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.

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Never Trust A Fart

Trust :noun: Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Mile 17 of the Bend Marathon. We’re finally coming downhill from a 4+ mile climb. I’m sweaty, grouchy, tired, and my body wants to coast down this hill. I let myself relax….and it happened before I could even do anything about it. I trusted a fart. As I continued running, every backside muscle clenched, I wondered to myself the definition of trust. I trusted myself to maintain composure, I trusted my bodily functions to contain themselves and act appropriately. I was wrong. 

Thankfully, there was a port-a-potty within a half mile of the accident, so I was able to clean myself up the best I could. I never dreamed that this would happen in real life!

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When I try to think of how to describe the Bend Marathon, the only word that comes to mind is humbling. The course was humbling for even experienced runners; plenty of hills and trails to contend with. It humbled me, mind, body and soul. The 4+ mile long hill, that started around mile 12, humbled my mind into realizing that the mental strength I thought I possessed wasn’t adequate even if I tried to convince myself otherwise. It humbled my body into realizing that the 2-3 days/week (if that) of training was not nearly enough to prepare me for this race. This race humbled my soul in that not every person loves to run long distances. And, even if you love them for a while, you may not always feel that way.

I truly felt I loved to run long distances until I ran this race. Maybe it was the lack of training. Maybe it was the lack of happy vibes. Maybe it was the lack of good sleep the nights preceding the race. But, I finally learned what people refer to as “the dark place” when running long distances; that emotional, negative, pit of despair. It was the Blerch in all of his terrible glory. I had to run away from those feelings like the grim reaper (or the Blerch) was chasing after me.

I cried for the first time during a race. Less than two miles from the finish line, in the middle of a park with people around, I lost it. Big, heaving sobs and alligator tears when I told Eli that I just couldn’t do it. 

I still crossed the finish line. I still ate my cupcakes. But not without a small change of heart. I learn a lot about myself while running 26.2 miles. It was certainly no different in this race.

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A huge thank you to Ida’s Cupcakes for the frosted post-race deliciousness!

 

I learned what it meant to push yourself, even when there’s nothing left. Even when there’s no desire to even put one foot in front of the other. You separate mind and foot; you force the body to keep going. It is amazing how quickly weakened the brain can become in such a long race if you aren’t prepared.

I learned what ill preparation does to your mind and body in a marathon. I learned how important proper hydration is, and how much gummy bears really mean to me.

I learned that sometimes the worst side of you comes out during a race. I had a sailor’s mouth and a spiteful heart. The things coming out of my mouth after the halfway point…I truly don’t know how Eli kept by my side, repeating, “I don’t care what you say. We promised to cross the finish line together.”

In the week leading up to the race, I had to be honest with myself. Yes, we had fabulous shirts made for the race. But. The training was nowhere what it needed to be to run a solid race and potentially PR. I was accepting of that fact, and Eli and I decided to run this race for fun. And perhaps take a few selfies along the way…

 

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The above photo was a little more than halfway through, and about a mile into the 4 mile long hill. I was still feeling pretty decent, and even had the thought of beasting my way up the entire hill…Hence the face.

And, here we are, only a few miles out from the finish line. At this point, I think Eli hated the camera as much as I hated the thought of having to place one foot in front of the other. Where had all of our joy gone?

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I wanted to write an inspiring post. I wanted to put a positive spin on a race that did not at all go to plan. I wanted to write how loving, positive and supportive Eli and I were to each other throughout the race. (We were both buttheads.) But, sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

The Bend marathon was a beautiful course. A mixture of river trail, city streets, a daunting uphill climb, and a glorious downhill to the finish. More aid stations than I ever could have imagined, gummy bears galore, and energetic race volunteers. I ate my weight in bananas offered post-race, and the libations were perfection.

I thought the course did a wonderful job of giving a taste of the city of Bend, the beauty of some of their parks, as well as the Deschutes River. It gave those from out of state an idea of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Aside from my bad attitude, the only other negative thing I can say about this race was the organization/flow. The 300 and something marathoners started at the same time as the 3,000+ half-marathoners. It made for a very crowded river trail, with passing a near impossibility.

Overall, I would do this course again in a heartbeat. I love Bend. The views were fantastic. The course kicked my ass. The aid stations and volunteers were wonderful. And, did I mention the giant wall-mount bottle opener for a medal?!

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We crossed the finish line holding hands, with smiles on our faces. We learned a lot during this race, both about ourselves and each other. The two most important were these:

Celebrate finish lines, not finish times.

And believe me, never trust a fart.

 

Full of Good Intentions

This is where I spent the last days of 2013. Where it matters most: with family and the ocean. Two of the most amazing things in my life. This photo happens to have been taken on a run. With my sister. But more on this at another time.

Happy 2014! The second day of the year, and I already have six races lined up. One of which, I’m proud to announce, is in a little over two weeks! I’m running the Redding Marathon Relay. It was a Facebook cry for help from my 4th grade science teacher. She’d lost one of her relay partners and needed someone, anyone, to take their place. Sure, it’s a 6.5 hour drive. But how many people can say they’ve run a marathon with their elementary school science teacher? A phone call was placed, and decisions were made. Redding, here I come!

As it is just past the beginning of a new year, I thought it only appropriate to embrace the proverbial New Years Resolutions. After sitting down about a week or so ago to create my yearly list, I thought about deciding on things that I would actually stick to or continue working at to achieve. Telling myself I’m going to do 30 push-ups and chin-ups for 365 days straight isn’t realistic. Nor is making it a goal to run 6 days every week. Life happens. Which is why I decided to create a different kind of list in its entirety. It isn’t a list of resolutions, it is a list of intentions. At the top of this list is ‘Balance.’ It is such a broad term, and can be interpreted in a number of ways. But, for me, that’s the point. I want balance in the physical, walking across a tight rope sense. I want balance between school and play, between social time and ‘me’ time, and between training runs and running naked and free (no watch, no music, no Garmin, just for the pleasure.) Beyond that, my other intentions are fairly typical, but a little more clear and definable:

  • Drink more water (80-100 oz per day),
  • Eat vegetables with every meal (because everyone loves spinach for breakfast!),
  • Take more photos (currently embarking on a photo a day challenge),
  • Write daily (even if it’s only a sentence or two.),
  • and PR my next half and full marathon. (without becoming obsessed with pace and injuring myself again…)

I’ve many others, but these are the intentions worth mentioning.

Along the lines of New Year’s resolutions or intentions, I’ve had a number of people ask me recently how I got into running and/or how they could begin their (surely to be) lifelong love of running. A couple even made it a goal for 2014. I’ve been contemplating on just how to present this post for a while now.

How to get started running. It’s simple, really. Get off your ass. Put on some shoes. Walk out the door. Put one foot in front of the other. Get out there and go. Shut up and run. Push yourself a little. But is there more to it?  It took a little bit to formulate how I’d even begun running. When/how I even started. For those of you who haven’t checked out my About Me page, I’ll give you a little synopsis:

I’ve been a sporadic runner for a number of years. I ran track for three years back in elementary/middle school. I was slow. I was chubby. I was that kid who turned cherry red and ran into the nurse’s office nearly every practice because I couldn’t get my asthma under control. As years passed, I started running to rid myself of daily stresses and clear my head. Never more than 2-3 miles, and I never fully enjoyed it, I just knew it would settle me down.

I ran my first 5k race in 2010, finishing with a 10:15/mile pace. Proud of myself for even finishing, I decided to run the same race the next year. In Summer of 2012, I ran another 5k with a co-worker. At this race, I ran into a good friend, who has since fallen in love and subsequently fallen of the face of the earth. (We all know how that goes.) With this friend was Lexi, a badass girl who’d just moved home from Boston. We hit it off. We even became Facebook official friends. It was real friendship. In September, she throws out a post on Facebook. Something along the lines of, “Help! I’ve just been talked into a half-marathon. Who’s training with me?!” This girl, right here. I am. I called her, and the rest is history. Holiday Half was completed 3 months later, and here I am with another year gone by.

I’m a baby runner, for all intents and purposes. I’ve been consistently running for less than 2 years. I chat with those that have been running 10+ years, and they just give me that smile. You know the one I’m talking about. It says, ‘you’re so cute with your doe eyes and eager spirit. I remember those days.’ I have immense respect for those runners. Running has become a part of their lifestyle and not just a hobby. They have this store of knowledge in all things running, and I can only hope to get there one day. For now, I’ll take the inexperienced, doe-eyed look with the unquenchable enthusiasm for all things running related and impart it to you, dear readers.

With this and a giant smile, I present a little list of how to get started:

1. Find the motivation. The desire, the drive. Most of you have this if you’re even contemplating running. The hardest step is always the first. Cultivating the want to even begin something that is sure to be difficult is commendable in itself.
2. Make a goal. What kind of distance are you shooting for? Set objectives. Someday, you want to run a marathon, yes. But right now, you need to make it a goal to complete that first mile without stopping. Or to complete that 5k you signed up for in the spring. Whatever the goal is, make it clear and measurable. Make “I want to run more,” into “I want to run three days a week consistently.”
3. Make a plan. Be realistic. Training for a half-marathon in 2 months is not realistic if you’re still a couch potato. Runner’s World has a lot of awesome training plans for 5k, 10k and half-marathons.There is also the Couch to 5k program which is perfect if you’re just getting started. I think they even have an app. You could even rock on over to Pinterest and find a plethora of plans and info. Whatever you decide to do, make it a doable plan. The idea is not to set oneself up for failure.
4. Purchase running shoes. The real, real good kind. Don’t scrimp. These shoes are your equipment. The wrong fit could cause pain, injuries, discontent. Besides, people at running stores know what they’re talking about. They’ll get you into a proper fitting shoe. My bffs are the guys over at Foot Traffic. Like most running stores, they’ll analyze your gait and get you into the shoe that you need. They’ll answer your questions, and they have more info than you’ll know what to do with.
5. Download an app. The options are endless: Strava, Nike +, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, C25k. Keep track. But not always. This will give you an idea of pace, of distance. That way you can adjust accordingly. As you start running more, a GPS watch > phone apps. But it’s all about starting small. The app will help you to stay on track and see improvement.
6. Start slow. The first time you lace up those new shoes and step outside your door, please for the love of all that is good, don’t set yourself up for failure. This goes back to making a plan. Day 1 of 5k training should not be a 3 mile run. It’s starting out slow and easy.
7. Be patient. Expect setbacks. Don’t stop. Be kind to yourself, recognize accomplishment, and don’t be defeated by setbacks. Remember why you started running. Hopefully the reason was for yourself, for self-improvement, better health. Focus on those.

Run. Do yoga. Lift. Bike. Dance. Walk. Skip. Jump. Ski. Just MOVE. It’s the new year, a new start, a new smile, new intentions. Remember balance.

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Holiday Half

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I begin writing this post with a giant, proud smile pasted across my face. These three people with me in the photo above crossed the finish line of their first half-marathon on December 15th . No one can take that away from them. They trained hard and this race was their reward. Well, and the cupcakes. Which are homemade gluten-free dark chocolate with a mint buttercream frosting. They were gone before the weekend.

My sister and her fiancee came up from the Oregon coast for the weekend. What a whirlwind weekend it was! Christmas parties, Peacock Lane, Pioneer Square, Christmas trees, amazing food. Always amazing food. I cannot show someone Portland and not give them a taste of the delicious food mecca they have stumbled upon. That would be absurd!

I also took sister to Foot Traffic for their expert advice in running shoes. Thank you, Kevin! Both my sister and her fiancee had their gait analyzed and shoes recommended. I even talked them into doing a few test runs around the block. I will just say this: running in knee high boots to provide moral support to someone testing out running shoes is not recommended.

We all ran the race in good spirits (holiday cheer, anyone?) and weather outside was surprisingly cooperative. 40 degrees with intermittent light drizzle. No wind this year, and I am eternally grateful for this.

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Sister and I ran in matching outfits because we’re awesome. Running tights, highlighter yellow 1/4 zip long sleeve, head bands and gloves. Glorious gloves, there really is something to be said about them. They’re wonderful when it’s cold out. I find that about mile 3 though, they get ditched. It’s the first part of my body to really warm up.

I need to digress for a moment. I’ve been training on an injury. Again. After my last half, pace became almost an obsession. I wanted to PR the Holiday Half more than anything in the world. So I began running with a focus on my speed. I’m proud to say my current 5k best is 21:18, 10k best is 46:50. Though, with this hyper-obsession with pace (which, if in moderation, can definitely be a healthy and motivating thing) , I pushed myself too hard. The week of Thanksgiving, while visiting family, I injured my left ankle and shin. I was out on my well-travelled 6 mile loop in Gold Hill. I was about halfway through, pacing a sub-7 minute mile and pushing it pretty hard, when my tibialis anterior muscle just seized. I couldn’t flex my foot downwards. I came down hard and crumpled in a pile on the pavement. As any runner knows, the first emotion to hit you is not upset at injuring oneself. It is anger that the injury may interfere with one’s running ability. And interfere it did. Two weeks before my half-marathon and I was lying in a heap on the side of the road, staring at my shin and ankle like they were to take all of the blame. How I wished death glares worked on injuries. Eventually, I got back up and hobble/jogged back to my family’s home. Two weeks before my half-marathon and the realization came that a PR probably wasn’t in the books for this girl.

Injury aside, I still ran the half. I was not about to let this huge day for my sister, her fiancee or D slip by without being a part of it! I am so happy I did. Sister and I ran together until about mile 9. We kept a sub-9 minute pace and great conversation. When I run with someone else, I always feel like I need to preface myself with, ‘I am not responsible for any of my words and/or actions during the first three miles.’ That proved quite true in this race. Profanities, complaints, rants…Sorry, sister! My injury decided to really flare up a little more than halfway through the run. So, at mile 9, I slowed for some water and ushered sister on her way with a, “Get it, girl! Kick some ass! I love your face!” I couldn’t keep the 8:45 pace we’d maintained, and she was still feeling good. Those last 4 miles were hard on me, as they are for anyone. I rounded that last corner of the race and locked it in. I gave it all I had left in the tank to cross that finish line with the exact same time as my current PR: 1:57. And that with an injury. My sister kicked my bum with a 1:55 finish, her fiancee crossing the finish line a full 11 minutes before her. Finish line cupcakes were demolished, post-race beers were enjoyed by the boys and many photos were taken.

20131217-114226.jpgNot long after the race, I convinced all three of my lovely Holiday Half-ers to run a full marathon with me. Honestly, it really didn’t take much convincing. Just a few smiles and words of, “it’s really not that hard, I promise.” Okay, okay, so I lied a little. But, it worked. Portland Marathon, here we come!

In addition, we’ve already locked in our next half. One that I’ve also run before. The second annual Hop Hop Half! The next few months will give them that much more time to improve their pace and really whoop my ass! All in good fun, right?

Pride. Happiness. Elation. Inspiration. All of these emotions experienced over the course of our Half weekend. I am so appreciative of the amazing family I have and our shared loves; food and running, namely.

 

I hope all of my lovely readers have the privilege of spending this time of year with those that mean the most to them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some peppermint hot chocolate to drink in front of the fireplace and some crazy family time to enjoy.

Happy Holidays, all!

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