Tribute Miles.

For the few of you who don’t know this about me, I was in the marching band at college.

Yes, I went to band camp.

No, I did not play the flute.

I don’t have the words, really, to describe for you the magic that was the UMMB.

Within literally moments of arriving to college, I had a tribe, a family. A group of 300 people I knew I could rely on. They got me up at ungodly hours (for college, of course) for rehearsals on game days. They were my constant companions every weekday at 4:40, rain or shine. They were my saviors the semester after my cousin committed suicide. And to this day a good number of them remain my closest friends.

Last night was the wake for a husband of one in my tribe. Kyle passed away this weekend from cancer. I hate wakes (though truly, who likes them?) almost as much as I hate cancer, but I was inspired at how open Kerry and Kyle were about his fight. Even near the end, when he in hospice with liver failure, they were both inviting as many people who wanted to come visit and say their goodbyes. “You are our family,” they wrote on Facebook.

It was amazing. If it were me, would I be that open, that loving, that caring?

I went to the wake – it was the right thing to do. When one of your tribe needs you, you show up.

And afterwards, 15 of us or so went out to a local pub. What was amazing: over the course of the next hour or so, it was like the years were stripped away, and we were talking and laughing and reminiscing as if college was yesterday.

And there was a moment where I just sat back and looked around, marveling.

College was more than half my life ago, and here we were gathered after a WAKE, and there was that magic, that love, again.

I’m not at all religious. Quite honestly, I don’t really believe in God or heaven. I don’t believe that when we die, we go off to some other place that’s better than here – I think we just die.

But last night, in the midst of the laughter, I could see a little of God in the outpouring of friendship and love and support surrounding us.

I stayed out too late, of course, my friends fed me beer and nachos and waffle fries and spinach dip, so when my alarm ran at 4am this morning so I could get into Boston and run 5 miles on the Charles today, I expected this run to kinda suck. But I decided I wasn’t going to care, I was going to run easy and comfortable and enjoy it.

This run. Today.  It’s one of my mantras; something I have had to keep in the forefront of my mind this summer as I deal with work stress and achilles tendinitis and acute (and awful) insomnia.

So imagine my surprise when my run felt great, comfortable and easy, even with the humidity (and headwind, both something I hated and enjoyed) and tired legs and not enough water or sleep.

And, honestly. To run along the Charles, watching the sun rise, the sweat prickling my back, feeling the wind, smelling the freshness of the sea, my legs carrying me every step…

I am so lucky.

Today, I dedicate my miles to Kyle Gendron, his incredibly brave fight against cancer, and his wife Kerry, and their three kids.

Pushing Through the Winter Blues.

Remember how I said I decided I’d run a spring AND a fall marathon in 2014? I’m currently training for the Providence Cox Marathon on May 4, 2014.

And see, I’ve never actually trained for a marathon during the winter before. Two years ago I was coming back from injury, and last year I was building my mileage up for a fall marathon.

Consistency wasn’t an issue for me, though – even with snow and cold. In fact, my favorite run last year was the day after a blizzard, when I strapped on Jeff’s yaktrax and went out to play in the snow. I had an 8 mile run that was sheer joy in the snow; I got to stop and talk with people shoveling. It was amazing, and freeing, and relaxing, and meditative.

I loved that run with big fat pink puffy hearts.

I haven’t had a run like that since, though. And this training cycle, my winter blues started two weeks ago, when it was snowing and I had to run a 5 miler, with 2×15 minutes at my goal marathon pace. It was a tough workout, but I nailed it, so I felt pretty good when I got home. Except then I had a 10 mile run that weekend, with 4 miles being at GMP. And this time, I didn’t bring yaktrax, because it was two days after the snowstorm, and OF COURSE they had plowed the roads well enough, right?

Yeah, not so much. That run was 8 miles of snow and slush and the negative temps and wind chill and my marathon pace miles had me actually crying with frustration.

It’s rare that I loathe every minute of a run, but that’s exactly what happened that day.

In hindsight, I should have either run a treadmill, or given myself an out on the pacing – (aka: slowed it down). I did neither, and I paid for it that night – was absolutely knackered for the rest of the day; I basically passed out at 8:30 that night from exhaustion.

Since then, though, every one of my runs has become a huge mental battle for me. It’s like I’ve lost my running mojo. I don’t WANT to go for a run, and when I’m running, I want to quit with EVERY footfall.

I have to use every trick in my toolbox to keep going and get to the next mile.

Last week when I went out for a 4 mile shakeout run, I questioned the whole way. I should just text my coach that I don’t want to do a spring marathon. Why am I doing this? I don’t even LIKE running right now. Why keep pushing? Isn’t one marathon a year good enough? Really, Karen, why the HELL are you trying to do this marathoning thing? It takes away time from everything you need to get done, and you’re overbooked and you keep taking too much on and SOMETHING needs to give. Why not just do a half marathon in the spring instead of all this?

I hate not being able to be in the present on a run.

And I ESPECIALLY hate when my Inner Critic hijacks my runs.

My Inner Critic is right. I would be so easy to say: a spring marathon isn’t for me. I don’t like winter training. I can spend less time running and focus on shorter distance and do that okay. I’m tired and I don’t want to take on too much. I need to simplify my life. It would be easy to decide I’m not going to run a marathon this spring.

But that very decision is why I’m not good at running marathons.

Because the fact is, running a marathon is an exercise in happiness AND pain. It hurts and you ache and you wonder why you’re doing it in the first place. Distance running is about how you get through discomfort to find a place of contentment. Seriously, there are miles where you feel like you’re going to die. And then there are miles where you feel on top of the world.

And I’m not good at pushing through the bad stuff. I get scared, and I panic, and I think, This really hurts and I can’t DO IT.

My Inner Critic takes over and I give up. Like last fall: I didn’t give myself the chance for the marathon to come back to me – I gave up on myself halfway through.

I don’t want to do that again. I want to run the whole thing; I don’t want to stop and walk. I WANT to find the well of strength that helps me keep going when I don’t want to, when it hurts and I’m scared and I don’t shut down and run away from it. I want to accept it, embrace it, and run through it.

Because running marathons is life. So much of life is finding the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of another during the periods where you don’t think you can do it anymore.

So. It’s winter. It’s cold and snowy and I kind of don’t want to keep training.

But I’m going to anyway.

Token November Post.

I know, I KNOW. I suck at posting.

I miss the days where I’d be driving into work and have an idea and think, Oh, I need to post THAT to my blog!

Right now? I’m listening to David Sedaris on audiobook and I’m mostly struck by what a brilliant writer he is. And by the time I get to work, I have ZERO ideas of my own.

Well, except for the week after the marathon, when I had a hard time controlling my Jello legs on flat ground and I couldn’t believe how comical I looked.

But really, that’s all I wanted to post. Hey, it’s three days after my marathon and holy crap my legs don’t even feel like they’re attached to my body! It’s pretty crazy, people!

I didn’t post it, though.

(You’re welcome.)

Anyway.

So it’s November. And I said that in November I’d write a LOT more.

I have not actually managed to follow through with that resolution. Until today, the only things I’ve written are To Do and grocery shopping lists.

So what have I actually BEEN doing these past few weeks?

Well, the good news is that this November, I’ve been able to run, because I did NOT end up injured at the end of the Baystate Marathon. That’s good, for sure.

However, that does not mean I have been enjoying my runs; apparently trying to actively recover from a marathon by running makes said runs kind of suck. In fact, this past Saturday I actually had a piddly three miler that ended at the halfway point; I did the Walk of Shame home the last 1.5 miles because holy crap my legs could not run ONE MORE STEP.

Recovery: going from completely NAILING a 22 mile run to bonking on a 3 mile run.

Humbling.

The good news, though, is that Saturday’s Walk of Shame was my low point, and my runs have gotten considerably Less Sucky since then. I wouldn’t put them in the category of Good yet, but I’m starting to believe that perhaps running WON’T suck for the rest of my life. Which is really good news.

The other thing I’ve been doing is cooking. Like spending all my time in the kitchen on the weekends sort of cooking.

Last weekend I made my own chicken stock – courtesy of unsmitten kitchen. Then I made homemade cream of celery root soup, courtesy of food network. I made an awesome spanish chicken casserole from November’s edition of Cooking Light. I also made and canned a batch of apple butter to get a head start on the holiday season.

And when it was all done, and I had no more cooking to do, I wandered around my kitchen, looking for something else to cook.

Oh, I have IDEAS.

I have ideas for egg-free banana bread and chocolate chip sour cream bread and I REALLY want to try my hand at making the maple bacon scones my friend Sue brought to my house for brunch one day.

MUST. COOK. ALL. THE. FOODS!

In other news, the other day I happened to notice that my kid seemed to have a second tooth growing BEHIND his baby teeth.

Photographic evidence? Here.

photo(5)

Cue frantic googling. Because I was prepared for loose teeth and the Tooth Fairy visits and all of that. I was NOT prepared to handle another set of teeth growing in his mouth before the baby ones fell out.  Fortunately, the interwebs came to my rescue.

The technical term for it is called lingually erupting mandibular incisors. It is also referred to as “shark teeth.”

Our dental hygienist confirmed for me today that I do not need to worry about it, because it is common and it’s likely that it will force the baby tooth to become loose and fall out.

There are things I never anticipated I’d have to deal with as a parent. And I’m not sure why, but this extra tooth thing is DEFINITELY one of them.

So that’s what I’ve been up to in November thus far. And now that I’ve popped the proverbial cherry on writing, I AM hoping to post a lot more.

Maybe even once a week! 🙂

Humbled.

The one thing about running?

It can be really humbling.

I learned this during my first 5k, when at mile 2.5 I wasn’t sure I could run another step and I decided to walk for a bit… and then started sprinting, too fast, WAY too early before the finish line and tried not to puke when I FINALLY crossed that damn finish.

I was reminded my first half marathon, where the hill at mile 12 nearly killed me, and I couldn’t hang on, and an older gentleman actually WORKED to get my attention through my haze of disappointment and too-loud music to tell me, I don’t leave anyone behind. Come on – you can DO this.

And then again in October 2011 at the Marine Corps Marathon, when shooting, stabbing pain erupted in my right knee at mile 22.

But. BUT. This training cycle was DIFFERENT.

I had a month of dead legged runs, where I had no speed, but I fought through it, and for the past two months running has felt SO. Damn. GOOD! My longest run – 22 miles – I ended the run with 5 miles of FAST running, and I wanted to scream and dance and do cartwheels, I felt so damn GOOD.

And two week ago, I ran a 1:49:22 half marathon – without a watch. It felt SO good.

So when I lined up at the start of the Baystate Marathon on Sunday morning, I felt ready. Confident. Let’s DO THIS.

For half of the race, I was doing it. I hit the halfway point at 1:51:01.

And then the wheels came off.

___________________________

In retrospect, the wheels started to come off earlier than the halfway point. At the 10k mark I probably had my first indication that it wasn’t my day: at that point, my pace felt kind of hard. Not awful – not enough that I was worried – but a niggle. I probably should have listened to it, but I figured: race nerves. Let’s go another mile and see how you feel, Karen.

And the feeling passed.

But then the niggle happened again at mile 8. A TOUCH longer this time. Again, not so much that I really worried about it. Just a touch of “hard.”

And then again, at mile 11. And that’s where I started to listen.

Okay, not going to be my day. Dial back a bit – let’s NOT push it.  Slow it down, see what happens.

And then I hit the halfway point, and the only word in my head was “terrible.”

I felt terrible.

From there it was a battle. Awful, tough, hard battle. I walked. A lot. Mentally I tried to let go of the disappointment that I had to walk and I tried to figure out how to salvage the race.

I had a lot of time to think about it, as it turns out. The second half of the marathon I ran in 2:18:13. It actually felt like eons. Ages. YEARS I spent running and walking and trying to dredge up the energy and will and mental strength to keep going.

I finished, with the help of two of my friends which I will forever be indebted to, in 4:09:14. Thankfully I was uninjured. Exhausted. Depleted. Sore. But not hurt.

And the race I ran that day was a far cry from the 3:40 I have spent the past YEAR training for.

What a humbling experience.

_____________________________________

I came away from the race with renewed respect for the distance. Seriously, 26.2 ain’t no drop in the bucket. When something goes wrong in a marathon, holy shit it can go REALLY wrong.

But I also came away from it with a sense of thankfulness.

I love running. For me, it’s a physical, mental, and emotional release I can’t really get anywhere else. It’s a place I can feed the OCD which makes me want to get to round mileage numbers. It’s where hard work and smart training creates progress, where I can actually SEE the fruits of my efforts with real, concrete numbers.

I loved training for this marathon. And I want to do it again.

So I’m thinking for 2014 I’ll add two of them to my calendar: the Vermont City Marathon in May, and the Baystate Marathon again next fall.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W. C. Fields

Marathon Training, Take Two.

Training for my second marathon has been both very different AND very much the same as last time.

The differences are pretty, well, different.

In 2011, what got me out of bed in the morning to run my miles was Abject Fear. I spent most of my training cycle terrified of the distance. How was I going to run 26.2 miles? That seemed really, REALLY long. Terrifyingly long. I wasn’t sure I could do it – even the morning of the race I questioned my ability.

And then I did it. And it wasn’t easy, and it hurt me, but I ran the distance. And now? Well, that distance isn’t terrifying. I know it’s going to be hard. But I also know I can do it.

Two years ago, after a long run, I felt a HELL of a lot more beat up than I do now. That part was the worst part of marathon training for me. I’d finish a long run completely depleted. The last couple of miles I’d walk more than I ran. There were some runs where I just couldn’t get the mileage I needed – had nothing in the tank.

I don’t feel that way now.

Like a couple weekends ago. I ran 18 miles. And when I finished, I felt GOOD. Starving, mind you (more about THAT in a minute!). But once I ate, I felt kind of normal. No more tired than usual, no more sore than usual.

The difference, I think, is related to two big things: Mileage consistency and better fueling.  I have spent most of the year running 30 miles a week – a consistent mileage base. I also have two more years of running experience. Running is cumulative – the more you do it the better you get at it.

And I have FINALLY found a fueling strategy that really works for me – 3 or 4 sport jellybeans every half hour. This allows a consistent energy source without being too much sugar in my stomach (which gives me digestive issues). And hydration, too – I have discovered that the 32 ounces I carry just isn’t enough. I need to refill every bottle at least once during the run so that I am not too dehydrated at the end.

I am feeling SO good about where I am, fitness-wise, this time around. It’s SO nice in a place where I get out of bed for a run because I want to, not because I’m terrified that if I don’t get my miles in I’ll post a DNF*.

That said?

There are a lot similarities about this training cycle and my last marathon training which I want to document. In part so I can look at this when I’m done with the race and remember, REALLY, how it is.

Because it’s not easy, either – especially at this point in my training.

First of all, I have spent the last month running on Dead Legs. That’s what I call it – tiredness, fatigue, whatever. Dead Leg runs are the ones where you don’t really love the run, physically, and you’re too focused on turning your legs over to get into any sort of emotional zone.  I had two speedwork sessions where I barely got through the workout – one where I was in tears after the second repeat, then another I cut short.

I am finally starting to come out of it; this week in particular I’ve had fewer Dead Leg runs, thank goodness. But I still don’t feel like I’m RESTED, not really.

It’s the nature of the beast. Running distance is, at some level, teaching your body to deal with fatigue and cope with discomfort. It teaches your body to run more efficiently, to recover whenever it can – and it teaches your mind to get through the last 10k of a marathon, when you are tired and sore and still have at least another 45 minutes of running in front of you.

And I keep this in mind with every Dead Leg run; the more practice I have running on tired legs, the better prepared I’ll be on race day.

But man.  I miss my old legs – the ones that had spark in them. I’ve logged so many Dead Leg runs that I’m getting tired of repeating the same old story: Good practice today running on tired legs. This will serve me well on marathon day.

I miss running fast, feeling light and energetic. I miss it a LOT.

The good news, from what I hear, is that a good taper strategy will get me back to my light and energetic legs – hopefully exactly the day I need it – October 20.

________________________________

The biggest similarity, which I need to share:

I am hungry.

Ravenous.

Starving.

There’s a voice in my brain – a real Neanderthal – who keeps screaming: FOOOOOOOOOOD. FOOD! FOOD! FOOOOOOOOOD!

I have spent the better part of the past year keeping diligent track of my food intake; have gotten to a weight which is more or less maintainable for me. I have a repertoire of snacks and dinners where I don’t have to THINK so much about what I eat; I just eat my regular food and it’s fine.

Except, now, it’s not fine. I’m HUNGRY. I need bigger portions, more carbs, more protein. I need to eat.

And it’s a fine balance between listening to my body – the one I need to fuel for my runs – and going overboard, because, hell, I’m running 20 miles this weekend so of COURSE I can eat that pizza and drink beer. And the chocolate and apple crisp and caramels and ice cream…

FOOOOOOOOD! FOOD! FOOD! FOOOOOOOOOOD!

Also the same: I’m tired. Like bone-weary tired. Dog tired. By the end of the day, inertia traps me and I want to go to bed, but it means getting up and walking upstairs and brushing my teeth, and it’s just SO nice to lay here on the couch and just rest. My brain thinks: MOVE, Karen!

But my body replies HELL NO.

Part of it is that work is busy too, and I’m sneaking runs in here and there. This week, I ran 3 (incredibly stressful while I imagined Owen drowning and no one noticing) miles on the treadmill during Owen’s swim lesson, and my alarm rang at 4:30 this morning so I could fit in an 8 mile run before I went to my client in Boston.

But mostly it’s because running is, well, a lot of work, physically. (Which, you know, DUH, of course, right? It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m tired a lot.) But it’s something worth mentioning.

Because this isn’t my  usual brand of tired.

All in all, though, I am feeling pretty good about my training and where I am right now.  I feel like I will be as prepared as I can be in 5 weeks.

Which is really all I can ask for.

*For my non-runner readers, a DNF is “Did Not Finish.” It’s where you start a race and then bag it in the middle or the end or whatever. I’ve come close to doing this – as recently as a year ago, when I sprained my ankle at the start of a half marathon with one of my best friends – but have yet to DNF. And I prefer to keep it that way.

The Bonk.

The Bonk: /n/ That moment during a run where you don’t think you can take another step, much less finish out the mileage you have planned.
Bonk: /v/ to hit an invisible but very physical threshold during a run that robs you of all confidence in future runs.*

I Bonked last night during my track practice.

The past week has been kind of hellish. The combination of crazy-work-deadline stress plus holy-shit-my-kid-is-going-to-kindergarten stress plus get-my-miles-in-because-I’m-marathon-training stress plus some other low-level stresses has given me trouble with insomnia.

Insomnia is bad in general. But it’s REALLY bad when you are running 45 miles a week. And working to meet a deadline. And getting your kid ready for kindergarten.

But. Last night. The workout was a ladder – 400, 800, mile, 1.5 mile, mile, 800. Which is a tough one.

And within the first 400, I had doubts. In the first 800, I had serious doubts.

And within the first lap of the mile, I had this panicky feeling in my chest.

I can’t do this.

I had NOTHING. No energy. No zip. Nothing.

It was like running in a nightmare, where you feel you’re in quicksand and you have dead legs like they’re not even attached, or alive, and you need to get away but you can’t go anywhere.

So I stopped. In the first mile. I actually laid down on the grass, and when someone else ran by and asked if I was okay, I gave her a thumbs up – I wasn’t injured, I was as okay as I was going to be. I was just trying not to cry from exhaustion.

I got up and tried again. I stopped.

And this time, I gave into tears.

I was just so tired. I had nothing to give, no kick, no reserves. I figured I’d just quit and call it a night.

And then a running friend, who was struggling herself, gave me most practical advice and got me to keep going. Karen, she said, you’re not going to win any money in the marathon! No one but you cares how fast you go. So just run slower. Pick a slower pace and run that. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself.

She was so right.

It’s funny how I didn’t even NOTICE. Work has picked up. My testing is going slower than I’d like and so I’m working more hours than I expected. My mileage has picked up too, so I have to spend more time in my day running. Owen is going to kindergarten, and I’m trying to prepare him (and me!) for the changes, and trying to do special things for and with him to celebrate this milestone.

All along, I’ve been putting more and more pressure on myself to be better. A great, productive, effective worker. A great, loving, kind mom, who takes time out of her day to make her son feel special. A better runner who nails every one of her workouts. All with a sleep deficit.

Okay, so maybe I need to let go.

So I did.

Thanks to my running club friend, I finished the workout. The mile and a half repeat was a beast, even with the slower pace. The next mile sucked too. But then it was the last 800 – the last repeat. And when I rounded the corner near the finish, with maybe 200m to go, I found some spark in my legs, and I pushed to the end.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

And you know what?

That’s more than enough.

 

*yes, these are made up definitions. Why do you ask?

Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler – My Race Writeup.

So last night, I ran a 10 mile race. And honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. Because it was only a week ago that I was diagnosed with strep throat, and even though I FEEL fine now, my runs this week have been tough. Nothing I can put a finger on – just general fatigue and kinda dead legs.

But fortunately for me, I don’t run a lot of 10 mile races. 🙂 My last one was in March, where I bonked at mile 8 and finished at 1:32:01. And when I last ran this race, back in 2011, I finished in 1:36:01.

So I told myself that I would be happy with anything under 1:30, though I am capable of – and was going to aim at – as close to 1:20 as I could get.

First of all, yesterday was a GORGEOUS day – in the low 80s, much less humidity; just beautiful. Usually this race is hot and humid and nasty and last night was NOT one of those nights.

Got there with only 15 minutes to spare to get my race number and met up with my running club. Then it was time. Found a place towards the front of the pack and we were off.

I decided to start the race around an 8:00/mile pace and see if I could make that comfortable; knew there were some hills on the course and discovered at my last half marathon in May that it’s better for me, hydration-wise, if I walk through the water breaks.

I was hoping to end the race around 8:10 – 8:15 average pace. For me, that’s a good long race pace, and it would match and/or better my average pace for my last half marathon.

First 3 miles were good at that pace. I ran into a guy I used to work with and was able to chat with him briefly. But he was JUST faster than me in those early miles and I knew I didn’t want to be that fast, so I told him to have a good race and let him go ahead.

Miles 1-3: 7:54, 7:56, 8:11

Usually the first few miles are tough for me while my legs warm up. That was not the case last night, I felt really good those first three miles. It was the NEXT three that started to suck. There is a small incline at mile 4; it’s a tenth of a mile or so, but enough that my legs kinda rebelled a little. I kept my focus with music (thank god for recommendations from running friends!) and just kept going. Powered up the first real hill in mile 5 – a half mile beast…

… and then the wheels kinda fell off. Legs died. Heart pounded. I had that moving through quicksand feeling. So I walked it off for what I THOUGHT was a millisecond, made it to a water stop, and walked through that. When my watch flashed 9:22 for mile 6, I did a double take – I really thought it was a mistake. What?

Miles 4-6: 8:17, 8:42, 9:22(ugh!)

I was determined NOT to have another mile over 9. I run my long runs pretty regularly right now in the high 8s. It was time to engage my long run zone –  the pace you find when you’re tired but still need to finish your run. That zone allows for you to run and not think; to just find a comfortable space in the physical discomfort but not feel so depleted you can’t keep moving forward. So for the next three miles I did that. There was another steep but short hill at mile 7, once I was up that I ate three sport jellybeans and drank water and hoped they’d kick in.

(Oh, yes. Here’s where I admit it: I was enjoying the scenery in the form of, ahem… running eye candy. I ran behind some guy – never saw his face. From the back, though, he looked pretty darn nice. He was bronzed and built and fit… and it was kind of nice to run behind him for a couple of miles. Sadly, he took off at mile 8 and I never saw him again.)

Mile 7 and 8: 8:31, 8:40

I was pretty dead by mile 8. Ironic because a good friend of mine, who was watching wit her family at this mile texted me later that I looked really strong. I did not feel strong. I was tired and footsore at that point. I had decided on wearing a new pair of running sneakers that weren’t all that broken in. They’re great, but it really wasn’t a good idea to wear them. My right middle toe was pushing against the front of my shoe (nice and bruised today – first toe injury!). My legs hurt and I wanted to be done. Mile 9 was the WORST – no eye candy to look at, the scenery at that point SUCKS, and I was soooooo tired.

Mile 9: 8:55

But I told myself I wasn’t going to stop until the end, and that it was only a mile, and I could do anything for 8 minutes. I actually started to get a spark in my legs at this point; they started to feel better. And I decided to see if I could reel some people in. So I started running stronger, and passing people. First a guy who was 500 feet in front of me. Then a girl. Then another girl. And another guy. There was a girl next to me who had the same idea, and as we turned the corner to the finish she tried to pass me. No [expletive] way! I thought. I blew by her on the incline up to the high school, saw the numbers on the clock at 1:24:40-something, and knew if I really added some speed I’d get in under 1:25.

I finished at 1:24:59 – again my official time matches my garmin time (yay me!).

Mile 10: 8:07

This was not my best race, nor was it what I KNOW I’m capable of. But I am really happy that when the wheels came off at mile 6, I found a zone where I could sustain running the next number of miles – and then finished really strong.

And, of course – I can’t overlook this! – I did have a personal best. I was gained 7 minutes on my March 10 mile race, and 12 minutes on this particular course (I last ran it in 2011).

I’ll take it.

The Answer to an Unspoken Question.

Lack of updates is nothing more than pure busy: I am having a hard time keeping up with my life right now.

This weekend, after the end of a long walk with Finley on an absolutely glorious night, I was heading back to the house when I ran into my neighbor.

My next door neighbor, you see, is the pastor of the church down two doors from us. He and his wife are wonderful neighbors; kind to Owen, who is prone to walking through their hard-earned flower beds to get a stray wiffle ball. They see me run past their house many times, and ask about my race plans and how I’m doing.

They’re wonderful people, and great neighbors.

We chatted for a few moments about his youngest son, recovered from cancer which ravaged him only a few short years ago, who just graduated college. We spoke of how Owen was heading to kindergarten in the fall.

How fast time goes, we agreed.

And he pointed out that it was nearly five years ago that we baptized our son. And he was too kind to ask out loud, but an unspoken question hung between us.

Why hasn’t he seen us in church?

Five years ago, my grandparents and parents and aunt and uncle came to visit us, and we had Owen baptized in that church. We joined that church afterwards, in part because we thought it would be a good way to meet people in the community, and we wanted Owen to grow up with a good foundation in religion.

We stopped going, in part because Owen hated being in the nursery when he was a toddler, and he was too young for the Sunday School classes.

But mostly we stopped going because a lot of kind of crappy stuff happened in my life and being in church made me kind of pissed off. Jeff didn’t really want to go if I didn’t go.

My relationship with God and religion is, well… complicated. I have a hard time believing in “God’s plan” whenever something bad happens. I have a hard time with people using religion to duck accountability and responsibility for their hand in causing pain. I have a hard time when religion or God is used to discriminate between the “good” people (who are clearly going to heaven) and the “others” (who have not yet been saved from the fiery pits of MORDOR!).

I have always felt that religion was man’s way of trying to put a box around something that was too big for us to understand. And I despair when I see people fighting in the name of religion.

And then? I started running. And I ran country roads when I was training for my marathon.

My town and the surrounding area is woods and farm and marsh and low stone walls.

It’s breathtaking.

I have seen deer, and listened to deafening birdsong in early summer, and smelled the fullness of the woods all around me. I run in the warmth of summer, the riot of color in fall, the crispness of winter, the green of spring. I run in the darkness of early morning, the dew of late mornings, the heat of the afternoons, and the softness of the evenings.

On my run, I feel closer to a god, the universe, the pulse of humanity – whatever “God” is – than I EVER did in any church. I feel connected, and part of something bigger. I am strong, and thankful for my life, for the power that flows through my legs.

I didn’t know how to say this, though, to our pastor – whose own son spent years in cancer treatment, who can’t work in certain fields because of his “medical condition.”

So I didn’t say anything.

And instead, I stood with my neighbor and marveled at how quickly time flies.

Recovery (Aka: The Week I Fell Apart, Physically).

I don’t know if this is delayed-onset fatigue brought on from last week’s race, but the past few days have been TOUGH for working out.

First there was the cold. Last week I noticed that Owen had a runny nose and was rubbing his eyes. I assumed that he had a touch of seasonal allergies, given the pollen dust I see on my car every day. I even put Children’s Claritin on my to-pick-up-from-the-store list.

And then I started to feel imminent doom: the combination of dry throat and the feeling that you are swallowing glass.

I removed Children’s Claritin from my list.

I follow a simple rule when it comes to running and colds. If the cold affects anything that is ABOVE my shoulders, then I’ll run. I might take it slower, and have to stop more for, er, nasal-cavity elimination, but I have no issue with running.

Anything that includes lungs, or aches and pains, or fever – I stay home. Period.

This cold, though annoying, was a Runnable Cold.

But then.

90-degree heat and humidity which moved in on Thursday. Or Friday. I don’t remember; it’s so hot my brain is melting and I can’t even think anymore. Honestly, what the FUCK, mother nature? Can’t we have a couple of in-between 70s, 80s in there? We have to go from 42 degrees and raining last Sunday to 95 degrees with 95% humidity? Seriously?

No wonder I’m sick.

Yesterday morning I went out, early, with the goal of running an hour. I was in light clothing. I carried my handheld water bottle. I was hoping for 6 or 7 miles; within 2 I knew it wasn’t happening. I was tired and a little dizzy, and my muscles screamed at a pace that is usually pretty comfortable for me.

So I called it at a reasonable 5 miles and went home. To the blessed air conditioning. I spent the day cleaning and doing errands and laundry and whatnot – but I wouldn’t call it a physically TAXING day.

Nonetheless, by last night, my IT band was SCREAMING at me whenever I walked down the stairs. My quads ached, and I had a random shooting pain in my left calf. I was exhausted and went to bed at 8:30 last night.

As an aside, is there anyone else like me out there? I, apparently, do not have the DNA required in order to “sleep in.” I would MUCH prefer going to bed when it’s still LIGHT out than trying to force myself to sleep late in the mornings. Jeff makes fun of me incessantly for this – I hate being up late and cannot sleep late.

Also: seriously, body? We’re falling apart NOW? I haven’t felt IT band PAIN in more than a year. My calves, though tight, aren’t usually painful without good reason. This week has been a very low mileage week, and I’ve been keeping a Be Kind To My Body pace.

I swear this is delayed-onset recovery; it’s taken me a week to actually feel like I am tired and need a rest.

So I am taking another rest day today. Because it’s still nasty swampy hot out there, and my head aches from the cold, and I’m tired, and honestly, there’s no sense in pushing it.

The good news is that my house is clean, and there’s pulled pork going in the crockpot, and I’m nice and cool hanging out with the puppy. Finley knows where it’s at – licking, laying on, and sleeping on the air conditioning vents is one of his new favorite summer hobbies.

To sum up: I’m tired and sick this week. It’s hotter than Hades outside, and I’m a little bitter.

And a question: Am I the only one who prefers to go to bed early, or sleep in late? Please tell me I am not alone here.

In The End… (aka: A Catch Up Post)

So.

It’s the day before my Official 30 day No-Yelling challenge, and I think I’ve figured out some things about myself. Which, hopefully, will help me figure out other ways to express my feelings before I pop and yell at the people (and dog) I love most in this world.

1. I am actually yelling before I realize I’m yelling. It took me looking at myself from the outside to realize this; there was a moment this weekend where I thought, Hey, wait a second, my voice is raised! when I wasn’t particularly angry, just kinda annoyed.

Looking at it from my husband and son’s perspective though, I would think I was yelling too.

2. I am more prone to yelling when I am trying to do too much at once. For example, I generally snap at nighttime, when I am making dinner, keeping an eye on the dog (so he doesn’t chew our moldings or pee on the floor), half-listening to Owen asking me to play with him, cleaning the kitchen and counters so I can get dinner on the table on time. Et cetera. I have very little patience at that point, which means I need to simplify.

Do less. That’s easy, right? 😉

3. I need more time in a day. No, seriously. I’m commuting 3 hours a day. Slowly, the time spent in traffic is sucking the soul out of me. I didn’t realize how edgy traffic made me until the day I pulled into daycare and screamed my head off – for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. (Thankfully the windows were closed and the kids were inside and no one witnessed me.) It was a bit of a revelation to me – I thought music was enough to keep me occupied.

The idea I’m wasting 3 hours of my day in the car, in traffic, kills me.

So I downloaded a book about dog training onto my iPhone. Wa-LA! I am now using that “dead time” to be productive – getting tips on how to train Finley.

And now I’m not counting the minutes I’m wasting in traffic because I feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Win.

So far, anyway. 🙂

4. I need to be kind to myself. 37 years of yelling when I’m mad won’t be undone in a day.

I’m well on my way, I think. For me, just being aware of my triggers is huge in terms of trying to change my behavior.

And the coolest thing? I’ve found women who want to do the same thing as me. We formed a Facebook group where we support each other in the challenge.

I just love knowing that I’m not alone in this.

______________________

I ran my goal race last weekend – the half marathon I’ve spent the last few months training for.

I went into it with three goals.

The A goal was to break 1:45:00. This was aggressive, I knew, and I didn’t really BELIEVE I had the ability to run that fast for that long. I’ve had very few miles in my training that were run that fast.

The B goal was to break 1:50:00. This was the realistic goal for me – the one that would be hard but sustainable.

The C goal was to break 1:55:00. This was a comfortable goal, or if something happened mid-race like a muscle/tendon tweak or something.

Now, mind you, meeting ANY of these goals would have meant a personal best. My fastest official half marathon time was run this April; I clocked in at 1:56:31.

The race was hard. I never really felt comfortable – which meant I raced it like I needed to. But if it weren’t for my friend Jen, who ran with me in the middle miles, I might have gone slower.

But I met my B goal. I finished in 1:49:15.

I’m thrilled with this time. Seriously, I ran my first half marathon three years ago, in 2:18:18. And since then I’ve taken nearly a full half hour off my time.

It’s shocking and empowering and exciting stuff. And gives me SO much hope for my fall marathon training.

____________________

The Career Stuff. Yeah, it’s still hard. I have been considering quitting my job altogether so I can be home more. It would simplify some things, for sure. Laundry, groceries, housecleaning, bills. All me. Jeff could focus on his work only.

But it would also complicate things, too. Money would become an issue. And back in the day, when Jeff and I sat on a beach in Fiji, we talked about living a life where money wouldn’t be an issue.

Course, we also talked about balance, so it’s not like there’s not complications there.

What I have the hardest time with is the fact that I am currently working mostly part time. Yeah, I spend three hours in the car when I’m at the client. But this week? I’ve worked only two days. And I make good money.

I could trade that for a job closer to home, where I make half of what I make now. It’s still accounting – I could do bookkeeping pretty damn easily. It’s just, well, I can’t get excited about taking ANOTHER accounting job for less money.

I wish I had clarity or passion for ONE thing. I am so envious of the women who knew in high school or college what they were going to be when they grew up. Those women had a vision and goal and passion.

So that’s why it’s so hard to take the step and stop doing what I’m doing now. I’m hoping to find that magical place of balance. I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I also don’t want loathe my time there, either.

I keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I have today. It’s all I can do.

So that’s my update. For now anyway. 😉