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Mother runner.

In my quirky little mind I’ve always associated runners’ accomplishments with professional credentials. Instead of PhD, or Esq. my imaginary business card reads: Kathleen Lau. Runner, Half marathoner, Marathoner, Boston finisher. My most recent addition? Mother runner. At first I thought it was just a catchy phrase, something to slap on t-shirts and throw behind a hashtag. But then I started to live it. And although I am just a little over 4 months into this new title, I understand now that it is so much more than a trendy bumper sticker.

It’s that first postpartum run, where your legs resemble Bambi, but your body has more of a Dumbo feel. It’s trying on sports bras in sizes you thought were reserved exclusively for porn stars. Only having to make the mistake once of heading out for a run without emptying the tanks. It’s stuffing your postpartum body into the workout clothes you wore before you got pregnant, and wondering how on earth spandex can feel so restrictive. It’s standing in front of a mirror, trying to drown out those critical voices by reminding yourself over and over again that your body has done a lot of work to grow and nourish a child over the past year.

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It’s the feeling you get as you walk in from that first run. The rush of endorphins, the heavy breathing, the taste of sweat above your lip. Suddenly it all comes back to you. Makes you feel whole again, makes you feel like YOU again. In the darkness of those first  weeks and months, it’s a beacon of light in the dark ocean that is nursing, soothing, diaper changing. It keeps you from drowning.

It’s passing a screaming baby off to your husband the moment he walks in the door, because you just need 2 miles so that you can be mom again tomorrow. It’s when Friday night becomes “you time”, when you can get in a run without worrying about what you need to do for the next day. It’s pushing through those last 10 seconds because you know that as hard as it is to put one foot in front of the other, it’s one step closer to your old self. That every run will get a little easier. It’s the goosebumps you get as you crawl across your first postpartum finish line. The clock that doesn’t read a painfully slow finish time but instead blinks a subliminal message… “You’ve still got this”.

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It’s pointing out all your favorite running routes to your son in the car, when you know he can’t see more than passing images through the window. It’s that first time you head out with the running stroller, when you spend the majority of the time trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do with your hands.

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It’s the new and improved Sunday morning run. When it’s just you and him. When instead of plugging in headphones, your run is narrated by the sound of the wheels hitting the pavement and your heavy breathing. When you peer into the stroller to find a sleeping baby. Relaxed and content because somehow even he understands how therapeutic running can be. It’s knowing that even though he may not remember this moment, you know that you are setting an example for the rest of his life. Mom runs, mom is strong, mom can do hard things.

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Sunday is my very first Mother’s Day. And of course, I couldn’t imagine starting it with anything other than a run. It will be Riley and I’s first race together (since he’s been on the outside anyway). Something I’ve dreamed about since the day that little line showed up on a pee stick. And for once I won’t be chasing a time clock. I won’t have a playlist in my ears heck, I probably won’t even wear a watch. On Sunday, that finish line is about me and my little guy sharing this special thing. It’s about earning that shiny new title, mother runner.

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5 years of lime green love.

For the past five years April 4th has had a special place in my heart. It is the a day that I like to step back and look at my journey and accomplishments. It’s a day I celebrate PRs, smaller jean sizes, and goals that at one point in my life never seemed possible.

This year, April 4th feels heavy. Literally. For the first time in five years, when I look in the mirror, I see the same girl who walked into that first consultation. It’s hard to think back on the last five years of hard work and not feel sadness. It’s hard to ignore that pile of clothes in my closet that don’t fit anymore, or how my speediest run pace is a solid two minutes slower than what an “easy day” used to feel like. I feel even worse when I look at pictures of this little guy my body created and carried, and instead of focusing on his adorable smile, I can’t stop cringing at my own body.

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But throughout these ups and more recent downs of the last five years, one thing has remained constant. It became apparent to me one day recently as I pulled out my long sleeve, lime green shirt to go for a run. This same shirt has magically fit me when I ran my first half marathon at my lowest weight, when I went for my last pregnant run at 28 weeks, and now as I try to navigate my way to my new role as a mother runner. It doesn’t matter where I am in my journey, it always fits.

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This one (very smelly) green shirt stands for so much more. It is my foundation, it’s what got me to where I am today. It is home to me. The friendships I’ve made, the guidance, the therapy sessions, the ass kickings, they’ve been there for every step over the last five years. And no matter where I am in my journey, they’re always there to support me. They’ve seen me through my first mile I ever ran, white dress workouts, crossing the finish line on Boylston Street, and burpee modifications as my belly grew. It’s pretty incredible when you step back and think about it.

This April 4th may look a little different, but I keep telling myself it’s just another page in my book. A new chapter in my story. It’s a new starting point. Today is a reminder of where I’ve come from, what I can achieve, and the incredible supports I have behind me.

Here’s to the next five years. 🙂

Dusting off the cobwebs.

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Oh hi there, remember me? Last time we met up here I had just crossed crawled over the Boston Marathon finish line and was living the life in runner’s Narnia. It’s hard to believe that was almost two years ago now.

So where have I been since then? Well fast forward exactly one year later and I found myself sucking air during the BAA 5K, a complete 180 from my athletic feat the year before. When I woke up the next morning and went for another sluggish six miler I started to realize how sore my boobs were. Somewhere in the middle of the day I decided to take a pregnancy test. And on the morning of Christmas Eve….

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Riley Parker entered our lives. 9 pounds, 4 ounces, hair for days, and eyes that could look right into your soul. It’s been almost three months since we met face to face and I every night as I rock him to sleep I look at every perfect little feature, amazed that he is mine.

I was blessed to have a relatively easy pregnancy physically, but mentally and emotionally it was a tough 40 weeks. After all my body had been through and achieved over the last four years the thought of undoing all of that while growing a human terrified me. And while I always knew I wanted to have kids, it took me some time to accept that I no longer had control over my own body. As a first time mom you don’t really look “pregnant” until the 6th or 7th month, but I could feel my body changing in small ways almost overnight. It constantly put me into panic mode. So at the end of my first trimester I made the executive decision that I no longer wanted to know how much weight I had gained, I only wanted to know if it was becoming a concern.
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And so I ventured on. I ran until I was 28 weeks, completing 6 road races with my little buddy inside. I continued to strength train several times a week, and I was in the pool just two days before my water broke.

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I ate, as conservatively as a pregnant girl often does; chicken became an enemy pretty early on, bagels were constantly on my mind, and my afternoon snacks consisted of peanut butter and fluff.  I’ll admit I got pretty lenient towards the end, more lenient that I have been with myself in a very long time. I can very clearly remember parking my big belly on the couch the night before my due date with a bowl of peppermint stick ice cream (which in real life I don’t even LIKE!) and some holiday Joe Joes. “Eh, what does it matter at this point – I’ll deal with it once this baby is here”. Looking back now I can be honest with myself and say that I was eating to deal with how I was feeling about being 40 weeks pregnant, becoming a first time mom, and missing my active self. Old habits die hard. I’ve never considered myself thin, but looking at old race pictures made me realize how true it is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. FullSizeRender 4

No one prepared me enough for just how foreign my body would feel those first few days after giving birth. My feet had ballooned due to all of the fluids I was given, my hips seemed wider, my boobs had reached porn star status (medium nursing tanks? THAT was a joke) and my stomach was a numb ball of putty. And to top it all off, I had this lovely Frankenstein-esque scar across my abdomen from ending up with a c-section. I remember comparing my body to the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. It was definitely hard to swallow what I saw in the mirror.

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I gave myself the “I just had a baby” card and told myself I would deal with it after my 6 week checkup, when I was finally given the golden ticket to exercise again. To pass the time until then I spent Saturday mornings walking laps around the indoor track, cringing that I was still wearing my maternity workout pants and cursing the toned, athletic women running by. Was it just my imagination or was I once one of them? That girl who I had been just 9 months ago seemed like a very far off memory. And I continued on with my baby diet postpartum because, duh, breastfeeding.

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A few nights before my doctors appointment I decided to bite the bullet and look at the damage. I sat down at my computer, clicked into my provider’s online portal… and there it was. I had to blink a few times just to make sure I was reading the right line and then my heart sunk and I started to cry. I had gained a total of 56 pounds from my last pre-pregnancy weight. I was almost back to my starting weight from years ago. The weight I swore I would never see again. My biggest fears of getting pregnant had come true.

And so here we are again, in a place all too familiar and yet completely different from 5 years ago. I thought it was easy to come up with 100 excuses in the past, but having a newborn gives you at least 150 of them. Part of me feels insanely embarrassed that I’m here again, but as I’ve realized in the past it’s better to just face the facts and get down to work.

In order to do that it’s time to pull out the old tricks from my bag: logging (does anyone remember my My Fitness Pal password?), monthly appointments with my RD/savior Andrea, and some good old fashioned Couch to 5K. Oh and you! In trying to figure out how I got there the first time I found myself pouring through old blog posts and reading over my entire story, from day one to the end. And I realized that yes, writing here helps keep me accountable. Even if no one is reading it. So I’m back in action. It may not be weekly (hell, I already am a day off from when I said I was going to write this), but my goal is to keep this up for as long as this journey continues… and let’s be honest it’s never ending for me. Now let’s go find the Half Ass Bad Ass and get her back.

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Deep breath and here we go… again.

 

Endings & Beginnings.

My first “Blog Day” fell on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012. I sat at my desk at work, manically refreshing my web browser until suddenly, there it was. I held my breath, cringing at my name, at that god awful picture of myself in a coral sundress resembling a muumuu. I started to imagine all the ex-boyfriends, ex-best friends, family friends, co-workers who could be reading what suddenly felt far too personal to be sharing out loud. Too late.

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And before I could fire off the text saying that I changed my mind about this whole ordeal, people responded. Old friends.(Soon to be) new friends. Family members. High school classmates. Saying they were proud of me, they were inspired by me, that they too felt these things. And although it was sometimes downright embarrassing to lay it all out there, it was these encouraging words that helped me continue to share my story.

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Once my Rockstar journey wrapped up I moved my musings to this little site. My space to write, vent, share goals, fears, accomplishments. I’ve always felt like I was just talking to you, my friend, instead of posting off into the wide open interwebs. And because I love routine, I continued to write my weekly post for the next 119 Wednesdays (give or take a few schedule changes).

Last week was the first week there was no Blog Day.

I had been thinking about it for a while, going back and forth on how long I would continue this. The decision didn’t come easily. Running is my outlet. Writing is too. Together they have helped me on this long, hard, absolutely incredible journey of self discovery. I never started blogging to become famous, or because I wanted it to become my career (Sponsored posts and giveaways just aren’t my cup of tea). I wrote with two purposes.

In a world where thigh gaps are given more praise than powerful quads and wedding dresses are sized to make us feel like bridal hippopotamuses, I wanted to put it all out there. I wanted to tell the girls who are sausaged into their size 14 jeans that I’ve been there, that I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a body you don’t want. That some days you tell yourself you’re going to start skipping lunch to lose weight, only to end up eating everything in sight at 9pm. That I’ve cried in front of a mirror and a pile of clothes that just don’t fit. I wanted to tell anyone who’s ever felt these feelings that it’s okay to ask for help. To want to live a healthier life, even if it currently seems impossible. That teaching yourself to run is hands down the shittiest and most empowering experience of your life. That finding people who love, encourage, and support you can open you up to a world you never thought possible. That learning to love your body for what it can do instead of how it compares to others is a breath of fresh air you’ve just never felt before.

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Ever since I dove into this adventure (come on now- I’m a swimmer and we all know I love a good analogy) I’ve had so many supports to keep me afloat. Nutrition, personal training sessions, triathlon swim classes… my version of Swimmies and Noodles. And while I’ll never stop appreciating the support they’ve provided- I’ve known when it was time to try and swim a few strokes on my own. In a way, this blog has been another form of support. In the beginning I needed it to keep me on track, to keep me from chickening out on these big scary goals. I don’t know that I need that anymore. This little slice of the internet has become my very own virtual scrapbook. Anytime I’m in doubt, anytime I feel like I can’t do something, I have all of these experiences to go back to. I can go back to what it was like the day I lost 50 pounds. What running 3 miles without stopping felt like. The unbelievable experience of my first triathlon. The mental struggle of my first half marathon. The fact that I ran the BOSTON F’ING MARATHON. All of those accomplishments live here, along with the feelings, bad days, and hard work that went into them. And just like all the other supports I’ve had along the way, I know that in the off chance I start to panic and sink on my own, I can reach right back out for help.

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So maybe this isn’t a goodbye, maybe it’s just a see you later. Maybe after a few weeks without Wednesday morning posts I will realize that I miss my little piece of the world. And because I don’t want to say goodbye and I love a good quote- I want to end today’s post with one of my favorites.  I found it on a card at the end of my Rockstar sessions and it so appropriately fit that time in my life. It does again now.

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That is the beginning” – Louis L’Amour

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Hurts so… good?

Once I got that first shitty run out of the way it was time to get back to work. I gasped my way through a few miles that week- a combination of getting back into the swing of things, the increasing temperature and a sea of pollen everywhere I turned. The effort it was taking to run an easy three made finishing a marathon seem like something I had dreamed. I told myself that every run I pushed through was one step closer to getting back to business. All I wanted was to have something to work towards again, to be tired and sore.

And boy did I get what I wished for. During strength training the last few weeks my legs had been given a pardon for all the upcoming work they had to do. But with that job now complete it was back to squats, back to lunges, back to SORENESS. But despite the ache in my legs I had a stupid grin on my face. Sore felt like work, and work felt good. Calluses and all.

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Next up was the pool. Swimming for me is usually something between a half mile and a mile at a nice, comfortable pace. Before Boston I had made the mistake of mentioning that swimming wasn’t feeling very hard. Rookie mistake- you never tell your trainer something feels easy. Suddenly this complex swim workout appeared on my schedule. It seemed pretty advantageous for my skill level, let alone post marathon. But despite my hesitations I dove in (literally and figuratively). Each set left me gasping for air, but with a sense of accomplishment.

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And for the first time in over a year and a half, I had a tempo run on my schedule. “Speed work” (Can you call it that when your speed is slower than a turtle?) had simply become a figment of my imagination after a year of injury and building distance. To see it back is both invigorating and terrifying at the very same time. Speed work means getting uncomfortable, but it also means new bad ass accomplishments.

I’m not sure if this new found motivation is simply a burst of springtime energy, or is the result of realizing that finishing a marathon means I can handle hard things. I was afraid I would lose motivation after Boston but it’s actually been the exact opposite. So bring on the callouses, sore legs, and gasps for air… I’m ready.

 

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The Next Chapter.

As my running shoes sat collecting dust by the door (yes, cobwebs can grow in just one dramatic week) I scoured the internet, hungry for my next challenge. Something that I’ve found myself doing after every big accomplishment over the last 3 years, but there was always more to be had. Until now. With a Boston Marathon medal hanging on my wall every race I pulled up on the computer just seemed trivial. I was slightly worried that maybe I had reached my pinnacle; maybe I was done with this training business. I mean it has been one hell of a ride.

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And just as I was thinking I would spend the summer kicking back on the couch I got this thought thrown at me: “I’ve always gone bigger, but have I ever tried to get better?” I knew the answer instantly. I’ve been chasing distance after distance, barely finishing one race before I’m training for the next.  Running for me had become this challenge of how quickly I could climb to the top, how fast I could prove that I could cover these distances. But challenging myself to do them better? I’ll admit I don’t really know what that’s like. Most of my PR’s have been purely accidental.

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Suddenly my answer became clearer. My challenge this summer is not to prove to the world how high I can climb, but to prove to myself that I can give it all I’ve got. I didn’t become the Half Ass Bad Ass because it’s a cute and catchy name – it happened because I far too often half ass myself through things. And I want to know what it’s like to push myself. To get comfortable being uncomfortable. To get better. To become faster. To feel stronger.

After a week off my feet I was finally given the go ahead to head out for a run. I was giddy with excitement as I slipped on my running shoes and turned on my Garmin for the first time since April 20th. With a gorgeous spring afternoon and legs that were well rested I imagined a perfect three miles.  Instead my legs felt like they were made of brick, I couldn’t catch my breath. It may in fact have been the shittiest three miles I have ever run. But it was a start. Again. I realized that my journey with running runs parallel to my journey with weight loss: it never ends, it just changes direction. Completing a marathon doesn’t mean I’m done – it means I’m just beginning.

So let the next chapter begin.
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Where do we go from here?

Everyone told me to ride that marathon high and I certainly did. I scooted backwards down the stairs with pride, I didn’t take my jacket off for 7 days straight (Don’t worry on the 7th day I washed it -and then immediately put it back on), beaming every time someone asked me if I had run. I loved that the employee at Ben and Jerry’s gave me half off my order after seeing the medal around my neck. “So this is what finishing the Boston Marathon is like” I thought as I sipped my milkshake.

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And then my beautiful bouquets of flowers started to wilt. The temporary “Boston” tattoo on my arm began to wash off. I could walk down the stairs normally. And I was left with this incredible feeling of “What do I do now?”.

I knew that coming down from the Boston Marathon high was going to be hard. I had spent the last 6 months consumed with training for it. Imagining crossing that finish line every single day. My poor friends and family (and whoever is reading this) were breathing a sign of relief that it was finally over. But all I wanted was to go back in time and start again.

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It’s funny how the things we dread the most end up being the ones we appreciate in the end, right? Every Saturday night I had this put in my stomach about the next mornings long run and yet all I wanted to do was pack up my bag and leave it by the front door. I longed for jelly beans, the ache after a long run, the excitement of a goal ahead. There should really be a pop-up on road race websites that says “please enter the date of your last race” (kind of like how you have to put in your birthdate to enter a website about alcohol?) because I was tempted to sign up for anything and everything I could get my hands on. Luckily before I could make any rash decisions I just shut my laptop and headed to the pool.

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I kept getting the question “Do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?” and I didn’t even have to think for a second about the answer. I don’t want to be a “one and done”. And I definitely feel like I deserve another shot at Boston when it isn’t a freezing cold driving rain. Just not right now. I think my husband would divorce me. 😉

So what do I do now? I’m still not sure. I mean- where DO you go after Boston?! A part of me regrets climbing the race ladder too quickly. I wonder if I should have stuck to 5Ks and 10Ks longer, if I should have done a couple more half marathons before I decided to move onto 26.2. It’s a little disappointing to know there’s no more big distances to climb (Because don’t worry – I have NO drive to ever do anything higher than 26.2. That’s just sick).

FullSizeRenderOne thing I do know is that as exhausting as it was, finishing Boston didn’t leave me hating running. In fact I think it only made me love it more. This week of rest has been pure agony for me because all I wanted was to get back out there. I’ve just got to figure out what I’m heading out there to do.

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What I learned training for my first marathon.

I just can’t even begin to believe that marathon training is officially coming to an end. I’ve got one more “long” run (not that 10 miles even feels long anymore) and then THAT’S IT. 12 more days. It’s go time. It’s unreal.

So while I sit here obsessively stalking the weather (it’s already changed drastically 3 times in the last 24 hours) and wondering if every cramp in my little toe is a real pain, I decided to come up with a list of things I’ve learned during this process. Advice to those pondering the idea of training for 26.2. Some of it I never saw coming, some of it I heard over and over again, but sometimes you just have to see it for yourself before something clicks.

It’s time consuming. I assumed that marathon training would be just like when I trained for my first triathlon, or a half marathon. I know now that it is so much more. My weekends have consisted of lots of water, single digit Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons spent recovering on the couch. Pretty wild right? (Shout out to my buddies who have been so patient with me these last few months, I’ll be back soon!)

Find your village. With that being said, you can’t make it through this process alone. Find your support crew, the people who understand why you don’t want to go out at 9pm on a Saturday night or who will sit and listen to the play-by-play of your 20 miler (even if they just smile and nod their way through your babbling).

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Fuel is everything. I used to be pretty stubborn about fueling. In my mind holding out until the last possible minute made me tougher, but I would just crash. HARD. It took training for a marathon for me to figure out exactly when I need a boost, and to stay on top of it. Who knew you could actually feel GOOD running 10+ miles?

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There is no worse feeling than a hill with no end in sight, and lungs that can’t catch an ounce of air. But you have to remember that there is also no better feeling than the downhill that follows, and catching your breath again. THE. BEST.

Your race, your pace. This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, and one that I still struggle with every now and then. But, it’s been an incredibly helpful mantra to keep in the back of my head. I, like many other runners, have the tendency to compare myself to everyone around me. But at end of the day it’s my marathon and all that matters is how I get across the finish line.

What you do AFTER you run is just as important. The days I don’t stretch, foam roll, ice are the nights I usually hurt the most. It’s time consuming and not as tempting as immediately curling up on the couch, but my body thanks me later.

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Ice baths suck. Nothing else needs to be said here.

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You cannot eat everything in sight. I understand now why marathoners tend to gain weight- It’s easy to justify shoveling anything and everything into your mouth because you just ran 15 miles. I’m proud of the fact that I actually lost a few of the pounds I had re-gained earlier in the fall because I’ve been pretty consistent about tracking my food and sticking to what I know works for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t treat myself (Hi I’ll take an order of pancakes AND french fries please!) – but I always get back to business with the next meal. I know that in these last few weeks my weight will probably go up a bit, but I’ve accepted it because I know that I’m preparing my body to do this incredible thing.

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You will love your body. I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned. Despite all of the weight I’ve lost in the last few years it’s still instinct to nit pick and nag myself in the mirror. Until now. There’s something about putting your legs through almost 4 hours of running that makes you see them in a whole new light. Suddenly those thighs aren’t thick, they’re strong. Those calves aren’t bulky, they’re powerful. I’m proud of this body.

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Three.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The sky is the limit girlfriend. Happy Anniversary.

XOXO,

Bad Ass

Year One | Year Two

What I Learned Running 20 Miles.

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.

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“Rise and shine… it’s 20 mile time”

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.

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Thankful for the sound of a comforting footfall beside me for those first scary miles.

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!”

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15.9 miles in and there’s still a smile on my face!

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.

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I checked my Garmin at least 10 times that day, just to make sure it still said the same mileage.

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).

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My reward for running 20 miles? Chunky Monkey pancakes & a Reese’s Pieces Milkshake at 1pm. No regrets. 🙂