Monday, November 21, 2011

How things change

This has been a year of transformation for me, especially in my running. It just isn't what it used to be for me. It was once a way to validate myself, a way to feel a sense of self worth, experience competition, to set and achieve goals. Not so much these days. Suffering through many bouts of injuries over the past 6 years, I've been broken down. This last one, my foot problem, has kept me from running like I've wanted to for the past 6 months. I'm tired of fighting it and running in fear of re-injuring it. Instead, I've slowed down and tried to enjoy running for other reasons - for physical and mental health, for weight maintenance, for social time, and for being outdoors. I also just simply like to run to run. When all is going well and I can run without pain, I feel happy. I like moving my body, finding a good cadence, clearing my mind, sweating it out, and feeling the wind on my face. Time goals are not my focus right now. Running free - free from injury, doubts, worry, and fear - that is my new goal. It feels different, weird, unnatural at times, but I'm kinda liking it. No schedule, no rules, just me and the road ahead. Let's see where it leads.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My comeback

For the few of you who care, sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I lost steam to write about my running after Boston and have just been trying to find a healthy state of running and working out all summer. After doing the Lincoln half marathon and Mother's Day 5K with my daughter in May, I took nearly 6 weeks off of running to give my foot the rest it needed. Knowing I still needed a goal to stay motivated, I signed up for the Shawnee Mission triathlon in early July. I knew I wouldn't be able to run the race very well (if at all), but I at least wanted something to keep me moving and figured I could still bike and swim without taxing my foot. I chose the long course so it would scare me enough to have to train on the bike and do some swimming. I "trained" (mostly biked and swam) for about a month and accomplished my goal. The race wasn't even cancelled this year and my foot held out great during the run.

But even with all of that, I was still in a running funk all summer. I had no major running goals other than to try to get and eventually stay healthy. My foot was just not cooperating. It still got sore and tight in the joint when I ran too many miles, went too fast, or wore any sort of heeled shoes (including running shoes!).

I was feeling extreme frustration with not finding just the right shoe to help me. I finally threw in the towel and was just about to give up running and/or running shoes altogether when Eladio encouraged me to try the new minimalist running shoe by Saucony called Hattori. Our local Saucony rep, Terry Drake, provided a trial run in these shoes at a group run this past summer. I gave them a test run and they felt great. They were definitely different, but my foot (my toe specifically) felt much better in these shoes than any others I tried. Plus, I wasn't having to run barefoot on the hot pavement!

Since I was having to start all over with my running anyway, I figured now was the time to ease into them. I didn't want to make the classic mistake I heard of most people when trying minimalist shoes for the first time, doing too much, too soon. When I started running again back in late June, I did 1 mile, then 2 and worked my way up to 3 before the triathlon. I was able to maintain doing 3-4 mile runs during July, but then wanted to test the long distance waters again. I moved up to 6, then 8. Still, my foot was holding out and doing okay. It wasn't 100%, but it wasn't getting worse. By late August, I was back up to 12 miles and my foot was finally starting to feel better which gave me enough confidence to sign up for the Sioux Falls half marathon less than a month away. I maintained 8-10 the next few weeks and headed into the half marathon race not completely sure how I was going to do, if my foot would hold out, or if I'd be able to finish injury free.

Race day was yesterday. My strategy was to start slow and then pick it up if I felt good towards the end. If all went well, I hoped to run a sub 2. I just had no idea how much of a sub 2 to shoot for. A few running buddies also had similar goals, but when I checked out the pace bands they were using, seeing all those miles in the mid to upper 8 minute range made me nervous. I really didn't think I had 8's in me since all my training runs were in the 10's and sometimes mid-9's. Thankfully, a couple ladies were being very sensible and were starting in the upper 9's. I decided to hang with them as long as I could.

It ended up being Patricia and I who really started together and stayed tight for about 10 miles. I could see my friend Mallika up ahead for a little while and our other buddy Pritha right behind us. Then by 10, my legs felt plenty good and warmed up. I told myself that if I felt good by 10, I would just see what I had in me for the final 5K. Patricia encouraged me to go up ahead so I finally started pushing my pace and left her. For the next mile and a half, I felt like I was flying. It was an exhilarating experience. I was passing people like crazy. What a feeling! To top it all off, I had no pain in my foot at this speed. I looked down when my Garmin hit mile 12 and saw that I had just run an 8:04 minute mile!! The final mile was a bit tougher since I had started running out of juice and had not done this distance in training. My legs hung in there, but I felt a blister forming under my big toe. It was annoying, but at least it wasn't pain my joint or bone this time. I had to push through my dying legs that final mile, but seeing Eladio at the finish line pumped me up for the final tenth of a mile and I was able to sprint it in. Right before crossing the finish line, I saw the clock at 1:55 something. For a second I was disappointed it wasn't a sub 1:55, but quickly realized how greedy that was. I had just run a sub 2 (1:55:11) and didn't have any major injuries. That is a first in many years!! Praise God!

It's the day after, I'm tired, but filled with new hope. Is it possible that running in my new shoes is helping me become an injury free runner? I pray and hope it is. I'm just so thankful that I am running distance again and am feeling really good. I'm already starting to toy around with race plans this next year. I don't know what I'll end up doing so I'll stay quiet on that for now, but it's wonderful to be filled with hope of being a mother runner once again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New age, new blog...sort of

In celebration of my birthday and new age, 36, I felt it was time to change the name of my blog. I won't say much now, other than a big THANK YOU to my hubby and kids for making my day so special. It started with a 10 mile bike ride and breakfast at my favorite morning restaurant, Eggtc. I was also treated to some nice gifts from my family - a new book (I'll share more about this later), some body sprays, and a dozen cupcakes from Smallcakes. I've only eaten two and they were quite delicioso. I'm one very blessed and spoiled mother runner! :-)

Don't they make your mouth water?!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

God is Good!!

I can't explain it, but God worked a miracle for me. On the 115th running of the Boston marathon, I was able to complete my 15th marathon. Even lining up to the start, I had no idea what the day would bring and just how far I would be able to run on my bum foot. I tried to put my fears out of my mind and just go with the flow. Hanging out and starting the race with friends helped tremendously. I had to keep reminding myself to just live in the moment and take it all in. Not knowing if or when I'd be back to run Boston, I didn't want to let this opportunity pass me by and leave with regrets. That was my "A" goal no matter what happened with my foot.

Still, I feared the worst. Simply walking around before the race on Saturday and Sunday, I had pain in my foot. Every pair of running shoes I packed (I brought a large suitcase so I could decide between four pairs!) didn't feel good on my sore foot. I decided I needed all the help I could get, so I used the free titanium tape they offered at the expo and wore my EFX band (those holographic bracelets that have been disproven). I didn't care if it was all a hoax. I tried convincing myself they were real and could really help me. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I didn't feel different by having them on, but was hoping there might be something in them that could help in the later miles of the marathon.

Race day: Woke up early, showered and ate breakfast. (I wasn't going to make the same mistake I've always made when running a later marathon). Waited in a long line, but finally got on the school bus to go to Hopkinton. I wasn't nervous yet, just sleepy. Rested my eyes a bit and chatted with my friends. Got to Hopkinton and waited in a long port-o-potty line. Bundled up in my poncho and danced to the hip-hop music the "DJ/announcer" was playing.

Finally, my friends and I settled down to get ourselves all race ready. We thought we'd have more time, but the announcer was already instructing us to line up in our corral. We gathered up our belongings and dropped off our bags in the appropriate buses. (I was impressed by the extreme organization. Boston sure knows what they're doing!)

We walked, and walked, and walked and finally got close to the start. This was a whirlwind! I barely had time to take off my throw away clothes when we hit the starting line. I wished my friends good luck one last time and we were off and running. We lost the speedsters, Theresa and Ann, pretty quickly in the crowd. They were shooting for a faster time and I didn't expect to see them again until the finish (if I could make it there). I stuck by Patricia and Bonnie who both wanted to run a sub 4. Patricia acted as our pacer since she was the only one with a SmartPace band. It didn't take long before I realized just how far back we had started in the third wave. I looked around at the numbers on the runners around us and we were in a pack of 20,000+. I figured most of them were charity runners and we were going to have to do a lot of weaving. That's exactly what we did for the first 7-8 miles. It was work trying to stay together, but thankfully, the pace didn't feel bad for me. Cardiovascularly, I was fine and my foot wasn't hurting yet. I had my name on my shirt and every time we hit the crowds, I pumped my fist when I heard my name and high fived the kids. I thought, if this is as far as I can run, I'm going to make the most of it.

The miles just kept flying by and I was doing well. Pace still felt good and foot was still fine. We got to the screaming wall at Wellesley and again I ran by the crowd. Lots of "Kiss me, I'm [fill in the blank]" signs which kinda weirded me out, but I high fived a lot of the girls and the handful of guys through this area. I ran with a huge smile and felt like a celebrity. I decided right there that this was how I wanted to run the rest of my race. I didn't want to care about my pace or my foot anymore. It was all about taking it in and enjoying the crowd. I would let them carry me through the miles and through the pain.

Mile 17, Patricia and I saw her husband, Joe, and I was finally able to dump the arm warmers and gloves I had been carrying around my waist. It was somewhere around that time, I started pulling away from Patricia. It wasn't intentional, I just felt good. Patricia was feeling overheated and needed to slow the pace down a little. She kept encouraging me to go ahead if I felt good, but I was still a bit apprehensive about running too fast and worried my foot wouldn't be able to handle it. At the next aid station, I found myself ahead of her. I looked back a few times, but slowing my pace down felt unnatural. I trusted that Patricia could finish and just needed to run her own race. I had seen Bonnie a couple of times after mile 15, but kept losing her too. She was looking strong every time I saw her though.

I don't remember a lot of details about the next 8-9 miles. My memory always gets sketchy around this time of the marathon. I remember just wanting to get to mile 20 before I could feel confident that I could finish, even if I needed to walk. I was feeling some pain in my foot, but it wasn't in the same spot I had been so concerned about. Now, it was blister pain on the bottom of my feet and under my toe. I don't know what it is about Boston. It's the only race I've blistered in. Must be the hills! I was wearing my Injinji socks and had lubed up well with Sportslick that morning, so I had no reasons for these blisters. Instead of getting upset, I decided this was the least of my worries. I just wanted to finish and would deal with whatever blisters I got. They weren't going to stop me this time! I figured blisters will heal, broken feet and disappointment take a lot longer. My foot didn't feel broken and I so wanted to finish.

While I was taking in the crowd at mile 20, an angel appeared. It was a woman who looked right at me and said "You've got this, Myra! Six more miles and you'll get your medal!" Seriously. How did she know that this was what I was working for and that this would be the perfect motivation for me that that particular moment? I had told Eladio before I left that if I could make it to mile 20, I just wanted to finish so I could get that medal. If I had to drop out before that point, I could live with myself. But, if I got that close and didn't get to finish and get the medal, I would be so disappointed. In fact, as a safeguard to my potential disappointment, I specifically bought a "Boston 2011" necklace at the expo that would serve as my medal in case I didn't get one. But here was this lady, saying I was going to get it. I believed her and just ran as fast as I could.

Those last 6 miles were the most awesome final 6 miles I've ever run in a marathon. I was fully in the moment and thoroughly enjoying the crowd. Yes, my legs were getting tired and I was running on a painful blister, but I didn't care. My mantra became, "Run with Joy" (borrowed from the title of Ryan Hall's book). Finally, I hit mile 25 and I knew I was going to finish. A few turns and then we hit the final straight away. I gave it everything I had. Crossed the finish line and looked down at my watch - 3:55:05! I did it! Not only did I finish, my foot felt okay and I ran a sub 4! I got my A, B, C goals and more!! Immediately, I called Eladio. I broke down into tears and just thanked God for his amazing grace. We both cried and rejoiced.

God was so good to me and my friends that day. I don't know why, but He performed a minor miracle to help me get through and remain injury free. Both Ann and Theresa achieved PR's and Patricia and Bonnie were able to finish. Oh, and did you hear - an unofficial world record was set by the male winner. What an amazing day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Praying for a miracle

Here's the sad and ugly truth. I'm sitting here trying to fight the urge to wallow in self-pity over my predicament. To comfort myself, I'm indulging in McDonald's fries and a strawberry shake. Great health food, I know!! Here's why -- It's almost two days until Boston and I'm not even sure I'll be able to finish the race. In my 13 years of running and of my 14 marathons, I've never gone into a marathon feeling this way before. I'm going into this race with a potential major injury. At the very least, I have a stress reaction in my foot. Or, it COULD be a stress fracture. I've had no MRI to confirm this, but have seen several health care professionals in the past couple of weeks and this seems to be the logical conclusion.

I knew going into this training that things wouldn't be ideal. For goodness sake, I had to train in the winter in the Midwest! What could I expect but lots of cold, snowy days running outside. But, I dealt with it. I sucked it up and did what I had to do. I wasn't killing myself this time around. I had already qualified, so my goal was to just put in the miles and build up to some speed and hill work so I could at least go into Boston prepared. More than anything, I didn't want a repeat of how I trained and ran Boston before. When I ran it in 2002, I was a full-time student and just barely squeezed in my training between classes, homework, and tests. I did just enough to finish, but not enough to have a strong race. Still, once I was in Beantown and surrounded by all those wonderful athletes, I convinced myself I could still push the pace. Once I started the race, I became intent on breaking four hours. All went well in the first half, but once I hit the Newton hills, I got a blister on my big toe. I was able to stay on pace, but finally, at mile 19, it broke. I had never blistered in a race before and didn't know how bad it was. I just knew it hurt with every step. For three miles, I searched for a medical tent. When I finally found one, I sat down, took off my shoe and sock, lubed up with Vaseline, and put on a band-aid. Once my foot was all mended, I took off and was able to finish the race. I don't remember much about those last 7 miles except it was a struggle. I remember that I started resenting the race and couldn't muster up the strength to try to enjoy myself by taking in everything around me. I was frustrated that I had a negative attitude and that my race hadn't gone as I had hoped. Still, I finished in 4:06. Not a bad time for me (based on the clock's standard), but a terrible time in terms of how I experienced what was supposed to be the best part of the race, the finish.

From the start of this training, I've said that finish time wasn't the important factor in my Boston race this time around. I just wanted to go back to Boston and try to redeem myself from all the negativity I experienced before. I wanted to take it all in this time and enjoy it as much as possible, especially the final 6 miles!

I don't know what God's plans are for me, but I know that goal may be difficult to attain on Monday. When I saw my chiropractor today, he said he wouldn't advise running, but he knows I will anyway. He just wants me to be prepared to stop in the race if the pain becomes intolerable. I'm sure if it gets that bad, I'll have no choice. There's a good chance it could become a stress fracture and I could do major damage if I keep running on it.

I have no idea what is going to happen on Monday. I'm praying for the best and for my ego to get out of the way so I can run smart and finish - no matter how slow. I've GOT to get time goals out of my head! I'm a pretty competitive person (I think all Boston qualifiers are) and it's going to be challenging to go against my nature. Only God can change this in me.

I am comforted by all the people who are praying for me. Thank you! I'm beyond any more physical help, so this is all I have left.

I'm sure there's a major life lesson in all of this, but I'm not at a point of analyzing it just yet. Give me time. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I get back.

Earlier, I felt at peace and I was okay with simply lining up at the start of Boston and just seeing how far I could go. I'm nervous and sad now. It's just a mix of emotions for me right now. My hope and prayer is that I can make it to the finish and get that Boston medal. I wish I had more faith, like Ralph in the movie Saint Ralph, to expect that God will perform miracles. I know He can. I just don't know if there'll be one for me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A huge feeling of accomplishment

Today I did something I thought I would never want or have to do. I ran a 22 mile training run, solo!

When I was in high school, I saw my dad run marathon after marathon, and while I wanted to be a runner, I never saw marathoning in my future. That changed in my 20's when Eladio started Runner's Edge. Since I've started running distance, I've always had the luxury of doing my long runs with the group or at least with my running buds. Basically, I've always had company on my long runs. The farthest I've ever gone solo was something like 16 miles.

I could sense something was different about this training session. I was actually enjoying my solo mid-week runs when the weather was too frightful to run at 6 a.m. with my gal pals. These were by no means long runs, but they were farther than I'd been going on my own in quite some time. The suprising part was that I wasn't hating or dreading these runs. As I compared my training schedule with my growing calendar commitments, I started to figure I would likely have to get in at least one 20 miler on my own. I wasn't looking forward to this, but didn't feel like I had any choice. I kept telling myself that it would toughen me up and make Boston feel easier. I'm not sure about the latter, but now that it's over, I can definitely say it's toughened me up!

Here are some highlights of my run:
1. I started this morning before the rain was predicted to come, so I ran about 6 miles rain free. Thanks Dad and Felicia for watching the kids so I could go earlier!
2. I ran 4-7 mile loops around my house which helped break up the miles.
3. I endured a 5 minute hail shower followed by a heavy downpour.
4. Staying close to home enabled me to change my top and jacket once and my soaked shoes and socks three times.
5. Even though I didn't have a friend to talk with, I had my trusty iPod to keep me company. Special thanks to the "Spirit of the Marathon" and "Rocky" soundtracks!
6. My Garmin died at 20.86 miles, so although I don't have proof that I ran 22, you'll just have to trust me. :-)
7. I came home to a cup of hot chocolate and Minsky's supreme pizza. Both were incredible! Thanks Eladio!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Acceptance and appreciation

I had an epiphany today -- I like my body! Taking a glance in my full length mirror after I was dressed, I had an instant appreciation for my body. I know this sounds vain, but you have to understand where I'm coming from to appreciate this new thought.

I am a born and bred perfectionist. Have been as long as I can remember, or at least since middle school when I couldn't tolerate getting an A-. It seems all my life I have fixated on being perfect in one area or another. If it wasn't school, it was my marriage, if not my marriage, then my kids. The list goes on and on. This past year, I could feel myself changing from this perfectionistic lifestyle. I found myself obsessing less and less over the things that used to be so important to me. By God's amazing grace, I finally starting seeing some transformation in my thinking.

When I was in the heart of training for the Quad Cities marathon last fall, I radically changed my diet. Well, I tried to change it overnight and that didn't really work. But, I did see some payoff. I lost some weight and gained some muscle tone. I was taking my kids to the pool frequently and everytime I put on my swimsuit, I noticed these minor changes in my body. It didn't take long and soon I was starting to get a little obsessed about my weight, my body fat percentage and getting toned abs and arms. Good thing that was at the end of the summer and swimsuit season was over before it could grow into a full blown obsession. Then, I ran my marathon and fulfilled my goals. As the weather cooled, I started donning my fall/winter wardrobe. All of the sudden, my clothes didn't fit right. Everything was fine when I was wearing shorts and tees everyday, but now my pants were falling off of me! I hated the way I looked in my jeans. Being the cheapskate I am, I didn't want to have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe and commit to a smaller size, so I decided to gain some weight back by eating whatever I fancied.

That worked for me until about Thanksgiving. After that, I should have stopped, but the bad habit was formed and my cravings seemed to take over. I was on the fringe all December of barely fitting into my clothes comfortably, but I just couldn't seem to find the motivation to make the dietary changes I would need to in order to lose the weight.

Finally, the holidays were over and a new year began. Time for resolutions and for my Boston marathon training to start. This has helped, but not fixed everything. I was starting to worry that I might struggle with my weight and start obsessing about food. I don't want that!! I just want to eat right and enjoy some treats once in a while. I finally think I'm on my way to finding that balance.

It was just so nice to put on a pair of jeans today without a struggle and be able to look in the mirror and think, "I look pretty good." For once, I didn't pick apart my body and lay guilt trips on myself for not eating perfectly. I'm NOT perfect! I know, big news flash, right? LOL I'm saying it for myself. Today, I looked in the mirror and fully accepted myself, imperfections and all. That felt so good!

I hope every woman has a moment (or hopefully a mindset) like this at least once in her life. We are bombarded by images of so called "perfect" women and we are so good at worrying, feeling guilty, and doing everything we can to hide who we really are, I think these moments of acceptance are rare. I'm taking time today to appreciate that I had this moment and for today, I feel great about my body. I'm short, petite (sort of), have a small chest (which I LOVE), and have a full, round booty. :-) God has blessed me and I am thankful. I hope you can take a moment to appreciate what God has given you today too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finding motivation

Hello again! Happy New Year! I hope it's getting off to a good start for you. It's been good, but kinda slow for me. I'll catch you up to speed since my last post.

Yeah, yeah...ya know I qualified. Within a week of qualifying, I made my Boston hotel reservations. A couple weeks later, I applied for the marathon. Like thousands of others, I spent a couple of hours on my computer entering all my info and credit card number about 50 times before it finally went through. I waited anxiously another two weeks before I heard from the BAA that my application had been received and upon confirmation of my qualifying time, I would be accepted. I'm now on the entrants list for this year's race and that's good enough for me. Last week, I purchased my airline tickets. All I have to do now is to wait for my confirmation card with my race number. I think it should arrive in March or early April. Oh yeah, I guess I have to start training too!

That's been the hard part - staying motivated to run and think about training again. Since September, I've maintained running three days a week and my long runs have been between eight to ten miles. It's been enough to sort of keep me in shape and fitting in my clothes, but not what I really consider training. I did run the Sprint Thanksgiving Day 5K again in November and did surprisingly well with little training and speedwork. I finished in 22:06! I was quite pleased and shocked when I saw the clock at the finish line. In the last mile, I kept feeling like I was slowing down and was getting passed more than I was passing others. I assumed my finish time would be over 23 minutes, definitely not a minute faster!

Well, that was the last time I pushed myself. Each week since has become more and more of a struggle to find the motivation to do more than the bare minimum. I'm learning to be patient with myself and take things a day at a time. I don't want to get too excited too soon. Last weekend, I joined Runner's Edge for a long run and was hoping to do 10-12. I ended up running 14! Twelve of those miles felt absolutely great! The final two felt like the end of my marathon. I was glad to have done it so I don't have to run that long without the group this weekend. That was my motivation for even going that far. I think I'm going to have to resort to bargaining with myself to get into training mode again. I thought eating like crap during the holidays would do it. I totally let myself indulge in pretty much anything I wanted thinking that would satisfy me and I would want to get right into healthy eating at the first of the year. That hasn't really happened yet.

Yesterday was the first day I had any sort of motivation to do something other than run. For a half hour, I worked on my core, stretched, and did some strengthening exercises using a medicine ball. Boy, do I feel it today!! My glutes and hammies are not happy. I guess that's what I get for neglecting my other body parts for 4 months!

I did something else yesterday to get my mojo back. I figured I wouldn't feel up to running outside today with the freezing temps, but thought I could get excited about working on the dreadmill if I downloaded some new tunes on my new iPod shuffle. I finally took it out of the box yesterday (I got it for Christmas) and synced it up. I've been having computer issues lately, so it took longer than it should have to get it synced and charged up. After 6 hours, it was ready to go. My opportunity for running had passed by the point, so my run had to wait until today. With my shuffle in tow, I went to 24 Hour Fitness for a run.

Okay, so I knew it had been a while since I'd been to the gym, but I didn't expect anyone to notice. I walked in with my card in hand and gave it to the "trainer" at the front desk. He smiled at me and condescendingly said, "You haven't been here in a while, have you. We don't use cards anymore. We use your fingerprints and phone number now." I had to hand over my card and go through the process of getting fingerprinted before entering. So much for going unnoticed! At least everything else was pretty much the same.

Even though I just went 4 miles, I have to say it was the most enjoyable treadmill run I've ever had. It didn't hurt or feel uncomfortable like it usually does. I would have liked to have gone even longer (I never thought I'd say that!), but I had to finish up so I could pick up my son at preschool.

Maybe that's all I needed?! I don't want to think that I'm a runner who needs music to enjoy the experience, but I can say that I think music can enhance it. I still very much enjoy running and chatting with my friends, but when they aren't around and I'm stuck inside, I feel like I need my music to keep me going.

In case you're interested, here are some of the new songs that pump me up: We R Who We R by Kesha, Only Girl by Rihanna, and Satisfaction by Benny Benassi. I learned about the last song from our new Wii (a Christmas present). Can I consider doing Just Dance 2 games with my kids a form of crosstraining? This winter, anything that has gotten me off the couch and eating chocolate is a form of crosstraining!!

Well, that's the scoop for now. I'll write more as my training continues. I can't promise it will be inspiring, but I'm sure I'll have some stories to share. :-)