365 days later.

365 days ago was hopefully the scariest day of my life. 365 days ago was the day the world I live in changed forever. 365 days ago was the day that my beautiful city changed forever.
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Sometimes I can’t believe that it’s been an entire year since the Marathon bombings. At other times it feels like it happened yesterday. A day hasn’t gone by this past year that I haven’t remembered the events of that day. And as the recent weather has finally turned into spring, every cool morning reminds me of the morning of April 15th. A morning when I woke up before my alarm, where the air held so much excitement and potential, and ended so tragically.
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My memories are triggered by small things. Like when I put on my red Toms I remember a friend giving her motherly advice that it wasn’t a good day to walk around in flip flops. Little did she know that later in the afternoon it would be because I was running away from explosions. Every morning on my way to work I pass the Curley Community Center in South Boston and I remember being ushered inside as we piled out of an over-stuffed van. I remember sitting at a table in a room that was set up for a celebration for the L Street Runners, but instead being used for displaced marathoners and family members. The smell of pasta sauce and cupcake frosting making me nauseous as we waited for a way to get home. It took a while before the sight of a porta-potty stopped making me nervous, never mind locking myself inside of one.
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The truth is that there are so many horrible things I could remember today. And while I know that at some point I will acknowledge them, and probably cry about them, today I want to focus on the good things. Today I will remember that beautiful morning when I awoke before my alarm clock out of anticipation. I remember the excitement in following the slow-moving river of runners, of cheering “you’ve got this!” over and over again, of holding our smiley face balloon high in the air. I remember being with someone who stayed so calm and brave for me even if he was a wreck inside. Today I remember the moment of absolute relief in spotting one of my best friends in a sea of runners, when minutes before I wasn’t sure if she was alive. I remember how incredibly grateful I am that I was sheltered from the blasts by those tiny plastic walls. I remember how we were able to find humor in the fact that my friend’s father (who I barely knew at the time) pulled me out of the porta potty, and how her first concern was that my fly was down. I am thankful that we can laugh about these small details.
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I remember how strong and supportive my fiancee was. How he sat patiently on the cover of the toilet while I showered off the horrific-ness of the day just so that I didn’t have to be alone. I remember what it felt like when I hugged my parents the next time I saw them. I remember the love and support of friends, family, and even long lost acquaintances who checked in on me in those first hours and days. I remember how thankful I am that my future co-workers, who I didn’t know at the time, were spared that day as well. I remember how my beautiful city and the beautiful community of runners came together in those days, weeks, and months. I remember how much stronger we are as we stand here today.
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I wish I knew how I feel will feel next week, on the 3rd Monday in April. I don’t know what kind of emotions will fill my heart as I awake before my alarm clock. What I do know is this: I will be there. I will be there in Framingham, in Newton, and finally, in Boston. I will cheer even louder, I will stand even prouder. I will take the happy finish line pictures I never got to take last year. And I will do it all with that smiley face balloon held even higher in the sky.
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Aside
I like to think that over the last two years I have built up this imaginary “Runner Baby Book”. The pages are full of things like the first time I ran a full mile, the bib from my first race, the receipt from my first pair of compression socks, the details of my first track workout. It appears that we can now tuck “my first obnoxious running injury” in it as well.
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I’ll admit that the week I started back up I was a little over zealous and went on a bit of a running bender. I just was so excited to run that I wanted to do it every day… and I did. The first chance I got to head out in a t-shirt and capris I may have compared my run to “hopping like a bunny”. So it probably shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was when I started getting a weird pain in my hip. Not wanting to give up what I had just taken back I ran through the pain wishing it away….which we know always ends up well. Finally after over a week went by I was finally threatened talked into going to get it checked out. Giving in and making the appointment suddenly made it real that I might have an actual injury which sent me into panic mode. I JUST got back into running, I have a half marathon to train for… an injury is NOT on my agenda.
I think it’s funny that I made it through my entire childhood, teenage, and most of my young adult years before having to get an x-ray. Since I became a runner… I’m up to two. The things that happen once you get healthy, huh?  After an x-ray, performing some balancing acts and the (incredibly attractive) doctor pushing and pulling my leg until I almost cried in pain it was determined that I strained my Gluteus Medius. Want to make a running injury even MORE obnoxious? There’s nothing un-sexier than a strain in your side bum.
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I make these x-ray shorts SEXY.

Apparently the doctor’s incredibly good looks had me completely side tracked because I smiled and nodded as he told me I was going to have to take some time off of running and do some PT exercises with my trainer. It took the walk to the car to process entirely what he had said. I was alread supposed to be in Week 2 of my half training plan. “A few weeks off” was cutting dangerously into the time that I had already dedicated to working my ass off in. This was supposed to be my second chance at 13.1. I was ready to give it everything I had at the track. And now you’re telling me I have to take more time off? Cue the tears.
Before you start leaving me “get well soon” wishes I’m really fine- my injury is minor and more of a nagging pain. It’s the mental injury that’s killing me. I’m learning that pain of a running injury far outweighs the physical. I don’t do well with not having control of a situation or not being able to plan ahead and this is a very real exercise in both of those things. And when running is your outlet in life- how do you deal with that outlet being taken away?
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This is NOT what I expected half marathon training to look like.

You become an emotional monster, that’s what. I’ve spent the last few weeks cheering when I wake up and feel no pain… and feeling defeated when a slow two miles brings it back. I fight back the tears as I listen to my friends talk about their runs and their training. I try not to panic as the weeks turn into months since my last run that was over 3 miles. And I try not to panic as the months turn into weeks until my (hopefully) next half marathon. I’m trying to accept that there’s nothing I can do about this situation except rehab it as I’m told to, take a deep breath, and dig my fingernails in to keep from jumping off the ledge. One day at a time.
A special thanks to those who are holding me back from jumping :)

My Happily-Ever-After

“You can be anywhere when your life begins.
You meet the right person and anything is possible.”
- Crazy/Beautiful

I’ve never been one who can recite dialogues or sputter off movie quotes so it amazes me that a line from a teenage movie has stuck in my head for so long. And when I think back to April 4th, 2012 it immediately comes back to mind. Clearly on that chilly spring night, a part of my life was just beginning.
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A year ago today I sat here and told you how I had just climbed my own personal Mount Everest. I had accomplished what was at one point in my mind was the un-thinkable. The evidence could be seen in my face, in my body, in my clothes, in my smile. I had fought a battle, and I had won. I thought I had it all figured out, that from here on out it was all downhill.

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And now here I am, a second year gone by. To the eye it appears that not much has changed. In fact- I’ll confess that I haven’t budged out of the same 5 pound weight range for the last 365 days. And while you might consider that a disappointment the truth is it is an even greater victory to celebrate. Losing weight is one thing. Maintaining it is a whole new ballgame. It means this isn’t just a phase anymore. This is my life.

For several months I would wake up in a panic that I would look in the mirror and my old body would be back. That this was just all a big dream. After a year of maintenance I now know… this IS my body. I get to keep it. I get to use it to do all of these amazing things I never dreamed I would be doing. All it asks in return is that I take care of it.
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Success in year two can’t be measured in simply pounds or inches. It’s measured in new experiences, in accomplishments. In 10Ks, half marathons, triathlons. It can be seen in my confidence, in my personality, in my happiness.

Maybe some day I’ll stop remembering April 4th. I’ll forget what I was wearing and how nervous I was. Maybe someday it will just be another day out of the year. It’s already getting hard to distinguish between what happened in year one and year two. It’s already difficult to remember what I did before I spent my days running, swimming, downward-dogging. The girl in the “before pictures” is becoming more and more of a distant memory, like someone stuck Kathleen in a fat suit. And while at some point I imagine this will all just be another chapter in the story of my life, for now I will remember. I will remember all those details, and all those milestones. I will celebrate happiness, strength, confidence. I will smile at the fact that on the night of April 4th I had no idea what was in store for me.

My story isn’t a “happily-ever-after”. It’s a “happily-as-you’re-gonna-work-for-it”. It’s not a story of magic tricks but of hard work, and not giving up. My fairy godmother didn’t cast any spells- she simply believes in me. She pushes me, and challenges me, she inspires me to keep going. My story is full of ups and downs, of challenges and successes. Tears of frustration and of pride. And the best part is? It doesn’t end here. My story has still just begun.

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The Evolution of Purple

My life of fitness wouldn’t be complete without Purple. “Purple” is the backpack which I use to lug all of my “new life” necessities around. Why we continue to give items random, unoriginal names is beyond me. Why they stick is even further beyond my comprehension.

Purple’s original purpose was never fitness. I bought it a few years ago for an event that I needed to carry around a lot of stuff. It was one of those “run into TJ Maxx at the last minute and pick up whatever’s cheapest” kind of situations. Once the event was over I squished it in the back of my closet and figured it would be good to keep around for another situation like that. Cue the “If only I knew”.

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THIS girl and THIS backpack in a triathlon? NO way.

As I’ve told many times by now, I picked up running in the summer. I had one pair of shoes. I wore the same pants and tank tops that I work for my personal training sessions or bootcamp. And that was it. I remember when it finally started getting too cold for capris and I bought my first pair of running tights. I bought some zip ups and even a fancy ear warmer. Suddenly I had options depending on the weather. When I started adding in a run after bootcamp I realized I would need to bring a wardrobe change… and out came that dusty backpack. I figured “It will work for now”.

As I slowly began to dabble in new fitness adventures I found myself acquiring more and more gear.  Bathing suit, swim caps (got to have more than one handy!), goggles, helmet, deodorant. Training for a triathlon suddenly required so much “stuff” – and all the time. When I went on a camping trip this summer I knew I was going to have a few workouts to get done. Panicked that I would forget something I needed I simply zipped Purple up and took it all with me.

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Tri training in the wilderness? Check!

Aside from all this multi sport training my runs started getting longer and more complicated. In the summer months I gave in and got myself one of those “runner hats”. I found myself stashing Purple with bandaids for blisters. Kenyan Beans for long runs. Body Glide, sunblock, Nuun tablets, hair elastics.. you name it, and I keep it in there. When the weather got colder I added several different sets of gloves, hats and ear warmers. And when I decided to throw yoga into my repertoire? In went my new grippy socks. Not to mention the assortment of race bibs, pamphlets and handfuls of safety pins shoved in there constantly.

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A page from “I Spy”?… or the contents of my backpack?

Purple isn’t great for organization. For as often as I find myself neatly re-organizing things, a week later its chaos again. There have been far too many times where the entire contents of my backpack have almost tumbled into the pool because I didn’t zip it up all the way. Often I find myself looking online at new bags. I’ve added the same swanky triathlon bag to an online shopping cart at least 4 times now. But then I close my browser. Something inside of me just isn’t ready to move on yet.

Call me a sappy sentimental (Because we all know I am) but I feel like Purple and I have gone through so much together that it’s hard to just throw her away. She sits stuffed in a corner every Saturday morning during bootcamp. She’s thrown on the floor of the pool locker room day after day. She sat under the bike rack while I finished my first triathlon. She waited patiently in the car while I ran my first 13.1. When I bought her, I had no idea I had no idea what I’d end up needing her for. And when I started this journey, I had no idea where I would end up going either.

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Ready to tri… together.

For all the fancy triathlon and gym bags out there- Purple is original, she’s organic. She’s trying to pass for something she wasn’t necessarily built for – just like me. So for the time being I’ll stick to my simple purple backpack. The one that smells like running socks no matter how many times I wash it. The one that has become a black hole to my cell phone one too many times. The one who’s faking it till she makes it. She’s evolving. We both are. We owe it to each other. :)

 

A fresh start(ing line).

I knew that coming off of my running break I was going to want to jump into a new goal as soon as possible. I mean the best way to get over someone is to get under someone…. never mind. That rule doesn’t apply here. Anyways- at some point this winter I had decided on the Providence Half Marathon in May as my next goal. Obviously when shit hit the fan and I needed to recharge my running batteries that wasn’t going to work anymore. But don’t worry, I quickly found a replacement.
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This half ass bad ass is officially registered for the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon on June 8th! I’m happy with this decision because:

1) It’s a brand spankin’ new race… which is fun.
2) It’s put on by Runner’s World (which automatically ups the “cool factor”).
3) It’s part of a weekend long festival celebrating all that is awesome about running.
4) Finishing gives me another sweet medal to add to my wall of pride.
5) This will be not only my second half marathon, but my second half marathon in Newton (ironically)…. which means I get to celebrate with pancakes and a peanut butter shake at the most amazing breakfast joint in the world!

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Providence for some reason just never felt like my race. I couldn’t picture myself running it and now I know why. But this… this has my name all over it. This race feels like mine. I quickly typed in my information, signed my waiver, and hit submit with a little more “ooomf” in my fingers. There was minimal hesitation and instead of the instant gut check associated with registering for big things I felt a sense of dare I say… excitement? I can’t quite put my finger on it but things feel different somehow.

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Maybe this is what happens when you take a break. Maybe this is just my brain talking because my legs haven’t seen more than 3 miles in the last 6 weeks. Or maybe it’s these runners I’ve been hanging around recently. (You know who you are). While I was busy giving my legs a rest I paid attention to how they train, how they race, and most importantly… their attitude towards running. Why put in all this effort in training if you’re not going to be excited for the big day? Why spend all this money on a race that you’re not going to put your heart into? I train in fear and I race in fear. From the minute I sign up for a race I start doubting myself. I can’t run races in fear anymore. And while I know this half will be challenging and hard, and that sometimes training for it will suck majorly – at the end of the day I want to be proud of the work I put in and proud of getting myself to the finish line. Maybe… JUST MAYBE… I’m starting to get it. My apologies to those of you who have been repeating this to me until you’re red in the face (Again, you know who you are).

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So 13.1… I’m ready for a rematch. I’m ready to work hard, and listen to those who know best. I realize now that heroes aren’t made on tempo runs when they haven’t eaten breakfast. I realize that the only way I’m going to make it to the finish line is if I start believing in myself. I promise more stretching and less crying. Here’s to training hard and racing happy. Here’s to a fresh start… and a brand spanking new start line. Let’s do this.

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Absence makes the <3 grow fonder.

Dear running,

It’s been a few weeks since we last spoke. I followed your very loud and clear request to take some time off. Gave myself and my running shoes some space from each other. Took a break from the track and spent more time on my mat. I gave my mind and my body the rest it so clearly begged for.

You- and everyone around me – told me that I would know when I was ready to run again, that I would see the signs. And as usual, they were right. I knew I was ready to come back when I found myself slowing down as I passed people running along the beach. Wondered how far they were going, if they were training for something, what kind of music they were listening to. I knew I was ready when I watched my friends continue to train and race around me, jealous of their long runs, PRs… even of their achy muscles. I knew I was ready when I found myself constantly dreaming of my next race, longing for those start line butterflies. I couldn’t wait to get back out there.

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I anxiously stalked the forecast, waiting for a day to show up with a high about freezing. And when the past weekend alluded to potential spring like temperatures I knew it was a sign. I refreshed the weather daily, I mentally scanned through my wardrobe in my head. The night before I carefully laid out my clothes, left my running shoes by the door and leaped into bed. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, a marathoner the night before 26.2, more than a girl who was going to wake up the next morning and run a couple miles.

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The next morning arrived – a little chilly, but not nearly as cold as it has been. A part of me panicked as I choked down a granola bar. Besides a mile or two for work (yes, my job involves running, how amazing is that?) I hadn’t hit the pavement at all. What if I couldn’t keep up with my buddy? What if I couldn’t even make it a block? Was it right left right? Or left right left? Oh shit.

But as we headed out early Sunday morning our feet fell into our comforting pattern, my breath found it’s rhythm, and I realized it was all still there inside me. We chatted quietly as we ran, the streets were still relatively empty while most people were still asleep. I purposely left my watch at home so I could just simply focus on how running felt. And while we didn’t run particularly far, and we didn’t run a particularly fast pace, I found the beauty in a familiar route with my favorite person to run with. I realized the meaning behind this break. I appreciated the lessons it taught me. I thought about the first time I had run this route a year and a half ago, following behind a group of girls I was convinced I couldn’t keep up with. I didn’t say a word that first day- I focused every ounce of my body on not stopping. I had no idea back then what that tiny victory would lead to. It’s a reminder that when things start getting out of focus I’ve got to slow down and remember where I came from. Appreciate the small things. Find the joy in the things I sometimes take for granted.

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So with that I’m back. I’m excited for long runs. I’m excited for short runs. I’m excited for runs with my friends and runs with just my thoughts. I’m excited for spring and summer races, for the opportunity to line up at a start line with a goal on my mind and in my toes. Excited for the opportunity to prove myself wrong and make myself proud all at the same time. I’m excited that our love for each other hasn’t disappeared- but only grown deeper.

It’s good to be back.

Seeing the glass half full.

I feel as though I owe my readers (Readers? Am I even cool enough to throw around that lingo? Does my cat count as a reader?) an apology. Maybe even a pat on the back. And a “thanks for sticking around”. Looking back through my last few posts I realize I’ve become quite the Debby Downer/Negative Nancy over here. Between the burn out of winter training and then this break I’ve had the whiny-ness of a toddler before nap time. And while it’s been a challenge and a new experience I’m also finding a lot of positives to it.

A rekindled romance.
I may have kicked off my running shoes for the last few weeks but that doesn’t mean I’ve become a slug on the couch. I vowed to stay as active as possible by increasing my other workouts.  And because of that bootcamp and I were able to fall in love again. I realized that for the last few months I’ve been showing up because I felt like I had to and just sort of going through the motions. But with my mind off of miles I’ve been able to focus more on to how strong my body is getting, how many more push ups I can do, and finding new ways to challenge myself. It’s been a good reminder that you get out of something what you put into it. Burpees are a love/hate relationship for everyone but even we’re in a good place right now :)

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You know it was a good workout when you leave part of your shirt on the floor in the form of a sweat stain!

Here fishy, fishy.
With the decision to step back from track workouts and long runs I looked for something else to focus my energy on… swimming a full mile. I’ve kept up with my swimming throughout the fall and winter, but always stop at a half mile. The night after I decided to call it quits for a bit I had a boatload of pent up frustration and hit the pool. I strapped on my watch and told myself that I would see how far I could make it past the half mile mark. I made it to .75 and thought “Why not keep going?” and just like that… BOOM. Full mile the first night I tried. I felt that “look what you just pushed yourself to do!” feeling start to seep into my wrinkly fingers and spread right up into my proud little heart. I pulled myself out of the pool beaming. What to know what happened next? I did it again. And again. AND AGAIN. In fact, I’ve swam almost 9 miles in my time off. The bad ass is still in there.

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first mile on the watch and it feels so good.

It blows my mind to think that just a year ago I was struggling through my triathlon swim class. The fact that I was going to have to swim a half mile across a lake in July kept me awake for so many nights. These days I know I’ll sleep soundly after a night at the pool and I’m pretty confident that swimming will be the strongest leg of the triathlon for me this summer. Who ever would have thought I’d be saying that?

Food for thought.
One of my deepest, darkest fears (And biggest hesitation in taking a break) was that of course… that I would gain weight back. This forced me to admit that while training to run long distances I had gotten into the habit of justifying what I was eating with what I was running (“Oh you’re running 8 miles tomorrow? Eat that cheeseburger AND french fries girlfriend!”). That’s not to say I’ve become a nutrition disaster, but I felt like I was able to get away with more. In my mind if I wasn’t gaining weight no harm done… right? WRONG KATHLEEN, WRONG! Clearly this is not a healthy mentality. This break has given me a chance to re-visit how I’m eating and fueling. That’s not to say you shouldn’t allow yourself indulgence every now and then, but mac & cheese ain’t gonna make that track workout any easier. Part of me wonders how much my nutrition correlates to how much training broke me down.  But while there’s nothing I can do to go back and change the past I can admit my faults- and work harder on it the next time. I’m curious to see if there’s a difference in how I feel training.

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lunch & snacks done right!

I guess when all’s said and done this break hasn’t been the worst thing to happen to me. A few new achievements, some valuable lessons learned and at the end of the day… I’m itching to get back out there. :)