|April 4, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
Lately I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the same out and back section of road. Every weekend it’s the same. Head out along the road that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand, get to the turning point, and then head back the way I came.
Not the road…and clearly not a recent photo
I’ll be honest with you – it can get pretty monotonous. I know every stretch, every turn, exactly how far I have to go before I can head back toward home. The scenery is always the same and the hills are never changing. Sometimes the way out seems to drag on forever and I spend the entire run counting down the minutes until I can finally turn around.
I really make it sound so appealing, don’t I? I know what you’re all thinking — if I find it so monotonous, why the heck do I keep submitting myself to this form of torture?
Because the truth is that running along the same road week after week provides consistency. And for most of this training cycle, that consistency has been the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to make it through long runs.
I don’t really know why, but confidence is something that I have really struggled with this time around. Whereas in the past, I sometimes failed to give certain runs the respect they deserved ["Oh, it's 'only' 15 miles. I don't need to worry about silly things like getting enough sleep, fueling, carrying water, or really think about the fact that I have to run for 2 hours without stopping!"], I now find myself with the complete opposite problem. Every single long run just seems so intimidating. I sit there in the morning stressing about the distance. Psyching myself out before I even take one step.
This all culminated before my recent 18-miler. I was so freaked out about the run that I kept putting it off…and almost backed out of doing it altogether. This was not your typical pre-long run anxiety — you know that mix of excitement and nerves that comes from not quite knowing how your body is going to feel that day. A feeling that boosts your adrenaline and can actually help propel you through the long run, because ultimately you’re just excited about the challenge and can’t wait to see how it’ll go.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this fear was quite literally crippling. That one run seemed like such an insurmountable challenge that I was ready to give up on VCM right then and there. Forget spring marathons…forget marathon training at all. I would focus on shorter races. Or maybe I would just retire from racing. Clearly I’m not cut out for it.
Believe me, I realize how silly and over-dramatic this all sounds. Typing it out now only makes it seem more ridiculous. But in the moment, I just couldn’t get out of my own head. I somehow forgot about one very important detail: this whole running thing is not my career. It’s not even a side job. It’s merely a hobby that I enjoy…and one at which I sometimes pretend to be mildly talented.
So after a few days (no, seriously…days) of freaking out about this run — a run that no one was forcing me to do or even cared if I completed — I finally was able to talk myself down from the ledge. By telling myself of two things:
1.) All you need to do is run ONE MILE at a time. That’s it. Get out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and run. If you only make it 5 or 10 or 15 miles, who cares. Just run one mile. And when you complete that one, run another. You don’t know how you’re going to do until you try.
2.) You finished a run along this same road last week. You did it before and you can do it again. All you have to do is run one more mile out…and then you can turn around. What’s one mile? Nothing.
These two tiny assurances completely turned the run around for me. As I mentioned in my last post, that 18 miles ended up being the best run I’ve had in a long time. And by far the best long run of this current training cycle. It’s amazing what happens when you stop being a crazy mental-case runner and start cutting yourself a little slack. Who would’ve thought…
I can’t say that the self-doubt has completely gone away. It’s still work to get my head straight — to keep my confidence up. But now, when I feel myself getting nervous about a run or a workout, I try to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just running. All I can do is go out and give it my best shot. And instead of focusing on what I can’t do or paces that I’m not hitting, I repeat two simple lines over and over again to get me through a particularly difficult or intimidating stretch.
I AM STRONG.
I AM ABLE.
Six words of reassurance. Six words that silence the doubt. Six words that are helping me keep my head straight…most of the time, anyway.
|April 2, 2013||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
A brain dump update. Because life lately has been filled with more ‘living’ than blogging.
And life lately…
Has been changing. Maybe not as quickly (or as much!) as I would like, but it’s happening. And that’s a good thing. I love the feeling of forward progress. Of taking concrete steps toward a goal. This winter I felt a little like I was stuck in limbo. It’s nice to be walking forward again. I’m sure it helps that I can finally feel the season changing around me (despite the current sub-freezing temperatures and high winds).
Celebrating spring…and birthdays!
Evan and I are moving at the end of this month. We aren’t going far, but I’m anticipating the move with that strange mix of dread and excitement that happens when you have a lot of unpleasant tasks to complete before you get to a really exciting outcome. I love the tiny touristy town in Southern Vermont that we’ve called home for the past year. It’s the town that inspired our move north, the town where we were married, where we had (have) our first house together…where we fuel our addiction to cheddar cheese and McNeill’s beer. The village is quiet and quaint and truly everything you would picture a Vermont postcard to be. With white houses, covered bridges, a stately inn, a post office that also serves as the town hall right in the center, and a handful of residents that know everything about everybody else. It’s been a fun retreat, but we’re ready for a change.
And the unfortunate truth about it all is this: no place on this earth is as perfect as the pictures make it seem. When you live in a teeny tiny picturesque place for awhile, some of the magic starts to wear off. And you start discovering layers and politics that you wish you never knew. This place will forever be one of my favorites on this earth…but some of the shine has worn off (if that makes sense). Which is totally fine and expected, but I’m ready to move to a community with just a few more people.
I won’t be leaving this town behind completely though, because Girls on the Run is starting this week! We’re a little late to start in Southern VT, but you can blame all the snow for that. I’ve been wanting to get involved in the program for a long time, and started the process of becoming a coach as soon as we moved to Vermont last summer. This will be my first year coaching and I really can’t wait. It’s going to be a fun couple of months.
In other running news…
Training finally feels like it’s coming together. I’m not at the downhill section yet, but I’d like to think that I’m getting closer and closer to the top of that hill. I finally came to the obvious and important realization that the biggest thing holding me back this training cycle was my mental game…not my lack of physical strength. This is not rocket science or a new discovery, but it’s really a game changer when you finally accept it. More about that later though.
That being said, it’s not always a steady climb. Last week I had the best long run of this training cycle – 18 strong and hilly miles that I was able to finish fast and with energy left in the tank. The kind of long run that gets you excited about marathon training and does wonders for your confidence.
This was sandwiched in between two of the best workouts I’ve had in a long time – a tempo run where I felt like I could run faster and go forever, and a fast hill workout that gave me the type of runner’s high usually only reserved for a goal race.
But then, because running isn’t always easy (and sometimes the universe is cruel), I was hit by a nasty cold that just about knocked me out at the end of last week. This happens fairly often around the time the seasons change, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle. I know the standard advice is to run when the sickness is above the neck and rest when it’s below but seriously — it’s hard to run long when you can’t breathe. So between that and a packed Easter weekend with my visiting parents, I turned this last week into a cutback week. The goal was to run 14 – 15 easy miles. 10.6 miles of struggle later, I deemed it a “super cutback” and called it a day. Sure, I maybe could have pushed through for a few more miles (or at least another 0.4 to make it an even 11), but to what end? Although my legs felt okay, everything else just felt really off and I spent the entire run counting down the miles until it was over. Sometimes you gotta know when to fold them. This weekend I’ve got 20 miles on the schedule — time to look ahead and focus on that.
Even with this little setback, I find myself excited to really dig in to these next few weeks of training. That’s how I know that things have really turned around. I’ve got a few hard weeks coming up, including my first race of 2013 (finally!!) sandwiched in between two 20-milers. It’ll be tough, but I find myself eager to tackle it (instead of being swallowed by fear and dread). I’m ready to push my body. I’m ready to feel the fatigue of heavy marathon training. And most of all, I’m ready to race again. I can’t wait to feel the pain (and that is how you know that running has made you insane…)
I’ll be running the Half Marathon Unplugged on April 13th – the same weekend many of you will be heading to Boston. It’s a relatively small race and promises to be both scenic and flat. While I’m not really expecting to be PR-ready, I am excited to put my training to the test. I wanna make it hurt.
Plus, you really can’t beat a $30 entry fee for a half marathon.
8 weeks until VCM. Let’s do this.
|March 20, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
Like many runners, I have a love/hate relationship with hills — meaning I love when a nice gradual downhill helps push me along to a fast pace…and hate when those climbs slow me down and leave my chest heaving.
When I moved to Vermont and realized that hills were going to become a part of my everyday running reality whether I liked it or not, I kind of learned to embrace them. I’ll even go so far as to say that after awhile I grew to prefer rolling runs to flat land. Case in point, during last August’s Hood to Coast relay, my least favorite (and slowest!) leg was also my flattest.
But then the holidays happened and this endless winter descended upon us and my love for hills slowly faded away. I don’t really know why or how it happened, but somewhere along the way I completely lost my hill running motivation. It’s impossible to avoid all hills around here (unless you run inside every day), but I quickly figured out how to steer clear of the worst ones. All winter long I finagled my routes — sticking with the slow, gradual climbs and the nice flat treadmill. When you live in a town with approximately 4 roads and only one of them feels flat for any significant stretch of time, running gets boring pretty darn fast.
Not only did my runs grow stale and boring, but my “hill terrors” haven’t exactly been helping my training. Because there’s also a tiny little problem of that marathon I signed up to run in May. It’s not flat.
So last week, after giving myself approximately 2,000,000 pep talks, I finally got pumped up enough to tackle one of the hilliest out-and-back routes around. A route that starts off with a steep climb and continues going up for over a mile. A route that doesn’t have a single stretch of completely flat road but is instead a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. A route that I used to be strong enough to do tempo runs on last fall but I’ve been avoiding like the plague ever since 2013 began.
I strapped on my Garmin to record the data but told myself that I wasn’t allowed to even peek at my splits until the turn around point (which just so happens to be at the base of a very long climb). Then I turned on my most motivational playlist, took a deep breath…and off I went.
I’m not going to lie — it sucked. That first climb, the one that I have to get myself all psyched up to even attempt, was worse than I remembered. And it wasn’t like it got easier after that. Every single incline seemed to have grown steeper and longer in my absence…while the declines were too few and far between. I felt like I was crawling. I couldn’t even pick up much speed on the downhill sections. My legs were so tired that even convincing them to increase their turnover on the declines seemed like too much effort.
It may not look like much according to this chart, but I swear they feel harder in person…
Hills in elevation chart are larger than they appear
Turns out that when you avoid all major hills for over 3 months, you lose a whole lot of your hill-running fitness. Pretty deep and insightful observation, right?
But even though the run left me wondering how I ever managed to get in quality workouts over this course just a few months ago, it wasn’t all bad. Because there’s a moment on this particular run when you reach the top of the very last climb and the world opens up. You see rolling farmland on your right and mountains ahead and you know that it is quite literally all downhill from here. A moment when every single climb you tackled becomes worth it — for the view, for the fact that you get to cruise down to the finish over a mile away, for the pride you feel knowing that you survived the roller coaster. It was at that moment when I finally remembered why I loved that running route so very much. And where I resolved to start embracing the hilly runs again.
To keep good on my promise, I headed out on Saturday to tackle another hill that I’ve been working hard to avoid. Remember how I said this run was my favorite route for runs that are under 12 miles? Well, that’s because around mile 6 the road takes a very steep, long drop down for almost 2 miles — which means if I head out that way, I need to turn around and run back up the awful thing. That long, winding climb is the very definition of “soul crushing.” The only thing I can do when I’m running up it is focus on getting through one turn at a time, promising myself that I’ll walk once I make it through that particular section. I haven’t actually walked yet (though my pace may suggest otherwise!), but I’m still awaiting the day when I can run up that hill like it’s nothing. I’m not really expecting that day to ever come…
No the road doesn’t end there. It just drops sharply downward.
But I am going to keep climbing. This post serves as my promise (or my source of public shaming if I don’t follow through). For the rest of my training, I’m going to be tackling these hills at least once a week (probably more). Hills make you stronger, they make you faster, and they give you confidence. If I can tackle these hills in training then surely I can tackle the hills on race day. And I will be a better runner for it.
|March 18, 2013||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
The snow is melting, the rivers are thawing, and puddles of mud are forming everywhere I look.
Spring is finally coming.
Or at least that’s what they tell me. The current temperature and winter storm warming in Vermont sort of suggests otherwise…
But I’ve got to believe that change is in the air. And I am slowly making my way out of the internet hibernation I’ve been hiding in these past couple of weeks. When I posted about going to Florida, I didn’t actually mean for that to signify that I was leaving the entire internets behind for awhile. But truthfully, sometimes a break from it all feels really good. The best thing about having a blog that’s only a hobby is that there’s never any real pressure to post. So I just kept waiting until I actually had the urge to write something. Which just so happens to be today (aren’t you all lucky?)
Whenever there’s been any sort of significant break, it feels kind of weird to jump right back in with some post about whatever running rambles are in my head at the moment. So instead, here’s a brief update about what I’ve been up to. You know, all those things that only my family and I actually care about, but I take time to blog about anyway…
I spent a week getting a glimpse at life as a stay-at-home Mom. Parts of it were incredibly fun, but other parts…not so much (you know, like dealing with home renovation fiascoes in my sister’s new house for two days and being stuck at home while things are getting installed). And it gave me an even greater respect for mothers who somehow manage to work out regularly on top of getting a bunch of real tasks accomplished in one day. It’s amazing how fast a day can pass with a baby and you’ve got nothing to show for it.
One of the best parts about my time with my niece? A relaxing 10.5 mile run we took together. Well…I did the running while she took a good hard nap.
I love my sister’s Bob stroller, but it’s not easy to run pushing another person…even a mini-one! (Yes, I realize this is not news to anyone.) I have never been more thankful to run along completely flat roads (the wind in FL, however, is a completely different story!). And despite how tough/awkward the run felt at times, I actually really loved the company. It was kind of fun knowing I had someone along for the ride.
We introduced Leah to the joy that is self-serve Frozen Yogurt. She loved it…clearly
I somehow managed to get tendinitis in my elbow…or, you know, that tendon that connects your tricep to your elbow. As a result of this super fun injury, I spent over a week with an arm so swollen that I couldn’t even bend it enough to brush my own teeth.
How does a runner managed to injure her arm? Well…I don’t really want to talk about it. Okay, fine. I was stupid and stubborn. My sister somehow persuaded me to join her for a CrossFit class and I have way too much pride to give up on a workout that I know is probably just a little too much for the girl who begrudgingly lifts only twice a week. So yeah, CrossFit’s no joke. And you should probably take some legit introductory courses first. My sister just completed an 8-week CrossFit challenge and is seriously in the best shape of her life. It’s impressive. But I think I’ll stick to running for now.
One more picture because she’s just so stinkin’ cute…
Not only does this kid recognize herself in the iPhone camera, but she also knows how to take selfies. At 6 months old. Babies amaze me.
Speaking of which…running lately has had its ups and downs. Do you ever have a week when your legs just feel flat and your paces seem off? And no matter what you do, every run just seems way more difficult than it should be? Well, that was me this last week. Slow running, failed speed workouts, and lots of frustration. I’m trying not to get discouraged and just chalk it up to an “off” week. At least we had a few days of warmer temperatures and awesome running weather thrown in there amongst the wind and cold. Today marks the start of a new week, which means a chance to start fresh.
On a related note, I’m no longer running for Saucony. It’s not something I really want to go into at the moment, but I feel like in the interest of full disclosure, I should let you all know. Ultimately, it’s a good thing. I love Saucony products (and stand by my claim that the Mirage3s are the greatest shoes ever created), but this does give me a little more freedom in what I talk about on HOtR. In all honesty there are a lot of great running companies out there doing some really cool things. I’ve been sort of silently watching this past year as small companies like Oiselle have taken the social media/female running world by storm, creating a community of athletes that really seem to support each other. It’s cool to see that kind of thing between companies and their runners.
But I will miss wearing this uniform…
Winter in Vermont has kicked my butt. Figuratively, literally, physically, emotionally…and other kind of “ly” you can think of. I’m from New England. I’m used to snow and cold and ice and wind. But what I’m not used to is all of those things plus dreariness and isolation. To say that this past winter has been harder than expected would be an understatement.
HOWEVER – I survived (or am surviving. It’s not really over yet). And although I’m generations away from ever being considered a true Vermonter, surviving a winter here earns me some points in my Vermont cred, right? Maybe?
Plus, despite the difficulty of winter time, I have loved every single chance we’ve had to go skiing. I feel really lucky that I’ve gotten to ski more this past winter than I have in my entire adult life combined. And I’ll freely admit that this has taken a toll on my marathon training. I’ve sacrificed runs and fresh legs for another day on the slopes. I know full well that I could’ve worked harder this winter and that I willingly chose not to. But honestly – I don’t regret it in the least. It’s just where I am in life, I guess. Sometimes you want to put everything else on the sidelines for the sake of training and the pursuit of a goal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But other times, for whatever reason, it’s just not worth it. Skiing has really been the only thing that has gotten me through the cold dreary months up here. And the only thing I’ll miss once all the snow finally melts.
That being said, the season is coming to a close. And race season has officially begun. Hearing about everyone’s early spring races, watching runners I know and the women I coach improve by leaps and bounds, seeing the hard work so many have put in over these past few months finally pay off — well, that’s enough to give me the racing bug again. The itch to race is stronger than it’s been all year. And I hope to find myself on a starting line in the (very) near future.
|February 26, 2013||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
I haven’t quite been myself lately. Maybe you can tell from my posts (or lack thereof), maybe not. But truth be told, these past few weeks have been tough ones personally. It’s nothing major or life-altering…just a few personal and health issues that have been weighing me down.
It makes me feel a little bit like a broken record, and I hate it. These issues alone wouldn’t even be so bad, but unfortunately they’ve been exacerbated by a flare up of foot pain that is eerily similar to the injury that forced me to skip Hyannis last year. The one that signified the beginning of the end of my spring marathon training….only in the opposite foot. I’ve been doing whatever I can to avoid a repeat of last year’s training disaster, which means the past two weeks of running have been a wash. Running has always been my most effective stress reliever. So when I’m not running and under a lot of stress, well…let’s just say you should consider yourself lucky that you’re not married to me.
Anyway all of this crap swirling around has made me more hesitant to get on the internet. I’m a big advocate of not blogging when you have nothing to say, and so I’ve stepped back a bit. Especially because I just don’t feel comfortable blogging about any of this stuff. Not yet, anyway. It’s kind of funny, I guess — when it comes to my running life, I’ll tell you anything. I have no problem talking about the awful runs. Runs I cry through or workouts I can’t complete. And I certainly don’t hesitate admitting when certain embarrassing things happen during races. But when it comes to life outside of all that? Well — there’s a reason I’m a running blogger and not a lifestyle one.
When I wrote my post about failing better last month, I never truly expected that I would end up going back to it so much. Repeating that phrase over and over like my new mantra. Didn’t expect that my promise to change how I react to situations outside of my control would be so hard to keep. That I would need to remind myself again and again that what matters most is how I react to my circumstances. And whether I allow setbacks and challenges to destroy me…or I use them to make me stronger. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve gone through a period over the past couple of weeks when I crumpled in the face of the hurdles instead of leaping over them.
My point in all of this vague rambling (and I promise, I do have a point) is to say that things finally seem to be on the upswing. Or, at least, my attitude toward them is. One can only have a pity party for so long, you know. And then you start to annoy even yourself.
So instead of being frustrated and stressed that I essentially missed two important weeks of training for Vermont City, I’m choosing to start fresh. Wipe the slate clean. Look forward instead of back. I’m not going to let this setback derail my entire spring. I don’t love the fact that I missed quality runs and will have to adjust my training plan. It’s not ideal that I’m behind in my build up of mileage and long runs. But I can’t change any of that now. The only thing I can do is keep pressing forward with the time that I do have. Keep working harder to make each workout and run count. And start taking better care of my body — allowing myself time to recover, eating right, rolling, icing, and all that other annoying but oh-so necessary prevention stuff that can so easily fall by the wayside.
And to help with this fresh start, I’m getting away. I am very lucky to have had a (very!) last minute, spontaneous opportunity to travel to Florida. After only 15 minutes of searching and securing some ridiculously cheap flights, I booked the trip. I’m trading snowy cold Vermont for palm trees and 80 degrees. And I’m spending the week with the newest (and by far the cutest!) member of #teamwatermelon.
Rocking her new green Saucony Jazz sneakers – an essential in every baby’s wardrobe (and yeah, I wanted her to match her most favorite* aunt!) *I am currently awaiting confirmation that I am, indeed her favorite. But I’m sure her other 4 aunts won’t mind me claiming the title…
They might be just a little big on her at the moment….
I don’t think it’s possible to stay stressed in the presence of this cutie.
Plus, I’m counting on my new teammate to keep me motivated as I attempt to dive back into hard training. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the pain in my foot stays away for good.
My sister and her husband recently bought their first house and are already knee deep in home renovation projects. She has warned me of the likelihood that I’ll be put to work this week, but I’m strangely excited about this. I can’t think of anything more therapeutic than warm air, sunshine, baby time, and a little home renovation.
Plus, despite all the benefits of winter running, I’m more than a little excited to run in shorts and a tank top again. Maybe by the time I come back, all the snow will be melted and spring will have returned to the North. Yeah, I know, wishful thinking. But at least we’ll be one week closer.