Tag Archives: thoughts on life

When It’s Better Not to Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I really don’t think I’m alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy on stage.

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

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

Films!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

champagne and cupcakes post Friday night gala FTW.

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

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

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

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

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

Central Governor Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday! Happy running 🙂

Dear Internet, I suck today.

Optimistic title, no?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perspective

Did I blog yesterday? No.

Was I going to blog yesterday? Yes.

So what happened? Well, consider my lack of communication an act of sparing readers from my down-in-the-dumps-ness. Yes, that makes sense.

You see, I had big plans for some positivity, some weekend recap, and some random banter. However, life chose to thwart that plan a bit—and alas, my ability to even fake happiness yesterday was completely zapped away. I didn’t feel I should divulge my feelings to the Internet, so I decided to follow the mantra that Mom always says, “It will be better in the morning.”

And you know what? It is. Sure, things are still pretty damn crappy, but thanks to my unavoidable optimistic hard-wiring, I’m feeling about 700% better than yesterday. And heavily caffeinated, which is a staple in the RB recipe book of creating a good mood.

But let’s back track a bit. Because despite my resentment toward the shit that’s gone down, I cannot leave you hanging like that. Note that I am wary about reporting personal, non-injury related bad news on my blog, however this isn’t so private. So, onward.

On Sunday, BF, my friend Anna, and I were headed east to do some hiking. BF was driving my car, while Anna and I followed in her own. To make a long story short, BF started going 30 on the highway, pulled over, we screwed around with some engine starting and stopping, and it was concluded that we needed to get the car towed. We still managed to get in our hike thanks to Anna’s vehicle, but at the end of the day BF and I spent our evening getting my beloved Glinda settled at an auto repair shop in West Seattle.

Gooooooooood times.

(Side note: AAA can see right through it when you try to get a membership after you need their services. In summary, get AAA before you need them—it’s worth it.)

Anyway, yesterday I went back to the auto shop with some high hopes for a simple, fixable, not-too-expensive diagnosis for my poor car.

Can you see where this is going?

Take the opposite of those high hopes, and that’s exactly what the mechanic got to tell me.

Essentially, my car needs a new engine, which including the labor involved in installing it, is going to come to oh just a little bit less than I initially paid for the car. Super duper fun times.

So, after a lot of discussion over what to do (you know how those conversations always need to happen in crappy car situations), I decided to bite the very expensive bullet and get my car fixed. It’s really, really not an ideal situation—but that was the best decision to make, and so all I can is move forward.

Other than feeling really bad for my car (she’s my baby!) and being pissed at the blow to my bank account, I was mostly just sad for all the things I wouldn’t be able to do/would need to put on hold due to this super inconvenient circumstance.

In truth, I was really just feeling sorry for myself. I spent most of yesterday alternating between crying and racking up a list of all the things I need to currently buy, pay off, and save for that will have to go to the back burner.

You know, because adding up all those things was really going to make me feel better about the whole thing.

It was a pity party to say the least, and while I’m still wallowing over the set-backs this will undoubtedly produce—the truth is, these things happen…and it’s going to be okay.

Sure, it sucks, and as a young 20-something I’m not exactly the most equipped person to handle the financial blow of it all. But, it really is all about perspective.

I might not be able to buy the road bike I’ve been planning on for a little while longer, but you know what? I’m still healthy, I’m still clothed, I’m still fed (a lot), and I’m going to be fine. There are many people who would have had to cut their losses completely in a scenario like this. And with that said, there are many people who don’t even have a car—nor the means of retaliating from a situation like this. When I can shift my perspective in that regard, it makes the whole scenario a lot more manageable.

Am I going to be paying an extra, hefty monthly bill for a while? Yes. But, it’s not the end of the world.

When I began realizing that this situation is only going to be as severe as I make it, I began to draw the same parallel to my lingering injury. The fact is, I’m still in pain, I’m still not feeling like I’ll be long running for a while, and I’m still in and out of very pissy moods about this whole thing. However, when I can pull out my better-self and think about this injury in the grand scheme of things, much like my car, it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal.

I can’t run right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t run again. I know I keep repeating this (mainly because I have to keep re-telling it to myself) but all runners get injured. You are almost as much a runner when you’re injured as when you’re busting out PRs…it just comes with the territory. When I think about all the professional and Olympic-bound (Kara, I love you) runners whom I admire and look up to, it’s comforting to realize that all of them, at one point or another, has been sidelined—and, obviously, that never stopped them from doing great things.

Being a great runner isn’t about always being able to bust out a marathon on a whim or running fast every single day. It’s not even about times, podiums, or number of medals hanging in our houses. It’s about having the mentality that no matter what situation we’re in, whether sidelined or on the race course, all we can do is our very best. If we do that, there’s nothing to be disappointed in.

The transition from the whole car perspective thing to my injury reflection was a bit janky, I realize, but I think the biggest lesson I’m coming to terms with is that no matter what the scenario…everything will really be okay. In the big picture, hiccups happen, but they are only as big as we make them out to be. Even when we’re feeling overwhelmed, sad, or generally pissed off at the things that have brought us down, it’s so important to remember that we are still in control—no matter our feelings to the contrary. Because we are…we just need to keep the reigns in our own hands instead of letting our emotions and stress take them away.

Okay, enough serious stuff. I will leave you with some pictures from the weekend, instead of detailing all the adventures. As I said on Friday, my friend Anna came to visit me, and we had a wonderful time. Here is some documentation of that wonderfulness in photos. Spoiler, there was a lot of food involved.

Ikea! Please note our new indoor tree. Name yet to be determined.

A trip to Via Tribunali in Upper Queen Anne was the ticket for our Saturday night feeding, and it did not disappoint in the least.

Whole bottle of wine at dinner, check.

…And what goes better with a bottle of wine than a huge floppy pizza? This was all mine, in case there was any confusion.

BF approves.

And obviously after you are full of wine and pizza…the next best move is for…

Molly Moons ice cream! No, both are not mine, this time…

 

So, obviously I have a certain tendency to take pictures at meals. No need to photograph our beautiful hike, or any other activities for that matter apparently…I promise to get better at this!

So, regardless of the car mishaps, my weekend was certainly fantastic, and I’m thankful to have such a wonderful friend who will venture across the state to eat, play, and laugh with me.

 

I hope your week is going well so far! And if it’s not, try taking some control over your situation, and remember that although things could be better, they could always be worse as well. And if all else fails, go find yourself a pint of B&Js, or a puppy to play with. Strangers’ puppies are perfectly acceptable. 

 

100 Posts

Hello!

Thanks to my good friends at WordPress and their stellar programming math skillz, it has come to my attention that I have reached 100 blog posts.

Woo! Big numbers!

I realize in the blog and internet scheme of things, 100 is minuscule. However, it’s all relative…and for someone like me who really just figured out how Twitter and Facebook work,  100 is big.

In honor of 100 posts, I’ve decided to talk a bit about the things I’ve learned through being a part of this cyber blogging and running world. Some good, some bad, some ugly (see: missing toenails), but overall…I’ve gained a whole lot more than I ever thought possible from being a part of you people, and I’m happy for it.

Let’s hope to it then.

I’ve learned that I’m really not that crazy.

Well, okay, yes I’m that crazy.

However, for a while I thought I was alone. I thought that preferring to run many miles on a Saturday morning over a Friday late night bar crawl made me somewhat of a freak. And sure, maybe it does. But there are other freaks out there! Hooray for unity over hydrating and carbo-loading!

Occasionally, I do love a night out, a day off, and generally just being lazy. But, for the most part, I consider my love of consistently being active and ready to run very unusual, and before having a blog…I barely talked about it with my friends and people I knew. I wasn’t embarrassed, necessarily, but I didn’t want to feel like I was “showing off” or trying to get attention. Because that’s never been what my running’s about. Honestly, I would actually downplay my answers when people asked me how many miles I ran every week or how often I worked out, because I didn’t really feel like explaining myself away to people who just weren’t going to get it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with not getting it. But I was happy letting other people do their thing, while I did mine.

I was kind of a secret runner, I suppose you could say, and with this came a tendency to think of myself as a bit of an outsider.

Joining a community of running addicts like myself has really helped me to realize that I’m not all that strange at all, and in fact—marathon training and hard workouts can be something to be proud of. Sure, I do tend to feel gloaty sometimes and I still tend to shy away from discussing my training with other people…but reading about the running other women my age are doing really makes me feel like I’m part of something other than just my own seclusive habits.

I’ve learned that I really, really love to write.

In reference to the above “lesson” I’ve learned, you might be wondering…if I shy away from talking about training, why would I have a blog where all I talk about is miles and cookies and sweating?

Good question.

I actually started my blog primarily because I love to write. My love of writing has existed for much longer than my love of running, and it’s actually the catalyst for why I started my blog.

I began reading lots of books and articles all about running. I didn’t really realize that this literature on running was out there, and all at once it seemed it was all coming at me like wild fire. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough of it, and it made me want to run and train even more.

It was actually a book about running that really jolted me to run my first marathon. Not to sound like every other American recreational runner-turned-marathoner, but it was Dean Karnazes’ book “Ultramarathon Man” that made me think, “Wait a minute, I can do that!”

Not long after I did my first marathon, I somehow stumbled upon some running blogs. In all honesty, I never used to read blogs, and I kind of thought they were a place where people were more honest about their lives than they were in the real world or on Facebook…which, unfortunately, some people think of as “the real world.”

In a nutshell, I thought blogs were for internet shut-ins who would rather spend time in the virtual world than with their friends or family.

I was wrong.

I started finding blogs of girls who were runners, and they were exactly like me. I felt like I was reading my own writing with some of these blogs, and I found myself coming back to them every day. The more I read…the more I admitted the truth to myself: I wanted to start my own. Because if there’s one thing I love more than writing and running, it’s writing about running.

As you can probably tell at this point, I can get a little metaphysical and deep when it comes to talking about running, I will totally own it.

But it’s who I am…and it’s been through writing that I’ve realized that running is so much more important to me than just calorie burning and leg toning. In fact, when it comes down to it, those things are in last place on the list of reasons why I love running. Having a blog has helped me realize that…and it’s through all the writing and reflections that I’ve done about this sport that I’ve really broken down the true essence of why I love to run.

Additionally, I am convinced that having this blog has helped my professional writing as well. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a magazine editor by day, meaning a lot of my job requires writing in all different shapes and forms. Articles, reviews, interviews, press releases, newsletters…you name it, I’ve written it. And I’m finding that the writing is coming easier to me than it used to, and I think that has a lot to do with the more fun, quirky ranting I do here.

Practice makes perfect no matter what it is you’re practicing, and writing definitely qualifies in that regard.

I’ve learned that it’s important to step away from our computers.

It’s not that I didn’t really know this before, but I’ve realized recently that while it’s fun and exciting to check in on our blogging friends via Twitter, new posts, Facebook, etc. whenever they have something new to share…it’s also really important to get away from it all as well.

It’s really easy to get super caught up in the on-goings of the virtual world. And why not? We start to feel like we know the people that we follow, and that follow us, so it’s easy to spend our time procrastinating looking for what everyone is up to. This is all fine and well, however I know I can warp myself into a little black hole sometimes by spending too much time staring at my screen’s reality as opposed to living in my own.

I catch myself when I’m out away from my computer and I find myself thinking about something or someone that I only know of because of my internet relationship. This, I am sure, is normal in this day and age, but frankly I don’t like that it takes me away from whatsoever I’m doing, you know, in my real life. I love my internet peeps, don’t get me wrong…but there’s something to be said for getting away from our alternate reality and just being.

It’s the same reason, on a lesser scale, that I like to run without music. Or, how BF and I don’t check our phones when we’re on dates.

Thanks to technology ruling both our working and social lives in the modern world, it is inevitable that we will spend countless hours engrossed in the happenings on a small screen.

This is not how we, as social beings, were meant to live, though.

So be proactive and take some time outs. Everything will be there when you get back, and I promise your Twitter feed is highly more enjoyable when you check it after a weekend as opposed to a couple of minutes.

I have learned that we’re really not alone.

When something good or bad happens, it’s easy to feel we are in a category all our own.

We run our first half marathon faster than we expected? Huzzah! We must be Superwoman.

We get hurt and can’t run for a few weeks? The universe obviously hates us and we were never supposed to be a runner in the first place.

(WTF tense was that? I don’t know. Leaving it. Lazy.)

Here’s the fact of the matter:

If you run your first half, full, or whatever distance faster than you thought…that really is super awesome, and you should consider yourself a Super(wo)man.

If you are hurt and can’t run, that really does suck, and I’m sorry.

But, reality check…there have been and will be many, many, many more people in the same scenario as you. It doesn’t make your accomplishments any less great, or your hardships any less easy, but the fact of the matter is you are far from the first to experience (fill in the blank____), and that’s okay.

Take some comfort in the fact that others can relate to you.

Injured and not sure what to do? The wonderful thing about the internet (and the blogging world) is that there are positively more injured people out there that would love to commiserate with you. They may even be able to help or offer some advice.*

*Take all injury research and advice via the internet with a grain of salt, as you may wind up self-diagnosing leg cancer when you actually have shin splints.

The same idea goes for accomplishments. We should  absolutely feel proud of the things we do that we worked hard for and ultimately achieved. Celebrate. Tell everyone. Go nuts.

But, don’t be disappointed when you read ten other stories just like yours. They don’t take anything away from you, and they don’t make what you did any less spectacular…they are simply a reflection that other people want to do cool things too. Instead, you should celebrate with those people. A party is much more fun when there’s lots of folks involved, so just as other people root for you and encourage you in your training endeavors…pay it forward, and join in on the virtual cheer-leading brigade.

On that same note. Let other people inspire you! I know that while I might be envious of girls my age who have already run Boston-qualifying times or competed in Ironman races, I can turn my jealousy into fuel. These stories inspire me to reach further, dig deeper, and I love getting new ideas for races or training plans from the bloggers I admire and who inspire me.

I’ve learned that following the training and racing of other people can be just as fun as doing it yourself.

I never, ever, thought I would be someone who regularly followed blogs or commented on the ramblings of other people. The extent of my internet exploration ended with Facebook and Gmail, and everything else was for people who were much more tech-savvy and social media smart.

Now, I’m still not tech savvy, nor too skilled at hash-tagging or making YouTube videos, however…I know that something I look forward to each day is reading up on the trials, tribulations, and sweat of the lady runners I follow. (Really wanted that list to be alliterative, dang.) I think it’s really exciting to watch someone’s progression from a 5k runner to a marathoner, or a marathoner to an ultra-marathoner.

No matter the level, I love to read about people who run. Running is the underlying thread that unites us all, and despite the different locations, interests, and ages, I love that the running blogging community is held together through the pure love of putting one foot in front of the other.

My favorite thing about running is the simplicity of it. It’s primal, it’s natural, and it’s the way we were meant to get around. People who write about running get this, and I love connecting, if even just through a comment box, with others who understand the need to run.

So there you have it. Some things I’ve learned through writing about running and a bit of my blogging story thrown in there as well.

After 100 posts, countless miles, injuries, races, comments, tweets, meet-ups, emails, etc. I want to say THANK YOU to every single one of my readers. Your words and feedback make this space so enjoyable and fun for me, and I appreciate all the advice, laughs, and random tidbits you share with me. I’m looking forward to much more writing, running, and reading with you—all with a heaping spoonful of cookie dough and a Nuun-filled water bottle on the side.

Happy Monday!!

Post-Race Reflections and Ramblings

Slowly but surely (emphasis on the slowly, namely my walking speed), I am returning back to normal since the *excitement* from Sunday. I have done a little yoga, a little swimming, a lot of sleeping, a lot of horrific foam rolling, and drowned myself in frozen yogurt—all of which are helping to cleanse away the fear and the beating endured in the race.

A BIG thanks to those of you who’ve offered your support, condolences, and general affirmation after reading my lengthy race recap. I truly appreciate your kind words and happy thoughts.

There are many things that have been going on through my head since Sunday, and I think I have started to unwind from the pure shock of it all into some more grounded, realistic thoughts. However, I am still quite askew in terms of my rationalization of the whole thing, and while there are a number of words I could use to describe my current state of mind regarding running, marathons, etc., I think the one prevailing thing I’m feeling is frustration.

Now, before I dive into the specifics of this frustration, let me first say that I realize there are many different opinions on how I decided to run my race on Sunday. I have heard everything from ballsy and inspiring to reckless and stupid (I believe the phrase”psych exam” was in there somewhere), and I want to say that you are entirely entitled to your own opinion.

Personally, in terms of how I view it all, I think that I fall somewhere in the middle. On one hand, I know that I should have never put myself in that kind of danger, and I’m mad at myself for scaring my loved ones and myself by not realizing I’d reached my limit. On the other hand, and I say this with marginal reluctance, but the truth is—I can’t say that I would have run that race any other way. For better or for worse, my mind was stronger than my body on Sunday, and while I will absolutely need to keep this in check, I am also not surprised it happened.

It might be stubbornness, it might be idiocy, it might be determination, or it might be an alternative chromosome—no matter how you characterize my mindset during this race, all I know is that it is 100% who I am as a runner, an athlete, and a person. Which is part of the reason this race has left me feeling frustrated, among other things, and I’m having a hard time trying to reconfigure how to prioritize my goals from here on out.

Part of me wants to run for fun for the rest of the year; just running without regimin or goal time in mind—simply for the love of it. The other part wants to run so many marathons that I’m able to drown out the memory of what happened in Tacoma. I am certain I will land somewhere in the middle eventually. Frankly, I don’t like that a sport I love so much and a sport I hold in such high regard chopped me to pieces so quickly. I spent months preparing to run this marathon—I was ready for it, I was both mentally and physically chomping at the bit to do well, and in 3 hours and 44 minutes it punched those months of hard work right in the face. Well, in the IT band, the hamstrings, the quads, and the calves—to be more specific. It was my own fault, I know that, but at the same time I feel like I was cheated by the laws of all marathon running and general athletic endeavors.

Allow me to explain: Every single sports mantra, coach, PE poster, whatever will tell you, “Pain is weakness leaving to body,” “You’re stronger than you think you are,” and “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” (yes, I needed to include Pre). Since a very early age, we’ve heard all these mantras, and we’ve been told to believe that our bodies are much stronger than our mind allows them to be. Unfortunately, I internalized these ideas too much on Sunday—and I crossed over the line of my physical potential to my physical limitations.

The entire time I was running, particularly when it started to get really difficult, I told myself all these “mind over matter” sayings—I convinced myself that of course it was hard, it’s a marathon! I thought that the pain I was experiencing was the kind that everyone feels, and all I had to do was push it further—because I was stronger than any mental downfall or shortcoming. I knew I was in good enough shape to run a marathon, in fact I was in better shape than I was for my first 26.2, so the pain I was feeling must have been due to the hills and the speed—not to my own physical deficiency.

I realize how prideful this sounds, and it absolutely is, but more than anything it’s my obscene competitive nature. I am competitive with others, have no doubt, but my most fiery, ruthless competitive drive is with myself and my own goals. So despite knowing I was in more pain than I should have been, and despite knowing that running an 8:10 pace over 26 hilly miles was incredibly ambitious, I could not let up holding myself up to my highest standard.

I knew qualifying for Boston on this course was going to be miraculous. I said this to BF, to my family, and I thought that I knew it myself. However, I also knew, in the murky, victory-craving corners of my brain that it was still possible. I knew that if I had ideal conditions, perfect taper, and a little bit of race magic—I would be able to pull it off, even on a hard course. And…I suppose this was accurate, because had I not literally fallen at mile 26, there is a very good chance I would have qualified. However, instead of letting my training, the course, and the miracle come to me…I forced it, and that was my mistake.

I should have realized earlier in the race that should I qualify, the factors leading up to it wouldn’t be entirely in my control. Because despite how much we’d like to think it, miracle races (as BQing in Tacoma would have been) require a little something more than all the training and preparation we put into them. They require that certain race day magic that lights us up when we need it, and it’s somewhat intangible and undefinable. Unfortunately, I decided to forego the whole “let it come to you” notion and instead decided to make my own miracle happen. Once the image of myself crossing the finish line under a 3:35:59 clock got locked in my head, I couldn’t let it go—even though when I started feeling the wall around mile 19, I should have.

So instead of obeying the rules of “the wall,” something I had never before experienced, I decided to try and run right through it…and then when that didn’t work, I backed up and ran right back into it, over and over again. The funny thing though about walls is that they don’t move, and all that endless beating against my own wall ended up withdrawing every ounce of strength I had in me. I am sure that had I backed up my pace even a tiny bit, all the conditioning I knew I had within me would have regained a bit of control and I would have finished the race in a great time. I couldn’t accept “a great time” though, because I was chasing the 3:35 beast the entire race, and despite all the fire and poison it was spitting at me, I was determined to pin it down.

So, what do I take from all this? Well, there are many things—but more than anything, I think I have learned that on Sunday, my mental conditioning was stronger than my physical conditioning. So often our brains tell us to stop while our bodies have the ability to keep going—however, I experienced the opposite. I didn’t listen to my body, I brushed off my pain as durable, and eventually my mental stamina outlasted my body to the point where my body decided to no longer function.

There is, furthermore, a line between pushing to your limits and exceeding your limits—and this is something I had never really realized or grasped before. I’ll admit I’m a bit confused and worried about the line dividing “far” and “too far,” because up until Sunday, I believed we were capable of anything we set our minds too. Which I still believe…but now to a certain degree. I suppose what I will need to work on more than anything is listening to my body as opposed to pushing myself solely on brain determination.

At this point, I know I have the mental strength to get through a marathon…perhaps too much, and that is something I can still count on the drive me when the going gets tough. However, I am now going to have to work on deciphering between working to my full potential and working beyond my capabilities. Because, yes, I do have limitations…and despite the fact that my self-righteous subconscious would scoff at such a statement, it is the truth—as it is for everyone.

So where does that leave me? Well, I am going to continue to recover, reflect, and eventually I’ll get brave enough to put on my iPod and lace up my shoes. I’m actually still unable to listen to any of the songs I listened to on race day, and even seeing the clothes I wore gives me a bit of a shudder. No doubt, full recovery from this marathon—particularly the metal part—is going to take a while. However, I never shy away from an opportunity for self-improvement, and I’m happy to accept all the humility and re-prioritization it takes to get myself back in the swing of things.

 

I realize this post was rather stream-of-consciousness and didn’t have much of a thread running through it (I suppose not too many of my posts do though 🙂 ). However, this post was very expressive of the way my brain is working right now—just trying to process it all and regain a little composure. I ultimately just needed to get some of my thoughts down, and now that I have I feel a bit freer.

And now, because I am FASCINATED by this right now:

When is “pushing yourself” too much? Where do we divide the line between fighting through the pain and accepting it? Do you think runners are particularly susceptible to this kind of thinking?

Sharing the Miles and Marathon Week!

Good morning!

To all of you who raced this weekend, all I can say is, “WOW.”

Based on my Twitter feed, Google Reader, and Facebook, this weekend was uber full of some  super impressive races, PRs, and general love for running. For everyone who ran Eugene, there wasn’t a report I heard that wasn’t super inspiring and impressive, and although a big part of me wishes that I was running into Hayward yesterday morning, I know my time will come in (less than!) 6 days. All the race reports and running-love made me so so excited to race this weekend, and I just wish I didn’t have to spend 6 days in nerve-wracking anticipation.

Actually, 5 days, 20 hours, and 33 minutes, if we’re being precise which obviously I am not.

Through all the absorption and admiration going on with so many fellow lady runners out there, my race-week excitement is full speed ahead. All I’m thinking about is race strategy, time goals, Body Glide, carbs, proper bib pinning, and a dynamite playlist. All these thoughts go through my head, and then they just repeat themselves in a slightly more detailed, fleshed out version. (You know, as if I didn’t already think about running enough.) It’s a scary place to be, but all-in-all I am just feeling psyched.

I trust my training, no doubt, but at this point I’m really trying to fine-tune my mental game. I know that if there’s one thing in which I have an advantage, it’s my ability to push through the hard parts. I think it’s a combination of being super stubborn and super competitive, but whatever it is— it typically works toward my advantage when the miles get tough. It’s what gave me three sub-8 minute miles at the end of my first marathon, and it’s what I’m hoping will carry me along the hilly Tacoma course.

I can’t wait.

Well, I’m going to have to, but fortunately there are some fun things happening along the way!

For starters, my birthday is tomorrow, which is definitely fun to have on race week. Although I would like to celebrate with a long sweaty run, I’ll have to dial it back to a shorter one—but it’s all worth it in the name of proper tapering. Also, today I’ll be going to my first practice for the Girls on the Run organization, which I’m really excited for.

GOTR is a non-profit that gives elementary school girls the opportunity to train for a 5k with an older “running buddy.” Their mission states: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”

Good stuff, obviously something I am in full support of, and I can’t wait to meet my new 5th grade friend today 🙂

And in a completely appropriate yet unplanned transition, I want to share with you the Runner’s World quote of the day from Friday, which really spoke to me. I totally didn’t actually see that transition coming, it just worked out. Isn’t that nice? Good job coincidental blog structuring.

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.”

Now, I know that quote is dripping with Kumbaya cheesiness, but it really is true, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to join the world of running bloggers in the first place. I think it’s really easy to get consumed in our own training regimens, our own goals, and our own routines (weird I know…humans, self-consumed creatures?!). And although these levels of focus are fine, I’ve found that reaching beyond my own running schedule and learning about the lives of other runners has been one of the most enriching and inspiring aspects of this sport. It’s why I get so giddy and excited by reading race reports of bloggers that I follow: following their training schedules and their progress is so intriguing and inspiring, and it helps the rest of us step outside of our own routines.

I really love this “sharing” nature that most every runner seems to have. Almost all the runners I’ve come across, both in my real life and around the virtual-running world, are always willing to talk about running and exchange as much information as possible with other runners. It seems simplistic, of course runners love talking about running, but what I really love is just how interested and encouraging the running community can be. A lot of people in the blogging community have never even met each other in real life, and yet everyone is so excitedly amped about each other’s running reports.

And sure, strangers exchanging enthusiastic, “Kill it!”s and “So proud of you!”s throughout cyber space may seem a bit strange, but as a runner—I really think it stems from one root commonality we all share: a pure, unconditional love of this sport.

Running does something to us that cannot be matched in any other vacinity. It takes us to our happy place, the place where we can shed all the other skins and hats we wear in favor of being totally and completely  ourselves. Once we discover this existential love for running, it cannot be broken, and we become completely enamored.  The only outlet for this love, besides writing poetic/creepily obsessive blog posts and sending up love and praise to the run gods above, is to talk about it with other people who feel the same way.

A love for running is a tie that binds no matter who we are, and I love this about runners. I love that despite how super competitive and consumed with our own goals we become, we are almost equally willing to share enthusiasm, encouragement, and advice to all other runners out there—no matter what level they’re at.

So, with that said, all of you out there whom I have been able to share my trials and victories with surrounding this sport, I thank you so very much for your support. And those of you who have shared your journeys with me—thank you for inspiring me every single day. I have loved sharing all your miles right along with you. Blogging and reading other blogs, books, and articles by other runners has given me so much more love and respect for this sport. And the best part? I feel like it’s just the beginning.

And in case you didn’t think I woke up this morning thinking, “RACE WEEK, RACE WEEK, RACE WEEK,” let’s take a look at what I subconsciously put on to wear today:

I woke up approximately 6 minutes before taking this, so please accept my "I'd rather be horizontal" sleepy eyes.

PSYCHED. Tacoma, get ready.

 

Did you race this weekend? How did it go? Or, why is it you think runners perpetually geek-out over long runs, Nuun, and race numbers together?