Friday, December 10, 2010


So. I did it. I ran two miles. Goal one accomplished! It was a great feeling. The question was, could I do it again? So I decided to set another goal. To make two miles seem like no big deal. Basically, I just wanted to consolidate my gains, and start running that 2.5 miles several times a week.

I was still was seeking the 5k mark in my head. Having made 2.5, it actually seemed possible I would be able to run a 5k. This was the goal I had wondered if it was possible for me to reach. It seems a little odd that I actually had accomplished close to this goal in only a couple months time.

But I digress...

So I started running every other day to my mother in laws place of business on my lunch hours. I ran down sidewalks, alleyways, backroads. Summer was coming on, and it was hot. Sometimes my legs felt like lead and I would want to quit. I had to keep chanting encouragement to myself in my head, "just a little further just a little further..." The first several weeks of this were hard. Sometimes it seemed like I'd never run a block let alone two miles. My legs & feet would ache, I would struggle to breath, and I'd just feel like giving up. It was somewhere around this time I started learning about technique, and gear. I actually brought a pair of shorts and tshirt to run in. I went out and bought my first pair of running shoes. ($100!!!) Wow! What a huge difference it made! It seems so obvious but having never ran I just really didn't think about it. Wearing the right gear is important!

I started adding a little more distance to my route to get closer to 3 miles and it wasn't long before I reached that goal as well. I knew it was time. It was time to sign up for a race!!! But which one? I wasn't sure, but I was sure about one thing, this running thing was starting to get in my blood!!!

The Frostbite Festival - 10 miles

If you would have told me a few months ago that I would be preparing for a ten mile race in December, I would have thought you were nuts.  For real--absolutely, certifiably looney.  Maybe I'm the one who's nuts?  But here we are, the first week of December and after training for about five weeks, we were getting ready to do it!

I was pretty nervous about this one.  The longest run we'd done prior to that morning was eight miles the previous weekend.  Could I go two miles longer?  I felt great at the end of eight miles, so I was pretty sure that I could.  My main worries going into the race were mostly about the cold and the hills that so many people warned us about.  I hadn't trained on hills much since daylight savings time ended.  It's pretty hilly out by our house, but I couldn't run those roads in the dark.  Our weekend runs had been mostly flat.  Would those hills give me problems?  I guess there's only one way to find out.

Our goal, as with any new distance, was to finish.  What would be a good pace goal?  We were thinking between 9:30 and 10:00 for such a long race.  I'd be happy with that.  We never really paid attention to pace during our long runs, so honestly I didn't know.

About ten days before the race, the weather reports were predicting mid-to-upper 40's and sunny.  I knew it was too good to be true.  As we got closer, the temperature forecasts dropped and wind forecasts increased.  We both busted our budgets to buy new base layers to keep us warm.  I'd say they were well worth it!  We got up that morning to a frosty 14 degrees outside.  It would only get to 24 degrees that day, not to mention the windchill, which would make the "feels like" temperature top out at 11 degrees.

We pulled up to the race location and there were runners everywhere.  As 9:00 a.m. approached, we headed to the starting line.  The crowds of runners packed together getting ready for the start, and after a few announcements, we were off!

The course started in a neighborhood on the west side of Springfield. We wove through the streets of suburban houses and then came down the first major hill to exit the neighborhood.  This one will not be fun on our way back!  We headed out to the major road heading west out of town.  The police department had the roads blocked off from traffic (thank you, officers!).  I'm sure we made many people late for church that morning.  There were several people along the course cheering the all of us on and ringing bells.

We hit the first mile marker and those running two-miles only turned around.  I can't remember our time exactly, but I think it was around nine minutes.  We started fast out of the gates on this one too, but we intentionally slowed it down early because we knew we had a long way to go.  Not long after the first mile marker, we were headed out of town.  The subdivisions fell away and there were more open fields.  The winds didn't have anything to stop them.  As we cross the last major road heading out of town, we start down the first of a series of big, long hills.  Man, I really should have trained on some hills!

The photo taken by Alex.  See that hill we just came down?
We have to go back up on the way back!

At the bottom, the Hardy Breed photographer snaps some shots of us running by, a little further down, Shane's running friend Alex takes a few pictures of us.  What the heck do you do on those types of pictures?  Act natural and don't look at the camera?  Smile and wave?   What?!  Alex cheers us on as we get ready to head back up the big hill.  At the top of the hill, my legs start complaining to me that I didn't properly train for this race.  I can't believe that they are already feeling fatigued, and we haven't even reached three miles.  Lesson learned, I guess.

We pass the people blaring Hawaiian and Beach Boys music wearing grass skirts around mile three.  At about three and a half, we pass the port-o-potty (make a mental note, just in case) and the mini-van blaring Christmas music.  Just about then was when the first race leaders passed us heading back.  The first guy had the lead by a pretty wide margin.  I realized that I didn't like the perception that we were nearing the turn-around that the runners heading the other way caused!  We still had more than a mile to go.  About this time, the first female runner passed us going the other way.

We finally saw the turn-around at mile number five. I don't know what it is about that halfway mark, but it definitely re-energizes a person. It seemed like we picked up the pace a little. As we pass others still heading to the turn-around, it somehow helps to know that we have a shorter way to go than they do. It didn't take long for the number of people still heading that way to thin out. There were a couple of groups of walkers at the very end. I can't imagine what time they will be getting back to the finish line.

It seems that a 10 mile race really raises the caliber of the participants. We were about in the middle of the pack that day. In the 5K races, we finished much closer to the front. I would say that there's probably a lot of people out there who would sign up for a 5K race with little or no training, and many people, especially young people with young legs, could run it without a problem. When you get up to ten miles though, I think there's little chance that the average person could run that without training at least a little bit. I definitely wouldn't advise it.

As we made our way back, I knew those big hills were coming after mile seven. We were still feeling pretty good all things considered. I didn't feel as well as I did after our eight mile run the week before, but I was sure it was due to the hills. I knew I could make three more miles though. We headed down the first big hill. At the bottom, Alex was still there, sitting in his car with his kids. They hopped out when they saw us coming and began yelling and cheering for us. We would need it. We headed back up.

My legs began their protest.  Really?  You really want to run uphill after running for more than seven miles?  We kept pushing. I tried to think of other things.  We shortened our strides and shuffled the long way back up to the top.  Ahhhh, flat road again.  Thank goodness!!  There were only a couple of hills left, and that was the largest and longest one.

We hit mile eight and headed back into town.  We had never ran this far before and it was almost like my body sensed that.  It seemed that all my little aches and pains started to speak up.  My toes and the middle of my left foot seemed to be cramping a little.  I felt something blister-like popping up on the right.  I was feeling a little twinge of pain in the my lower back.  I had the foot/toe aches before, but the back-thing was new.  I kept on pushing through it.  There's only two miles to go.  That's an easy run!

About this time, another runner joined us, and we began talking about races.  He had just done a marathon in Greece.  That would be awesome!  We discussed other things like Colorado and different places we had traveled.  We talked about doing triathlons and what that was like. It was a welcome break from the monotony that we seemed to be in.  It took our minds off the aches that were creeping in.  After a short while, he said he had a little left in him and pulled ahead of us.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the final mile marker.

Only one mile left.  I could barely believe it.  In about ten minutes, we'd be done.  I knew there was one major hill left: the one that I noticed leaving the subdivision.  We reached that hill and pushed ourselves to move forward.  It wasn't as hard as I imagined earlier.  I had a renewed energy knowing that we were so close to the finish.  We got to the top of the hill--no more hills!  It was getting closer, I could feel it.  My feet were really starting to cramp.  A supporter on the corner yells "Great job! Only two blocks left!".  I don't know what happened, but hearing that there were only two blocks, I got even more energy and my pace picked up some more. 

We turned the final corner, and I could see it.  I could see the finish line!  My pace picked up even more.  I wanted to stop running so badly that I began to run as fast as I could with all that I had left.  I ran across the finish with all the cheering supporters there and I was done! 

It felt amazing to stop running and to know what we had just accomplished.  I gave Shane a big hug.  We did it!  We noticed the frozen curls of hair hanging out from beneath his hat reminding us of just how cold it was that day.  For as much as I am a wuss about the cold, the base layers of running clothes made a huge difference!  I highly recommend spending the extra money on them because the cold was the least of my concerns that day.

Finishing this race felt different from the 5Ks.  It was a race of endurance, not of speed.  It was telling yourself that you could do something harder than you previously thought was possible.  The sense of accomplishment was better than I could expect.  I left this race knowing that I would be running the half marathon in April.  Three more miles and four months to prepare seemed totally possible now. 

Official time on this race was 1:43:36, 155th overall, 51st female and 10th in my division.  I'm not going to complain about that at all!
Shane and I with our friend Rick Snow who also ran that day. 
On a side note, Rick had a heart attack ten months earlier.
He is the poster child for heart attack recovery!! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The First Run(s) - Shane

So the decision was made. I was going to attempt to see if I could work myself up to two miles. It seemed impossible! But so many people run marathons, surely I could do 2 miles, right?

To be honest, I don't really remember which run was first exactly, or even the rough date it happened. I just remember my goal: to run from my work (downtown Springfield, IL) to my mother-in-law's business about 2.5 miles away.  I would walk the first 1/2 mile to warm up, then run as far as I could.

I had no plan really, knew nothing about technique, gear, shoes, nothing!  Just run as far as I could.  I'm not sure if I was smoking when I first started this challenge.  I had been quitting and starting, quitting and starting for months, sometimes for a week or two, sometimes longer. I know part of the time I smoked in the early phases.

I think the first few times I attempted to run I made it no more than a 1/4 mile at most. It was amazing how fast I got out of breath, and how my feet would ache after just a few minutes. It was miserable!!!  The distance was 2.3 miles from work to destination. Considering I'd walk the first half mile, I was really attempting about 1.8 miles. The first few runs, I managed about half a mile roughly. I would take a quick break (stoplight) and then try to do some more. Sometimes I managed another half mile before my mind and body said OK, that's ALL I CAN TAKE!!! Then I would walk until I recovered. If I had anything left in the tank, I'd try to get a little bit more in before arriving at my destination.

The time of year was spring, and some days it would be in the upper 70's.  I'd arrive hot, out of breath, covered in sweat, my face red from the effort. My mother-in-law would look at me like I was a little crazy, running and walking all that way. I would wear my street clothes: jeans, a t-shirt, and my regular tennis shoes. Thankfully I don't have to be in close contact with anyone at work so it didn't really matter that all I could do was sponge off before heading back to work.

Those first few weeks, it was just a test of my own determination. To even start jogging on my route took some will power, knowing the level of discomfort I would be experiencing.  At some point I realized, I was accomplishing nearly a mile non-stop. In those early days I used google maps and the car odometer to try to guess my distances. For some reason I believed the distance to be about three miles. Now I knew I could make it to a certain cross street without stopping. A few days later I made it a little farther. One day I would make a big gain, then spend a few days trying to reproduce that gain. It would be frustrating because after the big gain it would often seem just as difficult to make it that far again. It was!

I now know aerobic fitness and distance endurance comes in waves, and this is exactly how we train for long distance. You slowly increase the distance for a couple weeks, then a short week, then small increases again... This is how you train for a marathon as well.

I believe it was about the third week when it happened, I made it past any previous point and still had something left in the tank, I was close, less than half a mile away. I kept at it, running shorter on breath and my legs on fire, but I wasn't giving up, and voila! I made it. I had probably run close to two miles. I was so proud of myself! I told myself, if I can do it once, I can do it again!

I had managed to reach my goal in under a month. Not bad. I was pretty proud of myself, for having set a goal, fought my way through and accomplished it. This is what it's all about!!!

The Next 5K

Just three weeks after the Halloween 5K, it was time for the Jingle Bell Run.  I was much more excited than nervous about this one.  Since I already had one race under my belt, I knew a little more what to expect.  I liked that this race would be on a flatter course.  I also knew that no matter how much I burned myself out by going faster than normal, I would not have to walk.  This was a huge fear and something that held me back at the previous race.  I knew that I could recover by slowing my run, but I didn't need to walk.

This race was a little more serious, but not entirely.  How serious can you be with bells on, really?  However, there were timing chips to attach to our shoes, and there was a heck of a lot more people there.  This would be the first race where I knew some of the people running it.  I wondered how I would stack up against them.

The weather was cool but not uncomfortable that morning.  The pre-race atmosphere was different than the previous race.  There were more people in "real" running attire (as opposed to t-shirts and costumes) than the last race.  There were more people warming up by running around the parking lot.  There were more people, period.  Everywhere you looked, there were people. 

Shane and I sought out the bathrooms inside the building.  No matter how many times you pee before a race, you always feel like you have to go again!  We walked through crowds of people waiting for the race to begin. It was a little intimidating I'll have to admit.  However, all the jingle bells, some Santa hats, and the occasional costume certainly lessened the effects. 

With about 15 minutes to race time, Shane and I took a lap around the parking lot.  My legs felt good, not great, but good enough.  I remember thinking that I wanted to keep up with Shane better this time.  He had found a running group for his lunchtime runs.  Of course it wasn't just ANY running group, but some of the best and fastest runners in the area.  Shane had pushed himself to keep up with them and had paced some miles around 7:30.  That was a conversational pace for most of the group!  Meanwhile, he's giving all he's got to stay with them.  With each run, he said it seemed a little easier, and he seemed to keep up with them for a little longer.  I knew those runs would help him tremendously for this race. 

For me, I was running alone during the week.  No one was pushing me to improve or change my ways.  On occasion, I would push myself to do a faster mile.  I think my fastest mile by that time was around 8:30, but I wasn't sure what I could sustain for three miles.  On my evening runs, I would commonly run between 27 and 28 minutes for three miles.  I knew I would be able to beat my previous 5K time (28:58:02). 

As race time approached, we lined up by the starting line.  It seemed so crowded!  Much more so than the previous race.  We did a few stretches and then we were off!  Once again, the immediate rush from the starting line filled me.  I followed Shane closely, trying to not trip up on all the people that I was running elbow-to-elbow with.  There were little kids running around us.  You know that little kid all-out run?  They stomp their feet so hard, and there is so much motion and energy.  Oh, to have some of that energy!  The stampede of people all headed out the main drag of Lincoln Land and turned out onto the road ahead.

This time, looking down that the GPS, I was not surprised to see that we were pacing close to a seven minute mile.  The crowds were beginning to thin a little after the first quarter mile.  We passed some kids that had gone all out, already burned themselves out, and were now walking and looking for their parents behind them.  Shane and I ran next to each other, not allowing the pace to scare me, I settled into what was comfortable.  Fast was fairly comfortable that day.

We hit the first mile, they called out our time which was right around eight minutes.  I felt amazing.  My legs and lungs felt good.  We pushed on.  I think it was around the halfway point when Shane started pulling away.  I didn't mind.  I was surprised I kept up this long considering the training he was doing lately.  I kept pushing though.  I was constantly surprised to see my pace hovering around the nine minute mark.  I had run faster before, but not for a sustained amount of time. 

As I complete mile two, I feel myself slowing a little more.  Some runners were starting to pass me.  I needed to keep going!  There was less than a mile left now.  Then I got passed by a guy pushing a stroller.  Okay, so he was going really fast even though he was pushing a stroller, but he didn't have to show off, right?  As we're coming into the final stretch back toward the entrance to the college parking lot, I hear runners closing the gap behind me.  I push a little faster.  I get passed by a teenage girl around 15 years old. I push harder to stay right behind her.  At the turn into the parking lot, I pass her.  I am thrilled to be getting so close to the finish line, and I am using that energy to the fullest!

I look ahead to find the route and a little wind comes out of my sails when I realize that we have run around the median and turn back before it's over.  I push on, running neck and neck with the teenager as we trade off being in the lead.  We pass a group of the girl's friends who yell for her to give it everything she's got, and she really kicks it in.  She starts pulling away from me.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot will my legs to carry me any faster.  There's nothing more that I can do.

I round the corner, and the finish line is literally steps away.  I run hard all the way across the finish.  Immediately, I see Shane looking at his GPS, so I think to hit the stop button.  We get our timing chips taken off and walk out of the finish line area.  I look at my watch and it says 26:48!  I beat my 5K time just three weeks earlier by two minutes and ten seconds!  This is my new PR!

After the race, I am just exhilarated!  It was a great run!  I felt good and strong the whole way through.  I was happy with my time and my performance.  I could safely say it was the best I had ever ran.  We head into the building for the post-race refreshments, and I'm still glowing!  I'm sure I was smiling from ear to ear.  I felt amazing! 

We hang out for a while before they finally bring in the official times and tape them to a nearby table.  Shane and I go over, find our names, and I was even more amazed to find out my official time was 26:40:37.  I finished 100th overall, but there were a lot of participants in this race. 

As they began handing out prizes, I notice that some of the women in the 20's age groups getting awards had finished behind me.  Could it be possible?  Could I get an award?  I return to the list and start scrolling through looking for 35-39 year old women.  I count several of them finishing before me and was a little disappointed that my initial idea of winning some hardware dissolves in front of me.  I told Shane that I originally thought I might have won something, but I didn't.  He asks me how I could tell.  I told him he could look at the gender and ages on the list.

Shane heads back over to the list and runs his finger along the finishers ahead of him.  He looks at me and looks at the list again.  He walks back over and says he just might have a chance.  We wait as they go through the names of the top three finishers in each age/gender class.  I continue to be amazed that many of the women and some of the men winning medals finished behind me.  Finally, they get to the 40-44 class for men and they call out Shane for his third place finish!! 

He's so excited, and I'm excited for him!!  All the hard work he has put in over the past year has been rewarded by this small token that means so much. 

We had stayed much later than we had anticipated, and later than I told my friend who was watching Jocelyn.  We had to hurry, so we took off as soon as Shane received his medal.  We practically skipped out of the building, bouncing on Cloud 9, smiling, and rejoicing in his win.  Could this day get any better?  I don't think so!
11/20/2010 - After finishing the Jingle Bell 5K

Falling in love with the long run

The next race would be the The Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis on November 20, 2010.  But before this race would come around, Shane had already talked me into signing up for the Frostbite Festival, a 10 mile race in December.  Just a few weeks before this, I would have said no way, not possible.  Remember, I thought I could only run three miles, maybe four?

We started training for the 10 mile run.  We'd have to adjust our training schedule around the 5k race.  Each weekend, we would do a long run, progressively getting longer for a couple weeks and then tapering for a week.  Longer for a couple and then tapering again.  Yes, we were certainly full-speed ahead with our running plan.  I was glad though.  The scheduled races each month would help me keep focused and give me motivation to keep it up as the days got shorter and the temperatures got colder.

I was happily running four miles in the evenings and long runs on the weekends.  I rarely had a run I hated anymore. I felt wonderful before during and after.  I found myself really looking forward to the weekend long runs though.  I enjoyed pushing to new distances.  I enjoyed the time spent with Shane doing something we both enjoyed.  The sense of accomplishment was the best.  Not everyone can say they can run six miles or more.  I liked that I could.

Then a setback happened...stupid Daylight Savings Time ended on November 6th!  This launched me into a period of readjustment. I'm pretty sure I'm still readjusting.

A few weeks earlier, we bought a used treadmill for winter emergency training.  It had been propped in a corner of our living room since we brought it home.  No one wanted to use it.  As we headed home that first weeknight after the time change, I was sure that I could still run outside.  It was still fairly nice out, and I couldn't yet stomach the thought of the treadmill in the basement!

I head out that evening and it's DARK--I mean pitch-black--in our neighborhood.  We live out in the country in a small subdivision that doesn't have street lights.  I begin the run, hoping and praying that I won't step down on an acorn or fallen branch that I can't see.  I'm not too worried about traffic since I've changed my running route to stay near the houses instead of heading out by the cornfields.  It was rough.  I was worried about twisting an ankle or tripping over something nearly the entire run.  I shortened my evening runs to three miles instead of four.

After a week of bumbling through the dark, I gave in and hit the treadmill instead.  I hated it, every second of it.  Watching each second, each tenth of a mile, tick by on the control panel was excruciating.  It dragged out for an eternity.  I tried different speeds, different inclines, changing it up a bit.  None of it felt natural.  The TV also annoyed me since I rarely watch commercials due to the DVR.  Not only was I a rat on an exercise wheel, I had to watch the commercials on top of it!  Ick!  Running after work went back to a means to an end:  to keep a decent weekly mileage up while waiting for a great weekend run outside!

This made me love the long runs even more.  I even loved the run where, for the first time, the wind and temperature really threatened to be uncomfortable.  Once we got into the run, it wasn't bad at all.  The wind was howling at our faces for the last two miles of a seven mile run, but we pushed through it fine.  At the end of each long run, I felt like I could go even farther.  I felt great, and I recovered quickly it seemed. 

That's all it took, I was hopelessly in love with the long run!  Now THIS is what I'm talking about!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why I Run (Shane's Story)

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Chinese Proverb

I never dreamed I would become a runner. I've always been an active person, love the outdoors, love to hike, camp, explore, shoot, but organized sports have never been my thing. So how did it come to be that I've become a full blown run junkie?  I think even I am surprised by how far I've come, and how much further I'm starting to believe I can go.

I've never enjoyed running, in fact, I'd say I hated it. But I've always admired people who could. Running was always painful for me, cardio aside, wthin 200 yards my shins would be killing me.  I've always LOVED to walk or hike, and have done some pretty intense hikes out west, including climbing a few 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet). So I guess I knew there was a LITTLE bit of an endurance enthusiast in there.

Basically, two things happened that set in motion the events that have led me to where I am:
1) I read a fantastic book, called 'Born to Run' - by Christopher McDougall; and 
2) I was diagnosed with anxiety (self diagnosed actually) and panic attacks.

To make a long story short, not long after my 40th birthday, I ended up in the emergency room for what I thought was a heart attack: shortness of breath, tingling, and dizziness.  I ended up being tested, x-rayed, referred to my general care doc, nuclear stress tested, sonogrammed, and they found nothing. My doc's nurse suggested an anxiety or panic attack, which I found absurd, until I started researching this possibility. As I read down the list of 'symptoms' on a website, I realized that almost every symptom I was experiencing fit this to a T.  I began to accept this as a possibility.

The next few months I experienced a sort of downhill slide with anxiety and mild depression. Anxiety is not well understood, but they sure will throw a lot of drugs at it in this country! I didn't want to go that route, I fought with myself to avoid drugs, but I kept getting worse and at some point my wife got fed up with my general change in behavior, mood, and personality, and insisted I go see a doctor. She was right. She almost always is.

I began my journey with meds. It took a few tries and experimenting to figure out which one worked best for me (Zoloft), but once they got it right, it made a huge difference. There were some side effects, but they were mostly mild and over time, the anxiety completely disappeared. I spent nine months on the meds, and when it came time to renew the prescription, I asked the doc if I could try stopping. He gave me the go ahead, and I weaned myself off. The anxiety started up again, though very mild at first and now I was so much more educated about ways to cope with it, I was much better at recognizing it for what it was and redirecting my brain.

It was around this time I read Born to Run. It was a great read for me, combining several of my interests: the west, native american culture, and adventure. The book is basically about the Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico who run incredible distances in homemade sandals made out of car tires, and the efforts of some in the United States ultra running community to get these shy people to race in the U.S. The book also spends a lot of time analyzing why so many people get injured running, including studies on running barefoot that seem to show that running barefoot, or with a forefoot strike, instead of a heel strike, is the way we were designed and evolved to run. It made a lot of sense to me. So much so I was inspired to try it. I had been a heel striker my whole life.

So I went out and tried running down the road, landing on the balls of my feet and toes instead of my heels. It felt totally alien to me, but low and behold, no pain! I ran until I ran out of breath. (which wasn't very far!) but the point being, I stopped from being out of breath, not from pain.

I believe it was at this moment when I realized it could be possible for me to run painfree. It also just so happened that many of the things I had been reading on anxiety suggested that daily intense cardio excercise could be very helpful in controlling anxiety.

The culmination of these two events led me to decide: I want to see if I can run two miles! But can I even run two minutes? There was only one way to find out!!!

The first 5K

With my new perspective on running, we decided it was time to sign up for our first 5k.  Shane had already run Abe's Amble back in August, so it wasn't his first race, but it was mine.  On Halloween weekend, there was a race in Washington Park to benefit independent living homes for developmentally disabled adults.  It was the first race coming up in the Springfield area.  I really didn't mind, and actually preferred, that it wasn't going to be a "serious" race.  They didn't have timing chips.  They welcomed costumes.  The charity was good, and the low-key atmosphere was exactly what we needed.

I hadn't specifically trained for the race.  I was running regularly: three times a week, four mile runs.  I would try to increase my pace some nights, and others I just took it slow and steady.  On average, I was running just under 10 minute miles, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.  My runs were now 75% positive and 25% hated.  I still had moments of cussing in my head, but for the most part, I never had to walk anymore.  Thank goodness, because I was hard on myself when that happened.

My goal was to finish under 29 minutes.  I hadn't pushed myself to run three miles in faster than 9:40 splits, so I thought it was a good goal.  We arrived that morning to a small, but respectable field of runners and walkers.  There was a wide variety of participants, from the girls in 80's costumes a la Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" video (I sure hope they were costumes anyway) to the guys in running tights, compression-everything and the $100+ shoes that looked like they could run by themselves.  Yes, they were serious.  I'm going to stay out of their way.

The nerves going into a race are weird.  I'm sure they affect everyone differently, but for me, I didn't sleep well the night before.  I had a bit of a nervous stomach and felt a little intimidation by putting myself out there to be "measured" in public for the first time.  Once again, my feelings of inadequacy crept in.  Did I prepare well enough?  Did I drink enough?  Did I eat enough?  Are those hills going to matter very much?  Will I be lapped by the eight year old running next to me?  Can the line for the bathroom get any longer?!

We got our numbers pinned on, took a short warm-up trot down to the lagoon and back.  We arrived just in time for announcements right before race time.  We all lined up behind the starting line.  I inched toward the front because I didn't want to have to waste any time getting started.  Without timing chips, it mattered if it took 30 seconds to get across the starting line, and I didn't need that extra time added on.  A few more announcements, and they were ready, set, GO!

That was interesting.  The rush of people and adrenaline at the start of a race is amazing and scary at the same time.  We ran.  Some people passed us, we passed others, but we ran.  After a minute or so, I looked down at the GPS and it said we were pacing around 7:50.  Ha!  It didn't feel like 7:50. 

That actually scared me a bit.  I had recently discovered that if I didn't start by running like a bat out of hell that I typically ended up with a better time overall and feeling better at the end.  I was terrified of burning myself out and having to walk.  That would be a total disaster!  I started slowing down to settle into my comfortable run.  I thought that I would just take it slow and conserve my energy to finish fast at the end like I had been doing in my evening runs. 

I slowed down and Shane pulled out in front of me.  It bothered me a little, but I certainly didn't want him to slow down for me.  I was thinking that I could catch him in the end.  He's going too fast.   He's going to burn out.  When we hit the first mile heading up the hill by the lagoon and play area, the GPS let me know we hit a mile.  I looked my time and it was around 8:50.  I couldn't believe it because I hadn't ran a mile that fast before, but I also could believe it knowing that we were running much faster when the race first started.  It worried me that I couldn't endure running that fast for 3.1 miles, so I began to slow my pace even more.

Shane pulled farther away, and I was left alone with my thoughts.  I was being passed by a lot of people it seemed.  I convinced myself that the fast start was going to ruin me.  My self-doubt started working overtime.  I struggled to keep Shane in my sights as we wound around the park.  I tried to grab a cup of water and ended up putting most of it up my nose.  Then, I felt horrible about throwing the cup on the ground.  Why don't they leave a trash can for people to try to hit at least? 

As the last mile approached, I latched on to a couple who seemed like they were running a bit faster than I was.  I decided to keep with them no matter what.  I can no longer see Shane ahead of me.  I was still occasionally being passed.  There was this one guy who kept passing me and then I would pass him a minute later while he was walking.  Then he would come racing by me again.  Then I would pass him again walking.  He looked miserable.  I was thinking that was definitely NOT a good way to run a 5k.  I much preferred slow and steady over burn-out and recovery. 

As I came down by the lagoon on the north side of the park, I realized that my plan to conserve energy and kick it in at the end had one fatal flaw: nearly the entire last quarter mile of the race was uphill.  Doh!  I knew this when the race started, but I didn't really think it through all the way.  What kind of sick person puts the finish line at the top of a big, long hill anyways?!  I push up the hill the best I can, sticking with the peple I latched onto earlier, knowing that it's almost over.  Here comes the finish line!
I ran through the chute and I was thrilled to be done.  People were clapping and cheering and taking pictures of their friends and family as they finished the race.  I looked around for Shane and didn't see him right away.  I hit my GPS and looked at my time.  It said 29:02 for 3.21 miles.  Was my official time under 29:00?  I didn't know.  I didn't hit the stop button right away.

I was a little disappointed.  Even though I had set my goal low, I felt like I didn't run that much better than my normal non-race pace.  I thought you were supposed to race faster than normal?  I think my head games with myself during the race really handicapped me.  I was over-thinking the situation, and I probably set my bar too low.  I was pacing slower than necessary to avoid something that I didn't know would even happen.  It was a learning opportunity for sure.

I found Shane, and we headed over to the refreshment area, got water and a snack and waited.  Shane and I talked about the run.  We talked about how we felt and finished.  We had someone take our picture and waited some more.  Finally, they brought out the results and posted them on the wall and started the awards.

Shane and I searched for our names on the sheets of paper.  I found my name, and my official time was 28:58:02.  I beat my 29:00 goal!  Not by much, but whatever.  I finished 35th overall, 14th female, and 5th in my gender/age class.  There's something to be said for signing up for a not-so-serious 5k!  Those rankings were great for my first race in my opinion. 

It made me excited to have something improve on it.  I had set my first PR, and I knew it wouldn't be hard to beat.  I thought about how the next race would be so much better.  It left me feeling good about the future.  When's the next race?!

10/30/2010 - after our first 5k

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When it all changed

It was October 9, 2010.  I had been running for 5-6 weeks and stalled out on progress, trying to convince myself that three miles was sufficient.  I would just work on increasing my speed--eventually, because I really wasn't working on that either.

But on that day, we were camping in Versailles State Park in Indiana.  We had just put Jocelyn down for a nap.  Jocelyn was always my number one excuse for not doing a weekend run.  I didn't want to give up time with her.  My dad said he would listen for her while she napped in our camper.  Most likely, she wouldn't wake up in the time we were gone anyways.  I was out of excuses.  This would be my first run with Shane.

I was nervous.  I was a bit on the edge.  Let me explain why.  As I pointed out before, I was the athlete.  Shane had come over into this part of my world, and I was a little afraid of it.  I was afraid he'd be so much better than me.  I was afraid that I wouldn't be good enough.  For all my shows of a tough exterior, I am just as unsure about myself on the inside as the next girl.  One of my biggest hang ups in life is being criticized or being told that I am wrong or doing something wrong.  I knew he had been doing a lot of reading about "proper" running form lately.  He talked about it a lot.  I put myself on guard (not intentionally) and waited for him to tell me I was doing something wrong.

We walked to the hiking trails surrounding the campground, started the GPS, and started our run.  I followed Shane through the trails.  It was a hard run.  The elevation changes and the intentional steps to make sure you didn't land wrong on a rock or stick were working my legs to their limit.  There were actually steps we had to run on the really steep parts.  I felt it burning in my calves and my quads.  I knew I was getting a workout.  The scenery was beautiful though--what I could see of it when I wasn't watching my foot falls.  It was the most gorgeous fall day that I could remember in a long time.  It felt like we had been running forever when the GPS finally alerted us we had finished the first mile.  UGH!  That was only a mile?!  Seriously?!  This is going to be harder than I imagined.

Shane continued to check back to see how I was doing.  I said I was fine every time.  I was pushing harder than I ever had while running because I was going to keep up with him if it killed me!  When I got the nerve to ask our time on that that first mile, I wasn't surprised to know it was in the 12 minute range.  This was no regular run.

The GPS chimed for mile number two.  That one wasn't as bad, but we seemed lost, maybe going in circles.  We were near the campground, so I wasn't worried about that, but I was just wanting to find the trail that didn't have so many ups and downs.  I don't think we ever found it.  As we finished three miles, Shane said that we would head back to the campground roads at the next opportunity.  I rejoiced in my head, we were almost done.

We headed up to the paved road which made my legs happy.  Shane insisted we run just a little longer.  I had never done more than three miles before, and the three that we just ran were so much harder than anything I had ever done before.  I hated it, and I hated Shane at that moment. 

Then the thing I was on edge about before our run finally happened:  Shane looked over at my tired, loping gait and told me I was doing it wrong.  Well, he didn't exactly tell me I was doing it wrong, but that's what I heard.  Remember my fear of being criticized?  I snapped on him.  I reminded him that I was a runner years before and I'd been an athlete most my life.  I pointed out that him telling me how to run was like me practicing fiddle for a while and telling him that he was doing something wrong.  It was not acceptable.  More or less, I told him to mind his own business, but I didn't say it that nicely. 

I wasn't proud of my response.  I knew he didn't mean anything by it.  I knew he was proud of what he had learned about running and what he had accomplished over the past few months.  I knew he just wanted to share that with me, but I wasn't ready for it, and I certainly didn't welcome it.  I'm not sure I ever apologized.  I meant to, but right then, I had more pressing issues at hand.  We had exceeded three miles a while ago!

I started whining about how far we had run and asking how much farther were we going.  Shane insisted we go just a little farther.  I was arguing with the voice in my head telling me that I'd done more than enough.  Shane said before I knew it, we'd be done.  I didn't believe him.  He said we were going to go four miles.  I hadn't gone four miles, and the little voice in my head clearly told me several times that I didn't need to.  The stubborn, competitive side of me didn't allow me to quit though, even though I wanted to so badly! 

We kept on running. The GPS finally alerted us that we had completed four miles, and we slowed to a walk.  Even though I hated much of it, I felt amazing when it was over.  I did it!  I had so much energy in spite of what we had just done and a new sense of accomplishment for doing something that I wasn't even sure I could do.  There's something to be said for someone being there to push you beyond what you think you can do.  My whole mindset about running definitely changed that day.  The running became a reward in itself, and no longer simply a means to an end.
So, thank you Shane for putting up with me and pushing me farther than I had gone before.  It let me know that I enjoyed running new distances, and it let me know that I enjoyed running along side you.  That day changed everything from that point on.

After the run, we went on a three mile trail hike.  
I can't believe we're still smiling!

In the beginning...(the first run)

To tell you the truth, I don't really remember the first run that clearly.  I think remember parts, but I'm not sure if it was the first run or bits and pieces of the early runs.  I know that first week that I ran, it was the end of August and beginning of September 2010, and it was not fun.  I got up around 6:15 a.m., got dressed, downed a granola bar and some water, and headed out the door.  The sun was just starting to come up, and the weather was beautiful.  I walked to the end of the street, and at the corner, I started to jog.

Things came back to me fairly quick.  I used to run a couple of miles in the evenings back in 2006 and 2007 when I was trying to lose weight. This was before I got pregnant and stopped everything besides walking.  It wasn't too bad.  I headed down the hill by my house toward the bridge over the creek and went back up the other side.  I carried my phone with me and used the stopwatch to see how long I had run.  At about 10 minutes, I turned around and headed back.  I got back to the corner in about the same time.  Later, I would drive the route and found out I had run about a mile before I turned around.  A ten minute mile for two miles.  Not too far from what I used to do, and not too bad considering I hadn't run very much in a few years.

I remember thinking that I didn't enjoy one second of the runs in those first few weeks.  I remember cussing in my head and my heart pounding out of my chest at times.  I remember my feet and my legs not being happy with being up this early, let alone working so much harder than normal.  I remember thinking that running was a means to an end, so I would have to endure the torture of it to get to the goal:  a healthier, happier me. 

After the run was over, now that's a whole different story.  I felt awake, alive, great!  I got into the shower and I was ready to face the day.  Jocelyn wasn't even awake yet.  I could do this, right?  It works with my life, right? 

That week, I got up twice to run.  Some weeks I ran twice, others just once.  My competitive nature compelled me to try to go a little farther or a little faster.  I would mark points in my head where the one mile mark was and whether or not I hit it by the time my stopwatch got to ten minutes.  The problem with that is that I wasn't running consistently enough to push ahead every time I ran.  I was setting myself up for failure.

I commonly tried to push too fast, only to burn myself out to soon, and I'd have to walk part of the way back.  I'd be really mad on those mornings!  Walking was weakness.  Walking was admitting I wasn't good enough.  It took me a while to figure out how to not burn myself out in the beginning by starting slower and allowing some warm-up time. 

About this time, we splurged to get the Garmin GPS watch.  This helped a lot for me to learn about distance and pace.  It helped me to start recognizing when I was going too fast or too slow. 

When I started over-sleeping for my morning runs here and there, I decided to start running in the evenings right after work.  There were still some daylight hours left, and I loved being able to sleep in.  I pushed a little more distance each evening, but I stopped increasing miles when I reached three.  I still cursed some runs.  I thought that this was probably as good as it gets.  Do I really need to run more than three?

In the meantime, Shane was running distances up to five miles on a regular basis and had even run the 10K loop by our house a couple of times.  On weekends, he would call anyone and everyone to go running with him.  I still wouldn't commit to the long run.  While I envied his ability to run that long, it did not overcome the little voice in my head that told me that three miles was more than enough.  I didn't need it.  It was respectable...wasn't it?

How it all started

Someone told me that I should start a blog to document my running progress and adventures.  I used to journal a lot, so I thought, "why not?".  It will be interesting to look back over this one day to see how far I've come and maybe to relive some great moments.

My husband had been running for several months, probably starting around March 2010.  He started running because he was a pack and a half a day smoker on meds for severe anxiety and panic attacks.  He wanted to quit smoking.  He also read that running was a great way to help your internal chemicals to balance to lessen anxiety and panic attacks.  As he weaned off the medication, he started running.  He still had the anxiety, but the running lessened the severity.  I watched him grow stronger in his running and confidence.  He invited me to run with him sometime.  I said I don't have time.

I was also a smoker who had been struggling to quit for most of my adult life.  I only smoked about half pack a day, but I started smoking when I was 14 years old.  Even though I had played volleyball since I was 10, earning full athletic scholarships to pay my way through college, I mostly smoked the whole time.  It was this weakness I could never overcome.  Even when I hadn't smoked for a while, like throughout my pregnancy, it always seemed to lure me back.

I continued to struggle with quitting smoking through the spring and summer of 2010.  I was still smoking 4-5 cigarettes a day, which tempted Shane to have a couple a day even though he was running, just because they were there.  As he got closer to his first race, he asked me to at quit smoking at least for the two weeks leading up to it.  I reluctantly agreed.  I wasn't ready to quit.  I hadn't mentally prepared for it.  I wanted to quit on my own terms--which would be never, as long as I rationalized that 4-5 cigarettes a day REALLY wasn't that bad.  I thought, I'll quit for now, but when he's done with that race, I'm definitely smoking again!  He invited me to run with him sometime.  I said maybe.

His first race was a 10K, Abe's Amble, in August 2010.  He was so excited!  He was exhilarated!  He had a good run, but was determined to do better next time.  He started training harder.  His excitement wore off on me.  I noticed that he was getting in better shape, feeling better physically and mentally, and I guess I wanted to be a part of that.  I didn't start smoking again after his race was over as I thought I would.  My problem was, when was I going to find the time to run?  He invited me to run with him sometime.  I said maybe--but this time I meant it.

Shane ran during his lunches.  I spent my lunches at my mom's tailor shop feeding my daughter lunch and getting her ready for her nap.  Shane often ran over to the shop and I drove him back to work, until those runs got too short for him.  I definitely couldn't run at lunch. 

The evenings were my time with my daughter.  I had enough mommy-guilt already for the fact that I work full-time.  I know many women struggle with that.  It's more time away from my daughter when I only get a few hours with her a day on the weekdays, and that was unacceptable.  Shane reminded me that I needed to take care of myself so I could take care of my family.  He was right, but I still didn't know when I'd find the time. 

I grew jealous of the excitement he had with meeting and exceeding new goals he had set for himself.  I watched him grow proud of his accomplishments either by increasing his mileage or pace week after week.  I also watched him becoming an athlete.  In a weird way, this probably affected me the most.  The "athlete" was always MY thing.  He was the musician.  I didn't go treading on his territory, but he was now definitely in mine.  I know it kind of sounds bratty of me (it's MINE!), but whatever works, right?

I decided it was now time to start running.  I had to make time to do it.  I got up one morning at 6 a.m., the only time I really had that was Jocelyn-free, laced up my shoes and went running!