On To a New Space.

Just reaching out to all of my wonderful blog followers. I’ve ventured out and created my own full website! Check me out over on forminfocus.net

 

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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.

A Yarn About Running.

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Shorts pulled on. Shoes laced. Hair braided. Mind set. Go.

As I tie my running shoes and head out my door, I set my intentions for my run. Is this an interval run, a pace challenge, a hill run? Or is this simply a run because I need it? Am I running because I feel obligated to or because I want to? These questions set the tone for the run as a whole.

Tonight, I ran because I needed it like bananas need peanut butter. I ran because my muscles were tight and sore from my relay last weekend (more on that in my next post.) I ran because it was my therapy

I haven’t written in a while. Fact. Now, I could sit here and give you all kinds of justifiable excuses. But that’s just it, they’re excuses. School, work, relationships, board exams, the dog ate my keyboard…excuses. The real reason I haven’t blogged about running, cupcakes, and happiness is because I’d lost the groove.

I’ve said this more than once, I find my best inspiration for writing after I’ve had a good run. And, I simply have not been putting in the time needed to have good runs, to find that inspiration. Yes, I’ve been running. But, they have not been the feel good runs where magic happens.

Those runs are what make everything else worthwhile. The magic is when everything just falls into place. Your mind isn’t telling you to stop with every step forward. You aren’t worried about time. Or pace. Or distance. You just run. Magic.

It is on those magic runs that I have the best mental clarity.

A side note: You know when you have a skein of yarn that you didn’t bother to roll into a pretty ball? As you use it to knit or crochet, the skein becomes this tangled bunch of yarn. A messy mass of string. The more you tug on it, the worse it gets.

That is how my brain feels before a run. Tangled with the day’s stresses, worries, and the ever-present to do list. It is tangled with thoughts of everything else I should be doing besides running. It is tangled with guilt that I haven’t been more consistent. It is tangled with every bit of negative self-talk tinged with anxiety.

It is not until I’m a couple miles into my run that I can feel those knots start to loosen. I can feel that silly, negative voice in the back of my head start to calm down. The muscle tightness starts shaking loose. The daily stresses start to shake themselves off.

It is so often on these runs that I find myself living in the moment. Once the tangles have been undone and I finally have a pretty ball of yarn. It is then that I can keep my inner voice calm, focus on my breathing, and be thankful for the privilege to run.

This is how today’s run felt. Magic.

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This yarn about running can really be summed up this way:

Before Run = Sad Jess.

After Run = Happy Jess.

And sometimes, it just takes a small reminder to motivate us to keep going.

Set your intentions. Find the magic. Not every run is going to be great. But, remember that a run brings cupcakes, unicorns, and rainbows. Or an untangled mass of yarn. Your choice, really.

 

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.

 

The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big, Round Things.

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I had a conversation with my legs yesterday. And my butt, for that matter. I was at the gym. I’d just completed another grueling, 2 hour workout of lower body and abs. I caught my reflection as I walked into the aerobics room to return my bosu ball. I looked at myself and thought, “hey, is that my butt? -Damn, these squats are doing me well.”

First of all, I’m not conceited, nor do I think I have a perfect body. But, I realized something as I stood in front of that mirror for a full minute, checking myself out; I love my butt. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those girls that has always had a bit of a booty. For the first time in my life though, it’s a strong booty. And the tree trunks underneath them? They’ve become just as strong. The phrase ‘working my ass off’ doesn’t apply here. I’ve been working my ass on to get these legs and this butt.

This transition has not been without growing pains. A couple weeks ago, I realized, one, only a single pair of my jeans still fit me, and two, I cannot continually wear yoga pants in public. So, I went shopping for jeans. Oh dear, what an adventure. To realize that you need to go up a pant size because your legs and backside have become bigger is somewhat of a humbling experience. After 90 minutes of failure, I felt like I needed to have a meltdown. The negative self-talk that inevitably takes over… Ladies reading this, you understand my pain.

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Except, in this case, jeans.

Trying on pants is a real test of the ol’ self esteem. I wish this was a story with a happy ending, but those perfect fit jeans are still eluding me. And, I still rock leggings most days. But I know those jeans are out there….somewhere.

I’m a runner. So, what am I doing spending 2 hours at a time at the gym? Well, it started with this guy:

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A couple glasses of this fermented grape goodness:

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And a challenge.

This challenge included 6 weeks of ass-kicking workouts 5-6 days/week. Two days of upper body in a row. Two days of lower body in a row. Two days of cardio, and one day of all over gym goodness. The point was muscle domination.

Upon first hearing about it, I laughed. It sounded like death. I am a runner. I prefer to be outside, and I loathe the idea of treadmills. Spending 10-12 hours a week in the gym sounded perfectly awful. I can handle 2 days a week in the gym, at most. And the words ‘leg day’ meant a good, solid run to me, not squats and Russian dead lifts.

And yet, the word challenge kept niggling in the back of my brain. Why not try it, I thought. I’ve always wanted to be stronger. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two in the gym. It can’t be that difficult.

Or, so I thought.

Here I am now, with two weeks left in the challenge, tree trunks for legs (ain’t no thigh gap here!), a round booty, and arms/shoulders that are becoming too big for my shirts. In fact…

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This happened. Yes, this is a bathroom selfie. Yes, that is a rip between the shoulders of my favorite shirt. Yes, this is from my lifting gains in the last few weeks. And yes, I did cry a little. I mean, come on. The last thing I remember, I was a runner who rejoiced when clothes became loose. I wore running shorts most days and had no clue how to bench press. A curl was what I did to bring the wine glass from the table to my face. The idea that I could become a strong, fit chick is continually appealing, but it’s taking a mindset adjustment as the clothes get a little tighter in weird places. I went from focusing on electrolyte consumption and carb-loading to getting enough protein and wondering if supplements are the way to go.

On the flip side though, the progress I’ve seen in my strength in just these few weeks is unreal. I can do 3 unassisted pull-ups and 7 unassisted tricep dips, whereas I couldn’t  do any of either a month ago. I went from bench pressing just the bar (45lbs) to breaking the 100lb mark just this week! I am almost ashamed to say this, but I actually enjoy going to the gym now.

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But, how could I not enjoy the gym in a shirt like this? Instant motivation. And an excellent Christmas present.

With that, I give you my current challenge. Before and after photos to be posted after the challenge is completed. (Did I really just say that?)

Next up? Marathon training, round 4, starts next week! I’m comin’ for ya, Bend Marathon!

Here’s a little self-love (but skip to almost a minute in for it to get upbeat):

 

Like a Ninja

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I looked out the window and thought, “Ugh, it’s raining. No one wants to go running in this.” Then, I had a reality check. I am not the Wicked Witch of the West, I am not made of sugar, and I am not water soluble. The rain isn’t going to make me melt, nor is it going anywhere any time soon. This is the Pacific Northwest. I better damn well get out there, get used to it, and use my integumentary system to the fullest of its protective abilities.

That being established, I went on a wonderful 6 mile recovery run. Recovery run? Yes, a run to recover from running. An easy run. One that is preferably devoid of any type of tracking device. A run more for your mind than your body. It is to remind yourself of why you run. Rekindle the love between your running shoes and the hard ground. This particular recovery run was very restorative, to both mind and body. I was feeling a little down after my performance in my last half-marathon. I took the time on my run to reflect on what motivates me, what drives me to lace up my shoes 6 days a week, and why I had suddenly become so competitive with others instead of just myself. It was only 2 days after my half, and the negative self-talk had to stop. This run was a cure-all. I returned home drenched with the perfect combination of sweat and rain and a giant smile pasted across my face. I had remembered how to run happy.

The Happy Girls Run half-marathon in Sisters, Oregon on November 2nd was beautiful. Central Oregon was the perfect change of scenery. Pine trees, red soil, and crisp air. Pine needles made itself a lovely ground cover intermixed with a little mud through the entirety of the 13.1 miles of single-track trail. The weather report said there was a chance of snow for the weekend of the race. Thankfully,  the frozen white stuff did not show itself the morning of the race, but the air was of the kind that cut straight to your lungs. To add to the beauty of the area, halfway through the race itself, we ran along the edge of Peterson Ridge that overlooked the little town of Sisters and the valley below. Not only was the view at once breathtaking and distracting, but the rainbow that had spread itself across the saturated grey sky increased the view tenfold. As beautiful as it was, you couldn’t stare too long. The trail was rather uneven and rocky at this point, and any glance away from the ground was a surefire way to trip and fall.

Beautiful scenery aside, this girl was anything but happy during that race. I started off like a shot. 7:30/mile pace for the first 4 miles. I ran alongside (technically directly in front of, as it was a single track trail) a woman who told me of her previous races she’d run. My favorite was the thought of running a marathon in Hawaii. Yes, please! I love how distracting conversation can be during a run. At the start of mile 5, she tells me, ‘I’m going to turn it on for a bit’ and took off. I didn’t see her until after the race.

It was a crisp 40 degrees F on race morning. The kind of cold that makes your nose run (get it, get it?). Right about this time, I reach up to wipe the snot from my nose — yes guys, girls have boogers too– when I realize just how much serous liquid is coming from my nose. But it wasn’t. The combination of a lingering sinus infection, cold air and the elevation change produced a lovely case of epistaxis. A nosebleed. During a half-marathon. Just what I wanted.

I wish I could say that I stopped, dealt with the situation properly and finished the race in good spirits. Any runner who has experienced any kind of malady or injury on a run can empathize. It is not the fact that you’re injured or experiencing some kind of systemic issue (vomiting, nose bleeds, GI distress etc.) that upsets you, it is the fact you had to stop running, slow down or take the time to recover. In my case, I was thoroughly angered by the fact that it took my nose nearly 5 minutes to stop bleeding. That was 5 minutes of vital race time lost. 5 minutes of stewing about starting out too fast. 5 minutes of watching my fellow female runners pass me by without so much as a look over their shoulder to the girl with her running glove shoved up her nose. But, I rallied.

I wasn’t happy, in case that wasn’t readily apparent. The rest of the run was spent ‘getting my mind right’ so to speak. The trail was beautiful, yes, but my mind wasn’t. I felt like I was running with a stormy black rain cloud hanging over my head, cartoon style. I had to find a mantra. “Good thoughts in (inhale), bad thoughts out (exhale.)” I ran with the dread that the 9 minute mile pacer was going to overtake me, like the Grim Reaper. He did.

I’d like to say I got happier, but all I could think about was finding that damn finish line. And wondering how terrible my time was going to be. I was frustrated by the downsides to running a race on single track trails. They’re wonderful when you’re alone, but running the same trail as a few hundred women…not so fun. Passing becomes an issue. Especially when said women haven’t been educated on proper trail etiquette. What is proper trail etiquette? Holler at the person you’re about to pass, “Passing on your left!” or “Passing on your right!” Do not wear headphones. If you must, keep only one earbud in. You’ll want to hear us when we holler. If you need to walk, step off to the side. Be kind to fellow runners. Don’t cut them off. And for goodness sake, smile! This is a happy run. Run for you. Not against the women around you.

A very fitting sticker outside Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters.

I finished in 2:04 with a 9:28/mile average. The exact same time as my first half-marathon nearly a year ago. Not exactly the new personal best I was hoping for.

Negativity and nosebleed aside, it was an amazing weekend in Central Oregon. My running buddy, amazing friend and previous employer, rocked the socks off her first half in a couple years. She came across the finish line with a smile on her face, only a few minutes after I did. Here we are just after she crossed the finish line (can we tell someone is tired?):

We stayed at a condo in Sisters all weekend, complete with a hot tub. We spent the rest of race day in Bend shopping and catching up with friends. Dinner was spent at 10 Barrels Brewery. That burger was the best I’ve ever had. As was the wood fireplace outside. Imagine sipping a beverage while sitting outside all bundled up in front of a crackling fire. The smells, the sounds, the ambiance…And then the snow started to fall. Soft, white flakes floating down from the night’s sky. It couldn’t have been a more perfect end to a race day. Good company, great friends, amazing weekend.

I may not have run like a ninja, as my socks would indicate, but I ran my heart out. I ran against every negative thought in my brain and still crossed that finish line, even though it seemed a dreadful distance away. I once again neglected finish line cupcakes, but made up for it in trail mix consumption and pastries at Sisters Coffeehouse the next day. Cupcakes at the next race, I swear!

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Gluten free cherry almond muffin. Nom.