Monday, March 21, 2011

Bend it Like Bikram

The high temperature in Williston, Vermont yesterday hit 39 degrees.  After a long winter that was both snowy and cold, 39 degrees feels fairly warm.  For yesterday's run I felt that the weather was warm enough for shorts, a light long sleeve shirt and a vest. To be honest about a two miles into my run I had to pull up my sleeves and unzip my vest a little.  Reality though, is that when I head to California in just over a month the temperatures will more than likely be over double what it is currently at my house.  

To help prepare my body and mind for the heat for my race in April and for WS, while also strengthening everything I have started doing Bikram. For those of you who are acquainted with me understand that my body likes to do what it knows best which is the running motion. Beyond striding, leaping and quick steps I feel like, and perhaps look like, a fawn walking for the first time.  To make things even worse envision me in a 105+ degree room filled with people as I try to stretch and contort my body while wearing hardly anything.  Can you picture my face?  If you know me, then you know I am not smiling, I am not relaxed and I am having a hard time staying in the small area of my mat while making small movements. There is no clock, there is not anything to really gauge myself against besides how I feel from moment to moment and movement to movement.  Once and a while the instructor makes adjustments to my position, but beyond that it is just me, my thoughts, my mat and my sweat.  
Dead Body Pose Savasana
Speaking of mats it isn't hard to recall my favorite pose, which is called "Savasana" or "Dead Body Pose" and I wouldn't mind doing this pose for the entire 90 minute class.
Standing Deep Breathing Prana Yama
Now for my least favorite I have to choose two because they are so different yet I currently despise them both for very different reasons.  The first is "Prana Yama" which is the first posture of the 26 posture series.  It involves focused breathing.  I hate to hear myself and others breathe so these five minutes or so is absolute torture as I pretend to be making noise as I exhale out.  
Toe Stand Pose Pa Dan Gust Asana
The second pose that I despise is "Pa Dan Gust Asana".  Just look at the picture and you will probably understand why.  My body is not a pretzel,  my feet are bony and typically have issues so there is no way my toes on just one foot are going to support and balance my entire body.  Just even trying to attempt this position would probably mean a trip to the ER.  I watch in awe as others around me enter and exit this pose and wonder, "could I do that if I really worked at it?"

I think that my mentality for life is that if I am going to do something than I am going to do it - all or nothing.  For me it is a challenge to go into something new and struggle in front of others.  I wish I were more patient and connected with my body, yet know that at this point I know I don't have the ability to commit the adequate time and energy into the process.  There is no doubt in my mind that this practice would/does benefit both my mind and body, but for now only once a week I will be able to say "namaste".

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plodding Along in The Land of the Blah-Blah

With the help of a massive winter storm on Sunday and Monday I ended up with a four day weekend.  I felt like a little kid waiting anxiously for school to be cancelled and it did.  Despite having Monday and Tuesday off from work I had a week of what I am deeming the blahs.
After completing the snowshoe marathon last Saturday I ran on Sunday and Monday and felt a little sluggish on uphills, but in general felt good.  Tuesday I crossed trained and then when I woke up on Wednesday I could barely walk.  Any pressure on my right foot caused pained.  I told myself to "walk it off"and get dressed for the gym.  I hobbled downstairs and it only got worse, so I hobbled/crawled back upstairs and into bed.  Could I take a sick day after having a four day weekend?  Of course I could, but I knew it really wouldn't help.  

I managed to make it through the work day and then headed off to the physical therapy for my foot.  I had a similar issue a few years ago which sidelined me for several months.  I was serious about taking care of this sooner rather than later so without hesitation I offered up rest, which I have never done before.  I knew in my mind a few days off now would be better than weeks off later.  My PT Andy and I decided on three days off to start.  On my days off I still went to the gym to do abs, arms, legs and to sit in the sauna.  By day three I couldn't resist the urge and found myself on the treadmill.  I began with a walk, then a jog.  I ran my first mile in just under ten minutes and I continued to run.  A nine minute mile, eight minute mile, sub eight, another and then a seven.  I was content with six miles, cooled down and stretched.  

I thought that running would make me feel better and it partially did, but I have diagnosed myself with a case of the "blah-blahs".  This morning I went to Bikram yoga to continue my progression with heat training.  About half way through the class I caught myself staring in the mirror thinking "wow I need to get my sheet together" (G-Rated Version).  The clock is ticking and everything is coming quickly whether I am ready or not.  Realizing this I find myself moving further into the land of blah, but eager to find my way out.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pittsfield Peaks

-Running a marathon...
-Running a marathon, in the rain and temperatures in the mid 30's -40's.
-Running a marathon, in the rain, with decent elevation gain and loss.
-Running a marathon, in the rain, with decent elevation gain and loss on snowshoes.
-Running a marathon, in the rain, with decent elevation gain and loss on snowshoes on largely ungroomed single track trails.
*How else would I want to spend my Saturday?

Peak races in Pittsfield, VT is notorious for putting on challenging races during all seasons.  For a change of scenery and pace I opted to do the full snowshoe marathon as a training run.  I had run the race once before and suffered so severely that I vowed to never enter the race again.  I guess that time helps memories and pain fade.

Once checking in at the Pittsfield General Store and pinning my bib on Amy Lane and Brian Rusiecki arrived.   I was happy to see them both.  Out of all of us Amy was by far the most excited for the race despite the wintry mix that started outside.  I would have gladly stayed in the store for hours sipping coffee and shopping around.  Eventually it was time to leave the warmth and shelter of the store and head over to the Amee Farm where the race starts and finishes.  I set up my bag in the lap area, tightened up my Salomon XA Pro 5's, which I choose because of their all around stability (they also provide a bit more stiffness which I like while snowshoe running) and tuned into the pre-race meeting.  I told myself just four laps of the course and I would be done and knew I needed to take it one lap at a time.  With a mass start of all participants doing anywhere from 6 miles to the marathon, it was a bit chaotic.  I tucked myself behind Amy Lane and let her set the pace for the two of us.  Within a quarter of a mile we were off the nicely packed snowmobile trail and climbing up the first portion of the single track.  The climbing would continue for about 40 minutes and Amy set a nice pace where we could converse the entire time.   We hadn't seen each other since the Vermont 50 in September so we had a lot to catch up on.  Once we reached the summit the pecking order of racers seemed to be sorted out so it was nice to fall into our own rhythm.  Now for the downhill.  The snow was loose and deep in some sections.  If I veered six inches to one side or the other the toe of my snowshoe would catch crusty snow and I would stumble.  I managed to stay upright and in control.   We finished the first lap in just under 1:09, I took off my jacket and opted for my softshell vest instead.

My drop bag supervisor!
Amy and I ran side by side till the single track began once again and then I took the lead as the pace car.  We continued along at the same pace and got several looks as we climbed and chatted up a storm.  From several racers it was a look of disbelief and/or annoyance.  The lap went as planned and we once again came into the lap area together.  I grabbed a new water bottle, tightened my snowshoes and we were off and running again.

The third lap proved to be more of the same.  We were now passing some people for the first or second time and had lots of cheers and words of encouragement for "girl power".  It was actually really motivating and inspiring, because despite not red lining it we were rocking it stride for stride.  As we got closer and closer to the summit the wind began to pick up and the storm clouds were imminent.  After reaching the summit and descending for about a mile we stopped for a quick bathroom break and then quickly got back to pace.  On this downhill some areas were beginning to get muddy and wet while other areas were just getting so packed and firm that by just leaning back I would slide down it on the tails of my snowshoes.  Again as we came into the lap area were right on schedule and I was amazed at how even our laps were shaking out to be.

As we continued to overtake other racers we joked that we were simply trying to outrun the weather.  We were joking, yet we were serious.  Every step we took, and every climb we finished, Amy reminded me that it was our last of the day.  About a two miles from the top Amy commented that we could finish at 4:45 and that would be a nice even finishing time.  I looked at my watch and picked up the pace a little.  Just before reaching the summit she re-evaluated and said well 4:50 would be round and nice as well.  I knew in my head I could make 4:45 happen.  We would have to push a few sections a little bit harder, but could do so while still playing it safe on the direct downhills.  As we descended off the last piece of single track, across what I deemed the sketchy bridge and onto the snowmobile track Amy looked at her watch and said, "We can do it!"  We came to the last corner and I joked about standing there for two minutes so we could finish at a nice even time.  We crossed the line with the rain coming down on us and looked around for the timers.  We were both saying "We finished" and then the timers popped out of a car and asked for our numbers for an approxiamte finish time of 4:43.  Here is a peek at what my Garmin recorded.  The satellite did not track all of the tight switchbacks so some mileage and elevation was not recorded.  Either way it is interesting to see the elevation profile and pacing (click on "view details").

All the runners and hikers were truly amazing but what kept me captivated and curious was the Winter Death Race that was going on.  Men and women chopping wood, hauling the wood they chopped up the mountain, retrieving buckets of rocks from a cold stream which they had to wade in, building bird house, etc.  Certainly not a race for me, but crazy to see the level of suffering and determination.

I did find a competitor to chat with as he constructed his bird house.  His sense of humor was still intact and strong so I explained to him that I would gladly have him over to my house to complete manual labor and I would even be willing to do so without a race entry fee.