Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pain, Panic, Perseverance

A week ago I set out to run 20 miles.  I started out strong and felt capable of anything.  I was going faster than my goal pace but didn't think I needed to pull back.  Around mile 6 or 7 my right knee started to twinge and I slowed down a bit.  Then I hit some crazy, ridiculous hills.  I knew the hills were part of the course,  but I hadn't struggled on them last time so I figured I run them again.  My mistake.

The first hill wasn't too bad, but on the decline of the second hill my knee went from a murmur to a scream.  I knew in that moment I was in trouble.  I started to use all the coaching techniques I had to help ease the stress on my knees.  I focused on using my hamstrings and quads.  I told myself how strong my legs are.  I tried to glide on my stride and keep my stride short.  Nothing helped.  My knee was hurting and it wasn't the "oh, wow, I'm really pushing my body" kind of hurt.  It was the "I'm injured" kind of pain.

I was at the turn around point of my run.  I was the farthest point from home and there was no short-cut to get home.  I had 8 miles to go.  I changed my running intervals to mostly walks with some shuffle/running thrown in.  Then, around mile 14, I stopped running altogether.  It just hurt too much every time I ran.  I walked the rest of the way home.  It was the longest 6 miles.

I called my son, who was waiting on me at home, to let him know that I was going to be later than I expected.  Then I called one of my closest friends.  I cried as I told her what had happened.  I was in a complete panic that I had just totally derailed my training and that I was going to be out of work on top of not running.  She calmly talked me out of my panic and helped me formulate a plan of what to do.  She let me cry and then gently, but firmly reminded me that I needed to pay attention to what my body was saying (shouting).  My last phone call was to my awesome sports massage therapist.  I left her a voice mail detailing what my knee felt like and asked if I could come in the next day.  She called me back within a few minutes and we talked about what I needed to do that day (R-est; I-ce; C-ompression (not so much this one); E-levation).  We also included alternating heat with the ice.

I survived that day.  I taught the rest of my classes for the week by pulling back on my usually all-out efforts.  My knee felt normal by Wednesday, thanks to Karen's excellent massage work and my diligence with using all the therapeutic tools I had on hand.

It was time to think about my next long run.  13 miles was on schedule.  I knew I needed to alter my route to cut out as many hills as possible.  That, alone, was a challenge.  When you live in the land of never ending hills, trying to make as flat a running route as possible is simply not a realistic option.  I did minimize the climbs, though.  The other challenge was going to be my pace.  I was supposed to run 13 miles at +15 sec over my goal marathon pace.  That meant running an average of a 9:15 min/mi.  Right.

I set out yesterday morning once I had seen my kids off to their first day of school.  It was a later start (~9:00 am) and the sun was bright, hot and the day was humid.  I knew straight off that I was not going to hit 13 miles and I was okay with that idea.  I wanted 10 miles and was going to make that happen.  Long story short, my knee held up, but not without some complaint.  My overall pace was faster than I intended at a 9:05 min/mi.  I changed my planned course at the last minute to cover the last few miles that had to walk last week.  I didn't want my memory of that stretch to be of me walking, in pain, crying.  It had been taunting me for the last week, so I wanted to take control and push through the negative thoughts back into feeling strong.

I did it.  I didn't strictly adhere to the training plan, but I did what I knew I could do and do well.  I listened to my body and when I got home I took all the necessary steps to take care of the knee and legs.

Perseverance.  That is going to be my mantra for now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Never Quit

I ran 20 miles yesterday.  Here is what my Garmin looked like when I was done:

What the Garmin doesn't show is how hard this particular run was yesterday.  It also does not show how badly I wanted to stop and go home for almost the entire duration of three hours and twenty-three minutes.

How did I get through twenty miles if all I wanted to do was stop?  My brain was on a loop that sort-of looked like this image:

I started the run with legs that weren't feeling 100% and a brain already in doubt.  My hamstrings were tight and that only fueled the negative thoughts.  Then my knees decided to get in on the party and they started hurting, too.  This was at mile two.  MILE TWO.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I had 18 more miles to go.  90% of the run was still in front of me.  To say I was discouraged would be an incredible understatement.

Two things happened at that point:

1.  I started making deals with myself.  Here are a few of the negotiations I brokered for myself:

  • If I just made it back to the entrance of my neighborhood (approximately a half mile away) I could re-evaluate and go home if I needed.
  • If the light is green for me to run through the intersection at the entrance of my neighborhood, I'll go a little bit further and then turn around if I need to.
  • I can turn around at the next major intersection.
  • I can always call Uber for a taxi ride if I can't finish it and I'm too far away to walk it back.
  • Just make it to the next walk break.

2.  I remembered something Jeff Galloway told me during my running clinic with him back in 2012.  When a run is feeling crappy, change the run/walk intervals.  Drop down to 0:30/0:30 if necessary, but adjust the intervals to find a better pace/rhythm.  AHA!!!

This light bulb moment happened at about mile 3 when I was ready to turn around for home and just push all the training back a week.  My current run/walk intervals are 3:25/0:20.  I started using 1:30/0:10.  The run started feeling better.  Not good, not even close to thinking I could finish all 20 miles, but a definite improvement.  The other piece of this switch is that I didn't change my RunKeeper app timer, so I had to calculate the 1:30 increments in my head.  This was an awesome distraction.  I was so focused on that calculation and not going over the 0:10 walk breaks that the next 5 miles happened before I really thought about what was being done.  I was still negotiating with my  brain about when to turn around and I kept doing that until I reached the furthest part of my run.

When I reached the turn-around point I went into a QT to get water and take a bathroom break.  When I bought the water, the clerk asked how many miles I was doing that day.  I took a deep breath and said I was at mile 11 of 20.  We chatted for a couple more seconds and then I refilled my water bottles and headed back out to go home.  At that point, 20 miles was DEFINITELY happening and my brain shifted into a much more positive place.  My legs still felt tight but I knew I was going to complete the run in its entirety.

Then, something happened.  It all just felt good.  My brain was working and clicking along, my legs finally felt okay and my pace was a little challenging but comfortable.  I looked at my Garmin: 15.72.  I was running at just over a 9 min/mi pace.  I knew then that I wasn't just going to finish, I was going to finish these 20 miles - that at mile 2 I didn't think I could complete - feeling strong.

The upshot?  Don't quit.  Both of my tri coaches told me something that came back to me during the run, it doesn't feel good all the time.  In fact, it will downright suck to push hard and make the improvements happen.  But...YOU DO IT ANYWAY.  I have many coaches in my life and they all had a role in my head yesterday.  Some of them were gently nudging me, telling me that I can accomplish what I set my mind to, others were flat out screaming at me to get my ass in gear and make this all happen if it is what I really want.

I did.  I listened.  Then I thanked those people because they helped me conquer something I wasn't convinced I could overcome.

Don't quit.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finding the I CAN within

Training for the Chicago Marathon has begun in earnest.  This time I am using a different training program.  I read about it in Runner's World and I was intrigued.  I feel like I have hit a road block in improving my marathon time - my PR currently stands at 4:19:28.  Because I am a Les Mills Instructor, I workout most days of the week.  Most marathon training plans I had looked through seemed to assume few or no other workouts (other than running).  In addition, some even actively discourage strength training as component of marathon training.  I have a serious issue with that last bit.  I believe that in order to ask more from muscles, we have to train them.  It is muscles that stabilize our joints in any high impact exercise such as running.  In turn, if we want our joints to hold up over the long term, we have to strengthen the muscles that stabilize those joints, otherwise joint injury is inevitable.  As I have increased my weight selections while teaching Les Mills BodyPump, my running times have improved significantly.  I also attribute Les Mills CXWORX with helping to strengthen my core and give me a better foundation for good running form and for adding speed.  I needed a training program that was in line with my thinking and my workout schedule.

Runner's World had an article about the First Method of Marathon Training and my interest was piqued.  I didn't immediately go out and buy the book.  I kept looking at different programs but nothing else seemed to fit what I wanted as well as the FIRST method.  I took the plunge and bought the book.  The training is aggressive, to be sure.  It is also requires that I make a lot of changes from my previous training patterns.  However, I know that if I want to perform differently, I have to train differently.  While deviating from my known program is scary I know that what I want to achieve requires some commitment and change.

I am still struggling to squeeze in all the prescribed running workouts, but when I can't run I take in a Les Mills BodyAttack class and that counts as my speed/track workout.  It is isn't ideal, but it works.  One big change in this new program is the long run format.  In FIRST, long run distances are ramped up much more quickly and the pace is aggressive (goal marathon pace + 45 sec for the first set of long runs and then gets faster from there).  It also tops out the long run distance at 20 miles, although there was an addendum added that stated going up to 23 miles for one of the three prescribed 20 milers is okay.  In the past I have topped out my long runs at 24 - 25 miles so that I had the anxiety of "can I finish?" done away with from the start.  This time around, for my fifth marathon, I know I can finish, so I am willing to let the longer distance go.

As for my training, I started two weeks ago.  I have had two long runs so far.  My goal pace for these runs is around 9:45 min/mi.  Both of these runs forced me to do something I consistently tell my fitness class participants to reach for when they are struggling at the end of a challenging track:  find the I CAN within you and FIGHT for the change.  Change isn't easy.  Change is hard.  Change doesn't come without hard work and lots of sweat equity.  Change comes with some pain.

This morning's long run was challenging.  Many times I just wanted to turn around and go home.  My legs hurt, my knees were complaining and it felt like everything was out of whack.  I had to find the will within my mental fitness to fight for change and not quit.  I found it, though, and knowing that I CAN do the hard work was enough to keep me moving forward.  It will be what keeps me motivated to reach my goal.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Change, challenge and progress


This year is all about change, challenge and progress.

This time last year my life was in a state of flux.  It was the most challenging time of my life and I wasn't sure where I was going.  I spent much of that time in a very negative space, both in my heart and in my head.

Now - I am back to a place of change.  However, my approach is completely different.  Over the course of the last year I have purposefully altered how I view my world.  I work daily on taking a positive outlook on what is happening around me.  As part of that focused change, my circle of friends and inspirations has also changed.  The people I look to for support, direction, comfort and inspiration are all people that have strong foundation in being positive and  in faith (of all types).  They BELIEVE in what they are doing and the changes they are creating for themselves and those around them.

This past week I taught more classes than ever before. For the first time in my two years as a Les Mills Instructor, I taught a class every day - and sometimes two!  My family and I also moved just 7 days ago, so we are unpacking and learning our new area and trying to settle in to a new home.  A year ago this would have thrown me backward and had me feeling sorry for myself, blaming people around me and just generally negative.  THIS year, I finished this week upbeat, taking on challenges and feeling accomplished.  I asked for help when I needed it and looked to my friends, my kids and my husband to keep me going strong.

I'm challenging myself to explore new opportunities.  I'm working on gaining a Personal Trainer Certification (more on that later) and working with some simply amazing people.

The progress is one that I deeply appreciate and am grateful for.  I have worked hard to get here and I plan on continuing on this path.  It is exciting and new and different...which means I'm right where I'm meant to be.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Shaking off the "I Don't Wanna" = shaking off the fear

I went out for a run this morning.  While that may not seem like a big deal - I was really scared to get out and run.  It has been six weeks since the last time I ran and I was feeling very lazy and out of sorts this morning.  I had a big case of the "I don't wanna run" blahs which led me down the road of maybe I should just take another day off blues.  What it all stemmed from was simple:  I was scared.  I was afraid it would hurt more than it would feel good.  I was afraid that I have lost my running mojo.  I was afraid that I really don't have it in me to run for more than a mile or two.

Then I strapped on my shoes, told myself that I could start out and turn around if needed. The I decided I should try a different route that didn't have any memories attached to it yet.  I had my Garmin watch, but it was attached to my running belt instead of my wrist.  I wanted to run by feel and get in touch with what it FELT like, not what my numbers were.  Again: fear.  This is different.  I hadn't tried this in a really long time and I was scared that my numbers would be s-l-o-w.

Here is what I learned:

  1. BodyCombat has trained me to push through the breathless, uncomfortable zone and keep going.  It won't last forever - so just keep going to the next break.  I can catch my breath then.
  2. BodyCombat has also taught me how to recover when I'm still moving.  Going uphill and getting completely winded then recovering on a flat section was always a challenge before I started taking Combat.  Thank you, Muay-Thai tracks for teaching me how to recover while still going strong!
  3. Running by feel is nice.  I like listening to my heart, my lungs and my legs and evaluating whether or not I am pushing hard or going easy.
  4. Not having numbers in my face freed up my pace.  I let my body dictate what felt good and what didn't.
  5. Tackling a ridiculously hilly, challenging route for a first run in 6 weeks may be crazy, but it gives me a lot of confidence that I can tackle a flat course with no problem.
  6. I don't have anything to be scared of and I really do need to tell my brain to shut-up.
  7. Stretching and rolling on the foam roller after a run feels really awesome.
  8. Almond milk + Agave + Protein powder + Dark Hershey chocolate powder = yummy recovery drink

Today's runs stats: 5.38 mi, 53:32, 9:57 avg pace.  Toughest hill: elevation increase of 146 ft in 0.46 mi. and I was able to maintain ~ 9:00 min/mi pace going up the hill.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Just Getting Started


Yesterday was the last day of the school year for the students.  I have posted the final grades and done the vast majority of my obligations for the school.  Basically, I'm done being a classroom teacher.

This past week I have been in a kind of emotional void.  I wasn't excited or sad or apprehensive or anxious about the end of the school year.  I felt nothing and it was very strange.  I am a very feeling person so to be devoid of emotion was very odd.  I have many, many other things going on (selling a house, demo'ing new classes at new fitness facilities) and I chalked up my lack of feeling to the amount of upheaval currently going on in my life.  But even that didn't seem quite accurate.

Then the bell rang Friday afternoon, the students cleared the halls, I picked up the few things I needed to bring home with me and I walked out to my car.  With each step I felt myself getting lighter.  When I slid into the driver's seat and turned on my music, I got slammed with emotion.  It was pure JOY.  I am done.  I completed an incredibly challenging, potentially soul crushing experience and I did it holding my head high and doing the best I could.  I didn't compromise or hold back any truths and I've been very honest in sharing my experiences with other parents in my area, knowing full well that there are those around me who would rather I not say anything.  I've spoken MY TRUTH and that is a wonderful lesson I have learned over the past ten months.

The other lesson I have learned is how to be patient.  It started with my AIM2 experience last April and has taken root and grown over the past 13 months.  I have stopped trying to force things to happen on my time table.  I have stopped feeling so frantic about making the big things happen RIGHT NOW.  Instead, I am taking the time to work on myself and to focus on improving.  I am letting the progress take shape, speak for itself and then give the process time and space to happen as it should.  I have finally, FINALLY learned patience.  I am stepping back and allowing all the pieces to slide in to place at their own pace.  It is a beautiful place to be and one I never would have appreciated before right now.

I am so excited about all the different adventures that are taking shape.  I am passionate about what I am doing and all the fantastic people in my life that are part of this journey.  I look around at my friends and family, and they are one and the same.  The people I see every day or once a week - they inspire me and have helped me reach this point.  And the best part?  I'm just getting started.

Kia Kaha!

Monday, May 12, 2014

I run to save myself.

On Facebook I saw a Runners World post that included this picture:

The next line asked the question: Why do YOU run?  BE HONEST!

I started listing off the reasons in my head and at first they were funny:

1.  The beer I currently hold in my hand
2.  The glass of wine I like to enjoy
3.  The chocolate and peanut butter that gets me through PMS

Then it got a bit more real and not quite so funny:

4.  The endorphin rush is a lot safer and better for me than drugs

That last one popped into my head and I knew I needed to say it out loud.  One of the reasons I run is so that I DON'T resort to using drugs.  When life is crazy and I am confused and overwhelmed - I run.  When I'm not sure what to do with a situation - I run.  When I need to feel like I can control something in my life (it may be the ONLY thing) - I run.

So.  I run for many reasons.  Some reasons save those around me - but mostly?  I run to save myself.