The Slowest Thing I’ve Ever Done

[NOTE: This has been sitting, half-written, for MONTHS. I did not want to do this for several reasons, including that I wanted to selectively delete this from memory AND that it’s getting SO LAME to keep sharing HOW LAME I’ve been this year. But remembering something about a race way back in January 2015n prompted me to just spit this out.)

Okay, maybe not really THE slowest thing I’ve ever done.  But close.

First, let me say that I presently decided that it is somewhat incongruous that I am a slow runner, as I am not a slow anything-else.  I walk like I’m always in a hurry.  I talk like an auctioneer in training.  Typically, I try to finish a task as quickly as possible, even where efficiency isn’t exactly a requirement.  It just struck me as funny.  And possibly cruel.

Jill and I signed up for the Buffalo Creek Half marathon maybe in August with the intention of finishing rather than racing it.  We registered with too few weeks to train for time.  (Or because we’re slackasses.  You be the judge.)  We stuck fairly well to a plan, building up mileage each week, but I wouldn’t call my preparation “training” in any remotely hardcore sense of the word.  However, I did put in more miles prior to this race than I did prior to Decker’s Creek in June.  So even though I didn’t have a goal time, I thought the race would turn out similarly.  My time in June was 2:38, so I was expecting to finish in that time, plus or minus a few minutes.

With a finish time of 3:02, I’m not sure I could have been more wrong. Really did not see that coming.

At about 2:20 into the race, I started calculating a projected finish time (despite my made-to-be-broken rule to never attempt to combine math and running) and started bitching to Jill about how ridiculous it was that we’d be pushing three hours.  Jill got exasperated with me and said, “Most people can’t even DO this!” (Note: Jill managed to finish just under three hours.)

Point taken.  I dragged my ass out of bed early.  I showed up.  I covered 13.1.

Perspective. Now I have it & that’s what friends are for.

IMG_0154

Cute shirt and medal!

Which is all well and good.  But it also puts me at a crossroads.  I need to make a decision about whether or not I am going to be satisfied next year with signing up for races that I just finish or if I’m going to work toward improving again.

I want to do better, but I have been struggling with consistency for the last few months.  I am having a harder-than-my-ordinary-laziness time getting out of bed in the mornings to work out.  I’m tired, so I can’t get up.  Yet missing my workout makes me more tired.  It’s an ugly, vicious cycle, and I think I actually need to start to  combat it with my diet.

——–

Okay.  That is where I left off writing this, back in early November.  Have a changed my diet?  Barely.  Have a changed my fitness routine?   A smidgen.  I do have a plan, which I promise, again, I’ll describe later, but for the last two months, it’s been not unlike that race itself – just dragging out the misery (by not making enough changes).  I think I’m finally in a position to get down to business with all of it – the fitness, the eating, the sleeping better, the mindset – especially now that I no longer have the holidays (with all the busyness and eating) bearing down on me.  As I said, I’ll get to that.  For now, let’s wrap up why I decided to revisit this post.

 

The January 2015 memory that prompted me to reopen this is as follows.  The lovely Jessica drove out to meet me in Greensburg (I tempted her with pastries; leave it to her to order oatmeal) to run five miles with me the day after Christmas.  She mentioned the Run to Read half marathon, which we went to last January and how cheap it is ($30!).  I said I’d love to go, but there was no way I’d be able to prepare myself to run that far between now and then.  And then I said – pretty much as I realized it – that the first eight miles of that race (before we hit the snow-covered part of the trail where I completely fell apart) was the last really good run I’ve had.

That hit me like a ton of GUs.

I suppose I have had many other runs this year I found to be fun, acceptable, or even “good” (but not “really good”).  And even though I was a hot mess for the last five miles of that race, I can still very clearly recall how exhilarated I felt during the first eight miles of that race.  My mile splits were certainly not setting anything on fire, and I did slow down a good bit in miles 6-8 as compared to 1-5.  But in the words of Forrest Gump, “I was RUN-NING!”  No walking.  No wanting to stop.  No wishing I were dead.  Eight straight, glorious miles, during which I felt good, strong, in a groove.  It’s honestly the last time I felt like “I LOVE RUNNING!”  And that was 12 months ago….

It’s simultaneously completely depressing and totally motivating.  On the one hand, I’m thinking, “Well, why did I even DO eleven more months of running if it really didn’t feel so good?”  And “You started out great and then hit the skids for the rest of the year.  You’re pathetic.”

On the other hand, I’m all, “OH YES!  I WANT SOME OF *THAT* AGAIN.  GIVE IT TO ME, BABY!”  Feel-good running, I’ve missed you.

I want to break down my goals and the steps all in one place, in a separate post, so I’m not going to get into all of it now.  But as I alluded to above, I’ve spelled out the things I need to do as far as running, cross-training, eating, sleeping, and staying calm/mindset.  The over-arching theme (themes?) is process, structure, and consistency.

Although I’ll pick some races to do – if for no other reason than I really love me a race environment – the focus is going to be on setting goals around creating and sticking to a plan, rather than setting goal distances or times.  The structure is what I really need in order to get back to a place where I FEEL AWESOME when I’m running.  Plus, I figure that the times and distances will come once I commit to and execute a solid plan.

Which brings me back to where I left off with what I’d written in November.  I’ve redefined the crossroads where I felt caught between “settling for finishing” and “improving.”  I want to improve, but my criteria for that currently don’t include needing to go faster (or farther, for that matter).  I don’t want to settle for finishing, but I don’t necessarily want to significantly improve my times, either.  I want to finish and improve my experience.  I want to feel good, and healthy, and strong for everyday life, as well as on the run.  I want to experience that exhilaration of running, three, five, eight, maybe 13.1 miles where I can just run and not drag or walk, even if my times remain slow relative to some of my past-years’ races.  That rock star feeling shall again be mine.

So what do you think?  Do you find disappointing experiences to be more depressing or more motivating?  Do you think re-framing your perspective or your goals can be a healthy thing?  I’d love to know if this sounds like a great idea, or if you think I’m lacking vision for not having a race time or distance goal?

—–

(Between my writing this and its final proof read, three races – a 10K and two halfs [halves?] – have been identified to complete between now and early June.  Some details have to be worked out, but it appears that I now have something to work toward.  Yay!)

 

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Core Breach

core

“1. the central part of certain fleshy fruits, such as the apple or pear,consisting of the seeds and supporting parts
2.  the central, innermost, or most essential part of something: the core of the argument
3. a piece of magnetic material, such as soft iron, placed inside thewindings of an electromagnet or transformer to intensify and direct the magnetic field ” 
(Reference: Online Dictionary.)
ALSO:
“In common parlance, the core of the body is broadly considered to be the torso.”
(Reference: Wikipedia.)

breach

“1. the act or a result of breaking; break or rupture.
2. an infraction or violation, as of a law, trust, faith, or promise.

 

3. a gap made in a wall, fortification, line of soldiers, etc.; rift; fissure.
4. a severance of friendly relations.
5. the leap of a whale above the surface of the water.” 

 

(Reference: Online Dictionary.)

core breach

 

“A nuclear meltdown is an informal term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency[2] or by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[3] However, it has been defined to mean the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor,[4] and is in common usage a reference to the core’s either complete or partial collapse. “Core melt accident” and “partial core melt[5] are the analogous technical terms for a meltdown.”

 

(Reference: Wikitionary; NOTE: also known as a nuclear meltdown, as if you didn’t just read that, above.)

 

 

ALSO:

 

When you’re already out of shape, you’re a mere 5’0″, have a 9+ pound, second child, and your abdominal wall breaks, ruptures, or separates at the mid-line seam.
Further, there is “an infraction or violation, as of law, trust, faith, or promise” to yourself to fix your broken torso more than six years after having said, 9-pound baby.  Possibly (and finally) a “severance of friendly relations” between my body and me.
(Reference: Melissa Lehman)

 

 

why all the defining?

As I’m sure you’re noting, core breach/nuclear meltdown is typically used to describe something that’s an actual catastrophe (or used in science fiction, as in “warp core breach,” also a catastrophe, though a fictional one – for all my nerd friends).

The situation with my abs is just slightly less calamitous than an honest to God nuclear accident.

For all (i.e., the four) of you who read this religiously, I’ve been over this “condition” of mine, formally called diastasis recti on this blog, including entries where I explained how I was bound and determined to finally fix it, once an for all.  Try to conceal your eye-rolling, as I explain how I really, really mean it this time.

getting pissed about it

Honestly, I am sick of hearing myself explain to other people why I have issues with certain activities because I have “no” core – activities such as running without something tightly wrapped around my waist, carrying groceries up the stairs (which I cannot do sensibly, in more than two trips), walking around without falling down, and traditional core exercises like planks and crunches (which make diastasis recti worse instead of better).  For about the past five years, I’ve been “working on it” by investing in programs especially designed by nurses and trainers certified to help “new mums” (that trainer is named Wendy Powell & she’s British).

 

The first program I tried, I failed to do consistently because I just plain hated it and it made me feel like I was broken instead of healing.  It involved all of these little pumping tummy “squeezes” (while sitting) and a slower squeezy thing where you imagine you’re pulling your abs in to different floors of an elevator, which makes no sense because your abs are moving in a direction completely perpendicular to that of an elevator when you’re sitting in a chair.

 

The second program I have been “trying” (more on that in a moment), is called MuTu®, which is short for “Mummy Tummy” and was designed by the “certified level 3 ante and post natal instructor” and “Restorative Exercise Specialist™” (among other impressive-sounding things) named Wendy.

 

I constantly get on my own nerves and beat myself up about the ongoing state of my abdominal wall.  I’m not even sure I should refer to mine as a “wall,” as “wall” suggests something solidly divisional, whereas mine is probably more comparable to a curtain or one of those Asian room dividers (I like to think mine looks like this) – yes,  it separates two areas, but if you put any weight on it, everything collapses.

 

Anyway, I do like my MuTu program, and I can definitely feel it after I do the exercises, especially during those rare weeks where I manage to string together a couple of days in a row.  It’s the days-in-a-row part I’m struggling with.

 

MuTu is a 12-week program.  Which I purchased roughly 98 weeks ago.  I’m on week one.

 

(To cut myself a slight break, I believe that the next couple of weeks of the program are virtually the same, but there are additional HIIT-type workouts that are added to the “core,” core moves of the program.  But really, it’s anyone’s guess.)

 

But back to getting pissed – rather than simply annoyed – with myself about the state of my torso.

 

I recently renewed my fitness class pass at the gym because I’m getting a jump start on my New Year’s resolution.  When I was at my fittest (by which I mean my fittest as an adult; about 3.5 years ago) and running my fastest race times, I was also religiously going to a strength training class twice a week.  I want to get back to the way I felt back then, so I want to stick to a training protocol that includes strength training.  This class (“power pump”) involves dumbbells and working your muscles to exhaustion (like the day we were doing push-ups and I literally got half-way up during the second set and collapsed right onto my face).  For every class, we grab three or so sets of dumbbells of varying weights, a step bench, and a mat.  But last Tuesday was also a “heavy band” day – which sounds way cooler than it is, as it doesn’t involve live music of any genre or a contact high.  Every now and then, the trainer – I’ll call her Shelley (because that’s her name) – will come in and say, “Grab a heavy band today,” and everyone groans in unison with the knowledge that she intends to cripple us.  (But just for the day.)

 

The heavy band (and I always grab the “light” heavy band) is one of those stretchy, rubber, tubular deals with handles on either end.    Tuesday, we threaded the heavy band under our benches and hooked the plastic handles onto our feet so we could lie back and do leg extensions without a machine.  The heavy band exercises are so much harder to endure than the free weights moves.  Whereas most of the dumbbell exercises only make you feel truly awful when you get home and try to wash your back or get your coffee from the table to your lips, the heavy-band-leg-extensions are excruciating from rep number two because of the constant tension on your muscles.  By the end of the first set of leg extensions, you can’t help but think, “How am I even going to get to a galaxy far, far away, much less meet the Emperor so I can ask him to give me that Anakin Skywalker –> Dark Vader treatment?*” because you feel like your legs are being melted off by hot lava.  (*And his answer is totally “No; don’t make me force-lightning you” because it’s obvious that the force is not strong with me, otherwise I’d have already used it to get through this workout.  Plus, the Emperor probably frowns upon using the force frivolously, anyway.)

 

Heavy band

Heavy Band, Torture Device

What does this have to do with my abs?  Well, in addition to my legs being on fire, I was having the added trouble of just keeping good form, lying there on my back, because of my Asian-room-divider-abs.  And this was in spite of the fact that Shelley wasn’t also asking us to lift our shoulders off the bench to deliberately, simultaneously work our abs like she totally does from time to time because she’s a complete sadist an excellent and efficient trainer.  Since I felt like I was straining my abs as much as I was working my legs, I got really frustrated and close to tears.  First I just skipped a few reps and tried to jump back in.  But then I gave up completely, rolled off my bench onto my mat, and did my MuTu moves, instead.

 

To wrap this up, I am making MuTu one of the essential elements of my health and fitness routine for the upcoming months, which I will cover later.  I think my other activities may have been actually weakening my core, as if seems like it’s worse than it used to be, even from when I first started working out five years ago.  I decided it’s called your CORE for a reason – it’s crucial for everything else I do.  So really it’s almost pointless for me to run (or bike, swim, etc.) if I don’t start taking better care of the foundation of my body.  Therefore, I’m making these moves the highest priority for 2016, and I intend to complete them at least five times a week.  And I’m going to enforce this goal by making MuTu to the step I need to do before I am allowed to do any other workouts.

 

 

Upcoming posts in my head that may or may  not appear in the near future:  the slowest thing I’ve ever done, my 2016 fitness plans with January’s focus, and why I am not always fit for normal life.

 

Sick of Myself

How many times can I begin with an explanation as to why it’s been so long since my last writing?  I’m bored with myself for repeating this crap – and this pattern.

The bottom line is that I am somewhere between lazy and terrified.  I am terrible at finding time to write, even though it makes me happy.  There always seems to be something “more important” to do.  Writing on this blog – for basically no one but myself – feels so self-indulgent.  Shouldn’t I be spending time with my kids?  Shouldn’t I be making date plans with my husband?  HEY, how did this house become such a mess?  SQUIRREL!

But I also drag my feet about it because I’m scared that I don’t have anything relevant to say.  Thinking about that fear makes my brain hurt, because I didn’t set this up, thinking anyone else would read it.  I created this because I wanted an outlet.  A place to string some sentences together.  A means to distill my fitness (and other) experiences for myself.  You’d think this would be simple.  And the fear makes zero sense.

Couple my non-existent writing “habit” with my less-than-stellar workout routine, and I am making myself unhappy.  By not writing.  By not doing things worth writing about.  By making the list of things I “should” do every day, every week SO long that I do virtually none of those things:

Workout?  Weekly, but irregularly.
Meditate?  Rarely.
Read for personal growth?  Sporadically.  And in the middle of several books at once, without focus.
Use affirmations?  To affirm what?  I don’t know what I’m doing.
Visualization?  Same.
Plan meals and eat well?  {{sound of disgusted laughter}}

And finally by beating myself UP for all of those other things.  That is, adding insult to injury.

I’m kind of at rock bottom with myself right now.  Please note, I know I’m not at rock bottom in the sense that the phrase is typically used.  That is, I’m not being dramatic or pitying myself like this is the worst thing ever.  I haven’t lost my house.  Or my husband.  Or my sanity.  (Face it, not sure I ever had a firm grasp on that to begin with.)  On the surface, all is well in my world.  However, I am stagnating in a way that I haven’t been in a very long time, and I’m truly sick of myself.

The good part is that it puts me in a place to finally do something about it.  I can come up with a plan and take action.  It’s going to be all about baby steps and falling (back) in love with the process of goal setting and improvement.

I think I think I have gotten this issue out of my system through this short post.  Perhaps I can now move on.

 

Decker’s Creek Half Marathon, Year Two

Let’s kick this baby off with an official (pre)race picture!

DeckersStart

Jill & I at the start

We had to buy this image from the race photographers because our selfies were frightening.  (We were a couple of “handsome” women in those.)  I think it was totally worth it to commemorate the best race ever.

Although there were several others who were supposed to join us this year, this was the second year that it was just Jill and I going to this race together.  I was a little bummed the others couldn’t make it – I was hoping to bring a group this year, because the race is so fabulous – but Jill and I had a blast.

I raved about this race last year, so I’ll skip the specifics (all the same things apply this year, including the banjo playing).  But let me get into why I went to this race even though I was absolutely, positively, not-at-all-prepared to run 13.1 miles.

I had a lousy training season, due in part to injuries, which were likely due in part to lousy training – it’s a vicious cycle!  But I could not, would not miss this race.  And had it been any other half, I would not have been able to go.  The fact that it is downhill is the only thing that permitted me to participate.  Even if it had been just plain old flat, I couldn’t have covered the distance.  Since I was there last year and knew exactly what it was like, I knew I could handle it with the right plan.

I shared with Jill that I was still planning to run – in spite of the fact that I hadn’t run more than six miles since January – but that would have to do deliberate run/walk intervals.  I was planning to run a mile and then walk for a quarter or even half a mile.  Jill suggested that I shorten my interval to 5 and 1 minutes, instead.  She said that even when I got tired, when it was time to run, I would be able to think, “Well, I only have to run for five minutes.”

What I actually did was set my watch to beep after the first mile – I figured I’d like to run at least a mile to start – and then beep for 1 & 5 minute intervals after that.  That worked until the second round of 1 & 5, and my watch quit beeping on me (I even verified when I went home that I didn’t ask it to stop after two rounds, so I don’t know what went wrong).  Then the challenge became winging the intervals and not looking at my watch every seven seconds.  So I made it kind of a game with myself during run intervals where I’d say, “I can’t look at my watch until at least this song is over.”  What would happen would be one of two things.  One, I’d look and I would have run for four minutes.  At this point, I’d tell myself, “Okay, I’m going to run a little faster this last minute.”  Two, I’d look and I’d have run for just over five minutes, at which point I’d decide to run out the 6th minute.  That is, I pushed myself a little, but within the framework of the plan I developed for the race.

I feel like this is insane to say this, but I was actually very, very pleased with my 2:38 finish time.  Even though that’s 14 minutes slower than I ran it last year, I’d been expecting it to take me at least 2:45.  So I was truly thrilled to be under that time.

The other thing that I was proud of myself for was the fact that I just stuck to my plan, I never felt like I wanted to die, and I simply enjoyed the race.  It’s gorgeous there, so I just took in as much of the scenery as I could.

MePrettyRace

See? Pretty place. Happy me.

I also repeatedly reminded myself that I was grateful to be there, with a friend, in a pretty place, and that I was capable of carrying my body over 13.1 miles, no matter how slowly I was doing it.

IMG_3895

DeckersScenes

Decker’s Creek Trail Scenery

Race bonuses:  Instead of gels, this year’s race offered free Clif Bars.  We also again got a nice cotton t-shirt (I’m wearing it now!) and a couple of the typical goodies.  But this year, the race added finisher medals, and I thought they were nice and “just right” for this type of race.  Specifically, they were “real,” designed medals (v. those domed jobs) of a weight and size fitting the venue.  I was tickled to add this one to my display.

Finisher Medal

Finisher Medal

I think I loved this race even harder than last year, and I absolutely intend to be back again next year.  I’m starting a new training program, so I am hopeful that will return in 2016, feeling healthy and running faster.

As a final note, I’ll add my photo of this year’s crazy good food that was again offered.

RaceFood

Cookie, pizza, pulled pork sammie, pita chips & hummus, and COLD water and Gatorade

I’m now “behind” on my “Do Summer” challenge, but I’m not giving up!  I’m not sure what my next race is, but I’m planning some updates soon that will include how my new training plan is going.

 

Girls on the Run IS so much fun!

I just have to tell you how much I hate this post.  First, it’s harder than I thought to cram the whole season into one blog post.  Next, it’s really difficult to get the other inhabitants of this house to stop talking to me for more than 90 seconds.  (I guess it’s good to be liked.)  However, losing ALL of the changes and additions I made today – in spite of  several clicks of the Save Draft button – has to be the most exasperating delay.  Enough of that now; let’s get to it!

My friend Letty – one of my key running friends, one who really converted me from ‘someone who runs’ to ‘a runner’ – and I have daughters the same age.  We had been waiting until the girls were in third grade so that we become Girls on the Run (GOTR) coaches, as the program serves girls in grades 3-5.  We started all the planning to become a new site for a GOTR back in October.  With two coaches for our site, we were permitted to register up to 15 girls.

Beginning in February, we met up with 5 third graders, 1 fourth grader, and 5 fifth graders twice a week after school for life lessons and running.  Although two coaches were enough to support 11 girls, we lucked out and had a third coach assigned to our site.  Coach Kayla is a recently education graduate, a high school sprinter, and collegiate cross country runner – and she was a Godsend.  She really helped us hold it together on more than one occasion.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, we had the opportunity to get to know these great girls by working a curriculum of “life lessons” – activities geared around important topics like gossip, positive self-talk, healthy eating and movement, bullying, and friendship.  After the lessons, we’d run.  For every lap of the run, there would be something the girls would do to reinforce the lesson (e.g., stopping to jot down one idea for how to snap out of negative self-talk).  Each lesson was wrapped up with the giving of an “energy award,” for which one (and sometimes 2-3) girl was selected.  Kind of like the day’s MVP, the recipient of the energy award would get to pick a little “cheer” which we’d all perform in a circle, the awardee standing in the middle.  We’d complete each day by putting our hands into the middle of the circle and chant, “GIRLS ON THE RUN IS SO MUCH FUN!”

GOTR Nicely, going "Bananas"

GOTR Nicely, going “Bananas”

The program was twelve weeks long, included a community service project (which our girls rocked – we were so proud), and culminated in the GOTR 5K.  The 5K took place in Pittsburgh, and girls from all the area’s GOTR sites (a couple dozen or so) ran together and earned their medals.

GIRLS_ON_THE_RUN

 

There were two unexpected challenges to being a GOTR coach.  The first was snack time.  We decided to feed the girls their snack at the beginning of practice 1) to get it out of the way, and 2) because kids are always starving right after school, yeah?  Well, they acted like they were literally starving.  It was difficult to get them to stop, and even though we tended to bring “more than enough,” there were seldom any left over snacks.  I started calling it “the feeding,” instead of snack time.

I think the social nature of snack time also made it difficult to get the girls to transition from snack to session.  Which brings me to the second challenge:  keeping the girls moving / getting them to pace themselves.  There were times when it felt like they were just being lazy, but more than that, they just seemed to be way too easily distracted.  The girls also seemed to be overly interested in what everyone else was doing, despite us repeatedly telling them to focus on their own efforts and performance. For example, if one girl needed to stop to tie a shoe, the couple of other girls would stop with her.  Of when the girls needed a water break, they’d tend to linger by the water bottles.  It was like it just took them a moment to remember again what they were supposed to be doing, as they’d sip and talk.

We took to calling them “Girls on the Chat.”

ANYWAY!  It was a fabulously rewarding experience to coach – the girls were sweet and fun, and they all seemed to enjoy the whole experience and to get something out of it.  AND we realized at the race that we weren’t the only Girls on the Chat chapter.  There were more than a few other, slow-moving (and somewhat whiny) groups of girls on the course.  (We overheard one dad who seemed to be particularly irritated that the girls weren’t running the whole time.  He ended up taking off, telling a couple of girls that he’d see them at the finish line!)

Here are a couple of my favorite race day pictures:

three girls

Emily (center) with two of her 3rd grade buddies

BFFs

My favorite, candid picture of Emily & Ella – BFFs!

group

Our team (and my niece, in pink, who was on another team) after the race

A final note.  One of our girls missed the race due to illness.  Although I’d have been upset for any of our girls to miss out on the race, it seemed particularly unfair, as the girl in question was possibly the “best” overall girl in the group.  I’m not talking about being the best runner (or even chat-er).  She was just the one kid who was always doing what she was supposed to be doing, who always had something positive to contribute, and who was always doing her best.  Basically, she was the embodiment of GOTR.  It broke my heart that she couldn’t make the race and earn her medal.  So the following week, we made arrangements for her, my Emily, and one other girl from the group – plus Coach Kayla* – to run a Memorial Day 5K right here in Greensburg.  I was able to get the GOTR office to send me her medal, which they said she was still eligible to earn for completing a race.  Setting this up made the season finally feel complete to me.

SAS finish

GOTR finishing Memorial Day 5K with Caoch Kayla

EmilySAS

Emily at the end of her second 5K in two weeks!

On a “mom” – not coach – note, one of the very best things for me was how pleased Emily was with herself.  After both races, she said over and over, “I can’t believe I ran and walked over three miles.”  I’d reply with something like, “Yes, you’re really amazing because you have now done, twice, what most people can never say that they did.”  For such a chatty bunch, it really is a big accomplishment.

I can’t wait to coach again next spring!

 

*I was registered to run this race, but Kayla – saving the day at the last minute! – ran in my place because I woke up the day before with some right thigh/hip issues that made it difficult to walk.

Let’s Review

I signed up for this summer challenge to 1,500 minutes of a skill of your choice.  Every time I complete 15 minutes, I fill in a block on a chart.  When the chart is full, I’ve met the challenge.  I picked writing as my skill, and this seems like the best place to start.

I’ve been lazy.  The winter weather kicked my butt, and my mojo took a hike. (Actually, a hike would have been good; more like a nap.  An extended one.)  Between the weather and my lack of motivation, I did way less running than I’d planned.  The result was realizing I was not going to be able to run the Pittsburgh half marathon – at least not without either hurting myself or wanting to hurt myself.  Feeling more relief than regret, selling my bib was an easier decision than I expected.  I knew I made the right one.

Well, no sooner than I’d found someone to buy my bib, I learned that my sister-in-law needed to replace a member of her relay team (specifically, my brudder).  I thought I was all set to just sleep in on marathon Sunday, but then I thought, “Hell, I can’t run 13.1 miles, but I can do six or so….”  It felt like a good consolation prize for the race:  I’d still get to participate even though I wasn’t prepared for the race I’d intended to run.  (And I’d still get a medal.  Yes, it matters.)

Flat momma - with my brother's bib.  Guess it's better than "Tim."

Flat momma – with my brother’s bib. Guess it’s better than “Tim.”

I had a fabulous time at the race – better even than I ‘d hoped.  I had the middle leg of the race, which at ~6.2 miles, was the second-longest, but most uphill-est of the relay legs.  It had also gotten pretty warm out by the time it was my turn to hit the pavement.  The heat combined with my lack of training meant that I struggled to “just” run those six little miles.  It was tempting to beat myself up about that, but I talked myself out of it.  Hell, I still woke up at 4:00 AM, right?  I showed up.  It “counts.”

The best part of being a relay participant is that you get to be both runner and spectator.  Standing on the South Side for a couple of hours, I got to hang out with the best cheering section ever – the gang from Cupid’s Undie Run:

#ImWithCupid

#ImWithCupid

I also got to see the elite runners come flying through, which was really neat.  Plus, I spotted quite a few of my half and full marathon friends as they passed by.  I got to cheer and clap and get emotional over the experience of being at an event that is – according to my dear friend Julie is not just a race, but a festival of running.

But as I’d mentioned, “just” six miles was trying for me.  I was determined that I was going to at least make it to the top of the hill into Oakland, which would have been around the three-mile mark of my leg. I didn’t.  I got about 3/4 of the way up and had to walk.  Then there was a lot of walking, running, walking, running.  The worst part about walking during the second half of the middle marathon relay leg is that you are now in the race with full marathon runners who are running miles 12-15 and they know you just started.  Why?  Because relay runners have to wear a big “RELAY” sign on our backs.  The relay bibs are already a different color, but even runners approaching you from behind (i.e., passing you) know that you have just set out.

The big, ol' Scarlet Letter of marathon participation.

The big, ol’ Scarlet Letter of marathon participation.

I managed to finish strong with help from a conversation with a full marathon runner.  With about half a mile left in my leg, I was coming around a bend, walking because it was uphill, and I passed a woman with a full bib.  I pulled out my headphones and asked her how she was doing.  She said that she was all right, but that she had the stomach flu that week, and was feeling just a bit dehydrated in spite of taking lots of water at each stop.

Whoa.  That’ll make you feel like a complete slackass.

After she assured me that she would be okay, I said to her, “If you can still show up to complete the full marathon you trained for with the stomach flu, I think imma run up this hill now.  Thanks!  Good luck!”

And I ran as fast as I could to the relay exchange, where my sister-in-law – whom I’ve never been so happy to see – gave me a hug and my relay medal.  Then I headed straight to the shuttle!

I found my way to the party on the lawn and my new Monroeville Moms Run This Town friends, which included my “old,” and very dear, friend Jessica Marks.  Here is the group of us.

Moms Run This Town!

Moms Run This Town!

I’m in the back row, second face from the right.  I look weird because the walk from the shuttle leaves you at the “finish” but beyond where the food is.  I was doing fine at first, but then I started to get a little stabby for some chips.   If I’m not mistaken, I hadn’t quite gotten to the bottom of the bag of chips Jessica had given to me by the time this was taken.  [NOTE: Jessica got those chips from my new – and darling – friend Renee (4th from left in photo above).  Luckily, Renee willingly handed them over because I don’t know what I would have done to Jessica if she hadn’t come up with chips after she texted me that she had chips.  I’m telling you:  I needed that salt.]

Jess & me (after chips)

Jess & me (after chips)

Bottom line:  I had a great time and the experience helped me get my enthusiasm for running back after the cold, under-active winter.

Upcoming topics to help me get through my 1,500 1,470 minutes of summer writing:  Girls on the Run coaching + race experience and my second visit to the Decker’s Creek Half Marathon!

Kicking Butt and Getting My Butt Kicked

I’m not sure if this is a lesson in how to kick off a New Year, or a lesson in how not to kick off a New Year.

Sunday, I “ran” the Run to Read Half Marathon in Fairmont, West Virginia.  Four of us drove down to this winter race – Vick, Kim G., Jessica, and I.  Jessica was kind enough to run with me, even though she was faring better and could have finished ahead of me.  Look how happy and cute we were before the race:

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But let’s back up for a moment.  About two months ago, Vicki found this race as part of her initiative to run a half marathon every month for the first six months of 2015 (after which, she’ll begin training for the Richmond [full] Marathon, taking place in November).  I decided to sign up, since I’d missed my half marathon in October due to injury, and because I tend to get out there to run more when I have a goal to work toward.

I’d counted out the number of weeks until the race, and I figured that I had just enough time to ramp up my weekly long-runs to 10 or 11 miles so that I could finish this half.  From the outset, I had no intentions of “racing” it – no gunning for a PR or even necessarily performing as well as my last couple of half marathons.  Just wanted to finish.  Well, I did that, but barely.

Among bad weather, schedule conflicts, and one morning where my iPhone/alarm clock wasn’t plugged in, I didn’t log nearly the miles I’d intended.  I did three “long” runs of seven miles, but that was my longest run prior to this half.  But still, I thought I’d be okay.  I mean, I knew it was going to take me a long. time. to finish, but I thought it would be okay.  I expected that, if everything went great, it would take about 2:30, and that if it didn’t go great, the worst-case scenario was ~2:40.

So how does 2:51:57 sound?  It was ridiculous.

Here’s the scene:  The race is a double out-and-back course.  The first leg of it is five miles on pavement – which also took us through tunnel (my favorite part!) about a quarter mile long.   That part went completely smoothly except for when I stepped off the edge of the road inside the tunnel because it was so dark.

Now is when I want to tell you that I hurt myself in the tunnel and that I had to limp and hop through the rest of the race, and that’s what took so long.  But I’d be lying.

The second – the eight mile – leg of the race was on a limestone trail.  Or so I’m told that there was a limestone trail under there.  The trail was snow-covered, much of which was not packed down (even though virtually everyone else ran over it before we did).  It was like running on sand.  Not the down-by-the-sea, packed-down, wet sand.  The sand on the rest of the beach.

I still held up alright until just before we hit the second turnaround, at roughly nine miles.  (I should add here that Jessica, who was a bit ahead of me, stopped at the turnaround to wait for me so that we could finish together.)  After that, everything started to hurt.  My hips/butt were on fire.  But that was “regular” running discomfort.  The bigger problem – which I’m blaming on the combination of inadequate training and the trail conditions –  was that my knees and ankles started to hurt.  (My Achilles were killing me the next morning.)

We absolutely crawled through the last 4-5 miles.

Mile twelve took seventeen minutes.  (Actually, I might have been moving faster had I crawled.)

At the end of a race, I typically have enough umph in me to pick it up for the last mile or so just to get. done.  But this time, I was just plain done.

We managed to pick it up to a jog (and you may know how I hate that word) in order to cross the finish line, where we received our medals.  Jess and I received different medals than Vicki and Kim got.  The one of the left is the one that was “advertised” with the race and the one the other girls received.  The one on the right is the one Jess and I went home with.  I actually prefer the image on our medal, but the medal itself wasn’t quite as solid as the other one.

Medals

We are not sure if we got different medals because the race ran out of the medal on the left, due to a lot of race-day registrations and we ended up with leftovers from last year, or if it was because we ended up with race walker medals.  (I’m actually pretty confident that the race walkers finished ahead of us, too.)

So the race kicked my butt, but in the right direction.  It motivated me to get back to serious training – and by “serious” I mean simply following a plan and not making excuses.  I did re-sign myself up at Planet Fitness to use the treadmills, so I can’t use the weather as an excuse any more, so that’s a start.

And even though our time was ridiculous, it still beat the snot out of sitting home on the couch.  I mean, even if you’re a slow badass, it’s still pretty badass to go out and cover 13.1 miles in the Northeast in January, right?  Right?!