It’s July, right? Right? Because this week, save for the very beginning, brought about less humidity and cooler temperatures. This has definitely boosted my confidence in my training and my running. I don’t feel like I’m out of breath. I don’t feel like I’m drowning in sweat (even if it is liquid awesome). I don’t feel tired as quickly. Mother Nature somehow brought me my confidence back with the much cooler, much more running-friendly weather this week.
After last week, this was a welcome change. Especially with the long runs (yes…runs!) I had planned for this weekend. Sweet, sweet relief. And, to make it even better (who am I and what did I do with my former self?)…on Saturday my running group got poured on. It was amazing. It felt great. It made me smile…even if I was getting poured on. It didn’t last long…but it was nice to splash through the puddles and feel all badass for hitting that pavement in a drenching downpour.
This was a “scale-back” week for me in terms of mileage during the week. But my long run this weekend was supposed to be longer than last week’s. Last week I extended my long run to comply with my friend Matthew’s…so, this was technically a scale back as well. I was okay with that. These are important weeks for the body…because with the scale back…the following week brings back the higher mileage and now your body is ready to handle it.
But then…a second long run happened. Because when a friend invites you to join her group for a refreshing, early, early morning long run on Sunday…you go. It was fantastic. I met a new group of wonderful people and I had a chance to really chat up Kelsie and we discussed our training…our hopes for our marathons…fundraising problems…and…clothing/shoes, etc.
This week…was the kind of week I needed.
Sunday is normally my easy run or rest day. My roommate and I had a house guest this weekend, but I felt I needed to stretch my legs out. After Saturday’s rough 18 mile run in extreme heat and humidity, then a lot of riding in a car…followed by sitting on a hard cement floor at a very fun roller derby bout…followed by more car riding…the run was a relief and gave these legs a chance to simply S-T-R-E-T-C-H out. I choose to run hills though…which still doesn’t make sense now that I look back. But, it seemed to be what my legs needed. I could feel the strength returning to them with each hill that I powered up, despite having some residual aches and pains. I took it easy, though…as that stifling humidity was still lingering. It was all about pacing myself and keeping myself hydrated and fueled properly. After the run, I showered, changed, and headed out to meet up with my sports nutritionist again. This time we went over loss of sodium in these sort of conditions and what that means…how to fuel properly for that…what I’ve been doing right…what I need to improve on…and the like. It was a brilliant meeting and I walked out of there feeling so much better about things. Remember all those harsh comments about my body? Well, she told me I looked healthier now than I did when we first met. And that I should pay no attention to the negative people firing these comments at me. She said simply…believe it or not…I am built like a runner. Lean muscle. And the people who said those things have no idea what they are talking about. Her job was to make judgment calls about her clients based on looks as well and she said I looked healthy. Then we hugged. I needed that.
Monday morning took me back out into the wee dark hours before most people are even out of bed. The air felt so heavy, humid, and wet that morning. I did, however, get rained on for one glorious mile. I think I smiled then. It just felt better and easier. It happened right in the middle of my 5 easy run…and it was a blessing. Until it stopped. And all I wanted after that was it to rain down on me a little more. It was so refreshing. But, alas…the rain was gone for the time being. I did rock out negative splits, however! Always a good thing. Being Monday, that also meant it was my Daily Double…so I headed out to my running store’s fun run and we all ran with Natalie again, whose arm is feeling better, but her hamstring is dealing her fits. We let her set the pace and we ran for three miles, winding up back at the store. It was a hot, hot day for running.
Tuesday is the usual cross training day. This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training. That’s rather normal on Tuesdays now. The only difference this week was that Cathy was left at home, having had her last wisdom tooth extracted on Monday afternoon. All alone at the gym. I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes, using the Program 1 setting on Level 5, and managed 2.78 with various intervals, resistance, and inclines. It was challenging. Then, to finish it up, I got on the rowing machine for 10 minutes worked my core and upper body to the max, pushing for 1.19 miles. I hit up a few strength machines before calling it a day. That night…yoga to stretch everything out.
Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for 5 miles of speed work. This was supposed to be done at the track, however, Cathy was still out of commission and I wasn’t going to head off to the track alone while it was still dark out. I do a lot of crazy things, but safety is always first and I didn’t feel safe going off on my own. So, I decided I would have to dreadmill the speed work this time and make sure I hit up the track next time it came up in the schedule. That was the deal I made with myself and with Cathy. So, I hit the gym and set the treadmill for an easy 7 mph pace for my first mile to get warmed up. Then I dug into 4 x 800 meters at 8 mph with 4 x 400 meters at 7.5 mph for recovery. My last mile was back down to the 7 mph pace to cool down. When I finished, I actually felt like I was too easy on the speed work and should push a little harder next time. So, that’s my goal. I tend to go easier than I normally run on a treadmill. I don’t know why. Most people are the opposite. Go figure.
Thursday morning dawned and brought about my final 5 mile easy run of the week. It was a gorgeous 60 degree morning. And I loved it. I had a bit of a twinge in my hip that morning, but I stretched really well and it went away. And the entire time I was running nothing bothered me at all. I polished off that run like it was nothing, no twinges after that or anything. So whatever it was just required a bit of stretching. And…once again I managed negative splits. It was the kind of run I needed. That was also my second day of the week to hit up the gym and I managed to get 9.18 miles in on the elliptical in 49 minutes. Then rocked out 3.89 miles on the stationary bike. I felt really good about how I did on those, but my legs were really feeling it all that day. So, after hitting up some strength machines and heading to work, I made sure I stretched it all out that night with some soothing yoga.
Friday naturally meant it was the rest day that I never like taking, but have promised to respect it and keep it holy. Which I do. I don’t run or hit the gym or do anything at home. I did, however, take myself for an early morning walk. I managed 2.5 miles in 30 minutes, so that wasn’t too bad. I tend to be a fast walker with these short legs. Next time, I might have to slow it down some. I just get lost in my thoughts and don’t even realize it. But, the rest of the day it was rest, rest, rest because Saturday was coming and that meant…the long run…
Saturday is long run training day. Run long at an easy pace. This week, most people were going for the mileage my training plan called for, which was 15 miles at the Long Slow Distance pace. I met up with my running group earlier than normal, at 6:00 a.m. We hit the road, heading toward one of the parks and overshooting it to get to 8 miles…so that when we turned around…we wouldn’t have to run the worst part of Eastern Parkway here in Louisville near the end. Instead, we would take that at a deliberate walk to cool down. Now…on Friday I accidentally got hit with a case of accidental glutenization. Let’s just say…stupid mistake led to major stomach issues. So, I was a bit nervous about Saturday morning. But I managed to rock out the run. Matthew and I were having a much better run this week…and for the first couple of miles, we ran with the rest of the 6 a.m. group. But, then…for the remainder, it was just us…until we turned around and met up with them again. We stopped to talk for a moment, but then decided to head back to the store. They told us to go ahead…because no one likes to get passed. Matthew and I went on…and polished off the run, cooling down just as planned with a brisk walk toward the coffee shop. I had baked up some gluten-free rosemary cheddar biscuits and some gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free banana oat cookie bites for everyone, and Cathy was at the coffee shop, generously handing them out for me. We settled in to talk for a little while, then we excused ourselves because we were both starving and were ready to hit up my favorite Saturday breakfast spot – Annie May’s Sweet Café – for their gluten-free/vegan sausage and “cheese” breakfast sandwich. I was pretty much on the go the rest of the day…finishing up grocery shopping and just hitting the malls to keep on moving. Eventually, as the day went on, my stomach started to feel better. I’m still not 100%, but at least I proved I had it in me to go the distance regardless. I feel strong.
It turned out to be a fantastic week for running, once the weather changed and the humidity lifted. I mentioned a second long run this weekend, which I rocked out at 5:30 a.m. this morning with my Virgo-in-arms and friend, Kelsie. But…that will have to wait for next week’s blog.
I started the week on a high note, with a good, hill run and a great meeting with my sports nutritionist. Then I polished it off with great running weather for my scheduled long run. Life has been good to me this week. And I am pleased to see that the nicer weather is staying this coming week. See this smile…yeah…it’s been awhile.
See you next week!
So…here is the vicious cycle. I dislike cold weather runs. So, during the winter all I do is talk about how I can’t wait for it to get warm again. Then, in my area, we usually have about three days of spring and then the dog days of summer set in. Living in the Ohio River Valley makes for some rather intense humidity. And, wow, has Mother Nature ever been throwing the wet towel on me for every run this past week.
But…there are so many things I have learned in the past two years about running in the heat. First of all, I do understand that when there are heat advisories…it is best not to push it. Either take it inside or slow it down. That’s the next thing…when running in hell-like conditions…slow your pace. Just do it. There comes a point where your body will tell you it has had enough…and it won’t be pretty. Slow it down, make it through the run.
HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!!
I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve been doing a lot of practice with hydrating while out on the run. Both with water and, yes, with Gatorade. The Gatorade came as a suggestion from my sports nutritionist, whom I am meeting up with again today. Why? Carbs, sugar, and electrolytes. I tend to sweat salt. When I get done with a run on a hot, hot day…I’m caked with white. This means dehydration is a huge risk. So, I hydrate often and rotate between water and Gatorade.
This coming week, I am praying for a break in this stifling humidity. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re breathing through a wet towel on each and every run. That being said…let’s take a look at this week’s training and see what I have learned…
Sunday is normally my easy run or rest day. BUT…not this Sunday. This Sunday was The Boilermaker 15K in Utica, New York. Race day! My rest day last week fell on Saturday, as I rearranged the training schedule to fit this race in. And trust me…this one was brutal. For one thing, it wasn’t supposed to be as hot as it was that morning. I woke up and it was already in the high 70s with a very high humidity. This meant I went running in my company running skirt and a bra top. The less fabric on me…the better. Along with the heat and humidity…was hills. This course was hilly, especially in the first half of the race. This turned out to be a tough race. I brought Gatorade and water for the route and there were over 20 aid stations on the 9.3 mile course. I finished with a new 15K PR…surprisingly, as by Mile 7, I realized I should have been fueling better when the heat started to get me…so I took a GU and kept on trekking. This was hard. And afterwards, as my schedule had me set for 10 miles for my long run, I did a slow, easy shake-out run in an alley for the remaining mileage that day. Then, I had to shower, get in a car, and not move for a very long time…which my legs and body didn’t appreciate. I was so sore by the time I got back into Columbus, Ohio early Monday morning. And with fatigue settling in, I didn’t bother to foam roll either. Live and learn. More stretch breaks…even if it means more time on the road.
Monday morning I was up just a little past 6:30 a.m., despite my late night/early morning return to Columbus, Ohio. My training plan still had me on schedule for a 6 mile easy run, and despite very sore legs, I was determined to get it done. This meant looping Jenn’s neighborhood, which is the route I usually do when I’m in town visiting her. That particular morning…I felt defeated on the run. My legs were screaming at me from sitting so long in the car after racing. The humidity was draining. I found myself stopping every half mile to catch my breath, hydrate, and at mile 3, fuel. It was just hard that morning to even get going and I just felt like crying every time my legs told me to stop. But, I got through it. And then, after grabbing breakfast…had to climb back in the car for the drive back to Louisville. Upon arriving back at home, I had to change and get ready to get back into the car and head out to my Monday fun run. I thought about skipping it, but Cathy told me it would be good to go, especially after being forced to sit in a car that long again. That was part of the problem…my legs were hurting. But I went. And, due to the high humidity and heat, it was decided that we were going to run trails. Now, I have never run trails before…and the very thought of doing so while I’m in training for a marathon scared the daylights out of me. But, Cathy encouraged me to just do it and I was told we would go easy. Natalie, who I run with often, said that if I felt uncomfortable on the trails, we could hop off in Cherokee Park and simply run the loop. Here’s to good friends looking out for me. I actually did okay and rocked out just under 3 miles of trail running. Trails keep the pace slower, which was good in that heat. And the tree cover meant no hot sun beating down…and there was actually a breeze on the trails. I’m glad I was convinced to go along.
Tuesday is the usual cross training day. This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training. That’s rather normal on Tuesdays now. So, I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes, using the cardio setting on Level 5, and managed 2.38 with various intervals, resistance, and inclines. It felt good and I was quite happy with how I felt on there. I was trying to be very cautious with my legs, which were still not happy with me from the previous two days of sitting in the car. I then got on the stationary bike for 10 minutes and managed a whopping 3.91 miles. I guess I was trying to prove to my legs that I was boss and they would just need to shake it off and feel better. I hit up a few strength machines before calling it a day. That night…yoga to stretch everything out.
Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Tempo run. I used the first mile to warm up and then began to turn up the speed to just under my 10K pace. It was another intensely humid day…the worst one we had all summer. And it was 4 a.m. So, I figured I would do the best tempo run I could manage. It was a little slower than my last 7 mile tempo run from the week before, but you adjust to the conditions. No sense doing damage to myself by pushing too hard in weather that I shouldn’t be pushing through. I kept the speed build gradual and really pushed for a strong finish. This tempo run took a lot to get through, but I did manage, and that was the important part. The key was hydration and fueling. It gave me a strong finish and I felt good at the end of it. Then, that evening while dinner baked in the oven…circuit training. Working on building up some muscle.
Thursday called for 5 easy miles. It was another hot, humid, sticky, and gross morning. I really kept the pace easy because it just felt like I had a wet towel draped over me. It was hard to breathe and really hard to convince my legs to keep going. They were starting to feel better from the days of sitting in the car and more sitting at the office (I wasn’t taking lunches because I was making up time for being off on Monday). Despite all of that working against me, I managed beautiful negative splits that morning. And when I saw that…I felt so much better about that run. I stretched out again that evening with about 20 minutes of yoga.
Friday brought about the dreaded day of rest. I have such a hard time with the rest day. But I did vow to respect it and keep it holy each week. Normally I go for a walk on lunch, but with the time I was making up at the office, I decided to get up at my normal run time and get my walk in early. Good thing too, as things went crazy at the office with one of my accounts. Anyway, I managed 2.4 miles in 30 minutes, which got me out and moving without tiring out my legs. Good thing too…because Saturday was shaping up…
Saturday is long run training day. Run long at an easy pace. I was scheduled for 14 miles, but my training partner in crime was scheduled for 18. I decided I could boost my run up for 4 miles. After all, only a couple of weeks ago, I managed 15.5…and this was only 2.5 miles more. I woke up early, got dressed for the stifling humidity and 80 degree morning that awaited. I drank water. I ate some cereal. Then after applying a liberal amount of sunscreen, I got in the car and headed into Louisville to meet up with Matthew at 6:30 a.m. I downed a banana on the way, which would give it time to settle. I felt good as I stretched. And when he arrived, we headed out for 18 miles. Originally we had hoped to do this at an 8:30 pace…but the weather conditions made this virtually impossible. We took a few walk breaks to cool down, we stopped for water. It was hot. And the heat and humidity was definitely taking its toll. We made good friends with the manager of Denny’s, who let us cool off in their lobby and gave us free ice water. YAY! Then…we had the scary spill. Matthew’s leg cramped up while we were in our last 3 miles. His foot hit the sidewalk and he took a tumble. He fell into me, but I stayed upright. He hit the ground hard though…and I was so worried about him. It just looked bad. He said he was fine…and a lot of drivers and a biker all checked in on him. He dusted himself up, all scraped and battered…and we pressed on…slow and steady. But we managed to get our 18 miles in. It was slower than we would have liked, but given the weather conditions, we ran it smart. And that was the important thing. Matthew’s okay, by the way. And we’ve already got next week’s training run in the works.
This past week brought about some of the hottest conditions in this area this year. The humidity has been killer, bringing about air quality warnings. I get out early to run, and even that was hard on most days this past week. I’m hoping the humidity breaks soon because this sort of weather is so hard to work through. And it does affect you, as a runner, mentally. Runners are very number-focused…and on these dog days of summer, you have to worry more about your well-being, your body, making sure you are hydrated and fueled…and focus less on pace and speed. You still get in your training…it just may not be done as soon as you hoped or wanted.
But…even these hot and humid runs serve as good training and good lessons as far as how weather can affect you. These fall marathons could have these conditions…or they could be cooler…rained on…or just perfect. You just don’t know. Adjusting training to keep yourself safe and healthy is best. Safety first…always!
Race: Boilermaker 15K
Place: Utica, New York
Date: July 14, 2013
When I started running over three years ago, I never dreamed of where my feet would end up taking me. Honestly. That’s the brilliant thing about this sport. You can participate in any event…anywhere you may be traveling through. Or…in this case…there may be a particular event that you are just dying to run because you have heard so much about it. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Last year, I had wanted to register for the Boilermaker 15K after hearing my friend, Jean, talk about it with me. She was doing the 5K race that year and I was really wanting to get in that 15K race. However, it conflicted with another event I was attending, so I didn’t get to run it last year. However, I was determined to make it into the running in 2013. So, Jean texted me one day to alert me that registration would be opening. So the moment it did…you better believe I was online and paying my $40 registration fee. Of course, now logistics of how to get from Louisville, Kentucky to Utica, New York needed to be considered…but I had time for that. The important thing was…I was in! Good thing too, because it sold out fast.
This past weekend was the big event. The Boilermaker is run every second Sunday in July…and it has been that way since the race first began in 1976. This particular race was established by Earle C. Reed, who was looking for a way to give back to the community that had supported his family business. The race was his answer. It began with a humble 800 runners and a budget of $750. But now, over thirty years later, The Boilermaker 15K Road Race is now the largest 15K in the nation with more than 10,000 runners. Each year, this particular race attracts elite runners from all over the world, Olympians, and world record holders. It’s kind of a BIG deal. In addition to the star power this 15K race draws, the Boilermaker 15K is also ranked as the most competitive 15K in the world. What other accolades does this race have? Plenty! The Road Runners Club of America has ranked it as one of the Top 20 Favorite Road Races in the country. Runner’s World Magazine rated the Boilermaker as one of the Top 100 Road Races in the country. USA Track and Field has named it one of the 30 Largest Road Races in the country.
And…after getting off work on Friday and driving up to Columbus, Ohio for the night…Cathy, Jenn and I piled into my car and we made the over 8 hour drive from Columbus, Ohio to Utica, New York on Saturday. We headed out early, with hopes of hitting Jean’s apartment by 1 p.m. Unfortunately…that didn’t happen, and we hit there about an hour later than planned. But we were there. And I was reunited with friends I hadn’t seen since high school…Jean and Jen!! Jen drove all the way up to Utica just to see me and hang out and I was thrilled!! It was like these 15 years had never passed. At all. And Cathy and Jenn fit right in with the group. So it was awesome. As we were all piling into Jean’s car to hit up the race expo so I could pick up my packet and goodie bag, it all dawned on me…
I finally made it to Utica, New York for the annual running of The Boilermaker 15K.
The race expo was actually more substantial than I expected. In fact, it was one of the better organized and better run expos I have attended. The expo itself was held at Mohawk Valley Community College. Inside the gymnasium was where we needed to be for me to get my race bib. I accidentally took the long way around the tables in the center and ended up near where I started in order to get in line for my number. It was all done by alphabet…and it turned out my name was the last name in a stack. My bib, however, was missing. After some hunting, they found it in the next pile over and handed it over to me. With number and some safety pins in hand, we were now heading out toward the expo part, where I would receive my goodie bag and could hit up any vendor shops if I wanted.
The line for the goodie bags went quickly, and soon I was being handed my clear bag with a pint glass in it and some race information. My bib number and pins were tucked into the bag and I was out and moving now to do some browsing of the vendors. I hadn’t actually intended to purchase anything…but when I spotted the compression sleeves in the colors I couldn’t find at my local running store…all bets were off. And I was now a little poorer. And when Cathy spotted BondiBand…well…we all know what happens when BondiBand is in the picture. Needless to say, I picked up three new BondiBands, but none of them would be worn during the race the following day.
After that…we needed to get some food and then head back to Jean’s. We ate, we socialized, and we finally decided it was time to get some sleep. The race kicked off at 8:00 a.m. and I needed to be at the start line prior to that, which also involved me hopping onto a shuttle bus from the finish line area to take to the start line. So, one busy morning…and four ladies to cycle through two bathrooms. We saw Jen off, as she was heading home and would catch up with me on Sunday afternoon when I detoured through the town where I grew up. The futon was assembled, the air mattress was inflated. And after a little foam rolling and some seal jacks (compliments of Jean!), we were ready to get some rest.
As is typical with any night before the race, I didn’t sleep well. Despite having an alarm set, I would wake up every couple of hours. I think subconsciously I worry that my alarm won’t go off and that I’ll be late or miss a race. This happens for every race, no matter how big or small. But…my alarm on my cell phone did go off…at 4:30 a.m. I turned it off and quietly switched to my Weather Channel app to check the temperature. This would determine what I ended up wearing to this particular race.
Originally, the weather had been calling for high 60s. But it was already 77 degrees out and the humidity was up to 80%. Don’t even get me started on the dew point. So, with that in mind…I grabbed my bag that had my running gear in it and headed to the bathroom to change. With the high humidity, I opted to run in my running skirt (company sponsored), compression sleeves, and a simple bra top. Any more fabric would have been unbearable to me. Honestly. I put my hair up in my signature pigtails, adorning it with purple and orange hair extensions. And, as I saw the elevation map for this race, I chose an appropriate BondiBand from my collection at home…the one that said: “BEAT THE HILL!”
To top off everything else, I had new running shoes. You aren’t supposed to wear anything new to a race. I had tested them out in a 7 mile run on Friday morning, and wore them around all day Friday and Saturday in hopes of breaking them in. I had never run an actual race in these…so this would be a testament of their quality. My new shoes are the Pearl Izumi Women’s EM Road M3…and I loved them when I tried them on Saturday night. I’d now find out how much I loved them after actually racing in them. And not just any race. Nope. A humid, hot, and hilly 15K race. Talk about taking risks!
After I cycled out of the bathroom, Jenn was in next, then Cathy. Jean came downstairs and we all put something in our stomachs. Jean washed up some delicious strawberries for me, which I downed. Jenn and Cathy had some Cheerios. And Jean…I believe she ate a banana at home. I was taking a banana with me as about 40 minutes prior to any race, I eat a banana. It has never let me down yet. And with that time frame, it gives things time to settle and everything. The goal was to leave Jean’s apartment by 6 a.m. at the latest. We hit the road at 6:03 a.m. Close enough.
It was a short drive and it wasn’t too hard to find parking. We actually ended up parking near the building where Jean works. From there, we started to head toward the school buses that were being used to shuttle runners up to the start line. As the shuttles only ran to the start line until 7 a.m., this meant I needed to get on one immediately. So, even though it was still very early, I gave hugs to my girls and then departed…leaving them near the finish area. I was now on my way toward the start.
It was weird, actually, to be at the start of a race without my crew (Cathy & Co…usually Jenn or Heather, depending on the race!). There was a lot of action though. People were stretching. Some were picking up their packets. Some were doing some strides to get warmed up. Some were using the port-a-potties. Me…I walked away from the shuttle bus where we were dropped off and started toward where the race would be starting. I wanted to scope it out. Volunteers and runners…that’s all you saw here. No families or friends. It was just a totally different scenario than I am used to.
With the sun already relentlessly beating down at 7 a.m., I was hoping to find a bit of shade. But there was really none to be had. Thankfully, there were cups of water being handed out at a table not far from the start. After I did some stretching, I went to grab some water to keep hydrated. As I was finishing that up, I noticed a bright yellow shirt with the words BLUEMILE across the front of it. BlueMile is my favorite running store in the area. They have two stores in Indianapolis and two stores in Louisville. I tracked down the older gentleman wearing the shirt and asked him what store he was from. He said the Broad Ripple store. Ah…Broad Ripple. I went running with the Broad Ripple team the week before on Saturday morning. I know that store well. Anyway…I told him I was from the Highlands store in Louisville and we stood and talked. He asked where the official start was and I pointed toward the corner, where the start was just up a little hill from there.
I went back to stretching as the announcer came over the speaker system to give the run down of the history of the race. Not only how long it has been (literally) running, but also that this race boasts the most water stops. They weren’t kidding either. The Boilermaker 15K (9.3 miles) has over 20 water stations along the course. That’s awesome because today was definitely a day where hydration was going to be the key to having a good race. In addition to letting us know that we had over 20 aid stations along the way, the announcer told us that it was currently 80 degrees and the humidity was high and only going to get higher as the morning progressed. Fair warning. Adjust your race accordingly.
At this point I decided it was time to eat my banana, so I slowly ate that down as the announcements were repeated. I did a little more stretching and grabbed another small sip of water. Then the announcement came that the wheelchair racers and the elites should report to the starting line. After that, they began to announce the various color bibs. We were directed to make our way to the start area. And so…I stepped into the corrals. My bib was yellow and I was let into the corral at the bottom of the hill.
At 7:45 a.m., the wheelchair racers were sent off. And fifteen minutes later…my corral began to slowly slog forward toward the start line. It started as a walk. Then a job. Soon, we were all slowly finding a pace and crossing over the start line, taking on the beginning of The Boilermaker 15K.
The first half of this race is pretty much going uphill. Honestly. I am not kidding. This also does mean that the second half of the race, in theory, should seem easier. While you still have inclines in the second half, the majority of them hit early on in this race. For that, I am thankful, despite legs that feel heavy at first. Once I got moving, I found my stride. It didn’t take too long to do. I’m used to early morning runs when my muscles are still a little tight from resting…so this warm up actually felt natural to me.
Mile 1 starts you off with music. And crowd support. Hontestly, there were droves of people lining the roads, cheering for runners. At about .3 miles in, a guy standing on the front porch of his house shouts down, “You’re almost there! Just 9 miles to go!” It made me laugh. Gotta love crowds. Especially crowds that come to lift the spirits of the participants in the races. This just makes the race even more amazing.
Mile 2 is what the Boilermaker calls the International Mile. All along this mile, runners get to experience the sounds of different countries and cultures. I noticed different bands and dance groups, all representing different cultures from around the world. And, all along the way, all 192 flags of the United Nations’ member states were represented. It was an amazing second mile.
The heat was going up now, and I was making sure to utilize my fuel belt properly. I had 6 ounces of water and 6 ounces of Gatorade on me. And I was doing as my sports nutritionist had taught me when it came to hydration. Of course, the sips were smaller, because I wanted the fluids to last.
Miles 3 and 4 brought the steepest incline of the entire race. We were running through the golf courses of the area, and that meant hills. And these weren’t those quick hills you power up and say a word of congratulations to yourself when you reach the top and start down. No…these were the hills that are long and slow and they just never seem to stop going up. I rounded turns with these hills. I just kept telling myself to keep going. Keep on pushing. Get to the top!
And I did. And soon, the downhill portion was in front of me. I didn’t want to blitz the hill. That can cause injury and it can really wear out the legs. I was about halfway through the race and I wanted to make sure I had a strong finish at the end. Of course, with the humidity on the rise and the relentless heat…my pace was definitely being affected.
Thank goodness for the lovely people of Utica, New York. The streets were literally lined with spectators. This was their event and it seemed everyone from the region was out there and cheering. Some people with houses along the course came out with their hoses to spray water on the overheated runners. I took full advantage of these showers of cold water. And I thanked every single one of them that helped make the course a little less miserable on that hot day. Some residents came out with orange slices, or popsicles to cool off runners. It was just really great to see a town get so into a race.
That being said, by Mile 7 I was starting to fall victim to the rising mercury. The July heat and humidity in Upstate New York was brutal. My legs were beginning to feel heavy. The course was on another incline, so, I decided I would pop a GU pack and continue to press on. If I had to slow it down due to heat…so be it. Running smart and finishing was most important. I went in wanting to beat my last 15K time (The Hot Chocolate 15K in Columbus, Ohio), but that became less important. Crossing that finish line…no matter the time…was the goal.
The next two miles ticked off quickly, I felt. Perhaps finally getting around to fueling (I apologize to my sports nutritionist for not doing it after 30 minutes as I should have been) and reviving my body. But, soon, I was hitting the marker for Mile 9 and it was a downhill sprint toward the finish line.
I could see Cathy holding up the sign, and right next to her was Jenn and Jean. All three of them were just screaming at me to run, run, go, go…and I did. I just ran my heart out toward that finish line, crossing it, dripping in sweat and feeling like I had just been put through the wringer. But it felt good. And I was smiling. Yes…I was smiling.
I had no idea where to proceed from here. Normally Cathy would hurry over to find me and join me…but there was no way for my friends to head over to where I was standing. So, I began to make my way down the chute. First we were handed our Finisher’s pins (no medals here). They were also handing out fresh orange slices, cold water, and popcicles as we proceeded toward the After Party staging area. I finally noticed a sign for the Family Reunion Area. I figured that would be the best place for me to stand. Of course, then I got distracted by the Chobani truck and went to snag some free Greek yogurt (Blueberry, of course!). As I meandered over toward the Family Reunion Area, I turned around and there, in the sea of humanity behind me, I spotted MY SIGN! And there was Cathy…just searching for me.
I got air hugs (I was dripping with sweat still, despite downing two bottles of cold water), and then she told me to stand there and close my eyes. And with that, she pulled out the official Finisher’s Medal, which she purchased at the race expo the day before. I was so surprised. But she said I had totally earned the finisher’s medal…because I had a new 15K PR…not just according to my Garmin, but also according to Cathy. We went over to the merchandise area to see about getting me a t-shirt, but they didn’t have any in my size. I picked up a new magnet for my car and then we decided to go and find our way back to where Cathy left Jean and Jenn.
We found them without a problem, but Jean had held onto a set of keys for a friend who was also running. That friend was in the Family Reunion Area, so she needed to go and locate her. After that, we could move on back to Jean’s car, get back to her apartment, and I could finally shower. While Jean was gone, I went and did a very slow shake-out run, taking my mileage up to 10 miles that Sunday. And it felt good to keep moving. I finished up just a few minutes before Jean rejoined us.
And with that, we were leaving The Boilermaker 15K behind…making our way to Jean’s car. We made the drive back to her apartment and I went and got cleaned up and changed. And then, sadly, it was time to hop into the car and begin the long drive back toward Columbus, Ohio. It was hard to say goodbye to Jean. It had been ages since I had seen Jean and the time went by way too fast.
Of course, she said that she’ll be ready to run in the Boilermaker next year…so I think I need to come back, revisit it, and run it with her. It would certainly be a good time.
So…the official results of the Boilermaker 15K are that I finished with a new 15K PR of 1:12:14. That meant I shaved an entire minute off my last 15K time (which was done in cold weather, mind you). I was thrilled! I was 1127/11,371 finishers overall. Not too shabby!! In addition to that, I was 193/5379 female runners to cross the finish line. And finally, I was 19/828 in my age division. Super proud of these numbers.
And yes…I do want to come back and give this one another go. I now know what to expect and can train accordingly. I can see why this race is so popular. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it has the most amazing crowd the entire way. Utica welcomes these racers with open arms and really rolls out the red carpet for each participant. And I had one of the best times of my life. Yes…even in that heat.
Another week done. I know…I know…it’s only Friday, but I’m heading out of town this week for a race on Sunday in Upstate, New York. And that means that today ended my week of training as tomorrow, the day of the heaviest travel, I am using as my rest day. In the end, it all balances out. Really. I promise.
With that in mind, I had to approach this week keeping in mind that I would have very tired legs by the end of it. What I didn’t count on was also having new shoes. Yep. Just bought a new pair of kicks. Still not sure how I feel about them…they feel lighter than the Nike’s I was previously in…but…it’s too soon to tell. Of course, this meant my Friday run was not only being done on tired legs…but fresh shoes. So, I did my best to keep it easy. No sense injuring myself before a race…let alone during the middle of my training, right? Right!
So…this week I learned the valuable lesson of sleep. And how necessary it is. Last week with the concert during the week and then the convention over the weekend, I got less sleep than I normally do. And I already get the very minimal. Not because I choose to be that way…but I’ve never required eight full hours of sleep. I function best on 5 hours. But…I wasn’t getting that the week before. And this current week has been just as full with activities and getting things ready for the trip to New York. So…sleep has been rather scarce. I’ve been up later than usual…then getting up at normal time to hit the roads and get my training runs in. I’m really feeling the effects. There are times I’m finding it hard to stay focused on things or maybe even nodding off on the couch. So…after this trip, there is a break in the schedule and things come back on an even keel…so sleep will be a priority. I bet my running will improve too.
I’m still feeling the sting of hurtful things said by people to me about how I look. But…whatever. I’m going to brush it off and know that I am happy and healthy and I don’t need them to drag me down and make me feel ugly. Rise above it, right? Right.
So…with that in mind…here’s how this weeks marathon training went…
Sunday is my easy run or rest day. I was still at the convention, so I went and hit the treadmill at the fitness center of the hotel I where I was staying. I rocked out some intervals, doing one mile at an easy warm-up pace, then rocking out 7 x 800 meters with 6 x 400 meters recovery in between each one. Then, I polished it off with a 1 mile cool down at an easy pace. It was just the start I needed to the day. The gluten-free veggie burger with fries at Cheeseburger in Paradise for lunch was a nice bonus for the day.
Monday morning came way too quickly…and had me back to running in the dark. The 4-H Fairgrounds are close to my apartment and Monday was marking the start of the fair. With that in mind, I decided to stick close to home this week, just to be safe. Safety is always first. I was scheduled for an easy 6 mile run, and that’s what I did. It felt good, despite the 92% humidity that morning. I survived. I think I just needed to get out there and run it all out. I did just that. And, of cousre, Monday marks my Fun Run night, so the Monday Daily Double continued in full swing. I once again went running with Natalie and Harry, up near Cave Hill Cemetery. We didn’t turn this time, we ran around a statue and continued on. And Natalie, as we neared the end, pushed me to have a good finishing kick. She promised to work with me on that finishing kick if I could help her down the road with marathon training. That seems like a fair deal. And she made me work for it. I kicked it and we finished a great 3 mile run. It was hot and humid out and we walked a little. Keep in mind, this lady is running in a cast. She’s hardcore! It was another run that I needed today,with two of my favorite people! I was so tired though…and it was starting to show. Went home, showered, and had to finish getting things ready for work the following day. Later than usual night. Ugh.
Tuesday is the usual cross training day. This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training. No problem. I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting once again, keeping it with the Level 5 setting as well. It’s comfortable, yet challenging, and that was what I wanted. I didn’t want to push too hard due to The Boilermaker this weekend, but I needed some hill work somehow. And this was how I was going to accomplish it. After 45 minutes, I managed 2.38 miles of hills. It was tough…but I pushed on through. Then I moved onto the Cardio Wave machine, which is similar to an elliptical, but your feet move from side-to-side instead of front and back, changing it up a little on the legs. I got in 3.9 miles on there. Felt happy with both of those performances. I capped off my gym day with some strength training. Then headed to work.
Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Tempo run. I used the first mile to warm up and then began to turn up the speed to just under my 10K pace. It was a gradual thing because it was so humid that day. The rain was supposed to be coming down, but it was pushed back to later in the afternoon. That level of humidity at 4 a.m. is intense. The sun isn’t even up yet, and I felt so drained with each mile I pushed through. I did get the Tempo run accomplished with success, I just turned down the speed to train smart. And I hydrated, hydrated, hydrated!
Thursday called for 6 easy miles. So, out I went to get that done. With the rain that had come through, I had hoped that the humidity broke, but sadly…it hadn’t. The teperature was 77 degrees that morning with 93% humidity and a high dew point as well. So, I struggled through these six miles, taking them easy because I didn’t want to do damage to myself. Humidity sucks and it can really just drain every bit of energy out of you. I felt like I was breathing through a wet towel for much of this run. But I got through it, and went inside to have breakfast and head to the gym. I rocked out 9.2 miles on the elliptical in 49 minutes, which made me feel good about life. So did the cool gym environment and the fan that was blowing toward me. Ahhh…relief. Then I hit the rowing machine to get every muscle in my body working. I managed 1.19 miles in 10 minutes. Some strength training followed. Then, on this particular Thursday, I was registered to run in the third BlueMile Brew Mile. This was so much fun, but my legs were just…tired. So tired. I went ahead and tried on the Nike Free shoes that they had for runners to test out at the run. I hated them. I want to move toward minimalist shoes…but those were definitely not for me. The mile went well. It had slight hills and we rounded a sapling at the halfway point, which took some of the momentum away, but I finished in 7:12. My slowest Brew Mile to date. Much water followed. And hanging out with Harry and Laura from my running group. It was a good time. After that, I went to BlueMile and shopped for new shoes. I walked out with a new pair of kicks – Pearl Izumi EM ROAD M 3’s. They are 2 ounces lighter than my Nike’s. I was going to test drive them Friday morning…
Friday…is usually my rest day. But not today. Nope. Not today. With the race being on Sunday and with Saturday being a major travel day, I moved my rest day to Saturday and my normal run I would do on Sunday got bumped to Friday. Sunday I am racing, so I still get a run in. I’m just a bit late on my long run. Anyway, the humidity finally broke and this morning’s run felt amazing. So did the shoes. Although, I can tell they need more breaking in. This will make the Boilermaker 15K interesting…new shoes not quite broken in. Oh boy, oh boy! At least they aren’t giving me blisters. That’s the important part. The lift in humidity made such a difference. I felt so much better during the run. No stopping to cool down. Nope. I think I might have smiled again on this run. It felt great. The shoes are going to take some getting used to…but I think they’ll do good. Next time, I’m getting my Adidas Boosts.
Saturday I should be running 14 miles. But I changed it up with my following week due to the race on Sunday. Next week was supposed to be 10 miles. My 15K is 9.3 miles, so I figure on Sunday I’ll cool off with a short 0.7 mile run after I finish up the race. But Saturday is a lot of time in the car, a race expo, and my rest day this week. We’ll leave it at that.
Another week in the books. Meeting with my sports nutritionist again as the mileage increases and making some adjustments to my regimen. Looking forward to learning more, doing more, and putting the time in to make my first marathon a success. I guess that means getting my sleep pattern back under control as well. But that will have to wait until I get back from Utica.
UGH…what a week. What a terrible, draining, awful week. Lack of sleep, a lot of tears, and…my relaxing weekend was anything but relaxing. In fact, it only served to make me more self-conscious of myself. And that’s what sucks. I wanted to be able to escape everything that was weighing down on me this week…and instead I caught it once again. Seems the only place I feel like myself these days is when I’m out running. And that bothers me.
That being said, my first month of Marathon training is in the books. I am so proud of myself and everything I have accomplished these past four weeks. I’m already anticipating the next month…all the miles, the speed work, the pacing, every easy run, and every hard one as well. I’m going to earn these 26.2 miles…while I am running a couple of other races, I’m treating them as training…not as races. My main focus is that big 26.2.
As many of you might have previously read, I had some very hurtful things said to me this past week by someone I considered a good friend. It stung. It hurt. And, wow, did it every set my self-confidence back, especially on body image. I was heading into a weekend at a sci-fi convention, and I normally never worry about this sort of thing, but it was still weighing (no pun intended) heavy on my heart and in my mind. And then…while at the convention I caught crap from people as well. I am SO tired of feeling as though I am the ugliest person because of my size, build, and the fact that I RUN!
YES!! I run. I’m in training…so I am running a lot. But my body is strong, my heart is strong, and my willpower is stronger. I am no stranger to hurtful words about appearance…I got that a lot growing up. Always picked on. But, we’re all adults here. I don’t want to be told that should I ever get cancer I would never survive. WTF?! I run my body…and my body, in return, runs perfectly. I take care of myself. I eat plenty. I exercise to stay healthy. When I’m in a place I am hoping to escape my problems, I don’t need them thrown at me, loudly.
And…for the record…RUNNING WILL NOT KILL ME!
That being said…my marathon training this week started off fantastic, and then…began to suffer. Mostly because I let things get to me. I let words cut me down and scar me. In fact…I lost my spirit this week…the run just felt so hard. It might have been the humidity. It might have been the hurtful words of friends running through my head. Maybe it was both.
In the end, more nice things by true friends were said to lift me up and help me find my center again. And that…is what got me through.
Sunday is my easy run or rest day. As is usual with me, I took my feet out for a spin on the pavement that morning. It was humid, humid, humid out there on Sunday, so I kept it close to home and headed out before the sun was up. I finished up just as it was cresting over some of the hills. It was a relaxing run and while the humidity was a drag, I managed to press on through. And that was after running an accidental 15.5 miles the day before. I was feeling good.
Monday means it’s back to running in the dark. That’s fine, except the added challenge on this particular Monday was that I was out until about 2:00 a.m. at a concert in Cincinnati. The concert was The Goo Goo Dolls with Matchbox Twenty…and it was wonderful…but the 5 easy miles called for in my training was quite hard on weekend-weary and concert-weary legs and total sleep deprivation. I actually went out running an hour later than usual, because I felt sleep was more important…but I was still just tired at the end of it all. Of course, Monday also means it’s Fun Run night, so the Monday Daily Double was still on. I really just wanted to take an easy run, so Harry and Natalie took me on a great run that went by Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, then through some of the neighborhoods in the Highlands before ending 3 miles later back at the store. We let Natalie set the pace…and, wow, she has a kick there at the end. She promised she’d teach me all about finding that strength at the end of a run. That’s good, because I need it. Monday…was a tiring, but good day. Got in late after running some errands, trying to prep for this weekend.
Tuesday is the usual cross training day. This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training. No problem. I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting. The Boilermaker is this coming weekend in Utica, New York, so hill work is important. I haven’t been taking on hills as often as I should be so I’m feeling a little unprepared for this course. But, as I sad, I’m to be treating these races as training runs, not races, per my sports nutritionist. So…I’ll just do what I can and leave the rest up to how I feel. I set the Arc Trainer for Level 5 so I could have some more resistance and steeper inclines. It was a challenge and one I met. Felt good. The rowing machine was next. UGH. Rowing. It’s a great core workout, working a lot of your upper body, legs, back, arms, and core, but it can be very boring and very, very difficult. I struggled, but managed 1.2 miles on the machine in 10 minutes. Not too shabby. I capped off my gym day with some strength training. Then headed to work.
Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Fartlek run. I used the first mile to warm up and then hit the pavement for some intermittent bursts of speed with some recovery in between each part. I felt good coming in from this run. My legs felt up to the challenge, though they were screaming at me toward the end. I pushed through the morning humidity, and just felt like I had really accomplished a great run. Speed work is something I’m trying to focus more on, but it’s not always easy to do around here. So, this felt like a victory. Then, as I was sitting down on my computer with some water and some time to relax, I got hit up by a friend with some very hurtful words. My legs were taken out from under me. And after I lengthy blog on the subject, I felt I could put it behind me. Wow…was I ever wrong.
Thursday called for 5 easy miles. I really just wanted to get out there and run this day. There was still a lot on my mind. The words that were said to me were still lingering in my brain, and still breaking my heart. I thought I could run it off…but my body had other ideas. I pretty much kept stopping after each mile or less, finding the need to catch my breath or just take a moment. The humidity was awful and stifling. Then, the rain started to come down soon after I came in from my run, because when I left for the gym, it was non-stop rain. And it never really let up that day. My gym workout was awful and disappointing as well. My elliptical effort was not there. I tried to push it…but it wasn’t happening. I felt defeated and deflated. Nothing was going right. The stationary bike was my 10 minute effort that day. And as much as I hate the stationary bike, it was the only part of my workout where I felt I accomplished something amazing. My legs just needed to go fast…and they finally did. I 3.85 miles that morning in 10 minutes. And it made me feel a little better about life. Some strength training followed.
Friday…the rest day. I spent the morning wanting nothing more than to just go out for a short run. Two miles wouldn’t hurt, right? I just felt like I needed to prove to myself I still had my passion for the run. But…it is the day of rest and I vowed to respect and honor that day, so, in the end, I finished packing my suitcase and getting everything ready for the convention I was attending this weekend. I prepared breakfast, went to work, and went for a walk at lunch. I need to just let these rest days do their job. Letting my muscles and body recover from a week of a very draining and hard week just needed to happen. I didn’t want to rest…but I made myself rest.
Saturday was my Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace long run for a scheduled 10 miles, per my marathon training. The trick here was…I was in Indianapolis for a convention. What to do? Well, I knew BlueMile (my favorite running store in Louisville) had two locations in Indianapolis, so I contacted them to see if they had any running groups heading out on Saturday morning for training runs. Both the Broad Ripple and Carmel stores did, but Broad Ripple was closer to where I was staying. So, after a night of being up past midnight, not being able to sleep, and general…BLAH…I hauled myself out of bed at 5:50 a.m. to get ready to head out to Broad Ripple. I got dressed, put on sunscreen, ate half of a granola bar, giving the other half to my roomie. We headed out of the hotel a little later than planned…and discovered that it was raining. Great. Joy. Ah well…I need new shoes anyway. On the way to the store, I ate my banana I had brought with me. We arrived and went into the store. I stretched and soon they were making announcements and telling which races had to run for how long that day. I don’t run by time, I run by miles, so I figured I would head out with them and then just go to the 5 miles, turn around, and head back. I basically did that. There was 95% humidity that morning and a steady misting of rain for most of the run. But we headed out on the beautiful Monan Trail and ran it for 3 miles. At the 3 mile point, there was a water/Gatorade stop and everyone turned around. I did as well, running two miles back down, then turning back around, heading back toward the Kroger water stop to get me to 7 miles. Then, it was three miles back to the store. In the end, I ended up going 10.25 miles that morning…in the humidity and the rain. And I felt good at the end of it. My effort was kept easy due to that humidity, but I was loving my run that morning. New scenery, new people, and just a new experience. Then it was back to the convention and a very late night…er…early morning.
And that was the round-up for my first month of training. In the end, what I’m finding out is…there are so many misconceptions about this sport out there. There are also a lot of people who don’t understand the mechanics of a distance runner. And…they probably never will. I feel rattled and scarred from the hurtful words that were said, and I’m trying so hard not to continue to dwell on it. I have a 15K race coming up this weekend and the best part is…I get to see a lot of friends from high school who I haven’t seen since…well…high school. And that is going to be a fun and amazing time and I really just can’t wait to make it happen.
Here’s hoping I learn to soar again this coming week…
This is a difficult blog to write, but after receiving a very hurtful message from a friend via a social network site…I really felt there were a few things I needed to address. I’m sure others have been thinking it. I’m certain some may have even said things behind my back. But…before I even get to it, I want to emphasize to everyone reading this…
Words hurt. Words hurt more than anything else can because they can last forever. Choose them wisely.
With that in mind, please proceed with the rest of this blog keeping an open mind.
Let’s face it…society has put a face on what it perceives as beautiful and perfect. There is one word that haunts women every single day of their lives. DIET. I hate the word. Yet, there is no escaping it. You see, society has put this standard of what women and men should look like. And if you don’t fit into these standards, well, then you should do something about it. After all…you aren’t beautiful unless you’re 100 pounds soaking wet, right?
Before I start to dissect the word diet…and incorporate it with my life on the run (literally), I think I need to get one thing across about being gluten-free.
I did not choose to go gluten-free because it’s one of the latest fad diets out there. For an entire year I suffered, silently, from a diet that was literally killing me. I had turned 30 and life was good. I had become a vegetarian a year before, feeling good about my food choices…and then something happened. The food I loved no longer loved me back. I would eat a meal, and get struck with intense pain in my stomach and side. I’d feel sick. My body felt weak and tired all the time. There were nights I would sit down to watch something and literally fall asleep on the couch. I had no energy. I had no idea what was going on. And, with all of that going on, I was dropping weight drastically…for no reason that I could fathom. I was still eating like I normally was. I just never felt good after doing so. Confused…and, yes…scared…I headed in to see my doctor. Numerous tests were run with results being inconclusive. Then…my best friend growing up, Heather, told me to talk to my doctor about the possibility of gluten being an issue. After the unfathomable money that I poured into hospital tests and blood tests and scans that came back with no answers, this seemed simple enough.
Heather hit the nail on the head. My body was not absorbing nutrients properly. I was a Celiac and didn’t even know it. My body was trying to tell me something…and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was just desperately trying to put weight back in, and inadvertently, doing further damage to my system. The gluten-free diet is not a way for me to quickly shed some pounds. I have to be gluten-free. Trust me…I wouldn’t choose to eat like this if I didn’t absolutely have to. Even a slight spec of gluten in my food can cause a horrible reaction. And that’s not something I am okay with. So, when I say I am gluten-free…it is a medical diagnosis…not me leaping onto the bandwagon of the latest diet craze.
But…let’s talk diet crazes…
Women literally spend hundreds of dollars on the latest diet craze to hit the bookshelves, internet, and talk show circuit. From Atkins to South Beach to Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig to Paleo and everything in between. Every diet is created to sell you something or on the idea of something. But, let me also emphasize this…especially to the ladies who are reading this blog…
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
I know that sometimes it’s hard to look past that reflection in the mirror, but, we are better than what society deems as perfect. We are perfection. Every one of us. We are perfect because we are so different. We are perfect with our flaws and our scars. And we don’t need to and shouldn’t punish ourselves for not living up to an unrealistic standard that is pushed on us by the world around us. Love your flaws. Love your body, even if it isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect…get used to imperfection.
I had a lot of hurtful things said to me when I was dropping weight and couldn’t figure out why. I did not like being called a skeleton. I didn’t like the whispers behind my back or the all-out hurtful things that were being said about me. The smallest derogative comment about being just “skin and bones” would send me into a breakdown of crippling tears. I couldn’t explain the situation…because I didn’t even know what to make of it. All I knew was people would say very hurtful things about my body…and it would get back to me. I’d put on the brave face in public, but if I could find a bathroom, or the safe haven of my car, I’d let the tears flow. Weight problems work both ways…and the overweight aren’t the only ones who get chided for looking a certain way.
With that in mind, let me turn to one of my least favorite words in the English language…and beyond: DIET.
Why do I have such disdain for this word? Because it honestly makes people crazy!!
I’ve witnessed it. I see it almost every day with the women in my office. They fuss over points, and what they eat and if they eat this then they can’t have this…and OH MY GOD…I put on ONE POUND!! Diet’s bring out the worst in people, rather than the best. I’ve seen some of the nicest people fall into the diet trap…and they change…and not for the better. Sure, at first the weight drops off…but then what? The foods they were restricting begin to be consumed again…and the weight comes back. And then the diet happens again. Yo-yo dieting is not healthy. Not for your body, your mind, or your soul. Trust me. We’ve all been there. Even me.
As I am training for my first marathon, I enlisted the help of a sports nutritionist. After getting the okay from my doctor to proceed with training, I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything…and I mean…EVERYTHING right to get myself from that start line to 26.2 miles down the road where the finish line waited. I wanted to make sure I was not only working out right, but I wanted to make certain that I was feeding my body right, treating it right, giving it proper nutrition and proper fuel to function. I wanted my body to come out of my marathon in the best shape possible. And I wanted to do it the healthy, correct way. Which is why I sought the help of a professional.
And already I have learned so much about food. I already thought I knew a lot…but she has been a huge help to me and has definitely changed the way I view food. Food is not the enemy. Say it with me…
FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY!
Now…stop treating it as such. Food, to any athlete, is fuel. It’s what gives our body calories…and those calories give us energy…which we burn…and then we need to refuel. The problem with such restrictive diets is that, so often, we (I’m included) stay so focused on the number on the scale. My nutritionist offered me this advice…
DO NOT WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY…AND THROW AWAY THE SCALE!
We are more than numbers. We are so much more. And as you train for a long distance event, such as a half marathon or a marathon, your focus needs to switch from your weight…to how you are treating your body. And this attitude should carry over into every day…whether you are in training or not.
Ever wonder why fad diets don’t work? It’s all in the math. If you usually eat proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (as you should) and you remove one of those food groups from your eating plan, you’ll lose weight…but only while you’re on the plan. The moment you reintroduce those foods you haven’t been eating…BAM…you gain weight and sometimes it’s more than you lost in the first place. Yo-yo dieting and fad diets only serve to tax the body because it sends it into “starvation” mode. The metabolism goes into hibernation, preparing for scant food supplies. Food is necessary for energy…so this is definitely not what the aspiring athletes should be aiming for. The body is like a computer and it prefers to burn energy from carbohydrates rather than fat, since carbs are more readily utilized. Nourishment is key…and to do that you need to keep your body maintained with high-quality food, especially lean protein and complex carbohydrates, otherwise you end up depleting your muscle tissue and your energy in the process.
This was the first thing I learned from my nutritionist. I used to go out running for miles without putting anything…anything in my stomach. Mistake number one. Because I was running, literally, on empty. My body had no fuel…so instead of burning the calories from having something in my stomach, instead it was leaching off my muscles, which is draining. She recommended I eat something before heading out…and drink 16 ounces of water. I run in the eearly morning hours, so this seemed daunting at first. But, I grabbed a handful of gluten-free trail mix or cereal when I get up…grab my water bottle I fill the night before, and as I dress, I make sure I get food and water into my system. I pack a fuel belt with GU or Sports Beans, per her recommendation, as well as put Gatorade in one water bottle and water in the other. Every 3-4 miles, I am to fuel. I am to make sure I hydrate while I run. Despite wearing a fuel belt, I rarely ever touched the water I was hauling with me. That’s changed.
And in the month I have been doing this…guess what? I’ve become a stronger, better, faster runner. I’m finally getting the hang of treating my body with the respect of an athlete. Food…is fuel. So, after going over that, I learned more about glycogen…which is the carbohydrates that are stored in the muscles and liver…and when they are not fueled or topped off during long workouts and runs, they become depleted. The result…hitting the wall. I needed to balance some nutrition out…making sure my carbohydrate to protein ratio was around 2:1 or 3:1. And she (as a gluten-free, vegan, distance runner) even gave me fantastic sources of vegetarian protein and recommended a few recipes and snack ideas.
I have grown into a lean…mean…running machine. And since figuring out what was wrong with my body 2 years ago…and moving forward to properly hydrating, fueling, and recovering after running and workout sessions, my body has only become better, stronger, and more efficient.
Yes…I am petite…but I come from a family of petite women. Judging me based on what you perceive to be “the norm” is hurtful and harmful. Calling me a “skeleton with skin” or other such hurtful words is not helping me any. And when you have no idea what I’ve been through or am dealing with, it is unfair to even make the assumption that I am not taking care of myself. Thank you for your concern…but I am taking care of me. It’s been a long road. It still is a long road. And I’m not 100% happy with my body. My self-image is not good. And every time someone says something about me that is that hurtful…it only sets me back.
WORDS HURT! And you can’t take them back. You can apologize…but it doesn’t erase what was said. That’s the horrible truth.
Athletes…both men and women…treat your body with respect, treat it well, and fuel it right…and the results will be far more than you could even imagine on any sort of diet. Trust me.
A common misconception that runners hear all the time is that we are destroying our bodies. The constant pounding on the pavement is wearing down our joints, we’re destroying our bodies, and that so-and-so died from running a marathon.
Do people die after long distance races. Yes. Was it the race that killed them? Nope. It’s normally a pre-existing condition that perhaps they didn’t even know about.
Runners are not only the nicest people I have come into contact with, they are also some of the healthiest. But, it is inevitable, we all get hurt at some point. But this is no different than any other sport? So, why do runners take such a hit when it comes to injuries?
I wish I knew.
I’ve been injured twice. The first injury came when I boosted my race mileage from a 5K to a 5 Miler. My foot suffered a stress fracture and I developed runners knee from trying to land differently and alter my gait. This was back in 2011 when I first started running. I recovered, but it took a couple of months to heal. With the permission of my orthopedic doctor, I was still allowed to run in the Chicago Half Marathon (my first half marathon) on September 11, 2011, because he knew I’d do it anyway…but also because he was giving me exercises to do to get my leg back into working order. It worked. I had to tape my knee up…but I ran my first half marathon without ever having run over 5 miles on the road. I was determined…and even though I was unprepared, nothing felt as good as crossing that finish line and meeting up with my friends Heather and Cathy at the end of it. AMAZING. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
My second injury happened because I was running injured. I was at a 4 mile race almost a year ago. And after hobbling through to the finish line, I ended up stepping off a curb and tearing my plantar fascia. This was extremely painful. I couldn’t even walk. I had my first DNS (Did Not Start) on two races. I was on crutches for 2 weeks. And then…I got in to see my doctor who got me in to see a podiatrist…and the situation improved. I was in the midst of training for the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon…and I told my podiatrist this exact thing. And he told me as long as I took it easy…I could still run it. He taught me the Low Dye tape job, and that took me off my crutches. And soon, I was out running very slow 2 mile runs…easing into more mileage as he allowed…until I made it to half marathon weekend. That race was a hot mess. With 90% humidity, it was red flagged from the start…but I made it through better than expected…and that was that.
You see…the heart of a runner is nothing to mess with. Runners are very passionate about their sport. And you can tell when someone truly loves running simply by the way they talk about it…or the way they interact with others who share that same passion. I have been welcomed into so many running groups. I feel so blessed to have these people in my life. It means I don’t ever have to run alone. I can talk about anything and everything to these people because…they get it. They know. They understand. Because they have the heart of a runner too.
Look at what happened at the Boston Marathon. I wasn’t even there. I knew people who were. They were all safe. But the impact of that event affected me so deeply. I found myself depressed. I’d run through my thoughts and fears and the “what-if” scenarios every time I hit the pavement. I’d just run it out…for those who couldn’t. I donated money to the One Fund…more than I can even count anymore. That attack just tore my legs out from under me…it affected me on such a deep and emotional level. And that’s what it means to have the heart of a runner.
And when someone indicates that this passion you have is destroying you…it’s not only insulting…it’s inaccurate. And, dammit, it hurts like hell to be told all the time that running is bad. Running is not bad. Running is my freedom. Running is my “me-time.” Running has brought so many amazing people into my life. Running has taken me places I never dreamed. Running has helped me improve myself continuously, push a little harder, and to just remember to have fun. Running is fun. And, hopefully, I’ll keep chasing down my dreams.
My body has never been stronger…my heart has never been prouder. I am a runner. And I’m not going to stop.
Runners train tirelessly and sometimes endlessly for one thing…and that’s to meet a goal. They may not reach it the first time, but they keep trying. If they fall down, they pick themselves up. If they fail, they try again. When others crumble before the finish line, they turn around, help that person up, and carry them across. This is the spirit of running.
And, let me tell you, I have spirit. Yes…I let the careless and thoughtless words of someone hurt me and tear me down today. But I’ve had countless people pick me up, lift me up, and guide me back onto the path I am taking.
Knock me down…I’ll get back up. I’m not perfect. But I don’t have to be.
What I am is a human being…with feelings and emotions and expectations. And, unfortunately…I do have self-image issues. And I do lack confidence at time. And yes…sometimes I even doubt my abilities. Sometimes I hear that voice in my head telling me I can’t…and I silence it, push a little harder, and prove to myself that I CAN. Life isn’t easy. And it does have it’s bumps and roadblocks. But…if you have a strong spirit…you can accomplish great things.
I know that I am doing everything right when it comes to my training and my body. I have gotten a physical check-up and an okay to start marathon training from my doctor. I am consulting with a sports nutritionist. I am following all the guidelines she laid out. I’m discovering how important it is to fuel, hydrate, and…REST. Rest is essential to the body and although I hate rest days…I respect them…I take them…and I come back stronger thanks to them. If that’s not spirit…I don’t know what is.
You want to see what the human spirit is capable of…then go watch a marathon. Be inspired.
Me…I think the events of this morning have only gone to make me more determined to do great things and to prove to myself and all naysayers just what I am capable of. I am going to focus on the positive and prove that I am a bigger and better person. I will take the high road. That’s not to say I still don’t get upset and cry when I think of what was said to me…I will allow myself that. But I won’t let them take away what means so much to me. Never.
As someone in a running group said to me this morning…sometimes it is best to take a moment and reflect on all the amazing things your body has done- the finish lines crossed and the ones yet to cross- then take a moment to look in the mirror and yell yourself you are a beautiful work in progress.
I AM A BEAUTIFUL WORK IN PROGRESS!
And so are all of you!