October: A month of goals and challenges

October has arrived, and with it cooler temperatures.

September was a very long, strange, busy month involving much running, much working, and not much else.

It was a month of 40+ hour weeks, long, long runs, and a lack of motivation to get anything other than those two things done.

I had a disappointing half-marathon the last weekend of September – but got to watch many others succeed at their goals. It’s a double edged sword – I am disappointed in my own performance, but so, so proud of and happy for others’ achievements.

But now October has bloomed. It has brought crisp leaves, and crisp days. Fall is in the air, and with it comes Marathon season. I have one more very long run left for this training cycle and then it’s time for a break.

Grand Rapids is soon – the marathon for which my group has been training for nearly 18 weeks now. I’m excited to watch this year. It will be the first time I haven’t run it since I started running.

A week later is Marine Corps. I have a goal. I’m afraid to speak it. It’s the same goal I’ve been chasing since I started running marathons. I might make it if I don’t fall apart like I did in my September half. The stars have to align. The heavens have to sing. Maybe then it’ll go right.

My goal is to not let my training fall apart in these last few weeks. To actually achieve what I set out to, I have to keep at the training.

It’s different now. I don’t so much get to train with the group any longer – as now I am in charge of it. I have a fancy title and a desk and everything and it’s all very exciting, but I’m going to miss actually running with them. It’s going to be a grand new adventure, but it will be a challenge as well.

My goal is to inspire others to move. To keep moving myself. To lead an active and healthy life. To be strong, to be fit.

I’m such a goal oriented person. Driven by what has to be accomplished. By planning. By having a plan.

My goal is to write here daily once again. Starting today. I missed the first day of October already. But I do not write enough anymore. I fell apart again after our 30 day challenge.

So. Here it goes again. Continuing to run. Continuing to write. Continuing to hope to inspire.

Keep Moving.

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Do one thing a day

Do one thing a day that scares you, that moves you outside of your comfort zone. I try to live by this. I’m trying to do what I can to keep moving forward, keep moving up, and just plain keep moving.

It’s so easy to just stay put. To stay stagnant, to not try something new. We get so comfortable in our shells, that we infrequently try to move outside of them.

And even if you don’t succeed, you don’t get what you want, sometimes, just putting yourself out there is enough.

We all struggle to be somebody. To do something worth while. Or at least most of us do anyway.

Running gives a sense of accomplishment. A sense of doing something. But what to do when it doesn’t? Something I’ve struggled with lately.

We’re starting to get in to the very long mileage of training, and honestly, I’m at the point where I’m ready to just go, no matter what the outcome.

But alas, I have no control over the race dates. I have no way of speeding up time (dear Doctor where are you and your TARDIS?).

And so I sit, and I push myself, and continue in these miles. Continue the struggle, continue to try, continue to put myself out there, continue to be, as much in running as in “real life.”

Run on, friends. And Don’t forget to do what scares you.

Recommitting Myself

Good evening! It’s been a while.

Marathon training has begun again in earnest and I have been Busy (with a capital B). There’s a lot going on in this life of mine right now. So much that sometimes I don’t have moments for myself, and those moments that I do have are fleeting.

Truth be told, I haven’t been committed to this space. And I miss it. I’ve had doubts lately. Not just about writing, but about running and life. I’m working on squishing that inner voice, that tiny running monologue that says “you can’t. You’re not good enough. No one reads this stuff. Nothing will ever come of it. You’re slow. You’re never going to accomplish your goals.” Etc. Etc.

Sometimes, that little voice just needs to be stepped on. I had a 10 mile training run today (yes, 10 on a Tuesday). My goal was to keep my heart rate down despite the heat and humidity. And I did that, but at a sacrifice to my pace. Just under 10 minute miles?! That’s never going to get me to a sub 4 hour marathon. And so I thought about it, and thought. And decided that if my goal is to get there, I truly have to believe I can. No matter what pace today was, tomorrow may be different. The same goes for running as for so many other things in life. That’s also where the shirt I wore came in today. I grabbed it out of my dresser drawer without even thinking about it, but it has the Fellow Flowers believe message on it:

“Believe. To look within, to overcome. Loving myself enough. I have the will, the determination and the courage to defy the odds…and inspire. My challenges have made me a fighter – a survivor. They will not define me or confine me. I will run my own race. Different, beautiful and all my own. I believe in me and my potential. And I’m going to succeed because I’m brave enough to think I can”

So I am recommitting myself, to this page, to the marathon, to my goals and dreams and aspirations. I won’t listen to that voice, which sometimes is loud and booming, and sometimes is but a squeak.

Instead I will believe.

The Holland 100

On Saturday, I had the privilege of riding 19 miles of the Holland Hundred with my mother.

The day was meant to be 90 degrees and sunny – we knew it was going to be warm.

I’m a runner, of course, and not usually a cyclist, but I do dabble. This was my second bike tour – but Mom’s first (that I know of).

There were so many people at the starting line. I rode from home, as the start is only about 1.5 miles from my house. We met there, me, my mother, and my dad and uncle who both rode 100 miles for the third year in a row. I love the tradition that they have started.

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We all took off together, but they soon left Mom and I behind. We rode up hills, to start, and down to a flat, bumpy road. The sun continued to climb as we went along.

I don’t really recall conversations, but we talked as we went. At one point, we were chased by a lovely little golden finch and his mate. They followed us for a few miles. It was fun to watch as they flitted from plant to plant along the side of the road.

At around 9 miles we found the rest stop. A church in East Saugatuck. I rode for pancakes and darn it, I was going to have pancakes.

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We ran in to some other runner folks there – this is a big community event. It’s always awesome to see people out moving – doing anything that is not sitting on the couch.

Pancakes eaten, water bottles filled, it was time to continue on to the finish. It was a similar route back. The clouds started to roll in as we neared the finish.

We crossed the line together, triumphant. And then it started to rain. We were fortunate to get in to the finish before hand. But the clouds were cool at least!

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I enjoyed riding with my mother. We didn’t need to ride truly fast, we didn’t need to go any farther. I am proud of her for committing to her health. Neither of us has always been healthy people. But that’s changing, and she is part of my motivation to continue. Experiencing crossing that line together was something I will remember. I am grateful for the experience. Grateful for the time together, and grateful for her motivation.

Lakeshore Miracle Run

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

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Except when it is a miracle that I finished as well as started. Lakeshore Miracle Run, on July 11 this year, is billed as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” This is the third year I have completed this race, so at least I knew what was coming.

The race starts out on paved roads, runs back through the ups and downs of a sing track trail, and then out to the beach, and up two sand dunes, back down and out again. It truly is a tough course.

For this year’s race, the temperature actually started off a decent 60-something, as opposed to the normal 70 or 80 degree day. It was lovely. I love having this be our group run every year. It encourages those who may not otherwise try it to give it a shot.

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At about 8:30, the gun went off, and me and around 350 other folks headed off down the road. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful.

About a mile in, you find the woods, and weave around through a single track path. It’s difficult to pass back there, so running through the leaves and sticks and brambles on the side of the path is sometimes necessary. There are a few hills, but you don’t really notice them this time through.

Out of the woods, we hit the beach. The first hill up to the beach is composed of sand, and many stop to take their shoes off here. But I do not. This year, as in previous years, I’ve worn a barefoot type shoe, and getting sand in them is not really a bother.

The beach portion is an out and back. The beach has eroded quite a bit this year, so those headed out are forced to run in the soft sand, while those headed back are lucky to run in the hard pack near the water. It’s always fun to see familiar faces along the out and back part. Many high fives and good jobs were exchanged. Again, passing on the beach is difficult, as it means running through the softer sand to get around someone. The sand tends to pull your feet in step after step, making it hard to continue forward.

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At the end of the beach you make a left. This year we had to scramble up an eroded bank to get away from the water and on to the first dune. I have short little legs, and this up was a bit of a challenge.

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And then comes the first dune. It’s a slog through the sand and sun. It’s fun to hear people who have never done this race before talking about it. “Oh, this is it? This is not so bad.” And “I don’t know what everyone makes such a big fuss about. This is pretty easy.”

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I just smile. This is not THE dune.

This is.

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Yep. That first picture is taken from the top of the first “easy” dune. The picture doesn’t even do it justice. There is no running. Just a slow ascent to the top. Many jokes are made this year, and words of encouragement are bandied about as well. “It’s just a hill, get over it.” “This is the worst part, once you get to the top it’s all down hill from there” (a lie, mostly). They gift us water at the top, and the view is stunning, and well worth the hike.

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And after water and a view. It’s time to head down – one of the most fun parts of the race. The downhill is almost as steep as the up. Almost. Running down is reminiscent of being a young child and running down the dunes at the beach. Of course, instead of running in to the lake, you have to continue along the trail to the end.

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You continue to run through sand for awhile before getting back to the hard packed trail.

One of the coolest parts of the race this year was chatting with a woman on the trails back to the finish. She was asking if another gentleman near us and I had done this race before. I replied in the affirmative and he in the negative. We continued chatting a bit, and it came out that I worked for Gazelle. She was quite excited by this. It turns out that she mentors for a program that helps students placed at risk to accomplish so much more than what is “expected” of them. Gazelle in Grand Rapids is helping one of her students who is looking to qualify for Boston – something someone who is considered a failure, and comes from an unhappy background would never dream of if not for her mentoring and Gazelle’s help. I love stumbling upon such beautiful stories when running with strangers. Runners so easily make connections when suffering through the same arduous journey together. It’s a common ground for conversation.

Our conversation made getting to the finish line back through the trail and road so much easier and more enjoyable.

At the end of the race, you run through the open fire hydrant spraying water across the road and in to the finish. Coming out from the woods to the road, it felt like the temperature climbed, so the sprinkling of water was much welcomed.

Shoes filled with sand, legs and feet caked in dirt, I finished.

Though I can’t find results online yet, I believe that I tied my time from last year, which is about all I ask from this race. It’s not one that is run for a PR or for a specific time. It’s one that’s run for fun, and for the love of a challenge. That, and the frozen yogurt and watermelon afterward.

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I enjoyed Lakeshore Miracle Run very much this time around, and hope to be able to participate again next year. And who knows, maybe next time I will beat my course PR. It’s a miracle to have the courage to start, and a miracle to get up that dune to the finish, and definitely an awesome, challenging race.

Running Hills

For the last three days, I have conquered many hills – both mental and physical.

Today, as I was running up the hills on my route, I thought about how much hill running is like the mental struggle I have been trudging through the last few days.

Sometimes you slog on, uphill, battling to the top it’s difficult to take another step, but you keep going, because you can’t turn back – the only direction is forward. Your feet are heavy, your heart working hard. You want to quit. But you don’t.

Sometimes the hills are small, just bumps in the road, really. Sometimes, they are long and rolling, and other times they are large and steep. Step after step you continue forward up and over them.

Sometimes you create your own challenges – choose your own hills, place them in your path of your own volition. Occasionally the challenge is fun, and the success of cresting them even more enjoyable.

The benefit of hills is that they make you stronger. Each time you struggle up one, gasping for air, your legs grow stronger, your lungs grow stronger, your heart grows stronger.

Of course, there is the flip side as well. As soon as you do crest that hill, once you’ve struggled your way to the top, it’s a smooth easy ride. You still have to carry yourself forward, but you are no longer struggling against gravity. Instead, it is working with you, pushing you along. You can breathe easy as you make your way down the path.

Of course, there are always more hills. Up and down we trot through this journey. Occasionally things remain level – flat. Neither up nor down – hard nor easy – good nor bad.

I’m grateful that I feel as though I have come to the top of the latest hill. I hope that it’s not just more uphill on this other side. Sometimes you can see down the hill, and sometimes it’s just more uphill.

But I will continue to run forward, no matter if the hill continues up, or there turns out to be a downhill.

— — —

This is day 30 of the 30 day writing challenge. I’ve come a long way from the beginning. Will I still update every single day? Probably not. But, I have enjoyed this journey. It was a struggle to come up with content sometimes, and I don’t think that everything written these past 30 days has been a gem.

But fear not. I’m not giving up. I will continue to update at least two to three times per week. I’ve come up with a few ideas these last 30 days that I hope to put in to action.

Aside from just race updates and general writing, I hope to add a bit more.

We’ll see what the future brings!

Mood Lifters

Chocolate Chip Cookies and a good hard workout have the ability to make any day better.

Moods have a way of effecting how we look at life. It’s not that today was bad by any means. But I was lacking in sleep and needing rest, and feeling grumbly.

And then came the cookie. I baked them last night and brought them to work today- I love to bake – loads of sugar and butter and chocolate. And they’re beautiful if I do say so myself. Perfectly brown on the tops and edges, soft and chewy on the inside. A little bit of sugar in my day goes a long way. It was a treat and brought me a smile for awhile.

And of course, this evening was boot camp with one of my favorite instructors at the gym. And of course, it was upper body – my weakest area. I have never had great arm strength. I can lift so much more with my legs than my arms. I can run for miles, but my arms can only support so much. But I’m beginning to realize how important arm strength is, even to running. No, I’m not running on my hands, though that would be talent. Having a stronger upper body allows for better form when fatigued, and allows for better posture overall – which means more efficient running and efficiency for longer.

So, tonight I beat up my arms, and I beat up my core, and I ate a cookie. It was much needed.

Exercise is proven to lift mood, to brighten any dull day. And sugar doesn’t hurt either (well, except the waist line).

What do you do to lift your mood on an off day?