Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today was a great day. Thanks to running?!?

Me (blue shirt) near the Rugged Maniac start.

I recently blogged about the Rugged Maniac race that I did this past weekend, which was mostly gushing about how much fun I had, including a mention that I will do more races like this. In the time since then I’ve been researching and planning. There are definitely more of these in my near future! So today was my first scheduled training run since then, but today didn’t start off so hot...

To back up a bit, I’ve had to get up early a few mornings in a row, and I haven’t been getting to bed as early as I should (my own fault). My schedule this week is such that I couldn’t do strength training on my normal Monday/Friday kind of plan, so yesterday I got my strength coach (we’ll call him J as I’m not sure he wants any more clients...let’s just say I’m pain enough for him!) to let me work out again today. Only catch was I had to be in at 8am (I usually see him at 9:30 or 10am). So I had to get up even earlier (I always try to get up about an hour and a half before a workout to eat breakfast so that it has time to digest before I start). So when the alarm clock went off at 6:30 I struggled. Bad. I had a million excuses in my head. But I fought through all of them and got up and got my breakfast.

Gingerly I went up and down the steps. I was sore. I think this past weekend and yesterday’s three workouts (lower body weights, swimming, and some riding on the trainer) got to me pretty good. Sigh. But J had promised me we’d do core and upper body today, and I was mostly only sore in the lower body, so I pushed on. J could tell I was kind of beat today, but I think he sensed it was sleep more than a truly tired body, so he kept after me and we got a really good workout in. As much as he doesn’t really care for endurance sports (he’s an athlete builder, but prefers the muscle and power side rather than the endurance thing), he knows what I need and tailors things very nicely. At the end, though, I was pretty well spent.

I headed home, got a shower, and then went back out for my haircut. The lady that cuts my hair (we’ll call her A as I KNOW she is full up on clients right now) was even out of sorts a bit as she recently had surgery on her wrist and I don’t think it’s healing quite as fast as she had thought it would, so she basically worked one handed. I know what you’re thinking...and you needn’t worry about it. My hair is fine (well, as fine as it has ever been, anyway). A is more talented with one hand than most hair people are with two. That’s why she stays booked up. She’s also quite an awesome person and we joke that she’s my “life coach”, but it’s only half-joking as she really is one of those people you learn things from with every conversation.

So after that I went in search of cheeseburgers and a shake. Yeah, I know, I suck at the nutrition thing, but dammit, I needed cheeseburgers and a shake today. So I went to Char-Grill and had a couple hamburger steak sandwiches, and then to Chick-fil-A for a shake (Chapel Hill needs more good shake options!). That did good things for my mood, but I went home and found myself on the couch in a near-nap state for a couple hours before I needed to go pick up Kevin from school (Ashley was gone on a school field trip with Zach’s class to the zoo). I was dreading pick-up time...not because of having to do it, but because I knew that right after I needed to hit the trail for today’s scheduled run. In my near-nap state I had another few million excuses come up as to why I couldn’t run, but again, none of them were good enough. So when I got home, I prepped my gear, which includes getting my iPhone and starting Pandora. I’m kind of addicted to Pandora during my training runs these days, so I put it in my mesh fanny-bag-thingamajig and went outside to stretch. As I was doing that, the clouds were swirling and it was spitting just a little bit of rain. But it had been doing that all day, so I didn’t really think much of it.

Then I recalled a recent conversation with my endurance coach, Sage Rountree, where I asked what she did with her iPhone to keep from damaging it on her long runs (she had mentioned using the new Training Peaks GPS software for run tracking on her phone). She runs for hours and hours and hours and hours at a time, which can mean having to run in weather that’s sometimes less than palatable. Anyway, she said she basically just wraps it in cling-wrap and puts it in a mesh fanny-bag-thingamajig (that’s my own technical term, please do not steal it...I will hunt you down and punish you severely). I remembered that and decided to run back inside and wrap my phone just in case.

Good idea. The minute I began my run the bottom fell out and instantly soaked me.

But you know what? I took that as a bit of a sign. See, if you want to compete in adventure races like the Rugged Maniac, you have to be ready to run through mud and muck and whatever they decide to throw at you. And it might rain to boot. I had already been thinking about running through the occasional puddles and streams I used to jump over or go around, and this was just reinforcement that it was time to begin that. Today. Now. So I did. And boy did it feel great. I don’t know why, and I don’t know if it will last, but it felt GREAT. The rain ended quickly, but I ran through a stream instead of doing my usual rock-to-rock dance. I ran through a big puddle. I took a trail that I knew was soft even when it was dry, so today it was mud. And it was awesome slick mud goodness. Then I got to another stream and just started running IN the stream. Splash splash splash. Around downed logs too big to hop. Over the others. Avoiding the rocks that looked like they’d probably be slick. Splash splash splash.

I continued on for my prescribed thirty minutes looking for all the soft spots I could remember having to avoid in the past when the ground is wet like this. And I found them, one by one, and I relished every squishy step. I was also thinking about where I’d do the next part of my prescribed workout...strides and skips. Strides are just a quicker pace than the normal training pace (about what I’d run if I were racing a 5K) and 20 seconds of them. With perfect form. Then immediately I was to do 40 skips (20 each leg). Sage was funny in her instructions in that she quipped that I was lucky to have so much “private” land to do these skips. Little does she know that in each of the last couple summers I’ve been a part of some pretty cool outside workouts with J and some big-time athletes he trains and they always include skips (and those happen very much out in public!). J likes to yell at us, so not only are they skips, but they have to be HIGH skips. Slack off and you get yelled at. If nobody slacks off, he just finds the guy who skips with the least amount of amplitude and yells at him (which might sometimes be me, I admit...okay, it's always me). So I pretended J was there (he doesn’t yell but a handful of different things, so it’s pretty easy to hear him in your head) and I did my skips with amplitude.

I wanted to do these six sets of strides and skips out in the open, so I did them in a small field that wraps around a pond we have. It’s “private” out there, but the ground is also very uneven, slightly sloped, and can also be really soft in places when it’s this wet. Perfect training ground. You HAVE to pay attention. Heck, there are even groundhog tunnels that create problem places to watch out for. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I used the slope to my advantage and did the strides downhill today. I will not always do that, but today felt like a good day to do that. I did the skips on level ground, then walked back up.

I can’t explain why, but something struck me during that part of the run. I felt great. Sure, I was tired. But I felt GREAT. Alive. Free. Somewhat moved, even. And when I finished that last skip, I immediately started back into the last ten minutes of my run. No walk back, no recovery. It wasn’t necessary. I felt great. And I finished my run thinking the entire way about everything I’ve written here. And how I somehow needed to write it.*

* I don’t know why, but I also came to another realization. I’ve always suspected it, but I am a writer. Probably not much of one, mind you, because I’m not much of a reader, but I think anyone who has things in their head that they feel they MUST write is, by definition, a writer. At least by my definition. Not every blog entry of mine is something I have to write, but many are. That answers why I blog, I guess, which is another question I get from time to time.

So I finished up my run and stretching, picked up some packages that had arrived for me, and went to the house to get my recovery drink and have a shower. One of the packages wasn’t something I was expecting, so I opened it up to find one of the most thoughtful and unexpected gifts I’ve ever gotten. It’s not a story I want to go into here (I’ve rambled on long enough), but I’m truly blessed to have such great friends in this life. Then it was off to a wonderful dinner with my family and our “exchange student”, Chris. I tried to make up for the cheeseburgers and shake by having the blackened salmon salad, but then went awry again with a mixed drink. Now we’re home and I have my legs up while I finish this. For such an awful start, it sure was a great day...thanks to running in the rain and mud and doing glorious skips and a wonderful unexpected surprise.


Em said...

Sounds awesome. Next on your list needs to be a marathon!

Donnie Barnes said...

For the love of all that is holy, why?!? I do not believe even a half is in my future, let alone a whole marathon. Still have no interest in running on pavement! But I do have mad respect for those of you who do.

Angie said...

You should aim for an X-Terra half, Donnie. You'd love it and it's a good challenge distance without being too overwhelming (like a whole). And no pavement. There's one in Hawaii every December on Oahu...just sayin'.

Donnie Barnes said...

I'm currently aiming for XTERRA triathlons, which are all the running I really need at one time. :P