Resolution Update #5

South Louisiana Running Series

Today I followed through on one of the toughest of my goals for the new year, and ran the Louisiana Riverfront 5K in Kenner, LA. Even though I’ve been running for health off and on since 2008, and have run several 5Ks and a marathon, this was definitely a turning point for me. It was the first race that I’ve ever been completely prepared for going in, the first race that I had a definite goal in mind other than just passing the finish line, and also the first race that I had a friend running with me. All of these factors led to a race that actually defied my expectations.

The race was very different from all of the ones I ran in Chicago. To begin with, it was a cold day for Louisianans, and I’m sure the 50-degree weather kept a lot of people from coming out. Also, it’s a Sunday, meaning that most New Orleanians were either hungover or getting ready for church when the race started (or both). In all, I’d say there were at most 200 people for the half-marathon and about the same for the 5K, which made for much less confusion at the starting line than I’m accustomed to.

There were no pace groups that I was aware of, though they did have a few officials on bicycles who acted as front and back pacers for the entire race, and also called in timing information on the half-marathon so people back at the line could know who was in the lead. I didn’t know where to stand among the starters, since I knew that my general time was around 10:40/mile and I didn’t want to start out with incredibly fast people that would throw me off balance (or make me feel bad). I just hung out in the back, and concentrated on my goal of coming in in under 30 minutes, which would mean shaving off a considerable amount of time. I ran some faster runs last week, though, so thought I might be able to come in pretty close to my goal.

The race was along the run/bike path that sits atop of the levee that protects Kenner from the Mississippi. The path isn’t incredibly wide, so for the first mile there was a little bit of congestion back with the slow folks like me. Instead of running a loop, like many races, the course was set up as a flat line with a spot to turn around. Luckily, by the time people started getting to the turning point, the pack was loosening up enough for the returning runners to not have to jostle for space or slow down at all. My running buddy, Bill, runs a considerably faster mile, so we passed each other  going opposite directions. For a lot of people I think that might have been discouraging, but I was actually happy to see him and be able to acknowledge that he was doing great and I was still in the race. It gave me a mental nudge to not chicken out or slow down.

For most of the first half I followed behind a girl wearing these gorgeous teal sneakers. She and I ran the same basic pace, so I was just using her as a good way to stop thinking and just keep moving. In fact, I didn’t feel tired or scared I wouldn’t make it until a little after the second mile. It’s important to note that I run a 5K distance a couple times a week, so it’s not really that big deal. What makes it tough is that when I’m running at home, I’m running a route that I know inside out, where I can look up ahead and know my turns, my finish line, everything. I had forgotten how important that can be, though.

Out on the levee today I experienced something I haven’t seen since 2009. I didn’t know my route, and I let my mind start screwing with me. When your normally quite rational brain starts telling you that there is no finish line anymore, or that “it’s really soon, oh wait! it’s actually at least another mile” it’s easy to start feeling like it’s time to give up. I was also running into the sun and a pretty strong wind; people started to pass me. I had just under a mile to go, and I thought seriously about walking a little. Then I remembered that Bill was back at the finish line waiting for me, and I’d just be a jerk if I gave up on him like that.

So I didn’t stop. I even managed to dredge up more energy for the last quarter mile, sprinting as soon as I saw the finish line. And when I crossed, my time was 29:35 – roughly 3 and a half minutes faster than my personal record! It’s the first time I’ve finished a race and had a genuine reason to be proud of myself, other than just for finishing. It’s a damn good feeling.

I’m actually thinking about going against my original resolution rule and starting to tack on a little more distance. I’m thinking I might want to run the Crescent City Classic 10K in April. Does that sound crazy?


Resolution Update #4

Now that we’ve reached the third week of January, I thought it might be time to write another update on how it’s going with my New Year’s Resolutions. I’m actually doing pretty well, despite a few minor setbacks that I should be addressing at the end of this week.

1) Learning to Swim. I did sign up for swim lessons again, and last week I did a front stroke across the pool and was able to take two breaths while swimming. My instructor says that my kicks and arms are great, and I can actually feel a difference now in the way my body moves through the water. I think if I can stop over-thinking things when I’m in the water, I’ll be able to breathe while swimming pretty soon. I understand now that when you’re swimming, your body naturally rocks side to side, and that it’s all about letting your body’s natural movement tell you when to lift your head to the side and take a breath. All there is now is to keep working at it until I’ve got it down pat. Oooh, I also learned to float on my back without help, which is HUGE, especially since I started swim lessons being pretty terrified of not touching bottom.

2) Start Running 5K Races Again. I haven’t signed up for one yet, but I’m going to run in a 5K race on January 29th. I’ve been running daily, and though my time isn’t great, I’m actually running, not walking. Even cooler, a friend and old coworker of mine got into running after I ran my marathon in 2009. He started running longer distances just about the time I was in too much pain to continue. Now he’s been running longer races, and I asked him if he’d be interested in doing a 5K with me. He was enthusiastic about it, and now we’re on the same street team in RunKeeper and encouraging each other via Facebook daily. It’s nice. I know we won’t be racing against each other or anything like that, but it’s great to have a buddy to do this kind of stuff with. It only makes me want to improve.

3) Budget Food Expenditures. Honestly, I’m not doing great at this, but I’m a lot better off than I was before the New Year, so we’ll keep working at it. I at least haven’t been spending exorbitant amounts on snack foods, so that’s something. It’s just that I know I could really cut back on my grocery spending, and live for a while on what I already have stored up. I’ve been better about eating the food I already have, but I did break down and go to Whole Foods the other day to stock up on soup and eggs, which definitely could have been avoided. One funny thing that happened with this is that on Saturday, I did end up buying brie, crackers and prosciutto at the store. When I got home and tried the brie (it was a new brand), it was so gross that I ended up throwing it away. It was kind of like a tap on the shoulder from the Universe, to remind me I wasn’t supposed to be wasting money on stuff like that, anyway.

4) Put Money in My Savings Account. I did! I’m awesome! I organized my budget so that the first expenditure of every paycheck is to put money in my savings account, and since it’s such a pain to withdraw money from the account, I should end up doing pretty well on this goal. In addition, as I mentioned awhile ago, I’m receiving a spot of loan money that is going to help me with my next resolution, thereby in the long run helping me save money away, as well.

5) Pay Off Credit Cards. Like I said, I’m trying to carefully watch my money in order to pay off my cards, and I’ll also be getting a little chunk of change next month that will help me with this goal. I hope to be CC debt free by May, and maybe even sooner, depending on where I’m able to make more cuts in my budget.

6) Be Happy and Have Fun. Still working on this one, but it’s much easier to be happy when you’re physically fit, so that’s something I have going for me. One thing that’s impeding my ability to go out as much is still not having my license renewed, so got to take care of that on Friday. Otherwise, I’ve made plans to hang out with a new girlfriend that I’ve been playing Weds. night trivia with for the last couple of months. We’re going to go out dancing on Saturday, which will be the first non-trivia thing we’ve done together. Hopefully it’ll be fun, and I’ll have made a new friend.

7) Finish Writing at Least One of My Books. I haven’t even started working on this goal. Shame on me.

8) Create a Schedule and Stick to it. Um, so no. I haven’t been able to create a schedule OR stick to it, other than the calendar I put up on the fridge the other night that I fill in to prove that I’ve run, done Zumba and weighed myself every day. So I guess that’s kind of a schedule, but what I really meant by this resolution was to wake up earlier and get more work done. Now that I’ve got my little part time copywriting job, this is even more important than ever. Needs improvement.

Overall, I’d give myself a B- on this, though I’m somewhat biased. What do you think?

Are you doing better on your resolutions, if you made them?

Motivation #4: Currahee

Today’s Weight: 158.2 lbs.

Today’s Health: Not so great.  I feel like death warmed over, actually.  Last night I was starving after my run, and feeling kind of run down, so Dan and I got Chinese food.  There was nothing wrong with the food itself, but apparently my tummy was still not in the mood for spicy stuff.  My delicious helping of Ma Po Tofu has been punishing me ever since, subtly but skillfully.  I’m sticking to bland for the next couple of days.  I don’t think it helps any that it’s Friday and this week has been mentally exhausting.  My body was bound to take a cue and try to give up on me.

That’s OK, though.  It’s not only Friday, it’s payday, and with payday comes GROCERIES!  Woot!  My plan for grocery shopping involves lots of soup, fresh mushrooms, organic eggs, organic yogurt (and no more buckwheat honey – blech!), wheatgrass, more beets, carrots, and apples, and a few other green things – whatever catches my eye.  I’m going to be doing some serious juicing in the coming weeks, and want to make sure that my meals are packed with nutrition and vitality to fuel my endeavors.

Speaking of endeavors, now that my back and hips are hurting considerably less than they’ve hurt in the past TWO YEARS (thank you deep tissue massage and daily stretching), I’m getting back into distance running.  Back in 2009, I ran (hobbled, crawled) in the Chicago Marathon.  The main event, itself, was a mistake for me.  I pushed too hard, too fast, and not only did I not do a great job, I hurt myself pretty horribly in the process.  Now that I’m back in a town with pretty good weather for most of the year (not counting summer), I’m going to start participating in 5Ks again, and hopefully eventually work my way back up to running half-marathons.  I’m starting with the Lakefront 5K on October 15th.  I can already run 2 miles without really breaking a sweat, and I can make it through 3 miles, but I’m going to start working on making 3 miles an easy distance.  Though I won’t be up to speed training in the next 15 days, I can at least make it my goal to finish the 5K, and then plug along from there into making the distance easier and faster over time.  Once I reach a respectable time for me (right now my goal is a 10 minute mile), I’ll start slowly adding on more distance.

Running is going to be my replacement for the missing discipline aspect that Bikram once gave me.  I love that both paths encourage looking within to find strength, and for both it’s all basically about putting one foot in front of the other for as long as it takes to get to the end.  While my motivation in beginning running again is to be strong enough to compete in distance races (not to win, just to compete), and I wanted to share that today, I also want to share an inspiring scene that means so much to me.  It’s from the first episode of Band of Brothers, “Curahee”.  For people who haven’t watched the miniseries, I encourage you to do so immediately.  It’s powerful stuff: inspiring, empowering, enlightening in many cases.  Also, there’s added value for connoisseurs of the shallow, like beautiful scenery, costumes, and men.  I’m a huge fan of Damien Lewis, but maybe that’s just my weird taste.

Anyway, to the scene.  The men of Easy Company are in training to become part of the nation’s first airborne infantry at Camp Taccoa, Georgia.  The first episode of the series starts at camp, as their bonds coalesce under the incessant bullying and machinations of their commanding officer, Captain Sobel.  Sobel does little to endear himself to his men, but the group bands together under the informal leadership of Sobel’s second in command, Lt. Winters.  The men of Easy Company end up running a local mountain, Currahee, much more often than their peers in other companies, and “Currahee!” becomes a rallying cry for them, a symbol of the strength of their commitment to each other and what they are literally about to jump into across the pond.  In the moments before this scene starts, Sobel (who has taken an intense dislike to Winters), declares that it will basically be a day of relaxation for his men, and he’d like Winters to make them a heavy, filling meal – how about spaghetti? – to celebrate an easy afternoon.

On a side note, the word “Currahee” in Cherokee translates to “‘We stand alone, together”.  Beautiful, huh?