Saturday, March 14, 2015

Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It's been a rough, snowy winter here in Boston, but if you go out early on a weekend morning--despite the cold and the snow banks--you'll see runners. Lots of them. Many (maybe most?) are training for the famed Boston Marathon, which runs right near my house.

Boston is considered the holy grail for distance runners. Qualifying for it is not easy, but one athlete with her eye on the prize is my friend Pru.

Prudence Lau is my cyber-friend. We cyber-met on Twitter because of our mutual love for Anthony Howell. Let's just take a moment....
Always so nice to see him, don't you think?
Source: twitter

Anyway, Prudence started reading the blog and commenting, then we started corresponding and now we're friends. Friends who have never met in real life, but friends all the same.

Pru is a badass marathoner. In fact, she was running her third marathon in a year while I was blogging on my couch in the fuzzy blue robe about the importance of rest. She's a little cray-cray, but that's part of her charm.

I was thinking of her the whole time I was blogging about rest. Not just because she was careening through the streets of Toronto while I was 'resting,' but also because Prudence has a very interesting personal story, and she employs a very well-thought-out training protocol that includes, among other things, rest. One may say she is very... prudent. (Couldn't resist.)

And so she graciously consented to be interviewed for the blog about all these things and more. I get to pretend to be a hard-hitting journalist (HHJ) and I don't even have to interview myself like I did last time! Yay! Here we go:

HHJ: So, tell us how you got into distance running.

PruIt all started with a medical mistake. I was given an incorrect dosage of medication, which resulted in significant hearing loss. It happened suddenly, and I was left permanently deaf in one ear and with only 20% hearing in the other. 

I never recovered, not even with a high dose of the steroid Prednisone. I don't remember much from the six weeks I was on it. My husband Trevor said I was hell on wheels. All I remember was weaning off that terrible medication and opening my kitchen cupboards to find half of my dishes gone. Trevor said I'd smashed them during my anger fits.

HHJ: Oh wow. I would be so wicked pissed if I were you.

Pru: Yeah, this is where running comes in. I was so angry, depressed and frustrated. I started to run - because it's very freeing. It was such a release. And it makes me happy - endorphins!  

HHJ: Oh yes, we love endorphins! We call them 'lalas.'

Pru: Yes, running gives me the lalas, definitely. And it has taught me so much. I've learned to rely on other senses -- feeling and sight. I have to trust others and, trust drivers not to mow me down. When one sense is diminished, you really do compensate with the others. 

It's also made me a more grateful person--grateful for my husband, who stood by me patiently, even as I was breaking dishes! Before the Prednisone treatments, I remember Trevor said, everything else is intact, it could be worse, I still have my health, and my brain is unaffected. I must adapt and adjust and carry on. I must grow a thicker skin, and get used to the fact people will treat me differently whether or not they know of my profound hearing loss. They may treat me as if I were stupid. I need to look past it, to understand where they're coming from. I am still learning lessons of empathy, understanding and patience for others. The world does not just revolve around me.

HHJ: You once referred to your hearing loss as 'your invisible disability.' I have another friend in a similar situation--you'd never know from looking at her that she has a disability, which is tough. How do you cope with that?

Pru: Yes, it's frustrating, and running really helps. It gives me time to think and plan, and I love to discover what I see during the run. It makes me think, the world is huge and there's so much more to life, instead of wallowing in self pity. It gives me perspective. Running has taught me there is no shame in my invisible disability and I need to be upfront about it. Of course, there are some people who treat me like a child, which is annoying, but I don't ever want to become bitter. Running definitely helps me cope.

HHJ: Ok, so why marathons? I'm not a runner, so really... 26.2 miles sounds like hell on earth to me. Why not just a nice 5K in a pink t-shirt for breast cancer research?

Pru: Haha! Yeah, marathons are tough, but I love the challenge. Testing yourself and your body beyond it's limits is really difficult. It's very hard on the body, as well as the mind. But I like marathons, because you need to line up your ducks in order. If you run it wrong on any part of the course, the marathon is huge enough to eat you up. It's scary, but also exciting.

It's also taught me patience. Anything good takes work, commitment, and a dream. Dreams do come true with a lot of work. People give up too easily nowadays, because things are just 'too tough' to attain. I say if you want things that last, they take a long time to get. If you want something now, it usually won't last. 

HHJ: So tell us about your training. Let's start with the food, because I know you love to eat!

Exhibit A
Pru: Yes! I love food! The hardest thing for me is to lay off on the alcohol. I don't drink during training. It makes me sluggish and slows me down. Otherwise I eat the same while I'm training- no special diet. I eat whatever my body wants. If it wants noodles, beef and veggies for supper, I will give my body that. If I want Doritos - I'd go for that too - just a small bowl to satisfy my cravings. I crave salt a lot during training - because the body loses a lot of water, potassium during training. And I don't shy away from fat either - it's what my joints need. And eating fat does NOT make you fat. Eat anything in moderation, whatever my body asks for, it's what it gets - without guilt. 

During longer runs, I take a Shot Bloc every 20 minutes and sip water every 10 minutes. Better to have fuel in the tank than run on empty and cramp the rest of the way. These long runs are to build endurance, and they are tough, can take up to 3 hours or longer.

HHJ: Wow, sounds very time-consuming...

Pru: Yes, and expensive! Even though running is technically 'free,' I go through about 2-3 pairs of running shoes during marathon training and gear can be pricey. And then there are racing fees.... I have to say, I am thankful - for my jobs, and my husbands support.

I don't work a 9-5 job [Prudence is a cake decorating instructor by trade] so I can work my runs around my schedule. It's all about self discipline. I cannot cut corners, especially for a marathon. The body has to be very conditioned. Even if the weather doesn't co-operate, I'm out there, doing my thing.  I run easy for the first while, and then at a quicker pace that I can sustain for a long period of time - but it has to feel easy. That is how I determine my pace for every race.

Post run, I walk to cool down, then do some stretches and yoga, and roll out my sore muscles. After a long-distance run, let's say 20k and up, and put my legs up against the wall for 30 minutes to drain out the lactic acid. I don't do ice baths - they don't work for me, and I don't stretch much, because I find I get more injuries from stretching. My formula may not work for everyone, because everyone is different. You have to experiment.

HHJ: Lord, that all sounds very painful. What do you do for recovery?

Pru: I see a sports massage therapist - very important to get deep tissue massage on a regular basis. I get mine at least once a month. It's to find out how your muscles are working, whether an injury is cropping up. It's pretty much injury prevention. My massage therapist has also became a friend, so it's also good for the soul - we are able to talk about races, what I need to work on physically or how to make some mental adjustments. Not all races are winners, some are learning races.

Off-season, I rest.  I do nothing. Enjoy life, go on holidays, go for long walks with Trevor, and eat and drink whatever I want. I don't run, I sleep in, walk, and take it easy. I do nothing - if no injuries, no foam rolling. I just lie around and read a good book in my spare time.

HHJ: Have you always been a runner?

Pru: When I was a kid, I loved PE, when it consisted long distance running or track days. I quit running at 14, because of teenage angst. I didn't pick up running again until 39. Before I turned 40, Trevor dared me to run a 1/2 marathon. I finished my first 1/2 marathon at 40 - and he told me at the finish line - you're not done yet. You're going to run marathons - and you're going to run Boston! Yikes!

HHJ: YAY! Can't wait! I'll have the pillows in the guest room all fluffed up!

Pru: Yes, and we'll eat!! My post-race indulgence is Kentucky Fried Chicken!

HHJ: Oh, good grief.

Pru: Don't tell me what's in it, I don't care, I just eat it!

So that's my task between now and whenever Prudence qualifies for Boston--find a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. She's also threatening to bring bags of Doritos for the little Darlings, in which case, rest will not be on the docket post-race. She'll be running around my house wiping neon-orange fingerprints off furniture and walls. But this is why we love Pru, she's way more fun and laid-back than I am. I can't wait to cheer her on one of these years.

Run like the wind, Pru!

No comments:

Post a Comment