Since giving birth I’ve been blessed with a short and relatively easy recovery from major surgery (which was my biggest fear of having a c-section). I’ve resumed all the activities I did before getting pregnant. I don’t have any more modifications when I’m strength training, and I can lift as much if not more that I could before. I’ve run 6 races, 2 of which I pushed my son to his first (of many) finish lines.
Most importantly I’ve kept a human ALIVE for over 9 months. Not just alive, but thriving beyond belief. He’s a bubbly, energetic little guy who never stops moving. He has 4 teeth, smiles when his Mommy and Dada get home, loves the Wiggles and trying new foods. He’s starting to pull and push himself around the house and I’m pretty confident he won’t walk – he’ll immediately be running. He’s in the top percentile for all his measurements. For 40 weeks and 4 days I’ve kept this little guy fed, dressed, and happy. And I’ve done all this while working a full time job and still getting in my workouts. If that’s not a list of accomplishments, I don’t know what is.
“Why am I doing this?”
It’s a question that keeps surfacing, one that I’m supposed to be thinking about and solidifying to be the great motivation behind why I want to train for and run Boston. What’s going to get me out the door when it’s negative 10 degrees and I have to run 20 miles? What’s going to be the thing that pushes me towards the finish line on April 20th? And every time I’m asked it, my brain hurts. My tongue hangs out of my mouth. I freeze.
Which is odd for a girl who loves words. When I was little I would tell story after story without taking a single breath. When I ran out of material I would simply start all over again. I give descriptive paragraphs to questions that need one word answers.
So why does this question leave me completely baffled? Why do I stumble so hard? I could give the obvious, pre-fabricated answers such as that this is a logical progression after 13.1. Will run for medals. I want to prove to all those who doubt me that I can actually do this. Marathons are bad ass. I’ve got an incredible group of individuals who I am raising money and running on behalf of.
All of those answers are great. And true in some form. But they’re not “it”. They’re not the answer that fires up the grill. They’re not the answer that brings me to tears when I try to picture April 20th. And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t find the right words.
In the last month or so my hip pain started coming back… and just for shits and giggles in BOTH hips, which clearly isn’t a good thing when you’re about to start training for a marathon. In a weak “I’ll try ANYTHING” moment I agreed to see a chiropractor. And (knock on wood) so far it’s been doing WONDERS. If this shit really works, I will gladly start the process for this guy to be next on the canonization list.
During my most recent appointment I laid on my side with my pants halfway down (classy, right?), grimacing as this tool (which I’m pretty sure could double as a vegetable peeler) was literally scraping into my hips. Which made me think “This is crazypants. Who puts themselves through this kind of torture? At this point wouldn’t a normal person just throw in the towel and move onto a new hobby?”
Crazy people. That’s exactly it. Crazy people who want to run 26.2 miles. Crazy people who want to run from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. Crazy people who want to put themselves through all this hard work and miles and suffering and PAIN for an experience they can’t even imagine! Crazy people who know this is one of the most important things they’ll ever do – even if right now they can’t find the words to justify it.
Tis the season, right? For getting snowed in, secret Santa gifts, and cuddling on the couch with hot chocolate. For cozy sweaters, warm boots and fuzzy scarves.
It’s also the season for late sunrises and early sunsets, negative wind chills, and hidden icy patches. A season where it’s more tempting to hit snooze than to head out for a morning run (which requires SO many more layers than a tank top and shorts). It’s more tempting to curl up on the couch with a bowl of piping hot mac ‘n cheese (my absolute weakness) than it is to change into your bathing suit and head to the pool.
I hate to get all grinchy on you- but we all know I’m much more of a summer girl than I am a fan of winter. I actually deeply despise this time of year (This is about the time I wonder why I didn’t follow my brother to sunny California). Winter makes me want to curl up in a ball, cover my eyes, and hibernate until it’s all over.
The last two winters I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve been pretty motivated. Two years ago I was hunting down a number on the scale, determined to win it over. Last year I was riding off the high of my first half marathon and feeling invincible. And this year… it’s just life. It’s what I do. The thrill and excitement and novelty have worn off. Not resetting that alarm is getting harder. I find myself making excuses more easily, giving myself more free passes. And that’s just not acceptable.
I don’t know why I’ve gotten so lackadaisical, considering what’s looming in the not so distant future. I thought this break would have me rearing to go, on fresh legs, yipping to get started. But instead I’m sluggish, achy, struggling. Maybe it’s because every day that passes is another day closer to the unknown, to a lot of really hard work and the first of many, many cold miles. Maybe this is my way of dealing with my nerves – burrow in, cover your eyes, and pretend it’s not happening. Except that it is – and deep down inside I know I don’t want to ruin one second of it.
I almost want to call this a wake up call, but I feel like that’s a harsh term to use. I’ll refer to it as a gentle reminder. A reminder that it’s not always going to be sunshine and happiness. That every run isn’t spectacular. That in order to see progress I need to fuel my body properly. That some days it’s harder to get out the door than others. That rewarding things don’t come easily. It’s not happily-ever-after, it’s happily as I want to work for it. It’s time to get my ass in gear and pull myself together so that when I hit the pavement on Day One I feel strong, confident, and ready to do this. In the meantime I’ll be searching the Black Friday ads for some sassy new winter gear to motivate me to get my ass out the door.
I’m still giddy over last week’s post.
While this has been in the works for a while it’s finally now starting to feel real- this is really happening.
I’m going to run a marathon.
I’m going to run THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Sometimes I catch myself saying it out loud to absolutely no one, simply because hearing the words come out of my mouth gives me goosebumps.
I am incredibly honored to be running Boston for my organization, Back on My Feet (more on that coming soon!). I know that some people frown upon charity bibs and feel that you don’t deserve to run unless you qualify. But for someone like me who knows they will never be fast enough – this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so appreciative of it.
I know that over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about taking a break. Obviously this break was two fold: yes I’m tired and a bit burnt out from constantly training, but this is also a break to get my body ready for this crazy adventure I’m about to embark on. I know (or I should say I’ve been told a million times by now) that marathon training is going to be like nothing I’ve experienced before. So the next few months are going to be spent getting myself ready both physically and mentally. More time swimming, strength training, rolling, stretching, yoga-ing. I keep reminding myself that everything I do in the next few months is going to make me stronger for training. Make me stronger as a marathoner (Gah! That word!).
Of course I’m still running, but minimal miles and just when I feel like it. The kicker? I’ve been Garmin free for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. (“Father please forgive me, it has been two weeks since my last Garmin paced run”). At first I thought I was going to hate it, but I’m kind of liking running according to how my body feels (I still tap my wrist at every intersection sadly).
I like that I’m going for a run because it’s nice out, because I had a bad day, because I know that I will feel better after those thirty minutes. I like that I can chose my route based on what view I want to see, not how far I have to go. I like that I’m running simply because I want to – not because it’s written on my plan somewhere. Without any goals I’m focusing on how my body feels, my kick ass new playlist, the leaves crunching under my feet. I can’t remember the last time I ran this way, but I like it. I feel stronger.
I know that marathon training is going to get tough, and it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to make me cry (a lot, if I know myself by now). I’ve heard it enough times that I get i – it’s going to suck. But I also know that I want to appreciate every second of this journey, even the sucky parts. I want to take it all in, I want to do it right. This may be my one opportunity to run Boston and I don’t want to look back with any regrets. I’m thankful that I have this blog to help me capture all of the moments of this journey, because I want to remember it all. And I hope that you’re not already sick of hearing “the M word” and that you’ll buckle up and join me for this crazy, crazy ride… errr run. 🙂
At what point do you figure you’ve learned everything there is to know about running? Is there a certain amount of time that passes – or a specific milestone? In the last two and a half years I feel like I’ve learned a lot, even enough at times. At first it was the basics: put on a pair of shoes, head out the door, left, right, left. Then I started learned about paces, types of shoes, fueling, distance. You’re all set to go.
Ah except for this thing called mental toughness. Which it turns out- is not as simple as left, right, left. Mental toughness takes time to develop, mental toughness takes technique, practice, strength. I’ve seen a glimmer of it from time to time- when I finished Timberman completely on my own or just last week in that shit show of a triathlon.
But more often that not lack of mental toughness gets the best of me. I actually really suck at it. It gets lost in my brain, overpowered by this nagging voice that says I can’t do it.
It reared it’s ugly head this weekend – somewhere between miles 8 and 13. That’s usually where the wall hits for me. There’s nothing worse than cruising along on a beautiful fall day, visions of a PR on the time clock in your head when suddenly – there it is. It has the effect of a migraine, coming on fast and furious and you pray that if you try not to think about it it will just go away. These miles get blurry, your legs get heavy, and it’s hard to remember much except the feeling of wanting to stop. Of reaching out to the person closest to you begging them to make IT stop.
But the feeling that comes after that? It’s even worse, and it remains clear in your memory long after your feet stop moving. It’s the feeling of knowing you gave in, of disappointment, of regret. The feeling that you let the voice win again.
Despite the mental battles I crossed the finish with just :34 seconds to spare. A PR by the skin of my teeth, but a PR nonetheless. I’m proud of that, I know that I put in some decent work out there. I just can’t help but wish I could go back in time and change those seconds and minutes I wasted. It could have been so much more than :34 seconds.
And so I’ve answered my own question – there is so much more to learn. Mental toughness remains a mystery to me. I can’t grasp my brain around it. I’m hoping this break will help me figure out some motivations and methods to tackle it so that at some point I can jump far over that wall – and never look back.
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.
This little old journey of mine has been made up of hundreds of moments. Some of them good, some of them bad, all of them teaching me invaluable lessons along the way. Timberman this past weekend was no exception. I think it’s safe to say I felt almost every emotion possible in a 12 hour span.
Race day started far beyond bright and early, with a wake up of 4am. I put on the clothes I had laid out the night before, checked my backpack one last time, and we headed out into the dark. Because I knew there was practically half a day before I would have to run I was nervous, but more nervous for my buddy (who was doing the full 70.3) than I was for myself. I was preoccupied for the first few hours as I watched people set up their transition areas, adjusted wetsuits, and hugged my friends goodbye as they made their way to the start. Every time I heard the air horn send a wave into the water my stomach did a flip. That sound meant the day had officially begun.
I cheered as the swimmers crawled back to shore and made their way to transition. The cyclist in our relay team headed out and I said goodbye to my friend as she took off on her bike. That’s when I realized how many hours I had to kill. And that I was alone. And that’s when the panic set in.
I wrapped my legs up in a sweatshirt (Wish I had thought to put comfy sweats over my running shorts) and curled into a ball at a picnic table. I glanced at my watch and couldn’t believe how slow time was moving. I felt my breathing get more and more panicked as I tried to envision 13.1 miles. And then in true half ass fashion, I put my head down and started to cry. I wanted it to be over, I wanted my fiancee there, I wanted my comfort beside me telling me I could do it. I wanted anything but to be sitting alone at that table staring at a war-zone transition area.
Luckily before I became an all out disaster our relay swimmer found me and snapped me out of it. We spent some time watching the elite athletes and then found a shady spot near the relay corral to wait for the bike to come in. Bless her soul for allowing me to ramble on about stupid things to calm my nerves. With no exact way of knowing how soon I could start running I paced in the corral until it was time. We exchanged the chip, high- fived each other, and I took a deep breath as I headed out. Show time.
Originally I thought that the “double loop, out and back” course would mess with my head, but I ended up appreciating it. In my mind breaking the race up into 4 5Ks seemed manageable so I forced myself to only think about one leg at a time. I took in the scenery (the spectators and signs were awesome!), kept my pace steady, and even made a friend for a while. Towards the end of the first leg I heard someone yell my name and looked up to see my buddy on her bike across the street. I smiled and felt a little piece of the alone-ness melt away.
I proudly stomped on the timing mat as I ran around the first loop. 1 down, 3 to go. On the way back I timed my water/beans perfectly, and was even able to take them down without having to stop running for the first time in my life. I’m sure the water stop volunteer appreciated my jig as I ran by. Shortly before the halfway point I heard my name again and looked up to see my buddy smiling as she ran towards me. As always, she yelled exactly what I needed to hear and I made myself run a little taller. If she could swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, be in the middle of a half marathon and STILL have the energy to yell at me – I could do this. She is my all star, always.
The turn around was the worst. All of the runners made their way down the same grassy path, with crowds on either side and the music blasting. A woman stood in the middle directing traffic: finishers to the left, 2nd lap runners to the right. I growled at her as I ran by, but tried to remind myself that the faster I ran the faster I would be there too.
5K #3 was tough. Limbs started to get heavy and tired and the realization that I was only half way done set in. The mind games rolled around my head until I crossed the timing mat again. One lap to go and I would be done. Time to dig in. Time to prove myself.
I was slow but determined those last few miles. No matter how much I wanted to stop I reminded myself how close I was, I visualized the finish line. I started going through the list of things in my head that I said I’d never be able to do- and have done. I passed my buddy one last time and as we slapped hands she yelled “GO GET THAT MEDAL!”. I smiled as I felt the tears come on again. But this time, they were warm and happy.
As I rounded the last few bends I started to hear the music again, noticed the crowd getting thicker. My smile grew bigger and bigger and as I passed the woman directing traffic I yelled “STAYING TO THE LEFT!”. She just laughed. I heard people cheering. I heard my name being yelled by my friends parents. I passed by the other two members of my relay team who were jumping up and down and cheering. I don’t think my smile could have gotten any bigger. My face actually hurt more than my legs as I crossed the finish line.
With my medal around my neck and a bottle of water in my hand I stopped, despite the crowd still around me. I only noticed two people in that park: the girl I used to be and the girl who had just finished a half marathon of a Half Ironman. The thing that seemed impossible was over. And I had done it. All on my own. I smiled, I laughed, I cried big, fat, happy tears. I was just so proud.
Despite my “speedy” long runs the last few weeks sadly I didn’t pull off an impressive PR on Sunday. I am still a very slow half marathoner. But I am starting to understand distance running. I am starting to learn what it means to dig deep and push yourself to the finish line. Starting to learn that your legs can out run your mind. Starting to believe in myself. And you know what? All of those things are worth far more than any PR.
Have you ever walked through someone’s front door and immediately noticed their shoe pile? You can tell a lot about a person by their pile of kicks: what they do for work, how active they are, if they like to dress up, if they live in flip flops. Some people see those shoe piles as clutter but to me they’ve always been a sense of comfort. Real people live here. This is a home.
When I see this pile of shoes- I know that I am home. In fact, I could tell you whose feet belong in almost every pair for these shoes represent my friends, my workout buddies. When a new pair appears in the pile I am curious, because that means the potential of new shoes to join our circle of sweat, laughs, and hard work.
Sometimes I take for granted this home that I have, I forget that not everyone in the world has something like it. And quite frankly I don’t know how anyone functions without a community like it. Over the past two years coming home to that pile of shoes has become the norm, my way of life. Away for too long and I feel deprived, I feel like I’m missing out. There’s no better feeling than walking into that familiar smell, to those walls that have seen my tears and smiles, my fat disappear, to walking into the ladies in those shoes that keep me going.
We see people come and go but there’s a core of us who have been around for what feels like forever. When people disappear for a while we pick right back up where we left off. We tease, we heckle, we motivate, we push. Somtimes our abs hurt more from laughing than crunches. And sometimes we look at each other as we wipe sweat from our faces with one universal look: “Is it over yet?”
These ladies have seen me through some of my best times, and some of my worst. From my very first road race to my first half marathon they’ve been there too. They are the reason I push myself to run that extra half mile, or to do those few extra burpees. Together we’ve waded through mud pits, swam across a lake, and set world records for tricep planks. I couldn’t think of a more bad ass group of women to be a part of. When I see that pile of shoes… I know that I am home. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
The 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.
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!) 🙂