. I will, however, not go to sleep until that run is done. I’m hoping that this simple promise to myself will force me to run without impeding on the more important aspects of travelling, like friends and family. (And I’m hoping that the occasional snowmantini during the holidays makes its way into my hands after my runs).
Although I know someone in my family that would love to run in snow and slush (see above), the snow outside my window this morning did nothing more than provide a variety of excuses: too cold, too slippery, too wet, too stay-in-bed-and-eat-brownies. I took the dogs outside (after ten minutes of snow-proofing Pug Smitty, of course … talk about wimpiness), and I crawled back into bed. I could rearrange my running schedule this week, right? One will always lose when fighting the weather, no?
As the afternoon approached and the temperatures rose a bit above freezing, I started growing a conscience. I hate when that happens. I don’t know if it’s Jewish guilt, athlete’s guilt, or just the guilt of an outdoorsy-girl having an indoorsy-Sunday. I soon found myself putting on my running clothes, a hat, gloves, and my threatening watch that always seems to tell me that I run very slowly.
My partner Jeremy asked me today how I’m feeling about the marathon. Basically, he was curious about my dedication level. I was out running in the snow, wasn’t I? Isn’t that dedication? The fact that I was thinking in questions and not definitive statements made me a bit nervous. It has become clear that my fears are not necessarily physical ones, but rather they are about my mental focus and confidence. I fear that I will be wimpy on days of bad weather, or tiredness, or illness. Mostly, however, I fear fearing. Confidence is always half the battle in outdoor sports—trusting your gear on a climb, trusting your feet on a trail run, and trusting your stroke in open-water swimming. Confidence in my running and confidence in getting myself out running is then of vital importance.
So, week 1 of training was a success. Not only did I complete the mileage, but I also stopped asking myself if I can complete it. Instead, I put on my sneakers, shut my mouth, and ran.
Why is it that I do things that I hate just because I hate that I hate them? It’s an annoying characteristic, really. As I’ve mentioned in past posts on outdoor sports, the one sport that I have never been able to love is running. It’s a sport that supports my wandering mind rather than focuses it. It gets tiring fast (certainly a clue that I’m out of shape, but still), and I often see little rewards. And now, on June 12th 2011 I am running the Lake Placid Marathon.
Here’s what happened. I’m struggling to find enough work to pay the bills, and as many other freelancers or unemployed people know, nothing impedes on your mind and body quite like job and money stress. It’s infuriating, and as much as I try to capture the “uninhibited unemployed” mentality, I instead push it away and fall into the ever-so clichéd “funk.” So here I am, in a funk and in need of a goal.
The easy thing to do in this situation would be to create a goal out of something I love: climb a 5.12 without taking a fall, bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway longer than 10 minutes, do more than 3 pull-ups. But running always lingers in my mind; it floats there spitting out phrases like, “I’m free” and “you suck at running.” The biggest accomplishment, then, will be to not only have a large (and scary) goal like running a marathon, but also to tackle my heckler.
So, after a brief 5 minutes of searching for marathons during the summer of 2011, I decided on the Lake Placid marathon. The Adirondacks (or ‘Dacks if you’re a Northeast climber) are my home mountains and although the course will be a bit hilly, I know its spectacular views and gorgeous summer weather will make it worth the agony. I impulsively registered for the race, got in my car, and drove to the bookstore to sit in the “Running” section and read about marathon training. I adapted a number of “Beginner Training Schedules” that I found in new and old books into my own schedule that is conducive to my life and needs. You will see the schedule below. Comments and suggestions from veteran marathon runners are very welcome! In fact, I will be insulted if you do not leave a tip for me.
I will be whining, cheering, fist pumping, and shouting here on Living Flavor throughout the training process. Wish me luck!
|My Beginner Marathon Training Schedule|
When you’re from the Northeast, life is about the Northeast. Vermonters want to be their own country, Mainers won’t eat seafood outside of their state, and Massachusettsians, well, will shoot you if you’re not a Red Sox fan. So when you’re a climber, you take pride in the cliffs of shist that make up the Green Mountains, you burry yourself in the granite of the Adirondacks (or “‘Dacks” if you’re a true climbing bum), and you practically live on the routes of Rumney and Cannon in New Hampshire.
And, as a true Northeastern climber myself, our snobbery is completely justified. Our mountains are beautiful. Stoic. We have lakes surrounded by cliffs and rivers that divide mountain ranges. We have temperate summers where the sky glows orange and purple behind the tall peaks at sunset. Our winters bring with them feet of snow and walls of ice for the ski-lovers and ice climbers. We even take pride in “mud season” by getting our mountain bikes out of winter storage and hitting the trails.
But if there’s one place Northeastern climbers always plan on going it’s Joshua Tree National Park in the desert of California. University wilderness programs take annual trips to J-Tree, posters of J-Tree have a permanent spot on climbing gym walls, and you always hear “aw, man, I wanna go” when someone mentions an upcoming trip. So when my partner Jeremy suggested a spontaneous trip to J-Tree last Christmas, I grabbed my tent and gear, and we booked tickets to leave on Christmas day (cheap flights on Christmas) and to return two weeks later, just in time for me to begin writing my graduate thesis.
I knew little about what to expect, except that J-Tree had countless numbers of quartzite routes and that coyotes howl in packs at night. When we pulled into the park at 4am, after our 5-hour flight from Boston and 4-hour drive from Vegas, all we could see were stars unimpeded by pollution and lighting up everything they touched. We set up the tent and crawled in just in time to hear the musical stylings of the coyote symphony.
I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable this first night. Or, the first few nights. I made Jeremy stand watch for coyotes while I used the bathroom (when he, of course, would just roll his eyes), and I flailed excessively in my sleeping bag to stay warm when the temperatures dipped below freezing. Miserably cold on the third night, I woke Jeremy up, threw him into our rental car, and drove 30 minutes to the Wal-Mart to buy a $20 sleeping bag to line the inside of mine. Once finally warm with a good night of sleep, I focused on our endless days of climbing. And with every handhold, finger jam, and step I became a stronger and stronger climber.
There is something magical that happens to a climber, at least to me, when I’m outside of the comfort of my home turf. Even though there are always new routes to climb in the Northeast, routes that will challenge my technique and strength, climbing at J-Tree challenged more than that. Traveling away from the place where you work and study, away from the life that you know, and entering a territory where everything is new—from the sights to sounds to rock to people—allows you to surpass your obstacles and make fresh choices.
In terms of ratings, by the end of our J-Tree trip I was climbing 5.10b’s with ease, routes that I struggled with back at home. But most importantly, I gained a certain type of confidence that no matter how hard I tried to gain at home I always fell short. I took falls (into yucca plants), I split open knuckles on sharp quartz crystals, and I bruised knees and elbows. But, I had no tears or fears, and for the first time in my life I felt strong and, well, pretty kick-ass. (And if you grew up as a scrawny bookworm like me, you know that this feeling is long-awaited).
I chose to reflect on my trip now, almost 1 year later, because I have recently moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina where everything is again new. And while I’ll never get those two weeks back in a tent with just Jeremy, my climbing shoes, and a new boost of confidence, I do get to fight new climbing challenges and new challenges of the mind and body. It is a new place where I’ve started trad leading and even started new sports like trail running. And even though I know I’ll start to get the itch to try somewhere else new soon, every day adds something new to learn from and something new that will only make my mind and body stronger.
I wanna do a lot of things. I wanna rock climb. Ice climb. Run. Bike. Swim. I wanna go to yoga classes, spinning classes, and zumba classes. And I wanna do these things around the world—France, Switzerland, India, and Thailand. But in reality that’s a lot of wannas and not enough cannas. Except for those few amazing (and annoying) people who miraculously pull off doing all of their “I wannas,” most of us have to work (or look for work in my case). We need money. We need to pay off student loans. We need to pay for health insurance. And we need to eat. Traveling the world is certainly not an option, and even the gear that we need to tackle some of our “I wannas” is more than we can afford. So should we whine about it?
Yes. I do. But lately I’ve been trying to be a bit less whiney and a bit more practical in my approach to outdoor sports. Take the facts as they are: we need to exercise to stay healthy. We need the outdoors to stay sane. We need things that are free.
But there’s another obstacle that I’m often faced with—getting off the couch. My “I wannas” sometimes really mean “I wish I would,” and they often float in their mythical bubble around my apartment, laughing at me as I sip my tea and watch youtube videos of climbers.
So how do we practically manage our “I wannas?” I’m tempted to be full of clichés and assert that we need goals, organization, and budgets. But, as I’ve learned, goals often change when we’re stressed or busy, no one can actually stay organized, and budgets are often interrupted by unexpected costs (like vet bills and car problems). So, here’s what I do. Make friends with outdoor people. I was lucky enough to meet my boyfriend in a gear shop (as he was working) who later became a rock climbing guide. Gear, done. Free lessons, done. (And I promise, I was not using him for these perks when we started dating. Now, well, I get what I want).
Most importantly, although I allow myself to try new activities with friends, I really only choose a few activities that I do on a regular basis. Here’s an inspiration: My dad, 58 years old, swims 4,500+ yards every day of the week. When he’s sick? Swims. Hurt? Swims. Tired? Swims. Travelling? Swims. Every excuse that I use he tackles by getting in the pool. And his mantra is simply quoting Woody Allen, “95% of life is showing up.” Swimming for him has become a natural part of the day—just as we make coffee in the morning, brush our teeth, or check our e-mails. His colleagues know not to call him before 8:30am because his phone will be off, and they know not to expect him at work until 9:00. It’s simply a part of his life.
For me, the way to follow my dad’s example is to find a sport that I cannot turn down. I know I’ll never get up at 6am every morning to run because for me running is just a way to stay in shape. It doesn’t empower me. But I know that I will get up at 6am to climb some rock or even some plastic in a gym. I know that when I start moving, start following a route, I will be focused on mind and body. That’s my “I wanna.” What’s yours?