Here I am, less than one month from my next half-marathon, and I have not run more than six and a half miles to train for it. There have been quite a few reasons for this:
It was unusually hot this summer. We had several heat waves and several stretches of days with heat indexes over 100. I just couldn’t run in the heat.
I’m nursing my knee. I went to the doctor in May and could not find the cause of the pain. Acupuncture helped, but I haven’t made it there in almost a month. I’m so nervous about further damaging my knee that I haven’t gone out as much. And when I do go out, I am not pushing myself as hard as I should out of fear of further injury. I am slower than ever.
Time Time Time Summer is always busy. The new school year has me putting in multiple twelve-hour days each week. I bring my running clothes with me with the intention of changing and getting to 6:00 running club, but I have been staying past 6 and, when I leave, my brain and body are much.
These may seem like valid reasons, but they do not change that fact that, four weeks from now, I will be running thirteen miles. I hoped to shave five minutes off of my first time. I hoped to be a little thinner and a little stronger. I have gained weight instead of losing it. I’ve almost finished LIIFT 4, so I’d like to think I am a little stronger.
So I have four weeks to prepare for this half. I will head out Wednesday for a ten-mile run. At this point, I am no longer concerned with beating my previous time; I am determined to complete a goal I set for myself- to run two half marathons in a year!
Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)
After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.
I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.
When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.
I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.
By the end of the school year, I created a pretty good routine to make sure I was ready for my first half marathon. I would come home, change, and take Banjo with me on a short run, picking Liam up from school and walking home together. Now that we are both out of school, I pondered how to get in my runs as I begin training for my second half. When a friend asked if Liam and I would be interested in training for a 5K in the fall, it seemed like a perfect reason to introduce Liam to running. He is excited to run with his friend.
When we decided that we would begin running with the dog in the morning, Liam had many of the same fears I did when I began running. He questioned his ability, could he run far and fast enough? We set out with a goal of running one mile. I asked what a good time would be to run. His reply: “3:28 in the morning.” We agreed that a fourteen-minute mile seems a reasonable first goal. We set a few norms to keep either of us from getting frustrated or discouraged:
Liam decided the course.
We run no more than a mile.
Walk when you need to walk.
We set out, walking a block before beginning to run. Liam took off, which I knew wouldn’t last but let him play it through. After a few minutes, he was tired. I set the one-minute interval on my app that I usually use for speed training. He did fine with this, then decided to use landmarks as goals. “We can run to the main road, then walk to the next street, and run again.” It was a perfect setup! When we were close to the one-mile mark, I noticed our pace was 13:35; I decided to push a little further so we could finish at 13:30.
We walked the rest of the way home. Liam was great about celebrating what he accomplished. When he started putting himself down, I reminded him that it took months before I could run a mile. “Now you can run thirteen.”
“Yup, I can. And it took me over a year of running to be able to do that.”
I am beyond thankful that Liam is interested in running. I hope it becomes something we can enjoy together. Much like our daily walks with Banjo, I appreciate the opportunity to connect with Liam and talk about life. I only have a few summers left in which he will want to spend most of his time with me; I need to enjoy them while they’re here!
I am a firm believer in compliments. I compliment my students, my family, and my friends as often as possible. I think about compliments that have truly affected me and encouraged me to continue working towards my goals.
You’re a good mom. A significant portion of parenting involves worrying.
“Am I too hard on Liam? Are my expectations too high?”
“Am I being too soft? Am I letting him get away with too much?”
“Am I reading to him enough?
“Am I playing enough games with him?”
“Is it okay that he is the only kid he knows without a video game system? Should I just suck it up and buy him one?”
With all of these daily worries, it was a huge confidence booster when my mother-in-law randomly told me I am a good mom.
You are stronger than you think you are. My “running bully” gets the credit for this one. I lovingly refer to my friend Kerri as my “running bully” because she pushes me when I question myself, causing me to PR at the ever-difficult Gaspee 5K and beat my goal time by fifteen minutes at our first half-marathon. I love my running group because we focus on getting out there and getting stronger over being the fastest. That being said, having someone out there pushing you out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing!
I’m so glad you’re my mama. Liam and I have a really good ability to bounce off of each other. We can make up games on the fly, without stopping to decide rules or goals. Mike and I each have activities that are “our things” with Liam. Liam and I go for bike rides, read books, sing Hamilton, and tell each other silly jokes. Every so often, Liam wraps his arms around me and tells me, “I’m so glad you’re my mama.” It melts my heart.
There’s a sweet spot in New England weather that promises the arrival of summer. It’s warm but not hot, not too humid, but most of the spring pollen is on its way out. This past weekend brought just those promises to life!
Saturday started with the Gaspee Days 5K, the culminating activity from last year’s Beginners Running Group. A year ago, we were nervous to mingle with “real runners” and doubted our training. This year, we were seasoned, having multiple 5Ks and a half-marathon under our belts! It was great to return to see our progress and help a new round of BRG graduates to complete their goal.
Those who are not local may not be familiar with the story of the HMS Gaspee. While everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, the burning of the British customs ship the Gaspee occurred the previous year, leading up to the start of the American Revolution. Each year, the town celebrates Gaspee Days over the course of several weekends. There is an arts and crafts festival, fireworks, music, race and parade, and even a reenactment of the burning.
It is worth noting that the Gaspee race is one of the most challenging 5Ks around; it contains long, sloping hills that never seem to end. But the race also happens before the start of a parade, so there are thousands of people cheering you on. Residents set up sprinklers for runners; kids hold out their hands to high five racers. While it is a challenging course, the energy is fantastic!
I was excited to run this race, even though I have been nursing an injury and haven’t really been able to get a good run in since the half-marathon last month. My expectations were not high for this race; my goal was only to improve my time from last year, even if only by seconds. At the beginning of the race, I took off, pushed by the crowd and excitement. My first mile was 11:11, a pace I knew I couldn’t sustain. (Remember, I am an okay runner!) My sugar started to drop, and I felt a little woozy. I slowed down at times, allowing myself to walk some of the tougher hills.
I made it through the turnaround, enjoying my turn under the passing sprinklers. I was just starting to get discouraged at mile two when I saw my friend Kerri waiting for me.
“You don’t need to wait for me; I’m not running as much.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I need to walk a bit.”
“We can walk tot he top of the hill. Then, we’re running.”
And we did. Kerri stayed by my side throughout the race, slowing down when necessary, but keeping me motivated to try my best. I would not have pushed myself so hard had it not been for her encouragement, to remind myself that I am stronger than I think. I need people who believe in me when I am doubting myself.
Kerri stayed with me until the final turn of the race. For that final .1, I pushed myself as hard as I could, finishing the race in 36:44, two and a half minutes faster than last year! That gave me a PR for my 5k, which I know will improve when I race again on a flatter, more forgiving course! My current goal is to complete a 5K in the 35-minute range.
Words cannot express how happy I am that I joined BRG last year. I am grateful for the confidence BRG provided to teach myself that I, too, am a runner. I can set goals, work towards them, and achieve them. The summer offers a lull before “race season,” which includes a 5K, four-miler, 10K, and another half-marathon. Now that I know I can do all of these things, I can focus on getting stronger. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings!
I stumbled across a blog mentioning the book 52 Lists for Happiness. The writer is posting entries weekly on her blog. I liked the idea so much that I immediately ordered the book myself and decided to try to follow suit. The next year is bringing a lot of changes, so it seems like a perfect time to prioritize and search for happiness. I’ve decided to use this exercise as an opportunity to get ideas from Liam as well. We walk Banjo twice a day, allowing plenty of time for discussions. These walks are some of my favorite times, even when Liam talks my ear off about Zelda or Minecraft. I’d love to ask Liam to create as many of these lists as possible and share them with him when he gets older.
Week one is pretty straightforward: List what is making you happy.
Mike and Liam: They’re both such great people! I am truly blessed.
Spring: Finally! We will soon be complaining about the heat and humidity, but for now, let’s enjoy the warm weather, open windows, and longer days. This is the first week Liam and I didn’t have to bundle up during our morning walks. Last night, we ate dinner outside. It is such a welcome change!
My friends: Without them, I would never have signed up for a half-marathon, nevermind been excited about it! My friends keep me laughing and trying to be a better person! What more could one ask for?
Fitness Challenges: Last weekend was the half-marathon. I’m also participating in a challenge through Laid-Back Fitness. I’m interested to see how my body changes when I focus on strength over cardio.
And from Liam:
Going for walks with Banjo
Playing with Banjo (Do you see a theme?)
You and Dad
Making my First Communion
I love the idea of focusing on the positive things in our lives. While the next few months will bring a lot of changes, there are a lot of great things going on in all of our lives. Perspective helps keep us all finding the positive things happening in our lives.
I don’t even know where to begin when talking about this weekend!
Liam made his first communion Saturday morning. He did such a great job! I am beyond blessed that he is a part of such a fantastic school community. I love his school and the fellow families who attend. After the church service, we went back to our house for a cookout. It was perfect: low-key and casual. Liam was thankful for his day!
I went to bed early Saturday night because the half began at 7:30. I planned to be out of the house by 6. Liam woke up with me at 5:15. We tried to be as quiet as possible. Because he wasn’t sure if he would wake up with me, he left me a note for the morning with the bagels Mike picked up from Panera.
I was trying my best to be organized, but nerves were starting to kick in. In being hopelessly proactive, I applied Tiger Balm to my calves as I got dressed, only to panic when realizing I had not yet put in my contact lenses. Somehow, I managed to put in my toric lenses into my puffy, allergy-hating eyes one handed! My goal of getting out the door by 6 was only off by six minutes.
One the ride down to the race, I decided to listen to Hamilton, my go-to “Let’s do this!” music. The Spotify account was set to the Kitchen Echo. Luckily, people slept through the music blasting through the kitchen speakers for four seconds while I wondered why it wasn’t playing in my car.
The atmosphere before the race was calm and cheerful. We chatted and laughed until it was time to gather by the starting line. The gentleman who coordinates the races explained a few things about the race and the course, beginning with, “I don’t give a sh*t who comes in first as long as everyone finishes.” His cell phone number was on every sign; if you couldn’t finish, he informed us to call for help. He would come get us and provide free admission to any future race.
We started off together, separating by the time we made the first turn. My friend Kerri and I stayed together. We were hauling! My goal was to finish the race in three hours, requiring a 13:42 pace. Kerri assured me I could do that. My first mile was 11:36! I became scared of burning out. We slowed down, clocking our second mile at 12:46.
Our third mile was back in the 11’s.
“Should we slow down?”
“We’re good. Our goal is 2:45. You can do this. You are stronger than you think you are.”
So, three miles in, my goal changed!
The course was beautiful. We ran to Charlestown Beach and back through country roads. Kerri and I stayed together for the first ten miles, then she went ahead. At the next mile, I encountered a girl I “knew” from a Facebook running group. On the way out in the race, I stopped and hugged her, then let my social anxiety kick in, worrying that she thought the worst of the crazy, sweaty random person who hugged her. The next time I checked my phone, I had a friend request from her. I saw her again just after Mile 10. She took pictures and shared them with me, including one of my favorites of Kerri and I high-fiving when we reached double digits!
Just after Mile 12, I hated everything! I was done running, my shoulder was sore, I was gross and sweaty and wanted to be done. As I turned the corner, I saw two of my Rhode Runner buddies! I have never been happier to see anyone! Ignoring how sweaty I was, I left into each of their arms and expressed my love for them both! I began to cry as I ran up that final hill, overwhelmed by the support and the fact that I was actually about to complete this huge accomplishment. Hold it together, I told myself, you can’t run if you’re sobbing.
After that encounter, I was recharged and ready to finish this race, pushing myself through the last bit. When I turned the corner towards the finish line, my friends cheered me. I was at 2:44, I still had a chance to reach my goal! And I did, finishing in 2:44:59!
I was deliriously happy! My friends surrounded me and cheered for me. Then I realized the problem with finishing fifteen minutes faster than I planned: Mike and Liam were not yet there. I had told them to get there for 10:30; I finished at 10:15. They arrived a few minutes after I finished.
My friends are amazing! In this entire process of becoming a runner, they are my favorite takeaway! They make terrible runs tolerable and push me. They are supportive and silly. We gathered and ran in with the rest of our group. We stayed for over an hour after the end of the race, eating and celebrating.
Many times, I consider running a solo sport. Because of my schedule, the majority of my training was done by myself. However, races are what bring everyone together. We made friends with others in the parking lot before the race and at the finish line. People we have never before met cheered for and supported us.
I’m still riding the high that comes from reaching a goal. My next half is in October, allowing a few weeks to regroup and decide the next goal. I’d like to work on speed; I think I doubt myself and fear burning out at the end when I need energy the most. It’d be great to take a minute off of my 5K time.
For now, I need to thank my husband and son for supporting me. For screwing up weekends by filling them with long training sessions. I need to thank my running friends, now simply known as my friends, who pushed me out of my comfort, convincing me to accomplish what had previously seemed impossible! I don’t think you will ever understand how much I appreciate your support and friendship!
It’s weird to feel the first half creeping up on me. Tomorrow, I will complete my last long run before the big day. During the following week, I will take advantage of Liam’s first communion rehearsals to get in three runs during the week. When I look at the weather forecast, it tells me that the weather will be cloudy and in the low 60’s on the day of the race. The fact that the ten-day forecast includes half-marathon day is incredible and terrifying!
I’m wondering what that first week after the half will be like, a week without the pressure of training and making sure I fit runs into my schedule. I will admit that I slacked during the week. While I was great about the long runs on the weekends to increase my endurance, I did not get out three times during the week to work on speed. My weekday runs are shorter than the training plan suggests. It is challenging to get the runs in with Liam in school and Banjo running alongside me. The most Banjo can run is two miles; after that, he is exhausted. Poor pup hasn’t learned to pace himself. Those two miles are the fastest miles I run all week, then he wants to walk.
What comes next? My next half is in early October, allowing a short break before beginning another training session in July. This month, I am participating in a challenge through the gym where Liam and I take classes. After months of focusing on running and cardio with one weight-training class mixed in, I am interested in seeing how moving the focus to weight training will affect my body and my ability to run. I know my diet is holding me back, proving that one cannot out exercise a bad diet. My meals are pretty good; it’s mindless eating that counts, even when I don’t count it: the handful of Liam’s Chex Mix, etc.
It’s been a fantastic journey, one that I believe is only beginning.
In the past, I’ve been setting realistic, thoughtful goals, such as a three-hour half-marathon and a thirty-five minute 5K. Here are a few of my superficial, egotistical goals:
I want to be able to run in a sports bra. Yes, I possess the ability to do so now. Let me clarify: I want to be able to run in a sports bra without feeling judged. It looks so freeing and would love to be able to do so without worrying the entire time that I look like someone who has no business running without wearing at least a tank top.
I want to run and truly zone out. It’s happened a few times during my long runs, and it is glorious. I think the burden of completing the first half will alleviate some of that pressure. During recent runs, I find myself focusing on distance or speed instead of just trying to enjoy the time to myself.
I want to truly not care when people ask me “You’re a runner?” or “You lift weights?” It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it still happens. I want to be able to say, “Yeah,” without following it with a comment about loving food as well as running or not being a fast runner, feeling the need to downplay my hard work.
Two weeks from now, I will have a 13.1 sticker on my car! (Reminder: order 13.1 sticker this afternoon.)
I had high hopes for running last week since I had the week off for April vacation. The universe had other plans. Monday was miserable. Liam and I spent the morning watching the Marathon, amazed at runners who complete the marathon under ideal circumstances, nevermind gale force winds and excessive rain. Thursday also brought rain. Yes, I could have gone out for a run, but I chose not to. I did run four miles on Wednesday, which became my only run of the week. I did not go out for my long weekend run because we were in New York City. I will consider the thirty miles we walked in three days a workout and call it good.
Last week, I submitted a writing piece to She Can & She Did, one of my favorite running blogs. I am part of Kelly Roberts’ Facebook group; I love the positivity and support. I decided to share my story, that I had gone from accepting the fact that I “just wasn’t a runner” to being two weeks away from running my first half. It was the second story she featured on her website!
I decided to share the link on my Facebook page, officially letting my friends, family, and coworkers know that I have been writing. Writing is so personal that I hadn’t told anyone I was writing for three months after I started the blog. There were two fears:
I had no business writing about running
I had no business writing period. (I had nothing new to offer the world.)
The response to my writing has been so positive, yet again proving that magical things happen when stepping out of your comfort zone.
I am thankful for the time and energy to focus on running. I am also thankful to make the time to write. Liam watches me do both; it is good for him to see his mother trying to better herself. It makes him want to do both activities. I love his stories! In challenging myself, I am teaching Liam lessons about perseverance and stepping out of comfort zones. This weekend, we purchased Crown Access tickets to see the Statue of Liberty. Once we began climbing inside the statue, Liam was scared. There were many spiral flights of stairs in a very tight area. At one point, he began to cry that he didn’t want to go any further. Honestly, I was also claustrophobic and relieved that he could possibly be my ticket out of it. However, I reminded him that being brave means doing things, even when they scare you. We continued to the top of the crown. It was a rare experience; the last separate times Mike and I visited the Statue, access inside Lady Liberty was closed. We were doing this! We were all so happy that we faced our fears. The view was amazing!
I also learned another lesson about being brave: the climb down the Statue of Liberty was far worse the climb up. One the way up, we were focused on our goal and looking up (literary.) On the way down, it was difficult not to focus on the significant distance below us. I feel like there is some sort of philosophical meaning or take away from that experience, but I haven’t yet decided how to express it in words, something about the importance of planning after reaching a goal.
Running and writing have created opportunities for me to be a model for Liam, one of the greatest unexpected byproducts of this journey.
I made a promise to myself that I would not weigh myself during April. #noweightilmay has proved easier than I imagined. To be honest, I looked myself up and down and felt my tummy for a few days to gauge how my body felt and looked. I can tell by merely putting my hands on my hips whether or not I am bloated that day. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate surprises and need to know what is going on. While not seeming the number has been nice, it is difficult to relinquish that control that accompanies the scale.
I paid into the second round of Biggest Loser with my coworkers. We were supposed to weigh in each Monday. I skipped last week but was curious, more because I didn’t want to give up my chance at the monetary prize than for the number on the scale. Without getting on the scale, I had managed to stay the same weight for almost two weeks. Yes, I would be happy if it had gone down a few pounds, but I was pleased that I did not gain weight when I was not holding myself accountable with daily weigh-ins.
Hoping that I would be down a little, I went to the weigh-in. The scale said I was up a half pound. Whatever. I had a realization about this contest: I was not going to win. We are on vacation next week and won’t weigh in. The following Monday, I will weigh in after spending three days in New York City. We don’t get down there very often. Therefore, it would be a crime not to eat my weight (whatever that number is right now) in black and white cookies and whatever other treats I encounter. When I go away, I prefer to eat like I had been just voted off the reality show Survivor.
The kind lady who supervises the weigh-ins tried to give me friendly advice: “Just watch your portions and go for walks.”
“I ran ten miles on Saturday.”
“Oh… it’s okay; you’re not that big.”
I know her intentions we well intended. I truly believe that. If I have learned anything through my adult life, it is this: my body does not believe in being anything below a size ten. For the six months leading up to my wedding, I watched every calorie, attended back to back workout classes, ran miles and miles, and never made it below 155 pounds. (This was also before my hypothyroidism was discovered, but the weight doesn’t move below 160, even when my thyroid is in check.)
I work out a lot and eat a pretty good diet. It could always be better, but most people could say the same thing about themselves. I drink plenty of water. It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that I will never be tiny.
During this round of Biggest Loser, I have run my fastest mile. I have run my longest runs: ten plus milers. I PRed my deadlift: 210 pounds!
My obsession with my weight gives me a weird ability to remember what I weigh at any picture I see of myself. I keep an album on my phone illustrating gains and loses. As I get stronger, the number might not go down. Sometimes, It might go up. I need to remind myself that as I continue this journey.
The final weigh-in of Biggest Loser is the day after the half, May 7. I may jump on the scale to see if my final weight qualifies me for a prize. Or I may finish the race, go for a beer with my friends, celebrate that we worked together to reach a fantastic goal, and not worry about what the scale says on Monday morning!