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I have the perfect melancholy disposition to be a great author. If I did not have a husband, children, or God, I could perfectly imagine myself drinking too much coffee by day, drinking too much wine by night, and spewing forth a constant stream of cigarette smoke as I created dreary literary masterpieces.
The most I can muster is pummeling myself with introspection.
When my world is sunny, I am the best athlete the world has ever seen. When there are clouds, I am an average nobody, pretending to do something great.
I have been marathon training since March, and now my knee is giving me trouble. With only 4 weeks left before race day, there might be time to heal and still complete the marathon. I can either give in to the overwhelming sense that everything I try will fail, or I can fight my way out and hope for the best.
Fighting, in this case, includes cutting back mileage. I have to add strength training and more stretching. It will be difficult, and time-consuming, but it has to be done if I want to run the marathon.
Normally when I’m in the doldrums, I don’t blog. I don’t like throwing pebbles into the glassy surface people think is my life. I also like to keep the blog solely about running, and leave my moods out of it. But running cannot be compartmentalized. When I am feeling down, my running is affected; and when I fail to meet my running goals, my life is somehow tainted.
No matter how pleasant it may seem at times, life is unrelenting. It is a kitchen, constantly in need of cleaning, lest the mold build up in the dark places. I struggle to keep up with it.
I should be running 18 miles now on my long runs. I’ve barely completed 15, which makes me seriously wonder why I’m doing all this. It would be so very easy to give up.
I’m sure I could psychoanalyze the reasons why I want to train for and complete the marathon, but it is enough to say, this crazy race is a challenge I face, and I desperately want to make the cut.
I am not strong, brave, or faithful. I cannot create these qualities through running, no matter how many miles I log. My wretched shell can only be filled with strength, courage, and faithfulness if God wills it. My prayer is He gives me enough to complete the 26.2 miles in July.
Miles: Thursday 0, Friday went to the zoo & stayed up late, Saturday 12, Sunday slept most of the day, Monday…TBA
Miles Projected: I have no idea. I’m balancing on the narrow ridgeline of panic.
Failures: My 12 miles on Saturday was supposed to be 18. But my knee was hurting badly, and it was extremely hot outside (both great excuses to quit). It was a bad idea to run and was probably more mentally damaging than anything.
Successes: I am determined to do an 18-miler this week.
My permanent medical record clearly states something I have suspected for years: Mrs. Keri S. Wellman has fat thighs.
The doctor was not quite that blunt. However, the diagnosis of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome basically means I need to replace the flab on my thighs with actual muscle.
I’m in unmapped territory here.
About mile eleven on Sunday, my right knee began to ache. I stopped and stretched. By mile twelve I was popping Ibuprofen. I walked a good portion of mile thirteen. During mile fourteen, I tried willing myself into an out-of-body experience. It was mentally counter-productive, since the Grim Reaper, who is often involved in such things, is not the most inspirational running companion. I was elated to reach mile fifteen without the help of paramedics.
Ten minutes after my run, my knee felt fine. It occurred to me that perhaps subconsciously I was creating pain as an excuse to not perform well. Because as we all know, when you are slow, it is better to be hobbled than lazy.
The doctor assured me I’m not that psychotic. I’m just flabby.
So, it’s time for some strength training for me. I also foresee many squats in my future, which do not include picking up stray M&Ms from the floor.
This could be my chance to change history: medical history, that is.
The next four weeks will be a battle between Lazy Keri and Someother Keri. Lazy Keri may not come out of this alive. Frankly, it’s hard to do away with someone I’ve been so comfortable with for so many years.
Yet, the fact remains: Lazy Keri cannot successfully train for a marathon. Someother Keri must take her place.
I just hope she’s strong enough to win.
Miles: Sunday 15, Monday 0, Tuesday 2, Wednesday 6
Miles projected: the goal is to have an 18 mile run this weekend. I’ll keep the rescue team on speed dial.
Weather: it was perfect for my long run on Sunday: cool, and overcast with sprinkles. It amazes me whenever I call that type of weather “perfect.” The forecast is for sunshine & warmth—70s & 80s.
Terrain: for the 15 miler, I went all the way around a big lake we have here in Franconia. It was partly forested, had a moments of elevation, and lovely little beaches. The path changed from pavement to rock at times. It also split off between pedestrians and bicycles, so there was no fear of being run over. A fantastic running trail.
Wildlife: the usual deer, rabbits, and birds. However, the Brombachsee trail had areas containing wild boar. These big, fuzzy pigs were begging food from passersby at the fence.
The way to a woman’s heart is through her running gear.
Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but it’s pretty darn close.
“I’m looking at racks and racks of running gear,” said the voice on the phone. “What do you need?”
My heart fluttered. After sixteen years of marriage, the spark is still alive.
My husband was calling from a huge, American-style shopping mall on one of the military installations a few hours from here. When you have lived in Germany for four years, you come to appreciate the very places you consider the bane of American culture.
Not only did my husband pick up three running outfits, the perfect hat, and the perfect socks; he also found the Oakleys I’ve had in my shopping cart for three weeks on Altrec.com. There was only one pair left in white–the shop clerk had to get them from the back.
I should make this clear: love cannot be purchased. Nor can it be returned with the receipt, even if in the original packaging.
Love is patient. Love is kind. But love is also a man who will buy coral-colored running shorts for his wife.
That is love in action.
I went for a six-mile run today geared up like a superstar. No doubt, the village children will soon be asking me to demonstrate my Nathan hydration pack. My landlady will nod in approval as she notes my ”Supernova” running shirt (as Germans know Adidas is superior to Nike). I’ll look at all of them sweetly through my Oakley Flak Jacket XLJs and smile as I scrawl my autograph on a PowerBar Gel pack.
Or, maybe they’ll stare at me as if I should be institutionalized.
It matters not.
While the new running gear makes me feel like an elite athlete, rather than a middle-aged housewife, I am happier knowing my husband and children support this endeavor.
After all, if they weren’t behind me, I would trip over the starting line.
Miles: Thursday 4, Friday 6
Miles forecast: 16 on Sunday, heaven help me.
Weather: rain. sun. rain. it’s still too cool to be summer.
Terrain: sometimes I do the treadmill to remind myself why I should run outside–rain or shine. Thursday t-mill inspired me to run outside today. I was rewarded with a parting of the clouds for my Roller Coaster Plus run. I even got to wear the Oakleys:)
“If you have so much energy, come and help me hoe this field!” The farmer’s white cap shook as he laughed. I smiled and politely called out, “Nein, danke.”
One minute people are cheering for you as you cross the finish line, the next you are joke fodder for farmers.
It is back to the world of dirt and mops and scrubby brushes. It is back to being teacher, nurse, cook, diplomat, judge, jury, and cleaning lady. It is back to carving out time for training. Yet, no matter how weary I get hearing cries of “Mama!” while I’m in the bathroom, I wouldn’t trade this life for any of the glitz, glam, or bling of this world.
Life is not always a breezy downhill slope. Sometimes you fight against the wind.
It takes patience to wait for a six year-old to tie her shoes when you should be on the road already. It takes a calm mom to hear all sides of a story. It takes an energetic mom to clean the house. Running helps me achieve these things.
Because of the half-marathon, I have learned by simply shifting my weight forward a bit, I can run faster and more efficiently. It is a little harder, but the more I run this way, the easier it will become.
After all, maintaining comfort is not always best. Taking chances, working hard, and striving towards a higher goal may lead to something greater than you could imagine.
If you want more energy, then run when you’re tired. If you want to be patient and calm, then run when you’re stressed. If you feel hemmed in on all sides, then run alone. If you feel alone, then run, and talk to God about it.
“Oh, Keri, you are crazy!” exclaimed my landlady, as I reached the house after Tuesday’s run.
Maybe I am. But then again, maybe there is method in it.
Running is not about trophies or accolades or even about earning the respect of farmers: it is about clawing your way out of your comfortable box and seeing what kind of “you” emerges.
To not run would be madness.
Miles: Monday 0, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 6
Weather: Tuesday it was cool & cloudy when I began and hot & sunny when I finished. Today was long-sleeved shirt weather with winds that tried to keep me from returning home.
Music: because the wind prevented my normal appreciation of nature sounds, Superchick, Casting Crowns, and Jack Johnson were my companions today.
Wildlife: a few out of control birds, one rabbit, a beleaguered butterfly, and two tractors.
If it weren’t for my impaired mobility this morning, I would not believe I ran a half-marathon yesterday. I have photographic evidence of the race. I have personal, eyewitness accounts, yet it all seems dreamlike to me. I ran 13 miles yesterday—at Rothenburg: a course so challenging, they had an ambulance stationed on each hilltop.
I’ve never been an athlete. I have ten pounds I can’t seem to get rid of at any price. And though gummi bears are fat free, they don’t qualify as health food. I have kids and a husband and a dog. I have laundry to do and floors to wash. If I can run a race of 13 miles, it’s possible for anyone.
Sitting here trying to stretch my legs while typing gives me time to reflect on yesterday’s race (if indeed that was me running).
*Though drinking coffee is NEVER a wrong thing to do, I also should have done a short warm-up run before the race. Instead, I had a carafe of coffee while the kids ate ice cream.
* At about mile 7, one of the runners made the mistake of asking where I was from. This began a 1 mile, one-sided conversation, where I blabbered to kill some time. And time I did kill, for my pace slowed down to a 12 minute mile. Finally the guy said, “I need to go faster now.” Oops. (For the record, I picked up the pace and ended up beating him).
*Bring headphones. The last mile included a long, uphill slope, straight from Twilight Zone, that seemed to never end. A little Superchick would’ve helped.
*Going downhill is easier than going uphill—use it to your advantage.
*Focus. At times, I felt simply mindless. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, though I do remember staring at some ponies. More focus on the actual running might have helped.
*Shoe laces. The shoe with my timing chip came untied at the start. Because I had to stop, I was left behind by the quick-paced pack.
*Holding back. I was so worried about not having enough energy left at the end of the race that I held back in moments when I should have pressed on.
*My Nathan Hydration pack was a lifesaver. I tried drinking the lukewarm mineral water at the water station but ended up splashing it all over my face.
*PowerBar Refuel Gel packs helped me to keep going when I felt like giving up.
*My shoes and socks were perfect! No foot aches at all.
*Positive attitude. With few women entered in the race (and most of them younger and belonging to racing teams), I knew I would not be getting any trophies. However, I opted to be the friendliest runner of the day. While my fellow runners didn’t seem to appreciate my congeniality, the spectators who waited along the road were awesome. Each one of them deserved (and received) a smile, a wave, or a ‘danke’ from me. The little kids, I applauded. It was fantastic that people would sit out (for two hours or more) just to watch the runners. I loved it.
*Cheerleaders. It was such a boost to see my friends & family along the route. They waved & cheered & took funny pictures of me. Even though the other runners were uber-serious, I had people who loved me, rooting for me.
*Training. Even though I slacked off during vacation, I can tell my training has paid off. Many times during the race, Pink Shirt Lady was ahead of me (she was faster than she looked). However, she was breathing really hard, whereas I was able to cheerily converse with her. I ran with her for a while, and then passed her on the hilly side of the course.
*Best of all was having the kids run the final stretch with me. It was worth all the effort just for the photo finish.
The Rothenburger Halbmarathon was a success for me. I kept a good pace (despite hills that could send people into cardiac arrest), I kept a good attitude, and I did not finish last.
Now, onto Füssen!
Post Race Stats:
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Average Pace: 10:17 minutes per mile
Calories burned: 1680
Weather: partly sunny in the 60s, a few sprinkles at the end—perfect running weather.
Overall feeling: if I can conquer Rothenburg, I can conquer anything.
Walking the cobblestone streets of Rothenburg today with my runner’s bib in hand certainly gave me a heightened awareness of the terrain. I also wondered how exactly I would get from the starting line, all the way down the bluff, and to the river. It all looks so flat on the street map.
Instead of my two-mile run, I sprinted my heart out in swim class today. I surprised myself, and a couple other people, by moving from fifth place to second. And while I was a little shaky when it was all over, I found I had strength left to watch my kids’ lessons, rather than lay in a heap in the corner.
I have to admit, my stomach is doing some flip-flopping tonight, and it’s not because of gluten. Only 17 women have signed up–and the older women belong to running clubs. This race might be tougher than I’d expected. I’d at least hoped to finish anonymously in the middle of the pack.
Yet despite the butterflies mysteriously fluttering throughout my nervous system, I sat at a table on the Marktplatz, had dinner in the fading sunshine, and had a glass of wine with my husband.
No matter how I do, I know there will be five people at the finish line who consider me the winner.
The problem with running on a summer evening is that because sweat runs down your back like the Mighty Mississip, there’s nothing left with which to spit out bugs.
This is why I run in the morning, while the bugs are still sleeping.
I have been released from the depths of dingy hotel workout rooms and am back pounding the pavement of the lovely country roads of Franconia. My schedule became more tangled than the kids’ kite strings during vacation, and it is proving a challenge to straighten it out.
To answer last week’s questions:
1) One does not train while on a cruise of the Rhine River. Instead, you sit and drink coffee for three hours while listening to Brazilian tourists sing drinking songs. Judging by their stout bodies, these men had years of experience in the drinking of beer.
2) The climbs up to the castles in the sweltering heat were workouts in themselves. Simply arriving at the top without dehydrating was an accomplishment. I didn’t even think about doing hill repeats.
3) After a day of tromping around castles, I sought out the hotel workout room. The place was deserted, so I was able to choose whichever TV channel I wanted: SpongeBob in German or tennis. The match was less than spectacular.
4) Perhaps I was “supposed to” run 15 miles the day we drove back. However, I have discovered “supposed to” is a relative phrase. In reality, I am supposed to balance having a real life with marathon training. I postponed my long run until the day the guests were safely on the train to the airport. I couldn’t do 15 without injuring myself, so I did 11 instead. And honestly, I was quite proud of the 11.
Vacation has been a lesson in flexibility. The trick is to determine how much flexibility I can have without compromising performance. The test of my flexible vacation schedule will come on Sunday, when I run my half-marathon.
I’ll bring extra water, so I can perfect the fine art of bug spitting.
Miles: Tuesday 11, Wednesday 4, Thursday 6
Aches & Pains: My right knee was just killing me after the long run. I’ve dedicated more time to stretching, which has helped a lot. On a positive note, I was able to climb up the castle paths with relative ease. It felt great to not gasp for breath or fear a heart attack on the climbs.
Weather: Intermittent summer. Sunny & in the 70s low 80s on some days. Cloudy & in the 50s & 60s other days.
Wildlife: lots of deer, rabbits, bugs, and farmers’ wives hoeing the fields.
The next time I suggest marathon training easily coexists with real life, please fill my inbox with tersely worded, confrontational letters to the contrary.
Last week I ran 15 miles total. I was supposed to run 27. What happened?
I discovered I can get up at 5am and run before anyone knows I’m gone as long as the sun is shining. But when the irises are being pelted with rain, and my knee aches, and the sun feels every inch of 93 million miles away from the earth, I’m likely to stay in bed until I smell coffee brewing.
On Saturday, the sun streamed in through the window, alerting the overzealous budgie, whose cheerful morning song reminds one of a malfunctioning fire alarm.
I was awake.
I ran my errands early and then went down to the trail by the river. During the four days I had not been running, my joints and muscles had formed a workers’ union. Saturday was their first official strike.
Despite the silent protest, I went on with business as usual.
At mile five, I put on my headphones.
By mile six, my knee became belligerent. As I considered giving in to the demands of my body and declaring a shorter work day, a song from Superchick forced me to keep going. The refrain of that particular song exclaimed: “One more! Go one more! Don’t stop now! Go one more!”
I couldn’t let Superchick down.
At mile eight, the music ended, and the trail merged with a side road. As I looked both ways before crossing to the path, I saw behind me, a woman in a fluorescent yellow shirt. The shirt was piped in white and black and had words etched across the front. The woman had spiky black hair and a scowl on her face.
She was a runner.
And she wanted to catch me.
It didn’t matter if my knee hurt, or if my joints ached, or if my fingers were growing as thick as bratwursts, I would not, could not let her pass me.
I didn’t have time to mess with the headphones. But now that the music had ended, I could hear her footsteps behind me. Soon I was running a nine-minute mile.
Garmin tracked the mileage. ¼ mile. ½ mile. I thought ¾ mile would never come. The sound of footsteps roared in my ears like thunder. Finally, my watch beeped to signal mile nine.
I turned around. She was still 100 meters away. I had won! I casually checked my watch then smiled at her. Surprise flickered across her face, which quickly reformed into a scowl. I headed towards the parking lot. To my relief, she didn’t follow me. She didn’t smile either.
If my body screamed during mile eight, I didn’t hear it. If it complained at all during mile nine, I don’t remember. The sun was shining, and I had won.
I wonder if my fair-weather friend will be at Füssen July 25th? Or if I’ll see her at the Rothenburg Half-marathon June 13th?
I’ll bring the sound of her footsteps with me, just in case.
Miles: Saturday 10, Monday 3
Weather: Blah. But the forecast is good.
Questions: How do I train while cruising the Rhine River? Is it rude to do hill repeats while touring a castle? Am I really supposed to run fifteen miles the day we drive back?
Answers: To be determined.