Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ready or not… it’s taper time!

In the last few days I’ve noticed that I’m feeling kind of crazy (more than normal anyway). I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night worried about something, but unsure of what. I’ve been going through the day with this anxious butterfly feeling in my stomach, waiting for my premonitions to show themselves. And then I realized I’ve felt this feeling before. And it can only mean one thing… it’s taper time.
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Suddenly the memories of the weeks and days before T-Day come flooding back at rapid speed. Ah yes this anxious, nervous “I can’t focus on anything except this absurd physical challenge I’m about to attempt” feeling… which I’m told is normal? I’m also being told that I am ready (at least physically) but mentally… I so don’t feel ready.

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In tears from the pride I felt of running 12 miles… and from the pain of running 12 miles.

After I finished my 12 Miler (my longest training run) I felt proud and accomplished… but also like I needed to run it one more time before I could feel confident about moving onto 13.1. I felt like one shot at that far of a distance is simply not enough to convince me I’m ready to do this. I told myself that all these worries would be addressed in my last long run the following weekend.

And as much as I was counting on my 9 miler calming all my doubts and fears… I never got to run it. Due to some recurring aches and pains (and my first x-ray at the age of 29!) my trainer decided that it was in my best interest to skip my last long run. So if I wasn’t in panic mode before… this officially elevated me to freak out zone. I angrily headed to the pool, wishing I was out hitting the pavement instead of swimming laps. I needed that last long run for my mental health. I needed to try my mid run fuel one more time. I needed to test my race day outfit. I needed to feel confident that I can actually run that far in one shot (My 12 miler was a team 5K followed by a run on my own so in my eyes that doesn’t count). Stop the clock. Back it up. I’m not ready.

My new best friend these days.

My new best friend these days.

But as un-ready as I feel this is it, there’s no turning back. There is no stopping the clock, there is no last minute cramming. My naivety in this situation is making it worse for me and part of me wonders- who do I think I am, trying to run a half marathon? How do I mentally get myself to a place where I can do this? What will 13.1 miles feel like? Everyone keeps telling me I’m ready but what if.. I’m actually not? I keep trying to remind myself that I’m feeling what every runner feels leading up to a big race… yet that doesn’t make these feelings any less real or scary.

I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy this time. This is it- these next 11 days are to runners what the 11 days before Christmas are to kids. You know exactly what I mean here. As the green and red paper chain got smaller and smaller you would get more and more excited and anxious. You’d imagine racing down the stairs and ripping into all the presents you painstakingly flagged in toy catalogues. Before you could blink on Christmas Morning everything would be opened, the presents put away, the wrapping paper cleaned up, and you were left with that “I have to wait a WHOLE year to feel this way again” feeling. If running my first half is anything like doing my first triathlon, I know that feeling will come. And for as nervous and unprepared as I felt leading up to T-Day, when I got in the water my body knew to do exactly what it had been trained to do. “Trust in your training”. 4 small words that are easy to say, yet so hard to practice. So right now I’m focusing on my Christmas Day. I’m trying to trust. I’m trying to envision what it will be like to run down that last stretch of the course, cross the finish line, have a medal put on my neck, and to bask in the bad ass glory of finishing my first half marathon.

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Between a rock and a (cold) hard place.

For anyone who knows me, there is no question that I am a complete summer girl. I like the constant warmth of the sun, how everything tastes better on the grill, and the nights where the sky doesn’t get dark until 9pm. For someone who usually can’t sit still for 5 minutes it’s amazing how many hours I can spend curled up in my beach chair with a good book.

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My happy place.

When I can no longer arrange my weekends around beach trips I give into fall. I trade my sundresses and flip flops for boots and scarves, I fall into the “pumpkin everything” cult, I apple pick, I leaf peep. I’ll admit that living in New England at this time of year is gorgeous and scenic- and that running through crunchy leaves feels a lot better than through a swamp of humidity.

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Why does ANYTHING with the word pumpkin in the title automatically taste delicious?

But as quickly as the leaves turned shades of yellow and orange they seem to be swept up in bags and suddenly everything is bare and gray. It’s cold. And always dark. (Seasonal depression much?) And the reality sets in that it’s going to be a long, cold winter before I get to see my beach chair again.

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I’ll admit that it’s pretty…for now.

This is the time of the year that for me (And I’ll say probably a large majority of New Englander’s) it’s hard to get up for a morning run in the pitch dark. It’s hard to want to change into my bathing suit and head to the pool after a long day when I could just cuddle up on the couch with a blanket. It’s hard to say no to warm comfort foods like pumpkin desserts and gooey mac and cheese (My absolute weakness in life). Thinking of all the layers I have to put on just to go for a run is absolutely exhausting.

I’ve been thinking back to last winter- how did I stay so motivated? What made me keep going through all those cold, miserable months? How did I run and workout day in and day out? And suddenly, this girl pops into my head:

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I think of how hard it was to be this girl. I think about how hard it was to feel comfortable in her skin, in her clothes. I think about how hard it was for her to run up the stairs.  How hard it was to want to go clothes shopping when nothing looked or felt right. How hard it was to see herself in pictures, a visual reminder of what she was trying to avoid. And then I think of this girl:

photoThe girl who cried in the middle of a fitting room last week because the jeans she had just put on were a size she hadn’t seen since high school. How seeing your hard work pay off in such a physical way that it leaves you with no words,only tears of happiness.  The hard work that didn’t just happen on warm, picture perfect days.  It happened in the cold, in the snow, and in the rain. It happened in the dark hours of the early morning. It didn’t take a break for the holidays. It was all day, every day – and it was worth every second of it.

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There’s beauty to be found even in frigid runs.

Suddenly getting up in the dark isn’t so bad – there’s nothing like thinking you’re the first person to see a spectacular sunrise in mid run. And once you get home from a good pool workout there’s no better feeling than jumping in the hot shower and throwing on your favorite sweatpants. And all those delicious pumpkin-y baked goods are amazing- in moderation. My motivation is so clear: to keep around the girl whose crying over her skinny jeans, and keep away the girl whose crying over how she looks in pictures. And to that I say: bring on the cold, and bring on the dark (but please- hold off on the snow!) 🙂

I get by with a little help from my friends

This past weekend wasn’t about me and my running. For once I wasn’t the person pinning on my bib and heading to the start line. Most of my running buddies had their big marathons or half marathons so I instead played support squad and traded in my bib for some neon poster board.

I haven’t actually been on the cheering side of a race since the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and I was surprised at how much could be evoked six months later. The signs, the cowbells, the repetitive cheers… it brought back some pretty powerful feelings that I guess I don’t notice when I’m the one hitting the pavement. At one point we were walking back towards the finish line and happened to wind up on the sidewalk across from a building on fire and the sound of all the sirens made my heart jump out of my body. Maybe it’s something that will take a while to go away. Maybe it’s something that will always come back when I’m on the other side.

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Ironically the race I was spectating was the B.A.A.‘s Half Marathon so while there were some eerie goosebumps, it also felt really great to be back out there doing some well deserved cheering. Part of me felt a little left out that I was the one staying behind while my friends headed to the start line without me, but I’m happy with my decision to wait another month before attempting my own half marathon. This wasn’t my race to run.

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So instead I drew up my best signs and pulled out my strongest cheering voice. I woke up before my alarm and could barely finish my breakfast simply because I was excited at what great things were in store for them that day. I sent good luck texts to the ones far away, and gave the others good luck hugs before I sent them off to the start line. Along the course I chanted their names, reminded them how great they were doing. I did the things that I know mean the world to me when I am trying to will myself to a finish line. And while I gladly would have hopped over the barricades to join them if given the chance, it felt good to be on the other side for a change.

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I played volleyball in high school because I felt like playing a sport was what I was supposed to do, not because I fell in love with it. And therefore while I enjoyed the two short years (Yep, didn’t make it past JV folks) on the team, I don’t think I ever really got the full experience. While I won’t tell you that if I were to go back in time I’d join the track team, running is what makes me happy at this point in my life. I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s evoked a passion in me that I never thought I had, and therefore has given me another circle of friends that I never expected to find. And while I love and treasure all the different groups of friends from the different aspects of my life- there’s something to be said for your running friends. A friendship that revolves around long runs, planning race logistics, and good foot talk. A friendship where some of your best conversations come from an early morning run. A friendship where you can all sit crammed in a small car and not even notice the awful stench. A friendship where the dress code for dinner is spandex pants and neon shirts. I started running as a way to lose weight and somewhere along the way got sucked in more than I ever expected. I don’t know that I’d still be running if it wasn’t for their support along the way- I certainly wouldn’t be running my first half marathon in less than a month. I’d be lying if I said they aren’t one of my favorite parts of being a runner.

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And so I spent my weekend helping coordinate outfits, calculating projected times, and taking pictures of big grins and medals. I joined in the the usual post race food fest (Being the support team makes you almost as hungry as running!) and celebrated them the way they celebrate me. And when Monday morning came around I woke up feeling energized and ready to tackle my long run. After all- some of us still have a half marathon to train for.

A run-ivesary if you will

I did something really cool this weekend. I ran a 5K…. on a whim…. completely BY MYSELF.

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I guess I should back up and say that it wasn’t entirely on a whim, this 5K holds a special place in my running story as it was my first real “road race” last year (The Diva Dash is one of those obstacle races that involves more jumping in stacks of hay than running). When I got the email in the middle of the summer announcing registration I shoved the date in the back of my mind and got back to triathlon training. As the date got closer and closer I decided that I would literally wake up that morning and see how I felt about doing it.

I was woken up Sunday morning by the sound of heavy raindrops smashing on the pavement outside. Staying in bed seemed like a much better idea than driving 30 minutes to run a 5K, especially where I knew I’d have to run another 6 miles at some point in the day ( I was going to attempt 9 miles for my long run this week). And then I got curious about how much time I could shave off. When I ran this race last year it was the first time I wore running shoes for a race. I didn’t know the “you don’t wear the race shirt on race day” rule.  I didn’t know about paces and watches. I woke up too nervous to eat my pre race english muffin. I didn’t even know I HAD a pre race meal. So much had changed since then, and I needed to see it for myself. With a sigh I threw on my running clothes, grabbed my backpack, left a note for my fiancee, and slipped out the door into the cold rainy morning.

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As I drove up to the parking lot everything suddenly seemed very familiar. Ironically it was a cold and rainy day last year, so I literally was having a Déjà vu moment. I walked up to the table to register, threw my stuff in the car, and headed to the start line. The race is one of those small, family-friendly ones where there are more walkers pushing strollers than racers. As everyone stood around chatting I felt a little lonely, but mostly excited. It felt strangely exhilarating to be there all by myself.

The gun went off, and everyone took off in a sprint. At first I got caught up in the excitement but quickly remembered I didn’t want this to end in a burn out. So I kept a pretty good pace, faster than normal but not to the point where I was dying. As I ran I remembered what it was like running this race last year. I remembered the walking breaks, I remembered using landmarks in the neighborhood where I would make myself start running again… I remembered how incredibly long 3 miles seemed back then.
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I finished the first two miles with a pace under 9 minutes, quickly did the math and realized, “Holy shit, I could actually PR here”. Suddenly as tired I was starting to feel (Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve run this fast!) I pushed myself to keep going. I thought about how much I wanted to stop last year, and it made me want to run harder. As I rounded the last corner I saw the time on the clock and in unison my heart and feet soared past the finish line.
photo (7)At all my races I am immediately surrounded by my fiancee and my running buddies so it felt a little weird to finish and not recognize a single soul around me. I grabbed some water, grinning like an idiot. No one there knew what an amazing victory I was celebrating inside. No one there knew that I had just PRed, no one knew I couldn’t run 3 miles at this time last year, no one knew that I was going to go home and run another 6. And I could have cared less that no one knew, because I did and in that moment… that was all that mattered. No one else woke me up that morning. No one else drove me there, registered me, or stood at the start line with me. No one else told me what pace I should be running. And when I got tired, no one was there to push me across that finish line except myself. Every single aspect of that 5K was all on me. Since I began running I’ve always had a problem getting caught up in my own head, of selling myself short or letting my brain tell my legs to stop. And in the last twenty six minutes and fifty five seconds I had proven that I could push past all of that. A PR in so many more ways than just a time on the clock.
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PS. Speaking of PR’s-  last year I ran the Trot for Special Tots in 34:10… almost 8 minutes slower than I did this year. Another 8 minutes off next year seems pretty unlikely, but I’m starting to learn to never say never these days.

PPS. I also have to disclaim that I will never again run a “really fast” 5K, sit in the car for 30 minutes, and then attempt a long run. I am still getting yelled at for it… from my legs AND from my trainer 🙂

Lessons Learned.

I can’t believe that I’m in my 6th week of half marathon training. Which in turn means… I’M HALF WAY THERE! (Side note: does half way to a half make it a quarter? haha) Ironically I’m not freaking out as much as I was 6 weeks out from T-Day. It all feels very different. I guess in training for my first triathlon I was training for the complete unknown, where as now I’m just training for well… a whole lot of running. I’ve also been making it a point to keep myself focused on one week at a time which I find is helping to keep my anxiety relatively low. I guess I haven’t really come to accept that I am actually going to run thirteen point one freaking miles in 6 weeks. Alright, saying that out loud may have just raised my anxiety level a little.

New Saturday routine... adding up my mileage for the week!

New Saturday routine… adding up my mileage for the week!

In training for my first half marathon I’ve been learning all sorts of new things. But sorry if you are reading this thinking I’m going to be a wealth of knowledge, tips and tricks. The truth is that I actually have NO idea what I am doing here.  I’m just flying by the seat of my running pants, learning as I go.

Paces & Long Runs
It was just my luck that I got my first GPS watch for my birthday right before I started half training. I must have had about 3 or 4 near death experiences that first week because my eyes were glued to the little screen and not paying attention to the cars about to squish me. I felt like I couldn’t control my pace. Too fast, too slow, I was the Goldilocks of the running world.

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I’m finally getting a hang of it (for the most part). Suddenly my runs feel like they have a purpose. Warm up this mile, maintain this pace, it’s like a game to me. I’m also finally starting to understand the concept of long runs. Increasing my mileage every week seems incredibly daunting at first, but somehow it’s not as bad when you get so caught up in conversation that before you know it you’ve already run 5 miles. Yeah, that happened.

A cool, crisp morning, a beautiful sunrise and the company of a good friend and suddenly- those long runs don't seem so scary.

A cool, crisp morning, a beautiful sunrise and the company of a good friend and suddenly- those long runs don’t seem so scary.

A New Food Group
Never in my life did I ever think I’d reach a point where I would be working out for so long that I would actually need to refuel. I was given some GU for part of a birthday present (You’ve reached a new point in life when THIS is an exciting gift) and I have to admit, the shiny silver packages intrigue the hell out of me. I felt like I was being handed some sort of illegal substance. Can I just tear into one at home? Should I try it alone? What is it going to do to me? What does it taste like? To a former fat kid they appear to be fun little packages of frosting. From what I hear- they are not. I did however get to try my first sport beans the other day and the idea of being told to eat candy so early in the morning was pretty exciting. I was however disappointed when I did not turn into a swift cheetah upon swallowing them.

Back to Basics
You would think by now that I of all people would understand the importance of proper nutrition and stretching. Training for my first half marathon has put both completely into perspective. When I eat crap all weekend, I feel like crap on my Monday run. Maybe I should have learned this earlier, but it finally rings true that what you put into your body affects your output. (Rocket science, right?) When my nutrition is great and I’m properly fueled I feel like I could run forever. When it’s not, I struggle to make it a mile. Lesson learned.

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Happy body = happy runner 🙂

I’ve also come to realize that I’ve been quite the half ass when it comes to stretching. Turns out just going through the motions doesn’t really do much for you. And now that I’m running so many days a week I pretty much wake up with some new ache or pain every day.  Enter stretching. PROPERLY. Game changer. Sometimes I even stretch on the days I DON’T run… Imagine that!

hurts so good!

hurts so good!

The irony is that at the end of the day- I love it. I love every part of training. Part of me wonders if I’m not working hard enough if I’m enjoying it this much. Part of me wonders if I just haven’t hit the hard part yet. Or maybe because it’s just all so new to me that it’s still exciting. I love having different routes for different runs. I love how I actually look forward to the pool now to unwind from a long week of running. I love adding up my milage, and seeing myself run further than I’ve ever gone before. I love finishing a long run and being enveloped in that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes me want to go out and do it again. Makes me want to see just how far I can go. Makes me feel like a real runner. Makes me feel a little more ready to conquer thirteen point one freaking miles in SIX WEEKS! 

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