Posted in Running, Travel

It’s All About Choices

Where are u going to..????
Where are u going to..???? (Photo credit: Goianobe)

During a recent run, I flashed back to an exchange I had with one of my tour guides in Scotland in April 2012. She had remarked on the size of my suitcase. It was a standard 28″ case that I usually bring on non-hiking vacations. I didn’t think my suitcase was inappropriate given that I was on a 15-day holiday so I said, a tad defensively, “I’m here for two weeks.”

To which she replied, “I rode my motorcycle all over the US for three months with just my saddlebags. When you get home, go to a BMW motorcycle dealership and they’ll teach you how to pack.” I politely smiled and nodded as I’m wont to do in situations where someone who doesn’t know me treats me with an air of smug superiority.

I smiled and nodded but inside, I was a bit irked. I know how to pack. I can go on a week-long business trip and just take a 19″ roll-aboard, which covers a different outfit each day, dinner outfits for each evening, and my running gear. And this woman, a complete stranger, was telling me that didn’t know how to pack?

I flashed back to this interaction because I had just finished packing for a 7-day business trip and had too much room in my 22″ case so ended up squeezing everything into my 19″ case.

It’s all about choices.

Could I have used a smaller suitcase for my Scotland trip? Sure. But I didn’t want to spend my vacation washing my knickers and t-shirts in the sink each night. I didn’t want to have vacation pictures with me wearing the same pullover day after day. So I chose to bring a bigger bag so that I would have more time to make memories and so that those memories would be happy ones.

It’s all about choices.

The same goes for race preparation, race training plans, and race expectations. I had to switch gears last week to a different marathon training plan because the original plan I chose was simply too intense. The workouts and the paces were such that I dreaded my runs instead of looking forward to them. Dreaded them so much that I didn’t run at all during the first official week of training.

I knew that I needed to shift gears and find a plan that wouldn’t intimidate me. I needed to find a plan that would allow me to enjoy running again and not dread it. Or, in the simplest terms, I needed a plan that fit my inner slacker – one that had just enough structure but not too much structure. So I did some looking and dug up a very basic beginner just-finish-the-marathon plan. Luckily, it was one week shorter than the other plan so I wasn’t having to play catch up right out of the gate.

Since it’s a beginner plan, the build up is gradual and seems infinitely more manageable. And I know that if I follow it, I will be able to meet my goal of improving on last year’s marathon. Of course, I’m already tweaking the plan to fit my schedule and my life. But after just one week, I already notice the difference in my attitude about running. It’s no longer, “I have to run a 5-mile tempo run tomorrow.” Instead, it’s more like, “I can’t wait to see if I can push the pace a little bit during my 4 miles tomorrow.”

It’s all about choices.

Could I have gutted it out and stuck with the more intense training plan? Adjusted the paces down a little bit to be less intimidating? Sure. But that wouldn’t have addressed my attitude about running. So I chose to find a more realistic plan so that I can nurture my love of running with less potential to get injured and a higher likelihood of meeting my goal.

It’s all about choices. In packing, in planning, in running, and in life. Make your choices good choices.

And the thought processor churns on…

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Posted in Running

What Was I Thinking?

NWM2011 Reason #8 Because I Can
NWM2011 Reason #8 Because I Can

Time is an interesting construct. Memory is an interesting construct, as well.

When I was running the NWM 26.2 last October, I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m not ever going to do this again.” I remember thinking “never again” when I was caught up in the gear check scrum where I thought I was going to die from suffocation or claustrophobia, whichever came first. I remember thinking “never again” as the marathoners split from the half-marathoners and I realized that I had a long way to go. I remember thinking “never again” as I ran past the finish line on my way to another 8 miles or so of joyous running.

I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to be one of those people who said, “I’m never going to do this again” during the race only to turn around and say, “I’ll do better next time.” No sir, not me.

When I finally finished, though, I remember thinking, “Well, I couldn’t do any worse next time.”

And as the hours turned into days and the days turned into months, that niggling thought continued to percolate in my brain. I knew I could do better if I trained properly, if I took my training schedule seriously, if I didn’t think about gutting it out on race day. I knew I could.

I hadn’t intended to sign up for the NWM virtual half-marathon – I wanted to concentrate on training for the April half-marathon that I had in mind. When I saw the announcement that all members of the largest team would be given an automatic opportunity to register for the NWM – no lottery – I scoffed silently. When I saw the Facebook posts that encouraged everyone to sign up with Team Victorious so that would be the biggest team, I sneered inwardly.

And yet somehow, I wound up signed up with the Nike+ challenge, registered for the NWM virtual half-marathon, and a member of Team Victorious.

This week I received an email from NWM letting me know that as a member of Team Victorious I was entitled to register for the NWM in October without having to go through the lottery. There are a few hoops to jump through but that’s to be expected. I was so excited to get that email. “Yes!” I thought, “thank goodness I registered and that I signed up as a member of Team Victorious!”

As I think about my excitement over that email and compare it to my mental anguish while I was running last October’s NWM 26.2, I have to laugh at myself. And I have to marvel at what amazing things time, space, and memory are.

Time heals all wounds. Time soothes the hurt spirit. Time rebuilds the crushed soul.

Space gives time the room to work. Space allows different experiences to take place. Space lets old thoughts out and new thoughts in.

Memory can be selective, allowing us to either focus on the good or the bad. Memory allows us to consider the possibilities, the what-ifs, the might-have-beens. Memory can hurt if you dwell too long on the bad things without thinking about the possibilities. Memory can help if you remember that what you did in the past doesn’t have to define who you are in the future and what you can accomplish in the future.

My selective memory has focused on a few things – that I could have turned in a better time if I had trained better and been more prepared for the hills, that I really enjoyed the race once I emerged unscathed (except for my missing Nike+ SportBand) from the gear check scrum until the last 8 miles or so, and that entry is lottery-based so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try to enter. In the intervening weeks and months since the 2011 NWM 26.2, I’ve admitted why the marathon, particularly the last few miles, were so miserable for me – I tried to run a marathon with less than half-marathon training. So time has given me the benefit of honesty with myself as well as the courage and determination to try again.

What’s your memory pushing you away from or pulling you towards? How much time needs to pass before your wounds have healed? What are you going to try again? Do you need to build up courage or determination or both to do it?

Happy running!

Posted in Running

Planning for 2012

Are you a planner? Or are you a more spontaneous soul?

If you’re a runner, chances are you’re some sort of planner.

You may not have started out as a planner. You may have just gone out for a run whenever the mood hit you. You probably ran without a goal, running for as long as you felt like it, as fast as you felt like going. And you may have only run sporadically, fulfilling your need for cardio with other activities.

But once you enter your first race – however you were motivated to do so – a change begins to occur. For some, it’s a quick process. For others, the process takes more time. As a result of that first race, you start paying attention to things like running shoes, running gear. You start looking for running advice, like how to drink water without stopping or spilling the contents of that little paper cup all over yourself. And you start to wonder if you could have turned in a better time if you had trained properly. So you start thinking about your next race.

Your next race means a training program. A training program means planning – planning your runs, arranging your schedule to accommodate those runs, figuring out a plan B for missed workouts, planning your race day.

Eventually, you go beyond planning for one race at a time. Suddenly, you’re planning a year’s worth of races at the same time you’re figuring out your resolutions for the new year. You’ve become a planner thanks to running.

My race calendar has fluctuated over the years, going from a race here and there to a few years of a race every month and back down to a handful of regular local races with room to fill in other races depending on my schedule and fitness level.

Here’s my plan for 2012 so far:

  • Nike Women’s Virtual Half Marathon (January)
  • Together with Love 10k (February)
  • Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (April)
  • PAL Artichoke Festival 5k (May) – might finally do the 10k this year
  • Stevenson Run in the Forest 10k (September) – best post-race breakfast ever
  • San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (October) – already registered
  • Nike Women’s Marathon (October) – only if I’m one of the lucky lottery selections
  • Big Sur International Half Marathon (November) – race registration opens 1 April

This leaves the summer months (June, July, and August) open and gives me flexibility. I’ve found that I enjoy having race-free months because there’s less pressure to run and I can run for running’s sake. Those months are when I rediscover why I really run.

What does your 2012 race calendar look like? Whether it’s packed full or wide open, always remember the joy you find in running, the feeling of accomplishment you had when you crossed your first finish line, and the camaraderie of your fellow runners.

Wishing you a 2012 devoid of injuries and full of PRs…

Happy running!