My 8k is coming up and I am nervous, plain and simple. I ran my first practice 8k last week, and it went horribly awry: my allergies acted up, my shins hurt like crazy, my clothing was uncomfortable, and I felt discouraged and let down. I kept thinking to myself I’ve been working at this for nearly 6 months, and 5 miles is still challenging. Why am I even doing this? I want to quit. I’m going to finish the last out of everyone and feel terrible about myself. But I finished my run (if you could call it that), and I felt like I knew my worst case scenario.

Feeling sorry for myself, unmotivated, and disappointed, I sauntered into my house to check out facebook (where better to seek comfort?) when low and behold, an update from Jamie: a picture with the caption “Nat on her 40th km today in the BMO.” Ok I’m sitting here feeling bad about running an 8k and Natalie is on her 40th km of her marathon? I am in awe of this woman. All my negativity instantly went away, and was replaced with inspiration and motivation. I could get there one day too! But how? Well, ladies and gentelman, without further ado, I present to you my Q and A with the amazing, inspirational, and very very fast, Natalie Chomin herself.


Claire: How did you start running and why do you love it so much?

Natalie: I started running in elementary school and realized I loved to race, so that’s when I decided to try Cross Country and Track. I competed until I graduated High School [and did] other sports at the same time. When my High School days of running were over, I found myself craving that racing experience and decided to do my first half marathon. I really enjoyed it, and decided to start racing in triathlon, which I did for the past 5 years along with running shorter races. Last year I decided to take it up a notch and sign up for a full marathon and the rest is history!

Running is a funny thing. Sometimes I wonder “why do I do this every single day?”….especially when I am losing toenails, chaffing, blistering, missing out on social events, watching my diet and alcohol consumption and giving up my days off so I can run, and recover from, my weekly long runs which got up to 35 kms. But that’s what I love the most about running–the challenge and the high I get from achieving my goals. Nothing is comparable for me, and many people wonder why, but it’s become my escape.

C: What was your very first race like? How far was it and How did you feel after?

N: My first race outside of High School was the Victoria Half Marathon. It was 21.1 km, and it was a bit of a letdown. I had trained extremely hard and enjoyed that aspect immensely, but race day was a thumbs down. The weather was terrible, and I went out too fast with the built up adrenaline and hit a wall around 15km. After, I was happy I finished and overall it was a good first race, but I learned a lot from it.

C: What is the last week before a marathon like? In the days before the BMO marathon, what did you do to prepare?

N: The last week of training before a marathon includes tapering. You hit your highest weekly mileage around 2-3 weeks before the race then all your runs get shorter and less intense. In the days before the race, I focused on making sure my diet was getting a lot of simple carbohydrate for immediate glycogen stores, getting a lot of sleep and mentally preparing. I was extremely nervous, barely able to think/talk about anything else.

C: What types of cross training do you incorporate into your workout routine?

N: I like to do yoga 1-2 time a week, as well as biking or hiking; in the summer I do the Grouse Grind as one of my cross training days. I also do a core circuit twice a week, as having a strong core really improves your running performance.

C: What is normal running pain like? Where do you feel it most when you run for long distances? Shorter distances?

N: Pain is one of the biggest topics in marathon training. I thought I knew what it was like to experience pain from running before marathon training….but I was wrong. In long runs, one of my biggest issues was chaffing. I would literally be bleeding in the shower from the rubbing of my heart rate monitor, sports bra and sometime shorts/long spandex. Long runs also bring on cramping in the calves, and hamstrings, not to mention lactic acid build up occurring in the upper body. Tempo and speed workouts were just painful because they were tough cardiovascular workouts and I would get some acute muscle soreness afterwards.

C: What gets you through the tough times? When you are training what motivates you? When you are actually racing what pushes you to go faster and keep moving?

N: I go through some tough runs and tough stretches of time while training, which all runners definitely experience. On one of my long runs I was seriously questioning my decision to run a marathon. Why am I doing this? Why do I go through all this pain? Will I be able to finish the race? Maybe I should just do a half…..but I always am motivated by the one fact that never changes, I love a challenge, and achieving that goal is one of the best feelings in the world. Hands down. In a race, the adrenaline and the pounding of footsteps by the other runners around me drive me forward–knowing that pain is temporary, and pride is forever. I had a cross country coach tell me “run until there is literally no gas left in the tank”. Lots of times I have to dig extremely deep to find that bit of energy, but it’s there, and sometimes you have to get through times like that mentally when physically, there is nothing left.

C: Any final words of advice or encouragement for newbies like me?

N: I love it when I hear that someone is picking up running. Having confidence is very important when beginning a new sport. You have to know that YOU can do it, and no one else can tell you otherwise. I never thought I’d do a marathon…it was just too long of a distance, I used to think. But when I realized that the only thing holding me back is myself, I went for it. I would suggest signing up for a 5k, or whatever distance you feel would be a challenge and start training. I love having a race in mind, it motivates my workouts every single day. And when I am finished that race, knowing I achieved something that I set out to do, is an amazing feeling!

Happy Running!

Thanks for the interview, Natalie! You are phenomenal and I can’t wait to hear about what you do next!

Happy training to all my readers, whether you are a runner, a yogi, a swimmer, or a bob sledder.

Motivationally yours,

C

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And my back!

I have the official doctors orders: I can walk, but no running OR YOGA until further notice.

Bummer.

-C

It’s a shame that I actually am having to force myself onto my blog today after nearly a month of utter internet silence. It’s a shame because this past month I have made such major progress towards becoming a runner.

Briefly, I’ll give you a running update, and after that I’ll get to the more interesting stuff:

1. My 10:36 minute miles has dropped to a 9:56 minute mile – that is a :40 second difference in just a month! A lot of that was made possible because I am learning how and when to push myself in running (which, for the record, is SO different from in yoga).

2. I have gone from thinking of the treadmills as “vicious, evil, monsters who like to revel in my humiliation” to being able to go into the gym and jump up on one like he’s my favourite pony and I’ve ridden since I was born.

3. The shins. Ohhhh the shins. ouch. They aren’t really getting better, but I do find that with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical the pain is significantly reduced. I also find alternating between running a mile, walking for 2-3 minutes, and running another mile helps immensely.

4. I can finally say I am at a place where I know if I had to run Beat The Bridge tomorrow, I could do it. I probably wouldn’t be particularly thrilled with my performance, but I know I could finish it, and even probably run the whole way.

Now to the juicy stuff. It’s a new year (2011! Yeah!) and since this blog so much focuses on setting goals, and achieving them, you are probably expecting some epic resolutions for the coming 12 months. The fact is, that is simply not the kind of goal setter I am. As you may have noticed, I set my big goals kind of randomly, when the timing feels right, and when the right challenge comes along. This very seldom coincides with December 31st (actually, it tends more to coincide with November, for whatever reason). One of the mantras I do live by, however; is “keep setting goals and achieving them.” This mantra is what drives the rhythm in my life. I set goals, small ones and bigger ones, every single day. Take a look in my day planner, and you’ll see what look like mini to do lists on almost every page. I am a goal setter, that is who I am, and the beginning of a new year does nothing to encourage that or discourage it in any way. Goal setting gives my life meaning.

This year, however, I would like to add a bit of a theme to the goals I will set, and that is I want each of them to make me a better person in a new way. My big goals I’ve blogged about so far have been athletic ones, but the new big goals I am going to tackle are not. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t quite fluffed them out yet. In this way, this new year will be different. I will continue to set goals and achieve them, I will continue to challenge myself both physically and mentally, and I will continue to let this add meaning and value to my life, but I will expand my ideas of what can be thought of as a goal.

As a quick refresher, remember to set goals that are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Timeframe! Good luck with your own resolutions, and I wish you all the most productive, successful, SMART, New Year you have ever had!

-C

The treadmills:

there they were, all lined up along the front wall of the gym; they stood there like an army of robots made of metal and rubber. Vicious, evil monsters, who like to revel in my humiliation.

I decided to forfeit a Saturday night out so that I could go to the gym while it was relatively empty. Between the Apple Cup and Husky Basketball, I figured most Seattleites would be snuggled on their couches, or slurping a beer at the bar. Thankfully, I was right.

I was being melodramatic before. It really wasn’t that bad, in fact, I kind of liked it. A lot. I learned a lot about myself, like, for example, I can run a ten and a half-minute mile. More precisely, I can run a 10 minute and 36 second minute mile. That is a lot better than I thought I could do. So I warmed up with 5 minutes of speed walking, ran for 20, and cooled down with another 5 minutes of speed walking. I ran for 20 minutes straight, and it felt incredible. My heart rate stayed right about 180 – which is the target for athletic conditioning, and I didn’t feel horribly out of breath, nor did I get achy lungs or a sore throat.

I feel like I could have actually run for longer, but my shins were hurting awfully badly. It appears this pain might be my biggest hurdle. It isn’t like muscle soreness either, if I’m not careful I’m afraid I will really get hurt. I must look into having someone critique my form, and give me techniques to deal with this. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to ice my shins after a run, and stretch appropriately.

While on the treadmill, I learned that I tend to list to the right while running. I also learned (as mentioned above) that I’m in a lot better cardiovascular shape than I thought I was. I really feel accomplished right now.

I’m going to sit back and revel in that for a while. More to come later.

-C

Once upon a time, there was running, and there was yoga. Running sucked, yoga was mostly awesome. I never thought they would work together; then they met and fell in love.

Bodies change. Bodies change a lot faster than you think they’re going to. I have been running (trying to run? Jogging? Limping??) for exactly 1 month, 12 days, and 4 hours. You wouldn’t think that this would have had a chance to change me yet, but I’m finding myself morphing both outside and in.

I really haven’t done a lot of yoga since I’ve been running, so during my class today, it was very interesting to notice how different everything feels.

Right off the bat I noticed my legs have gotten significantly stronger. During Utkatasana (awkward pose), I noticed I could go deeper into the posture, and I could hold it much more comfortably. Additionally I was able to get much more of my weight onto my heels, improving my technique. In all the one-legged poses, I could both see and feel how much stronger my legs are.

I also noticed that my cardiovascular endurance and aerobic ability has gotten a lot better. I didn’t find myself gasping for breath as much as I used to. I definitely still got my heart rate up, but the head pounding, dizzy, I’m-going-to-die feeling was mercifully absent. This allowed me to really improve the depth of my Ustrasana (camel pose), which felt amazing, as well as improve the form on Trikanasana (Triangle Pose), among others.

The last place I noticed a stark increase in strength was especially surprising to me: I noticed it in my core. I have always felt that if anything, the yoga would be the thing to increase my core strength, but the running has improved it so much in such a short time. It felt amazing, and so stabilizing, and it helped me to get a lot more benefit from many of the postures. I was able to do all but the last few sit ups between postures, and the forward bending.

Strengthening these areas allowed me to focus on smaller details of my form, and I really felt like some of the postures just clicked into place today. With Wind Removing Pose, the instructors always say to pull your leg back, completely avoiding the rib cage, and that you should feel a pinch in the hip-joint. I have never been able to feel that pinch, and it has always frustrated me because I felt I wasn’t getting the full benefit of the posture. Today, I realized the alignment of my leg was such that from the knee down, my leg was angled in. I focused on aligning my calf to my hamstring, and voilà! A glorious little pinch! I was so excited.

I just felt that I was doing these poses properly. They just, as I said, clicked.

Of course not all was perfect. My ankle strength is less than stellar. My calves, shins, and ankles cause me a lot of pain when I run, and now they cause me a lot of pain in many of the yoga poses. Additionally, my hamstrings and quads have gotten even tighter than they were before. Stretching out before an after running is definitely going to be something I need to focus on.

When anyone starts doing a new physical activity, there are obviously changes in strength and ability to be expected, they just usually aren’t noticed or appreciated until much later in their development. Doing an activity which requires me to be so in tune with the nuances of my body, has allowed me to benefit from the running I’ve been doing so quickly! I have already noticed so many exciting things happening. What a great motivator to keep on running.

All the best in running and in yoga,

-C

So on Wednesday I went to the gym.

I’m going to let you process that for a minute…

ok?

Those of you who follow this know what a big deal it is that I went, because in the past, I have been the first to say how much the gym sucks. The thing is, it has been snowing here in Seattle. Snow derails my (already mediocre) ability to run outside.

When my dad and sister said they were going to the gym, I decided to go along. I bought a ten visit card for $10 at Prorobics, which is a lovely facility just West of Laurelhurst (all of my $10 went to Children’s Hospital btw!). Truth be told, I could not bring myself to run on the treadmill. I had every intention of doing so, but when I walked into the room, I couldn’t. Running makes me feel a little self-conscious to begin with. The treadmills, shiny and metal, computer screens flashing, were all lined up in the very front row of the gym. They placed the machines, strategically it seemed, right below the televisions where the other patrons glued their eyes. No way was I going to turn my pathetic jog into a performance art. No way, no how. So I grabbed a copy of Vogue, chose an elliptical machine, furtively entered my weight, and pressed the button for cardio workout. Easy as pie.

The workout zoomed by, and I stayed warm doing it.

The thing about training for something is, the day of reckoning is going to come whether I am ready or not, and I want to be ready. I want to say I did my best, and I want to be able to run that whole entire 8K. Run, do you hear me? Not walk. So since I’m going to have to find a way to train, whether it’s snowing or raining, or 90 degrees, I’m going to have to make peace with the gym. I’ll have to get brave enough to try the treadmill too, but I think for now I’ll be proud of myself for just going. My plan is to try the treadmill and get comfortable on it at a time when the gym is not busy, that way I won’t feel like a stand-up comedian with a tough crowd.

What is your favourite piece of gym equipment?

-C

Sometimes when I read over what I have recently written, I am able to get better perspective on my own advice. I think I have a lot to teach myself, for example, on October 25th, I wrote that the hardest part about running would be making the time to get dressed, leave my house, and hit the pavement. Once I get to that point, I’m going to do the gosh darn run – it’s inevitable. On October 28th, I wrote about the good aspects of running for exercise, and I now have that bookmarked on my browser, because I find it heartening to read.

Today I cross trained for 30 minutes, and tomorrow is another running day. I am telling you all now, I am not going to skip tomorrow’s run. It’s going to happen, because I know (and I think you all know too) that I am more than disciplined enough to make myself put on a pair of shorts and runners and trot out into the cold (has everyone else noticed how freaking cold it’s gotten?!).

Something one of the teachers said during my last class at Bikram Yoga Seattle, was that the main reason they ask you not to leave class, is that if you allow yourself to leave class once, leaving will always be an option. If you don’t ever leave, it’s never an option to leave. The first time you do it is the hardest, after that it just gets easier and easier. The truth is, it is easy to skip a run. The world doesn’t end, time doesn’t stop, I haven’t been smote down by any God yet, but it does make me feel kind of bad about myself. That is arguably worse than most other consequences.

So some things I am going to do for myself this week:

*Make a new absolutely killer running playlist. Song suggestions appreciated and welcome btw.

*Drink more water. Since I’ve worked in the school district, I have drunk so much less water! I feel significantly worse because of that, and I need to get back in the habit. I used to drink 10 glasses a day easily, now I’m lucky if I get 3.

*Plan, plan, plan, and plan. I need to schedule my days better, right now they are too unstructured to be productive.

*Lastly, I am going to try my hardest to get more sleep at night. I need to wake the eff up.

So with those four goals in mind, I will depart. I hope to have a much more positive, successful, and fulfilling week this time around. What are your goals to make yourself healthier this week?

-C