your ankles, is quite astounding. Due to all of the ankle injuries I have had in my own life due to basketball, my right foot still sticks out in a pigeon footed manor. Not to mention in the last few years where basketball and compound fractures are starting to become kind of a real thing, not the just the hypothetical nightmares of orthopedic surgeons. And don't even get me started on football and hockey, where constant high speed impacts may be scrambling the minds of an entire generation of young people (I say people because there are some women that play in that ridiculous lingerie league, but in spite of the stupidity, those women can hit!). So to me, it seems rather sad that running gets such a bad rap, but I guess it leads to the fact running doesn’t have as much money tied into it in respect to advertising dollars and marketing. Oh well, it seems to have become something of the sport of choice for me, up until I get a bike (whenever that may be) and start trying to train for triathlons and such. But that is all down the line, so I kind of have to stick with what I am into right now.
In the last few blogs I kind of mentioned what I want to do for 2016, with as many as four Ragnar Relay races on the docket (provided I have the cash). But on one hand, Ragnar races are not the only ones I am interested in, for I have thought of doing some other things. I was going to do this little run up Sabino Canyon, but had to pull out due to the fact money is so tight, I would rather just take back the entrance fee and use it for something more tangible at the moment, like food or gasoline (or in my case right now, a future car repair….yup it is gonna happen again soon!). There was another race that I wanted do called the Arizona Distance Classic, which is basically the “other” marathon race that Tucson has that is not quite as popular as the marathon we have in December (can you imagine running a marathon in any other time of year in the desert!). Initially, I really wanted to make it, but the money crunch was just getting to be too much and opted to pass. I kind of figured I would just pack it in until the fall and see what would happens when the pastures might be a little greener. But sometimes, weird things happen for the sake of happening.
So a hiking buddy of mine named Michelle who also happens to be quite a running aficionado (she literally ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon yesterday!) is leaving Tucson to go take care of her stepfather in Florida. Anyway, she had a nice little going away party/birthday party at Ristorante Tavolino here in Tucson. Even though the restaurant is one of the least vegan friendly places I have ever been to, at least they still had coffee and such, plus the place was pretty nice and had decent service. The good thing about this little dinner was the fact my friend happens to know quite a few runners, and the subject was quite a well discussed one during the evening. One of her friends had just completed a marathon in Napa Valley, and of course the subject of Michelle’s impending 50-mile death march came up frequently. The cool thing is one of the other people at the party also knew I was something of a runner as well, and offered his registration for the Arizona Distance Classic. I had only met Wayne once before, and he had a much better memory about me than I did for him (I accidentally called him Wyatt a couple times!). Now while I am completely ill prepared for a half marathon right now, I gladly took the offer even though I might sully his good name with a slower time (Wayne is quite the triathlete, so I’m pretty sure he is a much better runner than me!). So here I was, two weeks from a rather difficult half marathon, and I have to get myself ready!
I guess the first thing I can’t do is panic, for the very notion of losing my head is the last thing I need to deal with. But on the other hand, how can I not!? Most people can’t just get up and say “I’m gonna run a half marathon in two weeks!” without some dire consequences. The good thing for me is the fact I have some good knowledge about what to expect and what to see. Some lessons I definitely took from the Page Half Marathon last year was the fact it was surprisingly difficult. One thing I have learned in my young running life is to take the incline charts with a grain of salt. While the the Page Half Marathon looked like it was a good decline during the course of the route, it didn’t seem to indicate just how horrible the inclines truly were. It was a slow burning thriller that never seemed to end, and while Oro Valley (which borders Tucson proper) does have some good rolling hills, it will be nothing in comparison to the change in elevation and incline levels. But of course, my most recent foray at Ragnar Del Sol illustrated some simple facts to me: I am getting stronger in regards to distance. While I didn’t run the 23 miles I originally slated myself to run, I still ran a rugged 19 miles that saw a lot of hills and inclines. In spite of all my worry and anxiety, I never fully cramped to the point where I was forced to give up and call it the day. Nutrition probably had a lot to do with that, so I at least know what is expected of me in regards to carb loading and getting myself ready for the run. But herein lies the true deception about half marathons…it’s all about the mental aspect. While I am still working on the mental side of the equation, I was able to manage some good vibes on my final run at Ragnar and make it through quite splendidly. If anything, the Arizona Distance Classic gives me another chance to shoot for my 10.30 minute-per-mile rate once again, which is something I didn’t get in Page (though the cramping over the final couple miles played into that).
Anyway, preparation is already in effect for me. While I plan to get some longer runs in this upcoming week (which will really be the only chance I get), setting a good foundation in the gym will be important. Since I gleefully told Jon about my good fortune on Friday night, he came up with a good workout that would build some good leg strength. You see, with some new sessions starting next week, Jon wants to get back to work on some full body core work that will kill my gut and and make my body a little stronger. What has really helped me lately is not just my weight lessening to improve my speed, it has been the leg work I have been putting in since the Page Half Marathon. Saturday was kind of a precursor of what was to come. I started the day off with some good jerks, which is just half of the whole clean and jerk movement you see in weightlifting events. I haven’t done these in quite a while, so I went pretty light on the move so I wouldn’t kill myself, tacking on 115 pounds. Initially I tried 135, but it is clear my body wasn’t quite ready for that weight. Anyway, I quickly learned doing jerks with my left leg is not quite as fluid with my right. Fortunately the fluidity of the movement wasn’t the most important aspect for me. If anything, just getting the darn thing done and done properly was what mattered. Anyway, I only had to do 15 jerks for each leg, so if anything, it was a good reintroduction of what is to come. What ultimately got to me was of course, the front squats. Now since I started doing a lot of independent study due to the lack of sessions, having the ability to do barbell squats has been limited. Let’s face it, you need a rack to help you get the job done, and since paying customers get first crack at the equipment, I typically settled for deadlifts rather than front and back squats while also doing goblet squats with the 53-pound kettle weight or 55-pound dumbbell squats. But today I got to flex some muscle and work a little on my leg strength, even though I have mentioned time and and again I have a pretty good abundance of it. More than anything, this exercise was about maintaining a firm back and keeping my form good and tight. The last time I really did front squats was more than a month ago, and I merely did 115 pounds at that juncture. This time I challenged myself a little more, putting on 135 for the 50 reps I needed to do. While I paced myself pretty well, doing six or seven at a time, I never once felt overwhelmed by the movement. Even though my legs and ankles never fell in doubt, the only real trouble I had was with my wrists, which are tendinitis-ridden appendages if anyone ever saw one. One thing Jon mentioned to me for the upcoming weeks was to start stretching back my fingers one by one, every day. If anything, doing this will prepare me for the workload that is coming up. Despite a little pain, I got through the front squats quite nicely. Truthfully, I probably could have gone much higher in weight if I didn’t have so many reps to do, but today was mostly about acclimating myself to the exercise once again. The only downside of doing the squats second rather than last? It really affected my last workout exercises. Jon had me do some floor bench presses, which are a lot tougher than they seem because you cannot let your elbows touch the ground or that would be considered cheating. While it is not as challenging due to the fact you don’t have to bring the bar to your chest, it is a little more difficult to keep yourself from crunching your elbows on the floor, which is kind of like accidentally driving over a speed hump at 35 miles an hour (which happened to me this past week….whoever thought of the speed hump should be beaten royally as well as the guy that doesn’t utilize the most reflective surfacing possible for these darn things. I thought my car took flight for a moment there, and this is not a car that can handle that kind of business!). Anyway, the jumping pull-ups weren’t too bad despite the fatigue, but hey, you got to end with something fun!
I don’t know how ready I will be for this race, considering I have had normal prep or even expectations of what I want to do. I guess first and foremost, I want to finish. Second most, I want to try and break my old standard of roughly two hours and 23 minutes. While a little home field advantage is in play here, being from Tucson and all, this will still be a rather difficult run mentally for me. I guess we will have wait and see!
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