Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why do I keep coming back to the Internet?

The road curves southwest, and a line of hills rises up over the horizon as I make my way nearer to them. Soon I'll be able to see the remains of an old watch tower. At least, I'd be able to see it if it existed. It's actually a place in Tolkien's Middle Earth - one of the milestones along the way in the Eowyn Challenge's "Walk to Rivendell" challenge. Several years ago that challenge was my sole motivator to exercise. I logged my miles daily and used to put in countless hours walking on the treadmill just to make it to my destination faster than the other participants. After a year or two of walking alone, I signed up for the message board and received support, motivation, and inspiration from many other participants. After a while, my participation lagged. I graduated college, and although I continued running, walking, and biking, it was sporadically. I didn't log the miles, and I've long since forgotten my message-board login information. I have kept coming back to the Internet, though, for running motivation and information.

The Internet can be a pretty scary place. It provides an anonymity that people often use when they want to say that most hurtful, prejudiced, and downright offensive things. Just browse some comments following newspaper articles or even the comments about YouTube videos and tell me that you won't find some serious haters exploiting the First Amendment. And then there is the huge privacy risk associated with using the Internet. I am reluctant to reveal personal data about myself on this blog or anywhere online because it is so out there for absolutely anyone to find, whether they be employers or identity theives.

So why do I put my thoughts out there on this blog?

Because at the same time that I resent the way that the Internet provides a mask for hatred to hide behind, or that I fear too much private information being made public, I really value how the Internet has connected me with people across the globe with whom I share similar interests. When the people "out there" are inspiring you or providing information or holding discussions about topics that you just can't have with your regular circle of friends, they become an example of the best that the Internet has to offer. I've corresponded with running bloggers across the U.S. from the east coast to the west, from the great plains to Alaska, and outside the states from Canada to Vietnam. Each person has a unique perspective that broadens my horizons.

I recently joined, a social networking site for runners and cyclists. Coming from the Eowyn Challenge background, I was excited to see that members post challenges for themselves and each other and are constantly supportive of each other along the way. I haven't taken on a challenge yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so. If you're interested in joining, it's a nifty tool for keeping track of workouts, and it has some fun features, like a meter of how many televisions your total mileage could have powered, or how many donuts you've burned. Most of the people who participate in dailymile are highly motivated and will not only motivate you, but keep you to your word if you take on a challenge.

As for the Eowyn Challenge, I no longer participate in it as a group activity by posting my progress on the site or by corresponding with other participants, but it has become a deeply personal and meaningful part of my training and motivation. The purpose of the challenge - to break free of the cages imposed by negative self esteem and body image - will always be part of my journey, so every once in a while I tally up my miles and find out where I am in Middle Earth. I know that at the same time that I'm approaching the watch tower of Amon-Sul, there are runners elsewhere following parallel personal journeys, and it's good company to keep.

So you can say that this public blog, with all of the personal meaning in its Eowyn Challenge roots, represents an ironic blend of public and private. When you think about how the public element has helped shape what I feel personally, though, it's not that surprising an irony.

When I started writing this post, it reminded me of a good friend I had a few years ago who participated in the Eowyn Challenge with me. She moved and we fell out of touch, but she just reconnected with me on facebook. Just another example, I guess, of the Internet's ironic blend of public and private, and why I do keep coming back to the Internet, despite its faults.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Punxsutawney Phil may have been wrong

It's official - I got the confirmation for 2 reserved hotel rooms for the night before the half-marathon. Yay! I could have just woken up early and driven down the day of, but if I want my family and support staff to come and cheer me on, I might as well make it comfortable and easy for all of us. I'd better get training now!

Actually, I've been doing well with my training. I did a 6-mile run on the road last Sunday, which was really one of the most awesome runs I've had in a log time. I felt strong, my breathing was great, it was a nice day, and I think I was experiencing runner's high. I was smiling for the last 3 miles as if I had just won a gold medal or something, when I had really just picked up my pace and felt good.

On Tuesday I had an easy 2.5 miles to do, and since it was snowing, I stayed inside on the treadmill. That wasn't the most fun, but I made up for it on Thursday with another 2.5-mile run -- this one on the streets and sidewalks in the town where I work. It was a lot of fun not only to run a different route, but to see those roads, which I travel every day, from such a different perspective. I then went home and used the bike trainer and did an ab workout (which I am committed to doing at least once a week until the race. Repeat: I will be working the abs at least once a week from now on.)

This afternoon I have a 7-miler on the road. I'd like to do some more runs on the trail, but I'd be slopping through mud puddles now with all of the snow melting. The temperatures have been pretty high this past week, and I almost think that the groundhog may have been wrong with his prediction of a normal-length winter.

Of course, if we are in for another cold snap, I wouldn't mind it too much. I bought ice-skates last week and haven't been able to try them out, and my first attempt at skiing yesterday was on a pretty small patch of snow in the yard. At least there are ice rinks and ski slopes that will be maintained for a while longer, no matter how warm it gets.

Ever on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New training plan and other race preparations

I have weened myself from tissues and Nyquil and am functioning as a healthy human being once again (as opposed to a sniffly zombie). I even went as far as to try running again on Saturday and made it 5.5 miles, thus renewing my confidence that I will be able to make it up to 13.1 miles by the beginning of May. I just needed to revise my training plan to adjust for over two weeks of not running.

I've heard a lot of rules about mileage increases, like the 10% rule, or sticking to one mile per week. I have adjusted that to what I think will be best for me. I've settled on increasing the total weekly mileage by one every week for three weeks, then have a cut down week before continuing to increase. Within that total weekly mileage, the long run will be increased by either one mile or a half mile each week.

After getting psyched up by making the schedule, I started some other race preparations, like looking into overnight accommodations and finding out about parking, shuttles, and spectator info, and now I'm excited all over again. I can't wait to go for some long runs again and enjoy the feeling of finishing strong after a long distance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My first trip to a running store

I've known it for a while now.

Even my doctor told me that to prevent future injuries, I'd need to get real running shoes....from a running store, not the shoe department at Modell's or (I shouldn't even say it...) Kohl's. He gave me the name of a store located about an hour away from my home, and I planned on going there right away. That was in November.

By the middle of January, I hadn't gone yet. I did intend to run the Winter Trail Series 5K on January 24th, though, and the park where it was located wasn't too far from the store, so as soon as the race ended, the support staff and I headed to "The Sneaker Factory" to purchase some new, real, running shoes.

I walked past technical-fabric-clad manikens, onto a rubber track mat down the center of the store, into running heaven/wallet hell. I repeated to myself that I was only there to get sneakers and was taken to the shoe area by a friendly salesperson. She started by looking at the wear on my old shoes. I was a little nervous about this part, because the doctor hadn't given me much insight about my biomechanics or what gear would be best to keep me injury-free. He seemed to think that anyone from a running store would be trained enough to tell me that.

I pointed out that I wear orthotics and that I strike with my forefoot. I was concerned because I had heard so many different things about footwear (or lack thereof) from so many different sources. By looking at my shoes and asking me a few questions, though, she made everything make a lot of sense.

One thing she thought was odd was that I have a forefoot strike and yet also wear orthotics. After all, there isn't much arch support needed when you land in front of the arch. I first got orthotics, though, before I started running. I had inflamed sesmoid bones, presumably due to flat arches, and the orthotics provided support when walking. It had been advised that I wear them when running, too, so I always have.

When I asked about minimalist footwear, like the Nike Free, she said that a lot of people tend to try that in order to change their running pattern from a heel-strike (although they'd have to be careful not to injure themselves while heel-striking in shoes with little cushion). I already have a forefoot strike, so the main purpose of minimalist running would be to strengthen my feet. At this point, the safest way to do that is to occasionally remove my orthotics when running. Wow. That's so simple.

After her evaluation, she said that I need a shoe with a normal level of support. She brought out a number of pairs of shoes for me to try on, and I went through quite a few (7 or 8, maybe?) before I felt at home in an ugly-colored pair of Saucony Pro-Grid Ride 2s. My heel popped a little out of them, so she re-laced them and swapped the compressed insoles from my old shoes, and they felt great. I ran down the "track" in the middle of the store and was even allowed to run outside. I picked up the pace down the sidewalk in front of the store and decided that these were the ones. I tried on one other brand, but liked the Sauconys better, so Saucony it is.

I resisted buying anything else and went home satisfied with the day's running-related activities. I then proceeded to sit and lovingly examine my shoes for the rest of the day. They are black, silver, and "coral" (which looks orange to me). Not exactly the colors I'd prefer, but here they are, in all of their real running shoe beauty:

I'd love to say that I've been having tons of fun running in them, but I've only jogged a little on the treadmill and cycled on the bike trainer since I got them. A persistent cold has kept me from running, but I think that I'm now on the mend, and an increase in training is in the very near future.