Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Highs and Lows of a Beginning Running Practice

In the past, I would have considered what I'm doing, in terms of my running, training. As in, I'm training for this 10K. But I see running differently than any other athletic endeavor in which I've participated. It is a meditation or more specifically it is a reorganization of the physical as linked to the mental. When the book ChiRunning described running as a practice, I realized that's exactly how I felt. I've officially started a running practice.

Historically, I've always wanted to be a runner. I have always admired the simplicity, the high, the legs. But as a teenager and a young adult, I hated every drudging step. I thought it was like being tortured in a vat of concrete. How could anything be so dull and agonizing? Then last year, my friend and uber athlete Kellie gave me a few, life-changing pointers for better running technique. I tried it a few times and couldn't believe how much of a difference it made. I still was not ready to start a practice however. Then a couple months ago, I read Born to Run. Kellie's tips got me to the cliff and Born to Run push-kicked me off. Born to Run tricked me into believing I was a natural if I practiced and pulled up that instinct. ChiRunning is fine tuning the tips and keeping me from clawing back up the cliff walls and questioning if this is even a good idea.

In the excited beginnings of my practice, running seemed so easy that I couldn't understand why I had never liked it. I went for distances I would have never even thought to attempt so early before. Four miles on the road and five to seven miles on the trail. I couldn't believe it. But I'm here to report that the honeymoon is over now. The regularity of my runs has become a true practice and the excitement has deflated, though the drive to work on the form and perfect an injury-free lightness and endurance still pushes me out the door. But now four miles is tougher than it was before, oddly. And the one time I ran seven miles on the trails seems out of reach for the time being. The best part about considering running a practice is that I know to go with what feels doable until I can build upon the base. I don't log miles. I don't wear a watch. I have a loose idea of the distance just because I know my area so well and because Husband rides the same trails on his mountain bike, but other than that I have no desire to measure anything more about my running. I'm obsessed with form and the meditation of it; of being entirely absorbed by the process, and enjoying the after high . I'm dedicated to the pure practice of it. So far, this is working. We'll see how it goes.

There have been a couple situations though that have made me question the sanity of a pure practice. The day that I ran seven miles on the trail, I felt great. The route I ran was 3.5 miles up a slight grade, then I turned around and came back down. The trail is a dried creek bed tucked in by yellow-leafed oaks and green-grass hills. The trail is rocky, though not too bad, and side ravines rise and dip. It is stunning. When I was running back down that day, at about mile five, I had to go to the bathroom, poop as it were, and the more I ran, the more the pressure built. I stopped to walk, a little worried, and the pressure subsided. I ran - had to poop. Walked - it went away. I was feeling so good otherwise that I didn't want to walk, y'know? It was the first time I legitimately felt like a runner and the poop pressure was stealing my thunder. So, I ran until I seriously thought I was going to shit my pants. Like, seriously. So seriously that I frantically looked off the side of the trail. The phrase Does a bear shit in the woods kept repeating in my mind because -- I don't know why, I was just kinda panicking. Then I'd think, Really, am I about to do this? This trail is not a crowded one, but there are walkers with dogs now and again, very few runners and more occasionally mountain bikers who are either laboring up the path or whizzing back down it. When the thought of shitting my leggings no longer seemed funny and my throat closed and my face broke out in a cold flush, I jumped down a small ravine, ripped down my pants and squatted. I grabbed my baby-blue baseball cap off my head to blend more with nature though I was pretty well hidden. Two mountain bikers flew down the trail. Only if they had been jedi masters would they have seen me. When I was done, and it only took seconds, I looked around at the leaves. Large, splaying oak leaves were under foot and when I picked one up I was surprised that it was soft, not crumbly hard like I thought it would be. It was near luxurious as toilet paper. When I stood and looked around, I felt equally liberated and mortified. What kind of line had I crossed? Was I now in some sort of club? I finished my run, feeling physically great, but jazzed by embarrassment, trying to shake it off. I giggled all day about it.

I've taken great measure to get my poop on before my runs now. Kellie told me to pack handie wipes. I told her she should really try a partially-dried oak leaf. Luxurious!

So, last weekend, I did an easy three miles around my neighborhood, down to the ocean and back. To the ocean, there is a tiny downhill grade so I felt great going down and I knew after the turn around I would have to put in a little work. A few blocks after the turn around, I had to pee, but nothing serious so I plodded along, focusing on my form. It seems that when tightening the core and relaxing the limbs, the kegel muscle is rendered useless because I then proceeded to pee about a third of my bladder's contents into my pants. Not a spot in the chones, but a good 1/4c. right in my leggings. For those of you who know me, I only wear black leggings because I sweat so much it looks like I sport a pussy halo after working out. Wearing black leggings apparently comes in handy when you pee your pants too. And the thing is, though I blushed and couldn't believe what was happening, I didn't stop running. What was I gonna do, really? So I focused on my form and plugged away and out of curiosity, tried to do a kegel while running without much luck. I must work on that type of coordination. Four blocks from my house, I peed another 1/4c and didn't even flinch this time. I shook my head. Fuck it. When I got home, I shouted my hellos and sprinted to the bathroom and peed out the last of it, this time in a toilet. As washed out my leggings, I wondered what this practice was turning me into. Mainly, I felt that if I gave up on my practice now, THAT would be humiliating. One month I shit in the woods, the next I piss my pants all to give up? Fuck that. I feel I have to earn the right to laugh this off. I mean, right? Or does a practice entail the endurance of self humiliation; strip one bare of their faculties to realize it doesn't matter. The focus matters. The form matters. The connection matters. The tapping in, this is what matters. I dunno. This is what I'm telling myself anyway.

All this, in part, to raise money for a basketball program too. Lord, what I do for the kids. Speaking of which, thank you so much to those who have so generously donated to the cause. For those still considering, push that button!

I leave you with a few photos of my girls ballers.

Maya, waiting to inbound the ball during a game.Maya, waiting to defend during a game.I am invested in the Samo girls basketball program for Maya, for my own legacy and for the ones who will eventually take it over. Mina's ball skills are no joke. She is Samo's future.Mina plays in a YWCA league. She's at a little higher level than these girls, and she lives to hear the parents on the side line ooh and aah at her skills; her left, her right, her crossover, her steals. Last week she hit a buzzer beater and left her hand in the air like she was Kobe. We almost died from pride. Here she is on a fast break, after stealing the ball.

Anyway, practice makes practice; it takes and gives love. Perfection is bullshit.


lagata said...

I have always wanted to run but can't seem to do it on my own. I have looked for a running partner with no luck, so far anyway - I haven't given up :)

The girls look like they are doing a fine job :)

Good luck with the 10k!

Marigoldie said...

I am so into this! I totally want to reach that shit-your-pants level of focus and seriousness. Totally. I envy your warm Cali landscapes and confess I'm still plodding out 2-3 miles on the treadmill inside, if I even get there. But I'm still committed. I'm still gonna do it. I need to get those books, eh?

Maven said...

The weather does hold me back here, but I think that's legit considering there's like an inch of ice on the ground and the temp is 10 right now. But you better believe I see people running outside every day. And I'm intrigued to read up and maybe start up again, based on all the glowy talk about those books.

The last time I ran a 5K, I totally had buttpiss after. I ran it with my sister, and I think I spent 3/4 of the run managing my sphincter. And then I raced through the finish line and just kept running to the bathroom.

DJ said...

I laughed my ass off reading about your encounter with poop pressure - and of course that's the only phrase that would pop into your head! I just want to know I nominated you for a blog award - I can't get over the honesty you write with. It's compulsive!

Jolana said...

I am a long time reader of your blog and just wanted to tell you how much you inspire me. I went vegetarian last year and this year I want to slowly turn vegan. I remember you posting and raving about a salad dressing a while back and I was wondering if you could post it again. Also, your running story is so funny. I keep wanting to start running but usually end up going once and then dropping it because it feels like torture to me...maybe I need to get those books to get seriously motivated.
Anyway, good luck with the race and thank you.

madness rivera said...

Hi Jolana, thanks so much for the great comment. Man, good for you for all the positive changes you're doing for yourself.

Here's the dressing recipe!
1/2c. flaxseed oil (cold pressed pref.)
1/3c. water
1/3c. lemon juice
2TBS balsamic vinegar
1/4c. Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/3c. nutritional yeast (best found in the bulk aisle)
2 cloves of garlic

Blend on high for 30 seconds. I sometimes add fresh Tarragon or fresh Dill.

Check out the books and let me know how it goes.

Madame One Tree said...

"Does a bear Sh*t in the woods" just kicked in with the surprised recognition of a popular toilet tissue commercial featuring what else--bears sh*tting in the woods!
Oh Howl!

Jolana said...

Thank you.

Ali la Loca said...

Loved your story. I also remembered the bear shitting in the woods commercial!

CurlyInQueue said...

I really enjoyed this post! I was wondering if you would share the pointers that your friend Kellie gave you for better running technique. I have always wanted to be a runner and have tried unsuccessfully several times. If these tips worked for you ... I'm hoping they may work for me.