Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Segunda Parte or Wishing a Time Isn’t Enough

I woke up just as happy as a clam at 5:30 am on Sunday morning. The truth of the matter is I just love an early morning sporty activity: race, hiking or bike trip, you name it, it puts me in a giddy mood. I had coffee, loads of water (this would come back to haunt me), and toast with pb and honey. I wrote my splits on my hand and by 7 am, Charles and I were out the door and on the way to the train station. The commuter train, at 7:29 on Sunday morning, was filled with two kinds of crazies: runners and drunk people. That’s, of course, to be expected, but what I didn’t expect was for the drunk kid in front of me to turn green and start puking about five minutes out of the station. I’m proud to say that I had my nerves so under control that I didn’t even wretch when he puked, I just got up and moved to another seat. Charles kept reading his book as we got up to move. I love that man!

At 7:59, we arrived to Castelldelfels and used the underpass to cross the highway safely. I went to the bathroom twice and then Charles and I headed to the start line, which was at the top of the Canal Olimpic and yes, along the highway.
It’s Spain so they don’t have corrals: everyone (10k, half and full) just squished in there together with all their family and friends pushing and elbowing to their heart’s delight. I do often fear being smothered to death in a Spanish crowd, but somehow all the mothers and children and cousins always disappear and the gun goes off and everyone starts running, pushing, running, pushing and no one (knock on wood) ever dies.

During the first km, I saw a girl wearing a Baltimore t-shirt and decided to talk to her once the crowd thinned out. By km 2, I spotted my friend Anna who was running the 10-k. We chatted and I pushed on. I felt absolutely fantastic and ran up ahead to the Baltimore girl and her mom, whom I chatted with for a bit and then (this would come back to haunt me) I cockily pushed ahead of them as well. According to the plan on my hand I should have run the first 5k in 29:37. I did it in 28 minutes and thought, “Great, I’m banking time.” By km 8 we were at the beach, running along the dunes and I felt like I had to piss yet again. I contemplated stopping off in the dunes, since so many men were, but I decided to wait for a spot-a-pot at the 10-k marker. But, despite the information I had dutifully read on the race's website, there no spot-a-pots at km 10 or anywhere else along the course.

By km 10 I really had to go and I began to feel another sort of pain: period cramps. The Baltimore girl and her mom trotted by and asked how I was doing. “Great!” I lied. They looked very fresh and very fast, and I felt like ass.

I had just done the 10k in 57 minutes, 2 minutes ahead of schedule, but suddenly my body wasn’t cooperating and I was having trouble staying focused. Also, I was sweating like a madwoman, a clammy cold sort of sweat that I get as my period comes down. Carrying the Nathan handheld was becoming excruciating and when I saw Charles at the 12-km mark I gave it to him. I considered stopping at a bar along the beach highway to go to the bathroom, on the one hand I thought I could run so much faster with an empty bladder, but on the other I was terrified of stopping. (Do you think it’s better to stop in this case or just push through?)

We reached a turnaround and the first aid station with Gatorade and food and I was delighted. I ate a little bit of banana, took a few sips of Gatorade, and ate an orange slice. My watch read 1:29 so I was still on track to finish in 2:05!

I slowed down to swallow, I enjoyed the crowds, I smiled,I squinted, and then I realized that the 15-km marker was up ahead. This food station had been around 14.5, not 15! “God damn, it,” I thought, “Get back in this race!” I tried to run faster, but my gut wasn’t having it. My legs weren’t tired, but my body was. Km 15 through 18 were really bad: a lot of people passed me and that’s not a good feeling. I lost my concentration here, let my period woes get the best of me. By km 19, as we were approaching the last hill, a steep bridge, a guy came up behind me and said, “You’re still strong, GO!” I thanked him and ran up that hill pretty fast, even cheering on the full marathoners. I was happy! (It is so important to interact with other people as you race. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I did talk to a guy for a while at km 16, but he wasn’t so friendly. For the next half, I might go I-podless and really make friends!)

But, even as I climbed that hill and despite that little guardian angel giving me that extra push, I knew my goal had slipped away and I didn’t keep the speed up for long. This weird sluggishness is hard to describe—it was as if I didn’t have a higher gear. I sprinted at the end, but I wasn’t destroyed, I wasn’t gasping. I felt somehow, that I hadn’t given it my all, that I had lost focus somewhere back there. Nutrition, I suspect, has something to do with this. I’m very low-tech in general: I don’t have a Garmin. I think Bodyglide is just fancy marketing for Vaseline. My running heroes are George Sheehan and Domingo Catalan, but maybe I need to pay attention to gu’s and gels and all these things you all talk about. These questions will be addressed in a post—tomorrow most likely—once I put away all this disappointment. Bottom line is I want to run four or five times a week for the rest of my life. It makes me happy and although I do want to get faster, I mostly just want to keep running.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marathon of the Mediterranean Race Report Primera Parte

Back in May when I signed up for the “Mitja Marato del Mediterrani” I imagined a beautiful course along the old train route I used to ride into the city, when I lived in the fishing town of Vilanova, way back in 2000.

All last week, I had big plans of leaving work early one day, taking the train to Castelldefels and walking a bit of the half marathon route along the beach. That, unfortunately, never happened because work ended up being hellishly busy. Not in a productive sort of way, but in a lots-of-little-mishaps sort of way. I was coordinating seminar that began Thursday evening and ended Saturday at 2 pm. Somehow, way back when I started planning my training the seminar didn’t seem like a problem. I thought, “I’ll have to work late nights, there’ll be no time to run, but that’s fine because I should be resting anyway.” But working, in heels, isn’t resting. I did run on Friday night at about 11 pm because I was hating my job so much that if I didn’t go for a run, I was going to quite possibly end up in the hospital. So, the first lesson of this training cycle is that speed really doesn’t matter, what matters is that I’m addicted to the running endorphins and no one—not even my boss—can take that away from me.

At 2 pm on Saturday, when I left work, I was very, very hangry. So of course, Charles and I had some difficulty deciding where to go to lunch before catching the train to the race expo. Charles suggested sushi: “healthy, protein packed,” he proclaimed. But I feared getting sick from bad tuna. He suggested just cooking at home, but I said, “I can’t wait another second.” We ended up having tapas at a touristy place on Paseo de Gracia—a big, oily mistake. I ate Spanish omelet, patatas bravas and a very watery salad.

Charles, that lucky duck, slept on the train ride and I nervously read the newspaper. When we got to Castelldelfels and started asking people for the BCN Events Hotel they wrinkled their foreheads, sighed, and then asked someone else who inevitably asked us, “Are you walking?”
The expo, it turns out, was not actually that far from the train station, but it was not a nice walk. Having left the town center, we headed to the industrial park and somehow got stuck in the the middle of the highway, trying to cross over to the very sad, straight-outta-Communist-Russia BCN Events Hotel. Right then and there I started crying. Now, it’s important to note that you have never quite seen ugly, or felt homesick, until you experience the concrete jungle that is Spanish suburban sprawl. It’s an unhealthy, dirty gray that could only come out of the tail end of a failing dictatorship and somehow on Saturday, as the traffic whizzed by us, it got the best of me. I just broke down on the side of the C-31:

Tears dried, we ran across the road and into the hotel where we picked up my race packet from some very grouchy volunteers. Yes, I would be grouchy too if I lived in a concrete jungle and had to spend my Saturday in a windowless hotel, which most definitely has sick-building syndrome, but couldn’t they have least smiled at me? Suddenly, it seemed every other runner was a hollowed-cheeked Spanish man grumpily hauling his race goodies to his car. A man who trains at his gym, who does not speak, but rather grunts, doesn’t get his period, and was probably planning on signing a petition to keep slow folks like me off the course!

Pretty grim you’re thinking, right? But by the time I got back to Barcelona I was actually feeling pretty positive (read delusional). Heck, the suburban sprawl had even grown on me! I spotted girls playing field hockey on a dirt lot along the train tracks and thought, “Oh fall, oh field hockey, oh the shins of my youth! See? Home isn’t so different or so far away!”

Even as I sleepily prepared my playlist and searched for my water bottle in a pile of dirty clothes, I still hadn’t realized that crying while standing on a median strip usually means PMS, like tomorrow-your-period-is-coming-like-a-14-wheeler PMS. Sleepiness just leads to delusions: although Smartcoach had been predicting my time as 2:08 for weeks, and despite being too tired to utter a single word to Charles over my plate of pasta, I continued believing that I would able to run a 2:05 half marathon. I actually thought that, just because I had a few amazing runs this summer and early fall, and a new 10k PR, because running had felt so good and so easy, and because I had faithfully stuck to the plan, that 2:05 was mine.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Half Marathon of the Mediterranean

I will post a race report later, but the news is I finished in 2:08:01. I'm dissappointed; I wanted to run this in 2:05, but I guess I'll get over it. Weather was kind--humid because it's Barcelona, but not sunny, thank god. My P started at km 10, so that was, well, annoying, but also positive because I know now that even with cramps and after working 3 12-hour days in a row I can run a half marathon with a smile on my face and feel great at the end.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday. More soon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The ABC's of a Taper Tantrum

A anal-compulsive behavior (like trying to memorize splits for 21 km)
B bra, I got a new one, to replace the chafer.
C chocolate, I’ve been eating way too much of it.
D dorsal, that’s Spanish for race bib and I’m picking mine up on Saturday once I leave work.
E eating
F Four days to go!
G gu, I never ever have, but now think maybe I should
H hydration, that’s my middle name
I I-pod, yes I’m bringing it!
J jogging, that’s what I’ve been doing this week.
K K’naan, Canadian hip-hop artist and the centerpiece of my new playlist
L Lead legs on my tempo run--what the hell?
M munchies: raisins! granola! peanuts, oh my!
N Nathan handheld, I think I’m bringing him with.
O Overdramatic about everything
P period. My period is late and will probably come on race day. And if it doesn’t we have a whole other problem.
Q quality. Tomorrow will be my last quality, tempo run before the big day.
R route. The route for this half sucks: out and back, out and back, weird windy circle and then out and back again.
S sensational, that how’s my race is gonna be.
T time, I’m obsessed with it. "What should my time goal be? Don’t want to be disappointed but yet it’s good to aim high..."
V very tired, the less I run the more tired I become!
W weather. I’ve been checking it like a crazy person. It’s going to be 68 and sunny, a tad too hot.
X Xtremely nervous
Y Yassos, did a few on Monday just in case I decide to train for that marathon in March.
Z zzzz’s trying so hard to get some despite my work schedule.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Group: Opinions Wanted

Well, I tried out running with The Group last night. And then (and yes, this was crazy) I went running with my friend A. After the The Group, I was feeling kind of weird and self-conscious so it was nice to run with an old friend and just chat.

The Group meets at a local gym along the waterfront and then jogs to a park and breaks into three sub groups: A, B, and C. Yup you guessed it—all the cute young guys are in A and I’m in C with the older men and most of the women. Group C is still pretty fast, though, yikes! The workout started out with stretches and calisthenics, and then we went into the fartlek phase. People were nice, but not particularly friendly—they sort of stuck with their own bunch, which is fine I guess, but not super welcoming. Maybe everyone was tired from work and just wasn’t up for pandering to the new girl. Honestly, I was tired myself and didn’t really feel like making all the necessary introductory small talk: ( Where are you from?; USA; Oh I love New York; Yeah, it's great; But it's pretty nice here, eh?; Yup it is. And repeat ad nausem.)

The coach (shy, very serious, baby-faced) corrected my form a few times, reminding me (as every physical therapist or yoga person I’ve ever encountered has) that I’m too tense and need to relax my shoulders. What can I say? I’m uptight, always have been and always will be! But, thanks to running, I’ve calmed down significantly over the last year and was able to think, “That’s a helpful suggestion, I’ll work on relaxing my shoulders” instead of “Do not touch me, you hippie!”.

I’m not fully convinced that The Group is for me, but I recognize that it might be helpful if I want to a) get faster and b) run the Barcelona marathon this spring. Let’s look at the pros and cons:

1. The Group will force me to do speed work at least once a week.
2. Having a coach might help me break bad habits and teach me a bit about form.
3. I might need other people to get through the long pre-marathon runs and the winter.
4. Having to talk to new people is challenging, but will eventually prove to be positive.

1. The cost: 25 € (about $35) a month
2. The other people. Yeah, I know, that’s supposed to be a pro, but I like being in my own world when I run and I'm hyper aware of other people: how they're feeling, breathing, running.
3. The fact that on Group nights I can’t just run from my house and back. I have to run down to the meeting point, meet, do the workout, and then run (or limp) back to my house. All this means that it takes about 2 hours to get in 5 miles midweek…
4. The Group requires that you wear their official t-shirt to practice and at races. (Strange. Corporate. Scary. Is The Group a sect?)

Do you love your group? Or are you a curmudgeon like me?