Posts Tagged by running reflections
|August 7, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I have a bit of a problem. The image of the runner I am in my head doesn’t exactly match up with reality.
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.
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?
|May 30, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
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.
Which 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.
Shiny 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?
|May 14, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
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.
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.
|February 7, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
“The first step is the hardest.”
“The hardest part is getting out the door.”
It’s confession time on this freezing Friday morning: I secretly hate those sayings. Well, I suppose it’s not a secret anymore. But in my opinion that silly idiom is right up there with “you never regret a run/workout!” (umm…I can assure you that I have).
Now before you write me off as a big old grump, let me just say that I understand the meaning behind the phrase. I know it can be really hard to work up the motivation to start when you’re out of shape, or leave the warmth of your house for that long run/tempo workout/hill repeats when you’d much rather stay in bed. But not only does that phrase sort of devalue the hard work many runners put into their training, it’s simply not true. When you’re getting back into shape, especially after a long time off, getting out the door is the easy part. Sticking with it — after the high of that first run wears off and you’re stuck with the realization of how much work you have ahead of you — that’s the hard part. That’s the part that makes it easy to just say screw it. I’d rather just stick to my couch.
Since being cleared for exercise last Friday evening, I’ve run three times (as excited as I am to be running again, I’m really easing back into it in order to avoid injury). And each run has gotten progressively harder.
This is going to sound totally contrived, but I swear to you — my first run back was magical. Last Saturday, after 10 weeks of absolutely no running (my longest break in recent memory), I bundled up against the cold and sprinted out the door. And while the video Evan took (without my knowledge) of me starting out shows an out-of-shape woman tentatively making her way down the street at a pace that barely resembled running, in my head I was flying. Light as a feather. All those things that I had worried about for so long — that my incision would hurt, that my insides would feel like they were falling out, that my legs would’ve somehow forgotten what to do — turned out to be unfounded. Everything fell into place and I was unstoppable.
Until I hit the mile mark, anyway. And my lungs suddenly realized that they weren’t participating in the most fun activity ever. But you know, still…I was running. Pandora was killing it with the music that morning and I was in a cloud of all the emotions – excitement that my legs still worked, joy in being able to move quickly again, and some unexpected sadness about this being my first run without Amelia in almost a year. I had imagined that run so many times in my head. Despite the cold, my heaving lungs, and the fact that a 9:00 pace practically felt like sprinting, the run was everything I thought it would be. I finished on top of the world.
If you don’t take a picture of your Garmin after your run, did it really happen?
I spent the next day skiing and it was the same — a little weirdness in getting used to my new body but so much happiness to just be out there. I was back, baby!!
And then I tried running again. And it turns out I’m actually going to have to work hard to get back into shape. Who would’ve thought?
My legs have surprisingly been okay. My stride is different and I know it will take awhile for everything to function seamlessly again, but all that extra load bearing during pregnancy seems to have served them well. My lungs, on the other hand, are struggling. A lack of aerobic activity + cold air isn’t exactly the best combination. I spent my last 2 runs battling major side stitches. Yesterday I had cramps on both sides the second I started running. I almost bailed on my 3 mile run they were so bad. Let me tell you — nothing makes you feel quite so out of shape as major cramps on what should be a short, easy run. As I slipped around on the snow that afternoon, I thought about how easy it would be to just give up. And how humbling this challenge to keep moving forward will be, knowing that running doesn’t feel the way it used to…and won’t for awhile.
The only thing that keeps me going at this point is knowing what it’s like on the other side. I’ve been out of shape before. Maybe not this badly, but I have experience working my way back from scratch. I know it’s going to suck for awhile. That it might take months of slogging through easy runs that feel difficult. But one day, suddenly, everything is bound to click. My stride will feel natural, my lungs will get on board, and running will be fun again.
Right now, it’s just work. Harder than it should be, different than I remembered. I have a new understanding and appreciation for why many people don’t stick with running for very long. Why new runners look at you like you’re crazy when you talk about how fun running can be. Or describe the joy of an “effortless” 10 mile run. It doesn’t seem possible. Even now, having experienced all those things, I have a hard time imagining ever feeling that way on a run again.
But I just need to be patient. And you know…I suppose it’s only fair to say that my life as a runner has made me a little crazy. Because even as I struggle through my runs now, I finish each one filled with hope. And the more I think about running, the more excited I become to get out the door and try again. Yeah, my hopes are dashed a little bit when I actually start moving and realize just how hard it’s going to be, but it’s not enough to erase the delusion completely. The delusion that I’m going to go out there and suddenly feel the way I used to is what keeps me going
Anyway, I probably could’ve summed up this rambling post in three sentences: I’m running again (yay!). It kind of sucks because I’m really out of shape (boo). But I expected that, so for now I just have to keep dragging myself out the door day after day, hoping that it’ll eventually get better.
And if it doesn’t, well, at least I’m able to run. For now that fact alone is enough.
Okay so that was five sentences. Can I just keep blaming the sleep deprivation for everything?
|November 15, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I ran 2 miles today.
More accurately — I waddled around the neighborhood for 21-ish minutes (in shorts of course, because pregnancy is not reason enough to give up the Great Running Tight Boycott - 3 years strong!), and then called it a day. 20 minutes of physical activity feels harder, and more satisfying, than it used to.
At 35 weeks pregnant and looking like I’m ready to pop at any minute, running isn’t really the most natural thing.
Candid from this week’s appointment…this body looks more natural reclining on the couch than running through the neighborhood
My feet scuffle along the ground, my body rocks from side to side, and I feel anything but graceful. As I rounded the last corner on my run, I tried to pick up the pace for a final “sprint” to the end. Instead I just laughed as my head leaned forward, my shoulders strained ahead…and my belly and legs stayed firmly put. I couldn’t run any faster if my life depended on it.
This slow, steady movement is so different from my typical associations with running — feeling fast and free, light and strong. In the past, a successful run meant hitting my stride and dropping paces that felt effortless, coming home exhausted but exhilarated. Now I consider it a victory if I can simply keep myself moving for a full 2 miles. In some ways, running is harder than ever. My heart rate soars with just the slightest increase in effort, I have a human pushing against my diaphragm making breathing difficult, and my stride is just clunky. Not to mention all the extra weight (concentrated primarily in one place) that I’m toting around.
But in other ways, it’s easier. There’s no training plan to follow. No mileage or pace goals to hit. I don’t feel bad about skipping workouts or frustrated when an easy pace feels hard. I know that when I head out, my pace is going to resemble a slow jog, no more, no less. My belly is large enough that I no longer experience any round ligament pain. And I’m not out there long enough for my pelvis to start complaining. It’s just movement in one of its simplest forms.
I’m sure there are many more efficient workouts I could be doing. Cross training for longer periods of time would provide more benefit without all the pounding on my already strained lower body. It would help me strengthen muscle groups that get neglected during training cycle after training cycle. And would still provide all the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise, without all the emotion and baggage that running can sometimes bring.
But yet, despite all that, I prefer to run. It may be hard to understand why. I haven’t been able to run very far in a long time, running less in a week than I used to be able to cover in a day. Running hasn’t helped slow my pregnancy weight gain. At 35 weeks and up 28 pounds, I’m at the high end of the normal curve.
The green dot is me…brushing the top of the “normal” curve
And it hasn’t helped me grow a smaller baby either — a recent (unplanned) scan revealed that Cheese Baby is already quite chunky, measuring almost 2 full weeks ahead(!!) with an estimated due date of 12/10.**
Instead, it’s caused ups and downs as I’ve adjusted to my new limitations and wondered if/when I should give it up for good…or at least until next year. So having said all that, it may be hard to understand why I do it.
The author of the WSJ article would say I’m still running so that everyone will look at me and see how hardcore I am. That I do it for the accolades. For all the attention I’m sure to get for running even as I approach the end of my pregnancy. For the Instagram pictures and the #pregnantrunner hashtag (sidenote: why is #motherrunner a thing but #pregnantrunner is not? Not that I’d use either…) But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I run because there’s something inside me…something in the way I’m built…that drives me to keep moving forward. I can’t explain it, but I know that other runners feel it. The drive to get up early to fit in a training run, to finish that last repeat despite the fact that your legs are toast, to push that extra mile when you feel like you have nothing left to give, to run through cold, wind, rain, heat…and to keep running mile after mile, year after year with relatively nothing to show for it. That drive is what motivates a runner. Not the medals. Not the t-shirts. Not the fancy clothes or flashy shoes (although they help).
And even though I’m not running faster or stronger today than I was yesterday, even though my “training” seems to be moving backward, that drive is why I still continue to run. Why I get all laced up and hit the pavement for a measly 2 miles. Because running is part of my identity. Running has been with me through every single phase of my life. And somehow, no matter how slow I go, running makes me feel like myself. It’s something that I’ve been able to share with my daughter. This little person that I’ve never even met has already run hundreds of miles with me. Has already been rocked to sleep by the motion of my own two feet. I can’t think of many things I find more amazing than that.
Throughout this whole journey, I’ve always maintained that I’d hang up my running shoes the second it no longer seemed safe — for me or the baby. I’ve cut back on my mileage, let go of running goals, and learned to approach this whole process one day at a time. As much as I love identifying as a runner, I wouldn’t be destroyed if today was my last run. I don’t feel the need to hit a certain mileage goal or push my body on days when I think I need more rest. And if I had to give it all up and face 9 – 11 weeks without any running whatsoever, I could do it.
But for now, I’m thankful. Thankful that I have a way to clear my head when the pregnancy brain or the stress of it all takes over. Thankful that I’m still moving, breathing in fresh air, and sharing this time with my daughter. And thankful that I have some other way to measure the passage of weeks, besides the countdown to her eventual birth.
**I actually believe my original due date (12/21) was miscalculated, due to how irregular my cycles were when we got pregnant. But as far as I know, my OB is not actually changing it. So at this point, we’re just hoping for an early arrival (or a huge measurement error!).