Archive for January, 2007


Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Today I completed my first 50k racewalk. I earned a silver medal, 2nd place in the women’s USA national championship 50k. Then I ate waffles, and walked right into the ocean.

I am overwhelmed by today — I have spent time with people who have inspired me, who have shown me kindness, total strangers who have come over to shake my hand and tell me they respect me, and how strong I am. And I have cried watching my teammates cross the finish line, knowing what they were dealing with, how much pain they were in, how much it took to stick to the end.

Western Women Go The Distance.

Sunset on the Beach

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

“All I wanna do is go the distance” — Rocky

This morning, my last workout. Not even really a workout; I call it “just enough to stretch.” Twenty minutes easy, with stretching. We go out along a path on the bay, surrounded by joggers and bikers and more casual walkers. I feel totally different from these other, relaxed, casual exercisers; its been so long since I went out and did whatever I wanted, I can’t remember when it was. My twenty minutes is on my schedule, so I’m doing it. I don’t enjoy it less, but I do it more precisely. We are careful not to go too long or at all fast.

Its been a hectic week. Monday, at work, we meet a midnight deadline with 2 minutes to spare. I run out for a break and buy a spare hot/cold pack, and go to the doctor. Tuesday’s my last track workout. The lizards are there, and they give me good practice, since they’re all passing me pretty often as I do my three miles at a subdued pace, so I get to practice keeping my own pace. Afterwards, I go inside, and it feels strange not to hit the weight room. Since I’m done so much sooner than usual, I get a last minute massage. Wednesday, I visit the physical therapist who fixed me up after the 2005 Portland marathon. She can only give me a light treatment before the race, but we go ahead and book me for two appointments next week, anticipating the tendinitis won’t be so happy after 31 miles. Last time, she got me racing again, from not being able to put any weight on my leg, in just a few weeks, so I know this is the best approach. This treatment is called A-stym; she digs into my soft tissue with hard plastic tools, to deliberately break down the tissue and let it rebuild. She treats my leg from the bottom of my foot and up the inside, about two thirds of the way up to my knee. Even though it hurts, I know the worst is to come, since she’s keeping it light — last time at one point my entire leg was bruised, but it works and that’s the thing. You just have to grip the table and visualize whatever the hell works until its over. Thursday’s my last real walk, although its not really very challenging.

Friday the whole team visits the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. This is a place where the best US athletes are invited to come and train, with everything provided for them, dormitories and a cafeteria, sports medicine, physical therapy, etc. Our tour guide is excited to learn we’re in town to race, and asks for the name of our team so she can check the newspaper to see how it went on Monday. Before the guided tour, they show a film, and at one point, they show a few scenes of athletes failing, getting injured, having to stop, and I swear we all stopped breathing — I know I did. I’ve never actually stopped for an injury, although I did injure myself around mile 22 of the 2005 Portland Marathon. Afterwards, when I told people I was injured, they would say “oh, did you finish” and that puzzled me. “Am I dead?” I’d reply, and when they said “no” I’d say “well, then, I finished.” The movie makes me cry.

This afternoon, I head out to the ocean at sunset, alone, and walk along in the icy cold water, thinking about the race. I know I’m going to give it my all, and that my all is quite a bit more than it used to be, from training and skipping dessert and eating all those good healthy foods and reading and learning and pushing. But I can’t know what will happen tomorrow. “On any given Sunday…”

All I wanna do is go the distance.

Ourselves, Getting Stronger

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Earlier this week, chatting with a friend, I surprised myself by saying “preparing for this race has been a life changing experience.” I realize its true as I’m saying it. Some of the changes have been unexpected.

I am stronger physically. Well, I expected that, intellectually it would make sense that after months of regular training, I’d improve, strengthen my legs, etc. But here I am, with a resting heart rate of 59, routinely exceeding my PR times from last spring just in training workouts, and its really pretty cool. I can do more stomach crunches, for sure, no big surprise there, but one day back when I was sick, I said to a friend, “well, no matter how crappy I feel, I can still do some stomach crunches,” and he just laughed at first, then paused, when he realized I was serious. And in his pause, I saw myself, the new myself, and wow! its true, I do double abs machine in the gym, then do some more abs work on the mat, nobody pushing me, no doctors prescription, just me wanting to be better, stronger, to give the race my best effort. Once a couple months back, I was walking up on a large hill, when across the street I saw a long, long staircase up to the top of the hill, and I just dashed over and up I went, every step without any pause, just to show myself I could, right up to the top only to turn around and come back down, smiling. Although I’ve been very conservative with my weight room workouts, I’ve increased all the weight amounts by this point, at least once. Back in October when I first visited Dr. Ray, he asked me to try to pick up a ball with my foot, and when I did he said my foot was doing the best job of that of any patient he’d ever seen. I thought for a second, then said, “I’ve been doing the picking-up-a-towel-with-my-feet exercise for a year now.” My arms are stronger, too, from the weights and from the walking, and its easier to carry things.

I’m lighter. Still not skinny like those Olympic athletes, absolutely zero chance I’m competing in a bathing suit anytime soon, but I’ve lost 14 pounds since that fateful day at the end of March I told Dave McGovern “I want to go faster.” Two weeks ago, I carted an armful of “too loose jeans” over to Goodwill, and had to restrain myself from dancing in joy right there as the guy asked if I wanted a receipt. No diet plans, no points counting or weekly weigh ins — just me, wanting to be faster, leaving half on my plate and cutting the saturated fats. I made up a few rules, like “no meat and butter” — can’t have meat and butter in the same meal; and “meat free Monday” — hardest to remember, which I often do halfway through a chicken salad for Monday lunch, but I think I’ve managed it about a third of the time; and “dessert with fruit” — so even when I cave I put a scoop of ice cream over a bowl of fruit, instead of the other way around.

I am stronger mentally. And this one I wasn’t expecting. Over much of the months of training, it seemed to be at the expense of my work. I still worked hard, rarely as little as 40 hours per week, but I felt that I was always leaving work to go workout, or arriving later in the morning after working out, always juggling, always compromising, to get the workouts in. But in December I got through a big work push, a result of two deadlines colliding, much easier than ever before, staying extremely productive right up to the last ten minutes. No small change — I got about twice as much done in a week than previous times. I tell myself that if I can get through two and a half hour workouts, and 5 hour long walks, then I can keep my brain cranking and get through these deadlines. And I do. This past week, I find myself playing my workout playlist while I push at work, and it brings home to me that these two things aren’t really two things — they are more alike than different. The voice in me that says “keep trying” and “yes, you *can* do it” and “you are going to whip this” has gotten stronger, and that voice is what’s left when you’ve used up everything else, no matter what you’re facing.

When the team steps up to that starting line next week, we will all be different versions of ourselves, because of these past months. If only someone could take a picture of *that*.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Guess I survived yesterday’s non-workout — inspiration hit in the late afternoon, and I downloaded Beck’s “Loser.” Loud music while singing “Soy un perdedor, I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me” was just the thing. Mostly I was distracted by other work, followed by a pretty lousy night’s sleep. Then the alarm blaring at 6am. Never one to risk injury by leaping out of bed too soon, I crawled out at about 6:30, and slithered down to the magic coffeemaker, which has its own alarm that wakes it up to make me coffee while I oversleep.

I’ve dried out my clothes in the dryer, but the metatarsal pads in my shoes are like sponges, and both pairs are still really wet. Well, nothing for it but to stick my dry feet in there and try not to think about it too much. I get out to the bike path by 7:30. Its in the low 40s, foggy, misty, and damp, but no actual rain. I set out for a 5k warmup with flexibility drills. Then I do 2k loops for 22k, averaging 7:36/km. I’m really feeling it by then, but the hardest part’s just starting: I’m supposed to push the pace for the last 8k. And I do, from 7:36/km to 7:22/km. I was pretty beat, things were aching, seemed like surely I’d get out to the turnaround point and just be stuck there, a kilometer from my car, and have to crawl back. Started thinking about how my schedule really said “32-35k” so even if I stopped, I’d still have completed the schedule, so what was the big deal?? Then I thought about yesterday’s cut-short workout, and how I’d been unable to shift gears partway through, and just told myself “Don’t stop!” Focused on how stopping was a change, so it was easier to just keep going. Reminded myself this was the LAST 35K!!!! before the race, told myself it would all be easier after this. (This one didn’t work — my next thought was, “race?? No f*cking way I’m doing the race!” ) Told myself if I had to crawl back, I’d crawl, it wouldn’t kill me. Then, the incredible relief of crossing the edge of the path and being done.

At home, I weigh myself: 3-4 pounds less than the start of the workout. I drink some water, the rest of the coffee, grab some cheese and crackers, throw on dry clothes, then jump back into the car: its the first day of the winter quarter, and I have to get to class! I’m right on the edge of not being good to drive, but I make it in, then see that my class is in the furthest building from my office, so I shuffle my way diagonally across campus, looking 5 ways before crossing, and stopping at the flashing “don’t walk”‘s since I’m not sure I can get across fast enough. Its just like the last leg of my workouts, when I have to get back to my car: I don’t feel okay enough to make it, but I don’t see any alternative, so I push till I make it. Its not exactly optimal workout recovery, but thankfully my colleague does the stand-and-talk part today, I don’t have to lecture, I just sit with an ice pack on my foot, feeling everything gradually tighten up, trying to convince a brain cell or two to fire.

Now, sitting at home, digesting two plates of lasagna, it hits me: I did it!!!!

The Goal Remains the Same

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

I’m just back from an aborted long walk attempt, warming up, drying off, trying to regroup. I’m not so good at this part, though, I just feel like a lazy-ass whining quitter. (Good thing I’m not too hard on myself. ;) I realize on the way home, that both of my cut-short walks have been for the same reason — wind. Today its pouring right from the start, but I have a goretex jacket on, and its above freezing. But the wind is gusting up pretty strongly, so half of each loop is head on into strong wind, and *that* is nasty. Harder, for one thing, but also, even in all the rain, I feel dehydrated, because the wind is right at me. Good grief. Two of my teammates are out training as well, and I’m really thrown when one of them starts urging me to quit the workout, saying she’s afraid I’ll get sick. I guess everyone’s so different, in what it takes to get through, and I know she means well, but this actually shocks me because how I get through is to never think for a second about any other option, and I only say positive things to the others as I go by. I just can’t process this much re-thinking while walking. Anyway, the wind’s the thing, it means I’m getting blasted with colder air while soaked, and I decide, tomorrow’s another day.

Its been a full week. New Year’s Eve I did a 3 mile race that starts at midnight. I did this last year for the first time. I thought, I’m going to do something positive right at midnight, before I have a chance to start the year with some screw up or other, or sitting around thinking about what I could be doing. I liked the symbolism, starting off a year of walking that way. And it sure seems to have worked — in 2006 I did a whole bunch of races, two racewalk clinics, and embarked on my current 50k journey. So I want to repeat the ritual this year. My schedule tells me I’m supposed to take it easy, and I don’t push all out, but I go along and it feels great. Its right around freezing, and I try something new, adding leg warmers over my calves and ankles, remembering back to training from dance classes. This actually works great, feels very good. My pace puts me with the slower runners, those who mix in walking or just run at a slower pace, so I really stand out, people notice me. It does seem to frustrate runners when they can’t pass me — one person is next to me for a little bit, trying really hard to pass me, huffing away, and I’m there next to them, not really breathing hard, walking smoothly along as they bob up and down, and I’m thinking, “this is soooo cool.” I should bring along cards with the racewalk clinic info, to pass out to people like this. Although I didn’t push all out, I beat my 5k PR time from the summer, and I’m pretty happy about that. The post race part is kind of odd, there are a bunch of tables and chairs setup but they are all outdoors, and I’m thinking, yeah, that’s what I want to do after getting all warm from racing, sit down in thirty degree weather — NOT!! I find water and some fruit, and run into someone else from the racewalk club, so it kind of works out. I think maybe the party part of the race was before the race, so I missed it because, well, who wants to party *before* a race?? I was busy warming up.

Tuesday night I head to the track for my 8 x 400 meter intervals. I workout at a quarter-mile track, but I just do 8 x 1 lap anyway, then I can only be happily surprised at my real times, since I’m going slightly longer each time. As I get started, some lizards (members of a local running club called the Red Lizards) are there training, and one or two other folks are working out. About 4 intervals in, though, I notice that its gotten pretty empty. Then I’m startled to notice a guy sitting on a bench on the darker side of the track, further from the street and the Y, I mean, its dark and raining, and as I pass I realize he’s just sitting there, maybe watching me, and that snaps me into urban combat mode pretty fast. I finish the lap and as I stroll through the recovery, across the track from him, I try to decide what to do. I want to finish my workout, and I’m probably faster than him, but he’s bigger than me and I don’t carry mace on the track. He gets up and starts walking around the track as I’m stretching, so I decide to go ahead with the next lap. He ends up going into a bathroom, and I know homeless people sleep in them, so I figure, probably not a troublemaker, just sitting in the rain because he’s got no place else to sit. Then a jogger shows up and starts doing laps, so I breathe out, and finish my workout. Time for a change, though — I decide to move all of my workouts to 7am. I head inside the Y to do my weight training, and when I get home, I blast “Just a Girl” (No Doubt) to get the frustration out of my system.

Friday’s my first hard workout in the morning, I know I won’t make 7am but I get to the track before 9 so I’m pretty happy. Its a whole different set of folks on the track and inside the Y. I’m a bit drowsy, feeling a little out of sorts, but its not too bad, and its not raining. I do a 10k acceleration, beating my 10k PR by finishing the whole thing in 1:12:06. Then I head inside for weight training. After I finish, I drive over to Dr. Ray’s office to get some more metatarsal pads for my new shoes. Friday evening I make a lasagna, and a couple of my teammates come by to eat and talk. We watch some of the video coverage from the 2004 Olympics, and as the head judge DQs Nathan Deakes we are all pretty quiet. I figure we’re all thinking the same thing — please don’t let that be me — I know I am. There’s no 50k women’s footage, because there’s no women’s 50k in the Olympics, only men’s, so we alternate between watching the mens 50 and the womens 20. I don’t know if there’s ever been a women’s 50k race, the national championship we’re training for is mixed, and the international events like the World Cup are men only. It would be cool to be able to look at video of women 50k’ers while training. There’s plenty in common, so we can learn from watching the guys — at one point a helper gets an athlete his drink bottle by throwing it in a high arc over another walker, and we laugh and discuss whether there’s enough time to practice that with our Team Waterboy before the race. Somebody suggests perhaps it would be easier if we just opened our mouths and he tossed in some Cliff Cubes, and well, we just got sillier and sillier from there.

Saturday I’m down for one hour easy. I join in the racewalk club walk, at Mt. Tabor. This gives me a slow uphill as a warmup, then we do loops around the circular path at the top. I’m a few minutes late so I do the uphill alone, but its a really great walk, there’s a spectacular view of the Portland downtown skyline along the way. Then I get to chat with folks as we walk around the top.

Today I’ll just feel lazy and unserious, with the redo scheduled for tomorrow. According to the forecast, the winds should drop down to 4-5 mph by then, and compared to this morning’s 20mph, I’m hoping it will feel like, well, a breeze. :)