Tag Archives: running

Bumbleflex is not enough

I have a complicated relationship with running.

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It’s not uncommon for people to look at me and think I’m a natural runner. I’ve got a moderately lean-ish build and long legs. Stumpy torso, alas, but that’s another story. My walking stride is long, purposeful, energetic. Somehow, though, running has never quite taken with me. Don’t get me wrong: my body likes it. I’ve never been slimmer than when I was running several times a week alongside my regular workouts. It’s just… we don’t mesh.

My first attempt to pursue running in its own right was in my sophomore year of high school. I signed up for the winter session of indoor track (read: running laps of the hallways). Not even a week in, I contracted mono and had to bow out. It’s as if my body knew; it was trying to warn me. “This is wrong! Go down. STAY DOWN.” Every so often I’d dive in again. Gave Couch-to-5-K several shots. Usually worked at too quick a pace, ensuring I’d gas out quickly even as I just tried to get it bloody well over with. Ran a few races. Hated hills. Hated wind. Loved rain, actually. Hated all the bits that jiggled with every footfall. Couldn’t distract myself with music or podcasts or audiobooks, because every single style of earbud is incompatible with my abnormally tiny earholes.

Still, I persisted. My crowning glory was training for a half-marathon. The race was in April, so I spent the four preceding months (in the dead of a very cold, gusty, and snowy NY winter) running outdoors four times a week. I never missed a run, and I never once dropped to a walk… until the day of the race. Two loops of Central Park kicked my ass. Still: got my medal, got my banana, got my bragging rights and the certainty that I never needed to do that again.

Not long after, I set my mind to running a minimum of a mile a day for a full month. Six days in, the pain hit. My right hip radiated agony with every step. I finished my run, stubbornly, gasping and sobbing. Despite orthotic insoles and treadmill testing and carefully selected shoes and gear, my body was not having it. So, we broke up, running and I. It was rough. I have a lot of friends who are in beautifully compatible relationships with running, and assure me I just need to give it a bit more time. A bit more acceptance. I desperately envy them their love, their joy, but realize it’s not for me.

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Still, every so often, I reconsider. “I’ll just run one race,” I think.

“I’ll work walk/run intervals.”

“Maybe trail running…”

I know it’s not the right fit, and yet I keep coming back. Hoping against hope that this time, we’ll find a way to make it work. And yes, I’ve been fitted for custom orthotic insoles. I’ve been matched to my (apparently) perfect shoes. I’ve stretched and taken fish oil and watched inspirational videos (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli running after abducted hobbits totally counts). We are simply not right for one another.

And yet… I am taking part in a 40 day fitness challenge, which coincides nicely as I try to get myself in shape for a physically demanding summer. I’ve got significant weight to shed and serious strength to build. Against all of my history, all of the evidence, all of my angst, I have determined to add three runs  week to my regime. I know, I know. It’s never been good. Nothing has really changed.

And yet… maybe this time will be different.

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And yet… if nothing else, there are cows.

Hard Cider Run: complete!

A couple of days ago, I posted about the forthcoming Hard Cider Run, a 5k through the orchards and fields of a local winery. I expected it would be a bit of a slog.  ‘A bit,’ I wrote. Ha. Hahahahaha!

I seriously underestimated the terrain. More on that later. This tale shall be told in order!

Race day, I chugged my warm lemon water, followed shortly thereafter by a protein shake with almond butter and cinnamon (because: delicious). Tried to quash my usual instincts of arriving far too early, but since I had no idea what to expect parking/attendance wise, my sweetie and I split the difference. Good thing, too. The lots filled up quickly; I later found out there were just shy of 1,000 participants, many of whom were delayed by the traffic funneling into the tiny back road leading to the venue. My race buddy had beat me there, and was waiting at the (then) deserted packet pick-up.

As this was an inaugural event, there were certain hiccups, but everyone was friendly and as helpful as they could be. We killed time until the 10:00 start by petting many adorable dogs and waiting in a painfully slow-moving line for the port-a-potties. Cellular signal was spotty; my RunKeeper app was most displeased.

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As everyone moved toward the finish line, my race buddy and I snapped a quick shot:

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Look how happy we were. How hopeful. That was before…

Without any official announcement, an air horn blasted and we were off. The first quarter mile was uphill, because joy is for suckers. After that, we turned into the first orchard – a fairly flat and unassuming switchback, save for the tufts of grass and hidden deadfall. I saw one girl go down, though she sprang back up and seemed unharmed. Next came a level but deeply rutted tractor path* that led to a lovely downhill slope on the outskirts of a field. Of course, the far side saw us running back up once more, and by ‘us’ I mean those mightier than I. After that initial valiant effort, I walked every uphill stretch. Briskly, but still .

More fields, more paths. Serious humidity. Insane amounts of pollen**. Cloud cover, thankfully, until near the end. So much sweat. So much adjusting for footfall, for balance. Finally, I was guided to the right, and assured, “It’s the last orchard!” I could hear the music in the not-so-far distance. Final push. I lengthened my stride on the downhill. Strode with purpose up the next row. And again. And again. Bumped into, in spite of the huge number of runners, a friend and fellow fitness coach. Without hesitation, she cheered me on. I returned the favor. She ran steadily. I flailed along. The music was louder. I could hear cheering. This was it! 

Only it wasn’t. There was one more freaking uphill.

A course of lies and false hope. Pretty, though!

A course of lies and false hope. Pretty, though!

I tried to run it. Couldn’t. Gritted my teeth, turned the corner to the last decline, and found a tiny bit of energy to finish with the facade of strength and cheer. My sweetie was waiting and snapped a pic of me crossing the line with arms raised, a big smile on my face. I got my medal, I got my banana, I got a sip of the black currant cider my boyo had been sipping to pass the time (apparently, the majority of the support crew waiting for runners were spouses/significant others/buddies. The bar, wisely, was opened at the race’s start).

After that, I met up with my race buddy and we waited in a thoroughly ridiculous line for our hard-earned hard cider. The organizers kept it moving best they could; there were just so. many. people. Chanced upon another friend who we’d known was coming, but was a victim of the traffic and thus had a delayed race start. There was an air of geniality, and certainly of delight that the race was done, but much discussion of the difficulty of the course. In the handful of races I’ve done, there’s usually some sense of victory when you cross the finish line. Smiles, cheers, congratulations. Here, there was a lot of, “that was terrible!”

And it was. It was freakin’ beastly. I was heartened to hear this from much more seasoned runners; meant I wasn’t as much of a wuss as I suspected. Was initially bummed that, according to my phone app, my pace significantly slower than my usual 5k time.

(Side note: I make the mistake of judging myself against my runner friends, those who love it and/or are dedicated to putting the time in. It’s always a bit of a trial for me.) iamnotfast
The final result: 33:10, about 10:45 min/mile. Considering how much time I spent simply staying upright? I’ll take it.

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Would I do it again? Sure, now that I know what to expect. There was good bling (t shirt, temporary tattoo, medal, commemorative glass, free hard cider), and the winery grounds are lovely. We sat in the shade to rest our creaky quads and marvel over what we’d done. I may not like running, but I do rather enjoy races. It was nice to be there with friends and gratifying to have the support of my always wonderful sweetie. Amazing how that’ll get you through.

That, and battle braids.

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*that was the terrain for the entire course: rutted tractor path and tufted orchard grass, save for the bits that were hard packed dirt and loose gravel. I should’ve expected this, but somehow it was worse than I’d imagined. In any case, I’d signed a waiver. Suck it up, buttercup. 

**in an orchard? in spring? the devil you say!

Back in November, I blogged about my dislike of running. Because I am a stubborn and contrary creature, I’ve sporadically attempted to convince myself otherwise: running is great! Look how many people enjoy it! See how effortless they make it look! I could be that person!

Results were not positive.

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In spite of that, I signed up for a 5k in March which, alas, I was not able to attend. In spite of that, I signed up for another 5k: the Hard Cider Run. I reckoned I was more likely to actually attend this race because 1. it’s local, 2. part of the post-race swag is alcohol, and 3. since the course is completely off road (meandering through the orchard and surrounding trails), I can be forgiven for slowing to a walk and an abysmal finish time. Safety, you guys.

Apparently it's extremely hilly. Great.

It may be uneven terrain, but at least it’s also ridiculously hilly.

Once I’d registered, I mustered my determination. Three runs, a week, two-three miles a pop. No big deal. Just enough to get back into some sort of condition, to tweak my endurance. By the way, I signed up on April 22nd. The race is tomorrow, May 9th. That’s just over two weeks, y’all, and life gets in the way. I’ve been taking extra kickboxing classes, and I’ve upped my strength sessions, and I’m doing more HIIT, and I have to enforce one full rest day. Also, funny thing: turns out I still don’t like running. At all. I’m happy to find any reason not to do it (see the beginning of this paragraph). But really, this was becoming ridiculous. I had a 3.2 mile race ahead of me and I’d not run so much as a step. Yesterday (May 7th), I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the nearby pasture/boardwalk section of the AT for a little walk/run interval work. Yup. One session of sort-of running two days before the race. Sound training plan.

If I must run, this is an acceptable view.

If I must run, this is an acceptable view.

Look, I know it’s going to be a slog tomorrow. I’m going to be surrounded by people who actually devote time to their running, who enjoy the process, who are stronger and fitter and slimmer and better and actual athletes. For me, though, it’s not about the competition. It’s about being out in the spring sunshine at a beautiful winery, enjoying the company of my friends, finishing the course (albeit slowly) without embarrassing injury, and, savoring that cool, apple-y reward*.

I make no promises I won’t go Full Dwyer afterward.
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*in a commemorative glass, no less. SWAG!