Anyone who’s run a marathon, or who maybe hasn’t run a mile in their life, has given me their advice, wisdom, and two-cents since I announced that I was going to be training for Boston. Some of it has stuck. Some of it hasn’t. But there’s one nugget of wisdom in particular that has been keeping me (somewhat) sane during these last few weeks: “Life is like marathon training, it rarely goes according to plan”.
I like planning. I like for things to go according to said plan. I absolutely hate when things are out of my control. I’m only human.
Most of us start things with the best of intentions. At the beginning of a new semester we declare that we will do every reading assignment. At the start of a new relationship we tell ourselves that we’ll never nag our significant other. On New Years Day we make a vow to go to the gym 5 days a week, to eat more veggies and drink more water. A few days or weeks in, and those plans have shifted. We get sick. We get busy. We fall behind. Life happens.
When I copied that first week into my training log I envisioned every week looking as neat as my handwriting on the page. And then injury happened. Deep freezes and nearly 8 feet of snow. Long runs cancelled. Swims instead of runs. Routes changed. Treadmill miles. There’s been a lot more crossing out in my training log than I anticipated. And that’s the stuff that tends to throw me into panic mode. There have been quite a few times where I’ve thrown my hands up and cried “This isn’t what I signed up for! This isn’t how I expected it to go.”
And then I realize what a princess I sound like, and I try to bring it back to reality. Life doesn’t always go according to Plan A or B. Sometimes it’s not until Plan G rolls around that things work out. All you can really do is hope for the best, work with what you’ve got, and appreciate the little things. A room of friends, family, and even strangers who are gathered simply to support you. Running buddies who will delay their pancake eating just to wait for you to finish your slowpoke miles. The way a hot shower and pjs feel after a run when its -2 degrees. The feeling of pushing yourself that last half mile when all you wanted to do was quit. Having someone in your life who will stay up way past their bedtime just to calm your doubts and fears. Random conversations that say “Hey, I believe in you. You can really do this”. These are the little things, the things I need to remember when training gets tough.
Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is challenging, beautiful, and tear inducing for all of those reasons.
So is marathon training.
And that’s what makes it all worth it.
Remember just a week ago when I was all hopped up on motivation, marathon jackets and munchkins? Yeah, that’s gone now. Buried under feet and feet of snow to be more accurate. This (to quote my favorite singer and all-time girl crush) – this is exhausting.
It’s been almost a month of snow storm after snow storm. In between storms there’s deep freezes. Cross training has become shoveling snow to banks that loom far over my head. There are barely street to drive on, let alone sidewalks to run on. And in between the shoveling, pushing my little Corolla out of snow ditches, and commutes that have nearly tripled in time, I still have to figure out how to train for a marathon.
I want to quickly throw in a disclaimer that I know there that there are problems MUCH bigger problems in the city of Boston than not being able to run right now. People can’t get to work, roofs are caving in every hour, and businesses are losing money. But this is my little space to vent, and this is my challenge right now. Training for Boston isn’t just something that can wait until the snow melts.
My “F this S” moment came late Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a snowy cemetery. This was now my second long run that had become a chaotic “just try and get the miles in before the blizzard hits”. I had spent the last 11 miles trudging through snow banks, out of breath from running up Heartbreak Hill and from the wind blowing another storm in. I was cold and achy and – OVER IT. I absolutely love running – until I want to stop. And then I absolutely hate it.
I’m now three weeks “behind” in mileage. I wake up in the middle of the night frantically checking the weather to see if there’s been any updates to the weekend forecast. I haven’t run in my neighborhood in almost a month. I’ve spent more hours on the treadmill than I ever thought I would in my life. I knew training for a marathon was going to be hard. I knew that training for a marathon in the winter was going to be hard. I knew that training for the Boston Marathon was going to be hard. But sometimes this all just feels damn near impossible.
It was standing there in that cemetery that every fear I’ve been holding in came oozing out of my brain, and then out of my mouth. “What if my body just isn’t made to handle 26 miles? What if – what if I just can’t do this?” The fears have been circling in my brain long before training began but I don’t dare say them out loud. I’m the one that wanted this, I’m the one who declared “I WILL do this!” I shouldn’t be allowed to be standing among snow covered graves questioning my ability in the middle of February. I signed up for this shit, all on my own free will. But yet there I stood, wanting to be anywhere but there.
I keep telling myself that eventually the snow will eventually stop, my mental game will turn around, things will get better. But as I say this I’m stalking the weather for another storm this weekend, hoping that I get my long run in and that my fundraiser isn’t cancelled for a second time. “Spring” is just a month away, and the Marathon just a month after that. Ain’t nobody got time for this.
In case you are reading this and don’t live in the Boston area (or have been hibernating under a rock) – we’ve gotten a lot of snow over the last two weeks. A lot doesn’t even begin to describe it actually. A SHIT TON OF SNOW.
I don’t know whether I want to cry or laugh hysterically at the fact that the year I decide I’m going to try and run a marathon Boston gets HISTORIC snowfall amounts. If this isn’t Mother Nature’s hint that I should go back to being a fat kid- I don’t know what is.
But as much as I’d like to throw in the towel, or better yet, curl up in it and take a nap until I can see grass again – that just isn’t an option. Cus’ this thing is really happening – as confirmed every time I open the fridge.
So I’ve put together this little list of things that are helping to keep me motivated and excited during these dark, cold, snow covered weeks. My back pocket toolkit if you will.
… Searching “Boston Marathon” videos on Youtube. There’s nothing like Go Pro footage of someone breathing heavily as they make their way down Boylston to help me imagine what it’s going to feel like.
… If I wasn’t training for Boston I probably would have missed the gorgeousness of this run. I might despise winter but sometimes it can be beautiful – and a reminder of all you’d be missing if you just stayed in bed.
… The people I’m running for. Like this amazing woman who I think of every time I curl up with this quilt.
… My new collection of Mantrabands. I’m obsessed.
… This music video on repeat.
… Post long run splurges. Truth: they taste even better when shared with a best friend.
…And think about one of these around my neck.
COME ON SPRING!
It took a week longer than I planned but it finally happened….I broke past 13.1! After a few days of rest (which was strongly enforced by Mother Nature in the form of 3 feet of snow), I was finally able to do some test runs on the treadmill. And when the pain didn’t return I got the much anticipated green light for my long run. Wohoo!
As I laid out my clothes and packed my bag Saturday night the usual nervous butterflies started to creep in. The fact that I was finally going to run beyond the half marathon distance was pretty daunting. I kept thinking about how miserable I’ve gotten towards the end of every single half marathon. I thought about how I had to run further than that. And then I remembered how I felt just a week prior, devastated that I wasn’t spending my night preparing for my long run the next morning. That shut the butterflies right up.
Sunday morning was a balmy 14 degrees, with a real feel around zero. I was pretty nervous as we headed out, especially since it had been over a week since I’d run outside. Magically my feet still knew exactly what to do. The miles ticked by painlessly. Once we hit the water stop that was my cue to turn around and head back (I was cutting off a mile since I had missed the week before). I kept reminding myself that I was already halfway done and still feeling good. And just as my legs started getting tired I hit the stretch of Comm Ave where the CITGO sign looms above you. Instantly I felt goosebumps flow through my body. Suddenly my legs weren’t so tired anymore. If there was ever a “Holy shit, I’m training to run the BOSTON *%&!-ing MARATHON!”, it was this one. I’m glad the snow banks were high enough that people couldn’t see me cackling up the sidewalk. I finished the run tired and sore, but still alive.
I have a feeling that time is going to fly by from here on out. For months it felt like the Marathon was a stove pilot- there, but not much was happening. Suddenly it feels like everything is picking up. The miles are just going to get higher and higher. In just over a month I’ll attempt my longest training run. My first fundraising event is happening this weekend. I just keep telling myself to take a deep breath and take it all one day at a time, one mile at a time, one step at a time.
75 days to go!
I was going to just not write a blog post this week – let Wednesday go by and see if anyone noticed. It’s one of those weeks where I don’t want to write some BS cover up post, but I’m also tired of thinking about what’s been going on. But blogging is about the good and the bad – so here I am.
“What goes up must come down”. It’s a phrase we all learn as kids. As runners, we use it to help our legs power up and over hills. And as I’m learning, it’s also a phrase that also very much applies to marathon training. Just when things are going well, something happens to remind you this isn’t a smooth ride. Let me back up.
As I was leaving my weekly chiropractor appointment last week I got a fist bump as he said “How PUMPED are you that you are just killing marathon training?!”. I had finished my 12 miler that past weekend faster than I’ve run any of my halfs. Hills were back in my life and weren’t leaving me attached to my ice pack. Things seemed to be really working in my favor.
Then I got home later than expected and still had 4 miles to get in. It was cold, dark, and windy (as it typically is on a January night when you live by the ocean). I sat around in my running clothes for a solid 20 minutes throwing a temper tantrum because all I wanted to do was throw on my PJs, eat dinner, and curl up on the couch. It’s so late. I deserve a night off. I’m not in the mood to be outside for 40 minutes. Finally the guilt spoke louder than my excuses and I huffed and puffed my way out the door. I was barely a mile into my run before “battery low” turned into silence from my iPod. If I wasn’t pissed before, I was now.
Here’s where I keep trying to go back and remember what happened, what I could have done wrong. I know I ran angrily through the dark streets, cursing everyone and everything I could think of. And then somewhere around mile 3 I felt that familiar throbbing in my hip. That was the deciding factor that I was done and I headed inside to stretch and foam roll in a panic. Maybe it was my imagination. But when it hurt to lay on my side that night in bed I knew the pain was back.
I spent the rest of the week with my ice pack, the foam roller, and extra chiropractor appointments. And when the weekend came around I had to make the decision to miss my 14 miler. To say I was devastated is an understatement.
Every Saturday night I’ve been scared shitless about my long run the next morning, but despite my fears I was secretly excited for 14. It’s been 14 months since I’ve run a “new” distance and I just wanted to know what being on the other side of 13.1 felt like. My chest felt this combination of panic, anger, disappointment and sadness all rolled into one and I didn’t know how to deal with it except to cry (Which let’s be real – that’s my go to emotion for everything). I know this all sounds pathetic and absurd to be crying over such a thing as not being able to run 14 miles but until you’re an injured runner, until you are someone training for such an incredible goal, you don’t really get it. But when you’re there in that space, the emotional pain is so much stronger than the one you’re feeling in your body.
The good news is that as I’m writing this my hip is already feeling a lot better than it did – and as I’ve said before but will never say enough – I have an incredible team that’s working to get me to the start line healthy (and from not jumping off the ledge in the meantime). I know I have to stay optimistic, I know that this is just one of the bumps there will be in my road to Hopkinton. After all nothing worth having comes easy, and there is nothing I want more right now.
About a week ago I found myself standing with a colleague (who is also running Boston) and another man. It came up in conversation that we were both running the marathon and the man looked the two of us over (She happens to be incredibly long and lean) and then turned to her and said “Well, you look like a marathoner”. I instantly felt my face turn 15 shades of pink. I tend to reaction to situations like this in one of two ways: I either immediately spit out whatever slides onto my tongue, or I pinch my arm and keep quiet. I chose to go with the small bruise inside my elbow.
Of course when I replayed the scenario to my husband later that day I was all riled up. “How could he say that? How could he make that kind of comment? And what does HE know?!”
“Exactly babe” replied my always calm, always rational husband. “What does he know? You’d probably lose him in the first mile.”
It occurred to me then that after 2.5 years, 4 half marathons and a few dozen race bibs later, I STILL feel like I have to prove myself as a runner. But why?
The thing about runners is that you never know their full story. When you drive past someone chugging down the street you don’t know if they’re a quarter of a mile into their run or if they’re pushing through the last of 12 miles. Unless it’s tattooed on their body you don’t know how many marathons or 5Ks a person’s completed. You don’t know if they started running a week ago or if they’ve been a runner their whole life. The person you judge at the start line could pass you on that hill in the last mile. You just never know.
So I guess I have to let it go and cut the guy some slack. He has no idea that I am (about to be) a marathoner. He hasn’t seen me push through a double digit run, legs aching but determined not to quit. He couldn’t see the definition in my legs, the muscles I’m starting to discover. He didn’t get to look at my weekly schedule which besides running includes strength training, yoga, chiropractor visits, and swimming – all just to get me to the start line healthy. He hasn’t seen my feet, which are starting to require a larger than normal tip at the nail salon. He didn’t get to the hear the conversations that go back and forth in my head on a daily basis “Can you do this? You can totally do this. Are you crazy? You can’t do this!” He doesn’t know that 50% of the time even I’m not quite sure I look like a marathoner.
At the end of the day I don’t need to look like a marathoner to anyone but myself. And even if I don’t see it at times, I feel it inside of me. I feel that desire to push myself further, to run new distances that both excite and frighten me at the very same time, to see my feet cross that finish line, to feel that medal slide over my head.
And don’t worry buddy, after April 20th it will be hard to see me and NOT know that I just ran 26.2 miles. :-P
I’m a creature of habit. This has been well established. I like routine, I like familiarity, I like knowing what to expect. I enjoy being in my comfort zone. Hence why it took getting engaged to finally push me over the edge to do something about my weight. So as if training for a marathon wasn’t out of my comfort zone already, I decided I was going to join a running club.
There are very few people in this world who I can truly just go out and run with. And when I think about it, pretty much all of my training long runs have been solo. It’s just what I’m used to. But I knew that it was going to be pretty hard to motivate myself to run 20 miles alone in the dead of winter, and all of my friends training for Boston are just too fast for me. So it made sense to join L Street.
I’ve pretty much “grown up” as a runner around the L Street Running Club. I still remember going to my first Boston Expo and meeting the President. She asked me if I was running the Marathon and I said “Oh god no, I’m just running the 5K, I could never run a marathon.” She smiled and told me that would change someday. And well… here we are.
I’ve got a handful of friends in the club, and it was thanks to L Street that I got out of the city safely the day of the bombings. To me they are the epitome of “real runners”, so you can imagine my trepidation in joining. As scared as I was I submitted my membership application and told myself I had plenty of time before training began.
Why is it that the more you’re dreading something the faster it happens? Because before I knew it it was the night before our first long run and I was a nervous wreck. I felt like I was laying out my clothes for the first day of school as I sorted through my winter gear. I didn’t want anything too matchy-matchy (didn’t want to give off the appearance that I was trying too hard), and I was hesitant to wear my brand new pair of running shoes because I didn’t want anyone to think I was a New Year’s Resolutioner (Because really- who makes a resolution to run the Boston Marathon?).
I walked in Sunday morning with my hands nervously stuffed in my vest pockets. Quickly scanning the room I immediately discovered a rainbow of Boston Marathon jackets scattered around. Yep, playing with the big kids now. I tried to casually throw on my running shoes (the brand new ones won after all) and clung to the familiar faces I knew in the back of the room. The president spoke, acknowledging all of the newbies and made the declaration that there was “no pace too slow”. Phew. “Just PLEASE don’t let me be last” I silently prayed over and over again.
Before I knew we were off, emptying into the sleeping streets of South Boston. Luckily the friends I know stuck by me, so it was nice to have familiar faces running alongside of me. Even though it was my first day it felt really good to be part of a group, to have the speedy guys give you a wave and a “keep it up” as they zoomed past. It was nice to have a water stop that didn’t involve begging the woman at Dunkin Donuts for a cup of water. And it certainly kept me running up the hills, because I wasn’t about to be the girl who walked. Maybe this running club thing wasn’t so bad after all.
That’s the thing about comfort zones. As warm and as safe as they can be, sometimes it’s not so bad to break out of them. Sometimes choosing the unknown things, the scary things, end up being the best decisions. It’s where new friendships form, change happens, and where you discover the person you’re truly meant to be. It’s why people take on the challenge of running 26.2 miles. Not because it’s easy and safe, but because it’s scary and electrifying all at the same time. And if I’m gonna break out of one comfort zone, might as well take on another while I’m out there.
Last weekend I had a really shitty long run. You know which ones I’m talking about. The kind where your pants are falling down, your shirt is riding up, and your headphones feel like they are hitting your eardrum. One of those.
It should have been a breeze, since I only had 6 miles on the schedule (at what point in my life did it become ONLY six miles by the way?) but for some reason I was gasping for air with every street corner I turned. I told myself I would get 3 miles away from the house so that I’d be forced to do the full 6. But after cutting some corners I called it a day with 5 and some change. It just wasn’t happening.
This of course caused one of those “What the hell am I doing?!” moments. I only had to run 6 miles and I failed at it. How in the world am I supposed to get my body to run 20 more? I know, I know, bad runs happen. But knowing that still doesn’t stop the panicked thoughts from happening.
I’m attempting to become a grown-up runner these days, so I pushed back my worries and looked ahead at making my next run better. I had 9 miles to do, and toyed all week with making part of it a 5K I’ve run for the last two years. I knew missing the race would make me sad, but I hated the thought of how slow my time would be (I’ve PR’d in that race both times). Eventually not missing out on the first race of the season with my running group won me over, and I signed up on the last day. I decided I would run 6 miles TO the race and meet them for the last 3, that being in the race atmosphere with my friends would give me the push to finish my run.
It was a cold, drizzly, slushy morning as I headed out the following Sunday. Each mile that passed was another mile closer to meeting my friends, and all 6 were relatively painless. I found my buddies, chewed down a few beans, and we headed out to the start. For the first mile or so I cruised along, feeling the energy of the people around me. And then my legs started to remember they already had 7 miles down. They got tired. And heavy. I lost my friends, people started to pass me. For a second I felt embarrassed and then I reminded myself “Dude, you’re training for a $%*!-ing marathon”. I kept trucking.
I knew I had less than a mile to go but my legs were so tired. I was cold to my bones, and my shoes were so wet they felt like bricks. I wanted so badly to slow down, to walk for just a bit. I tried to think of anything and everything to keep my mind off of it: What song was going to come next on my iPod? What was I going to have for breakfast after? Which side of the road would my friends who were there cheerleading be on?
And then I saw it ahead of me. The unmistakable orange zest. A Boston Marathon jacket. There’s nothing in the world that I want right now more than that jacket. And while finishing these 9 miles wasn’t going to earn me a jacket, it was going to put me one step closer. So I locked my eyes on that orange zest ahead of me, and I didn’t take them off until the finish line was in sight.
One step closer.
Today I will bundle up and head out for my last easy 3 of 2014 which brings my total miles run this year to … 713. 713 miles for the girl who never thought she’d be a runner? Pretty awesome. What I’m even more shocked about is that this year I logged 54.26 miles IN THE POOL! That’s pretty much a mile a week. That’s like swimming to New Hampshire (okay so I didn’t swim all those miles at the same time- but you get my point). This number really impresses me because I was incredibly anxious about really learning to swim, and now it’s become routine to me.
When I filled out this survey last December I was still on my new runner high. I had just finished an impressive year of firsts and PRs and figured that rush would just spill into a new year. And then came injury. Setbacks. Learning you can’t build speed and distance at the same time. ACCEPTING that you can’t build speed and distance at the same time. This year has had a lot of ups and downs, but I think I’ve learned a lot. After a year of 14 races (5 5Ks, 2 5 milers, 2 10Ks, 3 half marathons and 2/3rds of a triathlon) I’m ready to take what I’ve learned and work towards new challenges, new accomplishments, and as few niggles as possible. Here’s to a 3rd New Years Eve without resolutions, but with a commitment to keep moving forward.
Best race experience: I have two favorites here. The first being the Hingham 4th of July Road Race. I had just (barely) finished a miserable half, was in the middle of injury land, and felt terrible about my running in general. It simply took two friends sticking back to run with me, a few patriotic facts, and endless jokes to turn it into one of the best races I’ve done.
The other is the Timberman Half. The combination of a double out-and-back, a mid day start, and the first 13.1 I conquered on my own still give me goosebumps of pride. A challenge that seemed so impossible at first, but somehow I crossed that finish line grinning from ear to ear.
Worst race experience: Although there were a few “memorable” (for better or worse) races this year the Pilgrimman Tri definitely wins. A few weeks ago I slid into a lane at the pool with a guy wearing the yellow swim cap I threw away, and immediately felt my face turn 50 shades of pink. I’m still ashamed, still angry, and still a little shaken over the whole ordeal.
Race I will never forget: The Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run! From the half marathoners showing up shirtless with their numbers pinned to board shorts, to when I turned my head to find horses running alongside the course, this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I go back to it in my mind when my nose won’t stop running and my cheeks hurt from the cold wind. :)
Best run: My wedding morning “shake out” run. I’ll never forget heading towards the beach as the sun came up, letting the familiarity of “right left right” calm the nervous energy flowing through my body. I arrived back at my house excited, refreshed, and ready to be transformed into a bride.
Best new piece of gear: With Christmas less than a week behind us I would have to say all of the awesome winter gear my husband got me for marathon training. Which he wrapped in individual boxes. With motivational quotes on each of them. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this guy?
Best piece of running advice I’ve received: “Do it for you”. My PRs are never going to impress anyone, there will always be someone out there who is faster than me, and the majority of you could give two shits about my goals for 2015. Not a soul could read my weekly posts and I would keep writing them. I do it for myself, as a journal of my progress and a way of holding myself accountable. And if someone happens to read it and feels motivated to do the same that’s just a bonus. At the end of the day only I know where I’ve come from, only I know what I’m capable of, and I’m the one who gets to celebrate those wins, as tiny as they sometimes may be. My motivation can’t be to prove to someone else I can do something, I’ve got to prove it to myself.
Most inspirational runner: I have to take my answer from last year and firmly stick with it again. Because in fact, there’s still no one who inspires me more than she does. For a girl who is often so afraid to challenge and push herself, it’s crazy to observe someone who does it over and over again. I need someone to hold my hand and jump off the ledge with me, and she just dives in head first. She pushes and challenges herself without hesitation, at least in my eyes. The great thing about this relationship is that watching her dive in helps me be a little braver. Makes me want to try it too. And that’s turning out to be a pretty great thing. :)
If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Learning. Foam rolling. Stretching. Persistence.
I’m now two weeks into marathon training and day by day this “let’s get nutrition back on track” plan is becoming more routine. It’s certainly not easy but just like in running – it’s one foot in front of the other. Today’s blog post is a compilation of the things that have been making it all a little easier.
We moved to a new neighborhood this fall, which happens to be a lot hillier than where we were living before. In particular there is one miserable hill that sits smack dab in the middle of this summer time 5 Miler (Which if you have been reading my blog for a while, is the race where I don’t exactly remember crossing the finish line of in 2013). Now that it practically looms over our house there’s not many running routes I can take without avoiding it. So I run it. And let me tell you- there’s nothing better than taking a bad day out on a run, plowing up that hill and turning around to give it the finger (which I do, every time). Bill Dunn, I’m coming back for you this summer!
I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that I just discovered podcasts. More specifically Serial. Even more specifically – THAT I CAN PUT PODCASTS OF SERIAL ON MY iPOD! GENIUS! I could easily binge on the entire series in a day, so I’m only allowing myself to listen during long runs. I was almost giddy over my 9 miles last Sunday because I realized I could get in almost three whole episodes. Is there anything better than solving crimes and pounding miles simultaneously on a Sunday morning?
The chiropractor has become my new favorite person, and not just because he snaps, crackles, pops, and scrapes my body back in place. My long run last weekend left me in pain which naturally put me into a panic. With a quick phone call we moved my appointment up to the next day. As soon as I walked in he calmed my fears, asked about my mileage for the upcoming week, and gave me some new stretches to add to my routine at home. I love how involved he’s gotten in my training in this short amount of time, and it feels great to have someone else on my support team. It’s going to take a village to get this girl to a marathon and I am eternally grateful for this village I have.
Nutrition is definitely always going to be a struggle for me. For the last few weeks I’ve been trying to get in the mindset that what I eat for Boston is just as – if not more- important than what I run in preparation for Boston. This whole mindset of “eating like an athlete” is still a weird concept for me, but I’m working on it. And there’s nothing like spending the Sunday before Christmas making egg muffins and DIY granola bars while everyone else is baking Christmas treats to make you feel like one bad ass, goal oriented athlete. :)
Click here to learn more about who I am running the 119th Boston Marathon for and how you can help :)