Courage and support.

It takes a lot of courage to get yourself motivated to run after spending nearly a year in a mostly hate relationship with the sport. It’s a lot easier to sit on the couch and do nothing than to get in your running garb, grab your water bottle and eject yourself out the front door and hit the streets. My common excuse is ‘not enough time’. I know better. I know all the excuses. I know the game and how it’s played. But I just got to the point where I didn’t care. Not caring attributed to my not-so-sunny attitude, irritability when it came to dealing with others and thinking clearly, and disruptive sleep patterns. 

Running isn’t just about being able to run or even finish a race. It’s not really about losing weight or staying in shape. It’s just a general, overall way of life to feel better about everything. More than just fitting in my clothes (which trust me, is super important!) running exercises my mind and my soul. I feel more positive. I give back an energy into the world that is charged with cheer instead of negativity. My outlook for the future is sunnier. I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. My family will only benefit from the better me. It’s not say I won’t have disappointing days or never face another obstacle. Running allows me to have the clarity to deal with those situations differently, positively, instead of always focusing on the negative. I’m fortunate to have such great support in my circle that encourages me to keep going, raise the bar, and never think ‘I can’t’. 

Grab a pair of kicks and hit the bricks.

A quest.

I do this to myself, more often than not lately. I sign up for a road race, get really gung-ho about a potential PR, plan all my training, and then in a culmination of excuses and laziness, it all falls through. I find myself sitting here, looking down the barrel of the next 10 days and realizing I’m no where even close to prepared to run 13.1 miles. It’s my own fault of course. There’s no other human to blame. Hmm. Maybe I could blame some non-humans? I’ll think on it.

Vegas is around the corner, screeching my name, waiting for my feet to hit the pavement under its twilight skies. It’s something I have to do, will do, and no matter how much it sucks, I won’t quit. I’ll finish. It won’t be with the grace and celebration that I dreamed about twelve months ago, it will be with pain, suffering, and lots of other sweaty bodies. This will all be a moot point in two weeks, as I’ll sit here and remember my trip fondly and be glad it was my last race afar. 

The plunge.

I’ve toyed with the thought of running a marathon for a few years. I’ve been asked many, many times by family and friends, “Are you going to do a marathon?”, “When are you going to do a marathon?”. My kind response has always been something along the lines of “NEVER!”

I have been recently invigorated about running after nearly a nine month slump of disdain, dislike, obligation, and the waning interest of a sloth. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what about running was discouraging me so for all that time. I couldn’t change my mind or revive my motivation about lacing up and hitting the pavement. I turned the corner and awoke with a renewed love affair after a seemingly innocent question from my sister in law about running Hood to Coast. Running Hood to Coast has always loomed in the back of my memory space but I always lacked a team and the know of enough people that actually liked to…run. I’ve walked Portland to Coast so I’m aware of what the end to end process entails, the commitment it requires, and the extraordinary pain and fun you will experience at the finish line. It’s the challenging accomplishment that drives me forward into new journeys.

On the couch, sharing quips about our aches and pains from last weekend’s Shamrock run, my brother and I looked over the Hood to Coast website. He (I may be jumping the gun here) has an interest in doing more running after I coaxed him into being part of my Shamrock team this year. TANGENT! Now I asked him to be on the team, but I didn’t advise him to jump right into the 15k without any running experience. Many thought he was a bag full of nuts, but in the end he made it to the finish line dusting me, the gal with the experience. I can’t say how proud I am of him (and my niece) for jumping right in and giving it everything he had. TANGENT COMPLETE! We talked about the possibilities of forming a team and I shared my experience from the PTC team I’d served on in 2009. After reviewing the legs of the course for 2013 and learning all the specifics, we queued up the Hood to Coast movie. It was very inspiring and made me want to jump right into the pool for 2014. (I’m already thinking about the additional 7 people I need to recruit to form a team of 12.) I’m not sure if the movie shied him away from the opportunity or convinced him more that he needed to be a part of such greatness.

After mentioning the viewing to my boyfriend, he pointed me in the direction of another documentary called “The Spirit of the Marathon“. I’ll have to admit I was a bit hesitant to view a film about the topic since I hadn’t had any real interest (still at this moment) to run a marathon. (Funny thing is that I have ‘running a marathon‘ listed on my 101 things to do in 1001 days, alas, I didn’t think I’d actually ever accomplish it.) I found the documentary available on the Netflix instant queue and gave it a go. Halfway through I knew. I knew I’d run a marathon. I suddenly became bound and determined, come hell or high water, that I would run a marathon. With enough patience, training, and dedication, nearly anyone can run a marathon. The thing is, running a marathon is not about winning. It can’t be. A very, very, very small percentage of humans in this world actually win marathons. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who can finish a marathon is a winner. To cross the finish line means you fought both physically and mentally to take every single step and that is something to be proud of and to celebrate. I know I’m never going to be a Flanagan, Goucher, or Kastor, but I know I have what it takes to cross that finish line just like those that have come before me.

Next up? Figure out which marathon I want to do. It’s likely going to be one close to home and either in May or June of next year. Having the finish line set out over a year away allows me enough time to build up my running base and settle into a more than adequate training schedule. I’m looking forward to my new journey and achieving my goals. Hopefully I will be able to inspire a few people along the way and helping them realize their great potential too!

Looking ahead

The half marathon on Sunday was one of my most abysmal performances. It wasn’t my worst time, no, no, no. It was by far, however, my worst effort. I hit a wall. Okay, I hit many walls. Walls that as much as I tried to climb and eek out just an ounce of additional effort, I just couldn’t make anything materialize. There were a few points on the course where I just wanted to cry because I was letting myself down.

But I have nobody but myself to blame. My training was severely lacking and I never had a run over 7 miles. It goes to show that you really do need to be prepared to run the race. You get out what you put in and that was more evident than ever.

68 days til Rock n’ Roll Vegas. No excuses. It’s do or be done.

Rrrrrun forest rrrrrun

Ever since I started running road races I have been asked a single question time and time again.

When are you going to run a marathon?

My response is usually a quip preceded by a gasp of amazement. It’s not something I’ve truly ever taken seriously, as in thinking it’s something I could actually finish without several medical teams following me throughout the entire course. In the last few half-marathons I’ve participated, around the 6.5 mile mark, I’ve wondered “what the FUCK are you doing?”, when I only had that same distance remaining. This was usually about the point in the race where the half-marathoners split off from the marathoners. At that juncture, I couldn’t even fathom having to run another twenty miles. I’d sooner die.

However, I believe a lot of my feelings toward marathons and even the feelings that surface during the half can be attributed to my poor, inconsistent training. Clearly, I am not afraid of half-marathons. In a 12-month span I’ve signed up for five and still have three left to complete in the next four months. What compels me to sign up again and again is the sense of satisfaction I feel after crossing that finish line. All of these thoughts start flooding through my brain, “Fuck I just did that, again. I’m still upright. I lived!” And it’s in that moment that I know I can do it again, and again.

I’d say a large percentage of long distance running is a mental game. Sure. You should probably be in some decent shape and have logged some serious miles under your belt before you safety-pin that bib to your shirt, but once you’re several miles into the race the mental game takes over. For me, I get bored quick. I need to find a way to stay engaged in my race. Music is a definite requirement. The number one thing I do NOT want to hear is my own breathing…or panting, or gasping. It throws off my rhythm and will generally cause my breathing to be irregular as a result. Music also blocks out the people around me. I don’t want to hear the conversation about who screwed over who at work last week. Honestly, if you’re able to carry on a convo during a race then you’re doing it wrong. Run faster. However, after a while music can lose its luster. I have a bad habit of using the same playlist during my races that I use on my training runs. I get used to what is coming up next and it affects my momentum. Keeping it fresh is something that I’m going to have to do in the next several months to overcome runner’s block.

Oh yeah. And then there is my piss poor training regimen. I’m sure that isn’t doing me any favors. I have a hard time getting in my long races on the weekends. Sometimes because of laziness, sometimes because of other social commitments. I use them as a viable excuse to not run and that isn’t something I should be doing. And then there is my trusty summer sidekick, beer. Shame. I’ve been doing too much of it and it’s been pushing the energy to run some miles aside. Obviously that affects consistency and then running generally becomes something I can do ‘tomorrow’, like a diet.

Okay. So I know where my weaknesses are and where I need to make improvements to not feel like a caboose in each and every longer distance race I do. Where was I? Sure. A few running friends (and my few, I mean like three. My circle of running friends is teensy.) and I have chatted over the last year about the possibilities of doing a marathon. I start to seriously consider signing up, mull over the pros and cons in my head and then quickly remember how I feel at mile 6.5 in a half-marathon. Decision made. Hell no, I won’t go! But something has changed. I feel compelled (by inside and outside forces) to sign up for and actually finish a marathon, even if I just do it once. I’m a person that needs to try everything once (well almost everything) and even though a marathon is not the epitome of running excellence (ultra what?) it’s something I need to check off my bucket list.

I don’t have a race in mind, but I know it will be at least a year from now. My greatest challenge will be consistent training and dedication to this milestone. I’m not sure how I am going to get there, or where to start, but shit, that’s why they invented Google, right? Inevitably there will be a lot of cussing, sweat, tears, but this is my only life and my chance to accomplish my goals. I’m going to get after it and even if I cross the finish line over the 5 hour mark (which I have no doubt) I will still have finished a marathon. And then I will need someone to carry me home.

 

I run…

…for my health

…for my sanity

…to lose weight

…to stay in shape

…as a hobby

…to relieve stress

…to participate

…to find my purpose

…for me

The climb

(This really isn’t a post about climbing. Merely my interpretation of how I felt.)

Am I a stranger to hills? No, I see them all over this town and other towns with houses perched atop, peeking out over the lands below. The better question is do I like to run hills, or better yet, can I run hills? Still, no. A big problem with my training is that I never train on hills. My regular routes do not contain any substantial elevation climbs that would benefit me when it comes to race day or a leisurely run with friends. Wait, there is nothing leisure-like about running. It’s always work. This paints the backdrop for how I feel this Monday morning with calves as hard as rocks, aching with the slightest of movements.

I mentioned in a post a few months ago about my upcoming day running trip. I’ve been looking for ways to challenge myself in different facets of my life. I’m open to trying new things and stepping outside of the comfortable box I’ve created. A day long trip of running up to 17 miles seemed like a good way to test those waters. I knew it’d be challenging, but I often have a tendency to react now and think later (which isn’t always the best practice!). The time had finally arrived to lace up the shoes and show myself what I was made of.

The weather forecast looked grim for Seattle and the surrounding areas. The run would be split up into separate runs (not all 17 miles at once) which made it seem possible for someone who has, at most, just completed a handful of half-marathons. Jennifer at Running Trips Northwest emailed me a week before with some last minute information and tips on things we might want to have handy on Saturday. My friend Astrude and I arrived at our hotel in Seattle the day before, got some good eats and hit the sheets relatively early, after all, our wake up call was at 4am. With wet pavement and misting skies, we headed North.

We met Jennifer at the Mountlake Terrace park and ride and off we went to catch the 5:35am Edmonds ferry to Kingston. This was my first time on the ferry in a vehicle. (I’m truly amazed at how many cars a ferry can hold.) The quick 25 minute sail to the West and we were back on solid pavement and headed for Fort Worden where we’d begin our day. Fort Worden was initially built as a military base prior to WWI, but not used during that time for military efforts. The plan was to then make good use of it during WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to provide necessary defense for the country. Not everything goes as planned and the need for it didn’t come to fruition. Later it was turned into a state park and the housing (officer’s quarters, soldier housing, etc) are used as vacation rentals today. Our first hour that day was spent in boot camp mode. I put on a pair of boxing gloves for the first time and I’m in love. What an excellent way to burn off some steam! After completing our stations we  went on our first trail run of the day around the grounds, through a forested area of the base, and along the beach. My first ‘visit’ to the Washington coast, even though it was short-lived.

Fort Worden – lighthouse in the fog

Back in the van we headed an hour East to Port Angeles and into the Olympic National Forest up to Hurricane Ridge. On the road up to the trail head we met some very dense fog, at times making it nearly impossible to see the road that lies ahead. As we were driving slow around the curves and commenting on the possibility of wildlife in the roadway, the fog barely dissipated enough to see the two baby deer in the opposite lane. The scampered off the road into the greenery, safe as could be. At the trail head the air was a bit cooler than it had been at Fort Worden, however still balmy.

Hurricane Ridge – snowy trail

Hurricane Ridge – cloudy view

Prior to the trip I had done a bit of research on this trail, mainly because I was concerned about elevation. Yup, 5,700 feet. I’ve never done any sort of strenuous activity at this kind of elevation (hell, I live at 150 feet) and I figured that would impact my abilities. Jennifer had indicated there was snow a few weeks prior when she’d been up there and that we might expect to see some still. She was right, the paths were covered in spots with snow that we carefully traversed to avoid injury. The views were not as spectacular as we could have hoped for due to all of the low lying clouds in the canyon. On a clear day you can see Victoria to the North and Mount Baker to the East. She showed us pictures on her iPhone of those views from the weeks prior. I could imagine how awesome the view would have been ha we not been saddled  with the cloud cover.

The trail was quite steep in spots and my breathing became quite labored. What started out as a run quickly turned into a slow hike with my mind racing with thoughts of “can I go on? what am i doing?” Once we reached the peak the downhill run wasn’t so bad (I mean, how could it be?) although we did switch to a walk when we had to pass over the snowy areas. I’ve never seen snow in June/July so this was truly a first. Back to the trail head again and we had 4 miles in our pockets, and a new appreciation for our lung capacity.

Back in the van and onto the next adventure. Lake Crescent was just about an hour’s drive to the East. When we first arrived I was amazed at how many cars and people were there out for runs and walks. The conditions weren’t that great, well just another typical cloudy, drizzly day in the Northwest, but people were out in groves. We prepped ourselves for the upcoming 6 miles making sure we had snacks and water, as needed. Lake Crescent, although cased in with clouds, was beautiful. There were vacation rentals near the water and I can only imagine how awesome it’d be on a clear day with sunny blue skies. Once near the trail we headed into the rain forest and the tremendous green landscape just yells back at you like “hey, here I am!”. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much nature. To start the trails were mostly flat and the deeper inside the forest we got the  muddier the trails became. We encountered some very steep terrain that made my calves scream, but that was dulled by all of the nature that surrounded me. We crossed over many man-made bridges that had been erected from fallen trees and crossed over the rushing waters below.

Lake Crescent – many a bridge

Lake Crescent – muddy buddies!

We saw so many great things inside the rain forest, they are just too numerous to mention them all. When we emerged from the other end of the forest and back to the parking lot, I was both relieved that we were done (my legs were cooked) and kinda disappointed that we had to leave! Being able to run and hike in that setting was truly an experience that I want to repeat. You think less about running because you’re concentrating on your footfall and the environment around you. I’d take a 10 mile run in the forest over a 10 mile city pavement run any day. The drive back to the ferry was just about 2 hours and before we knew it we were back in Seattle at our hotel..

Jennifer is awesome. If you’re ever in the Seattle area or are looking for a fun adventure be sure to check out her site and get signed up for a day or a multi-day trip. Support small business! You won’t regret it!

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