“Are you ready?” That’s the question I’ve been getting more and more frequently as the days tick down. I stare back with a somewhat blank look on my face, because I don’t really know how to answer that. Ready for what? Ready for a nap? Absolutely. A snack? Always!
Ready to run a marathon? I’m not so sure about that. Does anyone ever feel ready? Supposedly scientifically speaking my legs and my lungs are – but the rest of me?
There’s a few things I’m ready for. I’m ready for this to be over because to be honest, I’m exhausted. I’m ready to not go to bed Saturday night fearing my long run the next morning. Ready to not wake up with random aches and pains. Ready to look down at my feet crossing that finish line. Ready to feel the weight of that medal around my neck. Ready to prove that I can do this.
But I’m also ready to go back to the beginning and start all over again- because you only get to experience your first marathon once. I’m ready for more time, more long runs, more practice fueling. Ready for more tips, more advice, more time to get this right. Ready for the countdown to stop moving so damn fast suddenly.
I’m ready for my last 20 miler out on the course this weekend because it means I get one more chance to practice. But I’m also scared shitless because I know this is it – I don’t get another chance to get it down. The next time I’m out there it will be the real deal. I’ll be alone. And I will have 6.2 more miles further to go until my feet cross that finish line. Until that medal hangs around my neck. I’m not ready for that yet.
It’s been a few days and I’ve been retelling the story by cracking jokes, because it’s a lot less awkward to laugh than it is to spill warm tears. But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset, not embarrassed, not disappointed in myself. I’m scared that the memory of my panic in the water will affect me in the future, will surface again the next time I face the open water. It’s my first real black mark.
I know I’ve got to pull myself together, got to tuck away my lessons learned, got to get back out there. And I will at some point. I’m just not done sulking yet.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I could tell you one of two stories today. The first story would be about the girl who’s back in action after an injury, training for her half marathon and everything is going smoothly. And while that’s happening there’s a more important story to tell. This one is about the girl who’s well… struggling a bit. And since I’ve kept this blog going with the intention of always being honest and using it as a tool to hold myself accountable- I will stick to the latter story.
For the last few months I’ve been coasting. I thought I had this whole maintence thing down. I thought I was invincible. And as a result… I got a bit careless. A few too many fro-yo dates. A couple extra nights where I drank at dinner. The old “I just ran 5 miles so I can eat everything in sight” mentality. Invincibility disolved when the scale recently started showing a slightly higher number than I’m used to a little too frequently. Not enough to make a difference… but enough to make a difference.
I of course went into panic mode. I stood in front of the mirror and tried to pinpoint the culprit spots on my body. My brain immediately transformed what I was looking at in front of me to “that girl” from days gone by. I felt my stomach jump up into my throat. And while I tried to blame it on a million different life factors that I have going on at the moment, in my heart I knew the underlying factor.
This is where I want to hang my head in shame and disappointment. I’m the rockstar, the success story – I shouldn’t be backtracking here. I’m supposed to be thriving, running away from that girl of the past, not letting her creep back in. And as if admitting it to myself isn’t hard enough- the fact that I openly tell my story to the entire world (well, whoever actually reads this little blog) is even more mortifying. Nothing like airing your dirty laundry smack in the middle of the interwebs.
I had two choices. I could deny that this was happening… or I could confront it. I’ve been down that first road before. I remember watching the scale climb higher and higher and pretending I didn’t notice… until it got to the point where I was crying for help. So I did what I knew I had to do. I admitted my setback. I asked for help. I clung to my lifeline.
Ironically just a short while ago I actually saw the girl of the past, in the form of another person. At first glance I was annoyed by her. And then I remembered what that felt like. I remembered that frustrating feeling of being trapped in a body. I remember what it felt like to not be able to do a sit-up, to steam in envy over someone who could run more than from one light pole to the next. It was a very real life reminder of where I’ve come from and what I sometimes take for granted now as the years and months go by. And more importantly- it was a reminder that I am not invincible. I don’t get to move on and pretend the past never happened. This is a part of my story, and my life, forever.
So I’m going to pick my head back up. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and start fresh. I’m going to put one foot in front of the other. And while I’m disappointed in my small setback, I’m proud of myself for recognizing it. I’m proud of myself for admitting it. I’m proud of myself for blogging about it. And I’m proud of myself for promising that I will keep moving forward- I’ve worked too damn hard to ever see that girl in the mirror again.
Just keeping it real here kids.
It’s been a few weeks since we last spoke. I followed your very loud and clear request to take some time off. Gave myself and my running shoes some space from each other. Took a break from the track and spent more time on my mat. I gave my mind and my body the rest it so clearly begged for.
You- and everyone around me – told me that I would know when I was ready to run again, that I would see the signs. And as usual, they were right. I knew I was ready to come back when I found myself slowing down as I passed people running along the beach. Wondered how far they were going, if they were training for something, what kind of music they were listening to. I knew I was ready when I watched my friends continue to train and race around me, jealous of their long runs, PRs… even of their achy muscles. I knew I was ready when I found myself constantly dreaming of my next race, longing for those start line butterflies. I couldn’t wait to get back out there.
I anxiously stalked the forecast, waiting for a day to show up with a high about freezing. And when the past weekend alluded to potential spring like temperatures I knew it was a sign. I refreshed the weather daily, I mentally scanned through my wardrobe in my head. The night before I carefully laid out my clothes, left my running shoes by the door and leaped into bed. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, a marathoner the night before 26.2, more than a girl who was going to wake up the next morning and run a couple miles.
The next morning arrived – a little chilly, but not nearly as cold as it has been. A part of me panicked as I choked down a granola bar. Besides a mile or two for work (yes, my job involves running, how amazing is that?) I hadn’t hit the pavement at all. What if I couldn’t keep up with my buddy? What if I couldn’t even make it a block? Was it right left right? Or left right left? Oh shit.
But as we headed out early Sunday morning our feet fell into our comforting pattern, my breath found it’s rhythm, and I realized it was all still there inside me. We chatted quietly as we ran, the streets were still relatively empty while most people were still asleep. I purposely left my watch at home so I could just simply focus on how running felt. And while we didn’t run particularly far, and we didn’t run a particularly fast pace, I found the beauty in a familiar route with my favorite person to run with. I realized the meaning behind this break. I appreciated the lessons it taught me. I thought about the first time I had run this route a year and a half ago, following behind a group of girls I was convinced I couldn’t keep up with. I didn’t say a word that first day- I focused every ounce of my body on not stopping. I had no idea back then what that tiny victory would lead to. It’s a reminder that when things start getting out of focus I’ve got to slow down and remember where I came from. Appreciate the small things. Find the joy in the things I sometimes take for granted.
So with that I’m back. I’m excited for long runs. I’m excited for short runs. I’m excited for runs with my friends and runs with just my thoughts. I’m excited for spring and summer races, for the opportunity to line up at a start line with a goal on my mind and in my toes. Excited for the opportunity to prove myself wrong and make myself proud all at the same time. I’m excited that our love for each other hasn’t disappeared- but only grown deeper.
It’s good to be back.
I feel as though I owe my readers (Readers? Am I even cool enough to throw around that lingo? Does my cat count as a reader?) an apology. Maybe even a pat on the back. And a “thanks for sticking around”. Looking back through my last few posts I realize I’ve become quite the Debby Downer/Negative Nancy over here. Between the burn out of winter training and then this break I’ve had the whiny-ness of a toddler before nap time. And while it’s been a challenge and a new experience I’m also finding a lot of positives to it.
A rekindled romance.
I may have kicked off my running shoes for the last few weeks but that doesn’t mean I’ve become a slug on the couch. I vowed to stay as active as possible by increasing my other workouts. And because of that bootcamp and I were able to fall in love again. I realized that for the last few months I’ve been showing up because I felt like I had to and just sort of going through the motions. But with my mind off of miles I’ve been able to focus more on to how strong my body is getting, how many more push ups I can do, and finding new ways to challenge myself. It’s been a good reminder that you get out of something what you put into it. Burpees are a love/hate relationship for everyone but even we’re in a good place right now 🙂
Here fishy, fishy.
With the decision to step back from track workouts and long runs I looked for something else to focus my energy on… swimming a full mile. I’ve kept up with my swimming throughout the fall and winter, but always stop at a half mile. The night after I decided to call it quits for a bit I had a boatload of pent up frustration and hit the pool. I strapped on my watch and told myself that I would see how far I could make it past the half mile mark. I made it to .75 and thought “Why not keep going?” and just like that… BOOM. Full mile the first night I tried. I felt that “look what you just pushed yourself to do!” feeling start to seep into my wrinkly fingers and spread right up into my proud little heart. I pulled myself out of the pool beaming. What to know what happened next? I did it again. And again. AND AGAIN. In fact, I’ve swam almost 9 miles in my time off. The bad ass is still in there.
It blows my mind to think that just a year ago I was struggling through my triathlon swim class. The fact that I was going to have to swim a half mile across a lake in July kept me awake for so many nights. These days I know I’ll sleep soundly after a night at the pool and I’m pretty confident that swimming will be the strongest leg of the triathlon for me this summer. Who ever would have thought I’d be saying that?
Food for thought.
One of my deepest, darkest fears (And biggest hesitation in taking a break) was that of course… that I would gain weight back. This forced me to admit that while training to run long distances I had gotten into the habit of justifying what I was eating with what I was running (“Oh you’re running 8 miles tomorrow? Eat that cheeseburger AND french fries girlfriend!”). That’s not to say I’ve become a nutrition disaster, but I felt like I was able to get away with more. In my mind if I wasn’t gaining weight no harm done… right? WRONG KATHLEEN, WRONG! Clearly this is not a healthy mentality. This break has given me a chance to re-visit how I’m eating and fueling. That’s not to say you shouldn’t allow yourself indulgence every now and then, but mac & cheese ain’t gonna make that track workout any easier. Part of me wonders how much my nutrition correlates to how much training broke me down. But while there’s nothing I can do to go back and change the past I can admit my faults- and work harder on it the next time. I’m curious to see if there’s a difference in how I feel training.
I guess when all’s said and done this break hasn’t been the worst thing to happen to me. A few new achievements, some valuable lessons learned and at the end of the day… I’m itching to get back out there. 🙂
I’ve never been good at sitting still (Which is an interesting trait for someone who became so sedentary and overweight? Moving on…). Friday afternoons in college my roommate and I would put on a movie (usually Mean Girls) for “nap time”. She would immediately fall asleep and I would watch the entire movie…while organizing my desk. I’m the kind of person who claims I just want a weekend with nothing to do.. and by 10am Saturday I’m bored to tears. As exhausting as it can get, I secretly crave schedules and to do lists and structure. So it didn’t come as a shock when a few days into my “running vacation” I was regretting my decision. I saw this coming a mile away.
As exhausted and burnt out as I was, I’m missing running. And training. Maybe, just maybe, there’s even a part of me that misses those miserable track workouts. I’ve been thriving off challenges and accomplishments for such a long period of time that I’ve forgotten how to just be. I miss feeling challenged. Running for fun… without my watch? Without knowing my pace? Without my iPod? Without a plan? What’s that like? I understand that all “athletes” have an off season, but it’s still hard for me to comprehend what I should do and how I should feel. My poor fiancee has been dealing with one cranky and fire-y roommate for the past few weeks. PMS? Nope- this lady just misses her runs. What makes it even more frustrating is that it seems like no one understands what I’m feeling- or they think I’m crazy and just can’t make up my mind about what I want. Which is probably true. The grass is most certainly greener on the other side.
I know this sounds ridiculous but for every day that goes by without running and training I feel like a little piece of my “runner” title is slipping away. And it scares me. That title that I have been working so very hard for. I finally felt like I could rightfully call it mine, and now I can feel it slipping through my fingers like a handful of sand.
To try and counteract this feeling I’m trying to focus all this energy and confusion and pour it into my “athlete” title. I tell myself that for every day I leave my running shoes in their cubby my shins are healing themselves. Every pose I struggle to hold in yoga is stretching those muscles that have been so overused the last few months. Every lap in the pool helps me fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. A workout is a workout.. even if my skin now permanently smells like Chlorine. I’m telling myself that everything I’m doing now is going to help me be a better runner in the long run.
And that’s where in the cloud of confusion and tears and bitchiness the smoke clears and one thing becomes very clear: I flipping love running. This break isn’t making it go away- it’s only making my love stronger. It is officially a part of my life for good. When my training plan and I finally reunite you bet your ass we’re gonna hug it out— and then we’re gonna work like we never worked before.
Until then I’ll be here… being impatiently patient.
We need to talk.
I want to start off by saying it’s not you, it’s me. You’re great. In the year and half that we’ve been seeing each other you’ve been nothing but a source of freedom, a breath of fresh air, and the kick in the butt that I so desperately needed. You’ve given me some great new friends, a new found confidence, and a pair of completely remodeled legs. You have proven me wrong time and time again.
Until recently. For some reason this thing that we’re doing: track workouts, tempo runs, long runs, easy runs… it’s not working for me right now. I’m burnt out, I’m not happy, and I know my performance has been less than stellar. You don’t deserve that. And neither do I. Which is why I think that it would be best for all parties involved if we take a break for a little while.
I want you to know that this decision wasn’t easy. It brought me to tears (Which I know isn’t a hard thing to do but it means I’m emotionally attached to you). And I have to admit- I’m a little nervous to not have you a part of my daily routine. I’m scared that I’ll lose my endurance, that this base I’ve worked so hard to build will disintegrate, and there’s a big part of me that’s petrified the weight will creep back in your absence. I feel like a teenage girl going through a breakup even though I know this isn’t goodbye. I’m not sure how long of a break I need, but I’m confident I will know when the moment is right. And hopefully it won’t be too long. You and I have done some absolutely incredible things together and we’re going to keep doing those things. I want to do things even MORE incredible with you, I want you to blow all my doubts and insecurities out of the water. But if we’re going to keep making magic together I need a rest. My legs are tired, my lungs are tired, my heart is tired.
Part of me feels like I’m giving up, I’m letting it beat me. I feel like I’m letting myself and those who believe in me down, and that right there is a terrible feeling. This break certainly feels a lot more half ass than it does bad ass. But as hard as it is, I know that this means I am making my first real decision as an “athlete”. I know that in order for this to be a life long relationship we’ve got to go at it slow and steady.
So I’m turning the watch off for a bit. I’m tucking my training log book up on a shelf for now. I’m going to see other people – bootcamp, yoga and swimming. Let’s reconnect at the track again when the snow has melted and there isn’t a negative wind chill jeering behind me. Let’s talk about half marathons when I’m mentally ready for redemption. Let’s get back to that place where it was just you, me, a quiet street and a kick ass playlist. Let’s recreate that feeling of invincibility, of weightlessness, of joy that only you can give me. We’ll meet back up where we were first introduced: down by the beach where the angry ocean leaves sand on my path, where I feel like I’m the first person to see the sunrise, and where the salt air fills my burning lungs. I’ll be the girl in neon.
I’ll see you soon.
I wish that I was sitting here writing a post about how awesome “Operation Make Kathleen Faster” is going. As I said a few weeks ago, it’s much easier to write the good posts than the bad ones. It’s easier to talk about the positives, when you’re getting it done, when you feel on top of the world. Admitting how hard something is feels weak, whiny, pathetic. So I’m sitting here writing a blog post about how my training has been going — and it ain’t pretty. It sucks. It’s hard. There have definitely been some breakdowns and tears. I haven’t talked much about my upcoming race here or in person because to be quite honest, I’m not the least bit excited for it. I’m dreading it. I feel like my goal is completely out of my reach and I know how disappointed I’m going to be if I don’t make it. I also know that if you go into a race thinking you can’t do it you won’t be able to … but that isn’t helping me turn off the negativity switch.
Working to get faster sounded fantastic in my head until I actually had to put on my shoes and do it. I knew it would be hard but I guess I didn’t know what “hard” actually meant. I’ve never been an athlete, this concept of pushing myself towards physical goals is still vague and unclear. I will fully admit that I don’t think I had any idea of what I was getting myself into.
Even after two lessons at the track I was still apprehensive about attempting the workout on my own. After painfully watching the clock all day there was nothing left to do but quit whining and get it done. As painful as it was the first two times… it was 10 times worse on my own. The workout wasn’t in my watch correctly, and because I had to change the units to kilometers I couldn’t figure out my pace so I just ran until it hurt. I’d finish each lap gasping for air with no idea if I was doing it correctly and I kept saying to myself “How many left? I’ve got to be at least half way by now”. I don’t know what made me keep going-but it took every last ounce of willpower I had to not click off my watch and head back to the car. Finally the long awaited “Congrats- you survived!” sound chimed and instead of being proud that I survived I felt defeated and miserable. I wanted out. Tears hurt so much more when its 15 degrees and windy.
I don’t know why I can’t get out of my own head, why I don’t have that gene that makes me want to push through the pain. My brain is so quick to say “This hurts. This is hard. This doesn’t feel good. Let’s stop”. In the breakdown of my breakdown at the track I was asked the question “Why am I doing this?” (Trying to get faster, not why am I being a wimp). For the girl who usually has an answer and a wise ass comment to everything … I had nothing.
With some mild weather and some free time to myself I decided to head down to one of my favorite beach combing spots. As I hunted for sea glass and driftwood I thought all this over. My mind raced with a thousand thoughts and questions. Losing the weight didn’t happen overnight- it was hard and painful and yet I was patient (at least from what I remember). I worked through the pain because I knew the end result was worth it. So why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I be patient and work through this? Part of me wonders who the hell I’m trying to fool acting like I’m some athlete. I haven’t been one my whole life- why am I trying now? Why can’t I just be happy that I’ve picked up running and be content with my slow-ass half marathon time? Why can’t I just go for a run without a time or a pace in mind and just be happy running? What’s making me want to set these (what seem to be) un-obtainable goals? And what is making me get up and do this day after day? If I woke up tomorrow and decided to quit there would be no one to stop me. No one is forcing me to do this – it’s all on me.
I’m sure there’s a large group of you who were able to relate with me on being overweight, and parts of the weight loss journey. And maybe there are some of you who understand this “fine tuning”… but I totally understand if you don’t. You may be reading this and wondering why the girl can’t just shut up and be happy with what she’s accomplished. That’s okay- because I’m wondering the same thing. And you may be thinking that there are bigger problems than how fast you run and again- you’re absolutely correct. But at the same time I think we all struggle with some kind of internal debate. And this right here is my beast for the time being. If I could only find a reason as to why I’m holding onto it…