Friday, November 9, 2012

Raise your hand if you've been hiding...

So…here we are. Nearing the end of 2012, and again I find myself amazed at the evolution of a year. My life has so drastically changed in the past 10+ months, I’m not quite sure where to start. But, this isn’t a “dear diary” kind of blog, so I’ll make it short and sweet. I came to Afghanistan in January with the intention of leaving after a few months, but found myself going through a divorce and decided to stay for the rest of the year. I ran a 50k in Sweden in April, then quit running distances beyond 10 miles. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t find it in me to post a RR on Sweden. I am, over 6 months after my last race, and not a concern in mind about the next marathon or ultra I’m going to run. Mainly, running over here sucks. There’s an 8 mile loop, though with the amount of vehicles driving by I’m constantly eating dirt. It was hot (go figure) in the summer, and I just didn’t care that much to get out there for more than 90 minutes at a time. I think I lost hope when a kid was throwing rocks at me over a fence, and decided I didn’t want t be a target for little terrorists-in-training. I’ve limited my distance to 8-10 miles depending on my mood, and have spent more time at the gym than pounding pavement (err, dirt and rocks).

I was gifted with a fab roommate who convinced me to start Crossfit with her, and have since spent about 3 months going from looking insanely awkward to looking like I kind of know what Crossfit is. I’ve never been in to weights, the only thing that doesn’t bore me is running, but Crossfit has more than given me the endorphin boost I’ve been missing. It is certainly NEVER boring.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing 3 months ago. “Crossfit? Uggghhh, that clan is so annoying. I do NOT want to join their weird cult”. But guess what? If you’re one of my running pals…hello pot, meet kettle. You’re both black.  If anything I see more similarities between the Crossfit folks I’ve met and endurance runners than any other population. We’re all obsessed with PRs, we’re concerned with our diet, we talk about our workouts when we hang out , we’re religious with our workouts, and God save the person who gets in our way. I visited Crossfit Sarasota for a week or so while I was home on leave, and the people there were so kind and helpful it was no different than running on a track with a diverse range of runners.

Roomie and I were taken under the wing of gym owner/athlete extraordinaire Chris Jernigan who runs a Crossfit 910 in Fayetville, NC. He was unfortunate enough to be stuck in Afghanistan with us for a bit, and taught us the basics. When we started out, I was determined that I would hate it and go back to strictly running, but I found myself feeling great and noticing major changes in my body. I actually feel athletic instead of just reasonably fast, and I’m enjoying the change in pace (err, pun not intended). I’ve been running 30-35 miles a week in the mornings, and doing Crossfit 5 days a week, but I’m going to take the plunge and jump into a Crossfit Endurance program Chris is designing for me to train for the Gasparilla Half  in Tampa on Feb. 24th. No more long runs, no more crazy mileage. Opposite of everything I’ve ever trained for.
Me & Roomie

Who knows, it might be a fun experiment seeing what happens to an ultra-runner-turned-(temporarily)-crossfit.  By no means are my ultra days over, just taking a little side road to see where it leads. After all, that’s how most of us got where we are today. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Desert, dust, dunes, and more dust

Chapter 3

To recap, chapter 1 was a year of fun & adventures, chapter 2 was a year of massive PR’s and pushing myself, and chapter 3? Well…it’s certainly going to be interesting, I’ll give it that.

The last half of 2011 was devoid of races (as you can tell by the lack of posts…).  I was battling an injury which was finally resolved with custom orthopedic inserts (thanks Dr. Lane!—no relation), I started a new, somewhat stressful job, and needed time to take care of myself without thinking about how far/fast I needed to run that day. I suppose it happens to us all eventually. 

Here we are in 2012, and I find myself in yet another unusual situation. I’ve deployed overseas for a while, not really sure what the end point is from here on out. And for those who have seen the “Leatherneck” special on the Discovery Channel, that is now what I call home.  Since most of my friends have no idea what the situation out here is like, I’ll divulge the important stuff.

The desert is very cold in the winter, it’s rather offsetting. It isn’t as bad as northern areas in the States, but you’re constantly exposed which makes it that much worse. Imagine walking a mile to work when it’s 25 degrees out. Not as fun anymore, huh?
When it does warm up, it seems to rain. Afghanistan rain sucks. It smells, it makes the ground all gross…there is mud for weeks.  On top of that, we’re blessed with steady winds of 20-30mph. My ponytail blows out at a 90 degree angle from my head. Not normal.
A typical day for me starts around 8am-9am (depending on whether my bladder or my alarm clock wakes me). I throw on warm clothes and rush out to a porta-potty. A freezing cold one, at that. I head out for a run—whatever distance feels good that day—and hit the showers, which are usually hot. It’s a sad day when there’s no hot water.

I then walk incredibly slow to work. There’s something about walking right after running that makes me want to take my time.  I’m usually bundled up in my ski jacket, scarf and beanie. Apparently I look like I’m ready to hit the slopes, because I’ve been given 2 nicknames so far—Snow Bunny and Snow Plow. Not a big fan of Snow Plow, personally.

I work until pretty late at night, depending on how much stuff needs to get done. So far the days are absolutely flying by, no complaints here. The food, on the other hand, has room for serious improvement. Obviously I’m happy that we aren’t eating MRE’s, but I still feel like complaining. They can step it up a notch. Everything they serve is ridiculously unhealthy. It’s either fried, covered in cheese, drenched in creamy sauce, or straight up dipped in butter. I eat the exact same thing every day…salad with lunchmeat, or a whole wheat tortilla with turkey or tuna. Literally every day. It takes the guessing out of the equation, I suppose. I’m also hungry all the time. My fault, it’s no news to me that I’m a picky eater.
Oatmeal & Peanut Butter...3 times a day.

The one thing I really have going for me is that I have an awesome room.

So anyways, back to running…

I jumped in to running pretty quickly, and after struggling briefly with mere 8-12 mile runs, I’m finally back up to 65+ miles a week. Nothing crazy, but I’m stoked that I’ve remained injury free.  I’ve lost a decent amount of weight right off the bat, now I just have some refining to do. Believe you me, there was weight to be lost. I had entirely too much fun at the end of 2011…

Most of my runs have been spent observing things…like counting camels (I saw 15 on one run!!), watching helicopters take off and land, avoiding being run over by really bad drivers on base, checking out the bomb sniffing dogs and being sad I can’t play with them, and just today- watching a Jordanian in boots and utilities attempt to learn how to ride a bicycle. That was pretty hilarious.

The cool think about where I’m located is that the base is huge. Like, really big. 20 milers are not an issue. There are porta-poties everywhere, which makes it convenient when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and need to go (although this happened the other day—and I found one that was for male anatomy only. Very disappointing.). The sucky thing is that the ground is pretty rough. It’s full of rocks to help keep the dust down and prevent flooding, but it’s a b!tch to run on. Again I find myself battling a rock rage. 

My ankles are perpetually bruised from kicking myself with these little obnoxious rocks.  I roll my ankles at least once per run, though have somehow managed to not fall in a ditch anywhere. It’s actually really dangerous walking around in the dark, there are these massive trenches everywhere that you can’t see until you’re right next to it.
Triple Salomon
 Another annoying problem is the foreigners who are working on base. They stare, glare, stalk…it’s pretty bad.  It’s like they’ve never seen a white chick running before. Ok, so they probably haven’t. But still.

But now…I need to get back in shape. I’m planning to go on vacation in April, so naturally I scoured the internet to find a race. I wanted a trail race, but no more than 50k, and nothing with crazy climbing. My legs won’t be ready for any of that . Low and behold, there’s a 50k in Sweden on the date that I was looking at, and it sounds perfect. Well, it would if I spoke Swedish. But it sure looks nice.

I checked in to the logistics, and I can easily swing through Stockholm on my way back to Afghanistan…soo….yes. This is the one.  If only I could figure out how to register. Anyone speak Swedish?? 

There’s a 10k on base in 12 days, I’m going to run it to guage my fitness. I’m sure I’ll be tripping over rocks and getting blown over by wind, but it will be some sort of starting point. I now have 12 weeks to get ready for a 50k. Plenty of time...?

I’m ecstatic to have a goal again, and that it’s for another awesome trail race in a really amazing place. I know literally nothing about Sweden, so yet another Agile adventure begins.

I've decided the best way to deal with being away from loved ones in a not awesome place is to focus on self improvement. With that in mind, I bought a guitar, am trying to run my butt off, and will learn how to drive stick. No really, we have a car...but it's manual. Don't laugh, but I've never had to drive one before. 

And so begins Chapter 3.