Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Running to Miami

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Week 18: Almost as Good as Crossing the Finish Line

Date: January 7 (Saturday)
Distance: 23 miles
Time: 5 hours 53 minutes

We had our last endurance run today. Twenty-three miles—just 3.2 miles short of the real thing. It wasn't as punishing as I thought it would be, but it was arduous. I couldn't run more than 3 miles by myself because it gets boring and tedious, even with an iPod to keep me company. Several times today I just wanted to just stop running and walk the rest of the way back but chatting with the other group members took my mind away from how much longer or farther we had to run and I just let my legs do what they had to do. Endurance activities require not just physical but, more importantly, I think, mental stamina. I had to push myself hard today but I knew I'd make it.

A lot of people from the group didn't come today--either they dropped out, were having trouble with the recommitment charges, or were just plain injured. We were only a group of 7 people when we used to have at least a dozen on average. The weather was extra cold when we started so it was a bit slow going at first while we were all waiting for our hands, toes, and other parts of the body to thaw out. It remained cold most of the way but we were told that we were lucky to have weather like that. Runners from previous years had to endure 3 inches of snow, which had already gone up to 6 by the time they were headed back. We should count our lucky stars then.

We all realized that this was the last time that we were running the Capital Crescent Trail. We wanted to savor the moment (we were suddenly noticing some of the strange plants and fruits around and birds totally unfamiliar to us) but at the same time we were so happy that we wouldn’t go that far out again. The run coming back down the trail was the hardest for me—it felt so long and empty and endless. I think I fell into a funk right in the middle of the run (you really can’t leave me alone with my thoughts these days—it’s dangerous) but my group entertained me. MM still kept giving us movie lines from the cards that VG provided us. We've already exhausted the stack on our previous runs so we've heard the lines and the answers before. However, the information didn't always stick, both for the familiar and unfamiliar ones—why was I the only one who instantly knew where "Are you talkin' to me?" came from?—and still ended up to be mildly entertaining. The waterstop volunteers now know us as the "movie line group" and always look forward to us passing by and hitting them with a line.

The turnaround point was at mile marker 4 on the trail, which is in Bethesda, Maryland. Yes folks, we’ve been running all the way to Bethesda. (A side note: I love the name Bethesda. It reminds me of my favorite fountain in Central Park.) We would pass a sign saying “Welcome to Montgomery County, Maryland." (There was one pedestrian bridge painted in black and covered in cyclone wire and made me think that we were crossing the German-Austrian border during World War II and the soldiers from both sides had their guns aimed and ready to shoot anybody who made trouble. But that was just me. I think I've seen too many war movies. If it was any colder, I also would have imagined we were crossing into Siberia, but that's even more unfamiliar territory.) If we had taken the Metro from where we started at Waterfront, Bethesda would have been 12 stops away, involving one transfer (from the Green line to the Red line). It's not an accurate depiction of the distance or the route that we ran but to me it's even more bizarre pictured that way.

The group finished the run a little bit under our expected time. Back at Waterfront, we were met by the Miami coordinators Matt and John and surprised us with a finisher’s medal when we came in, which was much deserved because we just completed something many of couldn’t have imagined doing just a few weeks ago. And, I guess, to build up the anticipation for Miami, they had inflatable palm trees and colorful banners around, to simulate the tropical paradise that we will be seeing for real in three weeks. And aside from the usual fare of bagels and bananas and chips, they also had hot chocolate waiting for us.

This is not the end though. There's still the actual marathon to do. But it's there, it's going to happen. I'm excited about it too. Not everbody that I want to be there will be there but my parental units are flying in especially for that. At least now, after making it to the end of 23 miles, I know I'm not going to disappoint them as they wait for me at the end of 26.2 miles in Miami.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Show Me the Money? Show Me the Love!

We just learned recently that our pace group leader, JW, is quitting the training and will not be running the marathon. No, it's not because she couldn't handle the physical demands; it had to do more with the financial issues.

Asking people for money, we found out, was much, much harder than any of the physical stuff we had to do to prepare for the marathon. If we had to wake up early, then we could always sleep in the next day; if we felt sore or sustained an injury, we could take a few days off before getting back on our feet again; if we felt unmotivated, we had the other group members to pull us out of the funk. Those were manageable stuff. Raising money was a whole different ballgame, especially since we just went through a very busy holiday season.

Having missed two deadlines already, the balance of the amount we weren't able to raise was put on our credit card, an arrangement that we agreed to when we signed up for the training. As new donations come in, the amount will be debited back to our account. JW's fundraising efforts, however, were not going as well as she expected--"So many people promised, but have not come through"-- and she couldn't afford to put the balance on her credit hard. She said that she believes in charity, but only up to a point. And I sort of know how she feels. My own fundraising is going pretty slowly. I received donations from both friends and strangers but at this point I have even barely made it to the halfway mark. And yes, the rest of the amount is on my credit card and is due to be paid sometime near the end of this month. I'll definitely be dipping into my savings and I won't be able to replace my running shoes as I should have more than a month ago. I've also contemplated quitting because I thought I should be saving my money instead because my work contract is ending soon and I don't have another job lined up at the moment. Aside from the fundraising money, there are other expenses that goes along with the training and the trip to Miami. But I'm just too stubborn. After having gone this far, I can't quit now. Anyway, I know that my money is not going to go to waste because it's going to go to a good organization and is going to help a lot of people. If there's anything I've learned through the years, it's commitment and dedication and not letting go of what you believe in. (I'm not saying that quitting is a bad thing, especially if not doing so will lead to unwanted and unecessary consequences.)

JW did an excellent job leading the group and keeping it together. We will miss her, definitely, and we're looking forward to seeing her in Miami as cheerleader and supporter.

We have less than a month to go before the actual marathon. We'll be doing our extra long runs--23 miles--this weekend, and two shorter runs--just 8 miles each--the following weekends, and then off to Miami. I can't believe we've all come this far. Well, most especially me. Just proves a point--if you believe in something, then it's worth doing (and even struggling for). Now stop me before I really start turning sappy.

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To those who've donated, thank you, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate it. To those who want to donate but can't (for various reasons), it's okay, I understand. I know, money doesn't grow from trees. If it did, I wouldn't be asking you for money, right? But please pass this message on to friends and family who you think might be able to help. It is a worthy cause. The Whitman-Walker Clinic is providing very valuable services to people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia area. Until a cure is found, our help will always be needed.

Links:
My AIDS Marathon page (to donate)
National AIDS Marathon website

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Running is Salvation

Date: January 4 (Wednesday)
Distance: 3.8 miles
Time: 45 minutes

I had a terrible night last night. So, this morning, I decided I had to run, run, and just run.

It was my first run for the new year. It was actually my first run in probably more than two weeks. I've been sidetracked, distracted, kept busy--although I wasn't without exercise--and I was wondering what condition my body would be in. Even with the state I was in after last night's fit and after having gone to bed later than I wanted, I still ended up waking before my 5 am alarm. And I didn't diddle much; I just got up and got dressed. I was determined to run that I prepared my running clothes and gear the night before. I just didn't know that I was going to need it so much this morning.

I didn't follow the usual training ratio of 3:1 at 13 minutes per mile. This wasn't a training run. I think I was looking for a bit of salvation from this one physical activity. I didn't crank up the intensity too much but I ran harder and longer than I normally did--no pauses, no breaks, all at an even pace. I wanted to clear my mind of certain thoughts, maybe get into that zen moment when nothing else mattered but you and your legs. I wasn't very successful with that because I found it so hard to clear mind mind but I really got into it, with Everything But the Girl giving me musical support in the background. I felt good at the end of the run; a bit unbalanced but I think my legs needed a few moments to get used to being still.

Given that it's the beginning of a new year, I've decided that I should start using the other equipment in our gym. No, nothing intense since, even if we're advised to do some cross-training, I don't want it to interfere with my running. I have to figure out first though what exercises I can do with our equipment. Our gym relatively well-equipped, with a couple of benches and free weights--the multi-gym should take care of the rest. There's even a balance ball that I might be able to use if it looks clean enough. However, I think I will be bringing my own mat.

This means though that I'll be getting up at 5 am or earlier almost everyday now. But if the benefits of exercise are true, which I believe they are, then I should only get motivated. I believe this is the logical step to do since I've seen how much running has helped me and start building on that. So, expect an much improved Tristan in the next couple of months. (And please, please, please, help me stay motivated.) Now, on to planning a better diet. (Uhm, does this count as a New Year's resolution?... Uh oh...)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Place

Yes, we did 20 miles during our last weekend run. They distributed salt packs so that we could mix them with our water when we get to the 10-mile marker. Replacing the sodium we've lost would help us recover much faster and is supposed to relieve the soreness in our legs, which should happen about 30 seconds after ingestion. It's just like drinking Gatorade, but not as hi-tech and just more direct.

My unofficial running partner, M, consumed the salt pack directly instead of mixing it into her water. I thought that was a good idea because I didn't want to contaminate my water supply and be stuck with it until the next water stop. But I hesitated a bit. So I imagined that I was going to drink a shot of tequila--salt, shot, lemon. I have the pack of salt, followed with a swig of water, then I can eat a pack of carbo gel for a more favorable flavor in my mouth.

"Salt, shot, lemon... salt, shot, lemon...," I said out loud. Then M said, "Alright, go into you own little happy place." And I did. Bliss.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Week 15: The "Are We There Yet?" Episode

Date: Decenber 17 (Saturday)
Distance: 20 miles
Time: 4 hours 55 minutes

I haven't updated this blog in a while but it doesn't mean I haven't been running. I miss a few runs now and then but I try to make up for them. Of course I'm always afraid when I come out for the long weekend group runs that I won't make it to the end, but miracle or miracles, I always do. I'm even getting less injuries and recovering much faster than before. Something right must be happening with my body--it's definitely responding to the training even if I'm not being as disciplined as I should be.

Well, today we sort of had a taste of what we're going to go through during the marathon. The distance is just 6 miles under an actual marathon. Six miles? Does that mean another hour and a half of running? So, in theory, we will finish the whole thing in 6 hours, 30 minutes?!?! Gahd! What makes the long runs bearable for me is the company and encouragement that my pace group--bless them, they're great people--gives me, but during the actual marathon we can't stick together. It really is the only only time that we will be running on our own. There will be nobody to shout out movie lines for us to guess, nobody to try to coax us into singing Christmas carols while running on the trail (which is pretty hard to do, by the way). But we did 20 miles as together as a group, and there were no casualties this time. So I say, "Ladies (I'm the only guy in the group, informally nicknamed The Estrogen Group), good job!"

I finally got to ask Coach Fred about my ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome). It's a common runner's injury, so he said there's nothing to be worried about. Just ice it and rest it and all that. But it turned out that I've been wearing my ITBS band, which should prevent the iliotibial band from sliding over the bones on my knee, the wrong way. Well, I guess the position of the bands on my legs were not completely off since, like I said, I've been recovering much quicker. which meant that they were helping; they just weren't in the prime position. Now I know better. I should also be doing the stretches that should make the iliotibial band much more flexible.

I tried preparing an ice bath again today like I did after our 17 mile run a couple of weeks ago, which really helped. This time I couldn't stand it. I kept mixing hot and cold, hot and cold, so that I would stop chilling in the tub. And I didn't even put ice, just plain, cold tap water! I decided to call it a day after being submerged a couple of minutes and wishing I was wearing a wet suit. The last time I thought I was going to lose my toes but settled in after heating up the water a bit. This time maybe I'll just take Tylenol and resort to using ice cubes and ziploc bags again. At least I wouldn't turn into an icicle.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Week 7: Double Digits

Date: October 22 (Saturday)
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 2:18

Yesterday, we reached some kind of milestone in our training--we broke through to double digits. Ten miles. It's longer than any of us have run before; probably more than the total number of miles each of us normally does for our maintainance run every week.

It was cold and drizzling throughout the whole run. That didn't slow us down though, even if we had to step around puddles and pedestrians with their umbrellas, and making sure that we didn't embarass ourselves by slipping and falling on our asses. The cooler weather, I think, made it easier for us to run. It's also about time that we start carrying energy bars and gels (or what I call the 'carbo lube') with us.

The group has been experimenting with different brands and flavors. The favorite energy gel seems to be the apple cinnamon of Carb-BOOM, which they say tastes like apple pie filling--if your apple pie comes from McDonald's. I ordered a box of apple cinnamon and banana peach without having tasted them--I like living on the edge. Anyway, I'm going to need to take them no matter what they taste like. I actually had an energy bar during the run yesterday and they tasted pretty good. At that point of the run, anything would have tasted good. And it helped. The week before, when we did 8 miles, I didn't take anything except for a few pieces of salted pretzels and I was just about ready to pass out at the end of the run. But then, my breakfast that morning wasn't very substantial.

So, next week, when we do 12 miles, I'll have a packet apple cinnamon in one pocket, an energy bar in the other, and a bottle of water to top it all off. For any runner, that' s fine dining. Yum.