Saturday, January 2, 2010

Accidental Runner

I'm not a runner... or at least I didn't think I was. I didn't really start running until I was 40 years old. Not that I didn't do some physical activities, but running wasn't just "not one of them"... it was well into the "oh, hell no" category. Not exactly sure what changed, but I think horses and kids had something to do with it. I did my first endurance ride on a borrowed horse and completed the limited distance 35 mile ride the first day in 5th place. I was all beat up but given the opportunity to ride the 50 miler the second day I took it in a heartbeat! This time I came in 4th place and I was completely hooked. Not long after that I inherited my two kids :) It was a Godsend in sooo many ways. The condo my husband and I lived in was not going to cut it so we moved to a small ranch which enabled me to get a horse of my own and pursue my new passion. I read books and learned how to train a horse for endurance then rode thousands of miles through the hills by my home getting my new buddy into shape. He wasn't ready for some of the mountains in our way so I'd get off and hike them to give him a break which then started me on a short lived love affair with hiking up huge mountains. I only did one more 50 mile ride, and I came in the top ten on that one too, on a horse that was nearing 20 years old. But I found it was difficult to get to the rides and expensive and I really enjoyed the training part more anyway.

I bought myself a Garmin with the intention of dismantling the chest strap and rewiring it to work with my horse. We had trained with a heart rate monitor but I wanted to put the info into the computer and track it over time. A few months later my boy took a tumble and I shattered my wrist. He had a six week layoff and I had surgery and a cast for a couple of months so everything got put on hold. My riding partner saw the accident and apparently it was traumatic for her because she didn't want to ride anymore after that lol. Then summer hit and it was too hot to ride and the kids were home and before I knew it we were back to square one with training. The one thing that bothers me about endurance riding is that you can't just ask the horse how he feels. You can kind of tell when it's ok to push more or when you need to hold back, but it is certainly not an exact science. And when you're making what is essentially a geriatric horse run fifty miles the guilt can get to you. I realized what I really loved about the sport was the training, the tracking, the changes I could make in my horses fitness, the goal setting and the accomplishment of those goals. It was not a conscience decision but I let my guy retire. I still ride but I no longer train for endurance.

The kids were 4 and 5 years old when they came to live with us. And they were obese. They had been pretty much allowed to eat fast food and watch tv their entire lives and this bothered me greatly. We set out to help them change their habits and re prioritize their lives and in the process we had to become better role models. I started trying lots of activities that I'd never really done before. As soon as they could both ride bikes I would take them to the beach bike path and go for miles and miles. Only they biked way too slowly for me to enjoy it much or get any kind of a workout so I started rollerblading alongside them. On his days off when he could go with us, my husband would run. I thought he was insane lol. But he's always been a runner. Soon he had the kids running a mile or two at home too. I skipped most of those :) But I took them for long hikes. And enjoyed downloading the data from my Garmin which I had never gotten around to taking apart for the horses. And both kids started getting into their own sports.... the beginning of my career as a professional bench sitter. It seemed all I did was sit on a bench, at baseball games, football practices, soccer matches... but the worst was cheerleading. My daughter got WAY into cheer and it seemed I was spending 10-15 hours a week just sitting there watching her. I won't even go into how bad the politics are and what a pain in the ass it is to have to sit there and listen to all the cackling hens lol. I made friends with another mom and we started walking during the team practices. Of course, I tracked with my Garmin. I'm not sure why but I love the dumb thing. I think it's concrete evidence that I DID something haha.

After a few weeks of long walks, we started mixing in some jogging stretches and much to my amazement it didn't hurt that badly and I didn't completely hate it. And I enjoyed seeing the numbers improve on my downloads. Somehow I talked her into signing up for a half marathon. I do not know why on earth I didn't start with a 5K or a 10K, but I didn't... just jumped right into a half marathon lol. I had no time goals, I didn't even care if I walked or ran it, just wanted to finish it. I felt great and didn't push myself at all and finished in just under three hours. After that I kept running on and off, mostly off, with no training plan and no goals... just whenever it was convenient to get me out of my daughter's cheer gym. In 2008 I ran a total of 272 miles.

When the same race got close the next year I started getting more serious about running again. My running partner dumped me so I trained by myself for the first time and started to understand how deeply personal running can be. I signed up for my first 5K which was super hilly and rough terrain and took me about 33 minutes :P and a week later I reran the half marathon. This time I pushed and my finish time was 2:14, a full 45 minutes faster than the previous year! In the excitement and post run euphoria I signed up for the LA Marathon before truly thinking it through lol. In 2009 I ran a total of just over 500 miles.

My husband subscribed to a women's running magazine for me and it was there I learned I was supposed to have a running plan so I stole one from the magazine and have tried to stick to it. With the exception of the past week I have done a decent job of running when and how much it says to. Today I looked at it and realized it's been 8 days since my last run :P Not sure how that happened but I got up and put my running shoes on and did an easy 5.4 miles. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 14 miler. I went to mapmyrun and figured out a course and have already laid my running clothes out in an effort to get myself going as early and eagerly as possible tomorrow.

I've found that a marathon that is four months away is hard to keep in mind and I stick to the longer runs better when I actually have to go run a race so I did my first 10k the week before Christmas (ran it in 1:02, woulda been faster but for that four minute porta potty emergency! I gotta learn to regulate my body better, but that's another post lol). Next Sunday I am signed up for the LA 13.1 "where the party meets the pavement". I signed up mostly to make sure I put in my miles but lately I've been secretly hoping to beat my best half time, at least by a little bit.

So anyway, I still don't know how it happened but I seem to be hooked on this running thing. Maybe I should stop saying that I'm not a runner now, because clearly I do run and though I complain about it and procrastinate it... once I've run I really do feel so much better! I still can't say I love it but I'm definitely growing fonder! And I don't hate the weight loss either :)

I love that my kids have run three 5k's now and that my son, in particular, is pretty darned fast for a 9 year old! He came in first place in his division the last time he ran and I loved seeing the pride and joy on his little face. I wish I had started younger, it's possible I could have been pretty good at it too. They are running the 5k next weekend while I run the half :)

Until next time........

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