Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Easy for You!

I hear it all the time, "Oh that should be easy for you!"  It's true that at this point, I have run 29 half marathons, 10 full marathons, 1 50K, and 2 50-milers, in addition to countless shorter races.  But I am here to tell you, it's not easy.  My path to get here wasn't easy.  And each and every run takes work. The only huge difference between then and now is the mental advantage of knowing what I'm capable of when I push through my barriers.

First, my weight journey has been a long one.  I went into the hospital to deliver baby #3 at 238 lbs.  Even after I got rid of the weight that naturally goes away after childbirth, I leveled out at a solid 196.  In February 2009, I stopped the sporadic work-outs and got serious. My goal: to lose 50 lbs -- and hit 146.  By June 2009, I was down to 168. When I hit 168, the physical difference was large enough, that I plateau'd.  I stayed at 168 for the next year and a half, until I finally realized this was not my goal weight, and I didn't have to be content with being "ok".  I worked my rear off and by June 2011, I hit 150.  Held the weight pretty steady for about a year, then started to put weight back on and topped back out at 162. A couple months ago, I went back to the hard core, serious about being healthy version of me... and here I am, happy to report, that I now weigh 146.  My goal weight from over FOUR YEARS ago. It might not be 100+ lbs like some of the inspirational stories I read out there and even some of my personal friends who have accomplished amazing things, but I'm here to say, that at any size, IT IS NOT EASY.  It's hard work. It's ups and it's downs... and hopefully in the end, the steps forward outweigh the steps back.

Second, the distance is never easy.  It doesn't matter how many runs I do or how many races I run, if I'm running to my full capability, it is inevitably hard.  I may be capable of a 50-miler, but I can promise you I still struggle at many half marathons.  In fact, at a 5k this past December, I completely hit a wall at mile 2.  TWO.  Hit a wall.  You'd think as many distance races as I've run, this would all come easy and natural, but I'm here to promise, it doesn't.  Even in training, while I occasionally have a double digit run that goes really well, there are days I've struggled to get in 5 miles. I ran a 9 miler last week, where I gave myself permission to quit at 6. But then I pushed to 7, then figured I was close enough to at least try for 8, and yes, I ended up doing all 9, but it was a battle, every step.  Just Saturday, I had a 20 mile trail race.  From mile 5 on, my body was done.  Not sure if I was under-fueled, my legs were revolting against the mileage build-up of the week, or the heat, humidity, and extreme hills were beating me up - but, no kidding, I think I walked at least half that race. HALF. I was walking fast, but still... I even logged the race as a "hiking" workout instead of a "run".  It was that bad.  Again, it's not easy. I struggle. Sometimes I fail. But I keep pushing. It's not easy for me at any distance.

As a coach, I hear the same struggles over and over... I'm here to tell you:
- There are days I don't want to get out of bed.
- There are runs where I feel awful the whole time - stomach issues or heavy legs or mental demons.
- I get frustrated with my pace all. the. time. (You'd think with all my experience, I'd be fast, but nope, still the same ol' mid-pack runner that I've always been... back-of-the-pack on trails.)
- I struggle with comparing myself to others.
- The same "I can't" and "Just" and "Only" that everyone else does come out of my mouth.
- There are days that I wonder why I torture my body and want to quit it all.
- I like to eat, and often I fall into the "over-rewarding your run" category, and I have to struggle to get back to the right intake.
- I've quit runs. Just flat out gave up and declared the run over.
- I've epicly ruined races by not following the race plan.
- There have been runs where I made a list of excuses why it was bad, when I know the truth is that I mentally just stopped trying because it was "hard".

If you haven't faced any of these things, you probably will! All this to say, running isn't easy. Staying healthy isn't easy. But when you do it, when you set your mind to it, and push through no matter the circumstances or possible "excuses", it's a triumphant moment, and it is always always WORTH IT.  So get up, lace your shoes, and go for a run!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to Ruin a Comeback

I'm no journalist and this is no "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", but as this post came together in my head, I realized that it was much easier to express the "don't"s than the "do"s in this scenario.

How many of us have been injured?  Or maybe had shifting priorities that took us away from running?  Or maybe just a complete lack of running that led to a long break?

You remember that, once upon a time, you were a pretty good runner.  Maybe you weren't elite, maybe you weren't winning awards, but you could hold together a solid run and return home feeling good about yourself and your accomplishment.

At some point, you're ready to return.  You're ready to get back out there.  The problem is... well, often there are lots of problems...

- Don't expect to find the "love" overnight. If you want a relationship and not a one-night stand, you have to commit to putting in an effort.  Often the love part will come later.  The first goal has to be consistency, and sometimes that means pushing yourself out the door even when you don't want to.  Once you get back into the habit, then you remember why you ran in the first place.  It might take 2 weeks, it might take 6 weeks, but it is very unlikely it'll happen the first run out of the gate.

- Don't discount the value of schedule. As a coach, the thing I most often hear when someone is starting to work back is that they don't want the pressure of a schedule.  They want to run when they feel like it.  The myth is that it'll somehow be easier or more fun without the expectation and deadline.  The truth is, like I said in the last point, that you're likely not going to hit your stride without forcing yourself out the door for several weeks.  The body typically takes 6 weeks to adapt, so you have to give it the time it needs.

- Don't base your training on where you were.  Your last race may have been a marathon, but that doesn't mean you can start back in at marathon-level training.  If you want to stay in the game, and stay for awhile, you absolutely have to start slowly, and build even more slowly.  It requires a lot of patience, but the eye has to be on the long term benefit.  This is not only so that you don't get injured, but starting too fast can also take a toll on you mentally when you realize you can't push the distances you used to.

- Don't judge your accomplishments by your past.  Directly related to the last point, you have to stop judging what you are accomplishing now based on what you once were capable of.  For example, even if you've run a half marathon in the past, just a comeback 5k might be a huge accomplishment.  And I'm talking about distance AND pace comparisons.  I know, for me, I often look at my mileage as I slowly rebuild and get very frustrated with my 14 mile long run.  Do you hear that?  I'm disappointed and frustrated that my long run is "only" 14 miles.  Seriously? The truth is, I am rebuilding, and I'm stronger and going further everyday... and I have to stop and celebrate and appreciate that.  Just like when you were brand new to running, allow yourself to appreciate every step back!

- Don't go into it alone. Sure a lot of running is solitary, but we are a big community.  Have someone to help keep you accountable and to be supportive.  It might mean someone to run with or maybe getting a coach or maybe just someone to occasionally check-in with or maybe even accountability via social media.  Whatever path you choose, having someone know what your goals are will keep you focused on moving towards them.

Have you been there?  Got any advice to add?  Or are you ready for a comeback?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

First Marathons

There is little that evokes a feeling in me similar to when someone registers, trains, then achieves the finish line of their first marathon.  I don't know what it is about that distance that makes it emotional for me.  Distance running is getting more and more popular.  And I think the half marathon is still the most popular distance.  It is far enough that it definitely tests your capability.  Far enough that it requires training.  But also a distance that is fairly reasonable to fit the miles into a busy schedule.  And also a distance that most recover from pretty quickly.  I feel like the marathon distance is in a different ballpark.  The hours of commitment it takes to put in the miles to train for a marathon is pretty intense.  The resolve it takes to push your body, week after week, through long runs of 16, 18, and 20 miles is nothing short of impressive.  The marathon is a hard distance.  It will test your body.  And no matter how seamless your training is, there will be lows to go along with the highs, and you have to roll with them.

"There are few experiences in life in which my physical and psychological abilities are as sharply defined as they are during marathon training and racing...The training and racing experiences have shown me sides of myself that I never knew existed. I've found perseverance, an ability to focus, stubbornness, compulsiveness, bravery, organization, a sense of humor, and a capacity for unbridled joy."   -- Gordon Bakoulis Bloch
Despite how emotional others' first marathons make me, it didn't really apply to my own personal first marathon in December of 2009.  I remember the training and how difficult it was, but I don't remember being particularly thrilled or emotional at the finish line.  I just wanted to be DONE.  What I DO remember?  I remember waiting at that finish line for Elaine to finish.  I remember calling her husband for updates.  I remember my legs cramping ferociously, but I was not going to leave that finish line for fear of missing her.  And when I saw her coming around the corner for the finishing stretch, I ran down the fenceline to cheer her in... bawling... and having no clue how my legs were actually running.  I was a basketcase waiting for her and then sheer excitement and thrill!

Also, as a coach, there's been no greater moment than being at the finish line of a first marathon of someone I've worked alongside!
After pacing Denya to her first marathon!!!  OVERJOYED! 

Sobbed like a baby when these 4 lovely ladies finished their first after spectating all day!!! (Samantha, The Hollys, and Christina)

Ran every step with this inspiring lady. SUCH an accomplishment.  Go Christie!

Waited at the finish line for Monica to cross!  Such an amazing moment for her!!!

There are others... and on days that people I know have run their first, I stalk the race tracker like a crazy person.  I love watching others have that magical moment.  It is seriously, in the running world, one of my absolute favorite things to witness.

So last night, my friend, Jacque posted this on her facebook...
So. Excited.  Seriously, I have a crazy emotional reaction when friends declare their first marathon.  It's worse than watching the end of Old Yeller.  I can admit it.  So to you, Jacque, as you prepare for the New Years Double... here's my first marathon advice:

-- Everyone will have advice. For every piece of advice, someone else will say the opposite.  Use your head, listen to your body, and do what works for you.
-- Train hard.  The race is the icing on the cake.  The training is where the work is, and it's so worth it so that you can enjoy race day.  Put in the miles.
-- Schedules aren't written in stone. While miles are definitely important, not to the detriment of your health or your family.  Priorities.  Make adjustments that work for you that you can live with.
-- Don't get wrapped around time goals.  I think it's good to have a pace in mind just to keep you focused and from starting too fast on race day.  But don't get caught up in a goal number.  Your success will be measured by reaching the finish line.  If you set a goal time, you just open yourself up for possibly being disappointed in what is a really amazing achievement.
-- Take what the day gives you. Don't worry too much over weather.  Don't overthink whether or not you'll hit "the wall".  Things will happen that you didn't plan for.  Roll with it, and know that's the way races go.  That's what makes them hard.  And that's also what makes those who do them extraordinary. 
-- Start slow, Relax, and Take it all in.  Because at the end of the day, you will be a marathoner!!!

So who's up for the challenge of a first marathon?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Still Around...

I know... I said I was back and then I disappeared again.  I promise this time it wasn't completely by choice.  First, I took a small break after Rocky Raccoon to recover.  Recovery was a bit tougher this time as I managed to roll my ankle which locked it up and resulted in my later spraining my knee.  Awesome.  In my attempt to be a good coach and to follow the advice I would give my runners, as well as listening to MY coach, I took 2 entire weeks off.

It was time to, hopefully, get back to running, and then BLAM - hit by a truck.  Yeah, not figuratively.  I was literally rear-ended by a semi on a major highway.  Totaled my car (thank God my kids were NOT in the back), and majorly jacked up my neck, shoulders, and back.  Thankfully, no hospital-worthy injuries, but I literally couldn't even swing my arms without hearing snap crackle pop up my back.  Lovely.  I was told to rest completely for 2 weeks.

Let me do the math... 2 + 2 = 4 weeks.  I have never had an injury that kept me from running for more than a week.  This was insanely hard to deal with.  Those close to me know I was an utter basketcase.

After 4 weeks, it has been a very slow and cautious build-up.  I dropped Rock n Roll USA (though I still traveled there to work the expo for SportHooks).  And I am just now running 12-ish miles for my long run.  Like I said... long, slow road.

At the end of last month, I traveled to Arizona and made it a point to hike the Pemberton trail - the site of the Javelina Jundred - my main goal race this year.  I simultaneously convinced myself that I could handle the terrain, and freaked myself out by being tired after just a couple hours of hiking it!!!

A couple weeks ago, I helped my good friend, Libby, at the Fairview Half.  I helped coordinate all the volunteers throughout the day and pretty much anything else she wanted.  It was a nice way to be back with the race environment until I can get my distance back safely and smartly.

Then last week, I traveled to Boston.  I went to cheer mainly for my coach, but got to see a few other friends in the process too. Honestly, it was a fantastic trip... unfortunately covered with a horrific cloud.  I left the finish line area with Adam about 30 minutes prior to the explosions.  I was safely in the hotel.  There have been an amazing number of touching posts on the events that occurred in Boston, including this one written by Adam.  I don't feel in a place to really share my thoughts.  But I'll tell you that more than any other tragedy, this felt very personal.  I don't watch a lot of news, and I have been engrossed the last 5 days.  Yesterday, in particular, I could not turn it off.  I forced myself to turn it off today.

Despite it all, the Boston Marathon is a great race.  It was an amazing city.  And I won't let the events that occurred keep me from congratulating the runners.  I was incredibly proud of my coach for his first Boston finish.  I won't let it keep me from thinking it was a great trip.  I won't let it ruin any other races.  It won't stop me from running.  And it won't stop me from spectating either.
(Finish lines are supposed to be happy!)

With all that said... I feel like I'm on the comeback.  I'm finding my motivation.  I'm finding my normal (just in time for the kids to be out of school for the summer - ha!).  I have 2 big races planned this year - a radical departure from my normal raceaholic years.  But one of those is coming up in 2 months, so I need to get back on my game NOW!

Next up... Bighorn Trail 50K.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rocky Raccoon 50 - Highlights

This past Saturday, I headed down to Huntsville, Texas with one of my favorite friends, Libby, for my second 50-miler.  (Hint:  Click on Libby's blog cause she also posted about some of our ridiculous moments out on the course.)
(Me, The Cookies, Libby)

*Side Note: I know I was gone awhile, so I should say that technically this was my third attempt at 50 miles... I made an attempt in October at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas... but when mid-day heat hit 108 degrees in the canyon, I just couldn't keep pace and I got pulled at mile 37.5 due to time cut-offs.  For the record, I never thought I would be thankful to be pulled, but I was!  I was so drained and done.
(Me at Palo Duro Canyon back in October 2012)

Highlights of the weekends:

1. NO MUD -- Do you remember my report from last year?  There was a downpour and there was calf-deep mud at some points.  Hills were slick.  Lower legs were extra stressed from lifting your feet out of suction cups.  Lots of time spent between loop getting mud scraped out of my shoes, cleaning off feet, re-lubing them, and changing socks.  Misery.  When we entered the park this year, I shouted (literally) "OH MY GOODNESS, there isn't any mud."

2. RUNNING BUDDY -- Libby and I had agreed to attempt to run this race together.  We are also both pretty logical and discussed before the race that if at any point we needed to split, that would be that, and there would be no hard feelings.  50 miles is a long way to tolerate someone.  Well let me just say, we ran every step of 50 miles together.  A whopping 12 hrs 35 min of highs and lows and still managed to tolerate each other.  I attribute it to being really good at reading each others up and down times and knowing when the other needs a pep talk, or a funny moment, or just silence.  And there were some great moments of hilariousness.  There was A LOT of smiling from us on the course.  There was a load "weeeeeeeeeeeeee" every time we cruised down a step hill.  There were moments of incoherent babbling.  There were dance moves (our traditional 40 mile dance party as well as the occasional random power ranger move).

3. SUPPORT -- At a run this distance, I can't tell you what a pick-me-up it is to see friends on course.  Every time we saw our boys Josh and Reece, their cheers and support had us picking up our pace.  When Matt or Brian flew past us, the encouraging shouts kept us going.  Seeing Suann, Martin, and Chris at the Dam Nation aid stations was a huge boost that we got 2x every loop (Side note: More than once we got chased out of the aid station by Suann screaming "Get out of my aid station and move your butts.").  I anxiously waited every loop to find friend, Tony, who was on his way to his first 100.  Seeing Jeremy at the finish of every loop was a nice comfort, not to mention his readiness to help us get what we needed and get our butts out of there and back on the course. Seeing Greg (who did his first 100 there last year) twice during his crewing/pacing gig was a boost as well!  I cannot list the other 50 people we saw on course... trail running is very community-oriented, which is one reason I really love it.  Even elite Mike Morton would cheer on other runners that acknowledged him as he blew past the pack.  THANK YOU to everyone who cheered, encouraged, supported us.  
(Libby and Me after her 1 hr 12 min PR and my 46 min PR)

4. EPICNESS -- Yes, the word epic is generally overused, but my friend, Tony, on his second attempt at 100-miler was bound and determined to finish.  After 4 hrs of sleep, Libby and I got out of bed, shoved down some 4am breakfast (I think we were the only sober people at iHop), and headed to the last aid station on the course.  I got the awesome honor of pacing Tony for the last 5 miles of his first 100.  He was in A LOT of pain (really, duh, I mean he had already gone 95 miles) but he was going to finish this thing.  We were a little worried about his kidneys, so he, of course, offered to pee in my hands so I could analyze the color (yeah, there are no boundaries at mile 95).  I declined... pacer failure! HA! Running across that finish line with him was an awesome, epic, and proud moment.  I am extremely proud of you Tony!
(Libby, Tony, and Me)

I think my friend, Matt Florence, summed it up perfectly this morning in his race report:
We weren’t meant to face life alone. With about a half mile to go Jon said something about me being a beast. I replied in truth, “I’m just an idiot that knows how to pick amazing friends.”
I couldn't have done this without my amazing friends... without their constant support, guidance, and cheers. I was really worried about this race.  I missed my peak weeks due to 2 weeks of the flu, and wasn't being overly consistent before the flu.  The 3 weeks I did have post-flu were low mileage.  I was really worried about this race, to be honest... but it went better than I imagined it could have.  I was amazingly proud of Libby and me and how much we pushed and kept moving.  Just the kind of 50-miler that makes you ok with the fact that you signed up for something insane 8 months from now............

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Weekends!

My life has been become all about the weekends.  Where the kids are.  Whether I'm working a race expo or not.  Whether I'm running a race.  This past weekend was one of the rare weekends that I had my kids and had no race...  but the plan was to head to Austin to celebrate my Aunt Lillie's 60th Birthday.

Of course I can't go to Austin without stopping in to hang with two of my favorite people, Tricia and Steph.  As it turns out Steph's kids are the exact same age as my older two, and Tricia's kiddo is the same age as my youngest.  It works out nicely!
Tricia even made me some lemon cookies (yes, they were vegan, and no I honestly could NOT tell the difference).  Not only did she make cookies, she bought sandwiches with MEAT.  The things that woman does to convince us #TeamSteak people to come over and hang out.  ;-)  Love these ladies!

The family celebration was a blast as well!  I know... "extended family" and "I had a blast" are not typically expressed in the same thought, but my family is hilarious.  Don't get me wrong, we have our, uh, "faults"... but we have learned to laugh at them.  We're fun.  Also, my love of sugar... yeah, it comes from my dad's side of the family.  There's no question.  We had no problem pounding down a huge spread of sugar cookies and cake pops.

Do you think the genes in my family run strong?  This is my Aunt Lisa and me.  

It was a quick but fun weekend.  And this next weekend will be another travelling weekend.  This time sans kids.  Remember when I did this... you know when I actually ran 50 miles a year ago at Rocky Raccoon.  Well, it's that time again, and I'm heading back.  I've had a few obstacles and my training is off and not nearly as dialed in as last year, but I'm going anyhow.  I plan to take it easy, enjoy the course, and hopefully spend a lot of time with one of my favorite peeps, Libby, exploring the Huntsville State Park.  I can't wait!  Praying for NO MUD this year.  Please please no mud!!!
Me and Libby at Woodstock 50 (I was pacing the last 17 miles of Libby's first 50)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Did You Miss Me?

Well I've miss you all!  I love getting feedback and reading about other people's experiences, and I've truly missed it.  I guess that's how you know it's time.  That and I've finally got my ducks back in a row.

It is fitting that I get back to blogging now, 9 days prior to Rocky Raccoon 50-miler.  My blogging fell off quite a bit after RR last year.  I finally picked it back up, but then soon after that, things went crazy around here again.  Dealt with some crazy life changes... a lot of them.  The good news is that I kept running.  My mileage plummeted, but I never stopped.  I still raced like a crazy person (I'm sure you are all shocked), and I started spending a good amount of time helping my friends at SportHooks.  I now do an expo every month plus help them with a few other things.  So a quick and crazy highlight of stuff that's gone on since I've been out of the blogging loop...

May 28, 2012 - Patriot Day Half - It was brutally hot outside and crazy hilly, but, uh, I really never fail to find a way to have fun.

June 23, 2012 - Rock n Roll Seattle - This was an insanely fun non-stop blogger party (only mildly ironic that I wasn't really blogging anymore).
Having a little blogger fun at the expo!!!

Blogger party hosted by and Brooks!

Have you ever seen a crazier group of bloggers? You might recognize Tall Mom, Run Zoe Run, Mom vs Marathon, Impossible is Nothing, Coach and His Adorable Wife, and several others!

Me and Tricia! -- Note our really cool #TeamSteak and #TeamMushroom shirts!

July 15, 2012 - El Scorcho 50k - Let's be clear... 50k (31 miles) at MIDNIGHT in July in Texas.  This race is the definition of insanity... so I kept all things insane!  Finishing a race at 6:30am is just weird.  When the iHop waitress said "Good Morning!", I was (not) surprisingly confused.  "Huh?  I haven't gone to bed yet."
Shannon and I were Party Rock twinsies!

August 19, 2012 - Rock n Roll Providence - This my first expo working for SportHooks.  Had a total blast and then ran a nice relaxed half to earn my bling!

And I'm gonna stop there because I promised that the next race after this (Rock n Roll Denver) would get a much bigger write up!  

Oh my goodness, remind me that if I ever stop blogging again, that it's horrible to have to try to catch up and remember and then only share tiny tidbits of what were all individually huge and awesome experiences.  I think everyone that's ever read my blog knows that I absolutely LOVE to race, however, despite how much I race (which is really getting to be less and less so I can focus more), every one of them is important to me.  Period.  It's not "just" a half or "just" a marathon.  I still find 13.1 to be a lot of miles.  I still think 5k's are crazy hard.  And no matter how "relaxed" you plan to run a marathon, it is STILL a marathon... 26.2 long miles where anything can happen.  

Bear with me as I catch up on the races I've run and then I'll share my HUGE plans for the future.