Half Marathon #12 Training

In eight days I will be running my 12th half marathon. The Indy 500 Mini Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, but it usually falls the same weekend we take our eighth graders to Washington, DC. This year our trip is the week after the mini, so my daughter Bethany and I signed up. We actually signed up when we were at the expo for the Monumental Half Marathon in November. Bethany was a little freaked out that she signed up for her second half marathon before she’d run her first. But hey, we got $5 off and a free tech shirt, so how could we go wrong?

Bethany and I have been training for a couple months. Now that I am 50, I’ve found my long runs just keep getting slower. However, last weekend we ran our longest run of 11 miles, and our pace was a respectable 10:35 (respectable for me, but maybe not for Bethany). Sunday I ran five miles with my fast friends. They make running look so effortless while I am about 15 feet behind struggling to breathe. They were chatting away, and would occasionally ask me a question, but I had no idea what they were even talking about. So why do I run with them? Because I love them, and because it pushes me. Sometimes I get comfortable just getting my miles in, but I don’t really push myself out of that comfort zone. If I want to run well, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We ran those five miles at a 9:45 pace, which at this point is super fast for me. Jennifer had already run five miles, and then added another 3.1 after our five…at an 8:15 pace. Geez.

Fast. Something I’ve never been, nor will I ever be. When I talk to my eighth graders about my running, they don’t get that concept. When I told them I was running the Indy Mini, some asked if I thought I would win. Sure, Kids. I’m confident that out of the 30-35,000 runners, I will win. I told them that really isn’t the goal of most runners. But it’s a race. Why would you enter a race if you don’t think you can win, Mrs. Stath? I tried to explain the age groups, and how my goal is usually to place in the top 20% of my age group. But why would you run over 13 miles for that? Ummm…because we get really cool medals and a shirt. I guess from a 13 year old’s perspective, the fact that a 50 year old teacher would run 13.1 miles to get a medal doesn’t make much sense. It made me ask myself why I really do it.

There are so many reasons to run a half marathon. First, there is no other feeling like crossing that finish line, knowing I did something that not many people do. I have done the work – and it is work – and accomplished my goal. Running it with my daughter? That is a pleasure that not many moms get to experience. Running this distance has been life-changing for me. I didn’t begin running until I was 42, and I ran my first half almost seven years ago at 43. I never dreamed I could run 13 miles; I thought it was silly to even want to run for over two hours. But I did it. It taught me that even as a middle-aged mom and grandmother, I could still meet new challenges. It gave me confidence to take risks. I love the camaraderie of the running community. When we go to Indianapolis next weekend, I will enjoy being surrounded by other runners at the hotel, expo, and restaurants. There’s just a different type of energy in the air.

Running long distance doesn’t come without sacrifice and sometimes discomfort. My hip began hurting a couple weeks ago. It was fine when I ran, but hurt after. It is better after a couple trips to the chiropractor, and I have three more appointments scheduled for next week, including one right before we leave for Indy. Runners also sacrifice time. Long runs take time away from family, not only during the run itself, but when I am crashed on the couch afterward. Thankfully my husband is supportive since he was also a runner. Knowing he will be there when I finish makes me look forward to the finish line even more.

Bethany, thank you for taking time to train with me and to commit to this race. There really is something special about pounding the pavement with you. I am so incredibly proud of you. Let’s rock this race! Do you think we can win?

We Did It!!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running 13.1 miles with my middle daughter, Bethany, at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It was truly a memorable weekend. We took off for Indy Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then walked a few blocks to the Convention Center for the expo. Bethany had been to an expo with me, but not as a runner. While there, we got a little caught up in the excitement and signed up for another half marathon, the Indy 500 Mini in May. We got a free tech tee for signing up early, and who doesn’t want a free shirt? It was fun just to explore the booths, but it was more fun to carb load afterward. We chose Scotty’s Brewhouse for our last big pre-race meal. While most runners would choose a healthy, carb-filled meal (Is that an oxymoron?), I wanted to try something different: a grilled cheese with pulled pork and mac and cheese on it. Yup. It was messy, but delicious. And on the side? Cottage fries with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Hey…I was going to be running over 13 miles the next morning; I needed energy. Bethany chose grilled chicken. Boring. But that might be one of the reasons she beat me!

indyprerace

When running a long-distance race, there is so much that can go wrong, starting with the weather. Two years ago when my niece, my husband, and I ran the Monumental, it was 15 degrees. It was miserable. Yesterday the weather was perfect. It was chilly while we were waiting to start, but not unbearable. Once we began running, it was gorgeous. Indy is a beautiful city in which to run, and on a sunny day, it’s even more brilliant. Another obstacle to a successful race is stomach issues. Without going into gross detail, yesterday went well. Even my playlist was put together perfectly, which was a total fluke. I had tried to put ‘Living on a Prayer…Halfway there’ at about the 6.5 mile mark, and it landed exactly where I wanted it to.

Bethany seemed to enjoy every moment of the race, which is what I had hoped she would do. I told her ahead of time to take it all in.I didn’t want her to worry about her time or about whether or not she’d finish; I knew she would. The joy of the race comes not only from achieving a monumental goal, but also from enjoying the small moments, the cheers from the spectators (who were amazing yesterday), the sounds of music along the course, the funny signs, and the other runners who all have stories about why they are there. The joy comes from the scenery, the gorgeous neighborhoods, and the pounding of thousands of feet, all working toward the same goal. The joy comes when you see a firefighter in full gear, including his tank, running a marathon, runners with pictures of loved ones ironed on their shirts, and children along the route offering high fives. A few miles into our run, Bethany said, “This is so much fun!” And at mile eight she said, “Mom, I think it’s so cool that you run. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” That was my favorite moment in the race. I don’t know if she even knows how much that meant to me. We, as parents, never know what our children will learn from us. Knowing that I had a small part in her achieving something she never thought possible, and that gave her so much confidence, was indescribable.

bethanyrunning

As the race went on, I could tell that Bethany could run faster. I was settling into about a 10:35 pace, which was fine with me, but she kept easing a little ahead. At mile 9, I told her to go. I did not want to hold her back if she could go faster. She hesitated, but then a lady running near us also encouraged her to go. She told her that it would make it harder for me if I knew she was waiting, and that if she felt good, she should take advantage of it because it might not happen again. She took off, and I relaxed knowing she was running her race. I was tired those last few miles, but kept a steady pace. Crazy things can run through a runner’s mind when exhaustion sets in. At one point I thought maybe I’ll get a 13.1 tattoo after this. It’s my tenth half marathon, and geez, this is hard. I deserve to have a tattoo. When I told my husband that had run through my mind, he just rolled his eyes. At mile 11, I reminded myself that I was NEVER going to run a full marathon. I couldn’t imagine having another 15 miles to go.

Bethany ended up finishing about five minutes before I did. I am so proud of her! Running is hard work. It takes dedication and determination, and it’s physically demanding. It takes time to train, and with our busy lives, carving that time out isn’t always easy. Completing a race can be life-changing; it gives us confidence in all areas of our lives. I am so thrilled to have shared this journey with my daughter. Congratulations, Bethany!

bethanymomrace

Running Newbies

Friday evening, I needed to do a long run, and I had to do it by myself. Most of my running friends would be running the Kentucky Derby Half or Full Marathon the next morning; I would not. I had accompany a group of students to Academic Bowl, so I had to opt out of the race. Given the rainy weather that morning and that my team placed 2nd, I was happy to be at the academic competition.

After working all day, I didn’t really feel like listening to music as I ran, and didn’t really want to listen to a podcast, which is usually what gets me through solo runs, so I had plenty of time to think. I spent some time thinking about…running. I thought about what advice I would give new runners, even though some days I still – after seven years – feel like a new runner. It was then I decided my next blog would be an advice blog. This advice has absolutely no medical or professional standing; it’s based upon my personal experience, and on the stupid mistakes I’ve made over the years. So, below you’ll find my advice, or in most cases just random thoughts, on running.

  1. Running sucks. But then it’s great, and then it’ll suck again. Seriously. I’ve heard many people who try running say that they just don’t enjoy it. I hated running for the first six months, but when I finished a run or met another goal, I loved it. I felt accomplished. I felt invincible. I still have runs that are really hard, and I don’t enjoy the run itself. When I push through and finish the run, I feel proud that I stuck it out despite how difficult it was. My favorite mantra is ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it.’ Running is not easy. Stick with it and it will be worth it!
  2. Body parts are going to hurt. When I began running, my youngest daughter was young enough that she was happy to massage my legs and feet – thank goodness! I was sore for months. I don’t have any running friends who haven’t had some sort of running-related injury. I’ve had knee issues that led to surgery, but I still run. Those friends who have had injuries? They still run. Runners are pissed that they can’t run when they are injured, but they don’t give up. Take care of yourself, and take a break if necessary, but don’t give up. And the chiropractor will be your friend. Find a good one!
  3. Don’t be apprehensive about signing up for a race. I’ve run nine half marathons, a few 10Ks, and a whole bunch of 5Ks. My first race was a 5K, and my goal was to not be last. It was in July, and it was hilly; I was prepared for neither. I ran that race, and I was not last. I wasn’t fast, but I finished. When you run in a race, no matter the distance, you will see people of all shapes, sizes, and speeds. No one cares how fast or slow you go, as long as you keep going. You need to walk? No one cares. You cross the finish line last? No one cares. Think about how many people never cross a finish line in their lives. The support and camaraderie of the running community is amazing. We all started somewhere, and everyone appreciates the effort it takes just to get out there. And races are fun! Spending time with a group of people with a similar interest is very rewarding. Some of my best running memories are of races that were particularly hard. I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with my niece Erin, and it was 15 degrees at the start (and finish if I remember correctly). We were cold, but running my niece’s first half with her was so worth it. This past month I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington with another niece, Emily; it was her first half. And, despite it being April, there was about a 20 degree windchill that day. It was miserably cold. Again, sharing my niece’s first half marathon with her was worth freezing my tush off (but I did begin to wonder if I should stop running with my nieces).
  4. When my husband and I began running, we thought it would be a cheap form of exercise. Do not fool yourself. Running is not cheap. Plan on spending at least $100 on shoes, which will need to be replaced every few months. One thing we decided early on was that we had to take care of our feet. I’m very picky about what I wear. I have to be completely comfortable or I will obsess when I run. Chafing is serious, so the right shorts, shirt, and bra matters. I’ve chafed when wearing certain shirts. On that recent Friday run, I actually chafed on my inner thighs, and I was wearing my favorite running shorts. The only reason for chafing that I could come up with is that I’ve gained a few pounds, and now my inner thighs rub. What the hell?! Rather than lose that weight, I bought new shorts. It was easier. Socks. Good running socks are expensive, but gosh, they are worth it. My husband kind of scoffed when I first told him he should get some better socks. He didn’t think socks mattered. Once he tried them, he found out I was right (duh).
  5. The benefits you’ll reap from running go far deeper than health and weight loss. Of course, any type of exercise will help you get healthier, and running torches calories. But the mental impact of running is even better. Running makes me happy. I can have a terribly stressful day at school (I do teach eighth graders), and when I go out for a run, that stress seems to leave my body in the form of sweat. I can process my problems, think about my students, plan lessons, or just think about my blessings. Running has given my confidence in every area of my life. If, in my forties, I can run 13.1 miles, I can pretty much do anything I work for, or at least I’m willing to try.
  6. While running, I have laughed, talked out problems, listened to friends’ joys and trials, and cried. I have run when I am celebrating, and I have run when I am mourning. I’ve run when I needed to be alone, and I’ve run when I needed the comfort of my friends. I’ve run to see how fast I can go, and I’ve run to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve run for myself, and I’ve run for others. Finding your reason, even if that reason changes, is critical. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you won’t have the will. When I started running, it was because I was out of shape and needed to get fit. Now I run to stay in shape, and because it’s become who I am.
  7. Running friends are the best friends! Just about all of the friends I spend time with are runners. I have wonderful non-running friends, but we don’t really spend time together. I’m not one to just go out with friends for an evening, but I will go for a run with my friends. On a run, we can talk about anything. We can share our most embarrassing stories, our heartaches, and our joys. Or we can fall into cadence side-by-side and not talk at all (that really doesn’t happen very much). I truly love my running friends, and value their love and support. I’m proud of their accomplishments, and hope I can always be a source of support for them. They keep me accountable. Even when I don’t feel like running, a text from one of them can get me out the door.
  8. Read running materials. Subscribe to Runner’s World or Women’s Running, order books about running. They are very motivational and can offer some super advice. Ask lots of questions. Runners LOVE to talk about running! But be sure you have lots of time because we have lots to say!

Running Life

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and I haven’t written for entirely too long. This week is spring break, and while my friends are in Florida on the beach or at Disney, or in Georgia enjoying the warmer temps, I’ve been home. Honestly, I don’t mind. I’ve redone our living room while scoring some deals online shopping (Wayfair? Wow…a new favorite! My husband is not so happy I’ve discovered this plethora of everything for the home!). I’ve also cleaned my frig, which is in my top five of most detested household jobs. Seriously, there was more moldy food than edible. Since my mother is coming for Easter, I figured I’d better not risk her disappointment in finding I’m not the clean freak she is. The woman still scares me.

Today I shampooed our family room carpet, which I do on a pretty regular basis. This also makes the top five just because I am so disgusted when I empty the water and see how filthy our carpet was. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t clean it so often. We don’t even have small children or large dogs. Just big kids and a little wiener. .

So, about running. After seven years, I still haven’t quit, which completely amazes me. There have been times when I wasn’t running as often as I should, and times I felt invincible. I am currently training for the Hoosier Half Marathon, which is April 9; it will be my ninth half marathon. My niece Emily, who is a student at Indiana University, hasn’t run a half and asked me to run it with her. How could I say no? I had the honor of running my niece Erin’s first half with her, and am excited to share this experience with Emily.

I am not very excited about the hills. The website describes rolling hills, and Bloomington is quite hilly. I’ve worked pretty hard the past couple of months to prepare. I’ve incorporated challenging, make-me-swear hills into every long run, and have been going to my husband’s Spinning classes in addition to teaching Tabata classes. Gary has taught Spinning for a couple of years, but it was never a class I enjoyed. I thought the hill work my improve my running, so I sucked it up and went (and I dragged my daughter with me). It was tough. If you’re a girl and you’ve never taken Spinning, you should know that your girls parts (undercarriage) will hurt. I mean really hurt. But after a couple classes, it doesn’t really hurt anymore. Thank God. I’ve come to enjoy the class. Gary plays great music, which can seriously make the class. There’s typically at least one or two points during class that I don’t like my husband. When he instructs us to turn up the tension more when I can hardly turn the pedals with my already-burning legs, I want to yell at him to shut the hell up. But then when the class comes to an end, I feel pretty amazing. And I love him again.

My running has gone well. I’ve run more miles on my long runs than usual. My last three long runs have all been 10 miles, and I’ll run 11 or 12 this weekend. My knee has done pretty well, but I take Aleve and some homeopathic joint meds before heading out. I’ve been very lucky to have some friends run with me. When I do a long run alone, I listen to podcasts; they seem to keep my mind occupied and the time goes quicker. I really don’t know what to expect come race day. Considering Emily’s literally a foot taller than I, I just hope to be able to keep up with her long, young legs. I also hope I don’t die on a hill because that’d probably ruin Emily’s first half marathon.

In May Gary and I are registered for a 10-mile race that goes across a bridge over the Ohio River. We’ve always talked about running this race, but usually had kid activities that day. Now that the girls are grown, we don’t have to plan our weekends around their activities, which is reason #101 why I don’t have empty nest syndrome. Don’t judge. I became a mom at 21, and I did my time and enjoyed it. It’s time for Momma now.

One of our goals when we began this whole fitness thing was to get our kids and grandkids interested in exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. We have had some success. As I said, the upcoming race will be with my niece, and I’ve run several races with Erin. I’ve run a 5k with my oldest daughter, and Gary has run one with his granddaughter, Molly. Two weeks ago I ran a 5k with my middle daughter Bethany. She is 23 and teaches 5th grade. This school year she has begun to make time for exercise and has started running. She is learning that it isn’t easy, and that it takes dedication. She is now seeing the results, not only on the scale, but in her attitude. Running and many other types of exercise cause one’s endorphins to just create a happier disposition. I’ve always said that running is as good for me mentally as it is physically. Bethany has committed to running the Schweizer Fest 6 mile race and a half marathon this fall. Of course, that means I’m running both with her, which will be pretty amazing. I’m thrilled to see her so excited about her running, and to see the confidence she’s gaining. Since we are all on break this week, Bethany and I made Addie go to Spinning last night. Addie said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the one thing we did as a family on spring break was a Spinning class. We know how to have fun!

I cannot fail to mention that the Hoosier Half is also my friend, fellow English teacher, and fellow cheer coach, Amanda’s first half marathon. She has been working hard and also going to Spinning. I am so excited to see her cross that finish line! I know the pride and satisfaction she’ll feel, and hope she is hooked.

If you actually read all of this, thank you. I tend to go on and on about nothing. I need to take time to write more often so my posts won’t be novel-length. Spring is here – set some goals and make every day count! Love completely, keep criticism to yourself, and build others up. The world doesn’t need any more negativity. As I tell my students, don’t be a jerk. That covers it all.

St. Jude Half Marathon

This blog is so long overdue, but with December came holiday preparations, and then came company. It’s a little difficult to write with a two year old and four year old running around. And so, it’s January and I’m writing what should have been written in early December.

On December 4, my friends Katie, Kelly, Jennifer, Mary Jane, and I traveled to Memphis for the St. Jude Half Marathon. We had been planning for months, and were anxious to begin what would be a pretty incredible experience. Our weekend began with a tour of St. Jude. We have all seen the children of St. Jude in the heart-wrenching commercials, but to see these kids and their families in person is indescribable. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, and is still a patient for follow-up tests. Seeing where she has spent so many hours – certainly the worst hours of her life – was both moving and inspiring. Witnessing her return to the place that has come to mean so very much to her was a privilege.

Touring St. Jude Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

Touring St. Jude
Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

The hospital itself was an amazing place. They have thought of everything to make the children as comfortable as possible. Their artwork lines the hallways; the reception desks are at a child’s level; the colors and murals are bright and cheerful. The doctors, nurses, and all staff members are truly heroes. To go to work each day knowing that their patients are young and cancer-stricken must be so trying. To spend their days comforting families must be exhausting. They build true, loving relationships with the kids, which was evident by the joy in their faces as they saw Katie walk in. It was like a member of their family had come home, and truly she had. No wonder she loves that place.

Long before race day, we five had decided that we were sticking together no matter what. Katie cannot run far distances because of the damage done to her lungs, so we had planned to walk all hills and to stop often for photos. I have to say, this race was the best race I have ever run. We had fun the whole way, even when moments of tears crept in, and the weather was perfect. There were spectators along the whole course, and many were parents of St. Jude kids. Because those of us who raised money for St. Jude wore special shirts, and the spectators were aware of that, many people thanked us as we ran by. That was so humbling.

At one point in the race, the course winds through the St. Jude Campus. I knew this would be difficult and emotional, and it was. Just nine years before, Katie had an autologous stem cell transplant and had watched the race from her hospital window. Now, she was running the race. She had fought back and won! How could we not shed a few tears at that moment? How could she not? Determined to have fun and not get caught up in emotions, we regrouped once we passed through. And then…and then…at mile six they had doughnuts! I wasn’t interested (I would have vomited), but the others had just said they were hungry, so they were thrilled.

At each mile marker, we stopped and had someone take a picture of us. They turned out great and are a wonderful reminder that we completed that journey together, one mile at a time.

mile12

While each race I’ve run has been special for one reason or another, I can’t imagine anything topping our St. Jude experience. It was fun while being solemn at times; it was rewarding; it was humbling. Running it and spending the weekend with my four friends could not have gone better. We ate, we talked, Kelly and Katie rapped (seriously), we shopped, and we worked as a team for a greater cause.

At the finish

At the finish

The St. Jude race was my eighth half marathon, but more importantly, is was my best half marathon. No, I didn’t run fast. I didn’t place in the top 20%, but I finished with my friends and gained so much more than a PR. It was an experience I will never forget.

Again, thanks to all who donated to our team! Start saving your pennies as we will be collecting donations again this year!

The Race Report

Before the Race

Before the Race – Look how happy we are!

This past Sunday, Gary and I ran the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana. We had chosen this particular race because we wanted to run something other than the Derby Mini, which we had run the past four years. The Biggest Loser Half was in the Region, and since I’m from that area, we thought it would make a nice weekend getaway before all of the end-of-school-year-my-baby-is-graduating festivities. We left for Indy Friday after work, checked into our hotel, and had a healthy meal of roasted chicken, veggies, and potatoes. While this might seem inconsequential to most, in our world it was a rather big deal. We are more of a burger and fries couple.

On Saturday, we checked out the house I lived in in Hobart, went to the cemetery (What’s more romantic than that?), shopped (we bought 13 pounds of candy at a candy factory), and went to the expo to get our race gear. The expo was somewhat disappointing, but it wasn’t a large race, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Dinner that evening was at Teibel’s, which is somewhat of an iconic Northwest Indiana restaurant.

Sunday morning arrived; the sun shone brightly into our room. I had very low expectations for the race. My plan was to run the first four miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. My IT bands begin to tighten up after four or five miles. I wanted to complete the race, and knew that a fast time just wasn’t possible. This was my seventh half marathon, and my third since having knee surgery in 2013. I hadn’t trained too hard for this race, but felt that I was ready. I was not. Not even close. Living in Southern Indiana, I am used to hills. I have plenty of hills to train on, but had avoided them because Northwest Indiana is flat. Why would I train on hills to run a flat race? I have never been more wrong in my life.

The first several miles of the race, I listened to the soundtrack of the stage version of Mary Poppins. I’m pretty cool like that. Actually, my family will be involved in the production this summer, so I thought I’d begin to learn the music. People don’t really expect to hear Step in Time in the middle of a race. I tried to not sing out loud, but sometimes it just sneaks out. There were several small, manageable hills in the first few miles, and I kept thinking that surely it would flatten out. Where did those hills even come from? This was the north.

And then it got worse. Miles eight through thirteen were just brutal. I don’t typically cuss (okay, I do), but the expletives were flying. I even texted my running friends on one of my walk breaks just so I could complain to someone. Here is a good picture of how I was feeling in the second half of the race:

joycehillcrown

Not quite as happy as the prerace photo. My plan had been tossed aside. I walked whenever my legs began to scream, which was at the beginning of many hills. I certainly wasn’t alone as many chose to walk up the hills. I was getting passed by lots of runners, but I really didn’t care. At one point a guy in a Spiderman shirt passed me, and I thought It’s okay – It’s Spiderman! I can’t expect to be as fast as Spiderman! 

At several points during the race, I asked myself why I thought running half marathons was fun. I was miserable. My legs were absolutely killing me; my calves were tied in knots. I just wanted this hell to be over. It was also pretty hot out compared to what we had been running in. I got water at almost every stop, but still felt so dry. And then I’d spot yet another freakin’ hill. Are you kidding me?? Can I just crawl now? And did I mention that hills really put a strain on IT bands? Mile 11: Someone was stabbing a knife into the side of my knee. And twisting it. Damn, it hurt. I stopped and rubbed that area hoping for enough relief to keep going. I walked most of that mile. I then alternated walking and running until I finally reached the finish. I don’t think my legs have ever hurt so much at the finish of a race. I would never run a hilly half again.

I actually lived!

I actually lived!

Gary and I then had a five-hour drive home. As we discussed our ‘adventure’, he also complained about the hills. After cooling off and getting our heart rates back to within a reasonable range, we were actually pretty proud of ourselves. That was undoubtedly the hardest half we have ever done, and although our times were not impressive (2:23 for me), we didn’t stop, nor did I puke. The next morning I had to teach a 5:15 Tabata class, and hadn’t planned to participate. When we started, I went ahead and worked out with the class, figuring I could stop at any point. I ended up completing the class and…running! I actually went out and ran about a mile and a half just to see if I could.

Do you know what else I did the day after the race from hell? I registered for the St. Jude Half Marathon! More info on that will follow in the coming months (because our team is fundraising and I’m sure you’ll want to donate). I would compare running a half marathon (or a marathon for some) to childbirth. It is so very painful as we are going through it. Breathing is labored, body parts we weren’t even aware of suddenly scream with pain, and we cuss like we’ve never cussed before. And then when it’s over, we realize how badass we are, and begin to forget the hell we endured. It wasn’t that bad. When can we do it again?

Training Hard…Or Not

I have struggled with whether or not to run a half marathon this spring. I have run one – the Derby Mini in Louisville – the past four years, but just didn’t want to run it again this year. I wanted to try a new race, but I also wanted to run a race that none of our friends were running. I know that sounds odd, but I get really nervous at races, and much prefer to be anonymous. My husband suspected I’d throw a race at him, so he began doing long runs before we had even found a race. Because I have a senior daughter with a crazy busy schedule this spring, our options were limited. Gary received an email about a Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana, which is about five or six hours from here. It also happens to be near my hometowns of Hammond, Hobart, and Munster (I claim all three since I had lived in each place by the end of fifth grade). This particular race also claims to be a great race for beginners, and has a walking division. I am not really a beginner, but after running six half marathons, this will be the first in which I work in walking. Walking.

Because of all of my knee issues, long runs seemed to be out of reach. I had tried to do a couple of longer runs, and at about 4.5 miles, my knee would lock up – IT band. I had decided I’d have to stick with no more than five miles, and running 5Ks. I wasn’t happy about it, but knew if I wanted to be able to run at all, I had to be sensible (I am not usually sensible when it comes to things like that). Once I’d made that decision, I received the book Tales From Another Mother Runner compiled by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. One of the essays told of a woman who also had knee issues. She began working some walking into each mile, and was able to complete her long runs. Although I don’t want to walk, I really don’t want to quit running. I want to run half marathons. The atmosphere at a half is unbeatable, and runners don’t receive medals at 5Ks unless they win their age groups. I would travel to run a half marathon; I doubt I’d travel very far to run a 5K. And so I walked.

I came up with a plan to run the first two miles of my long runs, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. I’ve had to really make myself stick with this plan. Since I am walking some, my knees feel fine, so it’s hard not to just go ahead and run further. The last few weekends, I’ve stuck with my plan, and have been able to complete ten mile runs; this Saturday I will complete eleven. I tend to stress out over really insignificant things, so, of course, I worry about things like what to tell people about my runs. I can’t say ‘I ran ten miles this morning’ because I didn’t run ten miles. I only ran 8.4; I walked 1.6 of the ten. I did ten miles? I ran/walked ten miles? I completed ten miles? What the heck am I supposed to say to people? I stress when people see me walking. I swear I’m running, too. I’m only walking a little. I’m still a runner. My knees hurt, dammit! I stress over the fact that I will post my slowest time at the half marathon. I wonder if there are any running therapists out there?

I have found there are some advantages to walking part of each mile. When I begin to get tired, I know that I only have to run 8/10 mile, and then I can walk again. For some strange reason, it seems to make time go quicker even though it’s taking me longer to complete my runs. Another thing I’ve done to add interest to my running is listening to podcasts instead of music. My daughter actually told me that’s what she does, so I gave it a try. I listen to Jillian Michaels, Another Mother Runner, and All Things Comedy Live Podcast. I’ve found that I really pay attention to the podcasts, whereas with music, I tend to listen on and off. Focusing on the podcasts also makes my runs go faster, and they are very motivating. The comedy one isn’t motivating, but it makes me laugh. Laughing while running alone seems to be frowned upon. Passersby give me mortified looks when I just randomly laugh as they drive by. If they only knew I had Sinbad in my ear.

On Tuesdays I do a three-mile training run after school. I sometimes run with students, and one of my eighth graders asked if she could run with me this past week. We met after school, and took off. I had told her I wasn’t fast, and she said she wasn’t either. Seeing her black Converse on her feet, I wasn’t too concerned about keeping up. After about a half mile, I was quite winded. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so tired. We kept trucking along, talking about her desire to run a 10K and her goals for speed. I was getting more winded, but blamed it on not quite feeling up to par. After about a mile and a half, she wanted to walk a little. Praise God. Sure, Sweetie, if you need to walk, that’s fine. [pant, pant, pant]. Once she was ready, we ran again. When we got back to school, I checked our time, and saw that we had run the first mile and a half at a 9:17 pace. No wonder I was struggling! I’ve been running a 10:00 pace or slower since I am trying to build endurance. Those darned Converse kicked my butt! Well played, Ashley.

Tomorrow is a rest day; Saturday is an 11 miler. After that I’ll just have some short runs, a seven or eight miler, and it’s race time. As much as I am looking forward to crossing that finish line and earning another medal, I am also looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband. It’ll be the first half marathon we have run in which none of our friends or family are there. I hope it goes well for both of us (or it will be a LONG ride home!).

I do want to wish all of our wonderful badass friends who are running the Derby Mini Marathon the very best of luck! We plan to be there to watch you finish. May the weather be perfect, your food digest well (you poop before the race), your legs feel strong, and your spirit carry you through.

#NeverGiveUp

A Change in Plans

After the Chicago 10k – actually, at mile 2 of the Chicago 10k – I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. At that point, I didn’t know if I was going to make it six miles, so 13.1 would be impossible. As soon as the race was over, I told my husband that we would not be running the Indy race. No way. No how.

And then I came home with my nice medal, jacket, and necklace. I ran Tuesday, and it was not a good run. I had to walk some just to get through three miles. I ran again Wednesday morning with some friends, and that run felt so much better. So yesterday after school I was home alone with time to ponder. I thought that maybe I could just run/walk the Indy race…if I could sucker someone into doing it with me. Gary really wants to run it, and he always does things for me.

I have tried to talk my niece Erin into running a half in the past, and she was pretty adamant about not ever running one. So I texted her. I asked if she’d be interested in meeting me in Indy to run/walk a half marathon. Her answer was quite shocking and unexpected. Her text read, “Ok, if walking is involved then yes.” Seriously. I didn’t have to talk her into it at all. And then she registered right away! Crap. Now I was stuck. I won’t back out on my niece. I am going to participate in the Indy Half. I truly doubt I can run 13.1 at this point, but I am pretty sure I can walk it. Heck, Erin and I ran 6.2 Saturday, and then walked 3 miles back to her apartment, so we just need 4 more miles. Piece of cake! ‘

Now the real training begins. I need to drink more water (as I am sipping on a Diet Pepsi), eat less junk (I ate a bag of Milky Way nuggets on the way home from school), and run distance. I plan to run nine miles Sunday morning. Please, Old Sore Body, cooperate! To celebrate this decision, I believe I’ll get some new running shoes, which are always motivating. I will also blog this journey because it keeps me accountable. You can expect lots of whining, a few victories, and probably some details you don’t care to know.

The Day the Stars Aligned

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Mini Marathon have come and gone. It’s a little like Christmas when I wait and wait in anticipation, and suddenly it’s over. What do I have to look forward to now? A lot of things, actually. As you might have expected, what follows is a recap of the weekend – what a great weekend it turned out to be!

Gary and I left for Louisville shortly after noon on Friday. As much as I was looking forward to the race and all of the events surrounding it, I was looking forward to time with my husband even more. With two seventeen year old girls to keep up with, four jobs between us, and a home to care for, time just for us can be pretty limited. I had decided that I wanted this Derby experience to be completely different than previous years, so I wasn’t going to hang out with the Perry County crowd. I love my running friends more than they’ll ever know, but I needed to focus on myself and getting through this race. I wasn’t there to socialize; I couldn’t because I was so stinkin’ nervous that I wouldn’t have been much fun to be around. I could have burst out in tears at any given moment.

After checking into our apartment-sized room at the Galt House (seriously, we could have taken the entire family, including the babies!), it was time to head to the expo, which is one of my favorite parts of Derby Weekend. There are all sorts of vendors peddling everything running from headbands to Asics clothing to Nikes to compression gear. I went in determined to not make stupid purchases. I tend to get caught up in the moment and buy things I later realize I didn’t really need. I made two purchases: a pair of super-cute purple and white checked Adidas shorts that were half price, and some Nike running leggings that were less than half price. I will definitely use both, so they were smart purchases. I could spend a fortune at the expo, but didn’t need to. After we finished, we had a couple of hours before our friends were set to arrive, and I was hungry. In the Fourth Street Live area, there is a restaurant called the Louisville Sport and Social Club that we have eaten at the night before the race for the past three years. I wasn’t going to eat there this year because, you know, I was changing it up. However, they have fabulous dessert, so we (well, I) decided to go share a dessert to hold us over until dinner.

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Yup, that is a gigantic brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream. When they brought it out, I thought well, we’ll have to take part of that back to the hotel! 

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We didn’t. Gary and I devoured the whole thing! And gosh, it was scrumptious! We waddled back to the hotel, and plopped down for a nap while we waited for Brian and Debbie to be ready for dinner. She texted and said they’d hurry; I told her to take her time. I needed some time to digest my dessert. It counts as carbs, doesn’t it? We met our friends at O’Shea’s Pub for dinner, and it turned out to be a perfect evening. Debbie and I had spaghetti in an effort to carb load; the food was fabulous and the company even better.

On the way back to the hotel I received a text saying that the Perry Country crew would be meeting for a group picture early the next morning. Again, I was determined to avoid the whole group thing. I was so nervous about this race that I was near tears many times on Friday, and again Saturday morning. I just couldn’t face all my friends who were so excited about the race. I had a certain degree of excitement, but an abundance of anxiety. Thankfully, my husband is a patient man, and when I suggested (demanded?) we go out another door to avoid everyone, he was very understanding (on the outside. I am pretty sure he was finally convinced I am nuts.). We made our way out of the hotel and down toward the start early Saturday morning. Gary knows that I don’t talk before a race, and he leaves me to my thoughts, which that day included a lot of self-doubt. We found my corral and I made my way through the waves of runners trying to remain on the outside of the crowd. Yes, I also have anxiety about crowds, and being in the middle causes heart palpitations and major sweat. I was supposed to meet my friend Danielle so that we could at least start the race together. When I didn’t spot her, I kind of began to panic. She is a very high-energy positive person, and I needed to draw from her energy that morning. I finally saw her and convinced her to climb through the fence and into our corral. Danielle, Kris, and Amber were all smiles and eagerness. I was all nerves, upset stomach, pounding head, and tightening chest.

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I know what you’re thinking…Damn, those knee braces are sexy! I took every precaution: lots of water, carbs all week, Aleve, rest days, compression socks, and knee braces. I wanted to finish this race. Once the crew of ladies arrived, I began to soak up their enthusiasm and relax (just a little). FYI…My daughter asked me what the purpose of the arm warmers was. When the race begins, it is usually early, and therefore, chilly. After one has run a few miles, she begins to warm up, and arm warmers are perfect to just slip off and stick in the waistband. I am not coordinated enough to take off a long-sleeved shirt while running. That would end badly. There are some who wear trashbags on them to keep warm before the race. Really? If I am going to be slow, I am going to look good, and a trashbag is just not very stylish.

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And then they got a little silly…

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I realize it’s difficult to tell, but there were 16,000 runners. 16,000. That’s more than twice the population of our small town! From our starting point, it took us about seven minutes just to get to the starting line once the race began. The minute we crossed that line, I stopped obsessing and just ran. Danielle and I stuck together. I told her that she could go ahead, and I wouldn’t mind, but she stayed back with me. We had only run together once before, but we seemed to have this rhythm that worked for us, and we passed people with ease. We just knew where the other was going as we weaved among the runners. We both had our own music playing, and didn’t talk a lot, but it was nice that there was someone there if I had something to say. Danielle also air-drums to certain songs, just as I do, so we made a great team. When I would start to slow or want to stop and walk, she’d fist-bump and smile, and we’d keep going.

Last year my knee blew in Churchill Downs. It was a devastating moment in my running career (I use that term lightly), and the closer we got, the more my heart began to pound. I had spent a great deal of time on my playlist, and tried to place songs where I thought I would need them. Before we entered Churchill, Addison’s song, I Got Nerve, came on. It couldn’t have been at a better time. It was about not backing down and facing one’s fears. I was so very grateful that Addison chose that song, and that it came on when it did. I was near tears as we entered the track area, but once again, Danielle’s joy got me through. She knew that was a hard place for me, and she kept me going. I was so happy when we came out on the other side. We had about five more miles to go, and we were headed back downtown. The crowds along the route were amazing. I love reading all the signs as I run. My personal favorites: ‘If you think running is hard, you should teach middle school’, and ‘Smile if you’ve peed a little bit’.

The last three miles were brutal. Danielle and I ran a 9:04 pace the first mile, and slowed a little with each mile. That was because of me. She could have kept up a faster pace if she wanted. I so wanted to walk during those last few miles. I was tired, and I kind of felt as if I could puke. How embarrassing would that be? I pushed on with Danielle about ten feet ahead of me. I kept her lime green shirt in my sight and felt like I was on auto-pilot. And then we turned the corner onto Main Street, and I knew we only had a half mile left. I knew that I would see my husband along that street. I knew we were almost there…I was going to make it! I get emotional just thinking about it. I caught back up with Danielle, and we headed to the finish. Then I saw Gary, camera in hand and a smile on his face. We rounded the last corner and sprinted (just a little) toward the finish. Danielle finished a few feet in front of me, and was there with a hug when I crossed. Amazing. I have never been so glad to cross a finish line in my life. I had done it, and my knees didn’t fail me. Actually, they didn’t feel bad at all. I was truly overjoyed.

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If you’re not a runner, you might not understand how important those medals are, but that’s what we work our asses off for. We are just as proud as a first grader winning a medal on field day, or an Olympic athlete winning gold. We have sacrificed time with loved ones, sweated, worked through countless injuries and aches, cross-trained, and run in really crappy weather, all to cross that line and get that medal – and a pretty cool shirt. See those smiles? Those are as genuine as it gets. I am so thankful to Danielle for sticking by my side and encouraging me along the way. I am thankful to all of my friends who were understanding of my need to stay to myself and focus on my run. And I am incredibly proud that I finished a half marathon after thinking I would never be able to run 13.1 again just a few months ago. I am also thankful for all of the texts and Facebook messages wishing me good luck and letting me know that my friends believed in me…even when I didn’t believe in myself.

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After we watched several of our friends finish, we had planned to meet Brian and Debbie for a celebratory lunch (we deserved to pig out at that point), but my stomach was upset, and Gary and I just headed home. I ended up in bed most of the afternoon with stomach cramps. One of my experienced running friends suggested dehydration, and that makes sense. When I weighed, I had lost 3.5 pounds just that day. Once I got up and showered, and started to try to eat, I began to feel better, but was still tired and sore. Today I feel fine other than sore calf muscles.

I have to congratulate my running friends (and I just know I will forget someone – sorry!!!). First of all, Congrats to Danielle for your PR! I’ll run faster next time – promise! To my friends who were virgin mini-marathoners, you are awesome! Missy, Stephanie, and Debbie, I am so very proud of you! Some of you (maybe all of you) thought you’d never run that far, but you worked hard, griped a little (that was Missy), and you earned that stinkin’ medal! Breanne, Blair, Emily, Tomi Jo, Kris, Amber, Paula, Chasity, Melinda, Tony, Scott, and Debbie K: Congrats to each of you! You all inspire the rest of us to keep going, even when it’s difficult. Kathy Pyle…wow. YOU RAN A MARATHON! I am in awe! You have accomplished more in the past few years than most of us will accomplish in a lifetime. Congratulations!

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And to these two little boys, I hope this Nana can always keep up with you! I want you to see that you are never too old to set goals and achieve those goals.

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And my lovely daughters…I hope I make you proud and inspire you to be the best you can be! I hope you always go after your dreams, and know that you have all the support and love you need.

And to my incredibly patient husband, thank you for your support, encouragement, and understanding when I’ve been slightly psycho! I love you to the moon and back!

Peace, love, and running…

Let the obsessing begin…

The Derby Mini is now 11 days away. The mix of emotions I am feeling ranges from excitement to fear to acceptance. Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross coined the five stages of grieving. Perhaps I can coin the five stages of pre-race jitters. I did my 11 mile training run Friday. That’s the furthest I will run in preparation for the race; this weekend I will run about seven miles. I love taper time – I’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to rest my body and stick to easy runs.

My 11-miler was a mix of positive and negative. One of my students had been asking about running with me. I didn’t think he’d follow through just because he’s a 14 year old, and typically 14 year olds don’t want to hang out after school with a grandma/teacher. I saw one of the boys at Walmart after school yesterday, and he was completely awkward. This boy was serious, so I told him I would be running slowly because I wasn’t concerned about speed; I just needed to run 11 miles. He agreed to run with me until he had to be at track practice. The kid ran six miles! He had never run more than two miles at one time, so he really didn’t know what he could do. I know him well enough to know that he would probably push through, and would not back out during a run. I really enjoyed the run. He did so well, asked a lot of questions about racing, and listened when I gave him advice. The first half of my run went quickly. I dropped my student off at the track, ran to the bathroom, drank some water, and took off for the next leg of my journey.

The second half? It didn’t go so well. My left knee, which is NOT the knee I had surgery on, began to hurt. It felt exactly like my surgery knee did when those problems started. I had to stop and stretch, and then I’d run a little more, and then I’d stop and stretch, and so on. The really frustrating part was that my endurance was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I could have kept running had my knee not hurt. My last two miles were well under a 10:00 pace, the fastest of the 11. I just need everything to work at once.

I am really not sure what will happen come race day. I have run twice since, but only three miles, so my knee was fine. I ordered new compression socks (in a lovely gray, pink, and black argyle print); I have a knee brace; and I have Ibuprofen and Celebrex. I need one good day. You should hear the conversations I have with God when I begin to have pain. I am sure we will have lots of conversations on April 19.

Now is the time I also begin planning my race attire. When I just run here in town, I might or might not match. At a race, I will match. I bought a super cute Nike running hat in a lovely pattern of pink and black, and I have a Nike light pink tank that is really soft, and I know would feel great in a race. I usually wear a skirt just because I like them (once a cheerleader?). I have some compression socks, but they don’t match the pink of my shirt, which would literally stress me out that day (hey, it’s the little things!). Who would wear hot pink socks with a soft pink tank? Not me. Do you see why this sport can get expensive? I told my [very understanding] husband that if I have to walk part of this race, I am at least going to look decent! I also ordered arm warmers. For those of you who are wondering what the hell arm warmers are and why I need them, here’s the scoop. It is usually cool when the race begins, but then it warms up, and I warm up, after a few miles. I want to wear my pink tank, but it will be chilly, so I put on arm warmers, which I can slip off when I warm up. They will (I hope) tuck nicely in my skirt, and will be much easier to take off than an extra shirt or jacket.

Music. When I first started running races, I didn’t use music because I enjoyed listening to the crowds, and then I tried music, and I ran super fast [middle-aged-runner-nana-not-so-fast-fast]. Since then, I have continued to sport earbuds. And so I am also working on my playlist. This isn’t just a matter of playing songs I like; it’s also a matter of strategically placing songs. My first song is ‘Here Comes the Sun’ because we begin at 6:30 am. I have fun songs for the first half. For the second, and hardest, half, I have songs that inspire me. I asked each of my girls to choose a song for my list that would remind me of her. I have a song for my husband, ‘I’ll Stand by You’ because he is my biggest supporter. I have a song for God, ‘How Beautiful’ to remind me that without my God and my faith, I wouldn’t be out there running. I am going to add a song for my dad, ‘Jesu’, which isn’t really a running song, but it one song I remember hearing him play on the piano and organ. Running is such a mental activity; you’d be surprised how music can inspire the legs to keep moving. I hope I get through my playlist! I made sure it’s extra-long in case I end up walking some. Or a lot.

Time to grade papers..or look up race times…I’d better grade!

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