Monthly Archives: December 2012

Crossing the Line

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I planned on writing a typical year-in-review blog.  You know the type … These were my goals, this is how my training went, blah blah blah.  And if you already posted something like that, please don’t take offense.  I totally understand, and I really do enjoy reading about your accomplishments!

But I had an “aha” moment this week (not surprisingly) during a run.  Not just an ordinary run, either.  I was running through a blizzard.  Yep, I looked outside at the swirling snow, the unplowed street, and said, “Hey, I should go out for a few miles.”

Blizzard Run: Before, During, and After!

Blizzard Run: Before, During, and After!

So I layered-up, laced-up, and headed into a winter wonderland.  As I leaned into 30 mph wind gusts and wobbled my way through six inches of fresh powdery snow, I realized something.  I wasn’t out there because of a training schedule, a weight loss goal, or some other numerical obligation.  I was out running because it was something I wanted to do.

And that’s when it hit me:  What I accomplished in 2012 can’t be summed up by mileage totals, race times, or age group awards.  It can’t be summed up by calories burned or pounds lost.  At some point during the past year I crossed the line and became an athlete.

Some people may reserve the term “athlete” for those that excel at a sport — For example, a runner that meets some arbitrary level of speed or distance.  But now I realize that being an athlete is more about EFFORT than about specific numbers.  So, for what it’s worth, this is MY definition of athlete:  A person who has the strength, ability, and desire to participate in physical pursuits on a regular basis.  And that’s what I have become, although, I’m not sure exactly how or when it happened …

Maybe it was that I didn’t throw in the towel when my IT band forced me to stop running for a few months.  It sounds weird, but I found a strange pride in having a sports-related injury.  I mean, you can’t get one of those while you’re sitting on the couch, right?  I remember one moment when a particularly tough therapy assistant was harrassing me about my sloppy effort by saying, “Come on, you’re an athlete, you can do better than that.”  If she called me an athlete, could it be true?

Or maybe it was when I decided that swimming laps was not enough of a workout on its own.  So I started biking to and from the gym, which is about 9 miles each way.  Those were some of my favorite workouts of the summer!

Or maybe it was when I was able to walk into a running store without feeling like a deer in the headlights.  I had a nice conversation with the owner about running form, new shoe models, and local race courses.  Phrases like “my weekly mileage” and “mid-foot strike” rolled effortlessly off my tongue.

Blog Quote 2Or maybe it was the day that I crashed my bike during a particularly long ride.  I was battered and bruised, but I patched myself up enough to ride the remaining several miles home.  I had a grass-stained shirt, swollen hand, and bleeding leg … but I kept up with the guys for the rest of the ride and felt pretty stinking tough while I did it.

Or maybe it was when I realized how much I look forward to my early morning workouts.  There is something I really enjoy about waking up and heading out the door before most people have started brewing their coffee.  (I know, sick, right?!?)

Maybe it didn’t even happen at one particular moment.  Maybe all of this year’s experiences were like drops in a bucket that collected until it eventually overflowed.

Here is what I do know about 2012:  I didn’t run a certain number of miles or a sub-4:00 marathon.   I can’t do a pullup (yet) and I don’t have six-pack abs.  But I don’t really care.  I crossed the line.  I am an athlete.

 

What about you … How was your 2012?  Do you measure your success by the numbers (distances, race times, etc.) or by something less black-and-white?

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  Find her on Twitter, @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama

Yes, Please, I’ll Take a Dozen

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Some of my favorite things in life come by the dozen.  Long-stemmed roses.  Cupcakes.  Beer.  (12 ounces per bottle, 12 bottles per case!)

In honor of today’s date being 12-12-12, I’d like to present a dozen reasons why I love running:

#1 – I am not good at it.

Some people are naturally good runners.  My name is NOT on that list.  It was a real struggle just to get through my first 5K.  But somehow I felt a glimmer of hope that I could improve, and I kept at it.  Running provides an endless array of challenges, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.

#2 – It makes my body happy.

I have more energy and endurance now than I ever have before.  I sleep better at night.  And my pants are looser.

#3 – It makes my brain happy.

There’s nothing like a good run to press your brain’s reset button.  Whether it’s mulling over an issue and coming up with a solution, or just taking a mental break to enjoy the scenery, my head always feels clearer when I’m finished.

#4 – It gets me out of the house.

I work from home and take care of two small children.  If I can squeeze in a little time to myself, in the fresh air, while getting a great workout, I’ll take it.

So true!

So true!

#5 – It’s good for my family.

Ok, I just said that I liked running to get AWAY from my family, so how does it HELP them?  Running is my stress relief, so I spend less time being cranky at home.  (You know what they say, “If Mama ain’t happy …”)  It also sets a good example for my children and shows them that exercise can be fun.  My husband and I work toward our own race goals, and every once in a while, we actually get to run TOGETHER.

#6 – I love food.

I know, I know, running is not a green light to eat whatever you want.  Trust me, that’s a lesson I learned the hard way!  But it does torch a large amount of calories, which gives me a little more leeway in my daily calorie budget.  If I’m exercising on a regular basis, it tends to keep me from wanting to throw my hard work down the drain by eating  junk.  Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good pre-race carb fest?

#7 – Races are fun.

You get to hang out with a bunch of people who are just as crazy as you … maybe crazier.  You get to stop traffic as you run right in the middle of the street.  And you get a cool T-shirt to wear, so that you can show off in front of non-runners remember you accomplishment.  What’s not to love?

#8 – It’s guilt-free way to socialize.

So many of the activities we do with friends seem to involve eating out, drinking, or spending money.  But going for a run with your gal-pals costs nothing and actually BURNS calories.

Thanks to @WomensRunning for tweeting this.  I'll take new running shoes over a glass slipper any day!

Thanks to @WomensRunning for tweeting this. I’ll take new running shoes over a glass slipper any day!

#9 – It’s an excuse to buy shoes.

Seriously, do you really need an explanation for this one?

#10 – It’s an excuse to buy clothes.

It only takes a few runs in a heavy, sweat-soaked, cotton t-shirt to realize that you need decent workout gear.  The good news is that running clothes are made of comfy, stretchy fabrics in a wide variety of fun colors and patterns.  Keep running and you might even drop a size or two, and have a great reason to buy new clothes for your “regular” wardrobe too.

#11 – It keeps you young.

I have seen some pretty awesome looking ladies (and gentlemen) in the oldest age groups at pretty much every race I’ve ever entered.  Many times, they’re turning in faster times than I am.  I would love to be that fit in 30 or 40 more years.  I’ll keep running, keep applying sunscreen, and hope for the best!

#12 – It’s a springboard to more adventures.

Running was my “gateway drug” leading to biking and swimming.  Three years ago, if you would’ve told me that I would be competing in triathlons, I would’ve laughed in your face.  I’ve also climbed mountain trails, trekked across a glacier, and completed a muddy obstacle course … all thanks to my newfound fitness.

So many adventures!

So many adventures!

As I was writing this, I realized how hard it was to limit myself to ONLY twelve things that I love about running.  It seems like I discover something new all the time.  So maybe we should make it a baker’s dozen instead, and say that I love running because the journey is just as much fun as the finish!

What about the other runners out there … Which of these reasons is your favorite?  Do you have a different reason of your own?

 

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  Check out her new Twitter handle @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama

Just Add Water

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The alarm goes off.  You roll over, rub your eyes, and see your running clothes all laid out, ready for your morning run.  And then you hear it:  The steady sound of rain on the roof.  Moment of truth.  What do you do?

If you are like I was during my first year or so of running, you roll over and go back to sleep.  If you are slightly more motivated than that, you jump on the treadmill or find a different workout for the day.  But I’d like to make a case for Option C:  Go for a run anyway.

It’s true, back then I totally avoided running in the rain.  Imagine my surprise when, the day of one spring 5K rolled around and … gasp … The forecast called for RAIN?!?  What do I wear?  What would happen?  It seems funny now, but at the time I was in a little bit of a panic.  As to what would happen, the answer was simple:  I got wet.  (Oh, and I PR’d along the way.)

From that day on, I realized it was silly to avoid running on rainy days.  In a place like Cleveland, it was a completely impractical way to train.  Juggling my schedule around days that were “nice enough” to run outside totally messed up any semblance of a training plan I tried to follow.

And besides, running in the rain was actually kind of, well, FUN!  It’s a little bit like splashing in puddles when you were a kid.  Even a slow run in nasty weather gives you a sense of accomplishment, a victory in the battle of man vs. nature.  The sound of the rain hitting the leaves is like a round of applause saying, “Good for you!  You got moving when you could’ve stayed in bed!”  And you will probably get nods of mutual respect from any other runners you pass.  A little street cred, if you will.

Want to get in on the action?  Here are my top tips for rainy day runs:

* Dress for the Weather

Plastic Bag

I put the paper with my workout plan inside a plastic bag, so I can review it during my workout without it getting soaked.

Cotton + Water = Miserable.  Now is the time for tech fabrics that wick moisture, and preferably a waterproof outer layer that still breathes.  Don’t forget a hat with a brim or a visor, to keep the rain out of your eyes.  If you tend to chafe, wet clothes will make it worse.  Vaseline or BodyGlide is your friend!

* Adjust Your Goals

You may not be able to go as fast or as far as you’d planned.  Your wet clothes and soggy shoes can weigh you down.  The rain could be accompanied by a lot of wind resistance.  Don’t fret if you don’t quite hit your goal.  Make the best of it, and realize that anything you accomplish is still more than if you’d never gotten out the door in the first place.

* Misery Loves Company

Schedule your workout with a partner or group.  You are less likely to flake out on a run if you have a friend or two waiting for you.  You will definitely find out who in your posse is hard-core by asking them show up “rain or shine” … and you won’t want to be the wimp who begs off!

* Prepare For the Finish

Have a hot beverage ready at the end of your run, perhaps a Thermos in the car.  Get out of your wet clothes as soon as possible.  At the very least have a blanket or towel to wrap up in, plus a dry pair of socks and shoes, for the drive home.

Shoes

My shoes and jacket hanging out by the heat vent after a soggy morning.

* Take Care of Your Shoes

Place some loosely crumpled newspaper inside your damp shoes.  It will help absorb the moisture, and you may need to switch it out for fresh paper a couple of times.  Find a warm, dry place to leave them.  Hopefully you have a couple of pairs of running shoes, so you can take them out of rotation for a day or two until they’re back to normal.  (Not a problem for most runners, who tend to be shoe-a-holics anyway.)

So the next time you hear the pitter patter of rain drops on your window, don’t despair.  Take your usual run and just add water!

 

 

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  Check out her new Twitter handle @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama