Running just as fast as I can…

Sometimes I find I enjoy writing racing recaps more than the race itself. But, these past few weeks are the exception to the rule. Eleven weeks ago, I began a journey to train for a 10k. I felt it’d be challenging enough, but much more realistic than attempting a half this fall. Surprisingly, it turns out I do in fact enjoy running when I match my skillset to a course length.

Birkie 5K (Note dad in background drinking Mountain Dew)

Perhaps it was the magical fall weather we’ve been having. Or, the shorter runs that made up this training schedule. I’m not sure which it was but regardless, I can honestly say I enjoyed this training. A couple weeks ago on a whim, I decided to throw a 5k into my running mix. My motivation—Jake. The Birkie race included a kid’s race that I thought my son would seriously enjoy. And, if I need to do a run anyway and was going to drive down to the Birkie trail for Jake, I might as well do my own 5k. Reality check – the Birkie course is solid hills. And, if you plan to run even a 5k, doing at least a couple of trail runs and perhaps even some training on hills would be wise. But, whatever. I had a blast. I finished in a decent time given the circumstances and more importantly, didn’t injure myself. I also got to immediately run another 1k with my son right after. It was one of those perfect falls days and Jake was on fire. Sure, he didn’t cross the finish line first. But like mom, he gave it everything he had and crossed the finish line with pride. He also got a sweet pair of socks out of the deal. Afterwards, we enjoyed some of my favorite pizza in the world at River’s Eatery in Cable

The race reminded me that in running, you reap what you sow. You really do get back what you put in. It also fueled me to complete my last few weeks of training honestly. By race day, I knew I was ready. On the evening of Whistlestop, my son had an opportunity to run another race.

The Loose Caboose
The Loose Caboose

The Loose Caboose included several hundred kids, free t-shirts, sheer and utter mayhem and a wooden whistle for every kid who crossed the finish line. Once again, Jake rocked the run. The proud mama in me loved every second of it.

Saturday morning, I was blessed with cloudy skies but no rain. It was a humid day but not overly hot. It was definitely a blessing compared to my spring half. Plus, I only had 6.2 miles to go this time. Don’t get me wrong, running 6.2 miles or any miles at my size does not come naturally or easy. But, in my mind, it seemed so much easier than the last Whistlestop.

I somehow missed the start of the race. I was chatting with a co-worker and frankly just lost track of time. It didn’t matter since my time didn’t start until I crossed the marker. And, with no time for nerves or stretching, I had no choice but to just push forward. Given the shorter time on the course, I removed all of my favorite love songs and country ballads from my playlist, leaving only upbeat bubble gum pop songs, the occasional rap (Baby Got Back) song and plenty of toe stomping country. Surprisingly, this type of music can in fact carry you through a race. Anyways, it was an uneventful race except for this – I ran. That’s right. To me, I always considered 15-minute miles sort of my tipping point. Slower than that, it was more of a waddle-jog. Faster averages meant I was actually running. This race, all of my miles were under 14-minutes. Granted, this was my first 10k and I had no PR to compare it to but what I do know is that while it wasn’t quite as fast as my 5k times, it was substantially better than the 15:49 per mile pace I did in one of my worse half-marathons ever this past spring.  It almost had to be.

My goal was to finish in 1:30 and I managed to do it in 1:26:02. For me, that felt pretty awesome. I learned a lot in this race, not so much about my personal willpower but rather my potential as a runner. And after all these years, I can finally say after this race I felt like an actual runner. Perhaps slow but not a jogger or waddler, just a novice runner trying to

Best medal ever!
Best medal ever!

find her way in a sea of spandex. At the finish, my son yammered on how about how “mommy ran super fast” and gave me the biggest hug ever. While I still wish both of these races had medals, that was a pretty awesome way to finish a morning run.

I’m excited to see what next season brings me. For sure, I’ve earned another new pair of Brooks. And, definitely a new pair of running sweats (especially since I decided to paint our guest room in my last pair and destroyed them) and some socks. I don’t know where I’ll run but the one thing I know today is I will run again. Not a bad way to end an otherwise uneventful year of running.

Winter Blahs

I’ve been in a writer and runner funk for the past month or so. On the surface, I’m not sure what’s up other than I’m not producing. I could blame a Vitamin D deficiency, straight up laziness, mama burn out, tired muscles, or just too much desire to watch the latest season of House of Cards. The reasons are endless.

Coupled with this, I’ve lost my mojo in training for my upcoming half-marathon. This is in fact a bigger problem because I can barely finish a half-marathon. I had set a lofty goal back in January (lofty for me that is). And, the energy and drive needed to do that just isn’t there. I’m now 6-weeks away from race day and the longest run I’ve done is 6-miles. I skipped this morning’s workout in lieu for a few more minutes in bed. And, I know, even if I make major changes now, I’m not going to be where I need to be in a few weeks. I refuse to quit but I do fear that this is going to result in another disappointing finish time.

This latest conundrum in my quest to improve my running reminded me of the time I was interviewed by Runner’s World. It was about overcoming obstacles. I don’t know if I ever shared the article on my blog. It was quite a big deal at the time because frankly, I didn’t consider myself a runner. I still struggle calling myself and it is 4-years later. Their advice is still relevant. Still working on it. Truth be told, you can in fact run 7 half-marathons and have none of the things mentioned in the article happen to you. I’m just that special.

Fueling the fire, my bag of tricks for motivation just doesn’t seem to be working. Two weeks ago I bought a new pair of running shoes in hopes to spark some pep in my step. I’ve purchased new running pants and socks. I’ve updated my playlist. I’ve even integrated Cize into my off-days for some extra, super fun cardio. I’m maintaining a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. But, even with those changes, I’m still stuck in a rut.

Last night on the drive home I was listening to my newest obsession – the Growth Show podcast by HubSpot. Love, love, love it. Anyways, they were interviewing Neil Pasricha about his new book The happiness equation: want nothing + do anything = have everything. I immediately added it to my must read list.

The podcast, along with some recent Brene Brown readings has had my mind spinning. I pride myself on being a highly productive person. I always have a plan in place. I do gut checks regularly. I like to be on a course. Even when Jake came along and threw my ability to plan out the window, I still found ways to plan. I set goals and achieve them. But, I think at times I miss the big picture. The piece where I step back and say what if my only goal was not to not have a goal for a while. What if I stepped back and said I don’t have a five year plan other than to live in the now. What if I allowed myself to just be? To give myself what Neil calls creative space. Would anyone even notice? Doubtful. Right now I’m guessing is the first person that’d notice is my husband when we were out of apple juice to give Jake at bedtime. While that’s scary, I think it is a risk I’m willing to take.

I’m not sure what all of this means. But, deep down, I do know that by setting so many arbitrary rules and expectations on myself, I’m providing myself the distraction needed to not work on the big things. Those existential things like what do I want to be when I grow-up? Running a half-marathon in under 3-hours, while seemingly impossible for this plus-size gal, seems much easier.

So for now, I’m going to make hay while the sun shines. I’m going to keep running and conditioning and pushing myself to show-up and have fun in Eagle River May 15. Worse case, I don’t have a PR. But, I still get a 4-day weekend with my family at a cabin on a lake. I still get to take Jake to an awesome zoo and eat deep fried bacon wrapped pickles. And right now, that’s sounding like a pretty darn good consolation prize.

Running Towards My Dream

635818006858912368At lunch yesterday, a couple of curious friends casually hinted that I hadn’t posted about the coffee shop lately. I’ve been hesitant to doing so because I’ve found when I put things on this site, they tend to happen. Or in this case, don’t happen. That’s right. The coffee shop is on hold.

I could give an entire laundry list of reasons why—with the largest being a suitable space. There is also the whole regional workforce shortage and inability for me to find work-life balance as well. But the truth is, these roadblocks could be conquered… but only if I was 100% ready to go all in and compromise a bit on my vision for Iron River Coffee.

Over the course of the last year, I spent a lot of time exploring how to make a coffee shop work. I met with a lot of individuals smarter than I and crunched a lot of numbers. I dreamed big about having my own private coffee label and began envisioning my brand. I met with realtors, saved money and read coffee business books. I looked at auction sites and spent a lot of time researching other shops by taste testing drinks and treats and testing wi-fi. I learned a ton. And, I know that someday in my future I will own or invest in a coffee shop.

But someday isn’t today. This fall I spent some time doing the hardest part of business planning—soul searching. And the more I searched, the more I discovered that while there are many reasons I should go into business, there are many reasons I’m just not ready. Sure, some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it is fear of failure. Some of it is risk tolerance. Some of it is timing. But, even if I push beyond those basic business fears, there was a large part of me that discovered I just don’t want the added stress of a business on my plate right now.

This is tough for me to acknowledge. The old me would have plowed ahead and said well I said I was going to open a business so I’m going to do it… even if I’m not ready and I know the timing isn’t right for me and my family. I know some of you are thinking there will never be a good time for me to do this. But, I can guarantee you there will be a better time for me to do this. And that will be at the moment when my heart says so.

So for now, I’ll continue to jot down menu ideas. Create coffee concoctions at home and set my grill on fire roasting beans from around the world. I’ll visit shops on my travels and allow myself to wonder what if. And someday, what if will become what is. And, when that time comes, I know is it’ll be built on my timeline and achieve my dream of a creative community space where folks can connect while indulging in affordable caffeine.

You might be wondering why a post all about the coffee shop involves a random pic of me running. I’m not sure other than to say, this month I completed my 6th Half-Marathon. It was my best Whistlestop time and I missed a PR by 3-minutes. I didn’t achieve my goal this year. But, I made it halfway. And I’m not done yet. The older I get, the more I’m learning life is about making tough choices. In many ways it would have been easier for me to open a coffee shop and abandon my running goal. I’m pretty confident I’d be a much better business owner than athlete… But, I plan to keep on running.

I’m working on some changes for next spring when I line up again in hopes I can break the 3-hour barrier. Because that my friends, is one dream I’m not willing to put on hold.

Last… As in Last Place. Thanks Nike.

An interesting post came up in my Twitter feed today. If it were a promoted Tweet, I would have seriously wondered exactly what in my Twitter profile exemplifies exactly how slow I run.

Fast Company shared Nike’s latest ad. In the Tweet, they call this ad a soulful tribute to last place. It immediately peaked my attention given my consistency in finishing in the bottom half of races for 5+ years. The ad itself is well done. It certainly triggered one of my favorite Half-Marathon moments, when while running in Door County, I could hear the awards ceremony going on. I still had about 5-miles to go. I remember turning to the person running next to me at the time and saying, “I guess we didn’t win this one.” At the time it seemed funny. But it is true. Running any race is difficult, both mentally and physically. But, I am 100% confident that running a race from the back of the pack is much more difficult. It is harder physically. It is harder mentally since you must maintain focus for twice that of someone in the front half. And, emotionally, it is hard to push through the self-doubt that comes with coming in last.

Nike manages to capture the glory of the back of the pack in their latest ad thoughtfully titled: Last. Watch it now:

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the notion that I probably won’t die at my race on October 10. Granted, it is a half-marathon versus a marathon. But, I do appreciate Nike acknowledging that there are a whole lot of us in the back of the pack that buy Nike clothes too. Without us inspiring to be better and to try harder, they wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. So thanks for that.

On the training front, I completed my last long run of the season. It wasn’t a great time but I felt strong. The next two weeks will be spent doing some short runs and lots of cross-training and hiking. Fall is gearing up to be gorgeous and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Hoping for some great race day weather to close-out a fun season of runs.

 

Thirteen Seconds

Before you read this, I want you to pause for thirteen seconds.

Did you do it? It really isn’t that hard, right? I mean 13 seconds is nothing. It probably took me that long to type this sentence. But this past weekend, I discovered that 13 seconds in running is comparable to 8 seconds when riding a bull. It is flipping hard!

I ran my second timed 5k in my life this weekend. I showed up to the start feeling pretty good about things. I was still a bit sore from a cardio course earlier in the week that reminded me I’m old and need to cross-train but that’s a whole different story. All in all, I thought for sure I’d shave at least a minute off my time.

stillwaterThe race was in Stillwater. Great town for a race. I knew the finish line had moved but figured the course was roughly the same. Turns out it wasn’t. But, that’s no excuse. Both courses ended lower than they started. And, both were on the road so all in all, they were equal races. Similar to the May race, there were also many parent/kid duos racing. And yes, it is equally as disheartening to watch a child blast past you. This time around, it took me about ¾ of a mile to finally pass the pint size 5-year old who was racing with dad. Luckily, he found something interesting in the dirt to distract him or I might still be chasing him today. Granted, I could probably run a lot faster 30-years ago but regardless, it is humbling.

So anyways, I hit the final stretch of this race giving it everything I had. It felt good. In fact, there was a moment in that final stretch where I felt a bit like a superhero. I really need to add chariots of fire to my playlist. I was running so fast, I didn’t even have time to think I was going to fall over. As I approached the rubber mat, I glanced at the clock and was shocked. It had to be wrong. The time was much too similar to my last race.

After getting my medal, I propped myself against the wall and contemplated how this was even possible. The only reason I could come up with was there was a huge bottleneck at the start so when I factor in my start time, I’m sure that’s off by a few minutes. And in 5k time, that’s acceptable. A few hours later I received the email… it was in fact my PR but by 13 seconds. Yep. That’s it. Thirteen seconds. As I sit here, TWO days later, there is still some muscles in my inner thighs that hurt. And for what? Thirteen seconds.

Ugh. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand why my time isn’t improving. This has been a summer filled with shortcuts on the course and quite a bit of overindulging. While I’ve completed my long runs to ensure I don’t injure myself at the half, I’ve been a little less focused on everything else that goes into running.

Running really is a sport where you get what you put into it. And to be honest, if I asked myself did I deserve to finish with a PR stronger than 13-seconds, well I didn’t. So for now, this is going to have to be good enough.

Good enough is tough getting used to. Even tougher is knowing that in 3-weeks the outcome will likely be very similar or even worse. I know I can change that. But saying it and doing it are two different things. This year’s goal of a half-marathon in less than 3-hours isn’t going to happen. But, I’m going to keep trying. And given everything going on right now, I am finding a way to be ok with that.

So that’s the latest from the back of the pack. It isn’t all rainbows in Moon Lake Runningland. Instead, a lot of ibuprofen, swearing and sweaty spandex. But, at least I’ve managed to keep all of my toenails!

Lacing Up is Hard to Do

Today marks 12-weeks until my next half-marathon. It is also the kick-off of training for an anticipated 5K in August and a 10-miler run in September. A lot has happened since my last post. Two weeks after the half, I did my first 5k in Stillwater and absolutely loved it. I also learned during that race, I can push myself a lot harder during training. I finished in about 39 minutes. Not bad for my first race, no warm-up and no pacing or understanding of what it takes to run a 5k. The following weekend I completed a 5k obstacle fun run. No timing but a lot of laughing. For the past 4-weeks, I’ve been focused on enjoying summer, cross training (aka mowing the lawn, gardening, swimming with my 22 month old) and watching Scandal. As I watched the calendar turn to July, though, I knew this fun time was over.

This morning I woke up after sleeping soundly for 9.5 hours. Physically, I felt great. My hubby knew I needed to run this morning and was in full support. There would be no excuses or leisurely cups of coffee on the deck contemplating when I should run. Instead, it was go time. Getting dressed, I knew I was in better shape today than I have been in years. I knew just 8 weeks ago I ran a Half-Marathon in my best time ever. Just 5-weeks ago, I completed a 5k doing 13-minute miles. For me, this is impressive. But yet, I still felt that same jolt of discouragement and why bother as I grudgingly put on my shoes.
I don’t know about any other runners out there but for me, lacing up is the hardest part. Once outside jamming to my tunes and breathing in the fresh air, it physically hurts but my mental game improves. Just run to that tree, go past that mailbox, run to that stop box. Everything is so finite on the course—measurements are by steps, minutes and miles. As Nike so eloquently puts it, you just do it. But that’s only half the game.

Lacing up is much more subjective. It is about the why’s and the can I and what ifs. It is the fear of losing a toenail, injuring my knees, damaging my hips, getting attacked by a random rodent or bear. It is the realization that I’m still bigger than I’d like and those cute running outfits just aren’t a possibility right now.
Today, I won. I quickly laced up my shoes, glanced at my medals and bounded out the door. My first 30-minute training session went quickly—in part because I chose the single most humid day this summer to start training and the black flies are in full swing. But, I hit my goal, sweat and made it home before 8 am. It felt great. I pocket this for now knowing I’ll need this encouragement the next time I lace up.

I don’t know if I’ll make it this time. I don’t know what surprises are in store for me the next few months. But for now, I’m committed. The first training is I n the books. And from here, we’ll see what happens.

Race Day Recap

Always earned, never given. For Valentine’s Day, my hubby bought me this quote as a metal hanger for my medals. At the time, I was super excited about adding another medal to the mix. I was in the height of training for my fifth half-marathon but I was only averaging 3-5 mile runs, making it somewhat easy and enjoyable. By mid-April, the novelty of training had worn off and I was left looking at that rack and a month of long runs wondering what the hell I was thinking. Similar to last fall, life had thrown some curveballs and it would have been easy and totally acceptable to quit. But for whatever reason, I opted to see this one through to the finish line.

Two weeks prior to race day I did a trial run. It was clear that despite having a longer training time, I was going to come nowhere close to my goal. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed in myself. I felt I had a solid plan and was determined to clear 3-hours. But looking back, I didn’t diet or push myself early on to improve my time. And the reality is, if you change nothing about your training you can pretty much expect the same for results.
By race day evening, I just wanted the race to be over. By race day morning, my stomach hurt. Not with race day jitters but just frustration. To add to this joy, I had the pleasure of being the larger than average gal lining up with a bunch of runners. Don’t shake your head at me and say, but you are a runner. You know what I’m talking about. If you want to feel fat, head to a half-marathon and look at those in your company. But, it was during the porta potty line that I noticed something distinctly different about this race. I’m guessing it was my mindset. As I patiently waited for my turn I decided to quit dwelling in what I didn’t do and acknowledge the fact that in 15-minutes I was going to line-up and run a race. And sometime in the next 4-hours I’d finish a race. And, what I made of the time in-between was up to me. Yes, I could dwell on what I didn’t do. But, I could also say, I’m still here and why not enjoy today.

Exhausted but happy.
Exhausted but happy.

And I did. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word since I was in intense pain. But, I can honestly say I had fun. The Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River was by far my favorite race. And, somewhere around mile 6 and the tune, this is my Fight Song (Thank You Courtney for sharing that song), I really started pushing myself. I pushed myself harder than I ever have pushed myself before running. By Mile 12, I was wondering if I had pushed too hard. Whether I would actually clear the finish line before collapsing. But I did. Later when I checked my time, I discovered my time was 3:13. In runner’s time, that meant I missed my goal by a lifetime. But, in my time, that was 15 minutes faster than my last race and 25-minutes faster than my first run. But more importantly, I put it all out there on the race course and discovered I have a lot more in me that I ever thought possible. The icing on the cake, seeing my son when I finished and knowing that someday he’ll understand that while his mom might not finish first, she finishes what she starts and tries her hardest. And for right now, that’s enough.