Boston Marathon 2022 Race Report

I was honored to run this year’s 126th running of the Boston Marathon which was also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first official women’s division in 1972. In honor of women running Boston, I will start this race report with a couple of quotes from two women I admire very much.

“Boston is one of the most magical marathons in the world, but it will also break your heart. And honestly, that’s what makes it great- it makes you feel.” – Kara Goucher

“There are a lot of emotions to being human. Somehow in the marathon, you feel them all.” – Amy Eyler

I felt immense gratitude just to make it to the start line feeling healthy and good. My two boys unfortunately got food poisoning the night before the race, and my husband and I were up over half the night taking care of them and cleaning up vomit. I got a few hours of sleep and was thankful to make it out the door and to the bus pickup area without feeling sick myself.

Miles 1-8: My wave of runners was ushered to the start line in one huge mass. I could see about where the start line was located, but had a hard time seeing the timing mat due to the large number of runners packed into the narrow streets of Hopkinton. Eventually the walking pace turned to a jog and then a slightly faster pace and we all moved over the mat practically in unison. We were off and running the 126th Boston Marathon! It was hard to get into any sort of rhythm or individual pace at the start due to the crowds so I focused on trying to relax and find pockets where I could run without having to weave in and out too much. 

I was so excited to see my friend Amy when she ran up behind me and called by name. It’s amazing to me that we were able to find each other in a sea of 30,000 runners and seeing her smile lifted my spirits even more.

On each downhill I reminded myself to relax and tried to reign in the pace while also not braking. 

Miles 8-16: Mile 8 is where the trajectory of my race changed. Mile 8 is usually where the marathon starts to feel hard for me, and with 18 additional miles to run, the realization that you are tired at mile 8 can shake your confidence. I was prepared for the Mile 8 fatigue and armed with tools from my mental toolbox. I told myself, “This is normal. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Find your breath and return to center. Keep grinding.” I heard two women nearby chatting about how tired they were feeling already as well which further validated the thought that Mile 8 fatigue is nothing to worry about and just part of the process.

Somewhere between Mile 8 and 9, I must have taken a misstep or rolled my ankle and found myself falling straight into the asphalt. I have fallen multiple times on trail runs and once during a trail race, but I had never taken a tumble in the middle of a road race. Two kind runners immediately stopped to help, encourage and check on me. I popped up declaring, “I’m fine! I’m good!” not knowing if it was true and kept running. One of the runners who stopped to check on me gave me a swift pat on the back and said, “You got this! All the way to the finish!” I appreciated their kindness so much and wish I could find them to thank them again. Although I could see the red mark on my shoulder from where it hit the road and feel the sting on the palm of my hand from trying to break my fall, I didn’t allow myself to inspect them too much. I kept running and as I ran I tried to conduct an internal scan of my body. What hurt? Was I okay to keep running? Did I need to stop at a medical tent? 

My body and mind have not always had the best relationship. Could I trust my mind right now to make decisions that were in the best interest of my body? Would my heart interfere? I kept running, assessing the situation, and returning to my breath. At some point I looked at my watch and noticed that my pace had picked up, no doubt due to the rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins, and I settled and slowed the pace back down.

I had no idea that Tommy Rivs was running Boston (if you don’t know his story, read this and this), and I had the surprise and absolute honor of seeing him for a moment and knowing that I was sharing the course with him. His courage, resilience and amazing outlook on life inspires me.

I ran by the Wellesley girls, giving high fives and blowing kisses. The more I could smile and focus on the crowd and other runners, the less I thought about the pain in my ankle and shoulder.

Miles 16-21: Miles 16 through 21 is where the Newton Hills are located, the 4th and toughest hill coming at about mile 20. I reminded myself that the hills are a welcome opportunity to use my muscles differently and made a note to run by effort. As I crested each hill I tried to take a few quick steps to reset my pace and relax on the downhill. I had seen a post from Featherstone Nutrition about how to fuel for the hills and took an extra gel around mile 19. This worked well for me and helped me ingest all six of my gels prior to the final stretch of the race.

Miles 21-26.2: I had told myself that if I had anything left in the tank after the hills, I could pick up the pace slightly after Heartbreak Hill. Although I tried, I did not have anything left in the tank. My quads and hamstrings were feeling the fatigue of the prior 20+ miles and my shoulder and ankle were aching more as the adrenaline had worn off. I thought multiple times about slowing down intentionally or stopping and walking for a bit. However, I remembered my goal to get the best out of myself on the day. 

These last few miles of a marathon are a sacred space. We don’t get to this number of miles in training, and for many of us, we will only be at mile 21+ of a run a handful of times in our lives. This is the space where we dig deep, find new strengths, and learn new lessons. This is the place where if we are able to turn towards the discomfort and surrender to the process, we can receive the greatest gifts. We are doing all of this as a collective community with roaring crowds who cheer, hold space for, and support the journey of each and every runner. It is a beautiful thing to witness and an amazing thing to be a part of.

I was hurting, but I held on as best I could knowing each step was taking me a bit closer to to those magical final turns. I saw the Citgo sign in the distance, a landmark to indicate that Boston was near. As I passed the 24 mile marker, I told myself that I could do two more miles and imagined doing one of the two mile repeats I had done in training. It is amazing what the body can accomplish with a little encouragement from the mind and leadership from the heart.

I turned right onto Hereford, then left onto Boylston, soaking in the magic and energy of the final stretch. I glanced at the crowd looking briefly for my family, but knowing that they were likely recovering in the hotel room. I stretched my arms out and up in gratitude. 

In spite of being up half the night with sick kids, falling at mile eight, and struggling to hold my pace the last few miles, I crossed the finish line in 3:48:51, a Boston qualifying time, my second fastest marathon, and faster than my time in the fall. Most importantly, I crossed the line full of gratitude and joy. 

There are many lessons that I learned from this run, and ones I am still learning and trying to integrate. 

  • My body is wise and I can trust the messages it sends me. In spite of worrying that I did not have the intuition and wherewithal to properly evaluate how I was feeling after my fall, my assessments were correct. I was fine running through soreness and mild bruising and almost a week later feel mostly recovered.
  • The stories that we attach to experiences shape our reality. I could have told myself after being up most of the night and falling at mile 8 that it just wasn’t my day. Or I could tell myself that falling led me to a connection with two amazing strangers and gave me the opportunity to further understand my resilience and strength. Which one do you think would lead to better running for the next 18 miles?
  • We are all connected. Those two runners who stopped to help me at mile 8 likely saved my race. The crowds cheering in support boosted me when I was low on energy. There were so many runners who were making the 26.2 mile trek for causes and reasons larger than themselves. We may run with individual bibs on, but the journey from the start line to the finish line is a collective one.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon 2021 Race Report (Part 2 of 2): Living the Dream!

“Be here now.” – Ram Dass

To keep people spread out due to COVID, the 2021 Boston Marathon start was a rolling start. Instead of bringing everyone out to the start line and starting all at once in a big mass, runners were bussed out to the start gradually over several hours and started whenever they got to the start line and felt ready to go. I personally liked the rolling start. It was nice because it was not overly crowded, and the port-a-potty lines were short. It was definitely a different vibe though without the excitement of a mass race start and the national anthem. It felt a bit strange just to walk to the start line and start your watch whenever you wanted like you were going on a Saturday long run.

2021 Boston Marathon start line. You just walked up and started whenever you were ready.

After some final stretches and one last trip to the port-a-potty in Hopkinton, I walked up to that beautiful blue and yellow start line, pressed the start button on my Garmin, and started running. A few steps later I heard a volunteer shout, “You’re running the Boston Marathon! How cool!” I felt the tears well up in my eyes again. I could not believe this was happening.  As I passed the mile one sign, I blew a kiss into the air and thought to myself, “I let go of expectations.” My plan for the race was “Be here now.” I knew it would be hard with warmer temperatures and a shorter training cycle, but I wanted to enjoy every moment. I had worked so hard to get to the start in Hopkinton and I wanted my run from Hopkinton to Boston to be a celebration.

That feeling when you are finally doing the thing you have been dreaming about for years.

I started my run around 10:30am. It was already 70 degrees with 80% humidity. By mile two I felt too hot. Slight panic started to creep up, but I came back to my race plan, “Be here now.” At the water stations, I started taking a couple of sips of water and dumping the rest of the cup on my head. I tried to keep my pace smooth and not get carried away by the early downhills. With long deep breaths, I tried to hold myself back because I knew I would need to conserve my energy for later in the race. One spectator was yelling at people to relax on the downhills. I felt like he was speaking to me personally, and it reminded me to let go of the tension I tend to hold in my upper body.

By mile nine, I felt tired. Too tired. I just noticed the feeling and told myself, “It’s ok to feel tired. This is hard.” Then I thought to myself, “You are running the fall Boston!” I did my best to ground myself in the present moment, observing the leaves and the beautiful fall colors reflecting in the nearby lake. Be here now. It is interesting to note that by doing this practice I seared that moment into my memory. I can still clearly remember the beautiful fall leaves on the ground and the humidity hovering above the water.

The Boston spectators and volunteers were phenomenal. After almost two years of no races, having the opportunity to run a large and well-supported race was electrifying. Many spectators shouted, “We missed you!” because there had not been an in-person Boston Marathon since April 2019. They had Halloween decorations, therapy dogs, trick or treat stations, otter pops, beer (I was very tempted by the Coors Light within grabbing distance at mile eight!), and anything else you could think of. I was wearing my Boise Betties singlet and every time someone would shout, “Boise Betties!” I would feel so much gratitude towards my Betties teammates and coach who helped me get to Boston.

Mentally, I had broken the race up into segments: Miles 1-10, 10-16, 16-21, and 21 to the finish. Although it felt hard early on, I focused my attention on breathing, relaxing and holding back a little bit, and noticing the beauty around me. I knew that there were some hills coming up later in the race in the 16-21 segment and I didn’t want to blow up prior to the hills! I would not allow myself to mentally calculate how many miles were left in the race. When my mind tried to go there I reminded it, “Be here now” and came back to the present moment.

As I approached Wellesley at the halfway point, I could hear the cheering from the scream tunnel of Wellesley College girls almost a half mile away. The high pitched roar sent chills up my spine. It was so fun to run through and high five some of the girls. I didn’t see anyone actually kissing this year, but many of the signs said “Blow me a kiss!” so I did lots of that!

After making it through Wellesley, I knew that the Newton hills would be coming up shortly. I tried to absorb the excited energy of the Wellesley girls and keep it in my back pocket for the Newton hills. Around mile 14 or 15 I saw some spectators with a “Go Go Idaho!” sign that looked like a play on the famous Citgo sign. I ran all the way to the other side of the road to give them some Idaho love, show them my Boise Betties singlet, and take a photo of their awesome sign.

Ran by these people somewhere between Wellesley and Newton and loved their sign.

As I entered Newton and approached the first big hill at mile 16, I tried to focus on running it by effort and not by pace. I was about to find out if I had relaxed and taken it easy enough on the downhill during the first several miles. In my mind, the first hill was the hardest. It was hot and the incline seemed long. I made it past that one and thought, “three more of these?!” However, I didn’t really notice the second or third hills because they were much shorter. The spectators helped carry me up and over the fourth hill (also known as Heartbreak Hill), and once I made it over Heartbreak Hill, I was done with the Newton hills!

I knew from studying the course map that Boston College was just after Heartbreak Hill around mile 21. This University of Virginia alumnae has never been more excited to see Boston College fans in her life! I made it past the hills and still felt OK! These last few miles were going to be amazing! There might be some suffering along the way, but if I stayed with the discomfort, there would be joy as well. I was big enough to hold both.

Up until this point, I had done a good job of fueling and hydrating. I had been taking water and/or Gatorade from every water stop and a gel every four miles. After mile 20, however, slight nausea started to creep in. I opted to skip the mile 23/24 gel, but was able to keep up on the water and electrolytes. Anyone who has run a marathon knows that the real part of the race starts after mile 20 and that anything can happen during that last 10k. I tried to stay focused and keep grinding – one step and one breath at a time. I said the sound of OM a few times and thought of my yoga family and perhaps others around the world who also might be saying the sound of OM. I connected with something larger than myself to propel myself forward.

When I passed the “Entering Boston” sign, I could again feel the tears. I couldn’t believe that I was running the Boston Marathon, made it into the city of Boston and hadn’t hit a wall yet. I started hearing people cheering “Go Danica!” and realized that I was running just behind NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. I saw the famous Citgo sign on the horizon. My family told me that they might come to cheer around mile 24 so I started looking for them which was a nice distraction. When I didn’t see them I figured they had found something more fun to do.

Photobombing Danica

After I gave up on finding my family I realized that I was getting really close to making what I consider to be the most famous turns in running: Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. I had imagined making these two turns in my head for years: while visualizing and preparing mentally for other races, while doing hard workouts, and while just daydreaming about what it might feel like to run the Boston Marathon. 

What actually happened as I made the final turn and ran the last 600 yards or so down Boylston Street far exceeded anything I had imagined. I blew a kiss at the street sign at the corner of Hereford and Boylston. I made my way down Boylston Street feeling good and strong, shouting “F*&! Yeah!” (sorry to any kids that may have heard) and “Thank you, Boston!” The energy on that final stretch was absolutely phenomenal. I glanced at the sidelines about 400 yards from the finish and saw my husband and kids there cheering for me! (They were shouting “Hu! Hu! Hu!“) I crossed the Boston Marathon finish line with one hand over my heart to honor my inner child and the other hand extended upwards towards the sky in gratitude. We did it!

Going into the race I had an A, B and C goal. My A goal was 3:50, B goal was under four hours and C goal (which really was the most important one) was to have fun! I crossed the finish line in 3:51:07 and was absolutely ecstatic to have run the Boston Marathon in under four hours.

Every physical or mental setback, every tear, every workout or race where I imploded – it was all a part of this journey and it could not have happened any other way. No matter what that big, scary, seemingly unattainable thing is that you dream about, I am here to tell you that you can make it a reality. Write it down, be consistent, keep showing up for yourself, and when it’s time it will all unfold with beauty and magic.

Finish line feels

When the finish line is just the beginning

I worked hard for six years to qualify for the Boston marathon, and I dreamt about it for many years prior to that. I followed training plans, fought through injuries, and spent countless hours fantasizing about what it might feel like when I finally got that coveted Boston Qualifying time. The goal seemed so elusive to me, and the target time kept moving further out of reach, but I was relentless. Crossing the finish line would be a huge celebration. I would finally belong. Having proven to myself that my body could run the required pace for 26.2 miles, I would finally accept it. Sure, there was plenty of happiness and celebrating at the finish line when I achieved my goal, but those feelings of not belonging lingered. The body image issues did not magically disappear now that I could call myself a Boston qualifier.

February was still dark. One night the following winter I tossed and turned all night long, wrestling with the demons I thought I had outrun. They were still there, demanding my attention. Hadn’t I done enough? I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t yet understand that there would be no outrunning the so-called demons. I needed to run towards them and not away from them.

The harder I tried to outrun them and the more I pushed them away, the stronger and louder they became. They demanded my attention until I had no choice but to stop and look them directly in the eye. Upon further examination, I started to see that it was not demons I was pushing away. I had been rejecting parts of myself.

For the past six years I thought I had been running towards a huge goal. But was I ever really running towards anything? Or was I just running away? It is not the Boston Athletic Association where I am seeking belonging, I am seeking to belong to me. To feel safe, accepted and at home in my own body. And so began the real marathon. The one back to myself.

For this journey, however, there is no training plan. No track Tuesdays or structured Thursday tempo runs. No concrete way of measuring progress. My Garmin will not give me any feedback. Rather than my watch, I am having to learn to rely on an internal knowing that I locked away decades ago and was not sure I could still access.

But she is in there, calm, curious and waiting. If I am quiet and still, I can hear her.

Famous Potato Half: Say yes to the pain cave

Since Boise races are notoriously inaccurate and I had heard this course was long (spoiler: it was), I did not go into this race with a time goal in mind, only an average pace goal. I have found that I do better with average pace goals anyway, as it helps me focus on the process and run the mile that I am in.

The start of this race was a little hectic. It was delayed due to the fact that not all of the busses had arrived. The port-a-potty lines were long. I was standing in line with my friend Laurie when she pointed out to me that I really needed to calm down. I know that my pre-race anxiety is an issue and one that I need to get under control in order to keep my heart rate low at the start of races, but what I did not know is that it is an issue that is apparent to those around me. I thought I hid it well. I guess not. While we were still in line, the MC suddenly announced, “ok, everyone is here, let’s start!” Laurie was kind enough to offer to drop off my bag at the gear check for me and I ran off to the start line, trying my best to get a place at least in the middle of the pack. This was not the best way to begin a race.

I plodded along on pace and did fine until about the 7th or 8th mile, when it started to feel hard, as it typically does in a half marathon. Around mile 10, things really started to feel awful. Also around mile 10, the race goes by the finish line and then loops around the last 5k. I do not like races that give you a preview of the finish before you finish.

The 10 mile mark of this race also marked the entrance to the pain cave, and it was a place I did not want to go. I was afraid of the discomfort, fearful of failing, so I let the negativity creep in. “You could just stop right here,” I thought. “Just step off the course right here and this all stops. All of it. The pain, the agony. You don’t have to do this. Why are you doing this?” I thought about stopping. Then I wondered what I would say to my kids at home. That I stopped because it was hard? That I didn’t know if I could stay on pace the last 5k? That I didn’t even try? No, that wasn’t acceptable. As in life when things get hard, we must stay the course and keep going. One step at a time. Because the way out is forward. So I moved forward. Slowly, painfully, up the hill, past my teammates and coach who were so kindly cheering but who I can only remember in a blur because I was so deep in the pain cave, and towards the finish line.

FP Mile 10

In the pain cave. Unhappy. (Photo @boisebetties)

Although it felt like I had slowed exponentially in the last 5k, I had really only slowed down one, maybe two seconds per mile, and when I crossed the finish I had met my average goal pace.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t fight the pain cave. Say yes.
  2. The only way to get to the good stuff on the other side of the pain cave is to run through the pain cave.
  3. Keep going. Always keep going.

 

 

FP Finish

Outside of the pain cave with giant potato. Much better.

Back to the Basics

Since the New York Marathon last month, I have focused on two things: 1) Making All The Things from Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s Run Fast East Slow Cookbook and 2) Getting Stronger. Since eating All The Things hasn’t yet resulted in effortless six minute miles (or any six minute miles for that matter), I must need to focus more on part two.

Like many athletes who have faced injures and multiple visits to the physical therapist’s office, I have a litany of prescribed exercises that I should be doing to correct imbalances, stave off injury and keep my body strong and healthy. Or as Mitt Romney might say, I have binders of exercises. Do I do these exercises on a regular basis? No. I do them when something hurts. And then I focus on that particular area that is speaking to me at the time. Since the body works together as one kinetic chain, however, this is neither a smart nor a workable plan.

I am a flashcard nerd. I always used flashcards to study in school. I used them for tests in high school and college, and I used them to pass the Virginia, Texas and Idaho bar exams. So enter the Physical Therapy Flashcards!

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PT Flashcards

Here is how they work and how you can make your own set of PT Flashcards:

  1. Take one section/color for each body area you want to strengthen and/or maintain. You can see here that I have Core, Hips, Glutes, Legs/Feet and Stretch(ing).
  2. In each section, write your exercises on a different color of flashcards.
  3. Set your timer for a prescribed period of time. I do 15 minutes for the first 4 categories and then 5 for stretching at the end. Total of 20 minutes.
  4. While the timer is running go through your categories pulling an exercise from the front. Do the exercise in the section and then put it in the back of the section.
  5. Do this a few times a week! Enjoy! Get stronger! Run without getting hurt! When you come across a new exercise that you like, add it to your cards!

So far, this has been a great way for me to keep up with a variety of my Physical Therapy exercises, focusing on all areas of my body that need attention. It is my hope that this will be good maintenance exercise (in addition to the lifting/regular strength training I do) which will help prevent injury.

Speaking of preventing injury, if you are looking for a good book to read on the topic or need some exercises for your flashcards, I highly recommend Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry. I went to see Jay in Bend last summer, but now you don’t have to because he wrote it all in this book for you! He is an expert and writes in a straightforward and funny manner. The book has specific exercises and routines with photos and detailed instructions on how to do them. (Bonus: Mel Lawrence is one of the models!) Highly recommend!

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And when you’re done with all of that hard work don’t forget to refuel with some good nutrition from All The Things in Run Fast East Slow. In fact, I think I hear a Superhero Muffin calling my name…

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Let’s Talk About the Beer Mile

Holiday gatherings got you stressed? Worried about keeping up with your running routine? Did someone just bring up politics at the dinner table? I’ve got a solution for all of that. Might I suggest an impromptu beer mile.

This one was not impromptu. This was planned. Which beer should I use? Will I need some La Croix for backup? How ’bout pretzels in case I puke?

I had never tried a beer mile until earlier this year when a few friends of mine and I got together one Friday afternoon for some beer mile shenanigans. A beer mile also serves as a great happy hour and start to the weekend. I will admit, I was nervous about the timing of ours. I was in the throes of marathon training with back to back long runs scheduled for the weekend and questioned the wisdom of trying a beer mile the night before. The good thing about the beer mile is that by beer number two you are no longer concerned with any workouts you might have scheduled for the next day.

So here’s how it works: drink a beer then run 0.25 miles. Then do it again. Then again. One more time. Total of four beers and four 400s for a total of one mile of running. Ideally you do it on a track but the only track we had access to was at our local neighborhood high school so we chose to do laps in the neighborhood. Also, you are supposed to use beer with a minimum alcohol content of 5%. I don’t think any of our beers met that threshold. Next time. I used Coors Light which is 4.2%.

I wasn’t too concerned about the alcohol content of my beer because, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I know, I know, if I don’t believe in myself, who will? I need to work on being my own champion. Or maybe I just need to do more beer miles. Either way, my prime drinking days are long behind me and even when I was in tip top drinking shape, much like in running, I was more of an endurance kind of girl. Chugging, like sprinting, was never my forte. Nevertheless, I wanted to give a beer mile the old college try. Because beer. And running. Together!

So we set off chugging our beers and running our laps and, as you would imagine, each one got progressively harder. Trying to run on a stomach full of beer is hard. Is there some technique? Like a waddle run?

Woah, we’re half way there! Woah, livin’ on a prayer! Two down, two to go!

My goal going in was to at least complete half. A beer 800 is legit, right? But once I got two down and was still having fun I was determined to do the full mile. Go big or go home! BELIEVE!

Coming in for the win! Who has form this good after four beers? This superstar! Beer mile champ x 2.

After finishing we enjoyed some good laughs and pizza as well as some discussion on strategy and how to improve future beer miling. But mostly pizza.

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Was I really on the ground like this? Because I don’t recall being down on the ground like this. Must’ve been doing some post race stretching. That was smart!

My Garmin clocked me at 16 something for the mile. Jesse Thomas suggests that a mid packer beer mile should be around ten minutes. TEN MINUTES?!?! First of all, that seems super fast. Secondly, I’ve got some work to do. And finally, the off-season is a great time to practice.

So if things start to feel like too much inside over the holidays, grab some beers and Cousin Joe and go outside for some beer mile practice! Even a beer 400 will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed and able to stay unengaged from political debate. Cheers!

Post beer mile bliss

 

Run Strong, Run Happy

I love sarcasm. I practically speak it as a second language. Just ask my children. My sarcastic nature was forced on them at an early age. “Mom, you’re not serious are you?” “Mom, you don’t really mean that. — Do you?” But there is a place and time for it.

Yesterday runner and writer Matt Fitzgerald posted this sarcastic tweet:

MF Tweet

Now, he was joking. He does not think he needs to lose weight. However, just the posting of this photo and the joking around about weight rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it is because I am sensitive about this issue that I was unable to find the humor in his joke.

I would like to back up and say that I am generally a fan of Matt Fitzgerald. I have read and learned from many of his books, I follow him on social media, and I think that he has done a lot of good for runners and the running community. However, some of his commentary, particularly those in regard to Racing Weight have led me personally down a dangerous path, and I believe they could do the same for other runners as well.

As runners it is easy to get caught up in the idea that less weight equals faster times. Indeed, this is often true. However, it can also equal injury, long term health problems, eating disorders, unhappiness, and all sorts of negative things that you do not want in your life. And you know what weighs a lot that you do want on your body? MUSCLE. So I love you Matt Fitzgerald, but I reject your Racing Weight idea and everything that goes along with it. I think our energy is better focused on Racing Strong and Racing Happy.

Rather than focus on a magical number that may or may not be attainable, work on getting stronger. Work on muscular imbalance. Work on your mental game. Read Matt Fitzgerald’s book How Bad Do you Want It? which is full of stories where runners gave up mentally long before their bodies physically gave up.

We are all unique and strong and capable, just as we are. There is no magical Racing Weight number, and if we go searching trying to find it we are wasting precious energy and perhaps setting ourselves down a path to injury and unwellness. Instead, work on unlocking the strength and power that is already within you.

Out of the Darkness

I’ve been quiet for months and to my two readers, I apologize. Let’s just say it’s been a rough winter and spring didn’t quite bring the quick relief I was hoping for.

December was a rough month for me. I got injured during my goal race at the start of the month and about a week later some events occurred in my professional life which brought a great deal of stress into my personal life. I am still dealing with the impact of those events today. Without my usual coping mechanism of running I felt the effects of those incidents even more. And then there are the holidays which bring the shopping stress, parties and family drama. I was looking forward to all of it being over and having a chance to decompress.

For most of us January 1st brings hope. It is the start of a new year, a clean slate and a change to start over. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

I woke up on January 1st in a fog of depression. Instead of feeling a sense of renewed hope, I felt a sense of dread. Instead of feeling peace and quiet, I felt anxiety and panic. I felt the old demons rising up. To compound issues, we experienced an unusual amount of snow this winter. Typically, I would make the most of it by getting out and skiing, but skiing was out due to my femoral stress reaction. I increased my medication. I tried to stay active in other ways. I tried to reach out to people in my support network. None of this was easy, however. I felt exhausted all of the time. I snapped at my family, the people who l love and who love me the most.

As the snow melted and the flowers began to peek up through the earth, I felt moments where the fog would start to lift. Simultaneously, my femur had healed and I was able to return to running, albeit slowly and very gradually per my coach’s instructions. I shared the story of my winter depression with some of those around me and learned that I was not alone. Often when we struggle we do so in silence, fearful of the judgment from those around us. But when we share our struggles with others we learn that we are not unique in our suffering and we are not alone. Sharing helps to normalize our struggles. If you are feeling lonely and depressed, please talk to someone. It is more common than you think. If you tell someone who does not understand, try someone else. There are so many people out there who do understand and who want to help. If you are on the receiving end of someone who is talking about depression, please listen. Just listen without judgment. You could be the light in that person’s darkness. I’ve learned through my struggles that I don’t always have to try harder, but sometimes I have to try differently. The same is true for running. Maybe I don’t need to try harder in my training, maybe I just need to try differently.

A runner who I admire and follow on social media (@paceofme) posted a photo of a Spiral of Healing recently with the following explanation:

The spiral of healing. 🌀

This image and concept resonates so deeply with me, on so many levels, and has for all my life though I didn’t really recognize it in this way until very recently.

I drew this in my journal the other day and keep coming back to it, feeling thankful for the symbolism and for what it represents to me.

When we embark on our healing journey (whether this is from a physical injury, or a broken relationship with someone you love, or patterns of thinking or behavior that are causing you pain and truly don’t serve you well, etc), we begin with awareness (often painful) at our low and as we do the work to heal, we SPIRAL UP. It’s not a straight line and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really have an endpoint really. And as we go and we grow, and learn and build strength and create a better way for ourselves, with certainty we will have moments where we stumble or fall or simply just feel like we have plummeted into complete despair.

But look, we hold on, and we spiral back up and we keep going! We aren’t where we began. We are better than before. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a process, and to give ourselves space for the down-dips and trust that there is a purpose to them – they can almost act as a spring to catapult us up even farther I believe.

So I want to share this with you, because maybe it will resonate with you, too. We are all in this together, this beautiful messy thing called life. 💗🌀

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Her words and this image resonated so much with me that I wanted to post them here as well. Progress is not linear and just because I am not moving in a forward line (with running, with my mental health, with my career etc.) doesn’t mean that I am not making overall positive gains. No matter how many times I fall down, I know that I have the tools to continue getting up and moving forward.

 

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!

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Ten Mile Tempo – The Struggle is Real!

This morning I did my last big workout before my goal race, California International Marathon, which is coming up in just over two weeks. It was a ten mile tempo run and I have been dreading it all week. A ten mile tempo with warmup and cool down is over 12 miles, which is a lot of mileage to get in on a weekday morning before the regular morning routine of getting ready for school and work. Then there is the fact that I am still feeling tired from my high mileage week last week. Needless to say, I was looking forward to being on the other side of this workout. So much so that I scheduled a massage for this evening over a week ago!

Last night I checked the weather before going to bed. It was going to be below freezing in the morning. Now let me just say that I have totally lucked out on this training cycle. We have had beautiful weather this fall and most of my runs have been in the perfect 40-60 degree range. But this morning it was in the 20s. Brrrr! I put out ALL of the running clothes, hand warmers, and wool socks last night, and then I set my alarm for 4:30am. I tossed and turned, dreamt I slept through my alarm, and was relieved when it went off and I saw that it was still dark and I had plenty of time to do my workout.

I bundled up, headed out, and the cold air hit my face like a ton of bricks. This was my first run of the season in sub-freezing temperatures. As I started moving, my legs felt extremely unhappy. My left quad hurt, my hamstring hurt, and I felt a pinching sensation in my groin. I told myself it was mental and stopped several times during my warmup mile for some extra stretching. Nevertheless, my warmup mile was still slower than normal. After my warmup mile, I attempted to run 600 meters close to tempo pace and struggled to get near it. My coach suggested 8:20-8:30 minutes per mile, but I thought I might aim for 8:35-8:45 minutes per mile instead. Like in yoga class, I thought about bringing and accepting the body that I had today. And today’s body was feeling a little cranky and sluggish.

As I started my ten mile tempo, I struggled with the 8:35-8:45 range. A couple of miles into the run I wondered what time it was and thought about my running group. They meet not too far from where I was running at 6am so I wondered if I could bail on my tempo run and meet them for a different workout. I really needed some companionship and encouragement! But then I told myself that my coach and running friends would not be with me in a couple of weeks when I am running California International Marathon, so I needed to soldier on.

I noticed that when I focused and pushed hard that I could hold the 8:35-8:45 pace that I had suggested for myself. However, when I relaxed or when my mind wandered, my pace slowed to the 9:05-9:20 range. I became frustrated with myself and thought “How will I run a marathon at my sub-four hour goal when this ten mile workout is so hard?” I felt defeated. My chest tightened. I wanted to quit and cry. I worried that I would have a full blown panic attack.

But then I envisioned myself pushing through all of that. And I did. I told myself that the workout was hard because I was tired and that during the marathon my legs would be more rested. I told myself that this hard workout was good mental training. I envisioned myself feeling that tired during the last several miles of the marathon and pushing through. I told myself this was the last time I would get to do this workout during this training cycle so I was going to make the most of it. I struggled with the workout and it felt hard, but I was proud of myself at the end because I did it and I was consistent with the pacing. I stayed very close to the adjusted 8:35-8:45 range with my mile splits being: 8:37, 8:41, 8:42, 8:34, 8:46, 8:40, 8:31, 8:42, 8:42, 8:38. Now I am looking forward to that massage this evening!