Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rivalries and Nerves (Marathon Training, Week 18)

Six days before my first marathon in the quest, and nervous wreck.  Why?  A rivalry.
Now, I love friendly rivalries, the ones that push both of us to do our best and come from a place of friendship and caring.  It encourages me to be a better runner and person.  But there are also times where my Type A competitive nature gets the best of me. 

There’s a girl in the area who when I switched back to running, tried to take me “under her wing.”  While I appreciated her insight, she didn’t seem to understand that my goals and attitudes about running were very different.  I’ve been doing this competitive athlete thing a very long time.  I’ve been the kid too slow to make the varsity team when the team qualified for the state finals, and I’ve been the adult skater who was in first place at Adult Nationals.  I’ve weathered through illness and injury, but I’ve also struggled with motivation and confidence.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that your passion has to be in the process of training.

When we first met, I assumed, based on her constant signing up for races, that she was just as passionate about going out and running.  Nope.  She really didn’t do a lot of training runs, spent quite a bit of time nursing various aches and pains, and was tied to her walk/run intervals.  Plus, her attitudes and advice were definitely shaped by having the financial means to purchase gear and sign up for races.  Not only am I on a tight budget, but much of it didn’t exist when I started running. 

I really don’t care about other people’s running journey, since karma dictates that you will get out of the sport what you put into it.  But I’m not perfect, and her attitude just pushed my buttons.  Perhaps it was that she didn’t have the work ethic.  Perhaps I was jealous that I couldn’t afford some of the stuff she did.  When I saw her, I would work harder, run further, go faster, and for most of the summer, I was ahead of her. 

Well, in the past few weeks, she’s started to push herself, closing in on me.  On Sunday, she broke 5 hours in the marathon, a goal that I’ve been working so hard to do.  My heart just sank, and it triggered my past mental demons, from both skating and running.  I was nervous, thinking, “What if I’m not faster than her on Sunday?  If I’m not as fast as I want to be, can I redo?”  A long deep chat with the boyfriend eased the jittery feelings, but not the nerves. 

On Monday, one of my skating friends, trying to practice her Silver Moves test, posted the following advice to herself:  Do your best, and do it with joy.  It was the message I needed to hear.  I need to focus on my own race and not worry about what everyone else is doing.  Especially someone who is on a very different journey.

In less than 24 hours, Marathon #1.  A little excited, a little nervous, ready to do my best, and ready to do it with joy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Food, Glorious Food (Marathon Training, Week 16)

Two weeks until the big marathon, Major #1, and I’m having some, um, digestive issues.  Mainly, that I either have to take a long bathroom break in the middle of a race or give myself hemorrhoids (or both).  When you talk about five hours of running, the discomfort and distraction is significant, and as I get closer to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, a bathroom break can mean the difference between qualifying and “see you next year.”

Now, I am the type of runner who tries to roll with the punches, no matter the circumstances.  There’s so much I can control (my training, my diet), but there’s a lot I can’t control (the weather, how my body will feel, illness, injury).  However, this bathroom issue is in that grey area:  I can control my diet, I can time my bathroom breaks, I can run through every discomfort, but I can’t control how my body will react to the race.

However, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get everything through and out my system, so the bouncing of running creates the need for a bathroom break.  I’ve eaten big meals, small meals, high carb, high protein, meat, no meat—with no relief.

My next plan is to significantly increase my fiber and water in the next week or so, to “clean out” my digestive track, and then hope there won’t be any extra left.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Injured? (Marathon Training, Week 15)

On Saturday, I did a supported 20 mile run.  In addition to a gear check and aid stations, it featured pacers, so it was an opportunity to practice not going out too fast at the start.  My lovely boyfriend signed up to run with me, and we were able to stay with the pace group through the first five miles before he decided to turn around and go back to the start/finish.

My goal was to stick with the pacer as long as possible.  When we got to mile 9, I really needed to use the bathroom, and that trip caused me to lose sight of the pacer.  I pushed a bit and caught up with them around mile 11…and then it happened. 

I’ve been having weird ankle discomfort on and mostly off this summer.  Not painful, but more like I need to crack it—but I can’t.  At mile 11, the discomfort turned into pain.  I kept running, kept sticking with the pacer, and by mile 14, was able to surge past the pace group because I was feeling so much better. 

By mile 15, the pace group had caught up, and when I had to switch my phone armband at mile 16, I started to struggle keeping with the group.  However, I did have the energy to sneak up behind my boyfriend around mile 17.5 and flip his baseball cap.  J 

I forced myself to continue jogging to the end, and actually did have a final burst of speed.  In the end, I was well under my goal pace, but my ankle was not a happy camper.  I struggled to put weight on it all afternoon and into the evening, and spent most of the next day icing and elevating it.
By Tuesday, it was well enough to join my running club for hill runs, but I fear I need new shoes before Marathon Sunday, which is 2.5 short weeks away.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Diva Moments (Marathon Training, Week Thirteen)

Sometimes, racing shows us our worst moments.

A couple weeks ago, the leader of our run club posted a deal—a half marathon in Wisconsin with a $35 entry fee.  I couldn’t resist, and signed up, knowing that it was a new marathon to a new location.  I questioned that decision all week, because I would have to drive myself into Milwaukee, figure out parking, get to the pickup on time, and basically stressing about getting to the start line on time.

I’ve been doing this running thing FOR 26 YEARS.  You would think that getting to a start line would be old hat.  Nope.  I worry about oversleeping, missing trains, getting lost, not leaving enough time….it goes on and on.  Actually running the race is easier!  As a result, I don’t have much stomach for cutting the time close.

(Side note:  I don’t do a ton of races.  Partially because they’re expensive, and partially because I don’t run to race.  I run to enjoy beautiful scenery, clear my mind, release tension, and stay healthy, and racing all the time doesn’t really do any of that.)

If I’m driving to a race, my plan is always to arrive when registration opens, giving me plenty of wiggle room.  I usually need to stop twice—once for my breakfast of coffee and a protein bar, and once for a potty stop—so extra time is never a bad thing. 

My sweet boyfriend, hearing my whining about logistics, offered to drive me up to the race, despite having to be in Chicago later that afternoon.  He thought that leaving an hour to get to the race was plenty of time; I wanted to give some buffer time.  At first, the trip was easy, telling us that we’d get there around 7 am, a full half hour before packet pickup closed and an hour before the race.  We decided to stop at a big box store so I could use a flush toilet, then as the rain poured down, purchased ponchos.  I was starting to get nervous about getting there on time, since the stop took longer than I expected.

We got back in the car, looked at the GPS, and suddenly it was predicting a 7:21 arrivial.  Way too close.  I tried to stay calm, but then not only did we get turned around by the GPS, but it directed us to a public transit parking lot across the river.  By that point, it was 7:05, and I was two steps from a full-on panic attack.  Yes, there were 25 minutes, and it was a small race, but we didn’t know where we needed to be.  I pulled up the parking assistance map, which seemed to indicate that we needed to enter the park on a neighboring street.  My boyfriend saw the entrance to the park, but I yelled at him to instead take the next left, assuming that the roads in the park were being used for the race and were closed.  When we got to the park entrances on the map, we discovered they weren’t roads, and my boyfriend kept going, looking for a park entrance.

At this point, I needed out of the car and into the park.  I was fully panicked and convinced we’d be circling the park past the packet pickup.  I told my boyfriend to stop and I’d meet him later.  I streamed out of the car, flying into the park and towards the start line.  I was shaking with panic when I got to the packet pickup….and as it turned out, had plenty of time.  My boyfriend walked up to me, shaking his head.

It was an eye-opener.  Chicago is an easy marathon for me, since I’ve completed it twice.  When I do the other marathons in my quest, getting to the start line might be complicated by unfamiliar instructions and in two cases, foreign languages.  The adrenaline of panic can cause me to go out too fast in the first couple miles, which really need to be calm affairs.  I’m supposed to be channeling Cinnamon Carter, not panicking into the unknown.

The reminder is that I have to do more research into my races before I leave so I’m not uncertain, plus adding more buffer time for the unexpected.  Having a better sense of where I was headed would have lessened the panic and turnaround time.

I’ve signed up for a 20 mile supported training run with friends, so I hope it will go more smoothly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Memory of Lox

Last Wednesday’s fun run included laps around a local lake.  The streets didn’t have sidewalks, and the up and down of the hills reminded me of running around my hometown (when I actually did my off-season training).

The sun was slowly setting, and on the last lap, I saw a house where the husband was working out in the garage.  The house was clearly similar to ones I remembered seeing on family walks as a child—a greenhouse window in the kitchen, a garage filled with tools, a dark brown stained exterior, a wooded lawn—and then I flashed back to another memory from college.

After sophomore year, I decided to stay on campus over the summer, working at the admissions office, as did many of my friends who were in a fraternity.  The university rented out the fraternity houses to the summer student employees, so I rented a room in my friends’ fraternity house.  I had run on the cross country team my sophomore year, but academics—and a cranky knee—caused me to stop running and focus on my classwork. 

Shortly after we moved in, one of my teammates asked if anyone wanted to join him on an evening walk around the neighborhood.  Remembering my childhood walks, I jumped at the chance.  It was a chat about hopes and dreams and happy memories.

That summer—and that conversation—was probably the last time we spent significant time together.  He went off to graduate summa cum laude, finish med school, and become chief resident at a hospital, I barely graduated and got a job as a bench chemist, laid off, unemployed, eventually landing at a consulting firm doing quality and validation work. 

Had you told me back then, that it would be me, not him, to finish the Chicago marathon first, I wouldn’t have believed you.  While training for the 2003 Chicago Marathon, he was hit by a car and killed.  I ran the 2013 Chicago Marathon in his memory.  He would have easily qualified for the Boston Marathon, so if I qualify, it will be run in his memory as well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Goodbye, track (Marathon training, week 11)

Our club’s last speed workout on the track was last Tuesday.  At the start, we did a mile run as a baseline, so we did a second mile time trial at the end of the training to process improvement.
I am not, and will never be, naturally fast.  I was the one in high school who would trail behind the rest of the team on our warmup jogs at meets, mostly because their jog wouldn’t be much slower than my race pace.  Speed workouts were torture because the rest of the team spent the rest interval waiting for me to catch up with them, so when I finished my sprint, it was time for the next one.

As an adult, it’s been nice to have my full rest between intervals, and I have felt the results a bit.  I took another minute off my 5K time, and my results on Strava have improved.  So I was very much hoping I could break 8 minutes in the mile, something I hadn’t done since high school.

It was one of those days where you are never going to be ready.  I ate all the wrong foods, I didn’t sleep well, and then I got there and the bathrooms were locked.  Some of the other runners were getting nervous about the bathroom situation, so I reminded people that once we start sweating, we won’t have to pee.  Plus, it’s no different than any other race I’ve ever done.

I remembered not to push too hard on the warmups, and then it was time.  I was as ready as I was going to be.  We started, and in the first corner, my left quad seized.  Blargh!  But I wasn’t going to give up.  My friend Diana was sticking with me, and she’s fully capable of doing a sub-8 mile, so I hung with her the best I could on the first lap.  On the second lap, I passed her.  I was in shock as she wasn’t sticking behind me.  And of course, I slowed down a bit, expecting her to stick with me.  As I took the last straight for the lap, I shook out of it and thought “push-push-push.”

My struggle, more than anything else, is that my head is going so much faster than my body.  My head wants to push to a full sprint, but I also can’t sprint an entire mile.  On lap 3, people who started behind me started to pass me.  Except Diana.  Then the faster runners started to lap me.  As I reached the start line, my head knew I needed to give it my all, but my body could not go any faster.  I hit the last stretch and sprinted the last 100. 

As I crossed, I unlocked my phone and stopped my watch.  8:19, only 8 seconds faster than my original mile 11 weeks ago.  Arrrgh!  The leader of the club looked at me, trying to encourage, and I just shook my head, acknowledging my disappointment.  Diana finished right behind me—as it turned out, she had to stop and tie her shoe.

We still had a workout to do, and I stayed out until I did every step of the advanced workout, the last one on the track.  Posting the run on Strava, I realized that maybe I can’t get faster on one mile, but to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I have to string together 26.2 sub-9 min miles. 

On Sunday, one of my friends told me that I can go faster, but just have to clear out whatever is holding me back.  He might only been a runner for a short time, but he’s exactly right.  So the next step of the journey….find out what has me stuck at 8:20 and get unstuck.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Long Run (Marathon Training, Week 9)

We’re getting into longer and longer Saturday runs.  15 miles, 13 miles, 17 miles, 20 miles…these runs train your mind just as much as they train your body to handle the 26.2 miles on race day.
Long runs are, well, long.  At my pace, I have to plan ahead and block out a half day for a run over 15 miles.  After 10 miles, you’re tired, bored, and so ready to just stop.  In summer, it’s hot, and in winter, it’s cold.  After 15 miles, hunger and thirst sets in, and on a 20 mile day, you’re feeling like the miles will never end.  It’s time to dig deep and figure out how to mentally distract yourself from everything.

Race day is much, much easier.  You’ve been planning this day for weeks.  The crowds, the excitement, the adrenaline create a fun atmosphere that distract from the long mileage.  Then….you hit mile 14 or 16 or 21 and you realize that you’re tired.  You still have an hour or two to go.

That’s when training kicks in.  Not only are you less physically tired, but all the mental tricks you’ve used to gut through those long solitary miles also come into play.  It’s an invaluable experience to draw from when a marathon is smaller, with less cheerleaders and less populated courses.

Running with a club helps so much, because you can chat about everything from the weather to running to TV while knocking off those miles.  Since I’m at a slower pace, my experience is hit and miss:  some days I have a lot of friends to chat with, and others I end up on my own for over an hour.  Either way, I’m preparing for the long miles of a marathon.  Now if I could just do them at sub-5 hour pace….

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hot, hot, hot! (Marathon, week something-or-other)

Two weeks ago, it was one of the first 90 degree days of the summer, and of course, we had our weekly Saturday morning long run.

I grew up running in all weather conditions, including a thunderstorm that blew up in the middle of the 3200 during a meet.  Treadmills and gym memberships were expensive, and even our school wasn’t air conditioned.  Races were held, rain or shine, hot or cold—so training was done outdoors.
That was quite some time ago, before we really understood hydration and heat exhaustion.  However, races are still held when the temperature rises, so your body has to be ready for race day, regardless of weather.  Like a couple weeks ago, when a half Ironman triathlon and a half marathon were both held locally.  It was warm, but all my clubmates were well trained for conditions and finished strong.

Some common sense about hot days:

  • Dress appropriately.  I saw several people running in capri length tights and t-shirts.  Running heats up your body, so you want to wear as little as possible, even if you are chilly on your first mile.  Trust me, your body will heat up very quickly.
  • Hydrate.  Water.  Electrolytes.  Whether it’s a relay around public drinking fountains or carrying a water bottle, don’t ignore hydration.  It’s pretty obvious on the day of the run, but also be mindful of alcohol/caffeine the day beforehand as well.  Choosing water over wine at dinner might make the next morning so much easier.
  • Listen to your body.  The entire point of running in bad weather is learning how your body reacts.  Knowing how far you can push yourself can save you a trip to the medical tent on race day.
  • Go in race simulation mode.  It’s why you’re training in hot weather—for your hot weather race.  On race days, the adrenaline will often take over for common sense, so preparing and planning your strategy on a hot race day will make it automatic, saving energy for the race while also staying safe.

I was able to test all of these things a week ago Saturday, when the temps weren’t so bad, but the chosen route was in the sun almost the entire time.  The only running bottoms that were clean and not designed for winter running were a pair of capris.  Knowing it would be warm and humid, I decided to pair with a tank top, following the above rule.  I had eaten a very salty dinner with a glass of wine, so I had a glass of water when I went to bed.  Even with all the prevention and planning, the run was awful!  I was hot, thirsty, and just wanting to stop running three miles before the end. 

Last Saturday I was smarter.  I only had water with dinner, which contained fresh blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, limited caffeine intake, and wore an opaque sports bra under my shirt so I could remove if necessary.  It made a world of difference, which helped me mentally.  (That is the subject of my next blog post.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Finally “Anchored” a Relay, and it was Awesome… (Marathon Training, Week 5)

The last couple of weeks were missing entries because I was traveling to and from Louisville, Kentucky, for American Mensa’s Annual Gathering.  It was a great time, and I was able to do most of my mileage, but as with most vacations, lots of unhealthy food and beverages and too little sleep.  It was fun, but I’m glad to be home and back to training.

On Thursday, I participated in an unique fundraiser for a local high school cross country team.  We were in teams of seven, running a relay race where each runner did a mile before tagging to the next runner.  The winner would then be the team who accumulated the most miles.

Of course, my run club doesn’t go halfway…we had a plethora of food, chairs, Gatorade, and even a game of bags to play.  (We were one the rubberized field, so the fire pit and s’mores stayed in the car.)  The goal was as much to have a good time as it was to PR on the individual miles, and the DJ helped to create a festive environment.  My team decided on a theme of costumes, so we had jorts, troll hair, ugly sweaters, and twins.

It had been years since I had “raced” on a track, especially a 1600, and I had complete forgotten how to warm up and prep for that distance.   Plus, the last time I ran a relay was probably for our grade school’s Junior Olympics field day.  When my “twin” tagged me, I obviously went out way too fast and just died at the end.  8:31.

A friend who also ran showed up and was kind enough to read splits.  So helpful, because it kept that first 400 in the 2-min window.  My second was an “adult” PR of 8:22.  (My actual PR for the 1600 is 7:06, which I did at 15.)

As the night wore on, mental fatigue wore in.  Our team had some trouble counting laps—at one point my twin ran up to me and said he was done, but I thought he had only done two laps.  However, we kept going and going and going….8:25, 8:27.  I finished my fourth mile, laid down on a blanket, and realized I was covered in sweat, despite it being a cool evening.  While decent times (and definitely sub-BQ pace), I was disappointed.  I had been working hard, so I had hoped to see a significant improvement in my mile time.  Perhaps if I had been home training I would have been fasher

By the end of the night, we started to count through the team, and based on everyone’s approximate time, I would be the last runner.  Anchor leg!  I was tagged at 3:54, so I figured I could do about a 1200 (3 laps).  After the first lap, the team captain ran with me, talking, while the theme from Chariots of Fire played.  It was surreal with the lights, the high schoolers passing me, the music, the splits being read, the cheers….and I was about 40 m short of a full 1200.  Epic movie moment, and a great way to end the night.

It was a great night of comraderie, teamwork, fun, and community spirit.  I can’t wait until next year and have another chance to smash a PR!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Everyone Loves a Parade (Marathon Training, Week 2)

This week included endless 400 repeats, a great new clubhouse, and the rowdiest, sugar-pumped entry in the local parade.  Oh, yeah, and 24 miles.  However, the highlight was Saturday morning….
I got to the “early miles before the club run because we have a parade today” group about 20 min late, so I didn’t get to start with the group.  However, I was able to do a four mile loop and get to the actual start at 7 am, meeting up with the club and doing five more miles.  I didn’t want to go all the way home and back, so I wore my parade getup to run club—a club singlet and pink shorts. 

I have to say that wearing a team uniform always powered me to run faster, and yesterday morning was no exception.  I may not have been going faster, but I definitely felt faster.

After the run, I headed over to Starbucks to chill before the parade lineup started.  One of the baristas is a member of the club, so we chatted a bit.  It started to get super-busy, and a family sat down in the chairs near me.  Their order got messed up a bit with all the insanity, so I scored a free mocha.  I was set for the parade.

Now, I am a parade veteran.  I think I’ve done 30 or 40 for work, so I knew about all of the little details that people don’t think about when putting together a parade float.  Like that people love bringing their dogs to parades.  Since we were handing out donut holes to the kids, I figured that I would shop around and get a couple dozen donut shaped dog biscuits to complement what the club was doing—and was thrilled to find the perfect product:  Gourmet Tails Festive Donuts.  I threw them into an empty donut hole container, and I was ready to go.

We were a huge group of participants, with half a dozen parents with running strollers, superheroes, people running laps around our entry, kids handing out donut holes, and even two dogs.  It was loud and crazy and fun, probably the most entertaining entry of the entire parade.  At first, the strollers did formation runs, but as the kids ran out of donut holes, they joined in….to the point where the entire club was running formations and having a great time.  As I handed out my “dog donuts,” I would announce that the club meets on Saturday mornings and that all paces are welcome.

After we were finished, we took our time getting back up the parade route and our cars.  It was a fantastic morning, a fantastic showing for the club, and a great way to cap off the first hard week of marathon training!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My club’s marathon training plan started this week with yesterday’s long run, and my run was a stomach-knotter, literally.  I had gone to a gala the night before and something didn’t really agree with me….but it was my coffee that really put my intestines in a knot.

As I’m suffering through eight miles, I started wondering why I was suffering so much….and it came down to my morning coffee.  Okay, I am completely addicted to coffee.  I get excited to try a new blend or roast and drool when I read the phrase, “chocolate notes.”  It’s what I need first thing in the morning, but I’ve gotten into the habit on run club mornings to grab a few extra moments of sleep and pick up my morning coffee on my way to our meeting spot.  Any runner knows the problem with this logic. 

(On the plus side, guess what my extra large coffee on the way to the Wisconsin half failed to do?  Good thing I had all that practice, sigh….)

So my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to get up early enough to have my coffee at home so that my intestines are relaxed and ready to run.

On a side note….I am a charity runner for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, so I’d be crazy not to post the link to my donation page.  Please click here to contribute, and thank you for your support!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The “Puke Point”

I have to apologize, since bodily fluids are not exactly a great topic, but currently a necessary one.  As someone who is naturally squeamish about discussing such matters, I will try to do it in a minimally gross way.

I’ve been really pushing myself of late, speed-wise, because I like going faster.  Of course, that means I’m running more anaerobically, so I’m also swallowing air.  Then I need to belch, but the water in my stomach wants to come up with it….and the sour taste of butyric acid gets into my throat and mouth, blech. 

For obvious reasons, I’ve named that moment when you are when so fast you’re bordering on getting sick, the “puke point.”  As a kid, trying to avoid the puke point probably contributed to my lazy runner attitude.  I was so scared that I would get sick that I would slow down, especially on speed workouts.  I never ate right before a workout, including not eating more than a few simple carbs when I was competing.

However, my pace at the puke point isn’t fast enough for me—and actually, is slower than the pace I need to maintain to qualify for Boston.  So not doing my training, not pushing to go faster, is not an option.  I’m going to have the winning combination of pushing through the discomfort and figuring out my eating and drinking habits to reduce the problem.  I hope by the end of the summer, I'll have this conquered--and be much faster!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Marathon Kick-Off!

This past week I have been super lazy, almost tapering because I start training for the Chicago Marathon.  Of course, “lazy” means “less than 10 miles.”

Today I kicked off marathon season by running the CF Superheroes 5K this morning.  Last year, it was a 90 degree day, so to turn around and be in the upper 40s this morning was a surprise.  I had planned to wear my marathon shirt from last year, but with the forecast, changed to my LRC long sleeved shirt.  I still wore shorts, and despite being a windy, chilly day, was very warm after the first mile, so I was very, very glad I didn’t keep my warmups on.  The chill (and the positive energy from the LRC) made me push all that faster, and I ended the day under 30 minutes for the 5K, not far from my collegiate PR.

It is hard to believe that when I did my first LRC run, I looked at my run app, realized that I was running sub-9 pace, and thought, “holy cow, I am sprinting.”  On Tuesday, marathon training starts in earnest with a track workout and a mile time trial.  My goal is to run that mile around 8:45.  I’ve come a long, long way in a short period of time, and I have miles and miles to run before October.
Of course, full training is more than just running.  I have to purchase my pool pass for the local park district.  I have to clean and prep my kitchen so I can cook and eat healthier food.  And as a charity runner, it means fundraising… 

I kicked off my fundraising with an online Origami Owl party.  Their main product is lockets that you can customize with various charms, from a 26.2 to crystals in a rainbow of colors.  It’s very much like those online parties for other direct sales companies, except that I’m giving my hostess proceeds to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  I would be a horrid fundraiser if I didn’t post the link and code.  To purchase, go to and use the jewelry code:  95450

And thus I start my first mission on my quest.  18 weeks of running and fundraising, with some swimming, some distractions, some challenges, and some adventures spattered in the mix.  There will be lessons learned and wisdom gained, achievements and setbacks.  I’m looking forward to this next chapter.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Feeling Like a Kid Again

Running-wise, it’s been a great couple of weeks.  I joined Strava, a combination social media and fitness tracking app, which has been great to keep me accountable on my runs.  I was using Nike+, but the app just drained too much of my battery on runs.  Strava has a sleep mode, so it’s not as taxing to the battery.  Of course, I joined the run club group on Strava and enjoy all the kudos, as well as giving my runs clever titles for everyone else to see.

After work on Monday, I did a short five mile run I do all the time.  The end is a short downhill slope, and I sprinted down the hill.  It was like I was back in high school, where our home cross country course ended down a hill and into the chute.

Saturday, the run club had a scavenger hunt as a going away party.  It was Texas-themed, so we had a group of adults, dressed in Western wear, running around all over our town, posting photos and videos on a Facebook event page.  Running around, from clue to clue, I somehow logged six miles, but again, felt silly and childish.

Within all of the good feeling, there has also been some seriously fast runs.  Five miles at sub 10 min pace, 8.5 miles at sub-11 min pace.  It’s like in addition to recapturing my love for the sport, I am recapturing my speed.  Given my goal—a sub 5 hour marathon—I’ll take both!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Running Club that Goes Beyond Running…

(Well, it’s the so very awful Monday that starts out realizing you never finished your Sunday journal writing.  Sigh.)

I’ve blogged about why I joined a running club and how important it is to me in my training, but the past few weeks I’ve been reminded about how the social side to a club helps your mental health and wellness.

While running and training forges strong bonds with teammates, whether it’s the high school cross country team or the local running group, it then expands with discovering common interests away from the path or track.

My sophomore year of high school, I’ll never forget spaghetti dinners at different teammates’ homes and the routine of singing “Piano Man” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” on the way home from meets. 

When your running club often meets at bars after runs and has the motto “Running and Shenanigans,” it is inevitable that someone will see a poster for a concert or trivia night, and say, “hey, let’s go to this!”  Next thing you know, you’re doing karaoke to Jon Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” just because it became an earworm this week. 

On Friday, one of our members decided to enter a hula hoop contest near my office, so I walked over and was part of a large crowd to cheer her on.  The restaurant also has a games night, and as we waited for the contest to end, I mentioned that I have an old set of Axis & Allies, so we agreed to meet at one of these games nights to play.

Saturday night was wild and crazy and fun and bonding, just as much as that awful speed workout or that time someone got lost on the trail run.  We started with pedicures.  Normally, I don’t spend money on a luxury like a pedicure, but my feet, especially my toes, have survived two seasons of marathon training, plus a half marathon.  My nails have the marks of being bounced around running shoes for miles and miles, to the point where I’m having trouble keeping them trimmed and pain free.  So it was time to give my feet some professional attention. 

Not only was the pedicure worth every penny, but the time spent with the other girls was just as valuable.  I have wonderful friends, but the closest one lives over an hour drive away, so I’ve been craving a local social life, local girlfriends for quite some time.  Hopefully the time spent with the other girls will help open doors to having local friends.

However, I may need to get a second job just to cover my social life.  Our club does road trips, and in November, they are going to the Rock & Roll Marathon in Las Vegas.  I discovered that there is a five hour time limit (remember, my PR is 5:39), but it seems like exactly the push I need to work hard over the summer.  Plus, Vegas.  I need to ask for the time off of work, but once I have, I’m buying my bib.

In the meantime, is it wrong that I’ve already picked out my song for the next Karaoke night?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Running as Therapy

Yesterday I was able to do a long-ish run to clear my head.  For me, the rhythm and pace of long runs are meditative, thinking about all the things going on in my life.  Work, home, friends, dating….it can be incredibly overwhelming at times, especially when I’m still recovering from having the rug pulled out from under me almost four years ago. 

They say that time heals all wounds, but it’s also amazing how quickly I can be pushed back to that day—Labor Day, 2011—when the love of my life told me he didn’t love me.  In six words, my entire future ceased to exist.  I was left alone to face a difficult world, not knowing what to do with myself.  Very slowly, I have built a nice life, but nothing as wonderful and perfect as when we were together.

Running has been my salvation in the years since that moment.  Solo runs give me the time to think about all in my life, a way to pound all the stress and frustration into a speed workout, a way to feel an accomplishment on a day when you feel overwhelmed, or a way to sort through all the various thoughts and emotions in my head.  It’s probably why I appreciate the solo run so much, and why I can’t race every weekend.

This quest, to do these six major marathons, is a continuation of the healing process.  Bad things happen in life, and will you choose a path towards healing or a path towards destruction.  I want to choose the path towards healing, that day of someday feeling that inner happiness and light again, so I gave myself a goal that forces that decision towards health and wellness.

I’m lucky that I have access to miles of beautiful trails, and yesterday I went to an overlook by a lake.  The beauty of the trail, as well as the overlook, was just the soothing my mind needed as I pondered my place in the universe.  My mantra of late has been “There is no such thing as coincidence.  God does not make mistakes,” but my own emotions often make it hard to hear His intentions. 

Running clears the mind, makes it easier to hear all of the random thoughts bouncing around.  Feeling rather not-confident about some things, I recalled a mantra posted on someone’s Facebook wall:  Confidence is not ‘They will like me.’  Confidence is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t.’  In my head, it translated into:  Confidence is not about being perfect, it’s about knowing it’ll be fine if it isn’t perfect.

That mantra hit home.  I had spent two days in sheer panic, due to one question:  what if the future isn’t perfect?  Well, doh, the future is guaranteed to not be perfect.  And of course, it wasn’t.  So I woke up Saturday a jumble of thoughts and tears.  In nine miles a talk to myself about how miserable I was—and why was I so miserable transformed into a realization that everything will be ok, that the less-than-perfect is part of God’s plan, that I was putting too much pressure on myself to predict the future. 

If I am going to reach this goal of finishing all 6 majors in 10 years, I have to be able to bounce back from adversity, challenges, injuries, illness, jet lag, and who knows what else?  I need the confidence that comes from knowing everything will be fine, no matter what life throws back at me.
I’m glad I got out there and ran.  My negative energy came out in the sweat dripping off my forehead, and I was ready to choose happiness instead of self-pity.   So when life gives you lemons, go out for a run.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Perfect Day!

Wow, yesterday’s half marathon was absolutely amazing!  Hollywood could not have made my experience any better, and I’m even struggling to put so many wonderful memories into words. It was an absolutely perfect day.

As I’ve posted, a running clubmate offered to pace me, and we talked on Wednesday.  I told him I wanted to do an 11:15 first mile, and he said that was fine.  He knew my goal—below 2 hours, 30 minutes, so his job was to keep me under 11 min miles.  The week had been a little crazier than I expected, especially with bedtimes, so I was a bit nervous trying to fit all of my prep in before Friday.  I flew up to Kenosha after work to pick up my packet, did a shakeout run around the start/finish area to see if I had planned the right amount of clothing, grabbed a snack, and made it home to rush around and pack everything I needed for race day.  

The crazy bedtimes really affected my ability to relax and fall asleep.  I finally konked out at 11 pm, which would be fine except that my alarm went off at 3;45 am.  Oof.  I was able to wake up and get out the door so early that I ended up being the first customer at Starbucks.  I did the drive to Kenosha while singing one of my favorite songs:  Roar by Katy Perry.  I parked in the commuter rail station garage and got myself ready to go.  I hadn’t planned on checking my bag, so I had to do the half-mile walk to the start line in my usual plastic bag and race gear.  I found my pacer, and even got a picture with another clubmate, before heading to the start line.  We lined up at the 11 min pace line, listened to the same silly banter they do at the Chicago Marathon, and soon enough, we were crossing the start line.

John had done the race before, so he knew the area and the course.  I was pumped with adrenaline at the start, and the first mile was just trying to not let that adrenaline take over as we laughed at the various signage because this section of the course was repeated.  At the first mile, we were joined by two other clubmates who had gotten stuck in the portapotty line and started at the back, despite being much faster marathoners.  One decided to move ahead, but Ann decided to hang out with us for a while, then do negative spits on the back half.

The first miles went through the nicer area of town, and we were enjoying the architecture of the homes and waving to people enjoying the race while having coffee on their back porches.  It was a comfortable pace, and all of us were having no trouble chatting as we turned north and headed towards downtown.

At this race, any sort of cheese apparel allowed you to start in the “cheese corral.”  (It was Wisconsin, after all.)  It was fun to see the various cheese heads, slices of cheese—even someone dressed up as a cow.  And of course, there were the beer ladies, women dressed like waitresses at a German beer hall, complete with stuffed mugs of beer.  Soon we were crusing through downtown and the live band, talking about the shops and how to go through a water stop.

After we went through downtown, the course went north in an out-and-back loop.  As we started our march north, we started to see the leaders.  We had many clubmates running, so it was an adrenaline boost to play cheerleader for the other runners.  It was almost a checklist, making sure that everyone was running well and sticking to their pace.

I was still feeling great as we made the turn…and then I saw how far away the lighthouse (finish) was.  I focused on cheering on other runners, looking at costumes, and continuing to chat with Ann and John, who kept saying I was maintaining a good pace.  At one point, Ann asked me if I had children…I said that I didn’t because I was holding out for the right man, and another runner who was passing us said, “You’re a smart girl.”  Hilarious.

However, my legs were tiring, and watching all of the walkers at the end of the race made me want to walk, too.  Ann and John started urging me on, saying that I going to smash my goal PR, and I was able to make mind move over matter.  Across downtown again, which was mentally challenging to pass the finish line, but John knew the course and talked me through how close we were the split and our finish.

I was eternally grateful that I made the decision to underdress.  The day had warmed up considerably, and by mile 11, I was hot in a wicking shirt and compression shorts, craving a bucket of ice.  Soon it was mile 12 and the turnaround back to the finish for us—and the back half of the marathon for Ann.
When Ann left us, John told me I was pacing for a sub 2:15.  What?!!?  My tank was pretty much empty, it was warming up, I was getting thirsty, and if I pushed, I would beat my goal PR by 15 minutes. I focused on my breathing and finishing, but there was no more push left in the tank.  I strided instead of kicked, and John grabbed my hand so we could raise our arms at the finish.  His watch said 2:19, more than 11 min—a full mile—ahead of my planned pace. 

We grabbed medals, fluids, and John’s bag, then waited for our top marathoners to finish.  The second half of the course is brutal on a warm spring day, and they were a bit slower than they expected.  I ran back to the car to change into warmer clothes, now that I had cooled down considerably, and when I came back, our club was in the middle of an impromptu dance party.  Curious about my pace, I ran over to the results tent and received my results.  I did a half marathon—13.1 miles—at 10:37 pace.  Sub 11 min miles.  I was in shock, and when I returned to the party, squealing over my time, there was celebration.  We were still dancing when the 6 hour marathoners were finishing.

What has me stunned is that when I look at my winter running, I only did half the planned miles.  If I did the workouts, slept well, and ate right…could I have been even faster?  Going into the Chicago Marathon, I am just inspired to dedicate myself further towards my quest and hopefully break five hours in the marathon.  With this crazy running club, I’m starting to believe anything is possible.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Race Week!!!

Next Saturday I’m running my first-ever half marathon.  My training is going very, very well, including a sub-9 min mile in one of my most recent training runs.  Even though I’m guaranteed a PR since I’ve never raced at this distance, I still want to have a good time, consistent with my training.  Under 2 hours, 30 minutes is very reachable.

However, it is still way over Boston Marathon qualifying pace, which is my ultimate goal.  My training was hit and miss over the past couple of months, so while I know I’m in good shape, I’m not where I want to be—great shape.  Of course, life is what happens when you’re trying to make plans.  Learning how to roll with the punches—and still succeeding—is part of this quest.

I signed up for the Chicago Marathon as well, and put down that I would break five hours.  Since my marathon PR is 5:39, I’m hoping to shave nearly an hour off my time.  It is going to take hard work and discipline to take that amount of time off my PR, and I am ready for that challenge.  Starting with pre-race prep….

The week before the race, the taper week, is about rest.  Visualization will play a big part of this week, as I watch YouTube videos of the course.  (Again, I feel like saying, “In my day, we had to pull from our memory banks because we didn’t have course videos we could play as we fell asleep.”)  Loading up on carbohydrates and water is also in the plan for the week.

I have to drive up to packet pick up the night before the race, then drive home for a good night’s sleep.  I will probably just have a protein bar with lots of water for dinner, then get up very early so I have plenty of time to drink my coffee and make the start corral after the requisite post-coffee bathroom breaks.  After 25 years, I think I’m more nervous about making my start corral than actually running.

In a long race, the adrenaline has to be tempered in the first few miles, because going out too fast causes “boinking,” or tiring out early in the race, unable to finish at pace.  I’m running with a friend who has offered to pace me, but I really, really have to do an 11:15 first mile.  That has me nervous as well, since I’ve felt so good on my runs that my first mile has been pretty fast.  It will be my focus on the final taper/shakeout runs this week.

So carbs, water, shakeout runs, and visualization.  Race week, here we go!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The word “detox” seems to have caught some buzz of late.  The big thing in nutrition is to detox your colon, detox from unhealthy, chemical laden food.  But how about detoxing from an unhealthy lifestyle?

This past week was my most stressful week of the year at work.  I went for a long run on Monday and just felt, in a word, toxic.  I have been giving in to my junk food cravings.  I’ve been ignoring my budgets.  I haven’t been kind to my friends.  I haven’t been taking care of my cat or my house.  It is as if my life is filled with all sorts of detritus that is impeding me from being the person I want to be.

I know that if 1. I’m going to qualify for Boston and 2. Run Boston, I have to conquer all of these things, since last week was the worst of it—and tomorrow is the Boston Marathon. 

So it’s time to reboot everything, a life detox.  Clean out all of the things that were put on hold the last couple of weeks.  Get my diet and budget back in check.  Clear my mind of the negative energy and stress that interferes with my empathic abilities.

I’m taking a few vacation days this week to start the process.  First, I need to get my kitchen organized and clean so that I can cook from scratch, reducing the amount of processed food I’m eating and allowing me to stick to my food budget.  Second, I need to reduce the clutter in my house, so I’m going to do a challenge where I put 100 items on eBay in 100 days.  As these items sell, the additional income will also help clean up my budgets.  Third, I’m going to dedicate time for meditation, practicing the ability to quiet my wants and needs so I can listen to others.  Finally, I still have a half-marathon in May, as well as signing up for the Chicago Marathon this fall, so there are many miles to be run.

It’s frustrating that my quest has gotten so far off track so quickly, and I hope that by finally taking the time to detox, I can get back on track.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hoppity Hop!

Yesterday I ran the Wauconda Bunny Hop, a 4 mile run around Bangs Lake, organized by the Friends of the Wauconda Library.  It very much reminds me of the community races I would run as a teen, before there were Mudders and Color Runs and Rock & Rolls and Hot Chocolates.  Run completely by volunteers, the funds reinvested back into the community, these runs attract everyone from serious runners to people who just want to participate.  I highly encourage doing a couple of these runs every year to help your community.

After 15 years as a competitive athlete, I treat every race as an opportunity to improve.  It’s not about placement, though, but time.  Runners talk about PR, personal record, and getting one is always a goal.  Beyond time, it also is a good way to do a dress rehearsal with run prep.  I had my favorite carb load, fettucine alfredo, for dinner the night before, then had my ususal coffee and carb breakfast on my way to the race. 

My plan was to do a progression run, where each mile is faster than the previous one.  The course is somewhat hilly, with most of the first three miles the natural up and downs of roads near a lake.  I had lunch with a fellow former college cross country runner last week, and was reminded of how to conquer hills—power right through them.  That became key when they said I ran my first mile in 10 minutes, making my progression run impossible. 

I decided to instead use the hills as an interval workout, charging up the hills, then using the downhills to ease the rest.  It worked when I heard the two mile split:  19:45. 

One thing you do as a runner is prep for how you will dress for races.  The weather was supposed to warm 10-15 degrees in the time between leaving the house and finishing the race.  When that temperature differential is between 50 and 70 degrees, it’s usually not too much of the issue, but when the differential is between 27 and 42 degrees, it’s very hard to predict what makes the most fashion sense.  I dressed in layers, a t-shirt with a zip-up jacket, but had put my number on my jacket instead of my pants.

When I hit mile 3, I was warm, warm enough that I wanted to take off my jacket, but since I had my race number on it, I had to leave it on and run a very hot, slow mile.  I was 30:45 at the split, so an 11 min mile.  I was still on pace for a PR if I just used all my tempo run practice, and since I knew the course well enough to know I was almost done…I just kept plugging.

In the end, I hit the finish right about when the clock hit 41 minutes, which is a new PR for me.  I had other commitments, so I couldn’t stay to watch the bunny hand out awards or see the raffle draw, but it was a good morning for a great race.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Making Time to Organize

Life is insane.  I’m running around like a hamster on a wheel, trying to keep up with everything that needs to get done, all while feeling I have gotten nothing accomplished.  I feel like I get no reprieve, no rest from the various things that must get done in my life.  I’m so busy trying to get on top of the various backlogs that things that should be simple decisions, from what to-do to tackle to what I’m having for dinner, turn me into a confused mess and returning to bad habits.

I am still binge watching Mission: Impossible to quiet my mind, and I had an epiphany:  it took a lot of planning to execute the complicated missions successfully.  That planning allowed their minds to be calm and rehearsed, no matter what complications were thrown at them.  Yes, I know, fictional television series, but it still took a lot of planning from script writers to set designers to technical light and sound and camera crews to makeup stylists to film editors to make each episode happen. 

Planning is exactly what I am not doing.  I need to figure out a way to plan my days and weeks so that I am not wasting my limited energy and resources.  I have no idea what will work, what will ease my mind, but the process of finding that answer is just as important to my quest as logging the miles or learning German.  So one night this week I am going to go out for a nice dinner, bring my notebook with me, and see what I can do to make life a little more organized and planned.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

All You Really Need is a Pair of Shoes

I ran as a kid on the high school and college cross country teams about 25 years ago, then quit in college to pursue figure skating.  Back then, if you had a Timex Ironman watch, you had top of the line running gear.  You ran in t-shirts and shorts, which were just as likely purchased from Venture as it was from a running store.  There were races, but most were managed by the local running community, and unless the race was a fundraiser, the fees were set at a break-even price point.  I wasn’t naturally talented, so I was thrilled to win a ribbon for placing 14th in the freshman-sophomore county meet.

When I came back 15 years later, the entire running world had changed.  From obstacle courses to national race series to finisher medals, I’m often finding myself lost in a land of expensive gear and races.  I will never forget lining up to run my first Chicago Marathon and seeing people dressed as if they were about to hike Kettle Moraine.  I was wearing the same type of gear I wore in my old cross country days….a shirt, pants, running socks, and running shoes. 

Because at the end of the day, all you need to run is a pair of shoes.

Running is about the feeling of exploring a new trail, of watching the seasons, of being outside, of getting away from the daily grind.  The mile after solitary mile is meditative, allowing time to think and ponder, pounding your frustrations and stresses step by step.  These benefits exist, whether you put $100 or $1000 into it.

While it’s great to see so many people getting involved in the sport and spending money, I do worry that people see the fancy rain jackets and shiny finisher medals and think, “oh, I can’t afford to run.”  Yes, you can.  I have to come up with the travel expenses for five marathons, so I’ll be running it “old school” on the cheap….so if you have a pair of shoes, come join me this summer!  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lessons learned from Cinnamon Carter

I’m having a rough go at things, so naturally, I’m binge watching the original Mission: Impossible series.  Seeing talented actors evade Soviets and South American dictators and mafia bosses quieted my mind in college, so again, it’s allowing me to escape my daily stressors.

My favorite episodes concern the model-turned-spy Cinnamon Carter.  I had always thought the actress who played her was pretty young, since her looks were part of her role.  Nope, she was in her late 30s, and probably why I look up to her.

Cinnamon was classy.  She never had a hair or nail out of place, whether she was playing a wealthy diplomat or helping Barney with his electronic setups.  Her nails were always well groomed, even when they weren’t polished (which was more often than not), and her style was never sloppy or unkempt.

Cinnamon was calm.  She could take on dictators and mobsters without blinking an eye, even in an era where in some places, women were to be seen and not heard.  When the mission didn’t go according to plan, she never panicked.

Cinnamon was calcuated.  There was research, rehearsal, and organizing that went into each mission.  Not only was there a plan, but often a backup plan in case of contingencies.  It was clear she was always thinking, always plotting of what to do next.

Cinnamon was cool.  She could walk into a room, knowing full well she had everyone’s attention, without breaking a sweat.  Even when things didn’t go exactly as planned, she was able to improvise, trusting her problem-solving skills.

Cinnamon was confident.  Whether it was biochemistry or journalism or modeling, she didn’t hesitate a bit.  She could saw out a wall, then trick a mobster to believe she was a dumb blonde.  In fact, she used her intellect and research to be an equal to men.

Obviously, the world of television isn’t real.  One corrupt Soviet Bloc police captain ended up being Archie Bunker.  We won’t talk about Spock’s second life as The Great Paris—or that losing Leonard Nimoy is why I started watching in the first place—but there are still points where life imitates art that can be applied to real life.

I can spend more time working on my appearance and style.  I can work on my acting skills so I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.  I can spend more time planning and organizing.  I can work on being able to think and process while stressing.  I can start reminding myself I’m smart and talented and resourceful and able to solve any problem.

All of these things will help on my quest.  From lowering my marathon PR to navigating two countries where I don’t know the language, learning to be more classy, confident, and calm is a benefit.  So I will be continuing to channel my inner Cinnamon Carter.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not Such a Solitary Venture

When you think of running, you think of the lone runner, racking up mile after mile after mile.  You see the joggers on the road, ear buds attached to their phone strapped to their arm, and start pondering the long and winding road.

I started running on my high school cross country team.  It was a very different experience, meeting after school every day to run together, whether it was a 6 mile run around Crystal Lake or the evil interval “bowl” runs, named because we ran around the bottom of the hills at Veteran’s Acres park, which hosted our home course.  There was comradery and teamwork, and I always struggled running in the off-season without that support.

Including last year’s marathon.  It seems, when I’m stressed about all the things I have to do, running is the first activity to get axed, despite that it should be the last one.  It showed during the Chicago Marathon last year.  I was so slow that I saw people starting to take down the water stations.  (Yes, there was plenty of water for the runners behind me.  They just didn’t need all the tables when most of the runners had passed.)  Now, there are some runners who are happy as clams to do a 6+ hour marathon.  God bless them, but I’m not one of them. 

I joined my local run club’s Facebook group last year, but I was so busy and stressed that I never could make it to one of the runs they organized.  However, after the marathon, I was tired of being so slow, so I came out to a Saturday run.  I found a few people who run a little faster than my pace, and it felt so good to be challenged while also making new friends.  I’m now a regular on both the Wednesday night and Saturday morning runs, and I can feel the difference when I do run on my own.

Last Wednesday, I ran with someone who can run a marathon in four hours.  We were doing intervals, and I was thrilled that I was able to maintain sub-10 minute pace.  Afterwards, the social activities continued at a local watering hole.  One of the near-Boston-qualifying runners offered to run the Wisconsin Marathon with me, on the condition I do the half.  So I’ve decided to do the half instead of the full. We enjoy chatting, so it will be a lot of fun.

On Saturday, I showed up a few minutes late, right as the group started to run right past my car.  I hopped out and joined the group.  Since I’m one of the slower runners, I knew I would get passed by most of the group until I hit my pace group, and it was fun to have a few words of greeting with everyone as they breezed past me.

Eventually, I got to my group.  We’ve been running together long enough that our conversations continue from week to week, and when one of us miss a run (because life), it’s very much time to catch up on what has been happening in each other’s lives.  I had a great time, so much so that I was over a minute ahead of my pace.

So progress is happening.  A sub 2:30 half marathon is in my sights, and with my running club, it is entirely possible.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Just because I’m slow doesn’t mean I’m a beginner....

Yesterday I challenged myself by piggybacking on a Boston marathon training group through my run club.  It’s sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports, who also support my charity team.  While I am hours from a Boston Marathon qualifying time, I’m glad to have the opportunity to participate with some fantastic runners. 

While I was clearly the only one there who had a marathon pace over 10 min/mi, I never felt excluded.  My club is very encouraging of people who are at all paces—the point is to be out there running instead of sitting at home—and even the organizers were encouraging of my pace.  I had a lot of fun being out there with really good runners and exploring new roads.

However, I don’t like being slow.  I’m trying to work very hard to *not* be slow anymore, but you don’t just magically wake up and take three minutes off your marathon pace.  It takes time and hard work and dedication and overcoming obstacles and determination.  So when a runner flew by me, saying, “Good job!  Keep it up!” it came off as condescending, like encouraging a newbie.  I was a rookie in 1989—over 25 years ago.    

With 10 more miles to run, it gave me a lot of time to think about it.  When I see another runner on a path, I don’t assume their history, their background.  Every runner’s story is different, and rarely do you know a runner who has a career filled with success and devoid of failures.  I don’t know if that strange runner is on mile 2 or mile 20, a beginner or advanced, going as fast as they can or having one of those days where they’re sucking wind. 

My mind then wandered towards the situation when I’m faster than the people who I see walking and jogging in my area.  I have read stories and blog posts about women being harassed because they’re trying to get in shape or lose a few extra pounds.   I can imagine that the petite girl jogging at 11 min pace would look intimidating to the person already self-conscious about being out of shape and just starting a fitness program.  Especially if they were a competitive athlete as a child.

In general, the running community is extremely supportive and encouraging.  As we pass each other on the roads and trails, whether on an organized run or going solo, an acknowledgement is common, so I know the other runners had the best of intentions by encouraging slow little me.

Because of all of this, I tend to say, “Nice day for a run” or “Good morning” when I see another runner.  I may just wave, saying nothing, especially if I’m doing a tempo or interval run.  A familiar face, where I know the background, gets whatever they appreciate:  a fist bump, a “go you,” or even trash talk.  The point is to connect without seeing one runner as “above” another, since, in the end, there is no ranking, only PRs.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baby Steps

I had a case of the Mondays this week.

Life is stressful and overwhelming and insane.  God doesn’t pile on your plate any more than you can handle.  Even so, you hit that point where you are staring at a to-do list, not sure what to even start next.

I hit that wall on Tuesday.  Just like when I hit a wall on a run, I thought to myself, “Just do one step.  Just deal with one piece of paper.”  Soon one thing was done, then another, and I was back at it.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat and chills, which by Friday was clearly illness.  Ugh.  I still have to work.  Still have to be functional at home.  Still need to quest.

One step at a time.    Baby steps.

I originally planned to do the Wisconsin Marathon in May.  I haven’t been able to run in two weeks.  I’m about to go into my most stressful project at work, which has a deadline three weeks before the marathon.  I’m starting to think, “well, maybe I should just do the half.  Maybe I should skip this year.”

Then I remembered that Boston and London are in April.  2nd quarter is always my most stressful at work, so I’m often skipping workouts this time of year.  Before I plunk down the money for London, I need to learn how I’m going to make running a priority this time of year.   I’m signing up for the Wisconsin marathon.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

The goal isn’t a time or a placement, but to learn how to make running a priority when work is stressful.  I can completely tell how better my mood is when I’m running regularly than when I’m not, which should help me be a happier, healthier employee.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

I’m still sick, I’m still woefully behind in my laundry, I’m still trying to clear out the email inbox of doom.  Somehow I have to figure out how to get my life away from work under control before work occupies all of my brain time.

So I’m processing one thing at a time.  One load of laundry.  One email.  One baby step.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sometimes, you need to ground yourself…

Last night, I was invited to a party at a watering hole.  I wasn’t planning to go, thinking it was too far away from home.  After making a very important delivery, I discovered I was, two hours before the party started, in the right neighborhood.  I could stop, have dinner, and wait for everyone else to show up.  I’m single.  Last night was Valentine’s Day.  I had every excuse in the world to enjoy a night out with adult beverages and friends who don’t care about romance. 

In order to complete this quest, I need to be disciplined.  I need to sacrifice a bit of fun today for an adventure tomorrow.  I need to commit to training plans, healthy diet, and simplified lifestyle. 

This past week has been none of those things.  I still don’t have a single clean winter running outfit.  My .pst folder on Outlook is getting queasy trying to swallow the email backlog.  I have a long list of birthday thank you notes to send.  And…I think two credit cards are lost in my very disheveled purse.  We won’t even discuss that I haven’t run in a week or that I haven't been watching my diet.  I feel bloated, slow, and off track.

I decided to drive right past the bar and straight home.  Quests are about stepping away from your normal lifestyle and habits to journey towards a goal.  Last night, it was saying no to a party that would be fun, but would have gotten me home late, which would have led to feeling tired and lethargic all day.  Instead, I arrived home at a time where I was able to get some email deleted before going to bed early.  I woke up this morning, refreshed and focused towards what needed to be accomplished--and I even took some baby steps forward.

In order to complete my quest, I need to slow down my crazy active social life until I am training regularly, eating healthy, and organized enough to tackle the six races and corresponding charity fundraising.  While friends are a key component to this journey, I am faced with a challenge that I can only overcome on my own.

It’s been a rough start, but I’m determined to make this quest happen!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Step 1: Simplify my life

There are times when life is going so well that everything is easy.  You have a great job, great boyfriend, great hobbies, and in general, feel like a fairy princess.  At least I did for three years.  Then the rug gets pulled under you, and you go into survival mode until the depression clears.  You wake up, decide to do something insane like run six major marathons in ten years, and realize “but how can I possibly do this why my life is such a mess?”

I spent most of 2012 in shutdown mode, 2013 in avoidance mode, and 2014 in getting by mode.    I now need to thrive.

In order to achieve my goal, I need to remove the excuses not to train.  “My to do list is too long today.”  “I don’t have clean running clothes.”  “There’s too much work on my plate.”  “I have to get this done today.”  If I’m more organized, more efficient, these excuses disappear.  So the first step is to simplify my life, make it functional and do-able and achievable so that running can be made a priority.  Unless you’re immensely talented (I’m not), Boston qualifying times don’t happen automatically, and I need the time to do the training required to gain speed.

Today is a great example.  I need to run five miles today as part of my training plan, but all of my winter running jackets and sweatshirts are in the dirty laundry.  Before I even consider going for a run, I have to do a load of running clothes, but what is in the washer?  Dirty blankets.  So before I can wash running clothes, I have to wash blankets, and of course the dryer still has clean clothes (socks, mostly) that need to be put away before I can put a load of clothes in the dryer. 

But the clutter is virtual as well.  It’s also easy to download an app to learn German (for the Berlin marathon), another thing entirely to clean out an bloated email inbox so you don’t miss that important email about the lottery or the charity teams or the travel agency the London marathon is using.  With the majors, it’s very much a “if you snooze, you lose.”  Success and failure will be determined by how organized I am, just as much as how good a runner I am.

So the first step towards the #6in10 is “Simplify my life.”  Make my life functional so I’m not running around a day late and a dollar short, a life where I have the time and energy to get everything that needs to get done so I have the time and energy for the things I want to do. 

In the movie version, here is where you would cut into a montage of cleaning and sorting and working and a supportive romantic interest, providing a perfectly organized life in 2.5 minutes.  Real life isn’t so pretty.  Real life is about baby steps instead of giant leaps, setbacks instead of forward motion, distractions instead of Olympic-caliber focus, and the unexpected getting in the way of plans.  All while you feel like a failure for being unable to achieve instant gratification. 

While there are thousands of books and blogs and planners and organizers that can go through every step of getting your life in better order, they only look at your outside world.  It doesn’t change the static inside my head that gets in the way of my goals.  Quests are life-changing, so I know I need to look deeper, look at how my philosophy on the way I live my life has to change: 
  1.  Find balance.  Having a more functional home life will ease my stress at work.  Running soothes my emotional and mental health as well as being good for my physical health.  Realize that trying to be everything to everyone will only run myself down to a point where I will be too exhausted to be useful to anyone.
  2.  Prioritize.  Make one day a week about me and my quest—no job, no avoidance, no distractions.  Going for a daily run has to become a habit instead of allowing work or life to distract me into excuses. 
  3.  Focus on baby steps.   Consider the question, “What needs to be accomplished in order for me to get my training in today?” and work backwards to find the first step.  Find ways to reward myself for completing intermediate steps. 
  4.  Recognize and avoid distractions.  Practice awareness, noticing what causes me to stray from my forward intertia, and work to prevent those situations in the future.  Realize that distractions are unavoidable, so I must learn how to cope with them.
  5. Accept what is.  Stop wasting energy being upset about the past.  Find the aspects in life that are going well and celebrate them.
  6. Understand that it will all work out in the end.   Trust in God that the inevitable mistakes and missteps in life aren’t mistakes after all.  See the blessing in being imperfect.

This blog has to embody these philosophies.  It is a priority, as well as a way to reflect on the balance in my life.  It’s written one week at a time, and best created all week, with me walking away and coming back to it as I’m inspired doing other things.  While there will be good posts and just awful posts, the end work will be perfect.

I may not get that run in today; the warm winter running clothes still aren’t clean.  But perhaps had I run, I would have slipped on the ice and gotten injured, so I will be okay with today and grateful I get to do indoor training tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Happy birthday to me, 
Happy birthday to me, 
Happy 40th birthday dear me, 
Happy birthday to me. 

I turned 40 today. At 20, I dreamed that by 40 I would be married to my college sweetheart, have finished my Ph.D., raising a mess of children, with all the ups and downs and growing love of a long term relationship. However, I also had visions that I would be the quintessential bachelorette who had loved and lost, traveled around the country, owned a home, even had a cat…which was strange because I’m allergic to cats. Well, I have an awesome career, my own home, and even a cat, despite the allergies. I’ve had adventures from California to Boston. What do I not have? A spouse or children, or even that Ph.D. I could be depressed, angry, frustrated….or I could take advantage of the situation and figure out what *I* want to spend the next 10 years doing.

I got into marathon running a few years ago after the man I thought was Mr. Right decided I wasn’t right for him. Living in Chicago, my first marathon was a major, so the question, “what next?” was a bit complicated. That’s when serendipity appeared. I received an email about Abbott becoming the title sponsor for the World Marathon Majors, the six major marathons. Three are in the US: Chicago, Boston, and New York, but the other three are in Toyko, London, and Berlin. I’ve never traveled to Europe or Asia.

I then mentioned the idea to the leader of my local running club, which I joined a few weeks earlier than feeling slower-than-dirt at my second Chicago marathon. He said, “well, do it now before you have kids.” I replied, “Actually, I’m almost 40 and a true bachelorette, so kids will probably not happen.” He said, “then totally go for it.” My fate was sealed.

The challenges are huge. My PR in the marathon is 5 hours, 39 minutes, and Boston requires a time of 3 hours, 55 minutes to qualify. I’d be considered an “international” runner for three, which could mean additional restrictions on entries, never mind the costs involved. Plus there’s juggling five trips with a job where I can’t just take a week off of work whenever I want. However, I see the process of overcoming these challenges more important than actually completing the races.

My birthday present this year is a quest: to complete all six major marathons in my 40s. Why a quest? A quest is just as much as how one grows and changes on the journey towards a goal; Lord of the Rings would have been fairly dull if it had been “Frodo Baggins traveled to Mordor to destroy a ring.” While I have a defined goal, the story will come from my adventures along the way. To keep me accountable, I’ve decided to blog about the experience. Rather than a weekly listing of mileage, I hope to tell the ups and downs of running towards a lofty goal, and the story of my 40s as a result.