What Running Has Taught Me So Far

Take two…it’s a wordy one. Apparently, I had a lot to say.

That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.

– Kara Goucher

As I’ve mentioned before, I never intended for running to take over this blog. I think once this half-marathon is over, a balance will be restored here. I’ve been accused by some in my real life recently of bragging, being slightly obsessed, and thinking I was better than others for taking on the half-marathon challenge. My intent was never to brag. I’m cognizant enough (at least I hope I am) to realize that in the grand scheme of life, nobody really gives a shit that I ran a 13.1 mile race in my lifetime. I’m not the first to achieve that goal, and I certainly won’t be the last.

Maybe I did intend to pat myself on the back a little. I’m pretty darn proud of myself. A little over a year ago, I was depressed, unhealthy, and I could barely run 1 mile, let alone 13.1. I started running by accident and it literally changed my life for the better. And like a new convert to a religion, I may have been a little over-exuberant in sharing my experience with others; but my intent was to keep a personal record of my journey, as well as to inspire and meet others with similar interests. It was never to obsess, brag, or condescend. I don’t know any other people who run regularly, so this is my place to explore, record, and meet others who may have advice, support, and experience to offer.

My first half-marathon training has been an interesting experience for me. I expected to push myself physically and mentally, but I didn’t expect the extent to which I would be tested. I chose this challenge when I did because it seemed like the right time. I was in good health, there was no unusual life stress to contend with, and I had the time and resources to train. However, when I was barely half-way into this journey, life happened, as it often does, and everything sort of fell apart on a personal level.  My husband lost his job (he thankfully got a new job, but with a drastic pay-cut which was a huge readjustment for us), my kids were dealing with bullying at school, I got a job and then had to leave it, I had some foot and asthma-related issues, and I had to deal with an unexpected family issue. My husband, a combat veteran suffering from PTSD, ended up in the hospital. He’s doing much better, but it’s been a struggle to get things back on track.

I could have quit, but I didn’t. I don’t think I could have made it through all this if I didn’t have the half-marathon to look forward to on the horizon. It gave me something concrete to focus on, it helped me distract myself from the stress I’ve been experiencing, my husband claims it’s inspiring to watch me progress, and it taught me lessons that I was able to apply to the non-running parts of my life.

Running also helped me maintain positive relationships with my kids throughout all this stress. My oldest has always liked to run. He is on the cross-country team and we ran our first 5K together last summer. Recently, both kids started joining me on some of my runs. It has become an activity that allows us to spend time together while blowing off some steam. As a result, we’ve had some of the best (and goofiest) conversations, which is important to maintaining household sanity.

Because of everything that happened during this short, 6 month time-frame, I’ve learned a lot about myself and some of the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the years. I’ve spent many miles reflecting on things recently: what is important to me, what I can change, and how I can change them. I thought I’d share them, not only to have my own personal record, but maybe someone else can relate.

  1. I am much stronger than I thought I was.
  2. There are things I can control, and things beyond my control. It only makes sense to focus on the things I can control. Worrying about the things beyond my control is a huge waste of time and energy. About the only thing I can control is my attitude, actions, and reactions, everything else is pretty much beyond my control.
  3. There is a difference in being busy and having purpose. I often thought I was too busy in the past to do anything for myself. Technically I was, but the busyness lacked purpose and I lacked discipline. Running is not my purpose in life, but it gave me the discipline I had been lacking. Now I try to live with purpose instead of just being busy. And I make sure I find the time for the things and people in my life that are important to me.
  4. I learned that I have a lot of “fair-weather friends”. They only come around when life is good – my life that is, because theirs is usually in disarray. When things got hard on my end, they were nowhere to be found. I’ve done some reevaluating on this front. I am trying to build better relationships with some, while also learning when to let go of the dead weight.
  5. It is important to be mindful of the people you surround yourself with. Energy vampires need to go. There is no need to feel guilty walking away from them. Misery may love company, but I have no intention in providing it with any.
  6. Every experience is what you make it. Almost every negative experience can be turned around just by doing something different.
  7. You have to be flexible and deal with things as they arise. Bad stuff happens. You can either keep moving forward or get stuck in the muck. Most times, things are not as desperate as they initially appear.
  8. Nobody can do the important work for you, you have to do it yourself. If you want things to happen, you have to figure out a way to make them happen. Wishing for, praying for, or “positively visualizing” something to happen without the accompanying hard work accomplishes nothing other than maybe setting yourself up for failure.
  9. It is important, not selfish, to take care of yourself. As a mom, I’ve always had people remind me, “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.” It’s true for everyone, not just moms. I feel much more equipped to handle things now that I’ve made the decision to always care for myself in addition to everyone else that needs care, rather than caring for everyone else instead of myself.
  10. Food = fuel. This one small adjustment in my thinking changed how I eat. I have a much healthier relationship with food now. I no longer approach food as a form of comfort or a reward. I don’t diet or “eat clean”, I’ve just been taking note of how foods impact my running performance. I don’t feel deprived either. I feel so much better both physically and mentally. If we don’t provide our minds and our bodies with the right fuel, how can we expect them to perform at an optimum level?
  11. Finally, and maybe the silliest lesson, but important just the same: keep moving forward until someone hands you a banana. I read this on a runner’s forum and I’ve been repeating this over and over in my head when both my long runs and long days get hard. I don’t know why, but the phrase makes me giggle. Humor is always a good motivator for me. This will probably be my mantra on June 1 when things start to get hard, which I’m sure they will at some point during the race.

I truly appreciate everyone that has supported me during this time. It’s been an enlightening, humbling, and mostly positive experience. Hopefully, I will be able to carry these lessons with me throughout the rest of my days. I’m sure I’ll add to the list as I learn new things. I’m ready to move forward until I get that banana, and maybe a tall glass of chocolate milk to go with it.

What has running taught you so far?

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Bump in the Road

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My muscles feel fabulous. My mental game was spot on. I was feeling very strong. That’s when my cardiovascular system rebelled. It’s discouraging this late in the game, especially since this is my first half-marathon and my nerves are starting to kick in. I don’t like new things and the unexpected. I like everything planned and prepared ahead of time. But, I guess running is a lot like life in the fact that I must remain flexible and take things as they come. I missed my last long run and these last couple of weeks, my runs have been more of a run/walk. I haven’t written about it because I didn’t want to seem whiny. I also thought if I ignored it, maybe it would just go away. But if I’m going to have an honest account of this journey, I guess I should at least mention it.

A brief summary: at first my doctor thought maybe my Mitral Valve Prolapse was causing the symptoms. It used to when I ran track in high school, so we thought it was worth looking into. She ordered a stress test. It showed nothing out the ordinary for me. The cardiologist seemed to think I would be able to complete the training and race with no issues, so I kept running. My breathing got worse, so I went back. There seems to be no infection, so she thought it might be asthma related and referred my to an allergy/asthma specialist. He’s given me a new inhaler plus a few other medications to help me out. He saw no reason to take a break from running, which was good to hear. My breathing and lung function has improved, but it’s not where it needs to be. I’ve gone from 10 min. miles to almost 12 min. miles. The medication is also messing with my sleep cycle and digestion, which in turn messes with my head.

And to top it all off, while my ankle feels great (the rehab and taping worked and I am now running without pain or tape on my ankle), my bunions have been killing me. I haven’t been able to walk after my last few runs. I’m trying tape on my feet. The tape is supposed to correct the alignment of my toes, but I think my poor feet are too deformed for the tape to correct anything. It seems to alleviate some of the pressure, but they still hurt like the dickens. I’ve invested in a nice pair of those squishy Nike slides to slip into after the race and my long runs. Those, along with my hot pink compression socks, are becoming my new best friends.

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I’m still planning on running the Sunburst. I’ve done most of the training and I don’t plan on giving up now. I’m just reorganizing my priorities. I’m going to be a lot slower than I originally planned. I might have to walk parts of it. I might be last, but someone has to be. My main goal has always been just to finish, and that is still the goal.

I did get a 14 mile bike ride in the other day. And yesterday I ran a slow 6 miles with only 1 walk break, which was encouraging. I’m going to try one more long run tomorrow and see how I do. Then I start my taper. I’ve pretty much done all I can think of at this point.

Bad Kitties

On Friday morning, I left in such a hurry that I must not have latched the door to the spare bedroom all the way. The spare bedroom is where I have my makeshift “greenhouse” set up in the corner by the window.

I came home to to find a pile of dirt and egg carton bits on the bed. The kitties decided to play with the plants while I was away. They dragged the egg carton that contained my Green Zebra seedlings onto the bed and destroyed them. They also ate the cucumber seedlings.

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Bad kitties!

Here is Cecil trying to use his Jedi-cat, mind control powers to convince me that they are not the cats I am looking for. Elvis is trying to convince me the dog did it. I can tell he’s lying since he can’t even look me in the eye.

Elvis and Cecil

After Dark

I have found a new favorite author in Haruki Murakami. I stumbled upon him accidentally when the cover of his newest novel was showcased on a graphic design board I follow on Pinterest. The design was nice, but the title is what piqued my curiosity. I have yet to read the novel that first stirred my interest. I’m working up to that one by first reading some of his earlier works. I read a few recommendations around the Internet that I should start with Wild Sheep Chase, so that is where I started. I couldn’t put the book down and I have been greedily reading his books ever since. I do try to put some space in between them. I don’t want to overdose and ruin the effect he has.

Murakami’s writing style evokes such vivid imagery in my mind. I feel like I’ve been drawn into the story every time. He also tackles topics and questions that I ponder myself, but he approaches them in fresh way. The images and thoughts he creates in my mind stick with me long after I’ve finished reading the book. And some of the ideas he presents need time to ruminate – I don’t always know what to do with them at first. They swirl around in my head until they take root and finally connect with something. I like that in a book. I like books that make me think.

And he’s also a distance runner and triathlete. His book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, was a great reflection on running and training and life in general. It was written in such a conversational tone, I felt as if I was sitting down and conversing with him over coffee.

I just finished After Dark. Of course I loved it. It was short novel and a quick read, but it wasn’t lacking in depth and meaning. It also contained some memorable quotes, like this one:

In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.

And this one:

“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ or ‘Nice tits,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction–they’re all just fuel.”

It’s hard to pick a favorite. I’ve liked them all so far. Every time I read one, I think it is my new favorite. And then I read another one, and it becomes my new favorite. Hopefully it will continue in this fashion for awhile at least.

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I’m one book behind on my 2013 reading challenge. The book I’m reading right now, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, is a heavy tome. It’s interesting reading, but there is a lot to read.

So far the reading list goes:

  1. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International) by Haruki Muriakami
  2. Be Iron Fit, 2nd: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness by Don Fink
  3. Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line—and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
  4. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  5. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory (P.S.) by Peter Hessler
  6. Chi Marathon: The Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-Free Half Marathon and Marathon by Danny Dreyer
  7. The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
  8. Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids
    by Ken Jennings (Very disappointing book. I liked the idea, and as a fan of Jeopardy, I like the author, but the delivery on this book was off.)
  9. No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko (Recommended by my 12 year-old so I had to acquiesce. It actually wasn’t too bad. It had an interesting twist at the end. I picked up on some clues; therefore, I figured out the twist before it was revealed. My son didn’t figure it out, probably because he has no experience in the matter to draw from. He was surprised by the end. I thought it was still a good read.)
  10. The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin (Highly recommend this book. It details the history of vaccines and their opposition. It also definitely puts to rest the vaccine-autism “connection” – at least in my mind.)
  11. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  12. After Dark (Vintage International) by Haruki Muriakami

April Showers Bring May Flowers (or Something Like That)

pink tulip

I finally felt inspired to get my garden going. Last year, lulled into a false sense of security by unseasonably warm temperatures, I jumped the gun and planted both my seed pots and my garden way too early. I ended up nursing most of my sickly little plants back to good health, but not without some creative thinking and a lot of extra time and effort. This year, with an unseasonably chilly April, I just never found the motivation to get anything going. My seed pots are just now starting to sprout and I haven’t even tilled the main garden. However, I did finally make it down to the corner garden stand to buy some annuals to plant in my pots. That, and a little sunshine and warm temperatures, were all I needed to find the motivation to get the rest of my garden in order. I made a second trip to the corner to buy some perennials to replace some plants that succumbed to the drought last year, and I’ve been happily digging in the dirt ever since.

flowers and herbs

At the corner garden stand, I also saw a couple of heirloom tomatoes that I couldn’t resist. I picked up a Hillibilly. I’ve never grown this variety before, but I couldn’t resist the name – and the description makes it sound like it will be a tasty tomato.

hillbilly heirloom tomato

I also picked up a couple of Lemon Boys. Those are my favorite for tomato sandwiches, or just for eating plain. They have a mild, tangy-sweet taste that I love. I didn’t grow them last year. Instead, I decided to try Purple Calabash. The Purple Calabash were no Lemon Boys. I’ve decided to go back to a tried-and-true favorite this year. I also saved some seeds from my Green Zebras last year. Hopefully, my little seed saving experiment worked, and I’ll have a couple of those in the garden as well.

I spent this week breaking up the soil in the smaller beds around the perimeter of our yard with The Claw. Then I planted a few herbs and flowers, filled some pots with pansies and petunias, and planned where everything will go in the garden this year. We’ll finally get around to tilling the main garden with the heavy equipment this weekend. That is Dear Husband’s job.

I also relocated some poorly placed peonies to a better location. I know now is not the best time to move peonies, but they are growing randomly in the backyard and my husband will just mow them over again anyway. Then I forget about them until they pop up the next spring. It’s a merry-go-round I’ve been riding since we moved to this house. I figured they had a better chance if I relocated them now, rather than let my husband continue to mow them down so I’ll forget where they were growing, etc…

peonies

I counted my gardening as cross-training this week. It was much more enjoyable than situps with a medicine ball, swinging kettle-bells, and skipping rope. Twisting and turning The Claw in the ground was a great upper-body and core work-out. And the change of routine definitely woke my muscles up. I wish all exercise could be this much fun.

This week, I also got to run with my 10 year-old. She asked if she could run the Spud Run 5k with my son and I this year, so we started practicing. We did a short 1.5 mile run/walk on the high school cross-country trails over the weekend. I’m so excited that she’s taken an interest in running.  My son and I ran the Spud Run as our first 5K, so it’s fun that it will also be hers.

Raeanne

I also successfully completed my second double-digit long run. It was a lot harder this time. My leg cramped up about half-way through and I’ve been having a hard time breathing as I’ve had allergies and asthma to contend with this week. Allergy season slows me down and forces me to take frequent walk-breaks so I can catch my breath. I’m already barely above a jog normally, so it’s hard for me to take the slow-down. To keep from getting too discouraged, I keep reminding myself it’s only temporary. I’m pretty sure once the trees are done pollinating my pace will pick back up again.  On the other hand, I did recover a lot quicker after this second run, so I see that as progress. I’ll focus on the positive.

Do you garden? What do you like to grow in yours? Do you have a favorite heirloom tomato I should know about?

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Half-marathon Training Week 11

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: 4 miles + yoga
  • Tuesday: Gardening cross-training 🙂
  • Wednesday: 6 miles with hills + yoga
  • Thursday: Gardening cross-training
  • Friday: 11 easy miles
  • Saturday: 1.5 easy miles