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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
One 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.
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. 🙂
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.
We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries and memories. In fact a good chunk of this blog has been about remembering and celebrating particular milestones. So it goes without saying that this summer there was one huge milestone I couldn’t let pass by… Iron Girl. For the entire week I reminisced over those sleepless nights, the countdown, how my dining room table was a packing station, and those terrifying butterflies that wouldn’t disappear.
I mentioned before that I wasn’t able to participate this year due to another special event that weekend. I was content with sitting it out because I knew that it would never compare to what I experienced last year. However I still had friends who were participating, and so I knew that I needed to head out there to support them as they had done for me.
Driving to Central Massachusetts in the early hours of the morning was eerily familiar of exactly one year earlier. I watched the sun peak up from behind the hills and remembered the ride to the race site, remembered pinching my arm to prevent myself from throwing up in the car. I ended up having to park my car in a satelite lot so I brought my bike so I could make it to my friends in time (former fat kid flashback: who ever thought I would think of THAT?). I took a left turn in to the lake, passed under the landmark underpass, and my body was instantly covered with goosebumps. Suddenly it felt weird being there. Suddenly I wish I had stayed home and just slept in.
I found my friends and hugged them tightly as I wished them good luck. And then I stood and watched them make their way to the chute, digging my feet in the sand to prevent myself from running to join them. I found a good spot to spectate and stared out at the lake that had once terrified me. I thought about how much I’ve changed since the day I stood in that water, how much I’ve grown since then. I watched as wave after wave was called.I wondered how many of those girls were doing their first race. I wondered how many of them were as nervous as I had been. I hoped they too had someone with them to calm them down.
As the morning went on I quickly forgot about myself. I got so caught up in making sure that I caught my friends at each point in the race, made sure I got pictures as they headed in and out of transition, cheered as they made their way to the final finish. I watched as athlete after athlete crossed the finish line: sometimes in a zone by themselves and sometimes with a friend by their side. I smiled inside when I saw groups of three cross together. I imagined those girls who were so scared at the swim, now beaming as they made their way under the banner. I knew exactly what they were feeling.
At the end of the day I was glad I was there to spectate and to see my team cross the finish line. As tired as I was it felt good to be a part of it in a totally different way. While my friends packed up their transition areas before we headed to breakfast I walked back over to the lake to grab my bike. I stood and looked out at the water, back in it’s calm state. I stood for a moment and said out loud “I’ll see you next year”. I’m not completely confident in that statement. Maybe Iron Girl was something I only needed to experience once. Maybe that was my gateway into bigger and better things. Maybe I left that lake the first time forever changed.
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.
Dear 52 pounds,
It’s been exactly a year since we last saw each other. And I have to be honest.. I haven’t missed you. Well, that’s kind of a lie. When it’s $&!-ing freezing cold out like this I joke that I want my fat back. But in reality I hope I never see you again.
And although another 13ish of your little friends eventually joined you, it was our initial breakup that freed me. Gave me my groove back. Made me into the person I am today. It was incredibly hard work, but saying goodbye to you was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I hate to be the one to tell you this but our breakup? Best thing that ever happened to me.
If you’ve been following my blog up in fat heaven (Where you disappeared to is still one of life’s great mysteries) you already know that I’ve been pretty busy since our breakup. I haven’t had much time to grieve your loss. Busy doing things like trying to see how fast I can swim half a mile, running half marathons, doing push ups, conquering hills on a bike, learning how to box, and getting my namaste on. And that’s just the beginning of the great things I have planned. You see- I’m learning that when you were in my life I spent a lot of time sitting around and wishing I could do things. And now? I go out and I do them. I try new things, even if they scare me shitless. I push myself. I eat to fuel my body. I sweat. I learn. I set big goals.
After we broke up I changed my name from “Fat Kid” to “Athlete”. Runner. Triathlete. Half Marathoner. Don’t all those titles sound so much better to you? I sure think so.
Since you’ve been gone you’ve missed some pretty incredible moments. Like the day I couldn’t stop staring at the girl in the wedding dress in the full length mirror. Or what it felt like the day I tried to lift all the weight I had lost. The amazing mess of hugs and tears when I realized I had just finished something I never thought I could do. When my feet crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. When I found myself in a store saying out loud “How is there every size of running tights except small?“. Yup, all these things really, truly happened.
Last year on New Year’s Eve I didn’t come up with any resolutions. I simply had a goal of not seeing you return, and to keep doing what I had been doing. It’s one thing to lose over 50 pounds but to keep it off for an entire year? Well that right there deserves a party hat and noisemakers for sure. And to ring in this new year? Keep setting new goals, keep registering for races. Keep swimming. Keep running, keep running, keep running. Keep surprising myself. Keep trying new things. Keep learning, keep growing, keep changing. Keep being proud. Keep being awesome.
Kathleen (the Athlete/Triathlete/Half Marathoner/Rockstar/Bad Ass)
As I am about to end what has been a crazy year of running, and with the big “What Now?” question still always lurking in the back of my mind,I’ve been trying to figure out what 2014 is going to look like for me. I was told to start making a list of races I want to do. Easy enough. So I sat down with my laptop, a pen, and a notebook.
But as I clicked around the internet trying to fill my year with races and goals, I couldn’t come up with a good plan. I found myself getting upset and frustrated. This post half funk I’ve been in is still kicking around. A place of feeling unmotivated, feeling like I’m so far behind the rest of the pack. As much as I know I’m a real runner now, and that I can do what I put to mind to- it doesn’t mean those negative thoughts don’t creep back every now and then. I just couldn’t find a combination of races that inspired me. That gave me something to look forward to. I told myself that I would stop when this wasn’t fun anymore. It’s not fun right now, but I don’t want to quit. So I tore the page out of my notebook and threw it away. Closed my laptop. Woosah.
All relationships- whether they be with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, family, yourself- they take work, dedication, evolution. Sometimes relationships fade away. Sometimes they come back, even stronger. Sometimes you just need to find a new way to connect. Your relationship with your body, your health, and your fitness needs to be handled in the same manner as any other important one in your life. Some would argue it’s the most important.
So with that in mind I’ve been trying to focus my energy on other things, such as my swimming. It’s funny that in the beginning I told myself I wouldn’t step back in the pool after I finished my triathlon. And then when that was over I said “Well, maybe I’ll go every now and again.” And now? I’m there at least twice a week. Suddenly I crave the feeling of gliding through the water, the scent of chlorine that stays on my skin even after I shower, this fantastic new feeling of tiredness in my shoulders and in my arms. Suddenly I’m finding that swimming has become for me an outlet just as much as running has.
My other new venture? Yoga. For anyone who knows me in real life- ungraceful is my middle name. I also tend to have the attention span of a fruit fly, so yoga didn’t seem to be in the cards for me. But as much as I rolled my eyes at the concept I keep being told that it will help me as a runner. And we all know that these days I’m willing to take all the help I can get. So as much as I feared rolling into someone else’s downward dog I begrudgingly headed to my first class. And while it didn’t take my breath away, it didn’t scare me away either. I headed back for a second helping.
I have to admit- I’m intrigued by yoga. I’m digging that it makes me slow down, makes me more aware of my strong legs and arms, makes me stop and appreciate all that they do for me. And somewhere in the middle of trying to will my legs into Tree Pose last week- it clicked. Yoga (Maybe it’s different elsewhere, I’m just glad this is a judgmental class) is about accepting where you are in your journey. If my gawky legs can’t hold it together it’s not the end of the world- for trees are meant to sway. Suddenly yoga class turned into a life lesson: my tree doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, nor should it. What it will grow into is dependent on how I nurture it, how I care for it. I’m sitting here trying to fit my round peg into other people’s square holes. I’m trying to write my story based off of someone else’s cliff notes. And really I should be focusing on how far I’ve come, and where I want to go. It’s my journey and I’ll get there in my own time, on my own two feet… swaying as I go. I I understand the concept, but it’s going to take a while until I’m able to practice it fully on my own. Yes, I think yoga is a good place for me to be for a while.
PS. Shout out to April the awesome yoga instructor… you may just convert me after all 🙂
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!) 🙂