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Stoicism and Running

This past week, my Google+ hangout group decided to post our weekly goals and if we ever felt like we were headed off track, we could seek out support from each other.  My two goals were eat only three sweets and have only two glasses of wine throughout the week. Now to some people that might sound like a pretty easy task, but for me, it is quite the opposite. Choosing to put myself through this incredibly uncomfortable (and I’m not exaggerating) state of denial, is my way of learning that voluntary discomfort makes me a stronger person.  Or in other words, living a life of stoicism plus hormetism will help me to become my best self.

I never was much for philosophy.  To me, it seemed impractical to argue about the what ifs and the abstracts of life.  However, during a road trip over Christmas, I came across a great blog, GettingStronger.org, and it has shown me that some philosophies are not only practical, but they can also make us stronger, both physically and mentally in the process. GettingStronger is a health and fitness blog about “the philosophy of Hormetism, based on the application of progressive, intermittent stress to overcome challenges and grow stronger physically, mentally and emotionally”.

Allow me to attempt to briefly explain the philosophies of stoicism and hormetism in a Tracie Rodriguez simplified kind of way:

Stoicism: a life of tranquility that is free from negative emotions (grief, anger, etc.), independent of cravings, and that is prepared for the worst of circumstances by having practiced and imagined them throughout the course of life. A life that embraces voluntary discomfort in order to be prepared for the day it actually arrives (as in the day chocolate stops being produced and all of the grape vines burn to the ground).

Hormetism:  Exposing your body to low doses of bad things in order to build strength and resilience

I strongly believe that in the world we live today, discomfort is not something we are too familiar with. I have a hot shower in the morning, coffee, food, the news at my fingertips, my Garmin, my iPod, my cold weather running gear, etc. I seek out things to make my life more pleasant, and often times I succeed.  Of course, there are other circumstances that make life a little uncomfortable, like talkative students, but overall, I’d say I have it pretty good. Thirty degrees and raining, no problem. I’ll just hit the treadmill.  Sleepy and groggy? Got it covered. Starbucks is two blocks from my house. But in taking the stoic approach to life, I think it’s time I started to deal with the rainy weather and learn I can live just fine without caffeine.

In striving to be a stronger and better runner, I have come to terms with the fact that I will have to expose myself to some discomfort. I don’t know too many people who think hill repeats, running in 90 degree weather, or tempo runs are as relaxing as a nice bubble bath, but we all do it for the same reason – to truly discover what we are capable of. A few weeks ago, I asked my super fast cousin (3:04 marathoner), how do you deal with the pain that comes with doing speedwork?  Hill repeats make me want to hurl and I always question why am I doing them in the first place.  A nice flat road which be much easier. My cousin answered my question with quite the stoic response – you just embrace the pain.

Yes, embrace the pain.

So in the spirit of pain embracing, I have been thinking more and more about how I can incorporate this philosophy into my everyday life, along with my running life.  I have learned to take cold showers, go a day without coffee, sleep a little less than desired, and make running in the rain the same as running in the sunshine. Of course these are not things I do everyday, but I do them once a week or so in order to teach my body and my mind that I can do it and I will survive.  Just a few weeks ago, I thought the wind was going to blow me off the road but I continued to tell myself, it might be windy in Boston so just deal with it. Voluntary discomfort.

In going back to my goals from last week, I’d say I did okay.  The sweets I could manage but there were so many get togethers and outings we attended, that I failed on my two glasses of vino.  However, I took my speed workouts outdoors in the 80 degree weather along the hilliest course I could find in hopes that it would better prepare me for whatever may come April 16th.  Tomorrow I’ll go sans coffee and Wednesday I’ll go for the cold shower.  It’s crazy, I know but I do feel this stoic approach to life is helping to make me a stronger person, both mentally and physically.

Here’s to an awesome week!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

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Roanoke Canal Half Marathon: My Slice of Humble Pie

This past weekend I signed up for a local half marathon to see how ready I was for Boston.  According to the website, the race took place through the Roanoke Canal Trail and was great for a PR.  The course was described as primarily flat with brief dips and rollers, but no major climbs. The footing is great even if you are brand new to trails.  Great! With only 275 people, and an hour and a half drive, this seemed perfect. I felt like I was in 1:35 shape or better, the forecast was beautiful, and I had a good feeling.  Bring on the 13.1….

Before I give my race recap, I’d like to share with you some race wisdom that a few friends reminded me of this past week.  They reminded me that a race can humble you.  It can take whatever goal you had set for yourself, toss it out the window and teach you that you are not invincible.  You could be in the best shape of your life but come 7am on race day, what awaits you in the miles ahead, is in God’s hands.  You have no idea of what will happen.  It could be your perfect race day or it could be the day you swear to give up running if you could just reach that finish line.  Well Saturday morning at 8am, my slice of humble pie was awaiting me right over a few tree roots and through the mud.

My first few miles were exactly what I expected: 7:19, 7:07,7:12, 7:13.  Since I was just warming up, I was feeling pretty confident about my time goal.  As the race continued, the trails got a little trickier and the mud became more of an issue.  No worries – just a few tree roots and rocks to leap over.  There’s no way the entire course is like this.  The website said it was a PR friendly course.

When I run races, I like very much to be in my thoughts and to talk myself through the miles.  It helps to make things go by quicker and it keeps me focused on something other than the miles to come.  Well not this race.  My mind was constantly preoccupied with where to step next: to splash through the mud or run around it, to leap on this rock or jump to that rock.  Luckily there was a man not too far in front of me, and every step he took, I followed right behind.  I was thankful to have someone plan the leaps and bounds for me because I’m pretty sure I would  have wound up in the river if it weren’t for him.  I bypassed every water stop, knowing that if I slowed down for water, I might not want to start again.  Right around mile 12 there was a sharp left turn and a sign that said “Heartbreak Hill.”  Seriously?  And the worst part was, because it was so curvy, I couldn’t exactly see where “Heartbreak Hill” ended.  I wanted nothing more than to walk up that hill, but I had so many motivational thoughts and people going through my head, I made it.  When I turned that last corner and saw the finish line, I took off as fast as I could go, thankful that it was almost over (and that I had survived).

I finished in 1:38 which was not a PR, but it was good enough for fourth female overall and first in my age group.  When I crossed the finish, I wasn’t saying very pleasant things about the course or my time.  As my cousin Dan said, it was the hardest he had ever run but not his fastest time (he finished 5th overall), and I completely agreed.  As I continued to be bitter about the course, I remember my cousin smiling and saying “Hey, it was something different.”  Yes, different.

Looking back at it, I am reminded of what my friends said earlier in the week – a race can humble you.  I realize not every course will be a PR and some races will be better than others.  Every race presents new challenges and it is the strength to get through those challenges, that make us better people.  From about mile 6 to 13, I continued to tell myself “strength is the power of struggle, and once you cross that finish line, then you can rest.”  Once I really thought about the course and my finishing time, I realized I did not fail at achieving my goal, but instead managed to complete a pretty bad ass trail run.  I guess it wasn’t so bad after all.

I think instead of saying I completed the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon, I’ll tell people I completed the Roanoke Obstacle Course through the woods.  It seems like a better description.  Here are my stats.

And on a side note, Kayley ran her first 8K and finished 3rd in her age group.  Mario finished 23rd overall and fourth in his age group.  So I guess we all did pretty well for our first trail run.

 Ready to race

We made it!

Dan, 5th place overall and 1st in age group

Kayley, 3rd in her age group for her first 8K

Me, 4th female overall and 1st in age group

The Tempo Run

Thursday I did my tempo run and I wanted to honor it with a little poem.  Enjoy!

The Tempo Run

Today was my tempo run
So I thought I’d cheat a bit
With a little black coffee
For a kick in my step

A nice easy warm up
And I was feeling quite pumped
40 minutes at LT pace
My legs say “Let’s race!”

10 minutes in –
And I ask “How much longer?”
But I know i must remember
This makes me much stronger

Oh thank you iPod
The perfect Eminem:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You want it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot
Do not miss your chance to blow
‘Cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime
Keep singing, stop thinking
20 minutes done, only 20 more remaining

Wait, what? 20 more remaining?
Why can’t I finish now?
But in the name of my training
For this I do vow
No more sugar
No more wine
I can do this just fine
Just help me to run,
And help me to breathe
And help my poor muscles
For I’m hearing them scream

30 minutes done, only 10 more to go
I can finish this
For that I do know
Now I must dig
For my deep inner strength
My weakness has left
My struggle has begun
So now I relax
I concentrate and I pray
Dear God-
Thank you for letting me run
But please help me to be done
For I am no Kenyan and this is no ….
BEEP!

My watch says it’s over
And I realize I’m alive
I did it, I finished.
To me, oh yeah a high-five

And now I cool down
I end like I began
And yes, you are correct
It’s really not the end

Then I start to wonder…
Since I did just put it under
Some dark chocolate with seat salt?
Or some vino with dinner?
This tempo run I think
Is an actual real winner

Pre Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Run

Margarita Activewear: A Review

I must admit, I’m always on the look out for new running gear and my tastes have slowly moved from Target to Nike to Lululemon, and unfortunately the price continues to go up.  However, in the name of not chafing, it’s all worth it to me.   Recently, I read an awesome product review of Margarita Activewear from Live Run Yoga and was quite interested in this new brand.  For one, they claim to be better than Lululemon (which is  quite a tall order)  and two, the name of the company is Margarita Activewear – sounds like my kind of company!

As luck would have it, Kellie from ActivewearUsa.com emailed me on Friday and asked if she sent me any Margarita Activewear item of my choice, would I review it.  By Monday afternoon, I had my new tank and by Tuesday afternoon I put it to the test.

Appearance
Before going into performance, here’s a brief overview on Margarita’s style.  When I first visited their website, it was very clear they had a style all their own.  From funky colors and flower designs to polka dots and tye-dye, I wasn’t quite sure I was going to find something I would like.  However, I chose a super cute black tank with blue criss-cross straps across the back and am now considering these pants to match.  They had some other tops that were a little more revealing, but I personally would not be comfortable wearing them.

Daisy

   


Performance

When I first opened my package on Monday, I was immediately impressed with the feel of the top.  Margarita Activewear is made from a material known as Supplex in addition to Lycra.  The Supplex gives the top a super soft and breathable feel which is definitely comparable to anything from Lululemon.

I tried out my new Margarita tank for my Tuesday speed workout.  When I tried it on, I felt like the straps were cutting into my underarms.  It felt slightly uncomfortable and it had me wondering if maybe I should have chosen a different size (or maybe if I should have stayed away from Emily’s cupcakes =P).   Once I started running, however, it didn’t bother me.  It felt great and it did everything I would expect from a good workout top.  The three main things that I really liked were:

  1. The material was soft and did a great job of wicking away sweat
  2. It had great support and everything stayed exactly where it was suppose to, no extra sports bra needed (which I absolutely loved).
  3. Even with a super supportive built in sports bra, there was never any chafing.

One problem that I’ve had with other tanks is that they will move- either slide up or twist and turn.  I was really impressed at how well this top stayed put, and yet was so breathable.  This was a big plus for me.  My main problem with the top was the way I felt the straps cut into my underarms.  If you are someone with broader shoulders, you may want to stay away from the criss cross design.  Other than that, this is a great workout top.

Cost
As far as price goes, the tank cost $63, which is on the more expensive side.  But in comparison to other high end workout gear, it’s fairly reasonable.   I checked out a few other brands and Nike can range from $50 – $64, Brooks from $38-$53, Asics from $48-$60, and a comparable tank from Lululemon is $52.  However, even they have one that costs $64.  So if you are not concerned with a extra few dollars, then the price is within reason for what you get.

Conclusion
When considering high end active gear, Margarita Activewear falls right in line with other top of the line athletic companies.  The price is comparable, the material is great, and the support is amazing.  The one thing that really sets Margarita Activewear apart from the other companies is their style.  If you’re interested in adding a little spunk to your workout wardrobe, then this is certainly a brand worth trying.   Their workout  clothes are stylish, comfortable, supportive, and are worth becoming a part of your running wardrobe.

Margarita 4