Something Amazing

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.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

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.

Summer Running Buddy

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.

Proof that Liam is my kid: he insisted on packing a snack for the run. 

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.

Liam explaining our route.

 

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!

Week Six: Things that Block You from Happiness

This one hits close to home. This past month has provided countless opportunities for reflection and perspective. Being asked to reflect upon what stands in your way is especially fitting this week.

Self-doubt and Worry I have it. I continuously question my abilities. Am I a good parent? Am I a good teacher? Am I a good wife? Am I good enough friend? Do I have any business writing about running? Am I spending enough time playing with Liam? Am I hovering? Do I check in my friends often enough? While doing all of these things, how do I keep my own head above water? Running and weight-lifting have taught me that I am stronger than I think, but I am always doubting myself.

Not Asking for Help Mike is a saint when it comes to this. Somehow, it has come into my mind that being a good wife means taking care of as much as I possibly can. I get home before he does and get laundry, dishes, lunches, cleaning, and dinner taken care of before he gets home. By the time he gets home, I’m exhausted. Mike tells me to leave stuff for him to do, yet every day, I feel the need to take care of it myself. I take care of holidays, birthdays, and events without asking for help, then get overtired and grumpy. It’s a vicious cycle, one in which Mike does a fantastic job of tolerating from me. I fight the same overwhelming meltdown several times a year, and Mike gets me through each time.

Social Anxiety Maybe I hide this. Maybe I don’t. I fear silence in small talk and talk too much then I worry that I dominated said conversation. I try to make a point of asking more questions while talking. Then I get together with a group and, for fear of dominating the conversation, don’t say much. On those rides home, I worry that people thought I was disinterested and won’t invite me in the future. I avoid certain social situations in which I know there will be a lot of small talk for fear I will talk too much or too little. I replay conversations in my mind, searching for spots where I may have messed up.

Usually, I ask Liam the same questions in the weekly prompt. It makes for interesting conversation while walking Banjo. This week’s topic is not one I want to ask Liam to reflect upon. We sometimes say he is his own worst enemy. He gets worked up about problems and spends more time worrying about them than it would take to fix them. He will spend a half an hour arguing that he doesn’t want to do math homework or clean his room, only to admit defeat and get the task done in less than ten minutes.  This is part of being a kid. Overall, Liam is a thoughtful, intuitive kid. He’s is going to get himself right where he needs to be.

Gaspee Recap

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.

Photo courtesy gaspee.org

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.

Pushed to a PR!

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!

When is a Good Time to Bounce Back from an Injury?

A week and a half ago, I was having a fantastic run! The weather was warm but not hot. I managed a great pace that was both challenging and sustainable.  After months of focusing on distance and endurance, my focus moved to getting faster. I joined the #sportsbrasquad and was feeling invincible. I was working towards my goal of increasing my speed.  In the middle of an interval, my calf gave out. It was sudden, like someone had whacked it. I couldn’t walk and had to call my husband to come get me. I limped for the next couple of days. It is still painful when I walk, just enough to let you know the pain is still hanging around.

It’s been ten days. I am itching to run. I’ve tried a few times, only to have to immediately stop. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do to help it heal: taping, wrapping, ice, compression socks, massage, foam rolling. It is getting better, but not as quickly as I’d like.

It makes me wonder when I can begin running again. Should I wait until there is no pain at all? Should I head back out when the pain is there but manageable?

Once I get back out there, how do I prevent this from happening again? I stretched before running. I started off slow, walking for a few minutes before beginning intervals. Now, like a scorned lover, I am trying to find the courage to get back out there. The pulled calf happened suddenly, leaving me scared that it will happen again and cause further damage.

Maybe, like recovering from heartbreak, I can put myself out there a little at a time and build up the courage to try again.

 

 

Week Three: Things I Am Good At

This one is difficult! I think about the things that make up the most significant portion of my life, and I struggle to find things I am good at without following with “but” or “even though.”   I am good at making bread even though I am terrible at baking. I struggled to create this list, but I managed to build it.

  1. Being organized. I am ridiculously organized. I can elaborate, but that would make for boring writing. Trust me, I am fabulous at organizing.
  2. Planning and time management. I am a self-proclaimed “pre-crastinator.” I get things done, and I get them done as soon as possible. My entire school year is planned before well before the first day of school, sometimes before the last day of the previous school year. My clothes are planned for the week. Knowing where things are going is one of the easiest ways for me to control my anxiety.

    New Planner Day is one of my favorites!
  3. Setting goals. I often tell Liam that he is not allowed to merely complain. If he doesn’t like something, he needs to either do something about it or accept it. At this point, he finishes complaints by saying he will practice. “I’m not as good at drawing circles as my other friends… I know, I know, I need to practice.” If there is something I want to be able to do, I try to create a plan to make it happen.
  4. Teaching. Teaching is the career I chose at the age of twelve when Mr. Eccelston cemented my love of reading and writing. It was then I decided I wanted to do exactly what he does. I consider myself fortunate that I knew at a young age what I wanted to do with my life. While the road to teaching was a long and winding one, I am thankful life took me down the path it did. After fourteen years, teaching is still something I enjoy. I feel I truly make a difference.                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Liam was younger, he had all the self-confidence in the world. As he gets older, he is beginning to doubt himself, which is sad to watch. I asked him what he thinks he is good at and he, too, struggled to think of real, noteworthy items to put on his list.

  1. Hanging and pull-ups. He just learned to do pull-ups and is very proud of himself, doing them from the swingset and the pull-up bar in our house as often as possible.
  2. Reading. Liam loves to read! He will read just about anything he can get his hands on: magazines, fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels. Right now, he’s devouring the Dog Man and Minecraft series. I love that he loves to read and I love his confidence regarding his ability to do so.
  3.      
  4. Playing outside instead of sitting in front of the TV. I was surprised to head Liam state this one because, like most kids, the struggle to balance screen time is real. Once he said it, I noticed that I can’t remember the last time he even turned on his tablet. He’s been reading his books. He and I had a Saturday morning date. After our classes at Laid-Back Fitness, we went to a new coffee shop then headed to the used bookstore. Liam loves roaming the isles and looking at all of the books. Because we came home with a shopping bag full of books, he has been focused on those over Minecraft and other games on his tablet. The weather has been so beautiful this week that we have been spending a lot of time outside. I’m thankful that he is conscious of his good decisions.

My Week of Firsts

For an average week, I experienced quite a few firsts.

Interval training After spending twelve weeks focusing on increasing my distance, I have been focusing on increasing my speed through interval training. The more I read about it, the more confusing it becomes. 4×400? 4×300? It seems like a lot of science and thinking and I am just not there yet. After doing a bit of Google research on interval training, one minute of running followed by one minute of walking seemed easy enough.  My last session before my half-marathon was my first interval session. It wasn’t too bad; I’d run a minute at a pace in the 10’s then walk. My weekday runs with Banjo have been intervals, but the waist leash belt I wear with Banjo did not properly hold my phone, causing it to fall out every time I increased my pace. I was looking forward to getting out on my own Sunday morning to see what I could accomplish.

#sportbrasquad  I got over my fear during Sunday’s interval session. It was 63 degrees when I started my run but quickly moved up to 70. I was pushing myself. I was dripping with sweat and had thrown up in my mouth a few times. There was a beautiful breeze and decided to shed the shirt. I watched the first few cars that passed, waiting for some sort of judging. Nothing happened. It felt so good! My self-consciousness kept me off the main roads, but it felt amazing!

Big, Run-ending Injury So I was feeling like a badass, running fast and feeling strong. I decided to push myself a little more during a downhill interval. Suddenly, I felt like I had been shot in the left calf; my leg just gave out.  I actually had to call Mike to come get me. It was a humbling reminder of how quickly situations can change. I missed church, staying on the couch alternating ice and heat.

My First Massage I have a weird issue with paying for certain things. If I hadn’t messed up my hair more times than I care to admit, I would not pay someone to touch up my roots every four weeks. I hate paying for manicures and pedicures, counting my lifetime pedicures on one hand.  I didn’t even have one before my wedding. After being in a constant state of recovery between half marathon training and weightlifting, Mike offered to buy me a gift certificate for a massage for Mother’s Day. He was upsold to a package that included a facial and massage and scheduled the appointments to run back to back yesterday.  The massage was fantastic! It is so nice to move my shoulders and back and not feel any knots or stiffness. The facial turned into a sales pitch. The esthetician talked my ear off about all the products she was using, how I should use them, and which of the many facial issues I have would be fixed by these elixirs and creams. I was so annoyed throughout the facial that it was not enjoyable. I will still consider the experience a positive one. I started out very self-conscious but actually dozed off towards the end of the ninety-minute massage.

Pictures of Me I Didn’t Hate This one is huge! Usually, I find something wrong with every picture of myself. I hate the picture of Liam and I from the mother-son dance because my upper arm looks fat, reminding me not to wear sleeveless dresses. One of the instructors at Laid-Back Fitness took a video during our Strength class and posted it on Instagram. When I saw myself, I thought about how strong I looked performing kettlebell swings and real pushups. I was swinging a heavy kettlebell and my form looked pretty good during the pushups. I watched the video loop a few times before the epiphany hit: I didn’t think of any negative as I watched the video several times, proving that my focus is moving from skinny to strong. When another video was posted during Saturday’s class, I wished I had adjusted my pants so I didn’t have a muffin but was overall pleased with how strong I looked.

       

52 Lists for Happiness

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:

Banjo

Going for walks with Banjo

Playing with Banjo (Do you see a theme?)

You and Dad

Harry Potter

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.

First Half-Marathon Recap

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 don’t even care if this picture is flattering. It was taken immediately after finishing the race! I was ecstatic!

 

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!

What Comes Next?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.