Category Archives: Facing Fears

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.

Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday was a very, very good day.

If you want the quick-and-dirty version of how I fared in the Chicago Marathon, you can scan to the bottom. If you’re interested in the full race recap, read on! Spoiler: it’s full of happiness and run love—and a little bit of past and present tense confusion. Forgive me.

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I was nervous with a capital N about this race. To briefly recap those of you who haven’t had to listen to my whining for the past month, this is how I went into the race:

1 month ago, my ankle blew up in a horrible case of tendonitis, and I couldn’t walk without a limp let alone run at all. 2 doctors visits, lots of icing, and positive thinking later— I could sort-of, kind-of run again. This was a mere 2 weeks out from the race, and it wasn’t without irritation, but it was running. Another two weeks of a little running (12 miles being the furthest) and continuing to rest my angry ankle, and I decided I would try and bust out a marathon. Flights had been booked, plans had been made, yada yada yada yada (Seinfeld?), so I figured…let’s go for it.

Mind you…my last 20-mile run was on August 25, and that 12 mile run mentioned above was not easy.

{I am not sharing these facts for any sympathy votes or to throw myself a pity party…I just feel they’re essential to detailing both how I approached this race and how I felt about the end results. Take ’em or leave ’em.}

I lowered my expectations for this marathon. I planned a conservative pacing strategy, and I went into it knowing that a) I would probably be in pain at some point, b) I wouldn’t be very fast, and c) I could end up re-injured.

My best case scenario was finishing without too much ankle pain. I wasn’t looking for speed, I was merely looking for a finish line crossing.

And what did I get?

One of the most fun races of my life—and what I believe was the most well-executed running I’ve ever done.

Enough Tarantino, let’s go back to the beginning…

Saturday night, after some Chicago exploring, my feet were up, my compression socks were on, and BF was making me a perfect carb-heavy dinner. I wasn’t feeling the same nerves I’d been grappling with all week. I felt ready—a little anxious—but mainly content with that fact that all I could do was my best. Without any high goals or expectations, I knew all I could do was run smart and hope for the best—and as someone who is always so numbers-oriented, this was a pretty relieving approach.

Nevertheless, my sleeping was not ideal Saturday night, but that’s to be expected.

At my 5:00 am alarm, though, it was game time. A face wash, gear check, and banana later—we were on our way to the start line. The nice thing about Chicago was all the accessible public transportation—the trains made all the coming and going much simpler!

Let’s go run a marathon!

Girls on the Run did such a wonderful job with a pre-and-post race set up. We had a warm place to hang out, food, real bathrooms, easy gear storage, and PT masseuses! Fancy stuff. I felt very lucky/grateful.

I would appreciate this set up at every race from now on. Please and thank you.

7:00 am rolled around, and it was time to jet to the start line. There were so many people doing this race. Of course I knew this ahead of time, but you can never really know what a single event for 40,000 people looks like until you’re there. It was quite the production, and the Chicago Marathon volunteers/staff had the whole thing down to a science. Despite the crowds, it was largely controlled chaos and really just felt like a huge party. I tried my best to stay calm, soak it in, and appreciate the fact that I was part of such a spectacular event. The announcer told us that 114 different countries were represented amongst the participants, as well as ALL 50 states. Amazing.

Pre-corral entrance, a good luck send off.

The gun went off, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the speakers, and we were running! It took me about 4 minutes post-gun time to actually cross the start line, but it didn’t matter—I was so hopped up on running-gratitude and adrenaline that I didn’t feel any urge to push or weave.

I also started this race without my music playing—which was both abnormal and intentional. I wanted to be able to enjoy the crowds which I’d heard so much about—and I figured that starting my music later on might give me a helpful jolt of energy when I’d need it. This would end up being a very, very good strategy.

We were off—cruising through the beautiful streets of Chicago. There are so many different buildings, businesses, and general attractions to see around that city, and it was easy to be distracted (in a good way) by it all.

And the people! Right off the bat, there were crowds at least 3-people-deep lining the course, all of whom were so encouraging, happy, and motivating. There were some hilarious posters as well—my favorites being, “You’re definitely NOT going to win” and “Remember, Liam Neeson is proud of you!”

The first 5 or so miles went all through down town, and I felt great. My plan going into it was to stick around an 8:40-8:45 min/mile for the first half, and then reassess depending on how I felt. However, due to a massive Garmin fail about 1.2 miles into the race—my pacing was based solely on my stopwatch function and some mental math skills.

Because of the clouds and the tall buildings, my satellite was more off than on, and when I did have a signal, my watch’s pacing was definitely not accurate. So, I was able to distract myself a lot with a good deal of addition, memorization, and division.

And in the end, I’m actually very thankful for the Garmin mishap. Not only was I distracted by my need to configure my own pacing, but I wasn’t obsessively checking my watch. I would say I ran 80% of the pace solely by feel, and in the end this would result in a great overall strategy. If I felt slow, I picked it up, if I felt fast, I pulled back. Back to basics—it was refreshing.

However, I did want to make sure I stuck to my slower-first-half plan, and so I was trying my hardest to get to each mile marker based on my self-calculated 8:40 pace plan. Looking back on the results, I think I did a fair job sticking to this. I felt great through the 10 mile mark, and it was around this point that I started to get wary about my ankle.

Teal hat on the left, photo courtesy of BF.

I knew that I could make it to the halfway point or so without too much worry about my ankle—but after that, it was pretty up in the air as to what would happen.

The pain I’d been experiencing beforehand with my injury would come on without warning, really quickly, and so there were a number of times from miles 10-15 where I was paying a lot of attention to how it was feeling. There wasn’t much sign of anything too threatening, though, and eventually I was able to stop thinking too much about it.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the halfway point came. It felt like I’d just started running—and feeling good at this point was really encouraging in terms of how I felt I would bode for the rest of the race.

I was constantly analyzing both my energy levels and my form—and I think this “checking in” was good for my pacing and my motivation. With both a lot of energy left and a completely pain-free ankle at the 13.1 mark…my fears of needing to drop out were slowly diminishing.

The miles continued to tick by—just the way you would hope they would in a race. The crowds also continued to be huge, loud, and just fantastic. I slapped hands with so many strangers, took oranges offered by various folks, and smiled at most everyone I saw. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face, and the further I ran, it seemed the better I felt.

Looking back, I think I felt the best from miles 13-19. My pace felt steady, my energy felt strong, and I couldn’t believe how good my legs felt given my huge lapse in training. I consciously didn’t let the fear of missed training keep me from enjoying the running and instead I credited the resting I’d allowed myself and the taper plan I followed. No questioning….just running.

I thought that at some point the course would enter a no-man’s-land of sorts, as most marathons tend to do. But there was never really any point of the run that felt deserted. There were always people spectating, and generally there was always something interesting to see. There were bands, DJs, huge video monitors, funny signs, and generally a good atmosphere throughout the course—and I never felt that there was a point where we were forced to look down and grind on.

And as an added bonus, I saw BF 3 different times! He was able to make it to miles 4, 11, 21, and the finish (I couldn’t see him at the end) and I loved being able to see him along the way. I also loved the Swedish fish he gave me at mile 11…

I didn’t ever consciously think to pick it up in terms of speed. However, after looking through my results it seems as if miles 15-21 ish were where I ran the fastest. My 35k (mile 21.7) clocked in at an 8:18 min/mile, which is much better than I could have expected, particularly considering I still felt good at this point.

Around the 22 mark, though, I was feeling the fatigue I knew would come. It was mainly just tired legs, nothing too brutal, and considering that I only had 4.2 miles to go, I wasn’t too daunted by it. An expected soreness really.

At this point, I was breaking the race down into small portions. At mile 23, I tried to think, “Okay, just a 5k to go,” and then at mile 24, “Just a little 2.2 miler—just like you did yesterday.” Admittedly, knowing that I could run 10 minute miles to the end and still tie my PR was definitely encouraging.

I was hurting at this point, but not horribly. It felt like the kind of pain you expect from a marathon, and it was primarily my legs and not my energy. Endurance wise, I still felt good, and it was more of a mental battle with my quads than anything else.

Chicago did a fantastic job with making the finishing miles just what you’d want them to be. There were signs for 1 mile to go, 800 m to go, 400 m, 300 m, and 200 m…all leading to the finale of an enormous finish line lined with stands of cheering crowds. Unreal amounts of cheering, cameras, and crowds…it was amazing.

Part of the final 400 meters or so was quite uphill (the only uphill during the whole race!) so that wasn’t too spectacular—but as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the huge “FINISH” ahead of me, I was elated.

I’d done it. No ankle pain, no dropping out, and no collapsing before the finish line.

And somehow, to cap it all off, I crossed the finish line at 3:42:10—a 2 minute PR.

I felt so incredibly redemptive from my Tacoma finish, and I felt so over-the-top in love with the marathon distance—again. It did feel great to stop, and as I slow-trudged down the recovery area along with all the other tired runners, I had a 26.2 mile-wide smile on my face—I couldn’t believe how well the race went.

Here are some of the more official results:

I was surprised to see that my speed progressed throughout the race. While I was trying my best to keep track using my stopwatch/mental math method—my brain became a little too fuzzy to keep up this kind of stats work. I’d say the last 10 miles were run solely on feel, and I’m really pleased with just how well that ended up working.

Here are some more numbers:

If you’re wondering, there were 1614 women in my age group and 16,767 women overall.

After slowly finding my way back to the high school, I met up with BF, thanked the Girls on the Run ladies, and got a good stretch done by one of their PT volunteers. Lesson learned: a good amount of walking + a quality stretch post-marathon yields far less sore legs.

Very happy girl.

I loved this race. I loved the course, I loved the crowds, and I loved the way I felt the whole time. It was the perfect combination of happy running and well-earned pain, which always results in the most satisfying kind of runs. The PR was truly just the icing on top of what was already such a memorable race, and I was mostly just thankful for finishing and finishing without an injury relapse. Afterwards, my ankle felt as good as when I woke up in the morning…and with the exception of some tight quads and IT bands, my legs feel pretty darn good today.

Coffee and chocolate donut holes…post marathon perfection.

I so appreciate all the support both before and after from all of you. Knowing there were people tracking my times made each timing strip crossing all the more encouraging, and I cannot thank everyone enough.

I loved Chicago, I loved this race, and I love that I’ve become reacquainted with the magic of the marathon.

Congratulations to EVERYONE who raced this weekend! I hope you all are resting well and soaking in the post-race glory. Thanks to everyone for the texts, tweets, tracks, emails, and phone calls—your support means so very much to me. Thanks to Eminem and the cast of Wicked for getting me through those last few miles. And a special thanks to both Girls on the Run and those who donated to my fundraising efforts—I would not have been able to run this race without you.

Alright, done with my Oscar speech. If you’ve made it this far—bless you.

And let it be known…Boston, next time, you are mine.

Did you race this weekend? Next weekend? Have you run Chicago? Results? Opinions? Pizza?

Diagnosis and “Getting It”

The best news of all: my ankle is not falling off.

And, according to my X-Rays and my highly optimistic Ortho-doc, I have no signs of stress fracture, and my bone structure is “ideal.” Essentially, this was equivalent to hearing, “Robyn, you have perfect hair, teeth, and generally perfect everything in life.”

Good bones=happy runner.

To bring you up to speed, after many days in a row of running, peak marathon training mileage, and a very unhappy 20-miler-turned-17-miler, my ankle was in a lot of pain for no obvious reason. I was limping, I went to Urgent Care (fail), and I panicked about how I could actually pull off a marathon in a month.

Obviously, I wanted to call in a pro ASAP.

The diagnosis I received at my 9 am appointment yesterday morning went something like this:

“Suck it up. Load up on Aleve. Keep running. You’re a huge wimp and don’t understand that running is painful sometimes. Why are you here?”

Okay, it was *actually* closer to this (although the above is in essence what I heard):

“I think you’ll be fine. Get back out there, keep up the pain killers, heavy on the icing, and tell me if it gets worse.”

If you’re thinking, “Wow Robyn, that’s pretty much what every runner would want to hear in your scenario…so did you jump up and down in excitement and make out with the dude while lacing up your Brooks?”

No kissing or lacing up, but yes—you’re right. This is an ideal diagnosis. Particularly for someone like me, who would be grumpy with even the mention of “toning it down” or “taking it easy.”

However, while I am relieved—I’m also going to be a little more careful than Dr. “All Runners Love Me” told me to be.

You see, the reason I went to the doctor was to determine what this pain is not as opposed to what it is. Hopefully, the diagnosis was right and this isn’t something serious (i.e. stress fracture, etc.) BUT, that doesn’t mean that it’s not something to take care of.

With every little ache and pain, we runners spend so much time agonizing over, “What is this?” “When will it go away?” “Can I run through it?” I’m a HUGE culprit of doing this (perhaps THE culprit), no thanks to the magical powers of the interwebs, but here’s the fact of the matter:

If something hurts, you shouldn’t run on it.

I realize my circumstances are a bit different, considering I have 26.2 miles of running to do on October 7, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to try and be bigger than the pain. I’m fortunate enough to have done enough training that waiting out this issue a little while longer (yes, longer than even the “professional” said to do) won’t do much damage. In fact, continuing to run on my questionable ankle would probably undo the strides I’ve made so far in my training.

So I’m sitting it out for a little while longer. I’m definitely not going to pretend that I’m completely calm and collected about this, or that not running is anything but easy.

I’m back-and-forth between being sensible and being irrational. But, I’ve been here before—and I know that the truest test of an athlete’s will and determination are the times that set them back. So yesterday, when I was at work going back and forth as to what I would do for my workout later on, I stopped myself right in my tracks.

And here’s what I asked myself: Is delaying the healing process, which will ultimately get me to the start line in Chicago, for a random Tuesday sweat session worth it?

Absolutely not.

So, I defied my habitual inclination of working out my stress away, and here I am today—no less in shape, in tact, nor capable of living. I am, however, with a more rested and better-feeling ankle.

{See Mommy, I’m growing up.}

I’m realizing that the way we handle injury corresponds directly to the reasons we run in the first place.

The fact of the matter is this: I don’t run to hide my feelings. I don’t run to justify the things I like to eat. I don’t run to prove anything to anyone.

I run because it’s what I love to do more than anything else, and sometimes that love needs to be shown in the bad times and not just the good.

Run love is not just about logging miles, clocking lower times, and registering for races. Run love is also about give and take. We take a lot from this sport—the endorphins, the pride, the toned legs, and the runner’s highs. But how much do we give to it? We give our early mornings and cash in shoe replacment…but I’m realizing that giving back to this sport should be about respecting it—and our bodies—more than anything else.

Running is tough, running is hard, and running wears us down. In order to give to running as much as we get from it—sometimes we need to back off. We don’t prove anything by running through pain or by exercising when we know we should be resting. All those things do is show that we’d rather let this sport abuse us rather than build us up.

If you hadn’t guessed, the “we” pronoun I’ve been using is a lot of me talking to myself. You, dear reader, just got to come along for the ride.

So what is this very long-winded explanation of my injury trying to say? Well, I think for the first time—I’m getting it. I’m getting the give-and-take of running, I’m getting the “rest” thing, and I’m getting that the truest test of myself as a runner comes from how I handle the lower points.

So I’m taking it easy, I’m hoping for the best, and I’m thankful that I’ve *mostly* been able to learn something from my former habits that resulted in mistakes.

Get Comfortable

I can’t even begin to describe how nice it feels to write a bit about running right now. For the past few days I’ve been grinding on documents nonstop at work, and I’ve barely had time to use the bathroom let alone do any blogging updates.

Alas, a break in the day has presented itself.

Hello!

On Tuesday, I completely contradicted my current training M.O. and decided to spice up my normal “Ten-Mile Tuesday” run.

{I love Ten-Mile Tuesday, and it’s been one of my favorite workouts for almost a year—even when I’m not marathon training. It’s always in the morning, it’s always moderately paced, just lovely}

When I set off for this jaunt, I had it in my head that I would go slow-ish. I had 8:30s or so in mind, and I knew I wanted to be comfortable. It took about 3 miles or so to really get a steady pace (doesn’t it always?) but once I was cooking I realized that I was hovering below the 8 minute/mile mark, and it wasn’t too awful. However, I knew that I’d be feeling it toward the end of the run—and since this wasn’t about speed I knew it was smarter to stay at a comfortable pace.

But then I kinda starting talking back to myself. I was realizing that recently, this pacing is my comfortable pace. I’ve been feeling lighter and more efficient during my quicker runs, and the only thing that makes me shy away from committing to increasing my  average speed overall is my fear of getting uncomfortable. The only discomfort, however, comes when I see watch, and I freak out and slow down—only to feel a little less natural and wary.

So yesterday, instead of constantly telling myself to reel it in, I started a new mantra—which I repeated over and over again.

Get comfortable.”

You see, I definitely have a running comfort zone, as I’m sure many of us do. For a long time, it was 9 minute miles. It was a pace I knew that I could hold for a long time, and it was the pace that I used constantly throughout my first marathon training cycle. Once I got to race day, I was so confident in my 9 min/mile abilities, I knew that I’d be fine at 8:50s.

Since that time, I’ve gotten a bit faster and my comfort zone is now around an 8:30/mile pace. There was a point in time it was lower (before my horrid bursitis kicked in earlier this year), and I’m starting to feel like it might be time to hold myself to a higher standard. If my watch is the only thing that’s scaring me away from a faster average pace, what’s the harm in trying one on for size?

Which is why on Tuesday, I decided to forego my current relaxed training plan and focus on maintaining a certain, faster speed over those miles. I settled on 8:05, and instead of trying to go faster and slower, I was preaching to myself to simply “get comfortable” right there. I know my comfort zone well enough to know when I’m either behind or ahead of it, but in this case—I was simply trying to trick myself to get into that comfort zone.

And how did I bode? I felt great, and I felt that aside from the placebo exhaustion effect of seeing speedier times on my Garmin, I was—in fact—comfortable with that speed.

Which makes me wonder— where is the line between our physical capabilities and our perceived capabilities? When I talked about that 9:00/mile comfort zone that I’d settled in for so long, was that really my running happy place, or was I simply settling for what I knew I could do?

Although there’s a definite mental prowess to runners that many lack, I’m realizing that it’s just as easy to fall into a running rut as it is anything else. We get in a safe zone. Which is fine, truly, because goodness knows it’s better to be running safely than not running at all.

But, there’s also something to be said for removing our self-created limits. Of course, we don’t want to be reckless and haphazard about it (hello, injuries and burnout), but sometimes it’s good to question if there’s a little bit more we’re not allowing ourselves to take on.

For me, this was decreasing the average length of my weekly runs, and increasing speed over shorter distances. I knew that I could knock out a long run at a moderate pace, which is why I settled in a routine of a 10 mile, 12 mile, and one long(er) run on the weekends. This was my routine for as long as I can remember—all the runs were at the same speed, and I’m realizing now they were all a bit mediocre. But after my knee blew up, I flailed in Tacoma, and I was sidelined with IT band woes, I knew that something needed to change.

I still wanted to run, and I still wanted to race, but I needed to reclaim control over my running and get back to the magic of the sport.

By introducing myself to the things I had so often shied away from—speed work, shorter mileage but faster times, and additional hills—I have a newfound confidence in not only my running but in the sport itself. It’s wonderful to see that something so simple as running can be approached so many different ways. And the best part? There isn’t only one right way.

I think what I’m most pleased with is that I feel that I’m slowly but surely finding a way to run that works for me. Through this Chicago training “program” I’ve been following, I’ve been getting faster, I’m recovering quicker, and my IT band injury has evaporated. I credit this to a few things, but primarily to the big alterations I’ve made to my running. The shoes, the speed, the rest—they’ve all been things I’ve changed in order to better my running, and at least for now…they seem to be working.

So I’m going to continue my less-strict approach to training. But I’m also going to continue to allow myself to “get comfortable” with the times, distances, and workouts that I almost always deem uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, or even suck, sometimes—but it means that I’m not going to be afraid of pushing away from “security blanket” workouts and try getting a little creative.

What’s your running comfortable space? A certain distance? A certain speed? A certain workout? How do you think you can try and test yourself?

 

Getting Uncomfortable

TGIF

I really feel like I’m saying that a lot more frequently than normal. Again with time dwindling away…

Where does it go?!

Actually, I think I only feel like this because I always posts on Fridays, therefore my forced Friday acknowledgment makes the time seem to go quicker.

That’s my justification.

Hello! Welcome to the end of the week, and another round of “I have too many other things to say there I’m not doing Friday Favorites, AGAIN.”

Sure, I could save up all of my running-related thoughts for posts in the future, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily like to wait on the things that are currently going on in my brain. Also, I never “draft” posts—that would be way too productive. I’m sure you thought I spend days ahead of time writing my posts, given their not-at-all rambling and stream of consciousness nature.

Sorry to let you down. I fly by the seat of my pants and often have typos.

So, despite my lack of dedication to Friday Favorites and my fear of the speed of time, I am generally feeling rather cheery today. Superb workout (including RUN!) and my beautiful, tall, law school attending bestie Anna is coming to visit for the weekend.

Friendship! This is actually one of the few “nice” pictures we’ve taken.

Anna and I get along for a number of reasons, but mainly because our friendship takes little effort; it’s easy, it’s fun, and it has no filters. We also enjoy many of the same things, namely being active and food—sometimes in that order, sometimes not. With that said, our weekend will consist of some hiking, some Ikea browsing (also known as people watching, impulse buying, and getting lost), and food consumption.

There, that’s more accurate.

Additionally, I have some pretty exciting endeavors/news in the works. Exciting is relative, meaning it might only be exciting for me, but I am PUMPED for some things going on in the near future. More on that on Monday! Let’s just say I spent the better part (aka: all of) yesterday morning plotting/emailing/texting/Tweeting with Nicole about some pretty sweet and sweaty plans. I love having people that can share in my athletic delusions ambitions.

Oh, you want a hint? Here.

I’m in this weird balancing act right now of settling into a routine of not running as much, trying new things, and wanting really bad to run again. The thing is, though, it’s becoming just that: a routine. And truthfully? I don’t hate it.

Yes, I love running all the time. Particularly long, salty-sweat face runs that leave me in a heap of endorphin-filled giddiness on the couch, whilst stuffing oatmeal in my face and planning my dessert for the day.

Running is the best. DUH.

But, I have to say I am really digging discovering all of my body’s short-comings and working on them.

Do I have calves that don’t fit into most boots? Yes. Do I have quads that could likely strangle someone? Yes, not a pleasant thought there. But other than that…I’m realizing that I have a lot of room for improvement in terms of my strength, and it’s both humbling and exciting to figure that out.

Case in point: the current state of my rear. It’s sore. It’s been sore since Wednesday. I definitely have not been massaging it in public.

With the exception of some occasional leg lifts, I rarely did any kind of glute work when I was logging heavy miles. This isn’t awesome…considering the strength of your rear muscles and the propensity of getting injured are directly related, but the truth is I never had any interest. I might love a long, exhausting run or a sweat-covered spin bike, but honestly…I actually shy away from things that I know will be hard. Once I am confident in doing something (such as the aforementioned cardio activities) I have no problem hopping right into them…but give me something I’ve never done before and I curl into a ball of stubborn reluctance.

And thanks to my new-found need and interest in testing out my weak points, I’m realizing that being a good athlete isn’t actually about focusing all our energy and attention into the things we’re good at. Sure, if we’re good at something—we want to capitalize on it, but being a good athlete is actually more about finding the areas we need to improve on more than the things we already excel in.

I am so guilty of getting into a place of routine with my workouts. I know they will be fulfilling enough to tide me over, I know that I will get through them no problem, so I’m content with never changing them. Sure, a 10-mile run every Tuesday is a great workout, and it kept me in great running shape, but hand me a pair of hand weights and make me do single-leg lunges? I turn into a crying toddler.

Do you see the imbalance? I think a lot of us do this…and although it’s great that we can excel and be great at certain things, that does not excuse us from making our bodies work hard in other capacities.

Which is a very wordy, roundabout way of bringing back to where I am now. I don’t think at least one of my muscle groups hasn’t been sore in the past two weeks. I’m doing exercises that I have long proclaimed to loathe, simply because they are hard. I’m accepting that not being the best in a class is okay, and I’m letting instructors give me advice.

And I’m loving it. I love being sore, even though it necessitates doing things that are uncomfortable or even painful. I love feeling that there’s a lot of room for improvement, and I love my new mentality of “all-around” fitness as opposed to the one-dimensional cardio focus that I tend to hide in.

This whole way of approaching my physical health hit me right between the eyes this morning when I thought about trying to run. And while I bellyache about not running, and all I seem to think and talk about is when I can run again…I somehow felt reluctant when it was go time. Was it because the walk/run is annoying? No, I’m getting to be okay with it. Was it because the weather was bad? No, no rain.

It’s because I knew it would be hard. Hard, sure, because of my persnickety IT band, but mainly just hard, physically. Even in marathon shape, you can’t go a month with minimal running and expect to just jump back into it effortlessly.

A part of my brain, the newly-developing humbled part, knew this as I went back and forth with the running decision. All of a sudden, my go-to, default mode of exercise has become a little more difficult to force out…and it scared me. It scared me the same way squats and lunges always scare me. It scared me the same way biking scares me, and lifting heavier weights, and trying a new yoga pose scares me.

(Side note: Running is hard no matter what. I am simply speaking as someone who is normally in running shape and is currently out of running.)

Running has become a little more ambiguous than I’m normally used to. That bothers me a little, but I’m happy that running can slowly become a part of the mix of things that I’m working on getting better at. I am fairly confident that once my injury whittles away, my running is going to come back no problem—but for now it’s something I need to challenge myself with. And that’s okay.

What’s my point? I don’t really know…there’s a lot of rambling going on in there.

Ultimately, I think I’m realizing the importance of leaving our comfort zones. You might be able to bust out miles week after week, but are you actually challenging yourself to be better?

I encourage you to look at the fitness safe zones you stick to—and maybe try and step out of them a bit. Improving upon your weak spots isn’t going to take anything away from the things you’re already exceptional at, and in fact—it will probably make you better in them. Whether it’s adding speed work to your training routine (I’m speaking to myself when I say this one) or going to a weight lifting class for the first time—try getting a little uncomfortable.

You’ll be sore, you probably won’t be the best in the class, and you will probably utter many swear words during the process. But you will positively leave in a better space than you started off in. We cannot get better by sticking to the same routines—we plateau, we get bored, and eventually our fitness can actually decline. We get better by pushing our own limits, doing things that are hard, and regularly questioning how we can improve.

What kinds of things do you want to incorporate in your fitness routine? What do you actively avoid, for fear of failure or it being “too hard”?