Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Average Pace: My Two Year Running Journey (Part 1)

     I feel the need to write a disclaimer here, at the beginning: What follows is not spectacularly daring or inspirational. There are no stories of great weight loss (only minimal weight loss). I am no particularly fast, nor do I go for long distances. Disclaimer aside, I still feel the need to write these memories.
     Another warning: The following post involves stories and thoughts about running. Most likely, it will meander. If you are disinclined from reading about running, half marathons, disgusting feet, or learning about wool socks, you may want to skip. Also, the post will have pictures from several races, so prepare yourself for white legs.

January 1, 2014: I weighed in at 196.5 pounds. On my slight, 5' 9" frame, I felt overweight and unhappy. I had always been a skinny kid, because of metabolism. Into my late twenties, my metabolic rate declined. Combined with poor dietary health, sympathy weight for two pregnancies, and little to no exercise, I was rapidly moving towards 200 pounds. And I have a rationally irrational fear of 200 pounds. Both my mother and father's families (particularly the men) have a history of heart disease. My father had past away from a massive heart attack, so I felt a need to change.

     At BYU, I had run a little, mostly mud runs and the occasional 5K. But I was never disciplined: I ran when I felt like it. And this transitioned to other running ventures. Case in point, I attempted a half marathon while Hilary and I lived in San Antonio: I wrote about that disaster in detail on this blog. Still, I liked running, I think, so I decided to try again.
     On January 2, I laced up an old pair of Saucony's, the same from the aforementioned half-marathon, and went for a run. I jogged at a sloggish pace, but quickly found myself walking. I could not finish a mile without walking. I felt depressed, but not defeated. I chalked this first venture as "interval" training, and began to think about motivation. What will make me continue running?
     I identified two motivating factors for me: pride and money. I want to succeed. I do not like the idea of being slow, and I have a problem with comparing myself to others. I have since I was young. This might become a stumbling block, unless I look at myself as chief and only competitor. (Spoiler alert: I am still working on that last point. I have started looking at all runners as Captain Ahab's: we're all chasing our individual white whales, be it a PR, or weight loss, or accruing money for charity. But it doesn't always work. Moderate competition is healthy, but I tend to overindulge.) By the next outing, I had a warm up walk to the park before I started a jogging-walking routine. My pace was slightly better. Improvement. I also started to lose weight, which made me feel better.
Prairie Dog Town, February 2014
     Money was an easier motivating factor. I had heard about the West Texas Running Club. I looked at their website, and found their prices incredibly reasonable: $15 for membership, $5 for most races. With money on the line, I would be more likely to train. So, I signed up for February's Prairie Dog Town, for a two mile race. Now, most people consider Lubbock to be flat, which is mostly true. The WTRC has the history and information to find all locations on the caprock that change elevations. The race began down a hill; as an out-and-back, I ran back up that hill. That I did fine (if memory serves me right); it was the middle of the race where I wilted. I was walking, which was disappointing. Still, I met my race goal: I wanted to finish between 21 and 22 minutes. My recorded time: 21:34!

Horseshoe Bend, May 2014: Charlie and I warming up.
     Motivated, I signed up for more races: two miles at Horseshoe Bend Canyon, two miles Hot Dam (Dunbar Lake), 10K Red Raider Road Race (MacKenzie Park), two miles for a Turkey Trot. I also ran a 5K on Tech's campus, but the name escapes me. I continued running, and commuted occasionally to work on my bike. I would run with Charlie, stretch with him before races. I trained, and lost weight, and got faster. I listened to Moby-Dick, or The Whale in its entirety; from Melville's tome, I found several motivational quotes.* I also listened to David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I started Jon Meacham's biography on Andrew Jackson, but it didn't engage me. I went through four pairs of shoes. I quickly retired the Saucony's for two pairs of New Balance. At the end of the year, I started breaking in some new Saucony's. While my monthly running At the end of the year, I had logged 407.94 miles into Map My Run. I started (and ended prematurely) a running streak that began on Thanksgiving and should have ended on New Year's Day.
     With relative success in 2014, I made some healthy New Year's resolutions for 2015. I wanted to improve, so I aimed high.
**to be continued**

*Moby-Dick Quotes for the average runner:
  • All of Ahab's final speech: There is something powerful in the captain's monomaniac goal. In my running mix, I have placed this speech toward the beginning. I teared up as I heard, "I turn my body from the sun," as I started the Turtle Half-Marathon in Roswell, NM. The race began early in the morning, and I found strength at the turn around, as I too turned myself from the sun.
  • "What I've dared I've willed; what I've willed, I'll do:" from Ahab's "Sunset" soliloquy, the captain explains his purpose and goal. That too has found its way into the running mix. The aforementioned quote resonates towards the middle of the race, when mentally I am weak. It reaffirms training and my audacity for running 13.1 miles.

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