Expectation vs Preparation

Expectation vs Preparation

By: Jenn M.

I wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I carry an umbrella and even a reflective cone in my car “just in case.” I don’t expect that I’ll need it every time I have it. I just make sure that I’m prepared shall I need to be. I can’t really say I go through life thinking about when the next time I’ll need my seat belt, umbrella, or emergency road gear.

I don’t go through life expecting things to go awry. I’ve been struggling with running off and on since the marathon. Streaking helped for a while. That is, until I got sick and things started to just deteriorate noticeably in my life.

The usual wave of depression came over me as the colder weather settled in and outdoor enjoyment became more limited. I hadn’t been finding joy in many of the things I normally would. I started feeling more and more isolated and in turn, began to isolate myself. I’ve often felt that it insulated me from the blows of other people and their negative opinions of me. That was just what was happening internally.

I’m a mom. I have 3 kids and they are 17, 7, and (almost) 6. My 17-year-old has always been a challenge and I’ve often felt the weight of that challenge on my heart. We’ve had our moments where her good and moral self shines through. Often, we’ve seen the part of her that does things that are dishonest, sneaky, and not in line with the values of our family. While we were giving her more individual freedom, she was taking that and using it to connect with people who didn’t care for her well-being. We had multiple encounters with police and even had her run away from home a couple of times. This has all been going on over the course of the last month. Much of it has spilled over to the point that many people around us are aware of the situation and the details. She’s finally getting help, but this is also a long and bumpy road in itself. The rest of life doesn’t stop to help correct one difficulty. It just keeps going on and all of it just keeps coming. I still have other kids to care for with my husband. My husband and I still have to take care of each other. We both have responsibilities that haven’t lessened as our piles get bigger.

My younger two kids have been impacted by all of this. My son has let us know that he doesn’t want to leave home. He assumed that her absence was our doing as a result of her misbehavior they’d frequently witnessed over the last year. My younger daughter has complained about not liking school and used some techniques similar to the older daughter when trying to get her way. She once threatened that if made to get ready for bed without watching TV as she’d wanted, that she wouldn’t go to school the next day.

I was never expecting things to become so difficult and so challenging. I’d always thought that I was prepared for the worst case, though. If I’d lived my life constantly expecting her to blow up in my face, it still would have happened. I just would have gotten in my own way in feeling the joys of the moments between. The moments when all three of my kids were playing together or watching a movie at the same time would have been filled with the anticipation that something would go awry.

I’m prepared to continue to love all of my children unconditionally. I’m also prepared for tough love when needed. I expect bumps in the road, but I’m not going to say that I either expect things to rapidly change or to stay the same. I simply must be prepared either way while not dwelling on the possibilities.

I find it absolutely heart breaking that there are people out there willing to exploit this situation to put me down or to make themselves feel superior. This is my journey and you are not on it.

My daughter has her own journey and her own heart to deal with and I can only hope that she uses some of the will she has in her to do well for herself in life. Each of my kids will blaze his or her own trail and I’m here for a short time to do what I can.

My chalkboard quote for now is simple, but encompasses all of 1 Corinthians 13 from the bible:

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Strong means…

Strong. I think of strong as something a person works toward. Strength doesn’t come naturally, but is acquired through work and perseverance. Strong isn’t a size or a specific shape.

I read an article by a runner where she claimed that people use strong as a sleight toward people who are not of a thin build. I was surprised that someone would think that and I could not disagree with her more.

One of my running friends is fast and she works hard for her body. She also has struggled with eating disorders and a negative body image. Strong is the best way to describe her because skinny is commenting on her physique instead of her effort. She works hard for her build. She naturally carries a small frame. Strong is in no way in reference to her size or comparison of her size.

I don’t want people to take “strong” away from us women when we’re supporting one another. I hope to be strong. I strive for it. I want to be a strong runner and I don’t want others to think that they’re being called something when they hear people tell them they are strong.

Strength comes from within and if we’re going to keep telling everyone that what is on the inside matters, then that is one perfect way to describe another person. Remember that there are going to be times where you feel like people notice something about you that you’re more attuned to than anyone else. Most of the time, those people are too wrapped up in the things that they are preoccupied by to notice the things you’re insecure about.

I’m encouraging everyone to proceed with strength. Do that thing you want to do, but feel too intimidated by what others will think. Find out if you enjoy it. Then, nothing should stop you from doing it. *I’m talking about fitness and sports, not hopping in to a bear’s cage in hopes of becoming lifelong pals.

Please, if you see someone do something that inspires you, let them know you see their strength.

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We Plan, The Universe Laughs

By: Jenn M.

The Streak

I planned to do the holiday streak and spread it out a little further and go until my January 5th birthday. I did not make it past December 19th thanks to gastroenteritis that left me feeling too weak to get out of bed for a little over a day. I’m being generic since it will remain a mystery what made me sick in the first place. It could’ve been sushi or cookie dough and it could’ve been kid germs.

Winter Whine

I picked back up and tried to stay on top of doing a mile a day once I felt better. Knowing I’d broken the streak made it easier to just brush it off as something to do later. I have been consistently working out, though. The weather and winter break just isn’t allowing it to be outside as much as I’d like it to be. I feel a little caged at this point. No early winter training has ever gone quite right since I started running.

I like running in the snow because it insulates sound and it is more peaceful outside. It’s like the world is giving me the peace I crave. I am not a fan of the cold, but I have a lot of gear to prepare for it. I like a challenge that makes me feel tougher. I’m not talking about stepping out when it is dangerous to be in the elements for even a few minutSes. That’s unnecessary practice because one only gets to lose a nose once.

Plan vs Reality

I planned perfect attendance for my Winter Warriors group program. Getting sick meant I missed a gym session. Not only did I not want to miss that chance to decompress, I wanted to actually get the attendance I’ve been trying to get the past 3 years. There is an incentive for perfect attendance, but I just want to be able to say that I accomplished perfect attendance. Perfect anything and it’s a safe bet I’m going for the title. Except the perfect week reference from HIMYM. Not that.

This is my last week of Winter Warriors. I still get one incentive for my attendance, which is great. Except that I know I missed that one gym session and I’m nuts.

Upcoming

I will be mentoring again. It has been a little over a year since I last mentored any runners. Fortunately, I’m in the 5k program. The distance is nice and I don’t need to train any longer until summer. This also offers me the opportunity to run with people who are just getting into running and remind me why I started and stayed. I found a notebook in a stack I took a photo of my page 1. I’ll bet it was in 2014 before I’d run my first half marathon and when I’d gotten serious about it. Not all plans get sidelined and sometimes they work out really well.

If you ever feel like quitting, remember why you started in the first place:

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I can cross things off that list and I can add things to it, but this is why I started and this is what is at the heart of what I do. I want to keep running for the same reasons.

Why did you start your fitness journey? What brought you to your favorite workout? Make a list for yourself on paper or online and save it where you can go back and reference it from time to time. Don’t change it. Use a different page to update or edit. Then, remember the thoughts that were at the core of your personal journey.

 

Holiday Streakin’

I have not been to write on my blog in awhile. Which is totally fine since I’m told nobody blogs anymore. I do, though.

I had a pretty serious issue with running after the marathon. It wasn’t related to injury or pain. I just hated running. Each time I laced up to go, I’d feel ambivalent about it. I loved running before. I mean, it gets me outside for awhile each time and I get to burn off some of the stress in life. Except, I suddenly didn’t want to run. I wasn’t getting any faster or better at it anyway. I wasn’t going to be winning anything for speed and I wasn’t improving upon my own times.

I didn’t quit running. I talked to my friends about it. Jane talked me into joining a group of people running at least 1 mile for 40 days. The group is based from the Runners World holiday streak, but we have a local group to keep us accountable. We do silly challenges and take selfies to show our running adventures. My goal is to make it through 45 days because my birthday is the 5th of January.

I don’t hate running anymore. I’m slowly improving my time and I’m getting back into “I get to run today,” over, “I have to run today.” That still makes a huge difference in my attitude toward doing it. I haven’t run over 3 miles in awhile and I don’t have any plans to very soon. I’m not running because I’m training for something. I am doing it for me. Back to basics.

Also, when I say I’m streaking, I am still wearing proper attire for the weather. There are windchill numbers to take into account lately. I’m not willing to get frost bite on any naughty bits. I’m more comfy in clothes anyway. So, streaking is my way back to running for the joy of running.

Do you have any plans to scale up or down on training? Do you feel like you have to train or that you get to do it? How does that change your perspective?

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It had been forever since I’d seen a sub 11 minute mile. It helps to have snow pelting the face while running…

 

Little Known Safety Feature

By: Jenn M.

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Our clocks have been set back to regular time and you want to squeeze in any daytime runs you can before they’re all in the dark, whether you’re an early riser or an evening runner. The other day, my cousin went on such a run. Running in the day didn’t make her feel any safer thanks to some crude onlookers, You can read her experience here on her blog. Yes, we both have blogs about fitness and wellness. Go figure.

I am a firm believer that 100% of sexual assault is caused by assailants and 0% is caused by the victim. You could disagree, but you’d be wrong and it really isn’t an opinion as much as a factual statement. I do, however, want to share with you something that I use on my phone that could help quell some concerns and help in the case of an emergency. I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone and my S6 had the same feature. I am not familiar with all Android products, but this is more about safety than the technology end of it. My phone [and maybe yours] has a feature where all you do is press the power button on the side quickly 3 times and it will take audio, video, and location information and send it in an “SOS” message to designated recipients. Here’s a basic tutorial using screen shots from my own phone.

From settings, go to Privacy and Emergency:

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Once in the PRIVACY AND EMERGENCY Settings, go to “Send SOS Messages”:

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Using the on screen selection, slide the indicator into the “On” position [often the position with the dot to the right].

Click on the words “SEND MESSAGES TO” and select up to 4 people from your phone book whom you want to receive your SOS message. [Make sure these people are aware they’re designated to this important contact]

Adjust the other settings to personal preferences and keep the phone handy

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I practiced mine a few times with my husband to make sure it would work and get used to how it records. It notifies you that you’ve sent an SOS in your notifications bar and you will see the pictures it took in your gallery.

I am disappointed that this post is necessary, but I hope that it helps someone out and that you get good use of it.

*Please feel free to share my post, but also give me credit. I love writing and I don’t get paid to do it, so just getting credit for it is nice.

Quick update

By: Jenn M

It’s November 5th. Actually it’s the 6th. Dang it. So I don’t know the date. No biggie. I have some things running around in my head and I haven’t updated my blog since my interesting experience at the Chicago Marathon about a month ago.  Yes, I want a rematch with 26.2 eventually.

I have been extremely aware of and self conscious about my weight gain. I put on around 25 lbs and allowed myself to put weight loss on the back burner during marathon training. I decided upon ‘no weight gain’ during training to ensure I was properly fueling. I actually succeeded at the plateau. I didn’t gain anything training, but I’m still disappointed in my appearance. I know I’m more jiggly and wide than I want to be. I’m not happy that I bought new clothes to wear this winter because nothing fits.

I got a new swimsuit to wear to the gym because the old one is simply too revealing with my new curves [mine are rolls, not curves]. I am really hard on myself and my husband would probably be the first to say so. He tells me every time I have a clothing catastrophe and resulting breakdown in my closet.  The good part is that I’m actually thinking about and starting to plan going to the gym. I haven’t had the energy or the courage to step out and do something about my weight.  I get so caught up in wondering why I should try to hard to just be average.

I am trying to get back to where I was before my injury and hopefully make it stick this time. I want to enjoy working out and look forward to it. I know that the energy comes from exercise and I have to get started to want to continue. This isn’t new to me. I never thought I’d be back at this size or have slipped this far back in my fitness routine. What I know is that I don’t like the results I’m getting from being inactive and lazy about my health. Laziness comes in so many forms and in excuses. My depression is better when I’m eating right and working out. I feel more confident when I’m healthy. I want that back and I have to work for it instead of whining for it. Fortunately, I joined a program that will at least get me into the gym once a week and running once a week. It’s up to me to do the rest.

Do you feel like you let yourself slip up? Do you have something that motivates you when you feel like you want to give up?

Apples are my go to snack. They’re full of fiber and they’re portable. These are Fuji apples, but I love golden delicious, honeycrisp, pink lady, and many other types.

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Conquered the Nope

I totally conquered the big fat nope of moving forward for 26.2 miles. I must admit, it was mostly grit and stubbornness that got me through. I said more than once that “I’ll be damned if I don’t finish this thing come hell or high water.” I didn’t realize it was going to be such a struggle to get to the finish line. Well, I was worried I wouldn’t make it that far.

THE START

I combined my hotel reservation with my friend, Jane to save us a buck or two when the hotel mentioned they were overbooked and didn’t have the room I’d requested. Our friend, Maureen was staying nearby. Her husband drove us as close to the start as he could. We wound up taking a road under Chicago to get to Michigan Ave and having a fairly short walk to our entry point. I went through security, lifted my jacket to show my holster was simply water and food and joined back with my friends.

We walked on to the restrooms and made it through the lines. We sat on the ground in our start corral and heard the first wave start. I sat beside a man who had drawn on his shirt, “Maria Survivor from PR,” and I told him I was happy to see him. Maureen, Jane, and I took a few selfies because Jane was doing something that wasn’t saving them. So we wound up with this lovely photo:

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At 8 am, I decided to meander to a pace group so I could meet people to run with. I didn’t really find a partner despite chatting it up with a few people. When we started moving forward to the start, I felt the sudden urge to dig into the ground like a dog on a leash not wanting to go. I resisted the urge and walked forward. The image stuck in my head, though. I looked down at my Garmin watch and probably hit it twice because after coming out from under the first bit under a tunnel, the time wasn’t advancing. It didn’t help to start the run tracking, either. The GPS wasn’t working. I’d planned to use it for timing, but I had no idea how much time had elapsed from when I started. The website says I started right before 9am. When the heat of the day was just started to set in.

My Kind of People

I’d started doing my intervals after I got past my frustration with forgetting to start my watch. A group of people in front of me put their hands in the air and said, “3,2,1….walk. And reset.” Then, they all put their arms in the air for a stretch and walked. I replied, “If you insist,” and started walking. Their intervals were 4 minutes run 2 minutes walk, which was close enough to my 5:1 intervals. I asked if I could join and they were gracious hosts to my nervous self. We all stopped at the bathrooms at the same time, which was good because I think I would have peed myself trying to skip them to make good time. I’d waited awhile at the start and was used to starting at 6:30 am and earlier for long runs on Sundays.

I kept up with the group for awhile. They were great fun. I shook my booty and wiggled my shoulders to “Bomboleo,” when I heard it. I smiled when people shouted my name, which was written in permanent marker on golden ‘duck tape’ I’d pinned to my Team Challenge jersey. I felt great and the crowd was so amazing! No wonder people liked this race.

I lost the group at one point and found some people in the 5 hour 45 minute finish pace group. I asked them if they were doing intervals, and two women said they were. While settling in with them, I saw the group I’d lost. I ran over a median to get to them and we all chatted away. One woman had a mom with Colitis and she said she’d appreciated my charity cause. She started to fall back and I struggled to stay with the group. I kept pushing and just couldn’t catch them on a walk break where I tried to run to them. I slowed down.

Bestie For a Day

One member of the group, Lynn, had also fallen back and she caught up to me and told me that we were going to stick together and get it done even if we had to walk the rest of the race. We weren’t even at 7 miles yet. I was pissed that my running consisted of one block at a time.

We danced together to “Uptown Funk” as it played on the street. We shared our misery and a few stories about how and why we were doing our first marathon there. She had an outpouring of support in honor of a close friend who had passed away and she was extremely grateful to all of the people who did it in his name for her to be able to meet her goal. She was running with Team Salute. Hubby took our pic at one of his cheering spots.

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Fortunately, Lynn was actually from Chicago and started giving me my own speed walking tour where we broke into a run once in awhile together to keep our speed up in the range where we’d finish in the official time (6 hours 30 minutes). My legs and my butt were so stiff, running was becoming less frequent. I lost Lynn after mile 14. I tried to catch her, but with the crowd and my body revolting against me, I couldn’t do it. I ate my gels and I didn’t feel light headed. I just felt heavy everywhere.

I found a man who was obviously a Nike Pacer walking. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was injured, but he wanted to finish. I told him I hoped he did and that I planned the same.

Another man was walking along in a “Marathon Maniacs” shirt.  They’re an elite club that I can’t fathom every qualifying for. I tapped his shoulder and I said “I hear walking to the finish is better than not finishing,” to which he told me he had to walk. He encouraged me to push myself if I could because he was falling behind on the time and I would likely fall into that category soon. He was a triathlete who had broken a hip on his bike during a race.  He told me he was trying to decide if he was experiencing regular pain from endurance or from injury. I went on to talk to him as he decided that his pain was not on both sides, and was therefore more likely to be an injury. I walked with him to the next aid station and said my farewell. His parting words to me were that, “Seriously, nothing new on race day. It’s always tempting, but just don’t.”

Worst Race Fear Happened

Anyone who talked to me during training knew that my fear was being passed up by the slackin’ wagon, which is a name I assigned for the car that I assumed disqualified a runner from the race because that’s what I was told.

It wasn’t one car. It was a BMW SUV with a timer attached to the roof followed by about 5 more vehicles moving at around 5 mph in the lane to the left of the runners. It pulled up and I started to run keeping stride 1 or 2 steps ahead of it. I did that for about 1 mile before I completely lost them. I also completely lost my composure and started crying. Not a couple tears dropping down. I was ugly crying in public. Where people could see me. I don’t know how there couldn’t be pictures of it, but my race photos aren’t ready yet.

People were still there to cheer. I was convinced I’d been DQ’d and wouldn’t get a medal. I figured the finish line would be gone when I got there. I put myself down for everything. I prayed to God to speak to me and tell me what to do. Then, I saw duct tape on the ground that was in the shape of the number “1” and had the word “mile” written on it. This was not a mile to the end. I was at 23. I was so mad for a second until I realized Jane kept saying to me in the days leading up to the marathon, “We’re going to do this. One mile at a time. That’s it. Just one mile. Then another one.” I put my butt in gear and I mustered this ridiculous fast walk that was the top speed I could muster. I felt stinging in my heels going all of the way up to the backs of my legs and I carried on.

Familiar People and Fans

I had an ongoing text conversation with my husband. It was ridiculously hard with my hand so swollen, it looked like a glove filled with air. I read messages from my friend Liz, who was encouraging me, but I couldn’t respond. There was no definition in my fingers, my knuckles were gone, and it was so swollen I couldn’t make a fist. I approached a bridge where Angel from the charity was cheering for me. I looked at her with such a pathetic face, she asked me if I needed food or water and I burst into tears. I pointed to the convoy that was still just ahead of me and said, “I can’t keep up with that thing and I’m trying so hard.” She said to ignore it and just go. This is the picture of a woman feeling like she’d been beaten by herself (with that damn convoy of cars next to me on the road).

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I realized that my goal was to cross the finish line. That’s what I’d told my friend Jill when she started helping me with my training after the many pitfalls I’d encountered. There were people in front of me, but there were people behind me. Even if there was no finish line when I got there, 26.2 miles was bound to be marked by something and the furthest I’d been before Sunday was 20 miles and some change. It all made sense. I needed to get to the finish any way I could manage.

I grinned every time someone yelled at me to smile, despite the fact I was sobbing off and on. I waved to people if they called my name and I thanked them. One man intensely looked me in the face and said “Jenn, you’ve got this! You’re almost there, Jenn!” I really wanted to just sit down and cry instead of walking and being unable to run anymore. I kept passing race photographers above me and I just hated that I knew the pic would not only be me walking, but me crying and walking.

My husband, Matt, caught up with me in mile 25 and wound up walking me all of the way to mile 26. Nobody stopped him. They just waved and told me I was doing a good job. That didn’t help the crying any. I was like “No I’m not,” quietly. Matt kept shushing me and trying to reassure me. When we broke off right before mile 26, I started to try to run again. I found Roosevelt hill to be easily surmountable compared to what I’d been told and how I’d felt approaching the famous “hill at the end of the course.” It was painful and everything in my body told me not to move anymore. I mustered a strange little running shuffle for .2 miles and crossed the finish running and hearing people cheer me on. The finish line was still there. The announcer was still announcing finishers. People in the bleachers cheered. I took it all in as I approached each group of people holding items for the runners.

A man put a medal around my neck and I burst into tears and said “I get one of these?! THANK YOU!!!” He looked a little taken by my reaction, but the lady next to him said “Congrats. You did it.” I walked ahead and saw a person giving out Goose Island 312 beer and she put one in my hand and congratulated me. A man with a bible verse* on his shirt was standing at the end with a medal. He looked right into my face, offered his hand to shake, and said “You did a great job.” Total stranger. I realized I’d died during the race and somehow was having a very weird entrance into the after life involving a foil cape, cold washcloths, beer, water, and a protein shake. Oh, and lots of tears. It didn’t make me stop crying. I took a snap when I finished.

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That crap on my band is salt accumulation from my sweat.

In the End

I did  not enjoy that experience except that it was a great crowd and awesome race support all around. They had plenty to drink and plenty to eat along the course. There were water jugs to refill the bottles I carried on my belt. I just had a lot of training roadblocks. That experience doesn’t mean I won’t do it again. I won’t do it anytime soon, of course. I think I need more time to recover and some time off before training again.

I was prepared to finish the race, but not mentally prepared for the feeling of defeat that comes with falling behind and finishing in 6 hours and 48 minutes. By no means did I come in last. There were people that took 8 hours and a former quadriplegic who completed the race in 15 hours. The reasons I’d broken down on the course and been so upset seem so small in the rear view. Not one thing that I’d gotten upset about was worth quitting. Deep down, I knew it. Jane knew it. She told me that if I couldn’t finish, I’d still do it due to the grit I have. She was right. I thought about it while I walked with the blisters stinging in my shoes. My hips and butt were trying to keep me from moving any more. I wasn’t going to give up. I really would have crawled if I had to because I was going to finish the marathon distance no matter how I did it.

 

Afterburn

I had to walk a bit to meet up with Matt because of all of the security. Great job, Chicago. It was a very safe feeling place. I opted to walk back to the hotel from near Millennium Park and the Bean. I finally got to see the Willis (Sears) Tower, but was too exhausted to even try for the Skydeck. At one point, Matt stopped me, asked me to lean against something, and pulled my socks and shoes off to put my Oofos sandals on. It was so sweet. I walked along with my medal and my bib with my husband through the streets of  Chicago to my hotel in Greek Town. I took a few stumbles where I had to grip tighter to Matt to get there, but the walk was actually helpful in calming me down and making my muscles feel looser. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Despite feeling like I could eat everything on the menu, I didn’t finish my burger and fries. I downed two pints of Goose Island Fest Beer, though. Very nice, by the way.  I napped a little on the way home, and I napped a lot on Monday.

What’s next?

I have a 5k on Saturday the 14th. Then, I’ll be working on my speed and my half marathon pace until I start training for a sprint triathlon with my local Fleet Feet. Another marathon is in the future because my time was not what I wanted, but I’m not signing on just yet. Maybe 2019 will look better to me.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or suggestions on what you want me to write, let me know! 

*I think it was Hebrews 12:1, but it could have been Phillipians 4:13. Either way, it was one I already knew, but needed to see at that moment.

Impending Race

Putting something in perspective often makes it seem like a bigger deal and a smaller deal at the same time.

This is my last evening before I leave for Chicago to run my first marathon after a little over 20 weeks of training. A training plan that, in the beginning, I wasn’t fit enough to run a continuous 5 km without stopping.  I actually couldn’t walk faster than at a 20 minute pace fresh out of physical therapy.

Last year, I trained 16 weeks for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I got my first awards at 5k races during training. I had some of my fastest races. I ran 3 half marathon races during that training. I bonded with people through the long runs and made new friends. I got faster and ran distances with more ease than I had before. I trained so hard to accomplish the distance and conquer the mental anguish that often comes with distance running. Most of those things didn’t matter by race day. I fell on the sidewalk while walking to my kid’s bus stop to pick him up from school and my foot was too swollen to fit into my right shoe. I stood on the sidelines and cheered for people I knew on the course and even people I didn’t know. I trained 16 weeks to spectate my first marathon.

This  year, I’ve struggled through most runs. My feet and my ankles didn’t always allow me to run as far or as fast as I’d wanted to. I had things happen where I couldn’t get out and train. I almost gave up more than once. I messaged a friend and told her I was going to quit. She told me that I couldn’t quit because my resilience through it all made her believe she could one day run a marathon and I couldn’t take that away. I finally used my Facebook to ask for help from anyone who knew anything about how to get me across the finish. I had no idea who I was supposed to ask. A friend stepped up and has been giving me workouts for each week to keep me moving and has actually gotten me to the point where I believe I can go 26.2 miles. It won’t be as fast as my goal time was last year before the injury. It won’t be with the people I trained with last year [but they’re running the same race anyway]. I’ve been able to form new bonds despite my sporadic training. I have a plan. I have hope that I’m going to see the finish line and just be overcome with emotion when I cross.

Of course, I’m also a nervous wreck and have doubts. I worry that I’ll take longer than the allotted time and not get my medal. I worry about bathroom emergencies, hunger, and pretty much most of the things you can imagine going wrong while running [weather cancellation during the race, anyone]. I check the weather each day. I’ve packed my bags and I’m ready to go. I’m probably over packed at this point. It’s likely that 6 liters of water and 13 smaller water bottles might be excessive for the amount of time I’m staying. I just want it to work out this time. I can’t stand the thought of training three times for my first marathon. I don’t know if I have it in me to put all of this time in again without believing it just wasn’t meant to happen.

So, wish me luck. I’ve raised money for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and it has been an amazing journey this time around. I’m going to go visualize a finish where I do a little dance at the end and the weather in Chicago is perfect and cool.

And of course, this headband gets passed on to another person who hasn’t fully gone crazy yet:

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20 mile attempt and taper

I haven’t been consistent with writing about this training session because training has been erratic. Last year, I’d followed the plan exactly for 16 weeks. This year, I started training 20 weeks ahead of the race so I could ease back into long distance running. I hadn’t eased back into short distances. I have experienced more drawbacks and delays than I’d anticipated. I was so sure that I’d only miss 10-15% of my training. There have been physical problems, family issues requiring my attention, and I’ve felt discouraged on more than one occasion. I want to do it, but what if I can’t do it?

September 17th was supposed to be my 20 mile run. I’d done 16 miles the weekend before with no physical pain. My mind had turned on me, but my body was fine. I ran a race on the 16th and it didn’t really go well. My legs were tight the entire time and I had a slight pain in my right foot that I couldn’t pin point. I would describe it as just an “ow” sensation when I tried to pick up speed. I didn’t think much of it and I prepared for my 20 mile run the next day. I woke earlier than I do on weekdays, got my bathroom rituals done and had my water and a Stinger waffle (gluten free salted caramel is my flavor of choice) like I’ve had for every long run since some time last year.  I set out to meet up with a group to run with all of my race day items on – except anything related to chilly weather because it was hot and humid already.

We had three new runners with our usual group of three and the six of us started together. As it got hotter, I started to hang back and chat with someone who was also in the back of the group. Then, my foot pain started. I felt like something stabbed into the inside of my ankle and the posterior shin. It throbbed and stung as I moved. At 11.8 miles, I stopped my run. I couldn’t go without worrying that I’d have an injury on race day. I started messaging runner friends to reinforce what I already knew. I needed to stop the run. My friend Liz was the one to tell me to go home, get ice, and rest it. I went to my car, sat down and almost cried while I left my group to finish the other 8 miles that were left in the planned run for the day. It took me a long time to actually start the car and leave the parking lot. I took some time to stretch, got back in, and drove to the big name coffee shop drive thru because I didn’t want to see anyone I knew inside. I went home and iced my foot and took some ibuprofen. Then, I hashed out my running plan with a friend who has been helping me train after the injury I had halfway through this training.

No more running two days in a row until after race day. I would need to do workouts that combine running with other exercises to keep my body in motion for long periods of time without taxing my feet or legs through impact. One day, I did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ran outside for 3 miles, and got on the elliptical for another 30 minutes. That run in the middle was difficult enough that I stopped often to stretch my calves. My legs would not loosen up and refused to allow me to do much more than trot along at a 14-15 minute pace. I waited until Friday to run again and set out for 3-5 miles. I did 3 very slow, difficult, and painful miles. It wasn’t any of my previous injuries that came back. My legs felt like the calves would literally snap if I fully pointed or flexed either foot. I couldn’t move any faster, so I had to walk a lot and stay in forward motion. My miles were lurking dangerously close to 15 minutes. The pace is not a big deal unless I’m training for a race that has a time limit that happens to be an average of 15 minute miles. I obsessed over 15 minute miles. I want to finish my marathon the 2nd time I’ve trained for my first. I want to finish and get a medal, too.

I signed up for a “brick” workout [bike + run] for Sunday. The local Fleet Feet was having a Brick and Brunch event in cooperation with a bike shop, Bloomington Cycle and Fitness. My running buddies said we had 12 miles to run that day and they’d participate in the event as well. We ran 9 miles ahead of the event, got out our bikes and set out. I was the slowest person out there on the bike. I was just barely ahead of the person who was there to look out for the group from the back, or the sweeper. The two women I rode with in the back of the pack were really nice about my snail pace and had tips to offer and ways to help make my riding more comfortable. When finished, my running partners were waiting and we set out for a ridiculously hot and humid 3 mile run.

I have never wanted to quit a run in recent history more than this one and I would have if I wasn’t with Denise and Dianna. I was a hot mess. My legs felt like someone tied weights to them. Somehow I was actually running faster than I felt like I was (pace wise). The sun was in the position to beat down from above and the trail was not offering sufficient shade for cooling. We were all miserable. I kept stopping to walk and urging them to continue on and I’d just have to catch up with them later. They were also miserable and we probably evened out the walk breaks inside of the last mile. Except the last 1/4 mile where we ran simply to get back and have something cool to drink.

Oddly enough, I had a blast Sunday. Even that last little run. I was so happy that I ran without my legs protesting the entire time that I just kept saying how thankful I was for one good run. I totally am thankful. I got to hang out and kind of soak in the reasons I enjoy running.

I made myself some really cool sleeves for the marathon using transfer paper, my home printer, and an iron. It was a little challenging and I bought cheap sleeves just in case I messed up or melted the material. I’m used to my other ones with thumb holes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy these for race day. I do see they’re imperfect and I’m aware that they’re both for the same arm, but I’ll still be able to read them and know what they say. I am excited about the marathon. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish. I’m thankful for the memorable training sessions and the time I get to spend focusing on little more than my cadence, breathing, and what’s immediately ahead.

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Unsettling, but normal

I have started freaking out about 26.2 miles more regularly than before. Today, walking to the bus stop, I was thinking about what the chances were I’d fall in leaves again close to race day. I mean, fall is coming, you guys! The leaves are going to FALL! Yeah, so its like that.

This Sunday, I ran 16 miles. My training plan has kind of gone sideways since I had some inflammation issues right in the middle of training for this marathon. My friends that I would normally run with were only slated for 14 miles, but I’m having to ramp up a little quicker because they’ve already done 18 (last week) and I have catching up without injury to do.

It was a solid run. We chatted away the miles and I found it to be mostly fun. Then, my brain short circuited. We were almost to the starting point at 14 miles, where they’d leave me to finish my last 2 miles alone. For no particular reason, my scumbag brain started in on me about how bad everything hurt after only 14 miles and how there was no way I could stand the pain of 26.2 miles. I stopped in my tracks. My friends Denise and Dianna ran on ahead and I walked slowly trying to clear my head and think about anything that wasn’t running. I saw a group walking together and I made myself pick up to a run, turn to them and say “Hello,” with the best smile I could muster. The little girls and their adult walking companion smiled back. I decided to be strong and at least get back to my friends.  They came back to me and I told them I was just too far inside of my own head and needed a minute.

We got back to where we’d all parked and I tossed a shirt into the car, grabbed some sports drink from the cooler in my trunk, climbed into the driver’s seat, turned the car on, and then turned it back off and got out. I took off on my run to my friends yelling “Go, Jenn!” They were going into the local co-op grocery probably to get smoothies.

I ran south on the trail waving to every single person that went past me. Most passersby were on bikes. In my head, I joked that I should ask them to circle around and make sure I’m still alive in like  15 minutes. I tried to recall song lyrics. I looked at discarded things along the trail and the road and made up stories about why they had to be littered there. I have a pretty amusing imagination. I saw a sign that said “student mail,” and none of the universities in town were near my location, so I bet that sign had a really interesting story that probably involved vandalism and alcohol. Oh, there were beer bottle caps lined up in a perfect little row with most of them donning golden foil with some peeled away, but of the same type.

I turned around before I hit 15 because I didn’t feel like exploring the places beyond the trail like I often do. When I got back to my car, I paused and took a drink of water. I looked down and I saw a rock there. One of those kindness project rocks that people paint and hide and post to Facebook. I picked it up and examined it. There was a book painted on it. I started to move away and there sat another one. I couldn’t wait to show my kids those rocks and go somewhere to hide them. I stuffed them into the pack that held my gels earlier in the run and I took off to finish my run. I looked at my watch every few seconds hoping that I was finished and I could just walk back the car. I no longer felt completely exhausted, though. I had energy to move myself forward.

When I got back to my car after 16 miles and a little cool down walk, I actually spent a little extra time stretching at my car. I felt like people may have been looking at me, but it didn’t matter. I ran 16 miles. It was ugly and it was not the good kind of memorable. I started picking on myself and cutting myself down while I was still running. Even though I’d already crossed the halfway point for a marathon distance, I was tearing myself down. I stopped, I hit reset, and I moved on. They’re right about motivation. It doesn’t last and that’s why you have to keep finding things that spark that light inside.

I truly enjoy running and even though not every run is enjoyable, I’m doing something I take pride in. I’m cool with the people that think it’s crazy or pointless.

I got this on a postcard in the mail and it is going be one of my sparks for this weekend’s 20 mile run:

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What keeps you going? Do you have any mantras that get you through the tough spots? I like “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Good luck on your training goals! Maybe you could do a race for charity sometime, too?

My fundraising site is here: Click these words