It has been over a year since I have last posted here. For anyone still listening, thank you. If it’s just me, then I need this.
Time has flown by, kids have grown and life keeps on pressing. Also, I have been happy – like really, truly happy. I tend to write when I am not feeling so rosy, when my heart is ripping at the seems, red and blue seeping together and bleeding all over this messy life. Today, I find myself drippy. I need an outlet and my shins are begging for a day off.
I ran my 2nd 50K this past Saturday, just 4 days ago and I now find myself sitting here with the post-ultramarathon blues. It’s a thing. Google it, if you don’t believe me. Back in October of 2014 I first goggled “post-marathon blues” when I was stuck in this funk for days that my typically positive self just could not shake. So anyway, today I find myself on the couch at 10:10am snuggling a sick scrawny little 7-year old who had to miss her school walk-a-thon today due to the flu. In a 7-year old’s world, this is a big deal. She has the blues, too. Poor girl cried and cried all morning, trying to convince herself and her Mama that she was well enough to do it. I took her temperature and let her try. A mere 30 minutes after school drop-off and my phone rang with the news that “Your kid has a fever and isn’t feeling well.” So that is how we landed back here at 10am.
I am never sitting at 10am, never really sitting any time during the days anymore. If I’m not playing with crazy 3-year olds at preschool then I’m running in the mountains or to school pick-ups or gymnastics classes or Trader Joe’s to stock up on food to keep this family moving. But not today. Today, I sit here with my heart like grape gum on the ground (to borrow words from Jewel).
The 50K is done, all the months of mental and physical preparation are through and I only finished 4th. 4th place is a total bummer – just 1 step from the podium. I try to remind myself that this was only my 2nd ultra (classified as any race over the marathon distance), but that hardly helps. Then I research the names of the top 3 female runners on Strava, Facebook and other social media stalking sites with the time I should be using to study. I discover these women are beasts, serious top-caliber athletes from all over the west coast. They run professionally, coach ultra runners and have competed and won top championship races. They are legit.
I place my hand back over a 7-year old protruding shoulder, rub it deeply and sigh. A sip of coffee and life will be okay. Time to plan the next training cycle..
I gifted Adara a new book this afternoon as a surprise upon coming home from school. She has been working hard, at both school and running. She has been tough, with little complaints and lots of smiles and enthusiasm for 1st grade and all it entails. She has her first test on Friday. It makes me nervous, she is calm. I have been saving a book in the cabinet for a special moment. This afternoon was it. As she opened the brown cardboard packaging and revealed a fresh new book, a smile spread across her face. She then opened up “Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” and read it aloud to little brother, sister and Mama (and a hot, tired dog at her feet).
“Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” is my new favorite book, and Adara’s, too. Based on a short passage from Walden with the main character named, Henry, I could not help but fall for this book that touches on such heavy meaningful topics. If you’re in the market for a new children’s book, if you love the outdoors or if you are just tired of reading the same exact book for bedtime every single night for the last 3 weeks, then try this gem by D.B. Johnson. You won’t be disappointed.
The timing of our reading this book was quite interesting. As Henry hikes to Fitchburg and plays in the river and eats wild berries and hikes 30 miles, his friend stays home to work and earn enough money to then take the train to Fitchburg. I could not help but relate this to Alan and myself. In fact, at the exact moment we were reading this story, Alan was at a meeting with a potential investor. He was working, staying behind (or going ahead, however you look at it), in search of money. He was quite literally, chasing after money.
We are very different, the two of us, and thank goodness. I like to think we compliment each other and keep one another balanced. I tend to live with my head up in the clouds. “Things will work out, everything will be fine, don’t worry,” I attempt soothe his nerves as another month passes with zero income and bills need to be paid. “No, things don’t just work out. You have to make them work out, there has to be action,” he replies. And yes, I know this, too. I relate everything to running, as it is the perfect metaphor for life. In running, you get out of it what you put in. When it comes to racing, I know that I must train properly and sufficiently in order to perform the way I wish to, or to achieve a new personal best/record, Boston Marathon qualifying time, etc. But at the same time, I believe that if you put the work in, do your best and remain calm, everything will work out fine. Worrying is just wasted energy. He may disagree on this. I don’t know. We try our best and calm ourselves and stick together when that is what must be done.
Nevertheless, as the children and I sat around the table in dim afternoon light, with shades drawn in an attempt to further insulate on this hot August dog day of summer, I could not help but notice the irony of our conversation. It was one that touched many subjects, and most much deeper than I had anticipated between my 6, 4 and 2 year olds. Mainly, we talked of the pursuit of money vs. the pursuit of happiness. “The guy hiking had much more fun than the one working,” stated 4 year old Cesia. “Yes, but the one working was doing the right thing and not just out hiking all day,” said 6 year old Adara. I allowed them to continue, arguing back and forth a bit then about what was “right” and more “fun” and “faster” and “smarter” before chiming in. The wisdom in their words astonished me and made me smile. We then talked about Walden and Henry David Thoreau and his life and works and brilliance.
Perhaps the purpose in life is finding that balance between the pursuit for money vs. the pursuit for happiness and discovering a way to blend the two. Yes, Alan is chasing after money and investors to get his new company off the ground. But the bigger story is that Alan is wildly passionate about this new business, inventing and transforming the way custom orthotics are made and creating the perfect insole. It is not purely about the money, but in reality, money is needed to achieve this dream, to start Light Insoles. And me, well I am crazy about running and being outside and reading with my kids and teaching them about life and just trying to do it all. One day, we will strike the perfect balance. Until then, we will just keep on chasing our dreams, and running as much as possible. : )
I just returned home from a 10 miler in the mountains. I ran alone. For 80 minutes, it was just me and my thoughts and a few rattlesnakes slithering in the distance. During the final five miles, I found myself reflecting on young runners, including myself in the past, when I was a young runner.
Most of my adult life, I have felt this urge to coach. It hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps one day, when my own kids grow a bit more and need me a bit less. In the past month, I have been interacting (mostly running!) with young runners more and more through my daughter’s introduction to youth running with the West Valley Eagles. I have been extremely impressed by the coaches and parents thus far and it has been nothing but positive.
In addition, I have raced the past two weeks at a local cross country summer series. At these races, I have witnessed dozens of high school teams and hundreds of young runners. In my interactions and viewings, I have been astounded by the nerves of these young athletes. I witnessed so many jittery, terrified runners toeing the line at last week’s race. It breaks my heart every time. The amount of empathy I feel is unfathomable as I pass by the 16 year old crying in the grass, knees huddled to her chest post-race, or the 18 year old biting her nails and fixing her hair tighter with those lucky rubber bands in the bathroom mirror pre-race. I want to hug them, and tell them it will all be okay. I want to remind them that they are young, oh so young and this is supposed to be fun! I want to tell them how fast they truly are, how strong their bodies and minds and how capable they are and should feel. I want to tell them to stand up proudly, celebrate their race, be happy, smile!
More than that, I want to tell them they are amazing. I don’t, because they don’t know me. I am a stranger, I don’t wish to be a creep. So for now, I just write it and store it in my journal. But one day, one day, when I coach, this will be my pre-race speech to them. Here is my response to them and myself after many years a nervous, jittery young runner. Here goes:
No one knows who you are, nor me. They don’t know your name, nor mine and even if they do, they don’t know a thing about you. They don’t care how you race so stop giving any thought to their dreamt-up opinions of you. No one cares about your mile PR in 2013, and in 2050 no one is going to care what mile time or 3 mile time or whatever-distance-PR you ran in 2015. At the end of the day you have two people to settle things with: Yourself and the man up in the clouds. That’s it. As long as you two are happy with you, then all will be well.
The way you perform in a race has everything to do with the training and work you put into it. The only thing that will prevent you from showing off that work and performing your best is yourself. Your muscles have it in them, your legs know what to do. Let them do it and stop thinking so much.
I have been racing for 16 years, more than half my life. I love running, and racing even more. It is and always will be my greatest passion. Yet, in 16 years of competition do you know how many years I have been happy with my performances? Two. Not until two years ago did I finally quit psyching myself out and suffering from performance anxiety. Week after week showed poor performances followed by frustration and beating myself up post-race. I finally came to the point where I questioned my purpose of running.
Why do you run? Why did/do I run? I run for the freedom, meditation, energy outlet, endorphin high, among other reasons. Winning races is not my primary reason for running, nor the reason I began running in the first place. It will not be the reason I continue running into old age, lacing up day after day, exploring in the mountains, pushing myself through greater challenges. I love the feeling I experience while running. I came to the realization that running is simply too hard to do it if you don’t love it. Luckily for me, I love it and so I will continue my running journey seeking joy, not medals. Of course medals are fun to chase after and keep the sport fresh, creating new challenges. However, they will never define the purpose in my running.
Find your purpose in running and do not let medals or glory define it. Each and every one of you here is self-disciplined, self-motivated. How do I know that? Because you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. We runners, as a breed, are tough minded individuals. Running is too hard of a sport to do it otherwise. You would have quit a long time ago. You haven’t, and so you have what it takes to conquer this race and any race. The first step in doing so is to conquer your fears and your nerves.
What are you afraid of?Do you fear how you are going to perform? That is wasted energy. No miracles occur in distance running. Every race performance is a direct result of the training you put it, the miles, the grit, the dirt. You have already done the work, now is the time to get out there and show it. Are you afraid of the pain? Ok, well I’ll give you that. As runners, we are students of pain, but just remember that you choose the pain, only you can put yourself in it and push yourself through it and back out of it. You are tough and you can deal with more pain than most, more pain than you yet know.
Are you afraid of what your mom, dad and coaches will think of your race? That is silly. We all wish the same thing for you and every other runner out there. We all just want you to be happy. No matter how your parents may express those feelings and wishes, I guarantee that is their only desire: to see you try your very best and be happy with your performance. If you can say with 100% certainty post-race that you tried your best then you have no reason but to be 100% happy.
Before one race in high school, my dad said to me, “Think about what everyone will think at school on Monday, think about returning to school and walking into the cafeteria after a great race.” Well, you know what followed? My very worst performance. I went out there trying to race outside of myself, trying to be someone more, faster, greater and when I couldn’t, I cowered back in fear and finished minutes behind my personal best. I carried the weight of the entire school and team on my shoulders, and I was only 16. And the silliest part of all, when I walked into school that Monday morning post-terrible-race, do you know what everyone thought? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because I was 16 and I was a cross country runner and no one gave a shit. In truth, no one probably even knew I raced.
Your running means more to you than anyone else, as it should. Be happy with yourself, love running, embrace pain, race your hardest, let your legs go and for heavens sake, just have some fun. If you do that, then I promise you, you will have succeeded. You will be in this sport for the long haul and you will be happy. And remember, if you and God are satisfied, then all will be well.
Writing time has been sparse this summer, but I am learning to accept that. Motherhood has taught me to go with the flow and ride the waves. I figure you have a choice to either fight the tide or jump right in and have some fun. All three kids are home full time with me this summer. Alan is working just as much as ever and some exciting things are in the works for our new company, Light Insoles. He has made great strides in the past two weeks and things are really looking up! Starting our own business at the start of the year has been quite an adventure and things are just beginning to really work and get us excited! I’ll write more on that when it is appropriate. : )
In the meantime, some quick summer running updates. Four weeks ago, I ran the Mountains2Beach Marathon in Ojai, had an absolutely incredible experience and pushed myself to a new 13 min PR to finish in 3:12. It was a life changing experience and mentally placed me into this higher-caliber of runner than I ever imagined.
Then, I took 1 day off. Yes, 1 whole day. Seriously. That was it. 24 hours then something like 13 miles the following day and 6 the next and doubles and high mileage nearly every day for the next week. My body was tired, exhausted but I just kept on riding in the fast lane, taking my space on cloud 9 and having some fun. All you readers know by now just how much I love to run. I LOVE it, I’m obsessed with it at times — though I do know it’s a healthy obsession as I’ve been addicted unhealthily in this love affair with running in the past and did it for the wrong reasons. But now, I just absolutely thrive off the endorphins, need the calm and peace it provides me and rely on it to get through these crazy fast-paced days with three littles and a high-energy, needy pup. So.. for a number of reasons, I just kept on running.
Then I raced a local Trail Half-Marathon, thought I’d breeze right through it having run a speedy marathon (speedy for me, that is, I know speed is all relative). I crashed, my heart rate just would not elevate, my mojo was lacking and by mile 3 I felt absolutely certain that I needed to take a break from running. As teammates passed me, I completely lacked all drive and desire to keep pace with them. My body simply stopped responding. I still managed to finish 5th female overall, just 90 seconds slower than my time in the same race last year, when I was in good shape, but I knew that I just did not have it anymore. I am not really sure why I thought I could stay at peak racing shape post-marathon, but sometimes your mind attempts to play silly tricks on you.
That night, I read a new and very interesting article on Over Training Syndrome (OTS – article here: http://www.outsideonline.com/1986361/running-empty) and wrote myself up an “Un-Training Plan.” Since I’m very goal-oriented at good at following training plans and to-do lists of sorts, I knew that was my best chance at actually resting. So I prescribed 5 days of complete rest for myself, zero mileage, no cross-training. So many aspects of the article hit home with me and I related scarily to too many of the symptoms. Having fallen victim to OTS during my senior year of high school, I knew the feeling well and the outcome. In fact, I can now look back and say it took me 1-2 full years, that is 24-48 months to recover from OTS in the past.
This time around, I had to be smarter. I want to run another fast marathon, perhaps faster even, in Boston next April. I want to continue to train hard and run a sub 3:10 marathon. In order to do that, I knew that I had to rest a bit and allow my body to restore it’s glycogen levels, repair all the small muscle tears it had incurred during the past six months of intense training, reaching 50-60 miles week after week.
I rested. I put in the hard work, as every runner knows that resting is absolutely the most challenging type of training. Now, two weeks later, I’m finally feeling a bit more like myself and ready to run. With the kids still home, I know that much of my summer running will be triple stroller running. I am ready. I am hungry and excited for the adventurous days ahead. My team, the New Basin Blues, will be participating in a local cross country series at College of the Canyons, which hosts 6K races every Thursday night in July and August. I’m ready to dust off the cobwebs and get my legs moving fast again. In fact, after all the high mileage of marathon training, I’m really looking forward to the change in pace — literally, as I hit the track and ramp up with 400m intervals. My kids absolutely love the track, so we’ll have some summer fun there with Mama in the fast lane and kids running around on the infield.
How is your summer looking? Are you able to log miles with your kids — if you have them — or with vacations and other summer plans? I’d love to hear how you make it work and continue to squeeze it all in! Happy Running!
I have so much to say, so much to write. Three unrelated posts have been previously written and simply await final editing and photo attachments. Sorry previous posts, you have just been bumped to the back burner!
Where to start? It has been a while. These past few weeks (and months really!) have been quite a whirlwind. With Alan leaving his job of 12+ years in the lab to start his own business and my marathon training commencing at exact the same time, life has been playing out on fast-forward x 8 around here.
Tonight, I can breathe. For a few minutes at least. I mean, who am I kidding, dirty dishes won’t clean themselves and the kids’ lunch boxes sit empty on the kitchen counter. This Mama has loads of chores before bedtime. I will make this brief. Or at least, I will try. Sometimes brevity does not come easy when you have achieved such a momentous experience in your life. It’s like giving birth to your first child and then writing one paragraph on it. I have trained for this marathon for more than half my life. Every second, every mile of long distance running since those first pavement pounds back in 1998 have led me to this place. Here goes!
While the memories are still fresh in my brain, I want to record them. I want to remember every little detail of Sunday’s race. I want to look back on this essay in 20 years and then 50 with fresh eyes and be able to relive every beautiful, glorious and oh-so-painfully agonizing moment. I want to remember how it felt to achieve my dream, to surpass my goal and reach this place I never believed possible. This, is my race report for the 2015 Mountains2Beach Marathon in Ojai on Sunday, May 24th.
With over 4 months of training in my legs, I finally made it to “race week.” I knew the race was approaching as the nightmares overtook my usual peaceful deep slumber. About 5 days out and I awoke in cold sweats each night. I had just missed my shuttle or my driver never arrived, I forgot my running shoes or I slept past my alarm. It was never about my performance, it was never about the running itself, but each night prior to the running of my second ever marathon I awoke with terror that I botched the race.
After five solid nights of little sleep, I so desperately awaited the clock to strike 3am on Sunday morning. In fact, I actually welcomed that 3am wakeup and had never before been so joyous to arise in the middle of the night and start my day. Alas, the sleepless nights would be over. A friend — whom I had yet to meet but had connected with through my New Basin Blues Running Teammates — would be picking me up at 3:30. She had never been to our house, our streets were windy and neighborhood nicknamed “The Spaghetti Hills” for their curvy, confusing nature. Surely she would get lost. She may never find me. These were the nervous thoughts that floated through my brain as I sat at my kitchen table in the dark sipping on coffee three hours before the real pain would ensue.
She found my house. The quiet hum of a motor approached our street, then made it’s way up our hill and I was out, one step closer to achieving my goal. I can do this, I told myself as I walked down my front steps. When you come back, you will be a changed person.
Marathons change you. After 26.2 miles of mental and physical exertion, after challenging yourself and pushing your body to this new place in which it has never been before and will never experience in the same exact way ever again, I do not believe it is possible to return post-marathon as the same being you were before that gun sounded. You are forever changed. Those miles, those thoughts and demons that try to sneak in, that try to overtake you, that try to tell you to slow down, that you can’t do this, shouldn’t do this, and then those other voices that shut up those devilish whispers and remind you that you have worked too hard, sacrificed too much, come too far to waste it all and give anything less than your best — these change you. For better or worse, I knew that as I stepped out my front door, I would never again re-enter the same person I was in that moment.
The next hour was filled with friendly chatter and lots of “mmm-hmms” and “okays” and nervous sips of water and quieting those voices that started to creep in my mind even on our drive to the race start.
“What is your goal time,” he asked from the front seat.
“3:15,” I stated with some hesitation, summoning up all the confidence I could stomach with the butterflies amassing within.
“Oh wow, you want to cut off 10 whole minutes from your last marathon?” he asked with a hint of surprise.
“YES, she’s been training super hard and she can do it,” my new friend and chauffeur stated in my defense, “she has been training really hard.”
“I have been training hard, and well, that’s my goal. We’ll see what happens!” I replied, trying my best to convince myself that it really was “just a goal” and that I would be happy no matter how I performed.
In truth, I would be happy no matter what, but only if I knew that I pushed myself to the very brink, that I risked it all. I had trained for the past four months to run a 3:15. I completed more miles than ever before at marathon-pace, including a suicidal 3 x 7.5 mile workout at 7:25 pace. For heaven’s sake, I had run 22.5 miles at marathon pace in the 95 degree heat on my neighborhood hilly streets all alone, with no support, no cheers, no water for some of it and I was still here. If I couldn’t run a 3:15 today, then maybe I never could, but I sure as hell was going to give it my best shot.
I arrived at the finish line shuttle at 5am, hopped out, took a quick photo with my new friend, gave her another nervous hug, needing an embrace and a positive send-off before boarding that bus to pain. Twenty-five minutes later and we were there. I couldn’t help but think this whole thing was crazy. We were subjecting ourselves to this next 3+ hours of excruciating pain. We have a choice, I have a choice and this is what I am choosing. Am I completely nuts?
I lined up near the front, about 5 rows back, positioning myself adjacent to the 3:13 pacer. She was a she. If she can do this, well then so can I, I told myself, pleasantly surprised to see a lone female pacer in the heavily-dominated male pack. No more time for negative thoughts, we can do this. There is this immediate sense of bonding that takes place as you line up beside hundreds of fellow marathoners pre-race. You don’t know a soul yet you are immediately connected by the deepest of emotions and actions. You will undergo the pain together, willingly. Together you will push yourselves and each other and achieve great things. There is some magic in it all.
The national anthem played, we hung our heads and shook out our nervous legs. Twitching and punching our thighs in unison, we awaited the gun. It sounded and that was that. We were off! Mix of death march and parade, the marathon runners had hit the streets. From there on out all I could do was tick off the miles.
Mile 1 in less than 7 minutes. Mile 2, 14 flat. Mile 3, 21. I was under pace. Calm down, relax, settle in, I told myself. You’re too fast, take it easy. Don’t slow down, keep on pushing. Steady, steady. Then a few quick friendly conversations. “Oh, you’re from Boise? Do you have kids? Have you done this one before? How many marathons? Yeah, it’s only my 2nd. Goal time is 3:15, yours? Wow, you’re a 3:03er? Crap, I’m running too fast. See you at the finish!”
Steadily ticking off the miles, glancing at my homemade sharpie-marked up arm with target mile times, I was continuously under pace by 3-4 whole minutes. That’s okay, I told myself, you’re feeling good and you’re still on a slight downhill. Just settle in, not too slow, keep it up. You’re going to crash, don’t get ahead of yourself. Your legs are tight, really stiff, they’re tighter than they should be. They don’t feel good. Only at mile 10, 4 minutes ahead of goal time but can I keep this up? I can’t keep this up, I started too fast, I got too carried away running with that friendly Dad from Boise. What are you talking about? You feel fine! You feel great! Your legs are supposed to feel like this at mile 10. Oh no, cramps. I need a porta-a-pottie. Should I just poop there behind that tree? No, you’ll get kicked out of the race. This is a small one, someone will record your bib number and report you. Oh, but the cramps. Ignore the cramps, they’re not real. You’re fine. Keep your fluids in, wait a few minutes, adjust your form. You’re fine. You don’t even have to go to the bathroom. A fan! At last a fan, a spectator! Goosebumps and chills run up my body. They’re my fans, my friends and teammates. I shared 18 mountainous miles with him, he drove out here just to cheer me on. I can do this. Don’t let them down. Don’t let yourself down. You have come too far. You are feeling great. Everyone is hurting. That guy up ahead — he’s hurting more than you. That girl — she’s breathing heavy and you can’t even hear your own breath. You’re good.
Still 4 minutes under pace. Keep it up, doing great. Time in the bank, running even and steady. You can keep this pace. Just get to 20 miles and you’re golden. Or, you can crack. Lots of people crack at 20, that’s where things get crazy, people blow up. But you’ll be fine, you trained for this, so hard, you ran 23 in the extreme heat, all alone, 20 has nothin’ on you. Okay, made it to 17. Now just 3 more to 20 and then you can speed it up, take a breath and have confidence that you can complete a 10K. 10K is nothin’. Still more than 3 minutes under pace. Oh, but three more miles just to get to 20 is so far. Watch your pace, keep it going nice and smooth. Slow your breath, relax your arms, eat a gel and you’ll be there before you know it. 1 mile at a time, 1 at a time. Finally to 20, 10K to go. We got this. We’re heading to Boston, right around a 3:11 finishing time. Even if I implode and slow down to 10-minute miles I will still PR. This is awesome. I can do this. Only 5 to go now.
There’s my little skeleton boy! He’s still dressed in his PJ’s, standing beside his sisters and Daddy. At last I spotted my four. They sacrificed so much just to see me get this far. Memories of all the early mornings, hot afternoons, rushed weekday 20 milers flooded through my brain. 4 miles to go, I can do this. Now 3 and less than a 5K, nothing but a sprint. How I’d love to sprint right now. Ha! This 7:22 pace has never felt so much like a sprint in my entire life. It’s only 7:22, no need to sprint, just get in fast. 2 to go. 2 freakin’ miles to go!! That’s less than your daily preschool drop-off and you’re not even pushing 160 lbs of stroller + kids. You’re solo, this is easy. So easy. 1 mile and nothing else in the world matters in this moment except crossing that finish line.
I have made it, we have made it. I glance around me, looking for someone to race. “Let’s go!” I shout as I put in a surge. He responds. I chose the right one. The race is on, we’re competing, pushing it with all our might just to cross the finish line. This race of course has nothing to do with which one of us crosses first but merely that we do cross. Then we are there. My heart takes over and I sprint those final 100 m like I’ve never done before. Slow motion, legs heavy as bricks, feet screaming in pain, mile 26.1 and that is when the heart takes over. I am in, I am done. So done, so happy. 3:12:47. I smile, proud of my effort, and shocked by my time. I did it. Something that once seemed so formidable, so daunting, an impossible dream, was true. I was done. Time to find my family.
Hi Readers! I’m excited to announce that I will be a contributing writer for Running with Kids. This site was started by Lauren Jones, mother extraordinaire, runner, entrepreneur, strong woman and so much more. It’s a great resource for active parents and one I am so excited to be a part of. Check out her site, read my article, and get out there with your kids! Lauren runs pushing two kids in the snow in the mountains in Colorado. She is just one of the many strong mothers out there who inspires me. Find your inspiration and love your life!
I will cut straight to the chase: marathon training is hard. This may come to no surprise to you, but foolishly, the intensity of training to race a marathon has been a shock to my system. Training for this second marathon has been so much more challenging (and rewarding!) than I ever dreamt of. The amount of suffering a marathon runner puts his or her body through is just tremendous. And why?Why do marathoners, or runners in general, push through this pain? Why do they choose to suffer?
It is a choice. As my favorite writer, Haruki Murakami wrote in “What I talk about when I talk about running,”Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Some runners can run a workout or race and choose not to suffer. Yes, they will still experience pain, they may fight through the pain even, but they will not suffer. Suffering is a very conscious choice. I have always been able to find meaning through suffering. From an early age, I remember pushing through the pain of running. Now I do more than choose to suffer: I have taught my body to seek it out and to push through it.
Suffering is fresh on my mind and in my legs at the moment as I have just finished up an intense week of training — perhaps the most intense training week of my 29 year old life, and I have been an athlete for nearly all this time.
Last Sunday, I kicked out a 5:20 mile PR (personal record). Three days later, I suffered through a 23 miler at marathon pace. Today, I put on my race face and challenged my legs to make it up a mountain at 10% grade for 3.3 miles, then back down at 6:30 mile pace for another grueling 3. My body is beat in every sense of the word. My physical and emotional state for the past 7 days has been an absolute mess.
I have gone from riding cloud 9 post-fast mile to waking up in cold sweats with nightmares of my 23 miler, to living the pain of my nightmare of that 23 miler the next morning as I attempted to stick to 7:25 pace in the 90+ degree heat, to crashing and burning and ups and downs and melt-downs and blood sugar crashes for the next 3 days despite eating to the point of hating food, to doubting my ability to better my Chicago marathon time of 3:25, to not wanting to race the 10K this morning, to racing the 10K this morning, pounding down the mountain as first place female and loving the excitement of staying in front and chasing down fast guys up ahead and crossing that finish line with pride.
Pain was inevitable, suffering was optional. Today, I chose to suffer. I wanted to win. In my exhaustion, that meant my legs and mind were going to have to push through the sea of lactic acid in order to make it through first.
Marathon training has been quite an adventure, this week in particular. Now, it is Sunday night. Kids are asleep, coconut water is flowing through my veins, victory is in my legs and a great day was spent surrounded by my supportive husband, sweet-and-crazy kids, best collegiate friend and awesome new teammates. I am ready to rest… and then suffer again soon.
Writing time has been limited this week as we have officially launched our new family business, Light Insoles (www.lightinsoles.com)! The excitement level is high over here as our life is changing in big new ways. We launched our Kickstarter campaign 5 days ago and have been steadily watching the orders and support come in! Thank you so much to each and every one of you for your support and for spreading the word. Keep the love coming!
Now we are moving on to the product testing phase for fellow social media-lite runners and cyclists. Come Run Light or Ride Light with us! Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in product testing Light Insoles. This is your chance to be one of the first to try them out before they hit the market. Give us your feedback, write a review and help us grow our family business!
If you have tried insoles or custom orthotics before and had a negative experience, I especially encourage you to try these! To be honest, I was hesitant to try them myself because I had negative experiences with custom orthotics in the past. I know that as a serious athlete you don’t want to mess with anything unless it’s broken. However, I tried them in January and after 1-2 runs I couldn’t even tell they were in my shoe. They’re super light, thin and comfortable yet rigid and supportive. I removed them one run and instantly missed the extra comfort and arch support, especially when running long. Now I wear them under the existing insoles of my Hoka’s and can’t run without them!
Everyone over here is getting excited for Light Insoles! Join in on the fun!
This morning was much like every other Sunday morning in our house: Climb out of bed to rub the back of the littlest at 4:30am with fingers crossed he would go back to sleep, cook breakfast with the kids all crammed into the kitchen come 7:00, play and color and craft until 9am when the, “OH my goodness we have to get to Sunday School rush” begins!
But apart from our normal Sunday morning routine, one thing made this morning different from all the rest. This Sunday morning around 10:00am, my husband and I launched our Kickstarter Campaign for Light Insoles! We are asking for your support in starting our new company. It is all very wonderful and surreal.
Three months ago, if you had told me I would be sitting here writing that we were starting a business creating Custom Performance Insoles, I would have rolled my eyes, tossed back another beer and given you my best deep belly chuckle. So as I sit here tonight in front of my computer, sipping on an IPA and writing in all seriousness that we are starting a business creating Custom Performance Insoles and that I have now run 650 miles in these insoles that my husband has painstakingly and obsessively perfected in the garage of our very full 1300 sq. ft. home, and absolutely love them, can not run without them, I can only laugh at myself. Life has a funny way of taking us places we never thought we’d go. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing…”
Rewind two years and see me running around with my 3 and 2 year old daughters in the mountains, all sporting traditional Tarahumara-Indian style “barefoot” sandals on our feet. For a few years, I ran 40 miles a week with nothing more than a piece of thin rubber strapped to my foot in various knot formations of shoelace. I touted my barefoot approach, “feel the earth,” “run like our ancestors.” It was all good and fun and ultimately a step in the right direction as running barefoot taught my body to run more efficiently, landing on the ball of my foot, moving away from my heel-strike that resulted in countless injuries during my high school and collegiate running career.
Eventually, though, as my mileage crept up and I returned to competitive running and more intense speed work on track and roads, my form broke down somewhere along the way. I found myself sidelined from yet another stress fracture — this time it was a calcaneous fracture, one in the heel. Clearly, I was landing on my heel again and my body was breaking. It was all heart-breaking. For the first time in five years, for the first time since becoming a mother, I had finally found myself again, on the trails and through competitive running.
My running journey had been long, I had been running nearly half my life yet I was continuously plagued by injuries. Was it a cruel joke that my greatest passion would also be my greatest downfall? Would performing my best always remain slightly out of reach? Could I continue running or was my body trying to tell me something?
Questions and doubts filled my head as I stayed off my foot for the next two months and allowed my fracture to heal. During this time, Alan knew someone working at Deckers which owns Hoka One One. He urged me to try a pair and see how they felt. “Are you kidding me? They look like Frankenstein shoes? I’m a barefoot runner?” But, in truth, I was not much of a runner at all in the moment. Injured and frustrated, I had nothing to lose. I tried my first pair of Hoka’s in December 2014 and I have not run in anything else since.
Alan continued his work in materials research at HRL Laboratories — where he worked for 12+ years — and Architected Materials (a spin-off company developing a new material that he invented). Through his work he was continuously interacting with shoe companies. Through our personal lives and athletic backgrounds (both in cycling and running), his passion for creating the perfect performance insole developed. When he first told me his idea, and mentioned quitting his career at HRL to start this new business out of our garage, I think I did roll my eyes, but I held in my belly laugh. For life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all…
Though I was now running in Hoka’s, the ultimate cushioned running shoe, I held on to my minimalist approach and abhorred the idea of orthotics. Fitted for custom orthotics back in college, I tried them briefly after finally tossing them to the back of my shoe closet. They were heavy, clunky, awkward fitting and painful, let alone expensive. With each injury, I would slide them under my insole and give them a shot, just to experience my same initial hatred towards orthotics.
As much as I wanted to trust and support Alan when he told me that he wanted to start a business making custom orthotics, I cringed at the idea. They were everything I was against. Except, as I know now, they are not. I tried in my shoe in January and haven’t taken them out since (except when Alan gave me a revised design).
Though I now run with my Hoka’s with custom Light Insoles tucked under the shoe’s existing insole, I still consider myself a “natural runner.” I still land on my forefoot and have kept my efficient biomechanically-correct stride. I have covered up to 20 continuous miles of mountain running and over 650 miles in my Light Insoles and absolutely love them. After the first couple of runs in them, I have basically forgotten they were in my shoe at all. They are so comfortable, light and seamless. However, on a few runs where I had to dash out the door (fitting training in with 3 kids is always a balance!) in a different pair of running shoes and forgot to transfer the insoles, I found my foot missing the extra support and cushion from my Light Insoles.
I can not say enough good things about these insoles, from the feel to the price, to the perfect fully-custom fit. And again, I cringed at the idea of orthotics, had personal negative experiences with them in the past and feared even trying these.
It is often that I profess my love affair with trail running on this blog. Just last week I wrote about the Redden family and how they run together, in the mountains, free-spirited. I love that. My heart is with nature, in the woods, on remote single tracks, barreling through empty tree-lined descents.
Fickle my heart may be, as I renewed my relationship with road racing yesterday on the streets of LA. My friend Melinda and I — both Mamas of three kids under 6.5 and distance runners since High School — competed in the LA Marathon as a Charity Relay Team for Girls on the Run. This meant we each raced 13.1 miles (really 13.3 since the exchange zone isn’t at the half-way mark). It was an awesome experience, not unlike last year when I ran as a relay partner with my older sister.
To be honest, though, in the weeks preceding LA, I bashed the race in my head. “It’s such an ordeal to run a mere 13.1 miles,” I thought while enjoying the freedom of my backyard trails, alone, with nary a soul in sight. “This is how I run, I don’t need crowds of people yelling at me,” I attempted to convince myself. I dreaded running on the road.
Then came Sunday morning. The crowds, the excitement, the race announcer, the fellow runners and most importantly, my friend Melinda who sacrificed and prioritized her already full life with three kids to train for this race and be my Soulmate, inspired me. Goosebumps quickly climbed from my toes to my shoulders as I stepped out of the car and made my way to the exchange zone at 7:00am. I was ready to run the streets.
I forgot how amazing it feels to be part of something so… BIG. LA, much like Chicago and other major-city marathons, are simply incredible. There is this spirit and contagious energy that surrounds large-scale Marathons and the feeling of being a part of it is is a deep feeling of community, of belonging. Surrounded by 30,000+ fellow distance runners on neighborhood streets lined with children, bands, silly signs and supporters for mile after mile is just awesome.
Road racing is science while Trail Racing is art. Is it possible to love both? Sure, why not? Is it possible to excel at both? I hope so!
Sunday morning, my love for science was rekindled. Heck, that fickle flame blew right up. I found myself smiling at every spectator, high-fiving random kids, pumping my arms in excitement as I spotted my husband with my own three little ones at mile 22, cheering and shouting with their little lungs, “Go, Mama, Go!”.
I used my watch as a tool and I enjoyed it, analyzing each split during the race. “Am I on track?” “Have I slowed?” “Shoot, that mile was 3 seconds slower, speed up, just a little, not to much, settle in, hold that pace, relax.”
In road racing, there is this gratification in testing yourself against the clock, racing for time, aware of time, being able to measure yourself, setting PR’s that can be tracked and compared. In trail racing, you don’t really get that. I run all my training in the mountains, and so even when I do keep track of pace and such, it’s all a big shot in the dark, a guess, an adventure of sorts. I love that, too. When I had to choose a goal time for my 1/2 Marathon, I wasn’t quite sure what pace my body could carry me. 7:15 felt daunting, 3:05 marathon pace was terrifyingly-fast. On the trails, I carry about an 8 min pace for long runs. Could I really cut down 45-60s per mile on the road? Doubts floated around my head, but once I stepped onto the street I just let my legs go, run by feel, settle into their “happy pace.” I discovered that I could carry 7:15 forever, or at least for a good 13.3 miles.
I embraced time, counted down the miles, anticipated the 10K mark, the 5K mark, 1 mile left and now .2 to go and just.. let it go! Trail, or road, when you reach that final mile, it doesn’t matter where the heck you are, your body is in agony, your mind in Hell but you know ecstasy awaits you and you better just… GO.
Suffice it to say, I am re-considering whether my next race (after Mountains2Beach, of course!) will be on the roads or trails. Maybe I’m not such a die-hard trail-is-best runner. The roads have a piece of my heart, too.
Is it possible to love both road and trail racing equally? Can I avoid anything resembling a street for training, log all my mileage on trails, in solitude but still absolutely bask in the excitement that is city-lined streets of major road races?
A huge thank you to ALL of you family, friends and random readers who have followed me, read my posts, my stories, donated to Girls on the Run and supported me in so many ways along this journey. And a big high five to every LA Marathon Finisher, Charity Relay runner and brave soul out there suffering through the heat yesterday. And to Melinda, YOU ROCK! I love you and your spirit!