Tag Archives: mental health

It’s Not Just the Running

Breaking news! And don’t forget, you heard it here first:

Training for a marathon is hard.

I know right…crazy talk! I mean seriously, who knew? Alright, not so much new news, whatsoever…in fact this is probably the most simplistic, fact-of-the-matter truth about training for 26.2 miles of running. Even people who have never even thought about running a mile know that there is nothing easy about marathon training, and actually they probably know better than the rest of us. Once you do bridge the gap, though, between beginning to run and training for the big kahuna, you are humbled and forced to recognize the hard-truth about how difficult all those miles, hours, stretching, icing, repeat actually are.

Something I’ve realized toward the end of this training cycle, other than how truly hard it is, is that I think after competing in multiple races and getting better acquainted with the training process—I tend to forget about the grunt work involved.

Going into this training session, I certainly didn’t think it was going to be easy, but I definitely had bit more confidence than when I trained for my first marathon (rightfully so I suppose). I am so used to hard workouts, long runs, and putting in the leg work so-to-speak that I sort of assumed that training is just a way of life for me. Truthfully, I enjoy training. I love the satisfaction of a hard workout, and I love the thought that I’m working toward a very tangible goal. In other words, training really works for me, for the way I like to live each day, which is why I think I may have been a bit overzealous and overconfident when coming into this second marathon training cycle.

I still enjoy it, I know I’ll be back again fairly soon after I’m done with Tacoma, but I’m realizing in these last few weeks  just how brutally and unforgiving-ly hard training for a marathon really is. And perhaps more so, I’m realizing that it’s actually not the running itself that’s so hard.

Sure, the running is the source of all the fatigue and daily number crunching, but I think for me the hardest part of marathon training is the life that surrounds all the running. Obviously, these thoughts have been present at this point in time because I’m nearly three weeks away from race day—however I do feel like have some new insight into the overarching toll that marathon training really takes.

With that said, I thought I’d present you with what I believe are the hardest parts of training, aside from speed work and tempo drills. I know today’s supposed to be Friday Favorites, but this topic just seems too relevant and current to look over. Also, Marathon Monday is next week in Boston, and racing season is in full swing all over the country, therefore marathon talk is inevitable. Favorites will have to wait…perhaps there will be a Weekend Wonders or a Monday Marvels instead?

Moving on, I give you the RunBirdieRun Trials of Marathon Training: Everything Except the Running.

Scheduling

One of the biggest challenges with having such a strict number of miles to reach weekly is there isn’t much room to have, well, any other plans besides running. Specifically with long runs, the planning both before and after essentially takes up a whole weekend. Although this isn’t entirely too inconvenient, it leaves very little room for spontaneous nights out, an extra beer, or going away for the weekend. Sure, sometimes time sacrifices need to be made—I would never give away my life for the sake of marathon training—but that doesn’t mean my social life isn’t hindered when long runs take up three hours every Sunday. And going away for a weekend? I always get stressed about getting in a long run, and although it normally works out somehow it’s annoying to be bugged out by a run when you’re supposed to be enjoying some vacation time.

Sleepiness

I mention this in Tuesday’s post, but marathon training is incredibly taxing on general energy levels. Typically I’m someone who’s pretty upbeat and energized by nature, and I also don’t need much sleep to function at a high level. But with marathon training? It doesn’t feel like I can get enough sleep. I sleep really hard every night, which is a good thing, but I can’t ever really seem to feel really, totally rested. By 2 pm everyday I feel like I’m in a haze and need to take a nap (btw, thanks Nuun for helping alleviate this!). Don’t get me wrong, there’s no more satisfying sleepy feeling than the kind that comes after a long run, but it makes—once again—”real life” a bit more challenging.

Less Options

Now, I think we all know that I would almost always choose running over every other activity. Read: the name of my blog. But, there are days when I would much rather go to a sweaty spin class, go swimming, or you know—just do nothing. While I normally do look forward to my running designated days, there’s less variation and options available during marathon training in terms of a workout routine. I definitely believe in cross training, but I also believe that the most effective way to become a better runner is to run. This goes along with marathon training as well; you run a marathon, therefore the way you are going to get better is to run more. With that said, this leaves little room for error in terms of following a workout/mileage routine.

Food Planning

One of the fun parts about marathon training is the increased food consumption, or at least—I think it is. There’s something really cool about feeling the need for fuel in your body and listening to different cravings. It’s pretty amazing what your body communicates to you when it’s running 50 miles a week. And while I love the extra cookies and pieces of bread, there’s a lot more strategy required to eating than I think most non-marathoners would assume. The basic understanding that you can eat whatever you want, and as much as you want, while training may be true for some people, especially ultra runners, but I have to practice a lot more forethought and planning when it comes to marathon training meals. This is partially due to the fact that I have UC, and digestive issues are a daily battle, but it’s also because I’ve learned that there are things that work and definitely do not work as pre-run or post-run fuel. With that said, meal planning doesn’t come as simply as it does when I’m not marathon training, specifically around long runs.

The Running Accessories (Icing, Stretching, Foam Rolling, Hydrating, etc.)

It is no secret that running is one of the toughest activities on your body. As a runner, your body requires a lot of extra TLC in order to prevent injury and keep your progression smooth and steady. Now, differing opinions aside, we can assume that in order to be safe, stretching, foam rolling, icing, and excessive hydrating/refueling is necessary. It’s not a magic formula, but for the most part you can rest assured that your running will appreciate all of these “accessories.” But the fact of the matter is that all these things take a lot of time, and frankly—sometimes you just don’t want to do them. I can’t tell you how many times I have a checklist going through my head of all the things I need to do both pre- and post run, and it gets exhausting. I’m definitely thankful for my efforts to get them all done, but it’s a lot to keep track of and there are many times when I just rather wouldn’t put a piece of ice on my bare skin three times a day.

The Mental Toughness

Or perhaps I should say, lack thereof. Anyone who has trained for a race, no matter the distance, has experienced a wane and surge in their self confidence regarding their physical shape. There are some days where I can run seemingly forever and feel great about my condition and my prep for race day. Then there are other days when completing just a few miles at a very slow pace feels like hell, and I question how I ever could finish a marathon. Our brain and the effect it has on us is perhaps the biggest hurdle we face when training for a race, specifically a marathon. As runners, we know that running is almost equal parts physical and mental. A run can go two very different ways, all depending on how we approach it mentally. Our brain plays a very active role in our running life even when we’re not running as well, and this is why even weeks before taper begins and race nerves set in—we can through countless emotions and tribulations over the loftiness of our goals.

One of my absolute favorite mantras that was told to my basketball team while running suicides by our coach is, “The body is a lot more powerful than the mind gives it credit for.” I repeat this to myself whenever I’m feeling completely defeated, both while I’m running and when I’m not, as I think it is one of the most absolute truths about athletics, specifically running. Fighting our mental battles, in my opinion, is the absolute hardest part about marathon training—and as the races draw closer and the pesky voices of uncertainty starts to drown out our confidence, our 20 mile  runs start to seem like the easiest part of the process.

 

So, aside from making marathon training sound like an excruciatingly tolling endeavor, what is my point to all this? Well, I have a few points, the first being that it’s important to remember the all-encompassing nature of marathon training. I will be the first person to encourage anyone who wants to take on a marathon. In fact, I’ll be standing at the finish line with your name painted on my stomach and a pom pom shaking in your sweaty face. But, I do think it’s important to remember that marathon training is so much more than just running X amount of miles per week.

I believe that running starts to become the easy part—it’s simple, you know how to do it, and when it’s done, it’s done. It’s all these extra, “bonus!” factors that come from the running that we deal with all the time—and they are what ultimately I think marathon runners should be most prepared for.

I admittedly forgot about these aspects of marathon training. I remembered the weekly big pasta dinners and the epically long weekend runs, and that’s about it. And this makes perfect sense, because I love both of these things. Our brains do this very helpful survival tactic of blocking out troubling or tough memories in favor of the things we would choose to remember instead. However, in the case of marathon training, it can slap you right in the face when you realize the tough stuff that comes along with all the endorphins and baguettes.

Despite it all, though, I think the most important point I would like to make is this:

At the end of it all—weeks, months, and hours of questioning your sanity—it’s all worth it.

If you’ve raced before, specifically a half or a full marathon, you know that there’s no better feeling than crossing a finish line. It leaves you with the most deliciously satisfied feeling in the world; a feeling of pure self-confidence with the goal you just achieved. There’s a reason why runners tear up when they read stories of others’ finish line victories; it’s because we know what it’s like, and there’s nothing else that compares.

And you know what? It feels so damn good because of how hard it is. All those things I listed about how hard marathon training is and how taxing it can be are a big part of why crossing a finish line and being given a medal is such a sense of accomplishment. It’s the best place on Earth, and I can guarantee that no matter how much pain, discouragement, and frustration you may have faced along the way, what you will remember more than anything is the simple fact that you did it.

So, if you’re considering signing up for a marathon (which is AWESOME!), consider all the factors that are going to go into it. It will be a humbling experience, and it’s anything but easy, but if you put in the work it will absolutely pay off in the end.

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Happy Friday! Have a lovely weekend.

What do you think is the hardest part about marathon training? What advice would you give about training from your own experience?

 

 

Habits I’m Never Going to Stop, and I’m Okay With It

It feels like we are constantly bombarded with messages of self help. Everywhere I look recently, I see a new way to improve upon the way I live my life—how to work out better, how to eat better, how to cook better, how to be more sustainable, how to be more organized, how to save the whales, on and on and on. This stuff overwhelms me, and while I like to think I take it all with a grain of salt, every so often it gets in my head a little.

I start questioning my daily practices, and when I try to compare my lifestyle with all the mantras of “the right way to do such-and-such,” I get intimidated. Because frankly, it feels like I’m doing just about everything wrong.

Sure, I know that these are mostly just marketing schemes, and I can dismiss a great deal of them, however I’ve been realizing lately that there are certain “you should do”s that are constantly lingering in the back of my head. And once these ideas of “changes I should be making but haven’t yet” get planted in my brain, I have a really hard time letting myself off the hook.

I beat myself up over the fact that I “know” I should make a certain change, but never do. Some of these things are small, some are bigger; some are personal habits, and some are driven by the All Powerful Voice of Society. And the fact of the matter is—some of these are changes that actually should be made, I will fully admit that. That’s not what this post is about though.

No. This post is about accepting the fact that there are habits I will never change, and I’m going to forgive myself for it.

The thing is, a lot of the things I shame myself for are completely harmless and distinguishable only to me. They aren’t necessarily right or wrong, they are just small habits that I’ve decided to spend way too much energy stressing over. And why?

I’ve decided to let myself off the hook and focus my attention on more important matters—like the changes I can make that would actually make an impact. I’m finding it incredibly self-centered to spend so much time trying to tweak the way I live my life so it fits in this perfect little mold that our culture deems “worthy,” when in fact that mold is going to change again next week when there’s another way to organize our desks or eat our cereal or lift weights.

I’m thinking that maybe if I break up with these nagging notions of bettering myself, I’ll be able to exit the confines of my head a bit and focus on more important matters.

So, with that said, I give you Habits I’m Never Going to Stop, and I’m Okay With It.

Consuming Dairy

Oh ice cream, I will never forsake you. Don't worry, this relationship is fo life.

I have heard every single argument about why humans shouldn’t eat dairy, and to be honest I agree with some of them. And way back when during injury days, when I needed something to focus on besides being depressed about not running, I did a 3-week cleanse where I gave up a whole lot of stuff—dairy included. Truthfully, I felt great. But is this for life? No.

I don’t have very much dairy—I drink soy milk in my coffee and use almond milk in my cereal—but the fact of the matter is I love yogurt, ice cream, and cheese, and I’m not going to give them up.

I am always hard on myself with this one, especially since there have been points in time when I’m surrounded by “OMG why would you poison your body with…cheese?!?!” people. No offense vegan friends, but I consider myself a healthy enough eater to keep dairy on my plate. So I will enjoy my fro-yo and my grilled cheese sandwiches, and I will not feel any guilt about it.

Eating dinner in front of the TV

Alex, you're kind of an asshole, and you definitely fake bake, but I love the way you narrate trivia to me nightly.

I know every single study and their mom screams at everyone that “You eat 500% more when you eat in front of the TV.” Blah, blah, blah…I understand. However, the time I spend having dinner and watching Jeopardy with BF is one of my favorite parts of the day—and considering we don’t have a family of people to catch up with and together spend plenty of time conversing during other parts of the day, this one is gonna slide.

Sure, this might come to a stop someday, but for now I will shout out answers to Alex Trebek’s questions with a mouth full of food.

Not wearing real clothes every day

Best friends who prefer shorts and fleeces together, stay together.

My definition of real clothes means something outside of yoga pants, half-zips, and running shoes. This is, as you can probably tell, the combination of attire I put together quite frequently, and I always get so down-and-out about it. But hey—guess what—I work from home, and this is probably the last point in time in my life that I will be able to work in whatever I feel like. I need to give this one up and accept that Starbucks doesn’t care if I’m not completely put together every day of the week.

Taking samples out of the bulk bins at grocery stores.

Andddd there goes my self-control... and my law abiding actions.

You can judge me for this one, it’s okay. Except that we’ve all done it, and yes—as a 23-year-old adult I still do it. And I’m not going to stop. There’s something so fun about a mini snack while grocery shopping.

And on that note…

Choosing grocery stores because I know there will be samples

Strawberry shortcake sample. Tell me how this could not make your day?

As I’ve mentioned probably many times before, I love samples, and I fully believe that all grocery stores would benefit from providing a few samples throughout the day. With that said, I always think I’m a mooch/fat kid for going to grocery stores because I know there will be a sample available. However, after discussing this with a few people, I’m learning I’m not the only one who does this—and in fact,everyoneloves samples.

The sample-motivated grocery shopping stays.

Shopping at BP in Nordstrom

For those of you who don’t know, BP is the junior’s section of Nordy’s, and I feel embarrassed every time I go in there. I’m at that weird age where the junior’s clothes can look too young, the women’s clothes can look too old, and I’m armed with a credit card that is really only looking for things on sale.

Now, I will fully admit that my wardrobe can grow up a bit. However, I believe that I can still spend my shopping hours in the BP department, so long as I make non-high-school clothing decisions. I can afford BP, and I like to think I can make it look older than the girls who shop their with their mommies.

So until I can hire a personal shopper, I’ll stick with what I know—and oh, do I know BP.

– Not buying expensive jeans or shoes

See? I can even ride a bike in my non-designer-yet-still-acceptable jeans!

I’ve heard it over and over and over again. “Expensive jeans will change your life,” and “You’re ruining your feet with cheap shoes.” I know, I know…and I actually think I’m in the minority for not owning any Sevens or Pages or whatever those $200 denim wizards call them. I’m not buying jeans from Forever 21, but I don’t think I need to shell out a ton of money for a decent pair of pants. I’ve had the same two pairs of jeans for almost two years now, they are in great shape, and they were each under $100.

As for shoes, this does not apply to running shoes. Give me a comfy and dependable pair of sneaks and I’ll hand you all the money in my wallet. But as for heels, flats, boots, etc…no, sorry, I just can’t do it. I’m not a total cheapskake with shoes, but I cannot justify spending the amount of money some people do for shoes. I’ve tried—and all that happens is I think of all the races I could register for, the cookies I can buy, and the money I could put toward all my loans, and I just can’t do it.

And it’s okay. I’m forgiving myself for not shelling out for “the good stuff,” no matter what all you fashionistas say about it.

Reading celebrity gossip magazines

Oh Britney, you've come so far. I will always "Help" you, never fear.

As an English major and lover of books, I always scoff at myself for reading and (gasp!) buying gossip magazines. I always think, “You should be reading a book, listening to a news podcast, writing in your journal” instead. This is chronic; whether I’m reading an US Weekly on a plane, or flipping through an In Touch at the gym, I am so incredibly self-aware and embarrassed.

But guess what? I love these magazines, no matter how shameful I feel. And when I go to the airport, I look forward to a trip into Hudson News and selecting the most enticing publication featuring rich content such as Kim Kardashian’s Workout Secrets, The Truth Behind Justin’s Proposal to Jessica, and The Oscar’s Best Dressed. I love that shit, and I’m not going to stop.

I love nonfiction, fiction, biographies, plays, and the gossip of Hollywood’s rich and famous. It’s who I am, and I’m going to hold my head high.
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After beginning to compile this list, I was frightened at just how many things there are in my life that I stress over. I’m realizing more and more just how much our marketing culture capitalizes on the fact that humans are so frickin’ self-serving, and as soon as we hear a message directed toward “us” we immediately become consumed with egotistical thoughts.

I know it’s human nature, and we’re all 100% guilty of it, but I think if we start to question the “what to do” and “what not to dos” a bit more, and forgive ourselves for the small nuances that don’t really alter our character, we can focus our energy more outward.

It’s a lot easier to appreciate the people, places, and general joie de vie around us when we’re less stressed about the things we so often get hung up on. Forgive yourself for the habits you have that you obsess over. Chances are, they add to the things that make you you.

 

What is a habit you aren’t going to change and be okay with? What are you going to forgive yourself for?

 

Injury Psychosis, or “My Irrational 10 PM Panic Attack”

Last night around the time I was supposed to be basking in a post-long-run comatose, I was actually having a panic attack. It wasn’t loud, aggressive, or filled with tears (can you guess how these normally go for me?) but it definitely happened, and it kept my brain a-flutter for far too long.

To summarize, in the space of about 3 iPhone internet searches, I self-diagnosed myself with a stress fracture and resolved myself to a fate of another spring without running and no more Eugene marathon.

Let’s back up a bit though.

Yesterday, I ran 18.5 miles for my long run—a bit longer than I intended on, however I felt great the whole time. Despite a brutal head wind that never seemed to go in the right direction, conditions were ideal for this run, and I was thrilled to be out in short sleeves again. There was really only one thing irking me, and right from the get-go it didn’t really make sense: a shin splint.

I’ve had shin splints before, however that was back when I was running track, and I don’t think I’ve actually had one from running since then. Therefore, I was really confused how after all the mileage I’ve built up and training I’ve done, one persnickety little shin splint would choose to show up out of the blue. It didn’t get worse or anything throughout the run, it just kind of hung out not wanting to go away. After I was done, I noticed that flexing my foot to push the pedals in my car was irritating it—and this put me on edge a bit.

I’m very paranoid about any kind of injury (as most runners are) but I think that I’m particularly wary when it comes to any ache or pain in my body. I go right into prevention/recovery mode whenever I feel something’s off—ice, pain killers, stretching, etc. Last night, the pain still hadn’t subsided, and although I was completely fine in terms of weight-bearing and walking, I still had a pang whenever I would flex my foot.

So, after BF had fallen asleep (yesterday he ran the furthest he’s ever run before—14 miles!), I decided to do what I believe is one of the biggest mistakes runners can do: I went online and tried to figure out what was wrong. Now you see, shin splints and stress fractures are quite interrelated in terms of their similar symptoms, their location, and their frequency in runners. Therefore, when you start Googling anything related to shins and running and pain, you get a very wide range of possibilities for the culprit. This would be the part of the story where I go straight to the worst case scenario, deciding not only that I have a stress fracture but that I can no longer run the Eugene Marathon and must resound myself to swimming and spinning for 6-8 weeks. Not only that, but I actually thought about how sad I would be to read other runner’s blogs and how I would need to try to stay positive in my own blogging. Oh, I also thought, “Maybe I’ll still be able to do the half? But then I’d be so depressed seeing people do the full…and why would my family come if I was only doing the half?”

Okay.

Yes, all those thoughts did go through my head.

No, I don’t have anything near a stress fracture.

Once I woke up this morning and regained a better grip on reality, I realized two things: It’s actually not running or impact that irritates this feeling in my shin (it’s flexing my foot), and I’ve had this pain before—and it definitely wasn’t a stress fracture then either.

After a little more logical and thorough investigation with my sports doctor known as Dr. Google, PhD., I got a little closer to what I think is going on.

Ready for some fancy name-calling? Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis. AKA: Really bad shin splints.

In a nutshell, one of the muscles on the front of my leg has some tendonitis, and it hurts to bend my foot.

So yes, it’s too bad and I’ll be taking all the proper precautions in the mean time, but no…it’s not the completely debilitating injury that my pre-bedtime brain decided it was.

Now, I know many runners are super hyper-aware about getting hurt, and understandably so. However, I do think there was a particular reason I so quickly and dramatically decided that this pain meant the worse case injury. You see, it was almost exactly one year ago to the weekend that I got hurt last year. I actually think it may have been the exact same weekend; I had run my half marathon PR, and like a really super smart person decided to run 9 miles the day after. Thus began the week-long downward spiral of my hip flexor, which ultimately would end up torn and disabling me from being able to walk, let alone run. I couldn’t even run 10 feet for a solid 2 months without my hip seizing in pain, and it would be 3 months before I could run more than a mile.

Those were fun times. No, actually they sucked. However, despite it all I did learn a lot about myself as a runner, and more importantly about my limits.

So, what does all this have to do with my panic attack about a stress fracture?

Well, I can’t be entirely certain, but I do think a part of my brain—that mysterious subconscious part that enjoys playing tricks on you—is in full-force protection mode right now in regards to injuries. Because last year my spring was so wholly down-trodden due to my limping gimp status, I think part of me is really bugged-out scared about the possibility of something like that happening again. And, sure, it’s for good reason—no one wants to get hurt—but for me that period of time is not entirely pleasant to think back to. I have such high hopes for this spring, for this upcoming marathon, and for the plans I have for the summer, and it cripples me to think of them going wrong.

As a runner, I do need to realize that injuries do happen—it’s all in the nature of the sport. I have internalized this, and I feel better prepared for if and when something happens again, but this little bout of panic I had last night made me realize that maybe I’m more afraid of it than I consciously think I am. I know I got through it last time, I know I could get through it again, but I also remember the feeling of disappointment that lasted for months. And that feeling is what I’m most afraid of. Disappointment in myself for not training smarter, disappointment in not being able to cross another marathon finish line, and overall disappointment in missing the glory of a good run.

So I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m feeling a bit vulnerable right now, and I know it’s because at this point—I do have a lot to lose.

And in reality, that’s a really good thing.

Sure it’s scary to think that one little slip up could take everything away, but I’m a big believer in the idea that it’s when you’re happiest that you tend to feel the most vulnerable. When you’ve built up a great deal of strength(both literally and figuratively) in your life, you cannot help but feel exposed and be fearful that all your hard work will come crashing down.

It is better to feel like you have something to lose rather than nothing to lose, though. When you have something to lose, in this case—training and mileage build up—it’s because you’ve put dedication into something; you’ve taken time and care into making something happen. The thought of those hours and grueling efforts going to waste is horrifying, but I think we/I should remember that they actually will never go to waste. Sure, if I were to get hurt, there would definitely be a loss in morale and my marathon registration fee, but it wouldn’t take away from the hours I’ve spent on the pavement, loving the feeling of running, and soaking in the greatness that is a runner’s high.

I’m going to try and remember this, as I nurse this pesky shin splint, but also as I think about the future of my running career. This momentary lapse in my better thinking made me realize that part of being a good runner is internalizing the fact that injuries happen, and I need to trust myself a little more. I’ve done everything I can to stay healthy, and if my body doesn’t choose to cooperate—well then, there really isn’t anything I can do about it.

Of course, as with most tough things, this mentality is easier said than done, but I am going to try and focus on the reality of being a runner instead of just the ideals of it.

Obviously running a PR in every race and having a great run every day would be awesome, but it’s not the nature of the beast. Sometimes, we need a little dose of fear to help us realize that running isn’t a submissive mistress. She keeps you on your toes, and you need to listen to her demands in order to maintain a steady relationship.

 

Icing, ibuprofen-ing, massaging, and resting until this bugger subsides. I’m considering waiting until later in the week to run again, but we’ll see how things go. Thanks for reading my attempts at narrating the complexities of my brain. Sometimes I feel like it’s trying to be an announcer for a 20-person trapeze show…not a cool task.

Questions: Tell me something fun about your weekend! Or, if you’re feeling deep, tell me about your thoughts on the psyche of injuries.

 

Bestie Weekend

Hello all you beautiful people out there.

How’s it going?

I feel like most everyone is really ready to get this whole February show on the road and say “Adios!” to winter. Wait, winter’s still here for almost two more months? Dang. Well, hooray for global warming? Inappropriate?

I digress, let’s talk about running.

This past weekend, as I told you about on Friday, I went to Spokane to see my best friend Anna. We had a totally stellar time, and to paraphrase our weekend I’ll give you some buzz words:

Zumba, Nordy’s Rack, sushi, tequila, drag queens, tequila, Beauty and the Beast

If that right there doesn’t sound like a good time, then I don’t know what does. Allow me to fill you in on some details:

Saturday morning, I forced out 6.5 miles as a means of slightly remedying the fact that I would miss my long run on Sunday. Afterwards, we went to ZUMBA at Anna’s gym—and although I was slightly horrified that I would look like a flailing octopus(think about it…), it turned out to be super fun and not all that difficult. There were well over 100 people there, and as a first timer I felt like I was able to mostly keep up. Also, it was a breather! I was pretty winded fairly quickly, and it was a great workout for your shoulders and quads. The best part? Loud music + ample people watching= very fast class. The hour went by in a flash.

Highly recommended.

That night, Anna was performing with other law students in a drag show as dancers. Obviously, a good time was inevitable. And, as I stated earlier, although I’m marathon training and my weekends are normally devoted to hours of running—some priorities took over in this scenario. When your best friend is a booty shaking back-up dancer for some lovely drag queens in a gay bar, there is no question where your devotions lie. And hence…tequila. It was an awesome night, and I have a new found respect for the Spokane drag pros as well as the Gonzaga Law females. These ladies could be your attorney some day people…I, for one, look forward to it.

There's a lot of sparkles and cleavage up on that stage.

besties

Obviously, when you drink a lot of tequila, the best idea the next morning is to go watch dancing teapots and candle sticks sparkle on stage. Beauty and the Beast on Broadway it was!

Anna, who is mega awesome and knows my childhood fantasies oh-so-well, bought us tickets as an early birthday present for me. Just to fill you in, Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie, and I would probably trade an arm to be a Broadway star. Therefore, BandtheB ON STAGE epitomizes entertainment.

And it did not disappoint; the show was positively fabulous—Belle was exquisite, the set was spectacular, and I can guarantee every single 23-year-old little girl in the room was more than pleased.

I might have bought a souvenir.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, and I wish it could have lasted longer. I left feeling very thankful to have such incredible people, like Anna, in my life and generally filled with a serene sense of being content.

 

Yesterday morning, I awoke to the sound of silence—aka no rain! Also, this:

January 30th baby!

I love when I can wear shorts without question, and temperature isn’t an issue. It was also fun to be running on a Monday; because I almost always do long runs on Sundays, Mondays are typically an off-day…and I really liked starting off the week with some dark, quiet running time. I finished 11.6 miles in 93 minutes, about 8 minute miles on the dot. Very happy about this, and I’m definitely feeling more confident in my speed.

Speaking of, I gave in and will be starting speed work…like, on a track…next week. It’s funny that this feels like a new concept for me, since I spent oh 6 years as a track runner, however something about having the marathon as the end goal as opposed of 300 meters of hurdles feels more intense.

 

‘Tis all for today! And because I really love all you readers out there…

Tell me one thing your excited for. It can be a Spring Break trip or merely the delicious lunch you packed…anything!

Bests, Worsts, and Scary Things.

So yesterday’s post got a little serious—I know, I’m sorry for my susceptibility to getting all  existential in my writing (the English major in me lives on).

Anyway, if you read yesterday’s post, you know that I think we should take advantage of the New Year, and I personally intend to use the opportunity to highlight some of my goals.

I use the term goals instead of resolutions because most of them have already been in existence for a little while. My specific running goals were detailed in my running wish list, and I’m planning on prioritizing those throughout this year’s races and training. I do have an overarching resolution, however, that I feel encompasses several areas in my life—both running and otherwise.

But first, I’ll being with a quick New Year’s recap. BF and I spent the evening visiting with some of our friends from high school, and it was low key but all-around a good time. We all went to the fancy shmancy hotel in our hometown and pretended to be upper-crust socialites that can afford $10 drinks and lavish suites. Hint: We can’t. Instead, we lounged in the overly-manicured hotel bar/lobby/hang out area and shared our best and worsts of 2011.

If you’re interested, I would say that I had 2 Bests of 2011. Yea, yea I know it’s cheating, but ties are allowed in your own list-making rules.

But I’ll start with my Worst of 2011, because I like ending on a good note. The worst part of 2011 was being injured for 3 months, completely unable to run and even walk correctly. I had full-fledged gimp status from March to June, and let’s just say in the beginning I was not happy about it. I cried, I was angry, I was lost. In the end, though, this worst turned into a very important lesson for me, and the harshness of the situation turned out to be bittersweet. I am now a more careful, smart, and balanced runner—and it took a humbling and disabling experience for me to reach these new understandings about running. So yea, it was a worst, but fortunately I was able to make the most out of a crappy situation.

The beginning of the end. Days before the death of my hip flexor.

Now onto happy things:

My first Best of 2011 was officially moving into a place with BF. Sure, we started living together toward the end of 2010, however in July 2011 we signed an official lease together, bought furniture together, the whole real-world-relationship shebang. It was great and a true highlight.

Look! We are Seattle residents!

The other Best somewhat goes without saying—running my first marathon.

You've probably never seen this photo before, right?

Two years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you asked if I could run a marathon, or even a half-marathon for that matter. Even months before signing up, I felt that a marathon was for the “other” runners, and I was content with the 13.1 distance. However, after recovering from my injury, I realized that only sticking with the 13.1 distance was really playing it safe. I knew I could go further, and I knew that if I worked at it enough I could build to doing a full marathon. Also, I knew that following a strict, regimented schedule would help me from overdoing it and abusing my running as I had been before.

So I went for it, and it was amazing. The training was intense, as were the nerves and apprehension leading into the race, but there has not been anything more rewarding in my life than seeing the “Mile 26” marker and mustering all my strength to sprint to the finish line.

So what’s next?

Well, inspired from the marathon and my overarching quest toward expanding my horizons, I’ve decided that this year will be all about alleviating the things that scare me.

No, I won’t be re-watching The Ring or visiting graveyards, however I will be facing head-on the things in my life that I either avoid, shy away from, or simply ignore based on the fact that they are hard or daunting. I find that too often there are things in my life that I settle with simply based on the fact that they are comfortable and easy. A simple example would be driving my car down the massive hill by my house because running up it at the end of my run is simply too hard.

A bigger example would be deciding to spend my entire weekend at home instead of calling my friends and making plans, because sitting on my couch and perfecting my hermit status is easier than mustering up the energy to go out.

{Dexter, you do not help with this habit}

The fact is, in each of these examples, I know myself and I know that taking the harder, less-convenient option is almost always much more rewarding. When I complete a long, brutal hill, I feel much more satisfied in my run overall. When I actually go out with my friends (whom, mind you, I adore) and spend some quality social time, I am a much more well-rounded person and frankly happier overall.

When we are able to identify the things in our lives that we do based on comfort and routine, we can recognize that there is an element of apprehension and curiosity missing. And understandably, because facing the unknown as opposed to the familiar is typically the much easier choice. However, when we acknowledge our fears and purposefully face them, we are given a rejuvenating sense of accomplishment. These fears can be monumental or miniscule, however opting for the more challenging course gives us the opportunity to expand our experiences beyond that which is comfortable. Comfort is good, however we cannot grow or learn without reaching beyond our safe zones.

I look at this “resolution” to face the things that scare me as more of an overall mind shift. I might be able to get up and get sweaty every morning, but when it comes to laziness and taking the easy way out I am also a master. I want to get rid of this mentality; I know myself well enough to know that sticking to the mundane, simple routines of life do not stimulate my need for new experiences. I know that if I can be intentional about facing the things that I’m scared of, I will begin to establish a greater understanding of my strengths, my weaknesses, and my overall potential.

2012, fearlessness is the name of the game.

Gah, got serious again. Something about the New Year is getting to me apparently. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading, and I highly encourage you to think about the things you’re afraid of and how you can overcome them. Because I guarantee—you can.

Question: What scares you? 

 

Reading and Running

Hello!

I hope your Monday has been a little bit more action-packed than mine. Unless you count sitting on the couch at home working, absorbing heat from your laptop, and eating your body weight in peppermint bark as action-packed—and in that case I have been pro-duc-tive!

NOT.

It’s alright…Monday tends to be slow and steady for me anyway.

Today, I wanted to talk a bit about a recent addition to my passion for running—one that has not only helped get me out on the roads but has inspired my overall mentality and purpose behind running: Reading about running!

It sounds somewhat simplistic, however I honestly had not thought to read words from other runners until one of my friends ended up shoving a book in my face, proclaiming that I “HAD” to read it.

Now, mind you when I first started reading books about running, I was still very much injured and pretty bitter toward anyone who had the mobility of their legs.

Too much? Yes. At the time, though, I was going through some serious running withdrawls, and I was jealous of anyone who had the capacity to run even one mile without their hip searing in pain (this was me for three months).

However, I wanted to feel like I was still a part of the running community, and the only way to do that was the bit the bullet and keep up with those in the running world.

This is when I discovered Dean Karnazes. Specifically, his book Ultramarathon Man.

Dean has been featured in every media channel possible; magazines, television, movies, newspapers, etc.—they all want to tell a piece of Dean’s story. Those of you who have never heard of him, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of this ultramarathon man:

He’s one of the most incredible athletes in the world, he has inspired thousands of runners and non runners to reach further than they ever thought possible, and he is certifiably and positively NUTS.

This dude has run 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days in a row. He has run a marathon to the South Pole, he has done the Badwater ultra multiple times (the hardest footrace on earth), and he has run across the United States stopping only for brief naps along the way. Additionally, he has done every crazy/inhuman running race imaginable, and he continues to come up with new ways in which to challenge the potential of the human body.

And all because of one small, simple fact: He loves to run.

Despite the fame that Dean’s acquired through all of his coverage, it is a genuine love of human endurance that keeps his endeavors alive. Reading his books is addicting; certainly, his stories and adventures defy all logic in terms of athletic accomplishment—but to me the most engaging parts of his writing are just how possible he makes it all sound.

Sure, his resting HR and running form may rank in the superior range, however for the most part he is just an average guy who found something that he loved and went after it. Reading about the feats he takes on, absurd as they may be, he makes the goal of doing a marathon or even a 50k seem, well, do-able.

When I first started reading Dean’s books, I was convinced that I was a half-marathoner through and through, and if I were ever to try and do a full marathon it would be years away and a one-shot type of deal.

After being so inspired by his accomplishments and humble story-telling, I was not only motivated to complete a full marathon, but I actually believed that I could do it. I was done with being an injured, reckless runner who limited herself to only one distance. No, I was going to take the next step, throw my doubts aside, and go for the beast of all races.

And here I am, 5 months after recovery and not only have I completed one marathon, I’m planning my next year around the next marathons I want to do.

Okay, I realize how obnoxiously cocky this all might sound—but I promise I have a point. While my inspiration came from a variety of sources, I really believe that reading about running was and is one of the most effective means to achieving my goals as a runner. These goals can be as big as running a marathon or as small as getting out of bed in the morning for a short run, but I have come to fully appreciate the power of words as a runner.

One of the best things about runners is their unwavering ability to provide their wisdom, experiences, and support to other runners. This is why I believe runners love to read books, magazines, blogs, and even Twitter feeds about running. Running is a sport that forces us to be humble, patient, and smart—but it also yields an intangible amount of glory, peace, and feeling of accomplishment. The dichotomy of these two facets of running makes runners eager and willing to share their experiences with others and also incredibly receptive to hearing stories from others.

There’s a reason why the familiar “runner’s nod” is so genuine no matter where you are.

I love this about running, and frankly I can’t get enough of reading the words of other runners. There is no “right” way to run, and therefore reading about what works for some gives a multidimensional guise to this sport that is so simple in principle.

One of the primary reasons I started my blog was because I became so hooked on reading other blogs about running. I stumbled upon Ali on the Run, a NYC based runner and writer, and from there I found an entire network of females my age who loved all the same things I do—namely, running.

I got enamored with reading all their stories of training, successes, failures, and everything in between that makes up the lives of runners. I loved the idea of combining two of my greatest passions—running and writing—into one single space, and this is how Run Birdie Run was born.

I want to highly encourage anyone in search of some motivation, inspiration, or simply entertainment to try out the stories of runners. We are a group of people who seek nothing from our sport other than personal success and endorphin-induced happiness, and somehow we can’t seem to talk enough about it.

Here are some suggestions (both print and web) I have if you’re interested in some good running reads:

-Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man, Run!, and 50/50

-Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers book and blog

Runner’s World Magazine 

-Running blogs. They are all over, and once you find a few you love—you’ll be visiting them daily!

I’m in the midst of acquiring Soul Sisters, Running on Empty, and Chi of Running as my next running-based reads.

What kind of running reading do you do? Suggestions? Does reading about running keep you inspired, or does it overwhelm you?

Running for Fun

I think it was Dean Karnazes who said in one of his books, “Running isn’t fun. It’s too hard to be fun.” He explains that it feels good, it’s refreshing, and the end result is worth the work; however, even for the most devoted runners, “fun” is never really associated with our sport.

As I was on my weekly long run yesterday, I began thinking about this notion of having fun while running. Sure, I often get “cravings” to be out running, and I always feel accomplished and content after I’ve finished a run.

But what about having fun while running?

As I brought this to the front of my mind, I decided that since I spend 2+ hours out of my Sunday running, maybe I should try to focus on the actual time itself instead of the before and after. I find that with running, we can get so consumed with all the things we do before (fueling, hydrating, getting enough sleep, proper attire, etc.) and after (re-fueling, stretching, relaxing) that sometimes the actual act of running itself gets lost. I believe wholly in preparing and debriefing a run properly, however I’m realizing that these specifics lose their significance if we don’t take time during our run to be present.

Kara Goucher, professional runner and all-around bad ass chick, has a fantastic quote that really resonates with me:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

I love this. Running, particularly competitive running, needs to be about numbers and analysis and scrutiny. However, in order for these specifics to be worthwhile and satisfying, we must recognize the momentary joys of running. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to our own breath and dropping all other thoughts from our heads. I know personally I am prone to concentrating on tons of other things while on runs. My thoughts normally go something like this:

This pace feels fast…I wonder if I should slow down? I’ll see how long I can keep it up. But wait, I don’t want to get injured. Well, let’s see how I continue to feel. A fast run will warrant a good breakfast too. Hmm what should I have? And what should we make for dinner? I should probably go grocery shopping today. What all should go on the list…? Ah list! I have to finish yesterday’s to-do list. If I don’t send that check today it’s going to be late. Why’s that so hard for me to remember? I should be better about staying on top of things. There’s definitely parts of me that are Type A, but I don’t really want to totally be Type A. What do I normally say in interviews again about personality type?

Does this sound familiar?

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with these types of mind distractions. Sometimes it’s helpful to concentrate on other thoughts, however I am starting to see this random back-and-forth way of thinking as a waste of a run. It sounds a bit cheesy and perhaps elitist, but I’ve realized that running provides a great opportunity for both mental clarity and serenity. Rarely do we get an opportunity away from our cars, tvs, computers, and smartphones where our only source of stimulation is our brains (and sometimes an iPod). We spend all day sorting through the busy thoughts that constantly fill up our brain space, so why should we let that clutter enter our running time?

I’m starting to think that if I’m able to push aside the heaviness of the daily grind while I’m running and focus on the present moment, the act and simplicity of running itself, then running just may become fun. I think it’s easy for us to simply say that running is our “me” time and our stress-reliever, however unless we consciously make an effort to relish, savor, and bask in our time spent running, we will not be able to fully appreciate the glories a run can hold.

Some Thoughts on Cross Training

Hi! How’re you? If the answer isn’t,”Hey! I’m awesome!” just remember…it’s Friday, there will soon be pie and green bean casserole in your belly, and Christmas music is socially acceptable in less than a week.

Don't even mess. This is Christmas music GOLD.

Can you tell where my brain is right now?

This morning was one of my favorite weekly workouts, Spin ‘n’ Swim. Really creative name I gave it there, huh? The combination is pretty self explanatory: It starts with a spin class with my favorite instructor Jeoff and then finishes with a steady pool workout. I like this combo for a few reasons, but mainly because it combines two different types of cardio and it offers some active relief from the pounding my muscles endure during running. Also, swimming is magical. In all aspects of the word. I didn’t always feel this way though…

I’m currently in my third running life. Running has lives similar to the way cats have lives, by the way. No, not really, but I do believe that our perspective, habits, and overall mentality about running can really change depending on where we are in our lives. With this said, I’ve currently be re-born into running three times, and I have to say I’m loving this third time around. I enjoy my runs more, I became a MARATHONER, and I feel like my relationship with running is at its best. Honeymoon style, nothing but love.

"Never mind the fact that I can no longer walk, I'm a marathoner!" Sorry PDX Marathon, obviously this is not my photo.

Part of the reason I feel so centered as a runner at this point in time is due, in large part, to cross training. I have been very conscious about keeping other activities interspersed in my running routine, and as a result, I don’t get burned out, I haven’t gotten injured(knock on your table please for me), and I’m much more balanced in terms of my physical fitness mentality. I used to be the kind of runner who stuck her nose up to any other kind of “exercise.” Seriously, I was a running brat who thought that the elliptical was for rehab patients and any workout less than a hard 9 miler wasn’t even worth it. Who was I?! A crazed running addict is what, and although I would still say I have the same affinity for a hard running workout, I drove myself into the ground with that mentality. Literally… I got hurt and was excommunicated from the running world for three months.

Lesson learned, something had to change.

I realize I’m rambling a bit, but I do have a point.

Cross training is not only beneficial, fun, and different, but it is necessary for maintaining a healthy and enjoyable running career. I credit the cross training I did alongside my marathon training for my finish time almost more so than my weekly long runs. Yes, I said it. Spinning helps develop speed, and it strengthens the muscles around your running muscles which ultimately improves runs. Spinning is also a great way to strengthen your cardio and get really sweaty (especially if you work with Jeoff) without the heavy impact of running. I could go on and on about spin—for anyone who loves to challenge themselves, listen to loud pump up tunes, and work out with a group, spin is awesome. I’m a lone wolf when it comes to exercise, and even I get a jolt of enthusiasm when I’m on a stationary bike with a bunch of other people. Jeoff also sings along to Lady Gaga and changes lyrics to encourage us even more: “YOU’RE on the edge of GLORY” C’mon, who doesn’t love that??

I’ll save some commentary on swimming for another time, however I want to highly encourage all runners to treat running like any other relationship. Without some TLC (cross training, yoga, and off-time) running can turn on you and your relationship becomes mundane, draining, and ultimately abusive. It sounds cheeky, however I speak from very personal experience when I say that running should not be taken for granted, and one of the keys to a lifelong relationship with this sport is to treat it and your body with respect.

That got serious there, isn’t it supposed to be Friday?

Clearly, this is a topic I care a lot about.

Another long post…what am I a new blogger or something? More pictures to come soon, I promise!

Now I’d love to know…what’s your favorite way to cross train??

R&R&R

So, yesterday was my rest day, and true to my inner desire to veg out for 24 hours straight (wait, don’t we all have that?), I put laziness at the top of my list for the majority of the day.

I ate, I lounged, I watched a movie without multitasking (note…a very hard endeavor for me), I ate some more, and I went to bed early. Now, although it may seem that I’m pretty pro at being a slug, having a day like this is typically very hard and bothersome to me—and it’s very hard for me to consciously take rest days.

I know this is similar to many runners, as we are psychologically wired to go! go! go!. We are at our happiest when we’ve sweat through some good miles, so the thought of going through a day without our usual dose of endorphins seems daunting. I know it seems a bit obsessive and unnecessary (and yes, often times it is), but it’s hard to come across a feeling better than right after finishing a long run. Personally, I am happier, more patient, more productive, and generally just nicer to be around when I’ve logged a morning run…seriously, ask any member of my family or my boyfriend, they will quickly agree.

I don’t necessarily love this about myself, and I’m trying to get better about reaping both the physical and mental perks of taking some R&R time. Obviously, as runners, our bodies take a lot of beating—therefore resting our muscles is essential. Anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling themselves and will end up injured before too long—trust me, I used to be that person. Rest from running can come in the form of crossing training, however it is important to take a day to let our bodies rest completely from activity. During this time, our muscles heal, strengthen, and become all the more apt to taking on the miles we use them for.

The other side of rest—the mental side—is a little bit trickier to wrap your brain around (at least if you’re me!), however once you get a grasp on it—it can be an even bigger rest incentive than the physical reasons. For instance: planning out a day to sleep in, lie on the couch, bake cookies, watch a favorite show, etc. offers a great break from the exercise routine we’re so dedicated to. A mental time-out is sometimes exactly what we need to revitalize our psyches, refocus our goals, and just give our overworked minds a BREAK!

I’ve realized that when I take a day off, it’s not because I’m lazy, I’m weaker than other runners, or I’m somehow falling away from the entire running community by taking 24 hours for zero activity. Of course it’s not! And I have, admittedly, thought these things. However, by treating my rest days as an essential part of my training—I’ve begun to recognize not only their necessity but also their impressive benefits for both my body and mind.

And for those of you still trying to decipher my cryptic title in this post: The first R&R should be obvious, but the last “R” stands for running…which I did this morning in the brisk 35 degree weather. I finished 10 shore-front miles with 8:30 splits, pink legs, and a re-energized mindset— I reckon mostly due to the sweat-free day beforehand.

This is where I get to run. Yes, I'm bragging.

How do you feel about rest days? Do you invite them? Despise them? When do you know rest for you is needed?