Monthly Archives: June 2014

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!

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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?

 

Heartbreak.

I knew I was going into this race with the odds against me. I was coming off an injury, had spent very little time training (let alone training on hills), the forecast was projecting the hottest day of the year, and it was already well known this wasn’t going to be an easy course.  It was obvious that this wasn’t going to be an all star performance. I repeated it in my head over and over, even as I stood at the start line. But I’m human after all and that means that as much as I knew what the odds were – there was still a tiny part of me that wanted more.
It wasn’t so much that I wanted to have some record breaking run. A PR of even a few seconds would have been so incredible to me. But more important than anything else I wanted to prove that I could beat my most constant barrier- my mind. I knew that despite everything else that day that was the one aspect of my race that I could improve on. That I could show myself and others that I had defeated it. As I stood at the start line, my heart racing as the countdown began, I repeated over and over to myself my internal goal. Don’t stop. Don’t let your brain take over your feet. You are stronger than you think.
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And I felt strong, for a few miles anyway. The early miles were relatively easy, it was hot but managable, and I was just so happy to finally be out there running with my buddy. When I started to feel tired and noticed that we were barely at Mile 5 I got worried. But I told my brain “Stop thinking that way. You’re fine. 5 miles is nothing”. And then the hills started. The sun got even higher. It was brutally hot.The three sport beans I ate felt like I had swallowed a spoonful of peanut butter. I knew things weren’t going well.
And then, just like in my first half marathon, things got hazy. When my hip couldn’t handle the uphills I finally gave in to walking them. My legs felt heavy, my fingers felt prickly, every part of my body hurt. I tried to listen to the jokes and the advice but it hurt to even process what was being said to me. As much as I tried to remind myself how hard I had worked to get myself to this place, I just wanted to be anywhere but on that course. Instead of repeating my positive mantras my thoughts started to turn to “Maybe you’re just really not cut out for distance running”.
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Somewhere around Mile 10 I declared that I was done, I wanted out. The plan was to leave me with our support crew the next time we saw them on the side of the road. I huffed along in silence, trying to decide what would make me cry more- continuing on to the finish or hanging my head at my first DNF.
By some weird twist of fate they ended up being further along the course than they were supposed to, so we barely had a mile left by the time I spotted the sign. and I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I cut out a mile to the finish. As painful as it was, I pushed on.
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Eventually we started to hear cheering, music, all the signs that mean the end is near. I heard my name announced as I crossed the finish line and instead of that feeling pride at what I had just finished I felt shame. As I hobbled down the finish chute to claim my medal I knew in my heart I didn’t deserve it. I had done nothing medal worthy that day. I had wanted to prove that my legs could out run my mind and again, I was proved wrong. It was the most disappointed in myself I have ever felt after a race.
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I came home after the race and declared that I was done running. Why was I putting myself through so much pain? By the next night I thought maybe I would go back to running just 5Ks. The next day, I was searching the interwebs for my next challenge. I am determined to beat my mental game, even if it kills me (and Sunday was a pretty close call). I know that it will happen… at some point. The only way I’m going to get better is if I keep on trying. so I’ll get back out there. And I’ll hang up my medal and my bib with all my others. At some point hopefully I will realize that I earned it.
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Because every day is a holiday to me.

The details of those first few steps are so vividly engrained in my brain. I remember waking up, wondering what would ever posess me to set an alarm on a Saturday morning. I remember lacing up my sneakers, the only pair I owned that I had gotten on sale at Kohl’s with my mom. I remember fumbling to tuck my key into my capris as I made my way to the stretch of sidewalk, checking to see if anyone was awake yet to judge me. It was already so sunny and warm. I remember telling myself “just get to that light pole- you can make it that far.”

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And then I was off, awkwardly bobbing as I kept my eyes on the nearing light pole. Once I reached it I stopped- gasping for air. Step one: check. I jogged to the next one. Walked for a bit. Jogged to the next one. As I ran I adjusted my capris, rolled up the sleeves of my cotton t-shirt, tried to figure out what to do with my arms. When it seemed like I had gone far enough I turned around and repeated the process back to my car. I wiped the sweat from my face and tried to get my breathing back to a normal pattern. I gave myself a mental high five and promised the beach I would be back the next day. I wasn’t sure how, but this time I was going to stick with it.

I’m still not sure what kept me going day after day that summer on the beach. Those first steps SUCKED. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe and run at the same time. My shins hurt. The sidewalk on the beach had no shade and it was HOT AS BALLS. But somehow, for some unknown reason, I kept going. I downloaded the Couch to 5K App on my phone and dutifly followed the prompts. I did a little victory dance every time I heard “Activity Complete” in my headphones.

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As my weight dropped it got a little easier. I figured out what to do with my arms. I learned how to breathe without feeling like someone was jabbing my side with a pitchfork. I made it past 3 light poles, 5 light poles… a full mile.

I signed up for my first 5K. It took three races before I was able to run the full 3 miles without stopping. But I was hooked. As much as I wanted every race to be over half a mile in, there was something addicting about pinning on that paper bib, about linining up with all those other runners, about crossing over that finish line. I was so proud of those bibs that I tacked them up on the fridge after every race. I was enchanted in a way I had never been enchanted before.

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I went on to run a 5 Miler, a 10K, a half marathon. I became a triathlete. Each challenge more difficult than the last, but with an even sweeter feeling once I crossed the finish line. I discovered that insatiable thirst for wanting to see if you could push yourself just a little harder and just a little further. I traded in my crappy Kohl’s sneakers for a real pair of running shoes, for spandex pants, for tank tops when I got braver. I got a running hat, a GPS watch, a log book. I started running for so long that I needed to fuel half way through. I actually caught myself saying “what’s 3 more miles?” more than a handful of times.

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Today is declared a national day to celebrate running but let’s face it- every day is National Running Day for me. I celebrate it with my overstuffed drawer of race shirts, with my 13.1 sticker on my car, with the bracelets on my arm that remind me where I’ve been and where I’m going. There’s not a person in my circle of friends and family that probably doesn’t think of running after they hear my name, and that’s fine by me. I’m perfectly okay soaking up too much of a good thing for the time being.

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I wasn’t born to run. Nor am I naturally talented. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have zero talent when it comes to running. No one will ever look at me and think “That girl’s got speed”. I’m never going to win first place for my age group. I’m never going to have perfect form. But I like to think that what I lack in talent I make up for in heart and determination. As hard as running is for me there’s something about that feeling afterwards. Something that makes me want to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

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My celebration today begins at 5:15am where I get to go to the job I love, and help others use running to move themselves forward in life. And I will end it at the track with the sun setting behind me as I coach a group of women through their first days of running. At some point I will go for my own run, where I will head down to the beach. I will run on the same sidewalk that saw me through those first painful jogs, through my interval training, and is now often a water stop for my long runs. I will celebrate National Running Day all day today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. (And then maybe I’ll take a rest day 😉 )

Happy National Running Day!

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