Buh-Bye Winter, Hello Half Marathon

Ahhh, March. Thanks for showing up. Now be good and bring some warm weather with you :-)

bye winter

Like most Michigan runners, I am so over running in the snow. Yeah, yeah. I feel like a bad ass when I get out there and brave the weather. And it IS beautiful, peaceful. There is something truly magical about leaving your footprints in fresh snow.

But…..

It feels so good to shed the layers! To feel dry pavement under your feet. To be able to feel your fingers on a run. To not have to worry about a chapped face from the brutal winter wind. To not have your water bottles freeze up!

The forecast has 40 degree days ahead. 40′s and 50′s are my FAVORITE running temps. Ahhh. Bring it!

Now that the weather is in my favor, and the time change is finally happening (hello sunshine after work, I have missed you!) I getting re-energized about running again. I am looking forward to the next two months of Run Camp and I am also looking forward to running this:
Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

The Gazelle Girl Half Marathon is a women only race to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. I had not planned on running it because it was a little on the pricey side in my opinion for a half ($75), but after I had to sit out the Winter Blast half due to the plague I wanted in on it! Wouldn’t you know, it was CLOSED when I went to sign up. Bummer. There is a happy ending though, and a friend who had signed up could no longer make it and she sold me her bib for only the price of the $10 transfer fee. Score!

Actually the happy ending will be when I finally get that PR ;-)
I kid!
Sorta.

So to summarize: the weather is showing signs of warmth and I am signed up officially for my third half marathon. The wonderful joys of an upcoming Spring!

Ok, I am off to bed early in hopes of an early morning run. Joe thinks that I will hit snooze and skip it until after work, so now it’s on! I hate to be proven wrong!

Do you have a price limit on your races? What is the most you have ever paid for a half marathon? 

Moving Forward

It has been eight days since the race that wasn’t. Now that I am on the other side of the disappointment of not being able to take part in the Winter Blast Half Marathon and I am feeling back to my healthy self again, I am ready to lace back up my Brooks and get back to what I love: running.

You see, I am invested in running. For a million reasons, running has become a part of me. I am lots of things: a wife, sister, aunt, coworker, friend. I am a reader, husky lover, craft beer enthusiast, terrible (but passionate) cook, and a live music junkie. I am quick-tempered, stubborn, loyal, funny (at least in my mind!) and a tad OCD. And I am a runner. It has become a part of me. Like my hazel eyes and dimpled chin.

Even though I might hit roadblocks along the way or have setbacks here and there, I know that in my heart I am still a runner. I may become burnt out and need a short break. My schedule can sometimes overflow and days might pass without one mile ran. I might wake up on the morning of a much anticipated race with an awful norovirus and it may take days before I am recovered enough to even think about pace, routes, and speedwork. It doesn’t matter. I am still a runner. It may lay dormant for a short while for whatever reason, but the passion, the urge, the need to run – it always comes back. Eventually my mind, body and soul crave it.

Last night, after eleven long days, I ran.
linkingup

Eleven days is a long time for me to go without a run. It didn’t take very long for my body to sink into the rhythm of the steps and for my soul to sigh with pleasure: this is just what my body (and heart and mind) needed. 

It’s hard to put into words, but when I am on the road my body, mind, and soul feel whole. They act as one. I do my best thinking and feeling on a run. I let go of stress, I work thru problems, I talk to God. I zone out, I zone in. I push myself, I find myself, and I feel like my best self when I am running. That’s why I am a runner. That’s why even if there is a roadblock or setback, missed run, or missed race, I will always find myself back out on the road. 

From here I am moving on from my missed race and looking ahead. Nothing is on the schedule yet, but I think I am at a point where running for the pure love of it is enough. I still have the passion in my heart for a half marathon PR and I am hoping to use that as fuel for my fire over the next few months. We will have to wait and see what the Spring race schedule and my training with Borgess Run Camp have to offer.

One thing I do know though: I am so happy that I am healthy and able to be doing what I love. There is a lot of gratitude and satisfaction in that. 

“My mindbender came along when I opened my mind (and my heart) to and consider that every “no” makes room for an unexpected “yes”. Every delay, fortifies our patience and allows for time to prepare and mature. Every physical setback forces us to rest and recover, building strength in other ways. Every weakness and temptation heighten our awareness of our need for others and God. Every bout of loneliness or depression remind us to love lavishly when we are able. Every embarrassment keeps our sense of humor intact. Every gaping hole of loss could be a window. Perhaps every failure is not really a “failure” but a “blessing” in suspicious packaging.” –Kristin Armstrong, Mile Markers

The Race That Wasn’t

My heart is so full with all of the well wishes and good luck that you sent for my race! Truly, you all are the best!

But….

I did not get to race. (Ahhh, it pains me so much to even write that!) Yep, my very first DNS. I went to bed on race eve a little nervous, a lot excited, and downright eager to get up and see what the Winter Blast Half Marathon had in store for me.

A few hours later I awoke from my slumber to hear my man getting sick in the bathroom. I got up to comfort him and offer him some water. When I finally crawled back into bed I tossed and turned while he moaned away in pain.

Exhausted, I finally officially woke up and my stomach felt off. I tried to ignore it and hopped in the shower to get ready. (Yes, I was showering BEFORE getting all sweaty. It helps me wake up!)  That’s when the first wave of nausea hit. From there on out, things got ugly real fast.

Out of all mornings, why oh why did I have to get sick the day of my race?! Ughhhh! So, so bummed. Joe and I took turns in the bathroom all day and I tried to ignore the fact that I was missing out on my half marathon. I became so dehydrated and weak, that by the time Sunday night rolled around I did not even care about the race. I just wanted to be healthy!

And here we are three days later and my stomach is still off. I have been living off of bread, crackers, Gatorade, and soup. I haven’t been able to run. I mean I need to be by a bathroom at all times if ya catch my drift.  Ah well, I am trying to look at the bright side: I am pretty sure that I have lost five pounds. flu

I have started to feel a lot better tonight, so I think I am finally on the upswing. That’s a good thing, because if I go much longer without my beloved coffee or running, I might hurt someone. No joke.

Have you ever signed up for a race and not been able to make it to the starting line? Do you shower before a race?

Race Eve

Tomorrow morning I will set out to run my third half marathon, The Portage Winter Blast.winterblast

On one hand I feel ready to tackle 13.1 miles. I have had some solid, faster runs lately that have helped boost my confidence that just maybe a PR is within reach.

On the other hand, I have not had that many longer runs under my belt this training cycle. I was hoping to get at least one solid 13 mile run in, but the most I went was 12 and that was a few weeks ago.

And then there is the fact that this is the WINTER BLAST half marathon. Tomorrow’s temps will sure not disappoint the name of the race: weather

A whopping 12 degrees at the start….ouch! Good thing that I trained in some crazy conditions :-)

winter training

So here I am, on race eve. The training is behind me. My overnight oats are soaking, my bib is pinned, and my iPod shuffle is charged. I am ready as I can be. Now it’s time to go out there and see what race day will bring. Wish me luck!

Struggle Bus

I am thanking my lucky stars that when I was training for my marathon last year, that Michigan had a pretty mild winter. Sure, there were a couple of days where the weather was a challenge, but they were few and far between.

This year though is a different story. Snow, snow, and more snow. And cold, windy chills galore. Running in these conditions have been tough and I feel as though it is starting to wear on my confidence for my race in two weeks.

Let me back up.

I wanted to get 13 miles in this past Saturday. I went to bed early on Friday, made sure that I was properly fueled, hydrated, and dressed. Basically, I felt that I did everything right to ensure a quality long run, the last before my race.

The second session of Run Camp started this past Saturday and the membership SWELLED! I have said it before, and I will say it again. It feels so awesome to be apart of a community that supports and encourages new and veteran runners alike. From seasoned marathoners to brand new 5K racers, runners came out in droves to train together thru the winter. How awesome is that?!

Run Camp

Source.

Unfortunately, the weather did not get the memo we were going to be out on the road for some serious miles. The roads were snow covered, the wind was intense, and the farther we ran, the harder it snowed. Snowy Run Camp

Source.

It felt as though I was running in sand the entire time I was out there. The plow trucks had yet to make an impact and the roads were covered in ice. In short, it was hard! I struggled thru 5 and a half miles before I decided to cut my run two miles short and turn around.

My pace was the slowest it has been all season, yet I felt that I was working overtime for the miles. Not to mention the route that we were on was super hilly! This run kicked my butt! I was sore, tired, and defeated as I finished up. Oh, and my confidence for a half PR in two weeks flew out the window.

Struggle bus, I was on it for sure.

It’s really hard to accept a bad run when you feel that you did everything right and that you gave it your all. Sometimes though, things like the weather might not be on your side. I learned last year to accept runs like this as ‘character building runs’ and to shift my focus on WHY I was out there training.

I know that running through the conditions that I ran through yesterday will make me a tougher, stronger runner. I know that I am getting a better workout running through the snow and I am using different muscles than I would have otherwise. I know that when the road is cleared off that I will feel lighter than ever after running through the ice and slush.

I also know that despite the struggles, Saturday’s run was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. The snow-covered trees…the crisp, fresh, clean look of the early morning run was so peaceful. To get up and experience my town thru the eyes of an early morning runner is a truly magical thing.

I know that I gave 100% on this training run despite what the numbers on my GPS represented. That’s all I can do, is give my all.

On race day, that is my plan. To give it my all. If that equals a PR, I will be ecstatic. But if I come up short, that means that I will have to keep on trying. And I will.

Winter Running

What are your tips for bouncing back from a non-steller training run?

Three Things Thursday

  1. Thanks for your support on my journey to get speedier. I love how you suggested mile repeats and intervals. I used both of these tools in the past and I know that they work great. Sometimes I feel that I need to go to a track to get a good speed session in, but that is not the case! I am going to take these suggestions to heart and will start incorporating them into my routine. Here’s a great article that I found on mile repeats. mile repeats
  2. I don’t want to be one of those people who always complains about the weather, but OH. MY. GOSH! Can Michigan please make up its mind?! Dropping 40 degrees in a few hours time is not cool. Yep. Back to snow, ice, and wind after an almost 60 degree day. Michigan Weather
  3. I am in deep, deep love with this song. I want to run into the sunset with it.

What’s rocking your Thursday?

Speedy, Redeeming Miles

Just when I get back to the blog and droned on about Winter Running, things start to ‘thaw out’ in Michigan. While my Sunday in Kalamazoo was snow covered and cold, my Monday was warm for Michigan and rainy. Image

Today we are expected to reach record highs of close to 60 degrees! Mind you this time last week we had NEGATIVE wind chills! To say that the weather can not seem to make up its mind is an understatement.

I knew that the Spring-like temps would not stick around for long so I laced up my running shoes last night for a quick three miler around my neighborhood.

Even though the run was short, it was just what I needed. I felt light, speedy, and I was down right giddy for the whole 27 minutes of being out on the road.

My last couple of runs prior to this one have almost felt like a chore. My legs felt heavy and sluggish, and the weather put a damper on my motivation. I was getting my running in, but without reaching the ‘runner’s high’ or even coming close to enjoying it.

And just when you start to think, “What am I even doing training anyways? This is not even fun….”

BAM!

You have an amazing run that reminds you of WHY you put in the time, the sweat, and your heart into this little old thing called running.

I think what made this run a little more sweet for me was the fact that I was working hard to push myself (and felt pretty decent up until the last half mile!).

You see, I have never been a fast runner. I am a back-of-the-packer so to speak. While training for the marathon last year I saw my pace get slower and slower. I was okay with that. I was working on building my endurance and in my mind, that meant that my pace would have to suffer.

Now that I have my first marathon under my belt, I want to change gears and work on speed. While I was content with 11 minute miles for marathon training, I am not content with that for half marathon training. I am ready to aim for a PR.

To get faster, I need to run faster right?!

That’s why I am incorporating tempo runs and short speedy runs into my training. One run a week I go out for 3 miles and push myself to run outside of my comfort zone (which, as of late has been 10:30-11:30 minute miles).

I know it’s just for three miles, but am aiming for a sub 9:30 pace. I wanted to start small and work my way up. Hopefully by this Spring I can hold this pace for four miles and then five.

Here is how it is going so far this training cycle:

Week One: 9:57 average pace per mile

Week Two: 9:23 average pace per mile

Week Three: Snow storm! Safety first! Skipped speedwork for a nice and easy run.

Week Four: 9:18 per mile

Yes, I know that for most runners this pace would not be speed worthy, but for me it represents hard work. I love seeing improvement and I hope that the trend continues. I am hoping that shorter, speedy runs combined with tempo runs and stride-outs will help me achieve the goal that I have for this year: a half marathon PR!

Another factor that made last nights run: MUSIC! I brought my iPod out of hibernation and when Missy Elliot’s ‘Music Makes Me Lose Control’ came on, I put that baby on repeat! Talk about an oldie, but a goodie! An awesome jam to run to :-)

What old school jam do you have on your iPod that brings out the speed in you?

As Chelsea mentioned on her blog yesterday, I am also a BIG fan of Outkast’s B.O.B.

Fear, Heartache, and Healing

When tragedy struck Newtown, CT last Friday my heart broke as fear, sorrow, and questions of ‘Why?’ crept in. I think as a Nation, we all wept.

I have no words. All I do know is that I am slowing down. Lifting my voice in praise. Holding my loved ones a little tighter. Praying a little longer.

Today I finished reading the memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is a national bestseller about a young woman who hikes eleven hundred miles along the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, soul-searching in the wake of her mother’s death and own divorce.

She has a passage on ‘fear’ that struck a chord with me.Wild
When I read the passage last week, I immediately thought of how I fear new challenges. How, if I was not careful, I could let that fear define me.

I fear setting myself up for failure.

I fear not succeeding.

I fear letting myself, or even worse, loved ones down.

After Friday my fears took on a new meaning. I fear for safety. I fear for what our world has become. I fear for the future and my unborn children.

“Fear begets fear.” Yes. Yes it does. I need to tell myself a different story.

We all do.

There is good in the world. Rewrite the story. Create it.

I have no words for the heartache the families of the victims must feel. Every thing seems hollow. The ache that I feel is deep and my sympathy great. I am staying steadfast in my prayers for them. I think it is safe to say that they would not want their loved ones life’s to be defined by this act of violence.

Through the darkness, we need to know that there is light still left in this world. We can not let this tragedy paralyze us with fear. We need to rewrite the story of where we are heading.

How?

I wish I had the answers. For now I am going to try to be the light. I am going to make sure that I write my own story why I am here on this earth.

“Power begets power.” Make an effort to be a positive power, a positive force.

Of possible interest:

Sleepless Nights and Finding Peace

Training is officially underway and can I just say that it feels so good to be back at it! Run thru the lights was spirited, festive, and fun.

Run Thru the Lights 2012The course was switched up a bit this year and it was a lot better in my opinion. It showcased downtown a bit more and all of the beautiful Christmas decorations. I got to see tons of friends and enjoy the running community of Kalamazoo. A few years back this run was tiny, with only 50 or so participants. This year it swelled to over 1300! Run Thru the Lights 2012

Source.

Saturday kicked off Run Camp, and even though I struggled with a migraine all day Friday, I figured that with plenty of rest I would wake up ready and rearing to go.

I went to bed early on Friday only to be woken up at three or so with a pounding head and a mind that would not turn off. Ugh. “Why tonight?” I kept asking myself. I just want some rest!

That’s when a memory hit me like a ton of bricks.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, memories of my Mother come to me and literally take my breath away. A moment that I tucked away and have not thought about or seemingly forgot comes back with full force and gives me pause. When this happens I play it over and over in my mind, hungry for details so that I will not forget. I want to capture it, and never let it go again.

The mind, it’s a funny thing. It can take your memories and dull them after time. It can make them fade and disappear as the months and years go by. And when you lose someone who is so dear to you, this is painful.

I lost my father when I was 19 and over the years his voice began to fade. I have to struggle to remember what his voice sounded like. It kills me. I just want to hear him speak one more time so that I can bottle it up.

I am so afraid that this will happen with my Mom too. I replay her voice everyday in my head to hold onto it. So when I she came to me in the middle of the night Friday, when I was begging to God for rest and healing for my headache, I grabbed hold of the memory and played it over and over until it rocked me to sleep like a lullaby.

It was something that I had not really thought about since it happened, but it was this:

Last year, the night before Run Camp kicked off, my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and my Mom decided to come stay with me for the night as they were in route to visit my other sister and niece Charlie who were in the hospital in Ann Arbor for Charlie’s heart surgery. It was a kind of last-minute decision and they did not get in until 9 o’clock or so.

I remember that I wanted to be to in bed early for the first day of Camp, but I also wanted to stay up and spend time with them.

What came to me on Friday was snap shots. Me opening the door and seeing my Mom. I had just seen her a couple of weeks before at Thanksgiving, but in that short time she had gotten thinner. Weaker. But her smile.

God, her beautiful smile. It lit up my house.

She could not stay up long after she arrived. She was tired from the trip. But the short hour or so that she did I could not get enough of her. I knew she was not getting better, I knew our time was limited. I just wanted to talk with her, touch her.

I can still picture her sitting on my couch, laughing at my dog. I can picture me tucking her in. Hugging her good night. The snap shots of that evening came at me at full force.

And I remember how the night before the very first Run Camp a year ago, I laid in my bed wide awake not able to sleep. My Mother laid in the bedroom next to mine and I was up for hours that night wondering. The questions that haunted me over and over and over then. Why? How much time? How can I show her how much I love her? Does she know?

I got up early the next morning, while the house was still asleep and went to my first day of Camp with these questions still in my head. By the time I got back my family had already left to visit my other sister. I was left with bittersweet joy of having that surprise, short visit with my Mom.

And here I was a year later. On the eve of Camp when her smile, voice, and the memories of that night came rushing back to me.

What a difference a year can make. So much can happen.

So why am I writing all of this? Maybe to put it into words so I will not forget about it again. To remind myself to not take this short life for granted. To remember that I am healthy and able and that is why I can and should run with reckless abandon. To remember how much Run Camp got me through such a difficult time last year and how it can help me get through more healing this year.

I know it sounds dramatic, but I honestly do not know how I could go on, at least with such peace, if it was not for running. I did not start running until later in life. I down right HATED it before. One day I just began. Now I think that God put it in my life so I could learn to deal with what was to come.

When my Dad passed away I did not have a healthy outlet. I got swallowed up by depression and turned to anything that would take the pain away and make me forget. Alcohol, men, drugs. When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer I had already fell in love with running, so I turned to it.

I ran to escape, to pray, to talk with God. I ran with friends to talk about what was going on. Or I ran with friends to NOT talk about what was going on, but rather focus on something else. I ran to sort through my emotions, to forget my emotions. To heal.

It is such a different grieving process. That does not mean that it is an easier. In fact, it is harder on so many levels to FACE the pain. But one thing it is: more peaceful.

I am finding more peace. Day by day. Run by run. Sleepless, memory filled night by night. Cry by cry. Prayer by prayer, I am finding peace.

If you are going through anything similar, I encourage you to turn to the road or trail to help you heal too. It is such a powerful place to work through life.

For me, I am so thankful for the outlet that it has given me. run with gratitude

Back With A Mission

This week is a very special week for me: Training season has officially begun!

Running with a purpose, oh how I have missed you! Ok, if I am being honest here, I have missed running period. These last few weeks my running has been sparse at best. I ran when I felt like it (which was maybe once a week), often just for a few miles. I knew that training season was just around the corner and I knew that taking it easy before was fine. There would be plenty of miles in my future.

AND NOW THE FUTURE IS HERE!

My plan is to run all thru the Winter for a Spring half marathon PR. I am currently signed up for a half marathon in February and I will use that race as a guide to see how my training is coming along. Bottom line, I want to get faster.

I started out this week with a four mile run on Monday. And I wore shorts. In Michigan. In December. At night. I know! (But the heatwave did not last long, it is freezing today!)Dec. Shorts

Next up is the Annual Run Thru the Lights fun run Thursday night in downtown Kalamazoo. This run is a non competitive 5K that helps raise money for a local food pantry.

RTTLlogo

I did this run last year and had a blast so I am looking forward for a repeat performance.

Then on Saturday Run Camp starts up again!Run Camp

Tonight I went to pick up my packet for this seasons training and the excitement kicked in. I am really looking forward to another Winter of hitting the road with this amazing running group. I am also excited to tackle some goals. goalsWhat I love so much about Run Camp is that it sets you up for success as long as you are willing to put in the work. Success for me this training season is to not only have a shiny new half marathon PR, but to also have fun while training for it.

I am really looking forward to the next few months. And now that I am back to running, I promise to have something to write about on my ‘running blog’ :-)

What are your plans for running this winter? Are you tackling any new goals?