Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Will Not Be Defeated!

One of my running mates sent me a text yesterday asking if I was up for a run that evening. I immediately responded that I was still sick and didn't think it was a good idea. On this same day, we got an e-mail from our Team In Training campaign manager updating us on the condition of our honored teammate Alyssa. An honored teammate isn't someone who necessarily runs or trains but someone we run for, someone to give us motivation, and remind us as to why we raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Alyssa, a 6 year-old-little girl who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2007 had recently undergone surgery to help correct seizures she was experiencing as a result of her medication. Thanks be to God, the e-mail said Alyssa was doing just fine. This e-mail also made me think, "Wow, a 6-year-old little girl just went through all of this and here I am worried about a run."

I text my running mate back and agreed to run. There I was 30 minutes later at her front door ready to hit the pavement for the first time in 23 days! I decided to treat myself and download the Nike+ GPS app to my I Phone for a little motivation. If you own an I Phone, this is an app I highly recommend!

Our run was great, chatted a bit and even though we had to stop a few times, it was still nice to be out there again. My body felt a bit heavy (I refuse to step on the scale but definitely feel it in my clothes...something I expected from not working out all this time.) Regardless, I have to admit, I still felt on top of the world...this feeling didn't last very long.

Day 2...R-U-S-T-Y! I did this run alone, inspired once again to use my cool new app only this time minus the cheers. I was at a good pace the first three-quarters of a mile but started to notice myself getting progressively slower and told myself to push through it...and then there it was...the walk break at about a mile and a half. All I kept thinking was, "I've done two half marathons before, I can push through 3 miles!"

I picked up the pace and kept going but hit another slump. Somewhere after mile 2 I fell hard but luckily I've retained my volleyball skills from high school. I did the old, tuck and roll and bounced right back up and kept going. Then, it started to sprinkle...really? It was just not my day was it?

I made it home a slow 3.4 miles later. I felt a bit defeated. How was I going to be marathon ready if a short 3.4 miles had me this down? To make matters worse, when I walked in the door, I noticed a small scuff on my hand. Within a matter of seconds, I remembered Alyssa and my cousin Sam who I just so happened to see today for a brief moment. These young ladies did not let cancer defeat them! I remembered Alyssa's big smile that was shared with us in a photo after surgery with God knows how many stitches across her head. I also remembered Sam and how her hair is slowly growing back. And that's the lesson we all need to carry with us in life. We cannot let something defeat us! We are stronger than we know. If all the Alyssa's and Sam's of this planet could give us just an ounce of their strength and courage, we'd push ourselves beyond unimaginable limits and conquer the world. Thanks for the inspiration ladies! LA Marathon...I will not be defeated!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Run, No Fun...

You know that old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”? Usually we use it to refer to something we either let go or something that somehow has escaped us. It can stir up memories of an old love, perhaps a car, or simply a time in our life that we recall and remember how good it felt to be there. For me, it’s running.

Friday afternoon, almost two weeks ago, I started to feel myself coming down with a cold. Sure enough, on the day of our very first Team in Training practice of the spring season, I woke up with an itchy throat and a burning sensation in my eyes. A couple days later, the itchy throat and burning eyes turned into a horrible cough that I just cannot seem to shake! For most people this would mean, “Woo hoo, I guess its chicken soup and lots of rest for me!” In my case it’s, “Ohmigosh we just started training!” (For first time readers, I am a mentor with Team in Training. This season, we are training for the Surf City Half in April and the LA Marathon in March. I am hoping to register for LA which will be my first full.) I didn’t think much of my cold at first since I figured I’d be over it no time; but as the days passed I really began to crave a run. I would even see others running and think to myself, “Wow, I wish I could be doing that right now!” Again, someone might ask, “How can you miss running?!”

Here it goes: I miss the strides on the pavement, the rush of the wind in my face, and the sense of accomplishment I get from having reached the end of my run. I miss exploring new places and the change of scenery in running outdoors. I miss running with other people and the encouragement along the way. I miss the fresh air, the challenge…I miss it all. I’m especially bummed because Shaun and I had just started running together and now we’re both sick.

The worst part of all is that I’m not burning the calories that I normally would, so needless to say, things are starting to feel a bit snug. And let me just interject by saying I am NOT one of those people who experiences a loss of appetite when they get sick. Since I can’t run after work, I find myself indulging in my other favorite hobby…baking which of course, I have to taste test. :)

All kidding aside, running is a great form of exercise; each mile burns a little more than 100 calories. I don’t just say this because it has become my preferred method of exercise. I say it because it really is our body working in its purest state without machines or weights. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the right attitude.

Seeing as though I felt I needed some form of exercise, I decided to join the team at a park in Signal Hill for our weekly, Tuesday evening core exercises. We focus on strengthening the core because when running, it is essentially your core and the motion of your legs pulling you through. So many muscles are being used, especially in the longer distance runs; you tend to really feel parts of your body you never felt before, unless you do strength training on a regular basis.

As I walked back to my car after the session, I figured I would engage in a light jog. Wow did I really miss this feeling…too bad being out in the cold made my cough worse and has caused my throat to feel sore again. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but don’t take your legs for granted. When I say this, I mean your health too. Those who have read my previous posts, you know that my dad has never walked. He doesn’t, nor will he ever know what it means to run. I can’t imagine someone taking that away from me or not knowing the experience of running at all. And now that I can’t run due to a cold, I realize how much I miss the simple act of running...but my baking skills are improving ;)

Butter Pecan Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Long Beach Half Marathon...A Humbling Experience!

The moment I crossed the finish line at the Disneyland Half Marathon, I knew it! I was hooked! I wanted to feel this moment again! I wanted to put myself through another arduous 13.1 miles just to feel that rush at the end. It’s an indescribable feeling that can only be summed up as moment of pure joy in an “OMG did I really just run 13 miles?!” type of way.

The next local event was the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon and Half. I knew I wasn’t in any way ready for a full so I decided to register for the half. With just seven weeks till this event, I figured I’d done all the training and all I really needed was to continue a short 3 to 5 miles during the week and I’d be good…WRONG!

Well they say everyone has a bad run and this was certainly mine. But let’s stray away from the negative here and talk about how great this event was. Having once called Long Beach my second home, I was super excited to be part of this #runLB as it was referred to on Twitter. I met so many great people from all the conversations surrounding this marathon. I found out about cute sparkly skirts from @teamsparkle—a must have for my next run! I also met a fellow Latina runner from South Pasadena, (where I work), @mami2audrey and had just found all-around great support from my running Tweeps. BTW you are all awesome! @Run2SaveLives, @TidbitsofTara, @RunnerLuis, @goingforgoofy, @EndurancePro...and the list go on! Thank you for your tips, encouragement, and advice along the way!

Saturday morning, I made my way to the expo for packet pick up via the metro which was a bit ummm…interesting to say the least. We got to the LB Convention Center where I made a beeline to the packet pick up, grabbed some Clifshots, an awesome Run Long Beach shirt, looked around a bit and left. On our way back to the train stop, we happened to meet the sweetest couple Marianne and Randy from Arizona. Randy had done numerous marathons over the years and his wife started joining him and running halfs. They were the most down to earth people who also happened to be foodies just like Shaun and I. “You have to try this place Gaffey’s in San Pedro,” they said. Shaun and I both looked at each other, “Gaffeys! We love that place!” What a small world! It also turned that Marianne was born in Downey, where Shaun and I are both from. We chatted till it was time for us to get off and left thinking what a pleasant pair those two were.

Race day was here and I felt more ready than ever. I wasn’t at all nervous this time which kind of worried me. My mom and stepdad refused to let me take the train as I’d done the day before at such an early hour. My stepdad dropped me off at 6:30 and said, “Please walk with other people so you’re not walking alone.” Yes, my parents still worry about me. You have to be grateful for that.

As I got closer to the start line, I thought I’d better get to a Port-o-potty just in case. On my way there, I ran into the friends we’d made the day before, Marianne and Randy! With so many people there and I had happened to spot them! We gave each other a big hug and wished each other luck. It was so good to see them…such positive energy!

I quickly proceeded to the start line and got stuck in corral 6. Oh well. I figured I’d make my way up while running; in my mind I was going to break my last PR. I was determined. Shaun had even given me a great incentive, 2:14:30 or under and he’d pay for my next marathon (almost four minutes under my last time). I was ready!

I happened to chat with a few people while we waited. The running community is just so great, full of really good vibes! I loved it. What seemed like hours had passed, and we were off! Mile one went by pretty fast or so I thought. The mile markers for the 5k were still out on the course which had caused a bit of confusion. Mile one was not as close as I thought. When I made my way to the real mile 1, I still felt good. As I got to the end of mile 3, I started to feel really weird. I felt like I had eaten or drank too much. I felt heavy and full. I knew this was not going to be a good run. Mile 4, 5, and 6 seemed like a blur. But every mile after that, I felt in my body and not in a good way. By mile 7 I was spent! If I could drop an EF bomb here, I would! I still have more than 6 miles to go!!!!!!!!!!!! Why is my body doing this? Did I eat wrong? Did I get overconfident in my running? Should I have done more long runs? What was happening!?!? I kept having to tell myself to suck it up! I felt my body just give out completely and there I was at mile 7, WALKING! I felt so disappointed. I wanted to just go home and not finish. Breaking my PR was definitely NOT going to happen.

This race was so different, nothing like my first time at all. The big difference this time, Team In Training. I felt so alone this time on the course. Sure there were people there cheering you on which was great but it just did not feel the same like having hundreds of people on the course sporting the same shirt, fighting for the same thing…to end cancer. I will never forget my first race with Team In Training-a truly memorable experience. Thank you...and GO TEAM!

I promised myself I would start running again by mile 8 and I did but I was still bothered by my run. It was horrible but I had to keep going. By mile 9 I was walking again but not for too long. I felt a pat on my back and someone asking, “Hey how are you doing?” It was a woman I had met at the start line. I was honest and told her that I was exhausted and that I’d done horrible. She said, “Don’t worry, at least you’re doing it and that’s all that matters.” Her words gave me a gust of energy and I was running again. Then I got to mile 10 and again still feeling drained. As I passes mile 10, I recall seeing an old woman in a wheelchair handing out water but she was not doing it alone. She was so worn down by her age, she could not hold her hand out. An old man stood beside her helping guide her arm (I assume her husband), extending it out to give to the runners. This moment was so picture-perfect and touching...there I was having my breakdown moment thinking how beautiful love is and all that it endures over time. For those of you who have run a marathon before, they say it is a really emotional experience. For some reason, this moment right here was where I felt it. I passed the couple and smiled as I ran.

The last half mile was the hardest. By the time I saw the finish line, I looked down at my watch in horrible disappointment. I was reaching the 2:30 mark…final time 2:30:58. I didn’t break my PR, nor did I make the time I promised myself I would. But, I learned a great lesson…here it is…IF YOU THINK RUNNING IS EASY, IT’S NOT SO NEVER TAKE YOUR LEGS FOR GRANTED, HIT THE PAVEMENT AND TRY HARDER NEXT TIME!!! When I run, I think of my dad and how he can't walk (struck by polio at age 2). It gives me the strength and motivation to know that I run just because I can, whereas there are others who can't. I love you dad!

After crossing the finish line, I walked over to get my medal. As lovely as it was, I was still disappointed. I beat myself up the next few days after but I’m done crying! Arizona Rock and Roll, you’re mine! Till then, I’m putting down those miles and chalking this up to a great humbling experience! In life and in running, we live, we learn, and move forward…one step at a time.

Oh and that couple I mentioned earlier, Marianne and Randy, hopefully we will get to see them again on our trip to Arizona. We've kept in touch since Long Beach. :)