Two sides of one year

Summer break has returned and the dread started to fill me in the weeks leading up to it. I love hanging with the kids and doing fun things. It’s just that this past year has been extremely difficult and everything started right as summer break began last year. It was so bad, my mom had to take an emergency leave from work and come to my house to help out.

At the time, I was already signed on to train for a half marathon for 12 weeks. I wanted to run it and I wanted to train for it in the best way possible. Training was to start in about 6 weeks. I suddenly had no time to run and was booking appointments for my teen to seek intense mental health care in addition to care for her Crohn’s that had been diagnosed in the previous months. We were looking at a very unhappy person and we were doing our best to help her despite the things she said to us that were unkind and did to us that were vengeful. We had a few good days and bad ones, too. We were interviewed and investigated regarding accusations made. I started hiding and smoking cigarettes after years of not being a smoker. My husband suspected it and asked that I stop wasting money on it and that I remember I had signed up to run 13 miles. I couldn’t exactly argue with it because he wasn’t asking for something unreasonable and it was from a place of concern.

Those first couple of weeks running were rough. I felt like I was slow and never quite catching my breath. I was stressed out and didn’t want to actually talk about things going on in my life. I spent a lot of time listening and asking questions that were about running. I was making friends and I was spending time away from the troubles at home. I finally stopped feeling anxious before every group run and I started wanting to go so I could clear my head and talk to my new found friends.

By the time we’d run the half, I finally knew people in my town. I’d lived here 3 and a half years and it was the first time I felt like I belonged and I wasn’t all alone in a strange place. I even ran into people I knew while I was out and about. I knew people on the trip to Hawaii because they were my running buddies.

Oh, the trip to Hawaii. The last time I remember things being a little normal and more pleasant. That was, until we returned home and things started to heat up with the teen. By November, I was on the phone with my bestie driving to the emergency room because I was working out when the ambulance arrived at my house and my husband had tried to call me with no luck.

Things started to look normal with a few medication changes for her. I stayed involved in running by mentoring groups. The past couple of weeks, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was just anticipating doom. Despite running, my anxiety had been lurking.

The first night after school was over for the teen was hell. The first day was no better. She thinks that being a stay at home mom has no merit and often likes to bring that up when she’s feeling bad. I don’t put much weight on it considering the source, but I am curious as to why this seems to be a topic that she comes back to often. I choose to stay at home and my husband and I are good with it. She also says that she would like to be an emancipated minor. She said that I’m the reason she hurts herself. Despite the hatred from her, I can offer my tough love. These are empty attempts at manipulation. I could be upset or disappointed, and I am. I can only repeat to her that personal choices are not made outside of oneself and that accountability must be taken for one’s own actions eventually. She is sick and I can empathize, but I can also draw a line as to how I will allow myself to be treated and stand my ground when I must. While some people would be quick to judgement, they haven’t been where I have or lived what I have and I don’t welcome it. Parenting is a challenge and the decisions parents make are deeply personal.

I have my own training approaching soon. I have mentoring. I have two other kids that I need to care for and show how to conduct themselves while trying to help the teen through this. This is a tough place to be in at home and I thank God that I have a husband who supports me and encourages me to take some time for myself to refocus. I am also grateful for the mental strength I have gained through disciplining myself for the long runs. Without it, I don’t know how I would have made it through the last year or how I could conquer the years to come.

I am strong. I am loved. I am capable of so much I have yet to discover. *

*This goes for you too! Say it. Aloud.

Committed

Committed

So I am locked in for summer/fall training. Also, I should be committed for signing myself up to do it. I mean, I have got to be fully insane if the last couple of times I raced, I was asking myself why I do it, then wanting to do it again after finishing. I think my body is on to me about torturing it so it appreciates rest more.

I’m signed up for the Indy Monumental marathon in November. I’m hoping my husband comes with me to cheer me on and to make sure I actually leave the hotel room in the morning. The training I’m taking through my local Fleet Feet will go on for 16 weeks before the race. I’m also mentoring a half marathon group for a goal race the last weekend in September. I have committed 4 days a week to running for a few months. I will see someone through a half marathon, and then run a half marathon 8 days later in Missouri. Everyone I tell about my October half refers to it as a good “tune up” for my full marathon. I refer to it as “these races I kept signing up for and may actually be insane for.”

I am excited about all of my races. I’m excited to do the races and I’m proud to keep up my training. I mean, this is why I stayed running all winter long for the first time since I took on running as a habit. I’d call it a hobby, but I just don’t think it fits. It is a challenge and something that hones more than just the skill of running.

I think I’m looking for a lot of reassurance lately for my decision to run a full. I have been considering it for a long time. Despite not having a real bucket list, this is something I want to say I have done. I want to have fun stories if I make it to old age. I also really like my running buddies and spending time with them helps me feel good. Having goals also helps me feel a little less hopeless when I’m battling depression.

I plan to bore you with my training stories and race stories for the next few months. My group of 5k training people are getting really close to the goal race.

Do you ever waffle about a decision even after you’ve made it? Do you have big plans far ahead of time? What race are you most looking forward to?

That Professor: Experience

In the past couple of years, I’ve picked up running as a hobby and made it somewhat my way of life. I have run 13 races that were 5k distance, 2 half marathons, a 10k and a 12k. Every race had a different feel to it. Getting out there and having experience has taught me more than any magazine article or website ever could. You could ask a thousand runners for tips and get a thousand different answers. Why is that? Is it because we secretly have no idea what we’re doing? Sort of. There are things that are absolutely true and things that are going to be true for one person and not another. Also, I’m no expert. A few things that I’ve learned about running and training are at least good to know and may be beneficial to some.

When I started out, my husband would tell me to pump my arms harder on hills to help ease the effort. This happens to help, but I’ve learned another one on my own. To avoid improper form and hurting yourself by running on your toes, which seems natural, anticipate your foot landing like you’re running on stairs. That is, strike the center of your foot with each step. Your feet and your calves will thank you. Your hips and booty might not. This can be different for some people, but it might help to try it out. Running down a hill also can go to personal preference. I don’t hold back and let it take me instead of trying to lean back. I’ve seen people very successfully “march” their run downhill. I find my speed demon approach to be more fun and believe running should be fun.

Try out your race day ritual weeks ahead of your race. Want to do a protein shake for breakfast on race day? Great. Try it out before a few of your long runs if you’re doing a distance or your fast runs if you’re doing a speed race. Will you be having some gels, jelly beans, or chewy things on race day? Bring them with you on your practice runs. Figure out what works for you. I like my gels, but I don’t like the dessert flavored ones as much when I’m hot. I stick with fruit flavors in the heat. I also prefer to warm them up in my hand before I take them. I know that because I’ve done it time and again in practice runs to make sure I know how to do it on race day. I do the same pre-run rituals for each long run as I plan on race day. I eat the same thing and drink water the same amount of time from my start as I plan to from the race start. I do the same food, drink, warm ups, and clothes layering a couple of times. The outfit I wear to run down to the bra, headband, and the hydration belt I wear have been worn in a training run or two by the time race day arrives. This is an important, and sometimes overlooked, aspect of training.

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Headbands, thin socks, breakfast, gels, electrolytes, handheld water for shorter runs, flip belt for phone and keys, hydration belt for longer runs (one bottle of water, one of electrolyte), pre and post run stretches and exercises, and my RoadID

Race day and you’re standing at the start anxious about what is about to happen. Warm up, silly. You warmed up for training runs. Give those shoulders a few rolls and don’t forget to wiggle those ankles around. Take deep breaths while you still can. Remember your race day plan. Were you planning on a specific pace or finish time? Is there an option to join a pace group?

Not every race has gone as planned. Last year, my goal was to finish a 5k in less than 30 minutes. In October, I ran a race that I was convinced would be the one. It was flat and I knew the course like the back of my hand. It was also after I’d done my first half marathon, so I thought a 5k would be a piece of cake. The first mile and a half was quick and difficult. Then, the wheels fell off and I had to pull back and walk/run the remainder of the race. I didn’t beat my time. I decided my whole season goal this year would be to get a sub 30 minute 5k. The first 5k of the year was near the end of training for a half marathon. The day was rainy and warmer than it had been. I didn’t expect much of a race, but I still planned to run as hard as I could go with my bestie beside me and at least try to go for the goal. I beat my goal by a minute. We crossed the finish line at the 29 minute mark.So despite the rain and having run 11 miles a few days before and a practice 10k the day before, I actually ran a faster time than ever before. I was soaked and happy. I’m determined to beat that time if even by a few seconds sometime this year.

My next race is one mile. I figure a little speed work in my regular workouts will cover me and I can actually see what its like to just run like hell for 1 mile and see how fast I end up going. Then, I have a 5k Superhero Dash where I’ll be wearing a Captain America tank and obnoxious red, white, and blue running capris. The outfit serves dual purpose for another race on July 4th. The Dash is for a charity in St. Louis called Unlimited Play. They build playgrounds that are all-inclusive so disabled children can enjoy playtime, too. I enjoy the cause and the theme and it is a bit of a tradition now. It was my first 5k race in 2014. Last year, I learned that taking off the entire winter and not training well will lead to a miserable first race. I still had fun, but the run involved more walking than I care to admit and being passed by an older man wearing JEANS who came in ahead of me. What was worse was that I hadn’t done my best and it showed in my performance.

I can’t imagine organizing these events. I  have a wardrobe that consists of many race t-shirts. I enjoy getting the shirts. Wearing one the day after often makes for a conversation topic and allows me to brag a little if I want. I think it’s fun to tell people I run and do races. I find out about races from social media, when I see that a friend has signed up, or that the running club my husband and I are part of is sponsoring one. I also do the goal races from the Fleet Feet Training Programs. I’ve noticed some races I’ve signed up for use a site called EventBrite to organize their events. If you’re an organizer you can check out their ticketing page to setup your next race. Recently, the full marathon I signed up for used that site. I will sign up for fun experiences that I’ve done before or something brand new. I also sign up for specific charities that I believe in.

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Most of my race shirts. Can you spot the fake one that isn’t a real race?

It’s hard to believe that just a couple of years ago, I was working on my first 5k race after trying running off and on for over a year before that. I trained for a half marathon over 12 weeks last summer. This summer into the fall, I’m going to spend 16 weeks training to run my first full marathon. In the time between, I’ll be running another half marathon and a few 5k races. I get to watch a group of people I’m mentoring with run their first 5k. I’ll hopefully beat my own best in both 5k and 13.1 miles. Then, I’m hoping I make it 26.2 miles without much incident in the marathon. Each run and each race is an adventure. I don’t enjoy every moment of it. I’m not always smiling when I’m done. However, I am proud of each run and each race. I push myself to better and to work harder. I learn strength, patience, and so much more.

Do you have tips for fellow runners that you’ve learned from experience? Do you set goals for yourself?

 

 

A dam, some rain, and cows

This weekend, I ran my first 12k distance race. I could have easily done the 4.37 mile race and still had a new distance under my belt, but I wanted to pick the middle one. My husband decided to sign up to run with me because I told him there would be post race beer. Ha, ha…sucker! *At least there was really beer.

We both went into it without really having trained for the distance, but I was better prepared. I haven’t taken off of running for more than just being sick. I ran a half marathon at the start of last month. He hasn’t run more than 5 or 6 miles in years and he probably hasn’t had a race this long before. It was time to spend together, though. We even arranged for his parents to come to our house and watch the kids so we could go together.Our best dates are adventures like hiking and running together. Don’t ask him about the time I jumped off of an ATV I was driving when we were about to crash into trees (consequently making him get thrown off into the woods).

Saturday morning was cloudy and the air was cooler than I’d expected it to be. I donned summer running gear since I get hot fast. I brought along my handheld water bottle with a couple of gels in a pouch to take during the race. We arrived early and chatted with people we know from my training programs and from his work. We occasionally heard thunder in the distance and felt drizzle start to fall. While trying to get myself and friends to the start, one friend said that there is a cannon to start the race and we won’t miss it. When the cannon went off, I almost jumped in fear from the sudden sound of it. I’m used to horns and the pistol sound. This was the sound of something huge. My friend ran by after that and said “See, I told you there was a cannon.”

In the first quarter mile, we took off and were running a steady pace. I noticed that it was a bit fast for the distance and told my husband that I couldn’t do over 7 miles at a 5k pace. I can barely do a 5k at the pace I do them. We settled in at a slower pace. Since it was along some fairly rural roads, they weren’t closed for the race and we often needed to alert other runners about oncoming cars and trucks on the road. My husband picked up on the cues and took care of the ‘car back’ shouting for me when needed. He said it was kind of fun to do the yelling. After the crowd started to break up a little and we were closer to being on our own, I spent a little time explaining to him how I was told to run the course. Basically, you’re doing math to ensure you don’t make the run longer than necessary. They measure the course in straight lines, so you don’t want to run too many curves or veer from side to side too often. He told me it made sense and he hadn’t really thought about it before. I have the Fleet Feet owner to thank for that tip when I ran with her last summer. We were running mile 6 when a little drizzle turned into a full on downpour. I told my husband water was getting in my eyes. He shrugged it off until I clarified that I had contact lenses in my eyes and the water was making it difficult for me to see. The rain finally started to let up when a stink filled the air. There was smoke coming from a nearby property and the air smelled like cow poop. Then, we could hear the cows. It was a little humorous, but also stinky. As we approached a turn, a sign that said “7.4” with an arrow pointing to the left was there. My husband picked up speed despite us being somewhere around 6.5 miles in. He finally asked where the finish line was and I said “3/4 of a mile ahead.” He thought we were much closer to the finish. As we neared the finish, a black SUV came through the crowd and passed in front of us. It edged itself a path along the same route we were taking toward the finish. Every time I tried to get past it, they were able to speed up and I couldn’t get around. Once I got back behind, they were seemingly going at a snail’s pace. I just wanted to finish. Finally able to break away, my husband and I ran to the finish. I think he  had more energy than I did at that point. I was spent. Once through, we had run the 12k in 1:17. It was a PR because we’d never run a 12k before. It probably wasn’t the best I could do, but it was the best given the series of events that day and  leading to that race.

I’m sure I’ll do that race again. Maybe the shorter one so I can put that distance (4.37 miles) under my belt. So far, I’ve had 2 races in the rain that were not bad at all this year. Wind is still my enemy.

I was in a slump for a couple of weeks struggling with the depression monster that whispers in my ear that I don’t enjoy running, people don’t like me, I’m not good at anything, etc. While it has been a struggle to get out and run, I’ve done it. I remember that depression isn’t the boss of me. I tell people that I might need to be checked on and they often do. I remind myself that I am capable of so many things that I wasn’t just a few short years ago. While I often feel alone and too embarrassed to tell anyone that I’m suffering, reaching out is an important step in self care. Goal setting and making plans for activities in the future are also important.

I’ve signed up to run a full marathon in November. I am going to run 26.2 miles on purpose. I plan to do another training program to prepare for it since running with a group is usually much more fun than doing it alone. I also anticipate a few of my friends joining the same program to make it even more fun. I can’t wait to get started, but on the other hand, I can wait to start training because I don’t want it to come up too fast. I need time to prepare. I’m only half way through being a mentor in my current 5k program, so I have time.

Oh, I got a cool sticker since the race was on year 35 (which also happens to be my age). The lake looks like a dragon to me. Roar!

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BEST DARN RACE BY A DAM SITE

 

 

All of the races!

It’s still race season!  I’ve run two 5k’s, a 10k, and a half marathon. This weekend, I’m signed up for a 12k race. I even get to do another race with my husband because we arranged for his parents to watch the kids.

I’ve been trying to keep up my distance. I was working my way back up to around 8 miles, but I somehow thought I had one more week. I’m only slightly worried that I’ll tire before I finish, but that is mostly because my husband running slow is me running at my top speed for longer than I’m used to.

I keep signing up for more races, though. I got an email about races in St. Louis and saw a couple races during the same weekend in June I’ll already be there for the Superhero Dash, but they’re at different times. I could make it to them all! Why I would even think that I would be okay doing that is a mystery. I signed up for a 1 mile race on Memorial Day along a parade route. I can’t imagine I’ll place, but I’m excited to do it because I ran the mile in track events a couple of times when I was…a preteen maybe. I’m signed up for a half marathon 8 days after another half marathon and this would be during full marathon training. I plan to do my first full in November. It is just so much fun to do races!

I’m involved in 5k training in a mentor capacity. I was tentative at first, but now it seems like people are getting into it. That race is still a little over a month away. I’m signed up for that one, of course. To think that just 2 years ago, I was preparing for my first race and so much has happened since then. I am in that position where I hope they love it as much as I do and I just can’t wait to see their reaction. I feel kind of like a parent that bought their kid the perfect gift and I can’t wait for them to open it and see their reaction. I know its a little silly, but it is also really exciting.

This summer will be full of running, racing, training, and hopefully some personal records. I’m learning that despite knowing I don’t like the way I look in the mirror or in pictures and I don’t like the numbers on the scale, that I am capable of things that I couldn’t do before. Running hasn’t completely squashed out my depression. I still have episodes where I’m down and I can’t find a way up. I have been in a funk lately that I’m having a little less luck pulling out of. I still get overwhelming anxiety where I can’t seem to calm my sense of impending doom. I deal with some of it better through running. I also have an easier time not feeling too alone because of the people I’ve met through running.

Do you have any race medals or swag to show off? Do you sign up for races for a particular reason? I often do it for the medal, but I also do it for the t-shirts and for the causes they support. Is running or some other fitness activity helping you deal with something?

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My first 5k race and my first medal. I do that one for the cause, but the medal is a bonus (The scar on my boob is from melanoma removal)