Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running IS a lot like life

I have often read different blogs comparing running and life. Lately, I have keenly felt the comparison. The other day , I was running from my house down past the schools. I felt completely in a groove; running felt effortless. Then the road flattened out and the run felt tougher. I hadn't even realized I was running downhill until it flattened out.

It hit me that one minute you're cruising along in life and everything is good and then it levels out and it seems just that much harder. Even when life is going along without too many ups and downs, it can seem tough, especially after a particularly easy time (i.e. vacation).

Once you get your rhythm on the flats, you eventually hit the uphill (because what goes down must come up). We all know how hard the hills can be. Your legs burn, your lungs burn. All you really want to do is turn around or stop completely. And hills, up or down, really work those leg muscles.

Often, when you run up hills, as much as it hurts, there is a certain kind of satisfaction in getting to the top. You climb and climb and the feeling when you crest the top is sometimes even euphoric. One of my favorite races was the La Jolla Half Marathon, which is known for its hilly course, in particular, the Torrey Pines hill. When I reached the top of Torrey Pines, I let out a cheer with other runners around me. I heard of one runner, on the other hand, who hailed the ditch bus as soon as she reached the top. It was all too much. For me, I am very proud of that race and how well I did on the hills. I am proud of the metaphorical hills I have climbed in life, as well. Getting my Master's Degree, climbing the corporate ladder and motherhood are examples of some of the hills in my life that I am proud of.

Sometimes, however, there are hills that are really, really tough. When you get to the top, you don't feel pride, you just feel relief. There is no ditch bus and there is no one you can call to pick you up. I found such a hill Sunday. I started running up the hill thinking, "holy cow... this is one steep hill." I thought the top was at the next traffic light. When I got to the light, it leveled for that street and then headed up again. It seemed to have no end! When I finally reached the top and was able to run downhill, there was no "groove" or fun in the run. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other to make it home. When the road headed up again, it was tougher than before. The hill wouldn't have been so hard if I hadn't just run over seven miles (most of which were flat or gradual uphill). The good news is that I did make it home and was no worse for the wear afterward.

That is how my life has seemed for much of this year. My family has struggled quite a bit. Just when we thought that things were leveling off, the road continued upward. It didn't seem to have an end. When the hard part ended, I didn't feel triumph, only relief. There was no payoff of a downhill section, just a leveling off of the road. And now I move forward tentatively... waiting for that next hill to take the wind out of my sails.

Throughout my life, I have had long stretches of downhill and flat terrain. An occasionally roller only helps you to get the momentum for the downhills. My very favorite race was the Carlsbad Half Marathon (which happens to be my PR). It is not super flat, but a series of rollers. In that race, the uphill portions didn't slow me down. In fact, they helped my determination and focus. The downhills gave me "free speed." Short downhills are actually easier than the long ones-- they don't kill your quads. I hope that this next chapter of my life is full of rolling hills, just like that race. It keeps the scenery changing and the run more fun.

May you all have a life of gentle rolling hills with some fun "free speed" along the way. *wink*

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good weekend of running*

Other than a bit of jello legs at the end of ten miles on Sunday, I have no complaints about my running weekend.

The mom I met at my son's school called me and arranged to pick me up for the run Saturday morning. They were running a trail run nearby and the directions were a bit tricky. She and her sister picked me up and we met a third member of the group at the trail head. It was a fantastic trail run through a little canyon, up to a dam that overlooked a gorgeous valley/canyon. We spent a lot of time navigating (they hadn't spent a lot of time on this trail) and deciding where to go. That's ok. I enjoyed taking it easy and getting to know them. I think we ended up going around four miles. We made plans to run the same trails next weekend without as much stopping to navigate. I didn't mind the relaxed pace and stopping at all. It isa lot of fun running trails with other people. I was just starting to walk/run with Jen up Cowles Mountain and really enjoying it. I am glad to pick up the trail running up here.

Since I didn't get a very long run in, I decide to run again Sunday morning. I was determined to run ten miles, although the longest I had run since AFC was nine miles a week or two afterward. I am supposed to pace a friend in a half marathon in a few weeks and I wanted to make sure I can even finish. At this point, I just want to be able to run it with her. I don't know how good I'll be at pacing with my lack of training, but I am going to try my best. I am just excited to finally be running with her.

Sunday's run was nice. It was a bit foggy when I started, which made things pretty humid once they warmed up a bit. I ran down to the river and headed east. I felt pretty good. I felt like I was getting into a groove. Around mile 7, I wanted to see if I could pick it up a bit. I ran the eighth mile in 8:39. Yeah! It was around that time that I had to head away from the river and back up to my house. The key word here is up. Oops. I didn't leave much in the tank for an uphill return to my neighborhood. As I started up the road, I started noticing my knees hurting and my legs feeling pretty heavy.

The good news is that even though it was tough, I was able to run those last two uphill miles under ten minutes each. I was really worked by the time I got home. I think that eight miles would have been more appropriate, considering the amount of running I have been doing. But I am glad I did ten. I know that I will be able to run that half marathon in Santa Barbara on November 8. I may not be speedy, but I should have a respectable time.

Next weekend should be more of the same-- a fun trail run on Saturday and a longer run on Sunday. Life is good.

* I know, I know... the weekend was DAYS ago

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Chapter

I'm Back, Baby!!

We are finally somewhat settled. We are living among a sea of endless boxes that seem impossible to empty with a three and six year old around. However, we are here and starting to figure out the area and feel at home.

I have run a few times. Unfortunately, I have slept through my alarm more than I have woken to it. I think the stress of moving has taken its toll and I crash at night. The running has been good, however. It isn't super easy since we moved to an area called Anaheim HILLS*. The name rings true. But just outside our neighborhood is a nice park with a quarter mile loop around it. About a mile from our house is the Santa Ana River. That is definitely my favorite place to run so far.

I ran at the river this morning. It was a beautiful morning. It was clear and much dryer and warmer than it has been (although there was still a lingering mist). Once I got to the river, I headed east**. The sun was coming up and the moon was brand new with Venus off to the side. It was so peaceful running at dawn like that. The river is actually really pretty. There were plenty of herons, egrets and ducks. It is actually an odd sight to see a teeming estuary and then mere yards away from the other side is the 91 freeway, full of traffic heading into Los Angeles. I can't believe how busy that freeway is at 6:30 in the morning!

I think that life is going to start seeming pretty darn normal soon. Today I met a mom at the school who runs with a small group. She invited me to join them! I am very excited about that. All in all, things are working out well.

I will start getting back to commenting on your blogs. I don't spend a lot of time on the computer these days. Can Google Reader explode with too many unread posts? I am nearing 1000 unread posts. YIKES! Please don't hate me if I don't get a chance to read some of your old posts. I have read some of them here and there, but haven't really done any commenting.

*For those of you familiar with Southern California or Disneyland, we do live in the city of Mickey Mouse. Since we are in the hills of Anaheim, we are close enough to hear the fireworks from the Magical Kingdom. We'd have to climb out on the roof to see them, but it is nice to know it is relatively close by. We haven't gone yet, but I think a Disney pass is in my future. Yippee!!
**If you head west on the river path and run twenty miles, you hit the ocean.


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