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Planting the Seed of Doubt

In mid-May after a winter and fall of not following any sort of training plan and honestly mostly only running on weekends I decided, on a whim, to sign up for the Colfax Urban 10 Miler.  I had done the Colfax 5k and Marathon Relay in the past years and the thought of not participating in a race on Colfax weekend was starting to get me down.  So, I signed up on Saturday for the Sunday 10 miler.  The most I had run at one time since last year has been about 6 miles, but I was confident that, even if I had to walk, that I would be able to finish this race.  I was pretty excited because the race started in my neighborhood (the undesirable West Colfax) and ran east on Colfax, through the Broncos football stadium, up the Platte River, through downtown Denver to Denver’s City Park.  The beginning of the race was almost all downhill adding to my confidence that I would be able to finish the race.

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For the first couple of years of running I was strictly an interval runner.  I would do a 3:00/1:00 run to walk interval and had gotten pretty comfortable with this routine.  Last fall I decided to push myself at the Rock-n-Roll 10k to see if I could actually run a race straight through without intervals and shocked myself that I actually could.  Apparently, my training had paid off and I was becoming a “real” runner.  So, for the Colfax Urban 10 miler I decided that I was going to run the first 6.2 miles straight and see how I was feeling.  Depending on how I felt I would just continue running or switch to a 3:00/1:00 run/walk interval.

 

IMG_5523At the 10k mark of the race, when I was going to make my decision on how I would finish the race, I was feeling really strong with my running and was pretty sure I would just continue running straight through when suddenly my left hip was in excruciating pain.  I had been having issues with my hip all year (and had issues with my other hip last year which only resolved after getting a cortisone shot) and at that moment it felt like someone was shoving a nail into my hip.  At that point, the decision was made for me and I had to switch to a run/walk interval in hopes to get the pain under control.  I was still making good time and keeping up with the group I was running with, I had just switched to the run/walk interval to give my hip a break every once in a while.   I was feeling really confident that even with the change of plans I was going to have a great race.

 

IMG_5524During one of my short waking intervals a stranger came up behind me and started giving me and the woman I was running near encouragement.  Telling us that “we could do it, we just needed to put our minds to it and we could finish.”  While I usually like encouragement from fellow runners, there was something about this particular encouragement that just pissed me off.  For one, the woman that I was running with was an older woman who was absolutely rocking it.  And secondly, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I was going to be able to finish the race and I didn’t need to put mind to it because my mind was telling me I was going to finish – until he planted a seed of doubt in my mind.   Yes, I was walking at the moment the stranger offered up his encouragement but it was part of my plan, not because I wasn’t able to run.  I obviously looked like someone who needed extra encouragement, which kind of sucks because I was feeling really good about my race.  This stranger’s words, which I am sure were meant to be encouraging, suddenly made me feel horrible and sent me in to a spiral of self-doubt.  I immediately started thinking about how I wasn’t a “real” runner because I didn’t look like a typical runner (ie.  I am not super skinny or particularly athletic looking), I don’t run fast and did run/walk intervals, and that I would never be in the front of the pack.  All of these things never really bothered me before but these words of encouragement from a complete stranger really got to me and really made me think about how others look at me when I’m running.  I wish I was a stronger person who wasn’t bothered by these kinds of things.  I know that it doesn’t matter what my time was or how gracefully I ran, I still ran 10 miles, which is a lot more than most people do on a random Sunday, but it still planted that seed of doubt in my mind.  And obviously, because I’m writing about almost two months later, it really stuck with me.

 

IMG_5527I’m not sure what the morale of this story is.  I think encouraging others during races is great, but I am definitely going to be more mindful about the words of encouragement I share with others.  I would hate to make others feel the way that someone’s words of “encouragement” made me feel.  I can only speak for myself but the fact that I get my ass out of bed and get to the start line of any given race is a huge accomplishment for me.  If you would have told me five years ago that I would be running a 10 mile race I would have told you that you were crazy.  We’ve all taken different roads to get to the starting line and it’s important to make sure we are encouraging each other in the right ways.

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Catching Up and Battling with my Sinuses

In September, I wrote a post about how I couldn’t possibly forget the feeling after a good run and swore that running would once again become a regular part of my life.  Turns out I am a complete liar.  Within a week of writing that post I had forgotten all about the benefits of the runner high and feel back in to a very irregular running schedule.  I quickly turned in to a weekend warrior – not doing much of anything during the week and doing a couple runs on the weekend to try and make up for my laziness.  Looking back, I am really lucky that I didn’t really injure myself during this time because from my experience doing nothing physical all week and then cranking out a 10k on the weekend isn’t the best idea.  But, I survived without major injury and am looking forward to getting back on track to a regular and healthy training schedule.

runners high

Since September a lot has happened and really nothing has happened.  But, I wanted to share some of the big events and how they have been effecting my running and my plan for what’s coming next.  I am sharing this for a couple of reasons:  1) I want to be accountable to someone or something and I also like to the idea of writing regularly.  When I think back to why I studied Journalism in school it was because I had (and have) a love for writing and want to flex those writing muscles again.  2)  Maybe if I share what I’ve been going through I might find some answers from people how have had similar journeys or maybe I can help someone who is struggling with some of the things I’ve been struggling with while also sharing successes along the way.

The biggest thing that I’ve been dealing with since September is that I have been battling a weird sinus issue that as of today, almost 8 months later, I still have absolute no answers for.  This has really affected my running.  Somedays I feel like complete crap and I just want to stay in bed forever and other days I am just so frustrated with this process for trying to get better that I also want to throw the covers over my head, scream, and stay in bed forever.  (Do you see a common thread here?!)  Since September I have been on a crazy amount of antibiotics, gone to the ENT and took more antibiotics, got an CT Scan, got tested for allergies, plus trying a ton of other remedies…all of this with absolutely no relief.  While we do have some answers about what is not wrong, we don’t appear to be any closer to finding out what is wrong.  When the MRI came back without any more information that ENT suggested that my sinus pressure could be from acid reflux and prescribed Prilosec.  (It’s important to note that I had absolutely no symptoms of acid reflux but the ENT suggedrugssted I had “silent reflux” and the acid from my stomach was going up my throat and causing inflammation in my sinuses – these are times where I wish there was a stronger word for skeptical because that is exactly what I was, but I forged ahead hoping that this weird idea was the solution to my problem).  I took the Prilosec for several weeks without any relief of my sinuses (but an alarming increase to the number of migraines I was experiencing) and to top it off when I stopped taking the Prilosec I started having acid reflux.  So that long explanation brings you to today, almost 8 months later.  My sinuses still bother me, I have pretty constant pressure in my sinuses, and it feels like my noses is always running, and I have absolutely no answer as to why.  My doctor is currently suggesting that my sinus pressure may be caused by migraines and is suggesting I start taking an anti-depressant as a headache preventative and to be honest I have no idea what to think of this.   I am actually really nervous about the idea of taking an anti-depressant when I don’t have any symptoms of depression, but there is a part of me that wants an answer, and more importantly, a solution to my problem, and maybe this is that answer.

IMG_4559On a much happier note since September our family grew by one.  After losing my beloved Nittany last July I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready for another dog.  There was such a huge hole in my heart that is still there today, but when the tears about Nittany became less often and there were more smiles and laughs about her antics I started thinking our family might be ready for a new addition, when we found the right fit.  We had fostered for the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue and our first foster found his forever home and while we liked him we knew that he was not the right fit for our family.  (You can read about Boogie here.)  But, in late September I was looking at the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue website showing the incoming dogs who needed fosters and I spotted Maggie.  The information said Maggie was 4-6 months old and from her picture she looked like a small chocolate lab.  After checking with the family, I immediately contacted the rescue to tell them we wanted to foster her.  On the last Wednesday in September the entire family jumped in the car and drove to Aurora to pick up Maggie at the rescues drop off spot so we could foster her.   When Maggie got out of the back of the moving truck she was so skinny and did not look like the healthiest of dogs, but you could tell she loved people and wanted to please her people, and I could immediately feel my heart start to melt.  So, as they say, the rest is history…our family was four again.

So, back to running (this is the Jolly Runner, right?!).  The winter and spring has been pretty horrible.  Like I mentioned my training plan was all over the place.  I would take time and develop a plan and one day in I had already fallen off the wagon.  I would then justify that I would restart the plan at the beginning of the next week.  The next week would come and go and I had still not established any sort of consistency with my running.  After losing over 30 lbs. since I started running the weight was starting to creep back up.  My body was used to running 3-4 times per week and I was not providing the physical activity it needed to keep a constant weight (or even lose a little).  My eating was horrible – it was all about comfort and eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted.   Not the best recipe for weight management.  Luckily, it never got too out of control and while I have only gained about 5 lbs. I still feel like a complete failure and I know that I need to get my life under control again.

PeruI have high hopes for May.  A have a new training plan in my planner.  I have a race scheduled for the end of the month (in my funk I almost didn’t sign up for the Bolder Boulder, but realized I would be even more upset if I missed this annual run, and was reminded that even if I wasn’t ready to competitively run, I can always walk it).  I am traveling to Peru in June and would seriously love to get rid of the 5 lbs. I have added over the last couple of months.  I plan to record this journey (and lots of other cool stuff) in my blog.

So, I invite you on my journey over the next couple of months.   Follow along, give me your thoughts and insight.  And if all else fails hopefully I can make you laugh along the way.

How Could I Forget this Feeling?!

This weekend was supposed to be a great weekend away.  I was excited about the getaway but there was a lot that needed to be done before I headed out of town to meet Brandon in Gunnison.  I had to work in the morning and host a big meeting, pack, get the house ready for the pet sitter, track down our new iPhones that were being shipped separately and by different carriers, and get out of the house so I could make the 3 ½ hour drive in time for dinner.  This was all after a super stressful work week with lots of events whose success laid on my shoulder and a 12 hour day.  There was a lot on my to do list and suddenly I notice a huge lump on our dogs ear.  Paterno had a hematoma on his ear in August that the vet drained and said either it would come back or not – it chose to come back twice as large as the first one.  So, along with everything else that needed done I also needed to run Paterno to the emergency vet to make sure it was okay to leave him with the pet sitter for the weekend.  We get to the emergency vet and were told our wait would be several hours.  I could feel the minutes ticking away and myself getting later and later.  One of the vet techs took mercy on me and told me she would look at Paterno and let me know if he needed to be seen that day or if we could schedule something for later in the week.  She checked him over and told me the hematoma was relatively small (I would hate to see a large one because this one seemed pretty crazy) and scheduled Paterno for an appointment and potential surgery on Tuesday.  I ran Paterno back home, finally tracked down our phones, and headed out the door with exactly 3 ½ hours until our scheduled dinner.  While I finally made it out the door and on my way to our mini-vacation I just felt stressed and anxious.

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Fast forward a couple of hours…I made is safely to Gunnison, enjoyed a nice dinner, and headed to an observatory to check out the stars.  As we are getting ready to leave the observatory all sorts of warning lights lit up my dashboard and stated with quite urgency that I needed to have my car serviced.  But, it was almost 10pm in a town that doesn’t have a Chevy dealership that is open on the weekends.  I tried to put the car trouble out of my mind and decided that now is a good time to activate my new iPhone 7.  To match the rest of my day the phone would not transfer my old data and just kept giving me all sorts of error messages.  Finally, I surrendered to the day and tried to sleep but spent the night tossing and turning stressing out about Paterno, the car, and the thought that I’m wasn’t going to be to have any phone access.

When the alarm went off I get out of bed and still feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I realized I was on a mini-vacation and I am too stressed to enjoy it.  I was being snappy and mean and felt like I was seconds from a full-fledged panic attack.

img_4481Now that I have set the stage of my fragile mental state I will fill in the details about my running.  Last Friday I decided, on a whim, I was going to get a tattoo on my foot (the tattoo wasn’t a whim I had been planning that for months, waking up one day and deciding today was the day I was going to get it was the whim).  The tattoo artist said I shouldn’t run for three days but after that it should be okay.  After three days I was still nervous and decided to take a whole week off to let the tattoo heal.  For some reason I irrationally thought that running would cause the tattoo to wear off (I do realize that is not realistic, but that is what my weird mind kept telling me).  So, Saturday morning it had been eight days since my last run with the plan to go for a run Saturday morning in Gunnison while Brandon was at his conference.

So, in the midst of my mental breakdown, I decided there was nothing I could really do about any of my issues at the moment and I would go for a quick run and deal with everything when I got back.  I put on my running clothes, carefully slathered my tattoo with tattoo goo, put on some super soft socks, my shoes and headed out the door.   In Gunnison at 8am in September the temperature is 32 degrees.  I was completely unprepared for this and was just wearing my running shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt.  The upside of this was I was ready to run from the very beginning just to warm up.  Because it had been awhile since my last run I just told myself if I could make it three miles I would call it good.  I set out running around the neighborhoods and downtown of Gunnison and then headed east of town to the Western State University campus.  The longer I ran the better I felt.  The beautiful sunshine, the fresh crisp air, and the new scenery was exactly what I needed.  One mile quickly turned in to two and before I knew it I was rounding out six miles.    As soon as I get in to the groove of running I love being out there but I have to play mind tricks with myself to get started so I can get in that groove.  At an even 10k I ended my run and headed back to our hotel.

The run was exactly what I needed.  When I got back from my run I felt at peace, focused, calm, and ready to tackle my to do list.  I contacted Onstar to figure out what to do with my car and they said that it wasn’t really urgent and I should be able to make it home and I should set-up an appointment for next week (the should was a little concerning but in my new mental state I could deal with it).  While I was away I had connected my new iPhone to my MacBook and when I got back it had worked out its issues and downloaded all my data and music and was ready to be activated.   I was still stressed about work stuff and dog stuff but it all suddenly felt so small and manageable when just an hour before it felt like the end of the world.

This summer has sucked and when I should have been running the most to deal with the stress, I did just the opposite and used my running time in the morning to sleep in and try to escape reality and it just ended up compounding the problems.  This weekend was a huge wake-up call that no matter what I need to make running a priority.   Running is my natural stress, anxiety, and depression buster and I need to never forget that.  I don’t want to end up back on the verge of a panic attack because that is a horrible feeling!  I am excited about the new week, the healed tattoo, and the reminder about how important it is to take the time for yourself.  Find the activity that centers you and don’t make excuses for not taking the time for yourself.  I am so excited that I found this feeling again and I am going to work my butt off not to lose it again.img_4501

 

 

Good Grief

good griefI am not known for being an overly emotional person.  If you ask anyone (other than my husband) they will agree that I am pretty even-kelled.  (My lucky husband on the other hand gets to see the good, bad, and ugly of my emotions.)  I never cried in front of people and it was rare that people knew when I was upset, mad, or sad.  That was until recently.  With the passing of our pup Nittany so much has changed in our lives from our routine to our conversations to planning for the future.  The one biggest thing that has changed for me personally is my ability to keep my shit together emotionally.  I have found myself bursting in to tears at work when I look at a picture of Nittany, in the car when a song comes on the radio that Nittany and I used to do puppy dance party to, and everywhere in between when I remember something about Nittany.  The tears are both happy and sad but they come so unexpectedly that I feel like a ticking time bomb.

Yesterday was my birthday and I was having a great day with friends.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with grief that I could not shake.  I would just burst in to tears and feel so sad.  At first I thought it was because I was growing another year older but age has never bothered me and I knew deep down that wasn’t the cause.  When I really thought about it, and with something prodding from my husband, I realized my overwhelming sadness was a memory I had from a couple of months ago when I said “the only thing I want for my birthday is for Nittany to be there.”  I think I said this when we first figured out what was going on with her health and she was still relatively healthy.  When I remembered this statement on my birthday I was thrown into a tail spin.  I felt so sad that Nittany wasn’t there and then I felt so guilty and angry for being selfish enough to wish she was here even knowing how sick she was at the end of her life.

Grief is such a weird thing.  It comes out of no where.  You are cruising along throughout the day, enjoying yourself, and there it is lurking around the corner.  You feel like you are feeling better and making progress and then is just smacks you across the face and reminds you about whatever you are grieving.  Time passes and you are starting to feel confident that the memories are only going to be warm and fuzzy and suddenly you are taken down to your knees with sadness and heartache.  Even with the grief I know I am making progress forward but I was just so unprepared for how much it would hurt.

RUNMy running has been a huge area where I have been struggling lately (see sometimes the Jolly Runner talks about running).  It started out being tough to run because Nittany wasn’t there to welcome my back, so I was avoiding runs during the week.  I was still running on the weekend because that was a different routine where Nittany wasn’t as big of a part of my return home. Because I am in a training plan for my next half marathon in October my runs have been longer which give you a lot of time to think.  I have grown to despise this time in my head.  Eight miles of just being in your own head can be healing but it can also be painful.  Running around town I see all types of dogs with their families and it is a reminder of what I’ve lost.  During and after runs in the past I have experienced the normal “runners high,” feeling strong, happy, and confident. Lately the “runners high” has been overly emotional and while I feel more energetic I also seem to be sadder too.   This time in my head and the sadness that follows makes me want to just take a break from running but I couldn’t even imagine what kind of emotional mess I would be in a cut out running all together.

People have given me great ideas on how to handle the loss of Nittany and I appreciate the ideas and words of encouragement but one thing I have learned is that everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  The only think I have learned for sure is that it’s good, and necessary, to grieve.  If you try to keep all those feelings inside you might explode, but most importantly you are not letting yourself heal.  I want to thank everyone who has been along with me on this strange journey and especially my husband for being my rock and walking this road of good grief with me.   Thanks for listening to my ramblings and letting me grieve through my blog.

 

How Do I Get Back on the Wagon?

Have you ever seen the movie Groundhogs Day?  Poor Bill Murray gets stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhogs Day reliving the same day over and over again.***  Like my friend Bill I am feeling like I am in a bit of a rut.

Wagon

Let’s start by laying it all down.

  1.  I haven’t run a race since the beginning of September and have nothing on the books for future races.  (Even worse I haven’t run at all since before Halloween).
  2. I have absolutely no self control when it comes to food.  (Boulder Coconut Oil Chips are my current kryptonite).
  3. My motivation for most things is at an all time low. (Heading to bed before 9pm is becoming too much of the norm in my life).

I look back at this past Spring and early Summer and I was running constantly gaining strength and speed. I was eating better and losing weight.  Everything was going really well and I had the motivation to want to exercise and be healthier.  I have no idea where it all went.  Perhaps it was changing jobs, getting sick, or a million of other reasons but the motivation is completely gone and I can’t find it anywhere.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have told myself “I’ll just start fresh on Monday.”  Then Monday comes and goes and I tell myself “I’ll just start next Monday, I’ve already screwed up for the week.”  Even when I plan my meals and create a weekly exercise program I come up with a hundred reasons not to follow it and once again fall off the healthy wagon.

In August I reached my goal of running a Sub 30 5k and truly thought that would be my motivation to keep going and keep pushing myself but it made me a little lazy.   I reached the goal I had been working for so long that I can’t even fathom lowering my time or running a Sub 60 10k because it feels like it would take forever and now I have put myself back in my training by taking so much time off.   I know it logically doesn’t make sense but it’s where I am right now.

Since I currently don’t have any answers, I guess I am here to ask advice…what do you do for motivation and how do you get back on the wagon when you’ve tumbled off?

 

***Side Note:  Being a proud (?!) Pennsylvanian I did not have to Google how to spell Punxsutawney.

Sub 30 Club

When I first started running my only concern when racing was to finish the race.  The time didn’t matter – the only thing that mattered was the medics didn’t have to come and scrape my crumpled body off the pavement.  As my running got stronger I started to push myself at races with the only goal being to beat my time from the race before and I was doing that pretty consistently but then I got the bug to get my 5k under 30 minutes.   I had been getting really close to the 30 minute mark but hadn’t been able to slip under it, that was until the beginning of August.

ETR_Main_ImageIn early August I ran the Evergreen Town Race 5k in beautiful Evergreen, Colorado.  I had run the race last year and finished in just over 30 minutes so I knew my goal was obtainable but I just needed to focus a little harder.  This race course is awesome because the majority of it is downhill.  It’s not a steep downhill but a nice easy downhill slope so it’s naturally a faster race.

I have become really fond of this particular race because it’s always the weekend before my birthday and a way for me to celebrate making it through another year and still being able to run.  Okay, so I may be a little dramatic but damn being in your mid 30s isn’t all kittens and puppy dogs – suddenly you have aches you didn’t have before and you start feeling the need to tell people about your new pains.

Anyways…back to the race….

Despite the crowd and the need for the walkers to get right up front at the start line I felt like I was off to a really strong start.  I was slightly frustrated by the number of children running the race who would be right in the middle of the trail and run for a couple hundred yards and then stop suddenly making the runners around them have to zig and zag as to not take one out or trip over them.  Yes, I understand they are children but obviously their keepers (I mean parents) are runners so why haven’t they taught them race etiquette?!  I had been training with a 2:30/0:30 interval and was planning on following this during the race but when my iPhone indicated it was time to walk for the first time I felt strong enough to skip the walking and just run.  I was so excited when I came around the corner to the finish line and saw the beautiful clock showing 29 minutes….finally I had joined the sub 30 club!!  My final time was 29:14 and I don’t think I have been that excited in a really long time.  After the race I found my husband and was telling him all about my time and he showed fake excitement but I know he didn’t really get how big of an accomplishment this was for me.  But, then again I probably don’t show the proper amount of enthusiasm when he comes home from a good skiing trip or climbing a hard mountain…to each their own.

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Since the race I have gotten a little lazy with my running.  Hot summer months tend to suck out my motivation but I have been out for a couple runs and spent some quality time with the treadmill and can honestly say that I am feeling stronger and stronger every time I run.  For so long I felt like I was on a running plateau.  I wasn’t getting faster or stronger just staying exactly the same.  Each run was just a mirror image of the last and it was getting really frustrating.  Joining the sub 30 club has definitely given me a new lease on running and has motivated me to run longer, stronger and faster.

Interval Running

Since I started running I have always been an interval runner. When I was starting it was out of total necessity. I was actually unable to run a long time without a break and so with the help of the Couch to 5k Program I ramped up to my first 5k using the interval method. Two years and a half marathon later I am still a committed interval runner. But now I think it’s a lot more about my mental ability then my physical ability. I can run long intervals with just a minute rest but mentally I need to know that a rest is coming up or I just spaz out and obsess over how there is no way I can run any further. After my bronchitis I got back to a comfortable 4-minute run/1-minute walk interval and have been following it religiously.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the Runs for Cookies blog and Katie was talking about using the Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method for her training after recovering from a stress fracture. Katie was talking about the different intervals and how she changed the intervals throughout her training. Something finally clicked in my head and I thought maybe I should start mixing up my intervals to see how it affects my pace. So on my next run I switched from my usual 4:00/1:00 interval to a 2:30/0:30 interval and I was amazed by the difference. It felt awesome! The 30-second break was exactly what I needed to take two sips of water and then start running again (for the past couple of weeks running with water has become a must – something I hadn’t done in the past either). I felt like my running was stronger and that I was actually improving from day to day instead of just being stagnant in my running. Before changing my intervals I would get my 3-5 miles in each time I ran but I was never increasing speed.   By changing the intervals every time I run my pace is improving a little bit each time.

I went back through my running logs (yeah RunHelper+ app) and compared two identical runs with one using the 4:00/1:00 interval and one using the 2:30/0:30 interval. When I was running the 4:00/1:00 interval I was averaging 9:42/mile (yes I realize I am slow runner but it’s better than just sitting on the couch eating bonbons) and with the 2:30/0:30 interval I was averaging a 9:25/mile. I know to some that is not a huge deal but for someone who has seen so little improvement in pace over the past year this is a big deal. I am going to continue adjusting the intervals to see what works best for me…and who knows maybe someday I will get over this mental block and finally just be able to run the entire time!

No matter what interval I use I am ALWAYS a sweat mess at the end of my run!

No matter what interval I use I am ALWAYS a sweat mess at the end of my run!

Do you use interval training and what have you found successful?