Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy Birthday Me and The Best Last Long Run

Happy (late) birthday to me!!!

Hey, what's a girl to do when there is a Brooks flash sale?  I'll tell you what a girl is to do, she is to stock up on the goods!!  Like I've said before, a girl can never have too many shoes!

Today was my last long run before the Diva Dash half marathon I've signed up to run in a couple of weeks. I will be honest with you, having only allowed for five weeks of training (including a week of taper) has left me feeling a touch unprepared.  Going from marathon training to almost no running to trying to pick right back up at your old training pace isn't the smartest of moves. My long runs have been okay but nothing spectacular and nowhere near my normal training paces. So, this morning as I set out for my last long run, my expectations weren't that high. 

Look, I'm not actually going to tell you that my new shoes are magic, but.....
They are pretty freaking amazing!!  First run in the new shoes and it's the fastest, longest, easiest run I have had in months!  I think I'm sold on the shoes. 

Speed has been really hard for me to find lately. It's not that I haven't been able to get in a few decent paced runs, but it has been HARD to make myself really move. I would say my natural pace (meaning, the pace I run when I'm not watching the Garmin or trying for a specific pace) has been 45 seconds slower than it used to be. Which has meant that getting near my old normal has been very hard. But today, straight out of the gate I was fast (for me). I kept trying to tell myself to slow down knowing that I had twelve miles ahead of me, but my pace only quickened. All twelve of the miles came quick and easy and by the time it was done, the confidence I've been lacking was back in full force. 
Running is so mental. But getting that mental game in order often relies on getting your physical game up to par. This was the best long run a girl could ever ask for!!

If I could make one wish for all runners out there (well, after the wish that you all find the inner strength and peace that this long run has to offer), it would be that you all have last long runs that leave you feeling confident and strong and ready to race!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Change the Station

This morning was another cold, dark, only-person-on-the-road kind of run.  And I was not feeling it.  I think I passed my limit on cold and dark runs about a month ago.  I'm over it.  All I could think of while I was running was how much I wanted to be back in bed.  A few minutes into this miserable run, I switched my playlist and wouldn't you know it?  The Rocky theme song started playing.  I dare you to stay in a bad mood while the Rocky song is moving you on.  You can't help but see yourself running those stairs and throwing your arms up.  Immediately following the Rocky theme, Eminem's 'lose yourself,' came on.  Sorry but, but if you aren't motivated by that song, you are stone:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo.
This playlist got me thinking about what it takes to reach your goals.  Sometimes it takes doing what makes us a little miserable.  Runs aren't always easy or comfortable and they definitely aren't convenient, but they are what it takes to get to where you want to go.  And focusing on where you want to go and not the miserable part of getting there makes the road so much easier.  Just listening to these songs helped me find the motivation I needed to step it up a notch.  Before I knew it, I had logged my fastest post-marathon run.  And it felt good and I was happy.  All it took was switching to a better soundtrack. 
As in running, sometimes all we need in life is to change the station and get a better soundtrack.  You control what you listen to on your run.  When you are bombarded with the negative, I don't want tos and the I can'ts, whether they are coming from you or someone else, just turn the station.  Find something else to listen to.  Get yourself a better soundtrack and get to running on!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Biking

I traded in my own two feet today for two wheels and hit the nature trails on my new birthday bike!

Fifteen miles a whole new way. And now I'm ready for an ice cold birthday beverage!


Change is something I've become very familiar with lately. My whole life has changed in the matter of a month. When I look back at what my life was for so many years, this new life is a little unrecognizable. A big part of who I was and how I lived and what I had to do is gone. For years and years I was a girlfriend/fiancĂ©/wife who lived with and cared for her mother-in-law. So much of my life revolved around her illness and what effects she was having from the disease.  My life was entirely based on the ending of hers. I should stop here and just quickly point out that my husband was always amazing and did his very best to make sure I didn't bear the brunt of the stress of her care. I have no idea how, but he always managed to care for me and his mother.  He is unbelievable and should give lessons on what being a husband and a son really looks like. Regardless though, my life was largely defined and controlled by our situation at home. I realize now that I had  become  accustomed a level of stress that was so high it barely registered. And now all of that is gone and I just can't figure out how to feel about it. I can't reconcile the relief I feel that she is no longer in pain and that we no longer spend all of our free time trying to figure out how to help her with the void that having lost her has left. 

I guess it is a change that I saw coming for years and yet somehow was completely unprepared for. 

I read something recently about how change can look really destructive on the outside. It compared change to a seed that sprouts into a flower. I read how that seed is completely destroyed to become what it was meant to be. I guess a similar process repeats itself over and over in nature (caterpillar to butterfly is one example. We humans are another). The last line of what I read said, "for someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."  Here is the thing: from someone who is the seed, someone who is experiencing the change, it IS complete destruction. It is painful and unfamiliar and uncomfortable and leaves you utterly different than when you started.

People often ask how I'm doing. I guess the answer is I'm learning to acclimate myself to this new way of life.  I am happy and thrilled to be a "normal"couple and also I am lonely and miss our full house.  I'm learning  to accept the changes and embrace what they will bring. Some days I feel like a plant ready to reach towards the sun and grow and other days, the seed still being pulled apart and wrestling with the change. 

I believe that I am and will be a better person for having gone through this change. I believe that a flower will bloom from the seed's destruction. I believe that Life/God/the Universe is good and that sometimes we go through hard things, but that we are better for them and the world is better for us. 

I'm not sure why I wrote all of this and I know I have disappointed all of you who came to read about running. But, I suppose that's what happens when you have your own blog about life lessons, you get to write about the lessons you learn even when the running shoes are off. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

After Work Happy Hour(s)

Because the upcoming weekend is my birthday weekend (yes, I get a whole weekend, not just one day) and because there really is no room in my birthday weekend for a long run, I decided to head out after work for an eleven mile happy hour(s). While most people's Thursday happy hour(s) probably in involved a different kind of cold beverage in a bottle and some college basketball tournament action, mine involved my two feet, some determination, a little exhaustion, some discomfort, and a lot of enjoyment. I decided to spend my eleven miles thinking of what made me happy while I ran:

1. Sunshine!  Thank you daylight savings time for allowing me to run in the sun after work. Sure it's a little blinding, but when you are accustomed to pitch black pre-dawn vampire-like runs, a cloudless sunny day is much appreciated. 

2. Turning off. I have been so work focused for the last few weeks (even spending most nights dreaming of the work that needs to get done) that it was very nice to turn work mode off and focus on something else and better for a few hours. 

3. Knowing that as soon as my run was over I would get to see my sister (soul) who was in town visiting me from NYC. I will tell you what, knowing that at the end of the run you get some girl QT (and pizza and cupcakes!) sure will motivate you to get going!

4.  Everyone else along the trail. The parks and trails were packed with families and couples and other people wanting to be out enjoying the weather. All of the waves and smiles really make a difference on those long runs. Sharing the beautiful day with other people, even if it's only just through a quick nod or other brief acknowledgement, reminds us how connected we all are. 

4.  Running across this sign. Duh!

5.  Knowing I would be done for the week after this run. One bad thing about Saturday long running is that you spend your weekend downtime waking up early and getting going before anyone else in the house had moved. Sometimes I really miss laying in bed and relaxing after a hard week of work and only getting up because and when I want to instead of when I have to. I am soooo looking forward to catching up on a few hours of sleep this weekend!

6.  Spring!  Yesterday was the first day of Spring and it was glorious. The wildflowers I told you about a while back are in full bloom. It's hard to be anything but happy as you run through this:

7.  And finally, this. No reason why.  It just made me stop and smile. 

Now just a couple of things that didn't make me so happy:

1.  The one billion or more swarming gnats. I swallowed, sucked in through my nose, and caught with my eyeballs more bugs than I'd care to write about. 

2.  Realizing that I run really slowly when I'm trying to learn French. I bet my average pace is 30 seconds slower while I'm trying to figure out how to say, "I would like to reserve a room for two nights for two people with a shower."  

3.  Being hit in the face with the fact that I am nowhere near in the shape that I was a few months ago. Eleven miles was very hard and I could tell that physically my body really isn't in the kind of shape it needs to be for me to be putting it through these kinds of runs. The good thing is I know why I'm not in the same kind of shape and I'm okay with it. I'm not a professional athlete. My life doesn't depend on me being in peak performance shape at all times. It's okay to go go through varying levels of fitness. It's not like I've given up. I'm still out there running happy. Just running happy a little slower.

Run happy and happy running!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Long Run Randomness 8

10 miles in non-stop rain is done. Rain makes for a slow run but you can't help but feel like a badass when it's over.

Batman should be jealous.

You think the neoghbor's dog goes nuts everytime thy start the car?

Oh, and polishing off an entire sleeve of thin mints is totally normal, right?

Lastly, I'm revisiting this blog:
Apparently, I need a reminder!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Things That Happen at 5:00 a.m.

A short list of things that happen on a 5:00 a.m. run:

1.  You spend the whole morning with your shirt on inside out.

2.  You're too sleepy to properly start your Garmen for the first half of your run. 

3.  This. Do you know how many times I listened to this song in junior high!?!  I actually wrote out all the words once. Anyone else ever do that?  Stop and start the tape over and over to get all the words right?

5.  Massive amounts of morning sweat. It was actually 90% humidity an hour earlier when I started. 

6.  The amazing feeling of accomplishment all before my husband has even rolled out of bed. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oui are learning French!

Check out my new audiobook for long runs:

I've decided to use my time on long (and medium) runs not just to improve physically, but mentally as well. Learning a second language has always been something I've wanted to do (4 years of German in jr.high and high school and I've only got four or five sentences to show for it), but never have had time. I'd always assumed that second language would be Spanish, but my husband and I recently booked a big trip to France for one of my best girl's weddings (yay!  So excited for her!) and I figured I might as well start preparing with some French lessons. What can I say?  Once I get excited for a trip, I tend to obsess about it. Just ask my husband. He's heard the phrase, "but this will be perfect for France," one too many times as boxes of clothes show up at our door. 

Today's five miles were very productive. For one, I am slowly getting my body back into a training schedule and that feels good. And two, I learned how to say, "I have prepared the roast beef."  Which, I'm sure will come in very handy while we vacation in southern France...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I forgot!

This morning marked the official start of half marathon training. Don't most people start training just a month out?  What's that you say?  No, they normally train significantly longer? Oops!!!  One month to get back into race shape should make for an interesting month to say the least.  But as I set out on this morning's run, I realized there were a few things I'd forgotten about long run training:

1.  How hard it is to get out of bed that early on a Saturday. 
2.  My strict no wine the night before rule. Big oops there. 
3.  Pre-run nutrition. Someone needs to stock up on Cheerios and Luna bars. I didn't even think of it and today was a scrounge around the kitchen in hopes of finding something other than syrup-y waffles morning. 
3. In-run nutrition. Turns out I've snacked on my Shot Bloks to the point of there being none left. What can I say?  They are so yummy. 
5.  Running is not exactly like riding a bike. You can forget how it's done. Turns out that expecting the same level of endurance and speed as when I was full on marathon training is unrealistic. 
6. It's a little like riding a bike though  in that your body does remember the motion and after a few minutes of struggle, it will settle in. 
7. The meaning of the phrase "on your left."  This morning, it took so long to process what that meant that I was nearly run over by a biking group. Another oops!
8. Pain. Yup. I'd forgotten that running isn't always pain free. It's hard. Very hard.
9.  The importance of Chapstick. 
10. The runner's wave. The greatest of all trail running rewards!
11. The joy of firsthand experiencing nature's changing seasons. I've written about the heat of summer and the bite of winter, but watching Spring roll in is amazing. All Texans will understand when I tell you about the beauty of the wildflowers around here. Our bayous and freeways and shared medians are covered in wildflowers during Spring. And I can attest, Spring is coming. 
12. The Ramen Noodle craving. 
13. The joy of taking pictures of all of the signs along the way. 
14. Feeling productive before 9:00 a.m.
15. Sharing my runs with all of you. I might not know you all, but you all have motivated me for countless miles.  Thank you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm Baaaaaack!!

I'm baaaaack!  Or at least I'm back at it. 

Yesterday, I took my first Bar Method class in over a month and today I went on my first long(ish) outdoor run. I can't tell you how nice falling back into my regular routine feels. There is something very comforting in the familiarity of routine. And comfort is something I have been in need of lately. 

I woke up this morning so sore I didn't really get out of bed so much as I fell out of it.  Man, it felt good to be sore again. But, more than just waking up sore, I also woke up this morning KNOWING with every bone in my body that I was ready for a real run. In full disclosure, it wasn't my first run. On days over the last month when I have made it to the gym, I have been able to get in a few miles here and there on the treadmill. But nothing more than some very short sprint work. Treadmill running has felt safe. Having a TV in front of my face allowed me to zone out and focus on nothing more serious than Matt Lauer or the Kardashians. But today I was ready to really run. 

I got a much later start than I wanted to this evening, but the sun was still out and it was a beautiful day with a beautiful sunset. Right away I remembered the difference between outdoor running and a quick few miles on the treadmill: the lack of spring to the ground below me and the burning of my lungs as I breathe in the chilled air around me. It didn't start easily, but I never considered stopping. I had been afraid that I might be overcome with thoughts of my mother-in-law and mourning. But, I wasn't. In fact, for the entire run, all I felt was gratitude. I was grateful to be back outside taking in the signs as I ran. I really had missed running. I missed the sites and sounds of people coming and going from their homes. I missed running in nature and all that it brings. Well, mostly. At one point, I slowed down to take a picture of those odd looking guinea fowl I see every now and then. 
And just as soon as I snapped the picture I was chased on my way by a very creepy looking blue eyed-big dog. Hey, I guess it was Mother Nature's way of telling me to pick up the pace. And, pick up the pace I did!!  Turns out, I've still got a little speed still in these legs.