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Running Shoes: BEFORE

So here’s the thing. 

I had this whole post planned with the title:  You Don’t Expect Me to Run Up THAT, Do You?  And the post was about the Wild Wild Wilderness Run hosted by the Kennekuk Road (and must.not.forget.the.TRAIL) Runners a couple months ago. 

That trail featured 7.55 miles of pure running torture.  (So terrible that I plan on running it again in the arctic weather we surely can expect during the Sibearn Express on January 2, 2010.)  Seriously, though.  It was terrible.  There was a nearly vertical hill that only mountain goats or really nimble deer should ever be expected to climb, one that hugged an earth wall and where a single step to the left would leave a person pummeling hundreds of yards to their demise in a thornbush-infested ravine.  There were three or four miles of challenging, but bearable terrain that initiated the uninitiated WWW trail runner.  Then (surprise, newbie!) the turn-off to the hill-from-hell.  Only to be followed by three or four miles more  of Really. Hard. Trail Running. 

Now, I love running hills.  But these weren’t people-hills.  They were animal-only hills.  And those super-runners who could just prance up them with ease–well, I’m astounded by those people.  They need a special category of fitness just for them.

As for me, I was so proud of Finishing Without Dying that I floated along on that experience for quite some time.  It mattered very little to me that I was near the Very End of the pack.  I was thrilled beyond words to have finished on my feet instead of a stretcher.

So that was the essence of the post I was going to write.  Because that was the craziest trail I’d run so far.  Until today.

Today I was introduced, quite accidentally, to the Backpack Trail at Forest Glen.  I personally believe they call this the Backpack Trail because most normal humans would need to bring camping supplies (or at least a meal!) in order to traverse the sucker, because it takes SO LONG and is SO HARD to finish this monster of a trail.

Now the introduction to the trail was only partially accidental, I confess.  Because I planned to do the 4.5 mile trail.  You know, the “this-11-mile-trail-intimidates-me-so-I-want-a-shorter-version-of-the-Backpack-Trail” trail.  What I did NOT plan to do was the 11 mile version of the Backpack Trail. 

Had I completed the 4.5 mile version, I’d still have had plenty of material to share with you, believe-you-me.  But the fact that just one teensy-weensy turn to the left rather than the right had us move our bodies over 11 miles of terrain instead of 4.5 miles is just plain wicked.  Indeed, we made the left vs. right decision because some Very Helpful (sadistic) Campers advised us that everyone had headed toward the left.  Thank you campers. 

What followed was an adventure that my two running buddies and I certainly had not anticipated.  We were told that we’d be heading over a creek.  Indeed, we headed over multiple creeks.  “Creek” is a highly subjective term, apparently.  I’m thinking, it’s a little thing you can hop over.  Nope.  It’s several big things that, even if you don’t fall off the slippery rocks that pose as steps across the current, you’re going to be wading in the water at least up to your ankles.  (Before you Florida readers think me a wimp, now, please remember that it was 33 degress when I got in the car to drive to this adventure!). 

And there were hills.  So many hills.  This trail wasn’t playing.  And let’s not forget that it’s been raining for, like, 952 days straight here in Central Illinois, so it was Mud City everywhere we went.  Read that:  No Traction.  Slip-N-Slides are fun when you’re eight and in your front yard with your neighbor buddies.  When you’re 43 years-old and trying to find footing climbing up a Monster Mud Hill, there are few humans that would call the exercise fun. 

Indeed, as we got to the bottom of our 382nd hill (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) we stopped thinking, “surely this is the last big hill we have to deal with” and started thinking, “surely this stinking trail has to end at some point.” 

Who knew that any trail, anywhere in the known universe could have So Many Gigantic Up’s and Gigantic Downs?  One after the other.  (Of course, happily interspersed with flowing creeks throughout.)

And the downhills.  I believe they were even worse than the uphills.  I’d always had the strategy of running on the downhills whenever possible.  It’s just that it was Very Rarely possible on this Sadist Trail.  The first bad boy that we faced, I remember clearly thinking that we’d taken a wrong turn.  People aren’t supposed to go straight down hills that steep with NO earth on either side.  Just a little mountain goat path straight down with an occasional tree mercifully situated for holding-on-for-dear-life on the downward descent.  I remember thinking after that first hill that the worst was behind us.  HA HA HA HA HA.  No.

All three of us in our brave little what-in-the-blazes-are-we-doing-out-here-without-a-GPS-or-a-cell-phone party fell nicely on our touckases at least once during the adventure.  We kept a good eye-out for each other and never got too far apart while out there.   We learned the difference between a shriek of  “Woo Hoo!” (“We’re awesome!  Look what we’re doing!”) and a shriek of “Woo Hoo!” (“Heaven help me, I’ve just fallen into the biggest mud pit in a five state region!”).  We learned the difference between this-hurts and this-sucks-but-let’s-keep-going-because-we-still-have-daylight.  And we most certainly learned to love the signs with the little red arrows and how to look for the red splotches on lots of trees. 

Most of all, we learned that there was more within us than any of us bargained for when we set out to Forest Glen for a little run one cold Saturday morning in November.  We learned we could do it.  At least for me, I surprised myself that I could do it.  And any one of us could have gone the 13.1 half marathon distance–so we learned that we were able to do that too!  I had another chance to give one something that had intimidated me a beat-down.  And we were blessed with the commraderie, the friendship, that comes from battling those stinking hills and creeks and elements together. 

Overall, it certainly was a day worth having.  Maybe even a day worth repeating.  A great adventure by some unlikely adventurerers.  And a great achievement by some tough-as-nails women who, though total newbies, were ready and willing to give it our all.  And we did. 

Three other Very Important Points: 

1.  Hats off to the Kennekuk Road (and Trail) Runners who gave every one of us a round of applause as we staggered off the trail.  These Super Runners had been done for well over an hour, but were still glad to cheer on the lost-little-newbies that somehow finished that 11 mile beast without dying! 

2.  My trail shoes are now officially trail shoes.  Here’s the after picture: 

Shoes: AFTER

3.  WW Activity Points mean I can EAT after today.  Yes!

4.  I’m certain I’ve forgot to mention much more than what’s been said here already.  I’m sure you’ll get more tidbits as the days and weeks move on…

For now, here’s proof of the mud: 

Muddy!

And proof of the buds:

We Made It!

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***UPDATED at 3:25 PM CST***Scroll to bottom for Update***

 

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Photo Credit

At some point in this running drama, I began to think that it might make a difference if my muscles actually were stronger.  That this difference might help me move along with more speed and efficiency. This is the kind of the difference between a cheetah and a walrus.  Walrus’s move, they just carry around a lot of extra, well, blubber.  So I figured, the more muscle, the less blubber.  And the more cheetah-like my running would eventually become. 

Nearly every training program recommends some form of strength or resistance training.  Actually, every program I’ve seen recommends this, however, I am still holding out hope that I may one day come across a program that can provide the strengthening results without the nasty resistance training. (This is the same part of me that hopes that money someday will grow on trees and the laundry someday will get up and do itself, mind you.)

Some people love weight training or resistance bands or sit-ups.  I am not one of these people.  But I have yet to find a short cut, and at some point I began to look for exercises that would help me be stronger, thereby making my runs more efficient and enjoyable (and less walrus-ish). 

A short while into my research, my friends Chris and Shelly were talking about this thing called The Plank.  Sounded like it belonged on a pirate ship with damsels in distress and sharks (as in “walk the _____”).  Since I prefer swimming only to drowning, this Plank thing really started out with some bad mental imagery for me. 

As it turns out, The Plank had nothing to do with water or pirates at all.  Chris explained that it was part of Pilates, which sounded like some kind of pastry to me, so I was getting pretty excited about the prospects at this point.  Sadly, Chris sent me an email with a link to a Plank video, and my hopes of abs-of-steel-through-pastry-eating were dashed.

I did try to find the Actual Video that Chris sent to me, but I’m sure that somehow I accidentally-on purpose deleted it.  Oopsie!  In any case, I’ve found another video that can share the joy of Plankdom with you:

Now this was pretty much consistent with the video that Helpful Chris sent to me.  Didn’t look too hard.  Not at all.  Easy-peasy.

What they didn’t show was the New Plankster.  The Plankster whose arms shook, whose sweat dripped of her forehead in buckets, whose stomach and fanny muscles wailed in pain.  And this was all after holding the position for a grand total of about four seconds. 

Now the exercise worked.  It was very fast and effective.  Which of course, explains exactly why I stopped doing it and resigned myself to more of a walrusy kind of running experience.  (Not really, but there’s no legitimate explanation at all, so I just made up a Ridiculous Response instead.) 

But things have changed now, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to venture back to Plankdom and pick up where I left off. 

Since I’m actually going to Run A Marathon (there, I said it again!), I’m going to need all the cooperation from my body that I can get.  That includes my stomach, back and fanny muscles, which are now officially on notice that it’s time to get with the program. 

I predict The Plank Experiment will be a success.  And, other than unsightly character flaw of wanting to slap the woman in the video who can do the stinking exercise without so much as breaking a sweat, I’m sure that the effects of The Plank will be well worth the effort. 

And everyone will be happy.  Except perhaps for the walrus.  Who, quite frankly, can go plank itself.

[UPDATE:]

This just in.  An Actual Conversation heard in the Smith household today:

Helpful Husband (HH):  Great post, honey.  Are you, um, actually going to, um, start DOING that now?

Me:  (With a just a hint of sarcasm, flavored with my best June Cleaver tone) As opposed to what?  The way I’ve already been cooking up all those tasty recipes that everybody’s sent in? 

(Fact:  Haven’t even been to the grocery store yet.)

HH:  Oh, yeah.  Well, never mind. 

Determined to not have my hypocrisy underscored in my own household, I actually got down on the floor and did The Stupid Plank.  For 10 seconds.  Human seconds–not Violet the Cute Little Exercise Sadist Extra Long Seconds. 

And here’s what I’ve discovered:  when the stinky dog has been laying on your carpeting, right where you choose to do The Plank, it becomes So Much Easier to refrain from collapsing your exhausted body to the floor with your face in the carpet. 

The Moral of the Story:  There is something worse than The Plank.  It’s The-Plank-Over-Stinky-Dog-Carpet. 

The End.

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In case you didn’t catch this last Friday, I am training for a marathon, so once a week I go on a long run.  Each Friday I’ll post my predictions and results here, so you’ll get that feeling of running with me.  

I thought for a moment of posting the results of my weight loss adventure on Fridays as well, assisted by your awesome recipe entries in The Contest, but then another thought occurred to me:  I actually have to COOK those yummy things.  I won’t actually get healthier and lose any weight by just reading the recipes and wishing.  Oops.  Well, that will be an adventure for next week and surely, I’ll post about it. 

But I digress.  Back to Long Run Friday.

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Photo Credit

THE PLAN:  9 mile run today.  In my cold-weather trail shoes. Assuming it’s cold enough.  (Have I mentioned I love running in cold weather?) 

PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course.

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive.

[UPDATE]:

I had a great 9.5 mile run cold, but gorgeous-weather today. 

I had a few obstacles, most self-imposed, that caused it to be a little tougher than it needed to be, however.  Like, I ate meat last night and I’d already learned the hard way NEVER to eat meat within 24 hours of a long run.  I’ll save the details of how I came to that knowledge in a different post, but suffice it to say, once I thought through the potential impact that my dinner would have on this morning’s run, I called my mom, whose home is at about the halfway point, and asked her to leave her door open in case I needed to stop and potty at the halfway house.  (I did.)

I ran in trail shoes, because of the cold and because I really wanted to try them.  Note to self:  trail shoes belong on the trail.  Or in the snow.  Or in the rain.  They’re heavier and don’t breathe as easily, so the experience wasn’t quite as awesome as it will be in more extreme conditions.  I’m excited to try them in the snow!

I also tried new water bottles and wore gloves today for the first time.  Definitely too many firsts to even be able to discern what accounted for my slower time.   But really, these were my biggest problems, so I am definitely NOT complaining.

Still, I was pleased with myself for getting out there and doing it.  I ran the full distance and only stopped for a very brief time at the above-mentioned Mom’s halfway house. I even took time to stretch afterward!   The first time I ran the 9-mile distance, my knees rebelled and I had a hard time walking for weeks.  Today, I’ve managed to recover reasonably well without the need for ibuprophin!  We’ll see how things continue as the mileage ticks on.  (I’m sure I’ll yield to the ibuprophin later–I do need to be able to move tomorrow!)

Oh, and I have a BIG announcement to make.  It’s super-big for me.  BUT I’m going to wait and make it later this weekend.  (Do you feel the suspense building?)  Stay tuned!

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Last May when I started “running” I truly did not know what I was getting myself into.  I had zero gear, except for one pair of fairly old running shoes that I believed to be the right size (I later found that belief was completely false).  I walked my first 5K in an old-ish pair of Nike sweatpants, a comfy cotton tee-shirt, my old shoes and a 8 year-old running bra.  Thankfully, the weather was fairly forgiving and since my pace was mega-slow, I didn’t experience any of the grave issues that can come from having inadequate gear.  

Now, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to participate in this sport, but there are some essential items.  But how do you know what’s essential and what’s a scam?  Thanks to my friend Shelly, and her awesome coaches at Team In Training, I learned quickly what was important.  (Check out the post about Chub Rub, for one example of these timely truths.)

Shelly gave me hints about the right kind of shoes, how I’d have to actually eat and drink during long runs, the importance of a good running bra, which socks rocked and why, and the difference between cotton (bad) and wicking fabrics (good) in running gear.  These are things that were completely off my radar.  Completely.  If I hadn’t had her advice, I surely would have quit this exercise experiment early in a blithering, whining mass of blisters and chaffed skin and dehydration. 

So, in the interest of good sportsmanship, I’ll share the tips and tidbits about gear here for anyone else who might be wanting to get started and wondering what they’re going to need. 

Please note that the information certainly will NOT be given in order of importance.  Rather, it will be given in the order that it happens to randomly cross my mind when I sit down to the computer.  That’s just how I roll.  The Chub Rub post started us off and this Mystery Gear Item will be just as random.

Cotton is evil in running-land, because although it washes up easily, it holds moisture and encourages chaffing.  Even if you’re a skinny-minny, you still will have body parts that touch when you run (assuming you have toes), so this does apply to you.  For those of you who are not skinny-minny, well, this becomes even more important. 

With cotton, sweat=wet+rubbing=ouch!  So, some incredibly smart entreprenural-type person decided to create a textile that would actually wick moisture away from the athlete’s body and hold that moisture away from the person, on the outside of the clothing.  This is my best way of describing what happens with these fabrics. 

Wicking fabrics or technical fabrics, as they’re called, are common for athletes today.  But when I decided to engage midlife as an adult-onset athlete (credit: John Bingham for this incredibly descriptive term), I’d never heard of the stuff.  Truly, my running days of old had been pre-technical fabric. 

I asked my friend Shelly if the stuff really worked or if it was just some stupid marketing scam, fully expecting to get the all-clear to continue to wear my 15 year-old tee-shirts.  To my surprise, she related that the stuff really did work and made a huge difference.

I was glad to discover that the technical fabric gear wasn’t hard to find, but not enthusiastic that it took some extra effort in the “care” department.  Apparently, these fabrics can’t be laundered with fabric softener, which means (in my world):  Separate Loads of Laundry For All Running Gear.  I indulged in a few pieces, figuring that if the stuff worked, it would be worth the hassle. 

And amazingly, it DID work.  Not just somewhat, but Amazingly.  Shelly was right and I was glad I’d listened to her. 

And who knew that so many things could come in technical fabrics:  everything from outerwear to underwear.  (No, I most certainly do not own every permutation of the stuff…I’m a rookie, remember!) 

When I was at the VA Beach Half Marathon, I discovered a great store at the expo.  Lots of Experienced Runners will be familiar with this company, but I wasn’t and spent a lot of time laughing at the things I saw there.  I’ve included some of my favorite slogans that were on their technical shirts, for your amusement.  (Too bad I don’t get a referral for sending you to them!  😉  )

The company:  One More Mile Running Apparel

What I bought/spent:  More Than I’m Willing to Admit (My husband reads this blog, for heaven’s sake!)

Some of my favorites, complete with links to the site:

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Mine is in light purple.  I LOVE it.  I’m even sweating in it in my Facebook profile!  Here’s the link to the site so you can get your own: http://www.onemoremilerunning.com/long-sleeve/one-bad-mother-runner-long-sleeve/prod_665.html

 

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Okay, so the back of this shirt reads:  RACE OFFICIAL.  DO NOT PASS.  I thought this was downright hilarious.  The link:  http://www.onemoremilerunning.com/long-sleeve/seemed-like-a-good-idea-long-sleeve/prod_336.html

 

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If Found On Ground, Please Drag Across Finish Line.  I was so tempted to buy this, but didn’t want it to be some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, so I just giggle at it online now and then.http://www.onemoremilerunning.com/long-sleeve/if-found-on-ground-long-sleeve/prod_636.html

 

Oh, there are so many more, but the point, of course, is that fun and functional can intersect into some pretty incredible gear that does some pretty incredible things for you.  Having the right shirts has helped me to stay cool when it’s warm and stay warm when it’s cold.  And it’s helped me keep a positive attitude, a useful perspective, and a good sense of humor, which can’t be bought online or off the shelf, but, I’ve learned, is some of the most important stuff to take on a run. 

Thanks Shelly.  😀

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I am training for a marathon (THERE, I said it), so once a week I must go on a looong run.  I figure I’ll post my predictions and results here, so it’s kinda like you’ll get to go running with me.  Minus the sweat.  And the sore muscles.  And the chub rub.  And the blisters.  And the many other delightful running benefits, of course. 

Onward:

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Photo Credit

THE PLAN:  8-mile run today. 

THE PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course.

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive.

[UPDATE]:

Beautiful 8.4 mile run.  I felt good most of the way, only got a little tired around mile 7.  Sunshiny and cool.  Great running weather. 

Was able to run the whole way, though it’s frustrating to see my time after following my training schedule which demands that long runs be slow and easy.  Can’t seem to stop looking at my watch.  Kinda like the scale.  I guess I’m a numbers girl.  My pace was a 12.77 minute mile, which wasn’t bad considering it’s the farthest I’ve run since VA Beach on Labor Day weekend. 

My back is still hurting from my injury two weeks ago, which is frustrating, but the soreness does cause me to stretch and stretch and stretch, which I know is good for me.  I’m usually not very good about stretching–too busy and on to the next thing.  For now it’s a have-to, so that’s a silver lining with the back pain thing.  And, thank goodness for my Top Secret Crosstraining Workout, because that’s kept me more limber as well. 

Challenging to figure out what to wear and carry on days like today.  The temp was 41 when I started out and 57 when I got back.  These temperatures ideally call for different kinds of gear, but I stayed with my tried and true (but hideous) compression pants and shorts and a long sleeve T (neon green, so cars will be able to see me to avoid hitting me~a nice touch). 

There.  More running detail than you ever wanted to know about me.  As always, I’m glad I did it and I’ll be swimming along in these endorphins for quite a while yet today!  🙂

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This quote is on my bathroom mirror.  I heard it playing over and over again at mile 12 in Virginia Beach when my legs screamed at me to walk and I willed them to run.  I hear it when I want to quit, when I refuse to quit, when I WILL NOT QUIT.

Nobody is hurt.  Hurt is in the mind.  If you can walk, you can run.”

Thank you Coach Lombardi.

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