Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Running Story

I was inspired to write this by seeing a few other running bloggers I follow post their running stories. Also, I am lazy and wanted to write an "About" section - now I can get double credit for it.

When I was in seventh grade - the first year my school district allowed students to participate in sports - I tried out for the basketball team. Unfortunately, I wasn't selected for even the alternate team, so I decided to do track and field, a no-cut sport, with all my friends. While I didn't loathe it enough to outright quit, I hated most of our practices. The one day we had a practice cancellation for rain was like Christmas.

Practices were two hours, five days a week. The first hour was calisthenics, and the second hour involved everyone not naturally talented getting dumped in the field behind my middle school to train on our own. You were expected to be active the whole time, but rarely were you given any real instruction on what to do. (Our main coach was training for his own marathon, so I'm not sure what the disconnect was. He finished his race, so he must've known something about running.)

I was put in the exhibition 220 and also chose to run the 880, as it was open to anyone interested. My crowning achievement was when I did not come in last place. (Full disclosure: it was at the district meet when I got to run against all four other schools.)

Looking back, I understand why I hated track so much. We were all forced to do the exact same workouts and were punished for not performing well enough. I certainly got stronger and probably improved (my times weren't recorded), but it wasn't in a logical way. I wasn't given the tools needed for success; even now I would need to do a lot of research to learn how to train to run the 220 and 880 well (ie not come in last again) - I'm not sure how I was supposed to figure it out as an 11-year-old running laps by myself in a field. (Wearing all cotton and Meijer gym shoes, no less.)

This thoroughly turned me off running, even though it was something I really wanted to do. I think my most distinctive take-away from this phase was that I didn't mind that the training was hard, I minded that I didn't know what I was doing. I vividly remember my grandmother asking why I participated if it was hard (I think I said I was sore after the first week of practice) and being nonplussed by the thought I would quit just because track required effort.
Photo: Believe in the run.
#running #runspiration
Fat lazy pandas don't put much effort into their image searches, alright?
I moved on to high school, where I took a required gym class the summer before my freshman year. (Over-achiever, hey-oo.) To get 100%, you needed to run a sub-30 3 miles. I was determined to get a 100%, so I spent extra time running on my own. However, it never occurred to me I could run outside (or trade in my Meijer gym shoes), so I did everything on the treadmill, which I hated. Again, with 20/20 hindsight, I can see what I really hated was where I was running, but I had no one to tell me otherwise. I think I ran a 31:something, which, considering I had no base beforehand, was really good for me. My most vivid memory of this whole thing was on "test day," when I ran more than a whole mile without walking and felt like I was flying. Even though I ultimately lost points, that sensation made up for it. (Though I do remember feeling ashamed when my friends had already finished well under 30 minutes and told me I needed to hurry up. Who knows why I prefer to always run alone?)

After that class, I proceeded to play zero sports and stopped running. This is probably my one regret from high school; I really wish I had had the camaraderie of a team for those four crappy years. I do laugh now though, because plenty of people ask if I was some sort of cross-country protege when I tell them I run marathons. (A sport that requires you to run really fast on grass? That sounds like some terrible nightmare.)

But, and this is a big but and it cannot lie, I am also a tiny bit glad I didn't run in high school. Several people I know who did track and/or cross-country now despise running and have given it up. I can't explain how weird it is to be able to run further than someone who I used to think was a fantastic athlete. I'm sure they could still kick my butt when it comes to speed any day, but it's a bizarre paradigm shift I still haven't acclimated to. This might go back to how in my head I'm still the slowest runner on the planet, but that's another story for another day.
Cheesy, but I'm honestly not sure how else to describe it.
Somehow, the tiny desire to run still stayed alive deep inside of me. When I started college, one of my close friends was a runner. She never forced it on me, but seeing someone be a runner day-in and day-out helped show me it was possible, no calisthenics or running on grass required. I started running in short intervals (in a new pair of Meijer shoes), though I made the rookie mistake of sprinting and being forced to walk. This time I kept it up.

One day, when I was staying with my runner friend, we discussed doing a 5K for my upcoming birthday. I found this inspiring and decided to go running. I have no idea what clicked this time, but I focused on running through each song as it came on my iPod, slowing the pace if I needed. As I went longer and longer, I decided I wanted to run continuously to the other side of campus. I was totally winded when I got there, but when I allowed myself to stop I almost fell over the runner's high hit me so hard. It was like what I had felt five years before, multiplied by a factor of 1000.

I managed to run back to my friend's apartment and looked up how far I had run without stopping - two miles. That sounds like so little now, but at the time I felt like a champion. This gave me the confidence I needed to sign up for the 5K. I finished the Run Back to School 5K in 33:48 one day before my 19th birthday. 

Eight years after my first track practice, I could finally call myself a runner.
And I jaywalk right across because a running party don't stop.
That spring I decided I wanted to do something I'd never done before - run four miles without stopping. I set-up two two-mile loops and headed out in the evening. I wanted to stop so badly after the first loop, but I kept going. I was so sore afterwards I hobbled for two days, but I felt like I was ready for more. In the summer of 2012 I ran the inaugural BTN Big 10K in Chicago and loved it. This was the first inkling I had that I might like to go longer, something that once seemed so overwhelming.

I started training for my first half, The Ice Cube Half, after Thanksgiving that year. Marathons had crossed my mind enough that I started reading seriously about them, but they still sounded pretty scary. However, I discovered my favorite part of training were the long runs, when I would just go for hours. I started researching races and signed up for the Sleeping Bear Marathon on January 1, 2013, before I had actually run my half.

After this point I started to learn more about the marathon community, especially about 50-Staters and the Marathon Maniacs. That summer I discovered the Mount Desert Island Marathon would qualify me for the Maniacs and start me on the 50 States path. Eager Feet Mom needed some convincing about why going to Maine during the semester was a good idea, but she eventually came around and became very supportive. When I crossed that finish line, I knew the 50 States was something I really could achieve.

Though my new coworkers probably wish I would stop telling them all about it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Crossroads Training: Week Seven

This week was my third week of three in this build stage. Physically I feel fine, but I did lose some motivation towards the end. I'm really looking forward to a step-back week!

(I realize this post looks super obnoxious without pictures, but I wouldn't know what to do with my phone while I actually worked out if I lugged it around to take pictures of my shoes. And I refuse to take post-workout selfies because I have principles.)

Monday - 4 mi easy
My legs still felt very fatigued from my 20 miler the Saturday before. It felt good to shake them out a bit, but the built-up track makes it hard to get all the kinks worked out.

Tuesday - NROLFW Stage 3 Workout 3B
After a long day of doing nothing at work, I just wanted to curl up with Faramir at home. I made myself go anyway; I can't say I felt better afterwards, but I'm glad I went.

Wednesday - 7 mi tempo
I didn't hit my tempo pace right away, but my average worked out properly. I think if I want to hit the right pace off the bat, my warm-up needs to be a little faster.

Thursday - 4 mi easy
I ran a little faster than I probably should've since my legs were tired from the day before, but we were having a winter sleetstorm, and I just wanted to get home. I thought I fueled properly, but I crashed during the last mile.

Friday - NROLFW Stage Workout 4A
I actually sat in the parking lot for a good 10 minutes and debated just driving home. I really wanted next Friday to be a rest day when a friend comes, so I made myself suck it up, buttercup. There were surprisingly few people there, so it actually was relatively relaxing. I could feel a lot of fatigue in my legs and had to go lighter on some exercises, so I just focused on effort level.

Saturday - 16 mi long
Despite the rest of the week, I was pretty motivated to crank this one out. I feel like this is the longest distance I feel comfortable properly pacing myself at. For some reason breaking it into four four-mile segments makes it possible for me to mentally push through the fatigue without worrying I'm going to hit the wall. Other than my normal back issues from running on such a hard surface, I felt very good the whole time and got progressively faster as I went.

Sunday - 3200 yd swim
I was extremely sore in my hamstrings and glutes and was tempted to rest instead, even though I know swimming helps flush all my muscles out. The swim sounded long to start with, but each rep was so short that it went by relatively quickly. My tris felt totally done with about 300 yards to go, but I was happy with the swim overall.

Run: 31 mi, 5:38
Lift: 2:17
Swim: 3200 yd, 1:30
Total Time: 9:25

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hodgepodge Update

Well, that was a much longer hiatus than I had planned. Because it was definitely 100% planned. Ahem.

Just kidding! Last month I started working full-time, which was a bit of an adjustment. I love my job and my coworkers, but it took some time to settle into a routine. Aka I got suckered into cuddling with Faramir every night to make up for being gone all day.

Things have also been a bit strange with the weather. My city plowed all the sidewalks at the start of winter, but I think the combination of extremely high snowfall and sustained frigid temperatures beat them into submission. I have no problem running through the cold, but the high drifts of snow have forced me inside for all my runs. The indoor track has finally broken me, and I no longer dread it. (I only dread the inconsiderate other people who run on it.)
I'm glad your 2-year-old loves Winston the elephant, but the track is not the appropriate place to play with him.
I thought a reprieve was coming with the last few days above freezing and rain, but starting tomorrow we have no more days on the 10 day forecast above 25, so the sidewalks will probably be skating rinks until sometime in March. But hey, I've already done one of my 20-milers on the track, it literally cannot get any worse.

Otherwise, my marathon training has been clicking along on schedule, despite the fact I haven't posted about it. My goal is to get back into writing it up every Sunday now that I have a better weekend routine down. I have decided to cut back to two days of lifting instead of three and one day of swimming instead of two. I certainly don't mind two-a-days, but I hate working out before going to the office. It just isn't fun for me, and I decided that, since lifting and swimming are my supplemental activities, if cutting them down makes me happier, I should do it. Please note that even though I sound firm here, I angsted for almost a week about this.
Angsting about John's mustache is legitimate. Angsting about working out is not. Sometimes I forget the simple truths of life.
Another good thing about starting work is that I know my schedule for the rest of the year, so I finalized my marathon schedule for the year. The only change is I'm replacing Paavo Nurmi with Med City. We have a huge software change scheduled for August, and I didn't feel like I could peace out if everything is blowing up left and right. This means April and May will be a little intense with three marathons, one every other week, but Michael and I figured we'll be in shape for it, so why not? Plus I have Hatfield-McCoy in June, so I couldn't have slacked off anyway. I'm really excited that I'll be able to squeeze in six this year, knock on wood. (Though my new greatest angst is whether to count Hatfield-McCoy as West Virginia or Kentucky. What state should I color in on my map?!)

I guess since I'm vomiting updates out in no specific order, I might as well review my New Year's resolutions just like I promised I would do at the end of each month occasionally.


1. Allergies - Yes! I went to see the allergist, who confirmed I'm allergic to just about everything. I've been going every week for shots and have my three month follow-up scheduled. If I'm lucky, this means at the end of April, I can drop down to getting shots every other week instead.

2. Vitamins - In between. I was doing great with this, but I fell off the wagon when my stomach was upset for a few days, since the iron upsets it even more. I'm renewing my resolve to do this, since I'm starting to notice my SAD a lot more without the Vitamin D.

3. IBS - Not needed. As I suspected, my IBS flared up between graduation, the holidays with family, moving to a new city, and starting a new job. Everything seems to running smoothly now.

Diet's better than before but still not fantastic. I have a go-to healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner; it's the snacks that are my downfall. I forgot that when I run 30+ miles a week, I turn into the hungriest hippo of them all. I need to make a better effort to buy more fruit to snack on. Or it might be worth paying for some protein bars as a healthier choice. 


Even though I cut back to two days a week, I'm still following through with the NROLFW program. The workouts are getting longer (mostly because the rest periods keep increasing), but I really want to stick it out until the end. I think my tentative end date is around the beginning of fall. I haven't given much thought to what I'll do after. At my gym you can pay to set up a training plan with a personal trainer; it's a little pricey but within my comfort range for a one time thing, so I might consider that.


Total failure. I don't really like the foam roller I bought at Meijer (yes, I was that dumb), so I haven't been using it. I also find it requires so much upper body strength that it can be hard after lifting. I have been using my compression socks and stick a lot, though, so I'm not totally neglecting my body.

I've dropped doing yoga though. It wasn't fun with all the other workouts I wanted to do. Maybe next time I step down from marathon training for a couple months, I'll replace a running day with yoga.

Giving Back

1. Volunteer at races - I've changed this resolution from one race a month to twelve for the year. Michigan just doesn't have enough winter races to make this feasible. I've also discovered tons of races don't have any sign-up pages for volunteering. A local running store from my hometown has a great volunteer program though (their races are all around the state), so I'm hoping to sneak in a lot with them.

2. Volunteer at blood drives - Sadly, I've given this up. After doing a background check and an extensive orientation, the Red Cross also wanted to do a phone interview. Enough was enough; it wasn't worth it to me for what I wanted to do. I feel bad for not donating or volunteering, but they just made it too difficult.

3. I haven't started looking for other volunteer opportunities much in depth yet. However, I saw our local nature center accepts volunteers, so I'm planning to inquire about outdoor options once the weather gets a little nicer. I love hiking, and this seems like a great outlet for that without having to travel too far.


1. Blog more - Working on it. Now that I've got a routine and got over the hump tonight of not writing, hopefully I can establish a better blogging schedule.

2. Attend a local event - Check! Michael and I went to two last weekend - a minor league hockey game and a play. Totally on a roll here.

3. Read a book a month - Not so far, but I'm hoping to set aside some reading time this weekend to get cracking.

4. Attend a social event - I've done several after-work things with my coworkers (though I've certainly also skipped my share). I'm happy so far with the balance I've struck.

5. Do a fun project - I've thought about starting a scrapbook for our marathons. Does that count?

I've gotten a good understanding in my first month at work what my responsibilities will be and how I'll be assessed on my performance. I'm really excited to keep learning and demonstrate what I can do. I've been able to decorate and organize my cube and files to my liking (for the first time ever!), so I feel at home in my little space.

I think that concludes my brain dump, most of which wasn't even running related. But now I'm poised to start delivering more hard-hitting posts that channel Squidward as my spirit animal. You know you're excited.