Category Archives: Running

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

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I Came, I Saw — Marathon, Part One

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It’s almost 1:00 a.m. and I should’ve been in bed hours ago.  I also have work to finish and a camping trip to pack for.  But I tonight I saw the premiere of “Spirit of the Marathon II” and after seeing those great stories I’m determined to finally sit down to write my own!

Rest assured that I’m not going to write a full recap, complete with 26 miles of splits and a breakdown of exactly what I ate and when.  (I couldn’t even if I wanted to because the GPS for my RunKeeper app went nutso during the race … Pretty sure I did NOT run 29 miles!)  But even writing just the highlights will take some time and probably two posts.  So if you want the short version — spoiler alert — here it is:  I finished a marathon.  It was awesome.

If you want the longer version, read on!

"Before" Photo - Looking happy and a little scared!

“Before” Photo – Looking happy and a little scared!

As I think back on my Flying Pig marathon experience, it’s not the black-and-white numerical data that I remember.  I can’t recall what happened at each individual mile.  There are even some pretty large chunks of time that are a total blur.  But sprinkled throughout the race are several key moments, so clear in my memory, kind of like my own personal highlight real.

THE START – I had been so preoccupied with race preparations and the frenzy of getting to my starting corral that my brain was too busy to comprehend what was happening.  Suddenly I found myself standing there, surrounded by a sea of runners, facing a beautiful sunrise over the start line and it hit me like a ton of bricks:  This is IT.  After all of the work and sacrifice, joy and grief, I am finally HERE … And I started to cry.

Seriously?  Already?  Sheesh.  But as we moved forward, I snapped out of it.  I wiped the tears from my face and held my head high.  I had a monumental task to accomplish and I needed to focus.  So it began!

Gorgeous Sunrise

Gorgeous Sunrise

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Ready to go … Plus my two memory bracelets

THE SIGN – I loved reading all of the signs along the course.  Some were funny, some were encouraging, some were even a little suggestive.  But the one that stuck with me the most was held by a woman I saw around mile 2.  She was sitting on the curb with a poster propped up in front of her that said something like, ‘I fractured my hip training for this race.  Finish for me.’  For a few seconds I actually thought about trying to turn around to go back and give her a hug, but it was so crowded I would’ve gotten trampled.  Sign-lady, if you’re out there, please know that I thought about you repeatedly whenever things started to get tough.  Thanks for the extra motivation.

THE VIEW – I had studied the course enough to know that I should anticipate an uphill first half, but since I’m not from Cincinnati, I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  I tried to focus only on the road that I could see immediately in front of me, not worrying about what still might be ahead.  As I rounded a bend around mile 7, I was practically smacked in the face by an amazing view down over the park and back onto the city we had just left.  It was astounding to see just how far I already climbed, especially compared to how good I felt, and I knew that after only another mile or so the toughest hills would be done.  I was flying high, literally and mentally!

THE EXCHANGE – At some point, I decided to calculate whether I had brought along enough fuel for the duration of the race.  I am normally pretty good at math, but something about running turns my brain into scrambled eggs and I started to worry that I hadn’t put enough energy food in my belt after all.  And the jacket I had tied around my waist was annoying the snot out of me.  Mentally, I was just at the point of starting to slip a little.

In the meantime, my poor husband was doing his best to navigate the bus system to try to find me at some point along the course.  I was relieved when he texted to say he was waiting at mile 12, and I sent him a desperate reply, requesting that he be ready to hand over all of the extra Honey Stinger waffles and Sport Beans in his backpack.  I must’ve looked like a woman possessed as I made a beeline to the sidewalk, while flinging my jacket at him and greedily stuffing a bag of jellybeans in the waistband of my shorts.  For some odd reason, just having these extra provisions brought back the mental confidence that I was now prepared to endure the second half of the race.  (Side note:  I did not end up using ANY of the extra food he handed off to me.  Too funny.)

Heading Straight to my “Pit Crew”

THE HIGHWAY – After winding through some scenic, fun, lively neighborhoods, it was time for a reality check at mile 18.  The course takes you back toward downtown along the shoulder of a highway, so you are combining mind-numbing scenery, little crowd support, and mileage that is starting to add up quickly.

Thankfully the Flying Pig organizers very strategically plan a water stop at this point, manned by none other than the local chapter of Parrotheads.  It’s hard to be down when people in coconut bras and flowered shirts are cheering for you and dancing to Jimmy Buffett music.  Seriously, these people were having a blast while hanging out in the rain on the side of a highway.  Awesome.  I enjoyed my brief trip through Margaritaville, and soldiered on …

(To Be Continued)

Winning

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Today I ran my slowest 5K ever.  In fact, I hesitate to use the word “ran” because it was more like a slow trot.  I came in last place in my age group.  But none of that matters … because I won.

My boys, ages 4 and 7, have come to quite a few races to cheer on the grown-ups.  They love the races that have kids’ activities, snacks, and prizes.  (Especially prizes!)  Somewhere along the line, they decided that wasn’t enough, and that they should actually RUN in the race — And not just the “fun run” or the kiddie distance, the actual 5K.

Besides running with them, my husband and I also talked a lot about how going to a race is not about beating other people, or winning a medal, but is about doing the best that YOU can do.  (I knew we were getting through to them when I went into their room one night and heard one of them mumbling “personal best” in his sleep.)  Above all, I wanted their first race to be a positive experience.  Something they would always remember, and hopefully would want to do again.

Unfortunately, as we picked up our “Jog Into Spring” race bibs, a snow squall sprang up.  Seriously?!?  We were being pelted with tiny balls of ice and I thought for sure the kids would complain.  But we bundled up and headed to the start line.  Thankfully, it stopped snowing and stuck to being “only” cold and a little windy.

All bundled up and ready to run!

All bundled up and ready to run!

Looking out the car window about 15 minutes before the start ... yikes.

Looking out the car window before we started … yikes.

My husband ran with Boy #1 so that they could go a little faster.  I stuck with Boy #2, who started off at a nice, steady, but sloooooow pace.  Once the 1-mile walkers peeled off at their turn, I realized we were at the very end of the runners — what a strange feeling!  Then we came up to our first mile marker, and we were already getting passed by the race leaders heading in the opposite direction.  I did what I could to keep my boy focused and steady, but by the second mile marker, the wheels were starting to come off.

Bringing up the rear, just in front of the walkers.

Bringing up the rear, just in front of the walkers.

My mom and a friend did their best to make it fun for him, running ahead and letting him catch up to “beat” them.  I bribed him rewarded his efforts with jellybeans.  I even resorted to singing to him.  (I’m sure the complete stranger that had fallen to the back of the pack with us was very amused by my a capella rendition of “Eye of the Tiger.”)  We managed to avoid a full-blown meltdown, but that third mile was tough.  All along the way the race volunteers and police officers cheered for him.  I know they were probably freezing, and since they were basically only waiting for us at that point, I tried extra hard to thank each of them as we passed.

Finally, the finish line came into view.  Pretty much the only people left were our friends, and the family of a woman who I think  accidentally found herself on the course for the 5K instead of the 1-mile walk.  (Poor thing!)  But their cheers were enough to spur Boy #2 on to a strong finish, with a smile on his face.

Crossing the finish line!

Crossing the finish line! (So glad my friend April snagged this shot.)

We met up with my husband and Boy #1, who had also struggled a bit through the last mile, but stuck with it.  He even snagged an age group award for his efforts!  But he was not the only winner today.

Plenty of other people showed up, ignored the weather, and finished the race they started.  Winners.

More people showed up, ignored the weather, and cheered for the participants.  Winners.

Race staff, volunteers, and police officers helped support us and keep us safe.  Winners.

As for me, my moment came during the drive home.  Knowing how much Boy #2 had struggled, I asked him if he would ever want to do another 5K.  “No,” he said, “I want to run a marathon.”

And that, my friends, is WINNING.

So proud of my family!

So proud of my family!

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The author is running the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Please consider making a donation: http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama

Team In Training

Follow her journey 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