Monthly Archives: March 2013

Leg 19

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It was gorgeous out today.  Hard to believe that just a week ago I was running in a blizzard resulting in a foot of snow.  The snow has all melted and it appears that maybe Spring has finally arrived.  Well, hold that thought, we have a chance for flurries tomorrow.  Seriously?!

Well, today I took advantage of the beautiful day.  I went for trail run and muddied up a brand new pair of New Balance 1010s.  It was awesome.  Pretty much the whole time I was running I was thinking about one of my upcoming races.  The Smoky Mountain Relay is less than 3 weeks away and I could not be more excited.  As I ran some tough hills today, it was the thought of repeating Leg 19 in a few weeks that pushed me up those inclines.

The SMR is a 215 mile relay through the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.  It’s typically a 6 or 12 person team, last year we were 9.  I got pulled on to the team by Jordan and his wife Jan, who both worked at FLEET FEET.  Jordan was looking for more people to add to the team at the same time I was looking to try something totally different with running.  I figured, this is something I want to try, it sounds really cool, so sure, why not?  One and done, right?  Wrong.

As we got closer to the race, I had a chance to meet the other St. Louis based team members.  We skyped with the guys we had picked up from the race website to join our team.  We totally scored picking up 2 guys from Utah, who are not only awesome people and amazing athletes, but Mark owns a house near the finish where we all stayed.  And will again, even though Mark won’t be with us this time due to the impending arrival of his third child.  Not all of my teammates have their priorities in order since they have not planned these things around SMR, but I guess we’ll forgive it since he lets us use his house.

Ken and Jordan started putting together a rough draft of leg assignments.  The nice thing about SMR is that you don’t have to stay in any particular order, you can jump around in the line-up however it suits you.  The first draft came out and I started scanning it.  My first leg: 4 miles, easy.  Second leg, same.  What is this?!  Just cause I’m a girl they are going to give me only easy legs.  This is stupid.  And then I saw it.  The only leg labeled “Very Hard” was given to yours truly.  Sweet!  Well, I said I like to run uphill, so they let me have it.  5.5 miles up a 2500 foot incline on gravel about halfway through the race which puts us somewhere in the middle of the night.  I was pretty stoked that my team had entrusted me with this leg of the race.

Each team starts according to ability and projected time based on 10k time trials for each team member.  When I did my 10k last year to see what I was capable of, it was the first time I’ve ever broken 50 minutes.  And that was just me, out on the road, getting it done.  Put me in a race setting and I’m capable of even more.  I’ve since had the chance to prove it.  In October, I crushed that when I finished in 48:30, taking home a 2nd place age group award at the Gumbo Flats 10k.

But anyway, we were one of the last teams to start because we were expected to be pretty fast.  At the start line, there were some announcements.  One of them was this-Leg 19 had been declared one of the hardest legs in any overnight relay in the country, so we were given the choice to opt out of it.  My team started looking around, who has Leg 19?  I said, “I do. That’s my leg.  And I’m doing it.  We came to do this and we’re not opting out of anything!”

And so we began the race.  Jan started us off and ran a loop through the park, and then Matt continued  our trek into the mountains.  Some legs were on the road, some were on trails.  Some were flat to easy rolling hills, some were intense uphill all the way, some were steep downhills.

I did my first leg, about 4 miles on the road.  Other than a couple dogs chasing me, it was no sweat.  On the way to my second leg, Craig had to drive like a maniac because of the potential for the van route to take longer than the runner getting to the exchange point.  It lived up to its potential.  Despite Craig’s driving, and me almost falling out of the van pantless, Mark still beat us.  And he kept on running.  So when we caught up to him, he said, “Can I please finish this leg?  I feel really good”.  I jumped back in the van, feeling totally dejected and announced, “I’m stealing Jan’s leg.” So, literally, I took the following leg from Jan.  There is nothing worse than having your adrenaline all amped up and then being told to chill.  That leg was a fairly easy 4 miler, except that it was dusk and by the end of that leg it was so dark I almost fell into the abyss because I couldn’t see anything.

Finally, at something like 2am, it was my turn to really get after it.  Leg 19.  Here we go.  That leg was a beast.  Aside from the fact that it was pitch black and I could see nothing farther than the 5-10 feet in front of me, thanks to my headlamp, it was very much a never ending hill, or so it seemed.  I kept thinking about Jordan’s words, “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, just don’t stop.”  At only one point did I get about a 10 step break from going uphill, a very brief plateau and then back up.  My teammates had asked what I needed in terms of support.  I said, wait for me at about 2 miles up and we’ll go from there.  They waited.  When I got there, Ken gave me Gatorade and some encouragement. I don’t know if it was my ego or being delirious, but I remember talking smack, saying “This is nothin.  I own this mountain.” They went up a couple more miles, and waited again at a weird turn.  When I saw them again, I was no longer talking smack. I was no longer talking. I was barely breathing.  Then they said, “See you at the top” and they were gone.  I finally got to the sign that said I only had a half mile to go.  Yessss!  But according to my Garmin, I still had about a mile and a half.  Hmmm…that’s weird.  Turns out some kids had moved the sign down the mountain in an effort to be funny.  Not. Cool.  I kept climbing, slowly, so slowly.  At one point I wanted to see how dark it really was, so I covered my head lamp for a sec, uh, yeah, it was total blackness.  I was having a mental battle with myself, “I want to walk.  No I don’t.  Yes I do.  No I don’t”.  Then the mist started and it got so foggy, I could barely see my hand in front of my face.  And just as it seemed I would NEVER get there, I could hear Nate O cheering me on and he slowly came into view.  Oh thank you sweet Jesus, I made it!

On April 18, a carload of us will make the roadtrip to NC.  And some time during the wee hours of April 20, I will have another go at Leg 19.  I am determined to do it even better and stronger than last year.  Because I am better and stronger than I was last year.  You may not know this about me, but I’m not typically one to back down from a challenge.  Leg 19, I’m coming for you.  Again.

RRG...smiling at the top.  This is why Nathan A has given me the nickname "Leg 19"

RRG…smiling at the top. This is why Nathan A has given me the nickname “Leg 19”

 

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What’s Your Dream?

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Anybody who has ever seen the movie Pretty Woman should remember the line where the guy says “Welcome to Hollywood!  What’s your dream?!  Everyone who comes to Hollywood gots to have a dream…”

It’s true.  We all have dreams.  I am notorious for having very vivid and really weird dreams, and I inevitably remember the ones that are excessively strange, like when I was pregnant with Ally and I dreamt I was riding a giant chicken.  What the heck is that about?! But that’s not exactly what I’m referring to here.  I’m really talking about the things that we hope for, that kind of dream.  Some dreams are realistic like, I dream of eating pizza and ice cream this weekend, and that Michigan State will win against Duke tomorrow night…not completely out of the realm of possibility.  Other dreams are completely fanciful, like dreaming I will win the Ironman championships in KONA someday.  Ummmm, not likely.

I do have a real dream.  Ok, I have lots of dreams actually.  I have a dream that someday I will go to Ireland and rent a little cottage for a month or two so I can start writing my book.  I’ll tour the Irish countryside and drink beer with the locals.  And I’ll become a best-selling author.  I have a dream that someday, someone will present me with one of those pretty, little blue boxes from Tiffany’s.  I have a dream I’ll get to visit my friend Jess in Australia and dive the Great Barrier Reef.  And, despite the fact that I’ve denied it for fear of admitting it, I have a dream of being in love again.  Preferably with someone who is also in love with me. I guess only time will tell…

But since I am Rambling Runner Girl, let’s talk about my running dreams.  I have a dream that someday I might qualify for the Boston Marathon.  And that leads to a dream of actually running the Boston Marathon.  When I ran my first marathon in 2001, I had absolutely no thoughts of this particular dream.  I dreamt only of crossing the finish line in Chicago and living to tell about it.  However, as my running career progressed, so did my dreams.  I got faster.  I broke 4 hours.  I keep inching closer and closer to the possibility of a BQ (Boston Qualifier for those less integrated into the running world).  And just as I got right within reach, the Boston Athletic Association went and lowered the times needed to qualify.  Now, I’m no longer just a minute away from my qualifying time.  No, now I have to drop at least 7 minutes and 12 seconds from my fastest marathon time.  Big sigh…

When my friend, Steve decided to run the Vancouver marathon in May to complete his first full, and I so graciously invited myself to join him, we talked about both of us running fast enough to get me that BQ for HIS birthday (his bday is the day before the race).  We were sitting at Nick’s birthday dinner at Drunken Fish eating sushi and drinking Dirty Martinis as this whole conversation took place (well, Nick and I were drinking martinis, Steve was likely drinking Diet Dr. Pepper) and then I went home and registered for Vancouver that night.  I guess you could say I like to make a big deal of my friends’ birthdays.

Tonight I led the social run at the store, but it wasn’t the same.  Steve wasn’t there.  At least not for the run.  He showed up later to hang out with all of us afterward, but he is unfortunately injured.  The other day I got the following text from Steve:  “I am so %#&$* for Vancouver”.  The sad reality is I might be taking on the Vancouver course on my own.  I’m not sure if that sucks more for me or him.  It sucks for me, cause I was hoping he would pull me along fast enough to get under that 3:40 mark.  But it sucks for him because despite his best efforts, he keeps getting injured and that 26.2 keeps eluding him altogether.  Yeah, ok, it probably sucks more for him.  At least I get to make the attempt.

I’m still hopeful that Steve will be running with me that day, in some capacity.  Even if we don’t run the whole race together, I’m hoping that he’ll be there at some point to celebrate with me, just like he has at so many other points over the past year.

So, I will go on about my training for Vancouver.  And I will hope that Steve will be well enough to, at the very least, run me into the finish.  Many things have to come together on May 5 for me to live a dream…the weather, remaining injury free, pacing myself just right, remembering all my gear, not wearing shoes that come untied (Stupid Kinvaras.  Ok, so that was probably the fault of me, not the shoes), and avoiding any other freak things getting in the way.  So, we’ll see.  If nothing else, I will keep chipping away at my goal.  I may hit it.  I may not.  But I’ll go enjoy a good, long run through beautiful British Columbia. Whether I get that 3:39:59 or not, I’m still going to keep trying to achieve it.  And eventually I might get to realize that dream.  Someday…

Steve, RRG, Nick and Dan enjoying some post run Froyo

Steve, RRG, Nick and Dan enjoying some post run Froyo

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I Don’t Want To Be

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Today, after I left swimming, I hopped into the car and heard the Gavin Degraw song “I Don’t Want To Be” on the radio.  Which is, by the way, an awesome song.

“I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately

All I have to do is think of me and I have peace of mind

I’m tired of looking round rooms wondering what I’ve gotta do or who I’m supposed to be

I don’t want to be anything other than me”

That song made me think about a conversation I had last night when I met a friend for a drink after work.  Chris and I were talking about the fact that after going through a divorce, you are kind of left stripped of the need to impress people all the time.  Divorce teaches you first hand that you will never be able to please everyone all the time so you might as well surrender the need to try.  You learn how to be more true to yourself than you’ve ever been.   You’re kind of left with this mentality of “This is who I am.  You can take it or leave it, but I’m done trying to be something I’m not.”

It was especially funny to be listening to that song today right after leaving the pool because at swimming I had a startling revelation.  After sitting at the Nissan dealership for considerably longer than I was supposed to this morning for a new set of tires for the Pathfinder, I was going to be late to swimming.  Rather than an hour and a half, I would have barely an hour of pool time.  I started questioning if it was worth it to hurry and get there or if I should scrap it, go home and do yoga.  I decided that since I hadn’t been in the pool for almost 2 weeks, I needed to get in the water.  Weirdly, I had actually missed it and I needed to do some long, slow laps.  I’m now determined to become the Forrest Gump of swimming.  So, today as I was challenging myself to go 1000 meters without stopping, I came to the conclusion that I have maybe, just maybe, started to like swimming.  GAH!  How in the world did that happen?!  I am officially a triathlete.  I am no longer an imposter.  I went the distance, a full 1000 meters in the pool.  Actually, it may have been 1050 meters, because I thought at one point I’d lost count and I didn’t want to cut myself short.  I swam the extra 2 lengths just in case.  But the point is, I did it and I really felt like a swimmer.  And…wait for it…I liked it.

That’s the cool part.  At my core, I’m still the same old Lindsey.  But my identity is ever changing.  I’ve always kind of considered myself to be a “jack of all trades, master of none”, so why shouldn’t I be a triathlete?  I don’t have to be great at all of it, but since I enjoy all of it, why not?  Don’t get me wrong, my first love still is and always will be 26.2, but, as much as I’ve resisted it, I have this new part of me now too.  The part that is a swimmer.  The part that is a triathlete.  I am multi-faceted.  And not just in regards to sports.

Swimming has taught me so much about myself.  It’s teaching me about conquering fears and about continuing to improve myself, both as an athlete and as a person.  I made the initial attempt at triathlons, just to take on a new challenge and look where that brought me.  Just like in life, it’s important to continue evolving.  Whether you’re married, divorced, single, gay, straight, a parent, whatever, we all change over time.  The key is to know who you are and be true to that.  As Gavin sings, “Part of knowing where I’m going is knowing where I’m coming from.”  I know where I was when I wasn’t being true to myself and I don’t want to go back to that.  But now, I know who I am, I’m happy with me and I’m happy with where I’m headed.

RRG playing the part of the Triathlete

RRG playing the part of the Triathlete

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18 Miles in a Blizzard

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It’s official.  I’m crazy.  I mean like certifiably insane crazy.  I just ran 18 miles in the snow.  For anyone reading this outside the Greater St. Louis area, I might need to clarify what I mean by snow.  It’s March 24th, right?  And we are having the blizzard of the year!  I’m quite sure we are breaking records with this. For a place that claims that they don’t need to be prepared because they never get snow (which is ridiculously incorrect), we are in the midst of an estimated foot of snow.  It started at about 6 am today and is expected to continue until 6 am tomorrow.  School has already been cancelled.  Is that even possible with April a week away?  I guess so because we are having our own 2013 version of Snow-mageddon.

So, if you happened to be out today, and saw any of the 25 people crazy enough to be out running in this mess, I was one of them.  At least 20 of the others are all friends of mine.  I’m glad to know I’m in good company in my craziness.

As weird as this will sound, I needed to get out there today.  Aside from the fact that I needed to do a long run for training purposes, I was feeling pulled in a million different directions this morning.  Emails, texts, phone calls…it seemed like everyone needed something from me and they all wanted it right at that moment.  I just didn’t have it in me to take care of everyone else’s requests.  I have a tendancy to allow myself and my feelings to get buried under the expectations of others, so I know when I start feeling buried, that’s when I need to take care of Lindsey.  I put away the laptop and tucked the phone into my spybelt (I didn’t plan to check it during my run, but in light of the weather, I figured it was best to have it with me).  I strapped on the Yaktrax and I set off into the blizzard.

I’m not gonna lie, that was a tough run, both physically and mentally.  I typically have some kind of weird mental block on 18 milers.  20’s I can whip out without a problem and even anything up to 16-17 isn’t too bad.  But I hate 18 miles.  I absolutely loathe that distance.  Today I set out with 18 in the back of my mind knowing that I should go that far, but not really sure if it would complete it.  I think I got so focused on beating the snow, that I actually forgot how much I hate 18 miles.  I finished in around 3 hours.  I’ve run 20 and 21 milers faster than that.  One of those 20 milers even involved rain, sleet and crazy wind.  Oddly, it was exactly 2 years ago today, if I remember correctly, when I was training for the Nashville full that never came to fuition.

The first 10 miles today were great.  It was actually quite beautiful running out Old Manchester, all snow covered and lovely.  The snow plows were being very considerate and trying not to attack me.  Mile 11 was tough, I started to curse running.  Mile 13 was great, I thought I would probably make it.  Mile 16 was hard, and slow, and painful and reeked of gasoline from snow blowers.  I finished Mile 17 right next to my street.  I could see my house, my nice warm comfy house.  I wanted to stop.  I wanted to say “Well, that’s a wrap, time to get warm and dry”.  It would have been so easy to just call it a day.  17 miles in a blizzard, that’s plenty, right?  But those are the moments that truly test our character.  What do we do when things are hard?  When we’re tired and weary, do we quit? Cheat? Give up?  Or do we push through the cold and the tired and the soaking wet shoes to press on towards the goal?  Do we fight through the pain to accomplish what we set out to do?  There is a reason I always wear a bracelet on my left wrist that simply reads “Persevere”.  It reminds me that I can, and I will, in any situation.

At approximately 17.36 miles, a man in his driveway stopped shoveling for a moment and watched me as I passed.  I paused my music long enough to hear him say, “Now that’s dedication”.  Smiling, I responded, “Marathon training doesn’t stop for the snow!”  He smiled.

Seriously, marathon training doesn’t stop for the snow.  Life doesn’t stop for the snow.  Sure it slows down and school gets cancelled, but it doesn’t stop.  And neither should we.  Sometimes it’s a long, lonely, snowy, slushy, challenging road, but every once in a while, when you need it most, someone shows up with a word of encouragement and a smile that will pull you through that last half mile.

Now who wants to come over and shovel the foot of snow in my driveway so I don’t have to?  Any takers?  Anyone…?

View of the blizzard from my porch.  No doubt it's beautiful.  But brutal to run in.

View of the blizzard from my porch. No doubt it’s beautiful. But brutal to run in.

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Spring Break, Part II

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We’re home.   Safe and sound.  Nothing like having your first vacation as a single mom start off with not being able to check into the hotel because your credit card has been cancelled thanks to some joker who tried to commit fraud at a Target in Brooklyn.  Super (Insert maximum sarcastic tone here).  After a few phone calls, a bit of stress and the threat of tears (mine), we were good to go.  Although, I could have done without the additional headache of a stalled Pathfinder after loading up the car at check-out. Someone please tell me it’s going to get smoother from here.  But the kids had a blast and I survived, so I’m gonna call it a success.

While I was away, I received the following message from my friend and SMR teammate, Ken.  By the way, this is the guy I’ve had a conversation with while in adjoining port-o-johns.  Now that’s bonding!   Anyway, his message:

“Spring break provides a chance to bond with our kids in ways that our normal routines do not allow. As for working out, do what you can. You suffer from the same problem I do, you believe that going at life at 100% is the only way to go at it. Unfortunately our muscle fibers need to heal or we end up in the gray zone with no improvement. So take these days as a chance to let the muscle fibers heal up while your workouts are easier.”

He’s exactly right.  And that’s exactly what I did.  My workouts were anywhere from minimal to non-existent.  However, my heart fibers were what got truly stretched.

My workouts included things like practicing the fine art of “car dancing” and climbing many levels of stairs to reach the top of the water slide.  Although, I have to admit, it wasn’t just for the stair climb workout that I carted a giant intertube up those stairs so many times, I’m kind of a big kid like that.

I have to give my kids huge props.  They were champs.  They humored their mom’s hairbrained idea to go for a hike when it was only registering 18 degrees out.  Seriously, isn’t this supposed to be SPRING break?!  What’s with the excessively low temps?!  But, we did it.  We saw deer, climbed trees, caught some fantastic views and had ourselves a good ol’ time…at least until the whining of “I’m hungry” and “I can’t feel my feet” set in.  Just as Ken said, I go at life at 100%, so as tough as it was for me to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to complete all the trails I wanted to, I needed to do what was best for my kiddos and know when to say when.

I’d have to say, though, that the best workout of the week award goes to the laughter Silas provided as he did his spontaneous poolside dance party to “Moves Like Jagger”.  That kid does have some sweet moves and he had me laughing long and hard.  There is no better way to burn a few calories and tighten up the abs than laughing.

Like I said, my heart fibers got stretched more than any other part of me this week.  Ally and I doing multiple slide runs together, Ethan spotting more deer than anyone and his declaration that “This hike is AWESOME” and riding the lazy river with Silas; those are all things I will hold in my heart forever.  Even long after I’ve forgotten various tempo runs and speed workouts…well, ok, I don’t cherish speed work at all.

But here was the part that really got me.  As an added bonus, we had access to an indoor amusement park as well so my kids got to ride the likes of the Growler and the Tilt-a-whirl to their hearts’ content (and to their mom’s nausea!  I love rollercoasters, but the spinning, Oh, the incessant spinning…).  The first night Silas kept dragging me onto rides because he needed me there.  By the end of the last night, he was doing rides by himself.  As I watched my three sweethearts climb onto the Growler together, (a huge blessing for the fighting to subside for a brief and beautiful window) I was so amazed by my little man’s courage.  He’s not a baby anymore.

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to teach my kids how to spread their wings and learn how to fly.  But who knew that at the same time I’m teaching them, I would be re-learning how to do that myself?

One of our family rituals is at dinner time we go around the table and each say our best and worst thing of the day.  We hadn’t done that during this trip, until lunch yesterday at Nonie’s Cafe.  The kids said their “bests” were everything from hiking, the wave pool, going into Chicago to see friends, the ropes course, the various rides, Shedd Aquarium, the water slides.  They basically made a list of everything we had done and called it the best.  But I have to agree with them.  My best was…all of it.  And my worst was…umm, yeah, I don’t really have a worst.

Well, I guess I probably coulda done without the whole credit card debacle.

My cuties at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL

My cuties at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL

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Spring Break

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My kids are on Spring Break this week.  That means, the whole week, 3 kids, every day, no school, no camps, no breaks.  How in the world is a mom supposed to get a workout in with that going on?

With a full marathon, a half Ironman, 2 relays and a bunch of other races coming up, I can’t exactly take the whole week of Spring Break off from working out.  Some days, you’ve just got to improvise.  Today that was necessary.  Silas has been begging me to go back to The Boxing Gym.  Today he got his wish.  I’m a regular at the 10:30 am Monday class, and today was no exception.  David is always saying to bring the kids in, so today I did…the whole crew.

Ally spent the majority of her time playing on her iPhone.  Yes, ridiculously, my 10 year old daughter has a better phone than I do.  Anyone who has ever fallen victim to receiving random old texts from me when I restart my phone knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say my smart phone isn’t really that smart.

However, the boys were incredibly enthusiastic about the whole experience.  As soon as we got there, Silas put some gloves on and went to town.  Ethan put down the iPad soon thereafter and put on some gloves of his own.  Ethan was particularly good at the jab/cross/4 hooks combo.  Who knew it would turn into a family workout?

I wouldn’t say it was exactly strenuous, especially since the attention span of my boys only lasted about half of the 30 minute class, and that’s being generous.  With 10 minutes left to go, Silas was going, “Mom, mom, mom, MOM!”  Dude, chill.  No, I am not going to stop doing deadlifts to go turn on the treadmill for you.  Now burpees, that might be another story…

So, at least I got a pseudo workout in.  By the end, I had a pretty good sweat going.  And I got to model for my kids the importance of exercise in one’s daily routine.  I wouldn’t say that I do all things well as a parent, sometimes I cave to a tantrum, and sometimes I get overly mad about things that really aren’t that big a deal, but if there is one thing I can say about myself as a mom…I know how to make exercise fun.  Childhood obesity is an epidemic and if I can protect my kids from that, Lord knows I’ll do what I can.  And considering the sweet tooth that Silas inherited from me, it might take more effort than just offering green beans at the dinner table on a regular basis.

I was planning to take the kiddos to Florida this week to visit my mom (Woo-hoo, built in Granny-Nanny to entertain the kids while I go run!), but unfortunately, airfare costs kept that from happening. So, instead, I made a reservation at a lodge that is driveable, with an indoor water park…umm, that can provide exercise, right?  But the best part is that it’s located right next to a fantastic state park.  It may be cold, but rest assured, we’re going to bundle up and get out there to do some hiking and exploring!  The idea of spending 3 straight days at an indoor water park makes me seriously question my own sanity.  (Do you think I’m allowed to bring wine?)

All this to say, my workouts this week may be somewhat lacking in intensity, but they are guaranteed to provide lots of laughs, good memories, plenty of togetherness and probably a fair amount to blog about.  One week of lesser workouts isn’t going to make or break my upcoming races.  And I’m pretty sure that regardless of the outcome in Vancouver, I won’t likely look back and think, “Boy I really regret that week I spent with my kids”.  The best things in life are the experiences we have and the people who are with us.

So, away we will go to the water park.  I’m sure I’ll return a little more crazed than when I left, if that’s possible.  But hopefully my kids will be reminded that as much as I love running, and cycling, and boxing (I still can’t bring myself to add swimming to that list) I love my Ally and my Ethan and my Silas, way, way, WAY more.  And if you know me, that’s saying something! 😉

Ethan getting down to business with David at The Boxing Gym in Ballwin

Ethan getting down to business with David at The Boxing Gym in Ballwin

Silas was all smiles at boxing today

Silas was all smiles at boxing today

 

 

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Once Upon A Time…

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I raced today.  I was so excited to get out on a course and kill it. But I didn’t kill it. I was terrible.  It was only a 5 mile race and I missed my goal by a minute and a half.  That may not sound like much, but on a 5 mile course, 92 seconds is a lot.  I started out too fast, and I know that for me, that is the kiss of death.  I wore shoes that I don’t usually run in, I had to stop and retie both of them with very cold fingers.  (Note to self: double knot the Kinvaras, especially when you may lose dexterity)  But mostly, I was just a head case.  Didn’t I JUST write a post about this very thing?!  I was supposed to run the whole thing today with my friend, Nicole.  We were going to get after it.  I was not planning to tell her to go on ahead without me.  Blech.

I still finished in the top 7% overall, and I finished in the top 3% of women runners.  I was 29 out of 913 women my age.  I still averaged 7:55/mile. (Would have been 7:45/mile without the 2 pauses to retie shoes…stupid)  Why am I disappointed in this?  Because I had a goal in mind.  I wasn’t really out there to compete with anyone other than myself, or so I said.  And I blew it.  Or at least it felt like I did.

As the day progressed I realized what had happened.  I carried a lot of baggage through that race with me today.  It’s funny how you can be doing your favorite thing in the world, with one of your favorite friends, amongst thousands of happy Irish people (or at least people wearing green and pretending to be Irish) on St. Patty’s Day…and still feel lonely.  How is that even possible?  Well, sometimes we have to battle old demons.  They can weigh on us, exhaust us, slow us down.

As I was driving home, I began writing this story in my head…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, young princess.  Her name was Lulu.  Princess Lulu loved to run.  Running made her feel wonderful and beautiful and free.

One day, when Lulu was still just a girl, one of her friends decided to steal something from her.  She trusted him.  But he took something from Lulu and it caused her to break a little on the inside.  He broke a part of her, the part that made her remember that she was beautiful.  Lulu was sad.  She didn’t want to get her friend in trouble and she thought she was to blame for allowing him to take it.  So she kept it a secret.  She didn’t tell anyone about what her friend had done for a long, long time.

A few years later, Lulu was separated from her father.  She missed him tremendously.  Her father was the person that reminded her that she was beautiful no matter what.  And she started to forget.  The broken part not only caused her to forget that she was beautiful and forget all the good things about herself, it started breaking up other parts too.  It got worse.  The longer she kept the secret, the harder it was to remember the girl she had once been and she started to believe that she was anything but beautiful.

Princess Lulu still loved to run.  It still made her feel good.  But it no longer made her feel beautiful.  Now it made her feel tough.  And if she was tough, then she felt powerful, and that would show other people that they couldn’t take things away from her.

But then, one day many years later, her father came back.  She was scared; she didn’t want him to see the brokenness that made her feel so yucky.  But her father had a special mirror that allowed Lulu to see not only her beauty on the outside, but more importantly all of the beautiful parts on the inside.  Her father already knew about the broken parts, and he could help put them back together.  He showed her that she was beautiful even without the part that was missing.  Slowly, her heart began to mend and the more beauty she could see in herself, the more beautiful she became.

When she ran, it was no longer about feeling beautiful or feeling tough, it was just about being who she was and reminding herself how far she had come, all those miles that were behind her.  It was about reminding herself that she wasn’t broken anymore.

Today when I ran, I wasn’t running for me.  I was running to try to prove something, but I was carrying around so much weight that it just didn’t work.  I forgot how far I’ve come.  I forgot to just be me.  And the more things went wrong, the more I slowed myself down worrying about them.   So, even though I didn’t hit my goal this time, I guess I didn’t entirely blow it, because as always, I learned a lesson from the experience.

So, do you want to know the rest of the story? What happened to Princess Lulu?  Well, the story isn’t over yet.  It’s still being written.  But you should know that Princess Lulu is healthy and happy, most of the time anyway.  She will never get back what that boy who claimed to be her friend took away from her, but she has learned to look beyond it.  She no longer feels like a victim of his theft.  And she knows she is not defined by the part that is missing.  Some days she feels beautiful and other days she wrestles with what exactly that means.  But no matter how she sees herself, she knows that her father always sees her in that special mirror and she knows that, more than anything, she is loved.

 

Wearing green and ready to run with one of my favorites.

Wearing green and ready to run with one of my favorites.

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It’s Magic

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It’s funny how workouts have a way of mimicking life.  We have good days and bad days; likewise, we have good workouts and bad workouts.  As I was on my way to the pool this morning, I got a text from my best friend, Britta.  She has finally entered the world of texting, it’s still rare, but it does happen on occasion.  You may recall a post I did about a month ago called Why I Run, which was a response to Britta asking that very question.  She was, at that point, considering signing up for the Chicago Marathon.  Well, here’s the update.  Despite Active.com’s epic fail the day registration opened and then later crashed, Britta managed by some miracle to clinch a place on that first day.  Last week, I was one of 36,000 runners who entered the lottery for the remaining 15,000 or so spots available.  I had slightly less than a 50/50 shot, but it was out of my hands.  This morning, I woke up to find the email that read, “Congratulations!  You have been selected to register for the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon”. Awesome.  I have the opportunity to run 26.2 miles with Britta in the city that cemented our friendship for life.  It just really doesn’t get any better than that.

So, anyway, back to the text Britta sent me this morning.  Here’s our conversation:

B: Just ran seven miles and felt like crap every step of the way.  I need more sleep…

B again: But that’s the first time I’ve felt yucky so that’s something.

RRG: It happens.  We all have a bad run once in a while.

B: Until two weeks ago, I haven’t run seven miles since college.  Again, I will take the positive little steps, literally.

RRG: Exactly! And on that note, I’m getting in the pool.  J

If you recall, Britta is the swimmer.  So it’s funny how we’ve taken up each other’s sport.  But the theme of this conversation is so true.  Some days, I go run and I feel fantastic.  Other days, I run and it’s fine, nothing special.  And still other days, I run and it’s like I would rather be rolling around in a pile of nails and shards of broken glass on a bed of hot coals.  Some days, we just don’t have it.  That’s not just running, that’s life.  No matter the amount of coffee or Midol or whatever I think I need, sometimes I just feel like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I spend the whole day in a funk.  Those are the days, or the workouts, that you just have to power through so you can get to the end and say “I made it. And that’s good enough”.

Oddly, I jumped into the pool today and had the exact same experience.  After a brief warm-up, Andy asked me, “How’d that feel?”  I responded simply, “Stiff”.  I wasn’t feeling comfortable in the water.  I was tired.  My shoulder hurt.  Blah, blah, blah.  So, what do you do when you’re just not feeling it?  Well, you suck it up and you keep going.  I did some drills, that got me loosened up and I felt a little better.  Then Andy said, “Ok, it’s time to try swimming 500 meters without stopping, no breaks at the wall”.  Oy vey!  Unlike Britta not running 7 miles since college (I won’t date us here and say just how many years that’s been), I have never swam 500 m  without stopping, not ever in my life.  I’ve stayed afloat for that long, but never actually swam freestyle all the way.  It was go time!

If you had told me just 2 months ago, that I would swim 500 meters in approximately 12 minutes and feel like I could keep on going, I would have told you that you were batshit crazy!  (Sorry, I usually try to keep things G-rated…or PG at the most, but I needed to make a point)  Somewhere over the past 8 weeks, Lindsey learned how to SWIM.  But guess what?  If I would have bailed because of all the excuses I was conjuring up in my head, I wouldn’t have even known I could do that.  I needed to just get out of my head and stop over-thinking.  I’ve always had a tendency to over-think and over-analyze ev-er-y-thing, from workouts to life in general:  Why does my shoulder hurt? What if he doesn’t ever call?  Why didn’t so-and-so respond to that email? What will all those people think of me if I do my own thing instead of going along with the majority? (Someone please tell me I’m not the only one who does this) But let’s think about this, if there’s nothing we can do about it, why worry about it?!

Something Andy said to me in the pool today as I was struggling along, was, “Strive for consistency, expect anything BUT.”  That’s so true.  Consistency and pace are key!  Especially when we’re talking about going the distance. But we have to be prepared to roll with the punches and power through when we’re having a bad workout.  Fighting through when we’re just not feeling it is what makes us stronger.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if life was always consistent, too?  Well, no, actually.  There is something to be said for breaking the status quo.  Sure it would be great if we could avoid the hurts and the heartaches (or the shoulder aches), but it’s the pain that makes us grow.  And if we didn’t feel the yucky stuff, we wouldn’t appreciate the good stuff so much.  The lows might be lower, but that makes the highs higher too.

I’ve already admitted to my reality TV addiction.  Last night I was watching The Biggest Loser (Yes, I watched The Bachelor finale, too) and Jillian said so many things that struck a major chord with me.  The best one was this, “Here’s the thing-you try and you fail, you try and you fail, but you know why you get up every day and try again?  For THIS moment.  This moment right here.  This is what you fight for.  And it doesn’t happen often, but when it does happen, it’s Magic.  And it’s worth it.”  Amen, Sister!

Something else Jillian said was, “It’s about a girl that lives the life SHE wants, who follows HER dreams and who does not hang her state of being on the outside world”.

We don’t get the magic moments every day, we may even go years without one. It’s taken a lot of hard work for me to become that girl who doesn’t hang her state of being on what anyone in this world sees.  But I am living the life I want and I am following MY dreams.  It’s Magic.  And it IS worth it!

RRG and B...this is approximately what we looked like the last time B ran 7 miles.  I tried to use effects to enhance the photo, not sure it really helped.

RRG and B…this is approximately what we looked like the last time B ran 7 miles. I tried to use effects to enhance the photo, not sure it really helped.

 

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Finding Purpose in the Rain

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The other day I saw one of those silly ecards on Facebook that was exactly perfect.  It read, “I don’t go crazy.  I am crazy.  I just go normal from time to time. Get it right.”  That pretty much describes every runner I know.  Otherwise, why would I have gladly gone out into a downpour this morning and run 17 miles?  I started at 9:34am. By 9:37, my braids were soaked, my shoes were squishy and there were streams of water pouring off both sides of my navy blue FLEET FEET hat.  By the time I finished I was reminiscent of the scene in the movie League of Their Own where the announcer says, “And then there’s Marla Hooch.  What a hitter.”  It wasn’t my most gloriously attractive moment, to say the least, but I got it done.

So, picture this: Linds J running 3 loops around Creve Coeur Lake in the driving rain.  Every once in a while I would tip my head toward the sky to let the rain fall on my face, I could feel myself smile, and I would close my eyes.  Lindsey quirk #5: Sometimes I try to run as long as I can with my eyes closed.  I find it a good form of release, and I especially like doing this on a long straight downhill.  I’m sure eventually I’m going to bite it.  Probably really hard.  But until the day comes when I go careening down the side of a hill, rolling through trees and brush, resulting in stitches and/or broken bones, I will likely continue this practice.  Anyway, I was out there to put in the miles all by my lonesome today, but weirdly, I was not the only one.  There were several other runners on the path and as we would pass each other, we exchanged that slight smile and knowing glance that says, “So you’re crazy too.”

And here’s the other thing, while I was out there getting after it, I had about 25 friends that were doing something even more ridiculous.  13 miles of trails in the rain at Cuivre River State Park for the race Quivering Quads.  From what I hear, it was a total muddy mess.  And I think that sounds absolutely, spectacularly awesome!  Like I said, as runners, we’re all crazy.

Runners, let’s face it, we’re a little bit cultish.  I mean that in a good way, of course.  Or as my non-runner friend, Ben, says, “Runners are all drinking the Kool-aid, but it’s more like a protein shake.”

Seriously, think about it.  Anytime a runner finds themself in a room full of mostly strangers, we still have a way of gravitating to other runners.  It starts out with an, “Oh, you run too? What’s your favorite flavor of Gu?”  Afterwards comes a brief assessment period to size each other up with questions like: How many marathons have you run?  Ever done an Ultra?  What’s your PR?

Eventually, you and your running acquaintance find yourselves huddled in the corner where the true bonding begins as you discuss things like stress fractures and where you were on the course the year they cancelled the Chicago marathon because it was so bloody hot and the water got lost.  By the time you’re being dragged out the door, you and your new bestie have become facebook friends, you’ve tweeted about this awesome kindred spirit you’ve just met and you have plans to run together next weekend.

But why do we do it?  Why do we willingly go out in weather worse than the postman would and put our bodies through such torture?  Well, we do it in the name of fun.  We do it for discipline. Sometimes we do it out of guilt, knowing how we’ll feel if we don’t.  We do it for bragging rights.  But we also do it for purpose.

At the end of my run today, I found a new friend hanging out in the pavilion at Creve Coeur.  As I stretched a very tight IT band, Ed and I started talking.  When he was younger his goal had been to break the 4 minute mile.  The closest he ever got was 4:08. Umm, yeah, he passed the sizing-up assessment with flying colors.  But not just because of his speed.  Now Ed has Stage 4 Colon Cancer with metastasis to the liver.  He’s had baseball sized tumors removed and ongoing chemo.  Just like my friend, Teri, who I’ve talked about before, he is continuing his athletic feats while fighting a battle for his life.  I have nothing but respect for these folks, especially as I think about how much easier it is for my healthy body to go run 17 miles.

And earlier this week, I made another new friend, who I fit with new running shoes at the store.  Douang recently lost her 22 month old child, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at only 6 weeks old.  I can’t imagine anything worse in life than the pain of that.  She said she took up running to find purpose and to just keep going.

We all have storms in life.  They all look different.  You never know what’s going to be thrown your way.  Running has been a constant in my life, but the storms have blown through.  Some were just a passing shower, and some have been more catastrophic.  Some have delivered me to a point where I wanted to just stop eating altogether; running gave me a reason to eat.  I knew I needed food to have enough energy.  If I didn’t eat, I couldn’t run.

Douang was right, running gives us purpose when we want to throw in the towel and quit.  Or when we don’t even know what we want or what the next step is.  Storms in life will come and go.  During the times that the rain falls hard we learn to appreciate, even more, the days when the sun is shining.

It’s funny.  As I sit here typing this, the sun is starting to come out after a LOT of rain.  Which is appropriate seeing as I am currently entering a season of life where it feels like the sun is shining after running at least 17 miles in the rain.  I know it’s going to storm again eventually, so in the meantime, I’ll keep running.  I’ll keep logging the miles in any kind of weather, just to stay prepared for whatever comes my way.  Running won’t save me, but it might just give me a reason to get out of bed on the rainy days.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch in my freezer that is calling my name.  I’m going to eat the whole flipping thing. And then lapse into a post 17-miler coma.

RRG after a very wet 17 miles.  Shirt says Running on Faith...because sometimes that's all you've got to go on.

RRG after a very wet 17 miles. Shirt says Running on Faith…because sometimes that’s all you’ve got to go on.

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Stair Repeats and Blondie Bars

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What’s worse than being stuck at home with a puking kid for two days?  Being stuck at home with a puking kid for two days and making the bad decision to bake.  Because when you’re stuck in a house  with just one other person most of the time, who happens to be managing only Gatorade and saltines, you find yourself eating the entire pan of Trader Joe’s Blondie Bars.  Ugh.

After 2 days of that, I was in serious need of a run.  Especially since my calves were still ridiculously tight from another bad choice I made earlier in the week.  On Monday, I went to boxing.  Then I decided to go for a run at the mud pit called Castlewood State Park.  Now, I love to run in the mud, but I only managed about 3 miles because the mud was more like clay that was clinging to my shoes making it feel like I was running with cinderblocks strapped to my feet.  So, I gave up that idea and decided to run the stairs.  I didn’t just run them once, or twice.  Not even 5 times.  I ran the Castlewood stairs 10 times.  Yeah, that’s right, I said TEN.  I’m not sure what got into me, maybe it was Kanye singing “N-now that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger”.  Or maybe it was my determination to do even better this year on Leg 19 of the Smoky Mountain Relay in April (5.5 miles over a 2,500 foot incline on gravel in the pitch dark-Bring it!)  Whatever it was, it seemed like a good idea the first time up the stairs.  But by round 7, I couldn’t even really feel my legs.  By the time I got back to my car in the parking lot, my quads were shaking and I had a hard time removing my Cascadia’s from my feet.

I always say its two days after a tough workout that the pain is the worst.  So, here we are, it’s Wednesday, and my calves are on fire. I’m hydrated.  I tried foam rolling.  That was only minimally helpful.  I knew I needed to go for a run to stretch it out.  But after sitting around watching TV and eating Blondie Bars for 30some hours, I was severely lacking motivation and energy to get off the bar stool my butt had become glued to.  I needed to tap into another source.  Question: What is in perpetual motion and has the energy of a puppy on steroids?  Answer: My 7 year old.  So, after I picked the older kids up from school, I said, “Hey Ethan, you wanna go for a run around the lake with me?”  He said, yeah, sure, but could I wait 10 minutes for him to get ready.  Uh, yeah, cause I’m gonna need at least that long to get motivated to do this.  It’s only 1.25 miles around the little lake we live on.  It really shouldn’t be this challenging. I figured we’d go around twice, maybe three times.  So, we got ready, we went around the lake once, plus a little more, for a total of 1.59 miles.  We didn’t even run the whole thing because E kept getting a side cramp and needing to walk it off.  I don’t think either one of us broke a sweat.  I’m not sure I burned more than 15 calories.  And my calves are still killing me.

So, what’s the moral of this story?  I have absolutely no idea.  I guess it’s don’t run stairs repeats at Castlewood when you’re going to be stuck at home eating Blondie Bars for two days.

Man I can’t wait to get out there and log some miles tomorrow.  But I think I might stay away from hills for another day or so.  And I foresee see a big salad in my future.

Ethan and I after his first 5k in November 2012

Ethan and I after his first 5k in November 2012

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