13.1 Miles (Unofficially)

13point1funToday I ran 13.1 miles for the first time.  I say for the first time because my race is still 6 weeks away. I’m hoping to run this distance (maybe a little farther) a few times before the actual race. Even if I don’t, today was a big accomplishment. I proved to myself that I can do it (something I haven’t been totally sure of).

Today’s run was brutal. It wasn’t the “joy of running” that I frequently blog about. It was more like the “slog of running.”  I had to wake up early (6 am) to try to beat the heat of the day. Even at that it was about 80˚F/76% humidity when I left the house, and in the high 80s when I finished the run.  The first 6 or 7 miles were fine, but after that I really had to convince myself to keep going… Every! Single! Mile!

get strongerMost of what made the run difficult is my own attitude. I know it is hot, so I should run slower. I know that it is a longer run than what my body is used to, so I should run slower. I know that I beat my goal time (3 hours) by almost 17 minutes. Yet the nasty voices in my head wouldn’t let me just relax into the run. I kept pushing to go faster and the more I pushed the harder the run got.

Around mile 8 I noticed that my toenails were hurting. Really?? It was all I could think about for a good portion of the run. How my pinky toenails were going to fall off… Oh please could they just fall off and put me out of my misery.

Towards the end I almost gave up.  I’m not sure what pushed me to go the last few miles.  Maybe it was the knowledge that, good or bad, I was going to post about the run afterwards. Maybe it was the constant stream of positive self-talk, as I desperately tried to be my own coach. My mantra sounded something like this:

long runYou can do it. Don’t fall. Don’t quit.  Keep going. Just 3 more miles. Oh, I like this song. A little faster. Don’t fall down. C’mon, you can do this. Just 2 more miles. You can run 2 miles easy. Don’t trip. Watch out for that car. Keep it up. Just 1 mile left… and so on.

Whatever it was, I did finish the full 13.1. I was dripping with sweat.  Every bone and muscle was sore. My toenails were painfully cutting into my toes. My stomach was starting to cramp. And I don’t know when I’ve ever felt that good.

And I can’t wait to try it again!

Goals Update

tryharderI missed making a New Year’s resolution this year, but in April I Dusted Off My Blog and set some serious goals for 2015:

  • One: Run a half marathon (Suffolk County Half Marathon in September) in less than three hours. (Note: I added the time limit after I signed up for the race.)
  • Two: Run 1,000 miles this year.

This past week I added a third goal:

It’s hard to check my progress on goal number three (being as it hasn’t even been a week), but I thought that since half the year is gone I should check in on goals one and two.

Goal number one is going pretty well. I’m officially signed up for the marathon and I’ve been clocking in some good runs. In June I ran my longest run (11.2 miles in 2:02:19) which makes me think that if the marathon were tomorrow, I could totally rock it. What I need to do now is maintain my current enthusiasm, and not get hurt!

miles_runGoal number two is where things look a little -iffy. In order to run 1,000 miles in one year, I would have to run at least 85 miles each month. Unfortunately June was actually the only month where I met my running goal of (I ran 102, actually!) At this rate I will have to run 102 miles (my best ever) every single month for the rest of the year to make my 1,000 mile goal.

Last year I found myself in a similar situation with my step goal during the first few months, but by the time July rolled around, I had bounced back and was confident I could make it (which I did!).

believe-quotes-11I guess there are two ways I could approach this. On the one hand, I didn’t make my 2015 goal until April, so I could technically make it 12 months from April rather than a calendar year. Totally legit, justifiable response, right? Or….

Or I could just suck it up, and try to hit more miles over the next six months…

If you have been reading my blog and paying attention I think you know which one I picked…

I’m totally going for it! 

102 Miles

Dear Body,

Thank you for putting up with me through thick and thin, through fast and slow, through pain and injury and self-doubt. Thank you for totally killing it this month. You are the best!

Love, me.

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!

Runner Down!

I took a fairly bad tumble this week on mile 2 of an 11 mile run. I think it is funny when people ask me how I fell, since I can easily trip on any flat surface. In this instance I was distracted by a leaking water bottle (I wear small flasks on a belt)  and I was trying to figure out why when I tripped and went down hard.

Small scrapes and bruises, but no real injuries. Very lucky for me!

In addition to knocking the wind out of me, I scraped up both palms and my left knee, jammed two fingers, bruised my chin, and managed (somehow) to get what looks like a rope burn on my left shoulder. I’m thinking the rope burn was caused somehow by my sports-bra, but I’m not sure. It could have been much worse. None of the scrapes were deep, blood was minimal, and within a few minutes I was up and running again. I ran 9 more miles, so I couldn’t be too badly injured.

Normally I do my long runs on Sunday because that is the day I have very little else to do, comparatively speaking. However, this week I’m leaving for a business trip on Sunday so I decided to do my long run on Friday. My sister was having a birthday dinner at her house. According to Google she lives 11.2 miles away, so I thought that would make a great destination. This would be my longest run yet – two miles further than my previous record.

runningI like the idea of running to a destination, especially for long runs.  When I run a course or a there-and-back run, I always struggle on the “back” part. Running to someplace is infinitely easier than running back. I thought that running to a party had infinite appeal – Something that would carry me through the final few miles. I had arranged for my mother to bring a change of clothes, packed my utility belt with emergency cash, water and gummy bears, put on my wireless headphones, and hit the road.

And when I say “hit” the road….This was one of those life experiences where you get to see the kindness of strangers. I was on a major local street when I fell and, surprisingly,  three cars stopped immediately to help me out:

  • “I can call the police” the soccer mom in a mini-van full of kids offered. “Please don’t” I replied, completely embarrassed.
  • “Don’t be alarmed, but I think you hit your head badly,” said the older gentleman who got out of his car. “I think we need to get you to a hospital.” I assured him I hadn’t hit my head – the red mark on my forehead is a birthmark and not a sign of concussion.
  • The pretty college-aged girl just offered her hand to help me up off the ground and looked worried.

fallI assured my good-samaritans that I was not badly hurt and that despite the growing collection of bruises and scrapes, I had every intention of finishing my run.  I surprised myself by how little time I spent making that decision.  I was close to home (relatively speaking) and I’m sure soccer mom would have given me a lift if I needed it. Old guy wanted to bring me to the emergency room. If I had been seriously hurt I would have done just that, but just a few scrapes? No way! I wanted to finish my run.

I took it nice and slow for about a quarter mile, making sure everything was working the way it was supposed to and then kicked back up to me regular long-run pace. Getting up and finishing my run was empowering. Anytime I felt like slowing down or taking a walk break, I thought about falling and getting up again. I don’t think I ever felt more like a real runner.

Too Sick To Run

May has been an amazing running month for me, up until about four days ago. I was running more days per week, longer runs, and (best of all) feeling better after each run. Up until Tuesday, when my so-called “easy” five-mile run nearly killed me. I pushed through the full five miles, but at the end I felt so ragged and sore.

My internal monologue was not very kind. “You’re too old to be running this much. You’re overdoing it. You’re never going to be able to make your goals.”

This time, being sick means I shared bacteria with someone along the way - eww!

This time, being sick means I shared bacteria with someone along the way – eww!

Tuesday night I had a very bad night. Everything ached and ached. I took a bunch of ibuprofen and debated with myself about my planned interval run on Wednesday run. Should I cancel completely? Should I try just an easy short run?

By late afternoon it wasn’t really a debate. I felt sick; my head pounded, my throat felt sore, and my body ached. I decided to skip the run and not even do any walking. It started to occur to me that it might be more than over-tired. I might be fighting off sickness and the best thing I could do for my body would be to rest. I took my temperature, but it was normal.

By the next morning I felt worse… much worse. Went to the doctor who confirmed it. Definitely sick. It was eventually confirmed to be strep (don’t worry, you can’t catch it from reading my blog). So now I’m on antibiotics, but not the good kind, because I’m highly allergic to penicillin and cephalosporins.  And I still feel really sick.

This pic is from my last beach run, Columbus Day weekend last year!

This pic is from my last beach run, Columbus Day weekend last year!

This is a terrible time to get sick. I was supposed to spend the long weekend on Fire Island (my happy place). Sun, beach, sand; everything regenerative for me. It was going to bolster me with Vitamin C and fresh air. I do my best runs on the boardwalk and even though the farthest I can run before hitting sand is about 2 miles, it is the best two miles anywhere. I was even going to see if I could run in sand, something I couldn’t do a year ago.

And I’m frustrated about my training schedule. I have it all planned out in my head, how much I’m going to run each week and… Even typing this out, I feel foolish. Obviously if I’m sick I have to readjust my training schedule.

I need time to heal. Once I feel better (which right now seems waaaay off) I’ll have to build up slowly again, I’m sure. The last time I took this much time off (when I was sick in February) it took me several weeks to get back to where I was. And I have to give myself permission to do this. Which might be easier if I felt better.

Thoughts During a Long Run

runnersToday is Sunday, which in the world of marathons (half and otherwise) means long runs. Which feels redundant because every run feels long lately, especially  the 7.25 mile I ran Wednesday. But what used to be my long runs 4, 5, or 6 miles, are now called (according to my training scheduled) “easy” runs.

On the one hand I’m ahead of the game. This morning I completed 9 miles. With my 13.1 race still 4 months away, I don’t have to be hitting it so hard. On the other hand I’m fighting against 40-something years of not running. I feel like I have a lot to overcome. I’m trying to get to the point where I feel that 13 miles isn’t that big of a deal.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, 5k seemed far — a long way. Now a 3 mile run seems like a fun distance. I’m working towards getting to think of 8, 10, and 12 mile runs as a fun distance, but I’m not there yet.

For your amusement, here are some of my nagging, inner thoughts while trying to reach this goal:

  • Mile 1: I feel terrible. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make 2 miles, let alone 9.
  • Mile 2: Feeling better. What was I thinking about? I could do this all day.
  • Mile 3 and 4: You’re running too fast. Slow down or you will burn out too soon. You’re running too slow. at this pace you’ll never finish. You’re running too fast. Too slow. Too fast. 
  • hate runningMile 5: Only 5k left. You can totally do…. Oh wait! I’m doing 9 today. Damn!!
  • Mile 5.5: Wait?? That’s it. It feels like I’ve gone 7 miles already. Is this GPS broken?
  • Mile ??: How far did she (GPS) say? That stupid driver almost hit me and I missed what she said…
  • Mile 6.5: (on learning that one of my water bottles was unexpectedly empty) aaaaaaaaaagh! Oh wait, there’s a deli ahead.  SAVED!
  • Mile 6.99: Now my GPS is just effing with me. She can’t just say 7 miles?
  • Mile 8: Just finish this mile and you are done. No, really, you can do it.
  • Mile 8.5: I can’t feel my legs.  Am I still moving?
  • Mile 8.96, 97, 98, 99 DONE. 

I feel totally done in. It is hard to imagine that I will be able to run 13 when 9 feels this bad, but that is what I said about 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Race Day

race bibsThis morning I got up early, drove out to the beach with my niece, and ran along the boardwalk as fast as I could for 3.1 miles. Coincidentally, so did about 350 other people at the same time. It was a 5K race, my second so far this year and my fourth race ever.

I’ve been running only a few years now, but I’m from a running family.  Everyone runs, everyone races. I resisted the races for a while – I’m not competitive, I said. I’d rather run alone, I said. But last year my job offered an incentive: complete 3 “health related” activities during the year and save on your annual health insurance contributions.

So last year I did the MS walk, with my sister-in-law and her family (I’m not going to get to walk this year, because I have a wedding, but you can still donate). And I donated blood to the NY Blood Center (Got to do that again). And, I ran my first race with my mom. And surprise, surprise, I loved it. I was nervous, but it really pushed me in a way that running on my own just can’t match.

So a few months later I did a second run in November, just for fun. It was freezing, but a short 4K and also fun. A few weeks ago I did a 5K at the Bronx Zoo. This was more fund-raiser than competitive run (I raise $375 to protect gorillas), but it was so cool running around the zoo.  And today I ran with my niece (a super track star, no less) to raise money for the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.clothes shoppingI pushed myself pretty hard and felt like it was a great run. I’m pleased to say that I ran with an excellent (for me) time – 30:09.

Shorter races are great for working on pace, so I’m going to run a few more over the next months. I’m also looking for a good 10K because while I’m training for the half, 5K is just not far enough. Plus, I love that they give you a t-shirt.

It’s Official – 134 days 23 hours 15 minutes to go

The Inaugural Suffolk County Marathon and Half MarathonThis morning I took the plunge and officially signed up for my half marathon. I’m excited! And scared. (Well, excited and scared!) I’m thrilled that the proceeds for marathon is going to benefit the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, which is dedicated to providing local military veterans with services and programs. Not only is this an important issue, but the benefits are for veterans who live right here in my area.

Before I registered, I did all the things you probably do before signing up for your first half:

  • I checked out the route on the map. (I’m familiar with the area so I’m comfortable that it is mostly flat and pretty scenic)
  • I downloaded advice from Runner’s World for first time marathoners. (Some things I knew, but there was really good info here.
  • I put in for time off for the day before and the day after. (I think I’m going to need a buffer!)
  • I checked the Frequently Asked Questions and was pleased to see I could change from half- to full-marathon if I change my mind later. (Hey, you never know?)

Then I signed up. Only there was a funny thing on the registration. It asked me for my “weight class”. I had never heard of this before in running. Sure, there are weight classes in boxing and wrestling, but running? Apparently for men, they call the heftier runners “Clydesdale” (OMG, really?) and the more zaftig women “Athena.” I had to check this out. Is this  really a thing?

Her time might improve with proper footwear.

Her time might improve with proper footwear.

Yes, apparently it is a thing, (although much more prevalent in triathlons) and I guess it makes sense biologically. All things being equal, a person carrying around an extra 50 or 100 lbs of weight is expending more energy. From my research, it isn’t about fitness or fatness. You can be heavy and short and not make the “Athena” cutoff weight. You can be very thin, fit, and tall and still qualify.

Generally speaking, having a larger build means you must expend a greater effort to get the same result.  Take running – if all other fitness factors are held constant, a 6’4”, 230-pound guy will struggle to run as fast as a 5’10”, 180-pound competitor, simply because he’s hauling more weight. [link]

I was shocked by the weights they consider “heavy”. It seems like there are variations from race to race as to what constitutes an “Athena.”

weightclassFor my race, they have two divisions; I am, of course, in the higher division – I guess you could call it Athena-plus! Even if I lose 15 lbs between now and race day, I’ll still be in the highest category. Here’s the thing: at my absolute thinnest (in my 30s) I was about 145 lbs and a size 6. I can’t imagine ever as an adult being under 140 unless I had a serious disease. I’m tall, but not very tall, but I do carry more weight. I’m one of those body types that defy BMI (and proves BMI is junk-science).  Mostly, I am concerned about what this might say to people who are much heavier. I would hate to think that someone would be discouraged by this and not want to run.

Anyway, the weight division is optional; you can choose to participate or not. After looking at a lot of websites that discussed pros and cons [here and here, for example] I decided to do it. The only person I’m interested in competing against or comparing myself to is me. I have my own personal goal (I’d like to finish in 2 hrs. 40 min) but even just finishing would be great. Still, I always like to see how other women my age do in races, and it might be interesting to have another point of comparison (i.e. weight).

I’m just really, really glad I don’t have to be a Clydesdale. That is the worst name ever.

Dusting Off My Blog

skunkdustingIt is time to dust off my blog again.

I’ve had this blog since 2010, but if you look at my archives I have periods where I write a lot and periods where I write very little. 2014 was my most prolific year, and this blog really helped me regroup and rethink.  I changed by eating habits, my workout habits, and most importantly, my habits of mind.  I stopped thinking about losing weight, and focused instead on gaining back pieces of myself:  my self-esteem, my courage, my power, my health.

You may think that when I stopped blogging I regressed back to my old life and my old habits, but that is not the case. I have been really good about focusing on me and not letting bad habits creep back in. I stick to my “cold turkey” food plan that helped me control my food addictions. I wear my fitbit religiously and try to get my 8,000 steps daily. And most importantly, I work daily on learning to love and care for myself. The only thing was, I had gotten so good at it, I didn’t really need this blog anymore.

But now I’m starting a new challenge, and on days like today, I really need some support.

Last year (2014) my goal was to walk 3,000,000 steps, which I accomplished and then some! This year, I have two separate goals. One is to run a half marathon (I am planning on doing the Suffolk County Half Marathon in September) and the other is to run 1,000 miles this year.

achieving-goalsThe first goal I feel pretty good about.I’ve already started my training, running longer distances and I barring an unforeseen illness or injury, I should be able to accomplish this one. The only question will be how fast I will do it and if I will be able to run the whole distance.

The second goal seems a bit far-fetched. Last year I only ran about 445 miles, so I’m effectively doubling that. The good news is that I’ve already run 220 miles this year. The bad news is, we are already 4 months into the year and I’m only 1/4 of the way towards my goal.

So I’m coming back to my blog, which has always been a great comfort and support in helping me meet my challenges, deal with my disappointments, and focus on what is important.  Having said that, I’m going to publish this post, put on some running clothes, and get myself outside.