Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marathon training Week 2: Things get real

Last week I was so excited and optimistic about jumping into marathon training for the Chicago Marathon October 12. Then came that tough 10 miler on Sunday. That run set the tone for the week, unfortunately, forcing me to do a little tough talking to myself. So here's how the week shook out:

Monday: Crossfit intervals at 6 am with Becky. It was a warm morning and she had a little station set up for me outside, complete with rower, slamball, medicine ball, kettlebell, and a mat. She also brought out the whiteboard, which I've seen her do in her CF classes but never with me. I was thinking this was not a good thing. Here's what I did:

In between each set I rowed 250m. You can tell that I don't love burpees. Slam balls? Yes please! Exhausting but very satisfying. Hello endurance!

Tuesday: I had a 6 miler planned, but I no sooner had gotten a signal on my Garmin, left my driveway, and headed down the street when I came up on a bicyclist lying on the ground in a pool of blood, his bike broken in half. A victim of a hit and run accident. I stopped my Garmin as I approached, and when I checked today, I ran a total for 44 seconds before I saw this. I stayed with the guy until the police and paramedics left. I decided to run but after 2 miles, my adrenaline ran out, my mind was reeling with what had happened, and I walked the rest of the way home. I've had some weird stuff happen to me on the run, but this really shook me to my core. 

Wednesday: After a really poor night's sleep, I was grateful to do yoga. I needed to stretch, but most of all I needed to relax. I did the same video from last week, the Seawheeze 2014 video. Not too taxing, but hits all the high points. Namaste. 

Thursday: Speed work, in the form of mile repeats x 5. The first couple of miles, I ran too fast again. I kept my Garmin screen set on "pace", so I could watch my speed, but it really is easier said than done. Mile 4 was when things started to get hairy for me. I was breathing really heavy and felt nauseous. I couldn't even complete mile 5. You can see where I fell apart: 

Then I went to see Becky for another CF workout. We talked about my bad speed session, and what had happened earlier in the week. While she validated what a terrible experience it was, she really stressed that I needed to get it out of my head and move on. Then she worked me hard. I did back squats, 3 sets of 65#, 5 reps each set. There was a box for me to sit on, which something new and kind of nice! I also pushed the prowler for 4 laps, and did kettlebell deadlifts 20# each hand alternating with front bar lunges x 2 sets. The kettlebell deadlifts were way harder than the ones I do with the bar. It was hard not to put the kettlebells down on my feet. And there is definitely less stability lifting the kettlebells than the bar. I felt it in my hammies and glutes. All good.

It should say "a runner's best friend", I think!
Friday: normally a rest day (because I usually work), I had the day off, so I did some more yoga. This time was Eoin Finn, In Pursuit of Happy Hips. This is a great video, set in British Columbia, and I felt great when I was done. Here is a clip from the DVD, which you can download from his website:

Saturday: I had a 4 miler on the plan, but decided to do 6 because mentally, I needed it. It was really humid and hot, and I got a late start. The park fieldhouse was closed and I didn't have any water with me. I started out way too fast for the conditions and paid for it. At mile 4 I was ready to quit, but I forced myself to slow down (this is a recurring theme here!) and finish the 6 I had planned. My mile splits weren't too bad but I felt kind of yucky when I finished. But I'm glad I pushed myself to finish. That's what I'm talking about!

Really, really sweaty!
Sunday: I have several bike rides on the plan, and I argued with Becky about them, because they take the place of the long run. She told me to trust the plan. Today, I was grateful for a bike ride. When I woke up, it was 72F and 90% humidity. A long run would have been torture today. As a matter of fact, while riding my bike, I came upon a lot of runners and not one of them looked at all happy. Most of them looked ill, and no one was moving very fast. I admit that I love riding my bike. I smiled pretty much the whole 30 miles. I ran into my friend, the former cop, who works the traffic lights at one of the busy intersections near a super church. It is always great to see him. A big plus for me too, because there was some creeper behind me on his bike, and he had no choice but to keep going once I stopped. He came back, saw me still talking to Mike, turned back around, and that was the last I saw of him. The wind started to pick up, but when I turned around to head home, it was at my back, and gave me some great mile splits. 30.5 miles in 2:01. I'll take it! And like I said on my facebook page, endurance is endurance, right?

Goals for next week: I'm going out of town for a few days, so I get to run in a different, pretty place. I'm going to get that speedwork under control! I'm hoping to get some kayaking and SUP in as well. Next Saturday is a half marathon, but I'm planning to use it as a training run and work on pacing, trying not to get caught up in the race. My ongoing challenge: I will continue to work on mental toughness too. My most difficult challenge!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Getting out of my head

I started running in my late 20s to help me work through anxiety and depression. I didn't want to take medication, and I soon learned that running did so much more for me than just help me with those symptoms. As began to run longer distances and faster times, I found a self confidence that I never had before. Committing to myself to run 4-5 days/week made me more apt to keep commitments to others. I found an outlet for my excess nervous energy and drive to succeed. I often say that running saved my life and I truly believe it.

But that isn't to say that running works for me all the time. Case in point, this week. If you follow me on facebook, you know that I experienced a very stressful event and as is typical for me, I'm having trouble moving past it. Initially, talking about the trauma of finding a cyclist after he was hit by a car was helpful for me. A day and a half after the incident, I started to feel better and wanted to let it go. But this morning, there it was again. My mind started rolling the film. My speed work session was less than stellar as I fought with my mind to focus on the run and push those other thoughts out of my head. And then there was that other runner, the guy who said something to me as he passed me. I couldn't hear it because I had my headphones in and of course, I immediately thought he said something negative to me. Because that's how I roll. The more I ran, the more my mind dragged me down.

When I went to work out with Becky for my crossfit training, I started talking about this. She sternly lectured me about needing to push these events away. "Yes, it was terrible, what happened to the cyclist," she said. "but it's over and you have to move on. You have to let it go."

I know. How many times have I heard these words. I haven't even seen the movie Frozen, and I know there is a song with that very title.

But how do I do that? How do I shut off those thoughts that run through my head?

Over 2000 years ago, Buddha described my very issue as "monkey mind".  Buddha described the mind as full of monkeys, all jumping around, clamoring for attention. Have you ever laid down to go to sleep and a million thoughts are running through your head? Or go out for a run and find your mind wandering? Do you have trouble focusing on your pace, your breathing? Sound familiar? How do I tame my monkey mind? And can we call it something else? Because I really don't like monkeys at all. Although they represent the perfect metaphor for how my mind feels when I can't settle it down.

There is meditation, yoga, breathing exercises; all calming activities for sure, but what if you can't shut off your mind to focus on these activities? I turned to my favorite resource for all things running: Runners World. And yes, they had an article on this very subject. The author takes some of the principles of meditation and applies them to running.

For example, by focusing on your breathing and your feet hitting the pavement, you can get yourself out of your head. I've actually done this before when I've worked on breathing through a side stitch. I count to 4, while inhaling and exhaling. Because I usually get side stitches on the right, that 4th breath is timed so I exhale on my left foot . I usually experience side stitches because my breathing is ragged. This breathing technique has helped me many times to get my run back on track. I have never thought about using breathing while running to calm my mind.

Another technique to calm down and get your head back in the run is to check in with your body. Are your fists clenched?When I notice this, I shake out my hands and arms.  Is your jaw clamped shut? This always reminds me of my prenatal classes. The instructor was teaching us breathing techniques and she said that you can't clench your teeth and relax at the same time. This is advice that has stuck with me for all these years. Some runners hunch their shoulders. Sometimes your legs get stiff and you can feel your feet slapping the ground. It is ok to stop and stretch, by the way! Take a few deep breaths and get your heart rate under control. Sometimes that is all you need to do. I've done this and it really helps me to refocus. By consciously relaxing, you shift your focus to those areas that need attention and out of your head.

While I'm writing this, I keep thinking about my Rodney Yee yoga video and the words of wisdom he imparts throughout. "Consciously letting go" is something he says, and every time he does, I let out a sigh and relax. Maybe I need Rodney to go on a run with me! Another bit of yoga wisdom I've heard over and over is to "be present". What does it mean to be present?

To me, being present means being conscious and focused on the moment you are in. Being present means if you are running, you are focused on that activity. Breathing, pace, stride, and generally overall how you are feeling--that should be your focus. If you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge it, and focus back on the activity at hand. Try to shut those negative thoughts down.

Negative self talk does no one any good. We all know that. Yet the very nature of the runner is one of a type A, perfectionist personality. I don't know about you, but one bad run and I'm beating myself up. Just this morning, I started to berate myself for not being able to stay on pace. Seriously. I need to catch myself doing that and stop it! I have found that listening to music while I run, especially music with a positive message, can help me when my energy is flagging. I like to listen to music with a driving beat, and so I tend to listen to rock and rap. If I can lose myself in the music--hey, isn't that an Eminem song--yep, on my playlist--I tend to have really great runs.

Eminem does say it best:

"You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime"


"Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not"


"So here I go, it's my shot
Feet fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got"


"you can do anything you set your mind to, man"
-Eminem "Lose Yourself"

Staying positive and confident is tough. Life interferes with our ability to stay focused on the task at hand. This week taught me that I still have a lot work to do with letting go and moving on. Besides letting go of everyday nonsense, I have to let go of that bad 1st marathon. I have to trust my training. I have to trust my trainer. If I have a bad run, I need to move on to the next one. I've got it in me to do this and do it well. I just have to believe it.

Training for a marathon is so much more than the physical work. And I'm a work in progress.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Marathon training week 1

It's no secret that I'm late to the Chicago marathon training party. If you haven't been following me, to bring you up to date, I found out 1 1/2 weeks ago that I won a free entry to the Chicago marathon. Which, of course, I'm extremely excited about! Prior to this, I had been talking with my trainer, Becky, about marathon training and decided that if I would do another marathon, I would let her train me. She promised me that we had plenty of time to get ready, since I already had a good base and we just finished 6 weeks of very heavy lifting. Becky made a marathon training plan for me, and week one is in the books. Here's how it fell out:

Monday: crossfit interval training with Becky- she had me start out on the rower doing progressive distances: 100m, 200m, 300m, 200m, 100m. These were done as fast as possible, with a short rest in between. The rower always kicks my butt--makes my heart rate soar. After that, I did 1 minute kettlebell swings alternating with 1 minute jump roping; 30 seconds rest in between. Three rounds. I couldn't finish one minute without stopping to catch my breath each time. Wow. That was tough. Think you're in shape because you run fast? Or far? Here's something to humble you. Every. damn. time.

Tuesday: 5 miles at race pace. Which race pace I was supposed to run at wasn't specified. I averaged 8:46, which is somewhere between my 10k and half marathon pace. Definitely not what I'm shooting for during the marathon! It was a good run and I felt great after. Hello, runners' high!

Wednesday: Yoga. Due to scheduling conflicts with my son's football camp, I haven't been able to go to the studio much this summer. I have been practicing yoga at home. This week, I did the video developed by Lululemon for Seawheeze 2014, which is an amazing post run workout.

Thursday: Speed work aka speed play aka mile repeats x5. This was fun! I love to run fast, and this was a blast for me! I wasn't quite sure how to pace myself, because I've never done this before. Becky recommended 15-30 seconds faster than race pace, but if I used my marathon timing for that, it wouldn't be speed work. LOL! So I just went all out and here are how my splits fell out:

Becky told me the goal is consistency, so it looks like I need to slow down a little bit so that I can make 8:10 my target pace on every mile. This would again be based on my 10k or half marathon pace. 

Friday: rest day. I worked 9 hours--doesn't really count as rest. I did go for a walk at lunch because it was so cold in the clinic! 

Saturday: 4 miles, slightly faster than race pace. I killed this run! I was tired too, so I don't know what got into me. But my average pace was 8:24 min/mile. Maybe it was the speed work? We took a ride up to Lake Wisconsin to do some waterskiing. I took one turn around the lake. My legs felt good but tired. 

Sunday: 10 miles, long run. I got up early and had my pre-run meal of cheerios and a cup of coffee. I was a little nervous for for this run, which is unusual for this distance for me. But we were in Wisconsin, I had to run on rural roads, and there are a lot of hills here. I started off fairly slow, first mile was 9:23 min/mi, which I was pleased with. But in spite of my best efforts and all those hills, I increased my speed. I felt good, so I didn't think I was running that fast. Miles 4 and 5 were sub 9 and that isn't where I want to be when I'm running 26.2. I even walked part of some of the steeper hills, and still wound up with an average 9:09 min/mi for this run. I was exhausted at the end and that isn't good. I had a few other issues during this run: my yurbuds, which never give me trouble, kept falling out of my ears. Spotify, even though I set the playlist to play "offline", would stop mysteriously every couple of songs. Those 2 issues should be non-issues in my book, and I need to figure that out, quickly. I had to carry water (I added Nuun energy) which I never do, because at home I run where there is water available. I will say the Nuun energy added a little boost about mile 6, when I really started to struggle. I used my handheld amphipod. It was a little awkward at first. I haven't used it since the last time I trained for a marathon--3 years ago! I just can't do the fuel belt--I hate stuff around my waist. And filling those little bottles seems like a major pain to me.

Some good things happened on the run, too. No tummy issues at all! I did spot a few portapotties along the way, so there was a safety net just in case nature called. And the route I ran was spectacular. For every uphill, there was a downhill. Still, I'd love a do over, but I've been told that isn't going to happen, and so I will move on.

Summary: Even in spite of my less than stellar long run, this week gave me a lot of confidence. I can see how strong I've become, just by looking at my split times. My legs feel strong, and one thing I have noticed, especially on the hills, is the power I'm getting from my glutes and hamstrings. In 20 years of running, I have never felt this before. It actually feels like my legs are pushing me, not the opposite. To me, that's really amazing and a testament to the work that Becky is having me do. She may not be a runner, but she's making me stronger and this is making running really fun again!

Coming up: Week 2: Tomorrow was a scheduled rest day, but I don't start work until 1, so Becky and I trying to coordinate another CF interval session.  Tuesday is 6 miles at race pace, Weds is yoga, Thursday is speed play again, Friday is a rest day, Saturday, 4 miles slightly faster than race pace, and Sunday is a bike ride. No long run, which is a little scary for me. 

But everyone tells me to trust the plan. So I will! Because:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Running for my life

Today while I was at work I received a text from my mom. My dad, who has been suffering from back pain but has gotten much worse recently, saw a specialist in Chicago today. The news was not good. Per my mom (who is not a medical person), he has 2 crushed vertebrae, a bulging disc--basically a mess in his lower back. He will need surgery, which they were hoping to avoid, most likely a spinal fusion. It will be his second go round with back surgery.

My dad has had physical problems for quite a while. His first hip replacement was at age 55, twenty years ago. He had a spinal fusion about 10 years ago. The other hip replacement about 7 years ago. A knee replacement 3 years ago.  All these surgeries were the result of severe degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis. A "normal" part of the aging process, although I do believe he's having it worse than most.

My motivation for staying in shape has changed over the years. When I was in my 30s, I ran to outrun anxiety and depression. In my 40s, I ran to help me cope with the stress of child rearing and a career. And wanting to keep up with my boys. Now, in my 50s? All of the above. But more importantly? I run to stave off the aging process.

Yep, I'm running from old age.

I look at my dad and see what could be. Is this my destiny? Or can I slow the inevitable process of getting old?

Apparently I can! Science backs me on this. A large study in 2013 demonstrated that running significantly reduced the incidence of osteoarthritis and the need for hip replacement surgery. This includes participation in marathons! The researchers thought this may be due in large part to the reduction in BMI. Another study investigated why runners get less knee osteoarthritis than non-runners. Something to do with peak load and hitting the ground...apparently running has no more impact on the knees than walking. Best of all is a study that found running 3 times per week prevents premature aging in every organ in the body. Of course, the study was done in mice so say what you will about that....

And then there was this awesome study that shows how exercise can reverse skin changes due to aging...I'm all over that! Although the mirror tells a different story...

Now my dad has always been active, but not an exerciser. He always carried a couple of extra pounds around his waist. I have no doubt that contributed to his back problems.

Ironically, when I told my parents that I was running another marathon this year, they were both very concerned. Worried that I was going to hurt myself.

More than my dad is hurting? I hope not.

So yeah, my big toe pain is probably some arthritis. My knees crackle like Rice Krispies when I walk down the stairs. But they don't hurt. The first joint in my right hand is sometimes swollen and tender. And I've got more gray hair than anyone except my colorist will know about. But as long as I can, I'm going to keep on moving.

This is my motivation now.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Plan

Marathon training officially kicked off for me this morning. Sure, I ran 8 miles yesterday. But today I met with Becky at the CF box to go over my training plan and begin my journey. So now, it's real.

This morning she had me jump right in with interval training. First I was on the rower. 100 meters, 200 meters, 300 meters, 200 meters, 100 meters--each interval as fast as possible. Rest in between. The rower gets my heart pumping like no other activity.

Then she had me do kettlebell swings x 60 seconds alternating with jump rope x 60 seconds, three rounds with 30 seconds rest in between. Sounds simple, right? I couldn't complete one interval without having to stop and catch my breath. At one point, I felt like I was going to vomit. It was raining outside and in between intervals, I stuck my head out the door. The cool rain felt good. This is going to be hard!

Running a marathon is hard. Runners know this, and so I do believe this challenging training is going to make me stronger and more confident. I have no doubt that physically, I am up for the challenge. It is my brain that I have to convince.

So here's the overview of my training plan:

-Running 4x/week, for the most part. Becky has me biking every 3rd week on long run Sundays. When I objected to this, she told me just to play along. She did relent and tell me that if I had to run on those days, I could do a few miles along with the bike, a brick-type workout.
-Sunday long runs continue. My longest run is 18 miles, 3 weeks before the marathon. There are quite a few 12 and 14 milers sprinkled in there. My highest mileage week is 3 weeks before the marathon--38 miles.
-Speed work! I've never done speed work before, officially, except for intervals on the treadmill during the winter. This speed work is once weekly 5 x 1 mile at :15-:30 secs faster than race pace, with recovery between each mile. Mid-August, these change to 3 x 2 miles. Yikes! I'm going to head over to my favorite retention pond, where there is a 2 mile loop. It should be easy for me to run these there.
-My Saturday "quickies" will continue to be just that--tempo-type 4-5 mile runs.
-Yoga every Wednesday (whew!)
-Crossfit intervals every other Monday (like what we did today)
-Crossfit every Thursday
-Taper 2 weeks before the marathon

Now that it's on paper, it doesn't seem so crazy, does it? The running looks fairly conventional, but now I have some CF sprinkled in. It feels good to have a plan, a custom plan at that!

I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. So let's do it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My second chance

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my employer. They were giving away 10 free entries to the Chicago Marathon. All I had to do was post a picture of myself doing something active on Instagram and tag it with #inspiredtorun and #healthiestlife.

My employer is one of the largest employers in the Chicago area, and I didn't think I had a chance. But I decided that if I won, it was my time to run, and I would do it. So I posted this picture:

because waterskiing is cross training, right?

...and forgot about it. Until last week, when one of my coworkers posted a picture of the Fitbit she had won through the contest. I figured that I didn't win, felt briefly sad, but then started to think about next year. I started looking ahead to spring and fall marathons. I even talked about it with my trainer. Quietly, I was actually making the decision to run a second marathon.

Tuesday, I came home from work and was checking my facebook when I saw this:

Who's that waterskiier? My heart started to pound and I couldn't breathe. I had to read the caption multiple times. Because guess who won? Besides 9 other people? Yep, me!

My husband asked me what was wrong. I must have been gasping for air. Shocked. And also, I never win anything! Well, anything big, that is!

I told my husband and he came over to look. "You don't have to run it, you know," he said. I explained my logic to him. But instead of discouraging me, like he did when I signed up in 2011, he told me that was fine. Then he asked me what the entry fee was, I told him. $185. "Nice," he said. Pretty good prize, I think!

Ok, so that hurdle was cleared.

That night, I couldn't sleep. My mind just swirled with thoughts:... marathon training already started 2 weeks ago...I'm behind in my I'm not, because I already have a strong base (minus the 4 weeks I took off for my injury) am I going to train for this? While Hal Higdon's novice 2 plan trained me adequately for the marathon, the high mileage took a toll on my body. In the past, Becky told me she could train me for another marathon, and my longest run would be 16 miles. Oh, so appealing. I get to run the marathon for free!

And so it went. Flight of ideas...isn't that a psychiatric diagnosis? Aren't we runners all crazy? Maybe some of us more than others.

Today I went for my weekly CF training with Becky. We were wrapping up our 6 week heavy lifting and in between deadlifts, we talked about my training. Basically it boils down to this: less running, more lifting/intervals/HIIT. She'd like me to come more than once/week to work with her. I think it will be worth it.

I tried conventional marathon training for my last marathon, and you can read about that outcome here. I'm not saying it was the training. Certainly up until my 20 miler, I felt well prepared physically. My 20 miler went off without a hitch in 3:18. But the day of the race? It was 80 degrees and sunny. My nerves were frazzled. And I fell apart.

Do you believe in second chances? In fate? Really, how weird is it that this happened? I feel like this is a gift given to me to prove to myself that I've got it in me to run a marathon the way I know I can. Non-runners tell me that just running one is good enough. True. I thought that myself. Until I didn't live up to my expectations. But I want to cross that finish line strong. Smiling. And able to enjoy that post race beer. It is Goose Island 312, after all...

I'm already thirsty!

I've done the race before and I know what to expect--the course, the crowds. This time will be different though. I'm stronger than I was 3 years ago--physically and mentally. I have the support not only of my family and friends, but of my circle of running friends, none of whom I knew before. They'll all be there because they are running it too. And I have a trainer who believes in me and believes strongly in what she's doing. Marathon training should not be one size fits all. But that's what these training plans are. There's no science behind them--they're written by runners who have run marathons and found a formula that works for them. And a lot of marathoners don't have the miles on their legs and feet that I do. I've been running for almost 25 years. That's a lot of wear and tear! If there's a way I can get to that finish line without breaking down my body, let's do it.

Yep. Let's do it!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Frontier Days Stampede Race

It has been a long time since I ran anything shorter than a half marathon--with the exception of the CARA 10 miler. Actually the last time I ran a 10k was 10 years ago, and it was this very same race. I don't like to run shorter races for one reason, economy. Since I normally run 6 miles on a training day, it doesn't seem right to me to pay to run a distance that I already run. Of course, I don't race every time I run 6 miles, so there is that to consider.

But since I missed my half marathon in May due to injury and my recovery is going well, I figured I'd run this one. It is my hometown race and I knew I'd see a lot of people I know there. Plus we stayed home this weekend--we are usually out of town over the 4th. My boys begged us to stay home so they could hang out at the festival with their friends.

Surprisingly, I had trouble sleeping last night. I was a little keyed up about the race, I guess. We had a dinner of ribs, which isn't the best pre race fuel. I only ate 3 ribs, so there's that. And I kept telling myself, it's only a 10K.

I drove to the race and was stunned by how difficult it was to find a place to park. One of my friends was riding her bike down to the race and I started to think it was a good idea. I finally parked about 6 blocks away--granted, this is Arlington Heights, not downtown Chicago. I walked to the start line and found myself standing next to one of my neighbors. We made small talk and when the gun went off, I thought he'd take off. Meanwhile I was waiting for my Garmin to get a signal. No such luck. We crossed the start line and away we went.

He ran with me for a few blocks and then pulled ahead. I dropped back into a comfortable pace, trying to take that first mile slow, since I had to run by feel and not by Garmin. I turned up my music and moved along. Interestingly, my neighbor was only about 10 feet ahead of me. At mile 2, though, I passed him.

The race meanders through the neighborhoods. Both the 5K and the 10K runners run together for the first 3 miles. The course isn't packed, but there was a lot of maneuvering to get around slower runners for the first 3 miles. After the 5K runners turned off to the finish, the road opened up. It was at that point that Spotify decided to crap out on me. I ran in silence for a few minutes. I thought I would try it music free. But I really do depend on my music for pacing and to push me, and so I pulled out my phone and restarted the song while I was still running. Thankfully, it was Never Enough by Eminem, which was just the push I needed. I saw another one of my neighbors directing runners.

All along the course, I saw people I knew, which was really fun!

At mile 4 I stopped to get water and catch my breath. I didn't want to do it, but I was running fairly fast, a little out of my comfort zone, and I wanted to get myself back together. Knowing it was a 10K, I was really pushing my pace. After about 20 seconds, I started running again. There were a couple of slight downhills, which really helped me recover and get back into a groove. When I saw the final turn to the finish, I kicked it into high gear. This is only the second race that I have had that final burst of energy at the finish and it feels amazing! I crossed the finish line 53:31, chip time 53:16. Good enough for 2d in my age group. But it wasn't a PR! In my race 10 years ago, I finished 53:08. Only 8 seconds slower in 10 years? I'll take it!

I headed to the snacks and looked for my neighbor to congratulate him, but he was no where to be found. The post race spread was amazing. I grabbed a coconut water, which is my new favorite recovery drink, and a couple Core Power chocolate drinks, which are my go to protein drinks. Delicious! There was fresh cut watermelon and other fruits, kefir, bagels (of course), and water.

I found my friends Karen and Jim, who own the training facility where I work out with Becky. We snapped photos and compared race notes. I headed over to check my results, but was disappointed to find out they weren't complete. I waited and waited, still no results. :( I also ran into my boys' orthodontist, an avid cycler and runner, who crushed his 5K with a time of 20:something. That is smokin' fast, and this guy is around my age! I waited for a while to see if my results came up but they never did, so I finally went home. But as I left, the kids race was starting and it was about the cutest thing I have ever seen. "Be sure to follow the policeman", the announcer said. These little guys were flying down the block and back. Awww....

All in all, a fun time. I just might have to do it again next year!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unexpected reflections

You never know when you will be inspired--or by whom.

This morning, I went to the local running store to pick up my race packet for tomorrow's 10K. While I was there, I ran into the owner of the store. I asked him how he was feeling and if he was back running. He shook his head.

About 5 months ago, this avid runner and supporter of the local running community was closing up shop for the night when he collapsed. He was rushed to the emergency room and was found to have an aortic dissection. An aortic dissection is when there is a tear in the aorta, one of the large arteries that carries blood from the heart to the body. There are many causes for aortic dissection, including genetic factors. I asked the owner if it was genetic and he said that yes, his father died from a massive heart attack, and his nephew, age 27, died suddenly last year of heart related causes. He never had himself tested, because, as he put it, he felt a sense of invincibility because he was a runner, because he had completed all types of challenges, and most recently was training for an adventure race in Belize. He had done some training with the Navy Seals and was pretty much able to keep up with them, and so he felt like he had nothing to worry about. Interestingly, the race was scheduled for 5 days after he became ill. He was ready to roll, training was complete. What if this had happened while he was in Belize, in the mountains, on the course? Certainly it would have been a very different outcome.

Luckily for him, the local paramedics got him stabilized and to the emergency room, where he was treated and later cared for in the ICU. Many cases of aortic dissection progress so fast that treatment is futile. And that's what hit me when I was talking with the owner-- he said to me that he is lucky to be alive. Truly! Yet when I was talking with him, I didn't get the sense that he felt completely lucky. I missed that spark in his voice. He just seemed kind of flat, and even admitted to me that he's just lost his mojo. I asked him if it helps, being around runners in the store and at races, and he said it does, a lot.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about our conversation since I left the store. All the what ifs in my head. All the stupid aches and pains and minor injuries that we, as runners, complain about. What if you suffered a health problem so severe that you could NEVER run again? And for this guy, what about the irony of owning a business that caters to runners and being told you can never run again? A community of people that you belong to, all participating in an activity that you have done for your entire life, that you love, that you can never do again? And yes, he's alive but what a sacrifice he's had to make, giving up an activity that we all know gives us so much joy, so many rewards, not to mention health and fitness. And now, a new found fear of mortality.

And that's the other thing. We as runners all push our limits. We push each other to push limits. So how much is too much? When you read stories about runners who drop dead at the finish line, does it make you pause and think about your own mortality? Do you think about your own health? Or do you think that would never happen to you? I have to admit that I think that! I'm a woman, I'm fit, I eat right, and I've been running most of my life. I have been told that I'm at very low risk for cardiac disease. And I push my limits because it does make me feel invincible. When I get hurt, it reminds me that I'm human and that I need to reevaluate my goals, reevaluate what it is I'm doing here.

Because yes, at this point in my life, I run because I can. But I also run because I want to push my limits. To prove that I'm not old. That I can still do this stuff. But today's conversation was a reminder that I also need to take care of myself. And be grateful that I can run.

You know, everything in moderation. It is my mantra.

As for the owner of the running store, my heart is broken for him. I don't care what a brave face he puts on, he's hurting inside, and it shows. I hope with time, he'll be able to accept what fate has handed him. I can only imagine how hard that must be.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

This guy...

I don't think I've ever featured a book on the blog but today I implore all of you to read this book:

I've seen a lot of runners and facebook pages ask the question: What is your favorite running book? I have to admit that I loved Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  But if I had to pick a true favorite, I have to say that Unbroken is not just my favorite running book but one of my favorite books of all time. Unbroken, is a running book for the masses. My dad just loved this book. When I talked to my dad today, we talked about Louis Zamperini, the subject of Unbroken, who died earlier this week at the age of 97.

97 years old! Can you imagine that? Especially after the life that Mr Zamperini lived.

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, a track standout at USC who set a record of 4:08 for the mile--a record that stood for 15 years. He was an Olympic hopeful who enlisted in the Army Air corp during WWII after the Olympics were cancelled. His plane fell into the ocean and he was captured by the Japanese and placed in a concentration camp after 47 days at sea in a life raft. Did you even know there were Japanese concentration camps? Most of the stories told about WWII focus on the cruelty of the Germans but the Japanese were just as rotten to their prisoners. There was physical torture but according to Zamperini, the mental torture was far worse. His torturer was later charged as a war criminal. But Zamperini said his athletic training helped him stay strong during his internment:
“For one thing, you have to learn self-discipline if you are going to succeed as an athlete,” he said. “For another thing, you have to have confidence in yourself and believe that no matter what you’re faced with, you can deal with it — that you just can’t give up. And then there’s the aspect of staying in shape. And humor helped a lot, even in the gravest times.”

Mr Zamperini was released from the prison camp in 1945. He was married for 54 years and raised 2 kids.

His story is being made into a movie. But don't wait for the movie. Read the book--you know the book is always better than the movie. Zamperini's mental toughness, which he attributes to athletics, is truly inspirational. Courageous and spirited, Louis Zamperini was a true American hero. And the perfect subject for a post on Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

License to thrill

I came home from my wonderful weekend getaway to find an unpleasant surprise in the mail. I received not just one, but two red light camera tickets. To those of you who live in a much more civilized part of the world, red light cameras are a money making scheme in the guise of "traffic safety". If you stop for less than 3 seconds at a red light before you make a right hand turn, the camera snaps a picture of your license plate and it's guilty as charged. As you might imagine, these red light ticket cameras are a huge money maker for the towns that use them. The cameras are popping up all over the suburbs and the city of Chicago. People hate them so much that some towns around here (including the one I live in) refuse to install them. The cameras are owned by a private company, and they too make a hefty profit. The good news is that these tickets can't go on your driving record. So I've got that going for me.

But apparently, I'm hell on wheels, since I got two of them in a week, in two different towns. At $100 a piece, this is a costly mistake on my part. I need to remind myself to count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand every time I stop at a red light. Or I could check my phone while I'm waiting. But that's illegal! Or just not turn at all. That'll show them. Yes, I'm bitter. Can you tell?

My husband lectured me on my driving. This is what I heard:

Do you ever just tune out your spouse? As if I didn't feel badly enough. Think of all the things I could do with $200? That would have covered the entry fee to the Chicago Marathon this year! When I told my father, his response was: "those damn bastards!". My dad always says the right thing to make me feel better.

But believe it or not, this post isn't even about my leadfoot driving ways. I have been giving all of this a lot of thought. And all that thinking leads me to this:

Do you run like you drive? Or vice versa?

Are you Speed Racer?

Or are you Cautious Clay?

I drive to work on a really busy suburban arterial road. My commute is truly a test of patience. Along the way are a lot of shopping centers, gas stations, offices, and other miscellaneous businesses. People are pulling in and out of entrances along the road all the time. Going painfully slow while they look for an address or a store, slamming on the brakes, and often not signalling a turn. I find myself changing lanes to avoid people turning and pulling onto the road. Sometimes I change lanes because people are going too slow. Or too fast, when I have someone tailgating me. At times, it reminds me of an obstacle course. Or....

A race course? Indeed it does. When you run a crowded race, do you start out slow, letting people pass you? Or do you zig zag between people, jockeying for a smooth patch of pavement? Do you hate getting behind a slow pack of runners, and stew while trying to find an opening so you can get ahead and back on pace? Do you get annoyed at people who are pushing your pace while they are trying to get around you? Have you ever gotten behind someone who stops suddenly and you have to maneuver to avoid slamming into them?

OMG, running a race is just like driving!

I'm sure by now you've figured out how I race. I'm so glad there aren't surveillance cameras on the course. I'd probably get a ticket. Or two. Only if I don't stop long enough when I'm turning right...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Who motivates you?

It's been a while since I've written anything on the blog. Life, it seems, has taken over. Summer is really busy...not so much for me, but for my 2 teenage sons. My oldest has a part time job, and my youngest, who will be a freshman in high school this fall, has daily football camp. Which he needs a ride to and from--twice weekly. I'm carpooling with another mom on the days that I work in the morning. So basically on the days that I have to drive, I get up early, go running, drive him and his friend to camp, come home to get myself ready for work, pick them up, bring them home, and head off to work. When I get home from work at night, they're gone with their friends. It's a new phenomena for my husband and I, and I'm not sure I like all this newfound alone time. As I write this, my husband is snoring on the couch. Living the dream, I am.

I miss my down time. But most of all, I miss my boys and all the fun times we used to have together.

But last weekend, we went off to the north woods of Wisconsin, as a family, and had a fabulous time. 

We went to my parents' summer home. We ate. And we sunned. We boated. And ate some more. But we were also really active.

We kayaked:

And we did this: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP): 

So what does this have to do with running, you ask? And what does this have to do with motivation?

Would I be able to do all this with my teenage boys if I didn't run? Running, cycling, yoga, and lifting weights gives me the energy to keep up with them; to be able to spend time with them doing things all of us enjoy. I've always said I don't want to be that mom who is sitting on the sidelines. I want to be able to keep up with them.

Truthfully, I don't run just so I can keep up with them. I run because I want to run, because it makes me feel good. I took in a couple of beautiful runs while we were in this amazing place. I love to run. I run for me. But as my sons grow older and want to spend more time away with their friends instead of me, I need to find things we can all enjoy together. And keeping physically active allows me to do these things.

While we were paddleboarding out on Green Bay, the wind shifted. I struggled to paddle back to shore. the wind kept blowing me back and at times, I felt a little panicky. I used my mental strength, honed from years of running long distances and pushed through to get myself to the pier. Later, I asked my boys if they got a little nervous that they weren't going to make it in. My oldest just kind of rolled his eyes at me. But my youngest nodded. 

"That was tough," he said. We smiled at each other.


Who motivates you? Or what motivates you?