Saturday, November 17, 2012

2012 Rothman 8k Race

Remember how I was training for the Rothman 8k race?  Well, today was the big day!  It was time to put my (half-assed) training to the test...  

The morning started with a 5:45am wake-up alarm and me finally rolling out of bed just after 6am.  Honestly, I don't even get out of bed that early on weekdays normally.  Needless to say, I was NOT in the mood to go for the longest (tied with last year's race) run in my life in the bitter cold (36 degrees F) this early in the morning.  I begrudgingly threw on the clothes I laid out the night before (Nick assured me that you can never wear too much pink), wolfed down a "cocoa-almond quinoa breakfast bake" bar (with chia seeds substituted for hemp seeds, and flax meal instead of almond meal), and tightened my laces.  Off we went.

We got to the race early, and Nick stood close to keep me warm.  He wasn't running this year (I'm pretty sure running the marathon last year has turned him off from running for life), but he came to cheer me on and take pictures.  The poor guy-- I complained straight from 6:30am until the race started at 7:30... and he put up with me.  It was too cold.  My hip was too stiff.  It was too early.  I was too tired.  I hate running.  This sucks.  I'm nervous.  At least it's a clear day... 

At least it was a pretty day.

...But it's too cold!  And my hip hurts.  Why did I sign up for this again?

Then, it was time to line up (with all 1,886 other runners).  The national anthem was sung, and things started to feel real.  During gymnastics, I always used to count and make sure there were 50 stars on the flag as the anthem played (a coach once said it was good luck), but I couldn't find the flag this time.  Instead, I said a little prayer to thank the volunteers/organizers/supportive friends and families and to ask God to look after everyone's health during this race.  I also asked for a boost of endurance...

Then, they played the Rocky theme song, the semi-official pump-up song of Philadelphia.  Who doesn't feel motivated by this song?  That was the moment when my nerves turned into excitement.  I was about to run the longest (tied with last year's race) distance in my life, and I was about to accomplish a goal.  My goal was to beat my time from last year (44:59, 9:03 average pace) and run an average of sub-9 minute miles.  I've never done that before, but I told myself I could.  The adrenaline was kicking in just in time.  There went the air gun!

Long distance view from the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps ("Rocky" stairs) of the race start.

We were off!  While I will probably always claim that I hate running and cardio, I actually kind of enjoy races; the atmosphere is hard to beat.  There is a sense of unity and a collective energy that is so inspiring.  Everyone is encouraging.  I had random people say "Go Sarah!" as I ran by (our race bibs said our names).  I gave Mayor Nutter a high five.  I gave a random guy on the sideline a high five.  I thanked the water station volunteers.  I gave Nick two thumbs up.  Cow bells and claps and hoots and hollers came from the dedicated friends and families supporting their favorite runners.  I smiled.  (Wait, I smiled... while running?)

Two thumbs up and a smile!

Every 5 minutes, my iSmoothRun app kept me updated on how I was doing.  Average pace of 8:37 for the first five minutes?  Thank you, adrenaline.  Don't think I can keep that up, though.  Wait, I'm still at an average of 8:45 pace at the halfway point?  How can that be?  I'm normally around 9:20 average pace when I run on my own.  I may actually beat my goal!  And I still feel... great?!  I'm running, and I feel great?  I guess God delivered on that prayer for an endurance boost!

I continued to concentrate on short, quick steps, as I learned from the book Born to Run.  It was working. At 35 minutes I was already at 4 miles.  I was cruising!

I crossed the finish line with a final chip time of 43:20, which puts me at an average of 8:43/mile pace.  I squashed my goal! I'm really proud of myself for what I accomplished.  

Yesterday, when I went to the expo to pick up my bib, I started to feel a little down.  The expo is geared towards the half- and full-marathoners, not the measly 8k runners.  Who cared if I ran 4.97 miles when thousands of people on Sunday were going to run more than 2.5 or 5 times that?

I care, and that's what matters.  I also know that my family cares, and Nick cares, and Nick's family cares.  I have a lot of supporters.

Well, now it's finally all over (until I sign up for my life-goal 10k and have to start training again).  I want to give a public thank you to Nick for capturing the moment on camera for me and being there for support before, during, and after the race.  I'd also like to thank my super-cute hot pink Asics for supporting my feet and not rubbing them the wrong way.  Good luck to all of tomorrow's runners!

I did it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Just Fake It

Sometimes, you just have to fake it.

I sat down to dinner with my family on the outdoor patio of a restaurant in Austin.  As the waitress took our drink orders, I noticed a movement with my peripheral vision.  I looked over.  A spider had just made its way onto the wall next to me.  Enter arachnophobia.

I am terrified of spiders, and I don't know why.  Logically, I know that (most) spiders have no power to hurt me.  I appreciate the fact that spiders can help with insect control and make beautiful, intricate webs.  The mechanical properties of their silk is coveted by engineers and is even used for tissue engineering applications.  Yet, I still cannot convince myself that spiders are not freaky little creatures.  I'm even too afraid to kill a spider, and if nobody is around to kill it for me, I tend to freeze in place and stare at it.  (I'm letting you in; please don't use this against me.)  

Then, the second spider joined the first.  Both were black with bulbous butts.  They weren't directly on the wall itself but instead on a disjointed web connected to the wall.  Unlike the first spider, which had its back towards me, the second spider was on the other side of the web so that its legs faced me.  For whatever reason, this freaked me out even more.

My mom sat across from me, and I gave her the stare down and glanced over at the spiders so she knew about them.  I sat silent.  My dad and sister had no clue what was going on.  Thank God.  My sister, who screams if just a moth gets near her, had already been complaining that we chose to sit outside.  Mistake.  I knew that if I said anything, she would cause a scene.  While I tend to freeze in place when scared by a spider, she tends to scream-- not good for being in a public place. 

My mom asked if I wanted to move to a new table.  I said no.  I didn't want to be "that person."  My sister overheard and started fussing about why we would switch tables and how that wouldn't be a kind thing to do to the waitress.  We dropped it.

I wanted to cry.  I sucked it up.

"Just pretend the spiders don't exist," I told myself.  I took a sip of my beer, looked the other direction, and re-engaged in the family conversation.  

The I-am-about-to-cry knot in my throat melted away.  "Psh, I'm not afraid of spiders," I comforted myself.

I bravely made it through the dinner.  As we were waiting for our bill, I got up to use the bathroom and told my family I would meet them up front.  As I stood up, my mom asked if I had looked up above me.  I said no and scurried away without looking.  Apparently, 4 other spiders were hanging over my head through the whole dinner, zipping around, making their web.  Ignorance really is bliss.  

As they got up to leave, my mom showed my sister and dad the spiders.  Needless to say, we chose to sit inside for dinner during the rest of the vacation.  I surprised myself by being able to make it through dinner without a major meltdown.  I'll admit that I had a mini internal meltdown, but nowhere near what it could have been.  

The spiders were just to my left.  Notice how I'm leaning in a ridiculous amount.

Sometimes, you just have to fake it, and eventually you'll fake it so well that you'll convince yourself that your fear does not exist.  And when you think your fear does not exist, then it actually does not exist; fear only exists in our heads.

This lesson was also reinforced during the challenge course.  Yes, in addition to my fear of spiders, I have a mild fear of heights.  (Double whammy!)  The fear of heights isn't nearly as bad as spiders, but I do get pretty uncomfortable.  

My dad and I did the challenge course together.  He was nervous and let everyone know.  I was a little nervous and let no one know.  About 3/4 of the way up the net climb, I started to feel my heart begin to beat a little faster as I realized that I was getting out of my height comfort zone.  

"Just don't look down," I reminded myself.  

The worst part was the double tight rope.  I faked away my fear like I used to have to do in gymnastics.  "Psh, just like gymnastics," I comforted myself.  Except our balance beam was 4 inches wide and 4 feet off the ground, not half an inch wide and a few stories off the ground.  I didn't need to remind myself of that at the moment, though.

This was the scariest part for me!

Everyone in our group (my dad and me included) made it through the challenge course with no tears or meltdowns.  Success!  There was even a guy who admitted he had a huge fear of heights.  He did great.  

All of us made it!

These two experiences solidified the lesson taught to me by all of my previous gymnastics coaches (Meg, Coach Christa, Coach Jen and Brian, Erin-- I'm referring to you!): if you can't beat 'em, fake it.  During a gymnastics competition, confidence is key.  You've done the skills enough times that your body knows how to do them correctly, but your mind is the tougher muscle to exercise.  Sometimes, your mind forgets that you know what you're doing, and you begin to doubt.  My coaches used to remind us that nobody can tell if you're pretending to be confident.  They said just fake it.  Get out there on the floor and pretend like you're having the best time of your life.  Fly on those bars like a monkey and know that your hands won't slip.  Run as fast as you can toward that stationary object (honestly, who in their right mind other than a gymnast would do such a thing?), and conquer the vault with as much power as you can muster.  And jump, leap, and spring over that 4 inch piece of suede-covered wood as if you were still on the ground.  While I learned these lessons through gymnastics, I can apply them to daily life.

The beauty of fear is that you create it, which also means that you have the power to destroy it.  With a little self-encouragement, you can conquer your fears.  Start by faking your confidence, and your confidence will grow.  The beauty of confidence is that it is a positive feedback loop; the more you have, the more you get.

When's the last time you've had to fake it?  Have you experienced your "pretending" turning into "reality?"   

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Unity through Disaster: Hurricane Sandy Recap

It's been less than a week since Sandy busted through the East coast, bringing disaster and unity.  The compassion that people show for one another during a time of need is inspiring.  Below is a combination of images, posts, and re-posts that Facebook friends have shared.  Be inspired by the positive and good that you see.

RS: One way to help the hurricane relief effort if you DON'T live in the NYC area: If you can give blood, please consider doing so! The hurricane forced the Red Cross to cancel more than 240 blood drives in the Northeast.

JH: Come if you are around tomorrow!

CS: We are still somehow without power although most of downtown has been restored, but it's a beautiful day on the upper west side and I am so thankful for all the wonderful friends that have helped me through this week!
Image courtesy of Chelsea Selden

RS: riverside park is alive and well. new yorkers are a resilient breed!
Image courtesy of Rebecca Sunde

KE: Donating blood!

AJ: east coast peeps - stay safe

DY: Stay safe East Coast!

Random act of kindness.  Image courtesy of NBC Washington.

XS: really hope new york comes out of this storm alright

MC: I sure hope this is just a Miguel Bloombito overreaction. May the frankenstorm be only as fierce as Irene (when it didn't even rain yet many were evacuated and LGA was closed) and require only as much man-power as a NY snowstorm (when there are two feet of snow and zero snowplows).

SP: Happy Hurricane Day! Hope everyone stays safe.

SY: my thoughts are with you east coasters! hoping you stay safe and your world normalizes soon. keep updating; it is good to know you are okay!

Hoboken, NJ- seen this re-posted a few times on FB, not sure where the original image is from.

RA: To all friends up North, please be safe, stay warm, and stay in tomorrow.

SC: New Jersey brahs, please stay safe out there!

MG: Irene, it was only when Sandy came and took my house away that I realized I loved you most!

Seen this re-posted a few times in FB, not sure who took the original image.

JG: We just got power back and the whole neighborhood is cheering. WOOOOOOOO

MZ: Hoping that all of my family and friends stay safe during the next few days out East! Sandy is looking interesting....

GJ: ...thinking of my East Coast friends - stay safe, folks.

LH: NYC friends - the Upper West Side still has power (and now internet!) and my fridge is full, so please come on over if you need anything!

CS: Just an update: although we are still without power, we are just fine. We weren't affected by the nearby Con Ed explosion and although still flooded, the water is receding on Avenue C.
Prayers for those who have it much worse than us and fingers crossed that we get electricity soon!!

JH: It's all good in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. We have power and it's not even raining here... I hope everyone is safe!

PH: From a city full of white for Sensation to a city full of darkness... This place really does move fast

Image courtesy of Chelsea Selden