Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
So... it's done! Sunday May 30th I completed my first marathon in Burlington Vermont with a time of 4:42:45 which is an average pace of 10:79/mile and I didn't walk once. It's hard to know where to begin this post, as it is the culmination of everything. I guess I'll just give a play-by-play.
Arrived in Vermont on Saturday afternoon with my mother, sister, Dylan, and bro-in-law Jason. Saturday night we had a big homemade pasta meal that my step-mother Jan made at my Dad's house. It was delicious and we also had lemon pie and strawberry shortcake as made by my sister. I went to sleep fairly easily at 10:30pm, but awoke a couple time in excited anticipation. My dad woke me up at 5:30am and I had coffee and juice and a bit of oatmeal and drank a lot of water. My Dad, Dylan and I headed downtown to where the race starts where we met up with my mother. There were tons of people. It was nice and gray and overcast. I was quite excited. I guess the bigness of the event felt like it was supporting me - unlike the days in training I was out by myself trudging along endlessly through Beverly Hills or the Valley.
The wheelchair racers started first at 8am, then the runners started at 8:03. Between the relay, half marathon and marathon there were 3600 racers. eight hundred and some-odd of them were full marathoners. Of course they played U2 when the race began - ugh. I started pretty easy. I felt incredibly light though and allowed myself to speed up as long as it didn't feel like I was "efforting". We looped through downtown for 3 miles, then took off down a long stretch along the 'beltway'. I felt pretty good all along there. By then my sister, Jason and Jan had showed up and everyone was remarkably organized at finding good intervals to cheer for me. Those first 8 miles were nice and smooth and I managed to pass the 4:30 pace group (my goal was to stay between them and the 4:45 pace group).
Then back through downtown and on to a long loop in the other direction which swung back along the lake. I felt pretty good throughout that whole stretch. By the time we got back to downtown it was about mile 13 and I was at the bottom of 'Heatbreak Hill' which is a long steep grade with tons of spectators. They had these radical tiko drummers at the bottom which were hugely motivating. Plus my sister hopped in with me to run up the hill, which was fun because it gave me the opportunity to show off a little. I love hills. For some reason when I see a hill in front of me I get a surge of energy. That was a fun stretch and I heard plenty of "I love you!"s from the crowd. Then Leda (sis) peeled off at the top and I went on to a long loop back in the other direction. By this time I really needed to pee but there were shockingly few Port-o-Potties on the course. Then when I did see one there were several people waiting and I had absolutely no interest in waiting. I looked for bushes that would provide ample cover but there really weren't any that looked appropriate.
We looped through neighborhoods with folks sitting on their lawns banging pots and pans. I was feeling really demoralized by how I couldn't find a bathroom at this point and wondered if any of these people would let me use theirs, or at least their back lawn, but didn't dare ask. I saw my mom and Dylan at mile 17 and felt energized enough to leap by them. Then at about mile 18 I began to feel more fatigue. The 4:30 pace group passed me which bummed me out a little. Finally at 18.5 there was a park bathroom, I ran up to it and dove into a stall. There was one toilet with no stall and another racer was peeing in it shamelessly. That was pretty fun.
I ran back out of the bathroom and onto the course for the final turnaround then the long stretch back along the bike path to the waterfront finish line. Around mile 20 I started to feel quite uncomfortable. People always talk about "pain" when they are running and I was interested to see if I'd feel pain. But that is not the right word. It is more like discomfort, then strong discomfort, then intense discomfort. Definitely a slowing in the muscles. A strong desire to lie down in the grass at the side of the road. I was sick of water and the idea of water felt gross. I just wanted to lie down. That was it. My only desire.
At this point a lot of people were walking. Or walking then jogging then walking. Which was kind of annoying because they'd jog by me then suddenly be walking in front of me and I'd have to jog around them, then it would all happen again. My fuel belt was really bothering me as was the long-sleeve tied around my waist. They felt like a girdle. I just kept looking for the next mile marker. It wasn't very fun to think about the miles left, it was better to just say to myself that I just had to hang in there for 60 minutes and it would all be over. Somehow thinking about the minutes instead of miles was a bit easier.
Finally I came across my mom/Leda/Jason around mile 24 and I hurled my shirt and fuel belt at them. Leda and Jason joined me for about a half mile which was good because it took my mind off the running. Then they peeled off and left me to the last mile. Pretty soon I emerged into the crowds around the finish and that really invigorated me. Hearing them cheer and feeling my proximity to the finish energized my legs and lungs. I smoothed out my stride and cruised across the finish at 4:42:45. Then on to the food tent for orange slices. My dad found me in the crowd. It took me about 30 seconds to sit down on the ground my muscles were so stiff. I felt pretty good overall though. Everyone else joined and then I went to the beer tent and had a beer which was DELICIOUS. Much better than water. Who new Michelob was such a wonderful beer?
So it's done. It's nice that it's done. I feel freed up. And since I got back to LA Tuesday I've been offered 5 new yoga classes which will bring me up to 11 classes/week. Next weekend I go to Toronto for the next module of Yoga for Runners teacher training. I'm teaching 2 more Yoga for Runners classes this month as well.
In my first entry I wrote that I wanted to run this marathon because "I couldn't help but wonder what running a marathon would do to my mind; what cracks it might create in my idea of myself and reality at large". I really can't adequately articulate how hugely this process has effected me. I feel like I have expanded myself - not just into a marathon runner, but into a person without limitations. My actions have transcended my mind and have therefore planted this feeling of possibility in me that is limitless. But not in a boisterous blustery way - in a quiet, simple way - like that was the truth all along, I just didn't know it. My life has so much more texture than it did when I started. I feel like I've been living much more completely in the present. I feel like I've stopped waiting for my life to start, and stopped lusting after other peoples' lives. There is a strong feeling of self-confidence that has arisen in this process. And a deep feeling of gratitude that I get this brief existence on planet Earth. When I started this process I was scouring Craigslist for Assistant positions that I didn't want. Now I'm moving into a career as a full time yoga teacher. I have come to love running and I'm excited to try out another half marathon in coming months (no more marathons in my near future!). Out of curiosity I weighed myself yesterday and found that I've lost 5 pounds - a strangely inconsequential change given the giant mental shifts!
My father and step-mother are putting together a little video of me during the marathon which I will post in coming weeks. In the meantime, thank you for reading and thank you for supporting me throughout this process. I hope that you are out there taking on your version of a marathon - somehow committing to something you believe in not because someone else told you to or you feel an obligation, just because you want it for yourself.
Friday, May 21, 2010
I am about to move into my final week of training. This week has been quite mild. The longest I'm running is 8 miles on Sunday. Nice smooth 6 miles out to Hancock Park and back this morning. I have been increasing my yoga as the mileage decreases. Probably mostly just because I've missed going to a lot of classes during the busiest part of my training. Now I'm trying to get to one strong flow class a day. I think it'll really help me feel energized during the race.
Yesterday I made my official race shirt. See photo. Having a shirt that says "I love you" was part of my marathon running plan from the start. I guess it is a sort of yogic social experiment. Will strangers yell out "I love you!" to me while I'm running? If so, will I yell "I love you too!" back? How will that feel? Will my emotions be exacerbated because of the strenuous effort so that I start crying when people say "I love you"? Or maybe no one will say it? Too weird? We'll find out next Sunday.
Meanwhile, the rest of my life has been so lovely lately. Teaching more and more and the classes are growing. It has been such a gift and privilege to be teaching so many people yoga. I feel I should come home and just bow down with my forehead on the floor for hours on end. I'll also be teaching 2 more classes at Runnergy in Sherman Oaks in June, and I'll be returning to Toronto for the next module of my Yoga for Runners teacher training. Nothing more to report now. Breezy Friday afternoon in Beverly Hills Adjacent.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The past week of running since the 24 has been quite good. Especially Friday when I did an 8 mile run out past Hancock Park and back. I've caught glimpses of the "runner's high" but nothing compared to that 8 miles. It felt completely effortless. It was as if some great power had entered my body and instead of running I was being taken for a run. My gait was so smooth, speeding up only made me feel more energized. Strangely, this came after Thursday night which was slightly debaucherous in the intoxication sense (friend Carrie and I had gone to the downtown Art Walk, had dinner and drinks and seen a fun country-style band, see her blog at http://missenscene.com/2010/05/15/dtla-art-walk-may-2010-wphotos/ if you want a photo tour). I thought I'd wake up hungover and unwilling to lace up my sneakers, but I was actually strangely drawn toward them. I don't know why I happened to be filled with so much spirit Friday morning, but I do see how such an experience with running can create a certain addiction.
Meanwhile, this morning I did 12 miles deeper than ever into Beverly Hills. I happened by the Greystone Mansion which was quite stunning (see old photo above). Now owned by the City of Beverly Hills, the mansion has a wild history including murder/suicide and many many films and TV shows shot there (not to mention Obama's fundraiser right before the election). Although the Beverly Hills homes I jog by are incredibly stunning, there is an especially creepy air around many. Those shows of wealth can feel kind of garish - especially with all the stories of crime and corruption within so many of them. Thankfully it was a cloudy morning with a very slight drizzle - a welcome change from the bright sun as I trudged past tall hedges and ornate iron gates.
I am less than 2 weeks from the marathon now. I have purchased tickets to get to Vermont. I am amping up the yoga now that my mileage is lessening. I need to make my shirt to wear during the marathon. I think I will write I love you! on it, so that people might yell "I love you!" when I run by. Could be interesting?
Monday, May 10, 2010
So... Today was my final long run: 24 miles. Thankfully it was not nearly as miserable as 22 was last week. I planned the route so I would always be within five miles of home and broke it into three parts. Part 1 was a 9.5 mile loop through Beverly Hills, part 2 was the same loop in reverse, part 3 was a 5 mile down-and back into Hancock Park. I woke up at 4:45am and was on the road by 5:35. I absolutely love getting out before the sun rises. It feels like stolen time. The first 9.5 miles was relatively enjoyable. Then I zipped into my apartment to use the restroom and refill the water bottles (Dylan still sleeping), and back out for the second loop. This one was going okay for a couple miles, then as I plodded along through the flats of Beverly Hills my right knee/calf really started to glom up. It wasn't that it hurt, exactly, but just was kind of freezing in place. This made me quite unhappy. I could feel that I had the strength and endurance to do the run, but if my right lower leg continued on like this, I wasn't going to be able to keep going. So I took emergency measures.
Last week after the miserable 22 I decided to stop and stretch out my hamstrings every so often during my runs. If I had to stop and wait for a "Walk" sign, instead of jogging in place, I'd go into a deep forward fold - opening up the back of my knees which tend to get stuck in a bent position, limiting my range of motion. Today I did the same thing, but it wasn't quite enough. So I knelt down on the side of the street in Bev Hills and rubbed out my calf and achilles tendon. My calves have gotten quite tight and hard from all this running. I just kept kneading it out, then took a downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), lifting one heel than the other, opening up the hamstrings. To my surprise, when I started jogging again most of the discomfort was gone. I stopped once more to really knead out the calf, but other than that, just a downward dog here and there was enough to keep my legs working for the full 24. Thank GOD for yoga! I really do not think I could have gotten this far in the training without my yoga recovery tactics. Now no more long runs left before the marathon. The longest will be just 12 miles.
One big thing I've noticed throughout my training is that where my route goes makes a big difference in how difficult I perceive it to be. It seems like one giant loop is generally more difficult than a couple smaller loops equalling the same distance. As I was trudging along today I was thinking about what an appropriate metaphor for life that is. When we think of the end result, the ultimate goal, we get overwhelmed by how far away it seems. But if we can break it down into several smaller goals, we somehow get there much faster and more easily. Those small bits of accomplishment keep us motivated.
Well, I'm really tired now. Went to Swerve after my run and taught a yoga class. Time to rest the legs before more yoga to teach tonight. Glory be. Thank God the 24 is done with. Home stretch.
Monday, May 3, 2010
This morning I ran 22 miles. I'm using the word "ran" very liberally here. I think stumbled would actually be more accurate. I can honestly say that the entire run was unpleasant. I woke up at 5AM and made a cup of coffee in the dark. Got dressed in the usual neon lemon/lime outfit I wear for long runs. Got out the door by 5:45 and started out down Orange Street, then left on Crescent Heights. Usually the first mile or so is sort of crunchy, then I catch my first wind and start to really enjoy myself. But as I turned onto Hollywood Blvd about 2.5 miles later, I still felt icky. No particular reason, my body just didn't feel lithe and energetic the way it often does. As I trudged past my old apartment building I lived in when I was 20 I couldn't help but be haunted by the old emotions of fear and desire and desperation to be somebody in the world that used to dominate my days. And as I saw numerous couches rejected curbside with the cushions removed, I was plagued by agitation that people would come along and take the cushions and leave the couch - making it unusable to anyone else.
Pretty soon I'd made it to the "Walk of Fame" on Hollywood Blvd where all the stars are along the sidewalk. It was still very early and only a few people were milling by as opposed to the usual glut of tourists and aspiring actors dressed up as super-heros. Tried to entertain myself by reading the names of the stars... "Paula Abdul... Jeff Bridges... Cherlize Theron... Herbie Hancock... Stephen Spielberg... Bugs Bunny!" This really disturbed me. How are we supposed to take the stars seriously if they are going to put fictional characters on them? How can the actors/singers/directors who have been honored with immortality there on Hollywood Blvd ever believe it if there's a fictional name right beside them? Obviously getting a Hollywood Blvd star isn't like getting a Nobel Prize or anything but they could at least take it a bit more seriously than adding cartoon characters!
Then I turned up Highland which was really starting to get zippy with morning traffic. I forked onto Cahuenga which runs beside the freeway and crunched along on broken glass to the roar of the morning commuters. Let me tell you, Cahuenga Blvd=Big Mistake. The sidewalk ran out and there was practically no shoulder ant then a tall curb and a guard rail. I started to imagine my own death. Like if a garbage truck barreled by and a pebble spat up from it's tire and went straight into my eye socket and pierced my brain. That would be so lame. And all because I chose to run on Cahuenga. For a little while I had to teeter along on the curb lest I get flattened. Finally made it to where Barham crosses over the freeway. I snuck into a little parking lot there to relieve myself behind a dumpster (sorry for the explicit details, I just want you to understand the fullness of how unpleasant the whole thing was), then I swallowed a tri-berry gu and had some water. Then headed over the bridge onto a long incline up Barham Blvd toward Burbank.
As I made my way up the hill I started brainstorming the title for this blog. These were some of the ideas I came up with: "Running 22 Miles is Really Unpleasant", "Running 22 Miles Isn't Much Fun", "Running 22 Miles is Way Less Fun Than You Think"... and I'd only run about 8 miles so far. I crested the hill and passed by the ever-depressing Oakwood Apartments where college students in film programs around the country are housed during their senior internships in Hollywood. Just driving by there made me so sad for all the unfulfilled ambition out there. Not that I think ambition is healthy. But it still makes me sad when it isn't achieved.
I turned right onto Forest Lawn and ran on a big dusty shoulder the back of the WB lot and the Forest Lawn Cemetery for what seemed like centuries. Ran by their giant main mortuary place that looked like a Southern plantation mansion. Oy vey. Death. Funerals. The marketing of funerals. I wouldn't want a funeral there. I decided to take the sandy side of the road instead of running on the actual road. My knees were starting to feel stiff and I thought the sand might feel better. As I shuffled through the sand and pine needles I looked for used condoms. Seemed like the kind of thing someone might find there.
Finally I got to turn onto Zoo Drive which would take me around Griffith Park. Past the train museum. I imagined if I had a little boy he would like to hang out there. I thought about baby-sitting and how endlessly dreary it is to sit around and watch someone else's child for hours. Children often disappoint me. I expect them to be these enlightened beings - so why are they so demanding? Not many people on Zoo Drive. That was good. But I was still having an exceptionally unpleasant time. A guy drove by that had a cage strapped to his roof. Then I ran by him after he'd pulled over. He seemed to be trying to free some sort of animal he had trapped. That's nice. At least he didn't kill it. But I was creeped out so I didn't wait around to see what it was. Instead I went into the park area and refilled my water bottles with heavily chlorinated LA park water fountain water.
After a while I passed by the zoo. Giant stadium seating. Where are the animals? I don't care. I barely passed an old lady speed-walking with her arm in a cast. Then made it onto Griffith Park Drive. Who knew it would be so swooping?! So many uphills! There were some big construction vehicles and I thought about how when we were kids we used to play on those kind of things when construction workers had left for the day. Then I wondered why people are so bad. Why they hurt each other. I started thinking about Matthew Shepard and those awful boys who murdered him. I wondered if the parents of murderers regret ever having their child after knowing they've taken someone else's life. I thought about all the kids that are born that nobody cares about. What a bummer. I was just over halfway through my run at this point.
Eventually I turned onto Los Feliz Blvd and was greeted with a long sloping uphill. I knew from remembering the map that I would be on Los Feliz for a long time but I still hoped by some miracle it would suddenly be over. Not so. Trudge trudge trudge.
Finally left onto Western. At this point I felt like my knees were stuck at one particular angle and having to run downhill was especially uncomfortable. My knees didn't want to extend at all. I slumped into a Duane Reed to use the restroom and get a Gatorade. Damn. The only "G2" (low cal Gatorade) they had was red. I so wanted it to be yellow. Whatever. In the parking lot I dumped the rest of the LA park water and transfered the Gatorade into my fuel belt water bottles. When I got back on the sidewalk and tried to run it was less fun than ever. Then came the only kind of nice thing that happened in my whole run. A really tall guy who sounded like he was from Africa smiled at me and said "good job". It made me feel good for a couple seconds. Then I wondered if people cheering along the marathon course would make it less unpleasant.
I crossed the freeway and turned right onto Lexington. At this point it was very warm outside. Hot, high sun. Thick air. Lots of chain link and plastic Mother Mary's on Lexington. It took about ten years to get to Highland where I turned left. I stayed in the shadows of the buildings on Highland to try to keep cooler. I had planned to switch over to a residential street but I was worried it would be too sunny. So I took Highland all the way to 6th Street. Besides thinking about how unpleasant my run was, I also thought about my fave yoga teacher Kate Duyn Cariati - how she's starting a new class in a pink Hari Krishna church in Venice but it's during the time that I teach so I can't go. I guess I was just thinking about how I hope it's a success because her spirit makes me so happy and I want as many people as possible to get to experience her sparkle so they can feel happy too. She really brought the joy back into yoga for me when I lost it for a while last summer.
Right on W 4th. Almost home. About 2 miles. Left on Cochran. One mile. There was an orange cone way in the distance. Me and my sister have many ongoing jokes about construction cones. I just kept my eye on the cone. Keep moving toward the cone. Finally rounded the corner onto Fairfax, past the 99 cent store, and hit mile 22. Walked the last block and a half home. Took off my shoes. Got in the bath. Put on pajamas. Laid in bed. What an exceptionally unpleasant run.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I am four and a half weeks from the marathon and this is my second to last week of hard training before the mileage ebbs off leading up to the race. Tuesday I ran 5 miles down through Hancock Park and back, today I ran 10 miles on a big loop through Beverly Hills and back. Both runs were fine. Tuesday I found myself experimenting with increasing my speed. For about a mile I leaned forward a lot more and sped up significantly. Today since I had to get back to teach a yoga class I tried to keep my foot on the gas and maintain a strong pace as well. Now that I feel more capable as a runner I am noticing a growing desire to enhance my performance that I think is unique to running.
One of the immediate distinctions that was made at the Yoga For Runners training between yoga and running is that running is a competitive sport, while yoga is (supposedly) completely noncompetitive. I can definitely feel this difference now that I am doing both activities for several hours a week. In my yoga practice I am fundamentally interested in exploring what's happening in the mind and body as I move through different poses. It feels more like a daily exploration. Any "progress" in my practice (being able to do difficult poses) is a happy surprise that I don't really strive for, I just experiment with.
Meanwhile, since I ran the half marathon (and placed 3rd in my age group, apparently they are mailing me a medal), I have become increasingly interested in being able to run faster and longer. I have yet to run my first marathon and I'm already looking up the qualifying time for my age group for the Boston Marathon (3:40). I guess for the first time in my life I feel like I could possibly become good at a sport - become good at running. I attribute this mostly to my yoga practice. I feel like I have a secret weapon since I spend so much time stretching and strengthening already. I have such deep reserves of strength and balance right now. This paired with what yoga has taught me about overcoming mental blocks makes me feel like it is entirely possible for me to run significantly faster for longer distances. Might take a lot more training, but it's possible.
As odd as it may sound, I do think all of this boils down to that inner stillness. When I connect with the feeling that I'm fundamentally okay, that I'm content in the present moment, that there's nothing to be afraid of... anything feels possible. It's just about finding out, over and over. Finding out if I can or can't. More often than not, I find out that I can.