Category Archives: Motivation

Runner’s Block

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I wish I had a better reason for why I haven’t posted in almost five months.  I could tell you about how my summer with the kids was busy, how I spent more time focusing on prepping for a charity bike ride, and how lots of travel has distracted me.  But those are all pretty flimsy excuses that mask the real issue I’ve been facing lately:  Runner’s Block.

As running bloggers, we are quick to post when our training is going well, when we’ve met a particular goal, or after a successful race.  Our blog becomes a non-stop highlight reel of PR after PR, inspirational pep talks, and enthusiastic praise of this sport we love.  When we do post about the trials and challenges of running, it’s often as part of a story about how we overcame adversity and came out on top.  Our words bubble forth as we do our best to convince everyone to join us in this blissful state of achievement and satisfaction.

Once you get swept up in the running culture, it’s easy to feel like you should be “up” all the time.  If you call yourself a runner, you should love running all the time.  And if you aren’t running, there should be a clear-cut reason — like major illness or injury — which will only serve to fuel the fire and make you more motivated as you begin your triumphant return.  Cue the comeback soundtrack.

Looking back on my own blog, I can see how I perpetuated that pattern.  I fell into the trap of presenting the airbrushed version of what being a runner is like, and when I felt like I wasn’t living up to that ideal image, I stopped writing.  I haven’t even finished editing the second part of my marathon recap, which was an AWESOME race, because I feel guilty about posting it while I’m barely eking out a few miles a week.

So, here’s the truth:  I haven’t been running very much.  I decided to put other priorities first, and I let racing sit on the back burner for a few months.  Without the added motivation of having a goal race, I slacked off and gained a little bit more “fluffiness” than I would’ve liked.  I still liked the IDEA of running, but it didn’t feel very good and wasn’t very much fun.

I’m slowly getting back on track, but I still feel like I’m struggling with runner’s block.  Most days I run only because my head tells me that I should.  I still find myself pining for the good old days when I ran because I WANTED to, and because it made me feel good.  I’m not sure what it will take to get that feeling back, but I’m determined to keep trying.

Cue the comeback soundtrack.

*Have you experienced runner’s block?

*What do you do to find (or keep) your motivation?

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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

What Do We Do Now?

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Over the past three months, as the training has gotten tougher and the runs have gotten longer, I’ve spent a lot of time visualizing what it will feel like as I approach the finish line of my first marathon.  Will I feel strong and proud, with my arms raised in victory formation?  Will I feel tired and sore, limping my way across in grim determination?  Will I smile?  Will I cry?

Never once in those moments of dreaming could I have imagined something like the nightmare that occurred at yesterday’s Boston Marathon.

Runners are used to experiencing discomfort, and even sometimes pain.  We embrace it willingly in our quest to run faster or longer or to prove that we can overcome the voice in our head telling us to stop.  But our type of hurt is self-inflicted and temporary, a stark contrast to the events of yesterday.  It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that someone intentionally turned an area of celebration into a crime scene.

My heart, of course, goes out first and foremost to the individuals that were injured and the families that lost loved ones.  Their loss is by far the greatest.   But I am also sad for the runners.  There are those that spent so much time and effort training to qualify for, and then actually run, one of the world’s most prestigious marathons, only to be stopped short of the finish line.  And there are those that did finish, but who will forever have a shadow of grief cast over their Boston Marathon experience.

As a human being, I am affected by the stories of suffering and loss in Boston.  As a runner, it resonates even more deeply.  I feel a connection to it, and with my own marathon less than three weeks away, it has been far too easy for my mind to swirl with “what if” thoughts.

The question lies before us:  What do we do now?  We could allow ourselves to get weighed down by the pain and suffering, until we give up and quit.  Or we could reach inside and find the determination to continue.  I choose to rely on the support of my friends and family, to cling to my faith, and to finish what I’ve started.

Please join with the rest of the running community as we keep moving forward, just like we always do … One foot in front of the other.

Boston Logo

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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

Shake It Off

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I knew it was coming. I could hear the footfalls behind me on the path. I felt its breath on the back of my neck. The feeling of expectation was heavy in the air, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped.

And then one sunny Wednesday morning, there it was. The run I’d been waiting for: The crash and burn.

Now that I’ve been running for a few years, I’ve learned that you can only string together so many “good” runs before a “bad” one comes along to bite you in your lycra-clothed butt. And I had been on a REALLY good roll. Sure, there were a few times that I cut a run a little short, or that I didn’t quite meet my goal pace. But for the most part, I’d spent two months building base mileage and four weeks starting my marathon training with no major issues. I knew my day would come …

I’m normally really excited to head out the door and tackle my run, but that morning I struggled to even get out the door. As I drove to the park, I was still fighting the urge to turn around and drive back home. I willed myself out of the car and figured if I could just get started, the miles would fly by and I’d be well on my way to covering my scheduled 18 miles. I was wrong.

I warmed up, planning to start with my usual 5-minute run/1-minute walk ratio. Except I couldn’t even run for 5 minutes. In fact, I barely made it for 90 SECONDS before I felt like I couldn’t run one more step. There really wasn’t anything wrong. The weather was fine, I wasn’t sick or injured. It just felt like someone had filled my Mizunos with concrete, and each step took triple the normal effort to execute.

I tried another running segment. I checked my watch, confident that I was closer to 5 minutes this time. Nope, 1:45. This process continued for another mile or so, and I never made it past 2 minutes of continual running. My body was not cooperating, and on top of that, I just didn’t feel like running.

I tried changing my plan. Instead of a long, steady run, maybe I’d try some hill repeats to get myself pumped up. Normally I love the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the top of a tough climb, and it totally charges me up to keep going. But as I forced my way up to the top of my third repeat, I wanted to cry. This was not fun, and I didn’t want to do it any more. So I turned around and slowly made my way back to the car. The walk of shame.

My “crash and burn” workout … Three years ago this would’ve been my race pace!

On the way home, I wallowed in the disappointment of not completing my scheduled workout. I felt like a failure. And I almost slipped into the “this missed opportunity is going to ruin my entire marathon training plan” kind of thinking, which is pretty ridiculous.

So what do you do when a run doesn’t go as planned? Try this three-step process:

First, throw yourself a 5-minute pity party. Allow yourself to be mad, sad, disappointed, whatever. Just get it all out and be done with it.

Second, get a little perspective. This is a great time to look back at your training log. Maybe you didn’t go as fast or as far as you’d have liked today, but it’s probably only a small piece of what you’ve done over the past weeks, months, or years. Just a tiny blip on the radar screen.

Third, learn a lesson. Take an honest look at why things might’ve gone wrong. Did you fail to fuel or warm-up properly? Have you been properly recovering after your workouts? Are you being realistic in your expectations, based on your current circumstances? Most importantly, what can you change for the future?

In my case, once I took a step back and looked at it, I figured a few things out. I didn’t get my running gear ready the night before, so I wasted way too much time and energy wandering around the house trying to get myself together. I’d flipped my schedule around and tried to do two long runs close together. And I spent the day after that run in bed with a sore throat and stuffy head. So my body was probably trying to tell me to give it a rest and allow it to fight off the germy invaders trying to storm the castle!

Still smiling at the end of my first 20 mile run!

Still smiling at the end of my first 20 mile run!

I made a few notes in my training log, and life went on. The next week I raced a 5K with a new PR time, taking more than 40 seconds off of my previous best. Later that month I ran my first 20-mile training run, and I’ve done several more in the 15-20 mile range. That one disappointing run was, in fact, just a tiny blip on the radar screen of my marathon training.

Runners, if you have a workout that doesn’t go as planned, don’t despair. I’m guessing even elite runners miss the mark every once in a while. (I’ll be sure to ask Kara and Shalane next time we do lunch.) Get back out there and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Life will go on!

This is definitely one of those running-imitates-life scenarios. In life, there will always be things that go wrong. You’ll be disappointed when something that doesn’t go the way you expected. You’ll fail to reach a goal you’ve been striving for. It’s a fact of life. Imperfection is unavoidable when we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. But instead of rolling over and giving up when things get tough, if you find a way to work through them, you’ll come out stronger and smarter on the other end.

Have you ever had a “crash and burn” run or workout?


What helps you to shake it off?

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.

She is currently training for the 2013 Flying Pig marathon, and plans to run the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. To help her reach her goal, please visit her webpage: http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMamaTeam In Training

Follow her journey on Twitter @MileageMama: https://twitter.com/MileageMama

Blindsided

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Sometimes life lets you down easy.  Bad news comes in small doses, giving you time to deal with it as it gradually accumulates.

Other times, it slams into you like a Mack truck.  Your chest tightens as you gasp for air.  You stand frozen as the world spins uncontrollably around you.  No matter how strong your faith is, you are shaken to your very core, and you wonder how you will ever take one more step forward.

As the jumble of thoughts and emotions threatens to cripple you, you fight back.  You lace up your shoes.  And you run.

You runs as the tears stream down your face.  You run as you choke back the sobs.  You run as your brain swirls rapidly with memories of the past and thoughts of futures that will not be.  The churning of your legs mimics the churning of your stomach.  The burning in your lungs matches the burning in your heart.

You run faster and harder, and for a few blissful minutes, your mind is incapable of focusing on anything but the physical effort.  You run … and run … and run …

When you are done, your heart is still broken.  Your arms are still empty.  And yet, somehow, you are stronger than when you began.  You know that you have the strength to press forward, to push through the pain, and that you will survive.  One step at a time.

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  She is currently training for the Flying Pig marathon, and plans to run the Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  To help her reach her goal, please visit her webpage:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama

Follow her journey on Twitter @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama

When Pigs Fly

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Three years ago the thought of myself running a marathon was laughable.  The only running I’d done in the past involved forced laps during gym class, which I viewed as torture.  When I started training for my first 5K, I could only jog continuously for about a minute before I stopped to walk.  Completing that 3.1 mile race at a slow jog felt like an epic accomplishment, which made the idea of 26.2 miles seem about as probable as climbing Mount Everest.  If I had to sum up my marathon hopes with three words, “When Pigs Fly” would’ve been quite appropriate.

Well guess what?  Last week I started training for my first marathon and, ironically enough, it’s called the Flying Pig!

Flying Pig Logo

I’m not sure exactly when the thought of running a marathon started rattling around in my brain.  Perhaps when I finished a half marathon and realized it wasn’t SO bad after all?  Plenty of running books and documentaries have added to the inspiration.  (Check out “Spirit of the Marathon” on Hulu or Netflix, one of my faves!)  I would walk around running expos eyeing up the booths from various big-city marathons.  But it was never a solid plan, just a vague idea.

Looking at my 2013 race schedule, I decided to aim for a half marathon in April, and MAYBE (huge MAYBE) run a full marathon in the fall … Until I went to register for the April race and realized that I had a scheduling conflict for that date.  Doh!  Back to the drawing board.

So I started looking for a different half marathon and found a couple of options in early May.  One of them was the Flying Pig weekend in Cincinnati, which I’d always heard great things about.  Like a lot of larger races, it offered the choice of a half or a full marathon.  And that’s when the crazy ideas started to creep in …

What if I run a FULL marathon in May instead?  I’ve already built up a solid two months of base mileage, which would put me at exactly the starting point I need to begin a 16-week marathon training plan.

But it’s January in Cleveland, is this such a good idea?  On the other hand, it’s JANUARY in CLEVELAND and I’ve already done a great job of sticking to my schedule, including running through blizzards and frigid windchills.  It can’t really get a whole lot worse.  Plus if I was training for a fall marathon, I’d be starting in the July heat and humidity instead.  And I really hate running in hot weather.

But do I really want to travel that far for a race, and will I even be able to find somewhere to stay?  A quick check showed that it’s only a four-hour drive, totally doable for a weekend.  And after a little more searching I found a super price on a hotel less than a mile from the expo and the starting line.  And come to think of it, wouldn’t it actually be more worth it to make the trip if I was running a longer race?

And then came the clincher:  As I scrolled through the list of charity groups participating in the Flying Pig,  I came across Team In Training.  Team in Training is a group that supports endurance athletes as they raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  This is a cause that has recently become very personal to me, and I knew it would be great to have that extra motivation pulling me along.  To top it all off, they were running a special with a reduced entry fee.  And everyone knows I love a bargain!Team In Training

The last of my excuses had melted away.  All signs were pointing in the direction of the marathon.  There would always be a million reasons NOT to try it.  If I didn’t take the chance I had in front of me right now, would I ever be willing to make that leap?

So before I could think about it too long, I jumped on the Team In Training website and signed up.  Yes, I’m scared.  Will I be able to put in the mileage?  Can I avoid getting hurt?  Is it possible to raise the money to meet my fundraising requirement?

Time will tell.  It’s going to be an interesting few months.  But if there’s one thing running has taught me, it’s to never say “never” … So watch out for flying pigs!

 

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Updated on 3/17/13 … I’m still training for the Flying Pig on my own, but fundraising issues caused me to switch to running the Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland Half Marathon with Team In Training.  If you’d like to help me with my goal, please visit my personal page:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama

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

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