Tag Archives: thoughts on life

Boston…here I come?

Would ya look at that, we’ve reached the end of January.

Well, shit. I guess I’m training for the Boston Marathon now?

Based on my offical-yet-loosey-goosey plan I told you all about at the beginning of the month, now is the time that I should be officially “starting” to train.

I feel many things about this, but namely…I’m a little overwhelmed with uncertainty. And it’s not just my body and health I’m uncertain about, but perhaps scariest of all, my motivation.

Don’t get me wrong: the idea of training for and racing Boston is so bright and sparkly in my head. The thought of running the course on April 21 makes me giddy, and I’m very grateful for the chance to do so. However, it’s the getting-there process I’m a little more apprehensive about, which is consequentially putting a kink in my excitement to get into training.

Real talk: I’m really not used to not being in good shape. That probably sounds way more conceited than I intended it to, but it’s a fact of the matter. For years, most of my easy days were what would be considered a long workout to many, and I was always able to count on a very solid base of endurance and strength when approaching my training and races.

That’s not the case right now. My workouts are much shorter and less intense than “normal,” I’m not able to float through runs with any kind of ease, and muscles that I never even knew I had before have disappeared (namely: the entirety of my butt). Not that I’m surprised by any of this, don’t get me wrong. The mere fact that “training for Boston” is on the table is something I’m hugely thankful for. But, this new reality of starting from scratch has been a harder pill to swallow than I anticipated.

Because I’m sure we can all agree on this: running, going to the gym, taking a class, etc. is so much easier to do when you’re in good shape. Sure, sometimes we have lazy days, but there’s a whole new level of willpower needed when you know that you’ll be struggling through your workout rather than kicking its ass.

(Obligatory acknowledgement that all of this is all incredibly eye-roll worthy complaining. I get it. It’s so very first world and things could be and have been much worse. But this is my blog, meant to detail my experiences in running. Cool? Cool.)

So, in a nutshell, the fact that I’m having to garner way more motivation for runs that are generally not fun and yield much slower results than I’m used to means that I’m not exactly chomping at the training bit. Not to mention the ill-effects of the weather, the dark mornings, and my need for bathroom access on every run.

There are moments of hope though, which rekindle my memory of being a happier runner. This past weekend, for instance, I was able to run multiple times around a foggy, quiet Greenlake and it was perfection. I’m also running without pain, which I’m grateful for with every footfall. My IT band isn’t 100%, as in it’s still stiff and cranky whenver I sit down, but I’m confident that it will be near 100% before too much longer. Also, for the first time last week, I found myself enjoying (at least for a little bit) my favorite strength class which recently has been embarrassingly difficult.

So yes. Progress is being made. I just need to remember to celebrate the little victories instead of expecting to instantly regain all of my strength and speed back. To use the most cliche yet appropriate metaphor, “It’s a marathon…not a sprint.”

I know, I’m sorry

So yes, I am now training for Boston. My mode of operation hasn’t changed, in that I’m focusing primarily on staying healthy, regaining fitness, and getting myself to the start line. Despite my natural instincts to plan out paces and workouts and goal times, it’s not really the time for those things. This training cycle is going to be about learning different kinds of lessons, namely in patience, in letting my body be my guide, and in appreciating the journey.

My focus will be on spending the next three months experiencing marathon training from a different vantage point, one that I am hoping will make me a more complete and smarter runner. I’m hoping Boston will be a victory lap of sorts, in terms of celebrating both the joys and the struggles I will inevitably face during the process. Because the joys cannot exist without the struggles, and if I’ve learned anything from these past few months — it’s that a heavy dose of perspective can be a pretty transformative thing.

Here’s to learning along the way and appreciating the smaller victories. And, hopefully, there will be a wonderful run from Hopkinton to Copely Square at the end of it all.

I’m planning on documenting the weekly training, per usual. So look for those coming soon :)

So with a chip on my shoulder and a healthy dose of humble pie, let’s get this underway!

Post-Marathon Thoughts

My brain always goes back and forth between two different things once I finish a big goal race:

“OH MY GOSH, MUST DO SOMETHING ELSE NOW! Half-marathon PR? Ultra? Another 26.2 in two weeks? Gimme something BIG!”

and

“I don’t want to anything! I’ve earned it! Let’s take 6 rest days a week and on the other day run slow for 2 miles! Summer vacation! Hooray!”

I’m sure you can guess which of these is more prevalent than the other…but for the most part, these are the two extremes I’m vacillating between.

It always happens, and I’ve finally figured out why.

I am currently both: a) directionless, and b) burnt out.

I’ve been focusing on one singular goal for 4-5 months. It’s been getting me up in the morning when I wanted to sleep, it’s given me intention and purpose in my gut-busting workouts, and it’s kept me excited to put all my hard work to the test. Frankly, I love having a big race/goal on the horizon, which is why more often than not I have a BIG goal on the drawing board.

At the same time, however, our bodies and brains can only handle so much focus. The thought of jumping into any kind of training anytime soon sounds incredibly unappealing. It makes me shudder a little bit to think of abiding by the governing powers of a training schedule at the very least for another month.

So as you can see, there is a bit of a conflict of interest between my two mindsets right now. I want to respect the fact that I’ve given a lot to training during these past few months and give myself a break. The marathon distance, as well, beats you to a pulp, and I know that while I may feel completely recovered—I’m far from it.

So there’s that. But there’s also the case of “post marathon blues” that some of you may have heard of or experienced yourself. I am certainly susceptible to these feelings, and I already can feel them taking form. Essentially, post-marathon blues are what’s leftover once the glitz and glamour of the race are over. I wouldn’t say that I’m completely done reveling in my BQ state—but I definitely feel a little loss now that my training’s over.

I really enjoy the journey of a big goal. I love the prospect of trying to make my far-fetched dreams into a reality, and it makes the process of running day after day so much more enjoyable to know that there’s this sparkly potential for greatness out there.

So while training can get overwhelming and mundane at some points, I am almost always a little sad to have my training come to an end, even when the final race result is satisfactory.

If I’m being honest, I think part of this feeling is that the Eugene end wasn’t 100% satisfactory. I know I have more in me, I know there’s more potential out there. And while I definitely don’t have the energy nor the desire the jump into anything for a while, the fire is definitely there.

So where does that leave me? Well, somewhere in the middle of the previously mentioned extremes, I suppose.

I do love knowing that running offers so many options. Running fast, slow, long, short, trail, road, inside, etc…there’s plenty to choose from. And while I don’t feel ready mentally or physically to make my next choice just yet, I’m excited at the prospect of something new being out there.

In a lot of ways, I still feel very new to this sport, and I love that. I know I’ll figure out someday what my limitations are, but for now…I’m choosing to believe/hope that there are a lot more glass ceilings to break through.

Do you experience the same type of post-marathon blues, or do you kick up your feet and lounge for a while?

Am I The Weirdo?

I don’t really have many running pet peeves.

Runners tend to be some of the friendliest people, and I totally get that a lot of what we do in regard to running is totally personal.

But, and this is a big BUT, there is one running-related annoyance I can’t tend to shake. It’s really silly and ridiculous…considering it doesn’t even remotely affect me. But no matter how hard I try, the more I see it happen, the more frustrated I become.

I’m talking about the way in which people dress, namely the way people overdress, when they run.

I just don’t get it. I’m fairly certain that my internal temperature is no higher or more tolerant than your average person; in fact, I tend to be cold more often than not. So for the life of me, I don’t understand why— when I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt— there are other people not just wearing pants and long sleeves, but also hats and mittens.

This phenomenon is especially noticeable nowadays, as the weather is a little trickier to gauge than the typical “cold” of winter and “hot” of summer. This in-between mode adds a lot of variety to the attire you see out on a run, and while I understand people are going different speeds, different distances, etc…there are some lines that should be drawn, right?

My petty annoyance with overdressers came to a boiling point this past Saturday (in case you couldn’t tell :) ). It was 52-ish degrees, sunny, without much wind. My interpretation of this is shorts and a short sleeve shirt, no question. Although I might have been chilly for the first mile or so, I knew I’d be perfectly happy in this getup in the end.

The wonderful thing about the sun being out is that it summons runners of all sorts. Sunny days in Seattle are flooded with runners and bikers and walkers and elliptic-goers galore, and Saturday was no exception.

With all this running company, I was able to do a thorough survey of what people were all wearing on this fine spring morning.

And, I kid you not, there were at least 20 people wearing black pants, black long-sleeve tops, and some form of cold-weather accessory.

I don’t understand!!!!

I get so warm when I run, as I’m sure most of us do, so why oh why would you want to weigh down your run with unnecessary clothing baggage???

obviously multiple punctuation marks are necessary in this discussion

But really… it’s not like the majority of these people have never run outside before. Most of them are people that I see out regularly, through all seasons, and some of whom are definitely doing long distances with quick paces. And yet, they’re dressed as if it’s below freezing with sideways sleet and 20 mph winds.

So, after the 30th or so overdressed person I judged witnessed on Saturday, I managed to suppress my unwarranted anger and asked myself the real question:

“Am I the weirdo?”

But seriously…am I?

It seems like the vast majority of people out running are, in my opinion, overdressed. And if this is my opinion, maybe I’m actually the minority and don’t follow the standard “what to wear while running” rules.

So I’m genuinely curious here…what are your temperature minimums/maximums for donning certain attire?

For reference (and so you can help justify if I am actually the freak), here is my own scale of what I’ll wear for varying temperatures.

<30°: capri tights, long sleeves, ear-warmer, and probably gloves

30°-35°: capri tights, long sleeves, possible ear-warmer

35°-40°: shorts, thicker long sleeve top

40°-45°: shorts, thin (tech tee) long sleeves

45°-50°: shorts and short sleeves, possibly a thin long sleeve if I’m going really slow

50°<: shorts and short sleeves, tank top if it’s over 65° or so.

So there’s my scale. I’m really hoping that I can either confirm that a) I’m the one that’s loony with my ensemble choices, b) you all agree with my scale and it’s everyone else that’s crazy, or c) eveyone’s a little different and I just happen to chronically see the people who overdress.

What do you wear for running in various temperatures? Do you think most people under-dress, overdress, or do you not care because really…who should care anyways? Any other unique running pet peeves?

Stop Doing Stupid Shit

Yep, harsh title right there. But, that’s the phrase I’ve unfortunately been telling myself more often than not recently.

You see, I know we— as humans—have a hard-wired susceptibility to being distracted. Part of me blames nature, a larger part blames the internet, but no matter how you slice it, the ability to concentrate on one specific thing for a long period of time isn’t so easy.

I myself need a good heaping portion of deadline pressure, marginal stress, and a short time frame to crank out my best work. Frankly, it is amazing what I can do in the hours before something is due—I’m focused, precise, and fast. Not even the distraction of needing to pee can take me away from something if I’m in this kind of zone.

However, as you can probably guess—the majority of the time I don’t have this kind of pressure. Sure, there’s always work to be done, but with a time frame that exceeds a week or a deadline that’s far off, I manage to think of every single other thing in the world to do besides what I’m supposed to do.

I don’t have ADD, and in fact I consider myself a hard worker and driven person, so how in the world has stress managed to become a necessary element in making me productive?

It’s not just in my work life either. If I have a lot of errands that have to be done or chores that need taking care of, I will make it all happen. This is one of the reasons why I run in the mornings on days I know will be stressful; a run jump starts my interpretation of “a productive day.” And I don’t want to toot my own horn (because trust me the self-criticism will come later on), but sometimes I am shocked at just what I can accomplish when the productivity monster kicks me in the pants. (<— entertaining image right there)

BUT. Want to know why I am amazed at my own ability to “do things?” Because way too much of my time is, otherwise, spent doing stupid shit.

Again, I blame social media and the internet to an extent. As many of us remember from our college years of writing papers in the library, when Facebook was only a click away…our best intentions to be productive were always thrown out the window. Then came Twitter, which thankfully I didn’t become aware of until after I graduated, and now there’s Instagram, Tumblrs, blogs, PINTEREST, and lord knows however many other time-wasters that I haven’t heard of yet.

But here’s the thing…yes those things exist and yes smart phones exist and wah wah wah we are all a product of our society. BUT, we—on our own—make the decisions to use these things; we consciously decide to break up our real-life routines for the sake of our digital realities. And this, my friends, is 100% our own fault.

I might just be talking to myself here; maybe all of you are wizards at ignoring your phone and checking all your networks just a few times a day. If so, I applaud you. Thankfully, most social media  sites are blocked at my place of work…making that distraction much easier to avoid. Which is why blogs, especially of the running variety, are my default “mental break.” And that’s fine…sometimes. I like reading them, I learn a little something from a lot of them, and they help keep me inspired and motivated in my own running pursuits.

But when it’s 2 pm…and I’m randomly typing in URLs in hopes that someone, somewhere has posted something new…it’s a problem. It’s nothing more than boredom and the hope that for a few minutes, someone will distract me from continuing to do the things I actually ought to be focusing on. In other words, I’m actively searching out stupid shit to fill my time with.

And you know what? I am nearly 100% positive I’m not alone in this habit.

It’s a little depressing…but once I start trying to recognize the times when I’m just doing something to keep from doing something else, the list starts to pile up. All of a sudden, it’s not just the internet or my phone; it’s staring at my pores in the magnetized mirror for 8 solid minutes, or randomly choosing to pluck my eyebrows at 5 am when I should actually be leaving for my run.

All these little things aren’t harmful, but they—for the most part—don’t serve a purpose. All they’re doing is taking time away from the much more productive and constructive things I should be doing.

Thus, I’ve realized that all these time wasting activities are really just stupid shit—and none of it really adds to my life. Yes, I do need to pluck my eyebrows every so often and yes, as an active blogger, using Twitter is useful and informative. BUT, when I’m using those things in place of more time sensitive, important matters—they become inhibitors.

I’m not saying that I should never zone out on the couch watching reruns of Gossip Girl (yes, still on that one), and I’m definitely not saying I should quit social media. But those activities need to become more purposeful and less default-ish. Does that make sense? In other words, if I’m ever going to have a prayer of getting anything done (and be a productive member of society) I need to have intention in my actions rather than waiting for the stress of time running out to tap on my shoulder.

Deciding to tackle our to-do lists doesn’t take much effort—but they wind up having a huge time-saving and de-stressing effect. I love the feeling of getting something done I’ve been putting off for too long (um, hello buying new windshield wipers for a car driven in SEATTLE). It’s such a satisfying feeling—but what normally shocks me whenever this self-congratulations happens is just how easy it is to get things done.

Somehow, all the stupid shit we’ve managed to replace our productivity with makes all those TO-DOs so much more daunting. And sure, it’s easier to use your thumb to scroll through an infinite amount of tweets, photos, and gifs…but it’s also completely empty. I like to feel that when I do lay on the couch for hours and when I do read through Twitter, it’s because I genuinely do need a break from being busy…and not the other way around.

What’s the point of all this? Well, besides castrating myself for succumbing to the all-too-tempting shoulder-devils of the internet, I suppose I’m hoping that writing this will help hold me a little accountable. Admitting is the first step, as they say, and while I’ve always known that my iPhone was a portal to infinite opportunities for stupid shit— it’s time I reclaim a little bit of control.

I really love my real-life life. And I want to try and stop doing the stupid shit that keeps me away from it. Yes, I love you internet people as well—and I’m not planning on leaving you. But this world is much more interesting if there’s something left to the imagination—rather than being auto-refreshed every hour.

So consider this my pledge; to be the highly functioning person I know I’m capable of being—rather than just another street walker whose nose is pressed to a screen. Time to look up and look out.

And as Louis C.K says…

“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say…you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say, ‘I’m bored.’”

Things I Don’t Like (That You Probably Love)

It’s Friday people, which means two things:

1) I have actively abandoned all good intentions to pack a breakfast or lunch and instead just buy something instead (it never fails…every. single. week.)

2) It’s time for a list!

do you see how my subject matter and form matched one another right there? I’m a visual rhetoric genius.

We’re going to do the opposite of Friday Favorites today and take a look at some of the things I do not like. And not just that…the things I don’t like that apparently every female seems to just love.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not trying to act like I’m exceptionally unique or different. Because I’m not. I’m a very stereotypical, boring girl—right down to my weakness for chocolate and my love of quoting Kristen Wiig. However, I have noticed that there are a lot of things that everyone is totally OMG OBSESSED with…and I’m like “meh.” And in fact, there are many popular female things that I actually really, really dislike.

*Warning: This post may offend. I’m merely stating my own opinion, and I realize that my views may very well be in the minority. Sue me.*

Without further ado…

1) Running skirts

I’m sorry. I just can’t do it.

I don’t get it, I don’t like it, and I have zero interest in ever partaking in this “running attire.” It’s not that I think they’re necessarily unflattering or ugly…most people look fine enough in them…I think it’s more the principal of the matter. To me, running is an athletic and very non-glamorous activity, and I prefer to dress the part—which does not, IMO, include wearing a skirt. Skirts and dresses are great—for after a run and after I’ve removed my sweaty shorts.

Sorry, but skirts to me are for cheerleaders (and with all due respect, I know you all need the leg room for splits and kicks and whatnot), but in the sport of running, your legs don’t need the same freedom.

And sorry, again, this definitely included sparkle skirts. And running dresses? Don’t even get me started.

2) Gu

Maybe this has something to do with the time I was force fed a chocolate Gu at the end of a marathon, or maybe it’s because I have a sensitive stomach, but frankly…I can think of few things less appetizing than these packs of flavored syrup.

Blech. Even thinking about them makes me queezy. I realize there aren’t a ton of fuel options available, hence why a lot of people use this stuff—but even regular Swedish fish probably do the same thing as a regular Gu. And would definitely taste much more delicious.

3) Neon shoes

You know how bright pink and orange and yellow shoes are all the rage this year?

Not into it. And apparently I’m the only one, because most people can’t get enough of them. It’s not that I dislike bright colors—although my bland wardrobe might suggest otherwise—but I just prefer for my running shoes to be very simple.

And yea yea…the Pure Connects I wear are relatively bright, however they are definitely the tamest of the options available. If it were up to me, every running shoe I buy would be white with a sprinkle of blue on them somewhere.

Alas…functionality trumps looks in the running shoe world, therefore I am sure before too long I’ll be wearing neon pink racing flats and you all can have the last laugh. For now, I’ll stick to my simple white and turquoise babies.

4) Fans in the gym

In every spin class I go to, I will actively seek a spot in the room that is shielded from the incessant, annoying fan that everyone seems to covet. I am one of the few people who opts for the instructor to not turn the fan on when they offer, and I grit my teeth whenever everyone whoops and cheers for it.

I don’t know what it is, but nothing bothers me more than simulated cold air blowing in my face while spinning. One of the best parts of spin class is all the SWEATING that happens, and I hate when that experience is hindered by a fan. Maybe I’m just a light sweater, and maybe I’m just a first-world-problem crybaby (truth), but I’ll maintain my fan-hate forever.

Big, sweaty, air-blocking men…you are my favorite spinners to sit behind.

5) Plain yogurt

I’ve tried so hard with this one. I know you can put plain yogurt in just about anything in the world—from smoothies to pancakes to baked goods that would probably taste much better with butter—but I just can’t stand the sour, bland taste of regular plain yogurt. Give me all the strawberry, blueberry, and pomegranete you’ve got…but keep that nothing-flavor goop for yourselves.

And “regular tart” froyo? Vom.

6) Coconut water

If you do anything even marginally athletic…from just occasionally going to the gym to running back-to-back marathons, this new trend has undoubtedly been pimped hard to you. Electrolytes! Healthy! Hydration! OMG SO REFRESHING!

Maybe my palate is really just that unrefined, but I think this stuff tastes like a dirty sock that was soaked in water for a few days and then refrigerated.

7) Fuel Belts

Again, I know this is a personal preference thing. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand while running, it’s the feeling that something is weighing me down or interfering. Sometimes even just my Garmin and iPod SHUFFLE feels like too much. I tried wearing a fuel belt that someone lent me ONCE, and it bothering me so much I had to take it off, hide it under a bush, and come back for it later.

I suppose I admire anyone who can pull off fast, efficient running with these things. To me, especially in a race with lots of fuel stations, they’re completely unnecessary. Keys and fuel in your shorts’ pocket, hand-held water bottle if necessary, all good.

……

I’m really not a big hater, in fact I’m much more of a cheerleader than anything else, but sometimes when you’re surrounded by all the bells and whistles of the most popular things of the time—you need to let loose some steam. And who knows, my opinions on these things could change. This time next year, I could be sitting in the front of a fan during spin while wearing a running skirt and fueling with Gu and coconut water. You have my permission to call out my hypocrisy.

But for now, I prefer to maintain my stance on these “all the rage” trends.

But now I’m really curious…

How do you feel about these things? Love? Hate? Want to start an anti-plain yogurt/froyo club with me? Want to throw rocks at me for hating on the running skirt? It’s okay…I’m bad at being a girl sometimes.

 

 

Changes, My PSA, and an Epiphany

I had a bit of an “a-ha!” moment recently, and while it may seem trivial and a little like, “No shit, Sherlock” to most people…it’s kind of done a 180 on how I approach both my training and my running.

It all started when I first heard my new favorite quote/life mantra:

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

(First heard from this girl, originally coined by this guy.)

Simplistic and to-the-point. But when you think about this idea a little more closely, it starts to highlight some of the things in our lives we’d rather hide away from.

It got me to thinking about the things I always wish would change. Obviously, I eventually landed on one of my favorite parts of life: running.

“What do I wish would change about running?”

Well, a lot. I’m constantly thinking about the things I want out of running. I want to BQ, I want to be faster, I want to stop getting injured, etc. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: What have I changed to make these things happen?

The answer? Not much.

Let’s take the “stop getting injured” thing for instance. The last four injuries I’ve had were all due to overuse. They were injuries caused simply by wear and tear over time, and all of them were—in that regard—completely preventable. So why, then, did I keep getting hurt after my first 4-month of no running due to an overuse injury?

Well, because I was stuck in the habit of working my body too hard.

When I get hurt,  I convince myself that I’ve learned my lesson…I’ll never overtrain again, I’ll stop working out so much, and I’ll start taking more rest days.

4 injuries later, and that lesson hadn’t sunk in. And it’s because I, by habit, overtrain. I wasn’t changing any of my habits, so why should my body stop responding in a deconstructive way?

Let’s take a look at my most recent injuries (knee bursitis, IT band syndrome, and ankle tendonitis—yep, all this year). What was similar about all three instances?

1) I was marathon training

2) I was over 50 miles per week

3) I was running 5+ days a week

The body is an incredible thing, and it can teach us a lot. Clearly, my body had been trying to teach me something about how it handles the above factors…and it only took me 3 different overuse injuries to figure it out. It seems so simple, so logical, however for me—and I’m sure for many runners—hindsight is always much more crystal clear than foresight.

Because running is a habit. We develop habits, and we stick to them—because they’re familiar. They’re comforting. Because we know we can do them and they satisfy us.

Running and exercising excessively became habits of mine…and unlike picking split ends or biting nails, the addictive nature of endorphins make these habits a lot harder to let go of. And why let go? These things are good for us, they make us happy. What’s the harm in continuing the habit of excess exercise?

Well, a lot actually. And it’s not just the tangible problems (injuries), either.

Now that I’ve kind of figured myself out, and I’ve recognized that injuries aren’t going to change if I don’t change, I’m realizing all the other problems that resulted from always wanting high mileage and high intensity workouts. Burnout, anxiety, chronically tired, isolated, etc.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

As someone who is constantly striving for the betterment of my own life and the lives of those around me, I’m all about constructive changes.

Constructive changes in the form of listening to my body instead of pushing it, taking rest days at least once a week, and realizing that there’s a lot of goodness out there that doesn’t come in the form of sweating for hours on end.

(And seriously…rest days have become the best days. Ever. How did it take so long?)

It’s a work in progress, and obviously I still and will always love me a good hard workout, but I’m feeling much better than I have in a long time thanks to this recent influx of “moderation.”

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I had two significant PRs recently in conjunction with the extra rest and breathing room I’ve allowed myself. My body seems to be responding appreciatively to the changes I’ve made…and as a result, I’m reaching new levels that I didn’t really think were possible before.

Because I truly believe when you become proactive  in making real change happen, the things you always hoped would happen seem to follow closely behind.

I love running so much that I want to do it as much ans as long as possible. I would so much rather choose to not run an extra mile or an extra day for the sake of safety rather than let my body choose for me in the form of a disabling injury.

My body’s been choosing my breaking point for me for too long, and I’m deciding to regain control over the situation.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

And on that note, here is my PSA for the day:

Runners, take rest days. As someone who went weeks, sometimes even a whole month, without resting once, I really do know what I’m talking about here. I get it—you crave a workout, you love your workouts, you don’t feel right without them.

But guess what? You’re a human and an athlete—and your muscles and bones eventually will not tolerate incessant beating. Exercise necessitates rest…and you are undoing all the work you’ve put in by not letting your body recover. No progress can be made with continual wear and tear, so ask yourself why you’re really avoiding rest if your intent is to be fitter and stronger.

I was that type of runner and exerciser for so long, and while I’m still working out all the kinks, I’m recognizing just how much more harm I was doing than good.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of your bodies. I know so many runners in real life and through blogging who are constantly complaining of fatigue and lack of improvement, and I cannot emphasize enough how much rest and letting yourself of the “I must always exercise” hook will better your running and your life.

And to sum up this somewhat nonsensical ramble of a post, here’s another quote to chew on, which does a much better job of getting to the point than I do.

“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”
- Julie Isphording

Resolutions Revisited

As the end of the year draws nearer, I’ve started thinking back to the resolutions I made at the beginning of this year to see—you know—if I’ve succeeded or, well, sucked.

My resolution for this year was a bit simplistic and also not necessarily super tangible. All I really wanted was to do more things that ordinarily scare me.

At the end of last year, I was thinking a lot about how I shy away from things that are either hard, inconvenient, or simply unknown. We all do it—it’s in our natural protective natures—but I wanted to do something about these fears. I wanted to take away their power by facing them head on, no matter how big or small they may be.

It’s a little silly actually…it really all started with admitting how much I hated running hills. I would drive to various parts of West Seattle that I knew would be hill-free, all because hills made me nervous.

As a runner, I knew this was a weakness, and it was something I could very easily change. So it began with the hill fear, and then my resolution expanded out to encompass all the other things I’m afraid of in my life.

So how have I fared over the past 10.5 months?

Well, when I first started thinking on my progress with this resolution, my first thought was:

Wow, I did nothing.

But, upon a little more scrutinizing…I realized that somehow I’ve actually done a pretty good job at following this resolution. But admittedly, it wasn’t on purpose.

So let’s do a little trip back down 2012 memory lane. By the way, can you BELIEVE it’s almost the end of the year??

Here’s some of the ways I’ve been successful at facing my fears this year:

-I am no longer afraid of hills, in fact…I seek them out. Sure, I prefer for a race course to be flat and happy, but I now recognize the benefits of incorporating hills, and I regularly try to keep them in most of my runs. And as someone who’s currently desperate to get faster, I don’t really have an option.

Hill fear? Win.

-I quit my job.

Oh yea, that little thing. This was frankly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—and I don’t really wish that conversation with your employer on anyone. I left a cushy, some would say “ideal” job without much knowledge of what my next job would hold. So while this wasn’t necessarily something I was actively avoiding like the hills, it was definitely something that I was petrified for a long time to do.

-I started a new job.

No matter how you slice it, starting a new job is tough. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know where to go, you don’t know where to sit… it’s kind of terrible. And with my new job particularly…not only did I not what to do, I also barely knew the subject matter. I took a grand total of ZERO finance or business classes in school, and all of a sudden I needed to know what terms like “hedge fund,” “crossing,” and “enhanced asset allocation” meant.

Needless to say, it was a process. A scary process. However, it definitely fit the bill for taking on scary things.

-I met new people.

This really might not seem like a big deal, but to me…it actually was. As someone who prefers to be alone most of the time and has a hard time even getting together with good friends, I’ve never been in the business of “putting myself out there” or however you say it. But this year, I put my introvert tendencies aside every so often and met some pretty sweet people along the way.

-I got beat up by the marathon, and then did another one.

After the horrors of Tacoma started to wear off, there was never really a doubt in my mind that I would—at some point—run another marathon. However, the closer and closer Chicago came this year—I began to realize just how much of an impact Tacoma had made on me. While I had all the ordinary taper worries, I was also paralyzed with fear that something like Tacoma would happen again. It was the reason that I was more worried for Chicago than any other race—although I didn’t necessarily confess it to anyone. I knew I had an easy way out of not doing Chicago. Since my ankle was questionable, it would have been understandable, some would say smart, to just not run Chicago. However, this was an opportunity to face the unknown instead of walk away from it—and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a great test of my resolution.

So now that I’ve talked about how great I was at following my resolution (insert snarky tone here), let’s take a look at the “room for growth” in regard to facing my fears.

{In my company, “room for growth” is code for “weaknesses” on performance reviews.}

I suppose the good and bad thing about this resolution is that it’s never quite done. Even if I have taken on a few things that previously scared me, there are always going to be more things out there—even if I don’t know about them yet. And in all honesty, I could probably write a whole post about the things I’m afraid of ever trying, fixing, getting better at, etc. But, that would be a little overly self-deprecating and depressing, so instead I’ll focus on one…because it’s been on my mind recently:

I realized, or more like admitted to myself, that I’m afraid of the 7s.

Whenever I see a time on my Garmin that is under 8:00, I immediately panic: I convince myself that my lungs are on fire, my legs are going to fall off, and I’m going to start heaving on the side of the road whenever I see a pace starting with a 7.

And while paces below 8 are certainly a bit faster than I’m used to, I think I’ve let my fear overrule my determination to make these paces stick. It almost feels like if my watch just lied to me and said that a 7:50 was actually 8:10, I wouldn’t even know the difference. And while I definitely try and keep in check my “comfort” and “discomfort” with certain speeds,I think that my brain has a big effect on how my body “feels” at those speeds.

I’m fairly certain this is very normal for most runners, and it’s why training our mental game is just as important as training our legs.

So back to my resolution…although it’s getting toward the end of the year, I’m going to try to stop being so afraid of the 7s.

It seems a little strange to try and “get in” my resolution so late in the year, but isn’t that what they’re for? I think most people forget about their resolutions around mid February or so…myself included…but sometimes a little retrospect can do us some good, as well as show us that while we may have made some progress, there’s always “room for growth.”

What were your new years resolutions this year? How have you done at achieving them? What scares you?

When It’s Better Not to Run

No, this is not a post about not running while injured, when it’s dark out, when it’s hailing, when you’re burnt out, right after a big race, or when your running shoes resemble flip flops.

Those are all reasons not to run, but this post is about when it’s better not run when you just as easily could run.

I will be the first person to admit that I can over-exercise. I’ve gotten much better about it, and I’ve learned that a rest day can be a bff, but generally speaking I would say that I could loosen the reigns on how strict I am about fitness. I am not in any way saying this to show off or boast about how much I exercise—because frankly, I’m coming to a point where it’s a quality about myself that I’m growing to be less proud of. Which is so contradictory to what Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook/blah blah blah always preaches about “getting it done” and “sweat once a day.”

In a nutshell, after years of constantly feeling the “need” to exercise and beating myself up over any rest I took, I’m beginning to seriously re-evaluate my priorities—and in that process, my death grip on my exercise security-blanket has really started to loosen. And you know what? It feels great.

And yes, I’ve written about this before and I’m sure to write about it again—but hey, I’m a work in progress.

I’m really back and forth sometimes between maintaining my title as a “runner” and just being “normal.” Because let’s be honest…runners are not normal. Admittedly, it baffles me that people who I love and respect are equally as happy and upbeat about their day-to-day lives without running at all. Furthermore, I’ve realized that over time I had become so dependent on running that I’d lost touch with all the other aspects of life that can be just as rewarding.

And I really don’t think I’m alone.

There is a sizable demographic, particularly within the running blog world, that is quite the opposite of lazy. We plan out workouts a week ahead of time, we track our progress, speed, and miles, and we live for the content feeling every day that we’ve logged a good workout. And rightfully so, because there are few better feelings than knowing you’ve poured sweat hours before most people are even at work.

And all of these things are okay…because of course, exercise is so powerfully good for you.

But the fact of the matter is that there can always be too much of a good thing, and exercise is no exception. It’s really hard to see this—because  a) we’re in a country with an obesity epidemic and b) endorphins feel so damn good. But when exercise-induced highs start to take away from other parts of our lives, a red flag goes up.

My red flag went up a long time ago. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally begun to admit to it, internalize it, and slowly but surely—hold up my white surrender flag.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post—when it’s better not to exercise.

I had the perfect opportunity to practice this kind of decision this weekend. And I use the word practice because it is something that is still very difficult to do.

I spent Friday through Sunday morning in Colorado for a Film Festival that my mom is the Executive Director of. Yes, she’s super badass.

Mommy on stage.

In normal RB protocol, I would have planned out ahead of time exactly which hours I would have available to run. And truthfully, I did pack all my running gear with the intention of keeping on track. But when the hour presented itself to knock out some miles, I simply chose not to. And you know what? It was such a good choice.

Part of being at a Film Festival requires you to watch several movies, literally, all day. You wouldn’t think it—but this requires A LOT of energy and caffeine. When I laid in bed Saturday morning (my intended run time) and thought about the day ahead of me and the option for 1.5 hours of more sleep—the decision seemed ridiculous. I came to Colorado to be at my mom’s film festival…why would I want to inevitably sleep through parts of it for the sake of a run?

Films!

I know this sounds silly…because there are so many people who would have understood this kind of prioritization much earlier on. But for me, it’s hard—and it’s taken a while.

There are so many times when I choose running over other activities (namely sleeping) in order to maintain my sanity throughout the day. In many ways, I love this about myself—but I’m finally realizing that over time, the exhaustion and pressure of uber-prioritizing exercise completely negates the  highs we get from it. In other words…it has the opposite effect of exercise.

Here is what I’m finally getting: missing one run does not make one. little. difference in how complete of a person I am. It’s how I choose to react that makes the difference—and in that sense, I’m choosing to stop reacting so much.

Because as much as I adore running, and as huge of a part of me as it may be, it’s not everything. When we spend so much time building our identities as “runners” we lose touch with all the other elements that make us who we are. And when we drift too far away from those things—it becomes harder to regain a sense of self when, all of a sudden, we can’t run.

It’s why when we’re injured, we panic—without running we’re lost. Of course, I am the guiltiest of the guilty in this regard, which is why I’m choosing to practice a different form of discipline. And in that respect…by relaxing our running and by taking on some more rest, our susceptibility to be injured goes down and we’re left with not only healthier bodies, but more well-rounded senses of self.

I’m not currently injured. I have zero desire to become injured. But if and when it does happen again (and I’m going to go with “when” on that one given the nature the beast), I want to be more armed with experience and amo for getting through it. The experience, in this case, being the familiarity with not running sometimes. And the amo being the ability to let other wonderful things build me up while running might be down.

I am a runner, through and through. I would venture to say that there may never be a point where I am not a runner—because that’s quite unimaginable. I love it, and it seems like the more I do it—the more I love it. But one of the biggest parts of being a runner is respecting the fact that it’s a sport that requires a great deal of discipline—and with that discipline comes the need to rest.

Rest has been my most underrated part of my participation in this sport, and I’m finally realizing that I’m honoring my title as a “runner” more so when I accept rest instead of resisting it.

So sometimes, it’s better to not run. Not because of anything particular, but because when we pair running with the other great things in our lives, it makes the sport much more fulfilling and exciting.

champagne and cupcakes post Friday night gala FTW.

When I got home on Sunday, sleepy and happy from my quick CO trip…I couldn’t wait to slip into  my running shoes. And when I took off on a long, leisurely jaunt around West Seattle, my thought wasn’t “Dang I need to make up for the past two days,” it was, “I loved spending every minute I could this weekend with my family.”

So sweaty. Seattle decided to be humid and hot to kick off November. I forgot BodyGlide also. Mistake.

I’m a work in progress—as we all are. Some days are better than others, but overall I would say that I am finally getting the balance thing.

I encourage everyone who takes their exercise really seriously to continue to do so—but not at the cost of losing your health or all the other great things about you.

Sometimes the better decision as a runner is to not run, and you know what? It’s okay. Running will always be there, so don’t stress out if you take a time out every now and then. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Central Governor Theory

I’ve officially indoctrinated myself into the ranks of serious runnerd.

I bought a running textbook. Not a novel, not a book of motivational quotes, not “Runner’s World.”

A mother effing textbook. The Lore of Running, to be specific. And the worst part? I’m stupid excited about it. I’ve already planned early bedtimes of sitting with a highlighter and going through each chapter like I’m studying for a test.

Who am I?! Either this is a sign that I might need to go back to school sooner than I thought, or I’ve really got it bad for running. And because I’m really digging the whole not-ever-having-homework-or-taking-tests lifestyle right now, I’m gonna go with the latter.

It all started with another running book, Eat and Runthe one we’ve already talked about. Scott Jurek was merrily telling me all about his adventures in 100 mile races and whatnot, when he said something that hit me straight between the eyes. Or, more so, it hit me straight in the part of my brain that is haunted by the Tacoma Marathon.

{Yes, still talking about that one—sorry. I thought I was done, but this discovery was just too enlightening to ignore. I promise I’ll stop talking about that race someday}

Truth be told, in many ways I have left that race behind me as I’ve moved onto other endeavors. I certainly learned a lot from it, but it was a fairly traumatic event and I don’t want the bad parts of it to overwhelm my ambitions and love for this sport.

However, to this day I haven’t been able to answer exactly why what happened, well, happened. I was completely depleted and fatigued, and I’d reached my own physical threshold. However, I still hadn’t been able to come up with why, after 26 miles of running, my body decided to quit when the finish line was in view.

Enter, Scott Jurek. He was telling a story about the Western States 100—a notable race in California that courses up and down mountains for a hundred miles. Scott was pacing a friend, who was about to win the race, and right when they got to the local high school track (the location of the race’s finish line) and the finish came into view, his friend collapsed—unable to move.

The circumstances sounded very similar to mine—and as Scott continued to tell the story, my interest heightened and it all started to sound frighteningly parallel. Scott stated that in his opinion, when his friend’s brain processed the finish line in sight, it told his body, “Hey dude, you’re done. You can quit now.” Subsequently, his body gave out, just stopped, because his mind had resolved that it could stop working so hard.

It’s all very hippy dippy stuff, but hear me out. This guy was able to run, up and down mountains no less, for ONE HUNDRED MILES without faltering. Of course he was tired, battling, and exhausted, but there was something that was able to keep him going. But then, right as the finish line comes into view, that same body that’d been working toward this finale just decided to stop? The timing seems all too peculiar, just as my own seemed in the Tacoma Marathon.

Scott goes onto describe some actual scientific rationale behind this occurrence—termed the Central Governor Theory by  Dr. Timothy Noakes. In essence, the theory advocates for the power of the mind over the body in endurance sports.

“The central governor is a proposed process in the brain that regulates exercise in regard to a neurally calculated safe exertion by the body. In particular, physical activity is controlled so that its intensity cannot threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxia damage to the heart.”

In lamens terms, our endurance is not only an effect of our training or our VO2 max, but of a part of our brain that strategically plans out our exertion levels based on the required mileage, time frame, etc. It’s essentially a case for mind over matter, and it advocates that our Central Governor has means of protecting us from overexertion.

It’s a debatable idea, have no doubt. But, it is one that has been cited and used in many sports studies and theories for years.

The thing that struck me about it is that it spoke so closely to the feelings I experienced during the Tacoma Marathon. I had passed my own limits for a good deal of that race: I was hurting, I was done, but for some reason I was able to keep going. And it wasn’t pride at that point—because no matter how much I wanted that BQ and I wanted to keep going, my fatigue had overtaken my pride.

But I was able to keep going, and my legs seemingly had a life of their own. Until, that is, I saw the finish line. I was grateful to see it, have no doubt, but it felt like my desire to be done had overtaken the strength that had kept me going. When I fell, it was because my body had given up, and although I had been able to continue to push it along for all those miles of pain, for some reason—so close to the end, they’d won the battle.

If you attribute the Central Governor Theory to my experience in that race, it makes a whole lot of sense—particularly the part where I fell right before the finish line. In a direct comparison to Scott’s story about his Western States 100 friend, my brain resolved that it could be done upon seeing the end, and my body responded with absolute abdication.

Now, I fully realize that there are a number of factors that could have come into play in the end of that race. I was entirely depleted, have no doubt; a 105 degree fever, cramping legs, and complete fatigue undoubtedly contributed to the time I spent in the medical tent afterward.

However, those factors would have existed whether or not I collapsed so close to the end. I’ve thought all along that it was my mind more than anything else that was the ultimate reason for the disconnect that occurred at mile 26. It felt like a cord between my body and my mind was snapped, and I couldn’t get the two to work in sync any longer.

So yes, my physical exertion was beyond a manageable level. But there was something more that occurred on that day—and the Central Governor Theory, at least to me, explains better than anything else the final factor that came into play.

Again, I promise that I have and will stop analyzing that race. I have gotten over it, and I know one day it’s going to be an ancient memory. But once this idea of the power of the mind was presented to me, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to that day. Because that day was the first time, and perhaps the only time, where I can say that I relied solely on my mind to carry on when my body was done. My mind was the only thing I had left for a long time in that race—and this theory presented an explanation for just how that dependence actually worked.

I think what I love so much about the Central Governor Theory is the theme that running is so much more than just our physical abilities. We hear time and time again that “Running is a mental sport,” and yet it’s so much easier to measure the physical side of it. We concentrate on times, VO2 max, lactate threshold, maximum heart rate, and mileage so often as the means in which we measure our physical abilities.These things have a lot of merit, of course, but there is something more to running than just the physiology. It’s the reason we can get out of bed in the morning when our bodies are so much happier staying under the covers. It’s the reason why we can sprint to a finish line even though we’ve been dead for miles. Our brains have a lot more power over our abilities that we even realize—and while that’s not to say that we shouldn’t concentrate on the tangible numbers, I truly believe that to be a good runner, we must remember that one of the most valuable tools we have is the one inside our head.

So, in going back to the textbook—The Lore of Running was written by the Central Governor Theorist himself, Timothy Noakes. The book discusses his theory, but also any and all things related to running. It’s definitely somewhat biased and opinion based, as essentially all running books are, however I’m excited to read what more this South African bloke has to say in favor of the power of our minds in relation to the power of our running.

The only problem? Everything is in kilometers, meaning he’s forcing me to exercise my brain while siphoning through chapters. Tricky man that Noakes.

Happy Friday! Happy running :)

Dear Internet, I suck today.

Optimistic title, no?

Confession: This is not the first draft of this post.

Weird, I know, because normally I operate on the “word vomit with some typos” single draft method when writing my blog posts. But not today. I was trying desperately to feign some version of my normal Friday cheerfulness and obnoxious rambling about how everything is perfect and running is super and puppies are cute and sequins should be everywhere.

Running is super, puppies are cute, and sequins should in fact cover more things than it already does.

But, I couldn’t even fake it today. I’m in a funk, and I didnt’ want to admit it.

After some flailing attempts to write out my feelings about “FRIDAY AND WEEKENDS ARE AWESOME!” and all that, I realized it was bullshit, because I actually don’t feel too pumped about much today, and it was all a lie to write a post acting like I was.

One big “select all” and “delete.” That’s what happened not too long ago, which leaves me here—admitting to both you, and myself, that I’ve been pissy today and didn’t want to admit it.

Why? No reason…which is always worse. When I’m in bad mood, 99% of the time I am either hungry or tired.

I’m like an infant, if you didn’t know that.

However, neither of those are the case. I’m caffeinated, I’m exercised, and generally things are pretty dang good. No reason bad moods suck, especially when I start getting down on myself for being pissy when things could (always) be much worse.

I’ll get over it, and I am sure you don’t want to hear me investigate the cause of my bitchiness any more. And I don’t either, which is why I’m here. Writing is theraputic, but only if you tell the truth. You see, earlier when I was trying to write about my favorite things, it felt tedious and annoying and I couldn’t muster any energy whatsoever to make my fingers type. That’s because my usual zest wasn’t there, and now that I’m actually writing about the way I’m really feeling—well, the word vomit is coming no problem.

Funny how that works, huh? Thinking back to all that writer’s block I experienced in college when writing about something I hated—it was always so difficult to force a paper out.

{But don’t worry expensive liberal arts institutions, that probably never, ever happens to anyone else.}

The truth is, good writing necessitates honesty. When I say “good” I’m not boasting about my blogging abilities—because goodness knows there is no Shakespeare over here. “Good” is more of a subjective term, and I always think that my “good” writing is the kind that has my real, honest-to-goodness voice behind it. That can only be done with brutal and sometimes harsh honesty—even when it means admitting to yourself that writing about random Favorite Things sounds like the worst thing in the world.

Why have I taken this long to tell you about why I suck today and didn’t write a post that probably no one cares much about? I don’t really know. But getting down the way I’m really feeling is always helpful, and I knew that instead of ignoring my blog and letting another day go by without posting—I might as well get some words out there.

One of the biggest reasons I started my blog was to have an outlet. Sure, I wanted to keep myself accountable in terms of training, and I wanted to connect with the online running community. But perhaps more than anything, I wanted and needed a place where I could let out some of the thoughts that go on in my head.

Since I was young, writing things down has always been a big help. I’m lucky I figured this out so young, but it’s something that has definitely taken practice and discipline. To this very day, I have to be very intentional when writing down the things I’m thinking—good or bad. It’s really easy to hide behind things that will distract us from our bad moods. My resort comes in the form of Gossip Girl episodes and bottomless bowls of trail mix, which is about 50% chocolate chips.

In my last post, I advocated for this type of relaxation. But, there’s a difference between relaxation and distraction, and that’s unfortunately what our unwinding habits can turn into. Which, once again, leads me back to why I’m here.

I want to be merry and peppy and favorite-y today, but I’m not.

And it’s okay, because I’d rather be honest than put on an act.

I’ll get over my funk, and I’m glad that I was able to realize that the trials and tribulations of Blair and Serena and all those other beautiful people wasn’t actually relaxing as it was distracting me from the fact that I’m funked out.

*If you’re wondering what the majority of yesterday afternoon and this morning looked like, I think you can guess*

That all might not make sense, and I’m sorry if you’ve wasted your time waiting for some a-ha! lesson. I suppose the “lesson” is that sometimes it’s better to admit your problems than to pretend they aren’t there.

And believe me, I know a bad mood hardly qualifies as a problem. But, it’s a small scale example of something I think a lot of us do frequently. Finding an outlet for whatever it is that’s getting us down is the most important route to take, in my opinion, and for me—that’s here…and running.

Oh, this is a running blog? Have I been whining about nothing for this whole post while you wanted to talk about running?

Yea, I wished the same…and I’m sure soon enough I’ll be back in action, complete with sequins and exclamation points. And I need to get my act together, particularly because on Monday I have some pretty sweet news to share, and I won’t have a choice but to be pumped about it.

So, weekend, I’m going to squeeze every “stop being a bitch” activity out of you as I can…and if all else fails, I’ll rely on the Red Robin meal tonight that I’ve been crafting in my head since 9 am. Coping mechanisms people…I have many.

If you’re still there and feel like helping me find some joy in the world…what are YOU doing this weekend? Are you excited and glittery today, or are you hanging out in Oscar the grouch land with me? What are your bad mood coping mechanisms? What’s your outlet? Should I get the bacon cheeseburger tonight or the bacon cheeseburger? Oh, a spiked Freckled Lemonade you say? Done.