Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jennifer, Start.... your...... ENGINE!

Ok, so I'm not a racecar, but I am training to be in a race! This morning I did my first "L.A. Leggers" run. And I couldn't think of a more appropriate title for the start of this 24 week journey. As it resembles NASCAR in several ways -

~It is physically and mentally demanding on a runner (driver)
~If I don't fuel my body (car) properly, I'll run out of gas and not be able to finish!
~We run around in circles! (Just really big ones!)

"But, Jennifer, why are you running in (ever increasing) circles?", you ask? Good question! Let me tell you why. (You might want to take a bathroom break, get a nice tall drink and get comfortable, cause this first post is a weeeeeeee-bit long, sorry about that!)

It all started a couple weeks ago on a dark and stormy night....umm..oops, sorry, wrong long story! (although, when I typed this it WAS a dark and stormy night!) Anyway, back to my story.

Over the last couple years, as I've lost more weight and stared getting more interested in running, a tiny little voice in the back of my head started telling me: "hey, maybe someday......wwwwaaaaayyyy far away, I'll decide I might want to maybe possibly run a marathon someday perhaps." But that voice was usually drowned out by the much louder screams of "Just go sit on the couch and veg out! (and eat lots of chocolate while doing it!)"

Then, a few weeks ago, I realized I was creeping REALLY close to a weight milestone I NEVER EVER EVER EVER want to reach again (I've lost, roughly, so far, 100 pounds) due to summer attacking me and my not really following the Weight Watchers plan 100% for the last few months. I knew that one of the major reasons for this gain was the fact that I've rarely (ok, pretty much never) worked out since the end of March when I did a 5k race immediately followed by a 10k walk with some friends in Agoura Hills. (yes, I know I haven't been making the best food choices either, but the almost total absence of activity hasn't helped!)

About 2 weeks ago, as I was trying to motivate myself to get out there and MOVE MORE (for non-Weight Watchers (ww) peeps, this is one of the 4 cornerstones of the WW program), I was browsing the blogs of some friends from my Stitch 'n Bitch (SnB) group. One guy mentioned this group he joined called L.A. Leggers. I checked out their website, thought they looked like a fun group, and that little tiny, back-of-my-head-voice stopped saying "eh, maybe someday......wwwwaaaaayyyy far away, I'll decide I might want to maybe possibly run a marathon" and started saying, in ever increasing volume, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to run a marathon in March!?" Eventually, the "Go sit on the couch and veg out!" voice was too hoarse from trying to stay louder than the 'marathon' voice that it just gave up and left (probably went to go sit on the couch.)

The Leggers group started about 8 weeks ago, so time to join was running out. It's typically a 31 week program and they don't let beginner marathoner's join much past the end of September. Since I had been to the gym approximately (er....exactly) once in the previous few months, I thought that a great (insane) idea would be to do the Nike Run Hit Remix 5 mile race on Sept. 15th just to see how well I could do with a distance longer than a 5k (3.1 miles for those metrically-challenged readers). I'd never run farther than a 5k before and figured if I didn't die, that maybe I could survive the training program.

I *did* go to the gym and do 5 miles on the treadmill on the Wednesday before the race just to see how long it would take me to do that distance (1:30ish if you're interested, and I was mostly walking.) Then I went home to check last year's results to be sure there were plenty of people with a slower time! (Don't want to be DFL afterall!!)

At the Nike Race, I did SO much better than I thought I was going to be able to do! I finished in 1:06! AND ran the ENTIRE distance, minus the water stations (2) and the turnaround. (which was my goal!) Pics are here if you're interested.

So, after that success, I decided I wasn't too out of practice to at least TRY to join the Leggers. As I told a friend, I can always join and decide later to NOT do the marathon, but I can't wait another month to decide to join.

Having commited myself to joining (paid in full and everything so I couldn't change my mind in the morning), I roused myself from sleep at the crack of OH-MY-GOD-WHY-AM-I-UP-THIS-EARLY-o'clock, otherwise known as 5am, and headed down through the rain to Santa Monica (why can't the traffic be as nice all the time as it is at 5am on a Saturday!?!)

"Wait, Jennifer, did you just say RAIN in LA?!?! Surely, that can't be right?! It doesn't rain in SoCal, does it?" Well, it rains about 3 times a year here, and usually it's not much above a drizzle. This was a full blown STORM!! (which, makes me go "YAY!!!" cause I love rain. Normally. Not so much when I am about to run 9 miles outside!) I did wonder if I was being sent a sign from above that I shouldn't be up this early and about to run 924 miles! (what, me exaggerate? never!) It did clear up before the run, and we even got to see a really cool rainbow most of the run. The end of the rainbow looked like it was at the finish line, but when I got there someone else must have already claimed the pot of gold.

As I said, this week's run was 9 miles!! Much farther than the highest mileage I've ever done before (that would be the 5 miles from last week!) I debated which pace group to join. I considered the 14 min/mile group, but when they left the starting point, I wasn't quite ready mentally to start. : ) Plus, that's the slowest pace group they have for running and I didn't want to start out there. My main reasoning behind that was: if I try that pace and can't hack it, then what!? I ended up going out with the 13s.

As we get farther into training, I am hoping I can move up into a faster pace group, and on shorter runs, I may decide to go out with a faster group (one of the mentors told me that this isn't uncommon). Of course, all the people in my group were really nice, so I'd feel like I was cheating on them if I do ever go with a different group!

One thing I like a lot about how the Leggers work is that they don't run non-stop the entire distance. They alternate running and walking (this week's split was 4 minutes of running and 1 min of walking) which is what you SHOULD do on long runs, but does seem a little odd to me, cause shouldn't a runner, um, RUN?! :)

As we started out, I felt like I was really holding back (which is what you're supposed to do!!) and I was thinking I should maybe have started with the 12.5 or 12 group. But I knew that by the end of the 9 miles, I would probably wish I HAD gone with the 14s. I didn't quite think THAT, but I did end up walking more of the last third than running. I felt really badly for our sweeper, as she had to drop back to be sure I didn't get left too far behind. Once we got about 1/2 mile from the finish I told her to go ahead without me.

The mentors emailed our group's 'results' this afternoon:
9 miles completed in 1:55
Average pace 12:55
Average Calories Burned 1450 (<---that's an extra 14 points I could eat today if I wanted to!!) After the run, they had a speaker. It was a woman who has set MANY records for marathons and was a big part of getting women's distance running in the Olympics. It was very interesting to hear her talk. I had just enough time to stop by my condo and take a shower before heading off to WW. I wasn't expecting to show much of a loss, as I don't normally eat anything before a weigh-in, but with the running, you need to eat and hydrate. Also, my muscles were starting to get a bit sore, so I knew they were starting to hold water. But I did manage to lose! 1.6 more pounds gone!

Tonight, I'm a little sore, but so far, not too bad. My left ankle and right hip are the places I am the sorest.

Sorry for the novel, future updates will most likely not be quite as verbose!

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