Focused on the Finish Line

The Tokyo Marathon is fast approaching – only three and a half more weeks to go.  I am being extra careful these days to avoid anything that could jeopardize my trip.  The memories of my fall that prevented me from going to the Berlin Marathon are still too fresh in my mind.  I won’t do anything to put my Tokyo Marathon adventure at risk.

I am focused on one thing and one thing only – crossing the finish line in Tokyo.  My training schedule is posted on the refrigerator.  Every day I check it to see what I am scheduled to do that day – a run, strength training, core work, or cross training.  The training schedule takes priority over everything else these days.  I plan my life around my training. I plan my meals so that I am properly fueled for my long runs.  I make sure that I get plenty of sleep – that means no late nights watching movies on tv.  Thank heaven for DVR because I can record anything I can’t stay up to watch.

The funny thing that I noticed this week is that not only am I focused on my goal, but everyone close to me is as well.   One of my friends emailed me, asking when the marathon is.  He knows that I am training for the race.  He is organizing a small get together at a new restaurant in town and wanted to include me.  He also realized that the food might not be on my training diet.  It was very thoughtful of him.  Because of me, the excursion to the new restaurant will be after I come back from Tokyo.

My husband received an invitation to dinner from a business colleague and his wife.  The person offered several dates and my husband asked which would fit best with my training schedule.  He knows that I don’t like to be out the night before a long run.  I thought about switching my long run to a different day but I know that I have to take a nap after a long run – a long nap.  My Transverse Myelitis makes me very fatigued.  I have found that the length of my nap is directly proportional to the length of my run.  For me a three hour run results in a three hour nap.  Switching around my schedule might have worked but then the long nap thing would have added a new complication.  It is better to just not change things.  So another social engagement delayed until after the race.

I have told several other friends that I want to have them over for dinner.  I know I won’t have time to do that until I get back from Tokyo.  Fortunately for me, they have followed my running adventures for a few years and know how focused I am on training.  They know that when we do get together, I will have lots of stories to share about my trip.

I know I am not the only runner whose life revolves around a training schedule.  I am grateful that I have people around me who are understanding and supportive.  I will have a few months of “down time” after the Tokyo Marathon before I start to train for the Berlin Marathon and then it all starts again.  During those few months I will have a busy social calendar and lots of movies to watch on the DVR.

Runners Come in All Varieties

One of the reasons I was reluctant to run when I was younger was because I didn’t think I had the body of a runner.  The stereotypical image I had of a runner was someone who was tall and thin.  I did not inherit the light bone structure of my Welsh grandparents, though I did get the short stature of my female Welsh relatives.  I am more like a fire plug, thanks to my German roots.  But when I started running, I saw that runners come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and capabilities, men and women.  I think that is one of the things that makes running so wonderful – it is a sport that is very inclusive.

Races recognize the differences among runners by having separate age divisions for men and women, and for hand cycles and wheelchairs.  The divisions make it easy to compare similar runners.  For example, I can see how my race results compare to other women in my age bracket.  If my performance was only so-so, I sometimes compare my results to women in the next older age bracket (it gives me an idea of where I might be in a few years).  I am considering looking for races with divisions where my age will be an asset – divisions such as the Masters (aged 40+),  Grand Masters (50+), and, in a few years, Senior Grand Masters (60+).

There are also two lesser known divisions that take the size of a runner into consideration:  the Clydesdale division for men 200+ pounds, and the Filly division for women 140+ pounds (also known as the Athena division).  The divisions are not based on any assumptions about fitness levels of the athletes.  The divisions recognize that a larger build means the runner must expend more effort for the same result.  With these divisions, larger fit athletes have a way to compete.  Comparing a larger runner’s performance to that of a smaller runner would be as unfair as comparing a 55-year old runner to one that is 20-years old.  The weight cutoff can vary race to race and there may be a requirement to weigh in, just like jockeys do in horse racing.  Larger races like the Marine Corps Marathon are more likely to offer the Clydesdale and Filly/Athena divisions than small local races.

The USA Clydesdale & Filly Racing Federation is an organization that supports “big fit athletes” who enjoy competing in running, cycling and multisport events.   Their web site lists events that offer the Clydesdale and Filly/Athena divisions.  For triathletes, in 2014 USA Triathlon held the first USA Triathlon Clydesdale and Athena National Championships as a standalone National Championship event.  I think it is terrific these athletes have a championship event dedicated to them.

There is one division that race organizers might want to add – a division for athlete who run with prosthetic legs.  I think it would be more equitable for them to have a way to compete with runners who have the same challenges.  I got the idea after seeing a Foot Locker commercial for the 2014 New York City Marathon that focused on a man who ran with a prosthetic leg.

The bottom-line is that no matter who you are, what size you are, what your physical limitations are, man or woman, old or young, fast or slow, you can be a runner.  The running community has a spot for you.   So no more excuses about not having the right body to run.  If you want to run, all you need to do is put on a pair of running shoes and head out the door.

Making Peace with My Treadmill

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With all this icy weather, I have had to move my runs inside to the treadmill, or as I refer to it, the dreadmill.  Running inside on the treadmill is preferred to risking a fall that could end my plans for the Tokyo Marathon.  I have never met a runner who has been thrilled with the idea of running on a treadmill.   It is one of those necessary evils – if the weather is too dangerous to be outside, you have to run on the treadmill.  Back in December, 2009 when our 20-mile training run was snowed out, one of my teammates ran 20 miles on a treadmill.  The rest of the team was amazed; none of us would have had the guts to do that.

I decided that if I was going to complete all my training runs for Tokyo, I was going to have to make running on the treadmill more tolerable.  That involved making some changes in my set-up as well as seeing the positives to running indoors.

The indoor temperature can be a problem when running on the treadmill.  I ran 5 miles last week indoors and was absolutely drenched at the end.  I don’t think I sweat that much when I run outdoors in the summer heat.  But the thermostat was set for 70 degrees, meaning it really felt like about 90.  For my next treadmill run, I turned down the thermostat and set up a fan to blow on me.  With the air blowing on me, I found out that I needed to keep lip balm handy to avoid chapped lips.  I also stashed a basket of small towels next to the treadmill so they were handy to towel off as I ran.

Running outside is nice because there are lots of things to see – wildlife, other people, just the changing landscape.  But it also means that my non-running spouse is at home alone.  When I run on the treadmill, we can spend a bit more time together.  Since I have a television by my treadmill, we catch up on all our favorite programs we have on the DVR while I run.

I usually have difficulty trying to decide how best to dress to run outdoors in the winter.  I typically overdress and end up taking things off during the first few miles.  Carrying those extra clothes ends up weighing me down.  The nice thing about running on my treadmill is that I know how to dress – shorts and a singlet or a short sleeve shirt.  If I do get too hot, it is easy to change into a different shirt, then hop back onto the treadmill.  One thing that I did learn the hard way is that you can still chafe when you run on a treadmill.  Outdoors or indoors, Body Glide is needed for every long run.

One of the big challenges for long runs is finding someone to provide water stop support.  Not an issue for the treadmill.  I filled a small cooler with water and Nuun and put it next to the treadmill.  An added bonus is I don’t have to wear a fuel belt since the treadmill has a bottle holder.

Probably the biggest benefit to running indoors is the fact that you have no bathroom worries.  I typically will plan an outdoor running route with the best bathroom coverage.  When I run on the treadmill, I am only a few steps from a bathroom – and not a Port-a-Potty either.

There is only one drawback to the treadmill that I can’t change.  My treadmill automatically shuts off when it hits 100 minutes.  Fortunately for me the first time that this happened, I was watching the elapsed time as I ran and reacted quickly to avoid falling when it stopped.  On the balance of things, this is an issue that I can easily handle.

In the past, I hated the treadmill so much that I use to run considerably slower on it than my outdoor running pace.  Since I have changed my mindset about the treadmill, I am happy to report that I have taken nearly 4 minutes per mile off my treadmill pace.  My pace, indoor and outdoor, is nearly the same.

I still prefer to run outdoors but at least now I have made peace with my treadmill.  I no longer refer to it as the “dreadmill”.  My treadmill is helping to keep me on my training schedule.  Look out, Tokyo, here I come!

365 Days of Commitment

The New Year has started and with it many people have set goals to achieve improved physical fitness.  I set a goal to make stretching a regular part of every day.  Here we are on Day 7 and I have already failed to achieve my goal.  Fifteen minutes of stretching isn’t all that demanding.  I should have been able to keep it up.  But I would forget or get too tired.  Maybe I should try for every other day.

Compared to the goals set by people like Robert Kraft and Steve Abraham, my goal was pretty lame.  Robert, a 64 year old from Miami, set a goal of running every day in 2015.  He is a bit worried about achieving that goal since he suffers from arthritis, spinal stenosis, and a degenerated disk.  But he has a track record in his favor – he has been running every day since 1974, usually around 8 miles a day.  Robert is a member of the US Running Streak Association that has 500 active streakers (3 years ago there were only 269!); the oldest is a 78 year old woman who has been streaking for over 34 years, the youngest, a 10 year old who has been streaking for over 1.5 years.  To qualify as a streaker, you have to run at least a mile a day for 365 consecutive days.  While Robert’s 40 year record is impressive, the current record is 50 years held by England’s Ron Hill.  I ran the Dopey Challenge last year – 4 days of running fun at DisneyWorld.  By the 4th day, I was ready to hang up my running shoes and turn off my Garmin.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to run every day for 50 years.

Then there is Steve, an Englishman with a goal of biking every day at least 200 miles.  He hopes to bike a total of 80,000 miles in 2015.  Steve wants to break the record set 74 years ago by Tommy Goodwin, another Englishman who biked every day for a year and covered 75,065 miles.  Tommy was no slouch.  He didn’t stop at the end of the year; he kept going for 500 days and biked 100,000 miles.  In his attempt to break the record, Steve will be riding a steel-framed Raleigh bike, equivalent to what Tommy used, not a light-weight modern bike.  If Steve succeeds, he will have covered a distance equivalent to cycling around the world three times.  I am rooting for him to break the record.

For those of us who can’t fathom 365 days of commitment, you can always join in the Penguin’s 100 Day Challenge.  John Bingham, a.k.a. the Penguin, has been doing this challenge each year for a few years now.  “The goal is to move INTENTIONALLY for 30 minutes  a day, every day, for 100 days.”   I completed one of his 100 Day Challenges a couple years ago.  It was interesting to see how much more active I became when I was more conscious of trying to ensure that I moved each day.  There were lots of ways to complete those 30 minutes too.  I walked stairs at work during lunch, did WiiFit games, and rode my exercise bike.

As for me, I am going to give daily stretching another try.  I noticed an improvement in my muscles the few days that I did stick with it.  I just have to be more committed this time.  Just think Gumby!

Here is a link to John Bingham’s blog with more information about the 100 Day Challenge.  If you are looking for a way to get moving, this challenge just may be the motivation you need.