How Not to Train for a Half Marathon, Part 2

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It seems highly unlikely that a woman who’s peanut M&M consumption is more regular than her exercise routine, who is chasing forty, and who’s attention span is lower than the high school seniors she teaches would be able to set a goal of completing a half marathon, let alone two in the same year.

Last fall I ran/walked my first half marathon and with my next goal in sight, I trained for my second in ways not recommended by your family doctor.

DON’T think that running and riding a stationary bike are the same thing. While the latter is definitely low impact and can be done, watching these guys

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and these guys

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is no excuse for not getting out there and allowing your body to feel your true body weight. It does not matter if there’s a new guy on the show.

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It does not matter if… Um…

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Well, maybe it does.

DON’T think that running with your dog will help you run faster. You might think that he pulls you when you no longer have the desire to get that stupid 13.1 medal when really all he is doing is dragging you to his favorite spots to drop a load.

Also your dog, such as this seventy pound lovable mutt here,

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may point out habits that you didn’t know you helped him develop as in

BUDDY! STOP DRAGGING ME TO STARBUCKS! WE’RE NOT GOING THERE!

*whispers* Okay, maybe later…

DO use past knowledge. I am lucky that I don’t have to work everyday so when I knew the date of the race, I immediately asked for the following day off.

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DO learn more about keeping up your energy during long races. After my first half marathon I could barely move once the adrenaline wore off. I crossed the finish line and grabbed a sandwich and water. What did I know about gels and carbing up the night before and sports drinks?

Absolutely nothing.

I divvied out the pack of three mini vanilla scones from Starbucks every four miles! Yep, pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that but did that stop me?

Obviously not since the halfway point for my second half marathon was within a half a mile from my house!

Hey babe, can you bring me a Coke Zero? I’m so thirsty!

Yep, I had a soda during a half marathon! In hindsight, I know I shouldn’t have done it but my husband shouldn’t have listened to me. Also I was delirious and freaking out a bit since there were several students I’ve subbed for all around the course.

Miss G! Hey, how are you doing?

Six miles later it’s

Gatorade! Here you go ma’am. Wait a minute, aren’t you my sub?

Yes, delirious.

DO encourage others to join you in your next race. Misery loves company. When I break down the facts of the race, it really is not all bad.

People who race are very encouraging. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of runners who take this very seriously. But more often than not, you’ll meet so many people who jog and/or run for fun. They are more than happy to share their stories with you. I would return the favor but I’m usually out of breath and/or melting after the first half.

While my genetics and lifestyle do not lend for a typical delicate and petite Asian body type, that doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else not built/trained for running) don’t have the strength or stamina to finish 13.1 miles. Both are essential for any sport and dare I say, anything in life.

Strength ? Check. Stamina? Check. Stupidity? Check. {Lol!}

Bottom line: if I can do it (twice), anyone can.

Got Running Shoes?

I’ve got a 10K next month. Have I been running?

Erm, no.

My husband doesn’t think that it’ll be a problem, even with the weeks that have lapsed since my last run. “You know your pace,” he reasoned. “That’s the hardest part.”

I have been taking a Hot Hula class a couple of times a week and the other day I lifted weights for the first time in months.

The other day I had to step back and say whoa, in a noncritical and constructive manner. The holidays were hard, calorifically and emotionally. Recovery is even harder but in place.

And now that I’ve personally gotten rid of all of the sugar in the house (by sharing and eating), our eating choices are better. We limit going out to eat to once a week. Fruit is now on the kitchen counter instead of the endless supply of cookies from friends and family. Vegetables are now eaten with gusto once again. I stopped buying Christmas candies on clearance. (Never mind that the Christmas clearance candy is all gone.)

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As to how I’m going to run 10K next month, I don’t know but I think I’ll be fine.

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The Cross Training Collision

Ahhh… finally the answer to my running rut: CROSS TRAINING.

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I’ve been without my fave Zumba instructor for several weeks. I’ve started working again so I haven’t been able to get to the gym in the mornings. Saturdays that were previously reserved for Zumba were turning into race training days or race days.

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So today I Zumba’d like I have never Zumba’d before. My ass and the back of my thighs ached immediately after class. I forgot I even had junk back there to even ache!

The instructor even admitted that it was an easy class and thank goodness it was. I was so out of breath, panting like– well, me– in the summer. But it felt good. I can’t complain. When I finally get a chance to get back on the computer, I’ll check out classes I can take while the boy is at karate. My junk in the trunk hurting was a big sign, pun intended. Cross training wakes up the body parts that don’t get a work out when I run.

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Well, alrighty then.

The Angsty Confusion

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I don’t know what happened today. I had a job today, as I have most days in the past month because we really could use the money, but it was only a half day in the afternoon. Surely I had time in the morning after I dropped off the kids at school to go for a run.

But for some reason I couldn’t.

I asked a friend if she wanted to go to Starbucks after we dropped off our kids. She said no.

I saw my younger daughter’s kindergarten teacher who kicked ass on Sunday as she ran the half-marathon whilst I ran the 5K. She is so awesome.

And skinny.

I went home and realized that it was a late start day for the junior high and high schools in our neighborhood. I’d probably see some kids I knew when I was running. Did I really want to see anyone I knew?

I went home and grabbed the big dog. I couldn’t run with him because he can never pick a side of the sidewalk he is happy with. If we run on the left, he wants to go on the right. If I appease the change, he wants to go back. We walked a mile around the neighborhood.

What was wrong with me this morning? Where had all of my motivation gone? I should know by now that keeping my depression at bay centers around the trifecta of a mostly-healthy diet, regular exercise, and good nights of sleep.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that my trifecta has failed.

Last weekend my mom decided to have a barbecue in honor of her brother’s birthday… at MY house. So naturally I have a ton of leftovers and we’ve been eating them little by little.

I’ve been eating beef which does not do my body any good. I’ve had more white rice in the past few days than I’ve had in five months! I avoid white rice simply because it’s a gateway carb for me– I don’t feel full when I eat it so my stomach morphs into a bottomless pit that I would like to avoid at all costs.

My kids have been going to Grandma’s a lot since I started working and she’s got everything I DON’T BUY. It’s terrible. I don’t buy chocolate because I’ll eat it and by the time I get home I’m so exhausted that I can’t think, “Hello? Don’t eat that Twix because you’ll regret it later!”

Then I don’t think that. Then I eat it. Then I regret it.

I would much rather get up in the morning when it’s still dark out and run a couple of miles than get my day already going and pause to get a work out going. I don’t know. I feel angst.

Suze Orman, the awesome financial advisor she is, has often said on her TV show that people often feel they need MORE THAN when they FEEL LESS THAN. I suppose I feel less than now.

I am not sure if you’ve noticed but I often assign the tag “depression” to posts when I feel like I am actually depressed. I have not used that tag for a while.

Perhaps in all of my running around with the kids, with work, with volunteering, with training for races, I might just need a few days to myself. Maybe to center myself. Maybe to just chill. Maybe, just maybe, get myself some fake nails. But certainly not chocolate. Only regrets can come from chocolate (though none if a bar is enjoyed far and few between).

On my way to the sub job this afternoon, I passed by the local library and checked out four books. I just started Subterranean by James Rollins, the fourth Rollins book that a friend has lent to me. I quite enjoy his books and have read each of the previous three in less than forty-eight hours. This fourth one was started last week but have only now reached the second chapter. That in itself should have been a huge indication to me that something is off.

I don’t feel depressed. I really don’t know what it is. In the next few days I will reflect on my eating habits, cutting out useless sugary carbs when I realize I am turning to them. I will look for my old Pilates DVD and look into taking a yoga class tomorrow evening.

I think when I’m in this place where I feel like I’m stuck on a spider’s web, being pulled in different directions, I should stop fighting and do nothing. Revel in the act of doing nothing which really means everything anyway.

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The Grating Decay

It was very dark when I left for the race. I was excited but truly fearful that I wouldn’t be able to run the entire thing. It’s difficult to accept that the only thing stopping you is yourself.

I hate that I feel the need to compare myself to others and only now am realizing that it’s toxic. I used to say to my husband (it was a quote I had seen on Pinterest), “Hey, at least I’m lapping everyone on the couch!”

To which he’d reply, “It isn’t about that.”

Man, he knows how to steal a girl’s thunder.

We had a good laugh about that but ever since his accident, he sees things in a new perspective. As humble as he was, I know he has commented about how some people he works with couldn’t run even though it is imperative to their job that they are able to.

But he’s more sympathetic now. He’s there now.

I remember before my first 5K he was very supportive and he knew I could do it.

“But what if I’m last?” I asked.

“That doesn’t matter,” he said.

It doesn’t. I see that now.

I ran the 5K last weekend with my head in the clouds or as high as I could see. We ran through a huge park and the first mile flew by quickly. The trees were taller than most buildings in our city. There was no room for the sun to peek through. I watched kids cheering for their parents, people cheering for their significant others. I passed walkers and they passed me.

I was doing okay until the last mile or so. Odd since usually the first half-mile of any of my practice runs is the hardest. I have the trees and the still of the morning to thank for the distraction. The last mile I was acutely aware that it was indeed the last mile and I was feeling the effects of everything.

I didn’t have time to down a protein bar before the run. I thought I would have time to walk back to my car and relax after checking in but it was pitch dark and even though the park was bustling with participants, I listened to my inner voice and did not walk back to my car. My last two practice runs were only two miles and one mile, respectively. I was unprepared. I was hungry.

Then inspiration came in the form of a running coach of an older woman next to me. I heard him say, “Let’s close the gap on these runners here.”

He was talking about me and someone running right behind me. I shouldn’t have been but I was.

I was deeply offended.

He kept coaching this woman and giving her motivation and I was getting mad. I don’t even know why. His voice, although probably very encouraging to this woman, was grating and getting on my last nerve.

One hundred yards before the finish line, he told her, “Okay, time to sprint. Give it everything you got.”

OH HELL NO.

I sprinted like I had never sprinted before. Faster than any day-after-a-holiday sale. Faster than the big dog can get to an unattended waffle on the table. Faster than a toddler with a box of magic markers.

And oh, did it hurt.

But it felt good. I think I might have passed five runners in those last painful yards. I’ve never run like that before.

Even now, two days after the race I don’t even know why I was so upset. I did not have anything against the woman or her coach, who could have been her son for all I know. I just felt so drained, so emotionally and so physically drained, that I didn’t even realize I was thinking. I’m glad I did react in that matter though. I now know that even when that exhausted there is still some fight within me.

If it’s in me, then I know for an absolute fact that it is within you too.

After making this awesome Whovian poster,

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I trudged back through the field from whence I came and passed the mark for the last half-mile of the race. Half-marathoners were finishing a little over an hour after they started. I stared in awe for a few moments, gazing at their slender runner’s builds and wondering if I worked hard enough and long enough that I would ever be able to earn that body. Feeling slightly disappointed with the realization that the answer was NO, I started walking toward my car and thought, “Fuck it, I need to watch.”

I turned around and sat on one of the cement dividers on the side of the road. The runners who finished in record time all had the very sleek build but soon I began to see other body types.

I was searching for my body type.

Then I saw her. A woman who defied the slender runner’s body, who had bulky muscles, who probably had a regular body-fat percentage. She was powerful. She was fast. She was awesome.

I sat for about a half an hour and continued to see different body types. Though they were not as fast as the first runners I saw, thirteen-freaking-miles in two hours is still pretty awesome.

But I’m gonna be honest here. Thirteen-freaking-miles PERIOD is still pretty awesome.

Someone asked me how I got myself motivated to run 10K and a lot of thoughts come to mind.

– I need to make goals to make things happen in my life, otherwise I tend to putter along and make excuses.

– I Google’d major streets in my neighborhood and saw that if I ran to the grocery store and back it was only two miles but if I ran to the other grocery store it was only six miles. Running through my neighborhood with major landmarks in mind did not seem as difficult as running around in a circle twenty-four times.

– My father had a lot of problems with his health, a menu of preventative diseases that I wanted to make sure I didn’t order. He was not overweight but he smoked, did not manage his stress, and abandoned a typical Filipino diet for heartier, carbier fare. I figure it might be easier to change now before I was too old and stubborn. (Okay, I am both but oldER and MORE subborn.)

– I don’t want my kids to become dependent on processed foods and sugary carbs because I know I am dependent on the latter. I do buy the stuff because it’s convenient (Ramen noodles anyone?) but I make sure that I buy say chips OR ice cream, not everything at once. Plus it’s easier to say NO at the store. If it’s in my house, I WILL EAT IT.

– But mostly, my motivation comes from my husband. He’s a stubborn, old fool who once he stood for the first time after the accident, he declared he’d be walking within the the week. He did with a walker.

Then he moved to two canes, then one cane. That fucker did everything he said he would.

I don’t know if I told you that he’s a cheap bastard because he is. It hurts his feelings to pay twenty bucks for a pair of shoes from Payless Shoe Source. (I’m not knocking the store but my wide feet need more support to run.) “My feet only bleed for a week,” he’d say.

Right? (Oops, I think I did tell this tale before.)

But with those stupid shoes, he could keep up with SEALs young enough to be our kids and he’s even lapped Marines on the track with them.

So with all that said, I can’t find motivation to run a 10K?

His presence like that grating voice of the running coach, reminding me of the fight within me that I never knew I had. I will never have a runner’s body. I know that. I accept that. But with the body I have and with the fight within me, I know that I can make it more powerful than it has ever been.

10K next month. Half-marathon in March.

The Virtual Race

Did you know that you can be a “virtual runner” is some races? This means you pay your race fee and you get your commemorative tee but you’re on the honor system to do the race on your own time in your own community. I changed my status to virtual a couple of days before the race when it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be possible to get a sitter that early in the morning and for me to drive about an hour to get there on time.

I did it. I ran a 10K without stopping. Last Sunday I ran this race:

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But get this. I haven’t gone for a run for a month prior due to a hip injury nor have I paid attention to what I’ve eaten. Also, right before I ran, I decided to have a couple of slices of leftover pizza and a brownie!

Isn’t that nuts? Who does that?

Apparently I do. Having that pizza gave me the strength to keep running nonstop for an hour and a half. Having that brownie was just something I threw in. What the hell, right? Why not?

This morning I ran with the moon. I woke up at five in the morning on accident and did not feel groggy (that’s what happens when you cut processed carbs and lay off sugar; more energy!). I folded two loads of laundry while music from the disco era played softly in the background. As soon as my alarm went off at six, I woke up the kids and let them know I was going for a run.

For me the first half-mile is the most difficult. It’s slightly painful but that is nothing compared to the battle in my head. It’s as if all of my insecurities and worries are fighting to the death: I’m far too heavy to be running like this or at all. I’m far too old to set these sorts of fitness goals and perhaps something less intense would be better for me. I can’t change my eating habits because I’m too addicted to sugar so why even bother? Why did I ever think I could run? Octogenerians literally run circles around me at these races.

See? Terrible, right? And that’s all I can remember. There is a far harsher monologue that doesn’t quit until my mind tires of it and I begin to concentrate on running. Mindful of every step. Mindful of every pound of the pavement as not to land wrong. Mindful of every breath.

This morning I ran with the stars still out, cell phone in hand to keep track of every lap to form what would be my new base run. The goal is no longer beating my time. The goal is now to just keep going.

The goal is not stopping.

This morning we kissed the three-digit weather goodbye, the cold breeze from the delta finally returning after a longer, later summer.

This morning I kissed the sun and orange skies.

It felt pretty goddamn good to run again.

Still hurts but hey… Just keep going, right?

This Sunday I’ve got a 5K and right now I am sitting in my car waiting for the sports store in downtown Sacramento to open so I can pick up my race packet.

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Only I can’t pick up my packet for another six hours! I checked my reminder email about the race again and yes, I am way too early.

But still, it feels pretty goddamn good.