Tag Archives: training

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

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

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

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

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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!