Monday, May 30, 2011

Alexandria Half Marathon - SUCCESS!

All smiles at the finish line
I must say, this was more of a crap-a-thon than a half mar-a-thon. I thought I was doing myself a favor by carbo loading on Saturday night with chicken, red pepper and broccoli alfredo (and a little Texas Toast, num nums). Turns out, the only favor I was doing myself was a solid colon cleansing in the middle of the race. I wasn't racing for a medal for the first seven miles, I was racing for port-a-Johns. Have you ever jogged while actually clenching your butt cheeks together? Let me tell you, it's as challenging as it is hilarious. I'm going to pump myself full of Immodium before the next race. I timed my pit stops to about nine minutes total so considering my overall time was a pathetic 2:10, I'd like to think that I ran this bad boy in about two hours. Alejandro was smart not to wait for me at my first pull over. He finished in 270th place. I finished in... 561st...

This was the first time that I've ever A) Stopped to go to the bathroom in a race and B) Grabbed a mouthful of water at the water stations - probably because I had just crapped out what felt like 70% of my body fluid. I'll gladly take any advice on how to avoid Runner's Trots in the middle of a race.

Something, almost beautiful, happened in the last two miles. It was a flat, colorless run between highway and residences and hardly a motivator to bring you home. I was merrily trotting down the home stretch when a tall, lanky and muscular girl about my age passed me ever so slowly. I'm not sure if she slowed down or if I sped up, but we ended up running next to each other for several yards with a little over one mile left to go. We didn't even look at each other, but our paces matched so well that we almost telepathically agreed to push the other through the finish line. Though I've paced myself behind runners before, I've never actually picked up a 'run buddy' in the middle of a race. With maybe about a 1/4 mile left, we jogged past an older man who instantly crept back up to us, smiled and yelled at me with a thumbs up sign, "GOOD PACE!" The three of us tackled the final hill together. I was in the center and felt like Cameron Diaz in her center position of the Charlie's Angel's pose and thinking - YEA! We can do this! - As we steadily increased our speed to round the final turn, our gentleman friend was grunting loudly. I smiled and yelled at him, "Use your arms! Lengthen your stride!" and though I broke into my traditional oh-my-god-a-jaguar-is-chasing-me sprint for the last hundred yards, the three of us slapped high fives at the end and exchanged "I couldn't have done it without you"'s. It was a really, really cool feeling.

As you can tell by my suffering run blog, I didn't exactly train for this race, but thankfully I'm hardly sore today and I've got a new medal hanging on my rear view mirror! I'm doing a 10K next weekend and I think I can tackle a half marathon in PA in two weeks as my June race. There aren't many half races in the surrounding states during the summer because it's so hot, so I've got to head north or south to get in a race a month. It's too bad that my overactive digestive system slowed me a bit for this race, but as they say....

...shit happens.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Evening

A cloudy evening in Arlington. But I managed a fantastic, familiar run up to Georgetown and back before the rain came a-pourin'. Those were some serious hills - my butt still hurts! Just a quick and easy four miler, but I did it as fast as I could. I'm recovering from a mild case of strep throat, acquired on Friday, so my airway seemed to tighten quicker than usual. Wow, those pictures are DARK, aren't they! I've got to pump up the intensity to get ready for my race in two weeks. I'm off to Las Vegas this week for work. Talk about some serious isometric exercise. Standing for 9 hours at a time will do it to you! Sooo proud of Victoria for her tri this morning. She's the one that even got me into this racing addiction, back in Miami. Wish I was there to race with you again, V! Thanks for inspiring me.

Time to snuggle in with some Runner's World. Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bugs on Burke Lake

 The last two nights have been fantastic runs on the Burke Lake Loop, about five miles in circumference.  Second to having a beach house in South Florida some day, please remind me to purchase property on a lake when I'm filthy rich. There's something about the woods and the still water that breathes peace and tranquility. The five miles went quickly -  it was thrilling to have raised roots, mud patches, twists and turns shaded by a rooftop of greenery to run through. I enjoyed it so much that I made runs two days in a row. When's the last time that I would have run two days in a row?? I didn't feel fatigued at all from Thursday's run and tonight I ran the loop in the opposite direction while my mother took a bit of a stroll around the piers. Now I'm not sure how many individual bugs, bug families, or bug colonies I might have swallowed in the last 48 hours, but I'm thinking of investing in or inventing a pair of sunglasses with mini-windshield wipers on them to remove the squashed bug carcasses from them. There were so many that I was nearly gagging. What on earth am I supposed to do about it? I mean, if they fly into your mouth, you can try and spit them out. But if they fly up your nose... ? Well, I'm moving back into Lorcom Lane today (!!!) so my new water side runs will be on the Potomac River. Maybe riverside gnats aren't quite as people friendly as lakeside gnats!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Get Angry

"Anger is a short madness"

I think we can all agree that to a certain degree and in specific applications, we humans can perform much more efficiently when propelled by a controlled, inner rage. For example, those cars reversing down 395 over the bridge this afternoon to make an earlier ramp (illegal, schmillegal) because of dead stopped traffic, were going to get to their destinations much faster than the rest of us. Oh, and I have never sent more effective work e-mails or handled matters more efficiently at work when in a more-than-slightly elevated degree of frustration.  And probably the most effective times are when we are mad at ourselves. We take a step back, re-evaluate and then go and KICK SOME SERIOUS ASS!!! Right?

I've always played better soccer when I was angry. Tonight's game revitalized that philosophy and thank goodness because last week at my first game with my new team - The Foot Clan - I was running around like some delicate fairy, afraid to even touch the ball. What a pansy! This week, my personal trainer and lifelong soccer coach, aka my mother, knew exactly how to light the inner tiger and get my butt in gear out on the field. We came out of the second half with a win (1-0) assisted by yours truly, and Katie limping on her crushed left foot, which is nicely elevated and iced as I type. Now that's how to come out of a good game!

On Sunday, when I knew I hadn't run nearly 7 days prior, I was furious that I thought I could excuse one day after the next of not running, and banged out 7.4 miles from Hobart Street and down to the Kennedy Center. That's right, I'll show you, lazy anti-running little red devil on my shoulder. Take it!

When an event triggers you to an angry reaction, it's okay. In fact, your amygdala, or the emotion-center of your brain, is wired to tell you that you're angry much faster than the cortex, or the thought and judgment center of your brain, can react and tell you the degree of reaction that you will have towards that trigger. This phenomenon is not an excuse to give the cop that pulls you over for road rage and definitely won't fly in court, so what's crucial is learning to manage the degree of your anger. Have you heard the phrase, "You can't help how you feel, but you can help how you react to it"? I'm a fan of this one. The initial reaction is also your 'gut instinct'. (And always, always, trust your gut!)

Relaxation techniques will reduce the activity of your amygdala, though it takes a long time to reduce anger as the adrenaline is already coarsing through your veins. Your best bet is to remove the antagonist or control your thoughts about the trigger. Yes, anger has been linked to heart disease, but it also is a very important emotion, to help us distinguish when things are perceived as unjust or unfair.

So... GET ANGRY, let it out. Work harder to get the raise that your co-worker already did, tell your boyfriend that you're tired of his dirty socks lying on the floor, spend an extra 15 minutes training your puppy to not pee indoors, whatever you need to do. If it's a controlled rage, you might just be pleased with the results!

What Does Your Finale Sound Like?

I hope you're not blinded by the explosion of pink on my page. My last 12 months were filled with one season - summer on Botox - so I'm really excited about Spring and DC's cherry blossoms!

Toasting a Potomac River
sunset before the show
"To truly appreciate the destination, one must first understand the path." 

Last Saturday I had a fantastic evening filled with the flawless punctuation of notes from The National Symphony Orchestra and their world-famous, distinguished guest of honor, Sarah Chang. My wonderful date was the former student band director of Stanford University's Symphony Orchestra and is a great trumpet player. I dare to boast that he can identify nearly any jazz musician within the first measure of their song and he would definitely be my first pick of partners in musical trivia. This is essentially the perfect man to take you to the symphony - one who will appreciate it. The Arts can be a tricky destination for some. A gentleman escorted me to my favorite winter ballet, The Nutcracker, last December and it must have been either the imaginary ants in his pants or the strangulation of the top button of his dress shirt that couldn't keep that man still in his seat. Bless his heart, he managed to survive the evening, but it was sad to me that he didn't appreciate the hours of practice and the blistering toes (come on, we all saw Black Swan) that those performers had conquered to bring us an evening of entertainment. 

Violin Concerto No.1
I found myself staring in awe at the speed at which Sarah's fingers moved up and down the neck of her instrument. When she played a solo, she would command the stage, stomp her foot, swing her hair or flourish her bow coming out of a long string. When she played in confluence with the rest of the orchestra, she would soften a bit, blending perfectly with their sound. When the orchestra would pick notes with their fingers instead of using their bows, it sounded as if only one member was playing with not a single note struck out of its proper time and place. These are details that Alejandro and I sat nearly on the edge of our seats to absorb. We appreciated the range of effects, from each note that was struck to the entire feeling that the piece gives you as it fills the concert hall. Suddenly, my thoughts drifted into a parallel with running. 

Running, like the Arts, is not meant for all. Some can't endure the pressure on their muscles and joints. Some find it mundane, even trite. But for those who love running, we see it for more than the repetition-of-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other facade that it appears to have. We understand the importance of every single step and how it contributes to our goals, whether they be weight loss, a decreased race time or simply its contribution to a resolved healthier lifestyle. Much like those orchestra players who become frustrated with certain notes that they can't hit, or speeds that they struggle to reach in practice, so does a runner slow after exertion, caused by anything from a side cramp to a serious injury. But when that music lover contemplates and recognizes the magnanimous effect that the entire symphony will have upon its audience, he'll continue to pluck and play until he has achieved the perfection that constitutes the essence of the piece. And if a runner hits his third mile for the first time in his life, or sees his LDL levels dropping after a physical exam, he understands that he has achieved a goal from perseverance and the sweat of every step along the way.

Sarah Chang could have missed one or two notes in the overwhelming display of scales in Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 and I'm pretty sure that no one in the audience would have noticed it. But she would. And the conductor would. And you darn well better believe that Max Christian Friederick Bruch would have noticed it from his grave. Yes, even a world-famous musician, making more money than most of us will ever attain by her age, will make mistakes. You'll have a bad day on the track, on the course, on the hill. You'll want to kick yourself for pushing too hard when things didn't turn out just the way you envisioned them. Start slow, try again. Every step, every note, gets you closer to the extraordinary feeling that will overcome you when you get it right. And whether the applause you hear is coming from the hands of 500 people in a concert hall, or is simply the beat of your own proud, bulging heart, turn around and take a look at that well-traveled road and smile. You wouldn't be here without it.