Dear Half Ass,
The last of the gray snow piles are melting. The days are getting longer, the birds are once again becoming a familiar background noise. Around you everyone’s minds are turning to baseball season, flip flop weather, garden planning. And while these things are on your mind too there’s something else that these chilly spring evenings remind you of. Something even better.
It’s now been three years. Three years since that night you sucked in your breath (and your gut), wiped your sweaty palms, and walked through that door. Three years since you finally admitted that you wanted help, to change, a different lifestyle. In some way the memories of those days seem blurry- it’s hard to imagine life without sweat, burpees, long runs and sore muscles. But sometimes you remember every single detail of how truly hard those days were.
It’s been an incredible journey to watch – highs and lows, weight losses and gains. Training cycles, My Fitness Pal, bedtime stories, egg muffins. I sat back and winced as you struggled through your first mile, watched your face beam as you ran a 5K without stopping, saw you cross the finish line of your first half marathon. I saw you learn how to swim, become a triathlete. Watched your strength and confidence change as your body did. I saw the satisfaction in your face when your jeans slid down your waist, caught you discovering muscles in places you never knew existed. I cheered at the finish line as you cruised into PRs, and comforted you as you learned that not every race goes as planned. I watched you form the most incredible bonds with people you never expected to have anything in common with. At first you were nervous to trust them but you quickly learned how much they cared about you, how much they just want to see you succeed.
It’s hard to believe that three years ago you stood in Kenmore Square, in your tight fitting size 14 shorts, wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever run 26.2 miles … FOR FUN. It’s even harder to believe that in just 16 days you will join thousands of other athletes (which by the way, you are now too!) at the start line in Hopkinton. You will stand there knowing that you have trained just as long and just as hard as everyone else to run the greatest race in the world. You have changed your body, your lifestyle, your mind, all for this. You will make that epic trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. And when you cross that finish line you will have proved that you truly can do anything if you set your mind to it.
People like to joke about how you continue to celebrate this day, but you and I both know how important it is to you. Important that you celebrate, that you remember the journey it took to get to this place, and that it doesn’t stop here. I know I’m quick to judge you – to nag you that you run too slow or that your thighs are too big – but the truth is that I couldn’t be more proud of you. I don’t tell you that nearly enough.
The sky is the limit girlfriend. Happy Anniversary.
It seemed years away when I first got my training schedule. “Plenty of time before I even have to think about that” I told myself. Then again I was pretty preoccupied with worrying about all of those numbers in the middle-, 12, 14, 16, 18. But as we all know- the more you try to push something to the back of your mind the faster it seems to comes up. So before I knew it it was March, and suddenly I found myself watching the hours close in on my first 20 miler.
For some reason 20 miles just sounded like this absurd number to me. I mean to a normal person it IS absurd, right?! TWENTY MILES. That’s freaking far. Almost mythical. But if you’re training for a marathon, it’s what you do.
After a fitful night of sleep my alarm finally went off at the crack of dawn- quite literally since as luck would have it it was also Daylight Savings. “OH SHIT” was the first thought that popped into my head. I arrived at B.C. just as the sun was coming up. As I stood in the group waiting for the bus I hoped that people would just assume I was shivering from the cold, not from fear.
As soon as the bus door shut and we began to roll out of campus I felt my stomach drop. All I could do was stare out the window and force myself to take deep breaths. With every intersection that we drove through it wasn’t an “Are we there yet?” but a “WE’RE SERIOUSLY STILL NOT THERE YET?!” Twenty miles felt far even DRIVING (Which reminds me- someone slip me a sedative before the bus ride on April 20th?)
Somewhere between wanting the agony of the ride to end and wanting to stall for more time the bus pulled over to the side of the road. It reminded me of a scene in one of those movies where suddenly you see the main character emerging from a cloud of exhaust next to a corn field as a bus pulls away. Except that we were in Ashland Massachusetts, and the only way to get home was to run there.
Despite the fact that I was an absolute shit show of nerves somehow my feet still knew what to do. And I noticed that with the more steps I took the more my breathing fell into a pattern, my hands got less clammy, my nervous chatter slowed down to my every day babble. The more the miles passed the more my nerves disappeared. My confidence grew.
And then this magical thing happened- Mile 10 hit (the halfway point) and I barely felt it. 10 miles is far too often my crashing point but for once, I felt strong. I started to get giddy. “Holy shit, I’m ACTUALLY doing this!”
Naturally as the miles increased I became more tired, but I also kept getting more and more excited. Every mile down was another mile closer to this mythical number, this unreal goal. At 17 I squealed in delight that there was “Only a 5K left!” and when I heard Mile 19 chime on my Garmin, goosebumps flushed over my body. Good lord I’ve never been so exhausted, elated, and in shock in the very same moment. As I rounded the last few corners back to the gym it might have been my delusional state, but every person stopped and smiled at me as if they knew, they knew I was about to finish this incredible thing. Once I made it back inside I collapsed in a stiff, sweaty pile of happy tears. I just couldn’t believe I had done it.
I know there’s a lot of technical details behind the concept of a long run. But more important than the time on my feet or fueling properly that day, somewhere in those twenty miles I learned how to push myself a little further. I learned how to be a little stronger, how to believe in myself a little more. I took that big scary goal and I did it. Less than a month and a half till Marathon Day and while I’m still scared shitless, there’s just a little more pep in my step (errr waddle, I’m still feeling those 20 miles).
We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries. I’m even more of a sucker for anniversaries where I can attach sappy symbolisms to them and with just 10 days to go to my wedding – I’m a sucker for anything soft and sappy lately.
Two years ago this weekend I ran my very first race, the Diva Dash (no judging). Fast forward two years and this weekend I will be running a 5K alongside the beginner running group I coached over the summer. How’s that for sappy symbolism?
You can’t help but stop here and ask “How the hell did this happen?”. At least I can’t. As I quickly flip through the images and events of the last two years it still comes as a shock to me. Road races, triathlons, half marathons… if you held a crystal ball two years ago I probably would have thrown it back in your face.
There’s so much about that first race that I never want to forget. I never want all that naïve goodness to disappear. It will always remind me where I came from. I knew practically nothing about running- I didn’t know about paces, or where a bib goes on your shirt. I had just gotten my first pair of “real” running shoes (which I didn’t wear for the race because I didn’t want to get them dirty) and I will admit now that I showered and did my hair before it because “I wanted to look cute”. I thought I needed to carb load the night before (truth be told- the fat kid in me just wanted an excuse to have pasta again). and I didn’t have a goal except that I wanted to finish. I was scared shitless.
And while I’m sitting here being all mushy and reminiscent there’s no way I couldn’t write about the person who got me across that first finish line. The one who two years later continues to push me across them- both physically and mentally. She is always a step ahead of me (more like 10 actually), and somehow always sees my potential miles before I can. I know I mention her all the time but she is every reason I’m here writing this today. It may not have taken a village to raise this runner – but it certainly took one hell of an individual.
Sometimes I catch myself saying something I’ve heard her say a million times and I smile. The thing about being a runner is you’ve got to pass on the tips and tricks that you learn along the way. I can only hope that someday I’ll be that person to someone else.
I’ve been itching for a long run pretty much since the day I decided to take a break from running. And when I injured my hip and had to take some extra time off the allure grew even greater. So one would think that by the time long runs made it back on my schedule I would essentially be skipping through the miles with happiness. At least that’s what I thought would happen.
But alas- some of those wonderful old habits have crept right back in. The ones where I let my brain take over my legs and sell myself short. Where I’m so quick to tell myself it’s okay to stop when it’s hard.
My first “long run” was the 10K I winged a few weeks back and afterwards I felt UNSTOPPABLE. I had my running mojo back, I wasn’t in pain… this was going to be great. 7 miles the next week was a bit tougher (My body clearly doesn’t remember what running in temperatures about negative). 8 miles the following week (a 3 mile warmup, 5K race, 2 mile “cooldown”) wasn’t fun as I learned that I do not enjoy long runs being broken into segments.
And before I could blink… 10 was here. While it’s only the natural progression in my mileage, there’s still something about double digits that makes me shake in my little running shoes. It’s just so daunting. I mean, it’s just. SO. FAR. As I laid out my clothes, charged up my iPod and planned my route the night before the little voice in my head began to question my ability to finish. I tried to remember the last time I ran double digits and quickly realized it was my my half marathon. Gulp.
The next morning I cruised through the first 5 miles just fine. But once I hit that halfway point and realized how far I still had to go? Boom. I was done. As I shuffled along I tried to figure out how I could get home without having to run there. I passed a old woman out watering her flowers and contemplated asking to use her phone for a ride. I even questioned how I could pull off getting gently hit by a car- not hard enough to seriously injure me obviously, but enough that I could be done (PS is this normal?).
I stopped. Way more that I’d like to admit. And every time I stopped I told myself it was going to be that much harder to start running again, but not like that kept me from doing it. I yelled and cursed at myself (Too bad a cop didn’t arrest me and end my long run that way!) and kept asking “Aren’t you the girl who swore you’d never take a run for granted again? What the hell are you doing?”
As much as I was hoping all this time off would cure my mental games, they’re still there lurking in the back of my little runner mind. And they surface as soon as I’m feeling weak. I just don’t know how to break past them, how to defeat the crazy voices in my head (they’re only there when I run, promise). I can’t figure out what it’s going to take to get over my mental barriers. What I do know however is that I have a half marathon in 3 weeks and if I can’t get my act together by then? Disappointed won’t even begin to describe it.
I’ve got 11 on the schedule this weekend. Advice welcome.
Most people look at summertime as a time to relax and slow down the pace: it’s when your schedule is less rigid and you leave time for things like sunday afternoon bbqs, ice cream and lazy beach days.
That is of course, unless you have a hefty summer “to do list”: one which includes a progression from 5K to 7 miles, finishing your first triathlon, and an overall “half ass to bad ass” transformation. In that case, you make time for brick workouts, for swimming, for stretching, for hydrating, for learning.
In that case… you train your ass off.
Let me introduce you to my new summer schedule:
It’s really not THAT dramatic of a difference what I’ve been doing recently, but gone are the days when I could just go for a run on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Every day has a purpose, each workout is intentionally planned. I’m down to just one rest day a week (as opposed to the two I’ve had prior to this). And I thoroughly look forward to it.
After the last few months of getting my feet wet (quite literally), from learning survival skills in my swim class to finally acquiring a bike, it is now time to put all of these things together. After what seems like decades of throwing around the phrase”Brick Workout” (I was so proud of myself for learning that one on my own!) I finally got to experience it for myself. A 30 minute bike ride and 2 mile run? Child’s play. That is until I actually got off my bike and started to run. I quickly realized- it’s a lot more fun to SAY the phrase than it is to do it. Did I take a wrong turn and ride straight into my neighbor’s swimming pool of Molasses? Did my legs become so muscular that they actually turned to stone? It certainly felt like one of the two. After what seemed like the hardest two miles I’ve ever run I huffed and puffed back to my bike and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my miles were both still under 9 minutes. Apparently the pool of Molasses was all in my head.
I feel like having this training schedule has calmed my nerves (somewhat). I can follow the progression on paper, and when it’s broken down day by day it doesn’t seem as overwhelming. In my mind, if I follow the plan exactly as it’s written I will survive…I will be the success story that I so desperately want to be. (Shh- Just go with it.). And so every day I wake up and do what’s written in the “master plan”, and every night I cross it off. Scary because that means I am one day closer, but also comforting that I am one day more confident. I thank my lucky stars that I am fortunate enough to have such an amazing trainer who acts as my brain for all of this- otherwise I’d never know where to start (Who am I kidding- I wouldn’t be “starting” in the first place).
And so this will be how I spend my summer: swimming, biking, brick-ing (?), training, running, racing. And also bitching and whining, because let’s face it– that’s who I am. But as much as I complain, sigh, and roll my eyes- the truth is I’ve never wanted anything so badly. I want to prove to myself and to everyone else that I actually can do this. And WILL do this. And I know that in the end that will push me across the finish line just as much as what’s written on the calendar.