Taking shore leave

28 07 2011

In the 22nd Century—long before the days of Captains Kirk or Picard—when the Enterprise was under the command of Jonathan Archer, the first shore leave was suggested by First Officer T’Pol, a Vulcan, when she noted a 3% drop in efficiency among the mostly human crew.  Taking a lesson from T’Pol (and a suggestion from my trainer), I have decided to do the same.

I love running.  It makes me feel like the primate that I am, connecting my body with nature and my inner beast as it frees my soul to blend with the ether of the cosmos.  And ever since my first 5k when I got a prize for placing in my age group, it has given me something to strive for.  Whether to go longer, faster or through a path strewn with obstacles, the current goal always gives me a way to make myself better at something.  In other words, it gives me hope and a sense of future—something an aging human often loses but nonetheless desperately needs to avoid slipping into the backward-looking malaise of old age.

Of course, it wouldn’t be ME if I didn’t find some way to turn joy into duty and pleasure into stress which is what I’ve been doing lately as the insane weather of the past two weeks has caused me to fall behind on my training schedule.  After a recent outburst of why-do-I-hate-my-life frustration, my husband noted, “Your business is doing fine and the only thing you’re probably stressed out about is running.  I think after this marathon, you need to take a break.  I mean, when are you going to do some NORMAL running again?”  That’s when a light bulb went off:  “Normal running?  Wha?  Oh, yeah.  Normal running.”  That’s what the problem is.  I’ve lost the fun of running by infusing it with the bitter tincture of work.  After consulting my trainer we both concluded that, since training feels like a job right now fraught with deadlines and pressure and angst, it’s time to chill out for a couple of days.  Live like a normal person.  Then get back to it.

There are roughly 8 weeks between now and the Berlin Marathon.  What’s a few days difference going to make if it means regaining my joy?  So what if I don’t get as far as a 20 mile long run before the race?  So what if I even have to walk much of the 26.2?  So what if I’m miserable that day?  I’m not a quitter.  I’m still going to do it.  I’m going to finish the marathon, get that big honkin’ medal, and join the group of crazy people constituting less than 1% of the population.  I will be a marathoner and nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.  It’s probably going to suck at some point during the race no matter how much training I do.  So why be miserable today?   Take a break. Refresh body-mind-and-soul, and then get back to the training.  Seriously…..even Jean Luc Picard took a vacation now and then.

Training completed in the past two weeks:

Running:  7 mile was the max in distance, a couple of 3 milers and a walk or two
Biking:  a 15 miler and 20 mile ride
Strength/balance/core:  twice-weekly sessions with the trainer
Flexibility:  not enough

Eating:  controlled chaos

Athlete’s Log — Stardate 2011.53425

14 07 2011

I am located on Terra, third planet from the sun in a system on the inner edge of the Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way galaxy approximately 27,000 light years from the galaxy’s center, where I am presently engaged in training for the Berlin marathon.

The events of the past few days are as follows:

Tuesday, July 12

The weather did not choose to cooperate with my plans for double digit miles.  It was hot and sunny from at least 7am onward.  I figured I would do the best I could for as long as I could and see what happened.  I got outside at 6:30 in the morning and knew in rather short order that I wasn’t going to make it for the long haul.  The sun was set to “high broil” and seemed focused squarely on my head.  Sweat was rolling down every possible crevice after the first mile, and I was about to start in on my litany of gripes about summer running.  “This is why I don’t run in the summer!” I said to myself.  Then I realized:  wait….it’s mid-July and I AM running.  In fact, I’ve been running fairly consistently this entire year — all of winter, spring AND summer.  So I guess then as of 2011, I do run in the summer.  Maybe not long and maybe not well (yet) but I DO run in the summer!  And that’s cool.

Therefore, no matter how bad the weather is or how short the distance must be, I have decided to be damn proud of the fact that a summer has come and has NOT found me sitting on the couch.  I may not be running as long or as well as I’d like, but I AM running in the summer!  Not bad for an old broad…


Wednesday, July 13

Yesterday after my short (3.22 mile) run, I came home and had breakfast.  I wanted to get in at least 2 hours of training so I decided to let the food settle, then go downstairs and do some step aerobics.  There may not be much forward motion but step is a great workout for quads, hams and glutes.  I did a 45 minute session total which was effective enough that I felt it today, and I liked that.  I love the feel of DOMS in the morning!

Today’s a.m. weather was cool, grey and windy — almost autumnlike.  I got on the bicycle around 7:00 and pedaled at a brisk pace for an hour around the neighborhood.  There are some decent hills (for Illinois anyway) and so I managed to work up a bit of a sweat, especially when riding into the wind.  I was tired and had to talk myself through the last half of the ride, but I pushed on by repeating “five more minutes” and then five more after that until the hour had elapsed.

The bike is suggested by many coaches as a good cross-training exercise for runners.  It does work many of the same muscles in a non-impact fashion, but I believe my workout vids bring me to a greater state of cardiovascular fitness.  There’s something about doing step or plyometrics while lifting light weights or reaching overhead (the way so many of the FIRM, Cathe Friedrich or Gilad workouts direct) that helps me get stronger.  And climbing the 14-inch box on those old FIRM workouts cannot be denied as a stamina-builder.

Thurday’s forecast promised a perfect chance to try for big miles in the morning.  I set the clock for 4:45 a.m. and hoped to have a good two hours to run before heading back home to prepare for the workday.  I always need an hour to get completely awake, so I planned to run from 6 to 8ish.  It’s a great idea to geta minimum of eight hours sleep the night before but getting to bed early is never easy for me!


Thursday, July 14 — Bastille Day

On this day in 1789, Parisians stormed the Bastille seeking to gain ammunition and gunpowder for the Revolution.  222 years later, I stormed the subdivisions and blasted the crap out of my recent inability to rack up some distance.

The weather was great, I actually got out of bed at 5:00 and was out of the house by 6:15.  I did ten miles of run/walk intervals and it was AWESOME!  I even had energy for a full day’s work at the office afterward.  Love it, love it, love it!

Right now, not even a trip to outer space could be better than this.

As hot as the two suns beaming over Risa

10 07 2011

Risa, the pleasure planet, is a class M Federation planet about 90 light years from earth within a binary star system, which means it has two suns.  Before terra forming made it the hedonistic vacation retreat of Starfleet officers as well as other species, it was said to be quite a  miserable place.  I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to train for a marathon with not one but TWO suns beating down on your sweaty little head.

Since returning from Seattle two weeks ago, advancing the requisite mileage has been an interesting task.  Being relatively slow to begin with, my “long slow distance” runs always last at least two and as much as four hours.  Out here in the land of new subdivisions with young trees yielding very little shade, this means either getting out super early or preparing to skitter across the pavement like water on a hot skillet.

After resting a few days at the end of June, I got back to work with a handful of short runs, one completely awesome and excellent speed session, a few bike rides of gradually increasing length, and the usual strength/balance/core hours with the personal trainer.  Last weekend, I also put feet to pavement early enough for a relatively comfortable 9-miler on Sunday morning before enjoying a sumptuous family brunch that promptly replaced every spent calorie.

After a similar week, the plan was to run 12 miles this weekend.  Ummm…..I haven’t quite managed that yet.  My body requested the day off yesterday and having learned the need to heed these messages, I took things easy.  After a decent night’s rest, I headed outdoors this morning at about 6:45 and got six miles done before the bombardment of sun and humidity brought the session to a close.  In looking ahead on weather.com, it appears that Tuesday—my usual day off work—may be my next best chance to score double digit mileage.   My goal is to do at least one 16-17 miler before month’s end.  I have my eye on the weekend of the 23rd for that attempt, with next Saturday or Sunday being hopefully a 15-mile outing—weather permitting, of course.

Otherwise, life has been moving in a  positive direction and I feel fairly content.  My native restlessness, a state which had previously served to propel me forward before recently morphing into bitter self-defeating discontent, is settling back into its usual demeanor.  Hence, I am able to regard myself with the same courtesy I would bequeath a fellow passenger on a city bus.   The homefront is in its typical state of tranquil monotony, and a stressful issue on the job quite surprisingly resolved itself.  I’m still eating too much and not stretching enough but I’ve begun peace talks with myself in an effort to table the issue of perfection and construct a workable plan for progress.

I came across this great book called “The Mental Athlete” by Kay Porter.  It addresses the notion of attitude and mental imagery as a training issue.  I need to read more of it before I’ll have enough to say in this journal, but thus far it seems very promising.  I have believed for a long time that the bulk of our “problems” are either created or amplified in our own minds, and my own is no exception.  Taming the beast within the brain may be a formidable task but the rewards will likely be immense.  And it can’t be too much harder than marathon training in July under the beating suns of binary stars.