… the Sweeter the Finish Line.

Remember that half marathon I am supposed to run this summer? It’s okay- me neither really. I mean I’ve been running and training and knew it was on the horizon, but I’ve been so busy I hadn’t spent much time really thinking about it. Until the one month mark rolled around. And I started piecing together the details and logistics. And then in true Kathleen/Half Ass fashion, I “freaked the f out”.

I already knew this was going to be a challenge. So far 13.1 and I haven’t had the best time together, and for the first time I’m going to be facing it on my own. And without the comfort of my fiancee there cheering me on. And then I read the Athlete Guide. And I started doing the math and realized how long a Half Ironman actually takes. How early I’m going to have to get up, and then how long I’m going to have to wait for my turn to run. How hot it’s going to be by then. What if I eat my pre-race meal too soon and I have nothing in me? How mentally challenging is a double loop going to be to my unstable mind? Oh and did I mention that I can’t use my iPod? 13.1 miles of just me and the sound of my own irregular breathing?

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I wanted out. This felt like too many uncomfortables all at once. Maybe I’m taking on something that’s just out of my league right now. For a quick second I toyed with the possibility of finding a replacement runner.

But then I thought about how it would feel standing on the sidelines watching someone else cross that finish line, and how it would feel knowing it was supposed to be me. Then I thought about how it will feel if I actually finish this thing. It was became obvious that Option B outweighed Option A.

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I don’t want to do this race.  but I have to do this race. I  have to prove that I can conquer my mental games. I have to let my legs show that they are louder than my brain. I have prove to those who believe in me that I can do this. Most importantly- I have to prove to myself that I can do this.

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I’m scared out of my mind, but I know that being scared isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being scared means that you are being challenged. Being scared means you have a chance to prove that you are brave. Prove that you have grown. Prove that you have taken in all you have been taught.  And as I’ve been shown time and time again- the scarier the challenge, the sweeter the finish line.

So let’s do this.

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Seeing the same lake through a new set of eyes.

We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries and memories. In fact a good chunk of this blog has been about remembering and celebrating particular milestones. So it goes without saying that this summer there was one huge milestone I couldn’t let pass by… Iron Girl. For the entire week I reminisced over those sleepless nights, the countdown, how my dining room table was a packing station, and those terrifying butterflies that wouldn’t disappear.

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I mentioned before that I wasn’t able to participate this year due to another special event that weekend. I was content with sitting it out because I knew that it would never compare to what I experienced last year. However I still had friends who were participating, and so I knew that I needed to head out there to support them as they had done for me.

Driving to Central Massachusetts in the early hours of the morning was eerily familiar of exactly one year earlier. I watched the sun peak up from behind the hills and remembered the ride to the race site, remembered pinching my arm to prevent myself from throwing up in the car. I ended up having to park my car in a satelite lot so I brought my bike so I could make it to my friends in time (former fat kid flashback: who ever thought I would think of THAT?). I took a left turn in to the lake, passed under the landmark underpass, and my body was instantly covered with goosebumps. Suddenly it felt weird being there. Suddenly I wish I had stayed home and just slept in.

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I found my friends and hugged them tightly as I wished them good luck. And then I stood and watched them make their way to the chute, digging my feet in the sand to prevent myself from running to join them. I found a good spot to spectate and stared out at the lake that had once terrified me. I thought about how much I’ve changed since the day I stood in that water, how much I’ve grown since then. I watched as wave after wave was called.I wondered how many of those girls were doing their first race. I wondered how many of them were as nervous as I had been. I hoped they too had someone with them to calm them down.

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As the morning went on I quickly forgot about myself. I got so caught up in making sure that I caught my friends at each point in the race, made sure I got pictures as they headed in and out of transition, cheered as they made their way to the final finish. I watched as athlete after athlete crossed the finish line: sometimes in a zone by themselves and sometimes with a friend by their side. I smiled inside when I saw groups of three cross together. I imagined those girls who were so scared at the swim, now beaming as they made their way under the banner. I knew exactly what they were feeling.

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At the end of the day I was glad I was there to spectate and to see my team cross the finish line. As tired as I was it felt good to be a part of it in a totally different way. While my friends packed up their transition areas before we headed to breakfast I walked back over to the lake to grab my bike. I stood and looked out at the water, back in it’s calm state. I stood for a moment and said out loud “I’ll see you next year”. I’m not completely confident in that statement. Maybe Iron Girl was something I only needed to experience once. Maybe that was my gateway into bigger and better things. Maybe I left that lake the first time forever changed.

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Who I am.

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” – George Elliot

 

As humans, we never end up as the same person we started out as. We go through so many stages in life: bad hair phases, poor partner choices, and terrible tastes in music. When I was twelve years old I loved anything that was purple and wanted to be a marine biologist (But really, who didn’t if you were into Lisa Frank?).  Fast forward two years and I detested any shade of the color and wanted to be an author. There was a time in my life where my entire room and car (yes car) were decked out in hawaiian surf decor. And the short stint where I tried to be hardcore and listened to alternative music. I’ve always been the kind of person who goes through phases in life very intensely. I can’t help but put my whole being into what I’m feeling passionate about in that moment.
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There may have been a phase in my life where I loved *NSYNC so much I covered my parents driveway in quotes. MAYBE.

So I don’t think it surprised many of my friends or family when I started working out and running. “Another phase” they said (If not to my face I’m sure behind my back). And I’ll admit, there have been several times when even I have wondered “Is this a phase? Will I grow out of it just like I grew out of Lisa Frank and Korn?”
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Just a normal day after bootcamp,a run and a swim.

But then there’s the part of me that wonders… what if I’m just finally becoming the person I was meant to be? What if those years of phases happened for a reason –  and I’m finally where I’m supposed to be? Never in my life did I think I would be on the cusp of 30 (43 days… eeek) training for half marathons and doubling up on workouts. But here I am doing it. I’m sweaty, I’m happy, I’m healthy. For the longest time I cringed when I heard my name and the word athlete in the same sentence but now, I can say it without flinching. My voice is firm when I tell people “I am a runner”. My eyes light up when I overhear a conversation about Boston. For the first time in what I can remember- I am confident in who I am.
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This picture may look like I just won a road race. I totally did not.

So maybe this is who I was meant to be: the girl whose hair is always pulled back in a pony tail, whose backseat is filled with running shoes and yoga mats, who would rather spend $100 on a road race than a pair of jeans. The girl with awkward tan lines and more Sweaty Bands than purses.  The girl who feels more confident about herself after a 10 mile run than she feels dancing in a club. Take it or leave it- I’m just happy being here, being me. And maybe, just maybe, this is who I was supposed to be all along. It just took a few Lisa Frank diaries and skull & crossbones to get here.
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Patriotic facts and a sweet (and very sweaty) reminder.

Today’s post is short and sweet because the reminder I got this past weekend was just that. Short and sweet.

There’s a local 4th of July road race that my beloved little running group participates in. The crazy brain, competitive Kathleen signed up for this race a while back with hopes of crushing her time from last year. Then the realistic Kathleen remembered she was coming off an injury and accepted that it would be a “just happy to be there” kind of race.

The morning of 4th of July came and we all met up in our various patriotic outfits. It was hot and muggy, with the dark clouds of a looming storm slowly moving in. I planned on cranking a good playlist with a goal of just making it to the finish line with as little sweat as humanly possible. Much to my surprise and delight, two of my buddies offered to run alongside me and my turtle pace. I grinned as I tucked my headphones away.

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Start line photo with my ladies :)

We crossed the starting line and found our spot in the pack, at a pace where conversation was easy. As we chugged through the streets we laughed, we gossiped, we poked fun of each other and since it was America’s birthday after all, my friend made it a point to educate us with patriotic facts. The miles flowed into each other, almost seamlessly. After what seemed like barely minutes we were done. As we made our way to water I tried to remember the last time I had finished a race and had that much fun. I couldn’t.

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It’s not that I ever want to stop pushing myself, or stop working to be a better runner, because I don’t. But this is supposed to be fun. Running IS fun. And somewhere between x-rays, dissapointing races and burn outs- I missed that memo. And these friends, these races, these are the incredible things I’ve gained in this new life. These are the take-aways. So what if I finished a minute slower than I did last year. Did I care? Not at all actually. Did I have a great time? You bet I did. And on that humid, sticky day… Well that was really all that mattered. Maybe there’s something to be said for the back of the pack, running alongside your buddies… patriotic facts and all. :)

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I love this team. Forever and ever.

Stuck in a moment.

In weight loss there are stages. When you first start out, everything sucks. Mountains seem immovable, goals seem like they’re on a road with no end in sight. But then you get the hang of it. You feel better, your clothes are looser, people start noticing the difference. And then comes the plateau- the scale just doesn’t seem to budge. People stop complimenting you because it’s now your normal. Plateaus are a weird place to be in and you find that you either keep pushing, or you become content with where you are.

I find myself in a plateau again. But this time it’s not in regards my weight. It’s my running. I see the similar pattern. It sucked at first but I stuck with it. Just as I did with my weight loss I began to check off milestones. People congratulated me, told me I was inspirational. I chased goal after goal, thirsty for that insatiable feeling of accomplishment.

Hard to believe this was two years ago...

Hard to believe this was two years ago…

Two summers ago I sweated my ass off, literally. I worked to create a whole new body, a new sense of confidence. Last summer I took that new body and I trained it to do things I never thought I could do.

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I wrote a blog post last week about all my summer goals and plans because it’s a lot cleaner and prettier to talk about moving forward. No one wants to read a blog where you whine and complain. But this is a blog about keeping it real. And at the end of the day I’m still recovering from an injury. I’m still working on a “two steps forward one step back” schedule. I can make all the plans in the world, but they mean nothing if I don’t continue to work on rehabbing and rebuilding first.

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It’s a hard place for me to be in. I’m not patient. I want instant results. I want that sense of accomplishment back. I want to chase down goals. And no matter how much I try to retrain, my brain constantly goes to that “must catch up to the other kids” place. Add any combination of these to a bad run and it’s a recipe for disaster. I kick and scream like a toddler in timeout and God knows – I totally deserve one.

Once again I’m reminded of where I’ve come from. I’m reminded of where I’ll go. And I’m reminded that this isn’t a quick fix situation. I’ve got to be in it for the long haul. I’ve got to be patient. I’ve got to be diligent with my routines. And I’ve got to remember why I’m here in the first place.

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The easy thing to do would be to cut my losses and move on. Find another hobby, one that’s less painful and that my body agrees on. But I love it too much. And I’ve come too far. And I want to get back to that feeling of accomplishment.

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One thing’s for sure- I’m never done learning on this journey. Just when I think I have it all down, I’m reminded that I’ve got a long way to go. These moments are teachable… even if I learn the lesson while kicking and screaming. ;)

A full summer ahead.

As I’ve learned over the last year or so, part of what makes me a runner is my thirst for a new goal. No matter how much I declare I hate running in the thick of the miserable, it doesn’t take long before I want to find something new to work towards. So once I had worked out all my angries and lessons learned it was time to plan what to do with my summer. My hip is finally at a place where it doesn’t hurt more than it does, and I’m ready to work on getting back some “speed”. My break plus an injury really derailed any and all progress I had made from my fat days. It makes me want to cry when I think about my 26:41 5K PR (which I understand isn’t breathtaking but to me that was FAST guys!) and how now I’m applauding a pace that’s anything under a 10 minute mile. I keep telling myself that I’ll get back there- it’s just going to take some time and some hard work.

Getting there.

Take that- 10 minute miles!

It’s crazy to think that a year ago I was deeply consumed in triathlon training (and nightmares when I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic). Unfortunately I can’t do Iron Girl this year, but I’m almost okay with it because I know that it would never compare to what I experienced last year. I’m happy with those memories for now. And while I’m not spending a large amount of my summer swimming, biking, and running I have the sprint I did last Labor Day Weekend to look forward too – hopefully faster & better this time around.

Still, still, still... the best day ever.

Still, still, still… the best day ever.

On the topic of triathlons there’s a new twist to my summer… a Half Ironman!

KIDDING.

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What does 1/3 of a Half Ironman equal?

Well, kinda. I’m doing the run portion of a relay team… in other words, another half marathon! I’m excited because I really want to try the whole thing next summer (did I really just type that so nonchalantly? WHO AM I?) so it’s a good way for me to see what it’s like. I’m nervous at the same time. This is the first big race I have to do on my own and also without my cheerleader fiancee waiting for me every few miles. It’s going to be me and only me pushing myself for 13.1 miles. I want this to be the race where I defeat my fears and doubts and crazies. I want to prove that I CAN do it. If nothing else I’m banking on the fact that a DNF would let the rest of my team down- so hopefully that will keep me going.

If you weren’t getting tired from following my calendar … let me throw another half marathon in there.This one isn’t until October, but I’m using it as a redemption race for Chilly and Heartbreak – and I want to PR the pants off that baby.

And there you have it. A triathlon, 2 half marathons, a few other road races thrown in… oh and remember that I’m getting married in 2.5 months? Let’s just say I like to stay busy!

That bastard called perspective.

Since my hip wasn’t feeling that great post Heartbreak I was put into what we like to call “protective custody” for a full week. The good thing about not running for a week is that it gives you a lot of time to think. The bad thing is well, it gives you a lot of time to think (And also you can’t run and that sucks).

I let myself wallow in my self pity for a few days, which included a very childlike ”TERRIBLE!” answer to anyone who asked how the race was. And as what seems to always happen when I most need it- I was reminded by several people how proud I should be of my accomplishment,  how proud THEY were of me. As much as I wanted to hide in my embarrassment and disappointment the reality of the situation was that I had just finished my second half marathon in less than a year. To make it even more symbolic that same weekend, exactly one year prior, I had crossed the finish line of my first 10K. Half the distance I ran a year later. Even the most stubborn girl in the world can’t argue that that’s pretty incredible.

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Exactly one year (and 6.2 miles) apart.

I think I need reality checks like this from time to time. I need a little perspective. I need to a slap across the forehead to remind me how far I come. I just finished my second half marathon. A year ago I was pumped that I had run my first 10K. In just over two years I’ve gone from a certified lazy ass to an athlete. In the grand scheme of things, that is no easy task. Consequently, neither is a half marathon. And yet here I sit looking at the medals from two that I have completed. Damn you perspective, sometimes you suck.

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Same shirts, same girls… different accomplishment.

At the end of the week I shook off the last of my angry feelings. Wrote down my lessons learned and tucked them into my log book. And then I turned the page. Time to move on. Time for a new page. New week. New goal to write down. Time for something new to strive for and be proud of myself for.

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Who would have ever thought there was an athlete inside that girl?