Training Update: What am I thinking?

Confused? The idea for my first VLOG came about due to an upcoming assignment.

Next week I’m heading out to the Michigan Ice Fest in Munising. I’m going ice climbing. And no, that’s not a typo. This should be relatively amusing, in part because I’m not a huge fan of cold and I’m afraid of heights. That said, I love a solid adventure, the outdoors and the UP, so I figured when else would I try this if not now. In addition to my standard writing and photography, I’m also shooting video.

Today, I spent some time familiarizing myself with my new GoPro. And, because I’m a total dork, I thought I’d share some behind the scenes suffering of me training for my upcoming race in May. Don’t worry, I won’t inundate you with shots of my legs in spandex over this series of posts I plan to share. But, I do hope to share some of the beauty I see on the trails (once I’m outside) and a little bit about why I run and how tough it is for someone my size to build speed and endurance. Regardless of these challenges, I plan to keep slogging away.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a girl’s weekend in the UP. I’ve carefully plotted out coffee stops to fuel my way through something that’s totally outside of my element. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of shots and maybe even a few stories to share from my adventure.

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.

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.

My Life Unfiltered

brooksshoeA couple weeks ago I was getting ready to share an update on my diet and a pic of my new running shoes, along with a blog post about my first ever class on how to build a succulent wreath. Within an hour of opening my blue and brown Brooks running shoe box, life changed.

I won’t go into details but my dad spent the last 2+ weeks in the hospital. He is at home now and is doing ok. We’re still looking for a long-term solution but I am counting my blessings that he has an angel for a sister and that the folks at Cloquet Community Hospital have provided him amazing care through this tough time.

This alone would have shaken the toughest of dieters. The fact that I’m an emotional eater and an emotional person in general is a bad combination. A slew of other complexities including family dynamics, being in what appears to be a permanent transitional phase at work, backed up freelance, a rental property that isn’t selling and a whole slew of other stresses has left me struggling to find comfort in long walks versus bags of peanut butter M&Ms.

Last Monday, I started training for my 5th Half-Marathon. I had hoped to have lost 20-pounds when I hit the pavement in my new Brooks shoes. The reality is I’ve lost 11—seven of which I lost in the first two weeks. I had hoped to spend the last 12-weeks building my core so that when I hit the pavement I’d have a strong upper body. That never happened. If anything, my back aches from hauling my 25+ pound baby up and down hills, stairs and other obstacles within our house. Needless to say, I am nowhere near where I wanted to be when I started training. My first two runs were lackluster, uninspired and weak at best.

I laced up my shoes this morning with an intention of quitting. This, despite my husband promising he’d find time for me to get the training in I needed to cross that finish line. It was my first “long run”. At three miles, I expected that it would be impossible confirming that this, along with my so-called failed diet would have to take a back seat.

Instead, life has a different plan for me. You see it is one of those perfect summer days on Moon Lake. The kind where bugs total zero, the wind gently flows off the lake, the birds sing, the blueberries are ripe and the height of summer green engulfs and calms you in a way that no form of meditation can ever provide.

I didn’t set the world on fire during this morning’s run. But, I finished it strong and faster than I anticipated. More importantly, I enjoyed it. I finished the run with a clear head and understanding that things will get better – not just with my strength but with the other complexities in my life I cannot control.

So here we go. I have 12 weeks or so until I line up on October 11 (my 6th wedding anniversary), to run Whistlestop Half-Marathon 2014. I’m confident I’ll cross the finish line. But, the question remains whether I can beat my 3-hour goal. For runners, this is very slow—just under 15-minute miles. But for me, this is the impossible hurdle I cannot seem to surpass. I don’t know if my body in this shape can achieve that. But I do know, while there are a million things I cannot control right now I can control how hard I try when time is made for me to train.

As for the diet, I’ll continue to try. Back to the basics. Carrot sticks and greek yogurt instead of peanut M&Ms. Good-bye white bread. Hello whole what. Good-bye afternoon diet pop, hello carb control shakes. One day at a time. One step at a time. Focus. Breath. Be the best person I can be, show up and train hard, and the rest will fall into place. Or it won’t, but at least I will know I have tried. Funny how the lessons of running and the lessons of life intersect for me right now.

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. I still plan to post an update about Simply Succulents someday. It might come in the dead of winter but that’s ok. The class was a blast and my wreath – despite this chaos – is thriving. I also just learned I get to write a feature about these amazing folks to run in Northern Gardener magazine next year. Meantime, a piece that I wrote about my favorite farmer Clare Hintz and her year-round CSA should run in the magazine this fall.

 

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!