A little to the left

Playing the violin is a lot like building a house with cards. It’s about balance. Move one things here, and it affects something over there. Just one small tweak can fix a problem, or create a problem. It’s almost like walking on a tight rope all of the time. The number of things you have to pay attention to as you play are too many to count sometimes. Paying too much attention to one thing can cause something else to go out of whack. It’s a constant struggle to find balance. Balance in the way you hold a violin, in the way you move the bow, how much speed versus weight, and so on. It’s so easy to lose sight of small things that can make a big difference.

The past week has proven that I’ve been off balanced for a while. Something about the question “so, who taught you to hold the bow that way,” sent off all sorts of alarm bells in my head. Apparently I’ve been holding the bow wrong for 24 years now. Did that get me an “oh you’re still getting use to it,” response when mentioning that practicing was a challenge last week, and ice had become my friend. Oh no. I found out my shoulder were out of alignment. Yes, never a dull moment! But it goes to show just how fleeting the idea of balance is. It’s here one minute, and gone the next. One day life is out of whack, and the next is just peachy. Balance is ever elusive.

The same is true for running. For a while I struggled with a sore left quad muscle leading up to my last marathon. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then I had someone take a look at my form and alignment. Want to guess what was wrong? You can probably guess what it is. Yep, balance. I was landing ever so slightly different on my right leg, which over time was throwing everything off on the left side. So, it’s back to working on form on a regular basis, not just every once in a while. Balance and form are things that have to be constantly monitored, and adjusted. As we get older they change. I can’t play the violin the same way that I did when I was 10. My body is different, and I have to work on things with the way my body moves now. Little warning bells go off in my head when I start to feel like I’m getting comfortable. Am I getting use to the new technique, or did I go back to the old habit that is causing the problem? In the middle of a run while talking to someone I’m still concentrating on how I’m landing, and my form. Staying focused on what I’m working on is the only way to fix the problem.

So here’s to another week of new bow holds, and making sure my head isn’t stick out too much (interpretation don’t slouch)

Turning off the switch

I remember finishing my first Team in Training event back in 2008, and running to the finish with our head coach. He eventually dropped off because he said he couldn’t keep up with me. 20 minutes after finishing what was my second marathon (with a 45 minute PR at the time) he was already plotting how to get me faster with this thing called run/walk. Run/walk? There’s no walking in running my head told me. The whole walk back to the hotel was spent discussing this rather curious idea.

In my turns as a mentor for Team in Training I’ve ended up run/walking many times, and to be honest I wasn’t a fan. I could not figure out how something that made me feel so sore would be good for me, and make me faster. I don’t really remember what the intervals were, but I was generally doing around a 13:00 minute mile with mentees. Let’s just say that’s a much different speed than I’m used too. My mind made it’s decision, run/walk was not for me.

Enter my friend, and Team in Training buddy Ken. He started teaching me about how to train, and not overdue things. He kept talking about run/walk. There it is again! This run/walk thing just doesn’t go away does it?! I told him my whole run/walk experience, and he assured me that if I ran my pace I wouldn’t have any of the problems that I had experienced before. Yeah, right. So I tried it, and well, yeah, I can be wrong. I had a great run. It was a bit humbling, and there was some battling with my pride, but I did it. I ended up run/walking the Georgia Marathon a couple of weeks ago. You know you’re on to something when you’re at mile 23 of a marathon, and bouncing all over the place with a smile. I ran with a couple of coaches that I’m going to be working with for the next several months this weekend, and we spent some time talking about run/walk. They encouraged me to experiment more with it, and find my own rhythm (now you’re talking my language!). After my 6 mile run I felt great! I didn’t feel like I ran 6 miles at all. Besides feeling lost for “only” running 6 miles (what do I do with all of this time?) I was bouncing all over the place. The only thing that bothered me was a friend asking if I was run/walking Alaska. I think she was curious about my answer. Maybe she was surprised that I was even thinking about it. It just came across funny.

Before the start of the marathon 2 weeks ago I was chatting with my coach from Chicago. I was telling him about how I was run/walking the marathon, and how much more energy I had. He laughed, and wasn’t surprised one bit. We talked about how hard it was to convince myself that this was a good thing. I grew up in a competitive environment at school, in orchestra, on soccer teams, and at home. Everything seemed like it was a competition. I was always pushing myself to do my very best, and while that isn’t a bad thing, I have a habit of sometimes pushing too far. I want to run with the front of the pack, and prove that I’m just as fast as everyone else. My former coach very smartly said I need to learn to turn that switch off! It’s not about what everyone else is doing, it’s about what I can do. I’ve done countless workouts that should help, but in an effort to push myself to a level I wasn’t ready for I pushed too much, and while I was doing all of the right training it wasn’t showing up like it was supposed to. Sprinting comes very naturally to me, but endurance running doesn’t. I often feel like I’m just plodding along, which I don’t like. I miss the smooth feeling that i get when I’m running faster. I just haven’t been able to put it into any kind of distance. But now with run/walk there are little glimmers of it slowly appearing. Despite run/walking my 6 miles I was right with everyone else in the group. The same pace despite walk breaks. I can run more naturally without pushing the speed too much, or having to go so slow it alters my stride. Maybe there is something to this. It’s made me rethink my whole approach to training. It’s part of the reason I’ve stopped posting times in some of my workouts in my effort to turn off my competitive switch. I don’t need to compare my runs to friends or the dailymile community. I only need to judge them against myself, and what I have on that run. And while competition can be good, it’s not what I need right now. I need to train smart, so I can get to my goals without injuring myself. So training for Alaska’s Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon is off. I can’t wait to see where it goes!