Jun 18, 2016

I Run With My Heart...

Through the years when folks have talked about "witnessing" at church, one of the big questions is how to talk about Jesus without making it awkward and/or sales-y. And one of the more preferable (to me) answers is that you get excited talking about things and people you love, so treat talking about Jesus in a similar way.**

I like that approach for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not going to try to get you to be besties with my besties, or sell you all the things I love, but I might tell you why I'm so excited about them. No pressure; but we're getting to know each other, so you might as well know what I'm into. And maybe you'll want to experience them too, or maybe not, but it's not really my job to force you into anything. That would be weird.

And I do love Jesus. Like, a lot. I have some stories to tell about him, which I'll share in good time. And if you want to talk about him with me, please let me know, because I can talk your ear off about him til the cows come home.

But instead of Jesus, today I'm going to talk about running...

The reason I'm so excited about running these days is that I started a new marathon training program. That's right, it's time for me to check my "full marathon before age 40" goal off the bucket list (with a year to spare).

I'm excited because I've done two half marathons now, with decent results. I know I'm capable of training to go the full distance, and with proper care and feeding, my butt-issues have been under good control.

But I've been nervous because I remember how I felt at the end of my first half, and I couldn't imagine how I'd feel running two entire half marathons in a row. Also, I've hit a bit of a rut this spring. Last fall I met some new friends to run with on the weekends and my mile pace started getting quicker, but after the long, dark winter it felt like a slog to just maintain what I'd already been doing.

I decided I needed a change. I looked up plans online and found an 8-week half-marathon plan just in time for the race I wanted to run in Maine. I was excited to move up from a beginner to intermediate category and add some speed work. I figured that would be the ticket to bump me out of my rut. And I did well for the first half, but then my SI joint started giving me fits. And not little fits, either; more like a single, giant tantrum. It was rough.

So I had to rein in the training and deal with my SI instead. It took a few weeks, but soon I was on the mend. I had to adjust expectations on my race and go more conservatively than I'd originally planned. Apparently I'm not ready for "balls-to-the-wall" training or racing. But race day came and went, and I completed the race none the worse for wear...and 5 minutes faster than a year ago!

Well in the midst of all this stuff, I listened to a podcast episode of Another Mother Runner focusing on heart rate training. I've always poo-poo'd HRT as too technical for my tastes, but by the end of the episode I had done a 180 and decided that I'm in the right time and place to train for my marathon by heart rate.

Now before this I hadn't looked into heart rate training much, and I still haven't. The big reason I decided to actually drop money on a training plan is that it comes with a coach, whom I spoke with on the phone before committing.

That's right, I made an actual phone call to a complete stranger for this nonsense. I told you I was excited.

The reason the phone call is significant is that while some folks might try to motivate you to go HARDER and try for the more INTENSE paths, she actually talked me down to the less difficult choice. I might as well tell you that my secret desire (haven't decided whether it's a feasible goal yet) is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so my original aim was to do the OUTSTANDING plan (this is its actual name). But I spoke with Coach MK to see if there were any factors I wasn't considering, which would be good reason to instead sign up for the INCREDIBLE plan (also its actual name). And it turned out she had like 5 solid reasons for me to stick to INCREDIBLE. So for now, Boston will remain a sort of nebulous "maybe someday" goal, because I have a lot of work to do before I consider it (I knew having kids and butt-issues would require a lot of rebuilding, but both have taken even more out of me than I thought).

SO, down to brass tacks. The whole deal with training by heart rate is that you build your aerobic base to make your body more efficient and able to go faster. And the way you build your aerobic base is by running slow and controlled. You run slow and controlled, and you recover better, and it makes you less prone to injury over the long term, and oh-by-the-way you get faster.

It sounds crazy and depending on what you read, the Internet may or may not agree. All this stuff involves science and math, and you can really dig deep and get all esoteric about it (and also go crazy trying to sift through the junk to get to the good stuff), but the beauty of having a coach is that she has done all that stuff for me, and all I have to do is follow the plan.

It did involve adding technology to the mix, namely a heart rate monitor. You can buy a heart rate watch and strap...OR in this age of smart phones you can buy just a strap and link to any number of apps. I went with the latter mostly because I'm cheap, and I'm part hippie, so the less I have to spend the more I feel like I'm being a "pure" runner, or some such thing. My phone app doesn't have some of the features a watch comes with (like an alarm when you go over your target), but so far my frugality has won out over convenience.

That said, I'm only a week in so I hesitate to make any large-scale declarations at this point. But here's what I can tell you from my first week--

  • This is an entire mind shift for me. Completely different focus, plan, everything. It's good to have new things to think about.
  • Running slow is its own exercise in discipline. I have to be a lot more mindful about it.
  • I'm tired and ready to be done at the end of a run, but I'm not thrashed for the rest of the day.
  • Sugar cravings are down this week, as are episodes of being "rungry."
  • After a few tries it is getting easier to maintain heart rate pace.
  • As time goes on I'll get faster, but for now my pace has gotten slower by about 3 minutes per mile (also, I'm not supposed to focus on pace), and it varies a LOT more depending on slope, wind, etc.
  • On Free Run day I did my "regular" easy-ish pace and was surprised at how WIPED OUT I felt afterward. Coach MK said, "Haha, you thought those were endorphins. ;)"
  • I love running all the more this week. Have I mentioned how much I love it????
In conclusion, the week hasn't been entirely rainbows and unicorns (my back and butt gave me some small fits for other reasons), but running-wise it has been a great start. I like to quote high-school-aged Dean Karnazes and say that I run with my heart, but in this case I'm actually running with my heart (rate).

Carry on, you poetic noble land mermaids...  

**Sidenote: the less preferable (to me) approaches include deliberately and relentlessly steering  every conversation toward trying to get people to kneel and say a prayer, knocking on strangers' doors, being "bolder," and/or hitting people with Bibles. Somewhere, somehow they have probably worked, or at least appeared so...but they are not for me. I mean, unless you want to kneel and say a prayer.  HAPPY TO HELP!

Jun 9, 2016

Made-Up Terms Defined: Semi-Plausible Deniability...

A little blurb I wrote on my Facebook page, complete with my favorite Gilda Radner sketch of all time...

There are times when you're mobile-working at the cube farm for the day, and cell reception is out in the hallway, and your phone rings with a work call so you're rushing and concentrating on getting out into the hall so you can pick up the call before it goes to voicemail, that you might forget to engage your core all the way.

When this happens, there's a slight chance a toot will escape. It will likely be a little toot, and not offensive. In fact it will be of such quality and (low) volume that depending on proximity, it might be mistaken for something different, like a shoe or ring scraping a wall, or something. This is called semi-plausible deniability.

Semi-plausible deniability is how you tell yourself that you have no idea who heard what, but it's maybe--just maybe--possible that what they heard was not actually a toot.

Or maybe they did hear that little toot in all its quiet little glory, but seriously, who cares? You are wearing a coat, for heaven's sake, and you walk around with a serious look of concentration because you are a Serious Worker, and you take professional calls in the hallway like a BOSS. Sometimes a little collateral gas enroute is part of the deal.

Either way, it will be a good reminder to always engage your core, and to walk around with a serious look of concentration that doesn't take any guff, and you will go far.

Carry on, Professional You.

You're welcome...