Hood to Coast

Running is Hard

One of the things I’ve needed to remind myself of post-injury is the fact that RUNNING IS HARD. Running HURTS.

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Running HURTS. You will push yourself to the brink and then run a little further.  The funny thing about running is that it is often difficult to distinguish between legitimate pain (i.e. injury) and just the discomfort of pushing ourselves hard. For me I knew immediately when I was truly injured. It felt different than the normal aches and pains of running.

Running CHALLENGES. Once you reach a goal, there’s always another goal not far behind it. At first my goal was to run without walking or stopping. Then it was running a certain distance, then it was running a certain distance within a certain amount of time. Then the goal was racing. The challenges and goals were always evolving.

Running is MENTAL. I will think a million times during a run “I can’t do this” and “I want to stop! I can’t make it to the finish!” but most of the time it’s all in my head. It’s a mental block, something in me telling me I CAN’T when I know I CAN. I often tricked myself when I was running and starting to feel that mental block creeping into my thoughts. I would tell myself “One More Mile” or “Just run to that lamppost down the street and then you can walk” and most of the time by I got to that lamppost I had gotten over that mental block and kept running.

Running can be INCONSISTENT. Sometimes the food I ate the night before makes a difference. Sometimes the snack I eat right before the run can really effect my run. Weather, clothing, moods, everything can effect the performance of a runner. The important thing to remember is that not every run is going to be great. There will be ugly runs, slow runs, fast runs, great runs.

Running is NOT FREE. Sure, in theory it could be a super cheap form of exercise. In reality it’s not. Don’t make the mistake of skimping on the gear. Get fitted for running shoes at a real running store. It makes a huge difference for comfort and injury prevention. I am so serious about this one. Pay the extra money for good shoes. Same with socks. Don’t wear cheapo socks that will give you blisters. I like Smart Wool (available at REI, Nordstroms and online) and have never had blisters when I use those running socks.

Running is WORTH IT. The pain sucks. Sometimes it’s really sucky. When you’re running and tired and your legs are burning and your brain tells you you can’t make it, you wonder if it’s worth it. Is it worth it? Totally. Hood to Coast hurt. It was brutal and a lot of it was miserable. I don’t regret doing it at all. Would I do that particular race again? No. But I am happy I did it!

Running isn’t COMPARABLE. Stop comparing yourself to other runners. One thing my running injury taught me was to stop comparing myself to other runners, other bloggers. There will always be people faster than me, or slower than me. If I run a race, I’m a runner–whether I cross the line first or last.  Just because I’m not running a marathon every weekend or continually training for some race doesn’t mean I’m not a runner. I’m more than a runner. I’m a swimmer, biker, hiker, walker, weight lifter. All of those things make me a stronger runner.

“When all else fails, start running!”

-Dean Karnazes

QUESTION: In what way is running hard for you?

Know Your Limits, But Don’t Get Discouraged

Recently I caught an episode of the Extreme Makeover Weight Loss show. I don’t really watch those “Biggest Loser” type shows anymore for a lot of reasons but I watched a few episodes of this show. One in particular was about a guy who started out in the 400 pound range. He lost a significant amount, then fell off the wagon and gained back a bunch of the weight. The personal trainer had him doing interesting but in my opinion, dangerous workouts.

First, he had to climb over 100 flights of stairs at a tall building in Chicago. This poor guy was like 380 pounds and doing something so strenuous I thought for sure he was going to have a heart attack in that stairwell. He looked woozy by the end.

Second, his trainer took him and his brothers out for a 100 mile bike ride. Really? I scoffed at this and immediately lost respect for the trainer and the show. I don’t think the show has integrity or realism, but more on that later. It was a hot summer day, about 100 degrees in the sun but the trainer said “it will be 110 degrees biking on this hot pavement.” Really? You’re taking a morbidly obese man who hasn’t exercised at all in three months out into 100+ degree weather to bike a century with no training whatsoever?

Can you guess how this ride ended? Around mile 30 he started to fatigue and feel the effects of heat stroke. At mile 40 he was incoherent, delirious and suffering from heat stroke so badly they had to call 9-1-1. He was hooked up to oxygen and fluids and the bike ride was over. DUH. I was irritated with the show because of this and it brings me to today’s important topic of knowing your limits.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a goal or event and lose perspective on our abilities. Especially when we are big weight loss losers. It’s easy to feel overly confident because for once we can do something wonderful! We aren’t picked last for the team, we can run! We can bike long distances! Woo hoo! And the tendency is to bite off more than we can chew. I know I’ve been guilty of that.

I trained for Hood to Coast for a year. I was a fairly new runner but I was feeling confident and strong. I was running a lot. I thought I would be unscathed running something as epic as Hood to Coast. My longest run while I was training was about 8 miles without stopping or walking. That’s pretty good, but not good enough. My mileage for Hood to Coast was 17 miles. I should have been clocking in over 20 miles a week before the race and my weekly mileage was more around 15. Not good enough. I ended up injured.

I learned from my mistake with Hood to Coast and knew my limits when it came time to do the Portland Century. Was I conditioned for 100 miles on the bike? Sure–in a way. My fitness level is strong. But am I bike strong? Not really. I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough the complete the 100 miles without hurting by the end. That’s not fun. My weekly mileage on the bike was hovering around 65 miles and I knew that wasn’t enough training to do 100. I switched my miles to 72. Not quite a Century, but it’s still a great accomplishment. And I don’t regret that decision at all!

I see a lot of people in the blog world making this mistake. They are new runners and they sign up for a half marathon as their first race. Don’t get me wrong, I commend their enthusiasm and determination. I just silently worry about their bodies holding up. Why not start small? Do a 5k, then an 8k, then a 10k…? There is something to be said about working up towards a big goal.

Besides risking injury, you are robbing yourself of the joy of getting better and challenging yourself. Last year I biked 55 miles in Reach the Beach and this year I did 72 miles in the Portland Century. I was SOOO happy! I did 20 more miles this year without any issues. Awesome! That means next year I can totally rock 100 miles! And I’m looking forward to it.

There is something really special about challenging yourself to try harder, do more, bit by bit. It’s why training for things is so fun. You start small and work up the ladder. You earn that big accomplishment by the end!

That does not mean you should be discouraged, or feel less than someone else who is doing more. I did not feel like less of an athlete because I biked 72 miles instead of 100. I still felt like a rockstar at the end! Don’t get discouraged that your abilities are not quite what you expect them to be. It takes time. It takes training. You’ll earn it.

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you know your limits?