Monday, August 8, 2011

More Mental Than Physical

True or False ?

- You can't walk during marathons at all.
Not true. In fact walk/run is a proven technique to stay injury-free.

- You need a strong core.
Very true - read Aparna's post.

- Humans are not made for long distance running.
Very funny. Don't believe it. It's a scare tactic.

- Marathon is more mental than physical.
Amen! Couldn't be truer. (More about this in a minute)

- To run a marathon, you should start young or should've been a runner your whole life.
Nope. Not true.

I could go on and on. But a simple google search of "Marathon Myths" will surely quench your thirst and quell your doubts.

In this post, I want to share my experience about the "more mental than physical" aspect.

I recently ran the 10-mile Muddy Paws trail race - my very first official race. The idea at first seemed daunting. But I have a confession - I had a LOT of fun. And I know why.
The preparation for the race itself started almost a week ahead and my check list looked something like this.

The week before ...
1. Put in all my scheduled runs throughout the week.
2. Proper diet of course (less fiber and more carbs as the week progresses).
3. Laundry. Funny as it may sound, you don't want to be stuck with whatever you can get your hands on on the race day. You gotta wear what's comfortable.

The night before ...
4. iPod. Fully charged and with the right playlist. Songs that keep you pumped.
5. Fuel Belt - Water, gatorade and GU energy gels.
6. My lucky hat
7. Directions to the race location & gas in the car
8. Inform your friends / loved ones (in case of emergency).

On race day ...
9. Breakfast of the champions.
10. A nice, long warm-up.

After the race ...
11. A longer cool-down.
12. Chocolate milk - to replenish (and celebrate!).

Its like a strategy game and you are getting ready for battle. All you need to outwit the enemy is the right attitude. And with so much thought and preparation before the race, there is no way in hell your attitude is not that of a winner. And of course it goes without saying ... attitude decides altitude. Or even distance for that matter.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Curious Case of the CORE!

“Guys, we have to work on our core” was a constant statement every week from the time we decided to venture on this heroic journey.
The core muscles to me just meant “abs” and I always associated it with either sports stars or a Hrithik Roshan/Brad Pit Greek God looking super star.
All of us have “core” muscles that are hidden deep in layers of fascia aka fat. Without these muscles we would not be able to stand, sit, walk or even just hold our body erect. These muscles are the drones of our body working nonstop without us realizing it.
So, in the last two weeks we muster the courage to actually test our core with the dreaded PLANK. We wanted to go 1 minute and I thought “ya, shouldn’t be too hard.” That was literally the longest 1 minute of my life. If you think time flies, do the plank for a minute! (this was after the usual practice run, in my defense.)
My arms and legs shaking, I said all the Gods names that I knew off and demanded a countdown from 50 seconds just to know at which second I can drop. Then came the side plank that was the real killer. We did 30 seconds on each side and I felt all my insides being crushed and squeezed from all sides. At that point I thought running was the easy part.
To my surprise the next day I felt fine and infact a little stronger maybe (could just be my imagination after building my abs for a day!). The interesting part about the core is that, since we constantly use those muscle groups the recovery rate is very quick and they respond and adapt to high workloads quickly. I don’t mean that I will  get  “6 pack abs” or even a 2 pack, but my core will get stronger and hopefully make the long distance running easier. 
Last week I pushed the limit by going 1.5 minutes on the plank and 45 seconds on the side plank. Now I truly  feel the difference (not see) from when I started and I hope my theories on the core muscles are actually true!
Today we ran close to 14 miles, which was tough no doubt but I believe my core did not let me down and it made the run a little bit easier and even a little enjoyable.
I now have a new found respect for the core muscles and maybe, just maybe I can join the group of “stars”  someday!. Well, or maybe I should stop dreaming, keep running and hold the dreaded plank longer and longer and longer. For now, 1.5 minutes for me is HUGE!
-          Aparna Chitharanjan 

Monday, August 1, 2011

11 AM 13 miler

Date: 07/31/2011

Time: 16:00 hrs.

State of Mind : Crazy

Disclaimer: Some of the content might seem exaggerated and I would probably blame it on the state I am in right now. However, I assure you that I have tried my best to write sanely.

I had slept well after a long time. 8 hours to be precise. As the 10 AM sunlight streamed into my room, I asked myself if it’s worth running at this time of the day. The temperature was hovering over the mid-eighties + the humidity factor. A two week break to the west coast had softened me and I was at a state where a sloth could give me a run for my money. With too much on my mind for the past few weeks, I needed some time for myself alone. There was also the euphoria of catching the elusive little mouse (blame the labs at Case) today morning, which had made itself comfortable in my house for the past one week.

I decided to run. The intention was to run for about 10 miles. Armed with only a half-liter water bottle in my hand, no phone and no iPod (a grave mistake) and a 11 AM start, I soon got into my groove, running at a breakneck speed. I had the satisfaction of overtaking a family of snails after trailing them for almost 30 minutes. Giving them a triumphant smirk, I continued on my way. Running for me, after a point of time puts me in a trance. 45 minutes into the run on the beautiful North Park road, I could only hear the sound of my feet hitting the road and my wheezy breathing. Everything else seemed to just melt into the background.

I soon ran out of water and I realized with a shock I had run almost 6.5 miles. The way back was going to be long and I was out of fluids. I hate carrying a water belt and there were no places close where I could buy one. A little worried, I turned back. It was now really hot and I regretted coming so far. Somehow, I ran for a couple more miles and then suddenly came face to face with a person watering his plants. It must have been the heat, but a crazy idea came to my mind. It was about 1 PM. I gathered courage and asked him, if he could just spray some water over me. He burst out laughing and to my surprise, without even asking me again, he simply sprayed water over me. A couple of people in passing cars cheered us. I felt much better and filling up my bottle at his house, I ploughed on. The good feeling did not last long though and I barely could drag my feet along. Luckily, someone had advised me to carry money before the run and I will be ever grateful for that reminder. I saw a Walgreens in the distance. With renewed vigor I pushed forward, bought a snicker bar and a Gatorade and finished them both before I could even reach the exit.

I was about 3 miles from my place when I started feeling a twinge in my knee. A coughing fit made me stop completely and I walked the rest of the way finishing a total distance of 13 miles in approx. 3 hours and 10 minutes. A whopping time taken, but result achieved.

Why am I doing all this? Take out a minute from your time and please do go through this.

Although, every part of my body is aching, I am feeling a strange sense of satisfaction. I completed a half marathon today in just a little over 3 hours, right in the middle of the day. I just can't wait for my next weekend run of 15 miles. Bring it on!!