Sometimes Running Sucks

My running has been less than stellar recently. Considering I ran a 10k this past weekend, the timing is bad. I haven’t had a run that felt good in quite some time. Even three miles is somewhat of a struggle, so running over six was much more difficult than I anticipated.

I was thrilled to be in Chicago with my husband visiting my niece. Being from the ‘region’ in Northwest Indiana, which is only about thirty minutes from the Windy City, Chicago has always held a special place in my heart. I love the skyline, Lake Michigan, the museums, the shopping, and the architecture. It’s truly a beautiful city. I registered my niece and myself for this race a few months ago; we decided on the 10k rather than the half marathon, which turned out to be the perfect decision. Though I have run along the lake while visiting the city, I was excited to run a race there.

Gary and I arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon, dropped our things at Erin’s, and hopped on a bus to go downtown and get our race packets. That might sound simple, but we were slightly anxious that we would end up in the wrong neighborhood nowhere near race headquarters. As we exited the bus – on the right street – we began to take in life in the big city. Gary and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to country life versus city life. As he was commenting, “I could never live in this city,” I was saying, “I could so live in the big city!” Realistically, it would probably get old, so for now I’ll enjoy visiting Erin. That evening we met up with Erin for a pasta dinner, and went for a walk down to the lake. Since we had to get up early for the race, we were in early. One of us practically passed out while talking. I won’t mention a name, but it wasn’t one of the old ones!


Saturday morning the three of us caught the bus, and took off for the race. While I am usually really grouchy the morning of a race (my nerves get the best of me, and I don’t like to talk or be talked to), I felt unusually calm. Even when we realized we had missed our stop and had to walk about 1/2 mile back to the start, I didn’t get stressed out. In my highly-anxious mind, that’s impressive. As we approached the starting line, there was a sea of pink. Although I typically wear pink, I went against the trend and wore yellow. This was my first all-female race, and I didn’t want to over-do the girliness. Tutus were not an option for Erin and me. No way.


My goal for this race was to run it in under an hour. If we kept a 9:30 pace, we would do it. Our first mile, we ran a 9:08 pace – perfect. The second mile we ran a 9:13 pace, which was still good, and left us room to slow down during the second half. The third mile I began to struggle. STUPID. This was a 10k; I have run five half marathons; this should be easy. One huge mistake I made was not drinking any water on Friday. STUPID. In my mind, I was only running a little over six miles, so I didn’t need to worry about hydrating or nutrition. STUPID. I always need to worry about hydration and nutrition. Third mile: 9:40 pace. Crap. I told Erin to go ahead because she was running well. She wasn’t going to, but I told her I didn’t want to feel guilty for holding her back, so she went on. During mile four, I kept telling myself to enjoy the beautiful day; I was running in CHICAGO! I had the gorgeous blue lake with sailboats scattered about on my right, and the picturesque skyline on my left. There were runners everywhere. This race was different than any I have run because the course wasn’t closed. There we literally hundreds of other runners who were not participating in the race along the course.

Mile four….9:27…back on track. Lord, I was tired and my legs felt like I was trudging through wet sand. Mile five…I could do this. It was only a 10k. What was my problem? Why did I feel like I was not going to finish? And I was definitely not going to register for the Indianapolis Monumental Half that Gary and I had planned to do. No freakin’ way. Mile six. The last full mile. 10:05. For Pete’s sake, I just kept getting slower and slower. But I was not going to stop. The finish line was within my reach, and I was not going to walk. As I approached where I thought the finish line was, I picked it up a bit because I thought I was going to meet my goal. When I realized where the finish line actually was, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My official time was 1:00:22. I missed my goal by twenty-two seconds. If you don’t run, that might not seem like a big deal; if you run, you understand just how frustrating that was. But it was over, and I hadn’t walked. (Erin and decided to walk the three miles back to her apartment. This picture shows her cooling off in a random fountain. Yes, I dared her. I didn’t even have to triple dog dare.)


What I don’t understand is why my running has gotten worse since I quit running every day. Shouldn’t my legs be rested and ready to race? The last 5K I ran, my pace was 8:47. My pace at an August two-miler was 8:04. Now I am trying to decide if I want to keep trying to increase my distance, or if I want to stick with shorter distances and work on getting faster. On the way home from Chicago, I read an article about the benefits of 5Ks. Perhaps that was my sign.

When the results were finally posted, I saw that overall I placed 133 out of 977, and in my age group (40-49) I placed 33rd out of 301, which isn’t too bad. Erin placed ninth in her age group, and 75th overall, which is outstanding! She doesn’t usually run races, which makes it more impressive. So in the end, it was worth the effort. For our efforts, we got really nice jackets, necklaces, and medals. We also got to share some special time together. And we celebrated with Giordanno’s pizza that evening; I’d run another six miles for that.


So, what’s next? Right now your guess is as good as mine. We are going to go watch some friends finish at the Evansville Half Marathon this weekend. I will likely attempt another long run Sunday. And if it sucks, I am never running again. At least not until the next week…or day. I hate running. But I love it, too.

I’m Going to Chicago (but not on the Megabus)

The weekend I’ve been planning for is finally here! Several months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about a race called Women Rock Chicago. There’s a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon, and it’s a girly race. Because my niece Erin lives in Chicago, and Chicago happens to be one of my favorite places, I registered my niece and myself for the 10k. The route winds along Lake Michigan, which is an amazing place to run. My favorite run took place when I was in Chicago for a conference a couple years ago, and I was able to run along the lake. Having the water on my left and Chicago’s incredible skyline on my right as I ran along made for a memorable run.

Gary and I are leaving in the morning. Gary will be driving. If you remember, my girls and I took the *&%^ Megabus to Chicago over spring break. I don’t think I could survive that twice.

Thankfully between my sister, brother, and daughter, our house and dogs will be cared for. We will go through the area in Northern Indiana where I lived when I was young, and plan to stop for lunch at Miner Dunn, which is the best burger dive ever. We hope to get into the city before rush hour, and will even attempt to take the bus from Erin’s apartment to the race expo. Though Erin sent very specific directions, I have a fear of getting off in the wrong neighborhood, which could be trouble in Chicago. Lord, help us!

The race is Saturday morning. I’d like to say I am ready and expect to run well, but that just hasn’t been the case recently. If you read this blog regularly, you know that this summer I ran 101 days in a row. Once that challenge was over, I scaled my running back to about four days a week, kept up with three to four days of HIIT, and took a day or two off a week. One would think my running would improve because I am rested (at least that’s what I thought), but, in fact, the opposite has happened. I ran much better and felt better when I was running every day. I have been trying to do long runs on the weekends, and got up to eight miles two weeks ago. Gary and I were planning to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon on November 1, so I was training for that while training for Chicago. I thought I had planned well. My body is not cooperating with my plan. And my knee hurts.

I don’t know if my knee just won’t be able to handle longer distances any longer, or if it will adjust to the distance and eventually stop hurting. I do know it makes me angry. I just want to be able to do what I love. So, what is my goal for this race? I won’t know until I start running and see how I feel. My eighth graders don’t really understand these types of races. Here’s the conversation I had with one class:

Kids: Mrs. Stath, we hope you win your race!

Me: Oh, I don’t run these races to actually win.

Kids: What? Why wouldn’t you want to win?

Me: I won’t win. That isn’t even a possibility.

Kids: Well, with that attitude you won’t!

Oh…If only it were that easy. One group of boys had me write down what place each one thought I would come in. I have to take a treat to the one who has the closest guess. It is a great feeling to know that I can show them that one is never too old to reach for goals, and that doing my personal best is what really matters.

I would like to finish in under an hour. If my knee holds up, my stomach cooperates, and my legs don’t feel like logs, I think I can do it. That would probably put me in the top 20% overall and in my age group. However, if I have to slow down or take walk breaks, so be it. It’s about the experience, right? I thought about not worrying about time at all, and taking time out to take pictures along the way, but once I get into my race zone, I know I won’t want to stop for photo ops.

While I am excited to see my niece, to eat Giordanno’s pizza, and have a weekend away, there is a downside to all of this. When I am running Saturday morning, my youngest daughter Addison will be teeing off at the golf regional, which she qualified for this past Saturday. Yes, sign me up for the Bad Mom Award. It’s her senior year, possibly her last golf match of the year, and I won’t be there. As much as I’ve complained about the boredom of a golf match, I hate to miss this one. We made these plans months ago, and as soon as the golf schedule came out, I saw that I would miss, and let Addison know. I am grateful her dad, who doesn’t mind a bit to watch five hours of golf, will be there to cheer her on, and to transport her from the golf match to the evening band contest…yup…missing that, too. So, Good Luck, Sweet Addison! I will be thinking of you as I run!

You can bet there will be an ‘after Chicago’ blog post. Until then..Run On!


100 Days..Done!

Back in May, Runner’s World issued a challenge to run every day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, which would be 40 days. The only stipulation was we had to run at least one mile each of those days. I decided I needed some motivation, so I took that 40 Day Running Streak Challenge. I found it to be very motivating, while at the same time rather challenging. The first two weeks my legs screamed that they were tired; they were used to a couple of rest days per week. After those first two weeks, I began to settle in, and my legs began to relent and accept that I was not going to bail on this challenge. 

By the end of the 40 days, I felt that I had accomplished a huge goal. In five years of running, I had never run more than seven or eight days in a row. I felt great, and I wanted others to have that same feeling of pride in knowing they could do something they might not have thought possible (or even wanted to attempt). I didn’t want to limit the 40 days to running, so I put out my own 40 Days of Fitness Challenge. It began the last day of my original challenge, so if I went one day past everyone else, I would have completed 80 days of running. Wow! Once I got to 80 days, I could have stopped. Then I thought 100 is really a nice round number. I bet I could run 100 days straight, which would really be an accomplishment. And so I did. 

Since school began, it hasn’t been as easy to work those runs in. I had gotten so far, that I wasn’t about to make excuses at that point. I also felt like my running had improved, and with some important races on the horizon, I wanted to continue to build my speed and endurance. There were days that my run consisted of a one-mile run with the dogs on our gravel road, but even those runs proved to be enjoyable. Well, they were enjoyable after the first tenth of a mile; that’s when the dogs were all excited about going on a run and they jumped all over me while howling. I’m sure it’s quite a sight! My long runs have been only five or six miles. Without having a true rest day, my legs wear out rather quickly. Now that I will be taking rest days, I am anxious to see if my long runs are easier. I’m running a 10K in Chicago in a few weeks, so that’ll be the true test of what the past 100 days have done for me. 

Today was my 100th day. I planned to run with my friend Debbie this morning because my daughter had a golf match after school. I didn’t even look outside when I got up, so I was surprised to see lightning and feel the brisk wind as I dragged my butt to the car before dawn. Once Debbie and I arrived at the gym and checked out the radar, we decided it would be in our best interest to stick to the treadmills. I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate that in the previous 99 days, I only had to rely upon the treadmill one time, but I certainly didn’t want my defining run to be indoors. Thankfully, we only had to run three miles because I really can’t run on a treadmill much further than that. When I completed my run, I felt that I should’ve earned a medal or some kind of bling. I did something I’d never done before, or even considered for that matter, and there was no finish line, no medal, no shirt, no crowds cheering my through the finish line. Nothing. Just the feeling of accomplishment that comes with meeting a self-imposed goal. I’ll take it! 

I will likely run tomorrow, making my streak 101 days, but that’s only because I teach an early class, and always run after that class. I plan to take a break from running Thursday and Friday, and then go for a long run Saturday morning. Admittedly, it will be difficult to not run. It has become part of my day, and I feel the need to figure out just when I can work a run in. I will abstain, however, because I want to run well in Chicago. It might be the only time I ever run a race in my favorite city; I don’t want to blow it. I am also running that race with my fast-running niece, and I don’t want to be the pitifully slow aunt. 


Race Shirts

One of the great things about running races is the free t-shirt. Depending upon the race, runners could receive a relatively cheap cotton t-shirt, a dry-fit shirt (that are always in men’s sizes and always big), a long-sleeved t-shirt (my personal fave), or, if one runs a full marathon (which I won’t), a long-sleeved, dry-fit shirt – the epitome of running shirts. One of my spring break goals was to clean out my drawers. Yes, while friends are lounging on beaches in the US and abroad, I was home cleaning my drawers. Anyway, race shirts.

I have over 25 race shirts. I have many other t-shirts that also have some kind of meaning. I really don’t need 40 t-shirts, but there are so many I can’t bear to part with. My daughter suggested I have a quilt made, which I might actually do someday. As I went through my race shirts today, and I pondered tossing some, I was bombarded with memories of races gone by.

There’s the light blue VUJC shirt…that was my very first race ever. It’s a keeper. I remembered how hot it was that day, and that the final 100 yards were all uphill. And I remembered how incredible it felt to cross the finish line. And then there was the Strassenfest shirt. That was my third race, and I remember the end of that race: a lady, whom I presumed was about my age, came up to pass me in the final stretch, and I sprinted to the end to beat her. I was so proud of myself for beating her…until she came up and thanked me for pushing her. Talk about a dose of humility!

I also have my race shirt from Las Vegas. How could I toss that? That’s the race for which Gary and I got up at the crack of dawn, paid an absurd amount for a taxi ride to the race, and ran before my family even crawled out of bed. I will never forget running and seeing the beautiful view of the mountains in the back ground. I have my Turkey Run shirt from this past Thanksgiving. I love that shirt. I ran a really good race that day. My pace was superwoman fast for me, and I placed third in my age group. I have a little bitty trophy for that effort, but I still can’t let go of that shirt. I have another shirt from an Owensboro race. That was my first 10K; that shirt stays. And I have the gray shirt with strawberries on it. That was quite a race! It was down in Kentucky, and it was the first race for my daughter, Morgan. It was also the race that a woman – again, about my age – attempted to pass me as we neared the finish line. It ticked me off. She was absolutely not going to pass me. She didn’t. I kicked her butt. She, however, didn’t thank me. I really am not that hateful; I just get a wee bit competitive at the end of races. If I have been in front of someone for 3 or 6 or 13 miles, I do not want her to pass me at the end.

I still have my shirt from my first half marathon. How can I just take it to Goodwill? I won’t. I love that shirt. It represents a dream that actually came true. It represents months of training. It represents when my friend Jackie and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. I can’t even get rid of the shirt from a little race in Rockport that didn’t go so well. When I pulled out that shirt, I remembered the hip injury that caused me to walk some of that race. It was terrible. But that shirt also reminds me that most injuries aren’t forever, because there are lots of shirts that came after that one. I also kept my Race for the Cure shirts. Those races are so very meaningful. They aren’t about racing; they’re about remembering those we’ve lost, and honoring those who survived.

I won’t bore you with every story behind every shirt. Until I get a quilt made. Then I’ll show you my quilt, and tell you every single story. It’s my story. It’s the journey I’ve been on the past four years. And I was blessed today to get to remember the journey, and what a wonderful time it has been. I hope to continue collecting shirts for many years to come.

Okay, I admit it…

This weekend there is a 5k and 10k race in Owensboro.  My friends are running it, and I should be running it.  I really should run the 10k with Jackie and Kassi, and I want to, but…I haven’t signed up.  I can run the 6.2 miles.  And there is supposed to be an awesome pancake breakfast following the race, and I love pancakes.  The temps are going to be in the 70s.  That’s pretty perfect for a morning run.  While I certainly don’t need another race t-shirt to add to my collection, I am rather proud of that collection, and it wouldn’t hurt to add just one more.

So, why the reluctance to register?  At first it was because for a couple weeks, every time I ran I would run into (ha ha) stomach problems.  I have no greater fear than being out on the road mid-run, and suddenly needing to find a bathroom.  Along with that little issue, my left knee was also giving me some problems.  It hurt.  Not every run, but when it hurt, I just couldn’t continue to run.  For the last week, both problems seem to have gone away.  I ran six miles Saturday, and it felt pretty good.  Today I ran eight miles after school, and though it wasn’t fast, it didn’t feel bad.  Well, it felt a little bad in the middle when I suddenly had to pee.  I was behind the floodwall on the greenway, and I began to obsess.  Those are the times I wish I were a man.  But I’m not, so I decided I just needed to make it another mile to my sister’s.  Even if she wasn’t home, I know where she keeps her key.  She was home, so I did my business, got a drink of water, checked out what she was cooking for dinner (if it weren’t turkey burgers, I might have stayed), and ventured on.  I managed to get my eight miles in; I didn’t feel like the rock star I had hoped to feel like, but I did it – after working all day, I might add.

So, it seems my excuses for not running the 10k are pretty much invalid at this point.  So what is really holding me back?  Pride.  Ugly, ugly, immature pride.  I have run a 10k before.  I was in better shape then.  I ran rather fast.  I happen to have a spreadsheet of Gary’s and my race times that I always refer back to before a race, and I know that I cannot run Saturday at the same pace I ran my last 10k, and that will piss me off.   I know that a reasonable person would run for the sake of running a fun race with her girlfriends and enjoying some breakfast afterward.  A reasonable person would run because it is going to be 70 degrees in March, and we just never know what the temps will be around here anymore.  I am not really reasonable. 

In the end, I will probably sign up.  I know that I will enjoy the race with my girlfriends, and I will happily devour some syrup-soaked pancakes and make up for all the calories I burned.  I will be proud that I complete 6.2 miles because that in itself is something to be very proud of.  Isn’t it?


Motivation (or Lack Of!)

The weather continues to baffle us here in the midwest.  Monday, I ran wearing three layers, running tights, an earband, and gloves.  Tuesday, I ran wearing shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt – and I was sweating like it was July.  Last night it was pleasant when we ran; a long-sleeved t-shirt and yoga pants were more than enough.  Today, it’s freezing again – and raining. 

The last several weeks, I have worked hard to stay motivated because I am supposed to run a 10k (6.2 miles) next weekend, and a half marathon at the end of April.  My body, however, has worked against me.  First it was my belly churning and processing at the most inconvenient of times.  Mixed in with that discomfort was pain in my left knee.  It began to subside, but then reappeared Monday at about mile four of a seven miler.  I continued to run despite the pain because I was determined to get a long run in (I ate A LOT Sunday).  As soon as I got back to my car, I hit the seven mile mark, and my knee was finished.  Though I felt as though I was hobbling those last three miles, my overall pace remained steady.  My frustration also remained steady.

Tuesday I had to strategically plan my run.  Addison is on the fine arts academic team, and their first competition was out of town that evening.  I had about 30 minutes to get a run in, and then had to wash up at school, and put back on my dress clothes.  I took off from school, and decided that running a 3-mile loop would make the most sense.  The problem with that was that loop included Mozart hill – the one-mile long killer hill.  The hill I hadn’t run in months.  The hill I detest.  It was also the hill I needed to run in order to prove to myself that I can still run it.  My run began downhill, which was great.  When I approached the uphill portion, I really wanted to turn around.  However, in order to get back to school – and my clothes and car – I had to go up a hill.  I pushed ahead.  When I am trying to ascend a beastly hill, I chant to myself PUSH!  PUSH!  While that is coming out of my mouth, in my mind I am asking myself why the heck I thought it was a good idea to run Mozart.  I did make it up the hill.  Without stopping.  And whenever I reach the crest of the hill and round the corner onto a relatively flat street I am always proud that I have once again conquered The Hill. 

On that run my knee was a little sore, and by my Wednesday night run, it didn’t hurt at all.  If I have a couple good runs, I will run the 10k with my friends next weekend.  If my knee or belly continues to give me problems, I will focus on the half marathon.  I am so looking forward to spring weather sticking around.  Rather than run in the cold rain tonight, I am going to Zumba.  It is great for cross-training, and a nice change of pace. 

There are many different things that motivate us to exercise.  Some of the things on my list include time with my friends, time to process my day, the amazing feeling of having finished a run, my husband’s perseverence in running, my daughters’ new interest in running, and my friends.  I am always inspired to continue on when I participate in races.  The variety of runners and their dedication never cease to impress me.  What inspires you to exercise?  How can you inspire others?  One of the best things about the sport of running is that runners are such a supportive group of people.  Because I had special people who encouraged and inspired me, I feel the need to pay it forward and do the same for others.

Need some motivation?  Summer, aka bathing suit weather, is only three months away!  Now get up and move!