Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Power of One

In January, I made a New Year's resolution like most people do.  I didn't create a long list of things I didn't have a chance in heck of doing.  I made one, fairly simple, goal.  I was going to run a half marathon. 

Up to that point, I had run a slew of 5ks and 10ks and other races of various lengths.  The time had come to step it up a notch, as it were. 

I had heard about the Mesa Falls Marathon and heard it was a gorgeous run.  I've been to Mesa Falls many times, so I knew how gorgeous it was up there.  The thought of doing my first half marathon up there was very appealing.  But January is very far away from racing season, so I just kept up my running schedule as well as I could and didn't think much more about the goal until the weather began to warm up.

After I ran To Bone and Back in June, I figured it was time to actually look up the Mesa Falls Marathon and start some planning.  The marathon was in late August, so I had just enough time to train.  I found a training schedule, got some advice from other runners and got down to business.
The training was not easy, especially as the mileage increased, but I stuck to it.  Since life often finds a way of making a nuisance of itself, I had to tweak the schedule a bit to work around things.  For instance, the week before the race, I didn't do my long run.  Shocking I know.  The Saturday before the race, I was to run 13 miles.  But my shins weren't happy with me and I had the makings of plantar fascilitis on my right foot.  I was advised to both never skip my long runs and also listen to my body.  Those two "laws" didn't seem to conflict until the week before the race.  Facing a dilemma of which law to transgress, I chose, ultimately, to skip this last long run.  My body needed rest.  It felt weird to take it easy so close to race day, but it's what my body was telling me to do. 

So race day finally sauntered in amidst a week of potty training my twins.   It was a stressful week, but it kept my mind off the race, which was good. 
Keersten (my sister-in-law and running buddy) and I make it to the starting line around 8am and the gun will go off at 830.  The sky was overcast, it was nice and cool and we were surrounded by a lush, green forest.  Don't need much more than that to put a runner's mind at ease.

830 comes and before I can really think straight, I'm off running down a dirt trail.  The first 6 or so miles are completely in the forest.  Most of it was a dirt trail and we later meet with a paved road.  It was gorgeous!  I got a little distracted by the sights and the river and slowed my pace a bit, but I kept going.  I was feeling great.  My legs felt great.  My lungs felt awesome and the scenery was just the icing on the cake. 
At about mile 8 I hit a wall.  I don't stop, but man did I want to.  It surprised me to feel like that at this point in the race.  I wasn't expecting to feel that way until at least mile 11.  I force my mind and my will to focus on the music blasting in my ears and I lip sync the words to every song that comes on.  I make it past my "wall" and soon find myself on long stretches of farm road.  This is when the sun came out.

It started to get hot.  Thankfully, the sun was at my back.  But I can feel my energy being sucked away.  At each water station I take two cups from the volunteers.  One to drink and one to dump on my head.  My hips are starting to really ache and my lower back starts to nag me as well.  Usually I'm battling my shins or foot pain, but all of that feels just dandy.  As my lower back nags on, I silently curse my bed for being so pathetic. 

A lot of people are taking walking breaks.  It's mile 10 and every time I see someone walking, I'm very tempted to do that same.  In hindsight, I should have taken a minute or two to walk, but I felt like I should run the whole thing.  I actually could have made better time had I let my legs relax a bit, but I'm stubborn and apparently slow at seeing the consequences of my actions.  I'm convinced that if I do another half marathon in the future, I'm going to do walking breaks. 

At mile 12, I get the happy giddy feeling.  I know I'm almost done and even though my hips are killing me, each step is taking me closer and closer to victory.  That giddy feeling lasted for approximately 3 and 1/2 steps and then I went back to the battle of wills.  Would I walk or would I keep going?  I kept going. 

A long line of cones will take us to the finish.  The cones round the corner and even though I can't see the finish line, I know it has to be around that corner.  I usually try to muster up all the energy I have left at the end of races and run as fast as my legs will carry me for the last hundred yards or so.  As I got closer, I wasn't sure I would have any energy left this time.  But then that finish line came into view and without even thinking, I pick up the pace and run as fast as I can.  I made it across the finish line at 2 hours and 23 minutes.  That's a freakin' long time to run.

What I've learned from this whole experience:

-  KT Tape is the best invention ever.  It stopped any pain I may have felt in my right foot or either of my shins.  The stuff is magic.
- You have to have a really awesome spouse and terrific kids to put up with your training schedule.  It took up a lot of my time.  Both my family and my poor garden were quite neglected.  But they never whispered a word of complaint and my garden grew despite my abandonment. 
- As much as my legs hurt when I crossed the finish line, I am SO glad I ran this race.  The sense of accomplishment was through the roof.
-  Guys who wear flappy running shorts mean business.  They are seriously, quite often, the leaders of the pack.
- I want to be like the family who dressed up in tutus and tiaras and held up signs that said, "You can do it!" for all the runners to see.  Seriously, I want to find a marathon, get the kids in the car and as a family go cheer on random people putting their whole heart and soul into a feat of physical and mental endurance.  That family was awesome!
- The Lord answers prayers.  I prayed for help during training.  I prayed for help the night before the race.  I prayed for help at mile 1 and at mile 12.  I thanked Him for bringing me this far and asked Him to carry me the rest of the way.  In my mind I heard, "I've got you.  I'm right here."  It seriously brought tears to me eyes.  While running a half marathon may not mean much in the eternities, He knows it meant the world to me right then and He helped me through it. 
- Running buddies are the bomb!  Especially when they're related to you.  Keersten, my sister-in-law, did this race with me and I'm so grateful for her for doing that.  She kept me motivated and encouraged and I couldn't have asked for a better partner in this madness.
-  Yoga is one of the more splendid exercises ever.  I used it on my cross-training days and I am simply in love with it. 
-  I miss Zumba.  When I began my training, I had to say goodbye to my Zumba nights.  Training made me realize how much I enjoy variety in my workout routine. 
- Most people think you're crazy when you say you're going to do a race like this and I kind of like that.
- Finally, this experience has changed my perspective on goals and New Year's resolutions.  Coming back to my title, "The Power of One", I made one, solitary goal; to run a half.  My whole focus was on that one goal.  Sometimes I think we spread ourselves thin over too many goals all at once so that, ultimately, nothing gets done.  And even though I focused on that one goal, I got to benefit from everything else I'd have to do to achieve that goal.  I benefited from a better diet so my long runs wouldn't suck.  I benefited from level of commitment it required to stay on schedule and not cheat on my long runs.  I benefited from having to find other complementary forms of exercise, like yoga and therefore found others things to love just as much as running.  Having one goal doesn't necessarily limit us.  I personally think it helps to focus and to really dig in which I think is the actual benefit of the goal.  So my new resolution every year, will to simply find one goal.  I will pour my all into that one goal and I will achieve it and I will glory in all the benefits that come from focusing on that one goal.

If you've read this much, then you must not have anything else to do right now.  But thanks anyway.  This race was an truly awesome experience for me.  It helped me to learn more about a lot of things, including myself.  If I had a big rubber stamp that read "Completed" I would stamp this New Year's resolution and feel satisfied that I did what I said I was going to do.

When will I run another half or even a full marathon?  Who knows and now is certainly not the time to ask me as my thighs are still sore from the exertion and my husband says I'm still not walking right.   Right now,  I'm glad to be done with my goal and I look forward to whatever goal I make for myself next January.

Happy Running!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Runners and the Runs

WARNING:  Lots of poop-talk from here on out.

So, everybody poops.  Well, runners....they sometimes poop violently.

Every long distance runner has probably experienced this at some point.  You go for a long run and immediately upon returning, you and your royal throne get to have a lot of quality time together.  It just happens.

During my most recent race, To Bone and Back, my team and I discussed different episodes where we all felt that our bowels might publicly betray us at any moment and there wasn't a thing we could do about it.

And then other times, you punch out ten miles and you're completely fine.  No explosions.  No prairie-doggin'.  You feel fine.

So where is the explanation for the runs when you're a runner?  I'm sure most of us have figured out
which foods to avoid before a race or a longer than usual run.  I'm sure most of us have figured out that pre-race anxiety is a sure fire gut buster.  So because most runners have noticed what brings on the vengeful long run diarrhea, I've decided to share with you what I've noticed and how I, sometimes, get to avoid long stints in the bathroom after a race or after a long run.

-  I don't eat anything spicy the whole week before a race.  No Mexican, no pizza, not even garlic.  Those things make my gut work super well all on their own.  Adding a good long, intestine-jostling run to the mix is just suicide.

- I try not to eat too quickly AFTER a run.  I usually like to down a protein shake after a run, but I've learned to wait until I've thoroughly cooled down before I add anything to my stomach juices.

- I try to drink a ton of water several hours before a run and stay well hydrated days before a race.  Having all that water running through me helps me to avoid dehydration which causes diarrhea.   Note:  If you drink a good 16 oz. of water 2 hours before a race, your body will let you pee before the gun goes off, I promise.  Don't NOT drink thinking you'll avoid bladder issues during the race because you could just be bringing on something much worse.

- I slow down.  I've noticed that if I try and go all Rambo on my runs and pick up my pace too fast, my bowels rise up in protest.  So I try to pick up the pace gradually.  If I really want to work on speed, I do intervals so that anytime I'm going faster than usual is only for a short time, not the entire run.

-  I try not to eat much 2 hours before a run or a race.  I've found that if I eat a good dinner the night before, it's enough to fuel me during an early morning run.   For races, I just get up super early so I can eat something well before I need to be at the starting line.

-  I stay away from any food that naturally makes the bowels more efficient.  Think fiber.  Avoid it until after a run.

-  I try not to run when it's hot.  Something about running hard in the heat always hits me later.

- I try to "empty the tank" as it were before a run or a race.

So that is what I've noticed about my body and long runs.  Everyone has different experiences that tell them what to do and not to do.  But then, honestly, despite all your best efforts, you still get the runs.  It's just part of the game.
Then there are freaks that can eat a whole deep dish pizza thirty minutes before a marathon and be just fine and dandy.  
But lest you think you're the only one who may suffer from post-run runs, you are not.  Seriously, bring up the subject of poop with any runner and I'll bet you get an earful of many TMI stories of bowel-tastic fun.

For more medical information on how to avoid the runs while running please visit this link at the Mayo Clinic's website.  

Happy Poop-Free Running!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Importance of Feeling Epic

I've got a few new songs added to my running playlist.  I usually pick songs because of their tempo or their bass or strong, definitive beat.  These songs have a lot of that, but they also have another quality.  They evoke the kind of feeling I need sometimes when I run.  That feeling?  Epic. I don't if most people see the word "epic" as being a feeling or emotion, but I do. 

So why do I need to feel epic?  Lots of reasons, I guess.
-  My day to day life is rather un-epic.  I love my life, don't get me wrong.  But for the most part it's get up, feed kids, clean up after kids, make food, go to bed.  Sometimes, a gal needs something epic to happen.  Sometimes I get my wish.  Sometimes I get to go rock climbing.  Other times, I even get to travel.  Sometimes something else exciting happens. 
-  Running can be hard.  Running can be a great battle of wills at times.  Getting a feeling that what you're doing is epic goes a long way when the running gets hard. 
-  I need to feel that what I'm doing is important and worthwhile.  Period.

Music can make one feel epic.  A good movie score will do that trick.  A song that speaks to you on some level can do it too.  Try this.....go running on a day when most would think you're crazy for doing so, say, during a blizzard, and pump your epic music loud and pick up the pace.  You'll feel epic and it is such a rush when you do. 

Here are some songs that make me feel epic or make running seem epic:

"Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

"The Cave" by Mumford and Sons  (If you don't start running faster when those banjos kick in, then there is something wrong with you.)

"Bleeding Out"  by Imagine Dragons  (I love these guys)

"Test Drive" from How to Train Your Dragon  (There is a part at the end where you simply must sprint.)

 "Promontory" from Last of the Mohicans  (Beautiful film, gorgeous score and there is a whole lot of running throughout.  I use this one on a long up hill run.)

Some of these songs have a fast tempo or a good beat, but all have a great feeling to them.  I never skip over them during a run and I sometimes listen to them twice.

Why is it important to feel epic?  I don't know.  I guess when I'm running, working what seems to be every muscle I have, I need the emotion to go with it.  That's the addictive part about running.  It's not the muscles you attain or the races you win, it's the emotion you get from it.  I've described it before as a euphoria or a giddy happy feeling.  That is true.  But for me, at least, it's the emotion you get from feeling momentarily epic.

Happy Running! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Someone else I know does a running blog?

Apparently, this whole doing a running blog idea was not solely mine.  Apparently there are other runners out there who have something to say.  Go figure!

James Patterson, author of Running from Food
A past acquaintance of mine (a guy I knew from a previous ward) started a running blog.  He calls it, Running from Food.  Immediately my interest was sparked and I went over for a look.  So far, I give his blog high marks.  And we all know that I am the resident expert and therefore judge of all of other runner blogs, right?  Right.  Anyway, I've been reading it and it got me thinking about my own relationship to food.

In high school, my friends and I went to either McDonalds or Wendy's nearly every day for lunch.  This diet had exactly zero impact on my weight.  It probably made a huge dent in how long I'll live, but as far as what my body did, it really didn't effect it.  Oh the days of crazy metabolisms, why have you left me?

But then my twenties kicked in and I very quickly realized that my body was not made of metabolic steel anymore and food did start to matter.  Fast forward ten years and four kids later and food really mattered.  But something else that I realized about my body is that it responds really well and fairly quickly to exercise.  I would so rather run ten miles then give up cookies and hamburgers.  So when I began running, I felt like I got to control my body without really have to do much to change my eating habits.  Running kept the pounds at bay and so why change what I eat when what I eat is so freaking good?

But when I did turn thirty, I suddenly felt old.  I know, thirty isn't old.  But it is old.  I mean this is the oldest I've ever been, so yeah, I'm just going to stick with, "I feel old."  My body wasn't telling me I was old.  I felt physically fine, but that age, 30, it got me thinking about what I was putting in my body.  I think ill health is cumulative.  Even if I was physically fit through running, I wasn't feeding myself the kinds of things that encourage longevity or disease prevention. 

Slowly, I've started to change a few things in my diet.  I've taken down my sugar intake.  I've included more whole grains.  I've started to eat things that aid in proper digestion because I've heard over and over again that most disease starts in the gut.  I've also gone without soda now for more than a year or two.  Water is my drink of choice.  I've also started looking at foods that I've never tried before but are always on the lists that super healthy eaters put out there on the web, like kale or almond milk.  I'm a picky eater, so I'm slow at trying new things. 
After all of these changes, what have I found?  I've found that I'm a better runner.  The easiest one to notice was the soda deletion.  Once I gave up soda, I started breaking time records.  When I started paying attention to my fiber intake (you know to clean things out of "there") my ability to go distances of 8 or more miles was greatly enhanced. 

Food matters. 

I'm not overweight.  I don't run to lose weight and I'm happy with how my clothes fit me.  But regardless, food still matters. 

That is why I'm glad I found this new blog about the relationship one runner has with food.  It's a great resource and fun to read and encouraging to boot.  I encourage all of my eleven followers to go read this new blog I've found (you can also continue to read mine, you know, if you want).  And tell your friends.  Encourage them to follow us.  Followers help us write better, I promise. 

Happy Running!