Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Six Stages of Running

I have found that when running distances of 10k or longer, that there is a cycle of stages that a runner goes through mentally. It's sort of like sleep or grief. There are stages that you cycle through that may not all last the same amount of time, but they are all there even if other stages are longer. I convinced Matt to run my spring half with me this year, and I am so glad that he gave in. We just finished our first real milestone. Our long run was 7 miles, which is slightly more than half the race distance, so this is always an important run for me when it comes to my half training. As we ran today, I cycled through the stages of running, and I am just glad that Matt is still willing to run with me.

Stage 1: Excitement
Now, as you will find for most of these stages, there is some variation from person to person, and from run to run. Stage one tends to range from contentment to excitement. I was so happy that it was a beautiful 45 degrees with sun and only a few clouds, and Matt decided to take us on a route through the cute little neighborhoods around our borough that I love to look at, so I was pretty happy through the first two miles. We were even keeping a good pace, and Matt had to make me take it down a notch to ensure we would make it through all 7 miles. 

Stage 2: Reflection
In stage two it can be all different kinds of reflection. Sometimes I hone in on my form and breathing. Sometimes I think about life and the things that need to be worked out in my mind. Sometimes I just reflect on the beauty of nature while I run. I had no idea how beautiful nature is until I became a runner. Don't get me wrong, this kid isn't going camping anytime soon, but running gives you a new view at a slower pace to appreciate the world around you, which we rarely stop to do in our hustle and bustle society. My reflection and excitement mixed a little today as I ran. I was talking to the ducks on the pond we passed, and calling, "Here pishy, pishy, pishy!" at creeks as we jogged along. Matt was thoroughly embarrassed, but I was just happy to take it all in.

Stage 3: Annoyance
Ok, so if you have not read posts from when I first started my blog, take time to read this post about what it is like to run with Matt. I let him find our route, and I let him wear the Forerunner, so you can probably guess part of what helped stage 3 kick in. Matt was at the second or third unsure turn we made, when I suddenly became aware of the blisters forming on my feet, and then I almost had a heart attack when I was scared by a dog. We were passing a tall privacy fence when I suddenly heard the loudest bark coming from what I can only assume was the world's largest dog. I seriously jumped higher than I ever have before while simultaneously sprinting faster than I ever have in the opposite direction of the fence. Hello, stage 4!

Stage 4: Hatred
Stage 4 lasted much longer than I had hoped it would last. The only other time I remember stage 4 lasting this long was during the Joplin Memorial Run Half Debacle of 2012, when I really wanted to punch my Anything for 10 Sister, Grace, in the face for getting me in this mess in the first place. I didn't say that during the race, but as we all talked afterward, she told my brother and sister-in-law that she was scared at one point that I was going to hit her, so I am guessing it was clear anyway. Today's stage 4 was similar. We were still making wrong turns, and I started blurting out, "I hate you!" Yes, I convinced Matt to do this, yet I was breathlessly "yelling" at him. It progressed from there to the phrase, "I hate the world, right now," mixed with, "I hate everything." And as stage 4 dragged on, I ended up just saying, "I hate," mixed with whimpering. Yes, it was a rough one today.

Stage 5: Denial
Matt kept saying that denial was surely one of the stages of running, and I kept telling him that it wasn't. I realized later that he was right. (Matt, I don't want to hear any gloating about you always being right. Remember all those wrong turns?) As we were in the last mile of the run, my head kept telling me that I couldn't do it. I couldn't possibly keep going. And I breathlessly told Matt that I couldn't keep going, that I wasn't going to make it. He told me that I could. And I realized that although my brain was in denial about my ability to keep going, that my legs were in fact still moving. Stage 5 could be the hardest of all because it is easy to let stage 5 break you, but just let it go. It's your mind that is in denial and not your body.

Stage 6: Anticipation
Yes, once the run or race is finished, it doesn't necessarily matter how ugly it was, the runner is already anticipating the next race or run. The satisfaction of completing something that you set your mind to has a way of making you want more every time you realize how strong you really are.   Bring on week 6 of training!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Good Morning!

I am beyond pumped!! Today could not have had a better beginning. It would have been impossible. I woke up feeling well-rested before my alarm went off, which I love! I let Matt sleep in another 15 minutes while I got up to eat my pre-gym snack and get ready, and what did I hear? BIRDS!!! I had just thought to myself as I drug myself in from work, that maybe I just can't hear birds chirping in the morning now that I live in an apartment building, but I am so glad I was wrong. I absolutely love the first time I hear birds chirping in the morning each year. AND today is the first day of Spring! It is fate! I know that it is supposed to get cold and snow again this weekend, but for now I am going to revel in this glorious morning.

I started off with a great workout in the gym. I even did my abs, which I have been neglecting a little too much lately. I came home, had a small breakfast, watched an episode of Dance Moms (Guilty pleasure!), and then set out for a quick 3 miles. And let me tell you, I was booking it. I am not fast in the grand scheme of things, but for me, I was really pushing it today. My right shin was getting so tight by the 1.5 mile mark, that I didn't think I was going to make it at first, but I stretched quickly and walked it off, and I still had a faster 5k time than I have had so far this year. I was so glad to get in a good run because I just came off those terrible elliptical workouts last week. I have also had low energy so far this week, so it was great to finally break out of the fog I have been stuck in for two days straight.

When I got home, it just kept getting better. I checked my email, and I had my March Newsletter from the Delaware Marathon, and I had a race registration announcement from Bryn Mawr Racing Co. I really wanted to do the Midsummer Series last summer, but I didn't get to. They do three Thursday night races spread throughout the summer, and although my last Bryn Mawr racing experience was less than courteous to slow racers like me, I am still excited to do this series. I even signed Matt up to run with me. Hope he's as pumped as I am...hahaha! I should really just be glad he puts up with me. Thanks for sticking with me through all my craziness, running related and otherwise, Matthew!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Time to shut up and put up!

I have decided that there is no turning back at this point; I will not get back on the treadmill this season. Although the temperatures have plummeted again, I am adamant that Spring is here. Although Spring doesn't officially start till Wednesday, I am still annoyed that it snowed yesterday. I wasn't going to let it get me down. I put on double layers, zipped up my windbreaker, pulled my balaclava up over my nose, and I was ready to take on the roads. I looked fairly comical, but I was determined to run outdoors, and as I've warned before, you've gotta check your shame at the door, people!
I am the purple running ninja.

I was miserable from the first step out the door. I had shin splints today, and my face was burning from the wind despite my balaclava. I have a little charm on my shoe that reads, "Running for Grandma," to remind me when I get tired that I am dedicating my marathon this fall to my Grandma. I kept telling myself that my grandma went through things so much worse than running 6 miles in the cold, but then I clearly heard my grandma's voice in my head. I heard her saying, "Now Michelle, you just go on home." I only heard my grandma raise her voice in reprimand once in my entire life. (Of course directed at my brother, not me.) We always knew she meant business when she started a sentence with "now," so I went home.

I finished off my workout at the gym, but I still refused to get on the treadmill. I hopped on the elliptical with a fast paced playlist blaring through my headphones. My legs were screaming around 2.5 miles, and I wanted to stop again already, but I realized that a certain point you have to just shut up and put up. I decided to block out the voices in my head, and knock out the rest of my 6 miles. Sometimes it's the small victories that amount to the most in the long run, but one thing is for sure, I cannot wait for Spring to show up for good!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Fever

Today's run was beautiful. I had one of those runs today that I look down at my watch and suddenly realize I've been running for an hour. I love getting lost in a run, and these days I really can get lost in a run. I got the Garmin Forerunner 410 for Christmas, and I love not having to map and memorize a route before I head out the door.

I haven been anxiously awaiting spring, and I was so happy to see the signs of spring all around. There is a slight chill in the air, the sun is shining, the birds are beginning to sing, the buds are popping up, and the fever is catching. Spring fever is running fever for me. I am so happy to be running outside because I am reminded of how much I love running. Sometimes when I am stuck on the dreadmill or fighting the biting cold or wet ground that comes with winter running, I forget how truly amazing it is.

Never in my life would I have pictured myself becoming a running junkie. I have also posted in the past that my family and friends never thought I would either, but I am so glad that running has transformed my life. Let me tell you, if you want to really learn something about yourself, then step outside, and go for a run. At first, you might be slow, maybe even out of breath and in pain. And some of us ::cough, cough:: ::me::  maybe couldn't even run a quarter of a mile before we stopped to walk when we first took up running, but I am now at the point where I can jump in to a half marathon training schedule two weeks late, and look down at my watch to suddenly realize that I have been running for an hour, and it is time to steer back home.

So, what have I learned so far in my journey as a runner? Nature is beautiful. Water tastes amazing. Pain is in fact temporary. Spandex is strangely my friend and not my enemy. A trash bag works just as well as any windbreaker jacket. It doesn't matter what other people think. I am strong. I am happy. I am determined. A pair of running shoes can make me feel way better about myself than a pair of heels. Moments should be cherished. And it's true that reaching your goals is often an issue of mind over matter.

Lee Ann Womack may hope that you dance, but I don't.

I hope you run. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Runner's Rambles: Running Makes Sense

Sometimes, it's nice to just get lost in a run. Being outside, running, thinking. It's a release from the confines of the chaotic rush of our society. There are days when I blare music to fit whatever mood I'm in, or whatever problem I need to work out. There are times when I run tech-free, and I just get lost in retrospection. Sometimes I let my thoughts run wild, run out of my head. Then there are the times when I want something to really distract me from the thoughts of wanting to quit early in my run, so I listen to NPR podcasts. I love NPR because I love learning new things, and I can easily get lost in their programming. Podcasts and audiobooks are also great for running because there isn't an underlying beat, like when listening to music, so it doesn't throw off the pace of the run.

Today, I decided to listen to a podcast of This American Life as I ran. I listened to episode #488 Harper High School, Part 2. It was about gang violence, and how it affects students at Harper High School in the Englewood area of Chicago. As I ran, I couldn't help but think of kids I work with every day in one of the projects in West Philly. The thought of what so many kids sadly go through is another thing that pushed me on.

It seems odd that the troubles of another person push me on, but when I feel there isn't really any difference I can make in a situation, it is like running is there to give me a bit of a beating. It is something that I can make myself rise to and above the challenge of. I know that running is nothing compared to the struggles they face. I often think of my grandma and how she struggled with the loss of her mobility near the end of her life, and I ran then too. I was thousands of miles away, and what could I have done even if I was there? There was nothing that I could have done to give her back her mobility, and so I ran. I have a pendant on my shoe now that reads, "Running for Grandma." I know I need to push myself now, take advantage of my mobility now because I could lose it at anytime.

In my experience, running makes sense of the senseless, and when it can't, it at least gives me a distraction from the senseless. There are many things I don't understand in this world, but do I have to?