Friday, September 28, 2012

Runner Initiation

The recent article (and accompanying video) on Runner’s World Magazine’s website entitled “5 Steps to the Perfect Snot Rocket” proves that there’s no such thing as an overshare of information amongst runners. Even the most disgusting of bodily functions are fair game. Only in a running magazine with a very targeted readership could you get away with a topic of this nature. The subject line of the e-newsletter reading “How to Clear Your Nose” made me open the email quicker. I don’t know what that says about me to the general public, but who says they ever need to know?

The realization that I talk about almost anything with my training partners is something I came to long ago. My first running buddy and I had a motto that stated “What’s said on the run, stays on the run.” While it’s not quite the same as a free pass in Vegas, the mantra allowed for free talk about training and the side effects that result from logging many miles. Basically it was my running version of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” At the time that I was getting these daily briefings, I was the novice runner who had only just completed my first handful of races. I was not only learning from a marathon veteran how to navigate the rules of the road, but also learning the most basic of principles of the sport: Runners Are Gross.

Now that I’m the “veteran,” I’m having the pleasure to initiate new runners in to this not so super-secret club. A coworker and I are training together for her first half marathon at the end of October, and the training runs have been getting longer and more consistent. We’ve gone sans iPods several times over the past two weeks, and conversation during the runs have commenced. Recently we met for a run, and the first words out of her mouth were “Let’s see how this goes. I’m having some stomach issues. Sorry if that’s TMI.” Well, that prompting was all I needed to let the flood gates open. I proceeded to explain over the first mile how there’s no such thing as TMI, that its good to talk about those issues with other runners while training, and use those conversations to get reassurance that its totally normal, and possibly find out reliefs for many ailments.

The conversation eventually turned in to personal stories of race day occurrences, and what has transpired in spite of rigorous training and preparation. I wanted to make it clear that Murphy’s Law applied to endurance sports as well as everyday life. She was regaled with stories that included one instance where I attended a friend’s birthday dinner the night before the 2010 Mardi Gras Marathon, made a bad decision on the pre-race meal, and subsequently pulled the trigger to put a port-a-potty out of commission at the 14 mile marker. My training buddy’s response was “Better out than in!” Seeing that she didn’t flinch, I proceeded to share how a pit stop during a separate race day caused me to worry for 5 miles that I was hemorrhaging, only to realize I had eaten tomato basil soup the night before.  Still seeing that she wasn’t fazed, I concluded the run with a tale of how; during my first Walt Disneyworld Marathon, I witnessed a runner squatting to relieve himself on concrete at the rear exit (pun totally intended) to The Magic Kingdom. Her immediate reaction was “Didn’t he just run through a theme park? He couldn’t stop at a bathroom in there?” Honestly, I couldn’t have been more proud of my padawan; and was thrilled to have just become her running Obi Wan Kenobi.

Really, there’s no secret that a strong camaraderie exists amongst runners. We spend many hours together training in packs, waking up early to meet for races, and spend post-workout sessions at the local bar swapping stories of our latest PR. Its during these rituals that we bring in newbie runners and give them the “off-court” training that they need to get through running season. In addition to having stamina and endurance, the strong stomach of a runner is something that’s easily acquired. As experienced athletes, its our responsibility to show them the way.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Naked Runner

For the past week, I have been doing something that I haven’t done… ever. I’ve been running naked.

No, I haven’t been causing bouts of blindness with my bare posterior. Instead, I’ve been running sans electronics. Neither an iPod nor a Garmin has accompanied me on my training runs through Uptown New Orleans. This is uncharted territory for me, and I’m not sure where it may lead.

Since I started marathon training nearly four years ago, I have always used an iPod. Even if I was running and talking with a partner, I would have one headphone in with music keeping me on somewhat level 3-minute interval paces (the average length of a song). Over that same timeframe, there’s been a consistent playlist that has had few deletions and some major additions, and those tracks have been my most dependable training partners. Granted, I’ve gone through five iPod shuffles and an iPhone, all of which fell victim to my profuse sweating during the summer months; however, I’ve maintained my dependence on some tunes to keep me motivated and focused on my training.

A little over two years ago, I bought my first Garmin GPS-enabled watch. It COMPLETELY revolutionized my training. The first time I wore it to race was at my first Boston Marathon. I was amazed by passing the mile marker flags and simultaneously hearing the beep of my Garmin. It allowed me to keep an even pace, to know when I was pushing the pace too early in the race, to know when I needed to speed up to stay on pace, and to know where I was with finishing within a goal time. I swear by my Garmin as a training aid, and it’s a must-have during marathon season. The uploads of my runs to a personalized website, with maps of my routes, complete a great overall picture of my race preparation and serve as a mental reminder of what effort I have done in getting ready for race day and reassures me of my preparedness. Also, it leaves a fancy wrist tan line that never seems to go away.

Both of my training aids died this past week, so I’ve been on multiple shorter runs (4 miles) without them. It’s interesting how I have responded. My pace has not dropped any. In actuality, it has sped up some and become more even. I’m starting to think that I may have been relying on my 130 beats per minute music too much and it was hampering increased speed in my training. I’ve missed my Garmin immensely, but the farmer’s tan has evened out a bit and I’ve gotten some at-home remedies from a friend on how to reboot it. In the meantime, digital streaking will be in my future.

What do you depend on when training, and what must you bring beyond your front door?