Saturday, August 31, 2013


As I was out running today, I found myself looping around the elementary school that was the anchor point for my runs for about three years when I lived in that neighborhood. My legs are so used to carrying me around that block, it was as if I didn't consciously choose the route. Doing that loop got me thinking about my route routines. When I first starting running, there was a church about a mile and a half from my home. That church was the anchor point to my run. As I was teaching my body to run, I started by telling myself I just had to make it to the church, and then I could walk. I would make the wide circle around the church before plodding along back home. Eventually, I didn't have to take the walk breaks (as often) and started running further and longer. I almost always included that loop around the church somewhere in my route, because it just felt right. When I moved a few miles away, I was about a mile from the elementary school. Looping the large block that houses the school, playground, and soccer fields is less than a mile, but served as that anchor point to my runs, similar to the church.

My next series of moves kept me within similar distance to the school. As I gradually increased to training for full marathons, my runs grew longer. Where once my whole entire run consisted of running to the school, looping around it, and returning home, my loop eventually became something of a break, a respite to look forward to on my double-digit journeys. Having that familiar stretch of shady sidewalk to look forward to was somehow motivating and comforting at the same time. We recently moved and I have yet to find that anchor in our new location. 

Fortunately for me, our training program includes speedwork, which has many many loops, so there is no lack of looping in my running diet. Each week, I am extremely grateful to have people on my team running similar paces to me. The support that comes from falling into a perfect rhythm together has been extremely helpful in helping me focus on my pace. Feet slapping, arms swinging, breath huffing all in sync fuels teamwork and competition in tandem. I strive not to break the rhythm, to keep our perfect pace through the finish line. Once it's visible, there's always that little surge of competitiveness that wants to be the first to cross the line (or, on later laps, simply doesn't want to be the last across. I've heard time and again that you run your own race, don't worry about what other people are doing, but I would love nothing more than to carry that rhythm from our loops around the track to the miles of our half marathon in November. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

I Get To

Think of one thing you have to do this week that you'd rather not. Clean the gutters? Give a presentation at work? Double-digit long run on a hot day? Anything.

Got it?

Now, change one word. Instead of "I have to....", say "I get to..."

How does it sound now?

I came across this article in Runners World nearly four years ago, and it completely altered my approach to not only running, but life in general.

It's so simple to take it from overwhelming to wonderful. Change every "I have to..." into "I get to..." You get to do that hill workout tonight because you are healthy, strong, and training for a race. You get to call your mom tonight because she is alive and loves you. You get to go to work because you have a job and the means to provide for yourself. Changing that one word injects so much gratitude, there is a physical relaxation in the body. Saying "I get to" acknowledges that not everyone has the chance to do what you "have" to do today. The man battling MS would love nothing more than to charge up a hill with only his mind to challenge him. The mother struggling to cover her mortgage each month would be thrilled to show up for work at 8:30 day after day.

When I was still teaching, I had a student who was born with a condition that severely impacted his development. While his body grew, his mind, heart, and muscles lagged behind him. We celebrated him standing, acknowledging, waving, while other students mastered walking, catching, high-fives. As other parents shared their challenges of getting their little ones to eat anything besides yogurt and graham crackers, his mother simple smiled. Her son had a feeding tube in his belly- there were no such struggles over what to eat in their house. He passed away last week, at the age of 6. As the tears came, I was struck by his mother's message, that he "gets to be whole in heaven". She instantly shifted my thoughts from the fact that we had to say goodbye to him, to the fact that I got to be his teacher for nearly 3 years.

I don't have to do anything. But I am so thankful for all the things I get to do in my life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Two Speeds

I realized a while back that I have two speeds when it comes to running: solo and companion speed. I am not proud of the fact that my solo runs are noticeably less speedy than when I run with company. I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in this, but I am slightly frustrated that I am that hard to motivate/vain/competitive (or, not competitive) that I will run faster when other people are watching me/running faster than me, but when left to my own devices, I just mosey.

I've found the discipline to stick to a plan and complete an entire training plan for my first half marathon. I have found the motivation to do double-digit long runs early on a Friday morning to accomodate weekend plans when training for my first two marathons. I have slogged it out with no music in rainy, 40 degree, 10 milers. My second marathon was 25 miles of rain with a sunny 1.2 finish. I know there's some mental power, it just seems that the switch is activated by the presence of another runner.

I am thankful for this program, for having someone there at the track, running the stopwatch, watching and willing to call me out when I ease off or miss the point. I know that other people- their abilities, their energy, and their encouragement- motivate me to keep going, push harder, do better. A goal I have for myself is to rely less on the support of others to push myself. My goals are my own, my efforts are my own, and no one but me can get me to those goals. I hope to always have a support network around me because those group runs bring me so much joy. In addition to speedwork, flexibility, and pacing, I am adding "drive" to my personal training plan.

15 Things

1. My dog makes me smile at least 12 times each day.

2. In a perfect world, I would eat pizza 4 times a week.

3. I desperately want to live where I can step out of my house and run trails. 

4. Riding beside the semi transporting chickens is incredibly depressing. And guilt-inducing.

5. I am mystified by people who stay in their workout clothes for hours. Those sopping sweaty stuck-to-my-thighs shorts would be off my body before I got in the car if it were socially acceptable.

6. There is one week left in August, and I have not gone swimming this year. (Let's have a moment of silence for the passing of a time when summer vacations existed.)

7. I wouldn't trade growing up with two brothers for anything in the world.

8. I am in awe of our two coaches. Making an ironman seem like something fun and attainable is a testament to A. Their talent. B. My skewed sense of reality.

9. I ate my first Swedish Fish in college. I've spent the last XX years making up for lost time.

10. Summer nights with the windows open and the fan spinning are incredibly peaceful.

11. Every week, I miss my conversations with people under the age of 10. Their honesty, humor, and sincerity is amazing.

12. Summer olympics are infinitely better than winter olympics.

13. People who have phone conversations in public restrooms astound me. Don't they care that the person on the other end can hear the toilets flushing?!

13a. I once overheard a women having a job interview over the phone from a bench in an airport restroom.

14. I don't know if it's a southern thing or a carb thing, but I'm down with pretty much any corn-based foods. (Special shout outs to cornbread, corn tortillas, and corn pudding.)

15. The beach vs. mountains debate may never be settled for me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anticipation and Accomplishment

I'm thrilled to be a part of this training team and for the experience it will add to my running resume. I have trained for races solo, I have run with groups, I have followed plans, I have learned through experience what doesn't work. I've challenged myself with new distances and new paces, and I've geeked out over watches that spit out an abundance of post-run data. The CVE/Lululemon team is providing me not only with new knowledge about myself as a runner (VO2 max? Zones? Race pace- what?), but also with new running colleagues, and two mentors that I could not be more excited to learn from. With a new (to me) approach and having someone other than me actually monitoring my progress, I'm excited to push new buttons and hopefully find new aspects of running to love. That said, this morning, running with my regular running crew, in the usual spot, at the usual time, reminded me why I get excited about all this in the first place.

There's a special moment that comes at the end of a summer run- humidity in your lungs and sweat on your face, the rising sun lifting the humid fog off the morning roads. For a few moments, everything is calm. Your heart rate returns to normal as cold water glugs down your throat and it's physically impossible not to smile- at least on the inside. Sure there are a few cars going by and plenty of fellow runners to acknowledge- but the world is still quiet, in that unique way that only happens before 7am. Pre-dawn quiet is so different from after-dark quiet. There's a stillness and a sense of accomplishment that, for me, epitomizes the joy of running. I find these moments at other times throughout the year- in the cold of winter when the sky is just beginnig to lighten and I'm watching my breath steam out of my lungs in misty puffs of exhertion. Those moments- when I'm headed towards my hot cup of tea and warm shower- are little mini-Christmas's, anticipating the sweet reward of warming liquids to warm my chilled extremities.

I'm sure it's different for everyone. Some may find that joy in cresting a steep hill or greeting a blazing sun with a vigorous 'can't stop me' effort. Stranger Other runners find their peak joy in watching the distance tick away on their treadmill, finding something (soothing? steady?) motivating in the mechanical rhythm. For one reason or a thousand, we do it. Over and over again, just like footsteps on the pavement. Some run to relieve stress, some run to be fast. Some of us are out there to lower our dress size, others because we refuse to limit our ice cream intake. Someone is always training for something, and someone is always being inspired. Some run because they simply don't know a life without it. Running is therapy and punishment, challenge and reward. It can be a means to an end, it can be the highlight of your week. No matter what kind of run you have, it is an accomplishment worth acknowledging.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Miles and Minutes

Hello Monday! We'll just agree that you came about 12 hours too early.

Officially one week into this year's training. The combination of feeling very out of shape and starting a training plan that differs so much from any I've done in the past hit me during my run this morning. Within the first quarter mile my body was saying "Five days in a row? Are you kidding? Turn around!" (Funny thing is that it should have been 6 days in a row, but an attempt to change my habits and run after work on Thursday turned into me completely forgetting to run that day. I doubled up on Friday- nothing like running the same hills twice in one day to make the neighborhood question your sanity.)

It's funny how we often try to address the mental and the physical aspects of training separately, but they are so powerfully tied together. The mental agony of running the same route over and over manifests itself in an unenthusiastic, lackluster run with you coaxing your body along. The fatigue of running on legs that have carried you through hill repeats, trails, and squats earlier in the week nudges your brain towards the "Have my leg muscles lost reception? Are they getting any signals?" train of thought.

The format of running for time instead of miles is very new to me. I feel like I must reserve definititive judgment until after I have run this race. For the past week, it has sent my brain in some serious circles. On the one hand, I only have to run for 40 minutes. I can cover 3 miles or 6.3 miles. There is no "It's almost 7, but I have another mile until I hit 6 before I can call it a run. On the other hand, I'm not used to just running for 20 minutes and turning around. I'm used to (loosely) planning out a route in my head and knowing how far I'm going. I'm used to that comforting mantra in my head of "the faster you run, the faster you're done." Not so with time-based. There is no way to "speed up" your run. If you have to knock out 10 miles, you can pick up the pace and get it done faster. Speeding up does not get a 70 minute run done any faster. There is an argument for the de-motivating side of things (If it doesn't matter how far I run in that time, why kill myself?), but the thing I suspect/hope I will gain from this method is the ability to better focus my  mind and my movements. Being able to distinguish a run where I'm out there shaking things out and a run where I'm pushing myself to be a little uncomfortable and being ok with it is where I truly want to grow.

I suffer no illusions that this change will come quickly or smoothly. As a runner, I value routine. But that's why we're all here, right? To do better, be better, realize what we can actually do when we approach things a little differently.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lazy Lovely Smoothie

I have- as I suspect many people do- an ongoing internal struggle between lazy and lovely. Lovely desires beautiful, nutritious meals with salads, vegetables, protein, and lots of colors. Lazy wants a bowl of cereal. Lovely wants to use homeopathic, natural cleaning agents to eliminate chemicals from the environment and keep things sparkling like grandma did. Lazy hands me the Clorox clean up wipes. Lovely picks out things like roundbrushes, mousse, and a straightening iron to help make my hair shiny, styled, and put-together. Lazy bobby pins a few strategic pieces of hair back and calls it a day.

(This is supposed to be about running and training, isn't it?)

Long winded wind up to my point- lazy is winning a lot these days. The place I really don't mind lazy winning? Smoothies. I think I have had a smoothie for breakfast for 6 days in a row now. I would sincerely appreciate a second pitcher for my blender because my lazy has tried to get away with washing it by hand without dis-assembling. Newsflash- those blades are sharp and not so inclined to stay still. Not only is it a no-cooking use-your-Starbucks-cup-from-yesterday-then-throw-it-away beautifully efficient addition to my morning, it gets bonus points for helping me eat my "salad" without making it. I don't have to assemble my rainbow of salad ingredients and locate a salad dressing I actually like. I just throw those greens in the blender and let it blend. Admittedly, the colors can be a little unique. (Blueberry skins looking alarmingly black when the specks are left behind in your blender/cup/teeth.) I get this smug, accomplished feeling around 9am when I'm all "I've already eaten 4 of my daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Boo-ya!" (You early morning runners know what I'm talking about. That feeling of satisfaction when you're walking into work and mentally tallying up all the things you've already done today. Ran 6 miles- check. Conquered some crazy hills- check. Talked to people, went to Starbucks, caught the news, SHOWERED, check x 4. It may be immature, it may be rude, but it's a little thing in my head that keeps me up and running in the dark hours of the morning week after week. And that, to me, is lovely.

PS- If you're into smoothies, check out Molly's Smootheats page for some yummy inspiration. Delish!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Om. My. Goodness.

There are so many things that make me wanna shake my tailfeathers about this training team. The stellar coaches. The small group. The individualized workouts to challenge me. And YOGA. Yoga for runners. Yoga early in the morning, stretching my hips and my  hamstrings and making my whole body feel happy-glowy like I stretched, strengthened, and took a nap all in the course of an hour. When I heard Lululemon would be joining CVE for this team, I knew it meant one thing- YOGA. And I am so so happy to have it.
I actively disliked yoga the first five or so times I tried it. It felt like a trick, led by peaceful gymnasts who tell you to "Relax" as you contort your body to make your nose meet your knee while you connect your elbow to your tailbone and gaze at the tip of your nose. However, a combination of needing something to balance out the running and wanting an activity that felt like it was 100% devoted to taking care of my tight, knotty muscles led me to keep trying classes. I've tried so many classes and am in love with the diversity of yoga. There's gentle yoga when every inch of your body hurts, power yoga when you need to feel strong. There's vinyasa for when you really want to move, and yin yoga to let your muscles experience true release. There's hot yoga for when you want to sweat, and Bikram yoga when you feel like punishing yourself. (Sorry, I know some people love it, but Bikram and I are not friends.) It can be intimidating, awkward, and flat out weird. The combined effect of close quarters, extremely tight clothing, and angles that put body parts and organs in new locations can make for a supremely awkward and hilariously amusing hour of your life. The funny thing is that at some point- sooner than you think- as you're actively trying not to think about how the lady in front of you should put more thought into her undergarment selection, you stop caring. You realize that your energy is needed to keep your elbow attached to your knee and you head from crashing into the floor. There will be a class when the teacher's cue to "Notice how you're feeling and then let it go." will actually  happen. You'll wonder where the thought went, and then you'll return to the moment and- eventually- find your balance.

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Goal Euphoria

I'm training for a half-marathon! New race, new plan, new people, new goals. I have been in a permanent state of WOO-HOO! since I first learned about this team. (Well, super anxious woo-hoo!  since I submitted my application and then full blown WOO-HOO! since learning I would be a part of the team.) I am beyond excited about every aspect of the program. After a solid year of training for and completing my first 2 marathons, body and mind were ready for a change in programming.

I've run half-marathons before, I've enjoyed the switch from training alone to training with people. I've experienced the fear thrill of training for and completing my first marathon. I've enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that comes from starting every single Saturday morning with runs that take you all over your city and leave you wringing your shirt out. Few things in life can compare to a post-Summer long run shower. Over the past four years of running, I have made the mental shift from If something/someone wants to chase me for 26.2 miles, they win. to Maybe I'll try this. And I've loved it.

Running has become one of my favorite things to do. I think about it, read about it, and lust after its specially-designed clothing. I've recently noticed that if I better balanced the time I spend reading running blogs/magazines/clothing catalogs with actual running time, I might actual be a decent runner. On the one hand, it's never hard to find someone who will admire the fact that you run at all, even if it's only 3 miles. On the other hand, after 4 years of running, 5 (or 6?) 1/2 marathons, 2 marathons, and about 7 pairs running shoes, I don't think I can get away with the "Just finish" goals anymore. I have no children/night shifts/troubling agorophia to prevent me from getting out there, stepping outside my comfort zone, and finding out what I can do. And, let's be honest, I've thrown up after a run before. More than one person has seen my speckled red, I swear childbirth is going to be better than this face. I can do this. I'm going to pray that the yoga keeps my tendency to walk into walls balance in check to help prevent injury.

Today is Day 1. I have always been a morning runner. I love starting my day in the cool quiet, getting a sneak peek at the day before most people have stepped out of the house. I can't deny that I missed a great morning with its late-September feel, but I feel like I'm heading to my first track practice of the season after work today. Can't wait!