The very fine folks over at Catapult Magazine have released their newest issue today, Health & Wealth Gospel, and one of the articles features yours truly. (Thank you so much for including my article!) Head over to their site to check out the Heath & Wealth Gospel issue of Catapult.
In my last post, I briefly alluded to freaking out in the week preceding my first half marathon. As I mentioned, I wasn’t super excited because I was nervous about the mileage increase; but my freak out was mostly in reaction to knowing my beloved had organized an “entourage” to follow me along my race route and to celebrate after the race. I had just returned to Facebook after my Lenten hiatus to see that more people had committed to being there than I ever imagined. All I could think was that these people, some old friends and some new friends, were going to stand in the heat (and possible rain) for several hours just to watch me pass by them for a moment.
You see, I’m about the least patient person that I know, and I felt bad asking anyone other than my own husband to endure waiting around for me in the back of the pack. If I were a better runner, maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad; but I knew better than anyone else how long it would take. Because I hadn’t actually run the complete route before the race, I couldn’t exactly gauge when I’d be at certain checkpoints. I estimated based on my long-run performance, but running 13 miles is an unpredictable beast when the farthest you’ve ever run is 9 miles. So how could I really ask people to get up early on a Sunday and stand around for hours? Truthfully, I would never do that because I’m so impatient; I could never see myself doing something like that. (Maybe that makes me a bad friend? Maybe I need to learn how to be a good friend?) The only person I actually expected to be there was my husband, and that was only because the race was on a day he was off from work.
A Little Help from My Friends
Of course anyone’s first half marathon is a big deal, and most people would expect it to be a cause for celebration. I am not most people. I rarely ever ask for help. I never think anyone else I know would remotely care that I’m running in any race. I figure they’ve got better things to do, things that are more important to them. I figure the only people who really care about my running are other runners.
All of those assumptions might be true. But what I didn’t consider was that, though the people who showed up might not give a rat’s ass about running, they care about me. They wanted to support me because that’s what friends do. When I couldn’t get excited about it for myself, they got excited about it for me. Slowly and with my husband’s insistence, I came around to the concept that I have people in my life. I have people who are willing to get up early on a Sunday, people who are willing to stand around for hours, even in the heat and possible rain.
In a moment of bravery, I sent an email to my church. I let them know I didn’t want to speak up about it considering it was Palm Sunday and that Easter was coming, but that I could really use some encouragement for this event. And in response, as I was leaving church the week prior to the race, I was overwhelmed with love and encouragement from these people. My people.
That same week, my husband met with his friends from work to make signs. People I’ve only met a few times, people I hardly even know were staying up late making signs for my race. Of course I couldn’t be there; I was training. And still they did it. Some of them showed up too, even though they had sick babies at home, even though they never get up early on Sundays.
So this post is a very honorable mention and thank you for the people who thought of me, wrote to me, spoke words of encouragement to me, made signs, showed up, sent texts, and celebrated with me. This post is for every spectator who waits for the runners at the back of the pack. This post is for the people in my life. Thank you so much.
It’s been too long since I’ve put up a proper post. Sorry about that. My hiatus can best be explained as follows:
April 1-7: Week leading up to the half marathon. Not a great week. It took a lot of energy to actually get myself motivated to look forward to the race. Perks of this week included all of the encouragement from my coach, my yoga teacher, and from my friends at church.
April 7: The half marathon. See recap below.
April 8-14: Recovering from the half marathon. See recap below.
April 15-present: Getting back in the swing of things. Busy with PIET work and the final push to Shiloh’s graduation.
2013 Knoxville Half Marathon Review
On Sunday, April 7th, I completed my first half marathon. The week before the event, I wasn’t nearly as excited as my coach and other runners. In the fall, I was looking toward this event as my goal, but training on my own was getting me injured; and I didn’t actually start training with my coach until February, which isn’t enough time to train properly. But, at this stage of my regular training plan, building a base running ability, I was scheduled to do almost 13 miles for my long run anyway. It was perfect timing to do a practice race, too.
Before this event, I’d only ever run 9 miles total; and I was mostly nervous about essentially adding on an additional hour of running without working up to it. Then, when I returned to Facebook and saw everything my husband had done in developing an “entourage,” I started to freak out a little. (My beloved refers to these moments as “onion” moments because I’m apparently layered like an onion. Thanks, babe.) But then my yoga teacher gave me a small dose of common sense. I focused on the running only, and didn’t think about any of the rest.
Of course the first time you do anything, it sets a record, but I set a few personal records at this event, too. For people not in the running world, my time is not impressive at all. For reference, a 91-year old man finished about 10 minutes before I did. He set a world record.(Side note: If I even make it to 91, I’ll want a medal.) What IS impressive is that I did it. I did it with ovarian cyst pain. I did it overweight. I did it as a former asthmatic. I did it as someone who used to be so crippled by depression and anxiety that I’d only ever leave my home to work (and sometimes not even then). So yeah, that’s pretty impressive to me.
3/20/13 Time: 14:28 Ran my first complete mile.
4/6/13 Time: 28:20 Two miles that included walking breaks. Faster than my 1 mile of consistent running.
4/7/13 Half Marathon Records set:
Overall time: 3:18:48
Fastest mile: 13:00 (First mile)
Time: 39:40 Fastest 5K (3.1 miles/First 3 miles)
Time: 14:47 Fastest Finishing mile; I finished way stronger than I thought I could.
Overall, I finished about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated based on my previous long-run performance. I’m pretty proud of that. But I’m also looking to knock at least 30 minutes off my time before my next half marathon, so I’m focusing on ways to improve.
I’d already seen my recovery week plan, so I knew it was going to be a light week. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be so exhausted for so long, and that I’d hurt for as long as I did. When I came home from work almost every night that week, I did restorative yoga and went to bed at least 2 or 3 hours before my regular bedtime. Even though I’ve been getting enough rest, since the race I’ve been waking up exhausted and feeling incredibly run down. My coach told me that it’s typical to have an immunity zap after endurance events; and I’m confident that’s true, but all the pollen doesn’t help either.
As far as pain goes, I know it’s just something that has to work itself out. I know I’m not injured, and I know that I mostly just have to learn how to tolerate a different kind of pain. I can help things along by eating right/frequently enough, drinking enough, sleeping enough, and being mindful while exercising. The week immediately after the race, I was scheduled to log 10 miles, but I only did 2, and I walked it at that. I didn’t stick to my plan because I knew my body was telling me to be gentler than the plan had detailed. So I did restorative yoga and foam rolled like a boss.
Back on Track
The thing about taking time “off” from running is that it sucks coming back. I’ve been “coming back” for the last 10 days. I remember posting something like “2 miles today seems like nothing compared to 13.1 tomorrow” the day before the race. And now, it’s everything I can do to complete a 4-mile run. My body is still kind of recovering, and I know I can push through this; but I have to keep moving to do it. If I take two rest days in a row, I’m such a wimp on the next run. So now I’m back to working the plan. It’s harder because I have a different kind of pain to deal with in the process, but it’s still worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, this event was a training run for my goal event. As you’ve noticed my race countdown in the margin, I was set to participate in the first ever Mountain Mommas ½ Marathon in Sevierville, TN on Mother’s Day (May 12th). Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to low registration, which is certainly a wrench in my plan. I asked my coach if we should focus on 5Ks and 10Ks over the summer and set another goal for the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Johnson City on September 22nd. That’s exactly what he wants to do. We’re going to continue to build a base running fitness and start working on speed. First step, reduce the walking breaks to 30 seconds, and walk more briskly & upright.
In the meantime, I’m updating my countdown for the September event because that’s my goal, but I’ll actually be participating in several smaller events before then. If you’re local and want to hang, here’s my schedule:
Saturday, April 27th Dogwood 5K
Saturday, May 11th Run for Clean Air 5K
Saturday, May 25th KTC Expo 10K
Saturday, June 1st, Run for the Rose 5K
Wednesday, July 3rd, Pilot Fireball Classic 5k
Saturday, August 10th, Color Me Rad 5K
Room for Improvement
Clearly, I expect to improve my performance over time; and to do that I’m sticking to the training plan because it works well. But I need to focus on at least two other areas, too: diet and yoga. Since February, I’ve significantly increased my cardio work as well as general fitness (pushups, core work, leg strengthening). The result has been a change in my metabolism, which affects my hormones and my ovarian cysts. These changes are good in the long-run, but any changes with hormones are difficult to endure even if the end result is positive. I’ve been advised to focus on a diet of low-glycemic foods to help regulate my metabolism, so that’s where I’ll start.
With yoga, I just need to do more of it. So far I’ve been focused on running and strength training geared specifically for running. I’ve done yoga, but it’s mostly restorative. I’m not knocking it because clearly my body needs it; but my mental health balance needs regular, moderately challenging yoga. I’m noticing the twinges of easy irritability and difficulty with meditation. I’m noticing more resistance to change and less mindfulness of the moment. Yoga has been the best thing for me in conquering these challenges. Like being thirsty though, once you recognize it, you’re already dehydrated. While I’m also working my way back into running, I also want to focus more on working back into a challenging yoga practice.
Realistic Goal Setting & Scheduling
So far I’ve mentioned three areas of focus (running, dieting, and yoga), and putting time and attention into this many things is a lot for someone who also works full time and volunteers part time. I’ve learned through reading Zen Habits that making lifestyle changes requires focus and action on small, frequent habits as opposed to large goals. Fortunately, my running plan is something my coach puts together. I don’t have to think about it; I just do it. I’ve also already got an awesome yoga practice; I just need to do it, too. Putting together a detailed diet plan takes several hours of research, planning, shopping, and meal prepping. If that’s the only thing I need to do on my own, it doesn’t seem like much; but the challenge lies in finding the time to do it all.
Because it’s starting to get hot, I’ll be returning to early morning practices. I hate waking up so early, but it’s the only way I can feasibly see myself running through the summer. It’s more of an environmental constraint than anything, and I just have to accept it. With early morning practices, I can focus on doing my restorative yoga on those afternoons/evenings. On cross training days, I’ll do the elliptical and yoga instead of either/or. I’ll be building the near-daily habit of exercising early every morning (cardio/endurance) and every evening (yoga). I’ll still take my weekly rest day, too.
So, I need help with the diet. Do any of you pay attention to glycemic index? Have you researched it? I’ve done the cursory Google search, but I’d like more than that. If you have any low glycemic index meals, please share the recipes! I’ll spend some time researching/planning on my next rest day, and I’ll check back here for any tips you want to leave.
Thanks for reading and come back for more on my Knoxville Half Marathon experience in The Friends Who Waited.
The last two weeks have been hard. Two weeks ago, I started experiencing the dull and annoying pain of ovarian cysts; but I still ran. I felt strong because it was the first time a health condition had not sidelined me. But last week I was absolutely miserable. Barely able to walk or put any weight on my right leg, I could not do my Monday workout; and I did less than half of Tuesday’s workout. I felt better Wednesday, and even though I wasn’t scheduled for a workout, I did a low-impact one on the elliptical. I made up for the previous two days with that workout, and I felt decent afterward. Though I was in pain, I was still determined to log three miles Thursday; but I found myself completely bed-ridden with pain by Thursday evening (ugh).
Considering that my week had gone so poorly and that I was still in quite a bit of pain Friday, I was skeptical that I’d even run at all over the weekend much less log my scheduled eight miles. Despite my skepticism, when I went to bed Friday, I had my stuff ready, and I set my alarm to wake up for the KE Destination Run in Townsend, TN. I told myself that if I woke up in the same amount of pain, I’d skip the destination run and stay home to rest for a third day. I really didn’t want that to happen, so I prepped as much as I could and hoped for the best.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling alright—with a little pain, but I stretched out well and told myself I’d be gentle. I ate a great breakfast, and Shiloh and I hit the road for Townsend, TN on a cold and drizzly Saturday morning. We took a wrong turn in Maryville, went about 15 minutes in the wrong direction, and we arrived at the meeting place about a half-hour after the group had started. I knew I’d be running apart from the group anyway, so I didn’t let that discourage me.
Shiloh stayed with me the whole way, and I’m supremely grateful for that. Running on twisty mountain roads without sidewalks and nearly no shoulders means that even with my fluorescent orange top, it was hazardous just being there. Had I been alone and gotten hit or had to dive off the road to avoid traffic, I would have ended up on the 11:00 news as one of those runners who’d wandered into the Smoky Mountain National Forest and failed to return on time. I would have made all those “you’ll end up dead in a ditch” statements true. Luckily, none of that happened, and I attribute most of that to the fact that Shiloh was watching out for us.
Because I was in the picturesque Smoky Mountains, I decided beforehand that I wouldn’t listen to music on the run, and that was also a pleasant surprise! It didn’t necessarily allow me to be more regimented with my run/walk schedule because I adhere to that even with music; but running sans music did allow me to run with a more controlled pace. I think I’ll see how I like running without music during these two weeks leading up to my next event. Because there will be several bands along the half-marathon route, I think I’ll have enough music to get me through without having to rely on my phone as a music player. We’ll have to play that by ear, so to speak. Maybe I’m turning into a “real” runner, after all.
Considering how bad my week had been, in spite of a late start on Saturday, and absent my typically motivational music, I logged almost 9 miles on Saturday. Words don’t accurately express how impressed I was (and still am) about that. Every time I go just a little bit farther, I reach a new milestone, quite literally, and those small successes are worth celebrating because they’re the firsts. And this weekend when I log 10 miles for the first time, I will feel that way again. Once I’ve done it enough, I’ll start focusing on the time it takes me to do it, but for now just logging the miles is enough to keep me motivated. Even during tough weeks like last week.
If living vicariously through me isn’t enough motivation, maybe you’ll find some inspiration in these quotes from legendary runner Steve Prefontaine:
“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” (My chances of looking artful while running are slim to none, but I can guarantee you people stop and say, “I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.” It’s just not for the same reasons.)
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” (For my fellow masochists)
“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” (Because doing what I’m doing in my nonathletic, overweight condition is impressive, and I need to remember that when I’m finishing in last place.)
“Running gives me confidence.”
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”
Getting up early on a Saturday morning might not be at the top of your To-Do list. Neither is running eight miles. But I have a long run this Saturday (as I do on all Saturdays), and the Knoxville Endurance group will be meeting in the very beautiful Townsend, TN for a Pre-Boston Marathon training run. (Important Side Note: Running in the BM is not a requirement of participating in this event; duh, I’m going to be there!)
Because I’m always bringing up the rear solo, and because I’m not scheduled for nearly as many miles as the rest of the crew, chances are very likely that I’ll be running through the picturesque Smoky Mountains alone. While I’m used to running alone, and though I think it could be a fun way to practice meditative running, my husband and male coworker expressed serious concern about my participating in this mostly alone. To ease their worries, I posted my running route on my Daily Mile profile, but that has done little to assuage their concerns. My coworker is willing to make me a monkey fist with some spare paracord he has because he says that’s better (for me) than pepper spray or a gun/knife option; and my husband wants me to make a sincere attempt at recruiting a buddy to run with me.
It’s so nice to have people who care about me this way, and this would typically be a request I dish out to my Facebook crowd, but I’m not actually checking Facebook, and I know this request will auto-post there as well as on my LinkedIn page. So…(crickets chirping)…does anyone want to meet me in Townsend, TN at 8:45 AM this Saturday to run 8 miles? I promise it will be beautiful, and if you need me to provide transportation, I’ll do it. If you’re interested, please either leave a comment here, or send me an email.
Thanks so much!