The Pants Dance

Before I even begin. I’m sorry. I know, I know. It’s nearly a week past the half and I can’t ever make this up to all of you lovely readers.

That aside, I survived! The half is completed, and it’s on to the next one. (More on this later though)
The last 3 weeks of training, for lack of a better word, sucked. er, I mean, was fueled by pure energy and motivation. We all have speed bumps. Right?

Thanksgiving was splendid, as I’m sure was true for most. Too much food, lots of family, and perhaps even some relaxation in there? Pretty sure I ate my weight in sweet potatoes. Yum. I, sadly, had an encounter with gluten. The glutton in me had a momentary takeover and decided pumpkin pie was a necessity….sigh.
On the upside though, I went on two lovely runs while in southern Oregon. A perfect 10k loop along the Rogue river both ways. The second of my two runs, my little brother decided to join me. I suppose the term ‘little’ is relative, considering that he is 16 and 6’2″. The conversation went something like this:

“Hey, mister. Wanna go on a run with me?”
“Hell no! You think these chicken legs ever run?”
“Please?” (I even busted out the puppy dog eyes)
“Okay, okay. But I’m riding my bike while you run.”
“Deal.”
And so we ran/biked.

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Jake waiting patiently while I stopped for the following photo op…
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A view of the Rogue river on my run.

Post-thanksgiving left 3 weeks until the half-marathon. I was nearing the home stretch of my training, I should have been elated…but I wasn’t. At all. The weather was getting cold, the days feeling longer, but daylight hours increasingly shorter. With school projects and finals looming overhead, it was difficult to focus on the task at hand: to build my endurance enough to run 13.1 miles.

What was I thinking signing up for a run in the middle of rainy and cold December, the same week as insanely stressful finals?! I thought it was a brilliant idea. A new and novel goal. Not necessarily a realistic one.

I was running for cupcakes, but grasping at straws. For two weeks, I pathetically only ran a total of 20 miles. I was keeping up with my cross-training, thanks only to a set weekly workout. But, I just wasn’t feeling it. The pessimism had begun.

To be completely honest, the majority of this negativity came from an injury. The pain I’d mentioned in my hip earlier? Oh, it had spread down to my knee. Apparently, I’d injured my IT band. Iliotibial band. It connects from the lateral portion of your hip to your knee. It functions in stabilization during running as well as abduction and medial rotation of the hip. In other words, it’s an important part of one’s body. Especially a runner’s. And it hurt. All the time.

I was on a Friday run on the trails near my house. I wasn’t even two miles into my journey, I had rambunctious music blasting, but I couldn’t ignore the increasing pain. I noticed a change in my gait as I winced with every tread on my left side. My breathing started to become labored. And then it hit me- my first asthma attack in months. I had a complete meltdown. Negative mental attitude, hip pain and an asthma attack?! Tears spilling down my cheeks, wheezing like the penguin from Toy Story, and dubstep blasting out of my dangling earphones as I collapsed on the cold, wet ground. Temper tantrum.

I don’t know how long I sat there, but I recovered. Eventually. I wiped away the tears and the smeared snot from my face. Sniveling, I picked myself back up and jogged home. How the hell was I going to run a half-marathon if I couldn’t even run two miles without bawling my eyes out?

I think it’s safe to say that we all have these moments of despair. Or days. It is how we come back from these times, what we do to recover and regain confidence that shows what kind of awesome we are.

The end of term brought about a personal fitness test in my bootcamp class, of which had challenged me the entire term. In 10 weeks time, I’d made improvements. My mile-time went from a 9:47 mile to 8:13. I could bench press more 45% of my body weight and leg press 120%, I had lost 13 pounds and 3% body fat.

Damn. I’d actually accomplished something. I thought, “Hey, maybe I can do this.” Who was going to tell me otherwise?

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The above photo is on the paved Fanno Creek trails near my house. I went on a Sunday early morning run. Let me rephrase that: I went on a run way too early, the morning after a holiday party. Fully feeling the effects of, er, things consumed the night before. Can we say grouchy runner? And then I came upon the image captured above….I couldn’t decide if I should run or swim through. And part of me wished I was still cozy in bed. A little further on the run, water covered the trail for a good 300 feet. It was up to my knees in some places. It is a good thing I love puddle jumping!

Let’s talk about treadmills. I can already hear the groans of avid runners everywhere. Who actually enjoys running on treadmills? Give me pavement or a trail any day, rain or shine. My preferences aside, the late nature of my schedule forced me to run inside for the last two weeks leading up to the half-marathon. I can barely run a 5k on the damned things.

I did learn a thing or two. I learned that I am not coordinated enough to run on the treadmill and watch TV at the same time. Sigh. Yes, I fell off. Twice. And you know that little red button with the cord attached on the treadmill that is used for a very sudden and abrupt stop? Oh yeah, bumped that once too. I also learned that it is actually possible to race someone while running on a treadmill. You look at the guy next to you’s screen. Glance quickly, and see how fast they’re running. Match pace. From there, just see who can run longer. Race on.

And now…the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The moment I’d been training 12 weeks for. The goal I was beginning to think was unreachable. The Holiday Half.

The weather: 40 F and precipitating. It was that nasty soaking mist we here in the Pacific Northwest know and loathe love so much.

The outfit: Red Nike running pants (more on these in a moment), green tank top, red Nike zip up long sleeve, black beanie, and some awesome socks that said “Santa’s little runner.” Also, a rad pair of black running gloves that saved my life during the run. If I had it my way, I would have worn enough layers to look like the abominable snowman. Not very conducive to running 13.1 though, sadly. I was as festive as I could get without wearing a tutu.

The music: Upbeat and dubstep. I started my run to The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and ended my run with “Pursuit of Happiness” by MGMT, Ratatat and Kid Cudi. “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion got me through the hardest part of my run at about mile 8. “Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” was a good one too. Thank you, Spotify and your awesome ability to create playlists.

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I. Run. For. Cupcakes. Cupcake Victory pose! Half a dozen cupcakes given to us by the fabulous Bliss Cupcake Shop and a few extras made by an awesome fan. I was nowhere near hungry afterwards, though.

I’ll be honest. The run was not nearly what I expected it to be. It was, dare I say it, easier than I’d imagined. My goal for this first half-marathon was just to finish. Not only did I finish, but I kept a nearly steady pace of 9:28/mile to finish in 2 hours and 4 minutes.

That deserves a cupcake!

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Back to the easier part of things. 13.1 is deceiving. You’re surrounded by thousands of other people doing the same thing you are. They’re dealing with the same obstacles, both physical and mental. This simple fact keeps you going. The one time I stopped running, an older gentleman passed me and said, “great job, runner. Keep it up!” And suddenly, I wanted to start running again.

I’m going to be crass. Tune out, or suck it up. I came across the finish line thinking to myself, “Is it over? Is it really already finished?” My friends greeted me with cheers and cupcakes. They were asking how I felt, if I was cold, what I needed. I looked at them and said: “I’ve never had to poop so badly in my life.” and ran to the lovely outhouses. Any other runners had this issue on a run? It’s just not okay.

Anyway. During the half, I kept my mind occupied with reasons why I run. Here’s a smidgen of the list I compiled:

  • It’s cheaper than therapy.
  • I love cupcakes. And all other desserts.
  • I want to look good naked.
  • To be able to say 4 miles is my short run.
  • To be able to outrun the zombies.
  • To get to the point that I turn to running and not food as a stress release.
  • To be someone else’s inspiration.
  • Because endorphins are addicting.
  • I just might like sweating.
  • To feel elated when I cross the finish line.
  • To be happy.
  • Because I’d rather have a drawer full of sports bras than lacey push-up bras.
  • To effect change.
  • To have great lungs…and great legs.
  • To feel alive
  • Because I can.

One more thing before I end this excessively long post.

Even though this blog has been all about this Half-Marathon, about how hard we’ve worked to attain our goals, and how amazing it is to have accomplished this goal, I wanted to mention The Holiday Half’s Facebook post-race post:

The winner of Portland’s Holiday Half Marathon was not the first person to cross the finish line, the true winner was the lady who crossed it last…..Holding last place was an adorable lady. She was wearing a bright pink shirt and a green hula skirt. Even though it was raining & freezing she still had a smile plastered on her face….. She ended up keeping up and finishing the race. She later came and found us at the Viso booth and told us that last year she had a stroke that had caused brain damage and left her unable to walk. The doctors told her she would never walk again. She had made this half marathon her goal and let no one keep her from believing it was possible. She said it was her Christmas present to herself. Never underestimate the power of believing in yourself. Merry Christmas!”

This, this is why I run. To inspire.

Merry Christmas, all. Happy Holidays. Be safe. Run on.

 

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Home is Wherever I Am

Ugh. I’m back.  Isn’t that just the feeling one gets after being on vacation?  One of these days I’ll have to plan a trip to a warmer climate! Who visits Boston during the winter, post hurricane and nor’easter?! Oh shucks!  That would be me.  In my defense, I got a killer deal on airfare!533949_10151169724838601_106503129_nSilliness aside, I hit a wall.  I found myself at that six to seven month mark of not living in Bean-town anymore.  I missed it!  The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is true.  After being back in Boston for a couple days, I realized that most of the reasons for my leaving didn’t apply anymore.  I had such a positive time there that I’m wondering if  I want to move back?

Sorry folks, I’m incredibly fickle!   Perhaps I just find it hard to say goodbye to the home I created for myself.  There is something very powerful about starting a life where no one knows your name yet. Everything I have in Boston, I earned.  The difficult thing about moving back to live in your hometown (Portland, OR) after that kind of experience is that they don’t know you anymore.  Worse. People tend to not separate the person you are now and the bambi you used to be. Frustrating!

But for now, lets recap- I, Lexi Zenner, have just had the most amazing 9 days in Boston, MA.  I spent time with old pals, made new friends, ate Buffalo Everything, LOBSTAH, and of course- ran.  I went on three runs that is. Oopsie!

Granted I was on vacation and do keep in mind that Boston is a walking city.  I walked a lot.  Heck, I danced a lot!  I have faith that walking in heels over cobblestone must do some wonders for the core. Right?

My first run was on day two- I ran from a Brighton residence over to Boston College for a few loop-d-loops, equating to about 5.1 miles.  Not too shabby.  Here are some pics of that run (me saying hello to my Jesuit pals):

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My Second run was a sad 3.1 miles because it was cold. Portland people, you don’t know this kind of cold!  The tricky part is that it creeps up on you after the run.  Once inside, I’ll be taking deep painful breaths into my dry/hoarse throat.  Not cool.

So yes, it was DAMN cold and I wanted to cuddle up to the space heater and watch episodes of  Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia; which I did.  I also thought good and hard about creating my own version of CharDeeMacDennis. I’m doing this!

For the third, I ran from the Boston side of the Charles river to Cambridge and back to Boston.  Epic! Beautiful. Epic! Here’s a rough pic of the route: about 11-ish miles! SHAZAM!

 

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I have always wanted to do this run!  When I lived here I would walk this route fairly often.  It’s the absolute most beautiful walk! This is probably my favorite place.  If you live in Boston or don’t, someday go walk or run the Charles river in Boston.  You wont regret it!

Here are some photos from my run along the Charles river in Boston, MA! So Beautiful!