Questioning my (running) decisions

Yesterday’s 10 mile run in Chestertown was hot, humid, slightly hilly, beautiful, and HARD. I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for at least six months. I think I had the beginnings of it going into the Philly Marathon in November and didn’t let it rest after that.

After months of alternately treating it and trying to pretend like it doesn’t exist, it flared up big time in the middle of a run, which normally doesn’t happen.

I had a long drawn out (obviously drawn out.. Got nothing but time on a long run) conversation with myself about my running goals for the year.

After Philly I swore I wasn’t going to run a marathon this year. Two years in a row I had mediocre training and got through a marathon by the seat of my pants. Working full time with all the other things I like to do really doesn’t lend itself to a schedule conducive for training to be competitive (with myself).

It’s time I’m honest with myself and realize that yes, I love running but no, I have no huge desire to run anything longer than about 6-8 miles right now. It’s okay to not sign up for all the races. It’s okay to not be constantly training for a half or full. Just because I’ve done marathons in the past doesn’t mean I have to keep doing them.

Like my husband (and therapist) tell me, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. That includes all the other things I like to be involved in.

Over the past several months through tracking my food and calories, I have proven to myself that I don’t need to be running an obscene amount of miles in order to stay fit or lose weight. In fact, I’d say my eating is better when I’m not burning ridiculous amounts of calories on long runs.

Summer is not usually a time of introspection for me, but the tough run yesterday has prompted me to reevaluate my running goals and become honest with myself. I look forward to the rest of 2018 as a year when I stop doing things I don’t want to do, and I rest when needed. Easier said than done, right?

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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.

 

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 because 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!

 

Running with the Marines

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I toed the line for my third ever marathon. I ran Illinois in 2011 and Bataan Memorial Death March in 2012. This marathon had been on my mind since I won entry via the lottery back in March.

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Sign my colleague put on our office door

 

My training was pretty solid as far as long runs go. I had started out this training cycle with high hopes of using Hansons’ marathon method, but since I started my new full-time teaching job and had other commitments, that wasn’t going to happen. So I backed down to a Higdon Novice marathon plan. I’m glad I did because I had just enough time in my week to get my runs in.

I came into this marathon having almost 3 months of 100+ mile months, the most mileage I’ve completed when training for any race. I had done a 17, 18, 20, and final 18-miler for my super-long runs. My paces were right about 12:00. It’s slow for me.. but I’m also still about 10 lbs heavier than I was 4-5 years ago. During this cycle (since May), I’ve lost about 20 pounds, and aimed to keep my weight steady during taper. I had some tendonitis in my left leg, but thankfully I had zero issues with it on Sunday.

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National Harbor, where packet pickup was hosted

I had been feeling under the weather last week, which I knew was going to happen eventually. It’s inevitable when you work with young children (kindergarten to fifth grade). I didn’t feel too hot on Saturday when we drove down to DC for packet pickup. My appetite wasn’t normal, so I just ate whatever sounded good. For Saturday, it was a Big Mac with fries.

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At packet pickup

While we were in town on Saturday, we (my husband and I) did a super short shakeout run and a little sightseeing.

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I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday nights, and was worried I would feel awful come Sunday morning. However, after getting to DC Sunday morning, parking, and getting to Runner’s Village near the start, I began to feel better and my headache subsided.

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Ready to roll. At the Wear Blue expo booth on Saturday, I adopted a fallen Airman to run for on Sunday.

I dropped off my bag and ran over to the Wear Blue circle of remembrance. I FINALLY got to meet my lovely friend Natalie after years of knowing her.

It took less time to cross the start line than I anticipated.We were off under a beautiful sunrise. It was warm even before we started running, and I knew to anticipate a warm day. I stayed hydrated and fueled for the entire race. Anytime I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I ate the Gatorade chews I’d packed. There were some awesome food stations giving out oranges, energy gels, sport beans, and even spectators with Halloween candy.

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Around mile 10

All in all, I had an awesome race. I enjoyed most miles, even the tough ones (21-25). I had made a decision prior to race day that there’s no reason to not enjoy myself because how amazing was it that I got to run through one of the coolest cities in America? I had pushed through so many hurdles during training that I was more than mentally ready for the marathon.

I wish I’d had pictures from the Wear Blue mile, where pictures of fallen military were lined up in remembrance of their sacrifice. I saw Natalie’s brother’s picture as well as my friend Rachel’s husband’s photo. I touched them both as I ran by and said a prayer.

I never hit the wall, and I attribute this to continually fueling and hydrating throughout. Around mile 20, my legs and feet just started to hurt.. pretty typical for a marathon if you ask me. Lots of people were walking, and it was tempting to join them. However, I tried to reason as logically as I could, and reasoned that it was going to hurt whether I walked or ran, so I might as well run and get done faster. So run I did.

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Around mile 17-18, and yes, that is the US Capitol in the background. ‘Murica.

Around mile 22 or 23 when we got to Crystal City, we were running out and backs. So, in order to distract myself and provide some encouragement, I started to call out other Wear Blue runners on the other side of the cones. It helped! I felt better, I got smiles from them, and those miles went by.

The finish was going to be uphill – I had looked at the elevation profile. I saw Aaron about 1/4 mile away from the finish, and that was an awesome boost. I crossed the finish line and made my way to the chute to get my medal from a Marine. I met up with Aaron at the Finisher’s Festival, got my obligatory (and free) beer, downed some Gatorade, and tried my best to hobble my way to pick up my drop bag.

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All smiles after a strong finish

We got to the Rosslyn Metro station and rode the blue line back to Federal Triangle, not too far from where we parked at the Reagan building. Then we drove home. (How cool is it that we live in driving distance of DC?!)

My overall time was 5:34:53, and my pace was 12:46. It was 12:32 according to my Garmin, where it says I ran 26.65 actual miles. I was happy with that pace. The course itself wasn’t very hilly, but after 18 or so miles, hills start to feel like mountains. But I didn’t ever walk a hill. It was warm – on the way home, the temp was around 82*. On my longest run during training, I ran a 12:00 pace on completely flat ground.

I’d say that this was an awesome way to ‘come back’ to long distance running. I will still work on losing about 10 more lbs to get down to where I maintained my weight for several years. With this race, I felt I truly overcame any mental hurdles to long distance running. There was a point when nothing was going to make me keep running except for me. Not music, not a breeze, not the energy of spectators. I had to just decide to do it and follow through.

I highly recommend the MCM – it’s extremely well-organized, from packet pickup to riding the Metro around. The sights are gorgeous, and fall in Maryland is beautiful.

What’s next? I’m looking ahead to a spring half and the Philadelphia Marathon next fall. Must run all the East Coast marathons!

 

 

 

Foundation = Built

I’m less than two weeks away from racing the Maryland Half Marathon. I haven’t officially trained (well) for a race since the Transmountain Challenge Half Marathon in October 2013. For the past two years, I took it easy with running and exercising, and depression and busyness prevented me from keeping up well with working out and eating to nourish my body.

When we moved to Maryland four months ago, I thought it was a good opportunity to start over… in a lot of ways. So I found a spring half marathon, wrote up my training plan, and got to work.

Total miles since January: 203.54 miles

  • January: 12.7 miles/pace unknown. Slow!
  • February: 56.98 miles / 12:12 average pace
  • March: 51.17 miles / 11:49 average pace
  • April: 82.69 miles / 12:32 average pace

In general, my plan calls for three runs per week: a speed workout, regular run, and long run. For the past few weeks, my long runs have been alternating between increasing mileage (9, 10, 11, 12) and an 8-miler on the alternating weeks. I followed a similar plan in 2013 and saw great success.

Over the past few months, I’ve missed quite a few mid-week runs, but I’ve never missed a long run. Most of my running has been on hills. It doesn’t matter which direction I head when I leave my house to run, or even if I drive somewhere to run – it’s hilly.

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Elevation Profile from my 12-miler on Saturday

Two weeks ago I did an 11-miler where the average pace was 12:16, and Saturday I did the same route and added a mile and my average pace was 11:40, and I didn’t walk any of the hills. The half has a total elevation gain/loss of 1029 ft, so I’d say I’m ready for that. Today at the gym I did a speed workout, and I shaved five minutes off my time since I did the same workout in March. Pretty darn proud of that.

It seems that I’ve built up a good base, and just in time for the half. At the end of June, I’ll be starting training for the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30. I’m so excited about this race as it’s been on my running bucket list for awhile. I spent some time this weekend writing out the plan. I’ll be using Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, which calls for 4 runs per week, one day of cross training, and 2 days of rest. I think after building this base and staying ‘half marathon ready’ until the end of June, I’ll be ready to tackle the higher mileage.

 

Seven miles.

Seven miles of clouds

Seven miles of cold

Seven miles of humidity

Seven miles of hills

Seven miles started with ‘it’s too cold’

Seven miles ended with ‘the cold is refreshing’

Seven miles started with ‘this view is boring’

Seven miles ended with ‘this view is home’

Seven miles started with ‘I can’t do this’

Seven miles ended with ‘I can do anything’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m hungry’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m satisfied’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m weak’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m strong’

Seven miles started with sadness

Seven miles ended with elation

Seven miles started with ‘this hurts’

Seven miles ended with ‘this heals’

 

 

aberdeen

 

March 5 | Focus

Focus

The ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time is glorified in our society. A Lenten promise to focus on for six weeks. A plan for a half marathon that lasts 12 weeks. A new eating plan that is supposed to last… forever? If you stick with it, you’re a hero, and if you fall off the wagon, you failed.

I’ve tried all these types of intense focus, from marathon training plans, to Lenten/Advent habits or rituals, eating plans.. and to be honest, I always fail somewhere along the way. I miss a day, have one too many cheat meals, just don’t feel like running that weekend. And I feel down about it.

So in order to have more focus in my life, I’ve tried setting more measurable and specific goals. Instead of saying, okay, I’m going to commit 100% to this half marathon plan, I’m going to look at the plan for every day. Narrow the scope a bit so it feels much more doable. Sure, I’ll probably hit 90% of the runs for the plan because if I don’t,  I won’t have a good race, but I also allow some leeway in there just in case.

This is not to discourage wholehearted attempts at creating new patterns or habits, especially if they’re healthy or good ones. I just refuse to look at it as a do-or-die thing. I keep my focus by getting to the heart of it: I see the benefits it has for my life, whether it’s keeping up with a daily devotional, running 3-4 times a week, or eating less ice cream (sad!). I’m much more motivated and focused when I’m not a slave to whatever plan I ascribe to, but rather a willing and involved participant.