Posts Tagged by winter running

Finding a Focus

Full disclosure time: it’s been a tough few weeks around here. And I’m sure the weather has had something to do with it.

winterI no longer remember what this street looks like without snow

Every year around this time, I go through a period of extreme restlessness mixed with some serious questioning about our decision to live in Vermont. The last two winters have been particularly rough, with what seems like unending stretches of subzero and single digit temperatures. Not to mention the near daily snowfall. It’s all I can do to keep myself from packing up and running away in search of a warmer climate.

On top of that, I’ve had some pretty serious moments of questioning other life decisions – you know, those small simple questions about what I’m doing with my life and if it’s all worth it. Work has been discouraging…in ways complicated by politics and power (or lack thereof). Some things that I have felt passionately about have been shut down, I haven’t gotten the support I feel like I need for basic functions of my job, and some days it seems as though I’m sitting in a silo screaming at the walls.

Meanwhile, I am frustrated with Amelia’s daycare and some of the decisions being made for her. Nothing that endangers her safety or physical well-being (if that were the case I would pull her out in a heartbeat), but are more (I feel) impeding her development. I realize that’s annoyingly vague, but the reality is that it’s probably a boring tale for most all of you. The bottom line is that at this particular moment, it is hard to feel certain that she is in the best environment. And I feel as though this battle that I’m fighting to ensure that someone is looking out for her best interests is getting nowhere.

The one simple fact that (for the most part) she seemed to like being at “school” and was learning and thriving there was what made it easier for me to spend my days at work. I don’t really love being away from her all day every day. As a mom, it can really tug at your heart thinking about how many hours your child spends in the care of someone else vs. at home. But knowing that child is in good hands can make it all a little easier.

So now, questioning that while feeling beaten down at the job and by this frigid winter and the darkness and the endless early morning runs on a moving belt going nowhere has all added up to create this perfect storm of anxiety and discontent.

Now before you go all “first world problems” on me, let me come right out and say I KNOW. Logically, I realize that this is all just a short phase and it will pass. Winter always ends, job environments and politics go through cycles, and Amelia’s situation will improve one way or the other. I just need to be patient. And as Evan likes to remind me, this “battle” will feel small and insignificant compared to the other things we will have to face in Amelia’s life.

But sometimes when you’re in the thick of all the crap, it can be hard to see the logic in it all. To focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. To see the forest through the trees. How many other metaphors can I throw in there?

Last night, after a particularly trying day, I came home and announced to Evan that I was done. That I was quitting my job and quitting running and quitting Vermont. I was tired and just could not see how any of this is worth it.

Bless his heart, Evan was on board. If that was what I needed, then we would do it. We could leave Vermont, start over somewhere else, and make things work.

Since I was exhausted and not in the mood to pack up the house and run away right that very second, I decided to sleep on it. And while a good run probably would have cleared my head this morning, I opted for more (restless) sleep instead.

And then today, with the return of some rational thinking, I did something slightly more productive. I finally signed up for a race.

The same no frills race where I made my postpartum comeback. It’s low key, relatively flat and there’s Switchback at the finish line. Three things that make an early spring race a winner in my book.

I’m feeling really good about it. Last week I finally bit the bullet and upped my weekend mileage, running 9 miles for the first time since last fall. On the treadmill no less. And you know what? It was kind of fun and left me craving more distance. In total I will have nine weeks to train. Nine weeks to focus on building up the distance and continuing to work on speed – something that I’ve actually been pretty consistent about for the last month and a half. I have a solid plan going forward. And more importantly, I feel really positive about my ability to run a strong race.

I may not be able to make immediate broad, sweeping changes to my work situation or Amelia’s daycare situation, but I can chip away at little things every day. I can take all that extra control-freak level anxiety and focus it on something productive. And I can make all those soul-sucking treadmill runs on dark mornings worth it.

Anyway – I suppose this post has no real point other than to blog about what’s on my mind. Something I’m trying to get back in the habit of doing. Just trying to keep it real over here. Thank you for listening to me whine and vent.

Next time – more talk of training, now that I actually have things (yes, plans for other races are finally coming together) to train for.

Making it Work

(Tim Gunn Style)

First – thank you for making me feel so loved on my last post. Unfortunately my blog has apparently decided to stop emailing me when people comment, so between that and just not being in the habit of checking this space on a regular basis, I actually had no idea people said anything for a long time. I’m sorry…I don’t know how to fix the issue, but I’m working on it.

—-

When I think about all the things I love most about running – that long list that makes me excited to get out the door – waking up before 5:00 AM to run in place on a moving belt while staring out a dark window is not one of them.

treadmillPicture from a rare morning when I actually got to run later than 5:00AM

Who would’ve thought, right?

And yet, 3ish times per week, I find myself doing that very thing. Cursing my 4:4X alarm after a night of restless sleep and crazy dreams about how I’ve already done my workout, stumbling through the motions of getting ready and getting myself out the door as quickly as possible. Trying not to slip on the ice in the dark and praying my car will actually start despite the negative temperature (the one time it did not start because it was -15? The absolute worst.). And then making the 8 minute drive to the gym so that I can check in, strip down and start running by 5:15, so that I can be back home by 6:15 and showered/ready to nurse Amelia around 6:30 (yes, we’re still nursing. More on that another time if anyone is actually interested).

It’s a bit disorienting to leave in the dark and come home in the dark to a (usually) sleeping house. And it feels like a mad rush from the second I wake up until the second Amelia and I sprint out the door for work at 7:20. There’s no time to ease into the run. No time for cooling down or stretching or any of that other good stuff you’re supposed to do after a good run. I have just enough time to run 5-6 miles, walk for a minute or two afterward, and go.

But in a weird way, I kind of love it. There’s something so nice about being done with my run by 6:00 AM. And despite how hard it is to get up, and the fact that I crash at 8:00 every night, my day just feels better after a morning run. I’m more energized, more alert…happier. It’s not enough to make me want to do it every single day of the week. But it’s enough to make it a regular part of the routine.

Plus the reality is if I don’t wake up, I have weeks like the beginning of this one (or let’s be honest, like the months between Nov and Jan). Where it’s suddenly Thursday and I haven’t run once. Because on Monday I wanted a rest day (despite knowing there was a blizzard coming), and Tuesday we were snowed in and then Wednesday I turned off my alarm at 3:00 in the morning because I was nervous about the state of the roads after said storm, vowed to run at work instead but then right around 2:00 when I was getting ready to go, got a visit from Amelia and her teacher because of a bad rash/temperature. And so instead of a run, my afternoon consisted of sitting in the pediatrician’s office only to be told that she’s just fighting off a virus (like usual), the rash is fine, she doesn’t need to be out of daycare.

In short, like so many others, if I don’t run at the crack of dawn I don’t get to run at all. I know this is not unique. That many grown adults with responsibilities have been doing it for years. I also know that I’m lucky enough to be able to squeeze in a lunch run from work once a week or so. And despite the hassle of lugging all my running stuff in along with everything else and then showering again in the middle of the day, and despite the fact that a good portion of my coworkers think I’m crazy, I love those runs out in the fresh air…after food and caffeine and sitting all morning. But I can’t always count on them. So instead I wake up, drag myself to the treadmill, and pound out a workout while many are still asleep.

It sets the tone for my day. At least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself. It’s a good habit, provides structure and routine, and honestly makes me feel like I’m sort of training again…even though my mileage is still very low. Those early morning treadmill runs have even brought the return of speedwork into my life. It’s relatively short and doubly painful so early, but man does it feel good. Yesterday, for the first time since I can remember, I ran a workout that made me want to puke – 3 mile repeats in the middle of a 6 mile run. No stopping in between, just a quick 0.25 mile recovery jog. Maybe not a workout to really write home about, but it was the hardest I’ve pushed in a long time. It made me feel strong while reminding me how far I still have to go. And it sure made the time on the treadmill pass by a lot faster.

Someday I’ll take those early morning runs outside again. And I’ll actually have time for more than 5-6 rushed miles. But for now, when it’s pitch black and the temperature is below zero, I will make it work by stumbling my way onto the treadmill…thankful, at least, to not be battling humidity.

Except for today. It’s Friday, it’s (lightly) snowing, and the temperature is supposed to rise to freezing (32 degrees). Which at this point is a basically a heatwave. So today, I’m running outside at lunch.

On Monday, when the single digits return, I will retreat back to the safety of my treadmill…just me and the handful of other people crazy enough to be at the gym as soon as it opens. (Though not quite as crazy as those who actually manage to run outside in the dark and single digit temps.)

At least winter is bound to end at some point, right?

Oh and in case you want to know what, exactly, I’m training for? The answer is TBD. I’ve got my eye on a few spring/summer half marathons plus a summer relay, so for the past month I’ve been trying to reestablish a base after all those weeks of barely running. But it’s almost February and it’s time to actually commit to a 2015 race schedule. So more to come.

Adventures in Treadmill Running…

…with a baby and a dog

The scene: Tuesday afternoon. Another freezing, windy, snowy day in Vermont.

The cast: One stir-crazy mom who has been on sole baby duty for almost 2 full days, a relatively happy though sometimes inexplicably fussy 2-month old, and a slightly neurotic, somewhat attention-starved pup.

The decision: to schlep this motley crew down to the basement so that mom can get in a few miles on the treadmill.

I’ve talked about my old, slightly broken and very worn treadmill before. It’s something I used to avoid running on at all costs — it shakes, there’s a rut in the center of the belt, and it just feels way harder than running outside. But after the winter we’ve been having, that treadmill and I are becoming the best of friends. Because even a barely functioning treadmill is better than nothing.

treadmill.jpgObviously this gym set up needs some work

But I’ve been hesitant to bring Amelia down there with me when I run because it’s in the partially finished, cooler, storage half of the basement. Plus I had no idea how she’d do. So I usually just plan my runs around Evan’s work schedule, passing the baby off when he gets home and getting in a few miles and a shower before she needs to eat again. I don’t run every day and I’m not working, so it’s pretty easy to be flexible right now.

Until yesterday. We were on Day 2 of Evan leaving the house before 7:00am and coming home after 9:00pm. The weather has been absolutely frigid and snowing…so cold that I don’t really feel comfortable bringing a two-month old outside for a run (maybe it wouldn’t have been bad…I don’t know. I’m new to this). I suppose I could have gotten up early to run before Evan left, but I’m just not dedicated enough to a) cut into my unpredictable sleep and b) get up even earlier so that I could pump first.

So the treadmill was my only option. I gathered up my supplies: the bouncer, a blanket, a frog wubbanub, and some brightly colored toys to keep Amelia happy and an edible bone to give the dog something else to do besides bug the baby. I set everyone up, got my shoes on, and stepped on the machine, nervous about how long Little A would last. She’s not the biggest fan of her bouncer, preferring to sit in the swing or even lie on her play gym. Usually her tolerance for the seat is only about 15-20 minutes. But I figured that was better than nothing. I’d run however far she’d let me and that would be good enough.

the set upMy company for the run

Turns out I was worried about the wrong child all along.

(In case you’re wondering why the dog had to come down with me, well…you’ve probably never had a boxer. He tends to have low impulse control on the best days, but since Amelia’s arrival he’s been getting himself into trouble more often. My poor, needy, slightly misplaced older child. I figured we’d all be better off if he was down where I could watch him. Plus, he usually hangs out with me while I’m on the treadmill anyway…content to just lie there and watch.)

The second he got his bone, Koli started sprinting around the basement, tossing the bone up in the air and having the cutest solo game of fetch I’ve ever seen. I started to run, patting myself on the back for being so resourceful. Why didn’t I think to do this earlier?

…until 30 seconds later when the dog began crying because he had gotten his bone stuck under the treadmill. I got off, retrieved the treat, told him to “go!” and started my run again.

And again I was interrupted by the dog’s cries. This time because no one was playing with him (poor, tortured creature). When his whining failed to give him what he wanted, he gave up on the bone and searched for other ways to pass the time. Checking on the baby, trying to play with her toys, getting into the cat litter, sniffing around in half open boxes — all of these activities were apparently way more interesting than chewing on a silly little bone. He’d take periodic breaks to run around the basement, searching for a place to hide the treat so that he could dig to “find” it. Apparently the treadmill looked like a prime location, despite the fact that he was too scared to actually get the bone once it was trapped under the moving belt.

I spent the entire run saying, “Koli no! Koli – go on!” “Go lay down!” “Koli!!”

Meanwhile, Amelia just sat calmly in her seat, transfixed by the sound of the treadmill and the sight of my moving feet. She sat there wide-eyed the entire time, like it was the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. That girl is going to grow up to be a runner, mark my words.

Amelia_bouncerAfter the run — she kicked off her blanket, pushed away her toys and spit out the wubbanub. But still happy as a clam.

Finally, 2.5 miles into the run Koli wore himself out. He sat down on the mat and stared sadly at the bone, defeated.

I picked up the pace for a final half mile and stopped the belt the second the numbers ticked to 3.0. Better not push it. We schlepped back upstairs where my happy baby hung out with me while I stretched. And poor Koli, after surviving a full 26 minutes staring at it, could finally eat his bone. Apparently the basement is no place to consume such a delicacy.

IMG 5609

Lesson learned: Apparently Amelia likes the treadmill. But next time I’ll leave the dog to his own devices upstairs.

And for our next adventure, we’ll be taking a 2-month old on an airplane. We may be crazy, but we need to escape the cold somehow. Plus my younger sister is running her first ever half marathon (!) and I need to be there. Pregnant Lauren secretly hoped she’d be able to run that half with her sister, but rational postpartum Lauren is content to just cheer.

Anyway, when I get back I’ll be sure to blog my expert tips about traveling with a 2-month old. Because you know, doing something one time makes you a pro. So stay tuned!*

 

*Obviously that final part is sarcasm. In reality, I need all the tips about traveling with a baby that I can get (Have you done it before? Tell me about it!)! We have nonstop flights both ways and we’re hoping she just sleeps the whole time. If not, I apologize in advance to our fellow passengers.

The Not-Training Training Plan

After a few warm days that teased of spring, winter has returned to Vermont. It’s freezing, the one million feet of snow still on the ground has turned into ice, and more snow is in the forecast for 4 out of the next 5 days. It’s that time of year when I start questioning the life decisions that somehow brought me to this frozen tundra of a state. Thankfully Evan, Amelia and I will soon be escaping the frigid temperatures for a much-needed warm getaway. My little snow baby isn’t going to know what to do with herself when she feels the sun for the first time. But more about that later.

IMG 5530

Instead, let’s talk about training! (it’s been awhile) Or rather, “not-training.” Over that past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed heading out for a short run whenever I felt like it. It’s been nice to ease my way back into this sport. As much as I missed the regularity of training plans and races in my life over this past year, I find that I’m really enjoying this in-between stage — the not pregnant, but not training phase. Just taking my comeback one slow step at a time.

However, there’s a little race that I signed up for in mid-April that’s fast approaching. As tired as I am of this winter weather, I can’t believe it’s already the end of February. Spring (and my return to work) is right around the corner. Which means it’s time to get my butt in gear.

The half marathon I’m planning to run will be a little over a year to the day that I found out I was pregnant with Amelia. I’m not training to race this half. In fact, I don’t even expect to get up to 13 miles before race day. Instead, I’m looking at it as a milestone. To signify the end of one cycle (pregnancy/recovery) and the beginning of the next. This half marathon will be the the start of my training. A goal to keep me motivated during this tough re-entrance into running and a baseline to see where I’m at before fall marathon training begins.

I’m so excited to bring this phase of life full circle. I loved running while pregnant, have really soaked up my recovery time and am looking forward to the future. There’s a fire burning deep in my heart that I haven’t felt in a long time. I want to get strong, I want to work hard. Any trace of burnout I’ve felt over the past couple of years has completely disappeared. I’m ready to get back out there again. I know it’ll take time, but the funny thing about it is that makes me more excited, not less. I want to be fast again — someday. But more than that, I’m looking forward to the work. To feel that familiar ache in my muscles after a long run, the gotta-puke-burning-lungs sensation during a hard workout, and the mental pain as I fight those demons that tell me I need to quit. In short, absence really has made my heart grow fonder. It’s been so long since I’ve pushed myself that I’m actually looking forward to the pain.

Now, of course that’s easy for me to say as I sit here on the couch with a baby sleeping on my chest. And despite my excitement to work hard again, I’m still not at the place where I’ll choose a run over time with Amelia…and I’m certainly not wishing I was out running long on a cold winter morning instead of in bed snuggling a baby. I am soaking up every single minute that I can with her. But I’m slowly getting glimmers of my old “runner” self back, and I love that too. When I do get the opportunity to run, I’ve tried to enjoy every single moment, even the sucky “why am I so tired after 4 miles??” ones.

DSC 0801

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling to say: I’m excited about training and want to slowly build up my base, but I’m not considering myself to be “in training” yet. However, since I do have a half marathon coming up in the very near future, I need to make sure I’m actually able to run for over an hour and a half without dying. Enter the “Not-Training Training Plan.”

postpartum half marathon training plan

The sole goal here is to build up my base. To slowly work on my endurance and practice running long. My last double-digit run was over the summer when I was 20 weeks pregnant….almost 30 weeks ago. I would like to get my body back to the place where I can handle double-digit runs before I start actually training (i.e. working on speed, etc). But I want to be smart about it. I’ve been running for 3 weeks and have only gone on a handful of short, easy runs in that time. Chances are I’m being a little more conservative than I need to be. But my injury-prone body has been through some pretty dramatic changes over the past year. So I’d rather be safe than sorry.

The training plan I posted above is meant to serve as an outline only. Weeks 1-3 reflect my actual runs. The rest are runs I hope to complete. It should be noted that I don’t really plan to follow this schedule exactly as it is written — I already didn’t complete the run I had scheduled for yesterday. But I need a guideline to make sure I can actually handle the distance on race day. Like I said before, it’s probably more conservative than I need to be. I’m keeping my overall mileage low and building up as slowly as I can within the time frame. If I feel good one day/week, I’ll run more; if I don’t feel up to it, I’ll do less. This is all uncharted territory for me.

In the meantime, I need to figure out how to transfer this sleeping baby off my lap so I can run to the bathroom. My day is just chock-full of excitement! Hopefully I can squeeze a few miles in later too.

 

The State of Things

This comeback is going to be one of stops and starts. After a semi-successful first week, I took quite a few days off before I attempted another run. First because we had visitors, and then because I got sick. But over the last two days (yeah, I know, only 2…not quite on a roll yet), I’ve been so excited to get in a few miles. So I suppose we can’t quite call it a comeback yet…but it’ll get there.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been too chicken to brave the frigid cold and have resorted to running on our old, slightly broken treadmill. You know the winter weather is bad when a noisy, shaky treadmill with a permanent rut down the middle of the belt is preferable to a run outdoors.

That being said, I think I need to get out for a mile or two today. We have well over 2 feet of snow…I kinda sorta think it would be fun to schlep through it.

Photo  9We’re watching my sister’s dog this week. He is not impressed.

Despite the fact that I’m 20 pounds lighter (and sans baby), my running stride still closely resembles my pregnancy shuffle. So on my last two treadmill runs, I tried working in a few quick sections of high knees, just to practice lifting my feet off the ground. I’m sure it’ll come back eventually. Okay…not really sure. But I hope.

In my pre-baby life, I could run a marathon at a 7:30 pace. Now 8:30 feels like sprinting.

I used to have abs. Now I have a big smooshy hole in the middle where they should be (just keeping it real <– I love Lauren Fleshman). It’s a lovely condition called diastisis recti that can happen as a result of carrying a big baby…and if the muscles don’t come back together on their own, I may need physical therapy. So that’s fun.

Because of the extra “gush,” you’d think I’d be super motivated to do core and strength work. Not so much. I know how important it is to work on strength and I know that I REALLY need to start prioritizing it, but I’m struggling. The ridiculous part about it is that it’s not like I’m even spending that much time working out right now. I run for 30 minutes — I think I can spare a few more to do a little core work while the baby is napping. Or while we’re watching the Olympics at night.

Turns out that running with almost 30 extra pounds can really wear down your shoes. I finally ran in a new pair yesterday and the difference was amazing.

saucony mirage 4.JPGThe new Saucony Mirage 4s…the key to my comeback

You know what else was amazing about yesterday? I finally felt good on a run! (It must’ve been the shoes.) Everything came together and I felt like myself again…only slower. And just for fun, I held a sub-8:00 pace for the last 200m (look at me fly!)! I haven’t seen that pace since…well, early pregnancy. It hurt so good.

After almost a year of not being able to push myself on runs, it feels weird to work hard again. There’s a part of my brain that fights against it and automatically holds me back. But once I get past that, it feels so good to push…in the most painful of ways.

I joined Strava. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I figured I needed some sort of platform to track my training and keep myself motivated during this comeback. I used Daily Mile a couple of years ago and eventually got sick of it. I’m not sure if Strava will be different but I’m willing to give it a try. So if you want to follow me or secretly stalk my training, here you go. It’s pretty inspiring stuff. (speaking of which: I feel like I did in those early Facebook days. How do I find people? Is it weird to request to follow this person?? Why does this seem so awkward?).

You’ve probably heard a lot of women say that they credit their quick recovery to an active pregnancy. Heck, I probably even said something along those lines to support why I was going to keep running as long as possible. But you want to know the honest truth? I really have no idea if my “active pregnancy” has done a darn thing. I mean, sure, I can suppose that running would feel even harder right now if I hadn’t exercised while I was pregnant. And so I assume that an active pregnancy has helped in the recovery process. But the reality is I’ve never done all this before. I have nothing to compare it to. And after my c-section I wasn’t exactly sprinting out the door anyway. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that exercising through my pregnancy helped keep me sane and feeling good. And it sure did help grow a big healthy baby.

Photo  7Who is growing WAY too fast!

And while we’re on the topic of babies…I love this kid more than I ever thought possible. And most of the time, I love being able to spend the day with her. But I have to admit that there are days when I go just a little stir-crazy. After yet another snowstorm or the one millionth sub-zero day in a row, I start to feel just a little trapped. I don’t really want to wish time away, but man am I excited for spring.

neverending snow

That being said, I don’t even want to talk about how fast my maternity leave is going by. I’ll be back at work before I know it. And I can’t really say I’m looking forward to it…

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