Lessons Learned from Skipping My Rest Day…

Never in a million years did I think that working on speed would lead me on the emotional journey I’ve been on, but here we are. Growing pains all around. Along with my struggle with dissonance and seeing myself as I am, I’ve also really been struggling to see progress in my running lately. I’ve been struggling to hit my paces, 5ks have been slower than I know I’m capable of, and it’s been bugging me. I’m putting in work and I’m trying and I just don’t see that I’m getting anywhere.

I had a heart to heart with my coach. I talked to my BRF. I tried to relax and trust the process. On Wednesday I did my tempo run on the treadmill so I could prove to myself that the paces are possible, and that it’s possible for me to push through and sustain them–which I did. Then on Thursday, it was the first Flash 5k of the season for SCRR, and while it was supposed to be my rest day, I got coach’s blessing to participate as long as I took it easy.

Ever one to follow the rules, I went into it with the plan to take it easy. I didn’t even bring my watch with me, I left it at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to push. I started the Strava app, put it in my pocket, and went. I did what felt good at any given point in time–sometimes I ran hard, sometimes I backed off, sometimes I walked–and I didn’t stress about it. I was out to have a run and fun with my friends. I came in around 33:47–which was my race pace last year when I was trying. I was pumped because I took it so easy. I wasn’t trying. In that moment I could see the progress that my coach and friends assured me was happening.

This was reinforced on Saturday. I did the Yinzer 5k, and I went in with the intention of racing it and going sub-30 again, but I was also aware that I had skipped my rest day and was working with tired legs, so I figured I’d give it my best shot and see what happened. I kept up with the 9:30s for the first mile, but then I started cramping so I backed off, got some water, walked a minute. I picked it back up for mile 3 and finished in 31:36. Just 6 seconds off of my PR from last fall. If I could do that when it wasn’t even my best effort…that’s progress.

Even yesterday when I was doing my recovery workout on the rower–when I first started I could do about 10 minutes on the rower before my back would start screaming at me, yesterday I did a solid 20 minutes and could have kept going. I love how strong I’m getting. It’s a good place to be going into another track workout.

More soon…

Emotional Overload…(dissonance, part 2)

“You do not appreciate how far you have come.”

That pretty much sums up this week (while also being one of the biggest understatements of my life). Damn this week was an emotional rollercoaster.

Monday, I had a timed mile workout–since the next big goal is Liberty Mile and the challenge that started this whole thing–we needed to get a baseline for where I am at this point in my training. And the results were decent–9:10, about 45 seconds faster than Liberty Mile last year. Not what I personally had hoped for (I was hoping for sub-9) but not terrible. And I definitely gave my all–I had 2 more miles after that to do and my calves were TOAST after that mile…I walked a LOT of the next mile trying to get my legs back under me, which frustrated me, but again, is what it is. I guess the seeds of what would come later were planted in this workout.

Tuesday was unremarkable. Solid workout at the gym. Wednesday, however, was a big old mess. I was in a bad headspace. Still kinda miffed at my performance on Monday, my brain went back to the half and I was pissed that I missed that goal. Then I looked at my tempo workout for that day and instantly felt defeated–I just knew I couldn’t do it. I frequently look at my workouts and know it’s going to be a stretch–but that’s the POINT. If I don’t go for things that seem just slightly out of my reach I won’t improve. I get there by going for it. But in that moment, this workout felt impossible and I spent all day worrying about it and when it was time to execute I fell apart. I *couldn’t* do it. I couldn’t get myself anywhere *close.* The wheels came off. I literally stopped and cried on the trail at one point. It was as though every negative thought I’ve ever had about myself was presenting itself for duty during that run (and given my general tendency to be overly self-critical…this is no small feat). I got through it and got 5 miles in, nowhere near what I wanted or what they should have been but done and on the books no less.

I went home and tried to talk it out with my BRF, or more accurately, I lost my shit and he tried to give me perspective and talk me down. It didn’t really work. I went to bed hoping some sleep would hit the re-set button and I’d feel better in the morning. It did, a little. I was able to be a little more objective about the run. Sent my coach a list of the things I thought went wrong. I spent the day being more gentle with myself and trying to give myself the grace and space to work through these feelings.

It all comes back to the deeper issues of the dissonance I’ve been talking about. I don’t see myself as I am, I see myself as I was and I compare that with what I think I *should* be. And that chasm–invisible though it might be–causes me a lot of distress. When I’m upset about anything, my instinct is to turn that inward and beat myself up–my run wasn’t bad for these 5 external reasons, my run was bad because I’M not good enough. I’m weak, lazy, slow, and fat. The things I’ve always written myself off as and tried like hell to show I’m not. My logical brain realizes that none of these things are true. I am very much a work in progress, but none of the insults I hurl at myself, the things I’ve said since I was a teenager, are true. I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am–personally, professionally, as a runner–and I’m quick to discount all of that the second something doesn’t play out the way I want it to.

I gave myself space on Thursday to process, to recover, to be. And that helped. I went to bed early and was in a much better frame of mind when I got up on Friday. Had a really great workout on Friday night, and a great run on Saturday morning. Sat around after the run drinking coffee and having breakfast with some of my friends. The subject at one point turned to weight loss–as women and runners something we all have at least some experience with. Old pictures started to surface. I pulled up one of my most-striking:

Wow. I’d never have realized that was you. Which strikes me as odd because that’s basically how I see myself. Intellectually, I get it. Intellectually, I know better. But my self-image is that I’m still 200 pounds…It may not be who I see in the mirror, but it’s who I see in my head. Hard, concrete, irrefutable evidence is starting to chip away at this fallacy. I had a good dose of that over the weekend. Those moments that make you go “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck” because you realize that you’ve been really wrong this whole time. I consciously recognized this weekend how far I’ve come. Not just the lip service of posting old running workouts to Facebook comparing them to more recent ones, not just a ‘transformation Tuesday’ insta post that’s hard for me to look at. But actually, consciously, realizing that I’ve been flat out WRONG about myself and that there are things I need to stop saying to myself to get out of that headspace. Denial is a big part of dissonance, especially in my case. After so much evidence presents you can’t deny any longer and I’m hitting that point.  Baby steps. Inching ever closer to my goals and the person I want to be.

 

Lots more to say, but for now it’s time to get to work. More soon.

Dissonance: a race recap

Definition of dissonance

1a : lack of agreement

  • the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believeespecially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs — compare cognitive dissonance

From <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissonance>

This story started years ago, before I started running, but it’s only grown and changed shape over the years. I’ve talked about it before, it’s hardly new (see this post and this post  among who knows how many others) but it’s the internal struggle I keep coming back to, and I think I’m making some headway after this weekend.

I’ve been training. Hard. Part of why I haven’t been writing as much, I suppose. Speed work, cross training, strength training, core work, tempo runs, long runs, recovery work…I love every minute of it, but the grind isn’t that exciting (if you follow my Instagram at all, I’m sure you probably realize this). My hard work is paying off though–I’m stronger, fitter, faster–all the things I wanted.

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon was my second big goal race for the year. I wanted to break 2:15–a steep goal, considering my previous PR (on this same course) was 2:26:49. Pittsburgh has always been my PR course. I’ve run 19 half marathons as of this weekend and all of my PRs have come at Pittsburgh. It’s not an easy course, but I love it. I prefer challenging courses. And I put in the work. I felt confident going into the race. And it started off great. No pacers in sight, but I managed to hold back for the first mile and not sprint out of the gate like an idiot. I felt good, I felt strong. Then I hit the back half of the course. My second gel sat in my stomach like a rock. The humidity was suffocating and I wished the rain we were anticipating would just come along already. I struggled through the south side and Birmingham bridge (which feels less like a bridge and more like you’re running on the parkway). I saw my goal slipping away. I fought but couldn’t keep my pace. Mile 11 was the worst. Then I saw the sign for Mile 12. I looked at my watch. It was a long shot. Super long. I accepted it was probably not going to happen. But I wanted to see how close I could get. So I dug in. While it helps that the last mile is mostly downhill, I still grunted and groaned and I worked to get there. My goal slipped away but I kept pushing until I got across the finish line. 2:17:44. Not my goal, but a 9-minute PR.

And that last mile is where our story really begins.

That decision to dig in and go for it is where it starts. Last year I wouldn’t have done that. Last year I *didn’t* do that. I would see I wasn’t going to hit my goal and I would half-ass the rest of the race. I’d manage a PR but not what I could’ve done. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t back off–I dug in. My last mile was my fastest of the whole race because as much as I struggled before that, I wasn’t ready to give up on myself and phone it in. And when I think about this race, that is what I’m most proud of. I didn’t hit my goal, but that doesn’t matter. The 9-minute PR is awesome, but it’s a side-effect of the larger point–I DIDN’T QUIT. I dug deep and I fought and I EARNED that. That’s what brings me to tears–the fact I could’ve given up, the way I have so many times before, and I didn’t. I cried a couple of times on my way home from the race, and in fact, I’m tearing up now.

Which brings me back to the start of this post–dissonance. I have been wrestling with it hardcore lately. My BRF asked me this morning how I felt. Physically? A little sore. Not too bad, but enough to remind me that I didn’t just run yesterday, but I actually *raced*. Emotionally? Wrecked. Somewhere between really proud of how it all went down and pissed at myself for missing my goal. He told me to stop, to be proud of myself and proceeded with a fantastic pep talk that did in fact leave me in tears before I went into work. I wish I could’ve taken today off. Races have become so emotional for me lately and it’s all because of the dissonance–as my BRF said, it’s the war between my heart that wants to be happy and proud of my accomplishments, and my brain that doesn’t want to accept it. Your heart, he said, is winning.

He’s right. I’m struggling so much because I still haven’t been able to let go of who I’ve always told myself I am, and who I think of myself as. The more evidence I have that that person *isn’t* actually me, the harder it gets. My brain doesn’t want to be wrong, so it fights. You’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re weak, you’re slow. Built for distance, not for speed. You don’t look like a runner. The cacophony echoes in my head, as it has for years, listing the reasons why I’m not good enough, and never will be.

Bullshit.

Actual evidence suggests that none of that is true. Some of it *might* have been at one point in time, but it isn’t true now. The arguments of my brain have less and less to stand on because the evidence contradicts. And I still have a lot of emotional work to do to release the baggage of who I thought myself to be, but a big hurdle was not quitting on myself yesterday and how incredibly proud of that I am. I met with my coach tonight, and moving into this next training cycle I’m chasing big scary goals I never gave myself permission to consider before. Things I would’ve written off as impossible–but they aren’t. Easy? No, but nothing worth having ever is. Will I reach them? Eventually. Maybe not in the original time line, but maybe I will…I won’t know if I don’t go for it. What I do know is that I’m so excited to try. I’m still trying to figure out who this person is, the one I’ve never given myself permission to be, but so far I kind of dig her and I’m excited to see what she can do.

More soon…

PR Weekend…

So I ran a couple of races this weekend…which hardly seems new, but since I’ve been actually focusing on training I haven’t been racing as much. Saturday was one of the goal races my coach and I had set–the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run 5k. I ran this race last year, only I did the 10k, and it felt VERY strange to not be doing 10k. I mean, I’ve come around and no longer hate 5ks the way I used to, but I still tend to pick slightly longer distances when they are an option. But I digress–this was the goal race we’d chosen for my first big goal: breaking 30 minutes in the 5k.

I came into race day nervous but knowing I had put in the work. I followed my training plan to almost the letter–maybe missed some XT here and there, but my runs were on point. I hit and pushed my paces consistently. I did the work. But I was nervous. Because training was never the hard part for me. My struggle always came on race day, during the race. I would get close, get scared, back off.  I repeated this pattern in almost every race that I actually set a goal for. So while I came into Saturday knowing there was no physical reason I would fail, I was terrified I would back off when I should be digging in. My coach was set to pace the group I started with (9:30s…which still blows my mind–me running sub 10s…what?), and my instructions were to stick with her for the first 2 miles, then she’d push me on my way to speed up, and when I saw the stadium I was to dig in and push hard to the finish. So I kept up for the first mile and a half. Then we hit the only significant downhill in the course and I couldn’t hold back, so I sped up and went with it. And I kept going. I struggled a little in mile 3, but I kept going. I didn’t quit. I didn’t back off. I dug in and pushed through. And it went down just like I pictured it during my speedwork–I crossed the line with 29:something on the clock. The rest was a little surreal to me. I waited for my coach, got my medal, texted with my husband and BRF, and I cried. Official time–29:30. Clock time was 29:56. No matter how you look at it I hit my goal. Average pace 9:25. I knew I could do it but I’m still kind of in awe that I did.

Which brings me to Sunday, when I traveled to Ohio to do the 10-Mile Drop. I actually did these two races back to back last year as well with good results, so I was excited to repeat. The plan going in was to try to hold my half marathon goal pace since we’re just a few weeks out from my next big goal race. The weather sucked–cold and rainy and windy up on the lake. No bueno. It was NOT fun. My friend and I were seriously questioning our life choices on the bus to the start line. But we started. And I started off way faster than half marathon goal pace. But it felt…right. I wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Mile after mile after mile I was hitting sub-10 paces. When I hit water stops my pace dropped some (obviously) but for the most part I was hitting goal pace or faster. Until Mile 9, which was the freaking WORST. Heading back to the finish, running into the cold wind, my pace dropped significantly and the 10-minute pacer finally passed me. But once I hit that Mile 9 flag, and I had one mile left, I dug in. I was starting to struggle again when a guy walking out from the finish area said to us all (though I felt like he was talking directly to me) “3 more minutes! you’re almost there!” I can do anything for 3 minutes, I thought, thinking of all my speedwork. So I dug deeper and pushed through to the finish. 1:39:45, average pace 9:59. I averaged just under 10 minute miles for the whole 10 miles.

Never did I expect that. And I don’t think I would’ve tried that if I hadn’t had the race I did on Saturday. Knowing I could go sub 10 for 3 miles I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it. It’s an “easier” course than Pittsburgh (net is downhill but it’s more flat with a very slight downhill grade) but it’s not as interesting and there’s not much crowd support (even when the weather is better). Still I definitely feel good about my goal for Pittsburgh at this point–if I could do that on a race course that is less fun to me, then I can’t wait to see what I pull off at one of my favorite races.

I’m still pretty emotional about this weekend. I conquered a big demon and a big hurdle that had been looming for me. Sky’s the limit at this point. I can do anything–and I’m excited to try.

Long Overdue…

Wow, has it really been over three months since I posted? UGH. I hate that. I could make a bunch of excuses about life being busy–and it has been–but that’s all they are, excuses. Truth is, I’ve been starting posts in my head, but not putting fingers to keyboard and so they just haven’t come to fruition.. There’s almost too much to write about so I didn’t really know where to start.

We left off with me having screamed at my BRF (best running friend) and realizing that I needed to shake up some things if I was ever going to get where I want to be running wise. So I met with a running coach and we decided we’d start working together after the start of the year, and that for the last couple months of 2017 I just needed to focus on continuing to run and keep my base.

Continue to run, I did. One of my dear friends was training for the Disney Dopey Challenge–48.6 miles over 4 days–and I went along for the ride on some of her longer training runs. She was one of the people who made me realize that long runs are always better when you have someone to complain with. Some of them were a real struggle, but we had fun getting lost in the city and figuring out how to get the miles. These runs also reminded me how much I love distance running, and kind of made me miss it–even though I promised that I’m not doing distance this year.

I’m not doing distance this year. Half marathons and shorter. And I MISS it. My friends are mostly training for the full (or longer) and man do I wish I could be out there on their longer runs with them. But I’m focusing on speed and sticking to the plan from my coach–and it’s working. I’m already seeing crazy progress from sticking to the plan. And I love it. I love the hard work. Not to say it’s not without it’s struggles. Cut back weeks are rough for me-my anxiety spirals when I don’t have the quality workouts, so we’re adjusting my plan to keep me sane. Getting faster also means I can’t run with my friends as much. They’re running long and slow–and I can’t. The time is coming for me to graduate pace groups on our Saturday runs and I’m really struggling with it–because even though I’m not running *with* them now, I know they are *there*. I can see them. We start and finish together. I couldn’t handle the group runs before I found my people–there are few things worse than being completely alone in a group. But growth means challenging yourself and being uncomfortable, so soon I’ll bite the bullet and in the end it will be worth it.

Had to adjust my training plan this week because I pushed last weekend’s long run off to Sunday. On Saturday I had the honor and pleasure of filling in as race support crew for my BRF during his third 50k.  His wife came down sick and he needed someone last minute so I jumped in. I had so much fun. I helped more than just him–opening gels, handing out oranges and the occasional beer (since we weren’t drinking them). We had a perfect location set up–I could see him coming and made sure his stuff was ready when he got there so he didn’t lose too much time. And he absolutely crushed his goal, blew it completely out of the water. He PR’d by over 20 minutes. It was incredible to be there to witness it–he’s been training so hard and it’s paying off. I am so incredibly proud of him–you’d think I PR’d by the way I grin when I talk about it. My heart bursts when I think about how far he’s come as a runner in the time I’ve known him, and how he’s pushed me in the process. Five years ago this past weekend we ran together for the first time and it was during the same race he participated in–though he wasn’t running it at the time. In fact, when we talked about the race and the distance he said he would NEVER do that. But he did. And then he did it again. And then he did it again and he CRUSHED it.

In my own world, I PR’d a recent 10-mile race (on a tougher course than I’d set the original PR) by 4 minutes, so I’m getting really excited for my spring goal races to see what PRs I can pull off. I feel myself getting stronger and faster. I’m excited for my friends who are all chasing big goals–new times, new distances, some tackling their first ever races. I don’t know where I would be without this sport, but I’m so thankful for it and the people it’s brought into my life. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for all of us.

More soon (for real, I promise)…

Race Recap: EQT 10-miler (and the Aftermath)

Last Sunday was one of my favorite races of the year, the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler. I love the distance. I love running through the city. It’s fall so the weather is usually right where I like it (cool but not cold) and this year my buddy was actually going to run it too. He had a big race coming up the following weekend and didn’t want to take this too hard, treat it more like a training run, so I asked him to pace me. And instantly I regretted it, but figured I would go through with it and see what happened.

I was in great spirits before the race. I felt good, positive about our goal. I was happy to be with my friends and running in the city I love. Then my watch never got signal. NOT happy about that, but also tried to reassure myself that it was fine, I didn’t have to worry about pace, I just had to keep up. Then we started running and before I knew it my mood soured. I was stuck in my head, spinning wheels of negativity and doubt, and I couldn’t get out. It was a struggle. I wasn’t having fun. The gel I took halfway through was sitting like a rock in my stomach and I was a little nauseous. Our pace fell off. My buddy prodded me to speed up. And I. LOST. My shit. I stopped dead, turned to him, and said “F*CK YOU.” And then I sprinted off because I needed space.

He wasn’t even being a jerk about it. Believe me, he’s been worse to me on training runs, way more annoying, and I’ve wanted to punch him before, but I’ve never *actually* lost it on him. I felt bad pretty instantly. It wasn’t him I was upset with, it was ME. I was mad at myself, but I couldn’t tell myself to F off, so instead I lost it on him. He caught up to me. I apologized (and have since apologized even more profusely). After that, I managed to have fun because the pressure was off. My goal was out of sight so it didn’t matter. I was thankful that he stuck by me for the rest of the race–I didn’t deserve that after my outburst, and would not have blamed him one bit if he’d left my ass. We managed to get some great pics from one of the photographers in our running club. We met up with someone running her first race in the burgh who needed some encouragement. I was faring better near the end of the race, so he told me to go on, he was gonna help her finish. I finished strong and with a course PR, though not the overall PR I’d originally wanted.

That event was a wake up call for me. I wish it hadn’t gone down the way it did, but I also NEEDED that to happen (which is undoubtedly why it did). The breakdown before the breakthrough. I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about it, processing it. I’ve talked about it with different people (including my buddy, to whom I’ve apologized multiple times). I’ve discussed the base issues here in the past, but I’ve never really done the work to confront them. And now I have to. It hit home for me again talking to my trainer friend at the gym Friday night–it really all comes down to the distorted perception I have of myself and the lies I tell myself about who I am. Success in running, to a certain point, fits with my perception. But the level I want–it shatters the way I think about myself. So I get close, I get scared, I back off. Because then I get to be right–I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough. I don’t work hard enough. Etc, etc, etc. For years it’s kept me safe–it hasn’t served me, but it’s kept me *safe*.  And that race was a turning point for me because I cannot do it anymore. I can’t live with the dissonance. I can’t keep up the lies. It is ALL in my head and I came face to face with that reality last week.

I’ve often wondered who I would be without the insecurities I’ve held on to for so long. It’s time to find out. In my soul searching I’ve come to terms with certain things I need to let go of, and I’m doing my best to do that. As far as running goes, I’m meeting with someone about coaching today. I’ve gotten as far as I can get on my own, and I’m ready to seek help in breaking through. Still planning to take a break from distance next year to focus on speed, but I’m already starting to get that marathon itch so I think I’ll be back in 2019.

More soon friends. Happy Monday.

Make A Choice Pittsburgh: Workout with Shaun T

So I said last week was kind of a big week. It really was, in a LOT of ways I have barely scratched the surface on. So I had that mini-breakdown but PR on Sunday at the 5k. The week got better from there. Most of you know that I did Insanity at the beginning of the year, and I LOVE me some Shaun T. He’s amazing. He’s motivational, he’s in it with you, and he never got on my nerves. LOVE him. So when I saw that he was coming to town with the Make A Choice… campaign, and that it was FREE, I JUMPED at the chance to go workout with him. I hoped I’d get to meet him, but just to be in his presence for a live workout was going to be amazing. That day was last Thursday. I left work early so I could park and get to the convention center without hassle. They were selling copies of his book, so I bought one. I waited, and waited, and waited, then finally the man came out on stage in all his Shaun T glory, and let me tell you, the workout did not disappoint. I was sore from Tuesday’s class and Wednesday’s run, but I pushed through. The energy was incredible. And then there was a Q&A session–which I had not been expecting, but was glad to be there for. I only taped one question, but I’m sure I’ll need to hear it at some point, so I’m glad I got it. Then…there was a book signing. I had not realized this when I bought the book, but hey, I had a copy of the book in my possession, so of *course* I was going to have him sign it. Well worth standing in line to meet him and say thank you in person (even though they said absolutely no pics with him…too many people it would take too long).

He was amazing. So personable. So kind. So genuine and real. I wasn’t my normal star-struck self, I talked to him. I joked with him. I only got a minute while he signed my book, but man, I got to meet someone I admire and respect so much. It was awesome. And it took me back to how I felt when I finished Insanity (besides freakin’ exhausted…)…I was really proud of myself for having finished it. I’ve crossed a ton of start and finish lines, it isn’t like I’ve never finished something I’ve started. But it was different with this program. I committed and stuck to it. I genuinely liked it. I definitely saw improvements in my fitness level. And it was the perfect set-up to starting a round of Insanity Max 30 (which I did on Monday).

More soon, friends…

Race Recap: Amherst Skeleton Run 5k

So, I’m a a little crazy. We all know that. I love to run races. I don’t always race them, but I LOVE to take part in them. So I decided it was a good idea to run a 5k the week after my full marathon. Mind you my marathon was not a PR race, and I recovered quicker than I expected–I ran with my crew that Wednesday night and kicked so much ass. So I went to Ohio to run this race with my best friend and her husband. I initially had no plans to ‘race’ it. Just run it. But then there was the threat of her competitive streak coming out so I offered that she could pace me. And she took me up on it.

I’m used to running with people, but not actually having a Pacer. I’m used to being able to do what I want, essentially, which means I seldom push myself as hard as I could. I back off, as is my MO. Not something I’m necessarily proud of, but its how I operate. We didn’t really discuss strategy, which was a mistake. We went hard at it for the first mile plus. And then I started to panic, and couldn’t regulate my breathing. I took a minute and got myself back under control and DID manage to pull off a 5 second PR on my 5k time. Getting there.

What kills me is that I know I could have done better if I hadn’t panicked. And there was no good reason for me to have panicked. Physically I was fine. Mentally…that’s another story. I got in my head, and I, quite literally, choked.

Still it’s a fun little race, and I’m glad I did it. I’m glad my bestie paced me (even though I wasn’t thrilled at the time).

my bestie and I nearing the 5k finish

If I had written this post a week ago, right after the race, it would’ve been different. But it’s been a big week. A lot has happened (mostly good) and I am able to see connections in hindsight. More soon.

Race Recap: Baltimore Marathon

This was it. This was the big thing. The race I’ve been training for for months. All of that time, energy, effort and now it’s over. For what it’s worth, it was a really amazing event for me. No, I didn’t PR. Not even close. But despite that, or perhaps in part because of it, this race was the perfect culmination of this training cycle.

The course was really tough, others words didn’t prepare me. But I got through it. And I had more fun at this marathon than I did since probably my first one, maybe more than that even. I got a pep talk text from one of my buddies on race morning that reminded me to have fun. And that I did.

I ran the first two miles (uphill) with someone I’ve been friends with for a very long time. The initial 3 mile ascent (I kid you not, the first 3 miles are all uphill) puts you in the zoo, where some of the animals were out with handlers. I stopped for selfie with a penguin. I didn’t wear my headphones, instead I just took in the city, I talked to strangers running near me. I had headphones with me in case I felt like I needed them, but even when it got rough I never put them in. I said thank you to as many police officers and volunteers as I could. I smiled at signs and talked to the people holding them. Slapped five with anyone who had their hand out, and tapped every single “power up” sign that I saw along the way. Chatted about being from Pittsburgh and in ‘enemy territory’ when people noticed my Terrible Towel. I took a dixie cup of beer and a shot of tequila when offered. And though I really fell apart between miles 18 and 24, I crossed the finish line running with my Terrible Towel twirling overhead.

penguin selfie

This wasn’t a PR race. It was warmer than it was supposed to have been (though mercifully it wasn’t humid). I wasn’t as ready for the hills as I should’ve been. But I am REALLY proud of myself for this race. I trained hard for it. I stuck it out even though I really wanted to downgrade to the half. I relaxed into it and had a ton of fun. And I EARNED that medal.

awesome medal

All of that said, I’ve been saying through almost this whole training cycle that I was done with fulls for awhile after this, and that was cemented for me during this race. And surprisingly it wasn’t during miles 18-24 when I was really struggling. It was around mile 16, somewhere after the tequila shot. It was all very clear to me that I need to be done for awhile. I’ll never say never. I may take a couple years off and get the itch again (like I did this year). Or maybe this was it. I won’t speculate on that, but it is safe to say that I will not be doing a full next year. Half marathons and shorter for awhile. I really want to work on speed and seeing what I’m capable of there. This was a good race to end on.

approaching the finish with my Terrible Towel

Thanks for sticking by me through this journey, friends. On to the next…

What if you fly…

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly” ~ Erin Hanson

 

There’s a lot going on in my head that I need to unpack. So let’s just start: The truth is that I’m scared to run this marathon. I wish I’d only signed up for the half (or really, the half and the 5k). I’m over the training and the long runs. I’m over being hungry all. the. time. My pace isn’t what I want or think it should be. I haven’t done anywhere near enough hill work, judging by the stories I have heard from others who have done this race. Oh, and forever nagging at the back of my mind is the whole “you don’t look like a runner…” thing (which I admittedly have not heard for awhile, but I have had it said to my face and if you’re like me, that sticks with you).

 

Lots of people have been abuzz about this ‘you don’t look like a runner thing’ lately. Most non-runners imagine that all runners look like the elites they see on TV or news clips. The fact is that most runners don’t look like that. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to running. And performance and ability CAN NOT be judged based on what someone looks like. It just can’t. It’s not a determining factor. People of all shapes, sizes, ages, etc. can be found throughout the pack at any race. Reminders of this have come at a time when I’ve been particularly hard on myself, when I’m already doubting myself and echoes of that person saying to me ‘no offense, but you don’t really look like a runner’ ring through my head. (Have the words “no offense, but…” ever been followed by something that wasn’t offensive? I think not.) Looks aside, I AM a runner. That is a fact. I have been running for 8 years. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but I have been running for 8 years. I have completed 6 (soon to be 7, for better or worse) full marathons, 50k on trail, and countless shorter races and runs. I AM A RUNNER. This is a runner’s body:

It’s not “perfect” (whatever that means). It’s been bigger. It’s been smaller. It’s been beaten up and abused, and yet mile after mile it continues to carry me. I’m not always nice to it, not always fair. But still it delivers for me, time and time again. I’m proud of it. (And for the record, it’s faster than it was when it was smaller…you can’t judge a runner by their body.) I have a troubled relationship with my body, I have struggled with it for longer than I care to admit. But yet it continues to do the things I ask it to. And when I can step back from the world telling me to critique every inch and finding myself in constant excess I’m amazed at what it can DO. It’s gone for 10 hours straight on trails. It’s plugged away for 7 hours on roads when I was so depleted I should’ve just quit. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. And the truth is that I’ve wanted to post a photo like this since this spring when I first got brave enough to wear a bikini on vacation, but I lost my nerve. I got scared and I backed off. Which is, unfortunately, my MO. And so now, even though I’m struggling, I’m putting it out there.

 

I’m scared of this marathon. I don’t know that I’ve trained hard enough for it. My initial time goal is out the window, but if the weather cools off some (please, for the love of all that is holy) I still might actually be able to manage a PR. The fact is that I’m overall faster and in better shape than the last time I ran a full marathon. So even though this is a tough course, I can’t count myself out. I’m going to go out there, give it my best, have as much fun as I can, and see what happens. I need to just stay in the moment and go with it.

 

I still haven’t broken 30 minutes in a 5k. I’ve excused it with the summer weather being awful. That I’m working on distance not speed right now. But the truth is I get scared and I back off. There comes a point when I could keep pushing and I don’t. I pull back. I let myself walk. I give myself minutes when I could just take 30 seconds and press on. The truth is that I’m scared of my potential–I don’t know who I am without the insecurity and what ifs. If I do it, if I pull it off, it’s one less thing I have to hold against myself. One less can’t. The world opens up, and that terrifies me. So I back off. But I’m seeing friends of mine break through. And then crush the next barrier. And I have to face myself and the truth that I am the only thing standing in my way. I can do this. I have to push through my potential and go for it.

 

And it starts with this blog post. And then the marathon. And then I’ll see where it goes from there. I know that I’ll stumble, I know I’ll get in my own way again, but I have to figure out how to push past

it.

 

Til next time, friends.