Sunday, 12 January 2014

Back to circles.

So apparently I running a half marathon in a week. Actually, I'm getting on a plane to meet up with an old friend and then fly to a city I've never been to before to run in a huge, popular race.

I'll be participating in P.F. Chang's Arizona Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  Whew! That's a mouthful. To be honest, this was always more about spending some time with an old friend, than competing to get a personal best. I think my personal best in a half marathon is just under two hours.
Sharing a happy moment with friend on the Appalachian Trail
This race, if I don't burn myself out and don't get carried away by running too fast with the crowd, will be two hours and plenty of change.

Still, needs must. I have been training. I started off with the best intentions. Being quite proud of myself by running through the cold and the snow of a typical Saskatchewan Fall and early Winter. Then, out of nowhere, came the Polar Vortex.

What's that? I don't know! It was not that much colder than the time I ran the Hypothermic Half marathon in -47 C ish. But, apparently, with a windchill of colder than -50 C, parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba were colder than the surface of Mars. But, again. I've run in that, but not lately. So I went inside to the track. Don't get me wrong. I did take every opportunity to run outside, whenever the temperature got "warm"; finding my happy places -- both those in my mind and on the trail. I relished in the opportunity to be outside, yet, they were few and far between. It was beautiful, but rare.

On New Year's day, along with some great friends, went snowshoeing at Pasqua Lake. It was frigid -- -37C ish, I had the wrong clothes, and it was more of a test of resolve to not turn back despite cold extremities, than an endurance challenge. But the experience was rewarding. It reminded me of the benefits of endurance activities, the buzz that I get afterwards, and, unfortunately, the excuse to eat without guilt.

-37C New Year's Day sunrise at Pasqua Lake
Still it was beautiful to be out. To be exercising in temperatures that closed entire US cities and to be enjoying it. But again. The outdoor experience, even the cross-training opportunities, such as snowshoeing were few and far between.

As I noted earlier, I went indoors, to the track. It is an otherwise welcoming, warm place, but in reality, it is the realm of the rings of hell where one runs circle after circle on a surface that was designed by City of Regina accountants who thought they would save a few bucks by putting a thin, rubber-like substance on solid concrete. Even running on a frozen concrete sidewalk feels softer.

But, I'm still blessed to have this indoor facility. LSD run of just over 
I recognise that many don't. So I ran indoors; several weeks ago completing 14 km. This week, a little stressed that I had not done enough run training, and with just over a week to go before the race, decided to dedicate three hours of my life to run a full half distance (the contradiction of a "full half" does not get noticed by endurance athletes, by the way). I did it. I ran a very very slow, or as they call it in the bizz. Note that my bike training is ahead of schedule, ironically!

I took my time. I stopped every 15 minutes and drank water or the drink I'll be drinking at Ironman Boulder. I went to the bathroom. I stretched. I had two gels. I got into several conversations. It was a not too unpleasant way to spend a Saturday, if you discount having to go around the rings of hell 91 times.

During the run, I was reminded of the mental toughness that I've written about in the past. It wasn't that the run was difficult. It wasn't really tough or painful until 15km; when the hardness of the surface and the only going in one direction for so many laps finally started taking a toll on my legs and their joints. For those that know this track, there is an opportunity to go in the opposite direction of the running flow. I availed myself of that opportunity for two 15 minute segments. Then the track club showed up and took up two lanes, so that option was shut down!

The truly tough part was all mental.

I coped by doing lots of thinking. I thought about one friend who has completely changed her life and her physique. In one year, she transformed herself into a person more like what she wants to be, than what others assume she should be. That gave me the resolve to continue moving when I thought about being ready to quit. It is quite an interesting process, actually. How the mind rationalizes. "I've done 17km. That's three more than I've done;  and I will really need to stretch; and I don't want to be here all day; and this is enough; and I'm really thirsty; and I don't want to wear out my shoes; and everyone else on the track is annoying me; and I don't want to get get nipple chafe;  and I don't want to slip and hurt myself; and gosh, it is really dry in here;  and and and..." ad absurdum. I didn't quit.

I thought about all the training I have to do to get ready for Ironman Boulder in August. I thought about how lucky I was to have the luxury to just drop everything and just think, albeit while going nowhere, and in circles.

And then, before I knew it. It was over. I actually ran 21.2k. I wasn't planning on breaking any records. It was a sheer luxury to not rush, to put my feet up and just soak in the fact that I had just run my first indoor half marathon in over three years.

As a little ironic note to other Regina, Saskatchewan athletes, I couldn't actually "soak" as the facility's hot tub is "out of order", because the City of Regina can't figure out why competitive athletes, young and old, are getting sick in the pool facility. Could be too much chlorine and not enough ventilation, but I ain't no scientist.

So now what? This will be a taper week. Maybe some overly chlorinated swimming. Maybe 5k here and there. I also have to get on the bike as the Tour of Sufferlandria looms when I return. I will write more about that soon.

This week, I'll concentrate on looking forward to a great experience with an old friend. I will run, who knows how fast, but I will run. It has been too long, but, as one other friend, now living far away noted, "He's running again! Like in the good old days!". 

As I noted in the previous blog entry. The prodigal is back. 2014 will be a year of returns, a year of making new and entrenching existing connections, virtual and real-life. It will also be a year  of transforming circles into tangible achievement.

Bring it on!

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