Sunburst

I did it! I finished! I’m still processing the entire experience.

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The weather wasn’t ideal for any outdoor activity yesterday. The morning was an especially good one for burrowing under the bed covers, but I got myself out of bed and out the door pretty much on schedule. Right as the 5K racers were lining up, there was a thunderstorm threatening. We were worried the race was going to be delayed or even cancelled. Luckily it blew over and eventually the sun came out. It ended up being a very hot, humid, and thankfully breezy, sunny day.

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Even though I arrived an hour early, I almost missed the start of the race. I misjudged the time and went to make one last potty stop. The line to the bathroom was so long, that I cut it really close. I hopped in the back of the pack with all the walkers just as the gun went off. My dad says I was one of the last people to cross the starting line. I honestly wasn’t paying attention to my position. I was just happy I made it in time. While I was a ball of panicked adrenaline from worrying I was going to miss the start, I think being last helped. I have a habit, like most new runners, of going out too fast. However, I couldn’t get around some of the walkers in the beginning, so it forced me to start slow.

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The course itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but Indiana is not the most exciting state on the map. It was pretty in some spots along the river, but it got a bit twisted and confusing as it went through some of the neighborhoods. And there was one out and back stretch that was so boring I started going down the, “Why am I doing this? This is the dumbest thing ever! I could be home in bed!” route. The stifling 88% humidity didn’t help. I felt so sticky and heavy the entire time. And there were times I was struggling to catch my breath. Luckily around mile 7, OK Go! saved me by reminding me that “This Too Shall Pass”. And it did.

I’m not a football or Notre Dame fan, so I didn’t really get all the hype about Sunburst’s finish line. I get it now. Sunburst has the coolest finish line ever (at least in my experience, which is a bit limited). I felt like such a rock star running through the tunnel to the 50 yd line of the football field.

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I am thankful that I obsessively read blog posts about marathon running tips and others’ race reports leading up to Sunburst. One tip in particular saved me. (I’d link, but I read so many random posts I don’t remember where this tip came from.) It was a marathon race report. The runner was running in hot/humid conditions and commented that while she noticed most of the other runners struggling around her, she stayed strong by always finding the shade and taking 2 cups of water at every stop – 1 to drink and the other to pour over her head. I’m glad that piece of advice popped into my head when it did, because that is what I ended up doing during the second half of the race and it helped me manage the heat and humidity. I am also thankful for all the good citizens of South Bend who left their sprinklers in the road for us to run through. I jumped through a few like a little kid. It helped give me the boost I needed to make it to the finish line with a smile still on my face.

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My official time was 2:44:58. Not very fast, but I’m happy with my time. Given how the end of my training went, I honestly didn’t expect to finish under 3 hours. I went in with a goal to just finish. I decided to leave my competitiveness behind yesterday and just run for fun and the experience. I realize now, it’s really not about the time. It’s the entire journey – all the hard work, sweat, and perseverance that got me to the finish line – that I am most proud of. I learned a lot, I made some mistakes, and most important, I had a great time.

I think the half is my favorite distance so far. I want to run another in the near future. Maybe one in the fall when it’s not so hot. I’m also entertaining ideas of training for a full marathon in a few years. But for now, I have a few 5K’s on the horizon with the kids, so I think my goal is to work on my pace. I have to be able to keep up with the kidlets. Or at least not be too far behind them.

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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?

April Showers Bring May Flowers (or Something Like That)

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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

Spinach Cherry Smoothie and Milestones

I passed a running milestone this week – my first double digit run. I have been nervously anticipating Friday’s run for the last two weeks. I know I’m supposed to only focus on the current day’s workout, but Friday’s 10 miler was looming. Even though I’ve been gradually working up to this distance for the last 4 months, 10 miles just seemed like such a long distance.  It was mostly a mental challenge, and I happy to say I passed. It didn’t even seem that hard, probably because I had turned it into such a mountainous feat in my mind. I need to learn to  just trust in my training and I’ll be fine.

I was a little nervous about running that distance on my ankle, since it’s been bothering me, but it seems fine. The tape and exercises seem to be helping.

There were 3 beers left in a 6-pack of Guinness my husband brought home last week. I really wanted one of those, but I decided I should have something healthier instead, so I made a smoothie. (I did have a Guinness later in the day. I ran 10 miles after all, so I figured I could have one.)

Ever since I stared this half-marathon adventure, I have been trying to eat better. I ate pretty good before, but I realized I could do better, especially in the vegetable department. I have no problem eating plenty of fruit, but I’m not too keen on veggies – especially the green, leafy kind. I’ve found that by sneaking them into my smoothies they are much more palatable. At first I thought that greens in a smoothie sounded weird, but actually it works out pretty well. I can’t even taste the greens. Here is the smoothie recipe I’ve been relying on lately.

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Spinach Cherry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain kefir (If I don’t have any kefir on hand, I use 1/2 cup of plain, Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of almond milk instead)
  • about 1/2 a cup of frozen cherries
  • big handful of spinach
  • about a 1/4 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 2 TBSP of flax seeds
  • a small handful of raw almonds
  • scoop of protein powder (optional)
  • honey or agave to sweeten (optional)

Directions

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend it together.

Tips and other suggestions

  1. Because of the almonds, this will have a crunchier texture than a normal smoothie and you’ll have to blend it a little longer than usual.
  2. Sometimes I put a small banana into the mix.
  3. You can also use baby kale in place of the spinach.
  4. If it’s too thick for your liking, you can add a splash of almond milk or orange juice to the mix.

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Half-marathon Training Week 10

  • Sunday: Yoga
  • Monday: 3 miles, last 2 race pace + strength
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 6 miles with hills + yoga
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 10 easy miles
  • Saturday: 2 easy miles

Stream of Conciousness Rambling

Zombies

I never intended for this to turn into a running blog, but as the growing pile of UFOs (unfinished objects) and mate-less socks and legwarmers on my craft desk illustrate, I haven’t had much time to knit lately.

OK confession. . .maybe it’s not so much that I haven’t had the time. . .see my daughter introduced me to her favorite DS game, Plants vs. Zombies, a little bit ago. At first I thought it was the dumbest game ever. Then one day I had a few minutes before the kids got off the bus from school. It was one of those times where there wasn’t enough time to really start anything, but I was too wound up to just sit quietly. My daughter’s DS was sitting on the table next to my favorite chair. I picked it up and decided to try Plants vs. Zombies again. I developed a sort of addiction. Here recently, time I normally would have spent knitting has been occupied with me choosing the proper plants to defend my home from a zombie attack. I’m not proud, but it happens. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

I’ve defeated the zombies and can now move onto knitting mates for the socks I started months ago. I’ve self- committed to complete at least one UFO by the end of this month.

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Candy Fish

The other night the kids wanted some ice cream after dinner. I didn’t have any in the freezer, so they asked if I had any “running candy”.

“Running candy?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Your fish, Mom.”

“Oh, those.”

I keep a stash of Swedish Fish in my office. I like to take along a pocket full of fish when I go out for a longer run. The sugar seems to give me an extra boost at the end, and they’re just a nice pick-me-up when I’m starting to tire. Apparently the kids noticed. I haven’t had many long runs here recently, but I’ve kept a stash to reward myself after all the carpy weather runs (bad pun intended) I’ve endured over the winter months. I may have a small Swedish Fish addiction as well.

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Training Update

I think I ran through all 4 seasons these past 2 weeks. I ran in a tank top and shorts one day, a rain jacket the next, and then all bundled up again like it was the middle of winter. I hate April weather. It can never decide what it wants to be.

Last Thursday, I ran a 6.5 mile loop in pouring rain and really strong wind gusts. It was one of those days when I was wondering why I was out running instead of in my warm, dry home. The gusts were so strong they literally stopped me dead in my tracks twice. The second time I shouted expletives at the wind before continuing on. Some poor man was getting into his truck when that happened and looked up surprised. I hope he realized that I wasn’t talking to him.

My ankle has been complaining a bit. Last summer I twisted it when I stepped in a hole while playing frisbee with my dog in the park. I don’t think I let it rest enough after the initial injury, so now it’s complaining. So far I haven’t had to stop running on it. My Dr. gave me some stretchy bands and a list of exercises to do. And I’ve been taping it with some KT tape when I run. The tape and home therapy seem to be helping. The pain is lessening, so hopefully I won’t have to take any significant time off.

Half Marathon Training Week 8

  • Sunday: 7.75 mile bike ride (my ankle was complaining today, so I thought I’d give it a rest and try out my new-to-me bike that my mom gave me.)
  • Monday: 4 easy miles
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 2 easy miles
  • Thursday: 6.5 miles
  • Friday: Core Yoga
  • Saturday: Rest

Half Marathon Training Week 9

  • Sunday: 3 miles + 6 striders
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 8 mile trail run
  • Wednesday: 3 easy miles
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Core Yoga
  • Saturday: 3.5 miles + core and strength