You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.

Tutus, Snowmen, and Continuity.

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It was a clear December morning, and all I could hear was the rhythmic sound of my feet on the path, the thump-thump of my heartbeat in my ears, and the sound of each breath as I exhaled. With each exhalation, the fog of my breath steamed up my glasses. Crisp morning runs like these are my favorite. I ran without thought of pace or distance. I ran to let my mind flow with random thoughts. I ran to appreciate. I ran to reflect on the wonderful, beautiful year that is nearly over.

Last January, I wrote a post called Full of Good Intentions. Among other things, I wrote of New Years resolutions versus New Years Intentions. It made me smile during my run to think about the intentions I’d set a year ago. Last year’s mantra was, ‘wherever you are, be all there.’  The key was balance. Not only physical, but emotional as well. I think, even with my busy and sometimes ridiculous schedule, I managed to do a pretty good job of this throughout the year. One particular moment stood out in my mind. I was beyond stressed with school. -Multiple exams, large projects looming over my head, requirements in dental hygiene clinic to be fulfilled, not to mention an amount of family drama. Normally when I’m stressed, I either run or bake as therapy. In this case, I drove to the beach. With the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the crunch of the sand beneath my feet, and the salty, brisk air slapping my face, I thought to myself, “wherever you are, be all there.” So, I did. I stood there, breathing deeply. I pushed out all other thoughts. I focused on the moment at hand, thankful to be alive, to think, to love. As my toes sank deeper into the sand, my stresses seemed to disappear with the receding tide. This is what is means to find balance.

This is not to say that I’ve achieved balance in life. Like happiness, I think finding balance is a continuous journey, as life is constantly evolving. That is why I want to set my intention for 2015 as the continuance of 2014 in finding balance. I want to find balance between school and play, social time and ‘me’ time (even if it means learning to say no), and balance between working out because it makes me happy and feels good and working out because I feel I have to.

My other intentions for 2014 were these:

  • Drink 80-100oz of water a day
  • Eat vegetables with every meal
  • Take more photos
  • Write daily
  • PR my next half and full marathon

I can happily report that I ate vegetables 3x/day and drank my quota of water >85% of this year. Now, where’s my skinny body?!

I also PR’ed my marathon in April, finishing more than 10 minutes faster than my first marathon. I did not, however, PR a half this year. The leg injury being a large factor in this.

Taking more photos and writing daily did not happen either. However, with this I provide a very well worded quote and excuse: “You can do anything, but not everything.” My 100% cannot be given to everything, and I had to decide where to place my priorities. Number one: school. Number two: keeping my sanity. I did take photos throughout the year (if the nearly 3,000 photos on my phone say anything.) I did write fairly regularly as well. (Whether this was blogging, writing in a journal, or the occasional bit of poetry.) But, I didn’t want to take two things I enjoy doing and make it something I was obligated to do. Admittedly, I should have blogged more often. I miss reaching out and helping to inspire and entertain others with my internet ramblings.

With that I say, bring on 2015! This year’s intentions:

  • Continuity of balance and personal growth
  • PR my next marathon (Bend Marathon on April 26th)
  • Run the entire length of Wildwood Trail in Forest Park (30.2 miles!)
  • Graduate Dental Hygiene school in August with my sanity still intact
  • Travel outside the country at least once
  • Continue making healthy eating choices (less processed food, more fresh fruits and vegetables)
  • Cross train! (I’ve actually already started focusing on this and cannot wait to share with you the small changes…in my next post.)

Goals. Goals should be measurable and achievable. Goals should have objectives. New Years resolutions are goals. New Years intentions are goals. Make them reasonable. Make them measurable so as to be able to track progress. I refuse to set myself up for failure.

Speaking of failing…

What does one do when it is the weekend before a Monday morning, 600 question, cumulative, all class, all day final exam? Run a half marathon whilst wearing a tutu, of course. Studying is for overachievers.

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I’m kidding. Kind of. I ran the half, yes. I also kicked out my house guests to explore Portland while I studied the rest of my weekend away. In case you were curious, I passed. Sweet relief.

The Holiday Half for the third year in a row. This was the race that started my running obsession in 2012, and this will probably be the one race I continue to repeat every year. The course is flat, the aid stations are wonderfully placed, the weather is unpredictable, and cupcakes never tasted so good as after this race. The flavor this time was chocolate with peanut buttercream frosting.

This year, I was joined again by my lovely sister, her new husband, and Eli. We all dressed as snowmen. Yes, with tutus. And buttons. And orange noses. And mini top hats. As many of you readers know, I have a particular love for doing activities with tutus (Especially this one.) I had only gone so far as to run a 15k in a tutu, but never a half-marathon. It worked out great. For the first time though, we made all of the tutus!

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Two bottles of wine, 15 felt buttons, 4 elastic waistbands, and 32 yards of shiny white tulle later, we had our costumes. The tutus took more tulle than I thought they would. But overall, I loved making them!

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The race itself was fantastic. The weather was perfection. Clear blue skies and brisk, but warm enough to wear shorts and be fairly comfortable. The four of us stayed together the whole run. However,  the dude on the far left of the photo above rocked the socks off his race way ahead of us. I’d like to think he would’ve run faster if he had worn a tutu…

The only downside to the race? My 3 asthma attacks. Yes, 3. And, I even had my inhaler. As I was struggling to breathe, I reflected back to my Pharmacology class and tried to remember what the maximum recommended dose of Albuterol was…to no avail. So, I took another pull off my inhaler. The struggle was real.

I am so thankful to my wonderful family for sticking with me through the entire race, even when I had to walk and wheeze. We ran, we laughed, we sang too many Frozen songs, but most of all, we enjoyed ourselves. -And ate cupcakes at the finish line. Because that is what running is about.

**

Happy 2015, everyone! Here’s to another year of balance, growth, and many, many adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Be Sexy on a Mud Run.

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Simple answer: you don’t.

If looking good is of concern, don’t go near the brown stuff.

There is something sexy though about a man covered in mud pounding the trail ahead of you, just as tired and sweaty as you are. There is something sexy about getting dirty and being proud of it. There is something sexy about running across that finish line brown when you started out black, utterly exhausted. Is it graceful? No, not at all. Mud runs are like a slip and slide. Especially when the mud goes from an inch deep to mid-calf without a moment’s notice. Grace is not the point.

The point is to channel that inner five year old by stomping and splashing your way along the muddy trail. The point is to smile even when you’re sliding two feet backwards with every step you take up a hill (scrambling like spiderwoman! …or so I was told.) The point is to enjoy every moment of nature’s obstacles.

That was the Hagg Lake 25k on February 16th. 15.5 miles of rolling hills, mud, trail, streams, wind and rain. By far my favorite race I’ve ever accomplished. For so many reasons; the mud, the trail, the challenge, the people. Trail runners are a very amiable group of people, and I had some great chats with others throughout the race. We all looked out for one another, especially when we’d venture down a mud slide. It goes without saying that most people took a spill at least once. Or maybe I’m just hoping that I wasn’t the only one who needed to bathe in the lake afterwards…

To give you an idea of how phenomenally awesome this course was. Check out this video (Thank you, Jason!):

There were multiple times throughout this course that I wanted to look behind me. Whether it was to see if I was impeding a faster runner on the single track trail or to give me that little boost to see that others were behind me, I’m not entirely sure. Either way, I felt it an important metaphor to life. It never failed that every single time I tried to look back, I would tumble and fall. I’d catch my foot wrong in the mud, and down I’d go. My focus had to stay on the course in front of me, and not on any person, place or thing behind me.

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Post-race was celebrated with the obligatory cupcakes. Triple chocolate this time with a salted caramel buttercream frosting. Gluten free, as always. And pretty damn delicious.

While we’re on the subject of food. The aid stations on this course were spectacular! They were filled with happy volunteers and the perfect ultra fare: PB&J’s, fig newtons, pretzels, bananas, oranges, trail mix, and my personal favorite, gummy bears! There was, of course, the usual Gu gels, electrolyte beverages and such. But those gummy bears made my heart (and belly) happy. At one of the aid stations, I popped a few in my mouth, placed a few in my gloves that I’d removed, and grabbed a few to keep in hand. Less than 10 minutes later and I took a nice little spill…and lost my gummy bears. Sigh. I forgot about the gummy bears in my glove until I did laundry a couple days later. Oops. Such a sticky mess.

One thing I will say. I knew this run was going to be in less than stellar weather. Which is why I hardly expected to have any of my friends come and support me. Rain and wind is not something I want to make friends stand in for hours while I splashed through mud puddles. Imagine my surprise then, when I rounded the last corner (read: slopped my way through the mud) to cross the finish line and saw this lovely lady and this amazing sign:

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I’m fairly certain I cried. Proper grammar on that sign and everything (She knows the way to my heart.) Two other friends were there with her. Their presence at the finish line meant everything to me. You, you are amazing!

I didn’t listen to music on this run. I’ve not really been putting in the earbuds on the trails lately. Instead, I occupy myself with random thoughts, random songs and singing loudly in hopes that no one hears. This song was one that kept coming up again and again. I wonder why!

Here’s just a little showcase of mud post-race. Mud where it didn’t belong and booty booty booty booty, rockin’ everywhere.

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I really should have jumped in the lake to rinse off. Instead, this is what I had to contend with when I arrived home:

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My apologies to my roommate, because I’m fairly certain it took a week to change my shower from brown back to white. But, I think he is used to this sight by now as it isn’t a rarity to see me walk in the door covered in mud from the knees down and a giant grin on my face.

That’s how I walked in the door yesterday, after a 16 mile run in Forest Park. Content heart, happy face, and a hungry belly. 33 days until the Whidbey Island Marathon and I’m beginning to feel a little better prepared. Asthma be damned.

The take away is this: to be sexy on a mud run, one must get dirty and love it. Embrace the falls and pick oneself back up. Don’t look back. Look forward to the gummy bears, chats with fellow runners, and surprises at the finish line.

Lost: Running Mojo. If Found, Please Call…

…Me.

I started this post awhile ago. In fact, a couple days after I posted about my race in November. You know, over 2 months ago. I wanted to write this post like a motivated cheerleader and impart my love of running to all those that read this, complete with cartwheels and multi-person pyramids. It is the new year after all, and everyone seems to be getting into the motivated, running spirit. If I’m being completely honest, I fell into a little bit of a rut. I lost my running mojo! Initially, I had no idea how to get it back. I’d been battling a respiratory cold/illness/congestion thing. It aggravated my asthma and I started having attacks on seemingly every run I went on. Not really conducive to keeping the cheerleader spirit now, is it?

Two weeks of running without a mojo. It’s nearly impossible. Running didn’t excite me anymore. Three days went by without running and I didn’t feel like I could consider myself a runner anymore. A number of factors went into this: my stupid injury, the suddenly short days, frigid air, and the approaching end of semester with its plethora of projects and endless studying.

In my head, these were just excuses. But, valid nonetheless. I was hoping it would magically reappear. My desire to run, that is. I know all runners face this at some point, but I felt worthless and pathetic. And then I found this article and this song:

Now, I’m not saying these two things were the cure-all. But, you know that feeling when you discover a new song and you want it on repeat for days? You can’t help but sing aloud and dance around your room in your underoos? …Okay, maybe not the last part. Song addiction though. You binge on the song and it gives you a little boost every time it comes on. You smile to yourself. Your days brightens just ever so slightly. This is what happened with “Counting Stars.” It helped me to realize a couple of things:

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First, there is an ebb and flow to most things in life. Not to sound cheesy, but it’s like the ocean tide. At times, those waves ebb further and further away from the shoreline. And sometimes they come in full, crashing waves against the shoreline and encompass everything around. This was clearly an ebb of running in my life. I had to realize that it was perfectly okay. I hadn’t fallen out of love with running. I was tired, stressed and a little disappointed in my performance at the Happy Girls Run in November. (Full report here)
Too much of a good thing is a real concept. So is burn out. As is giving your body time to heal. Even more than that, I realized that I hadn’t been giving myself credit for the running I’d been doing, the accomplishments. It was time to take a step back.

The second thing was really an epiphany, if we’re being real here. I don’t run to continually accomplish goals. I run because it is now a part of my lifestyle. It is my lifestyle. I’m a runner. It’s like brushing my teeth. It is an integral part of my life. With this realization came a bit of relaxation. I don’t have to be constantly on it to consider myself a runner. Yes, goals are healthy and keep one motivated. But sometimes it’s just good to run to relax. Like I used to. Running used to be my catharsis, not something that stressed me out. I needed to revisit that cathartic running and appreciate that I don’t need to be doggedly chasing goals at all times.

I don’t know that I’ve actually found my running mojo again. What I have found though, is some form of clarity and/or sanity in my running little mind. Part of this clarity came when I had a short conversation with an older neighbor of mine, of whom I dearly adore. He looks like Santa Clause, but is a running beast. He runs 7 miles, 6 days a week in all types of weather for as many years as he can remember (30+.) He returns home to Belgium once a year to visit family and they all run a 10k race together. If I’m lucky, I’ll see him on a couple of my usual running routes. We have small chats, and he always, always has a smile on his face. The particular chat I’m referring to though, he greets me by saying, “Lighter feet, lighter feet!” in his brusque accent. I was dragging heavy that day, as I was running without mojo and it was raining. He slows down and says, “Your running has increased tenfold this year. It makes me smile to see someone out here just as crazy as myself.” I laughed and said, “thank you!” He then continued on his hustlin’ way and I on mine (not so hustlin’.) I don’t care what you say, my day was made!

So, here’s a little reflection. Here is what I need to stop and give myself credit for. In 2013, I ran three half-marathons. I ran my first marathon. I ran my fastest mile, my fastest 5k, 10k… PRs across the board. I inspired others to begin their love affair with running. I accomplished goals, fulfilled intentions. There’s something to be said in that.

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The week before beginning dental hygiene school, we took a tour of the main campus (I attend the health professions campus.) Part of the tour included walking through a labyrinth. Prior to walking through, our program director had us grab a stone out of a basket and reflect on it as we started our small journey. The above photo is the stone I drew from the basket. “Inspire.” It could not have been more perfect. This is what I aspire to do in every aspect of my life. As I traipsed around the spirals of the labyrinth, I thought of who had inspired me to get where I am now, how they’d inspired me, and what kind of attitude I needed to reflect to be able to do the same thing. The attitude? Staying positive, rolling with the ebbs and flows of the tide, enjoying the ride, but never forgetting to keep my sails directed towards my goals, intentions, and dreams.

Oh, I sound so cheesy…That’s what overthinking gets you, I suppose. I truly mean these words though! You, lovely readers, are getting the good and the bad in this post. We can’t always be cheerleaders and coaches. That amount of enthusiasm constantly isn’t real, people. What is real though, is being able to take a step back and look at things objectively. Evaluate. Give thanks.

In evaluating recently, I’ve made a decision. Due to an aforementioned leg injury over thanksgiving break, I’ve stepped down from running my 50k ultra next month. (Big, giant pouty and sad face.) It’s not that I couldn’t make it across the finish line, it’s that I want to finish strong. And, of late, I haven’t kept up my base of running enough to accomplish that. I’ve been allowing myself to heal (somewhat), so that I can choose another ultra and rock the socks off it! I’ve swapped my race entry though, and am going to run the 25k on that same weekend. I can’t throw in the towel entirely!

One thing I’d mentioned earlier with my lost running spirit was my asthma. It’s not something I’d touched on before, as I’ve always viewed it as a sign of weakness. Though, it is clearly not. I have sports-induced asthma. When I began training in 2012, I could barely run a mile without my lungs giving me grief. I used to carry an inhaler with me, and I used it before every run. I began testing myself though. I’d start my runs without Albuterol. So I learned that the more I ran, the further I could go without having an attack. The exception to that being the change of seasons. When the air started to turn crisp or suddenly warm again, my lungs would give me hell. This season though, I didn’t get a new inhaler. What a shame that proved to be. For some reason, regardless of my increased endurance, my asthma is right back to where it used to be. Inhaler needed before mile 2. And that is perfectly okay. 

I leave you with a phrase that has been floating in my brain for a few days now. Read it. Chew on it. Slowly.

We run both to lose and to find ourselves.