The Courage to Start Over Again

I find myself “back at square one” when it comes to my fitness goals. After a year of limited ability to exercise, followed by surgery, followed by recovery, I find myself with the ok to exercise from my doctor and no motivation to do so. I did go out one day and I ran three miles. I felt as if it were a half-marathon and that I was under-prepared. I was sore for four days afterward. Apparently I’m not ready for that and need to start slower.

Dejected and unmotivated, I decided to re-read my blog to see how I was able to get started the last time. Not only did I find my initial posts motivational, I found that I have left a record that, if not beneficial to anyone else, is a goldmine for me.  I struggled just as much back then just to get started walking on my treadmill. The difference is that I know just how far I got from that humble start. I need to do it again, and I need to find the courage to do it. I think I just did.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling that I already did this and shouldn’t have to do it again (the “poor me” trap), or the trap of thinking that I am just not the fitness “type”, or the trap that it just doesn’t matter. I do have to do it all again, but hopefully this time I will learn from past lessons and not get discouraged or take too many false steps.

I am the fitness type, because I’ve been fit and I loved it. I learned this late in life, not having been much of an athlete as a child. I learned that strength training makes me more stable…more graceful (I was never a graceful child). Running, eventually, makes me feel healthy and energized…at least the shorter runs do. The longer runs make me feel powerful in a whole different way…conquering my fears and proving to myself that I can do it.

It does matter. Being fit and healthy is a gift that only I can give myself and one that will extend my life and enhance my quality of life as I get older. It matters because it makes me better at all I do, provides me with endurance, energy, and perspective. It gives me confidence. I was getting used to the words, “I am a long-distance runner”, now I’ve removed all my “13.1” magnets from my car because they made me feel like a fraud. I earned them with blood (not much), sweat (a whole lot), and a few tears.

It won’t be easy, but what worthwhile goal ever is? I have new commitments that will make it harder for me to find time for fitness, but I’m used to scheduling challenges. I have my own, personal record of how to get to my goals, and I will…

Find the Joy in the Journey!

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Putting Back A Little Fun In The Run

Recently, a friend who doesn’t run offered to sign-up for a race with me and walk the 5k while I run the 10k. I didn’t accept her offer right away. I was thinking that I only have three weeks until my next half-marathon and I need to reserve my weekends for long runs.

I was still thinking this as I took off on my ten-mile run the next day. As I logged mile-after-mile, I had a long time to think about my training. I had procrastinated more than usual about this run. I had planned to run first thing on Saturday morning, getting out at 7 a.m. while it was still dark. A friend had recently given me a headlight and I was going to get to use it for the first time. When I awoke at 6:45, I could hear the rain and knew it was just above freezing. I also knew that Sunday would be warmer and sunny and that I had no other plans for Sunday. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When Sunday came, I procrastinated even more. I just wasn’t ready to get out and run ten miles. It wasn’t until 1:30 in the afternoon that I finally laced up my shoes and headed out the door. As usual, as soon as I was out the door, I was fine. After about three miles, I was in my running zone and knew I could get through ten miles just fine. About halfway through my run, I had an epiphany.

This month, I challenged myself to accept as many social invitations as I could, and wasn’t my friend’s offer just such an invitation? I had recently lamented that I had no one to go to races with, and here was someone who doesn’t run still wanting to be part of my new racing life. As I continued my run, I thought how nice it would be to eliminate one of my long runs anyway…I’m sure I can still manage the half-marathon with a 10k instead of an eleven-mile run two weeks before the race.

I let my friend know that I wanted to go to the race, and we both signed up. It turns out that the 5k starts an hour after the 10k, but she was still game. So, I’ll run the 10k and then catch up with her in the 5k and walk that with her. It will give us a chance to spend some time together that we rarely seem to find.

I’m looking ahead to other races this fall and making some plans. My younger daughter wants to go with me to a chocolate run in mid-November. She doesn’t want to run, but she’s fine with doing the 1k “cocoa” walk and then repairing to the post-race “chocolate tent” for refreshments while I’m out running. On Thanksgiving, I’m planning on running a Turkey Trot with my older daughter…we just have to decide if we’ll run the 7:15 a.m. 10k or the 8:15 a.m. 5k…I think I know where that one will end up!

Find the Joy in the Journey…sometimes that means pausing to see the forest and not just the trees!

Reading, Writing, and Running

As my 50th birthday gets closer and closer I wonder what I’ll do with my blog…Laura’s 50 by 50 will be over when I get to that milestone. I know I won’t have done everything I wanted to do, but I sure have done a lot and I’m happy with my successes. Three things that have come to the forefront in my life recently are reading, writing, and running.

I have always loved to read…well, at least since I was 7. I was a late reader but have been an avid one ever since. As I started this project I admitted that I’d lost touch with the reader in me. My life is full of lots of responsibilities, many of which are time-consuming. Reading had taken a back seat to other activities. Even with a goal of reading 50 books for pleasure in the 2 and a half years leading up to my 50th birthday, I’m falling a bit short. This is one goal I will reach…I will make sure of it!

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Right now, I’m reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, my 36th book. I am enjoying it immensely, especially since I just read The Paris Wife, a novel by Paula McLain about the same time in Hemingway’s life based on primary sources. The version I’m reading was edited by Hemingway’s descendants, and they provide refreshing perspectives on his life.

I have always wanted to be a writer…well, at least since I was 7. I was a late reader, but I quickly got up to speed and hit college-level reading in fourth grade. Early on I read the Little House books and Little Women. The first was a memoir by prolific writer and journalist, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the second was a novel about a writer by a writer. It helped that Louisa May Alcott and I share a birthday. I was enamored with the idea of being a writer from almost the moment I first started to read.

I had the writer-wannabe down pat long ago…but with this blog, I finally have put writing into practice. It is not the kind of writing I long to do, but it is the kind of writing I can do every day and can fit into my current priorities. I started a novel a few years ago, trying to use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, aka November) to get myself psyched. November turns out to not be a great time of year to write an entire novel…

I have wanted to be a runner since I was about 14. It didn’t go very well. I read Running by James Fixx and was inspired. I was young, I flew out the door and ran 3 miles. That was Easter and by Memorial Day, I was ready to run our quirky 5.2 mile, hilly hometown run. I vaguely recall running it in 52-ish minutes. I don’t recall running again until I was about 34, except as coerced in high school gym class. I had a lot of trouble with my ankles to the point where I had to stop running.

These days, however, I’ve managed in the last 15 months to go from couch to half-marathon-training. I am happy about the running, but completely stressed-out about the half-marathon. I think that 6 miles is a sweet-spot for me. I’m still determined to meet my goal of running a half-marathon, but after that, I just want to enjoy a 6-mile run two or three times a week.

So, as I approach the point of letting go of this blog, at least the name of this blog, I wonder what to turn it into…at the moment, Reading, Writing, and Running is on my short list.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and remember that rather than an ending, you can choose to evolve!

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Work Hard, Party Hard

I’ve never been a party animal, more like a pumpkin-head. When I was in high school I had an early curfew…I’m not sure it was even midnight, more likely 11 p.m. Nevertheless, my sisters and I related it to Cinderella needing to be home by midnight or else her coach would turn into a pumpkin. We coined the phrase “pumpkin head” to explain our need (curfew aside) to be in bed by midnight or be a wreck the next day. (The term popped to top of mind because when we were younger, our dad used to make up stories for us involving three girls named Pigtail, Ponytail, and Pumpkin Pie.)

Nothing has changed along those lines; I still need my sleep. Lately, however, I have been spending more time with my friends and family at many celebrations and simultaneously working hard at my running. I’ve been rather exhausted and feeling my pumpkin-headedness. So when a co-worker told me that if I could run 6 miles three times a week, I could run a half-marathon, I scoffed at her. Then I slept on it and realized she was right.

The next day, I walked into her cubicle and said, “I’m going to do it…I’m going to run the Women’s Half-Marathon! Will you do it with me?” She said yes…and even though this is one of my 50 by 50 goals, to run the half before I’m fifty, she just said yes to running it on her own 50th birthday! Woo Hoo! Women Power!

So, I started looking into training plans and quickly found that although there are numerous programs for training for a 5k or 10k, the majority of advice on training for a half marathon points to Hal Higdon. I reviewed his 12 week training programs and picked the Novice 2, which assumes you are running 6 miles three times a week—BINGO! It seems a bit too easy at first, making me want to jump ahead a few weeks…but I won’t.

The plan has me running three days in a row, something I’ve consciously avoided to-date, but at only 3 or 4 miles a day. Those runs are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday and Monday are rest days. Saturday is the day to increase distance, starting at 3 miles and building to 11 the week before the half-marathon. Sunday is for cross-training (maybe a swim?). I think I can do this! No, I KNOW I can do this!

So, I put my money where my mouth is and signed up. Then I signed up for a 10k the month prior…part of the training plan. So, now I am in the planning phases. The twelve-week plan will start two weeks from Monday…meanwhile, I’m going to Chicago tomorrow for a grand wedding/party weekend where I will party hard and have lots of fun with no calorie counting or running involved!

In planning my training, I found that I should not try to lose weight while training for the half-marathon. Uh oh! I still have about 30 pounds to go and if I can’t lose weight during the 12 week training, that severely cuts back on when I can do so. I’ve decided that on Monday, I will go into weight-loss mode and keep it up through not only the two pre-training weeks, but the early training weeks that require fewer miles per week than I’m already running.  After that, I will need extra carbs in my daily diet to power my long runs without exhausting myself.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy in pushing yourself beyond what you ever thought you could do!

Bridge to 10K—Catching Up (B210k Weeks 1 and 2)

Just shy of three weeks from when I started and aborted Bridge to 10k (B210k), I’m back…determined to get back on track. I started B210k on April 17th and on April 18th I pulled a calf muscle doing basketball drills with my younger daughter, which I wrote about in A Break From Running–My First Sports Injury. Well, if I had to have a sports injury, better while enjoying active time with my girl than anything else. Even so, I was truly annoyed to be side-tracked on the verge of stepping up my game.

I made the best of it. I was leaving on an overseas business trip 6 days later and I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg. My doctor was concerned about blood clots and advised me to walk and force my calf to do its job of pumping blood up my veins. She prescribed a lot of Motrin and a cane and within 48 hours I was walking gingerly and soon enough walking confidently, albeit on mega doses of Motrin. I went on my trip with the benefit of not figuring out how to fit running into my schedule or the burden of dragging running shoes and gear along.

Back home, I stepped on the scale to a 7 pound increase…a pound for every day I’d been gone. I decided to get back into my normal routine and trust that the weight, likely mostly water, would come off quickly. Just a week later and it’s all gone, thank goodness! In the meanwhile, I tried to figure out how best to get back on track with B210k…I have a 5.25 mile, hilly run coming up and I’m not prepared for the distance or the hills.

I was a bit nervous about running with my injured calf, but I was walking fine and felt ready. I thought of skipping the first two weeks of the program so that I’d finish the program by my big run in four weeks, but in the end I picked up where I’d left off…day two of week one. Week one is a five minute warm-up followed by four ten-minute runs with a minute of walking in between each and then a five minute cool down. This was about a five minute increase in running time for me.

I ran again two days later to finish up week one, but I wanted to accelerate my schedule in some way, so instead of running three days a week, I decided to run every other day. It’s not much of an acceleration, but it made me feel like I was moving forward. So, two days later I started week two. Week two is a five-minute warm-up followed by three fifteen-minute runs with a minute of walking in between, and then a five minute cool-down.

Having run for 45 minutes at a time when I was working on my 5k time, this hasn’t been hard. That’s good…the B210k will ease me into doubling my distance without my really feeling it too much. Tomorrow I’ll finish up week two and then on Saturday I’ll start week three. Week three increases the three running components from 15 to 17 minutes. Piece of cake.

I started thinking that 5k to 10k is a doubling…10k to half-marathon is roughly another doubling, and half to full marathon is another doubling…hmm…Something to think about more!

Find the Joy in the Journey…don’t give up, just get back on track as soon as you can!

Related Posts:

Bridge To 10k–The Plan

Bridge to 10k—Halfway There (B210k Week 3)

Bridge to 10k–Running Through the Sprinklers (B210k Week 4)

Bridge to 10kSkipping Ahead (B210k Weeks 5 and 6)

Race Day—My 3rd 5k, Personal Best

The cool thing about a personal best is that it is yours; it matters not how everyone else does, it only matters if you’ve been able to best yourself through your training and hard work. Of course, I am equally pleased to have finished 31st out of 67 women between the ages of 45 and 49 (and I’m gleeful that after my next birthday, I’ll be the youngest age in my group rather than the oldest).

When I went to bed the night before, I was very worried about the weather…it was supposed to rain and snow during the race and although I was prepared for the cold, I didn’t have any preparation for a driving rain. I imagined standing in the starting line for half an hour being pummeled by icy rain and being too wet and miserable to run when the starter pistol went off. I awoke early in the morning to the sound of a pounding rain and had trouble getting back to sleep. I got up at 6, tired but happy to see that the rain had stopped.

I didn’t have high expectations when I started the race. I knew I would blow my last race score of 42:08 out of the water and have an official personal best, but I doubted I’d run faster than my fastest training run, which is a bit over 36 minutes. For one thing, although I’ve been training on the course all year, the 5k course changed this year and instead of being relatively flat, it now starts with an uphill run. Secondly, I run on the inside track…on the sidewalk, not on the street, which surely cuts the distance. Thirdly, I’ve been a bit under the weather with sinus-related ickyness and didn’t even train for 6 days before the race.5k Finisher Button

During the actual race, I had to dodge runners and deal with the walk/runners, especially when (field wide open) one ran around me, then started walking two feet in front of me (Grrr!). Also, for the first time ever, I had to stop to tie my shoe. I was sure I would run a 36+ minute race. So, imagine my surprise when the results came in and I ran 34:19! This is better than any of my training runs!

I am all geeked-up to take my workouts to the next level, but I know I am well prepared to run a 5k and nothing longer. It is time to come up with a new training plan. I’m signed up for a quirky run in 6 weeks that is extremely hilly, something I’m not used to. It is also almost the length of a 10k…a bit ahead of any training schedule I may come up with. A friend has already convinced me to run in another 5k in the meanwhile, so I will keep looking forward to the next race as I celebrate my recent success.

Find the Joy in the Journey…Just do your best!

Psyched About The Race

Although I’m still feeling pretty yucky, and haven’t trained for the last five days, I’m getting psyched about the race tomorrow anyway. I sure am a changed woman since the day last June when I started the C25k program and could barely run for 90 seconds at a time. I feel antsy for not running this week and am looking forward to the race, even if it makes me sicker in the end.

I picked up the race packets for my daughter and me today. We each got a neon green tech T with a shimmery-purple alien face on the front. It’s short-sleeved and will make a nice running T in nicer weather…tomorrow morning it is supposed to be in the low thirties with a mixture of rain and snow. I’m glad I’ve figured out the right running gear for such weather…winter running tights, long-sleeved running shirt, running jacket, hat, and gloves…oh, and my new shoes!

A few weeks ago I was complaining about how my knees were getting worse and a friend suggested that I might need new running shoes. Hmmm….I found my running shoes in the back of my closet covered in dust bunnies a couple of years ago. I would estimate I’ve run close to 500 hundred miles in them, although they really don’t look the worse for it. I am convinced that my knee problems are from fencing, and two weeks without fencing seems to be proving that theory to be correct, but in the meantime, I ordered new shoes.New Running Shoes

Now, I don’t know anything about picking a good pair of running shoes. I just know that I’ve not had good luck, even when specially fitted at a running store. The Saucony’s I’ve been wearing are just right, though, so I tried to find the same ones online. This proved impossible, but I ordered a new pair that seemed similar in the same size and brand. I ran in them on Sunday with no issues at all, so I’ll be wearing them in the race tomorrow. I just love how much more colorful running shoes are these days!

Even though I’d looked up the 5k race map a couple of weeks ago, and found it changed, I was glad to have two chances to run it before the race. Today, however, I looked up the 10k map…and wished I were ready for that course! I have a long way to go to run a 10k…and yet my next goal is to run a quirky race in my home town which is 5.19 miles…more than halfway the difference between a 5 and 10k. The race is, to my mind, straight uphill half-way and straight downhill the rest and I only have six weeks left to train!

The good thing is that there is ALWAYS another race…so many, many races. But I am ready to make a plan to get to the 10k level.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when you are feeling yucky!

Running Sick

I have become a very cautious person when it comes to being sick. I rest when I am sick, end of story. I figure that keeping myself in good health means knowing when enough is enough and not trying to push through an illness. I have suffered dozens of secondary infections in my life, especially before I had sinus surgery. I would have a cold or an allergy attack, or even the flu and then when I was recovered, I’d be struck by an ear infection, throat or tonsil infection, or a sinus infection. Nothing like being sick for a week only to come down with something worse!

Fortunately, I’ve been very healthy for the last year, and I do consider that all the dieting and exercising I’ve been doing has been a contributor…not to mention the flu shot I got in September. Now I find myself struggling with a minor sinus infection. I say minor because it doesn’t have me running to the doctor for antibiotics, but it does wake me up in the middle of the night with pain that requires some over-the-counter relief and it has me dragging during the day.

With my next 5k race coming up on Saturday, I’m anxious to get in a couple of practice runs, but I’ve held off so far. Now I’m wondering if I’ve been too cautious, so I did a little research. I read this piece by Runners World, “Should You Run When You’re Sick?” and at first thought I’d made a mistake by skipping workouts due to a minor illness. The general rule is that if you no fever and all your symptoms are above the neck, you are good to go. Then I got to this part about sinusitis:

“With a full-blown sinus infection, you rarely feel like running. But if you do, consider the 72-hour rule of Jeffrey Hall Dobken, M.D.: “No running for three days,” advises the allergist/immunologist and ultramarathoner in Little Silver, New Jersey. Even without the presence of a fever, says Dr. Dobken, some sinus infections, when stressed by exercise, can lead to pneumonia or, in extreme cases, respiratory failure.”

I’m back to listening to my own body and using my own common sense. It’s not such a big deal anyway, I’m talking about a 5k, not a marathon. Even so, as I build up to longer races, I want to do so in a healthy and fun way, not in an obsessed way! I’ve been working hard since my last race in September and I know that my time will be much improved, even if not the 30 minutes I’d hoped to achieve. I will likely not even beat my personal best since I’ve slowed down my training and I’m not 100%, but I will surely achieve my best race results so far. As smart runners say, there’s always another race!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the peace of mind to trust your own instincts.

Two Weeks Until My Next 5k

Well, a week later, I’m not sure I’m any more prepared for my next 5k, but I have been training! The weather has been cooperative, so I’ve been able to get some runs in outside. Although I’m still aiming for a time under 36 minutes, my training runs have been a bit slower.

I finally got myself a chrono watch so I can now time myself precisely. I got tired of timing the start of my run to an easy to remember start time, which I then tended to forget by the time I finished. I also have the problem of needing reading glasses to read my watch and I can’t wear them running.

Before I set out on my first run with the new watch, I read over the instructions and figured I had it worked out. Even so, it was a good thing I glanced at the time before hitting the “stop” function…because I hit the wrong button and it didn’t stop. The second time, I read the instructions again and practiced first. It’s rather embarrassing to admit that I used to use a stop watch for my job…but I’d forgotten how to reset it.

On Saturday, I decided to look up the race route. I’ve been practicing on it since I started running because it’s close to my house. Lo and behold, they had changed the route. The old one took me out of the far end of the park, in a big arc, then the route doubled back on itself and ended where it started. Now it comes out of the near end of the park and goes in a big loop with a detour through a cul-de-sac and another that cuts into a side street and out the next one.

As I started the run, I was going uphill. This is a good thing because the next race I want to run is uphill half way and then down ill the rest. I have no experience with hills. I huffed and puffed up the small hill and was surprised at how winded I got…I normally can breathe normally throughout my run. I felt like giving up just as I was getting started. Running right past my house was also a temptation, but my daughter was across the street and I didn’t want her to see me quit. On I went and after about three quarters of a mile, I was back to my usual self.

I got to the cul-de-sac, and resented the detour. It seemed silly to lay the course out this way. On race day, though, it will work out well, as the side street goes in a big loop and isn’t really a cul-de-sac after all. In practice, though, it was a bit more dangerous as there were no sidewalks and I had to run in the road.??????????

Finally, after the second detour, I was back on the final half-mile of my usual route and I ran back into the park, got to the finish line, and hit the proper button on my watch. 36:42. Hmm…I don’t know if I should be disappointed that my times are getting slower rather than faster, or feel proud of myself for getting to know the new route. One thing is for sure, though, fencing has been hard on my knees and I’m glad the course is over, at least for now. I have two more weeks for my knees to recover and for me to get to a new personal best on race day.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and enjoy a new route every once in a while!

Related Post:

Three Weeks Until My Next 5k

Three Weeks Until My Next 5k

I already scaled back my expectations this winter to keep running rather than to make any particular progress…and I think I can now say I’ve succeeded. The prior year I ran in a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, which I wrote about in Race Day—My First 5k, and then didn’t run again until spring. I’d planned on running a race in April which runs through my neighborhood and is my own training route. Instead, I went to San Francisco for Easter and missed the race. I wrote a 7-piece series on our trip starting with, Off to San Francisco, Where “Freedom Sips Cappuccino in a Sidewalk Café”.  

Good thing, because I was in the worst shape of my life. As a matter of fact, trying to keep up with my family in the hills of downtown San Francisco just about did me in. At my worst moment, I stood at the top of Coit Tower looking out over the cloudy city and trying to catch my breath after climbing the hill to the tower. My family was ready to rush back to the hotel and I thought I’d rather just lie down in the cold tower and die. Fortunately, we stopped at the bottom of the hill and had dinner at a very good Italian restaurant and an authentic spaghetti carbonera and a nice glass of wine revived me.

This winter was different. After the trip to San Francisco, which taught me nothing if not that I was sorely out of shape, I started training using C25k, or Couch to 5k. I wrote another 7-piece series on that process, starting with Couch Potato to Runner—The Plan (C25k Week 1). That was in June of last year and I worked my way through the whole program to the point of running 30 minutes straight, three times a week. Unfortunately, I was not covering 5k in 30 minutes, so I took the plunge and built up my distance to 5k. At the time, that took me 45 minutes. Worse even than my 43 minute Turkey Trot the previous year.

I ran in another 5k and did about the same, but I managed to run the entire way. I wrote about it in Race Day—My Second 5k, Running All The Way. Now it’s time to see if I can run a 5k in under 36 minutes with a stretch goal of 33. My real goal was 30, but I only have three more weeks to train and I’m just under 36 now.  Last Saturday, I decided it was time to ratchet up my treadmill to a 10.5 minute mile. I’d been running an 11 minute mile for months and that had helped me drop my outdoor running speed from 13 minutes per mile to 12. I figured I had four weeks left to boost myself to a 10 minute mile outside and I’d better get started. Going from 5.5 mph to 5.7 mph seemed like just a slight change and afterward I felt exhilarated. I told a friend how easy it was and how sure I was that I could keep increasing my speed. I never learn…

I awoke on Sunday wondering what had happened to my hips and rear end…I felt very sore. I figured I’d walk it off throughout the day and be ready for another run on Monday. I even skipped my usual Sunday swim because I couldn’t imagine an hour of breaststroke with such sore muscles. Monday was a rude awakening indeed. I was even more sore than on Sunday. I have learned the hard way that waiting for the soreness to fully fade is the best way to keep making progress, so I skipped running on Monday. Fortunately by Tuesday, the soreness had eased and I repeated my Saturday run on the treadmill. When I awoke on Wednesday morning, I was a bit sore, but overall I was fine. This morning, all the soreness is gone and I”m ready for a third time running 10.5 minute miles. I hope to be outside by Saturday, but if not, I’ll attempt a 30 minute 5k on the treadmill.  Three weeks until the race!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and listen to your body because it really does know best!

Related Post:

Two Weeks Until My Next 5k