Category: Running

Run With Swagger

I have a bit of a problem. The image of the runner I am in my head doesn’t exactly match up with reality.

when-i-runYeah, I know. It’s an old meme…but go with me here.

It wasn’t always like this. For many months, I had no trust in my body. No faith in what it was capable of…at least, athletically speaking. I felt weak and clunky and out of sorts when I ran.

And then I raced a 10K. My first ever, and the first real test of my speed since Amelia was born. I never wrote about it here (what’s the statute of limitations on race recaps?), but it was the first time in a long time that I felt strong, confident…competitive.

That morning I went out without my Garmin. It was hot and humid and the race start was pushed back so that by the time the gun went off, I was no longer warmed up and the watch wasn’t connected to satellites. I ran blind, without thinking. My only plan to make it hurt. The first woman took a commanding lead from the start, so I just told myself to keep her in my sight for as long as possible.

I held onto 2nd place for the first half of the race. Until the turnaround point, when a pack of 3 women who were running much stronger than I felt passed me. I tried to stay with them, but my lack of training and endurance were catching up to me. I told myself to just hold on for one more mile. And then another.

Somewhere deep inside I found that internal fire that used to burn so bright when I raced. I ended up passing one of those women in the final mile to finish in 43:10. Good enough for 4th (woman) overall and 1st in my age group. I was back.

Since then, I’ve no longer felt like weak, out of shape, postpartum Lauren. There’s a little swagger in my running stride, and in my head I’m pre-pregnancy Lauren. The Lauren who trains for hours and hours every week and is fit enough to run marathons.

Except I’m not. I have some speed back and am slowly gaining stamina, but I’m certainly not in the shape that I was. And definitely not putting the time into training that I once did.

And yet — part of me wonders if that matters. Not the training part, because obviously if you want to get faster and stronger you have to commit. You have to put in the time. The mental image of myself, I mean. You could argue that confidence in running is a good thing. You never improve if you don’t believe in yourself. Will never reach big goals if you don’t trust that you have what it takes to achieve them.

Then again, confidence can make you do some dumb things. Can make you forget rational thoughts for awhile and take on things that you might not be quite ready for.

In less than two weeks I am running the 100on100 relay for the very first time. This relay has been a dream of mine for a while now – 100 miles down the scenic Route 100 in Vermont. It’s going to be hilly, it’s going to be hard, but I am convinced that it’s going to be a blast. And in all my excitement, I kind of maybe volunteered myself for the hardest legs of the course. In the span of 12ish hours, I will be completing 18.9 miles, the last leg straight up Killington. Cumulatively, this will be much farther than I’ve run in…well, I can’t remember how long.

runner 2 descriptionNot going to lie – that runner profile makes me stupidly excited

But I’m not really worried. Maybe I should be. I’ve been fighting a nasty cold for the past week, which has made running difficult (read: almost nonexistent). My training for the race hasn’t been what I had hoped. And, as if the relay itself isn’t enough, I’m running a 5K the Thursday before with a team from work. It’s going to be an exhausting weekend for sure.

But, I have been running. I may not be putting in hours and hours a week, but my runs have been strong and consistent. I train on hills all the time. I’ve practiced running in the early morning humidity and the late afternoon heat. I think know I will be fine if I just pace myself. I guess we’ll find out for sure in 9 days.

The old LB is back. Maybe not physically, but in spirit. And that’s a start, right?

Put Up or Shut Up

Sometimes you need to give yourself a little tough love.

I turned 30 this week. A brand new decade. A time to put my youth and wild party days behind me and finally become a mature adult.

dirt cakeWhich is why I celebrated with dirt cake…just like I have every year since I turned 7

Obviously kidding about that last part (not sure I ever had those days). I actually feel surprisingly okay with turning 30. While I am far from having my life completely together (does anyone ever?), I feel pretty good about where I am. And I certainly don’t feel any older…age is just a number, right?

But it’s sort of impossible to enter a new decade without doing any sort of reflection about the important things in life. And yes, I include running in that category — not just because I’m now officially in a more competitive age group. (yikes!)

For the past 5 months, I’ve sort of been waiting around for things to just magically fall into place. I even said that in an email the other day to Aron, the Runner Formerly Known as Runner’s Rambles (whose baby is only a week younger than Amelia and one of the cutest kids I have ever seen. I’m already negotiating the arranged marriage. You know, for when Amelia is finally allowed to marry at 30). I was lamenting (as I so often do) about how tough it has been to adjust to my new schedule, how it can be hard to fit in running, and how I can’t really fathom having the time to train right now.

I know there’s an adjustment period, but things will somehow all fall into place one day, right?

Stepping back, I realize how silly that notion is. Sure, in some way things have come together with time. I’ve gotten into a new routine, adjusted to being a mom and being back at work, and have even felt better on recent runs than I did when I first started back up. Eventually I’m sure I will get to the point where I don’t even remember what my old life was like.

I’m also making an effort to be patient with myself and focus instead on enjoying as much of this first year as I possibly can. It’s already going by so much faster than I had anticipated.

But the truth is — when it comes to training, things don’t just fall into place. Not really, anyway. Any runner who has trained for and run a PR effort knows that they didn’t just sit back for a few months and wait for everything to come together on race day. It takes work. It takes re-committing to your goal every single day. Putting in time and effort to achieve it.

This is something I’ve thought a lot about lately. For the past few months, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that again. I’ve been wondering if I even wanted training to have a place in my new life, or if I just felt like it was something I should be doing because it has been a part of my life for so long. You all have been so patient and encouraging as I have tried to figure it all out (and sort of whined about the process on the blog).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving it up — whether the break is forever or just a few years. Babies are only babies for such a short time. It’s not something I ever want to sacrifice in the name of running. The loss just isn’t worth it.

But I’m finally at the point where I think I can manage both. As long as I focus on quality training and not quantity, I know I can put in the work to start getting back into shape again. I mentioned in my last post that the itch was back, and over the past couple of weeks it’s only gotten stronger. My mileage is still low, but I’m starting to see little glimmers of speed again. Just enough to make me crave it. To finally feel ready to work to achieve it.

I think I just needed time. My re-entry to postpartum running was not really the joyful, easy return I had envisioned. Things felt weird and off for so long. And the comeback is humbling. When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to slow down and hold back because you know you are doing important work growing a new life every day. But this in-between stage of no longer being pregnant but not really in any shape to push hard is just strange. It’s slow and awkward and clunky. And humbling. Did I mention how humbling it is to have to basically start from scratch again?

But that’s where I am. So it’s time to stop just talking about getting back into shape and actually do something about it. Time to put up or shut up, if you will. This post serves as my official declaration. My commitment to less talk, less over-analyzing and waffling and more action. Training begins now.

Garmin 405 v 220Shiny new toy!

To help, I’ve got a brand new training toy and an exciting race on the calendar — the 100 on 100 relay in August! This is a race I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m so excited that we finally have a team together. I’d also love to go back and defend my title at this trail race in July…and of course am still toying with the idea of a fall marathon. I don’t expect to be in PR shape by then, but since this November will mark 2 years since my last full, I think it would be a good idea to run one just to shake the rust off. We will see. The actual race I want to train for is still TBD. I may be ready to start putting in the work, but I still have some commitment issues.

Now who wants to come babysit Amelia?

Amelia_ready for summer

 

The Time I (Almost) Quit Running for Good

There hasn’t been much talk about running here lately because, quite frankly, there hasn’t been much running. After (barely) training for that half marathon and then running it faster than I had any business going, it will surprise no one to learn that I needed a full 3 weeks to recover. Like I always say: stupid training leads to stupid results.

Okay, so I’ve never said that before in my life, but I think I’m going to adopt it as my new training mantra this year.

I don’t regret what I did, although in hindsight I probably should have put a little more emphasis on building up strength to compliment my “run less miles in a week than you will cover on race day” training plan. Running the half was incredibly humbling, but it was also a fun accomplishment that served as a much-needed confidence booster.

So while I wasn’t surprised that I needed so long to recover from that effort, what did surprise me was how easily I adjusted to not running. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t seriously trained for anything in over a year, or maybe it’s that I haven’t even really felt like a runner since I had to drastically cut back my mileage in late pregnancy. Or maybe I’m just used to taking long gaps of time off running by this point. But whatever the reason, those 3 weeks of not running passed by in a blur. I missed running in the way that you miss a good piece of chocolate – not something you need to have daily (or really, ever I suppose), just something that in the back of your mind you know could make you happy (oh you don’t also feel this way about chocolate….?). And I was only mildly annoyed that I couldn’t do it.

Like every year, I watched the Boston Marathon with excitement. And there was a small part of me that wished I was running, just to be a part of the experience. But for the most part I didn’t really give too much thought to the fact that I couldn’t run, or that I wasn’t really a part of that running community I (used to) love so much. I avoided reading running-related blogs and could only muster a tiny bit of excitement when it came to other people’s races.

It got to the point where I seriously started thinking it was time to move on. Maybe that part of my life was over. I’ve had a good run (har har), but I have different priorities now. Life is busier than ever, I’m slower and more out of shape than ever, and it’s a whole lot more complicated to fit in a run and actually train for a race. Maybe it was time to find a new interest. Or at the very least, give up my racing goals and just become a hobby jogger, running the occasional 2-4 miles to stay in some semblance of shape. We all know I’m not qualifying for the Olympics or going pro anytime soon (read: ever), so what’s the point? In fact, I even contemplated changing the blog name to HealthontheHobbyJog…but that didn’t have quite the same ring.

Amelia flowerKeeping busy

I think you all know where this is going…

Last Sunday, something happened. After a full 3 weeks of short walks, minimal strength training, and one miserable half hour on the elliptical, I finally decided to go on a test run. My hip/butt didn’t seem to hurt when I walked and the elliptical was a success, so I figured it was worth a shot. I tentatively laced up my shoes, grabbed my phone (since my Garmin was lying dead at the bottom of a pile of running gear), and headed out for a couple miles. Since I sort of expected the pain to flare up at any second, I was pleasantly surprised when I got through that first mile without feeling a thing. I kept running and was suddenly hit by the realization that I didn’t just have an absence of pain – I actually felt great. It was like I was never injured. The further I went the more the adrenaline kicked in until I literally felt like I was floating on air. It was one of those amazing runner’s high inducing runs where everything comes together and feels almost effortless.

For the entire 3.5 miles, the only thought in my head was: “I forgot how much I missed this!!”

And that’s when I knew. I may not be anywhere close to the level of runner I was before pregnancy. I may only be running a few days a week, a few miles at a time. And running as I know it may never be the same. But it really doesn’t matter. The sport has wormed its way so deep into my heart and my mind that I can’t imagine a life without it.

Running – I don’t know why I ever doubted. I just can’t quit you.

And do you want to know the craziest thing of all? I’m running faster now than I did before I took my three week hiatus. Granted, it’s still much slower than before, but I find that I’m actually able to maintain somewhere around an 8:00 pace without feeling like I want to die. I even had a run the other day where I pushed the pace just for fun, managing negative splits and paces in the last 2 miles that I usually only dream about. It was like running that half marathon was the reminder my body needed that it has other gears it can switch into. I have a long way to go before it remembers how to access all of them, but it’s a start.

So the moral of this rambling post? I still feel a little weird saying I’m a runner when I’m only running 3 – 5 miles at a time, a few times a week. But the itch is back. I’m trying really hard to avoid riding this excitement into another injury, so for now I’m coming back slowly. I ran 4 times from Sunday – Sunday and the goal is to get in a total of 4 runs again this week, with strength training on the off days. Maybe someday soon I’ll be back to consistently running 5-6 days per week, feeling like a serious runner again.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Half Marathon Unplugged Race Recap

Like most of the running world, my thoughts (and heart) are focused on Boston this weekend. I’ve read articles, watched news stories, followed along with many runners who are preparing to run. While I don’t regret my ultimate decision to not register for this year’s race (in fact, looking back at pregnantLC I now wonder what I was even thinking), there is still a small part of me that wishes more than anything that I could be one of the thousands running the streets of Boston on Monday. Or at least be on the sidelines cheering (which is looking less and less likely as race day approaches). Best of luck to everyone running! I will be virtually cheering for all of you!

Last Saturday I ran my first race postpartum…which also happened to be my longest run in over a year. The result? It went way better than expected. Official time: 1:48:28 (8:17/mile). Besides a few small aches in my knees and pelvis/groin by the end, I felt surprisingly good. Not really like my “old” self, but it’s amazing how quickly the muscle memory comes back. Almost like I never took any time off at all.

The downside to all this is that I seem to have irritated my SI joint without realizing it. Despite the fact that it did not hurt at all during the race, I woke up the next morning with what I initially thought was sciatica. Long story short, a week of pain and a little research later, I’m pretty sure I have SI Joint Dysfunction, a problem that is common during pregnancy and after childbirth. More about that later. For now, let’s focus on the fun part, shall we?

The end result was better than I could have asked for, but the entire event didn’t go quite as seamlessly as that. Here’s how it all went down.

Half Marathon Unplugged Recap

Night before, sometime around 9:00pm

I walk aimlessly around the house, trying to gather up everything I’ll need for race day but not quite remembering how this part of the routine goes. I get out a top and running shorts but beyond that I’m sort of lost. Suddenly remember that I have no fuel for the race. And although I never used to take anything besides water/Nuun during the half marathon distance, circumstances are a little different now. I briefly entertain the idea of running out to the store to find something (anything!) with calories…before remembering that this is Vermont and everything closes around 8:00pm. Decide not to worry and go to bed instead.

Sometime in the middle of the night

Darling child, who otherwise sleeps through the night (yes, I realize how lucky we are) has brought another cold home from daycare and wakes up in the middle of the night because she can’t breathe (poor baby). Stumble into the room and try to quickly suck her nose out, which succeeds only in making her mad. Abandon that idea and try to coax her back to sleep. After what seems like only a few minutes later, she wakes up again. This time I “accidentally” kick Evan awake and he goes in to wrap her back up and give her the pacifier.

6:00AM race morning

Alarm goes off. Baby, of course, is now sleeping soundly. Stumble around the house trying to gather up my things and prepare breakfast. Realize we have absolutely no food in the house besides one old, stale bagel (yum). Laugh at how completely unprepared for this whole thing I am. Make the last minute decision to stop at a local cafe on the way to the race for food and coffee.

Gently wake up baby. Feed her and then rush around the house trying to gather up everything she’ll need for the day. Kick myself for forgetting to get Amelia’s stuff ready last night while I was gathering up my own. On a whim, grab a couple handfuls of jelly beans and stuff them in a baggy for the race. Hey, sugar is sugar, right? Somehow make it out of the house relatively on time.

9:45 – 11:00 AM

Make it to packet pick up and then drive over to the start. Find a parking spot right behind the porta-potties and nurse the baby in the backseat of the car while other runners stretch outside. Pump out a few extra ounces to ensure I’m slightly more…comfortable. Nothing like a good nursing/pumping session to really “pump” you up for a race! Manage to make it to the start with a few minutes to spare.

team watermelon preraceTeam Watermelon – cutest cheerleader on the course!

Miles 1 – 4

With very little fanfare, the announcer yells go and the crowd surges. I surge with them, falling in step with the lead women. I look at the small lean runners around me and size them up, assessing the competition. I am light…I am floating…I am fast…for about 30 seconds, anyway. Then I look at my watch, remember I have no business keeping that pace for 1 mile, let alone 13, and crash right back to reality.

For the rest of that first mile, it’s hard to get in the zone. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking about how out of shape I am, how running doesn’t feel as smooth and effortless as it used to. I find myself wishing I was fit and strong, annoyed that I can’t run the race like my old self. Hating the clunky, awkward feeling of my stride.

And then Avicii comes on my playlist singing, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.” It’s exactly what I need to hear to snap me out of my weird funk. This race wasn’t the result of weeks of hard training — it’s the beginning of a new journey. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get back to my pre-pregnancy racing self, or if I ever will be that runner again. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

I finally relax, focus on having fun and enjoying the day. The sun is shining and spring is in the air. And I’m running! Life is good.

Half unplugged miles 1_4

Miles 5 – 8

The first four miles of the race wind through neighborhoods before entering the bike path. It’s flat and beautiful. For the first 5 miles, I didn’t allow myself to look at my watch (besides that moment immediately after the start) for fear that a) I would realize I was going too fast and panic or b) I would see how slow I was running and become frustrated. Instead I’ve tried to run completely by feel. Gauging my effort and keeping things relaxed. So when I look down at 5 miles in and notice that I’m averaging an 8:0X pace, I’m pleasantly surprised. A little panicked, since my only real goal had been to keep it under 10:00–okay, fine, 9:00–minute miles. But I feel completely in control of the pace. I figure my body will slow down when it needs to.

After that, my focus is on making it to Evan and Amelia. I know they’re somewhere around Mile 6 with Nuun and jelly beans. I see so many moms and dads on the sidelines with their babies — waiting while their partner runs. I can’t even believe how happy that makes me…how excited I feel to be a part of that group now (cheesy, I know. But true!).

Suddenly I see them on the side of the bike path and I feel a surge of energy. I say hello, quickly take a couple sips of Nuun, grab the jelly beans and continue running. The moment goes by way too fast. As soon as I’ve left them behind I wonder why I didn’t linger longer…there was still a long way to go before I would see them again.

postpartum half 1

I start to get a little hungry so I suck on a few jelly beans. Not quite the race fuel of champions, but desperate times… Unfortunately all the candy does is make me thirstier. After this endless, frigid winter, 60 degrees feels so much warmer than I’m used to and all I can think about is getting to that next water station sometime after the 7 mile marker. I finally make it there, gulp down water and hope I have enough energy to get through the next 6 miles.

Splits: Miles 5 – 8

Half Unplugged miles 5_8Ignore the third column – that’s something Strava calculates.

Miles 8-11

Unfortunately, just one mile later things start catching up to me. I’m starting to feel a little achey…the miles taking their toll. I don’t feel out of energy, but I don’t feel super pumped about running 5 more miles either. And I’m thirsty. So incredibly thirsty. I curse myself for not carrying water with me…or at least taking the Nuun from Evan a couple miles ago. I should have known – I drink a lot of water normally. Add breastfeeding to the mix and my thirst is out of control. I start fantasizing about the next water stop – 3 miles away. I tell myself I just need to make it there. The miles keep ticking by. I try not to look at my watch too much but can tell I’m slowing down a little. At mile 10 I eat a few more jelly beans  to celebrate making it to double digits…and almost immediately regret it (so much sugar, so little water). Just 3 more miles to go, I tell myself. That’s nothing.

Finally make it to the water stop and grab two cups, sucking them down like I haven’t had a drink in days.

Splits: Miles 8 – 11

Half Unplugged Miles 8_11

 

Miles 12 – Finish

The last two miles are the worst. We turn off the bike path and into the park. I notice fast runners coming back toward me in the other direction, and I start to wonder just how far they had to run before turning around. We weave into a neighborhood and up hills that feel a lot steeper than they should. I see the 12 mile marker but we still aren’t turning around. I curse the course designers for putting this stupid little loop at the end. Just make it back to the park, I tell myself.

We finally get back to the park and I check my watch – 12.66 miles. The finish is closer than I thought! I cruise down the hill, round a corner and there it is. I see the clock, still under 1:50, give a final surge and “sprint” to the finish line, smiling at Evan and Amelia as I speed by. For a second I feel like my old self again – running fast and light and free.

I cross the finish line and immediately everything hurts. My quads, my groin…I feel like I’ve run a full marathon, not a half. But I made it!

Splits Miles 12 – 13.1

Half Unplugged miles 11_finish

Post-race

Evan and Millie_postrace pizza

Hobble around for a few minutes to “loosen” up my legs. Hop in the car, nurse the baby (sorry about the sweat, Little One) and make our way to our new post-race tradition: American Flatbread. Eat my weight in pizza and for the first time ever (since I was pregnant the other two times we’ve been there) enjoy a nice refreshing beer.

postrace beerAmelia gave the pizza and beer two thumbs up!

And my cute little cheerleader? She was amazing. So good and happy the whole day. And the best race day motivation I could’ve asked for.

 

How Not to Train for a Half Marathon

*Especially if it’s your first one in a very long time.

I’m running a half marathon tomorrow. Not only will this be my first (non-pregnant) race since November 2012 (yikes!), but it will also be the longest distance I’ve run in a year. Considering the previous statement, you would think that I’d have spent a long time diligently training; slowly building up my base to ensure that I am completely prepared for this exciting reentry into the world of racing.

I had every intention of doing this. Or rather, I intended to build up as slowly as a person can over the course of 10 weeks after 6 weeks of limited activity while recovering from a c-section. In hindsight, my April half marathon goal may have been a tad ambitious – not because 10 weeks isn’t enough time to train for a half but…when you’re starting from zero and find yourself with significantly less free time and slightly different priorities well… let’s just say my intentions never actually made their way into the action stage.

Remember when I posted this plan and said that I would use it as a guide for my training? Well, I took the “guide” part pretty literally. I did okay for a little while and then a cold, a heel injury, the return to work and a stomach flu all sort of derailed my plans. So you know, I may have skipped a run (or 10) and just sort of hobbled my way through training as best as I could.

In the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, I present to you my actual Postpartum Half Marathon Training Plan.

Don’t try this at home, kids. Results not guaranteed.

postpartum half marathon plan

There were a bunch of walks and some limited strength training in here too, but you get the idea. In sum: this is not the way you should train for a half (clearly). And you can see where I realized I better get myself in gear and step it up. Would I recommend cramming your long runs into the last two weeks of training before a big race? Nope. But hey, I’m still standing. And since I didn’t die on my 11 mile run last weekend and was actually able to maintain a fairly steady pace the entire time, I’m obviously super prepared for the race tomorrow. Let’s just hope a little race day adrenaline and the addition of a cute little cheerleader on the sidelines is enough to get me through those final miles.

Amelia standing

Assuming I survive*, I promise to be back soon to update you with all the gory details.

*Despite how the above post might sound, I’m actually really excited about the race tomorrow. Okay, so I’m also incredibly stressed. What was I thinking, signing up for a Saturday race 2 hours away from my house after only my second full week back in the office (a week that has been incredibly draining, I might add)?! But mostly excited. I can’t say I have no goals for the race, because obviously I would like to finish, and I’d love if I could somehow do it between 2:00 and 2:10. But I’m not stressing about the pace at all. The plan is to go out there, take it easy, and rediscover the joy (and pain!) of racing again. In some ways I feel like I am starting from scratch – I knew how to race before I got pregnant, knew to dial it back a bit in races during pregnancy, but I’m not so sure how to race now…in this awkward, out of shape postpartum state. If nothing else, it should be an interesting experience. And a good baseline to see where all that time off and a few weeks of minimal training has gotten me.

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