Out with the Old, In with the New

New shoes are just so freakin’ awesome, am I right?!

I finally got my shoes today – the shoes I’ll be racing the Atlantic City Marathon in in just 17 days! I know I cut it close, maybe too close. I should have ordered them several weeks ago to allow enough break in time, but with money being a wee bit tight, they had to wait. But now my babies are here!

I was at the New Balance Store in East Windsor CT before they even opened. And because they were ordered and already paid for all I had to do was grab & go. Whew!

I decided to go with the same NB Vazee Pace sneaks that I ran Toronto in. They were a fantastic pair of shoes that carried me through the marathon without any calf cramping, blisters, or bloody toes. And, why mess with what I know works?

Until a couple of weeks ago I thought I could pull off a second marathon in the shoes. I’ve been trying to stretch dollars since we are planning to buy a house and figured if I took care of them I could get another 26.2 out of them.

It was going to work, but my regular trainers (NB Gobis) aren’t ideal for long runs, so I still had to train in the Paces. And the miles wracked up. But I’m small, so I didn’t think I was doing too much damage to the shoes. Then I started noticing some niggles. My quads would be sore after long runs. My shins started aching. I’d get cramps in the arches of my feet mid-run. It was clear that these shoes weren’t going with me to Atlantic City.

Using my store credit, I ordered the exact same make, model, size, and color. Ad then they took ten days to be shipped. Ten days. TEN FREAKIN DAYS! (Clearly I am very pampered by Amazon Prime’s 2 day shipping and have a hard time adjusting.) I suffered through and put one last 18 miler on the old shoes last weekend.

The new shoes, though the same, were amazingly shiny and springy. Wow! I had gotten so used to my older pair that I didn’t even know what I was missing. When I got them home I set them up next to the old pair for comparison. While the old pair is fairly dirty and dingy, I do think they are in pretty good shape for having gone 500 miles.

But, the closer I looked at the shoes, the more I realised the impact of those miles. The foam had obvious cracks and wrinkles and the sole had quite a wear pattern. (Apparently I’m a mid-foot striker with a little bit of a right heel drag.)

I also (because I’m weird and curious) weighed both the old and new shoes. The old shoes are over an ounce each. That’s how much dirt, grime, and foot yuck has built up in the shoes – and I wash them! Gross.

Looking at these old shoes next to their brand new counterpart tells me that I would not have had a successful marathon in them and only reinforces the need to replace them. 500 miles is quite a beating! But these old Vazees have served me well and I am thrilled to be heading into Atlantic City with some fresh Fresh Foam on my feet.

Advertisements

Boston Registration Frenzy

This past May I finally hit a BQ. I was ecstatic. Not only did I qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I had a 12 minute cushion! I knew that sometimes simply hitting the mark wouldn’t be enough and that those that just made it could get turned down if the field filled up fast enough. It’s not just a race to the finish, but also a race to qualify! But, I didn’t need to worry about the cut off times because I was “safe”.

I’ve been waiting since May 9th to register. I’ve tried to not think about it, I’ve tried to not train for it, but you know what; I totally did. As the days ticked by and registration day got nearer and nearer, I started to worry. What if there was a surge of really fast women this year? What if I do something wrong? What if there wasn’t enough funds on my credit card? One what if after another…

Finally the time for me to register arrived. The BAA has set up a rolling registration process so that the fastest qualifying times get to register first. Being more than 10 minutes ahead, but less than 20 meant that I got to go on the second wave. September 13th was my day! And oh what a royal pain in the ass it was.

I don’t currently have Internet or Cable. We dumped the service over the summer to save money. I use my phone’s browser for most things, or turn my phone into a wifi hotspot when I need to use the computer or want to watch Netflix or Amazon. It’s a system that works – sort of. One of the downsides to this set up is that sometimes I run into a site that doesn’t work on a mobile device or the Internet lags considerably when using my laptop. This was the case when trying to use the BAA site while registering. It started with the fact that I couldn’t enter my phone number on the mobile site, thus not allowing me to go to the next stage in the registration process. I started to get a little frantic. No matter how I typed the number – with dashes, without dashes, with or without parenthesis – it told me it was wrong! So I ditched the phone and went for my lap top. But the site wouldn’t load at all. I figured it probably had to do with large amounts of traffic on the site of other registrants, but man it was making me nervous.

Screenshot (27).png

After a bit of yelling, lots of nail biting, and a few choice words, technology decided to work with me. I was in! My phone number worked! But when I got to the part where I had to put in my qualifying time I didn’t see my race. The drop down menu had a GoodLife Toronto Marathon 2016, but not 2017. There was also simply a Toronto Marathon option. I didn’t know what to do. I picked the vague “Toronto Marathon” option & hit enter. I then got a very confusing prompt after that. I was told that my qualifying time and/or race could not be auto-verified. I was not in the race. But I did get a registration confirmation!

And so I waited. The 3rd wave of registration opened up for those 5 minutes ahead if their qualifying times. Then it opened up for all qualifies. I was still pending. A whole week went by. Still nothing. Had I messed up by selecting the wrong race? The hold came off my credit card. Still nothing.

I knew I shouldn’t get discouraged. The BAA needed the time to manually verify thousands of registrations. The folks that were behind the Marathon’s Facebook page were very quick with warm, reassuring responses. I was still in the queue. They would get to me. I just had to be patient.

Well, today, Day 10 of trying, but failing to be patient, I got the E-mail. I’m in!! (By the way, experiencing both relief and at excitement simultaneously kinda tickles.) In fact, I was so excited that I just flew through my workout today.

With the frantic scramble to register followed by the excruciating wait out of the way, I now get to deal with the frantic scramble for cash. Between travel expenses, hotels, food, and of course a marathon jacket, this is going to cost a pretty penny! So, I’ve stashed away what I had in my wallet (not much) and am looking forward to getting myself physically and financially prepared to go to Boston!

Be A Runner

20161011_081217

I was making my way down the trail the other day during a short, comfortable recovery run. Nothing too fancy, and certainly nothing too fast. My main goal was to get the blood flowing & head off any soreness from the previous day’s 17-miler. I passed a woman who was walking & recognized her as the mother to one of my daughter’s classmates. I said hello. “I sure wish I could be doing what you’re doing,” she said as I made my way past. I wanted to say “So start running!” but I didn’t. Instead I smiled and said as encouragingly as I could, “Baby steps. You’ll get there!”

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve heard this sentiment. “Wish I had the knees for that,” or “I used to do that before kids,” or “Must be nice to have time.” I’ve heard excuses about work, or family, or buying a house, or illness, or injury. There are so, so many reasons why people don’t run or have stopped running. And let me tell you, once you stop it can be very hard to get going again. But for every excuse I hear, I also hear a longing in people’s voices. A longing to be active, healthy, fit. A longing to revisit their prime.

Above: Running for scholarship money in college & 6 months pregnant with #2

I’ve been a runner since I joined the cross country team in middle school. But, as with a lot of things in life, my enthusiasm waxed and waned for the sport over the years. At first I ran because I was good at it. Then in college I ran because it was my job. But after a fairly serious car accident, I was forced to take a bit of time off, which quickly turned into a lot of time off. For the next two years I hardly ran at all. And then came family. I ran through my first two pregnancies off & on, though I was slow & unfocused. I ran just to keep moving. I ran out of boredom. But then came pregnancy number 3 – the Big Doozy. I fell during a five mile jaunt around the reservoir and tore a ligament in my pelvis. I had to stop running. In fact, I had to stop moving at all. The last 3 months of that pregnancy were spent in absolute pain. After my daughter was born I felt compelled to run again. I felt that I was losing my identity in the shuffle of motherhood; nursing, diapers, potty training toddlers, homeschooling, laundry (so much laundry). I was craving exercise and felt that running was a part of who I was. I felt compelled to try and be me again, so I hit the road.

20170909_161158

I set out slow. Very slow.  I tried to stay optimistic.  My post-partum body had lost the weight, but also the drive. I just couldn’t get my body moving. I was feeling frustrated. This was the one thing that was ME and I just couldn’t do it. Each week that I failed to meet my goal felt like a huge step back, instead of the baby step forward that it really was. I gave up that Fall. I discovered, suddenly, that I was a Has Been. My running prime had come & gone, so I sought out other avenues for exercise. I spent the Winter with a Bowflex, free weights, and Jillian Michaels videos. And just like that, I had quit.

20170909_161124

Getting frustrated.  Couldn’t even clear 10 miles in a week.

I watched other runners with envy. I simply assumed that because I was hurt and a mom and busy that I was just done with it. I was too young and dumb to know that my body needed time to repair it’s self. My pelvis was injured, but that didn’t mean it would be forever. Bodies heal. I was trying to do too much too soon and I became overwhelmed by it. I had stopped believing I could do it. But time off was necessary for some introspection. I needed to think long and hard about why I wanted to run and what it meant for me to be a runner. I also realized that all of these things were excuses for me to stop trying. The only way for me to be a runner again was to suck it up and run!

SAMSUNG

That Spring a magical thing happened. Somehow all the stars lined up and I WON a pair of Mizuno WaveRiders!! It was fantastic!! A fierce pair of yellow-gold shoes arrived and I just knew that they would be my good luck charm. Besides, I needed to put them to good use. I decided, once again, that I would be a Runner, nay, a Marathoner! I knew it was going to be a long way, and that it would hurt like hell, but I was committed. I was going to run a whole marathon in less than six months. In May of 2013 I began by walking one mile. When I could handle that, I ran it. I upped it by half a mile each week. In June I could run 3 whole miles and by July I had begun training for my first marathon, which I ran in October of the same year.

wp-1505179435850.

I did it — my 1st marathon!

I wanted to be more than a Has Been. I didn’t want to be someone who used to do something. And I certainly didn’t want the fact that I was a mom, or had an injury, or a job, or a house, or any number of responsibilities to take away this one very important defining characteristic. I am a runner because I am strong, determined, focused, and confident. I am a runner because I want to be one.

I have put thousands of miles behind me since then, yet it’s still amazes me to think that only 5 years ago I was struggling to complete 10 miles a week. Now I run twice a day and consider a 10-miler a “mid-distance”. I am not a runner because I wished it, I am one because I laced up my shoes and did it. But I had to start at zero and go slow. I had to admit my limits, step away from the sport for a bit, and reassess myself. If you haven’t run in awhile, or even if you’ve never run before, know that the only thing stopping you is you. Start with baby steps, but do start. Go that first mile. When you get to the end of it, do another. Before you know it, you’ll be flying.

20161011_081303

 

Musings: Sweat Fog and Tears

I skipped my run yesterday.  I was supposed to get up at 5am and do the 3 by 12 minute threshold workout that my plan was calling for.  I turned my alarm off, looked at the rain that was falling outside and rolled back over. I called myself lazy, slacker, and weak. I knew I had to get out there.  If I want to run a fast marathon, then I need to do the work. I knew this.  But the truth is, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I’ve been overwhelmed lately and the idea of getting up and facing a cold rain with a hard workout was just more than my little, damaged psyche could take.

I’ve been on the edge of depression as of late.  My marriage is hard.  My kids are hard.  This whole ‘maybe we’ll move in the next three months’ is hard.  I’ve been spinning my wheels and going nowhere —  just slinging mud.  Sometimes this whole marathon thing is hard.  I have days where I wonder why I can’t just be happy with 5ks and 10ks.  Sometimes the one thing I enjoy just feels like more work.  So I rolled over and slept until 8.  Then I spent the rest of the day feeling moppy and mad at myself.  I knew a day off wouldn’t hurt my training, but who takes a rest day just because they are sad?!

I got up this morning.  I would have loved to have slept in, or at least sat in bed with my coffee and the news. But instead I pulled on my big girl booty shorts and hit the trail.  The fog was so dense you could only see a hundred feet or so ahead on the trail and it clung to my hair and eye lashes.  And it was a chilly 55 degrees.  I actually wore a long sleeve.  It felt amazing to have to wear a long sleeve shirt while running in July, especially after the intense heat wave we endured last week.  I’m not gonna lie; I was slightly emotional.  I was focused on the run and my pace and not really thinking about anything, but subconsciously my brain (and body) were working through a lot of stuff.  Sweat, fog, and tears all look the same streaming down the face, and thankfully no one was out that early to see me anyway.  I ran a solid 10 seconds ahead of pace and felt strong.  I even managed to get in an extra rep.  That should make up for yesterday’s laziness, right?

Thankfully marathon training is long enough, forgiving enough to not take it so personally when you need a day off.  I have time to get it together before the gun goes off.  I have a lot of distance to cover between now and October, and the marathon training is okay with me taking my time.  I’ll be okay because of marathon training.  Life is sometimes hard, but running makes me strong enough to live it.

School’s Out & Mom Needs to Run

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Wednesday begins the 10 long weeks of figuring out how to keep my three kids from killing each other.  I have all the library events marked on my calendar as well as all their various sports and activities.  We have chore charts and behavior charts and Summer reading challenge charts already posted.  Unfortunately this Summer we will not be taking a vacation like we did last year, which was a great help at breaking up the monotony as well as giving us all something to look forward to.  Instead, we will be packing and (hopefully) closing on a house.  *Fingers crossed*  But, until we actually know what is happening with the housing situation & when, we will carry on like we have been for the past year and a half; Hubs living two hours away at work during the week and me holding down the fort alone.  This also means I need to creatively figure out how I’m going to get through the first 8 weeks of my next training cycle with three kids, again.

Last Summer I trained for the Hartford Marathon and was in the same situation.  I ended up cutting my training way back while school was out, and only running a few days a week.  I ran Monday mornings before Hubs left for the week, Wednesday while the kids stayed with some friends, and then both Saturday and Sunday.  Every other week I brought the kids to the track on Tuesdays.  It worked out okay.  But I’m at a point with my marathoning where I need to step up my game if I’m going to get faster.  This means more repeats and longer long runs.  So between highly utilizing the weekends, begging the neighbors and friends to babysit, and dashing off for a quick run around the block while they are engrossed in story time I just might be able to pull it off.

But I also need to plan to take a deep breath and be patient.  The Fall race isn’t my target.  While I still have goals, the real focus is on Boston next Spring and this Fall race is simply the conditioning to get me that much closer to me real goal down Boylston Street.  I focused very hard and trained even harder last Spring and I came through that cycle on cloud nine.  Perhaps I should take the Summer as an opportunity to train with a little less intensity and just enjoy it.  Or, maybe I’ll break down and invest in a treadmill one of these days…

It’s Not Always A Competition

“It’s not always a competition,” I say to my children on an almost daily basis about something. My two boys race to get their clothes on, slurp down cereal, run to the bus stop.  It is always a competition with them and as a mom it is exhausting trying to keep up with the feelings of the loser.  But at the same time, I totally get where they are coming from. I am a typical type A, highly driven, stress laden, competitive person. I made everything a competition from day one. Grades, friends, boys, sports, heck, I was even the damn Prom Queen. Because. I. Always. Win.  And happens when a highly competitive person doesn’t win?  Emotions happen.  Lots, and lots of emotions.

I had a hard time in college.  I went from being a big fish in a small pond to a mediocre fish in an ocean.  I had to work so much harder at everything and it turned out that I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t have the guts to pull it off.  My grades were decent, my track times were decent, my relationships were lukewarm.  And since I wasn’t a stellar anything anymore, I spiraled into a horrible black hole of depression.  None of it was necessary of course.  Looking back now I see that my GPA (3.7) was completely fine.  I set a lot of great PRs on the track and I learned a lot about running while on the team.  I performed much better than I gave myself credit for.  It wasn’t poor performances that got me down, it was the stress of trying so damn hard.

This temperament makes being social difficult.  I don’t have fellow athletes; I have arch nemeses.  When I see times posted from former teammates, I can’t help but compare myself (especially if they used to be faster than me). Oh, she’s had two kids since college, well I’ve birthed four! Oh, she ran a 3:32, yeah, well, I ran a 3:22!  He runs 35 miles per week, puh-leeze, I run 40!  I know, unhealthy, right?!  But it’s my nature. I am driven to go a little faster, go a little farther than someone, anyone else.  This need to out-perform keeps me going, which I suppose is a good thing, but I do worry that it will lead to either injury or another bout of depression.  Being a competitive person means that I am switched on almost all of the time, and, frankly, it’s exhausting.  It’s also not sending a very good message to my kids.

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, to take on a different outlook.  Yes, it’s a race & times matter, but it’s about bettering myself, not being better than someone else.  I’m going to have to stop comparing.  I’m going to have to stop analyzing data and stalking runners on Athlinks.  I’m going to have to start practicing what I preach. I know…I know…  I need to start being a gracious winner inside and out, AND I need to be a gracious loser.  If I won’t stand a tantrum from a six year old who came in 2nd to the bus stop, then I really shouldn’t be tantruming over someone who wanted it more and edged me out.

Post Marathon Blues

I think I dislike marathon recovery more than I dislike marathon tapering. I’m bored, I’m restless, and I just want to GO! But I know that to keep myself healthy I need to stay put. It’s very frustrating. Tapering is hard because you have a big race looming over you and you’ve just spent the better part of 3 months working your butt off to get ready for it, and now all of a sudden you are slowing down, cutting mileage and resting! Agggggh!

Recovery time sucks for a different reason. I am still on a race high. I had a great training cycle (some bumps, but not too bad), a great race, and an awesome finish time. And nothing hurts. And I’m hyper and giddy and ready to go again! But I did just deal with an over-training scare. And I do know what happens to athletes who push too hard. So I am forcing a rest.

But I’m not tired!

I admit it; I’ve got the post-marathon blues. I’m just floating along with no real direction. I miss training. I miss racing. It was only a week and a half ago, but feels like forever. I reminisce. I sorta-kinda feel like I don’t have a purpose. Which of course is ridiculous considering the fact that I have work to do, three kids to schlep all over town, and a growing chicken farm to balance. Oh yeah…and a lot of laundry and dirty dishes.

I am making a point of at least trying to enjoy my down time. I am actually LOOKING at the trees when I go for walks. I LISTEN to the birds. I FEEL the sun and wind. Connecticut is beautiful in the Spring and I’m trying to enjoy it. I know that if I give in to my desires and start training again I’ll just get hurt. And then instead of simply slowing down, I’ll be forced to stop altogether, and that won’t do me any good in future races.

I’ve found little info on what to do AFTER a marathon. The advice is vague if offered at all. So, I’m going to offer my own experiences. I hope they help!

  1. If you’re not injured, then set a time frame.  I haven’t been injured from a marathon yet, but I have walked away very unhappy. The recovery time from a marathon can feel like hell when all you want is redemption from a bad race. It can also feel like a mean taunt when you’ve done well and are excited to go again. But rest is key to fast times, so go ahead and do just that. But mark it on your calendar so you don’t drive yourself crazy wondering when it’s over.
  2. Create a Recovery Plan. You planned your workouts. You planned your meals. You may have even planned your pit stops, and now you are suddenly drifting just because you are post race. There are a few post-marathon recovery plans out there, but you don’t need anything formal. But I have found that simply writing it down helps me feel focused. I’m a planner. I like to know what’s happening next. I like things to be in order. I hate free for alls. Even though my Recovery Schedule isn’t anything fancy, I still like to plan it out, write it down.
  3. Go EASY! I know several people who run marathons back to back. And guess what – they are always in pain! Go easy. Go so much easier than you think is necessary. The day after a marathon, do nothing. Take the day off from work. Skip chores. Watch a lot of TV. The first week post-marathon shouldn’t include any running at all. I do go for walks every other day. And I do what I can to avoid stairs. Weeks 2 & 3 after a marathon I run super easy pace (I’m talking at least 3 minutes per mile slower than your race pace) for 30-40 mins every other day. I won’t add any weight training or faster runs back until Week 4.
  4. Do something else. Now is a great time to jump in the swimming pool for a few laps or hop on a bike for a ride. Make plans for your next training cycle. Scope out new races. Look into new recipes. Plan a non-running related activity.
  5. Enjoy the down time. It’s tough to work so hard and then suddenly not. But rest assured, you are not being a slacker and you are not losing fitness. Enjoy yourself and those around you. I know my family is pleased that I’ve finally stopped talking about running. And, in a way, I kind of am too.

    20170517_112825
    I never get to take pictures while running!