Saturday, October 26, 2013

Seasons of life & a dream board

A wise friend reminded me this week that life has seasons.  Not all of them are joyful, but not all of them are bad either.  As we discussed this in the car, I realized that my season of life is getting in the way of my running, but I'm learning to be okay with that.

My little ones are small, but mighty! 
I  mean, with faces like that, it's hard not to be okay with making sacrifices for them and their well-being.  But, I'm human and some days I struggle with it. My wise friend reminded me that during this season where I have toddlers and a husband away from home, working hard for his family in service to his country, I need to let go of perfection and trying to please all people.  Life is more enjoyable when you can find the joy in the everyday parts of the season you're in, rather than wishing it away.

Ouch, totally guilty some days.

As a typical type A (or so overly type A we call it triple-A in my major) personality, I plan, I organize, and I overcommit all while expecting it all to be perfect.  As my wise friend reminded me, family comes first and there was only one perfect person (and I'm not Him!)

So, while I've been busy being mom and finishing graduate school I'm not running with the regularity and race times I want.  But, I have been reflecting and I've realized a couple of things:

1. Running is not my career.  I don't get paid to do it, I'm not going to get sponsored, and I'm not an elite runner.  What I am is a determined mother runner who sees the benefits running has had for me both athletically and personally.  I want to continue to capitalize on that to be the best athlete and person I can be.

2. Having goals is great - but not when they take over your life or working to achieve them is no longer enjoyable.  I had taken on too much, as usual, and running was starting to become just one more thing to get done.  That, I am NOT okay with, at all.  So, I'm re-evaluating my goals, and more specifically, the time frame for those goals.  I like to get things accomplished quickly.  I'm learning though, sometimes it's better to wait.

3.  The spontaneous runs, with or without kids, are sometimes the best.  Over and over again this crazy semester I've made a spur of the moment decision to go for a quick run, figuring 20-30 minutes was better than no run at all.  These short runs have been some of my best, either for feeling good, stress relief, or sometimes even time! Not everything has to be planned down to the last detail. :)

That being said, I'm making a dream/goal/bucket list for the coming year.  Rhonda from Motivation Rhonda has really gotten under my skin with all her talk about it - in a good way.  I'm actually going to do it.  As soon as my last final exam is over, I'm taking myself on a date to Hobby Lobby and getting supplies to spend an afternoon creating a dream board where I can be reminded of my goals and dreams.  Like Rhonda says, the first step to making them happen is writing them down to make them real.

But for now, Tylenol, snuggles, and two tiny voices are calling my name...."Mommy!"

Gotta Run :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When life (or your kids) hands you intervals!

I was so excited to meet my (Sole) Sisters for our usual Wednesday run, even if it was 90-some degrees in the shade.  I busted my butt to get home on time, got dinner made and was out the door to pick up the kids in record time.  We were going to make it!

Then, everything went sideways...Murphy's law, I know.

Discussions about behavior, cranky, crabby, and otherwise unhappy, my kids were not cooperating with my plan.  To top it all off, I realized when I did get home that in my rush to get out the door I'd turned OFF the oven I'd preheated, so the dinner I'd busted my butt to get done early was not even halfway cooked. Sigh...

What to do?  Skip the planned run or find another way?  I opted to take the kids with me to the gym and run on the treadmill.  The alternative, no run at all, was even less appealing than the "dread mill."

Dutifully I stepped up, wondering how I was going to combat the boredom that seems to creep its way into just about every one of my runs on the treadmill.  Then it hit me, I can play with my pace and know what I'm doing - I've got buttons to control it all!

Next thing I knew I was looking forward to my improvised 4-3-2-1 pyramid interval workout. I started out with an easy warmup for five minutes and then kicked it up to my first interval, 4 minutes at 10:00/mile.  

I didn't really have concrete pace ideas in my head but I knew I wanted to do something with 9-11 in remembrance.  Not really familiar with these treadmills, this was as close as I could get for 3 minutes.  

Pardon the blurry pictures, 
but I took them WHILE I was running! :)

That felt really good so I figured, why not go for it? Let's see how fast I can go.  So, after a two minute recovery period I kicked it up. 

8:40 is not a pace I'm used to seeing.  Or maintaing.  So, I was quite surprised I was pretty easily able to hold it for 2 minutes.  In fact, I'd begun to accept that I wasn't ever going to get my pace in the 8 minute range.  Boy did it shock me when I ran this and felt really good!!!  Now I was curious, how fast could I really go?  I kicked it up again.

This was starting to get more difficult.  I really had to concentrate on my turnover and my breathing!  But, again, I could do it and still felt like I had more in me!  One more time I kicked it up.  8:00 pace was now the goal.

I never knew I could do this!

For one minute I held this pace and still felt like I had more to give!  This is a huge victory for me. I've always been critical of my lack of speed speed, and had really talked myself into believing I wasn't ever going to be faster than I am now.  After tonight's workout I can tell you, that's crap!

I can be faster, and I WILL be faster!

I would have pushed the pace even farther, but I had to pick up the Gotta Run kids - the childcare was closing for the night and it was quickly approaching their bedtime.  

Those progressive intervals really 
worked up a SWEAT!

What have I learned?  I can, if I believe I can.  Whatever it is.  Speed, a full marathon, you name it.  If I believe I can, I can do it. And so can YOU!

What are your tricks for the treadmill?  I'd love to hear them!

Gotta Run :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reality Check

This training cycle has been full of ups and downs.  Lately, it seems more downs than ups.  As I tried to study for my upcoming neurology exam surfed Facebook pretending to take a "study break", it occurred to me...I've been WAY too hard on myself.

I'm admitting it:  I don't give myself nearly enough credit for what I have and do achieve.  I'm realizing how true this picture really is for me at this point in my life.

I have not let myself be the runner I am right now.  No wonder I'm having trouble being the runner I want to be.  

I downplay and diminish what I am able and trying to do nearly constantly.  Why?  I don't know.  It's something I've always done.  But, I realized that when it comes to my running, for some reason I expect the performance of and critique myself at the level of an elite runner (um, Kara Goucher anyone?).  However, the truth is my training, nutrition, etc. is not that of an elite runner - it's that of a crazy amateur real person with too much on her plate.  Here's my reality check:

1. I'm not an elite runner.  I'm a wife and mother of two running on caffeine and too little sleep trying to finish graduate school who has precious little time to train.  I need to accept that this is where I'm at in life, for now, and look forward to life after graduate school.

1.  My runs are going to be sporadic.  With the Gotta Run Husband in the military and working all hours of the day and night and the Gotta Run Kids still in diapers, my time to run is cut even shorter than it was by graduate school.  I need to remember, it is what it is and be grateful for whatever kind of run I CAN get in, when I do.

2. Until I can devote more time to it, i.e. after graduate school, I can't expect the quick progression I was hoping for.  I eat on the run, sleep too little, and consume more caffeine than I would like while in my final semester. There isn't anything I can do about it except get through it and look forward to the time when running can be more of a focus.

3.  I CAN still run while finishing this graduate program.  I will have to learn to accept that my times will be slower than I wanted and I may have to walk at times.  So?  I'm still going to finish.  And really, isn't that the ultimate goal?

So, today I'm making a conscious decision to truly live this:

No matter how slow I go, how long it takes me to finish, if I run I will still consider myself a runner.    The time will come when I can devote much more to training for a PR half and a full marathon.  For now, I am choosing to give each run my best effort and enjoy it.  After all, THAT'S why I started running. :)

Gotta Run :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day Jitters

My stomach is fluttering, my head is saying "Why?" and muscles are clenching in anticipation of the soreness to come.  As anxious as my body is acting you'd think I'm a pansy this was my first time running.  The truth is I've been on the DL for several weeks due to pain in my foot from a partially healed stress fracture. I haven't run in four weeks and I'm nervous.  Will I remember how it feels?  Will my body cooperate?  How bad is it going to be?  Then I remember things like this:

Though I never really gave up on running, I felt like I had because I couldn't run, silly as that might sound.

Yet, it's motivational pictures like this one that give me hope that my first run post-injury won't be all bad:

It starts to click...Oh yeah, I remember that! It may have been a while but I still remember how good I feel after a good run (or sweaty spin class!)

And though I feel like I'm starting over, I realize I'm not, really.  Yes, I'm going to have to rebuild some of my endurance but I'm always surprised how quickly my body reminds me it remembers that 

I am a runner. It's what I love to do and it's an integral part of who I am.  Weeks off due to injury has given me a new appreciation for running - even the bad runs.  

All that being said, I can't wait to get back out there. 

Gotta run....soon! :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't Provoke the Injured Runner

I'm injured. Again. This pretty much sums up how I feel:

Ask my family, especially the Gotta Run Husband, and they'll tell you I haven't been much fun to be around.  Crabby, moody, frustrated, and injured without knowledge of what it is or how to fix it are a recipe for disaster certain combination for arguments and a grumpy runner and family.  After nearly a week of worry, pain, and no a little running I finally gave in and went to the doctor today. I really thought I might have a stress fracture the way my foot was not responding to rest, ice, and ibuprofen. 

An X-ray of my foot revealed an old stress fracture (that I had no idea was even there!) of the third metatarsal, but no new stress fractures!  I've never been so happy in all my life to hear the words "severe sprain." That was music to my ears, let me tell you! So, it's another injury that will keep me down for another few weeks (guess I'll get quite a bit of work done on my masters thesis project), but I'm still going to be able to run my half marathon in September!!!!! 

However, this time I have the comfort of knowing I didn't do anything wrong.  I simply have feet and ankles that were overused and need some strengthening. 

So for now I'll work that core like crazy, cycle when I can, and read more academic journal articles than any one person should ever read on a single subject until I can run again. 

Gotta Run. :) (Soon!)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Training Better (and smarter!)

This is is my first official training cycle. For my first half marathon.  I've run races before, so how is this the first time I've trained?  Well, up until now I wasn't all that serious about my running nor was I tackling distances that required actual training.

A view that's becoming entirely too common
for my husband and my children. :(

During this training cycle (this is week 8 of a 15 week plan) I've been injured twice (sprained ankle and a sprained LCL).  After two injuries it finally clicked - I need to adjust my thinking when it comes to training. Until recently I'd treated training the same as running for enjoyment, just doing it more frequently with a plan dictating distances to shoot for. Now I realize:  training is serious.  The more serious you take it and the more you put into it, the more you're going to benefit from it. 

I'm dressed, my head is
 if only my body would cooperate!

All that being said, I've come up with a few rules I'm going to try to follow to train better (and smarter.)

1.  Plan, plan, plan. Just like each of my workouts are meticulously planned, my meals and sleep need to be just as well planned or else I tend to skimp on one or both, mostly due to being busy.  As I get closer to classes starting again I worry I won't be able to keep up the dedication to training.  But, I also know from experience that when you want it bad enough you'll find a way. (Hey, I made it through my first year of grad school while my husband was deployed with an infant and a toddler; I CAN and WILL plan meals and get up early to train!)

2.  Eat well, rest well. My training runs have run the gamut when it comes to how good I felt during and after each one.  Some were great, some I wondered why I had even bothered.  Looking back on the bad runs I notice that most were prefaced by a day or multiple days of poor nutrition and/or poor sleep.  I'm still experimenting with sleep habits and nutrition combinations that will work best for me. (I can tell you, Mint Chocolate Gu is pretty darn tasty!)

3.  Be careful when trying new activities. Both injuries have resulted from jumping into new activities without consideration for how my body will tolerate the stress of new/different muscles being worked.  Trail running is one of my new loves, yet parts of my body are not accustomed to the demands it makes of me because I don't do it all the time.  Boxing was so much fun, but because I wasn't properly trained in how to work the heavy bag without hurting myself I caused a small injury to my knee. Lesson learned:  Try new things.  But, be careful and know when to back down a little. 

4.  Negative self talk will be turned to positive as soon as it's recognized.  I've read a lot about running lately.  Hey, what can I say?  When I get involved in something I like to know as much as I can about it and I'm in grad school - research is part of life right now. ;)  One of the things that has stuck with me is "Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a friend."  Easier said than done, let me tell you.  I am my own harshest critic and terrible about praising myself or recognizing my accomplishments.  Given the chance, I will always downplay what I did do as not good enough in comparison to others. In my own mind, it's never good enough. Part of this, I'm told, is part of a runner's mental make-up.  However, I also know that part of it is me being a jerk to myself because no one tells me to stop.  The longer my runs get, the more I realize how critical the mental piece of running really is.

4. Listen to your body.  I'll say it:  I suck at this.  Big time.  I am stubborn to a fault and will push through pain rather than "quit".  But, that being said, this is what's gotten me injured both times.  During long runs, my friend, who is training for her first marathon, has been educating me on how important it is to listen to my body.  Like I said, she is training for a marathon and has yet to be injured.  Why? Because she LISTENS to her body.  I push through and end up INJURED.  Point taken.

I wore my first pair out and got to buy NEW SHOES!  
I'm dying to take these pretty babies out for a RUN!

Have I learned?  Yes, I think I have.  At the end of Saturday's 10 mile long run I had a spot in my foot that was "talking to me" near the end. It's still bothering me today, so I sit writing a blog post and enjoying the relief of ice and rest.

I've learned: training plans are a guide.  The rest is determined by me and my body.  Today, this body rests in hopes of running tomorrow.

Gotta Run (as soon I can) :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Emotional Toll

I've never been good at letting go of incidents that upset me.  This picture I found from Runner Girl X sums up pretty well what I needed to do but had a hard time doing.

In the back of my mind I've always known how much my emotions affect the rest of me and how I function.  Yesterday's run brought that lesson to the forefront again.

Earlier in the day I'd had a run-in that deeply upset me and left me very emotional the rest of the afternoon.  Tearful conversations with my husband and neighbors left me feeling a little better, but really, the last thing I wanted to do was my 7-mile training run.

I dutifully dressed and laced up to head out anyway, knowing if I skipped the run I'd just feel worse than I already did because of guilt.  Heading out to one of my favorite trails, I should have been in a great mood and ready to put some mileage on my favorite pair of Newtons.  Instead I was still fighting back tears and wanting to go home and curl up on the couch and hide.

On autopilot, I went through my dynamic stretching warm-up and set out for my out and back route.  It usually takes me a mile or so to really warm up and get into the run, but the emotional baggage I was carrying weighed me down and made the first three miles drag.  My legs were heavy, my head wasn't into it, and the urge to quit was strong.  I fought with myself every step to keep going.

I made it to the halfway point, took my gel, and turned around to head back - fully anticipating another hellish couple of miles.  Instead, I was surprised to feel my legs get springy and the joy of running start to infiltrate my spirit.  What had changed?  I let go of the emotional baggage, at least for a little while, and concentrated on my run.  I had let the emotional toll of my earlier encounter take the joy out of my day and my run.  When I let go, I felt my inner "batteries" recharge and I felt so much more myself.

While the second half of my run definitely wasn't perfect, it was much more enjoyable than the first.  The best part was my strong finish with a pace of 8:55 for the last mile. That's a number worth seeing in my book! Most importantly, I learned that carrying emotional baggage makes an already difficult task even more difficult and that in order to be my best, I've got to learn to let go and lessen the emotional toll of others.  

Gotta run. :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Already sidelined...

I love beginning a new project. Carefully laid plans, fresh new supplies, the anticipation, hard work, making progress and the reward of accomplishing a goal...What's not to love?

With the encouragement of some of my Sole Sisters, I signed up for Women Rock as my first half marathon.  My BRF (best running friend) promised to run it with me too, so that sealed the deal.  To top it all, at the finish I'll be handed jewelry and champagne by some very "lovely" assistants, if you get my drift.  I figured if that didn't get my rear across the finish line, nothing would!

For weeks I pored over training plans in books and websites, searching for the one that was just right.  I found it in the book Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.  Fifteen weeks of workouts that clearly specified which days I could bail out if needed and which runs were absolutely necessary. Retyped and color coded, I was ready to go with a start date of June 10.  A couple of weeks and training would begin...I couldn't wait!

In the meantime I ran a midnight trail race and ran trails with a fellow Sole Sister in my new barefoot trail shoes.  My feet and ankles were sore after both runs, but I chalked it up to weakness in muscles I wasn't used to using and vowed to do strengthening exercises.  Days later I was cleaning up after my children and stumbled over a toy (typical in a house with two toddlers!) The tenderness nagged, but I didn't think much of it because I hadn't really taken a rest day yet.  

Finally, it was time to train! I set out for my first training run of 4-5 miles at the local trail.  Paying attention to my form, my ankles were tight and complaining but I figured they just needed a mile or so to get loosened up.  By 3/4 of a mile they weren't feeling better so I slowed down to walk and stretch.  Feeling a little better, I picked up the pace again only to have the pain intensify once again.  By mile 1.5 I was in tears and limping back to the car, completely discouraged.  I couldn't touch my left ankle without gasping; not only was it painful, but swelling and bruising were appearing as well.  I expect some pain with training, but NEVER have I finished a run in tears.  I knew something was wrong.

I immediately called the PT (physical therapist) I previously worked with to rehab my knee and went in for an evaluation.  The swelling and bruising were continuing to worsen, so an appointment with my doctor was made.   By the end of the day I couldn't bear weight on it without a lot of pain.  Bummed barely described how I was feeling.

The next day I woke up and my ankle felt better - until I started walking on it.  Within half an hour I was limping again and even more worried something was really wrong.  My doctor examined me and gave me the news.  Diagnosis:  A nasty sprain.  Treatment:  Rest (no running for a couple weeks), ice, and elevation.  My reaction was split:  while I was really glad she hadn't found a fracture (the bruising and swelling worried the PT), I was worried about my training.  It's only week 1 and I'm injured! How am I going to run 13.1 miles if I can't even START my training???

I got home and did what I always do when faced with a problem:  I researched.  Several hours later I had my answer: It's going to be okay.  Everything I'd read suggested I could miss 1-2 weeks of training because I had a strong base of mileage.  There will be a period where I'll have to cut back and work my way back up, but, for now I'm okay with being sidelined.  Well, at least as okay as I'm going to be.  Let's be serious, I'd rather be running hills or doing hard tempo runs than sitting, resting this ankle.  But, give me a couple weeks and I'll be back. :)

So, what's my point with this rambling saga? What I'm trying to convey is the change I see in myself.  A year ago I would have let my discouragement take over and quit.  Instead, 

I didn't give up.  I adapted and am continuing to work at my goal, just in a different way than first planned.  And I'm proud of that!

So for now I'll be busy strength training and building a stronger core with some killer workouts I found at Em's Gym.  Who knows? Maybe this will help me learn to love strength training?!

Gotta run - in a couple weeks, that is. ;)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Greatest Gift

Let me just start by saying:

I don't know what I'm doing.

That's right, I have no idea what I'm doing with this blog.  Yet.  What I do know is that running and a couple of special blogs have influenced me greatly.  So much so, that I am inspired to share my experiences. 

One year ago, I sat with my two children (then 21 months and 1 month) wondering how I was going to do it.  My spouse had just deployed, I started graduate school for speech-language pathology in August,  and the walls were closing in.  I was scared, stressed, and overwhelmed to say the least.  

Fast forward to November.  I'm a basket case of stress, anxiety, and entirely too busy to enjoy life.  As I thought I couldn't handle one more thing, all hell broke loose:  my father-in-law passed away.  Several tough phone calls later, my husband was on his way home for emergency leave to attend the services.  This truly was the turning point for me.  During his leave he wanted to get new running shoes, but hated the ones he had.  I took him to the local running store to get fitted, as I had no idea what was wrong with the Sauconys we'd picked out for him a little over a year ago.  With two kids in the store to entertain, I began "test-driving" the double jogging stroller they had in the store.  Staff members noticed how much the kids liked the stroller and asked if I was a runner.  I replied that I had been a on-again-off-again runner in my twenties, but hadn't run since I became pregnant with my son more than three years ago.  My husband, ever the practical man, suggested I get fitted for shoes too since my feet had likely changed since pregnancy.  Two days later my husband gave me the greatest gift he's given me (with the exception of our two children):  a double jogging stroller.

It doesn't seem like that should trump other gifts, but it has.  That stroller became my ticket to leave the house, to get back to the sport I loved, to a community of women who supported me and that have become some of my best friends, and to a community of athletes who continue to teach me so much.  That stroller opened the door between who I was and who I wanted to be.

Throughout the past six months, running has influenced every part of my life.  I'm learning to be mentally tough and applying that skill to challenges in graduate school.  I'm learning how to set attainable goals and persevere working toward them.  I'm learning to challenge myself and to believe in my ability to meet that challenge.  I'm learning I am stronger and more capable of great things than I give myself credit for. I truly believe the benefits of running have helped me to become a better mother, a stronger student, and a better athlete; overall, a better person.  

I thank God for that double stroller; it put me on the road to new goals, new PRs, and to myself. Thank you, babe.  You may not realize the import of that gift, but I do.  I definitely do.  

Gotta run. :)