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.