And a couple of packets of Gu. More on that later.
Two minutes on, one minute off
I started running on the treadmill for two reasons: 1.) I wanted to know my speed and 2.) I needed to see a clock. The clock-thing was more mental (i.e. "It feels like I've been running for 45 minutes and it's only been 6 minutes??") but ended up being very helpful. I realized that running a full mile was too much for me, so I broke it down: two minutes running, one minute walking. I did this for ten minutes. The first time doing it, I was so winded I could barely catch my breath. (in my defense, I was also recovering from abdominal surgery six weeks earlier. Or maybe I was just a big marshmallow. The jury is still out.)
Either way, I needed to take it slow.
And as I continued, my two-minutes-on-one-minute-off slowly lengthened. Instead of ten minutes, I stayed on the treadmill (at a comfortable pace, which at that time was about 5.3-5.5 mph) for twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Once I did it for an hour, and that's when I realized I didn't need the one minute recovery anymore. So I started running five full minutes at a time, then ten, and without thinking, by February I was easily clocking 20 minutes of solid running (5.5-5.8mph). It took about eight weeks to really get a good three miles in there, but again, I wasn't running for distance, just time. And that helped.
Train for something
Once I started logging three miles here, two miles there, my confidence soared. I felt like a serious bad-ass on the treadmill. My legs started to thin out and I carried my shoulders a little bit straighter. By July, it occurred to me that all of my treadmill running should be put to good use and I should do something adventurous. So I signed up for the half-marathon. Obviously, as previously stated, I signed up for the race for bigger reasons (i.e. my dad), but knowing that I had to run 13.1 miles in just under 5 months certainly made me motivated to keep running. December 4th loomed over me like a bad cloud, but I was committed; my $140 was not going to go to waste.
This is where good coaches come in. I ran July and August by myself, and realized that I was totally in over my head. I still had not yet conceded that running is a team sport (or how a coach would be helpful), but feeling the pain in my knees and the fear of 13.1 miles looming in front of me convinced me to call up the boot camp instructors and register for their running team.
And in that, I found a whole new community. We received weekly emails that detailed everything from what to eat, how many miles to run per day, and even how to psychologically talk to yourself as the long (and longer) runs started. There is no way I would have ever challenged myself to run 7 miles alone; but when it was on the schedule, I showed up like a dutiful solider. And you know what? I finished first that day. (my friend Andrea, the fastest runner on the team, wasn't there. But I'm not going to focus on that detail). Not only did I finish, but coming in first did wonders for my running confidence. And then as we were leaving, a woman commented to me, "You are just a natural. You have the longest, most graceful stride."
I about fell over. I laughed and told her that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. Ever. In my whole life.
We both laughed, but it made me feel like a rock star. And certainly kept me going.
Good Gear is Key
Through the running team, on the first day, I found out my shoes were wrong, my socks were wrong, and even the way I tie my shoelaces were wrong. At the time, I was pretty defensive. Looking back, I realize they were right. And I was wrong. ::sigh::
So I bought new sneaks at a legit running store. I purchased non-cotton socks. I watched carefully as the coach tied my shoes, feeling as helpless as Scotty during the process. And after my initial feelings of uselessness wore off, I found myself going back to buy Gu, running pants (that I like to call my "go-fast pants"), and even a running stick (to roll out sore muscles). The point here? Good gear makes the process a lot more enjoyable. And fashionable, too.
This is where boot camp was key. Hill Day was critical to conditioning, and all of the ab work helped to tighten my core. It didn't usually come into play until after mile 3, but that's when I felt different parts of my body working in different ways. My mid-section literally felt as though there was a corset cinched around it. My breathing evened out and it was no longer one giant exercise in exhaustion. I wouldn't call running easy, but it certainly got easier. And cross-training really helped.
Accept the fact you will have bad days
I had a terrible run in early October. It was awful - I had gone with the group (it was one of those 4:45am runs) and the guy in front set the pace - this crazy 9-minute mile that went on for what seemed like hours. It was still really dark out, so I kept up with the group more out of fear of being mugged in the dark streets of Summerlin than out of the desire to run fast. And when we finished, I was destroyed. It was a horrible experience. My legs hurt, my head hurt, and I was wiped out mentally.
I didn't run for three days after that. And when I finally got the courage to don the non-cotton socks again, I was away for the weekend for a Junior League Conference. Courtney and I dragged ourselves out of the hotel for an early morning run, and I begged her to go slowly. She did, and we ended up doing 3.5 miles. That was all I had in me. I was still too afraid that I was going to feel awful or weak or puke or something. (ironic, considering how the actual marathon went...) But the run went fine and a tiny shred of my confidence was restored.
A couple more runs later proved that yes, I could still do this. A bad run doesn't mean I should quit the sport or give up or that I'm a failure - it was just a bad run. And better runs are right around the corner.
The first mile is the hardest
I love it when people say things like, "I don't even think I could run a mile." I want to say, "Yes, you can - the first mile is the worst!" To me, the first three miles are the worst. You're still working out the kinks and getting stretched out - your shoe doesn't feel right, that lace is bugging you, and why does your knee feel funny? I try to tell myself that the first three miles are basic diagnostic testing - what corrections should I make now in order to avoid injury longer into the run?
What's funny is by mile 5, I just would zone out. Miles 6-9 were consistently my favorite, and that's when I'd get the most work done: what Junior League stuff do I need to think about? What house stuff should I be focused on? What blog ideas can I come up with? What color two-piece bathing suit am I going to rock this summer, once this weight is off and I'm ready to go poolside again?
By the end of October, I looked forward to my long runs since it felt like one long business meeting in my head. I think I was actually more organized running than not running, simply because I had two hours to myself every week. It was heaven.
With that said, I hope these tips were helpful. If you have a tip you'd like to share, let me know and I'd love to include it. Or, if you felt some of my tips were wrong/inaccurate, let me know how I could correct them.
I'm excited for the new year ahead...and figuring our which race(s) to sign up for. Just this morning, Courtney pulled me aside at our park date and asked about possible 10Ks and half-marathons. Looks like the fiasco that was the Rock 'n' Roll marathon is fading quickly...and we're ready for Round 2. Weeeeee! Let's lace up the sneaks and get this party started!