Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Run for the Cheetah 5k Race Report

This race was my last chance try to run as hard as I can before it gets too hot to run without getting heatstroke race. I hadn't done any road 5k's since last year because I frankly didn't feel like it. 5k's are a lot of effort for me and they are really painful. I did a trail run 5k in January, but running a trail is quite different from running on the road. Your leg muscles are trying to negotiate over uneven terrain and you can't put as much effort into speed and leg turnover.

By the time the race started, it was getting warm already. I like running when it is a little chilly out because I really get hot when I run. It always amazes me when people run in long sweats when it is in the 60's outside and I am in shorts and a sleeveless shirt and sweating profusely. I knew when I was warming up with short speed intervals that I was going to be in pain. My legs felt a little wooden and running faster made my acid reflux worse. The joys of running when you are older.

The run started and almost right away there was a hill to climb. The rest of the run was fairly flat, but when you are trying to get used to the pain of not having enough oxygen, it is hard. I ran the first mile in 8:50. I thought "no PR(personal record) for me today. I wasn't about to give up. The last 5k PR I got, I was chasing an eight year old because I was damned if she was going to beat me. I had no such luck today. I had to motivate myself. I picked up the pace. The run was along the canal, so you could run on pavement or the dirt path and I stuck to the pavement because I knew dirt would slow me down. I only chose dirt when the cement path curved because I knew I had to save every second I could.

The turn around was half way through. I reached it in 13:35, so I had made up a little time. I had the familiar right side chest pain from lack of oxygen and my heart rate was close to 169, so I knew I was running about as fast as I could go. It was pretty warm by now. I was propelling myself mostly on mental effort now. My legs were tired. This race seemed like it was going on forever.

I hit mile 2 about 17:30, so I had made up some time. Not enough to PR, but enough to get a decent time. By this time I really wanted to be done. 5k's are so short time wise, but they are incredibly painful. Pain is the price of speed. Most of my training speed work is at lower intensities, with only occasional forays into this kind of torture.

The last part of the race goes down the hill to the finish line. My last mile was at a 8:39 pace. I finished in 27:02.

I am not sure why I am addicted to doing this to myself. Running hard hurts a lot, but it is satisfying to push through the pain to see how fast you can go. One barrier goes down and you are curious to see if you can go through another one. So much of life is out of your control, but in running, at least you can control yourself mentally and physically. I didn't go through the 5k barrier in this race, but it felt like I came up to it. The fun is in the trying. The result is a bonus.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Loneliness is a State of Mind

After being married for 32 years, I have had a hard time getting used to being alone again. I live with my teenage daughter, but it's not the same as having another adult around. It's been almost two years since I was essentially living without my ex. I have only been divorced since last June, but my ex was gone most of the summer in 2008 before he decided to tell me he didn't want to be married anymore. The shock of being alone is wearing off, but it still feels somewhat sad and strange.

My bed is empty at night, I don't have anyone to travel with, I have to do all the housework, yard work and general chores myself. It is strange not to have anyone but my ex to put down as "emergency contact". I don't really have anyone to call if I am in trouble. I take care of the car myself. I try to take care of the pool myself. There seems to be an endless amount of little chores to do when no one helps you.

I feel like I am on the precipice of a cliff. Anxiety stalks me and I just try to get through the day. I have always had this lurking insecurity, but without anyone to hang onto, it is full-blown. I try to deal with it and be optimistic, but it's a lot of work. Despair tries to creep in. I am in a uncomfortable place, and it seems like I am going to stay there for a while.

I have a career, but it really isn't working for me. I have to figure out what I want to do and what my purpose is and I feel like I am stuck in a quandary. There are almost limitless possibilities, but I don't know what they are yet. I feel lost.

Being alone does have some advantages. I don't have to deal with someone else's emotional issues other than my daughters. I am not kept awake at night by some one's snoring or reading in bed late at night. I would give anything to have someone to cuddle with, but I am not ready to deal with a relationship yet. I don't have someone to put me down, ignore me to be with someone else and to lie to me. Until I am sure I wouldn't let someone treat me badly just to not be alone, I won't date anyone.

Some religions theorize that you are not alone, but part of a spirit that is in everyone. There is not death, no past, no future, just the now and being. Some religions theorize that you are never alone if you believe in their god. I am not sure what I believe. If I am doing some activity that I get lost in, I don't feel lonely. I don't even think about it. I just enjoy being in the present, in just living.

If I am doing something unpleasant and anxiety provoking like paying bills, then I feel more alone. If I am reminded of what I have lost, like when I see apparently happy couples, then I feel more isolated and weird. I forget that apparent happiness isn't always so, that just because you are with someone doesn't mean you are happy or not alone. I thought I would never be unmarried, but everyone leaves your life eventually in some way.

It all comes down to your response to your situation. You can control your response, but not what other people do. I can choose not to feel lonely and to be happy, but it's a lot of work. The pain of a lost relationship lingers a long time and thoughts creep into your head that you don't want. Pain can be a incentive to change for the better, but change is really uncomfortable. Pain is carving new pathways in my brain. I will never be the same, but maybe that's a good thing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Splash & Dash Race Report

I signed up for this race because for some stupid reason, I wanted to swim in open water and try out my new wetsuit. The race is a 1000 meter swim in Tempe Town Lake and a 3k(1.86 mile) run. Usually I do these races when the water is warmer. Tempe Town Lake is at 62 degrees. Water from the Salt River is still flowing over the dam from the snow melt up north. Consequently there is a current in the "Lake".

I figured that 62 degrees would be no big deal. I swam 2.4 miles in that water temperature last fall. I got hypothermia and I nearly couldn't finish the swim, but what is 1000 meters? A piece of cake.

As it turned out, the swim wasn't that bad, but it wasn't enjoyable. I was recovering from a cold and my ribs still hurt from a fall three weeks ago. The cold water made it hard to breath and I felt like I had a band around my chest. It took me a few minutes to get my head in the water. I started in the back because my swimming is slow, but I still had to navigate around people back-stroking and having panic attacks. I had to stop and catch my breath a lot, but I didn't feel panicky. I was berating myself for starting so slow. One of these days I will feel like I am actually racing in open water, rather than just surviving.

I rounded the first buoy and I turned east. Swimming east, the sun is in your eyes and you can't see the buoys. I followed the other bodies hoping that they were swimming straight, then I relied on sighting a distant building. At this point, I was swimming against the current, although I kept telling myself that I was making forward progress. The middle buoy WAS getting closer. The water was also choppy. Maybe all the swimmers ahead of me stirring up the water. You had to watch it if you stopped to rest. Breathing hard and swallowing water is not a pleasant combination.

My mental state was not the best. I kept telling myself how much I hate swimming, how much I suck at swimming, how much I hate swimming in Tempe Town Lake, how much I hate swimming in cold water. I wondered how the hell I swam 2.4 miles in this cold of water. At least I wasn't at the state of mind where I didn't think I could make it and where was the damn kayak to rescue me anyway. Being in this crappy algae infested water was manageable even though I was kind of tired.

Finally, I hit the last buoy. It seemed much easier swimming downstream when you knew the unpleasantness is almost over. Usually, I perk up when I know I am almost done. (Except for Ironman Arizona where I WAS done before I was done. I got done in 31 minutes. This below average for most swimmers, but about normal for me.

I got on my feet and found out that they were numb. It hurt to run to transition, and I had to fumble to get my wetsuit off and my shoes on. The new wetsuit came off a lot easier than my old wetsuit. The breeze felt chilly on my wet arms.

I started running and my numb feet hurt. My brain was telling my legs to move, but my feet felt kind of out of sync. I wanted to run hard and I was trying to, but my heart rate wasn't going up much. Usually when I do the swim runs, the water is warm enough that when I get to the run, my legs magically go really fast, as if the swimming complements the running. Not so much today.

I hit the turn-around and pushed the pace more. My legs seemed to move faster even though my feet still hurt. I finished in about 16:34, which was about a 8:54 minute per mile pace. It's hardly enough time it even warm up. It certainly didn't warm my feet up much. By this time, almost everyone else had finished. The race is basically a training event anyway, so it didn't really matter. This race gets anyone from beginners to pros. It saves me the hassle of driving 45 minutes to go out to the outlying lakes, paying $6 and wondering how far I am REALLY swimming. The down side is that I get to look at the ugly concrete walls, relive past miserable swims in this lake and wonder how the hell I can be so slow. Twenty five swims in this lake, including four ironman swims and two half irons and counting. Maybe some day I will learn to like it and stop being so negative. Chances are I will keep swimming in it as long as there are races.