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.

Back of the Pack

This morning, my legs clocked 11 miles on the tri-county corridor. Several things happened while I slowly made my way across a tiny portion of northwest Wisconsin.

First, my goal of finishing the race in under 3-hours in two weeks isn’t happening. Not by a long shot. I had a hunch this might be the case. It started with a lack of ambition on the diet, followed by a few too many episodes of House of Cards and of course, quality time hanging out with my son versus clocking additional miles.

I’d by lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed. But, I’m still going to lace-up and run in two weeks. Even though I won’t hit my goal time, I’ve earned a darn medal. And more importantly, this whole training thing has taught me something about myself that is amplified by when I cross that finish line.

Several years ago I started a book called Back of the Pack. I haven’t finished it, in part because the story is evolving. And, there was a brief moment where I thought my story would change. That, I would fall in love with running and start training harder and finish in the middle of the pack. I’m not sure why I thought this would happen because the truth is, I dislike running. I hate that my legs hurt and sweating is pretty disgusting. I still dread the day I might lose a toenail. And, I’m always afraid my bowels are going to let me down.

But, there’s something to be said about doing something you aren’t good at. There is something rewarding about casually saying, I’m running a half-marathon and watching the look of disbelief by the person on the receiving end of the conversation. There’s something to be said about crossing that finish line and even surprising myself, not because I finished but because I lined up knowing I’d finish last.

As someone who is a memoir junkie, I had always thought I’d find my passion early in life. That I’d find the one thing that really made me excited about life and then I’d pursue that and ultimately become great at it because that’s what the self-help books say.

For much of my life that was true. I only pursued things I was good at. If it came naturally to me, I’d call it a passion and make it the focus of my life. But, I always knew something was missing. Ten years ago, I decided to do something about that. I quit my job and started over. While I loved producing news and the highs and lows that come with managing a newsroom, I knew I didn’t want to be defined by my job.

Fast forward 10-years and I can definitely say I’ve achieved that. I no longer feel my greatest accomplishments happen while I’m on the clock. I’ve found my greatest joy in things I genuinely suck at. If you’ve seen my garden, the outtakes of my photography or my attempts at painting our house, you know what I’m talking about. Not to mention this whole mother thing—I don’t have a clue. In fact many mornings I wake up and look at Jake and genuinely wonder how I’ve managed to keep him alive for the past 20-months.

These experiences have taught me more than any book. What I’ve learned is that maybe my passion is not having a passion. Instead, it is about getting up in the morning and saying, who or what do I want to be today and then going for it. That simply living life on my terms is enough. Sometimes, more often than not, this means finishing last or completely screwing up. It is a humbling way to live life. But at the same time, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.

In two weeks, I’m going to run the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River. I’ll line up like everyone else. And, crossing the finish line in the back will be just as sweet for me as for those who finish first. But, I’ll also visit the cement park and play in the park with Jake and hopefully enjoy some awesome bakery treats at some hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. These experiences will be equally as exciting. And for that, I’m grateful.

Survival Mode

The countdown is on. In less than one month, thousands of runners will lace up their shoes and hit the tri-county corridor to complete the Whistlestop. Since giving birth 13-months ago, I assumed I’d be among them. In April, I completed a warm-up half-marathon despite a polar vortex and countless other obstacles. I was unstoppable when I crossed that finish line. I set new goals and had every intention of setting a new personal best this fall.

The path to success seemed so obvious. Lose weight. Train hard. Show-up. Achieve goal. I started strong. As someone who thrives on organized chaos, my goals seemed manageable. I updated my to do list factoring in my new goals and kept plugging ahead. Then, life happened.

I’m not sure how I went from organized chaos to overwhelmed mess. Somewhere between a foot injury in mid-July to typing this today, I lost my way. My diet derailed. My training became non-existent. My immediate to-do list trumped finding time to get out and run. Tomorrow never happened. By mid-August, I acknowledged the half-marathon needed to be a 10K. Then, life happened again. This time, an unexpected lingering illness knocked my desire to run. My body shut down. It became easier to make excuses than push through and run. At some point, the obvious path to success became an unbearable burden.

Last week, I acknowledged a 10K wasn’t in my cards on October 11. My consolation goal wasn’t achievable. In many respects, running rejected me. Truth be told, I’m disappointed. But, I’m picking myself up and moving on.

I’m not sure where I go from here. This week, I put on my running shoes, cranked up my Ipod and headed out with no goal other than to run until I didn’t feel like running anymore. When I was tired, I stopped. I walked. I took in the fresh fall air and acknowledged that some things are beyond my control. I caught my breath, I ran some more. It felt amazing. I don’t know if this will equate to lining up for another race at some point. I do know that the pressure of a race right now won’t motivate me. If anything, it’ll break me. So for now, I’ll run for fun until it isn’t fun anymore. If I find myself longing to line up at a starting line, I’ll put together a plan and do it. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. But, it needs to be on my terms and my timeline.

Meantime, I’m returning back to the basics. First on that list, get back on track. Block off time to enjoy all that fall has to offer. Hike. Take pictures. Enjoy some family time at home and on the road. Say no to new freelance. Utilize my vacation. Plant garlic. Fertilize my garden. Keep breathing. And from there, who knows where life will take the Probst family.

Back of the Pack: Run for the Lakes Both Humbling and Inspirational

bethSaturday marked my 4th Half-Marathon. It was my first race post baby. Training revolved around teething, sleepless nights, never-ending illnesses, pregnancy gut and this lovely thing called a Polar Vortex. One week before the race, I was driving through a fresh foot of snow. Two days before the race, I was slipping and sliding along ice and slush covered roads in yet another Winter Storm Warning. Last but not least, my interpretation from the racecourse description was that this would be a relatively flat, scenic course. Instead, I was greeted with miles of rolling hills, an open-road course complete with exhaust fumes from cars whizzing by, scenic views of residential streets and overzealous 10k runners who shared the first 5-miles of the course after starting a mere 15-minutes after the half-marathon start time.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. After a few miles, I accepted the course was going to be endless hills and that as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other, at some point it’d have to end. My legs adjusted accordingly. Somewhere along the way I found my rhythm. My first mile took 17.5 minutes. My last 3 I was pacing 13:30 and I could have pushed myself harder. As I rounded the last corner and crossed the finish line I saw my husband snapping photos. A college friend stood near by clapping. It felt good. I glanced at the clock to discover I finished above where I expected. But nowhere near what I wanted.

It wasn’t until later that day that I finally logged onto the website to get the down and dirty. I finished in second to last place. My time was 45 seconds faster than my last race but not a PR. By all accounts, I should have been happy with my performance. I mean, a fat girl jogging 13.1 miles is nothing to look down on.

But that’s the thing. I don’t want to be the fat girl in the back anymore. I want to be the large girl in the middle back. I don’t mind finishing at a below average time as long as I’m personally improving. Truth is, for this to happen I need to start looking at my entire body and not just logging miles every week to justify the frozen pizza my husband and I used to enjoy on weekends. I know this isn’t brain surgery. But I’ve discovered that knowing this and doing it are two different things.

I have also learned that if I share something in writing, I tend to show-up and play the game to speak. Run for the Lakes was my low point at a high weight. It was inspirational to cross that finish line but frustrating to know my time would have been substantially faster if I was carrying around less padding. While training was tough this go around, I trained hard and honest. I showed up on race day ready to run. I pushed myself. But, that’s only a portion of the equation.

Because proud mamas find ways to post pics of their kid, even when it has nothing to do with what they are writing about.
Because proud mamas find ways to post pics of their kid, even when it has nothing to do with what they are writing about.

So today I share with the few folks that read this blog my latest goal. It is about focusing on my entire body. It is somewhat about the scale but more about being conscious about the choices I make that affect my weight. I’m using a light version of Body for Life. I’m finishing up week 3 and have lost 8 pounds so far and am concentrating on rebuilding muscles in my core and upper body. I plan to focus on this for the next 10-weeks, while filling in my trainings with cardio and continued short runs. In July, I’ll start training for the Whistlestop this fall and a 10K in Auust in Herbster. My dream finish time is 2:44, or 39 minutes (3 minutes per mile) faster than my last race. At the minimum, I have to break 3-hours. No excuses. Just time to make this happen.

To keep myself honest, I may bore you with monthly check-ins on my progress. Wish me luck… share any tips you might have… resources… inspiration. I’ll take any and all of it.

In the meantime, the calendar has finally turned to May. This means my favorite greenhouse in the world is open – Hauser’s! I’m taking Jake there this weekend for his first gardening adventure. I need to replace the asparagus and several perennials that didn’t survive the hot summer sun and my bed rest last summer (AKA as no water for 2-3 weeks).

Hope to share more about this adventure and life in the Northwoods moving forward. As always, thanks for reading!

Whistelstop Half-Marathon – Race Recap

As a Pisces, I am supposed to like water. I live on a lake. I enjoy swimming, long hot showers, and taking strolls along riverside beds. But, running in the rain? Not so much. But weather is not to blame for my latest and most lackluster race ever.

I’ll be frank. This wasn’t my best performance. Whistlestop 2012 will go down as the little engine that could… but almost didn’t. I could give you a host of excuses: inconsistent training and a nasty cold winding down as I lined up for the race, topping that list. But, when the rubber hit the road, I was my worse enemy.

The day started with my alarm going off and me not wanting to get out of bed. This was odd for me, given my first two races resulted in me being so excited I could barely sleep. The forecast of cooler temps and rain was a total turn-off. This paired with a runner who didn’t feel good and knew in her heart, she hadn’t trained as much as she’d hope.

By the time we parked at the start, I was feeling worse. I didn’t want to get out of the car. I eventually did, only to head to the porta-potty. It turns out, this was yet another mistake. Standing in line with less than 10-minutes to start, I felt my heart sink. Surrounded by a sea of performance gear, athletic buffs brought out my worse insecurities. My head started spinning with self-doubt. I didn’t train hard enough. I didn’t lose that 10-pounds. I didn’t stretch, get enough sleep, eat right, do enough core strengthening… by the time the Star Spangled Banner was playing, I was ready to quit.

I lined up in back and made small talk with some walkers. We joked a bit. The race started. I waved to my husband as the herd moved toward the start line. But, when my official race clock started, I checked out. And, the three mile pity party began.

I had no energy. No desire. I was cold. Tired. I knew I was going to finish at the bottom of the pack… again. And, in that moment, it just didn’t seem worth it. By mile 3, I was setting a pace of nearly 4 minutes per mile SLOWER than last year. It was time to quit. Nobody would care. I was sick. I had a hundred excuses to not finish this race. It’d be fine. I picked up my phone to call Steve as more walkers flooded past me. But I couldn’t do it.

I’m not sure why but that stubborn Fin in me reared her ugly head. I had put myself in this predicament and the Erickson in me decided I needed to get myself out. The only way to do that was to finish. Maybe I’d come in dead last. But, at least I’d finish.

It was that simple. Despite race rules, I cranked up the volume on my I-Tunes. And, I started putting one foot in front of the other. I quit caring about everything I hadn’t done right and instead moved. Guess what? It worked. It turns out while I hadn’t trained perfectly, I had trained. By mile 6, I was wet, cold and miserable but I was moving. I was hitting my times and undoing some of the damage during my pity party. As I got closer to the finish, my speed increased.

At mile 10 I was hopeful I’d somehow hit the goal I had set but my body was telling me different. I had made up time but not that much. I was running out of juice and the time space continuum didn’t allow for pity parties. But I kept pushing. I pushed hard enough that some folks inadvertently mistook me as a lead full-marathoner. If only they knew. I corrected them as I jogged on by, just hoping to shave a few more seconds off my time.

As I rounded that final corner, the few folks braving the wet weather cheered me on. To them, I was just another faceless runner crossing the finish line. But for me, that line represented something else. I never have been and never will allow myself to be a quitter. The rest is just details

The stats: I finished at 3:23 or 1,395 out of 1,474, missing my goal by 13 minutes. I didn’t set a PR, but I shaved 12-minutes off my time from last year’s race.