Eight Minutes

Since late March I have been sidelined with a stress reaction in my foot. Yesterday I ran outside for the first time in two months. This also happened to be my first outside run in my 40s. My 40th birthday was almost two months ago. I had grand plans of running 40 laps on the track to celebrate my 40th and running parts of the Boston marathon course on my trip to Boston for a conference just days after my 40th, but none of that happened due to this injury. But I digress…

Yesterday I stepped outside in beautiful spring weather to run outside. It was glorious! Of course I wanted to go up into the Boise foothills and get lost for miles, but my body is not ready for that. My wise and wonderful coach prescribed a 2min run followed by 3 min walk on a soft surface for 20 minutes. I hit the North End alleys.


Sun on my face, flower in my hair and garbage behind me!

Those first two minutes felt strange. Having been accustomed to running on the Alter G for the past month or so, it was wonderful to be moving forward in the fresh outdoor air with the variation of scenery. Lovely wildflowers, spring sounds, people doing yard work and fixing their houses, children playing, animals exploring, and all of these other things I have missed while I have been exercising indoors and rehabbing my injury. I wanted to keep going and going!

But at the same time my foot was pounding! On the hard ground! And I was paranoid. What if I break it again? I was thankful to stop and walk after that two minutes. I am grateful for a smart and conservative coach who does research and talks to multiple health care professionals before determining the best course of action for her athletes.

Although it was not much of a run and yes it was mostly walking (I only ran for a total of eight of the twenty minutes), it felt great because it represented forward progress and I am finally outside again. But instead of feeling thankful for those eight minutes, I found myself spending much of the remainder of the day worried about the future. Thoughts like this ran through my head throughout the afternoon: Is my foot sore? I think it’s a little sore. Maybe it’s a lot sore. Was that too much? Will it feel better by tomorrow? How will I possibly run a marathon this fall if I can’t even run eight minutes without hurting myself now? Ugh. I am going to break my foot again and have to take more time off. And more into the negative thinking hole…

At one point during the day I saw my gratitude journal sitting on my nightstand. It is mostly empty. I have lofty goals of writing in it each night but end up collapsing into bed exhausted and don’t do it. Or perhaps I check emails and Facebook before bed instead. When I saw it yesterday I remembered that instead of worrying about the future or focusing on the negative, I want to make more of a concerted effort to be thankful for the positive in each day. Even being thankful for the little things can make a huge difference in our mindsets.

In yoga practice, they teach you to accept the body that you have each day you come to practice because each day your body is different. I try to apply that to my running as well. The body that I brought to my running practice yesterday allowed me to run eight minutes outside and for that I am exceedingly grateful. I don’t know what body I will have next week, next month or next year and it is a waste of precious energy to worry about it. Instead, I want to be thankful for today. Today I can run. And eight minutes is a fabulous start.

But I Get Up Again

As a runner, I feel like I deal with more than my fair share of injuries. Maybe I am just a glass half empty kind of gal but as I look over the past year I see three significant forced breaks. Granted, one of them wasn’t really a running injury, it was appendicitis, but three forced breaks over a years feels like a lot, especially when you have missed a great deal of the nice spring and fall weather. I guess the universe is still trying to teach me about patience and perseverance and I no I still have not learned. In looking over my Instagram feed the other night I came across this gem which I posted while on Forced Break Number One:

The reality is that if your dream is to accomplish something awesome, it’s not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People who go for greatness are going to get knocked down a lot. They’ll have difficult times. They’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty. People around them will question the wisdom of their quest. The issue is not whether you’ll fail, because you will. It’s whether you’ll get back up and keep going. It’s whether you can sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back.

Failure is only final when you stop striving.

-Bob Rotella, How Champion’s Think In Sports and Life

The last two sentences really spoke to me. Sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back. You see, when I get injured or sidelined it is very easy for my mind to go to the places that say, “You are not a runner.” and “You are too old.” or too something or not enough of something else and then suddenly I am deflated and defeated and eating cookies for dinner. But champions do not think that way. Indeed, they cannot afford to. In the face of injury, illness or whatever obstacle they must sustain self-confidence and keep bouncing back. Because failure is only final when you stop striving.

Oliver Goldsmith said that success is getting up just one more time than you fall. Just one more time.

Those who are successful make it look easy. But we don’t see all of the hard work and struggle. The tens, hundreds, thousands of times that person might have fallen. We just see that one more time they got up. The success!

We also fail to consider the millions of small steps taken that when viewed alone seem totally insignificant but the sum of which equals greatness. Each day cannot be a personal best, but each day we can take a small step in pursuit of a long term goal. Whether it be getting that extra hour of sleep your body needs to recover, eating some extra veggies for vital nutrients, or pushing yourself a little harder on the track. Maybe it means practicing patience and positivity (ahem, I am looking at myself as I type) because in order to achieve peak performance we must not only be fit physically but mentally as well.

Whatever you do, make sure you keep getting back up, and keep moving forward. One step at a time.

Letting Go of the Numbers

My fixation with numbers has been leading me to some dark places recently. It started when last week I stepped on the scale and saw the number was higher than I tend to like it. At first I tried to blow it off as water weight or inflammation, but when I weighed myself again a couple of days later and my weight was still on the higher end of my weight range I continued to berate myself mentally with horrible self-deprecating thoughts.

My downward spiral continued when I went for my long-run last weekend. I set out to run 12 miles, which I did not think would be too difficult, considering I am training for a marathon. I started off okay, but as I climbed up into the hills I started to get tired and hot, my right hip and left knee started to ache, and I started taking some walk breaks. Half way through my run I ran out of water. As I climbed further up into the trail, it became overgrown and I started to worry about snakes. Some other runners warned me about poison ivy, so I found myself stopping frequently to examine the plants. Although I tried to look for poison ivy, the trail was so overgrown in places I couldn’t even tell what was growing in there. Eventually I gave up and turned around. Mentally I was alternating between appreciating the beauty around me and beating myself up. I felt old and slow and like my body was falling apart. I was frustrated that I wasn’t running faster and that things hurt. I kept looking at my watch and feeling like a failure. At the 10 mile mark, I burst into tears. It was taking me just as long to cover 12 miles as it had taken my coach (who is an elite runner) to run her marathon a few weeks earlier! I told myself that I had no business calling myself a runner or being on a running team and that I should give up immediately. With a combination of sweat and tears streaming down my face, I continued to run, but I also continued to say these horrible things to myself. Things I would never in a million years say to a friend or a running partner.

After that run I came home, refueled, took an ice bath, and tried to chalk the whole thing up to just a bad running day. But I’ve been in a little bit of a funk ever since. And I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my unnecessary focus on numbers: both the number on the scale and the number on the stop watch. What do they really mean? The number on the scale can be a measure of health (and I put can in italics because there are lots of other ways to measure health), but it does not define me. My body is so much more than that. And my worth and my value as a person has nothing at all to do with that number. So why would I let it impact my mood at all? Same with the number on the stop watch. Sure it is nice to run fast. It is gratifying to see just how much I can push my body sometimes. I love those endorphins, and I have race goals and love setting PRs just as much as the next guy. But why do I beat myself up if I don’t hit a time goal in a workout? Or if a race doesn’t go my way? This doesn’t define me. The stopwatch can’t tell me who I am. Isn’t it more important just to be out there and running, appreciating nature and the fact that my body can in fact move one foot in front of the other? Why rationally I understand this and in my heart I want to feel it, somewhere there is an emotional disconnect that too often forces me back to the numbers. Perhaps it is that I do not have sufficient self confidence coming from within, so I look to the external, definitive factors (ie, the number) for valuation.

But by letting the numbers define me I am robbing myself of the joy of the journey. For it is not really the number or the moment of the PR that I am striving for. I want to enjoy the process of getting there too. Scott Jurek stated it perfectly when he said, “The longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind — a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.” This is essentially what I am chasing. The ability to run and to be in the present moment. Without worry or concern about numbers or about being something other than what I am. It is my hope that running can help me let go and find that peaceful and present state of mind.

Fueling Your Runs with Positive Thoughts

Ever heard the phrase running is 90% mental and 10% physical? We spend lots of time working on fine tuning the physical, but how often do we work on strengthening the mental. For me, the mental aspect is key, especially when the race or workout gets difficult. And let’s face it, as much as we all love running, running is hard sometimes. That is part of what makes it so rewarding. Nevertheless, there are times during workouts and races when inevitably those negative thoughts creep into our heads. This should not be surprising, as we often push our body to its limits, especially when racing.  I have told Coach G on more than one occasion that the mental aspects of training can at times feel just as tough for me as the physical aspects. I feel too slow, too injured, too old, too tired, too something. I am not alone in my negative thinking. A recent study showed that pessimism is the number one mental roadblock among runners. Negative thinking patterns can have a detrimental impact on our training. From staying in bed to cutting working shorts to considering dropping out of a race, if we are not thinking positive thoughts we are not getting the most out of our hard work.


Overcoming negativity is a personal and ongoing process for me, as it is for most runners, but one that can be largely assisted by my coach and teammates. Before joining the Betties I had Coach G confirm on more than one occasion that she would actually coach me. Having read and heard all about her impressive running resume I was not sure I was qualified. “Are you sure you’ll coach me?” I asked. “But you know what pace I run!” To which she always laughed and responded with a kind, “Yes, of course.” and “I’m looking to coach the most committed runners.” Committed I can do!


So I showed up, practice after practice, often affectionately and sometimes not so affectionately referring to myself in my head as “The Caboose” because I was always last. But you know what? This was me telling me these things, not my teammates and not my coach. Day after day and week after week my coach and teammates were there to encourage and support me and others no matter what pace we were running. And they’ve been the ones helping me silence the negative thoughts that try to sabotage my workouts and racing. Here are some specific strategies that have helped me keep the negative thoughts at bay and fuel my runs with more positivity. Try a few and maybe you will find one or two that will work for you.


Show Up.  It takes courage to show up to practices consistently so don’t discount that. Do not worry about your pace, worry about running effort based workouts that are right for your body on any given day. Somebody has to run in the back and if it is you, congratulations, you are well ahead of all of the people that didn’t show up!


Find a Mantra.  When negative thoughts creep in, it is often helpful to find a positive mantra to repeat in your head. Practice during training runs and find something that works for you to have in your pocket for race day. I personally have repeated the phrases “Tight makes light” and “Strong, powerful, beautiful” in my head during races and tough workouts to distract myself from other thoughts. I am not sure where they came from, but I have found the rhythmic nature of those phrases helpful for some reason. Other examples could be: fast, tall, go, swift, this mile, or breathe.  And while you are at it, remember to practice some positive self talk. Congratulate yourself for making it to practice and remind yourself that you are doing something positive for your body. When you are climbing that hill, tell yourself, “I am great at climbing hills” or “I know how to do this,” and remember to smile!


Visualize.  Sometimes when I start to think negatively during a run I will visualize a stop sign in front of me. As in “Stop the negative thinking!  It’s not helpful!”  Often just that is enough to help redirect my thoughts. Focusing on breathing and footfalls can also help as well as visualizing yourself running in perfect form. And remember that fatigue can be highly subjective.  A 2012 study tested cyclists against a computerized competitor in two trials. In one test, the cyclists were told that the computerized opponent was riding at the cyclists’ personal best, when in reality, the opponent was riding faster.  In the second test, they were told the competitor was speedier. When the cyclists knew their opponent was faster, they could not keep up, but when they thought they were evenly matched (even though the opponent was in reality riding faster) they rode faster. Our minds are very powerful!


Break the race or run up into smaller pieces.  The last mile of the last 5k I ran was difficult. I started to berate myself with thoughts like “I’m not fast enough” and “I should just jog it in.” When I looked up at the street sign and saw I was at 17th Street and knew I had to make it all the way back to 8th, I felt particularly deflated. I pictured the red Stop sign and tried to focus on making it one block at a time. Breaking the race into smaller chunks helped make the remainder of the race more manageable, and I was at the finish line before I knew it.


Reframe your Thoughts.  Instead of thinking “What could go wrong?”, think “What could go right?”  Instead of thinking, “What if I fail?”, try thinking, “What if I exceed my expectations today?” Take your negative thought and try to rephrase it to something positive. Think of the obstacles you might face, how you would approach them, and what you might learn from them even if things do not work out the way you want them to. I trained for a half marathon all summer and found out just a few days before the race that they changed the course due to construction, thereby making it 13.4 miles instead of 13.1 miles. My initial reaction was negative. “Why wouldn’t they cut the course somewhere else? How would I possibly get a PR on a long course?” Then I realized I would not have a good run or good race if I went into it with that much negativity. So I revised my goal time accordingly and arrived at the start line ready to have fun and enjoy a nice fall run through the heart of my beautiful city.


Run with Awesome People.  I knew I had found something special in The Betties when mere weeks after I had joined the team I ran The Race to Robie Creek and my teammates postponed their post-race trip to the beer table in order to wait at the finish line and cheer me on. Although we all come from different walks of life and many of us are in different stages of life, our love of running brings us together. Some of us run fast and some of us run slow, but we are all committed to running, to the team and to supporting each other, which makes it a wonderful and encouraging environment.


Hire a Fantastic Coach.  A great running coach is like a therapist and personal trainer combined. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings Coach G pushes us physically while shouting encouraging words into our ears and the results are phenomenal. I’ve told Coach G before that she is like the little angel on my shoulder with the positive thoughts to combat the devilish thoughts that my brain so readily provides.  And I can tell you from experience that on race day even when Coach G is not there running alongside you, you’ll still hear her shouting in your ear, “You are strong! You trained hard to race easy!” And the best part is that you will know in your heart it is true.