Rest, Recover, Repeat!

California International Marathon was almost four weeks ago and I still cannot walk properly. I am finally off crutches, but it is still painful to do anything weight bearing on my left leg. My doctor was not sure if it was a minor bone injury or a muscle injury, but my physical therapist thinks I may have a femoral stress reaction. The jury is still out. If it is a stress reaction, this will be my second one in less than a year (my 40th year no less!) so I find myself wondering WTF is up with that.

It is easy for me to fall into the 2016 was the worst year ever line of thinking, turn that on myself personally, and focus primarily on my injuries. Yes, if there is a bone issue I need to get that figured out. I did have my blood checked and learned that my Vitamin D levels are low (not shocking because it’s winter and I exercise in the dark) so that could be a big piece of it. But my injuries are not my story. They could be my story if I wanted them to be, but I don’t.

As it turns out, I have a lot to celebrate in 2016. I started the year off by running Rock and Roll Arizona, my first post-baby marathon. I worked throughout the summer on conquering some of my fears on the bike (I’ve got more work to do in that arena, so heads up 2017) and placed in my age group in a couple of short triathlons this summer. This fall I completed a 10k (PR!) and a half-marathon while working towards my goal race, the California International Marathon. I had many beautiful runs and rides and so much fun running with and training with my friends. I learned about enjoying the journey and appreciating each run. I also learned that I am not patient and really bad at resting and recovering!

As I look towards 2017, I have a few goals in mind but with my current, undetermined physical condition I do not yet know what is realistic. My goal, first and foremost, is to be patient with my body. There are things I can do right now and things I cannot. My goal is to accept the things I can do, appreciate where I am, and work towards becoming the athlete that I want to be in 2017 and beyond. Cheers to 2017, to good health, to happiness, and to enjoying the ride!


The Power of a Word

Marathon training at times can start to feel like a grind. As your body learns to adapt to the increased mileage, perhaps not every run or workout will feel good. But the training plans are designed that way, and it is how you become stronger and more prepared for your goal race.

This week started to feel a bit like one of those grind weeks for me. Rather than looking forward to my workouts, I found myself approaching them with a slight sense of dread.  Yesterday my friend Sam texted me, “How many miles do you get to run tomorrow?” and a light bulb went off. She said get to not have toI was so thankful that she had corrected the fatal flaw in my thinking and from that point forward I approached my long run with a grateful and happy heart.

Running is something that I get to do, not have to do. It keeps me healthy, happy, and connected with some of my favorite people. Just a short six months ago I could not run due to injury and would have given a great deal to be able to go for a short run. I have sat on the sidelines watching others train hard and longed to feel the burning in my lungs and the soreness in my legs. When it is my turn to do the training, I will be thankful for my healthy body. The workouts are not always easy, but they are always worth it.

So the next time you are dreading a hard workout, think about a time that you could not run. Think about someone you know who wants to run, but cannot. Run with a happy heart, smile at those around you, and enjoy the beauty of nature and discovering new trails and paths. My long run today ended up being an absolute joy. I got to run with a friend in beautiful fall weather through our lovely city, and I am thankful for every minute of it. How many miles do you get to run tomorrow?

Finding the Joy in the Suffering: Barber to Boise 10k Race Report

I have some big running goals. I want to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. For an average age grouper now masters runner like me, getting to Boston would be like playing in the Final Four or competing in the Olympics. I was not an athlete growing up and hardly attach that label to myself even now, so the idea of one day running in an elite and prestigious race such as Boston would be a dream come true. In order to get there it will take years of hard work, patience and learning how to overcome the negative self-talk that seems to creep up when I start to get uncomfortable in races. I must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and believe in myself, even when I am hurting. I know this and my coach knows this, which is why she tells me that I need to practice racing more often.

I am in the middle of a marathon training cycle, but this weekend raced a 10k instead of doing my weekly tempo run. My coach told me to go for it and push myself. Taking her advice, I decided to go for the sub-50 PR that I had been chasing for a couple of years. The 10k is tricky for me. I tend to start out too close to my 5k pace and then flame out in spectacular fashion by the middle miles. I shared my goal with my friend Sam just before the race, and we decided to run together. I was thrilled to have someone to run with.

Sam and I started off together and ran the first couple of miles just under our target pace. I felt good and strong and with Sam beside me I felt like we had a ton of positive energy going back and forth. Without saying a word, I felt that we were supporting and encouraging each other with every step and I loved every moment. Just after mile three, Sam encouraged me to go ahead. I didn’t want to leave her side, but I also didn’t want to make her run at a pace that wasn’t feeling right for her. Eventually I pulled slightly ahead, hoping she would stay just behind. And every time I glanced behind, she was right there.

Around mile four to five, I started to get very tired. My legs felt heavy, I wasn’t sure where Sam was (although I was expecting her to blow by me at any second), and every time I glanced at my watch my pace was over my target pace. This is the point in the race where you need to stay strong. Where you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and soldier on. Where you need to build yourself up mentally, take it one step at a time, and will yourself to finish.

I know all of the things that I am supposed to do at this point in the race where it starts to hurt, where I get really uncomfortable, when I enter the pain cave and start to suffer. Yet there is a disconnect between what I know and what I actually do. Because what I actually did yesterday and what I tend do a lot in this situation is the following: When I got to the point of discomfort I started to beat myself up mentally. Instead of telling myself that I could do it, I told myself all of the reasons that I could not. I told myself that I was too old, too tired, and too heavy. That I did my long run last weekend too fast so that I ruined any chance I had of earning a PR at this 10k. That I am not a good person and I do not deserve things like PRs and negative splits and good races. Ridiculous, mean, defeating self-talk. Not the self-talk of a champion. I would never say these things to a friend, so why do I say them to myself?  

After the race, my running team met for happy hour. One of my friends and teammates and I were talking about goals. I told her about my Boston ambitions and how I would like to do a longer triathlon. She is an accomplished elite triathlete and although she clearly has racing goals when I asked what those goals were she replied simply and beautifully: “Joy.” I think this should be my goal, too.

I reflected on her answer for a good portion of my long run this morning. I told my husband last week that I want to and that I will get to Boston, but more than that I want to enjoy the process of getting there. Mostly I do enjoy the process. Having a big goal motivates me to get up early in the mornings and do the hard workouts. Running is a huge part of my mental health regimen, and my running group is my social outlet. I have met some of my dearest friends through running.  I also like having something to work toward, even if it will take years to get there. Part of this process will be learning how to keep those negative thoughts from creeping up when I enter the pain cave during a race. It will not be enough to have those around me tell me that I am strong enough and capable. I must truly believe it myself. Once I do, I will be able to silence those voices once and for all, even when I am pushing myself physically to the limit.

When I approached the end of mile five yesterday, I saw that I was going to be very close to reaching my goal of sub-50. At the six mile marker, I realized that I may just make it in under 50 minutes if the course was measured accurately. I pushed my legs as hard as I could, coming in at 49:46, barely under 50 minutes, proving once again that it was my mind and not my body that was holding me back.

I was thrilled to have met my time goal yesterday, but I do not like how I beat myself up mentally in the pain cave. Numbers are not everything and if my ultimate goal is to find the Joy in the Suffering, I have quite a bit of work to do. I race again in two weeks. My goal for that race is to enter the pain cave again, but next time I am going to be kinder and more gentle with myself. I am going to try again to find joy and beauty in the suffering that we as runners and athletes create when we push ourselves to our limits. That type of suffering is sacred and I am thankful for the days that I can race and do that without being injured. I want to celebrate it and be kind to myself in those moments. It may take some practice, which is precisely why my brilliant coach keeps telling me to race more and to push the pace until I figure it out!


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.

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.