Saturday, September 28, 2013

Will and Mind

Today's long run marked the furthest I would run since I last trained for a half marathon over ten months ago. I spent all night yesterday hydrating and preparing.  Yet, this morning I was still really anxious. It may sound silly, and I'm sure it is, but I get really nervous before long runs. I'm not exactly sure why. I spent a lot of today's run trying to figure out why the anxiety. I think it has something to do with my perfectionistic tendencies. I want every run to go perfectly (you've probably guessed that I don't define perfectly as fast. I'd be in trouble if I did).  I think that because my first marathon did not go as planned, I'm feeling more pressure to get this one right.  Anyway, as I ran I came across this sign:

I don't go to this church, so I have no idea what this sermon series is about, but I sure am glad I came upon week three. I realized then and there that these were the two things that were going to keep me going: my will and my mind. My body is strong. My body can run. My body has been prepared for each run by every run that has come before. My body is capable of running what is requires. It's my will and my mind that struggle. When the run gets hard, my breathing goes, and my feet ache, it is my will that will either stop me in my tracks or carry me forward. 

The run was hard, but with my will and my mind set straight ahead, I made it and in decent time. There are many, MANY miles ahead and many of those miles will be a struggle. But thanks to a little sign along the way, I know I've got the tools to make it. 

Oh, and if anyone remembers my complaint about the heat and humidity, well, it's still hot and humid as hell here. Forget that it is only a few days from October, it still feels like 90 degrees!! 

And then it was home to take part in my post long run tradition. Which is to eat everything in sight!!  I may want to rethink this tradition, but some other day. You're looking at my favorite post long run indulgence. Don't judge. Okay, you can judge, but that's fine. It just means there will be more for me!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Have Control Issues

Just Tuesday I was telling a friend how addicted I am to my Garmin.  I specifically mentioned that I am obsessive about keeping track of pace and distance and went so far as to say that running with anything else is crap.  And, because life is hilarious in this way, Wednesday I started warming up for a run and my Garmin absolutely refused to find my location.  I stood in the driveway with my arm lifted up towards the sky hoping the satellites would find me (have you ever seen anyone doing this?  We look ridiculous!) and nothing happened.  I probably would have stood there like that until the blood flow to my arm ceased to make it up to my fingers, but my family was holding dinner for me.  So, against every fiber in my body (I REALLY rely on my Garmin), I turned on the Map My Run app on my phone and headed off. 

When I say I am obsessive about keeping track of pace and distance,  I mean it.  I keep constant track of how fast (err...slow) I'm going and I can't help but check every tenth of a mile.  So, the thought of freely running without constant feedback was not something I was happy about.  But, off I went.

You know what?  It ended up being one of my fastest runs this year.  I found I was flying (err...going slightly above a crawl, which is fast for me) and I wasn't slowing down.  Sure, I was dying to know exactly how fast and how far I'd gone, but I was going and I wasn't stopping.  It felt great.  I was reminded by something I'd written back in November of 2012:

" I really struggle with pace during long runs. I'm always looking at my pace and telling myself to slow down because I'm going to get too tired. I get now that I am often struggling to keep an unnatural run pace in the hopes of "conserving energy." This week I decided to just turn my mind off and let my body takeover. It was a great run.  The lesson is - don't limit yourself by holding back because you are afraid. You are capable of achieving more than you can imagine!!! But you'll never know if you don't let yourself fly."

So, it turns out, I need to learn lessons over and over again before actually "getting" them.  I never claimed to be a quick study (or runner).  What dawned on me yesterday though, while I was running free without the Garmin is that maybe we too often constrain ourselves by the idea of what we are supposed to do or how we are supposed to do things and we end up limiting what we CAN do.
Don't get me wrong, when my Garmin fired up right away this morning, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Part of training is monitoring each run.  We learn from the patterns in our running.  Seeing where we struggle and where we excel can only help us get better in the long run.  But maybe, just maybe, every now and then, it's okay to take the chains off and see just what we CAN do.  Try it.  I bet you surprise yourself.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Word To The Wine

Oh wine, specifically you, red wine.  Oh, how I love you.  You have been such a good friend to me.  So soothing after a long day at the office.  So uplifting when you gather with me and my friends.  So perfect with a romantic dinner and so fun on a sneak away lunch!  Wine you and I have had a long history together filled with many fun memories.  But, alas, it is marathon training time.  And as wondeful a friend as you are to me, you can also be a real bitch sometimes.  After hanging out with you, I'm often lathargic and have trouble getting out of bed.  I'm dehydrated and sometimes you leave me with a pretty big headache.  None of these characteristics are helpful when training for a marathon.  While training for a marathon, I need friends who will keep me hydrated and healthy (hello, water).  I need friends who will replenish my system after a long run (hello, sports drinks).  And, I also need friends who won't encourage me to eat greasy foods like chips and queso or chinese takeout after we've hungout (wine, you know this is your favorite thing to try to talk me into the next day while I'm sleepy and not feeling well).  So, wine, I think we are going to have to start spending a little time apart.  I'm not saying we can't still be friends.  We just won't get to spend as much time together as we normally do over the next four months.  Sure, we'll still see each other on special occasions and certain events.  And yes, there will be a few nights when I will need to spend some quality time with you.  But, our standing Friday evening dates are off.  Please understand, it's nothing personal.  I promise, it's not you, it's me.  Well, okay, it is you a little bit. 
Please, someone, I need these socks.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Puttin' a Little Good Out There

You may remember several months ago I wrote about struggling with a negative self image and resolved to start making donations to charities in hopes of putting a little good out there to offset the negative I was putting in. I wish I could tell you that it has cured me of my self-esteem issues. Unfortunately, I am realizing self-esteem is something I may struggle with for quite some time to come. What I can tell you, is that it has significantly increased my awareness. Every time I make an ugly comment about myself (still far too often), I can hear it for what it is (a useless waste) and I think that's going to help me overcome the habit. 

What it has done though, is made me realize that I am capable of effecting a positive change in this world. And let me tell you, knowing that you can have an impact on the world is an infinitely more powerful feeling than looser fitting jeans. What has come from my simple self esteem project has been bigger than I ever anticipated. 

A few weeks ago a friend of mine challenged me to put my actions where my wallet was. She not so subtly mentioned that I might get more from actually volunteering than just making payments.  When the universe sends you not so subtle hints, it's my suggestion that you listen up. This week marked the beginning of my volunteering for the Girls On The Run program. Through Girls On The Run, I meet twice a week with 15 girls in third through fifth grade. Through physical activity, specifically running, we teach the girls about feeling healthy, confident, and strong. I love the GOTR program!!  The idea that setting and reaching physical goals can help girls grow to be self-assured and self-aware in all aspects of their lives is so exciting to me!  Watching these little girls high five each other and yell "way to go" or "good job" as they run by one another breaks my heart wide open with happiness. 

This volunteer opportunity could not have come at a better time for me. To be honest, I was really residing in a negative place for the last couple of months. I was so stressed out at work and at home that I found myself snapping over the slightest of frustrations.  GOTR reminds me of what is really important in this world and gives me the chance to be a part of something good, and bright, and hopefully lasting.  In this world, it is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and our own troubles and to forget that we are not the center of the world. We are simply one part of a whole wide and diverse, yet connected world. When one part suffers, we all suffer. Volunteering, for me, has served as a reminder that I am capable of putting a little good out there for the benefit of this whole world. It's the actualization of my runner's wave. 

If you are interested in Girls On The Run or want to put a little good out there and make a donation here is a link to more information about the program (click on "get involved" to donate):

Friday, September 20, 2013

Running vs. Real Life

This is the first installment of "things you do while marathon training that you would never do in real life."  Item #1 is:
Running in the Rain.

In real life, when you wake up to the pitter patter of rain drops on the window, you don't pop out of bed and throw on the running shoes. No, in real life, you pull the covers up tighter, roll over, and go right back to sleep. Who willingly runs in the rain!?!  Let me tell you who: people training for a marathon. In real life, you don't HAVE to get up and go running. In real life, it can wait until tomorrow or until the weather clears or just until you feel like it. But when you're in training, those miles HAVE to get run and it doesn't matter what conditions they are run in. The whole point of training is to prepare yourself to succeed in the big race. And, unfortunately, we don't get to choose the conditions of our big race. We run in the rain because sometimes we just HAVE to. We run in the rain because the rain can't stop us. We run in the rain because we are determined.  We are hard core and even a little bad ass, so we run. 

So this morning in the dark and as the rain fell, I ran those miles. I have to say, there is something about running in the rain that makes you feel a little tougher than a regular run. There is this point when you can tell if it's sweat running down your head or rain water. That is, until it runs into your eyes and the burning instantly makes you realize it's definitely sweat!  But on you run. 
Here's the deal. When you run before the crack of dawn (I mean that literally. Dawn hadn't even thought of cracking when I started this morning), selfies don't turn out so hot. You'll just have to take my word for it. It was wet out. 

Since my running shot didn't turn out, ladies, I will leave you with this running in the rain shot. You're welcome. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

And So It Begins...

Today marked the first run of my official training for the 2014 Chevron Houston Marathon.  I am a little late on getting started and have chosen a pretty accelerated program for three reasons:

1. My general running plan loosely follows  a marathon training schedule anyway;
2. Mentally, I don't do well if training drags on too long. I'm pretty focused and dedicated to training, so if it goes on and on, I tend to get bogged down and unhappy. I find it's easy to lose sight of the goal if it's too far away; and
3. Honestly, I've been in such denial about the whole thing, I waited until just this week to actually do the countdown from the Marathon date. I was shocked to realize that I had to get started ASAP.  And as you can see I was super excited about it: 

You'll notice that it's dark out. That's not night dark. That, my friends, is morning dark. Nothing like a 5:30 a.m. wake up call on a Saturday morning to start training off with a bang.  I'm not a huge fan of running in the dark. Mostly because it's dark out!  I'm a big fraidy cat and running in the dark gives you a lot of time to freak yourself out (which, come to think of it, does wonders for speed!). It's also a little boring when everyone else is still tucked into their comfy beds. I was plenty jealous of those people today. 

But here it is, barely 9:00 a.m. And my first training run is officially behind me. Too many more ahead to think about. But, I'm excited about what's ahead of me and about setting and reaching new goals. 

First one down!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 Running

Today I ran with NYC, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania on my mind. 

September 11th is a day our country will never forget.  We will never forget the terrible images and horrifying stories that day brought us. We will always know where we were when the first tower went down. Twelve years later (and I imagine for all the years to come), the wound is remains only lightly healed.  It is something that has subsided from our daily national consciousness, but remains just under the surface ready to flow free at the slightest reminder of that day. And every year on this day we come together to remember not only the lives forever lost to terrorism, but to honor the heroics of those men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save people they had never met.  We remember the devastation of evil but also rejoice in the beauty of the true human spirit. We remember that our entire nation came together, wept together, and healed together. 

There is this game I like to play while I run the 1.52 mile stretch of my street that makes up the first part of so many of my routes. I like to try to count all of the American flags my neighbors display in their yards and on their houses. I pretty much never get the same number because, not surprisingly, running is one of those activities done better and more safely with your eyes on the road ahead of you. I can tell you though, the number is always impressively high. My last count was 52. Let me repeat that. My last count was 52. That's 52 American flags on my one little portion of street!! And I'm not talking about just today on 9/11 or on the 4th of July or Memorial Day. I am telling you that every day of the year these flags fly proudly in my neighborhood. Every time I make that run, I can't help but be proud of my neighbors, my community, and my country. Those 52+ flags serve as a daily (well near daily) reminder of our national commonality. In a time when our country is so often divided with vitriol, intolerance, and ignorance those flags remind me of the true meaning of being American. They remind me that beneath all of our differences and all of our arguments,there lies a common pride and drums a common heartbeat. We are Americans. All of us. Regardless of race, age, gender, sexual preference, or religion. We are all Americans and that means we are all the same. 

Here are a couple of the flags I run past so often:
Hopefully, my wonderfully patriotic neighbors are also wonderfully understanding of the crazy runner lady who stops to take pictures of their yards. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Today I celebrate marrying this man. 
I cannot think of a better partner to have by my side for the long run. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You Can Never Have Too Many

You can never have too many shoes!!  
As cute as I thought my purple running shoes were, I had to admit, they weren't up for the challenge of training for a full marathon (I am slowly starting to admit that this is going to be happening soon). So, I treated myself to a visit to Luke's Locker and some new shoes. I am SO excited about the time we are going to be spending together (have you heard the phrase, fake it till you feel it?)!

But really, these shoes are awesome!  And the guy at Luke's confirmed for me that I don't pronate anymore and that my stride is totally normal. You hear that?!  I'm normal folks.

H-O-T Hard!!!

I recently got some pretty harsh feedback on this blog. I knew it was coming. You have to know it's coming when you open yourself up this way. I am fully aware that people are going to have all kinds of reactions to and feelings about this blog. But what this person said particularly got under my skin. He said that this blog wasn't realistic.  He said that running is running and that it isn't all that deep and that there aren't lessons to be learned on every run. Here is one thing I want you to know: This blog is very real. I do not write about a run unless I've actually made it and I do not write about a lesson unless I've actually thought about it ( I won't say learned it, because sometimes it takes me a long time to actually learn the lesson). But here is one thing this guy was right about: not every run has a lesson. Or at least not one to be learned right then. 

Last week's long run was just one of those runs. It was miserable from the actual first step to the last hobble in. Here is the thing about where I live:  It is H-O-T Humid!!!  Which makes running H-O-T Hard!!!  Houston doesn't care that it is September and that Summer is officially over.  Houston is going to keep on being near 100 degrees and near 100% humidity just as long as it feels like. And it felt like I was running in a sauna. I'm not exaggerating when say that with the very first step I realized it was not going to be my run. My feet felt heavy and my mind was not up for it. But I tried. I tried everything. I tried thinking of all of the lessons I has learned up to that run. No good. I tried surrendering to the run in hopes of being an open vessel to a new lesson. No good. I tried every hip hop Pandora station I could find. Even that was no good. This run was just going to plain ol' fashioned suck. And it did. I had to stop twice. TWICE!  I can't tell you the last time I had to stop in the middle of a run, much less twice. To top it off, at one point my mile math went fuzzy and for at least on my mile I kept counting down my last two miles saying things like, "Okay, only 1.95 miles left," and "you can do this. Only 1.7 miles left."  When I got down to 1.25 miles, I realized how off my math was and that I really had 2.25 miles left. I pray this never happens to you. This is like waking up on a Thursday and thinking it's Friday, but times 100 worse and with screaming lungs and exhausted legs. Yup, you guessed it.  This was right about when I took one of those stops. I decided to keep going the next 2.25 miles, but that was the only thing that got me to then end.  It was only because I said so. Nothing deeper than that. 

And the truth is, I have plenty of days that are just like this run. Days that are H-A-R-D. Days where there is zero lesson to be learned. Days that just plain ol' fashioned suck. I've had about a week of them lately and sometimes the only reason I get through those days is because I said so. 

Of course, a week has gone by since that run and I've had some better days now, so I have to add that what I truly believe is that the super hard runs, just like the super hard days, leave me stronger and more prepared for the rest of the run ahead. And in retrospect, that makes them suck a little less. 

The run was so bad, I couldn't even take a picture of my face.