Tag Archives: running

Crossing the Line

Standard

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?

———-

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
Advertisements

Yes, Please, I’ll Take a Dozen

Standard

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?

 

—–

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

Redemption, With a Side of Feathers

Standard

There are a lot of different reasons runners flock to their local Turkey Trot.  (Pun completely intended!)  For some, it’s a family tradition.  For others, it’s a chance to burn off some extra holiday calories.  This year for me, it was all about redemption.

Calling all Turkey Trotters

Looking back over the 2012 racing season, I should’ve been happy.  Using a more balanced and consistant training approach kept me injury-free.  I’d checked several goals off my list …  PR a 5K?  Check.  Win an age group award?  Check.  Complete a triathlon?  Check.  (Don’t let the lack of blog entries fool you, it was a great summer!)And yet there was still something bothering me.  One race had gotten under my skin, left a sour taste in my mouth, more than any event ever had:  The Towpath 10K.

I’d run one previous 10K, in July 2011.  It was a tough race back then, when I was just starting to run longer distances, and 6 miles was still a pretty daunting challenge.  Although I was very happy to finish in 59:21, the combination of heat and hills made it tough.  Since that time I’d completed a half marathon, lowered my 5K time by more than a minute, and lost several pounds as I added biking and swimming to my training routine.  Plus the Towpath was a flat route on a cool October day.  All of that should easily translate into a sub-59:00 finish, right?

Wrong.

I’ve never been one to have exact splits pre-calculated, but I usually go into a race with at least a general strategy in mind. Maybe I had gotten complacent after my recent string of successes, but I showed up at the Towpath starting line without a plan. And this time it cost me. I ran the first half a little too conservatively, and by the time I realized it, even a sub-9:00 final mile wasn’t enough to make up the difference. Instead of being the exclamation point at the end of my best-ever summer as a runner, I was left with a feeling of disappointment.

Added to that, I knew last fall’s Turkey Trot had been the nail in the coffin of my IT band struggles, leading to a winter of frustration and physical therapy.  So I showed up to THIS year’s race with a bone to pick.  (Get it?  Turkey … bone … Ok, ok, I’ll stop.)

My Racing Buddies

The Cleveland Turkey Trot typically draws several thousand runners.  It’s a fun and festive atmosphere, and I absolutely love the energy that comes from people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities gathering at the starting line, ready to conquer the 5-mile course.  My primary goal was to break 50 minutes.  Maybe if it was a REALLY good race, 48 minutes … but I didn’t have the guts to admit that anywhere other than in the deep recesses of my own head.  And certainly not out loud.

Determined not to repeat my Towpath mistake, I pushed myself a little more than normal during the first mile.  I let the crowd sweep me along and was pleasantly surprised that my first mile was at a 9:08 pace.  Other than a little tightness in my calves, I was feeling pretty good, so I kicked it up just a tad.  The second mile actually ended up being my fastest, at 8:56, but it really didn’t feel like I was struggling at all.

At this point we were heading downhill, toward the Lake Erie shoreline and Browns stadium.  I prepared myself for the turn back toward downtown and the climb back uphill that would follow.  I focused on shortening my stride slightly and using my arms a little more, and before I knew it, I was at the top.  That hill work this summer paid off!

The next couple of miles felt exactly like I want them to: strong, steady, and under control.  But I was still surprised each time the voice in my headphones broke in to give me an update.  Even though I had slowed down slightly, I was still averaging 9:25/mile or less.  I actually started to think that maybe something was out of whack with my GPS, because there’s no way I felt THIS good while running THAT pace.  It didn’t help that I had somehow missed seeing every mile marker along the course …

Until I finally saw the sign with the giant number 4, and looked down at my watch to see a time of just under 38 minutes.  Despite my race-induced brain fog, which typically prohibits me from doing any type of mathematical calculations in my head, I knew I had a good chance to beat even my best-case-scenario time.  I found another gear, concentrated on keeping my feet as light as possible, and focused my gaze several blocks away on the finish line …

Or what I thought was the finish line.  Turns out I was looking at the trucks that were parked about half a block PAST the finish.  It was a little congested with runners as I neared the end of the race, and I didn’t see the ACTUAL finish line until it was only around 100 feet away.  Too bad, because I probably could’ve started my finishing kick a bit sooner.  Nevertheless, I was still absolutley ecstatic to look down at my watch and realized I’d finished in under 47 minutes.  (46:52, to be exact.)

Love the shirts this year!

It sounds silly, but I actually felt a few tears well up in my eyes.  Instead of limping away from last year’s Turkey Trot, or immediately wanting a “do-over” after the Towpath 10K, I was left with the feeling of pride and accomplishment I’d been searching for.

Sure, I wasn’t even close to being the fastest runner on the course.  But that’s not really what running is about for most of us.  It’s about slaying the internal demons of doubt and pushing past your personal boundaries.  It’s about knowing you finished what you set out to do.  And it’s about waking up the next morning and wanting to do it all over again.

—–

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

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

Standard

It’s less than 48 hours until I toe the starting line of my very first half marathon…the time period when self-doubt is starting to creep in.  My training hasn’t gone exactly as planned this summer, and I did not log as many miles (or do as much cross-training) as I’d hoped.  And the fact that my husband has been moping around because his training has gone pretty poorly is not helping!

So it’s time to pull out my Stewart-Smalley-inspired self affirmations, and get my game face on!  Instead of focusing on what I haven’t been able to do, I need to fill my head with what I have accomplished during the past 4 months:

    • Since officially starting my training plan, I have completed 36 runs:  11 speed workouts, 16 tempo runs, and 9 long runs.  A conservative estimate puts me at just over 200 miles total.
    • At the beginning of the summer my long run was 5 miles, and the thought of more than doubling it seemed impossible.  Two weeks ago I ran 14 miles and I was not even sore the next day!
    • I set a new PR (personal record) of 28:08 at a 5K distance, significantly faster than the 30:00 goal I had set for myself before the race.  And this was at the beginning of the summer, before doing all of those speed workouts.
    • I competed in my first 10K, and came in under my goal of one hour, with a time of 59:21, despite temperatures nearing 80 degrees … and passed several runners in the last mile.
    • I have lost 10-15 pounds and 1-2 dress sizes in the process.  I am lighter and leaner, a good thing for a distance runner.
    • I ran in the rain, in the wind, in the heat, and whatever else mother nature threw at me … and liked it!
    • I did all of the above while avoiding any major injury.  So I have to feel good about being a “smart” runner, building my mileage gradually and recovering properly.

    Now that I look back on this summer and all that I’ve accomplished, I am really looking forward to Sunday morning.  My strategy is pretty simple:  start slow, take early walk breaks, and finish strong.  I don’t have a specific time goal, just to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.  I know I can do it because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

How to Annoy a Runner

Standard

Looking for a surefire way to really get under the skin of your favorite runner?  It’s easy.  After she completes her next race, make sure the first question you ask is, “Did you win?”

Oh, I’m sure you mean well.  What you really want to know if the race was a success or not.  But what most people (particularly  non-runners) fail to realize is that 99% of the participants in a local road race enter without any hope of winning.  At least not “winning” in the sense of being the first one across the finish line, and probably not even having the fastest time in their respective age group.

So why on earth would you enter a race if you know you will … well … LOSE???

Because most runners I know don’t buy into the concrete definition of the terms win and lose.  We don’t agree with the whole second-place-is-first-loser mentality.  We don’t share the feeling that our personal sense of fulfillment can only be achieved in exchange for the failure of all others.

I love the thought expressed by John “The Penguin” Bingham in his book No Need for Speed.  He says, “There is a difference between a win and a victory … You may never have a chance to win a race, but you will have ample opportunities to be victorious.”

As I toe the starting line of a race, or more accurately, a spot somewhere far behind the starting line with the rest of the not-so-speedy, I am surrounded by runners who desire to be victorious.  Some are trying to achieve a certain finish time or average pace. Some are trying to soothe inner conflicts over age, weight, low self-esteem, or some other unseen adversary.  Some are just trying to reach the finish line in one piece.

It is very exciting to be surrounded by such a spirit of unbridled expectation and anticipation.  The atmosphere seems much more cooperative than competitive, as if we are all united in one common bond.  It is electrifying!

That’s not to say that we’re not EVER competitive.  One of the greatest victories in my first 10K was passing several runners during the last mile.  (Including one, ahem, older gentleman who had been ahead of me the entire race and tried to pick up the pace so I couldn’t scoot around him.)  But it wasn’t the fact that I beat those runners that made me proud.  It was the realization that I had paced myself properly in the early miles and was able pick up speed in the later miles.  It was my own satisfaction that my hard work and training was paying off.

I finished that 10K knowing that I’d left it all on the course, running the best race that I could on that particular route on that particular day.  So don’t let the fact that I finished in 154th place fool you.  Ask me again if I won, and I’m going to answer with a resounding YES!