Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ballad of the Resolutioneer

It's that time of year again, when the gyms fill up and everyone starts planning how this year is going to be different.

We are going to get in shape, get ahead at work, get involved at church or do more in the community. For about a month.

And then, that wagon starts a-bucking and a-shaking and we fall off.

I regularly visit a couple of on-line communities for people interested in endurance sports and every January, the whining begins: "The gym is too crowded" "Someone is on my spin bike" "A slow person is in my lane" "People are walking on the treadmill" "I can't get on an elliptical machine" "How long until these Resolutioneers are gone?"

It's almost like people see the gym as an us versus them struggle.


Why not embrace the newbies?

Aren't we all at the gym to get in better shape? Isn't everyone happier as we get in better shape? Aren't looser clothes more comfortable than tight ones?

Full disclosure here => I had to wear a suit to work a couple of weeks ago and I chose one of the ones that I bought and wore before the girls were born. The jacket was fine (one of my work buddies thought it was too big), but the pants turned out to be too tight, way too tight, and hurt me all day. It was torturous. I was seriously crabby just because of those stupid pants. Now, can you imagine if all of your pants felt that way? Like they were torturing you? Biting into your waist all day? Reminding you that you used to be smaller? How pleasant would you be? How much would you be giving (time, energy, kindness) to those around you if all you could think of were those damn pants?

So, give the new folks a break this month. They have taken the first step and are poised on the edge of making activity a habit! That is such a great thing!

Help them out if they don't know how the treadmills work or where to find the paper towels to wipe off the equipment or that they even need to wipe off the equiment. Show them how to set up the spin bikes and where the earplugs are. Offer to split your lane or circle-swim.


Say hello.

Give advice or answer questions if someone asks you.

Because you could make the difference between the newbies feeling welcome and coming back and making activity their habit or getting discouraged again and quitting. Soon, those folks that stick with it will be getting in better shape and their pants will fit better and they will be getting stronger and happier and that is good for everyone.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What You Don't Know

I wussed out on my run this morning and lazed around the house. And brought a shelf of dishes crashing to the floor, but that is another story.

We ran errands this morning, scoring some after-Christmas deals and using up the gift cards the girls got before we could lose them. Then, we met some Doug's family who were driving through town on the way to Key West for a late lunch at Chilis.

Then, we got back and Doug said I could go for my run. I sucked it up, donned my winter gear and sallied forth.

Into the snow.

It was GREAT! I had so much fun catching snowflakes on my tongue and feeling the flakes melting on my face. Doug had loaded some tunes onto my i-pod since I finished listening to "Once A Runner" and they were great to hear as I was crunching around. Jimmy Buffet has an album called "Songs You Know By Heart" and my running mix today was like that, except that they weren't just songs to which I know the words. They were my up-tempo life's soundtrack. So fabulous. I'm sure I broke into song more than once.

I ran up to the park and around the trails. Even in the wind and snow, there were at least three couples there walking their dogs. They looked like there were having as much fun as I was. I was careful not to slip on the icy bridges, but I still tripped over a root (I think) and Superman-ned onto the path. I tried to channel Doug and roll, so it didn't even hurt.

So, the point is that the people in the cars that passed me on the way to the park and on the way home were totally missing out.

They don't know how much fun it is to feel the soft flakes on your head or to jump into the snowy yard when a car comes too close or to hurdle over the icy patches or to shake your booty when Morris Day says "oh, the THINGS I could do to YOU!" or to wave your hands in the air because the guy on the song says so or to take smaller steps on the turns so that you don't slide out of them (I've made that mistake before!). They don't know the joy of running so fast down that hill that you can feel your legs straining against your tired muscles as you struggle to stay on the path or to race your kid on the last bit home.

I so wish that I could explain it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Over the Hill and Through the Woods

Doug and the girls and I volunteered at the Pine Mountain 40 mile trail run last weekend. Doug has run the Twisted Ankle Marathon, but that is the closest that we have come to an ultra marathon. To save the trouble of linking, I'll just tell you that an ultra marathon is any running race in which the distance is longer than 26.2 miles. Doug and I have been interested in the ultra-running for a while and who wouldn't rather run on trails than on the road?

So, anyway, we signed up to volunteer for fun and to get a window into the action. Doug may be ready to run an ultra in the next year or so, but it will be a while yet for me to build the mileage. Volunteering was great fun despite the frigid temperatures. The race was held at the F.D. Roosevelt State Park, which is basically a mountain plopped down in the middle of the piedmont near Callaway Gardens and the Little White House. The mountain is hilly and the trail is what they call "single track," which means that there is only room to run single file. And there are rocks, lots of rocks, on the trail and they are covered with leaves, which meant that the race was very challenging.

Here is a photo of the girls on the trail. Notice how you can't really see a trail? You navigate by keeping the blue blazes on the trees on one side of you.

We arrived at the site to find a happy band of volunteers and a very organized set-up. Victor, aid-station director extraordinaire, had lugged three coolers of water, a table and 2 bins of food down the trail about 1/4 mile from the parking lot to the Fox Den location. There was a lot of talk amongst the regulars about how Sally would want to see the aid station. Here is a photo of the famous Sally (who was really darn fast, by the way) and the delightfully tidy and organized aid station.

Here is our happy band, from the left: the guy who runs 100 mile races, Amanda, me, Doug, the guy who was both volunteer and sweeper, and Amanda's husband?

And again, with Victor on the left. Not only was Victor super-organized and seemingly tireless, he had a really nice camera and took photos of all of the runners and got their email addresses to send them race photos. He sent all of the good photos included in this post. The grainy ones are from my phone.

The guy who runs 100 mile races was a trail veteran who started running ultras after he finished running a marathon in all 50 states. He told me all about ultras and was a cool guy. He left us right at closing time because he had to give a guy whose knee was tweaked a ride back to the finish.

So, here we are in action. Doug would grab the runners' water-bottles or camelbaks and fill them while he explained how many miles they had to go and that this was the last chance for calories though there was water a couple of miles down the road. Some of the runners were totally with it and hogged out of the food, while others were loopy and had trouble with conversation. Several runners were bloody from close encounters with the trail. You can see the 100 mile race guy in his chair on the right. He was taking down numbers of each runner and the time they came through. This is a safety measure to make sure that no runners got lost on the trail and that we didn't leave anyone out there when we closed the station.
Here are the girls enjoying a snack. They like to run down the trail and greet the runners and collect their water bottles to bring back to refill. When they got too cold, we put them in the car with a movie on the computer, which worked great. Then they returned to help out with the volunteering and run around like crazed monkeys. Notice that Annika is wearing her Brooks Ghost shoes too. Hee.

Victor put me to work making PB&Js, which is a good job for me, so I did that while I watched for numbers and called them out for 100 mile racing guy (across the trail) while Doug greeted runners and refilled waters with Victor.

It was really cool. We got to see all kinds of folks running in all shapes and sizes and levels of tuckered-out-ness. The guy who won was holding a 7:XX min/mile pace and looked as fresh as I would after 3 miles. He ran down the hill from the aid station like a deer. The two guys behind him were holding an under 8:00 min/mile pace, but they showed a bit more strain.
Some runners brought their own aid crews. Every few minutes some people would hike down the trail with a backpack and ask if their runner had come through. If not, they would hang out with us and bust out a buffet of food/drink from their backpacks and wait. One guy's girlfriend had a whole grocery store in his bag, but all he wanted was jerky. Beef jerky. There is apparently no "I-can-only-take-liquids-on-the-run" in an ultra. People were scarfing down the PB&Js faster than I could make them. This girl volunteered or ran last year (I can tell from her cool beanie) and she hung out with us for a while because she was early to meet her runner. She had on the Brooks Green Silence shoes. I've been lusting after these Green Silences but haven't been able to justify a purchase yet since I'm currently rotating through my four pairs of Brooks Glycerine 8s. But soon they will be mine. Yessss, they will be mine. In case you want some, I noticed that the Brooks site has a bunch of stuff available with free shipping. Whoo!

It was cool to see the different clothes and gear everyone brought. Lots of people had on these cool gaiters to keep the junk from getting into their shoes. They are called Dirty Girl Gaiters. Hee. As an aside, Ms. Dirty Girl looks like a heckuva lot ot fun and they have free shipping too. Score!
So, anyway, a good time was had by all and Doug and I both joined up with the G.U.T.S. crew for the year so we can aspire to trail greatness. : )