When the Fire Starts to Burn

It's two days before the marathon 'that was supposed to be but isn't going to be' takes place. Does it feel strange that it's here and I'm not racing? Yes. Do I get bummed out when I see packet pickup information emails, or bib number details? Sort of (okay, 'yes', and I delete them right away). Have I tried to ignore Instagram and Twitter lately since it's 'Marathon month'? Yes (sorry if you're mid-training or about to race right now... I support you on the inside). Do I regret backing out, taking time off, and refocusing? Definitely not. So that's where I'm at with that.

The last month has been pretty blissful to say the least. I took a solid 4.5 weeks 'off'. I ran 3 times during that break and one of those times was to race a 1k. Which, tangent, was kind of awesome and painful and miserable all at the same time. A 1k after not running for two weeks was slightly dumb BUT I won and it was over fast (and then my lungs literally burned for the rest of the day). 

Instead of running 'all the miles' I've gone to a Pilates/TRX conditioning class twice a week, tried out our kick bike, went for a bike ride, picked up jumping rope, reintroduced myself to yoga, focused on core and strength, worked on weaknesses like lazy adductors and glute medii (medii? mediuses?) or my tight posterior tibialis, straightened my toes (root of all evil), and etc. etc. Needless to say I've been working on the little things. The things that will matter when all the miles start to come back. Don't get me wrong - this may sound like I've been busy. I have not. I've had more than my fair share of sleeping in and sloth like behavior. I'm really good at napping. And I've even gotten the question(s): when are you going to run again? Wait, you're not running AT ALL? Well what are you going to do with your time?

And yes, I've had a lot of time. Weekends are weird without long runs. I don't drink coffee. I don't do brunch on the regular because let's be honest - how OFTEN can we stuff our faces full of brunch-y things and feel good about ourselves (without running for hours beforehand)? I know I don't feel comfortable after one face stuffing so hence the reason for 'not that often'. More often than not I've sat around and stared out the window. Or yes, I've gone shopping (retail therapy??). Hey, I needed new work clothes! I did have one productive weekend where I finally put up my 'inspiration wall'... only to realize it's pretty run focused and maybe leans 'marathon' distance. Nice little reminder.

All of this is to say, the time off has been nice. It was necessary and I'm glad I took it. And no, I'm not jumping into a marathon training cycle. Although I took a whole month off I am still not ready to commit myself and my body to that distance. That may be awhile.

That said, there is a fire, a passion to run. It's Fall for crying out loud. It's the PERFECT temperature for running. It's my favorite time of year. So, I am starting a training cycle. For a 5k. I've never 'trained' for a 5k. I respect the distance, there's no doubt about that. It's painful and just long enough where you have to work for it and have endurance going into it. Other than a few years ago when I wanted a sub-20 the 5k distance has never been on my radar. I've thrown in a few here and there for fun (or punishment - however you view it). So now I'm going to make it my focus.



Shut It Down

Preface: I've been hesitant to write this let alone post it. Mostly because it's hard to put into words. But beyond that, it's hard to talk about things not feeling smooth or fluid and it's hard to explain my physical and mental apathy. I feel weak. I feel like I'm letting people down. It's not fun to know I've thrown in the towel even though I know that's exactly what I need right now. Because let's be honest, it's more fun to only ever talk about the PRs, the training, the NEXT goal. I suppose, however, that that is not reality. So for the sake of being honest and open here I go.

Not all runs are blissful. Not all workouts are successful. Not all training cycles go as planned. If this is news to you then 'Go You' or 'I'm sorry to burst your bubble'. But no one is really asking for perfect. We all know that striving towards a goal is going to take work. Sometimes really really hard work. If we aren't reaching for the moon and if it isn't going to take a village to get us there then is the goal really worth attaining? Sure, when a training cycle ends with an amazing race we look back in hindsight and think that the training itself was flawless. But deep down we know there were those moments. The moments we had to fight for or even the moments where we lost the battle. 

The success was the training cycle as a whole. The momentum that carried us through, day in and day out. The fight that we had for the hard workouts. Feeling a sense of pride when we nailed it. The positive mantras in our head that got us through one more lap around the track or through one more tempo mile. The internal motivation to set our alarms early to slog through a hot/humid long run or a solo workout at the track. The friends we recruited along the way when we couldn't seem to motivate ourselves to get it done alone. And we celebrate. We celebrate battling through. Pushing our limits. Getting stronger. Staying mentally tough. I'll be the first person to admit (not so humbly) that I'm pretty damn mentally strong. In fact when people balk at a workout or a solo 18 miler with 14 miles at race pace in the wind and rain, I've stepped up to the plate and got it done. Because that's what we have to do if we want to reach our goals! No questions asked. No skimping. No excuses. Follow the plan and GET IT DONE!!

But what happens when this mentally tough person, this goal oriented being doesn't have the desire to get it done? What happens when we haven't celebrated in awhile? What happens when mantras no longer work, when any and all amounts of positive self talk go unheard? What happens when our confidence is shot and we haven't had a 'good' run in weeks? What happens when that good run finally comes and it still doesn't lift us out of the training apathy that we've gotten ourselves into? What happens when we're simply tired - physically and mentally? 

I don't really have the answers. If I did I'd say 'BOOM - here ya go!' and we'd all move on and be grateful. But it's not a one size fits all. I wish I had my answer a month ago. Or heck - back in January when my last training cycle was trying to get off the ground and find some momentum. 

This training cycle I had momentum at first. I had some fire. I kept questioning, 'Do I have the heart to find another start line?' and the answer was 'YES', loudly and excitedly. Mentally I was 100% in. But when run after run (after run) felt flat/hard/like a chore, the fire started to go out. Were my workouts harder than before? No. Was my mileage higher? No. Was (or rather IS) the goal unattainable? Scary, sure. Unattainable? I most definitely think not. In fact, I have all the faith in the world that I can/will get there. So then why am I not excited to keep trying?! Physical fatigue begets mental fatigue. 

Don't get me wrong. I've tried. I've tried really hard to flip this around. I went through what I believe to be a usual progression - use more mantras, use more positive self talk. Journal about my fears and address them. Seek advice from my coach. Use other people's cheerleading to spur me on. All working the mental side. The side that was, for the most part, ready, willing and able. 

So when those things didn't work, I took a deep breath and tried to back off a little. I was months away from the race at this point. Adjusting paces slightly, adjusting short term expectations. One run isn't going to make or break a cycle. Especially this early on (I kept telling myself). But what about 2, 3, 5, 6...? When, after I listened to my inner cheerleader, after I let my body recover just a tad, things were still feeling flat and labored... well sh**, just keep going because this is my goal dammit! Yep, bring on the tough love. No one said this was going to be a cake walk!!!!! I march on. I do the work. I take care of my body the best I know how but I keep going because this is what I want. Right?

I thought so... I know the goal is what I want, but the timing?? I was chasing the goal because it's something I felt like I had to do NOW. If I didn't capitalize on the fitness I had gained over the past two years I was going to miss something. If I waited until later, if I took a break, it would only make coming back to the marathon distance that much harder. These are the things that kept me going long past the signs that I should have stopped. These are the things that are still in the back of my head screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU'RE WASTING IT!!!

To add to this internal pressure I look around and see other people still training. I see them nailing paces that I know I could... if only my legs would turn over. I see them racing time and again and jumping right into another cycle. So what's wrong with me? 

I know the answer to this: absolutely nothing. Reality number one: I'm blindsided but what I want to see. Many people that I am inspired by have hit similar bumps in the road. Maybe not NOW but in years past. And sadly, many of them have plowed on, similar to me, and have ended up injured. A setback that was forced on them. I should be grateful that I'm not in that position. Reality number two: I don't give myself enough credit. I've been racing my a** off for two plus straight years and have been training hard and consistently for about 4 years. This moment has been a long time coming!

Sometimes we get lucky and low moments fade. Sometimes you CAN overcome the apathy. And you can rally. I think those sometimes are acute. We hit a road bump, a set back. We take a few days off and boom, we're back on track. But what if that road bump builds slowly? What if we can explain it away even as it grows? What if we can easily ignore the warning signs?

Examples: Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's my iron levels. Maybe I'm not eating the right amounts at the right time. That niggle in my heel... it must be from a tight calf but it loosens up just enough with a little attention. The new sharp pain in my knee... that must be from a tight quad and loosens up just enough so I can keep going. I'm not injured so I should be able to keep going. Nothing is physically stopping me from achieving my goals. Well, nothing other than dead legs.

But with the constant barrage of issues cropping up (no matter how small) and the never ending feel of 'dead legs', my spirit breaks more and more. Losing faith daily in my ability to meet my goal, like it's slipping slowly through my fingertips. At this point that pressure (the one I put on myself - yes, I own it, no one is forcing me to train, no one is setting my goals for me) is insurmountable and many (if not all) runs lately have ended in tears. Or even worse, I've broken down mid run, sat on the side of the road hyperventilating from a self-induced semi panic attack. The wheels coming off entirely! What the f*** am I doing?!

This, my friends, is the opportune moment to SHUT IT DOWN! It took weeks of convincing myself. Heck, it's still taking some time to believe that I'm doing the right thing (yes, I know y'all will chime in and confirm this - noted). My body feels like crap constantly. And my head, my head just needs to relax and enjoy something again. So this is where I tell you that I've allowed myself to stop training for my Fall marathon. Many of you didn't even know - so here's the belated 'oh, I was training for the Twin Cities Marathon'. In fact, I've allowed myself to stop training, period. SHUT IT DOWN and have faith that I'll be back when my body and mind are ready.


Hood to Coast Relay 2014

Well crap. I've now written two unpublished posts about this relay, neither of which I'm very fond of (obviously, since I'm currently typing up a third). So let's make this one shorter and see if I actually hit the 'publish' button up top (if you're reading this 'Yay for me!').

As expected this weekend was filled with awesomeness. Truly a weekend NOT to be missed. Epic by all accounts. (Enough descriptors for you? Are you jealous you missed out yet?) That said, it came at the tail end of epic every weekend for the last month for me so needless to say, I'm spent. Not just from racing this weekend but from being gone, traveling, running all the miles, staying up way past my bedtime (or just never going to sleep as was the case this weekend - up all night to get lucky???), yadda yadda. My brain/body/spirit are fatigued. So... this is the kind of post that you get because of all the aforementioned epic-ness. You're welcome for this lame a** post and for my lack of a vocabulary.

In bullet form because that's easy:  
  • We raced... oh, I have to write more?
  • Overall we ran faster this year finishing in 20:54:02 (6:19 overall average pace).
  • We had 5 new people - yay for new friends!
  • I ran the same legs as last year - runner 3, van 1.
  • I ran slower than last year - Leg 1: 4.22 miles in 6:07 avg, Leg 2: 7.28 miles in 7:08 avg, Leg 3: 5.99 miles in 7:21 avg (Garmin stats).
  • I'm not jazzed about my paces but it was what I had this weekend so I have to be satisfied with that.
  • We started later - 5:15PM to be exact.
  • We got less sleep - something about a later start and traffic jams really threw us (or at least me) for a loop. 20 minute power nap for the win.
  • The start was EMPTY - womp womp.
  • Leg 24 was a cluster (as per usual, although supposedly worse than years past).
  • My teammates' speed/ability was impressive .
  • The finish was foggy - or wait, was that just my head?
  • The laughs were plentiful although the drive home takes the cake - #life, #living, #me, #inavan... (yeah, that's an inside joke, sorry I'm not sorry).
  • All the van snacks... ALL of them.

Missing the Captain! Pre-relay picture fail.

Until next year!


Eugene Half Marathon - Not A Race Report

On the train ride down

I ran the Eugene Half Marathon. Check.

Why so lackluster??? Well here's the honest truth. 'Track Town' isn't this mystical magical place for me. I feel like I grew up there. I raced many times as a child on Hayward Field. I went to track camp at the University of Oregon and ran on Pre's trail before I really knew or cared who Pre was. So to run a marathon or a half marathon there is not something really new or unique. It's just another race.