Enjoying the Run

20 Jan

So, it’s Thursday, and I am officially 4 days into my 8-week program to lean out, build endurance, and prep my body for racing season.  Which means I guess I owe you guys an update.  I am happy to report that I will not be moving back the start date by another week.   Not only have I been sticking with the plan this week, I’m actually feeling about 100 times better.  Big smiles!

Okay, okay.  Maybe not quite that big.  Smiles that big are reserved for butterscotch sundaes in San Francisco.  But you get the idea.

Anyway, I have been hesitant to post the specifics of what I am doing, mostly because I am not at all an expert on any of this stuff.  I’m not a registered dietitian or a nutritionist, nor am I personal trainer or trained in exercise science.  Not even close.  In fact, my undergraduate degree was in International Politics and German, and my graduate degree is in law.  (I’m actually not an expert in any of those things either, but that’s another post for another day).  But, while I may not have any formal training, I am at a point in my life and my running where I have a pretty good idea about what works for me.

With that caveat, because some of you have asked, I will tell you that my initial 8-week plan is based loosely on the program and guidelines contained in this book:

I picked this up at Barnes and Noble right after Christmas, and I really like the basic principles it contains.  Unlike so many diet/training programs, it acknowledges that the caloric needs of an endurance athlete are completely different than those of your basic recreational gym-goer, even in the off season.  It also combines different forms of cardiovascular training with circuit training and strength training, which allows you to lose fat and maintain and build lean body mass.  I also really love that the exercise plans focus on running for a certain amount of time and not a specific distance.  As I mentioned, I was really hoping that this would allow me to stop pushing myself on speed/distance and just relearn how to enjoy the run.

And, so far, it seems to be working!  I’ve run 3 times this week (M, Tu, and W), and every single one of them was pretty darn good.  I didn’t have that feeling of dread beforehand, and I actually felt really good afterward.  On Monday, being out in the “feels like” 26 degree cold felt invigorating and freeing.  On Tuesday, doing hill intervals made me feel alive.  Even if it was on a ridiculously steep hill.

Seriously.  That change occurs over just 1/10th of a mile.  I’m totally a badass.  And yesterday, on an unexpectedly gorgeous, 50+ degree January day, I felt strong, healthy and, for the first time in a long time, excited about the upcoming season.

How can you argue with results like that?  I have plenty of time later on to worry about pace and exact distance.  For now, I’m just enjoying being out there.  Without pressure.  Without GPS technology.  Without having to think about what is at stake or what might have been.  Turns out, when I let go of those things, I’m doing pretty damn good right now.

I’ll take it.

The Road to Hell…

13 Jan

So far this week ….

I have made dinner three times.  One of those times involved a crock pot.  Another one involved teriyaki sauce.  Made from scratch.

I “worked from home” with the intent of taking a snow day and then, much to my dismay, had to spend the entire day actually WORKING.

I almost booked a trip to Australia, where it’s summer.

I cut out a picture of the sun and taped it to my computer upon learning from travelocity how much a flight to Australia actually costs.

I lost one of my gloves.

I argued with J about which one of us is the boss even though I (secretly) agree that he’s right.  I am.

I walked into a table and gave myself a nasty bruise on my thigh.

I have eaten almost an entire bag of chocolate chips, one handful at a time.

I threw away a bag with about 7 chocolate chips left in the bottom so that I didn’t have to admit that I ate an entire bag.

I have watched the Caps lose twice.

I have only worked out once.  ONCE.

So…. remember that incredibly-well-thought-out-and-insightful training plan I gave you just a few days ago?  Yeah, well, I didn’t manage to get started on it.

Why, you ask?  Simple.  Because I have an arsenal of excuses that apparently actually start to sound believable to me when I *WANT* to believe them.  My most frequent ones are:

  1. It’s too cold to run outside
  2. Work has been too busy and I’m just too tired
  3. All my good sports bras are dirty
  4. My stomach is feeling iffy/my head hurts
  5. There’s too much to do around the house
  6. Scout needs me to snuggle with her instead

Excuses, excuses.  The truth is, I just really need to pull my head out of my butt and get it back in gear instead.  And by “it”, I mean both my head AND my butt.

And as far as those (crappy) excuses go….

  1. I don’t particularly like to run in the cold (give me a humid, sticky, 95-degree morning over a “feels like” temperature anywhere below 34 ANY day), but I just need to suck it up.  I was watching coverage of the blizzard up in Boston, and I saw a runner dart behind the newscaster as the snow furiously came down.  While I may not be quite that insane dedicated, I do need to stop letting the cold and my hatred of the treadmill (not to mention the the current hour-long wait to even get on the treadmill at the gym… Ah, January…) stop me from doing what I need to do.
  2. When ISN’T work busy?  Seriously?  When, in the four plus years since I graduated from law school and started working, have I found myself completely well-rested with hours that I don’t know how to fill.  Um…NEVER.  I make the time to run because I love it, and because I actually have more energy when I do.
  3. Like I’ve never worn a sports bra more than once twice a few times.  Stop judging me.
  4. Unless it’s some sort of respiratory infection that affects my breathing, running almost always makes me feel better, mentally AND physically.  So the next time I have a headache or my stomach feels off, I need to remember that, and get out there.  I can always turn around and go back home.  Besides, what’s the worse that could happen?  Oh, right…this:
  5. See number 2, above.  Yes, there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done.  But a short run or workout energizes me and puts me in a better mood.  And let’s face it, that makes folding laundry, doing dishes, or vacuuming (slightly) less painful.  For the record though, it doesn’t ever make cleaning up pee in the basement from a certain nameless Boxer (cough*Scout*cough) less painful.
  6. I don’t really have a counter-argument to this one.  But she understands.  I think. Maybe. Right?  Please just tell me I’m right.

I just need to remember that training and sticking to a program is hard.  If it weren’t, everyone would do it.  But, the hardest part is getting started.  The truth is, once I get moving, I feel a million times better about training — and about life, in general.

Anyway, all of the dates I gave you are getting pushed back by one week.  The initial 8-week program I talked about officially starts on Monday (and will now run through March 13th).  I’m going to use the next few days to ease myself back in and get my head where it needs to be in order to fully commit to that.

Besides, I need my bikini body back.  The sun taped to my computer is just begging to be basked in.

Boston is my Eleanor

11 Jan

** Props if you get the cultural reference **

Since my post yesterday, I’ve gotten a few emails and texts from people asking me to explain what the heck the big deal about Boston is.  I mean, let’s face it, I pretty much have to spend months and months of my life training for a race that I have to pay money to run, and then run that race fast enough to convince the nice people at the Boston Athletic Association to let me pay them to run their race too (which I will, incidentally, ALSO have to spend months and months training for).  If you aren’t insane a runner, it really doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense.

And that got me thinking… What is it about Boston?  Why do I feel this drive to qualify?  Why do people become obsessed with it?

Seriously, why?

It’s certainly not the prize money — all $806,000 of it (sorry CB, despite your misplaced faith in me, running is NOT going to make me a millionaire).  It’s not because Boston is the prettiest marathon or because the locals have the cutest colloquialisms (wicked true).  And it’s definitely not because Boston takes place in the best marathon-running month of the year (hello, April race = training through the entire winter).

For me, it is simply the challenge.  Can I, as a formerly-pudgy-and-nerdy kid with very little natural athletic talent, really get to Boston?  How many tries will it take?   How many years?

The BAA set up qualifying times for this race.  They made it exclusive. Some of us just want what is hard to get.  Or, perhaps more accurately, what we are told we will never be able to get.   (Yeah, I’m talking to you Barry White, BRYC soccer coach, circa 1989.  Maybe I have some athletic talent after all, HUH?).  There is something about that exclusivity that makes the crazy serious runner’s mind go through a process similar to this:

You mean there’s a race where I can beg them to take my $130 if I run as fast as they say I have to?  I’m in!

Also, if I’m honest with myself, there is a part of me that feels like qualifying for Boston (which I have started referring to as “BQing.”   Because that’s what the cool kids say.  Actually, they probably don’t.  That’s probably only what the formerly-pudgy-and-nerdy kids say, but whatever) would somehow define me as a runner.  In reality, I know it doesn’t.  I am a runner every single time I lace up my shoes and push myself out the door.  Hell, I was a runner even when I couldn’t run at all because of injury.  But, it doesn’t change the fact that the feeling is there.

Yeah, Boston’s the oldest marathon and fast people run it.  They win lots of money (did I mention that the purse is $806,000?!?).  At mile 13 some crazy college kids yell and scream. I hear there’s a hill around mile 16 that’s supposed to break your heart.  But for me, I just want to see if I can do it.  If I can even get there.

Frankly, I  didn’t know squat about the Boston Marathon when I started running almost seven years ago.  It’s a marathon. In a city called Boston.  What else was there to know?

When I ran my first marathon over six ago, I didn’t even run with a watch, let alone a Garmin. I just wanted to finish the damn thing. When I ran my first marathon, it was bliss. I was free of technology, pressure, paces and injuries.  Just crossing the finish line was unchartered territory.  A lot can change in six years.

While training for that first marathon, people kept asking me what my time goal was. Time goal? Are you kidding? Isn’t it enough of a goal to make it to the finish line? Isn’t it enough to just be able to say, “I ran 26.2 miles”?  I had no clue about pace. I just went with what felt right, and when I crossed that finish line, I felt like I was on top of the world.

After that first race, I was a runner.  I started doing other, shorter races.  I knew my pace was decent, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it actually was.  I ran a couple more marathons.  Then, in 2008, I got my Garmin (thanks, J!).  And suddenly I had enough information at my fingertips to allow pace to really matter.  I ran a half marathon in 1:39:44.  I started taking home (a modest number) of medals and age group prizes.  People started asking me if I planned to BQ.  (BQ?  Huh?  What was that? ).

And then, I got it. It was this race where you had to have a certain marathon finish time to enter.  I looked up my time … let’s see I’m under 35….that means I have to run a…3:40 marathon. Well, shit, I thought.  I’ve run three marathons, and my fastest was a sub-4:00, so is it be possible to cut 18 minutes off my time?  Hell yeah.  That’s only 42 seconds per mile, and I hadn’t even really trained properly for that one. In truth, I could easily cut 4 minutes off per mile and win the whole damn race, right CB?

So, last year, I went for it.  And, as I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t get it.  I didn’t even PR.  I didn’t have it in me that day.  But one thing I did discover during that race — I know that I DO have it in me.  And maybe, just maybe, I will conquer it next time.

People say Boston’s not all that. There are better, cheaper, more scenic races. Absolutely true.

People say Boston’s no different or better than New York, where you need a time (faster than Boston) to enter (if you don’t want to risk the lottery system). Also true.

People say the Boston qualifying times are too easy for women.  Maybe true.

But *I* say, I still want to go. I want to be able to say I did it. That I was there. That I got screamed at by crazy college kids at mile 13 and that that hill at mile 16 didn’t manage to break my heart.  It would be history making for me.  The thrill will have been in the journey to get there.  Boston, for me, is symbolic of hard work, determination and doing what I said I would do.  What I’ve been told I will never be able to do.

I know I have it in me.

2011: The Year of … the Pants?

10 Jan

I put on my favorite work pants this morning, and, well, they were a little tight.  Not button-straining tight.  Not my-ass-doesn’t-fit-into-these-anymore tight.  Not even change-into-my-fat-dress-pants-STAT tight (in fact, I’m still wearing them as I type this from my office).  But they definitely don’t fit the way they did, say, 2 months ago.

Since the marathon, I’ve been lazy.  Maybe not lazy by other people’s standards — I’ve still been running (some) and going to the gym (a bit), but I’ve not been anywhere near where I was.  I just can’t seem to get motivated.  I feel soft, and out of shape, and unfocused, and just kind of BLAH.  And while I’ve been eating less than I was when I was marathon training, I apparently haven’t been eating enough less to compensate for my massive reduction in miles.

So, something has to change.

Personally, I’m not big on grand weight loss New Year’s Resolutions.  If they work for you, awesome.  But, for me, I feel like I just set myself up to fail.  I can decide that, starting on Monday, I’m going to slash my calories to x and go to the gym and/or run x number of times per week.  And it works…for, oh, 3 days.  But, by the time Thursday rolls around, I’m hungry.  I’m cranky.  I’m bitchy (well, bitchier than usual…).  I’m rebelling against my self-imposed strict schedule.  And I’m feeling guilty ALL the time — whether it’s about not being home with the dog more when I’m at the gym or about not being at the gym when I’m home.  I can’t win when I do it that way.  In my experience, I have to have some sort of larger goal that I am working toward (and the number on the scale just isn’t enough — nor does it mean all that much to me anymore).

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to figure out what my “plan” is for 2011 — at least fitness-wise.  In doing that, I first have to figure out what my goals are (note the use of the word “goal” and not “resolutions”).  Hmmm…well, I still want to qualify for Boston.  Or at least try again.

Oh, right.  I never gave you guys a marathon recap.  It’s really too late now to get into the blow-by-blow (hehee, I said “blow” — yep, I still have the humor of an 8-year-old.  And no, one of my goals is not going to be to grow up.  Consider yourselves warned), but I didn’t qualify for Boston.  I was off by 19 minutes (I ran a 3:59:28).  Yes, I was disappointed.  But only a little, and, honestly, it was a hell of a lot less than I thought I would be.  I can truly say that I ran the best marathon I had in me on that particular day.  I knew 8 miles into the race that it wasn’t going to happen, and by mile 10, I had reset my time goal to come in under 4 hours.  I did.  And, I think this picture, taken less than an hour after the race, says a lot:

But back to goals.  In addition to trying again to qualify for Boston, I also want to rediscover my love for running.  By the time the marathon rolled around, I was burned out.  My daily runs felt more like a chore and less like the mental release that made me fall in love with running in the first place.  Honestly, this feeling is probably directly related to my current inability to get my ass in gear.

So based on that, I think I’ve got at least the basic plan figured out:

Today –> March 5th: Lean out, build endurance base, increase strength, NO RACING.  My goal here is not to get caught up in races or speed or pace, but instead take 8 full weeks to prepare my body for racing season.  I want to increase my protein intake, spend more time lifting weights and strengthening my core, and increase lean body mass (and hopefully lose some fat in the process).  As far as my running goes, I want to concentrate on building endurance and running for a certain amount of time, but not get caught up in keeping a certain pace or going a certain distance.  Like, today, I have “Run: 45 minutes easy” on my schedule.  That means exactly that — run for 45 minutes.  Maybe I’ll do 4 miles, maybe I’ll do 6 — my pace will be whatever feels easy to me TODAY.  Not only will this help me build that ever-important base, but hopefully it’ll also help me remember that running is supposed to be fun and not stressful.  I’m going back to basics.  See you in March, Garmin!

March 6th –> May 29th: Start doing races, reintroduce tempo runs, start to focus on pace, maintain strength, and mix it up a bit to keep it fun.  After the initial 8-weeks, I want to get back into pace-training and, eventually, racing.  I’m doing the Cherry Blossom 10-miler on April 3rd, so that gives me something specific to look to.  Oh, and I also have the Tough Mudder scheduled for April 10th.  Hey, I told you I wanted to mix it up and keep it fun!  So, I’m the kind of girl who thinks sweat, mud, and live wires are fun.  Deal with it.

May 30th –> September 16th: Marathon Training.  Specifics to follow.

September 17th: Air Force Marathon.

As far as other (non-fitness) goals, I certainly have a lot of those too.  I’m well-rounded like that.  Eating healthier to fuel my body more naturally and efficiently.  Using my time more wisely.  Saving more money.  Spending more quality time with the people I care about.  Making my house feel more like a home.   Using the blog as more of an outlet and updating more.  But, I’ll write more about these things later (hopefully…provided I actually meet that last goal…).

Anyway, that’s the plan.  It’s flexible.  It’s not set in stone.  But it’s something to get my butt moving.

And, hopefully, comfortably back into my favorite pants.

Tinsel-covered Christmas Blues

9 Dec

Let me state the obvious.  I haven’t been posting lately.  I could sit here and give you all the same recycled reasons: I’ve been busy, work has been kicking my ass, I haven’t had time.  And, while all of those things are true, the truth is that I could make the time if I really wanted to, or if I had anything to say.  Really, the truth is, I just feel like I am lacking words these days.  Because, for all my claims of loving Christmas and the holidays, the reality is that, this year, I’m really struggling.  And it bothers me.  A lot.

It bothers me because I want to love Christmas and to feel the holiday spirit this year.  I want to be baking and wrapping and decorating and loving every minute of it.  And, it bothers me because I want to be able to make the season special for the people I care about.  Because, really, isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Spending time with the people you love?  But, instead, I can’t seem to get past my own self-centered feeling of general crappiness.  And, maybe what bothers me the most, is that I don’t know how to fix it.  I don’t know how to recapture that feeling of hopeful anticipation or warmth that is supposed to be the hallmark of the holiday season.  Instead, I look around at the lights and garland that decorate the streets and the people scurrying through the cold with gifts and wrapping paper in their arms, and I feel, well, sad.  I don’t know how better to describe it than that.  And, quite honestly, it’s making me feel a little crazy (yes, batshit crazy).  And that isn’t helping matters at all.

According to the Mayo clinic, holiday depression is incredibly common:

While the holiday season brings sentiments of joy and celebration for some, for others it is a time of isolation and an increase in feelings of depression and negative thoughts.  This is a period of frenetic activity, a time when people are trying to juggle work, an increase in social obligations, shopping, decorating, wrapping, entertaining and staying on budget. All this leads to a rise in both physical and emotional stress and sadness.  Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends.

So, I guess the larger question is, what am I going to do about it.  Because sitting around and being sad for the next couple weeks is NOT okay with me, nor is it fair to the people around me.  J, in particular.  He deserves better.  He deserves a Christmas that is filled with joy and love and all the good things that the season has to offer.  All the good things that I have to offer.  And, frankly, so do I.

If I’ve learned anything so far in life, it’s that simply altering your attitude can make a huge difference. So, in an effort to salvage what is left of the holiday season, I’m going to try to be more proactive about this.  I mean, let’s face it, wallowing in sadness only ever brings, well, more sadness.  And who needs that?

And so, I present to you, my plan to combat my inner grinch:

  1. Take Better Care of Myself. This includes getting a decent amount of sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well.  When I’m doing those things, regardless of the time of year, I feel better.  My outlook is brighter.  I feel more confident and more in control.  And that’s particularly important right now.
  2. Revise Expectations and Priorities.  Somehow, I think that both realizing and expecting that the holidays will never be perfect goes a long way.  I’m the first to admit that my holiday expectations are way too high.  I build them up all year long, and when you do that, the actual season itself can feel like a let down.
  3. Learn to Say No.  I take on too much.  I feel like I need to accept every invitation I receive. Client cocktail parties…holiday housewarmings…cookie exchanges.  It all sometimes feels like too much, and it takes away from the seasonal things that I actually want to be doing (going to the ice skating rink in the sculpture garden for the first time, going to see ICE at the National Harbor, getting s’mores at Cosi, checking out the Festival of Lights out at Bull Run).  Some things are pretty much mandatory (hello, hellish office party), but other things can be skipped, and there simply isn’t time for ALL of it.  Taking the time to not go-go-go every second is important to me, especially right now.  Now I just need to figure out how to let go of the guilt that usually comes when I DO say no.
  4. Call in Reinforcements. For whatever reason, being alone is feeling really difficult for me this season.  Usually, I thoroughly enjoy “Kelly Time.”   But, right now, it’s just making me feel isolated and lonely.  And I know that J being out of town all next week has the potential to exacerbate those feelings a lot.  So I need to reach out, and not just let myself sit around around and be miserable.  I need to surround myself with the people that matter so that those feelings don’t completely take me over.
  5. Fake it ‘Til I Make it. My therapist reminds me of this all the time.  When I’m feeling sad or depressed or upset, there isn’t always (or even usually) a “quick fix.”  But often, the simple act of going through the motions can take hold, and before I know it, my heart is back in it, where it belongs.

So, with that, I have a tree to decorate and stockings to hang.

Cookies to bake.

Shopping to do.

Presents to wrap.

And a Christmas to celebrate with the two people (beings?) that I love the most.

Enjoying the Simple Life

5 Nov

I have a lot of good qualities.  I can hold my own in pretty much any conversation.  I almost always have a clever comment or witty comeback.  Despite having a flair for the overdramatic, I can (almost) always bring myself down to a level of rationality when given the time to calm down.  I make people laugh.  I work hard and take pride in what I do.   I’m loyal and will do almost anything for the people I care about.  My boyfriend thinks I’m pretty, and my dog thinks I’m just generally awesome.  Who am I to argue?

However, I am the first to admit that I also possess some less-than-stellar qualities.   Like the above-mentioned flair for the melodramatic, for example.  I’m also beginning to realize that I allow myself  to get caught up in the annoyances of my day.   The gridlock getting into the city in the morning.  The jackass who bumps into me when I’m walking to my office with a hot cup of coffee.  Missing the walk signal by 3.2 seconds.  It seems that I have a tendency to focus on the negative, rather than allow myself to revel in the good things.

And I’m pretty sure that it’s not just me.  I think it’s oddly more acceptable to complain about the trivial things that bother us than it is to take note of special little moments throughout the day.   It’s even perpetuated by a lack of naming conventions since there’s no real antonym for “pet peeve.”  Yes, I googled it.

So, in an effort to be a more positive person, I’m challenging myself to start really appreciating the simple things that make me smile.

Here are today’s moments:

  1. Snuggling in bed with J and Scout for a few extra minutes this morning.  There’s something so satisfying about being under the warm covers even after your alarm has gone off and you know that you really should already be up and moving.
  2. Pulling on one of my favorite pairs of winter pants for this first time this season and discovering that, not only were they a little loose, but they also had a year-long-forgotten $5 bill in the pocket.
  3. Making a bowl of warm pumpkin oatmeal with the perfect amount of cinnamon and spice stirred in.
  4. Having a co-worker come into my office to discuss case strategy, him saying “well, while I know exactly what we don’t do, but I’m not sure what we actually do do in this situation,” and then both of simultaneously stopping in the middle of the very serious conversation to laugh at the fact that he’d just said “doo doo.”  (Yes, we’re 8.  So what?  You just laughed too, admit it.)
  5. Having a facebook heart-to-heart with CB that culminated in the realization that I’m incredibly lucky to have such an amazing friend (and that I look adorable in pink…but that’s another story).
  6. Having a fantastic 4-miler around the tidal basin at dusk.
  7. Coming home to this face:

Insanity by Taper

1 Nov

I’m starting to go insane.  Seriously.  And I’m not talking about going just a little crazy.  I’m talking, like, batshit crazy.

What, you don’t believe me?  Ask J.  He’ll tell you.

I have a serious case of PMTS.  Pre-Marathon Taper Syndrome.  Okay, so MAYBE I just made up that term as I typed this.  But the actual affliction really does exist.  Runners World says so.  So it MUST be true.

The pre-marathon taper is absolutely necessary if you are going to be able to perform your best on race day.    I know this.  Really.  I’ve spent the last 6+ months kicking my own butt.  I’ve trained hard.  I’ve trained strong.  And perhaps most importantly, I’ve trained smart.  So why is it that now, less than 2 weeks before the marathon, that ability to think about my training rationally is NOT coming very easily?

That’s it.  That’s all I have left.  The last 6 months have come down to these 15 color-coded squares on my training calendar.

And suddenly, I’m second-guessing everything.  I’m having to fight the urge to try to cram in last-minute speed work.  I’m constantly faced with the overwhelming fear that the time goal I’ve set and diligently trained for is now somehow way too ambitious.  I’m already obsessively checking the weather for race day (you know, because the weather people are always so accurate, especially two weeks in advance).  I’m convinced that every new twinge I feel is somehow a race-ending injury.  My legs feel heavy even on my short-should-be-easy runs, yet itch to be out running when I’m sitting at home.  I’m having panic attacks during the day and nightmares about not finishing every single night.  See, I told you.  MAKING. ME. CRAZY.

Batshit crazy.   Not to mention absolutely wonderful to be around.

I’m trying to trust my body.  I’m trying to find some sort of zen state of being.  I’m trying to believe.  It’s just that some days minutes are easier than others.  Just two more weeks.

Sorry, J.  Your normal, rational, and, dare I say, delightful girlfriend (you better not have just laughed) will be back shortly.  Until then, thanks for talking me down and helping me keep from discovering what degree of insanity comes after “batshit.”


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