Today I Ran

Today I ran. This was not unusual in and of itself. I’ve run at least a mile every day since New Year’s Eve. That’s my goal for the year. It’s been 125 days since I haven’t run.

But today I ran and it was different than it’s been in a while. My feet found the same familiar rhythm, my breathing fell in line. But I felt lighter. Quieter. I let the gray of today surround me. I let the clouds press in, the pavement rise to meet me. I left my head. I let my body go. And I ran.

And footfall after footfall, I began to consider something.

I haven’t felt the desire to write in quite a while. Who am I to give you words on running? I certainly am no expert on the subject. Not an elite. Just a mere mortal runner – average at best. There are thousands of others out there writing about the same subjects. The same races. Their own takes. Their own knowledge. And perhaps their words are better than mine.

Why should you care? Who am I but a story?

But we’re all just stories in the end. One of my favorite lines ever. Something I grow to believe more and more the more I think about it. The more I ponder and contemplate. I spend a lot of time in my head. Thinking.

When I was younger, I used to make up stories. My brother and I would act out our own made up stories where we were cartoon characters, or Power Rangers, or dragons. In middle school, I used to write pages upon pages of story. While my peers would turn in one page, double spaced, written in as large of handwriting they could muster while staying in the lines – my pages were neatly written, double spaced, and numerous. My handwriting small and cramped, even then. In 6th grade, I once got teased for my titanic of a poem on the Titanic, which was about 7 stanzas long.

I’d write stories outside during lunch. Mostly silly little things – about boy bands being flattened like pancakes by Godzilla, or vampires, or knights. My notebooks were my world.

Fast forward to now, and I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve always embraced the idea of story. Our lives are made up of them. We are the sum of our stories, our experiences. Something as simple as a footfall on the gray cement, a certain path, a breath, it can bring idea and story; conjure images – present and past.

Today I ran. And I realized – running is only a part of my story. A small part of who I am. Who I’ve become. Depression is another part of that story. Something I’ve dealt with on and off since I was a teenager. Another small part of who I am. But I’m beginning to believe that it’s part of more people’s stories than anyone lets on – maybe a small part. Maybe a large part. But I think we all struggle and suffer to tell our stories. To live those stories – to own them. The human experience is big, and loud and messy. But there’s something about that mess that binds us all together.  We bring our own unique perspective. Our own struggle. Our own vulnerable humanity.

Part of depression is that I’ve always longed to be seen and heard for who I am. I haven’t always been willing to do the talking. And I rarely ever know who I am. But I’m learning.

In running I can own my story. Or at least begin to. Because if I don’t own my story – if I don’t tell it – who will?

Today I ran.

Advertisements

Chicago Marathon – Gazelle Sports Foundation

Picture this if you will –

It’s a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in early June. There’s not a cloud in the sky, it’s hot, and I’m moving at a decent clip for a warm run. It’s 2 days before my 9th Marathon (Sunburst). I am running without music, enjoying the sounds of birds and peeper frogs and squirrels scurrying about. And my mind starts to wander.

I am two days away from my 9th marathon. Two days away. Number 10 is already in the works as I have been accepted by lottery into the Chicago Marathon in October. And I begin to think about how I’d like to celebrate number 10.

It’s a round number – a big number for me. I never thought I’d be a runner. I never thought I’d fall in love so much with something that involved physical activity. Sure I played soccer from the time I was in kindergarten to the time I was a sophomore in high school, when I was cut from the team because I was too slow.From that time on, I became inactive. As my desire to do anything truly physical diminished – my waistline grew.

Fast forward thorough the rest of high school and four and a half years of college and inactivity, and I was overweight, and out of shape. I figured a good, free way to get into shape and lose some weight was to run. I started along the path by the lake in Marquette, following Couch to 5k.

Following which, I ran my first 5k. I was terrified that was going to finish last – or not finish at all. I had completed the Couch to 5k training on the flat lakeshore path along Lake Superior. The Firecracker 5k was near Teal Lake on a trail. Oh was I woefully unprepared. Hills? Roots? Rocks? What?!
I made it through and learned that “quit” was not a word that belonged in my vocabulary.
Little did I know that that first little 5k would lead to a handful of half marathons, 9 fulls, a job I’m passionate about and a sport I love.

So what has all this lead to in my constantly running mind – an idea. To celebrate marathon number 10, I decided that I wanted to run for a charity. But not just any charity, I wanted one where I could give back to the sport that has given so much to me. And I landed on the Gazelle Sports Foundation.

The Gazelle Sports Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports individuals and organizations that implement education, programs and activities involving movement and fitness. The focus of the grants will be toward groups that have barriers to integrate fitness in their lives. The Foundation will prioritize grants that include lower income individuals and families.

If you’d like to help me out by donating, you can find my page here. All you have to do is click on the donate button! Please consider helping me give back to the sport that’s given so much to me.

I will continue this campaign through the week after Chicago.

This launch is part one – stay tuned for part 2 in which I talk with some of the past recipients of grants to highlight how the Foundation helps!

Sunburst Marathon

It’s over. It’s done. And I think that’s the main thing about it. It’s done.

Friday afternoon we drove down to South Bend, Indiana – a town of not much.

The expo was small – I wouldn’t really call it an expo. Packet Pickup, with a Fleet Feet Sports tent. It was hot, probably around 85 degrees, at least, and the sun was high in the sky, not a cloud in sight. This most definitely made me nervous for the next day – I can handle the heat, but my time goals can not.

13312903_10101395479564967_3264900389728463537_n

We wandered around downtown for awhile, there were a lot of little places, but many of the shop fronts are empty. I can talk my husband into just about anything, as long as we can find a game store. Which was one of the only shops we actually entered.

We found dinner at the South Bend Brew Werks, I had a taste of  beer, and a sandwich. We sat at a community table, and a couple of other runners happened to sit down next to us. I asked them about what distance they were running tomorrow, and they both laughed. “Running? Well, as much as we can of the full marathon” one of them responded. “How about you?” he asked. I told him I was running the full. “Oh yeah, and what is your pace?” I looked down at the table and sheepishly told him I was hoping to run under 4 hours, or a 9 minute mile. More laughter and a disbelieving, “all of them?” Yes. All 26 miles at a 9 minute pace. They were just hoping to finish. Both were pretty friendly, and I wished them well as we finished our meal, paid and headed back to the hotel.

This race started at 6 a.m. – an effort to beat the heat, I’m certain. Up at 4:15 a.m., food, clothes, and into the car. Temperatures of around 65 to start.

13315261_10101396050490827_5737187754918671198_n

I got there with enough time to check my back and make a very quick porta-potty stop. I actually managed to run into my cousins at the starting line, unplanned. It’s not a huge race, but big enough that this was a surprise. Both of them were running the half.

There was very little fanfare at the start, one of the Senators of Indiana started the race. It was crowded. The Half and Full marathons started together, and the pace signs (there were no pacers) were not spaced very far apart. An announcement came: “We’re going to start in about three minutes. When I say go you go. But you don’t go before that.” Well okay then. A few minutes later, we hear “Ready, Set, GO!” and an air horn, and we’re off.

I tried to keep the first few miles at a 9:15-9:30 pace. I tried to go out slow, but I fear I failed in this case. A lot of what we ran to start was downhill, so that helped as well. We weaved through downtown, and then out toward Mishawaka along the river. It was a beautiful morning, and running near the water was really beautiful. I watched the sun come up over Mishawaka at around mile 5, we wove down through a park across some bridges along a paved riverside trail.

After the sun came up and out of the clouds, things started to heat up. Mile 8 I took my first electrolyte tablet. I slowed to walk so that I could swallow it and the water without choking. Behind me I heard, “You can’t stop now! I’ve been following you since the start and you’re pacing me!” I swallowed my water, chuckled and started running again as the owner of the voice caught up with me. “I’m Todd.” I introduced myself and we fell into step. As we began to weave back through neighborhoods toward South Bend, I asked him if he’d run a marathon before. “This is my first. I’ve run a couple of runs over 13 miles, but this is just a training run for me. I’m going to be running a marathon as part of an Iron Man in a few months.”

Color me impressed. Running a marathon as a training run is no small feat, and he was doing really well. We continued in stride together. Miles 9 and 10 passed us by. Mile 11 seemed to take forever to find, and at mile 12 we split from the Half marathon crowd.

With just over 1,000 half marathoners, and about 400 full marathoners, the course grew extremely quiet. The sun beat down as Todd and I continued together. I held my 9 minute pace until around mile 17. By mile 18, my pace had fallen a bit, and 19 – 26 felt like a crawl. There was no shade between 17 and 25. I lost Todd for awhile as he pulled ahead of me, dug into my music, and continued to try and hold on to my mantra: “Run Wild, Run Free, Just Shut Up and Run.” I started walking through more water stops.

Mile 25: the hill. Hallelujah Hill. It’s short. It’s steep. It’s Mile 25. There was a woman standing at the top yelling. The best encouragement I could’ve hoped for.

I shuffled through the last mile, and that finish line was the best thing I could’ve seen.

I didn’t meet my goal. Were all of those training miles for naught? No. Of course not.

Overall, I finished feeling strong. I finished having run more miles than I usually run in a marathon, and at a faster pace than I’ve been able to hold in the past. I also finished a long marathon. The course was mismeasured. It truly did take us longer to get to the mile 11 mile marker. .38 miles more, if you would like preciseness. Had the course not been measured wrong, would I have made my PR? According to my watch, yes. But who knows if that’s true. This course was so curvy and twisty, that running the tangents was nearly impossible, top that by the wrong measurements, and it’s really hard to say.

I will say that I am pleased with my progress and performance. There is hope.

13320976_10101396914813717_7970822117008054046_o

So what’s next? A new attempt at a different training program, and the Chicago Marathon. Follow along, and you’ll see!

See you out there running.

 

Coming back around again

It feels like every time I write here, other than during my 30 day challenge, I’m saying “hello, it’s been awhile.” I’m also consistently saying that’s going to change. But I think this time I mean it. Habit and consistency are things that I’m striving for, and writing here, no matter how hectic and busy life may be, needs to be one of those habits.

Marathon training for the Sunburst Marathon started Monday (2/15). I’ve been doing a lot of different cross training activities, and it feels good to get back to a running schedule. Things are definitely different this year. How and with whom I am training with be different. The days that I am able to run will be different. But running remains the same – my stress relief, my alone time – time that I can spend thinking about everything, or nothing. It keeps me sane. It keeps me going.

For this training cycle, I’m going to try the Women’s Running Marathon PR Schedule. It’s a lot of days of running – one day of rest, and I will probably add some more cross training/strength training on top of that because I like doing other activities and classes. I’ve really been loving the variance in the schedule I currently have been keeping. I’ve been doing strength, different cardio classes (TFW Hurricanes, and Zone Training), and yoga. Doing varied activity just adds so much more enjoyment to my training life, that I don’t think I’ll give it up, even with marathon training.

The hardest thing is going to be doing it all. Working 40+ hour weeks, finding time during the day to run or go to a class (I am not a morning person, but maybe I need to learn how to be one), and balancing home life.

This past Sunday, Valentine’s Day, I decided to just stay home. It was the first day in a long time that I had spent the majority of the day at home. I am not a sitting still kind of person. I usually need to be doing something. I think that this occasionally leads to exhaustion and mental burnout – so needless to say, I’m working on it. The day spent at home was very nice – staying home and just being is one aspect of life that I often push aside for other things. I definitely learned this past Sunday that there is value in being home for a whole day.

So I’m working on balance, but I’m working on being out and doing the things that I enjoy – running, and running with other people, writing, playing games with others, just enjoying life.

I’ve done a lot over the past few weeks I’ve been away from this blog, and I’d like to share those things in photos.

So here you go, and I promise not to be so neglectful in the future (I know, prove it, right?).

12465965_10101251139773067_6238979195837166097_o

Journaling with a cat can be challenging.

12715958_10101287810449737_9056592304815157949_o

A cool outfit, and fun during the Frostbite Marathon Relay
12698489_10101287810818997_9213411445434610232_o

Declaring it with friends at Cross Fit Soaring Ledge for DID!

12710834_10101287811063507_3308107966372056874_o

Work. But the happy geeky picture that is my background makes me smile.

12698527_10101287810968697_6135405185609565944_o

Monday runs (also knows as therapy sessions) with this beautiful person in downtown Holland.

12716404_10101287841771967_749600586300005734_o

I got the coolest card from Jonah, my IRun4 buddy. He and his Mom were so sweet to think of me, plus…who doesn’t love a card about Chocolate Day.

Welcome, welcome 2016

Happy 2016, friends. We’re now a week in to the New Year, and I thought it was time to talk about Resolutions.

You won’t be finding any of that “New Year, New Me” stuff here, because I believe you can start that at any time. Maybe the New Year is a catalyst for some people, but it seems that most lose their resolution by the end of January. Mid February at the latest. I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy, but I think the statistic is something like 8% of people actually succeed in their resolution.

I’m not really a fan of the word “resolution.” It seems like too stern a word. And maybe too, it’s because it’s based off of some arbitrary date in our calendar system. Maybe it’s just the English Major in me that hates the word “resolution.” Or maybe it’s the realist.

In any case, I prefer the word “goal” to “resolution.” A Resolution is, “A firm decision to do or not to do something.” A Goal, “The Object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” You may resolve to do something, but does that really make it a goal? Is there an action plan behind it? Not usually. I think that change is often driven by goals, and the desire to change has to come from within.

And I don’t believe goals need to be set at the beginning of the year. You can set a goal any time. Goals are malleable. They can be modified as necessary. To set a goal, is to have something to work toward. It can be something small, or small steps to take to achieve something bigger.

I often set a goal, and then make a list – a way to achieve that goal.

 

So here are my running/fitness-related 2016 goals:

  • 2 Marathons
    • Probably Sunburst, and hopefully Chicago
  • Still chasing a sub-4 hour time. Getting closer, getting stronger. Just, not quite there yet, apparently.
  • Strength -I’ve really be enjoying strength and cross training. So more and better and smarter and more consistently.
  • And the biggest one: 2,016 miles total for 2016. I’m easing into this one so far. But I will get there, one mile at a time. This is just under double my mileage last year.
  • Be the best ambassador/blogger/encourager/inspirer that I can be – I want to help people to achieve their goals. I want to write more (I keep saying that, and I keep not following through). I want to be better. I actually already have a couple of Blogging projects lined up on other blogs (stay tuned), plus blogging for work for the Running group weekly. So that’s exciting.

So that’s what I’ve got on deck. I’m planning to make this an awesome year. But planning is the key to that.

What are your goals and challenges this upcoming year?

The Return of Winter Running

We’ve had one significant snow so far (unusual for Michigan in the Winter), and it hasn’t exactly been warm since then – a far cry from the 60 degree temps we had earlier in November.

So, how does one re-acclimate to the freezy  temperatures? This is something I struggle with every year. And I think I’m not alone.

Here are 5 simple steps to get you going:

Step 1: Dread getting out of bed. Shut off the Alarm. Relish the Warmth.

Okay, so this is my step 1 anyway. It’s cold out there dang it. Why should I get out of my warm, comfy bed? My husband is still snoring away. The Dog is curled up on his bed. I’m comfortable. The alarm gets shut off.

Step 2: Drag yourself out of bed, look out the window, realize it’s still dark. Get up and get dressed anyway.

Yep. It’s dark. It’s dark until about 7:45 or 8 a.m. here now. You’re going to have to run in the dark if you want to get it done at a reasonable hour. And you do, don’t you? No? Well, do it anyway.

you’re going to over dress at first. Wear layers. That way you’ll be able to take them off when you realize that the long sleeve base layer, 1/4 zip, jacket, hat, gloves, pair of tights with pants layered over top is way too warm. Everyone over dresses at first. Myself included. Despite the fact it’s cold, you definitely warm up quickly.

Step 3: Walk out the door, be greeted by the cold, get pelted by snowflakes, glare at the sky.

Start your GPS (if you use one). Accept the fact that you’re going to get a dermabrasion if the snowflakes are not fluffy. You may glare at the sky if it suits you.

Step 4: Realize that it’s all going to be okay, accept that it’s actually really pretty.

Okay, so the snow is sticking to the trees creating a beautiful winter wonderland. Everything is starting to have its very own white, glittery glaze. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. At the very least, the snow is covering the drab, brown grass and plants. Enjoy it. Take in the beauty, let the cold air fill your lungs, feel invigorated. It’s really not so bad.

12244709_10101217628859207_1381262810064264542_o

12239379_10101217659637527_3832112641875760774_o

Step 5: Return home, warm up, drink coffee, feel like a badass.

Finish your run, snap a selfie, whatever it is you do. Congratulate yourself, celebrate with a warm beverage (coffee is my weapon of choice to combat the winter chill). You are a badass, and you will survive winter running. Sure it may take some getting used to, but you can do it.

Adopting An Attitude of Gratitude

I will be honest. I have struggled to write about Marine Corps Marathon.

Why?

Because I’m not proud of my finish. I’m not happy with my time. I’m not thrilled with how I felt.

 

I’ve been grappling with it. I’ve been wrestling with the feelings of disappointment. It’s not easy. But I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and it’s going to be okay. I am competitive – but only with myself. Thousands of people crossed the line before me – but I wanted to cross the line before my own best time, and in under 4 hours.

So where did I end up? 4:48:11.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. About what happened. About what went wrong.

And here is the conclusion I have come to: A finish line is a finish line, and I need to be grateful that I was able to cross it.

It may not have been the time I hoped for. It may not have been the race I worked so hard for. But I finished. And not everyone can say that they run 26.2 miles for fun. Not everyone can say they run 26.2 miles at all.  I need to adopt the attitude of gratitude that this season and that racing should be all about.

The day started at 5 a.m. Last year I got to the Pentagon and Runner’s Village really early and sat and froze for about 2 hours. So this year I figured I’d arrive a little later, so I didn’t have so long to wait.

Here lies my first issue. I arrived at the Metro station at 5:45, stood on the platform while waiting for the train to arrive, and hear an announcement that went something like this: “There may be delays on the blue line, as a train has hit a deer. They are working to clear the tracks.”

Shortly after, the train arrived, and by around 6:10 I was at the Pentagon walking toward the safety check point. There were a lot of people there already. I mean, a lot. Last year I walked right in. This year, the experience was different.

Maybe it was because of the delays at the metro stations – but thousands of people arrived at nearly the same time. And we stood. For 2 hours. In the rain, waiting to get through security.

12184169_10101199896495007_3152292482650313629_o

The race starts at 7:55 a.m. with the sounding of the Howitzer. At 7:55 myself and those thousands of other people were still standing in line waiting to get in to runner’s village.

It was stressful. Stressed is not a great way to start a race.

Once they finally started moving people through faster, I walked in, dropped my stuff at bag check, used the porta potty, and found the starting line. At 8:20 a.m.

12182908_10101199896499997_6224316559225270668_o

From the first running steps I could tell that both physically and mentally I wasn’t feeling quite right. Both the stress of missing the official start, and walking around Washington D.C. for miles the previous days had taken quite a bit out of me. Not to mention the fact that when you start late, and not in a pace group, you start with whoever is around you – which includes some really fast folks, and some slower folks.

The first 5 – 7 miles of my race where a lot of weaving in and out of crowds of people, and those that stopped to walk in the middle of the course. I am grateful that at least the rain let up.

By the time I got out of Rock Creek Park and in to Georgetown my race was over. There wasn’t even a way to make up the lost time. And I still wasn’t feeling my best.

And that’s when I decided to just enjoy my surroundings and take some pictures. Each step still felt agonizing. My innards still felt off. I think part of it was the effects of stress. But I am grateful I got to take in the beautiful sights of Washington D.C. There’s no better way to see it than on foot.

12139984_10101199896614767_4524241712664928202_o

MCM truly is a beautiful race. The sun may not have been shining (either literally or figuratively), but the support of the Marines, and the number of participants, and just the general area makes this race worth it. At around 31,000 people, this is the largest race I have ever run.

I wore my Ryu shirt this year, and got many compliments, and had one gentleman ask me about it at the finish line. Ryu – the Dragon – means strength. I definitely needed strength to get through this race. The design of this shirt, the beautiful flowers and the dragon, always inspires. I know that’s a weird thing – but certain shirts or clothing always make me feel different or better at races. I am grateful for the opportunity to wear amazing tech gear.

12182834_10101198820156997_7629423268352904514_o.jpg

And of course, the Wear Blue Mile makes it amazing as well. I stopped to take pictures this year. And nearly cried. The support of the family members, the photo signs of the fallen – it still gives me pause even today. The fact that I can run, the fact that I am still here – this is a reason to be grateful.

In the end, I crossed the line. I finished. Upright and smiling – mostly just happy to be done and incredibly tired, but still smiling.

I am grateful to have crossed that line by Iwo Jima Memorial once again. I am grateful to have been there. And I am grateful for the fact that I had more family there this year, and for the continued support of the people in my life.

And of course for the continued support of my husband.

12193337_882478495140496_4150145457743760065_n

Was it the race I wanted? Was it the race I trained to run? Not exactly. I’ve come to terms with the bad – I’m focusing on the good. That is one huge thing I learned this time around.

With more focus, more training, and different circumstances, I know I can make my goals. Even the bad races have something to teach us. And for that I am grateful as well.

I will continue to try to continue in my attitude of gratitude, no matter what.