Posted by: Kennedy | August 12, 2010

Week nine and feeling fine

So I’ve officially survived the first half of half marathon training – woot!

9 weeks in, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve already pushed myself farther than ever before, and it’s only going to get more intense from here. I’ve produced enough sweat to fill a tub (you’re welcome for that visual). I’ve endured extreme heat, crazy rain, impossible hills, and some pretty ugly blisters. But I’m having so much FUN!

In honour of the halfway point, I’d like to recount my three most memorable training moments thus far:

1. Hills in a monsoon – A few weeks ago, I set out to run 5 sets of hills – hard enough in the most ideal conditions. It started raining just as I got going, and I thought to myself, “Awesome!” I think running in a steady rain is great, since I get ridiculously hot and sweaty in the summer heat and the rain cools me down. But by the time I started my second set, it had turned into a torrential downpour. Remember the scene at the end of Magnolia where it’s raining frogs? It was like that. Minus the frogs.

Soon, the entire hill was a lake – there was no avoiding the puddles. I could feel water sloshing around in my shoes (which, by the way, didn’t fully dry for five days). I couldn’t look down because seeing the water rushing down the street made me dizzy. But I couldn’t look straight ahead because the water got in my eyes and blinded me (even with a hat on). My iPod was on full blast to drown out the noise of the rain, but it ended up getting so water-logged that it completely stopped working. By the last few sets, I had to really concentrate on breathing because I was starting to inhale water through my nose and mouth – it seriously felt like I was swimming.

It was probably one of the most bizarre running experiences I’ll ever have. And yet, it was pretty cool. Everyone was laughing at the situation – you had to, or else you’d probably have a breakdown. There were a lot of “This is crazy!” shouts as we powered through the wrench Mother Nature had thrown at us. But no one quit – I think we all wanted to see just how tough we really were. As I finished up my last hill, sputtering and completely soaked to the bone, the rain let up and the sun came out. Seriously. But hey, if a monsoon suddenly descends on us during the race, I’ll know I’ve been through worse – running hills, no less.

2. My longest run ever – I’m pretty proud of myself for this one. A few Sundays ago, while on vacation, I stuck to my training schedule and tackled a 14K run all by my lonesome. Did I mention I was in my hometown, where it takes about 15 minutes to run from one end of town to the other? Yeah. I used my trusty walkjogrun.net to map out a route that took me out of town to the trails at the conservation area, then back into town where I would set foot on practically every street, criss-crossing all over the place. An hour and a half later, I was a sweaty mess of euphoria. My pacing wasn’t perfect – I totally ran out of gas at the end – but it still felt awesome to reach a new ‘first.’ I also not-so-happily discovered that my town is about 85 per cent hills. That was a bummer. But I still made it, upright and breathing (okay, panting like my dog).

Without a buddy to run with, I was left to listen to my music and my thoughts. I think it’s good to go on a few solo long runs so you can mentally prepare yourself for running alone on race day. Unless you make a pact with a friend that you’ll stay together the entire time, you’re bound to separate at some point. And then, you have to count on yourself for moral support. I have a few mental strategies to get me through the rough spots on those longer runs, most of which involve bribery (“Make it to the next light and you can take a walk break”… “Finish this run strong and I’ll let you have an extra glass of wine with dinner”). I’ve heard some people repeat mantras over and over to themselves (“I will not die, I will not die”) – whatever works for you I guess…

3. Boot camp with Chad – A month or so into training, a personal trainer named Chad came to do a ‘talk’ with us before our run. I say ‘talk’ because, while he did spend at least 30 minutes telling us about the importance of conditioning and cross training to a runner, he also put us through torture The Runner’s Boot Camp. It was a humbling experience. As someone who’s preparing to run a half marathon, I’d like to think I’m in decent shape. Maybe not great, but I should be able to withstand 20 minutes of lunges and squats. Within minutes of Chad’s workout, I was huffing, puffing and sweating buckets. For those of you out there doing this on a regular basis: Respect. We only had to do the moves for two minutes or so each, but by the last rep I felt like I had done about a bajillion. Push-ups in particular were my nemesis (I have zero arm strength). Especially push-ups that are part of a backward lunge-kick sequence. I’m exhausted just remembering it. On the jog back to the store afterwards, I vowed to Joanna that I was going to dedicate one day per week to strength training. I think I may have even declared it on the blog. I’ve done it exactly once since.

Each run is special in its own way, but those are the ones I can remember in great detail. They were exceptional because while I ran (or boot-camped), I learned about myself. I learned that I have a strong will. I learned that I’m independent. And, probably most importantly, I learned that no matter what I accomplish, there’s always room for improvement.

9 weeks down, 7 to go. Is it all downhill from here?

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