Diary of a (Reluctant) First-Time Half-Marathoner: Training Day 1

After I finished my first 10K last December and was all hopped up on endorphins and feeling bulletproof, St. Jude offered me the opportunity to sign up for the 2017 race.

“Sure!” I thought, “I’m going to put my money down on the half-marathon. I’m committing now! I have a whole year to get ready. I’m stepping up my game!”

Great marketing is a powerful thing, my friend. Clearly, I am not immune.

Spring rolled around, with it’s unseasonable heat, then unseasonable snow, and then unseasonable thunderstorms that flooded what seemed like the entire earth. People were literally kayaking down their streets, while I was (attempting) to build up to a 5k in the annual women’s running clinic in my community. I was also trying to clean up my diet, with mixed results and many near-vomit experiences.

It was about the time that I was encountering the complete opposite of the success I’d imagined with the 5K that I thought, “A half-marathon is like 10 more miles. I’m in soooo much trouble”. So when my friend suggested a half marathon in October, 6 weeks before the St. Jude half-marathon, I signed up. Crazy, right? But my thinking was/is, that the October half-marathon will be the race where I make all my mistakes.

For example, today marks the official first day of training for the October half-marathon. The prescribed run for today was 3 miles. Easy enough, you say? Let me tell you a story.

I leave work 30 minutes later than I planned, pushing my run time back later than expected. As I drive, I’m slamming 18 ounces of water, because I’m really thirsty for some reason. Plus, I am actively pursuing total hydration as a goal. (I said what I said).

I get home and hurry to change, fill up a water bottle and put it in a cooler, and gather all my gear. On the drive to the course I’ve planned, I reach over for the cooler to move it out of the sun, but come up empty handed. No cooler in the car. I mean, who needs water for a 3 mile run in 90 degrees? I’m properly hydrated these days; it’ll be fine!

I park the car and begin walking to warm up my legs. I’m not 300 meters from the car, when I realize that only half of that 18 ounces of water I was slamming must have made it out when I was at home, because the other half is knocking on the door. When I hit the corner, I jogged across the street to the gas station.

“This is fine!” I say to myself, “I’m exploring potential pit stops for longer runs. Note to self: vintage bathroom graffiti and a non-working lock.”

I finally start my run after jogging back across the street to the trail. The first mile feels good. The second mile gets hard, and I can feel my face moving from bright red to deep purple. The 3rd mile, I’m willing my legs to just keep turning.

Spiritually, I’ve been in a season of “growing up”, so I’ve developed this mantra that I say to myself every time something is painful and I want to start whining. Instead of saying “this hurts and I’m dying” and I recognize the pain and say to myself “This is where I grow”.

The 3rd mile was a inner refrain of “this is where I grow. This is where my legs get stronger. This is where my lungs get stronger. This is where my mind gets stronger,” and included many more pieces of me that were hurting or feeling weak. My new inner chant saw me through to the end.

And it saw me to this water fountain, where I snapped a picture of my purple face and SWtrainingday1the copious amount of sweat that is the result of pursuing total hydration as a goal. The picture also serves as a reminder to actually put the packed cooler of water into the car.

The picture and the story behind it serve as a baseline for this journey, and I’m interested to see the difference between today and October 21st when the race finally rolls around.

It also serves as proof positive that the “half-marathon where I can make all of my silly mistakes before the St. Jude half-marathon” is needed in my case.

As for tomorrow, Training Day 2, “they” say that I need to run hills.

Ahhhh…..”they” are so funny.

When You Tempt Fate by Being Grateful for Your Health

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I’ve been sick. I tempted fate one afternoon by saying to my child as we drove home, “I’m so thankful that we have been so healthy this season.” The very next morning, I left work 15 short minutes after clocking in, because I felt like I had morning sickness while aboard an Alaskan fishing boat that happened to be cruising through at category 5 hurricane. I continued to feel that way for a full 24 hours as the bug ran it’s course.

A few days later, I came down the generic head cold/sinus infection/upper respiratory bug that people tend to share this time of year. And oh, how it lingers for days and days and many more blessed days, even after the worst has passed.

The illnesses, among other things, have put a serious damper on my training for the next 10K. Yesterday, I convinced myself that I was going to get out there and run no matter what. In my mind, I deluded myself into thinking that I was feeling well enough to run a few miles. Never mind that my clogged ears still cause multi-person conversations to sound as if they are taking place beneath the waters of the deep end of the swimming pool or that my sinuses remain full of vile substances that they have not fully released. Whatevs, man, I’m going for a run.

Let me tell you, if yesterday’s run is any indication of what the Little Rock 10K will look like for me, it is going to be an ugly affair. My delusions of getting a few miles in were quickly swept away as the physical activity caused the pressure in my sinus cavity to pound against my skull like a million, tiny, angry fists beating war drums. When I failed to heed their warning, the sinuses began releasing the vile substances that they had been hoarding in full retaliation against my delusions of grandeur, which were effectively swept away as I choked, gagged, and spit out all of my foolish pride onto the side of the road.

Sinuses- 1; Me- 0. Lesson learned. You win for now, you cruel caverns of darkness and abuse. But I’m coming for you, with all the essential oils and over-the-counter decongestants that the stray dollars and cents soon to be corralled from the bottom of my bag can afford.
You have been warned.

The St. Jude 10k: Milestones and Life Lessons

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It is early Sunday morning, and I am snuggled into a blanket on my couch reflecting on and basking in the victories of yesterday. To be sure, milestones were achieved during yesterday’s race.

When Timing & Weather Smile Upon You…

First of all, I am amazed by how beautifully everything came together. Despite travel, traffic, and large crowds, the logistics came together seamlessly. For the most part, everything went according to plan, and the day went off without a hitch. I made it downtown and found parking on time. My team managed to find each other in a sea of 30,000 plus people, and we were able to start the race together. After the race, we found each other again, walked back to our cars, and made it out of town with no delays from race-day road closures. Even with stops, I arrived back in town in time to pick up the dog from his overnight stay with the vet, where he also enjoyed a bath and much needed nail trim. I continue to marvel at how well all the details played out.

Then, the weather also held out for us. The morning of the race was predicted to be not only cold, but very wet. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how much I despise cold rain. Being cold is bad enough, but I can handle that. Cold and wet is a different story, and I mostly melt into a puddle of whiney misery. In preparation, I requested prayers for no rain, secured both a poncho and a rain jacket, and attempted to shore up my mental attitude to be determined enough not to give into defeat should the rain come. You can imagine my delight when the morning of the race came, and the rain was no longer an issue for those of us running at 7 a.m. The poor half and full marathoners didn’t get that lucky, and I felt deeply for them. They are my heros, because that has got to be some misery- running for 5-6 hours in cold rain. I simply refuse to think about it!

The Race Begins….

The actual race was amazing. To say that St. Jude puts on a top-notch event is a vast understatement. The start was exciting. I mean, the crowd lining the street was huge and just as excited as the runners were. The buildings towering overhead were beautiful and ornate. For the first mile, I literally just took in the architecture and told my teammate that I was going to “just enjoy being home for little bit”.

At the corner of mile 1, I saw the sign for my high school. It occurred to me then that I should be on the look out for people I know cheering on the sidelines. Coming up on mile 2, I heard a familiar voice cheering and saw my high school track and cross country coaches. I snagged quick hugs and kept going, happy to connect with sweet, sweet people even briefly during the race.

Shortly after that, the course turned into the St. Jude campus, and let’s talk about being knocked over with emotion. The streets were packed with people cheering loudly, some holding signs of their children who have passed away from cancer. Some would cheer for the runners by name if the name could be seen on the runner’s bib. It was loud, exciting, and packed with emotion. I couldn’t hold back a few tears during this part of the course, and the tears come again as I think about it now.

The 5k and 10K course split shortly after passing through the campus, and I remember thinking that I was about to successfully run an entire 5k for the first time. Emotion and the temptation to think too far ahead threatened to overwhelm me, and I once again set my sights on simply enjoying the scenery and the architecture. Before I knew it, I was successfully through the 5k mark and halfway to the goal.

Through mile 3 and mile 4, I focused on maintaining my pace. There were a few hills to climb as we ran over overpasses, and I was extremely grateful in those moments that I had done some of my training on the hills of my parent’s neighborhood. In fact, when the dread of the hill started to creep into my thinking, I made myself mentally recall the hills on which I had trained and made myself believe in the fact that I was fully prepared for this. I ran the training miles on those hills, so I could run the race miles on these hills. It felt like such an accomplishment not to break stride and maintain my pace through every hill, especially when so many others around me were choosing to walk the hills. And let me tell you, I was so very tempted to join them, but I was even more determined to run every step of this race.

When I passed the mile 4 marker, it really sunk in that I was really going to do this. I really could run this entire race, even if I did it at a turtle’s pace. The excitement of this realization made me want to take off and get it done, but my legs were beginning to protest, and even though it was 43 degrees outside, I was getting hot. I rolled up my sleeves and recommitted to maintaining my pace so I could achieve this goal.

A real mental battle started happening at this point. I thought back to the 5k that I attempted in May after training with a group of women runners. I thought about how defeated I felt at that time, and all the things I was struggling with then. Somewhere between mile 4 and mile 5, I was overwhelmed by the realization of how far I had come in the last 7 months. I signed up for that spring running group and 5k, because I knew that my mental game needed work and that I was defeating myself in my own head. When it was all said and done with the spring run, I felt really disappointed in myself for still being unable to reach my goal.

Then, my thoughts turned to my daughter and all the struggle and all the progress she has made and we have made together over the last couple of years. I couldn’t help but to just break into prayer, thanking God that He had been working on me all this time when I couldn’t even see it. Thanking Him for bringing me here today and allowing me to see how far He has brought us and giving me a glimpse of what we can hope for in the future.

With that emotion released, I refocused on just keeping my legs turning to make it to the mile 5 sign. I remember at one point, just focusing on a beautiful church in front of me, taking in every nuance of the artistry and coasting through the mile marker.

At this point, the course led back into the heart of downtown, with larger crowds lining the streets. The excitement was palpable, and the mile 6 marker was in sight. I maintained my pace, even as the excitement and emotion was threatening to shut my muscles down entirely! At one point, I caught myself holding my breath to keep tears back, which is a really bad idea when you are running. Breathing is important!

Once I passed the mile 6 marker, it took everything in me not to come undone with emotion and finish the last 0.2 miles. I let myself run faster, and when I hit the chute, I picked it up significantly. Two uncontrollable sobs managed to escape as I ran hard, and then I hit the finish line. I had done it. I ran every step of 6.2 miles. I not only ran it, I ran it consistently. I can’t remember the last time I did anything consistently and to completion. I ran at my pace; I ran my race. I did not get distracted, overwhelmed, or overpowered by emotion. I stayed focused, I trusted what I knew about myself, I believed in what I could do, and that is the true victory. That is what I am still celebrating still this morning.

After the Race…

In a daze, I accepted the blanket I was handed and wrapped up the best I could. My body was definitely feeling the effects of the run, and I was beginning to feel cold. Then, I collected my medal and put it around my neck. I walked further into the field and took a moment to look around. I didn’t see my team, who had finished about 10 minutes ahead of me. I continued to move through the line, stopping to snap my picture with girl Elvis.

Somehow I managed to hoist my leg high enough to climb the steep stairs to the food and beverage area. I had just barely reached the top step when a bag of food, a carton of hydrogenated water, and fistfuls of fruit were thrust upon me. I literally couldn’t juggle all the items and had to stop to put everything in the bag and re-wrap myself in the blanket.

I continued to move through the crowd in search of my team, when my phone rang. It was my daughter on FaceTime, and my family was calling to congratulate me. We did the best we could to communicate through the din of thousands of people while I did my best to hold the phone, the blanket, and the overflowing bag of food and drink. It was great to receive that call just as I finished. That is one of the great things about technology- my family had been tracking my progress through the runner tracking app and knew exactly when I finished.

I found my team, and they all said hello to May Lee via FaceTime, then we hung up. The team and I collected more food and bottles of water and PowerAde, then we made our way out of AutoZone Park. We found someone who would take a picture of our team, then we talked about doing it again next year and said our good-byes.

The Life Lessons…

As I sit here this morning, I recognize so many lessons I’m learning and how much progress I have made in the various things I struggle with daily. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning through running is to plan ahead just enough to inform the present, and then stay in the present- doing the work until the work is done.

Also, the lessons in incremental change really hit home. A long series of mental, emotional, and physical baby steps had to be achieved before I could accomplish yesterday’s goal. Not to mention, the enormous challenge of being able to overcome a great deal of “I really don’t want to do this” and then doing it anyway.

As for what’s next, I’m really not sure. I know that I can’t stop running now, because the lessons in self-discipline and mental strength and endurance are not yet fully accomplished. What is clear is that I have a great deal to learn about properly participating in the sport. The most obvious area of needed improvement is nutrition. An enormous amount of work needs to be done there.

Finally, I’m going to spend the next few days recovering, processing, and planning as the next steps become clear. I am really grateful for all of the support I have received by way of encouragement as I have trained and donations toward my fundraising goal for St. Jude. Accountability and support are crucial aspects of reaching any goal, and I appreciate everyone who showed up for me in that way. 

I have a feeling that this medal is always going to have a special place in my heart. When I see it in the future, I hope that it will always remind me of the milestones achieved on December 3, 2016.stjudemedal

St. Jude 10K: Hiding a Mountain of Sin Behind How Well I Comply.

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All the dynamics of the physical overhaul of my life have been at play this week. I would love to simply report my compliance to my running schedule, because I am highly skilled at hiding a mountain of sin behind how well I comply. Yet, the truth remains that a person can truly go off the rails internally while appearing to be right on track externally, and that, in a nutshell, sums up the last few weeks of my physical health.

Therefore, in an effort to bring my internal and external world more in line with each other, I’m going to lay the truth out there. First, I fell off the food tracking wagon about 3 weeks ago. My life got really busy, and I would legitimately forget to check in. I was still losing weight, so I felt no need to change my behavior even after my life slowed down. Thus began the slippery slope…

Next, the short morning exercise routines started to become less consistent. It is no surprise that I began to gain weight back at this point. Unfazed, I continued to be lax about my food intake and my exercise routine. When I was well enough to get back to my running schedule, the consistent running allowed me to justify increasing my food intake, i.e. allowed me to justify eating large quantities of junk food.

For 3 weeks, I have gained weight back. Not only that, I have experienced the aches and pains and physical complaints that had just resolved when I started consistently eating well and exercising. I ignored all the evidence and justified carrying on in my old patterns. To wrap this neatly in a bow, the old habits still live, and I still have work to do on my mental and emotional game to really care for my health the way I am called to care for my health.

The plan for week 4 is to shift my course to get back on track, which means once again going through the painful process of killing the sugar monster. That beast is my greatest nemesis. It also means finding a way to increase my personal accountability and taking a deeper look at this pattern of self-sabotage I have going on. Ironically enough, I had a video in my email this week about that very issue, so it seems like a good idea to unbury from the mountain of emails and actually watch it. Finally, I’m going to let myself feel the victory of recognizing I was off course and taking the initiative to make a change after 3 weeks rather than letting it go for 3 months or 3 years!

That last piece is crucially important. Overhauls of any sort do not occur in big pieces or in short durations of time. It is all about the long game. It is about incremental change over a long period of time to reach an ultimate goal. As much as I rail against our culture of immediate gratification, I’m lying to myself when I believe that I am somehow above that particular struggle and that the greater culture hasn’t affected me in that way. It is that lie that keeps me incrementally sliding down the slippery slope of my bad habits.

This week, I make the turn to begin the climb back up. If you have any personal experience with this struggle, I’d love to hear your experience, your victories, your struggles, your strategies, and most of all, your heart change through the process.

As always, if you have heart for the work St. Jude does for children battling cancer, please visit my fundraising page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

A Much Needed Sunday Rest

trailSaturday was tough. I had a lot to do and my brain was short-circuiting at every turn. If you read The Saturday Morning Struggle, then you know the backstory. That night, I ended up staying up until 11 p.m. finishing a novel I had been reading. To be completely forthcoming, I was reading a novel, munching on Cheetos, and savoring lollipops.

It must have been exactly what I needed, because I woke up refreshed and in a much better frame of mind. Even though we both stayed up later than usual, May Lee and I still made it to early service at church and got to spend the morning with our family, including a lunch of delicious Mexican food.

After a stop at Kroger for groceries, we came home and unloaded the car. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about requiring May Lee to help with things like putting away groceries and such. She was actually a big help today while we were at the store and then again when we were putting things away. She is growing up so fast!

Once everything was put up, I promptly reclined on the couch to close my eyes “for a minute” and opened them again an hour later. I was a little foggy when I woke up and struggled to accept that an entire hour had passed. Once I shook the cobwebs off, May Lee and I watered our flowers and got ready to carve the jack-o-lantern.

jackcarvejpgMay Lee drew the design on the pumpkin with a sharpie, and I carved to her specifications. We even decided to separate the seeds and later roasted them. We tried to do the seeds in cinnamon and sugar as suggested by Food Network, but after tasting them, we decided that we weren’t fans. This was surprising, since we both love pumpkin seeds. Apparently, we need to leave the roasting process to the experts. 

After that, I went for my long run while May Lee played at a neighbor’s house. The run itself was really terrible. A belly full of taquitos and chips and salsa is not ideal fuel for running. My hands were rather swollen by the end of the run, not to mention that I was also terribly thirsty. I ended up having to walk a few steps a couple of times and shake out my legs, but I kept going until I had run a total of 2.5 miles. It was my slowest mile time yet.

Despite all of those challenges, I really enjoyed being out there. As I was walking to warm up, I watched a deer cross the road ahead of me and gracefully bound over a fence. When I started to run, I came to a curve in the path where a man was petting a beautiful paint horse. A pony was also at the gate, waiting for his or her turn for attention. Many families were out enjoying the day, and that just made it a pleasant atmosphere to be in. It also provided motivation to keep going when all I was feeling was the pain of this run!

I guess the moral of this story is that God hears our cries and provides rest when we need it. It may not come in the form we fantasize about when we are in the thick of it and looking for an escape. But rest does come, and you know, today was a lot more enjoyable than hiding out at the Holiday Inn with snacks and Netflix. Isn’t that just like God to deliver beyond our expectations? I really love that about Him. 

St. Jude 10K: Week 2

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I’m happy to report that I am mostly recovered from whatever illness attacked me so ferociously. For most of the week, I still had a major cough and no stamina. By the end of the week, I was feeling like I could do a little something without completely collapsing into a coughing fit. To test out this theory, May Lee and I went on a little jog on Saturday. We ran for the whole 6 minutes, and I was fine. No coughing. Inspired by that little bit of success, I also threw in a set of crunches.

saturdayjogOn Sunday, I went for a longer, slower run and was able to get 2 miles in. There was definitely some coughing after this run, but more importantly, every muscle in my body now hurts. Tired and grumpy are additional adjectives that come to mind, but also glad to be on the mend and back out there.

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All in all, I have high hopes for this week. To prove that, I added push ups to my routine this morning using another Fitness 22 app. I love those apps, because they are so beginner friendly. The app has 3 different levels: counter push ups for beginners, knee push ups for intermediate (this is where I am starting), and full body push ups for advanced. This is the link for the app: https://appsto.re/us/YxOkH.i

To be completely candid, blogging about this training process really has kept me motivated. It has created an out of this world level of accountability! Thanks again for all your support! The link to my St. Jude fundraising page is below. If your year has been anything like mine, than it has been full of people you know and love fighting cancer. What better way to honor the fight than supporting St. Jude! 

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

St. Jude 10K: Week 1

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As is the story of many a runner, I started training for a race and then promptly fell ill. What started as allergies moved into a sinus infection, which I chased out of my sinus cavity with a mix of over the counter medications and essential oils. The illness then took up residence in my chest, leaving me to sound like a whiskey-soaked, chain-smoking lounge singer.

Early in the week, when I was still in denial about this infection that was growing stronger by the hour, I did complete 45 minutes of yoga. It was “very easy yoga for beginners” that I found on Amazon Prime, and it primarily involved a lot of twisting. My back felt great after that, but as for the infection, the next morning I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Needless to say, super easy yoga for beginners has been the extent of my working out this week.

A couple of days ago, I worked really hard to convince myself to get out there and run again, but I was so wiped out that I resigned myself to simply eating Aunt Bunny’s Chicken-ladas and going to straight to bed. On Sunday, I actually felt much better, and still I had to lie on the couch and nap for 20 minutes after church. Then, the trip to the grocery store required a 30-minute recovery nap. Bedtime has been promptly observed at 8:00 each evening.

Week 1 will have to go down as a recovery week, and I’ll be easing back into working out during week 2. As it stands currently, inhaling too briskly can send me into a coughing fit that feels and sounds like death, so strenuous cardio is not on the schedule for this week. Even so, I still appreciate your support as I work toward the St. Jude 10K. You all have been a great encouragement!

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

St. Jude 10K: Pre-training

woman-1562560_1280As you may already know, I have been taking a graduate level course this fall, in an effort to gain a professional certification that I have been working toward, slowly and painfully, for many years. If you have read any of my other posts, you also know that my daily schedule has been jammed packed to the point of insanity. It was becoming more and more apparent to me that I was doing many, many things, but I was doing none of them well. So, after some serious soul-searching and prayer, which led to some chart making (yes, God speaks even to my inner nerd), a conclusion was reached: there will be a better season to take this class. You know, a season that is not smack dab in the middle of a major overhaul of my job responsibilities or my daughter’s kindergarten year. Even though I completely adore my instructor and absolutely feast on the content of the class, it is time to drop it like it’s hot.

Clearly, this will free up a great deal of my time, and we may finally be able to wear clothes that have not been sitting in a wrinkled heap in a laundry basket for 2 weeks. But I quickly realized that since I will no longer be in class, I will be able to participate in the St. Jude 10K that I signed up for over the summer. This is a big race and a big deal, and may I just say, that I am not prepared. I gave up running the second I started class and realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the race. Yes, I have tried to keep up with strengthening my core and working in a quick HITT workout when I could, but that is not the same as training for a 10K. Also, have I mentioned that I have not successfully run a 5K? I have work to do, people.

I am tempted to be overwhelmed, which would essentially be trading “class overwhelmed” for “training overwhelmed” and I really don’t want to go down that road. So yesterday, I hit the running trail to see where I was in my running game and try to find a little motivation to get after it. Even though it is completely embarrassing, I’m going to share my stats with you so that you can a) feel sorry for me, and then b) maybe offer some encourage and motivation to keep me going now that you know how far I have to go in this journey.

stjudepennySince I just wanted to see where I was physically,  I just did a mile at a pace I felt good about to see where I clocked in. So, according to the FitBit, I ran 1.1 miles at a pace of 12’24”. This is much slower than where I left off at the end of last season’s running clinic, but it’s a start. I found this penny along with way, and I picked it up and deemed it my lucky penny for my training. You will notice that it had landed on tails, but that did not scare me away. To me, it was a perfect metaphor about how this thing isn’t going to come easy, nothing in life ever does. But my life is not altered or directed by bad juju, it is authored and perfected by my faith in God. God has been asking me, begging me, pleading with me to get healthy, and that is the true reason I am out there doing this. So, game on.

Friends, I need all the support I can get, and by support I mean accountability. That is why I am putting this out there, so it will not be easy to just quick when it gets hard. If you can support my fund-raising effort with a few dollars, I would really appreciate it. But even more so, I covet your encouragement! This is the link to my St. Jude page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186
Thanks in advance!