Thursday, May 31, 2012

picking yourself up after you've knocked yourself down

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles in the body.
 Lynn Jennings

Right now I'm 0 for 3 and I've let it eat up my mental game.

Back in April there was a 5k DNF due to some knee issues, then there was the day of my goal half where temps were way too sizzly for my liking that made my goal race pace nearly impossible to execute, and then there is last weekends 10 miler where I mentally checked out for the day after hitting a bit of unexpected wind on the course. Combine these races with the 4 weeks that I battled an uncooperative left knee and my mind is way off of where it was back in March.

Hitting unexpected road blocks is what really separates the men from the boys in racing. Every race we all toe the line where our attitude and mindset has a 100% impact on the outcome for the day. More then likely if you head to a race feeling questionable and doubtful that you are going to achieve your goal, you will probably do just that. I think it's safe to say that all runners deal with the "am I good enough" mind game from time to time, but how do we get over that hump? How do you take that less then exceptional performance and turn it into fuel for the next race?

Stepping up my mental game is where it's at right now. All the physical work is done where I am no different then any competitor that is going to toe the line next Saturday. This race will be 100% mental, and this is how I'm going to get myself there:

spend some time in prayer
Prayer isn't for everyone, but it helps me. Knowing that there will always be a greater purpose then tangible objects and worldly possessions keeps me going. Being thankful for what I have achieved in my life and the blessings that surround me everyday can be often overlooked where entitlement creeps in during times of doubt and trial. While I may not declare to my LORD everyday that I am thankful for a healthy body that is able to move in unthinkable ways, I am eternally grateful for this gift.

Be silent, be still and let the imagination run wild a bit. A smidgen of new found intellectualism will never hurt.

detach from technology and live life
Making new memories always helps weed out the sticky moments in life for me. Backing away from the garmin to cut loose leaving opportunity for some unexpected adventure is what keeps my heart pure and unchained.

let the past go and move forward 
It's challenging to look at a situation that didn't pan out as expected and find value in shortcomings. But you can't change the past, you can only move forward. Letting a race hold you back from future greatness is really silly. Clock time is just a number and there will always be another chance to get after a goal. If every goal and quest that our hearts set out to conquer were unpretentiously achievable, life would be dull and predictable. Sometimes life just has to smack you in the face knocking you on your @$$ to realize whats in front of you.

let it go, let it go, let it go

acknowledge the fear and vulnerability
Only that which scares you will ever make you stronger, and learning how to race like a front pack runner scares the pants off of me. It makes me feel out of my element, exposed, and draws more attention to me then I'd like. Staying in the zone of safety and comfort is always going to be easier where quick splits and PR's will be a rare occurrence. There will always be that little voice inside that says "hey that is one crazy idea...are you sure about that?" when tackling the unknown, but instead of letting it overtake and own my soul I need to acknowledge it and then lay it to rest. Time to embrace the pain like this crazy speedy gal knowing that things in life will never come on my timing.

look back and reflect
Progress...just because you can't hold it in your hands and you can't always see it doesn't mean it's not there. Sometimes you have to thumb back through training logs, blog posts, old medals and race bibs to figure out that you have indeed gotten one step closer to your dreams.

Some good moments and some not so good over the years

5 years ago when I ran my first SF10 miler on a bum knee post Boston Marathon catastrophe of 2008, I finished in 1:18. That is a 12 minute improvement in 5 years.

2008: 1:18:39
2009: 1:12:08
2010: 1:11:55
2011: 1:07:48
2012: 1:06:51

yea, that's progress even if at first thought the 2012 SF10 felt like a bust.

With training you really have got to take a leap of faith and trust all the work that you've put in. The moment you begin to question whether it was too little or too much will be the exact moment you let that little itty-bitty piece of self-derailment being to seem real. There is never a guarantee that a PR will be anxiously awaiting your arrival at the finish line, but if you don't believe that it's possible who will?

put on the big girl pants
Nothing of value in life will ever come easy, so it's time to woman up and tell those voices of self doubt that they don't belong inside my head. I'm a competitor and I can do this.
Every time you get up and get back in the race, one more small piece of you starts to fall into place.
Rascal Flatts 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Soldier Field 10 Mile

My flawless Pam Beasley inspired fast, fast, fast race plan for last Saturday's Soldier Field 10 mile didn't exactly pan out as planned. The race turned into more of a fast, doddle, scoot kinda day for me.

Sometimes PR's and finish times just don't do race day justice, and the 2012 Soldier Field 10 Mile last Saturday was just that for me. This race offered confirmation for me that not only am I a wuss to running in heat and freezing cold temps, but I'm also a mental mess when it comes to racing into the wind. Basically I'm learning that my best races come only on partly cloudy days with temps in the high 50's to low 60's where there is no wind and my legs and stomach feel pretty much once in a blue moon.

I toed the line on Saturday morning ready to hit this 10 miler hard. Temps decided to play nice that morning and the legs felt pretty rested and ready to turn it on and hit my goal pace of 6:25-6:29 miles. As I stood at the start, I had no idea that there were some fairly strong winds coming off the lake and pegged the conditions perfect for a finish under 1:05. When I should have been mentally pumping myself up to compete before the gun went off making myself aware of my surroundings, instead my mind was just off in la-la land about how it wasn't 90 degrees and sunny out like the week prior.

When the gun went off I tried to start out controlled and had the intention of clocking 6:40 for Mile 1, but the course wove through a tunnel where my garmin lost signal. At that point in time I decided to just run by feel and not look at my watch until the 3 mile marker. Just after mile 2 I realized there was a fairly strong wind at my back that was helping me settle very comfortably into a 6:20 pace for those first 3 miles. I felt relaxed and completely controlled and even started thinking that there was a small chance that I could squeeze in just under 1:04 and wiggle my way down to the top 5 women.

Photo courtesy of Charlyn

As the miles clipped on with the wind at my back, I begun to slowly realize around mile 4 that the wind that seemed to be guiding me along on the way out was going to be blowing directly in my face for the 5 miles back right off the lake. Even before I got to the 5 mile marker I had already begun to acknowledge how much the wind was going to suck the life out of me and justified slowing my pace a bit. The first 5 miles I was running with some dude that was shooting for the same finish as me. As we turned into the wind, he was holding steady at 6:30 and I begun to let myself drop back. He turned back for a second and basically told me to get my act together and get up with him. Instead of saying "'re right. I'm not a pansy and I can run with the boys" I said "I don't know how to race against the wind".

Photo courtesy of Charlyn
I don't know how to race against the wind??? 
What? Who says that? 

Before I even was experiencing the challenge I had already begun to make excuses and told myself that the wind was going to slow me down. At the half way point my split was 32:23 where my pace felt manageable for the remaining 5 miles, but as I begun to battle the fairly strong winds coming off the lake my pace drastically slowed. My mind begun to stray like crazy where the only thoughts I seemed to be processing all had to do with the wind.

This wind is eating my quads alive.
This wind is sucking the life out of me.
There isn't anyone or thing to even draft off of.
I can't keep my pace when these gusts are blowing me all over the place.
Blah blah blah.

I consciously let the pace slip away from me where that finish just under 1:04 that I was dreaming of in the early miles of the race suddenly became very distant in my mind. Mentally I checked out at the first sign of rough waters for the day and was never able to pull myself back together before crossing the finish line. Men from the further back corrals begun to peg me as their target where they all seemed to blow past me one by one, and I never once fought back or pressed harder. Instead I allowed myself to fall victim to the wind. When I should have been fighting to keep my pace I instead was waving a white flag of surrender and allowed myself to basically give up.

I lost it all in the mind, and that is a tough pill to swallow. I had no post race soreness, no aches, and I wasn't really even tired afterwards. I actually felt like I could have pumped out another 10 miles at 7 minute pace right after crossing the finish line, which is never a good sign.

Still managed a 57 second PR, but I also allowed myself to pick up 2 minutes in the back half as I mentally checked out, and those 2 minutes are a tough reality to face. All and all, this wasn't a terrible race and my finish time is still a PR for me. But when you know that you ran a race like a putz mentally giving in at the half way point and walk away from the finish line feeling like you've still got a full tank of gas, it's like shooting yourself in the foot. Not every race is going to be amazing and produce a PR that leaves you feeling like you can do anything, and that goes for all runners. Professional or amateur.

I would love to walk away from this race proudly saying that I earned those 57 seconds, but I don't want to ignore the fact that I'm capable of running a race 10x better then the one I produced. Instead this PR will serve as a gentle reminder that even though I've made baby steps as an athlete in the past year, there is still a lot more work for me to put in to achieve my goals. Being a running rockstar will never come easy.

But now I know that it's time to step up my mental game.
If I want to run with the big dogs, gotta start thinking and racing like the big dogs.

Friday, May 25, 2012

warm fuzzy feelings

i think that my favorite word lately is elite.

while i may not be kara goucher elite and I usually linger as the caboose of the real elites, that five letter word always warms my heart when I see it next to my name.

feel like i could say it all day long.

elite. elite. elite. elite. elite.

it's looks like it's going to potentially be another hot one tomorrow morning, but i don't care.

10 milers are my favorite distance to race and the soldier field 10 is by far my favorite race in the city of chicago. even wrote a little tribute to this race last year to convince my hubby to let me register. (sorry about #9 d...maybe next year?)

i haven't been this excited for a race in some time, probably since my late summer half last year, and quite honestly could care less about the weather at this point. whether it's hot as all heck like last week or nice and breezy, i plan to race those 10 miles like an animal. 
There is no plan b.

in the words of pam beasley:
i'm gonna start fast, then i'm gonna run fast in the middle, then i'm gonna end fast. 
that's my flawless plan for tomorrow.
gotta earn that elite title and hold onto it as long as i can. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sick AGAIN and some race pics

It's funny to me that this past Sunday temps were just shy of 1 million degrees out in the early am hours of my goal half for the year, then 24 hours later it was extremely overcast and temps were barely breaking 50. Isn't that ironic?

You can prepare and plan for race day taking control of all of the fine details as much as you want, but you'll never have a say in the weather. Chicago has been doing this crazy hot/cold/hot/cold dance for some time now that has my sinuses in quite a flux. Saturday I was sneezing like crazy, then Sunday my nose started running like mad, by Monday I couldn't breathe through my nose and pressure begun to build in my head, all leading up to yesterday and thus far today where I've lost the ability to hear out of my right ear from all of the congestion that seems to just be hanging around in the ole noggin.

Trying to get in exercise while your head feels like it's in a vice and your breathing isn't normal isn't fun. On Monday I went to a hot yoga class that turned out to be almost completely inversions. I felt like I was in a complete and utter daze and couldn't understand a word the instructor was saying. The only word I could make out was inertia, but my mind couldn't wrap around what the heck he was talking about.

Felt exactly like Charlie Brown
I'm also wheezing like an old man with sleep apnea right now.

Even with my head feeling all kinds of crazy, my legs and everything else seem to be feeling pretty darn good. Pulling way back on Sunday when it became apparent that the temps were going to keep me miles away from my race plan was probably one of the smartest things I've done in awhile. I haven't had any soreness or tightness, and the knee seems to be behaving like normal again. So I give my new half marathon personal worst 2-thumbs up.

Was able to get in a mini threshold workout yesterday.

Planned workout was 3x10 minutes @ goal 10 miler pace (6:25-6:29)
with 3 minutes jogging recovery

Not anything remarkable here, and only went through 2 cycles of threshold pace. Decided to quit while I was ahead and not beat a dead horse in honor of conservation for Saturday's race. Even with my head pounding and my nose making it extremely challenging to breathe right now, this workout seemed 10x easier then Sundays race due to the temps being about 25 degrees cooler. While mid 6 pace isn't exactly easy-peasy for me, it has never felt as challenging as it was on Sunday. Effort wise 6:50's felt like 6:20's in the heat. It wasn't pretty.

Race photos, courtesy of PBC Sports Photography, came out fairly decent where I might be tempted to buy a few if they weren't so darn expensive. These may actually be some of the best race pics of myself that I've ever seen.

Sweating like my usual lady beast-like self

Heal striking like a champ

This was most likely right before the taste of my breakfast began to creep back into my mouth

And still heal striking.
Damn, thought I fixed that. Guess not.

Thank God that race is over, and I carried a gu the entire race and didn't use it.
Left a nice little strawberry on the birth mark on the left side of my stomach.

Temps for this weekends 10 miler are looking like they may be a bit zesty as well, it's almost hard to believe that I ran a half marathon this same time last year and ended up in an ambulance post finish line nearing hypothermia.

If you are interested in scoring yourself a pair of Pro Compression socks, through the end of May use coupon code CRG20 for 20% off all orders and free shipping.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

man it was a hot one

Eating my words from yesterday BIG TIME right now.

Everyday you learn something new. Today I learned that when race directors send you several emails the week of the big race warning that conditions are going to be rather hot, it's a good idea to take them somewhat serious.

Seems that my flawless plan to run today's race as naked as possible to ward off overheating backfired on me this morning. Man it was a hot one, like 7 inches from the mid day sun hot. I think even if I were to have ran COMPLETELY naked I would have still been overdressed, and most likely needed a little extra sunblock for the usual places that don't normal see the sun.

I have no idea what the actual temps were today, but they were spicy. Not even those hot yoga classes that I've been taking for several months could have saved me out there. Before the race started I was still hopeful that my body possessed this awesome super-human resistance to racing in extreme temps, even when history has shown me otherwise. As I was sweating like a beast on my warmup, I was still holding on to that glimmer of hope for 13.1 miles on cruise control at 6:30 pace.

That didn't happen.

Mile 1 should have felt comfortable as I clocked a 6:35, but it wasn't. I knew within that first mile that I was going to have to modify my pace a bit for the day, just wasn't sure as to how much at that point. Pulled back to 6:50's for miles 2-6, a pace that normally feels very comfortable for me, and begun to feel fairly warm with my heart rate probably nearing my HR max.

At this point I knew that there was going to be no chance in hell that a sub 1:25 finish was going to come from my legs in these conditions. My stomach felt uneasy, the sun seemed to be baking my skin, and I'd already sweat out every ounce of energy I had in me. I needed a minute to regroup and move to plan B for the day, which I unfortunately hadn't really established at this point.

I gave myself two options:

Option 1
Pull back and take the rest of the miles easy and just make this a training run. Have fun and make it through the distance safely.


Option 2
Tough it out and keep trying to pump out sub 7 miles as long as I can an earn myself another half finish in the 1:30's for my bank. 

While I'm sure most people will think I'm crazy, I chose option 1. I came to this race to run a sub 1:25. PERIOD. I did not toe that line to allow myself to fumble my way through high 6 pace in very undesirable race conditions to earn a finish in the 1:30's. There was no gray area here. With a 10 miler in 6 days and a half marathon two weeks after that, it seemed stupid to push my body to earn a time that wouldn't be worth it for me. It wouldn't have been a PR and it would have taken my body too much time to recover from the conditions.

Stupid? Maybe. But I'd rather have two quality races in the next few weeks than one kinda-sorta-okay race. I took the last 7+ miles easy where I walked through the aid stations, stopped on several occasions when my breakfast was threatening to reappear, encouraged other runners as they zoomed past me asking if I was okay, waved to the hubby and shot him some smiles, made some great small talk with the other racers, and even once made a pit stop along side some very friendly ladies with a cooler that let me stuff my mouth and sports bra with some of their ice.

On a hot day nothing feels better then a sports bra full of ice.

I finished in 1:40:53, which is a personal worst for me. That would be a full 72 seconds per mile off of goal pace. 

But the good new was that my knee felt 100% okay, which makes me a very happy gal.

Talking to several racers at the finish, seems like I wasn't the only one who felt as if they were melting out on the course. Several full marathoners opted for the half as temps begun to climb, and overall the finishing times seem a bit slower then they should be for a race of this size. Yes it sucks that my last two race have been major strike-outs, with my late April 5k being a DNF, but hey that happens. Weather can't be controlled and racing isn't really a life and death matter. PR's aren't a guarantee and the quest to hunt them down is what makes them worth it all in the end.

There will always be another chance to shine, another goal to tackle, and another course to conquer.

But I'm still going to get that PR, no doubt about it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

running as naked as possible

About 14 hours out from toeing the line for my goal half of the year I'm not really quite sure what to feel at this point. After having to make some major adjustments to my training plan in the past several weeks, I'm just happy at this point that I've been able to ward off complete derailment. Some cycles can go as flawless as possible and you can still toe the line and have a crappy race, so I'm not too bent out of shape that I've lost about 120+ miles and have had to majorly adjust multiple workouts. 

I'd say that the past 16 weeks have been perfectly imperfect and have solidified the fact that I want to race the hell out of those 13.1 miles tomorrow. Let whatever will be be.

Race directors have sent out several warnings this week about tomorrows conditions, which are predicted to be in the mid 80's. In their words:
"If you are not highly fit or have an underlying medical condition you should consider not running this race depending on race day temperatures."
Not really even too sure what is considered highly fit and if that applies to me or not, so I'm just going into tomorrow flexible and as hydrated as possible. Part of me thinks these warnings are just cautionary protocol, but the thermostat on my car did display this today.

I've made attempts to run races in warmer then ideal conditions in the past, none of which has ever really produced a great result, where I've always finished alive. The only time I ever decided conditions weren't worth the months of training and $100+ entry fee was about 3 miles into the Chicago Marathon of 2007. Temps soared into the high 80's with high humidity resulting in aid stations running out of supplies and runners dropping like flies. Just a few hours after the gun went off, race organizers officially cancelled the race. Runners were told they had to walk and were rerouted to the finish.

This little video just about sums up that day perfectly

I pulled out around mile 10 that year after feeling like death for about 7 miles at that point and decided that no race will ever be worth risking my safety. There will always be another.

With that being said, I'm still heading into tomorrow's race optimistic and hopeful that conditions will stay mild long enough for all runners to cross the line safely. Organizers are urging runners to take walk breaks when needed, take an easier pace and maintain hydration, and be mindful of how the conditions are affecting your body.

Not going to make any decisions about tomorrow until I'm actually living the experience. A big part of me thinks that race directors are just over exaggerating. Call that naive or stupid, but I'm still just not 100% buying that it is going to be 80 degrees at 7 am tomorrow (hopefully I'm not cursing myself later for this).

No real race plan for tomorrow, just a few simple principles to live by:
  • Run as naked as possible to prevent overheating from excess clothing
  • Bathe myself in plenty of sunblock
  • Hit up as many water stations as my stomach can handle, which sadly may not be too many
  • Tote along some gu and choke it down when needed
  • Don't be stupid and stubborn if the heat is too much
  • Have fun whether that means racing the hell out of the course or just taking it easy and step-by-step
At this point all I can say is that I've got nothing left to lose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Enjoying the taper

The best part about a taper is when you get a small portion of your life back allowing you to enjoy life like a normal person.

Yesterday I took a wonderfully deserved extra rest day and had a date with my city.

The sun was shining, there was a light breeze in the air, and light seemed to glimmer off of everything that is uniquely urban.

Maybe I hate tourists crowding up my city, but I sure as heck like being one.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thoughts on the run

Mile 1 8:22
Uuugh, my breakfast is sitting in my stomach like a rock right now. 
My Garmin is driving me nuts, I think that the menu button is broken. Maybe if I switch wrists it will stop erratically changing screens.

Mile 2 8:16
Temps seem rather spicy out this morning, probably should have headed out the door earlier. That's okay, I'll keep the pace light and laid back today.
Can't decide if yesterdays day off made my legs feel rested or sluggish.
Why does an 8:20 pace feel so slow?

Mile 3 8:17
I think my legs do feel good today.
Being a home owner scares the pants off of me.
Keep the pace easy today woman. Enjoy this quiet time.
It's been 8 months since my last half. That's a long time.

Mile 4 8:11
Why won't this man let me pass him? I'll just stride it out to get ahead of him a bit and if he decides he wants to feed off of me then fine. Maybe I should have told him he needed a bit of deodorant before he left the house.
Man I feel pretty stinkin good today.
I'm not conceding. I've put in more work for this race then I have for any other race in the past. Who cares if I had a few rocky weeks, I'm going to crush it on that course because I'm just awesome.

Mile 5 7:44
Easy there wheels, dial down the self talk a bit. You've still got 11 miles to go in this heat.
Why does mocha Clif Gel taste so yummy?
I don't know if I'll ever be able to leave this city. There is just something about the contrast of the buildings against the water that really makes my heart skip a beat.
Cold water feels so great on my lips. Should have brought some chapstick.

Lakefront Fall 2011

Mile 6 7:52
There sure are a lot of punky kids on Navy Pier today. Thinking reroute on the way home.
Cool it B, just because they don't understand how to walk in two way traffic doesn't mean you need to use the f word.
I've never rode the Sea Dog. Or rode the giant Ferris wheel. I can't leave this city, there is still so much for me to take in.
Why are kids so punky these days? Was I that rude and annoying?

Mile 7 7:58
One day I'm going to learn how to sail.
Why did I only take half of that gu and decide to carry the other half? It's a sticky mess all over my hands right now.
I love this city. I hate the tourists.
Should I wash my hair before going to the in-laws tonight? Nah.

Mile 8 7:52
Man that dude just flew past me like it was nothing. His stride is awesome. I want his shoes. I think he needs some sunblock.
Yikes, what was that...felt like my knee was going to give out for a second there. False alarm.
Why do people hate running? This feels so damn good! I love to move. I think I could run for a full 24 hours like this gal.
I'm going to do an ultra. 

Mile 9 7:48
That has to be the cutest pregnant lady I've ever seen. Look at her go, she's cruising along! Why do people in my life tell me I won't be able to run when I'm pregnant? It's not a disease. I'm strong.
My friends tell me a baby feels like an alien living inside of you. That creeps me out.
I want to be pregnant.

Mile 10 7:43
Wish that some runners would just slow their pace down a bit so that they can learn to drive forward with their knees. They would run with so much more efficiency.
Wonder what I look like when I run.
Does my butt jiggle as much as I think it does while running?
Should I jump in the lake to cool off?

Mile 11 7:33
What I would give right now for a slurpee.
Holy heck, who is smoking pot on the lakefront? Seriously people, don't you understand that runners and bikers don't want to get high off your fumes?
Don't forget to brush the pups teeth when you get home.
The lakefront path really needs some shade.
Seriously is this lady wearing snow boots and a parka? It's almost 80 degrees out!
Uuggh, Clif Gel not so yummy now.

Mile 12 7:31
Man this pace feels a bit too comfortable for the conditions. Must be all that hot yoga.
Why is my half marathon PR 1:27 but my marathon PR 3:26? This doesn't make sense. It shouldn't take me another 2 hours to finish the second half. I've got to figure this distance out.
Should I race the Chicago Marathon this year for a crazy PR or run with the hubby and have fun?
What if I'm pregnant? I don't care what people think, I'll run anyways. 
Why all this pregnant talk lately? Who knows, but I'll rock my pregnancy.

Mile 13 7:30
So if I am pregnant I need some cute running clothes, do they even make those for pregnant women?
I should become a pregnant fitness designer. Wait, I don't have any clue about fashion. Bad idea.
Why when people are walking the wrong way on the lakefront do they not move? You're the one on the wrong side of the path! Wonder what some of these people drive like. Idiots. All Chicago drivers are idiots.

Mile 14 7:20
I should have opened the candy shop I've always wanted to. Man I would be so good at that.
People are giving me weird looks today.
That dude looks like he's about to vomit...oh...wait...there it is. Ew.
Okay if I did open a candy shop, how would I avoid eating my product? 

Mile 15 7:23
Yes, my favorite water fountain. I'm going to take a bath in it right now.
Dang, I'm more then ready for this race. Screw the obstacles I've had to overcome.
Hope that there is decent competition.
I don't want to live in the suburbs. I love the lakefront.

Mile 16 7:02
I hope that dude picks up his dogs poop. Why do people have dogs and don't pick up their poop? I don't like to do it either, but leaving it on the ground is gross.
People are gross. I hate germs.
Should I play hooky for the rest of the day and just head to the dog beach?

Last .24 6:29
I'm hungry.
I need a slurpee.
I love running.
Damn that felt good.
Bring it Chicagoland Half.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Staying Healthy, body & soul

After fourteen and a half weeks of countless miles, numerous challenging and uncomfortable threshold workouts, heart pumping circuit workouts, sweat filled hot yoga classes, and more physical discomforts then I am willing to acknowledge, I'm now in the final 10 days before my goal race for the year. Months ago when I set the intention in my heart to train my brains out for a strong and speedy sub 1:25 half marathon finish on May 20th, I had no idea how challenging the journey ahead was going to be. 

I proclaimed my intentions, holding myself highly accountable.
Worked harder then I've ever worked for a PR in the past.
Tried workouts that have scared the mess out of me.
And have somehow managed to overcome countless frustrating obstacles.

The hardest thing about training for races is getting to the starting line healthy. Pushing the body to it's limits week in and week out can really wear a runner out if not too careful. Sometimes we don't know our limits until we reach them, and have to make the choice to dial back and potentially lose a bit of momentum or continue pressing onward and upward where the probability of hitting our breaking point most likely becomes our reality at the least unexpected moment.

For me, I made the decision years ago with my running that I would never sacrifice the guarantee of my long term health for the right now. It's more important for me to be running and healthy well into my elder years then it is to hit mileage numbers and force potentially harmful workouts for the short term right now picture. That decision has fared me well in the past several weeks when my training took an unexpected turn down that road we all hope to avoid, Injured Boulevard.

I've been extremely flexible with my training, where I've allowed plenty of detachment from any and all expectation.

I've taken the recovery my body has asked for when it has asked.

I've shaved off countless miles from my weeks in order to still get in quality workouts.

I've stayed positive and been faithful.

I've kept my eyes on the prize and know that there isn't just one way to get where we are headed.

I trust myself and the work that I've put it.

How I'm keeping myself healthy for the next 10 days:

  • Understanding my limits. Upping the intensity of my weeks this training cycle has caused my body to need more recovery time and less mileage, and that's okay. I'd rather run 65 mile weeks with quality workouts than 85 mile weeks that beat the hell out of me.
  • Foam rolling until I'm blue in the face. The Trigger Point roller was the best $40 investment I've ever made. Splurge and treat yourself to this magical invention, you won't regret it.

  •  Getting my stretch on to workout those knots and tightness out of my legs. While sweating your brains out in hot yoga doesn't provide the same endorphin high as running, it is a good time to tune into how the body is feeling and learn to appreciate it. If there is anything that will help train focus in time of discomfort it will be putting yourself in a 100 degree room at 100% humidity while trying to keep your body balanced, your breath controlled, and your mind clear from those thoughts which don't suit you.

  •  Compressing any and everything. Recently Pro Compression sent me a few pairs of their compression socks, and they have been my saving grace. These socks are made of some of the softest material ever, much easier to put on then some other brands, provide the right amount of compression without cutting off circulation, and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. I've worn these for some great workouts as well as just around the house for recovery where I rarely ever want to take them off.

If you are interested in trying out these bad boys, the folks at Pro Compression have been generous enough to offer a discount code for Chicago Runner Girl readers for 20% off all orders and free shipping. 

Use coupon code CRG20 when checking out for your 20% off
  • Being 100% flexible. Letting go of miles and workouts that may have the potential to harm my training in the long run has been my saving grace. Quality over quantity, always. There isn't only one way to get from point A to point B, and sometimes you have to be a bit more savvy and creative.
  • Focusing only on that which I can control while letting go of that which I cannot. I can control my attitude and the way I respond to challenges, and I'm choosing to be faithful and confident. Negative thoughts have no place in the mind of an athlete, and sometimes it's just best to let things go while not acknowledging the insignificant pieces of the puzzle.
How do you keep yourself healthy during training?

While Pro Compression did send me their compression socks free of charge out of the kindness of their heart, all opinions about their product are solely my own and reflect my own personal view point.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Faithfully Fearless

Even youths grown tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30

In our hearts and minds, we are always making plans. The places we want to see, the goals we want to achieve, the things we want to buy, the life that we want to have. But while we are busy making these plans, life is busy happening where it is constantly pulling us in different directions and often times leading us astray from our desired path. We venture through grave times of trial where our character and strength are tested to the max leaving us grasping onto the stable constants in our lives.

Through my peaks and valleys in life, running has always been my constant. The miles and pace irrelevant, where the only thing that matters is the freedom and peace that it stirs in my soul. Cutting loose from responsibility, noise, stress, fear; running becomes my time to hush out all of the noise and clutter that fills my life for a few brief moments of time where my heart can be silent and still.

Peace. Freedom. Fearlessness.

At this current time in my life, my strength and faith are being tested every moment of every day like they never have been before. Cloudiness of the unknown greets me first thing in the morning when I wake and hangs over me as I gently tuck myself into the safety net of my cozy bed at night alongside my husband. There are no long term plans, no desired route to travel down, no idea as to what the greater purpose of this all is for me.

Yet, there is not a drop of fear that exists within my soul.

The uncertainty of a relatively new entrepreneurial career, a bum knee that doesn't want to respond to any methods of healing, the acknowledgement that life as I know it is in the mist of huge's all a bit much for my rather sensitive heart. I could spend time feeling sorry for myself, whining about how my knee has recently decided to create a bit of swelling and I'm having to pull back on my workouts or shedding a few tears knowing that I may soon be leaving the city that I have come so deeply to love, but I'm not. Instead I feel grace for my circumstance and have somehow managed to find a bit of peace about it all. I'm not limitless, I'm not superhuman, I don't make the rules. Life is guiding by my faith in my GOD where his plan will always trump my own, and I wouldn't' have it any other way.

There is no promise that being faithful means that I will never feel discomfort or pain, and that my deepest dreams and wishes will pan out just as planned. Heartache, misery, misfortune, and dead end roads will be a part of my life because I am not any more special then anyone else. But even at grave times of adversity in life, I am 100% faithful that it is all for a greater purpose. 


My heart is not weary about what is to come because I know that PR's and splits will hold little significance in the kingdom of GOD. His plan for me may not always make sense to my worldly mind, so I will continue on knowing that greater things are to come.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

I have faith in my LORD, faith in my training, and faith that my heart will be content with whatever the outcome will hold on May 20th because running is a gift that I have a deeply rooted eternal gratitude for. 

PR or not, I will still be faithful.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fitnessisms that drive me Batty

Several months back I was reading my twitter feed early in the morning when I noticed a strange linking tweeted by a popular fitness magazine that read something along the lines of "the faster the runner, the higher consumption of alcohol". Of course I followed the link, read the article, and within the first few sentences knew that it was 100% bogus. The article spewed off countless statistics about the strangest things with no acknowledgement as to how they gathered the information or siting of their sources. How they came to the conclusion that all fast elite runners are heavy drinkers is still a mystery to me.

I've seen a lot of this kind of stuff lately, especially on twitter. There are fitness professionals making outrageous claims, big businesses tweeting silly links, and random people saying things where the "if I read it, it's true" effect comes to life. Reading these things makes me insane, especially as a fitness professional and it has become difficult to sort through the creditable and fictitious information that is so readily available to us all.

Top 10 crazy Fitnessisms that make me batty:

I can't do it.
Just because you haven't yet taken the leap of faith to try something doesn't mean you can't do it. With a little bit of patience and diligence anything is possible. "Can't" and "don't want to" are not interchangeables.


Running is bad for the knees.
Really? What research has lead you to this conclusion? All of the creditable studies I've read have actually said that running INCREASES joint strength, so I think I'll take my chances. The last time I checked, I thought obesity was worse for the knees then running.

It's raining out, so that means I can't run.
You have not lived unless you've let the soft touch of the rain soothingly kiss your skin while tilting your head back to catch a few drips in your mouth and splashed around in some puddles on a rainy day. If there is anything that will make you feel like a kid again, it's running in the rain. Promise, you won't melt and your clothes will eventually dry.

Walking down stairs is bad for your knees.
Someone actually sent me this tweet several months back and randomly advised that I should stop taking the stairs. I've always been under the impression that movement, in all planes of motion, is good for the body because it is meant to move. I'm not afraid of the stairs, but it seems like most people are.

But the package says low or non fat.
If you bought food from any of the center lanes of the grocery store where it can stay in your cabinet for prolonged periods of time, it most likely isn't really low fat...or food for that matter. Besides, this crap doesn't even taste good.

Running, or any cardio for that matter makes me fat.
No it doesn't, exercise will never make you fat. It's what you do when you're not exercising that will make you fat.

Instead of having lunch, eat a protein shake.
This is HUGE in the fitness industry where personal trainers tell their clients to skip meals and replace them with "healthy" protein shakes that have an outrageous amount of protein, taste like crap, and won't really help when you are trying to lose weight. Last time I checked, powers made from chemical compounds which dissolve in liquid don't really classify as food either.

Calorie counting.
Just because the treadmill says you burned 500 calories in 45 minutes doesn't mean you actually did, you'll be lucky if you burned half that number. In my opinion counting is a waste of time, most likely you'll over estimate how many you burn and under estimate how many you consume. Instead, eat real food when you're hungry. Slowly. Stop when you feel full.

I don't want to lift weights because it will make me bulky.
It won't, unless you are pounding back massive amounts of protein, which will be no good for your body in the long run. Strength training will strengthen your muscles, increase bone density, make your activities of daily living seem easier, and tighten up your bod. It is actually really really difficult to add bulk in the form of muscles. So pick up those weights and get squatting!

Crunches will tighten my midsection.
Sadly, no. Isolation doesn't work, especially for the core. Eat a healthy diet, engage your body in plenty of dynamic movements that activate the core, and stay hydrated if you want those abs of steel. You don't have to be lying on the floor to work your core and instead can engage the midsection in every other exercise imaginable. It works, trust me.

Sorting through all the bogus claims and and info out there these days requires quite a bit of work nowadays:

Do your own research, check your sources sources, then check their sources.
Use common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Just because someone on twitter says it's true, that doesn't mean it is.

What fitness myths or commonly overused phrases make your skin crawl?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A wee bit of improvement, but not yet convinced

The past 12 days have been very touch-and-go with my training. There have been days when I could barely get out of bed to walk to the bathroom without any discomfort, days when I tried running fast and my knee gave me a big fat N.O., and then there have been days like today where things seem like they are back on track and I haven't missed a beat.

It's all really strange and I don't quite know what the heck is the deal with my left knee. My hubby and I diagnosed the issue as a tight IT band, so I have been foam rolling my brains out for the past 72 hours and continually stretching out the tightness. So far this method seems to be working for me and I have found that movement is better for the problem then complete rest. Even with the small signs of improvement that I've seen today, I'm still treading waters lightly ahead. With 19 days until my goal half, I don't want to do any irreversible damage at this point that will completely derail the past 13 weeks of training.

Today I put in a pain-free 11 miler with 5x1600's

This is a good sign, but I'm still not convinced that I've shook this knee issue completely. 

So I'm changing up my original game plan for the remaining 19 days of my cycle:

  • Goal mileage was just over 80 for both this week and next, cutting that down to a more manageable 60-65.
  • Recovery days are going to be taken very very easy. I usually take these days as pressure free as possible, but often times these runs are anywhere from 9-12 miles. Shaving a few easy miles off the bulk of my weeks will not change the outcome of my training.
  • If at anytime the pain returns, REST will be my #1 priority.
  • The two remaining long runs I have left will be taken on a mile to mile basis where there will not be a goal number or pace to hit. The endurance that I have now will be more then enough to carry me through strong to the finish.
  • Foam rolling as often as possible throughout the day to work out the knots in that IT band and to help aid tissue repair is a must.
  • Only positive thoughts and feelings about this situation will consume me. I will not let my head get the best of me now because this is just a minor bump in the road.
  • 100% flexibility and plenty of low expectations.

I will not let this knee fool me.