Have You Met Jen? A Non Runners Perspecive on Racing

As I mentioned yesterday, my sister also ran a half marathon this past weekend.   I thought it would be fun feature her as a guest blogger especially since she is the writer of the family.

Really……

As she puts it, “This week, I’m press for the SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FEST” where she will be at the Cinema Vanguard Awards.   Last year she met Oprah.   She hosts her own blog (The Wild Awakeness Project).  She is even author of a book available on Amazon and some of her local book stores.   (Shameless plus – The Virgin Asanas: How Yoga, Sex, and Mother Mary Changed Everything).   We lead very different lives, but I am always in awe and inspired by the life she leads and the way she leads it.

Anyhow as mentioned,  my sister is the real writer of the family.   I thought that it would be fun for her to share some thoughts about her half that she ran this weekend too. So without further adieu……

Have you Met Jen?

A non Runner running her second half marathon.

By the way, she is the one who calls herself a non runner – not me:)

jen

She’s the one in the middle in the hat.

See how different she got to dress for her half and why I stole, I mean borrowed, her hat?

So what made you want to run a half marathon?

Life doesn’t give us many markers, many “finish lines” so to speak, where we physically get to cross an end point, notice our timings, see how far we’ve come, and post a sweaty picture on Facebook. Sure, we do this at graduations, weddings, births, and funerals, but outside of these more grandiose moments, we really are left creating our own goal posts. When I turned 30 five years ago, I had a minor freak out, thinking certain things would have happened in my life by then. Since they hadn’t, I decided to create what I could: I could learn to run. Or, more accurately, I could be pouty about all the things that fell apart and channel that energy into anger – which does, by the way, help you run really far and fast. I finished my first NYC half in 2010 with a time of 2:20.

Fast forward five years. It is now 2015 and now, I’m turning 35. I wasn’t planning on commemorating this birthday with another race, but a friend invited me to do a Habitat for Humanity half marathon with her. “Come on, it will be fun,” she lied. While I couldn’t pretend that running was my favorite way to celebrate (I prefer gluten free cake with berries), I couldn’t say no to Habitat. So, I signed up, claiming that halfs were my new tradition. My new “every five years” tradition. I registered. My friend bailed. I had another minor freak out, registered her anyway, and then conned her into running with me. And the rest is running history.

How did you prepare for it?

Once I signed up, I went into denial for a few weeks. While I enjoy races, I don’t enjoy training. It gets in the way of all the other fun non-running things I want to do with my time, like eating dark chocolate. Nevertheless and in the meantime, my sister (who owns this blog and shall rename nameless) signed up for and completed a FULL marathon in Philadelphia. Without much whining, she trained and ran in the East Coast cold. I figured I should at least start jogging in sunny California and ought to plan out a schedule I could follow, one that included the minimum days possible of running. So I planned. I ran 5 miles once before Thanksgiving, at which time I pulled my calf and weird butt muscle I didn’t know existed. The next month, I got a bad sinus infection and threw a rib out, which sadly prevented me from training (cough, cough, ouch, ouch). Seriously though, it was a rough month and before I knew it,  the holidays had arrived. And who has time to run when you have a family to be festive with? But by New Years, the race was four weeks out, and I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. I did a long Saturday run the last day of the year, and then trained three times a week for the last few weeks. Which was not super fun, but it did let me eat lots of ice cream without guilt – the best perk of running.

And did your expectations for your race match the reality of running it?

Two weeks before my race, I had one of those moments you know Forrest Gump was created for. With the wind in my hair, I could almost hear Spielberg whisper, “Run, Jenny, run!” I was solid. Strong. Unstoppable. I put 10 miles on my shoes — no problem — with my headphones blaring my new favorite motivational-gospel-preachers-turned-fitness-instructors-DJ Pandora. It was bliss. I was bliss. I had captured the runner’s high. I tapered the next two weeks, ate lots of carbs, treated myself to the spa as a pre-race congratulations, and woke up ready to run.

How you wake up, however, is not always indicative of how your day goes. The morning felt great. The race felt fumbly. Okay, I’m being nice. The race was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. As soon as I started running, my right foot went numb from the morning chill. My allergies, which I’ve never had before, started pouring bodily fluids out of my nose. I became that strange, spitting running girl you all want to send to the woods. I wanted to send myself to the woods. Except I couldn’t, because I had 13.1 more miles to run through the woods to get out of the woods. My friend who claimed to be slower than me outpaced me by mile 1. By mile 2, I was nauseated. By mile 3, I was walking. A lot. The wind burned. My head pounded. For entertainment, I jogged behind a weird barefoot hippy who was, no doubt, “feeling the race energy” through his fleshly soles, but even he outran me.

And this is the crap shoot of running. You can train. You can prepare. You can eat right, sleep well, buy the right goo. And still, some days you just feel off. And not even just slightly off, but the worst version of yourself off. And still, dear Robert Frost, there are miles to go before you sleep.

Did you run with a pace group?

That’s an interesting question, because one thing I’ve learned from this race is to trust your own pacing. Seriously, don’t let anyone make you move any slower or faster than you can. Listen to the sound of your heartbeat and recognize it as the truth.

Why do I know this? Because I didn’t do this during my race. Even though I had an electronic pacer on my phone, I ignored it, and instead ran with the human pacers. My goal was under 2 hours, so I started halfway between Pacer 1:50 and Pacer 2:00. This was my first mistake. Had I trusted myself, my own watch, and my own body, I would have been fine. But instead, I trusted Pacer #1, who was 6 minutes faster than their stated pace. By mile two, I had depleted myself as I went out too quick and burned through a bulk of my blood sugar in the first 10 minutes. That led to a side sticker which led to my new friendly batch of allergies. Where was my Forrest Gump moment? Lost in the wind that was making me freeze.

Trust your own timing, my friends. Your own metronome is your greatest gift and it will keep you in the race for the long haul.

So what happened and are you happy with the outcome?

I fought for awhile to stay near the 1:50 Pacer, with a strange mixture of running and walking (Thank you, Jeff Galloway, you saved my life.) But when the 2 hour pacer passed me at mile 10, I had to come to terms with a hard fact. That after all this struggle, I would not make my goal of under 2 hours. This was the hardest moment yet.

But something didn’t seem right. I checked my watch; I looked at my Garmin phone app. I was running my normal pace of 8:45, which was right on target. At this moment, I realized all along I had been chasing an eroneous goal. I was going to be under 2, even if I ran a slower last three miles, and even if I came in a few minutes after the 2 hour pacer. I would still be right on time.

I never got the runner’s high on race day. In fact, I think my endorphins took a vacation and left their friendly cousin cortisol in their place. But I did make my goal and crossed the finish line to a wonderful group of girlfriends and for that, I feel very blessed.

So when is your next race?

Well, now that I’ve started this five year tradition, I can kindly announce my next race will be at age 40. Should any other life marker occur before then, I’ll lace up my tennies, but for now, I’m saving them for actual tennis, and leave the running to my dear sister. Although it is nice to know I can do an easy six miles, “just for fun” and come home to some chocolate.

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