2017 Year in Review

2017 has had it’s ups and downs and has been a seriously tough year.  However, my running year has been fantastic.  While getting the time to run has been tricky at times, I’ve been pretty good at being consistent, getting the hard work done, and staying focused.

I didn’t run a lot of races this year, instead I focused on a select few and put my all into them.  I completed one 5K, two 10Ks, a 5 miler, a half marathon, and two marathons.  Each race that I did run was a personal best, from the 5k to the marathon. I just kept getting faster & faster all year.  While some of the distances were improved while on training runs or in a marathon, here are my new PRs for the open races:

5K:  4/9/2017 Chicken Run 5k, 20:01 – 6:30 min/mile
10K: 8/5/2017 Hop River Run, 41:32 – 6:36 min/mile
5M: 10/8/2017 Andover Lake Race, 33:01 – 6:32 min/mile
1/2 marathon: 2/25/2017 Colchester Half, 1:39.35 – 7:34 min/mile
Marathon: 10/22/2017 Atlantic City, 3:18.23 – 7:32 min/mile

Garmin Connect has given me a whole bunch of other awesome data for the year as well.  In 2017 I ran a total of 1668.73 miles (that’s like running just over 538 local 5Ks).  That ended up being 237 hours, 55 minutes, and 49 seconds on my feet (almost 10 solid days of running).  I made good use of my time too, averaging 7.0 mph (or 8:34 min/mile).  I also climbed a total of 58,253 feet of elevation.  That’s like climbing Mount Everest twice!

This year I also started using Strava & utilizing some of the data on their site as well as connecting with some wonderful running friends.  I’ve learned a lot about running this year, and learned how to be a better runner and be more patient with the marathon distance.  This growth as gained me two Boston qualifiers.  I met one of my idols, Kathryn Switzer, and have plowed through a handful of books.  Despite some of the hard stuff (living separate from my husband and flying solo with the kids, illness, moving, and making it a whole year without anxiety meds!) I have had one awesome year.  And, with all my new PRs, experience, and mojo, I am really looking forward to seeing what I can pull off in 2018!

I hope you had a great 2017 and I hope you have an even better 2018.  Happy New Year!!

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Not According to Plan

I’ve learned something over the last couple of weeks: marathon training and moving don’t go well together.  We finally closed on the house on the first, which was a major feat in and of itself.  We’ve had one set back after another regarding this move, but we weren’t about to give up.  I was barely getting over an illness when it was time to get going.  I had done little packing in the week before the papers were signed, in fact, I did little of anything other than lay in bed with a fever begging for Death to take me quickly.

We started moving boxes and some of the furniture right away.  Hubs even took the following Monday off to make trips back and forth, to spend endless hours in Home Depot, and scrambling to get the water in the kitchen to stop pouring all over the floor.  This wasn’t our moving plan at all.  We figured we’d have several days to get the new house deep cleaned, repaired, and possibly some paint on the walls before we started hauling our belongings in.  We also had planned on using the four day weekend during Thanksgiving to do most of the heavy lifting and multiple trips.  We had planned on doing this all in a nice orderly fashion on a fairly reasonable timeline.

But things don’t always go according to plan.  The bank had their issues, our lawyer was hard to get ahold of (and even out of the country when it was time to close!), and our closing didn’t line up at the beginning of the week but at the end of one.  We had to roll with the punches and just make it work.

Between illness and moving, my running has been all over the place.  I’ve missed some long runs, I’ve taken extra days off, I’ve done hodgepodge workouts on what should have been rest days.  I have decided to follow the BAA’s marathon training plan, and am currently in the Base Phase, but my plan has all but derailed.  However, I have no other choice but to roll with it and just make it work.  With illness behind me (nothing more than a few sniffles now), I know that things will settle down soon and I’ll be right on track once it’s time to put some serious work in on the roads.  I’m following the plan as best I can, but also listening to my body and taking a rest or an easy day if I feel I need it.  It’s more important to stay healthy & get the mileage in than it is to be strict about plans & pacing.  So, I suppose I am more on track than I’ve given myself credit for.  If the plan is to run, be happy, and stay healthy, I would say that I’m doing just that.

House Limbo

We are still in the limbo phase of trying to move & “frustrating” isn’t even the half of it.  The lender is coming up with one silly (and seemingly unethical) issue after another.  Last week they were demanding an explanation of deposits in Hubs’ mother’s bank account.  Nope, she’s not a co-signer.  Nope, they don’t even have the same last name.  Nope, there is no reason for them to even care about what’s in her account.  This week they are claiming that the hard water in the house is inadequate (despite the water tests coming back & specifically stating that the water is perfectly fine for human consumption) and the sellers need to install a specific water softener before they will clear the loan.  Our broker keeps telling us ‘one more week!’, and that was five weeks ago!

I’ve got the kids’ new school hounding the old school for records and the old school hounding me for a release date.  Someone from somewhere called their school today trying to find out where they were…which led to a series of phone calls to verify that they really should be in the classrooms that they are currently in.

Half of our belongings (including all of the books and winter coats!) are in storage and I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes.  We had agreed to take a friend’s dog because his work had him traveling constantly & wouldn’t be able to care for him any longer.  We all assumed we’d be moved in time for his Vegas trip, but sadly, are still stuck in our apartment with a no-dogs-allowed lease.  Thankfully he’s a quiet dog, however the landlord is on his way over to pick up the rent check! Yikes, here’s hoping we don’t get busted.

I’m feeling a bit lost & overwhelmed myself.  We are scraping together as much money as possible for the down payment, the rental truck, and whatever repairs & cleaning fees we may encounter when the move finally does happen.  This means we’ve been eating super cheap (read: not very healthy), avoiding spending of all kinds (nope, not getting those new running shoes just yet), and trying to stay close to home (not registering or committing to any races for the time being).  And, I just don’t really know what to do with myself.  I’d love to go get a part time job since everyone is looking to hire holiday help, but I don’t know if I may close in the next week & move to the other side of the state.  Or I could end up staying here another 2 or 3 months twiddling my thumbs.  I’m recovered from my marathon, but don’t have anything to train for & I’m bored with base mileage already.  I’ve pretty much run out of “non-essentials” to pack, and can’t risk shopping for gifts just yet.  Home ownership is tough & we still don’t even own anything!

I’m hoping to throw in a few 5Ks & 10Ks next month, and of course, hopefully that means we’ll be settled into our new digs, but, like always, I need to be prepared to change the plan.  Things don’t always go the way you want them to, and sometimes there’s no forcing a situation.  You have to just ride it out (or run it out), recover, and get ready for the next one.  While the situation is stressful, we are trying to make the best of it and are super grateful for the people around us that are making it easier, like our landlord that is letting us go month to month & week to week, my parents who have counselled us through the process, & the fire department that pushed my husband’s paperwork ahead & voted on his acceptance early.  We know we will get to our dream home, the journey just might take a little longer than planned.  I know we’ll be moved & settled at some point, I know I won’t be living out of boxes forever, but it’s hard to stay optimistic when there is such little progress.

I must be addicted…

I haven’t run in 4 days & I’m starting to get cranky about it. I had intended to run every other day for a week or two as I recovered from the marathon, but that plan hasn’t worked out so well. The last time I ran was Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I managed to fall down the cement stairs from my house to the driveway. I dunno, I lost my balance somehow on my way back to the car to unload groceries. I went flying down the bottom four steps, hit the side on my head on the stone wall, landed squarely on my right knee cap, and slid on my outstretched hands across the gravel. The pain was unreal and is still holding me back. (Oh hello hip pain!) The day following the fall was significantly worse, so I opted for a second rest day & Ibuprofen.

Sunday showed up with intense wind & rain. Roads flooded, trees fell, and power outages covered the state. I opted to stay inside. Rest day number 3.

I looked forward to today being Monday. The kids would go to school, I’d have time to run, peace & quiet to do some work on the house, & do the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. But an early morning call from the school said otherwise. Due to all the storm damage there would be no school! Agk! Four days off! The wind & rain was so bad this morning that Wal-Mart last power twice while we were getting costume supplies. And, it turns out my trail is a bit flooded.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow works out. The kids have their Harvest Day Celebration & Parade and are looking forward to wearing their costumes to school. I’m also looking forward to getting in a little run time, even if it means muddy shoes! Unfortunately, not enough of the town’s power has been restored, so it’s still uncertain what’s going to happen.

This is where I’d even be tolerant of a treadmill…

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.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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