Back

Remember how 2009 was going to be the season of not racing?  Or, at least, not racing seriously?  Well, somehow that year never really ended and morphed into 2010… now deemed The Second Season of Not Racing Seriously.

Mostly, my mojo never really returned.  I had signed up for IMWI but couldn’t up my training even to the most basic level required to start the 20-week program.  And so, shortly after making the official decision to be IM-less in 2010, I stopped doing much of anything.

That’s not to say I was a complete couch potato.  I did actually do some racing … but I’d term it more “Social Racing”.  I did a sprint triathlon in June with the girls and had a blast.  Did the Horribly Hilly Hundred bike ride that I was utterly unprepared for (apparently, a half dozen bike rides, the longest of which was 25 very flat miles doesn’t actually do much to train you for 70 miles of HILLS) and while it was a sufferfest, I enjoyed the challenge of it (though, my riding partner was probably ready to ditch me for all the whining I did!).

Along with that, there was a duathlon, a half marathon and a few 5k’s here and there, just to keep things interesting. And I wasn’t trained in the least for any of these things.  But that wasn’t the point — I was out there to have fun, and that’s exactly what I accomplished.  Go, me!

Now

And in the here and now, I’ve discovered the secret to making myself a fun, motivated, productive member of society (it’s easy:  get enough sleep!) and along with that my mojo ambled back into the picture.  All of a sudden, I WANTED to run.  WANTED to train and get faster and even hurt a little along the way.  Big change.

Along with that came the ability to put down and step back from the cookies and ice cream and clean up my diet (which, will be a post in the future, undoubtedly).  And this might seem a little unbelievable, but I swear it’s true: dropping a few pounds can make running a little less painful and aggravating!  Yes indeedy, lessons are certainly being learned in these parts.

So, basically, I’m eating right, training hard and actually – honestly – remarkably – enjoying the experience and effort.

Ahead

Since I’m training, there must be something out there that I’m training for, right?  I mean, really, anyone who knows me understands that I rarely take up this kind of thing without some sort of goal in mind.

And this case isn’t any different:  I’ll be heading to Vegas in December to race the Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon!  When I first signed up for it, it was strictly an excuse to head out for a weekend of gambling, drinking and other debauchery.  Sure, there was 13.1 miles of running in there, but I had already proven that I could do that while still drunk, so I was covered in that respect.

Then, when things took a turn for the healthy, I started having thoughts:  what if I trained a little?  Perhaps did some speedwork?  Log a decent amount of miles?  At some point, I turned the corner from “YAY! Drinking and gambling!” to “YAY! Drinking, gambling AND racing the half marathon with a definite time goal in mind!”  It’s a sickness, I tell ya.  I can’t help it.

I’ve picked out an aggressive half marathon training program that will have me out on the streets 5-6 days a week.  One thing I’ve discovered:  I used to think that running caused injuries and so I would try to smash more miles into fewer days to give myself more recovery time.  This time around?  I’m running the same kind of mileage, but spread over more days. And you know what?  My body seems to like this better.  Amazing.  And whether it’s partly the new diet (and weight loss) or the muscle gains (from my continued strength training) or the long-ass recovery time I’ve had since, say, 2009, who knows.  What I do know?  Not only am I running with less pain, but I’m enjoying it more as well. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, why don’t ya.

So, aside from working on my blackjack skills, I’ll be spending the next few months running my little tail off.  And I’m waiting until that race is in the books before I make any decisions about next year, but I’ll clue you in on what I’m thinking:  2011 just might be The Year Of The Marathon!  Of course, this is all dependent on how this whole half marathon thing goes, but next year just might be the year that I make friends with 26.2 miles.

If nothing else, it should be an interesting journey…

Shhhh… I’ve got a secret:  I know the answer to all of life’s problems.

Wanna know what it is?

Okay, here goes:  get enough sleep.

Yup.  That’s it.  Get enough sleep.  And not just on the weekends, or a good night of it here and there, but consistently, almost every night, get enough sleep.

I bet you expected something funnier, eh?

You might be one of the Sleep Blessed:  one of those chosen few who feel really good after just 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night.  That’s all you need to get your batteries recharged, recover from the previous day of stress or workouts and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to hop out of bed and face the day.

Me?  I’m not so blessed.  I’ve mentioned it before – it takes 8-10 hours of sleep a night to transform me into someone you’d want to be around.  I can get by on 7 a night for a while, but it wears on me and makes me a touch cranky.  And 6 hours a night (which is about what I had been averaging)?  Really – take my word for it – don’t come near me.  Especially if you’re one of those perky-with-5-hours-a-night type people.  I just might accidentally run over you with my car.  Twice.

For so long — years, really — I’ve been chronically sleep-deprived.  It’s one of those things that I joked about but knew on some level that it was reality.  But I never fully realized how profoundly this impacted me every single day.  When I talked about always being tired, that was the god’s honest truth:  I could sleep anywhere.  Given an opportunity to nap?  Minutes and I was out cold.  And a nap wasn’t usually 20 minutes — it was 1-2 hours.

Fitting training into this equation has always been difficult for me — an epic struggle between hitting the street and hitting the couch.  And?  The couch usually won that battle, at least more often than not.

And then about 6 weeks ago after having weeks of sleep-related issues, I started going to bed at 8pm.  Yes – the sun was still shining and I was trying to fall asleep – but the result?  I now get a luxurious 8 hours of sleep a night during the week.  And then on the weekends?  In bed early (sometimes as early as 8-9pm) and up early, but with no alarm and usually I’ll manage 9-10 hours of deep, refreshing sleep.  Now that’s livin’ right!

You know what happened?  After about a week of getting enough zzz’s, I turned into a sleep evangelist (or for the more secular, a late-night Sleep Is Awesome!! infomercial in my best Billy Mays voice) — I felt so incredibly good and couldn’t stop talking about how such a basic thing as sleep could make everything all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies (perhaps I went a touch overboard…).  I couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I knew how damn easy it was to feel like you could conquer anything that life had to throw at you (fine print:  I have no kids or husband or social life to get in the way of getting enough sleep, so “easy” might be somewhat subjective, and, of course, your mileage may vary).

Truthfully, I haven’t felt this over-the-top awesome in years.  YEARS.  Literally.  It’s not like my problems have gone anywhere, but my ability to deal with them?  So much better than before. Now that I spend my days more awake (without the aid of huge caffeine boosts), my thinking is clearer, I have more energy, and I’m ready to grab life by the tail and shake it around a little, just for grins.

It amazes me that it took me so damn long to put this together.  I mean, sure, I’m no rocket scientist, but you’d think that falling asleep during, well, everything, would have been a clue. Or perhaps the fact that I could ingest barrels of caffeine and not have it even make a dent in my nonstop yawning.  Perhaps I was too tired to make the connection.

I know, I know – I sound a little insane, don’t I?  Again – I just can’t seem to find the words to convey how good things are now.  I feel like I’ve spent the past 4+ years walking around in a fog, rarely feeling anything more than just okay, instead of regularly feeling good.  My friends and family have noticed my improved mood and positive attitude.  My boss even noticed that I didn’t look nearly as worn out as I usually do (he’s one of the good guys, but occasionally manages to put his foot in his mouth).

And while going to bed before the good TV shows even start might make me a bit of a loser, now that I know this secret, I don’t think I can go back.  I’m hooked on feeling awake and alive and energetic and – basically – awesome all the time.   Who needs a social life, right?

As I write this, there are some athletes who have already crossed the finish line, the speedy ones who have put 140.6 miles behind them and have officially earned the title of “Ironman”. More athletes are still out on the course — on the run course, by this time of night — gutting it out for the 15 or 16 hour finish, or maybe just wanting nothing more than to get in under the 17 hour time limit.

I was supposed to be one of those people out there today.  Well, at least I paid my money to be one of those people out there.  And, instead, here I am, writing a blog post (and yes – and a long overdue blog post, at that).

Obviously, Ironman Wisconsin (affectionately known as IMMoo) didn’t make my race schedule. I really wanted to give it a go, wanted to be able to hear those words:  “Laura, you are an IRONMAN!”, but it all came down to me not being able to commit to the overwhelming amount of training.

Way back in March or so, my IM dreams started out on a rocky note:  I spent a few weeks trying to put in the 8 hours of training that was the starting point of the most basic IM training plan out there.  And you know what?  I wasn’t even able to do that.  I made excuses — some legitimate, some not so much legitimate — and I skipped sessions and failed to have the desire to rearrange my life to accommodate swimming, biking and running.

My main issue?  Even before all the hours of training a week, I was always tired.  By the time I stepped back in the house after work (and that was 12 hours, usually, because of my commute), what I wanted most was to nap.

And my mood and attitude closely follows the amount of sleep I get.  I’m an 8-hours a night kind of girl, and during the week I was lucky to be averaging 6 hours.  And funny how being chronically sleep-deprived impacts everything from the ability to make decisions to having the motivation to go out and sweat and follow a training plan.

The other deciding factor was the realization that I’m much more social than I ever imagined. Whodda thunk it?  And the idea of all that solo training?  Honestly, it depressed the hell out of me.  I knew that I’d have company on some of the longer training bike rides if I wanted, but other than that, I was pretty much on my own.  And how much fun would THAT be?  When instead I could be strength training at the gym with my trainer?  Or out playing softball?  Or tennis?  Or any of the other things that would fall by the wayside if I were training for an IM?

So, I gave up the dream.  Which sounds overly dramatic to me, since in reality it wasn’t a big thing but more of an acknowledgment that this wasn’t something I wanted badly enough or could handle at that point in my life.

And truthfully?  As I’ve followed my friends online throughout the day, I’m not at all regretful about not being out there with them.  I know in my heart that if I had really tried to push my way through the training, the likelihood for injury or breakdown would have been extremely high.  I’m very much at peace knowing that it’s better the way it worked out.

An IM race might be in my future — I haven’t given up the idea completely — but it’s on the back burner for the time being.  It seems like every triathlete I know is doing IMWI 2011, and I find myself getting a little caught up in the madness, but know that next year probably isn’t my year either.

So, the upside?  Instead of being somewhere in the middle of the marathon, wondering why the hell I had signed up for this insanity, I’m at home, watching Hoarders (which always makes me feel better about the little bit of mess in my house!) and virtually cheering on all my friends while sipping a lovely glass of red Zinfindel.  That doesn’t seem like so bad a trade-off, now, does it?

I’ll get there someday, of that I’m pretty sure.  It just might end up being a 70th birthday present to myself!