Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random questions

Well gosh darn, I know I've said this before, and I'm going to say it again... I wish I could remember half of the things I think of when I run!  Seriously, I'd have some pretty good posts.  My best thinking is done during a run.  Generally I can remember are the thoughts I had about running.  I also come up with random questions while I'm running.  Here are a couple of them (yes, they really are random):

1) While running past a sign that said "waterfront living!" during my long run: why do people always want to live near water so badly?  It makes sense to want to live near water when you actually do something in the water (like swim, boat, fish, etc), but when it's a man-made pond or lake that nobody would want to do anything in, what's the point?  Don't get me wrong, I would love to live waterfront, but I still ask myself why people (including myself) like it so much.

2) Anytime I'm hurting on a run (like during a race/long run/etc.):  Why am I doing this?  No, seriously, why?  I don't HAVE to do it.  It's not like I'm having FUN in the traditional sense.  I mean, feeling like I'm about to throw up isn't really a great feeling.  Thinking that maybe if I hurt myself I'll have an excuse to stop running is probably not the type of thing you should be thinking about during a race.  Of course I always finish, and... I know... I ALWAYS know at the end of each race that I will start looking at how to improve and look at other races and talk about how much I love it (because I do, despite wanting to puke and quit in the middle of the race).  Why is it so addicting?  I don't know.  But it is. I'm pretty sure you HAVE to be addicted to something to go through all of the discomfort, but continue to seek it out, over and over again.  Why do I even feel the need to talk about it so much?  Another question I cannot answer.

3) Okay, this one is a bit unrelated to the other things... Today I saw a man in the store with roses for what I'm guessing was his wife (he had on a wedding ring, so I certainly hope that's who they were for, unless they were for his mother or something).  I think that's the cutest thing when I see that.  More guys should do things like that, ESPECIALLY after marriage when the thrill might be gone and it might get monotonous.  Actually maybe it's better then than any other time because she won't expect it, so she'll get really excited, or wonder if you screwed up.   I bet every other woman in the store was thinking the exact same thing as me too.  Anyway... I got sidetracked and forgot the rest of my thoughts.

Now to wind down with a glass of wine, some cheese, and some studying.  That's a good evening in my book :)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trail running

I guess I haven't written much about running lately... Okay, not as much as I usually do, so this one is sparked from my race this past weekend, and also reading the Runner's World trail edition.  It's all about running, so if you don't want to read about that, you've been pre-warned!

First thing's first... The story of my race this weekend! So this weekend there was a lovely trail race a few hours from where I am.  It was a trail half marathon, which I had never done before.  I've done four trail ten-milers... well, technically three because I did one of them twice (freshman and senior years while at West Point).  One of them was in the snow in February :)  Well, those last few miles were the most brutal part of the race.  This was my sixth half marathon, and I didn't really train for it... I just looked for races, saw this one, and thought it would be neat to do.  Well, doing it on trails was a whoollle other monster from doing a road half.  As a matter of fact, I ran this one a full ten minutes slower than my last half marathon.  The race started on the road, and I think I started off a bit too fast.  I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was running a 7:30 minute pace.  I had been running so many shorter distances that I kind of took off the way I would NOT normally do on a longer distance race.  I was feeling okay until I hit the hills.  Ooohhh the hills.  Not the hills that were on the road... those were okay.  No, it was on the trails where the steep hills hit where I started feeling it, but I kept powering up anyways.  Again... I hadn't done a trail race this far before, and the last time I ran 13 miles on a trail at all, it wasn't as hilly as this!  Not at all!  Around mile six or so there was a water stop, so I stopped, had a Gu energy gel and some water, and kept going.  Stopping for that water and gu was a terrible idea because my legs felt kind of like lead starting up again.  I realized I certainly did not eat enough that morning.  Some people can't eat before they run.  I HAVE to eat before I run.  I can't eat a full meal immediately before RACING, but I can certainly eat more than half an English muffin for a half marathon.  I started feeling a little better until the10th or so mile.  I didn't think I was going to be able to finish a few times.  I felt kinda sick to my stomach.. just awful.  BUT, I thought about the finish line the entire time, and I eventually finished in 1:56:10 (I think the seconds are right).  Yep, slow!  But, to put it in perspective, I got first in my age group, which I'd never done before!  Overall against all men and women, I was 28th.  I think I was about 5th out of all the women, but I'm not sure.  The woman who won overall was only two minutes faster than my last road half marathon, to give you more perspective on the difficulty of the course!  So note for future trail races that are a bit longer:  do more HILLS!  Long hills, not the short sprints we do in the morning.  And also eat more before the race.  AND... don't start so fast!

Now that I'm done with talking about the race, I'll talk about my love of trail running.  For those of you who don't know, trail running is really what got me into liking running and doing it for fun.  Maybe not just trails, but running in remote places in general.  I like using running as a way to get away from everything... I don't really like running in neighborhoods or busy areas (much to my mother's dismay).  As long as I can remember, I've chosen trails when given the opportunity.  Now, I must admit, while racing, all I could think was "why?? Why am I doing this to myself?  This is killing me, I don't need to do this!  Maybe I can sprain my ankle and be done."  Of course, I didn't really want that to happen, and the first thing I do after a race is start looking for other races.  Call it insanity, or call it an addiction, I don't know!  But I keep coming back for more!  Tonight I was reading the (FREE!) Runner's World Trail Edition that was available after the race and that's actually what gave me the idea to blog.  Sadly I can't remember everything I wanted to say because my mother called.  Oh well.  I think it was just pertaining to what I said :)

  I'm not quite sure what it is about trail running, or running in general, that keeps me coming back for more.  There are so many days when I ask myself why I do it.  Why do I take time out of a Saturday to go run for a couple of hours?  It's not as if I HAVE to do these things.  Most of the time, I'm not even training for a particular race... I still want to do a marathon, but I don't have a particular one in mind because I have no idea if I'll be deploying or not, or what my general schedule will look like in the next few months, so I'm just trying to build my endurance.  As I've mentioned in past blogs, I'm not a super fast runner.  I can max my run time on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and I can place in the top three for my age group in most races, so I'm faster than your average runner who started as an adult (as in, never ran high school/college level track),  but I know people who can outrun me in shorter distances no problem.   This is actually my first time winning first in my age group on a race!  Though I was a bit far off from first overall :)   Despite how much I was hurting on that race, I guess I wasn't hurting as bad as some people, because I was able to keep pushing, and I think that's where my strength lies.  I may not be able to take off sprinting, but I can maintain a pace for a long time, and I'm not one to stop.  I definitely felt like stopping on this race, and I definitely felt sick to my stomach several times, but I didn't stop (well, okay, I did stop for water and Gu).    I remember the first time I placed in a race was in Germany on the Konigstuhl, which was 5.5 miles up a mountain (I know I've talked about this before).  I had no idea I placed anywhere... It was only my second race ever (first being the US Army Europe ten-miler), and I just walked away not expecting any type of award.  It wasn't until someone said they saw my name in one of the newspapers over there as placing third that I had any idea I had placed.   Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, that was also a trail race :)  Anyway, I'm working on getting faster in general... Trying to push myself to do more speed work - as much as I prefer long, slow runs where I push myself to keep going, I do need to work on some more speed :)

So, I guess I kind of got off track from what I was originally going to talk about... trail running.  So to try to salvage that a little bit, there is a certain appeal to it that doesn't exist in other types of running.  I think it's a combo of the beauty of the trails with the extra challenge.  You HAVE to slow down when you're trail running - unless you want to sprain something, of course.  During races, you have to focus on not only trying to maintain speed while going up and down hills, but also focus on your footing.  When I say you have to slow down, I don't mean it gets easier.  No, it's much harder to run slow on some of those hills than fast on the road (as I re-discovered this weekend).  During a regular run, you DO get to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  There were so many times this weekend I wanted to walk and look at the scenery.  It was SO pretty.  The state park where it took place was BEAUTIFUL.  I wish I could go out there again... Sadly, it was 3.5 hours away :(

Alas, I should get some sleep.  I'm debating waking up and running tomorrow morning.... I think it will end up being an afternoon run though :)  A very slow recovery run... assuming I'm still as sore as I was today!  Good night everyone!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Soon-to-be-birthday thoughts

So I guess I haven't written in a little bit, and I figured now would be a good time to write as any.  

  Well, it's almost my birthday and I was just thinking about stuff, some of which I was talking about tonight at dinner, well.... not this in particular, but I was just thinking about it and that provoked my current thoughts.  Something I find myself doing on a regular basis is worrying too much and blowing things a little out of proportion.  As I've gotten older, I've gotten a lot better about this, but I still find myself doing it about small things, that when I look back, I don't see why I thought they were so important.  I look back on things that have happened in years past and I wonder what it was that I was so worried about when those things happened.  Of course there are some things that I understand why I cared so much about them, but most of those things that I worried so much about meant little to nothing in a couple of months, weeks, or even days later.   At least as I get a little older I can recognize that a little bit more.

Another thought I started writing about a week or so ago but never really finished (typical) is my thoughts on adversity.  I guess I'll skip a lot of what I wrote (this is why I never published it... I felt it was too detailed) and say that those things that we think are awful usually turn out to make us stronger in the long run.  I guess that's not a unique insight, but something I've still thought quite a bit about.  This thought spurred as a result of my thinking about making it through West Point and everything I went through there.  Going from being prior service and somewhat of an adult to being a cadet (aka, a child again) was a rather difficult transition, and I went through quite a bit of ups and downs.  Running, the one thing that kept me sane, was taken away when I got injured my freshman year and everything kind of went downhill from there until about... well, junior/senior year timeframe?  At that point I couldn't leave anyways :)  But there were several times I thought about leaving during my first two years, but I'm glad I didn't.  I know I'm not the only one who felt that way, either.  If there's one thing you learn while at West Point, or in the Army in general when you are forced to do things that just suck/are uncomfortable, that everything that is miserable eventually comes to an end.  That year with zero freedom freshman year, yeah, that eventually came to end.  Then eventually I graduated.  Whenever I deploy, that will eventually come to an end too (only nine month deployments now - hooray!)  I would say more about that, but I don't want to put bad ideas into my mom's head :)

I think this rings true more so for people in the military than people who live civilian lives because a civilian can just quit their job if they want... There may be consequences (for example, not being able to find another job), but they have that option.  In the military... not so much.  And you don't have a choice in most of what you do.  But I know this is no surprise to anyone... either way, you are put into situations that are uncomfortable and you just have to deal with them.  Whether it's training and sleeping out in the rain, working twelve hour days without a day off, or merely not being able to take a "sick day" unless you are REALLY sick, you just learn to deal with it.  And then, eventually, you get a break.  And you appreciate the break more than someone who has the option to just leave.  See, so everything that sucks eventually ends AND you appreciate it so much more once it's over.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts I have had recently... Not really new thoughts I guess, but I remembered to write them down (doesn't usually happen) :)  Alas, it is now GRE study time before I go to sleep.  These four a.m. days are killing me!