Sunday, August 1, 2010

Training has expanded my life and knowledge in the following ways....and I have been forever changed

Well I feel as though I am about to stage an intervention on myself, I probably need one but don't judge me.   I am so addicted to exercise, the adrenaline rush from it is a huge perk but needless to say training has forever changed me.  Allow me to explain.

First and foremost, running has taught me especially over the last year that my body is capable of more than I had ever imagined.  It just takes a little time and patience (which I lack greatly in that department) to achieve the goal but it is in fact doable.  This first year of deciding that I would become a distance runner has been one of buckets of sweat, tears galore, sore legs, numerous blisters, economy sized packets of GU, gels and whatever ever else I have to gag down to just have the energy to proceed, ice baths and lets not forget the lovely black toenails.

I knew it would be difficult and I am no stranger to hard work, nor am I afraid of it.  I have learned over the past year that my mind starts to go before my body or legs.  My mind gets so tired that I literally scream at myself to keep going (not out loud), I tell myself repeatedly that I am being weak, that nothing is wrong with my legs to just keep going.  It works for me so that's how I keep going.  Another motivating factor is that running clears my mind, I run without music.  I get to take in all the views of my surroundings.  I have literally watched a  neighborhood being built.  Not only that but I also know every one's schedule for the sprinkler systems in the yards and yes I run through all of them, sometimes even through the yards.

I laugh as I have gotten new referrals at work and when the client comes in for the first time, they say that they have seen me running through their neighborhood.   It's always amazing to me that they all think I'm crazy for running so much but I just say I have a goal and hard work is the only way I'm going to get there.  A common response to that is that they have no doubt that I will.

A few other things that running has taught me is how to run off stress. It has saved my teenagers from being killed, not literally, on numerous occasions.  Listen I just say what I feel and what I know anyone who has teenagers have thought.  If the kids who think they are adults upset me, I tell them we cannot discuss this right now, I have to run.  I will be back in thirty minutes to two hours or when I calm down.  It works like a charm.  That way I can have a reasonable discussion without going off the deep end.  I'd much rather run than to say something I might regret.  Words can be more damaging than a full on punch in the face.  Trust me I know.

  I have learned that I have serious idiosyncrasies.  I run without music, music gets on my nerves when I run. It oddly enough crowds my thoughts and the head phones, although I know they really don't, constrict my neck and prevent me from moving my neck.  One day I almost threw it in the woods.   I do not like anything touching me when I run.  For a while I wasn't sure if I'd be able to wear my Garmin, but I have gotten used to it.   Clothes fitting properly is a must, nothing moving, nothing too lose or too tight.  I'm the Baby Bear, it has to be just right.

Running has also taught me that what is said on the road, stays on the road.  I started running with Lori almost a year ago.  In that year, she has become one of the best friends I have ever had.  She has crossed over into being considered part of our family.   This year has been filled with ups and downs in both our lives and I am truly grateful that she has been here to share them with me.

I have become a mathematician.  I can do fractions in my head now so fast to figure distance, splits, lengths of a pool, calculations of a mile. Funny how it starts to become second nature to figure distance of everything, really everything.  Sometimes Nik and I will be driving, we'll pass a mile marker and say that I ran that far today because it doesn't feel like it's that far.  I mean come on when you've run upwards twenty miles, ten miles becomes just ten miles.  Sometimes, Lori and I joke that the same roads we run seem longer when we drive them.  I know every road, the exact distance of each of them within a thirteen mile radius of our house.

I have learned that finishing the race as long as I have done my best is the most important thing.  I'm lying, I'm working on that but I always have a goal that I am trying to reach. I'm not real good about settling for anything.  I reach my goal and then I'm on to the next one, speedy quick.  Crossing the finish line though is one of the best feelings ever, true adrenaline rush and most addictive.

Nutrition wise, I have had to reprogram my thinking on food altogether.  Being a bodybuilder in the past, I didn't eat many carbohydrates, so many times I would bonk, or run out of energy, because of my lack of stored energy.  Sweet potatoes, honey, and peanut butter have become my staples of my diet.

I have a learned a new respect for the road too.  The last time I checked pedestrians have the right of way.  I have been swerved at, run off the road, name it, it has happened and those driving having been lovingly flipped off.  Now when I am driving my car, I slow down just in case there is a runner or cyclist on the road.

Swimming, I took up that a few months ago.  Call me crazy but oh well.  I am able bodied, nothing physically wrong with me, so why not.  I will start with the "why nots. "  Following is a mini list that was present in my mind oh for about a hot minute when I first started swimming.

  1.  I have not swam for twenty plus years and when I did it was nothing fancy. Just underwater, holding my breath the whole way, which by the way will not work when I am an endurance swimmer.  
  2. I have to get my face wet and my hair wet.
  3. I never, ever go without makeup, and this will be a problem when I have to get my face wet.
  4. I have to wear a swimsuit, horrifying, in front of a lot of people. I'm a very modest person.  
  5. I know precisely where I cannot touch the bottom of the pool so I'm not real encouraged by this fact either.
  6. I also have no clue at all what freestyle is, butterfly is and breast stroke. 
  7. I don' know how to put on a swim cap.
  8. Refer back to number two as the clincher.
So I march my little butt into the YMCA, sign up because there is a pool there and ask for someone to refer a swim coach to me.  That's how I met Joyce.

Our first phone conversation was interesting. I told her that I was interested in learning to swim because I was toying with the idea of doing, you guessed it, a triathlon and I needed her help to be able to do it.  I explained my goals and her response to me went a little something like this, well you know that is going to take a lot of work.  Well, all the eight things on my list were erased quickly and I responded quite snippy back and said, "You don't know who you are talking to, see you Monday!"

Well that conversation occurred a mere twelve weeks ago. I now have the ability to swim more than two miles efficiently and my longest swim has been three miles one day when I had some extra time to spend at the pool.  The first time I got into the water I could even make it twenty five meters without thinking I was going to die. Now I just shut my eyes, imagine that I am flying and swim while telling  myself I have all the time in the world.

Swimming has taught me that I have to pace myself, slowing down swimming has been the hardest thing to date other than the tediousness of the repetition of swimming laps.  I enjoy the time to myself.  I think a lot while I swim, just like running.

Enter cycling.  Well I have begun cycling, on a donated bike, a Trek 1000.  I have altered the bike to fit me and found some of the greatest bike gurus around, Tim and Henry at Summit Cycles.  The day I got the bike, I had to put down the top on my BMW and put it in the backseat.  I pull up into the cycle shop with my daughter Hannah.  I carried the bike inside and handed it over while saying do whatever needs to be done to fix this to fit me.  I knew enough that I wouldn't be able to ride it as is because the person who gave me the bike is 4'11" tall and I'm 5'6".  Never once did they talk down to me as I explained I had no clue about cycling, what I needed to do or even how to shift gears.

During all this time, Hannah is walking around the store, of course picking out things for me to get, cycling shorts and water bottles when Henry asked her if she did all the stuff her mom does.  She replied, "No sir, my mom is crazy."

Henry was kind enough to give me a three hour tutorial on changing my tire, shifting gears and all the other bits of information that he had to give.  He taught me how to break down my bike, what to expect while riding and  he was very encouraging.

The next trip to Summit Cycles was for cycling shoes and aero bars.  While Tim was installing pedals and aero bars, Nik who had come along with me this time was talking to Henry.  I was breaking in my cleats when I heard Henry tell Nik that I would fall trying to engage and dis engage my shoes from the pedals. (I am honestly one with my bike when I ride now, bahahaha, as Brittany would say.)  Nik just shrugged his shoulders at Henry.  We got into the truck and Nik says that Henry told me you would fall.  I said yeah probably so.  He said I'm not worried about you falling, I punch you in the face.  (Now nobody go and call the authorities, Nik is my sparring partner for Muay Thai so he's not abusive. He meant that I can take a punch, I can handle my knee or hand scraped.)

The most important way training has changed me is that it has taught me that I can fully depend on myself.  Mentally I am tougher than ever and I will push through whatever.  Long runs have become just another part of training and now I am actually doing a lot of them on my own, just me, the road and some Gatorade and a determination that will not quit.  Swimming has taught me that I can overcome any fear.  I remember the first time I swam a mile, Joyce didn't tell me what I had done until I finished.  I had only been swimming for five weeks.  That day I shared with her how scared I was of the water the first time I got in.  I have learned a respect for the water that I never had before.  I love to swim and it complements running so well.  It has transformed my body from being stiff as a board to having muscles that actually move.  Cycling is teaching to just keep pushing, it burns but to just go and keep going.

Yesterday I signed up for another full marathon, hopefully this one will not get snowed out.  I have signed up for a triathlon in the future, but that will not be disclosed until a later date...when I did finish filling out my registration form, I texted Nik and Lori and said that I had registered, now I am going to vomit.

The journey is long, it begins and ends with one stroke in the water, one stride and one revolution of the tire. It is rewarding to say the least for my own personal self. I compete against me, my times, my own personal goals.  It is exhilarating to see just how far I can push myself, the mind definitely quits before the body and overcoming it can be the most challenging part.

Triathlon updates to follow, I'll keep you posted.

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