Monday, January 26, 2015

What would I do without my BRF!?!

I didn't start running to become a social butterfly. I'm already pretty social (even "too social" if you ask my husband), running for me was going to be about the exercise, not about the community. I guess I felt this way since the thought of running with other people terrified me! I figured there was no way I was ever going to run with anyone other than my iPod for companionship. I mean, I was slow, I couldn't run very far, I certainly couldn't hold a conversation with someone while I was running. Nope, I figured I was destined to be solo on my runs, and I was okay with that. That is until one day last spring when my friend Brandi asked me to go on a run with her. I'm pretty sure I blew her off the first couple times she asked. I mean, Brandi has run A MARATHON before (actually, multiple marathons, but she's not one to boast). In my mind, I felt there was no way I could possibly keep up with her, I'd just end up embarrassing myself and not only would she not want to run with me, she'd probably stop being my friend because I subjected her to the torture of having to run with someone who didn't know what she was doing.

Eventually though, I gave in. Brandi and I could sit over coffee and talk about anything and make the time fly...maybe running with her would be the same, we'd make easy conversation and the miles would fly by. So I nervously laced up and met her outside our office building and tentatively started to run. I remember the route pretty well, it was the first time I had run more than a quick out and back from my office. But Brandi knows campus like the back of her hand and had all kinds of magical routes up her sleeve. She also has a Garmin, and told me she wanted to run about a 10 minute/mile pace (which, coincidentally was my pace :) That first day we went four miles over the river and around campus. After the first mile my apprehension faded and I settled in for what would become the first of many "therapy" sessions with her. All my worrying about pace and distance and running out of breath flew out the window...this was amazing! Sharing a run with a good friend, passing the miles talking about our kids, complaining about our husbands, grousing about work, stealing each others ideas for dinners that week, it was everything my running journey had been missing without me even realizing it. We've kept each other company during the oppressive heat of the summer, the glorious fall weather, and the bitter cold of a Minnesota winter...because when your BRF* wants to head out, you don't make excuses not to go.

However, sometimes your BRF will have a really crappy month, like January was for Brandi. She had so much going on at work and home that there were not many days she was able to get away. So I went back to running alone with my iPod. And although Taylor Swift is a better singer than Brandi, she's not much fun to talk to on a run. So today when Brandi texted to say she could get way, I said "tell me where and when, and I'm there!" We did an easy 3-miler, because she said she couldn't handle more, even though I know she could have. But see, that's the thing about a BRF. Some days you will both be firing on all cylinders and some days one of you will need to pull back. It doesn't matter. Finding a running buddy isn't about finding someone who can run your same speed or distance, it's about finding someone who "gets" why you run and can share that on the same level. I hope no matter how busy our lives get, we will always be able to find time for an "easy 3-miler" because as much as running has bettered my physical health, having a BRF like Brandi has done wonders for my mental health! And if you have been hesitating to take up an offer from someone to go for a run because you are afraid you are too slow or not up to their level...stop it! They are asking you to go for a run because they know a secret that you won't find out until you try...running with a buddy is awesome, no matter what your pace. So stop making excuses and just do it!

*BRF=Best Running Friend. Thanks to Another Mother Runner for providing the perfect acronym and for helping me to realize that we all deserve a sole-mate!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Oh the places I want to go!

I'm on day two of a doctor-prescribed rest period. Since I can barely make it through one day of rest, even when it's written in stone on my training plan...this has been brutal. The doctor is making me rest because yesterday I had to have a minor procedure to check something out. I feel fine and I am very likely going to BE fine, but man, what I could really use while waiting for the results is A RUN!

Waiting for anything is kind of brutal for me. I'm not the most patient person in the world. I'm also a "need to know" kind of person. If I'm waiting to find out about something, I need to know, NOW. I cannot do anything but think about THAT THING, I get consumed by it! I feel like I'm in that Dr. Seuss book, "Oh the Places You Will Go"

"You can get so confused that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space, 
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place..."

I don't want to be in the Waiting Place, I want to go, I want to run, I want to move forward, whatever that might look like. But I'm waiting, and resting, and doing my best to convince myself that this is what I need to do right now. I want the doctors to be thorough, so I'll wait. I want my body to heal, so I'll rest. I just wish they had better music in the Waiting Place, or at least some really decadent refreshments, because right now, this place blows!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life lessons from a Sunday afternoon

I'm kind of a sports fanatic. I grew up with parents who were really into sports, in fact I have vivid memories of my Mom making her own brackets for high school and college basketball championships, my Dad rambling off player stats like it was nothing, and football being just as sacred as church on Sundays. I was raised to be a fan of the Vikings, Twins, and Gophers...with a smattering of North Stars, Timberwolves, Lynx, and Wild here and there. I have screamed until I was horse at these teams both in person and from my living room, in support of their efforts, both winning, and more often times, losing. It's not always an easy road, but it is one I love to be matter the event, whether I'm a participant or spectator, I love to be around the passion and energy that accompanies sport.

Ten years ago, I married another sports fanatic. When we met, his experiences with professional fandom were much like mine...lots of disappointments with a few high points along the way. Now, as a good wife, over the past 10 years I have done my fair share of cheering for "his" Seattle teams. I shared his disappointment in 2005 when the Seahawks lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL. I reveled in the victories of the Seattle Storm in 2004 and 2010, and of course I road his fan coattails all the way to the Super Bowl victory last year, and it was sweet. You may call me "band wagon" or "fair weather" if you want...but I supported those teams as if they were my own, through thick and thin (except of course when they were playing Minnesota teams). But this weekend, during the NFC Championship, with the Seahawks down 19-7 and 3 minutes left to go in the game, I did something as a fan that I have never done before...I gave up on my team. I had promised the kids we'd go swimming after the game, and in MY mind, it was over. I started to pack up our swim bag, told the kids to get their shoes and coats on, and had one foot out the door when my husband screamed "NO WAY!" I ran back up and got to witness one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. It was exhilarating, inspiring, unfathomable, one of the best sports moments ever...but I felt like a fraud. I had packed it in. I took my ball and went home. I didn't believe. I quit.

We've all heard that old adage; "Quitters Never Win, and Winners Never Quit". It's cliche, and when I hear it I think, "yeah, sure, blah, blah, blah". But after this weekend, I took a new look at that saying. I mean, there was no reason the Seahawks should have won that game. When your star quarterback throws four interceptions and can't make anything happen, when the core of your pro-bowl defense are all playing injured, when the only person who's had a good game is your punter, and when you are down 12 points with 3 minutes left to should pack it in, take your ball and go home, you should stop believing, you should quit....right? Not the Seahawks. Somehow, they managed to see themselves winning that game. They could visualize themselves celebrating an NFC Championship and going to the Super Bowl. They had the ability to put 57 horrific minutes of football behind them and play like they were winners. They never quit, never quit believing in themselves, never quit playing hard, never quit trying, never quit. In a scenario where millions of others would have thrown in the towel, they kept going, and three minutes later, they were hoisting a trophy into the air and making travel arrangements to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX.

I like to think of myself as someone with a can-do attitude, I like to believe that anything is possible with determination and hard work. But I have to admit, I don't know that I would have made that comeback. I don't know how you have that kind of a hill in front of you and convince yourself you are going to get up it. All I know is that after that game on Sunday, I can't help but believe that there really isn't an insurmountable obstacle that can't be overcome with the right attitude. I know that from now I am I am gong to visualize myself getting over that hill, or running that PR, or finishing that new distance. And beyond visualizing it, I am going to really believe that I can accomplish it, that I can "win" no matter how huge the probability against me winning is. I will make a promise as a fan of myself, that I will never give up on me. It's not going to be easy, some days it's not going to be fun, but I'd rather postpone a trip to the pool and be able to say, "I knew that was possible" than quit on myself when the going gets tough.

And I will never again give up on the Seattle Seahawks!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Runners "hi"

On a day like today it is almost impossible not to run. Okay, maybe if you live in a part of the country where the temps don't hover dangerously close to freezing and you aren't routinely picking icicles off your eyelashes all winter, you might find an excuse. But if you live in the snow belt and you are a runner, odds are you got outside today.

I generally run in one of two areas, my neighborhood, or on campus. Both places are very runner-friendly, but only one is populated with "friendly" runners. I've found that the runners I encounter while out in my neighborhood are the "put your head down and power through it" kind of runners. That's fine, to each his own...but I am definitely in the minority when I smile and offer a nod of my head to them as we pass. There is even a guy who I see almost every time I run in my hood that seems to actively look away when we pass...perhaps my awesomeness is just too distracting for him...I guess I'll never know.

But campus is a different story, especially on a glorious day like today. Everyone I encountered had at least a smile or a head nod. Many waved, winked, or even blurted out a "hi" in between breaths. This is the norm every time I run from my office. Not sure what it is that makes these two groups of runners so different. I don't think it's an age thing, there are folks from all walks of life running on campus. And while most people in my neighborhood are not college-age, there are several younger runners making tracks with us middle-agers. It could be that the on-campus runners are all folks like me, University employees who are sneaking out on their lunch break for a quick jog and are just super-excited to be away from their desks for an hour, so they can't help but share their enthusiasm. Whatever it is, I love it. I love the feeling of that connection with someone else, just for a second. That spark of recognition that says, "yep, we're winning, we rock, we are runners".

On this most wonderful day in the middle of January, when the sun was out and the temps allowed us to run in only one layer of clothing, I got more waves, head nods, and winks than ever before. I even passed by an older gentleman with fluorescent orange shoes, royal blue tights, a bright yellow shirt and a long flowing beard who gave me a huge smile and yelled "Get after it girl!" I couldn't help but run just a little faster after that.

So next time you pass by another runner, consider giving them a quick acknowledgement. Whether it's just a little look, a quick wave, or a loud exclamation of praise. You never know when a runners "hi", might be just the boost they need to keep on running!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The first mile is a liar!

My first mile always sucks. Now, I admittedly don't warm up very much before a run, a few toe touches, a half-hearted hamstring stretch, then I might jump around a little, that's it. But I think even if I had the world's most productive warm-up, my first mile would still suck. That's just how it goes. If I didn't know better, I'd have quit pretty much every run I've ever done after the first mile.

The first mile is a big, fat, liar. It's telling you; "this is hard, your legs are sore, your lungs hurt, you should be eating a cookie instead of running, look around one else is running". That first mile wants you to quit it. It's slow, it doesn't feel right, you're too cold, too hot, too thirsty. So why go on? Why run past that first mile? Because there is some sort of magical switch that gets flipped after the first mile. You find your groove, your muscles relax, your breathing steadies, you get into the totally jamming part of your play list, and your body starts pumping out some excellent endorphins that make you feel like a rock star.

Today I almost bought the lies of my first mile. My mind was preoccupied when I started my run, my ankle hurt, it was slushy and sloppy, and my feet were cold. I was out of breath before I even got off campus and onto my trail. But in the back of my mind I remembered the first mile is a liar, so I stopped listening to it. I focused on my music and the fact that for the first time in 13 days I was running without icicles forming on my eyelashes, and I ran on. I am so glad I did. I felt so strong and smooth. I passed a couple other runners and couldn't help but smile to myself...."take that first mile, I just smoked those guys"*. I ran five glorious miles, mostly because that's all I had time for today, but I felt like I could have run forever. Thank goodness I didn't buy the lies of that first mile!

For those of you struggling to get past that first mile, I have been there. Just trust me on this. Next time your first mile is winning the argument to stop, say out loud "You're a Liar!" and run on, just a little may end up being amazed at how far you can go!

*I am competitive...I can't help but get excited when I pass other runners, especially since it does't happen too often. I in no way think I am better than these runners, I truly admire anyone who gets out and does it. And I didn't really "smoke" them, more like I trudged past slightly faster...but still it felt like a win to me :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One of those days

I'm having one of those days. One of those days that you just feel like you are in a funk and can't exactly pin point why. One of those days that you treat yourself to a fancy coffee and a cookie to try to brighten your spirits, but all it ends up doing is making you feel worse (I just wasted money on fancy coffee and consumed a gazillion calories I didn't need). I worked out today, and for that hour I felt pretty good. I was sweating, and straining, and pushing myself really hard, but still there was a little cloud over my thoughts (except when I was doing burpees, I can't think of anything other how much I hate burpees when I'm doing them).

Now I'm back in full funk, thinking about running. I'm not scheduled to run today. I ran yesterday, I'll run tomorrow, today was just supposed to be strength training. But, what is it about running that can make a funk go away? It's really cold outside, a normal person would think "I'm not going out there, that will make things worse" But all I can think about is lacing up, starting my favorite playlist and running. My mind will be filled with the sound of my music, my breaths, and my heart beat. There won't be room for any bad stuff. When I am running it consumes me...there is nothing but me and the road, my body working full force to propel me forward and away from the funk. I'll think about racing and winning and conquering new goals. I sometimes wonder how I ever got out of a funk before I found running. It is my therapy, it is better than any kind of solace you can find in fancy coffee, it is the world's best de-funkifer. Try it next time you are having one of those days. I promise you, you won't regret it!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I can't handle rest day!

Run, run, run, run, run.....that is all my brain is thinking about right now. For the last two weeks we have been in a deep freeze. I mean it, the temps have not been above zero and the windchill has been DOUBLE DIGITS below zero. I consider myself a hearty Minnesotan, but even I have my limits. I haven't run outside for 11 days! So today, on my rest day, what does it decide to do...the weather gods decide that we should have our first day in two weeks with double digits ABOVE zero...on my rest day!

Now, rest day is hard enough for me. I don't rest easy. I like to have something to do, all the time. And while my mind understands why I need rest, it also keeps telling me, "your rivals aren't resting, they are working hard, they are getting faster and stronger."* So I stew, I sit around and think, "just a little workout won't hurt me". But I talk myself out of it...I'll run body will thank me...blah, blah,, run, run. This back and forth in my head is kind of exhausting...which sucks, because, you know, rest day!

*Um, I'm a 43 year old woman who likes to race for "fun", so worrying about my "rivals" is kind of ridiculous. However, I also love while I am not a well-oiled competitive machine, I still think like one.

How it all began...

Back in July of 2013 my friend Jenn asked me to meet her at the pool to help her work on her stroke as she trained for the YWCA Women’s Triathlon. While we were at the pool she said “you should totally do this tri, it’s easy and fun”. As a former competitive swimmer I always thought about doing triathlons, but my excuse was always the same, “I don’t run”. “But the run is only three miles” she said. To me, three miles might as well have been a marathon. See, to a non-runner ANY running seems like an impossibility. So, the idea was left there in the water. But as the summer went on, I couldn't stop thinking about the triathlon, and all my friends who were still competing in Masters swimming, triathlons, marathons, doing fun races with their kids. I stewed about it, felt sorry for myself, and continued to sit on my ass and do nothing.

That is,until November 18, 2013, the day after my 42nd birthday. I don’t know what it was about that day, in that moment, but as I sat at my desk staring at my computer I said to myself, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to do the triathlon this summer”. I got up, went to the Rec Center and signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. Little did I know that that day would be the start of a new me! I could go on and on and bore you to tears with tales about my “journey”, but just typing that sentence makes me want to puke. So instead I’ll just share some way-points.
  • When I started training, I couldn't run for 2 minutes at a 12 min/mile pace on the treadmill, but in a month I was able to run a whole mile without stopping. 
  • By April, I ran my first 5K race (that’s 3 miles if you are wondering) in just over 30 minutes.
  • In June, I did my first triathlon, and I killed it. I mean, I shocked myself. I knew I was going to finish (1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run), but I not only finished, I WON my age group. My competitive fires were reignited and for the first time in over 20 years I felt like an athlete again.
I continued to train and in August I joined Jenn, and several other friends for the YWCA Women’s Triathlon. It was an amazing experience. All those women, all ages, all sizes, all abilities, all with a common goal, finish a triathlon, and in the process inspire any woman who thinks it’s an impossibility. With no races on the horizon after that, I started to wonder what was going to keep me going. That’s when my Best Running Friend (BRF), Brandi, said we should put our names into the lottery for the TC 10-mile. Um, me running 10 miles, she had to be out of her mind! But, the “I can’ts” of my past were now buried down deep beneath the “I cans” of the new me. When my name was pulled but not Brandi’s I thought about skipping it, I mean, I didn't want to run if she wasn't going to be by my side. But she told me “You have to do it, this is YOUR year!” And she was right, this was my year, my year to prove that someone who “used to be an athlete”, someone who “doesn't run”, someone who ALWAYS had an excuse to sit on the sidelines, could do amazing things with a little hard work and determination. I finished that race, all 10 miles, at a 9:35 min/mile pace. Me, the woman who couldn't run for 2 minutes on the treadmill less than a year earlier, just ran for 1 hour and 35 minutes without stopping!

After that race I felt energized, I had to take some deep breaths as I approached the finish line to keep from bursting into tears I was so proud of myself. It was right then that I decided to finish off my first year of running with an attempt at a half-marathon. So on October 25, 2014, not quite one year after I started, I ran 13.1 miles, on MY feet, with MY legs. My family was at the finish line to cheer me on, just like they were at my first 5K, and my first Triathlon, and I was not only proud of myself for finishing, I was proud of them for letting me get to the finish line, because some days it meant I didn't have as much time to play with the kids, and some days I was too tired to help with dinner, and some days I needed Kayley on her scooter to help pace me on my run, and they were always there cheering me on, no matter what.

I have no plans on stopping at 13.1. In June of 2014 I will attempt to run my first full marathon, and in July I will do an Olympic distance triathlon, and I will run some fun 5Ks with my daughter, and maybe, in a few years I will do an Ironman, okay, maybe a half-Ironman (I’m an athlete, I’m not Super Woman)…but who knows. I really feel like the sky’s the limit. I am proof that you are never too old, too out of shape, too busy, or too (fill in the blank) to make a change in your life.

If you are like me and are already on this path, please keep sharing your stories and successes, because they inspire me and so many other people in ways you probably don’t even realize. If you are someone who is just starting to make these changes, all I can say is, STAY THE COURSE! This road has hills, potholes, detours, and sometimes is just closed for no apparent reason. But those obstacles are there so that we find another way to get to where we are going, not so that we’ll turn around and go back home. For those of you who are where I was a year ago, and you are sitting there listening to the voice in your head say “I don’t run”. Shut that voice up, because there is another quieter voice in there saying “well, maybe.” Let your “well maybe” voice scream at you. That voice belongs to a triathlete, or a marathoner, or a 5Ker, or someone who walks around their neighborhood with friends every night to stay in shape. That voice is a better you waiting to be the new you.