Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Going To The Sun*

I know I talk a lot about the tough side of running. When things go wrong, physically or mentally, it tends to wind up here. Let’s shift gears away from that, at least for today.

Today seemed like an ordinary enough day. Work at my desk job for about 4 and a half hours, then head to the ladies room and change from business casual into tech-fiber casual. Hair goes up, hat goes on, headphones go in (all the purists now have a case of the hives over my iPod), and down the elevator 10 stories to the city streets.

It is finally, for real and for true, warm here. 76 degrees out, reasonable wind speeds, clear skies, low humidity. You know, like it’s Spring or something. A warm, sunny day called for bared arms and a route with no shade. I headed for the Richmond Floodwall Park. On the Floodwall, I have seen a bald eagle, a black king snake sunning itself in the path, countless Great Blue Herons and dozens of Peregrin Falcons. I don’t run this route as often in the winter, and I don’t think I have run the floodwall at all since late last Summer. This winter was just too brutal to face the very cold harsh winds coming off the river, and there are spots on the top that drain poorly, so with all the rain/snow, it would have been half a log flume up there. I just avoided the route, but I have missed it.

So today was the day and it didn’t disappoint. The sun was warm without being burning. Sweat poured without leaving me feeling light-headed with dehydration. I had a falcon take interest in my neon green tank top and follow me at distance for a bit. The music on my iPod was perfect for my mood. I added “Let it Go” from Frozen to the playlist last night, and that was like fuel on a fire for me today. Topping the stairs of the floodwall, the roar of the rolling river over-topped the sound of my music, and it was glorious.

The world around me is just starting to take on that lightest shade of spring green; it is also still brown and twiggy, but there is promise springing up all around. We’re still a long way from the emerald green of summer, but also the wicked heat and humidity that summer brings along with it. It was a perfect day and a perfect run.

It is days like today, miles like today’s, that remind me why I do this thing. Why when so many people make cracks about “being chased by a bear” or reproach me about destroying my joints, or warn of the risk of unknown heart problems, I can let all of that roll off my back, lace up my trainers and go out and log some miles anyway.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

*The title of this post is a reference to Going To The Sun Road, on my Bucket List as a place to go for a run before there aren’t any glaciers left in Glacier National Park.


I Didn’t See That Coming

Four years ago this week, I had just gotten my surgery date to undergo gastric bypass. Yesterday morning, I got up before dawn and made my way in Downtown Richmond with 19,000+ other runners, and a untold number of cheering spectators. I arrived just at the end of team photos, which I didn’t really care whether I was in or not, and walked around the Capital Square in the pre-dawn gloom looking for familiar faces.

All the weather prediction sites called for a 20% chance of showers. They were off by about 80%. It was a light drizzle for a while, until it became a frog strangler just in time for the 8k racers to take off. There was ankle deep water running down the gutters at one point. I had planned accordingly and grabbed a trash bag on my way out the door, so I was mostly sheltered under my plastic covering and a hat. At the expo, the day before, I had found a pair of neon green arm warmers for $10, and I bought them. They were the best $10 I have spent in a while. I was glad to have them. Nothing to be done for my feet; I would run with wet feet.

Like last year, I stood near the 8k start line to cheer those runners on, listened to the National Anthem and the energy of the day and the song got to me a bit. I love the emotions that get tied into the beginning of a race, but at least it was raining hard enough that no one could tell tears from rain drops. I walked up and down Broad Street in the rain in search of Mary Beth or Matt, two runners I knew in the half marathon, or anyone else that I happened to know. I did eventually find Matt in my own corral and was introduced to an old friend of his named Terry. It was nice to say hi to them, but I really really wanted to find Mary Beth to thank her for giving me this opportunity. I never found her in the crowd, even though she was in the corral just in front of mine. I only saw her once on Brookland Park while she was going back to Hermitage, while I hadn’t reached the turn-around yet.

My plan had been to use that amazing energy of the beginning of the race to close the gap between my corral and the 2:30 pace corral ahead of me. Unsurprisingly, this did not happen. Two minutes is actually a very long time on foot, and that was the time gap between corrals. I started as close to the very front of my corral (2:31-2:59 anticipated finish time group) and took off as soon as I hit the starting line. I still managed to maintain some control and managed not to blow myself up in the first mile.

The first 2.25 miles of the race are dull as rain, and the only really interesting thing is the signs the spectators carry and looking at the many thousands of people ahead of you in the human snake heading west on Broad Street. Also, watching the elite marathoners pass you is pretty humbling.

Last year, I ran into trouble on Boulevard overpass over the train tracks and I had vowed that this year, that hill would not leave me struggling so much. I controlled my ascent, took the decent easy, and conquered that hill, unlike last year. That said, the steep downhill set my left knee to aching, a theme that would follow me for the next 10 miles.

The Boulevard/Hermitage/Brookland Park miles were uneventful. The only thing of note was that I felt suddenly depleted very early and regretted not eating anything before the race. I took a GU a (Salted Caramel flavor, FTW!) at the 3 mile point, much earlier than planned, but it offered the relief I needed. I would also regret bringing only 2 GUs with me later. I hit Bryan Park, my least favorite stretch of the race at the 1 hour mark and hit the 10k mark at 1:09. That might be my fastest 10k time yet.

Right after the 10k mark, the wheels came off for a while. To give you some background, I have been hopping from one ailment to the next for 4 weeks. I had the flu, strep, then a head cold, which morphed into a sinus infection that was working its way towards an upper respiratory infection as of this week. I saw the doctor on Friday and had a Z-pack waiting for me to start immediately after the race. I was going between Dayquil, Nyquil, and behind-the-counter pseudoephedrine all week. The Sudafed would dehydrate me terribly, but on race day I opted to take one because I was just so miserable. Well, right after the 10k point, I discovered I was badly dehydrated and at the same time, the Sudafed that I had taken about 4 hours earlier had kicked out.

I stopped sweating. My head was thumping. My face was on fire but my body was shivering. I felt feverish and weakening. Being only the halfway point of the race, this was a very scary feeling. When I hit the party zone in the park, I wasn’t sure I would finish. I contemplated asking for help, but pride and (I know how this sounds) the race medal kept me silent. When I hit the 7 mile point, I walked for 2 or 3 minutes and took on 2 cups of water plus a Powerade. And I vowed to keep going.

The water helped immensely. At every water stop after that, I grabbed two waters and a Powerade. At the 8 mile marker, I grabbed an AccelGel and tucked it under my sports bra strap as a just-in-case, knowing they tended to have an adverse affect on me, but knowing I might need the extra energy. It was the spectators on Pope and Fauquier Avenues that really kept me going during those rough few miles there. I was in awe of their excitement and their willingness to come cheer us on in the crummy weather. It kept bringing my mind back to Boston and the fact that the dead and injured there were almost exclusively spectators. That made me even more grateful for their presence.

I took my second GU on Brook Road at Mile 9 or so. I had gone too long between gels so the effect of the second one was particularly noticeable. Brook Road felt like forever, just as always. It always, whether in training or racing, feels like a blessing to turn on Lombardy after the long stretch on Brook. Still, when I hit the 10 mile marker, which is celebrated with a “5k Fun Run Race” sign and lots of cheering spectators, any darkness in my mind was dispelled and pure joy replaced it. This was FUN!

Of course, this also hurt and I still had at least 30 minutes left to go, but none of that mattered. I was ready to go. On Lombardy, by the Kroger Store, I heard sirens behind me and knew that the leading marathoners were catching up. It is an awe inspiring thing to see a man run past you, a man who has run about 24 miles so far, who left about 10 minutes after you did, and only has a little more than 2 miles to go. We cheered for him and for the others that would pass us. The turn onto Grace was especially well-cheered. I thanked as many of the spectators for coming out as I could.

And I ran. Oh my goodness but it is a LONG way between Lombardy and 3rd Street. Turns seem to make the distance pass more swiftly. Grace to Third, Third to Franklin. On Franklin, a band was playing “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys and I started singing it out loud. I didn’t care. I love that song. Coach John, the Big Cooter, met me between 4th and 5th Streets and asked how it was going (he knew about the IT injury). I told him I had been suffering for a while, but I was not quitting now. He ran with me to 5th, encouraged me to take it easy going down the hill on 5th Street to Browns Island because steep downhills are IT killers, and I promised (knowing I was lying) to take it slow.

Onto 5th Street, the last turn until the finish line. All downhill. I was overwhelmed with excitement, hope of seeing my family, and the feeling that things weren’t as bad as they had seemed about 6 miles ago. I had no clue what my time was; I left my watch at home. I let the downhill take me and started going all out.

It is a surprisingly long way between Franklin and Tredegar. I ran and ran and ran and wondered when the heck this would end. I looked for my family, but once I hit the MeadWestVaco building, the going was too steep and the runners in front of me too slow for me to do anything other than watch where I put my feet. I sprinted down the hill in a gut churning effort to cross the finish line. I remember raising my hands over my head at a point where I thought my photo was being taken. I crossed two lines; I am not sure which actually marked my finish point, but I didn’t stop hauling ass until I was underneath the finish line structure. And then very happily, I slowed to a trundle, wondering how long it would be until I had a medal in my hand.

I received my medal, but then I realized it was water that I wanted more, though I was too queasy to drink too much. I received my fleece blanket, which I gratefully wrapped up in, and made my way to the food tent, because there is nothing better than a slice of cheese pizza after a race.

I waited for my family at our appointed spot, but due to bad luck, they had not seen me cross the finish and had no idea I was done. It was about 40 minutes and a borrowed phone call later before we were reunited.

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I had no idea what my time was and I wasn’t stressed about it. I simply didn’t care for the time being. I figured it was around 2:40 to 2:45 and I was good with that, especially after the awful 3 mile stretch between Bryan Park and the 10 mile mark. Once reunited, we went over to Legend for a post-race beer and soft pretzel. My knee hurt very badly and did not want to bend; I had anticipated this, but it still hurt a good deal. I limped home, content with my day.

Of course, later I became curious about my actual finish time. It was late in the day before the results were posted, so the anticipation had a lot of time to build.

I am not kidding when I say I was completely shocked to see that my finish time was 2:35:37. That is 6 minutes faster than any of my previous races. No, it wasn’t the 2:30 I am dreaming of beating, but I hadn’t even dreamed that this race would be faster when I had been sick for so long, and injured to boot.

I remain overjoyed by the time I managed to achieve. It was such an amazing day. I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers and the spectators. I love this race and I plan to run it again next year, though I am contemplating running the full distance (albeit, not too seriously). I could not have done this without the support of my Crew and my FaceBook friends, and even the random people who cheered my by name (from my bib) throughout the race. I am grateful to have the chance to even attempt such distances and I look forward to future accomplishments.

Dropped on My Face

So I posted about being injured and my plan to get back on the road. Modestly optimistic and all that.

The next morning, I was sitting at my desk getting my morning going when a worrisome tell-tale heat began to develop in my eyes. Isn’t that weird? That is exactly how I know when a fever is coming on though; when my eyeballs feel hotter than the skin around them. I don’t know if the sensation is unique to me, but I do know it heralds major trouble.

I was leaving work early to take Byram to a medical appointment that day anyway, so I knew I only had to hang on until his appointment was over, but I gotta tell you, I was suffering by 2pm and we were headed back to Chesterfield. I remember very little of the drive and nothing about the discussion we were having (which couldn’t have been much; my throat hurt too much to talk). We got home and I practically crawled up the stairs (my knees and back hurt so much) and crashed into bed without so much as getting out of my work clothes.

It would be 48 more hours before I dragged my sorry self to the doctor and get my diagnosis. The Flu and something so alike to strep throat that even though it didn’t pop in the petri dish, the doc decided it treat it the same.

The Flu?!? I had gotten my flu shot three weeks before to the day when the fever kicked in. The doc reminded me that it isn’t a 100% guarantee preventative measure. She knows I run half marathons and asked me if I was training. I told her about my 14 mile distance last weekend and she said the peak point in training can take a toll on runner’s immune system. Add a fragile immune system to the fact that I took my daughter to the pediatrician’s office on Monday of that week, I was set up to catch All The Things.

And so I did. I rarely get sick, but when I do, it’s kind of like the Hand of God reaches down and simply drops me on my face. Today is the first day the splitting headache has finally relented. I was able to get up and take a shower and put on a change of clothes. I foam rolled my still achy back and legs. Still no real appetite, but at least I am on the mend.

So no mileage this week. I am not sure I would have the stamina even today to log a single mile. I have to grocery shop in a little while, and I anticipate landing on the couch for the rest of the afternoon after that. I am hoping that maybe by Tuesday or Wednesday I will be able to run a little. I know I will have to take it easy, but I have to get back on my feet and get moving.

Race day is coming. I suffered some set backs this week, but they aren’t going to stop me or hold me back. I was searching my jewelry box for a gold dollar coin (Grace lost her first baby tooth this morning) and while I didn’t find a coin, I did find my drawer full of race medallions. I am not the type to display my medals, but coming across them was a great motivator and brought a smile to my face. I can’t wait to add a new one to the drawer.


Okay, I couldn’t hold out for a post-run update to get to my 100th post. And I really didn’t want to leave the previous freakout post up all weekend either.

To soothe the freaked out beast within, I remembered some of the best race signs I have seen in all my races so far. Some of these might be misremembered or paraphrased, but they all made me smile, then and now. I am vastly calmer than earlier today.


Chuck Norris Never Ran A Half Marathon

Smile If You’re Not Wearing Underwear!

Toenails Are Overrated

There’s Bacon At The Finish Line

If You Think 13.1 Is Hard, You Should Try Holding This Sign For Hours!

Why Do All The Cute Ones Run Away?

You Trained Longer Than Kim Kardashian’s Marriage

You Did This For The Free T-Shirt

13.1 Miles (’cause You’re Only Half Crazy)

Keep It Up – You’re Working Harder Than Congress!

Hurry Up! The Beer Truck Is Running Out!


Then I saw this link, which made my day:

“‘Til The Lights Go Out”

I have been trying for weeks to write a post. Probably 2 dozen half posts have been written and then I lose my train of thought, the message I am trying to convey gets stale, work considerations take over, or I just realize what I have written is not very interesting, and the words vanish off the screen.

So as it stands, I am 47 days from my next half marathon. Last week, between Sunday and Saturday, I logged 30 miles, which might be the most miles I have ever run in a week. Maybe not though.

Saturday, I ran my hardest long run in a very long time. Probably the combination of the high mileage and a weight training session the day before contributed to PAIN. My legs hurt so much at the end of the run that I am forced to admit that I just leaned against the van to hold me up at the end. I was completely wrung out.

Adrenaline can come out in the form of the “runner’s high,” which is an enjoyable feeling. It can also (in my experience) come out in the “crash and burn” feeling. Emotions and pain come out. Not fun. That’s where I found myself Saturday morning; crashing and burning.

It’s all good. That happens. I came home and discovered that I had run the route at around my goal race pace. Well, rock on. I maintained my desired race pace for 2 hours. I just have to tack on a couple more miles at that pace and I will achieve my desired outcome in November. It’ll hurt. Of course it will. I don’t think I have ever finished a long distance race where I didn’t hurt by the end.

I went through some dark times on Saturday morning. Every time I finish one of these really difficult runs, I learn a new way to help me push through and I learn more and more that my limits are mostly in my head. My difficulties began when I realized I missed a turn with the intermediate team and dropped some distance off my overall run (I didn’t know it at the time it turned out to be less than a half mile lost, so not a big deal). Mentally, I took it very hard. “What?! Lame ass, you cut your run short! You are SUCH a slack ass. Why even bother running if you’re just going to cheat!” My brain hates me. I suspect it is an evolutionary response to help encourage self preservation.

I wanted to quit and I was on Monument Avenue where every single intersection for almost two miles offered me the opportunity to turn left and head for home well before it was time. I can’t express how hard it was to not make one of those left turns in shame and defeat, but limp my way home and end the pain and discomfort.

Eventually, I saw someone who I have seen here at the office; he is on the same team I am and we work in the same place. I decided it was time to make an introduction. His name is Greg, he works in Insurance and he works closely with a few of my lawyers. We chatted a bit and it really did help pass some time and get my mind out of the negative spiral it was caught in. As I passed Sheppard Street, which was the same street we would ultimately loop back to and use to reach our finish point, I crossed the intersection knowing I had committed not to give up and finish the distance, with roughly 3.5 more miles to go.

I turned up my music, I sang out loud, I talked out loud. I recalled Grace’s birth (her birthday was last week so it came easily to mind) and reminded myself how much that hurt but how I couldn’t quit until it was done. That became some sort of mantra in my head. “You couldn’t quit until she arrived and you won’t quit until you get back to the Stadium. Period.”

I told Grace later that she was my inspiration to keep going when it felt too horrible to go any further.

The last mile was all downhill on Douglasdale but it is a steep uphill (from any direction) to get back to City Stadium. Whatever was left in the tank I poured out and sprinted as fast as I could without throwing up all the way up the hill to my van.

Where I cried. I admit it. Tears happen.

I survived, I came home, discovered my much faster than expected pace, and plunked myself into an ice bath that did indeed relieve my pain and left me more than able to get up and go for the rest of the day.

A difficult, grueling, painful run does not have to qualify as a failure. They are chances to break through barriers and overcome what you didn’t think you could. I don’t even think crying in the parking lot while my driver’s side door was the only thing keeping me on my feet was a failure. It was the byproduct of an intensive education session. I learned I could keep going (even sprinting to success) when every fiber of my being was ready to quit. I learned that I do have the strength of will to not turn left and go home early when it didn’t feel like I could go any farther.

I learned that 47 days from race morning, I truly am capable of running my desired race pace for 2+ hours. Isn’t it amazing how a mentally crushing run can turn out to be an incredible confidence builder?

The Next Thing

I haven’t updated much about my weight lifting program, primarily because it isn’t very exciting. My focus is mostly on my arms and shoulders and back; I know it’s a fallacy but I tend to want to let all my miles do the lower body strength training. I know that isn’t a good idea, but it’s where I am at right now. It’s hard to want to do squats when your legs are worn out from an interval workout the day before. I am just inherently lazy.

My schedule has been running on Monday, Tuesday (speed/quality workouts), Thursday, and a long run on Saturday. Wednesday and Friday are in the weight room. Sunday is my rest day. With 4 days spent running and 2 days in the weight room, you can tell my focus is still on cardio endurance, and since I have a couple of races coming up in the next 2 months (Corporate 4 Miler and Dauber Dash), that seems appropriate.

I call my weight room workout my Michelle Obama Shoulders Plan (MOS Plan) for what should be the obvious reason (hint: it has nothing to do with politics). I want my back, shoulders, arms, and chest to look awesome, but I also want real strength. I want to get back into SCA fighting, at least melee fighting. I have no idea how to arrange that yet, but Grace is getting older and it is getting just slightly easier to let her be a little more independent. Aside from the fact that I need to get back to practicing technique and just getting helmet time in, I need to make up for my lack of physical mass with strength and endurance.

My lifting list is usually compromised of:

Bench presses
Bent over and Bench Rows
Lateral Raises
Pectoral Flys

I aim for three sets of each, and I like 10 reps per set; if I go up in weight, I might drop it back to 2 sets or I tend to find myself hitting failure around rep 7 or 8 on the 3rd set. I try to rest a minute in between each, or sometimes I double up lifts, like doing bench presses (if I am using dumbbells) followed immediately by bench rows, and then rest. Time and equipment usage are both issues in the weight room at the James Center Y, which is crowded every day with the same crew of gym rats. Doubling up saves me time and helps me vacate a bench faster so someone else can use it.

The lightest weights I am using are 7.5 pound dumbbells for those lateral raises. I finally reached a 50 pound bench press last week when I actually got to use a barbell and bench press rack (this rarely happens when there are 4 or 5 guys waiting to use it and all benching between 175 and 240 pounds). I am up to doing my shrugs with 30 pound dumbbells in each hand. I am being very cautious with deadlifts (Romanian Straight Legs lifts to be specific) because a back or hamstring injury would drop me for a good long while, but I am up to 50 pound deadlifts. I should probably do my planks first rather than last because depending on how my lifts went, sometimes my planks don’t make my full 1 minute rep because my arms are trashed. I do them last because they are done in another area and I try to be among the first of the lunch crew in the weight room or the crowding becomes an issue.

Now, I have been coming to this weight room for almost 18 months, but admittedly, not consistently. When half marathon training gets deep or I am heavy into Pennsic or Gem Joust prep, weights fall by the wayside. But there are coworkers of mine in there, and they know me and I know them. So what makes it weird is that no one, even the people who know me and see me at work, ever acknowledges my presence.

On one hand, I am okay with this. I am the only woman I ever see in the weight room at the James Center between 12-1 p.m. Period. I don’t exactly want to be singled out and I don’t want to waste much time chatting about football or work or anything. At the same time, it is kind of awkward to be completely ignored; particularly by people who know me and talk to me outside of the gym.

Last week, the cone of silence was finally broken. One of the trainers came up and spoke to me. He talked about how he wished he saw more women in the weight room and it was encouraging to him to see me in there. I told him how I had heard derisive comments about “Man Land” in the women’s locker room and that I wished it wasn’t so myself. That said, I get why women would avoid that particular weight room. Like I mentioned, there is a core group of rats in there every single day, and they seem close knit and they lift really heavy, and male or female, that can be an intimidating scenario to enter. But the compliments the trainer paid me did make my day.

Ultimately, I have seen progress in how much weight I can move around and I have seen progress on what my arms, shoulders, chest and neck look like. The next area I want to see progress in is my will to put armour on and go out and fight. If I can will myself to run 13 miles, and will myself to lift 50 pounds, then I can will myself into putting on my gear and facing my friends with a sword in my hand.
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Measured Response

I finished my 26.2 miles for Boston on a beautiful Saturday morning.

That particular hour and a half run gave me time to contemplate everything that has occurred in the past two weeks relating to running, racing, spectating, and the future of finish lines. The running community has rebounded and seems stronger and better than ever. The outpouring of love, support, and passion for our particular activity has been inspiring and healing.

The rest of it? The hyper-militarized response that was played out like a reality television episode of 24? The xenophobia and, I don’t know, is there a word for a phobia for religion? The rampant speculation? The assured increase in surveillance and of pall of suspicion cast over anyone who isn’t Stepford-like in their behavior? Not so much.

The long running debate between personal liberties versus general security will continue, but this certainly provided a black mark to the personal liberty side of the discussion. More surveillance cameras and drones and armed guards are coming to major races. Period.

Eh, I fell down the rabbit hole for about half a page there and went off the rails. The reality is that there are no easy answers to the question of “What is the appropriate response to an event like the Boston Bombings?”

I can’t speak for anything except my own response, which was to step up my mileage, buy a t-shirt with proceeds going to a Boston charity, paint my nails blue and yellow, and mentally commit to 2 half marathons between October and November.

I love running races. I especially love finishing them. I am grateful that I crossed the finish line at Hardywood last week without the slightest concern about my personal security floating across my mind. I was laughing with my best friend and looking forward to a relaxing post-race party. That is how a finish line should be.