Grit and Grime

Running, specifically long distance running, has a way of stripping a person down to the inner grit and grime of who she is. The effects of using all the body’s energy and breaking down muscle only to be rebuilt stronger don’t discriminate between man, woman, young, old, affluent, poor, elite, not elite (read: me).

Today’s long run was more of a mental feat than a physical one. I’ve had this habit of doubting myself lately and what my body can accomplish. It’s still probably leftover from feeling an ultimate betrayal from my body, but what can I do besides keep pushing through it?

It wasn’t the number of miles that got to me today. It was the utter horrible, bitter, angry thoughts that found their way into my head during the last third of my run. For about 7 miles, I saw who I really can be sometimes at my core – jealous, envious, certainly not well-wishing. Something I realized though is that while I don’t generally feel that way anymore, it brought to light some interesting or surprising revelations about myself that are hard to confront.

I think God wants to reveal these things to me so I can be forgiven, but I push it down most of the time. It’s only on a 20-mile run that I’m a captive audience with little distraction but passing cars and music.

The truth is, I need redemption and love and to not feel lonely in the world. I need to feel like my life matters and that I can do something that counts. I need reassurance that the decisions I’ve made in my life have brought me to this place for a reason. I need to know that any and all hurts I’ve experienced haven’t been in vain. I need to know that even as a broken, hurting soul I still have love to give.

This morning I was mad, angry, jealous, upset. Those emotions felt to my soul like brushing off rough salt felt on my sweaty face. I felt exposed to every person I painfully strode by, not wanting to meet their eyes because I knew I couldn’t muster a fake smile. Surely they could see how grimey and gritty my soul really was.

Today’s run was wholly about the journey, not for one second about the destination. In life the destination is death, and then the afterlife.

But I’m not living (running) to die – I’m living (running) to live.

 

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Philly Marathon Training Update

When I think of training for a race, I automatically evaluate it with a “good” or “not so good” or some other adjective to describe what I perceive it’s been like. Truth is, every day I get out there and pound the pavement in search of health (physical and mental), it’s a good day. And it’s a good training cycle.

Recently I’ve been down on myself about my paces. Why I’m not faster. Why some runs just feel soΒ slllooowww. I try to find reasons, justifications, for why this could be. I compare myself to other runners on specifically Instagram, who provide inspiration, but who also are in a literal different league than I am running-wise. And that’s okay.

My health has been a struggle for a couple years. I’m talking about collective physical, mental, and emotional health. When I found out I was hypothyroid, my doctor said he couldn’t believe I had the energy to train for a marathon (last year, Marine Corps). The thing is, I didn’t. I absolutely didn’t.

This year feels so much better. I’m still staring down this next 26.2 and wondering some days how it’ll get done, but it will. So far I haven’t been plagued by sickness or injury. Let me just say that yours truly knows how to do rest days. I’ve been practicing yoga a couple days a week which has helped immensely with all around strength and flexibility. My chiropractor is happy about that development for sure.

The weather here in Maryland has finally broken – it now feels like fall even though the calendar has told us that it is for almost a month. I hope to see paces get faster and to feel all around better during and after runs. A downside to the changing season is the darkness in the morning. I waffle back and forth on whether I like the peace or whether it freaks me out. I invested in this running flashlightΒ to help me not wipe out like I did a few weeks ago. I’m sure it’ll get a lot of use in the coming months.

It’s around this time of year that I think about moving my running schedule to after work. Some days, running after work is necessary, but truth be told I love having it done early. That cup of coffee post run is just so so sweet, and I can focus so much better at work not thinking about how I have to run after.

I’m ever so slowly finding a mind shift when it comes to running. Instead of thinking, “I have to run today,” I can say, “I get to run today.” That’s what it’s really all about.

Charm City 20-Miler, Take 2

I’m enjoying the AC on this apparently ‘fall’ day, wearing my newly earned race shirt and curled up under my blanket. Actually, my legs are resting on the ottoman becauseΒ ouch. I just ran, or killed, 20 miles through the beautiful woods of central Maryland. You can read last year’s report here. You’ll also read a lot of “last year”s because the comparison is quite interesting.

I wasn’t quite as impulsive about signing up for this race as I was last year, but I was more apprehensive. The marathon I’m training for (Philadelphia) doesn’t happen until November 19, a full 3-4 weeks later than the Marine Corps Marathon I did last year. Naturally, I have less training behind me this year, and that made me nervous. I feel like I’ve been more consistent with training, but the longest run I’d done up until today was 15 miles. Just 5 more, right? That’s what I told myself. Until I saw the weather forecast.

Last year it was a cool and lovely 46*. This year we started with 67* with forecast highs into the high 80s, low 90s. Fortunately the vast majority of the trail is shaded and we begin in a valley, so it definitely could have been worse conditions. I knew that hydrating was even more important that usual with those temps. I drank probably 50 oz of Nuun (plus whatever water and Gatorade I got at water stops) and still downed a 16 oz bottle of water at the finish.

My pace overall this year was 11:54, only 5 seconds faster than last year’s pace of 11:59. Strava tells a different story (11:31) as well as Fitbit (11:39), but around mile 17-18 I lost GPS so that could have messed with the numbers.

Mentally I was in the game the whole time. I never felt like I wouldn’t finish or do well. I encouraged others on the trail, too, not something I normally do, to be honest. I usually just keep my head down and plodding away. But like I learned at Marine Corps last year, there’s something that happens physiologically when you encourage others, high five, or let out any exclamation of positivity.

I ran without music the first 10 miles and then rocked from 10 until the end. Miles 8-13 were the toughest mentally, but looking at my paces I was pretty steady and staying within my long run training range of 11:18-11:48.

My plan now is to have another peak run of 20 miles sometime in late October, and then taper for Philadelphia on November 19!

 

NCR 20-Miler Recap

I should probably be lesson planning right now, but meh. It’s Wednesday. It’s rainy, windy and cool outside. I’m wearing a sweatshirt and not roasting. It’s finally fall.

And what better way to welcome fall than some running through the woods this weekend? The trees haven’t really started changing yet, but it was a lovely 46* starting out on Sunday.

I didn’t know even 24 hours before the race started that I’d be running it. I have to say I’veΒ never been so impulsive about signing up for a race. However, I’ve been training for the Marine Corps Marathon coming up in only a month (!!!!!) and I needed to do a long run anyway.

The NCR 20 Miler was on my radar a few months ago as a good way to get in a 20-miler without having to go it alone, but I forgot about it until I saw a post on Instagram. So if you’re wondering if advertising on Instagram works, well, it does. I drove down to Timonium to the running store to sign up and pick up my packet all in the same day. I mean, who wouldn’t want that awesome shirt?!

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My husband and I got up around 5:15 on Sunday morning, not too much later than when we wake up during the week. I have to say, that’s one thing I’ve really gotten disciplined about: getting up early and running before the sun even peeks over the horizon.

We got coffee on our way out of town (naturally) and drove up to Freeland, MD, just off I-83 and about 2 miles from the Mason-Dixon line (Pennsylvania border). It was a beautiful drive, mostly country roads, and we watched the sun rise.

The race was a point-to-point, so he dropped me off and drove down to Cockeysville, conveniently 20 miles south of Freeland. πŸ˜‰ He hung out and drank coffee and did a little writing of his own while I ran.

I had my sights set on running a 12:00 pace, which would put me at 4 hours. That’s much slower than I’ve run long distance races in the past, but this is a new day. I’m heavier than I was 5-6 years ago while training for my first marathon. I’ve been dealing with this nagging calf/soleus pain in my left leg. I suspect that it might be caused by my shoes, but I’d like to not shell out a buck fifty for another pair quite yet.

Per the website, there were no headphones allowed on the trail. I ran the first 10-11 miles with no music. Just me, the trees, the sounds of nature, and the occasional cyclist or runner coming the opposite way. Let me tell you, it is a major victory for me to be able to run and enjoy it without headphones. After about mile 11, I turned on some music on my phone in the front pocket of my Nathan hydration pack. It was the perfect boost I needed between miles 10-15.

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20 miles of this? Yes, please.

My fuel for the race was a small iced coffee and pumpkin donut from Dunkin (apparently Dunkin is a big thing on the East Coast.. they’re everywhere…) and a couple Gatorade chews. For some reason, I have not been favoring GU gels, or really gels of any sort, this training cycle. The texture and taste are generally unappetizing. So I’ve been picking up these Gatorade chews from Walmart. They’re very similar to gummy candy, which I love, so it’s a good choice. I filled my Nathan pack with water and Nuun tablets. I’ve been using Nuun for about a year now and have never had any issues.

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Monkton, MD, a stop along the trail

Once I hit mile 17, I knew I had it in the bag. I saw lots of people who had passed me early on walking and looking like they were hurting. I told myself, “I’ll be damned if I come out and do this run and not finish strong.” So I did.

The last mile came out onto a road that was pretty hilly. Since I’ve been running hills since I moved to Maryland, it was no big deal. I powered through and had my second fastest mile (11:11). I finished in 3:59:33, pace 11:59. One second faster than my goal pace. I felt awesome.

It was the perfect confidence booster for MCM. I did an 18-miler just the week before, and a 17-miler two weeks before that. I’ll do around 12 this weekend and push for one more 20-miler October 10 before a three-week taper.

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Maryland Half Marathon –> NCR 20-Miler. Find the differences between these pictures: a hot, humid summer, Β 10-12 lbs, and loads of confidence.

I’ve treated this week similar to a ‘zero week’ (more like a 15 mile week) and taking it easy on my nagging calf. I’ll ramp it up next week and then move into the taper. Next I’ll start thinking about spring races…

The year of no resolutions

As I get older, or maybe it’s just as I get wiser (ha) I realize how much I don’t like committing to multiple things for a really long time. Obviously I’m committed to my marriage, that’s kind of a big deal, and I’m committed to Jesus, grad school, and a lifetime of fitness. But pretty much everything else is up for grabs.

Something I’ve really been working on during this deployment is taking things day-by-day. I’ve always been a planner, a ridiculous, meticulous, INSANE planner. In some parts of my life it’s been a blessing to be that way, but in the rest of it, it’s just a pain in the butt. Like, a big one. Being that way has caused me to plan away all my vacation time, with a lot of the reason being that I’m afraid people will be mad at me if I don’t see them. Well, sorry, but I shouldn’t have a guilt trip complex on freaking vacation!

It’s caused me to overcommit to races in my head that I never ended up doing (Bataan last year, a few marathons, etc). And that only leaves me feeling like crap when I’m not running an insane amount of miles for a race I didn’t even sign up for in real life. Again, ain’t nobody got time for a guilt trip.

It’s caused me to get through things instead of enjoy things, as if my life were one giant checklist. Now, I love lists. It’s part of being a planner. But I’d like my lists to become more of a gathering of ideas rather than a “do or DIE” sort of thing.

I no longer want to be overcommitted to things, whether it’s church stuff, social stuff or just…. stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I totally believe that people should follow through with commitments, especially Christians. The world needs less flakiness. My goal is to not say “yes” to things I will have to say “no” to later, and to say “maybe” to things that I’m just not sure about. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’,” ya know? I mean, it’s totally socially acceptable to not be sure about some event happening in a month. A lot can change in a month, especially this thing called life. But if I do commit to something, I will follow through. I think it sets a good example to myself, to others, to children, to people who have known only flaky people. Let’s just stop with the flakiness.

I’m gonna be honest; this week kinda sucked. While I’m glad to be back in El Paso because it means the semester starting soon and a returning husband on his way, I also miss life in Illinois. Having your heart in two places is just… painful. This week I’ve had nothing but time to myself in my house (I know you wives with full-time husbands and mothers, just any mother, is wishing you could have so much time to yourself in your quiet house) and so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, introspection, and prayer.

This year is the year of no resolutions. I’m not going to commit to not eating certain things, or running a certain number of miles a week, or plan out all of 2014. About the eating, I love eating, and I even like high fructose corn syrup and I can’t promise I won’t eat it sometime in 2014. So there. I’ll get to the running in a minute. And it is impossible for me to plan out all of 2014 because as we’re approaching our 3 years here in El Paso (and husband would like to transfer out of his unit) I don’t even know if we’re moving this year.

About the running. I signed up for the El Paso Marathon as soon as registration opened, because who wouldn’t want a $60 marathon?? I’m about 85% sure I’ll be dropping down to the half. I used so much mental toughness training for Transmountain. I’d never been so diligent and consistent in training for a race before. I kicked butt on that one, and then PR’d my 5K time, which was a 2013 goal. Since then, the holidays happened (need I say more?) and I did keep up with running (10 miles is kinda my fave long distance now) but I have lost all motivation and even guilt to do anything over 13-14. And it gets lonely out there on those long runs, ya know?

What’s more, the other night on the holiday fun run organized by Farrah atΒ Fairy Healthy Life, I felt some weird tweaks in my right leg, things that have annoyed me a little in the past few months. I definitely don’t want to push my luck and end up injured.

Aaron and I are signed up for the Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50K in May in northern New Mexico, and training for that will pick up at the end of February. I have to have motivation for that; a 50K is no joke. I mean, it’s a freaking ultra in the mountains!

So those are the races I’m committed to for 2014. Only 2. At least 2…

So my New Year’s Resolution? To not overcommit to things. And if I’m gonna commit to something, I’ll make good on my promise. I want to be reliable, not flaky. Oh and the other thing? I’m trying to make my bed every day. So far, so good. πŸ˜‰

The anatomy of a solo long run

Earlier this week I was considering dropping to the half from the full. I wondered if maybe I was burned out and should keep running but do less mileage. Then I thought about how far I’ve come since June with a new 5K PR (26:49) and a long run pace that sometimes has me wondering if I’m wearing a jetpack (10:15-10:35ish).

I had a sucky interval run on Thursday; I felt sick the whole time. But yesterday after working on school work at Starbucks, I decided to hit the trails and not get lost. πŸ˜‰ That’s when I said to heck with my insecurities and laziness.. just DO IT! There’s no sense in wasting all the endurance and fitness I’ve worked so hard at, and I have my first 50K with my husband in May (Jemez Mountain Trail Run in Los Alamos, NM).

I was out late last night, which means I slept in this morning. I sat around my house, downing Pop-Tarts debating with myself if I should run today or tomorrow. 12 miles or 14 miles. I was debating which route to take, and if I should take the dog for a few miles. My brain was a hot mess.Β Since my husband deployed, Saturdays have just been weird and my least favorite day of the week, so I figured that I might as well do my long run. If anything, I’ll feel better afterwards.

I had plans later in the day so I calculated the latest time I could leave for 14 miles to get back in time to shower and get there. At 11:05, I laced up my shoes and leashed up my dog and we were out the door. Missy is such a great running partner, so we did about 3.8 miles easy as a warmup.

I brought her home, got my GUs and half-full water bottle, and I was out the door for the other 10.2. It was very strange weather here today…. cloudy and cold, even at 11:45. I couldn’t find my earband so I just grabbed a hat I got at my first ever trail race in Illinois. I ditched the gloves, though… my hands get warm fast.

Mentally I was in the game. I knew exactly the route I had to take to get those 10.2 miles, and I could envision myself at different point during the run. It felt strange to be running my long run on a Saturday (I got into the habit of running Sundays) and in the middle of the day.

The warmup was perfect and set me up to get in mostly negative splits. I had a lot of miles in the 9:00’s. That was definitely not my goal; my 7-miler last weekend was slow and torturous, and this week I just wanted to get the miles in and do it at a comfortable pace. However, by mile six I knew I’d be running faster than last week.

The first part of my route today had some shady characters…. a guy purposely slowing down and staring, random groups of kids…. that’s my part of town for ya. However, by the time I hit miles 9 and 10 I was running through a pretty neighborhood that reminds me a lot of roads I ran in Illinois.

When I hit the halfway point at mile 7, I started feeling really good. I always, ALWAYS have a hard time getting out the door, but I get progressively happier throughout the run. By mile 9 I started to feel my quads… and they HURT. It’s been awhile since a run has made me sore, but honestly I’ve kind of missed it. The great part about my route today was that by the time I started hurting, I had a slight downhill. It was probably only 1-2% but it made a difference.

I kept the last few miles strong and finished 14 miles in 2:24 (10:19 pace!!!). I got a new 13.1 PR. I felt so good afterwards. I was cold but one of the best rewards is a hot shower followed by FOOD.

I think this month will be good for mileage. I’m finally out of the post-race slump/resting period and can hit the pavement hard. This month so far I’ve run 34 miles already!

Moral of the story? Get your ass out the door. It’s hard and you don’t want to, but you’ll be so glad you did. Every long run gives you bragging rights. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Tail end of summer

This summer flew by so fast. Tomorrow is three months down in this deployment, and that couldn’t make me happier.

I set out in the middle of May to kick butt in my class (check), do well with my research assistantship (check) and lesson plan for the fall (nope!). In May Leah and Benjamin came to visit and I just could not get enough sweet baby snuggles.

June brought lots and lots of 12-hour days because I had work in the morning for a few hours, and then I had class in the afternoon for two hours a day. I will never ever ever take another summer class again. My assistantship has gone so well. I basically got paid to learn how to do corpus-based research and start on my thesis. This week is the last week of the 10-week appointment, so I’ll be submitting my thesis proposal to the department and also to the IRB for approval. This fall I’ll be taking two online classes, working on the data collection/analysis part of my thesis and teaching one ESOL class, and intermediate level class. My schedule will be wide open for the most part, which seems to happen when Aaron’s gone. Rawr.

At the end of June I also started training for a half marathon, the Transmountain Challenge, which goes from the west side of the Franklins to the east side on Transmountain Road. I drive this road all the time so I am well aware of the bends and turns and gain in elevation. Training has gone really well so far. In July I ran 73 miles, and to date I’ve run 32 this month. I missed two of my runs last week because of stress and feeling sick. I’m not sure if it was all the junk I ate the weekend before, or a bug, but it took me several days to feel 100% again. I’m glad I rested because yesterday I had a fantastic run, 10 miles up and over Scenic Drive and back again. It was deliciously cool, only 66 degrees at 6 am, and at one point there was a strong headwind. But I powered through it and finished the run breaking an 11:00 pace. It. Was. Awesome.

Last week I took the plunge and signed up for the El Paso Marathon, which is February 23. It’ll be my second marathon, and I’m so excited. It starts at the top of the road I’ll be running on in October, so the elevation goes down down down for 26.2 miles. When Aaron gets back, we want to run an ultra together. Living in the Southwest gives us a lot of awesome options in NM, TX, AZ for ultras. Yes, we are crazy. And yes, Aaron has a blog! Check it out at The Ultra Road!

I think I’m slightly crazy Β to do my thesis, finish up my grad coursework (I’ll graduate in May!!), and train for a half and full marathon while having a deployed husband. Running keeps me sane, though.. it forces me to be accountable, pumps up my self-confidence, and allows me to not feel guilty about eating ice cream.

My next post will talk about running in beautiful cool COLORADO! Heading up there later this week to visit a dear friend. It’ll be Missy’s first road trip, so pray for us. Haha.