Saturday, August 24, 2013


Fair Warning:  If you aren't someone who runs long distance, it's possible you could read this post and think I'm completely bonkers.  Just know I am not the only person who does me, okay?  I'm not crazy...well, I guess you could say I am crazy for running long distance in the first place in which case....oh forget it.  I fully embrace and own my craziness.

While I was running my 18 miles this morning, I was playing a lot of mind games with myself in order to help me push through.  I've done this a lot since I started running 6 or 7 years ago, and it's one of my favorite things to talk about with other runners.  In part, because I like to gather new ideas for future runs but also because sometimes it makes me are a couple of my favorites:

-"If you make it to that tree, you can walk a bit" and when I eventually make it to that tree and feel better than I thought I was going to: "If you make it to that lamppost, you can walk a bit" etc....

-While doing a loop, every time I turn a corner I threaten the next road I'm headed towards: "Alright Broadway, I'm coming for you" or if there is a particularly hard hill: "You think you're better than me, asshole?"

...and my absolute favorite from my friend Shawn:

-"Speed Limit 35?  Woah, you'd better slow down buddy, or you'll get a ticket!"

This morning I did Bobolink Trail out and back as part of the long trek and as the sun was coming up, I found myself running through clusters of sunflowers.   They were all facing the rising sun behind me, waiting to greet it and I pretended they had been waiting to say hello to me, so I waved.

My friend and running partner Patty joined me for the last 5 miles today.  Patty and I ran together all this last year.  We got each other through the cold, dark winter and I am so grateful to be her friend.  Unfortunately, she is moving in a couple of days, so this was our last run together.  I decided to arrange it so we could do our trusty everyday 5 mile loop.  When we met up, I almost immediately asked Patty to pretend I hadn't just run 13 miles.  I wanted to trick my brain into thinking we were just on our regular old run.  She was game, and it worked like a charm.  Before I knew it we were done.

I've tried similar mind tricks when it comes to accepting my post baby body.  2 of the strongest are:

1) I imagine myself on my death bed, thinking about my life as a whole.  If in that moment, I decide over 50% of my life was spent worrying about my body I'm going to be seriously pissed at myself.  I know I am.

2) I imagine Zoe going to middle school and high school. I imagine all the other influences that will be present in her life at that time and how many of them will push the "skinny agenda".  I know that her best ammo against those terrifyingly powerful influences will be the messages she gets at home on a regular basis.  I'm determined to never falter on this one and embody the "everyone is different and beautiful in their own way" and "some people have a baby and their stomach flattens out again, and some people's stomachs just stay stretched out" agenda.  Man, that's easier said than done sometimes though.  For instance, I've been struggling lately because this month, 2 people in the span of 2 weeks asked if I'm pregnant.  It got to me.  It got me good.

Then, when I was getting ready for the day ahead after my run this morning and still in visualization mode, I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror before getting dressed.  I looked at my belly and didn't let myself immediately look away.  I looked and looked and didn't look away.... I  don't know where the thought came from, but I started to imagine my body as an underappreciated partner in a relationship.  I imagined my body saying: "I'm allowing you to live a full, healthy life.  I grew the children you adore. You used to smoke, drink and take drugs and I stuck around and stayed strong.  You are 36 years old and you don't have back or knee problems. I withstood 18 MILES this morning, and you STILL don't find me beautiful?  Come ON wake up! What more do you want from me?"  I was shocked at the clarity and truthfulness of my next thought: "I'm sorry, you're right--thank you.  Thank you. Oh my gosh, THANK YOU!!"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Anything is Possible

Lately, I've been thinking a lot on soldiering through difficult life stuff in order to get to the good stuff.  A few weeks ago, Zoe was spending a few days in Denver with Nathan's parents so they could have some special  time with their oh-so-grown-up granddaughter.  The second day they were there I got a phone call saying Zoe was refusing to go on an outing to this amazing, "only in Colorado" type train ride called the Georgetown Loop Railroad.  She had expressed interest in going the day before but had suddenly changed her mind that morning (after the tickets had been purchased).  I asked for Zoe to be put on the phone and after we chatted about some other stuff first, I asked her why she didn't want to go on the train ride.  She said she hadn't realized it was supposed to be so long and was afraid it would be boring.  I told her I understood and then I said "I can't promise it won't be boring--it might be--but it also might be the most fun you've ever had. You wouldn't want to miss out on that just because you think it might be boring do you?  Plus if it's boring, Grandma and Peepaw will be there to keep you company."  She reluctantly agreed to go and told me later she was so glad she went.  It was, in fact, really really fun.

The conversation was a nice reminder for me because I've been worried about our impending move to the exciting land of Who-Knows-Where next May.  We know we'll be wrapping things up in this place we've come to love and call our own and the unknown is stressing us out.  Where will we end up?  Will it be permanent?  Will we like it, love it, hate it, or make the most of it? Will we be able to go back East like Nathan and I both hope to?  Will he have a good job?  Will I find a job I like? Will we be heading toward our "worst case scenario" (ie: no jobs available and sleeping on someone's couch)?...etc.  This past May, reality set in that we had a year left and I completely panicked and these questions were starting to depress me.  I was having a hard time doing any of the things I enjoy doing or seeing the people I love to see without becoming sentimental and teary.  For some magical reason I've found myself in a better place this past month or so, though.  I realized somewhere along the way that Nathan and I have no way of answering any of these unknown questions in this moment.  What if our ideal situation falls into our laps in a few months (or at the last minute even)?  It would  be so sad to think back on our last year here knowing I could have enjoyed it more instead of stressing out so could  be all for nothing.  Also, if we are really bummed about where we are going next, I would be just as sad, or maybe more so, to realize I didn't enjoy Boulder as much as possible while I had it. Besides, no matter where we are next year, I know one thing for sure: I'll be there with Nathan, Zoe and Owen and that is enough to get me through a whole hell of a lot.

This isn't the first time I've realized I need to take my own advice.  It happens all the time with the kids:

-"Don't worry, airplanes are completely safe.  Those bumps are called turbulence.  It's just like a bumpy road, that's all!"

-"Don't let them bother you, they are probably just having a bad day--it has nothing to do with you."

-"If you make a mistake, just try again or turn your mistake into a different idea. Then feel glad you made the mistake."

-"I know, I miss them too but we can write letters and call.  We are always together in our hearts even if we can't be with them as much as we want to."

-"It takes a lot of time, patience and practice.  Try not to feel frustrated.  If you keep at it, you'll get it!"

-"I know it's hard, but that's why it feels so good to accomplish it.  If it were easy, you wouldn't feel so proud of yourself."

I'm sure this list will be 20 times longer in a few years.

I've had to call upon my own insight all day today.  I ran 17 miles this morning.  The longest I've ever run by 2 miles and I only just hit that milestone 2 weeks ago.  I chugged along pretty steadily during the first half of the run and during that strong beginning, I came to an interesting realization.  I was thinking on this question I've been asked by a few people lately:  "Is it easier than you thought it would be?"  I've had people wondering this about both my long and short runs and I'm never quite sure how to answer.  I'm not annoyed when people ask because I know I would probably be asking the same question if I wasn't the one doing the training but I haven't felt sure why I struggle to answer that question, until my run this morning. The reason I can't answer that question is because it's not easier than I thought it would be, but I'm afraid to say that out loud to people who already probably think I'm crazy for doing it.

The truth is, "easy" is not why I signed up to train for a marathon.  I signed up because I wanted to test my body and mind more than I ever have and see what it feels like to come out on top of that.  There's no way I could possibly use the word "easy" in any form when describing my 17 mile run this morning and sometimes I feel the same way about a 3 mile run.  The second half of my run this morning was tortuous and I was seriously doubting my ability to pull this marathon off.  I was reminding myself that I could just switch to running another half marathon and still be proud of the accomplishment.  While I know this is true, it's not what I want right now in my life.  I want to do it.  I want to push through days like these so when I cross the finish line on October 13th, I can say "Man, remember that day I ran 17 and almost quit?  I'm so glad I kept going!" and then get a huge hug from Nathan and the kids.

So, from now on when people ask me if the training runs are easier than I thought they would be, this is going to be my answer:

"I've learned that it's crazy hard, but possible and totally worth it."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

If I Hadn't Gone Running...

I'm officially smack dab in the middle of my marathon training schedule and as the miles pile up, so do the doubts.  Along with that comes the inevitable hesitation to actually get my ass out the door.  On the other side of those feelings are the highs that come from overcoming fears and satisfaction from knowing I didn't give in and stay in bed, but it's not easy to get there. This morning was like that.

I heard my alarm and, in the dark of early morning, found myself wishing I'd pressed the snooze button in a sleepy haze, not realizing my mistake until it was too late to go.  I paused a moment or two, keeping my eyes closed a little longer than I normally do considering, for a moment, the fact that today's run could easily be skipped without any repercussions.  Tuesdays are an "easy" day and on busy weeks I've been known to drop a Tuesday run. In the grand scheme of the training, skipping a workout here and there won't affect my end goal.  I just want to cross that finish line and as long as I steadily amp up the mileage in the weeks leading up to October 13th, my grit and determination will most likely get me to the end.  I know that's not good enough for me though, and that knowledge is what gets me to ignore the nagging voice telling me to sleep in.

I rolled out of  bed and into the bathroom to put on the running clothes I'd set out last night.  Zoe still comes into our room most nights to sleep on a sleeping bag on the floor between our bed and closet.  I've learned from experience that if I don't get my running clothes out the night before, I have a really great excuse to listen to the nagging voice and go back to bed instead of go for a run.  I don't want to wake the kids any earlier than they naturally do themselves, especially if it would mean I'd be leaving Nathan to get up before 6am with them so I can go for a run.  So, I've learned from experience to set my clothes out the night before.

After suiting up, I headed out the door to our garden.  Watering the garden before my morning run has become a ritual this summer and I know I'll miss it when the season passes.  I love having a relaxing stop to make before setting out to pound the pavement.  Sometimes I notice a few weeds and pull them before running off and once in a while I decide to skip my run completely in order to pull every single weed I can find.  I haven't done that since before starting my training but not surprisingly, I found myself considering that option this morning.  I compromised and pulled the biggest ones I saw without looking too hard and forced myself to move along.....

...and I'm so glad I did.  If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to experience the rare feeling of speed and swiftness I felt during my run this morning.  If I hadn't gone running I wouldn't have been able to see it's possible to feel light on my feet on a run only a few days after running the farthest I've ever run (15.23 miles!)...which led me to realize there have been many days I've been grateful to have forced myself out the door..many experiences that would have passed me by if I'd listened to the nagging voice...many moments of clarity would have stayed buried...many opportunities to set a positive example for my kids would have been missed...if I hadn't gone running.

If I hadn't gone running, I wouldn't have been able to run through "Prairie Dog Town" and witness the new babies with their families warming themselves in the rising sun.  Standing on their hind legs in groups of 4 or 5, quietly facing the orange glow and allowing it to paint the fronts of their bodies, all but putting their front paws around each others shoulders, greeting the new day in quiet reverence.

If I hadn't gone running, I would have missed out on one of the most magical moments of my life.  One day last summer, I was struggling in the late morning heat when I happened to glance to my right at Boulder Creek.  Through a small opening in the trees, about 20 feet away from where I was, stood a Great Blue Heron taking a break from flying to catch a couple of fish from the ice cold water.  I had never seen one in person and was struck by it's size and beauty.  It's legs thin and delicate yet perfectly designed and I couldn't help but feel it was there for me.  I watched, holding my breath until it decided to fly away and perhaps try another fishing spot further up the creek.  I took the energy it had given me and got myself home.

If I hadn't gone running, I wouldn't know that rabbits tend to come out early in the morning before the rush of people.  Almost every morning, I send 3 or 4 hopping away in a frenzy....I also wouldn't have witnessed the deer being escorted across the street a few weeks ago by a police car.  Two bucks, ambling along quietly as the police car and I patiently waited our turn to go our separate ways.

If I hadn't gone running, I wouldn't be experiencing the satisfaction that comes from modeling a healthy lifestyle for my kids.  I love that they know I'm a runner and understand it's hard and something to be proud of.  Sometimes after a particularly challenging run, I'll come in our patio door and am treated to a little crowd of adoring fans cheering for me and my accomplishment. 

If I hadn't gone running, I would have felt guilty for having that chocolate milkshake, that nice big breakfast bagel or that extra piece of chocolate cake.  Sometimes all I need to get me through the end of a long run is the promise of an extra treat when I get home.

If I hadn't gone running, I wouldn't be able to face the still regularly occurring question:  "Are you pregnant?" knowing these same clueless people would most likely have to pick their jaws up off the floor if I told them I can run for 3+ hours without stopping. It takes the sting out to imagine these same people admiring me for that, wishing they could be as healthy as I am.

If I hadn't gone running I'd miss out on the daily connection I feel to faraway friends and family who also challenge themselves through exercise.  I am lucky that I have an endless supply of inspiration in my immediate circle of people and every time I'm out there huffing and puffing I draw upon their strength and spirit to help me feel supported, encouraged and strong.

Tomorrow is a new day.  One that will most definitely include that nagging voice.  It always does, but as I enter into this second half of my training I will work harder to remind myself of these things I listed above.  I have a handful of runs that upon first glance seem at best intimidating and at worst impossible.  I am going to do my best to look at those numbers on that sheet of paper I have hanging on my kitchen wall as opportunities.  Opportunities to experience pockets of time and fleeting moments that I don't want to miss..that I can't miss...that are special because I got my ass out of bed and went running.