Exercise Philosophy, Half Marathons

Race to Be Last — On Perseverance

Going through a time of transition professionally and personally is rough, but we all make it through eventually and grow stronger because as a result. January was my wake up call. February will be my awakening.

On Mindfulness

Last month, I went to the library and borrowed a number of audiobook CDs from Jack Kornfield, simply because he had the most CDs on mindfulness and meditation. That way, I could listen on my way to work and get in my 15 minutes of mindfulness.

At its very core, breathe in, breath out — with intention.

I’ve come across exercises where you might stagger the breath out, or where you breathe in through one nostril and breathe out through the other nostril. The one I like involves breathing in for 7 seconds and breathing out for 7 seconds. It’s simple, it’s easy, and doing this 4 times amounts to just about a minute. Eventually I’ll work my way up to being mindful for longer, continuous periods of time. This is a good start.

Oh the memories…

After practicing mindfulness at a bare minimum, one of the first things I noticed at my next pilates class was that my right hand’s range in motion was relatively more limited than my left. I hadn’t realized that I didn’t fully recover after an accident about 4 years ago where someone t-boned me because he was only looking for traffic coming from the other side of the street. My car did a 180 and deployed its safety airbags. I got out of the car unscathed and didn’t feel any pain — until the next day.

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When I went to the hospital, the doctor examining me said that the pain is typical and that I’d recover after a few weeks, so long as I didn’t do any heavy lifting. At the time, I was taking a chemistry class, and to this day I remember tearing up a bit seeing how painful it was to pick up a test tube during lab. Because I took the class alongside a friend who I had met the previous semester and who wanted to stick it out with me, the decision to withdraw from the class was that much more difficult. I did it for me, and I have no regrets whatsoever.

For runners who don’t enjoy running regularly

Walk. Seriously, just walk. When I asked on a Facebook group what I could do if I enjoy the high of completing a half marathon but would rather take a gym class to stay fit than run, someone responded straightforwardly, “Running a half-marathon and not running very much don’t go together.”

For the remainder of this entry, please know that I do not endorse this across the board. What works for me does not work for everybody. You know your body best, so listen to your body.

If I have to run or jog somewhere, I need to have a purpose. I easily become bored running the same stretches on a short rail trail, or even running around to the same cluster of pokestops in Pokemon Go. You might say collecting items at pokestops could serve as the purpose, but can items in a virtual game truly help me achieve a higher purpose? I’ll jog and run to the library to return and borrow books, or the gym to take a class for health and wellness, or the grocery store or post office.  It’s uncannily similar to my philosophy on some weight training equipment that aren’t worth your time. Namely, if I’m training muscles that have no functional purpose, why would I do it in the first place?  For vanity? No thank you.

The other method to keep myself on track with my goal to be able to run a half marathon every year is to continue signing up for half marathons. I’m a stickler for making sure I get my money’s worth, so if I sign up for one, you’ll bet I’ll be there regardless of whether I’m ready for it. That’s what happened with the Chilly Willy in Seekonk, MA and the Boston Prep 16-miler in Derry, NH.

It’s The Climb

This song by Miley Cyrus pretty much sums up my race experience this past month.

Typically people gradually build up to be able to run a half marathon with training programs like couch to 5K. What did I do? I took a 3-month hiatus from the gym over the summer because I thought I’d run outside more in good weather. In September, I committed to taking various cardio classes at the gym at least 4 times a week. In October, I ran my second half marathon ever with some pain in my legs like I experienced at my first half marathon the year before. The day after I felt runner’s knees for the first time and had to work from home for the next few days. So make note, cardio classes are not a substitute for running.

I thought avoiding this kind of pain again was enough motivation for me to go out and run regularly for the next half marathons I signed up for, but my conviction to do so never materialized. Even when I signed up to run the 16-miler 3 months from when I signed up, I never made it a point to run regularly to prepare for the race. Miraculously I haven’t felt runner’s knees since. “How?” You might ask. It’s because I signed up for a number of 10Ks and half marathon’s along the way: one at the end of October, two at the beginning and end of November, one in mid-December, and then another on new year’s day. Again, I don’t recommend this for everyone.

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Thankfully these runs happened when the weather was unseasonably warm. This was me trying to take a picture of the Happy New Year sign and temperature of 44 degrees (F). I even decided last minute to leave my running gloves behind. When my hands became cold, I told myself that I was building character.

On these runs, it’s fun to look at what others wear. It’s how I know about ManBearPig on South Park. This time around, I read on the back of someone’s shirt, “Know your limits. Destroy your boundaries.”

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There was chili, bananas, snack bars, and water (of course) at the end. There was more, but I don’t remember since I wasn’t as hungry as I usually am after a race, probably due to having late night chinese takeout hours beforehand.

As for the moderately challenging 16 miler, this was a different story. When I arrived about 45 minutes prior to the start of the race, the first img_20170129_093151parking lot was already full and the second would’ve been full had I arrived 10 minutes later. As I was walking to pick up my bib and swag, I looked down and saw this –>

I had forgotten my running shoes, and all I had to look forward to for the next few hours are blue skies and steep hills, even before the race has begun.

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This was a hilly course with a number of horse farms to gaze at along the way, even at the start. About a mile along the way, one runner jokingly asking, “Does it only go up?” because we had been running uphill for a while.

Because the course could’ve been closed at the organizers’ discretion after 3 hours, 3 hours and under was my goal. I was feeling okay at the 5 mile mark, but I realized I wasn’t going to make it to my time goal at the 10 mile mark timer. Even if the course were closed, even if I was the last one, I wanted to finish.

There were stretches along the way where I was the only one, and every so often there’d be a volunteer gesturing me towards the right direction and even providing how far I have to go. The last 1.5 miles felt the longest, but I made it (!). The food afterwards was replenishing with chili, chowder, hummus-filled veggie sandwiches, milk, yogurt, bananas,  and water. The best perk at the end of the race is the 5-10 minute massage you can sign up for. If you came towards the end like I did, it’s best to eat and then sign up for the massage. By the end, I felt the massage even resting my legs on the foam roller.

Longest run of 15.9 miles now shows up on my Google Fit app. Oh yes, I definitely walked up some steep hills. After all, I’m human, too.

Live by your hopes, not your fears.
—Tavis Smiley, 50 for Your Future