Sunday, June 28, 2015

All About That Base

No, silly it's not the song; and it's certainly not about my ass because I don't have one.
I do remember a time during my junior year in high school...
The 2nd base drum player passed out before we got moving in the Halloween parade.  We rolled his body off the course, onto the sidewalk and I strapped on that drum.
Ooop, that's not it.

Where am I?  Ah, yes, base.

Early May, I hired a coach to help me run a BQ at the LVHN Via Marathon.  That's such a small statement for a big project.  Those words look pathetic in print, so I'll add a little perspective.  The process kicked off with a two layer assessment: 1). Q and A/interview and, 2) running.  I received a multi-page document to ponder before our first face-to-face meeting.  My insides bubbled with excitement at the thought of pouring my running soul onto this near blank canvas of interrogation.  And then, I started writing.  I stressed about completing the 11 page document with enough detail for the coach without making my 'athletic career' (huh?) sound like a waste of time.

Best or favorite race?  How could I possibly choose?
Describe last week.  Wow.  I only ran 3 times at 5 miles tops.  Shoot.
Athletic resume.  Huh?  Yea, so I was the chubby kid in elementary, the bando in high school and the stoner in college.

I sent coach my responses before our planned meet up at Starbucks.  We spent the better part of an hour hopping around the document where I had the opportunity to elaborate a little further on my weak-sounding answers.  At first, I might have given off an uptight air, but I quickly released a few 'f' bombs which took the interview process in another direction.  I let my virtual hair down.  After all, if this dude was going to train me he might as well get acclimated to ME.  We wrapped up an hour of discussion with an exchange of money and the promise to set up the second half of the assessment: the physical challenge.

The following week, I met coach at the shop around 9 am.  The day already started competing with itself for the most humid May morning.  I'd be sweating like a pig in no time.  I walked in, nerves firing, and immediately inquired about the deliverables for this appointment.  We would run together, then he'd put me through a series of progressive drills to analyze my form, acceleration and overall pace.  He also mentioned that some of my activities would be captured on video.  I immediately informed him that this would be absolutely awkward, but he could have cared less.  We walked about a half block to the stop sign and started at an easy pace with a left towards the trail.  Coach and I looped the trail together before coming to a stop in the middle of a straight stretch.  He instructed me through a handful of drills, a few were video taped, then we headed back.  I was drenched in sweat, smelling like a foot suffocating in a nacho chip bag.  He offered a few corrective comments on my form and told me what to expect in my upcoming plans.

I paid for the first four weeks with the caveat that I'd sign on for another three if I liked him.  'Fair enough,' coach said.

So last week, I planned to swing by the shop and drop off a check for the next three months.  I glanced at the week ahead noting the period comment for each week.  The labels defined the upcoming week as Base 3 Week 1.  Wait.  What?  Base?  Base?  I was still building base?  I spent all winter and early spring logging 25-ish mile weeks and I was still building base 7 weeks into training. Oh, shit.
The girls accompanied me on the short car ride to Emmaus.  We walked in to find three athletes on trainers; coach standing in front.  He approached me and the crew, welcoming them with a gentle hello; they put on their shy faces as they peered into the gym.  I made a comment about me continuing to build base, following up by mouthing the words 'Crap, I'm gonna get my ass kicked.'  No sooner than those words left my lips, I suddenly felt the rest of the air in my chest being sucked out.  The sun no longer shone through the windows and the room grew cold.  Coach focused on my eyes as his turned black, reaching into the belly of my soul.  He breathed the fear of the unknown into me, all the while chiseling a crooked smile across his stone face.  He said nothing, but his mental whispers educated me on the storm of hell that's coming right for me.

At least, that's how I remember the encounter.

The Road to Via

Friday, June 26, 2015

I'm Gonna Go for a Run

I'm not working today, but still planned on meeting a few of the straggling Crazies for a short run at 4:50 am.  Last night's earth shattering splits and lotus practice stirred up enough energy that I woke at 4:40 with a dull headache that could have turned into a screaming nightmare within seconds.  I opted out of the run, but got out of bed anyway.  I planned to head out a little later for a slow 30 minutes; yesterday's set of hill repeats warranted a lighter workout.
While the Keurig warmed up, I grabbed my work laptop and handled a few items I couldn't wrap up yesterday.  I sat in the darkness, soon enough with a hot cup of coffee, typing away.  I thought of my Dad.  He's always been an earlier riser, using the quiet time to read, meditate, work, whatever.  And here I sat, decades later, mirroring his actions.  Ava, another early riser, got up about an hour later.
I grabbed her a chocolate milk before putting on my run gear.
"I'm gonna go for a run."
Those words echoed in my head as I opened the garage door to the outside world.

I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run...

With that, I hit the road towards the hospital.
I was thankful for the slower pace even though I knew I could handle more.  For the first few weeks of training, I experienced difficulty in holding myself back when coach asked me to.  I'm now approaching the other side of the seesaw where I need to really cherish the slower paces.  The increased speed workouts will demand more focus and energy.

I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run...

I came back to that echo picturing myself as a little girl with pigtails hearing those words come from my Father's mouth.  He looked like every other runner in the 80's with his sweat band, cotton gear and New Balance shoes.  I took the short trail to the hospital noting the increased traffic.  Right, it was close to 7 am — change of shift.  If I planned my route accordingly, I'd be hitting the back entrance around the time my Dad would be pulling in.  Just the thought of seeing him in the car and me on the road made me smile.

I rounded the bend back towards my street.  I navigated the awkward four-way stop to continue home.  As planned, I saw Dad's car approaching.  Each with a smile and an enthusiastic wave, we crossed paths.  My heart filled with such joy until it closed in on my lungs and started to squeeze.  I tried to muster a few deep breaths, but I was met with resistance.  This overwhelming force started to crush my chest until I opened my eyes wide.  The tears poured from their corners, bouncing off my cheeks.  I continued running.  My pace picked up while I sobbed audibly.  I can honestly recall the last time I cried like that on a run - September 20, 2011.

I'm gonna go for a run...

The flashback of that memory had a yellow hue with worn edges.  Time will eat through that fragile picture until there's nothing left but dust.

I'm gonna go for a run...

I got back to my driveway at the 30 minute mark, stopped dead in my tracks, bent over and wailed.  I paced in my driveway to pull it together and cool down after the run.  I caught a glimpse of myself in my car window, noticing the lack of pigtails, my developing facial lines and the craters of sadness under my eyes.  I took a few cleansing breaths to bring myself together.
Damn hip opener practice.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Last Twenty Four Hours

The title of my post sounds like a steamy novel, or maybe a blockbuster movie about binge drinking in college, or maybe even a mini-series about a housewife being held in captivity.  Much to your dismay, this post contains NONE of these themes; well, most likely not...I think.
I had a scheduled day off this past Monday, planned weeks earlier with a friend.  The original idea was to hit the trails, but unstable weather put a wrench in that scheme.  We decided to take it down a notch and drop into a yoga class.  Prior to arriving, I checked out the instructor's profile to get an idea of the yoga style - Power Yoga; okay, I can get behind that.  The instructor looked cute; I knew this would be a win for my friend - no brainer.
I dropped off my car for service (and yes, the breaks STILL squeal).  There's nothing more stereotypical than a young woman dressed in yoga clothes getting out of a Subaru Forester with her BPA free water bottle and a top of the line yoga mat.  I handed over my keys to the gentleman behind the desk and walked to my friend's car, ahem, Subaru.  We picked up some beverages from Dunkin Donuts (my ushe: hot tea with sugah) before zipping across town to the studio.  After checking in, we got ourselves situated in the warm room.  Although the humidity of late spring showers hung in the air, the heaters were cranked to their almost hotter-than-hell setting.  I loved it!
We were led through a Power Yoga flow with enough sun salutations and standing lunges to set the coldest corner of the earth on fire.  A few times, I found myself backing out of a Warrior pose to relieve the illumination in my quadriceps.  The practice transitioned to a pair of balancing poses, one of them being Eagle Pose (Garudasana).  I love this pose for a number of reasons; let me count the ways: 1). both the arms and the legs are heavily involved - opposing forces;  2). the stretch in the upper back is one of the best, especially on the inhale; 3). the hip/IT band stretch really wrings me out, in a good way; and, last but not least 4). there is something so uplifting when i slide my top leg across its counterpart and wrap my foot around the hind calf.
I digress.
As the group was led into the pose, the instructor began to talk some gibberish about the origins of the pose and once fully executed, the body begins to recall the last 24 hours.  So there I was, in Gaurdasana blanking on what I had done during that time.  Yup, I had no clue; it was refreshing.  I didn't hurt myself trying to find those memories and I certainly did not do a damned thing to project the occurrences in the next 24 hours.

I, at that point in my life, just was.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Retrospective Foresight

I'm closing in on my 5th week of marathon training.  It's been an amazing journey thus far, complete with six-day-a-week runs, a love affair with a cookbook and a near daily reunion with my yoga mat.  The demands of my life schedule paired with this training is slowly affecting my shut eye time: the frequency of my less than 5 hours/night is increasing.  Thursday was a prime example of a less than stellar slumber, but I got up anyway at the crack of dawn to hit the road for about 5 miles.  At some point in the course, I hopped over the nearest curb to follow the sidewalk for a bit.  I immediately thought of my spicy grandmother, Frieda, yelling after me.

Pick up your feet, Love.

I could hear her voice echo in my childhood psyche.  She lived in North Jersey down the block from the Lyndhurst train station on Court Avenue.  The sidewalks grew uneven over time due to increasingly large tree roots; years of use contributed to the crumbling edges.  Pick up your feet, Love.  I focused on the squares of pavement quickly turning over in harmony with my pace.  I paid special attention to the placement of my feet to ensure a safe landing each time.  I repeated that command over and over, until I was reminded of another directive.

Speak clearly and distinctly.  

I repeated that over and over, envisioning her face, picking up the Jersey accent.  I smirked upon realizing this pair of mantras fit the training perfectly.  My plan to run a well executed marathon is in development.  The plan is clear, precise.  All I need to do is pick up my feet and the rest will follow.

Court Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ
Map Data: Google, Sanborn

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Swanky Shack

Over the past few weeks, I've briefly noted my lack of writing.  Not everything I write winds up in this stupid blog; but even my sweet notes and self memos have been missing from my life.  So, I said, I note this inactivity and push it further back in my cluttered mind.  Today, I feel as if I've been giving the illusion of a well presented home with disorganized rooms.  Work is crazy, I'm closing in on the end of week 4 in my marathon training, summer has unofficially kicked off and I gave up alcohol.  My legs are always freshly shaven and I try my darnedest to shape my eyebrows with my $30 tweezers in an effort to save the trip to the salon.  Yes, I could use a drink and maybe a dye job, but I refuse to spend 3+ hours every six weeks for a fab fix.
Here I sit on my couch with legs propped on a mid-week rest day.  My coach gave me two choices today: 1). Follow a light run/yoga plan or 2). Take a day of rest.  I opted for the prize behind door #2 and rocked the hell out of it.  I might go so far as to call this a 'breakthrough workout'.  Oh, and yea, I did hire a coach.  Remember that goal of running the LVHN Marathon for Via with a Boston qualifying time?  Yea, I said that.  This marathon is important enough that I wanted more professional guidance.  I did not want to spend my energy on managing a training plan.  In this scenario, I do what I'm told.  Don't get used to it, though; there's a first time for everything.