Friday, January 31, 2014

If I Can, You Can - How It All Started

During this time following the completion of 19 weeks of very specified training and the completion of a pretty big goal of mine (running 26.2 miles), it feels only natural to reflect back on how it all began.

I’m writing this mostly to tell you that if I can do it, anyone can do it.  I can’t tell you how many people, upon finding out I’m a “runner,” say things to me like, “Oh, I CAN’T run,”  “I can’t even run one mile. I could never run a marathon,” and “I’m just not a runner.”  Here’s the deal: I’ve said those exact same words a thousand times.  Then one day I stopped saying those words and I found out that I can run.  I can run one mile and I can run 26.2 of them.  Turns out, I am a runner.  And if I can and am, you can and are too.  I promise you this.
I didn’t take up running until I was into my mid-20’s.  I would say it didn’t stick until my late 20’s.  And even then, I would say I didn’t get comfortable with the idea of being a runner until my 30’s (even though I ran my first marathon at 29).  Writing that is still hard for me.  To be honest with you, I’m still working on believing and admitting that I am a runner. Maybe that’s because days of not being a runner are not so far behind me that I’ve forgotten what running first felt like….HORRIBLE!!
It all started when I decided to sign up for a new boot camp class being offered at my gym.  I had a friend who took the session before me, so she filled me in on the details, one of which being that on the first day of class the instructors would test you on several different skills, including a one mile run.  I was horrified.  The idea of being time tested on a one mile run in front of other people had me seriously questioning my decision to sign up for this boot camp.  I considered myself pretty fit, but running was out of the question.  Look, I could climb for hours on the gym Stairmaster, but run for even five minutes??  No way!  And that’s when I started training.  Yes, you read that right.  I started training for a one-mile run.  And training for that one-mile run was brutal.  I remember feeling like I was gasping for air after the first minute of running.  My lungs were on fire by minute three and I was delirious by minute ten (and this was with me taking walk breaks in between).  I trained for several weeks and was eventually able to take my one-mile test without stopping.  I’m sure my pace was terrible, but I remember being very proud of running one mile without stopping. 
During this boot camp, we began running at Memorial Park (this is Houston’s most popular running trail/park, frequented by all the real runners in Houston).  It started with intervals of walking and running around the 3-mile loop.  Let me assure you, mine was mostly walking.  It bothered me though that my partners in boot camp always had to slow down to accommodate my pace, so I started visiting Memorial Park on the weekends to practice getting around without stopping.  I will let you in on a little secret. At first this was very embarrassing.  Memorial Park on the weekend is full of gazelle legged, six-pack abs having runners and who wants to see that as you shuffle by red-faced and wheezing?!?  But, just like the one mile training, after weeks of practice I found myself easily getting around the loop without stopping.
I mostly stuck with circling the Memorial Park loop for the following couple of years.  Every now and then, I’d challenge myself to four or five mile runs, but in general, although I had started running pretty regularly I kept the mileage relatively low.  It probably would have stayed that way if it hadn’t been for the big break up.  That’s right folks, my amazing, wonderful, greatest-in-the-world husband lost his mind several years ago and we broke up.  Dealing with that break up was miserable.  I tried my best not to let him know it, but the break up consumed me.  It was all I could think about and it drove me crazy.  This is where long distance running entered my life.  To anyone going through a break up: START RUNNING!!  There is no better therapy (although drinking copious amounts of alcohol comes in a close second).  I would go for my regular runs and find that it was the only time I couldn’t and wouldn’t obsessively check my phone to see if he called (I can write all of this now because we are married and because he never reads this blog).  And because the alternative was to go home and start obsessively staring at my phone, I would just keep running.  It started with 45 minutes and quickly turned into hours on the trail.  I would run to occupy my reeling mind and my broken heart.  I would start the run angry or upset, but would always end feeling refreshed and proud.  The longer I would run, the better I would feel.  I could “work it out” while I worked out.  Before I knew it and definitely without thinking it through, I found myself signing up for my first half marathon during this break up period.  It gave me something to focus on and something to be proud of.  In a way, running the half marathon felt like proving to myself that I was strong enough to not only make it, but to excel without him.  And so I ran.  And I ran.  And by the time I’d completed that half marathon and Paul and I had successfully worked it out and gotten back together, I was hooked.  Long runs became a regular habit for me.  Long runs are still my form of therapy.  They give me time to get away and work through the tough stuff as I put in the tough miles. 


What I want you to take away from this is that I wasn’t a natural runner.   Long runs have never come easy for me.  Running is always hard.  But, it’s worth it and it can be done.  If I, the Stairmaster queen, could step off the gym equipment and train for that first one mile run, you can too.  Don’t limit yourself by your ideas of what you are capable of, realize that you are capable of more than you can imagine.  You can run!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm baaaaaack.....ish

I'm back!
Well, ish. I would still say I'm only operating at about 65%.  This sickness just won't go. But I really couldn't stay in bed any longer. It was time to run. 

Exactly one week ago I ran 26.2 miles. Today it was 3.2. What a difference a week can make!  I imagine this run was what starting the engine in an old car would be like. Lots of sputtering and bouncing, even a couple backfires, but eventually evening out to a nice smooth ride. There was some pain in my left knee, my gait felt all wrong, and my lungs never got right, but towards the end, my usual pace came back and I was running again. I was pushing through the pain and really running. 

The mighty may have fallen for a week or so. But I will rise again. Right after another nap and some DayQuil....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Signs 3 (A Pictorial)

The world is full of beauty, you just have to be out there looking for it.  Get out there and take in the beauty!

I'm missing that beauty today as I blog from bed. 

Recreation, like religion, should permeate all of life.

Where it really matters.



 Just in case you needed a little reminder.

Hallelujah!  Amen! 

In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.


Laughter warms the heart

This is one of my favorite of all time.  I always try to imagine who lives in that room and who loves them.  So sweet!

Do you take the time to take in the beauty when you are on the long run?   

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Follow Up

First and foremost, THANK YOU!!!  I have been overwhelmed by the love you all have shown me since the race.  Your kind and encouraging words have touched my heart and I promise you I do not take them for granted.  I am truly appreciative of you.  Your words have served as comfort, inspiration, and motivation.  When I wrote at the end of my race recap that every dreadful and beautiful step was worth it, I had no idea how true those words were.  You all make me want to keep on running....soon....ish.
Shout out to my amazing husband for hooking me up with an hour long foot reflexology session earlier this week.  After an hour, my legs were feeling like new again.  Of course, by like new what I really mean is like 55% back to normal, which is much better than when I went in.

You may remember that I wrote about the end of the marathon being bitter sweet.  Well, there was nothing bitter about what I was able to raise for The Lupus Foundation.   The final tally came out to $3,545!!  That's over $135 per mile!!  I could not be more proud and more grateful to everyone who donated.  I've mentioned it before, but being able to raise money for causes that impact my loved ones means more to me than any pace or finish or mileage.  Instead of focusing on what I didn't do on marathon day, I'm going to focus on what I did do.  What we did.  And, I am so proud. 
Matt.  My inspiration for raising money.

Mad love to everyone who contributed suggestions for my marathon playlist.  It ended up rocking my socks off.  Let's face it, a good beat can get you a long way.  In times when the road got tough, (you know, miles 18-26!) these fun songs kept me moving.  Warning, this is an eclectic list and and yes, there are some explicit lyrics.  Of course, there were probably some expletives used myself during those rough miles.

Post-marathon runs:  There haven't been any.   My legs actually started feeling up for a short jog on Wednesday.  Just in time for this horrid cough/chest cold to set in.  This sickness has got me with barely enough lung capacity to make my bed.  True story, y'all.  I had to lay back down in it after making it.  I think my body might be telling me something.  I think it's saying that it needs some time to slow down and heal and I'm trying to listen.  But my shoes are starting to call...
Speaking of shoes.  Next time I lace up, this will be the newest addition: 
A little reminder that though I may have to stop along the way and catch my breath, nothing can stop me from getting to where I want to go.  I AM UNSTOPPABLE.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Race Day Recap (The Good, The Bad, The Non-Stop Tears)

Remember this girl?  She was so optimistic, so well prepared, so confident, so ready to run.  Well, someone should have told her that she would end up looking like this:
This was taken while I was still debating checking myself into the medic area.  And I would have, if it hadn't been 100 feet away, which at that time was way too far to walk.
Let me start by saying that I wasn't sure how to even write this blog.  In the end, as I was running/shuffling towards the finish line watching my goal fall so far by the wayside, I kept thinking, "How can I tell people about this?  How can I even face them?  How can I admit that the can'ts got me?  How can I, after months and months of writing about preparation and positive thinking, explain that I fell so short?"  I'm still not really sure how to explain it.  I know it's going to eat at me for a long time.  But, as I was laying on my couch last night in some pretty serious pain and even more serious wallowing, I got an email from someone who read this blog and felt motivated to lace up her shoes and take a run.  That's when I knew that even if it wasn't the story that I wanted to tell, I had to share it. 
I started the morning with my race buddy, Michael. 
Who knew he was planning to propose to his girlfriend a mere four and half hours after this picture?!?  Not me.  Because this guy is cool as a cucumber and didn't let me in on what he was planning.  Congratulations Michael and Ashley.
We got a really late start getting to our corrals (I blame last minute nervous pee runs to the port o potties), which is a mistake I will never repeat.  By the time we could get to a corral (they actually closed the corrals we were assigned to), we had to start in the very last corral, with the 12 and a half minute mile pace runners/walkers/etc.  We didn't even start until 20 minutes after the race gun.  With so many people ahead of us, I spent the better part of the first 5 miles dodging other runners and just trying to get a decent pace going.  I started much slower than I'd intended.  But, I had intended to start slower than my goal pace to conserve energy, so I wasn't too worried.  And I felt great.  Really, I felt awesome.  I love the start of marathons.  There is just so much energy and excitement and I have yet to make it through one without getting really emotional (read: tears).
I wish I could describe to you all of the awesome things I saw while I ran.  Hilarious signs that made me laugh out loud, motivational signs that made me want to run faster, and touching signs that made me well up with tears (be prepared this is a constant theme in this run story).  I saw friends literally pulling other runners along yelling motivation to get them going.  One of the fire stations erected a giant American flag over our path (a little teary again running under it).  There were people outside holding up bananas and oranges and candy and water bottles of their own that they brought just to give out to runners.  There were bands and tap dancers and belly dancers and just about every organization you could think of to entertain us and support us as we ran.  It was as if everyone in Houston was out to help us run.  I saw many, many friends as I ran and got high fives, and fist pumps, and cheers of "you can do it" all along the way.  I can't tell you what that support meant to me.  Other than to say, it moved me when i didn't want to move myself.  And how about this sign? 

As the miles went on I continued to chip away at my pace. I was headed in the right direction and I just kept thinking, "This is my race. I'm running it my way."  And I was. By the halfway point, I was just 3 seconds over my goal pace and I was sure I would hit my pace by mile 18. From there I planned to cruise on to the finish. Funny how things don't go according to plan, isn't it?  And by funny, what I really mean is sucky. Really, really sucky. 

I noticed I was having trouble keeping my 9 minute pace around mile 16, but just figured I needed to stay more focused. Then came mile 18. That's where it all started to fall apart. I went from feeling great to feeling horrible just like that. At mile 18 it was as if my body literally shut off. My pace slowed to a crawl. I felt like I was running but my Garmin was telling a different story. I was in PAIN. I remembered at mile 8 noticing the spot where my chin connects to my ankle was giving me a lot of trouble, but I told myself that I wasn't hurt, I was just hurting and I blew it off. Well, after mile 18, I starting thinking I might actually be hurt. Every step felt like shooting pain. Pain in my feet, pain in my hips, pain like crazy in my quads. Eventually, I would loosen my shoes so much that they could easily slip right off just to try to ease the pain in my feet. I couldn't believe it. Where was this all coming from?  And that's when the can'ts set in. The can'ts were all I was hearing. "I can't, I can't, I can't."  I knew better to listen to them, but my body didn't. My body heard the can'ts and really couldn't.  It was probably a little after mile 20 that I stopped for the first time. Not a long stop, maybe 10 seconds to stretch, but it was a stop and it is still eating me alive that I stopped. I would stop another couple of times in the following 6 miles. I can't stand that I did. I woke up this morning before the sun came up and all I could think was, "Why did I stop?"  Here's the conclusion I came to: I stopped because I had to. I stopped because my body couldn't go further. I feel like I didn't have a choice in the matter. I'm still devastated by it though. It was also so hard knowing that I had a big group of my friends and family waiting for me at mile 22. I knew they were seeing my pace slow to a crawl and I felt like I was letting them all down. But, boy did I love seeing them and hearing them cheer and clap for me. It felt so good passing them. So good that I immediately started crying. This is me about 3 seconds pre-tears:

To everyone who was at mile 22, THANK YOU!!  

I thought after that I'd get that finishing stride. I thought endorphins would kick in and carry me home. Again, funny how things don't happen as you'd think. And again, substitute sucky for funny. It was a struggle the whole way after. My sweet friend Rachel spotted me around 24 and ran with me for a minute giving me all kinds of encouragement. Finally, when I turned into downtown and was within a mile and a half of the finish, my legs started to move. Not with great speed and with no ease, but they were moving. 

The emotions that set in while I was finishing are almost indescribable. How can you be so happy and so disappointed at the same time?  So proud and so ashamed?  The finish line was a huge release of emotion for me. So much so that I was asked by two separate volunteers if I needed medical attention. If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm a big crier.  And I left a lot of tears on that finish line. Especially when my longest friend (really, since we were super young kiddos) surprised me by being at the finish line. Uh oh. I'm crying now typing it. The love you feel on marathon day really is overwhelming. 

So what do I say?  Am I disappointed? Yes. Most definitely. I trained so hard and I felt so prepared. None of my long runs were as slow as my marathon run. Not even close. I just can't understand what went wrong. It's hard to deal with. It's amazing what a difference 17 small minutes makes in your mind.  17 minutes was the difference between total success and the feeling of failure.  However, I need to remember that I finished a marathon! I ran 26.2 miles! I was in the top 1/3 of all women!  It wasn't the race I planned.  But, it was the race I ran.  It wasn't the race I thought I was capable of, but I gave all that I was capable of on that day.  I left it all on the line and I need to be proud of that.

Yesterday was amazing. Yesterday was beautiful. It was one of those days you live for. One of those days that makes you feel ALIVE.  I am thankful for yesterday. I will carry yesterday in my heart forever. 

Yesterday was a reminder that things don't always go your way. No matter how hard you work, no matter how well prepared you are, no matter how confident you are. Sometimes it's just not  what you had in mind. Sometimes it is really, really hard. Sometimes it really, really hurts. Sometimes you lose control and you find yourself in tears (over and over again). But it's all worth it.  Every single painful, dreadful, and beautiful step is all worth it. 



I'm 24 hours late in posting this, but I ran this path in San Diego and I think it's important that we honor his legacy, teaching, and spirit not just one day a year, but every day. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ready to Run!

Here I am and I'm ready to run!  Thank you all for the sweet texts, emails, and Facebook messages. You (and the Mexican food waiting for me at the end) are my motivation. 

Ps-- my shirt says "she said she could, so she did."  I told you about my motivational shirt theory. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

If You Can't, You MUST

If you can't, you MUST!  
I think I'm going to have to call on this phrase more than once on Sunday.   I image that there will be at least one point in the race (likely somewhere between miles 19 and 21) when all I can think is, "I CAN'T DO THIS!  I cannot make it one more mile.  I cannot take one more step."  This is when I plan to make my next thought, "I must."
Life gives us "I can't do this" moments daily.  Some as small as "I can't get out of bed just yet, it's too cold and I'm all comfy in here."  Some as big as, "I can't get out of bed at all, life is too much to face."  However small or however huge your I can't is, the response should always be, "But, I must."  We can't let the can'ts win.  We have to push past them.  We have to conquer the can'ts.  Is it easy?  No.  I won't lie to you.  Sometimes our can'ts are really, really hard and facing them is equally challenging.  But, the glorious thing about life is the bigger the can't, the greater the reward when you do.
I can't face this day -- YOU MUST
I can't finish a marathon -- YOU MUST
I can't get out of this bad relationship -- YOU MUST
I can't make good enough grades to get into college--YOU MUST
I can't pursue my dream job -- YOU MUST
I can't get over him/her -- YOU MUST
I can't fight this disease -- YOU MUST
I can't ask for a promotion -- YOU MUST
I can't go on -- YOU MUST!!

Ps-- I'm not sure if you can see it, but there seems to be an ant on my head in the top picture.  If I can run with an ant on my head and not get bit, what can't I do??


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Last Run and I Have Really Good Friends

This morning I completed my very last training run. As the saying goes, "That's All Folks!"

People keep asking me if I'm ready. As of today, I am as ready as I'm going to get. Apart from a little time on the elliptical, a Bar Method class or two, and some serious foam rolling, all physical preparation is over. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling ready. It's funny, I feel like someone should write the five stages of marathon preparation, kind of like they do the stages of grief. We are still five days out and I feel like I've run the gamut of emotions (fear, regret, dread, optimism). But as of now, and for now, I'm feeling good. I'm feeling ready. I'm feeling excited. 

Also, I only hope for you that you have amazing friends like I do. 'Cause mine really are fabulous. I got this super sweet post-race care package from my soul sister, Courtney, in New York. 
And, you know it's going to be hard for me to wait until Sunday to break into that Ramen!!!

Happy Birthday to the Greatest Long Run Partner Ever


Happy Birthday to the best running buddy a girl could ask for.  You are the only person I would ever want by my side for the long run.  You are my partner, my supporter, my mentor, my inspriation, my favorite thing.  I am thankful for you this day and every day.  Now, if only I could convince you to give foot rubs....

 Here's to the sun starting to set on your 30's!  Love ya.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Long Run Randomness 7

Last pre M-Day long run is done!  10 miles this morning and nothing over 5 miles between now and the next 26.2 miles.  Kind of crazy to think about.
I am sorry rest of the Country, today is GORGEOUS in Houston.  You could not ask for a more beautiful day to get out of the house and take a run.  Unfortunately, I forgot my sunscreen.  Guess who has sports bra tan lines now...

When you are having trouble staying positive, buy a shirt that does it for you.
Also, look at my cool new runner gadget.  I used this earlier in the week when it was freezing (literally, it was in the low 20's--so I'm not even exagerating.  It was acutally freezing) and dark out.  I'm always complaining that I have to wait to start my runs until the sun is up because we don't have any sidewalks in my neighborhood and the roads are really dark, which tends to make me pretty late to work.  But, this baby's lights are really bright and it has multiple light settings, so I feel really safe out there.  Not to mention it keeps my ears nice and warm.  Of course, now it means I have no excuse for staying in bed as long as possible to avoid running. 
I skipped the Ramen Noodle today and I can't lie, it made me a little sad.  But, then I ate nearly an entire box of Vanilla Wafers (remember those??) and it made up for it.
Time to get my marathon mix set up.  I'm still open to suggestions...