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!

halfstart-WR

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. 

 

Every once in awhile…

…I have one of those runs. It isn’t particularly fast or incredibly long, rather it makes me appreciate my body’s ability to just get outside and run. Today I set out to run six miles. While that typically isn’t a big deal, today was also my 49th day straight of running, and I had run hard at a 5k yesterday, so my legs were tired. I haven’t run six miles since I embarked on this summer running streak; I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I should have gotten up at dawn and taken off before the Southern Indiana humidity engulfed the streets making it difficult to breathe. I didn’t. I slept in, which these days means I was in bed until 7:15 (that’s my momma coming out). I was in town by 8:00 ready to run. Because I had run a race yesterday, and I actually ran kind of fast (8:55 pace), I didn’t plan to worry about my pace today. I just wanted the mileage. I put on my running playlist, hit the Runkeeper app, and took off. Usually my first mile sucks. This morning, it wasn’t too bad. I kept a slower pace, embraced the sunshine, and tried to get lost in my thoughts.

I made it through to the four mile mark without incident, and found myself at the entrance to the river greenway. I decided to run down the greenway and back because that would be my last two miles, and I could walk back to my car, which was about 3/4 mile away. One mistake I had made was not taking water. Usually if I go for a longer run on a hot day, I take a bottle along, but this morning I didn’t even think about it. There is a fountain at the end of the greenway, so I stopped for a quick drink before finishing the last mile. The last mile. That’s when I had that running moment that I value so very much. 

As I was running along the greenway with the Mighty Ohio River on my left, I looked down at the boat ramp. There were two men fishing, and they had a dog with them. The dog was playing in the water, right at the river’s edge. I don’t know why, but it was just a beautiful moment. I then looked out at the vast river, and was reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a quaint community along this beautiful body of water. I run along the river so often that I take it for granted. As I continued to run, I noticed large birds gliding above, and a small bird perched atop the floodwall. I thanked God for putting these beautiful creatures along my path. A little further along, I peered out toward the river, and there was a barge making it’s way upriver. An American flag held its position on top of the tugboat. The barge truly is a symbol of an American way of life, and I was taken by its simple beauty and strength. After a short distance, I had finished my six miles. The last mile was my favorite, reminding me why I love running. 

Running makes me not only appreciate my health and determination, but also my surroundings. We all live such busy lives, and are always worried about getting to our destinations, whether it’s a kids’ baseball game, band competition, practice, work, the grocery store…you get the idea. We don’t even notice the uniqueness of our own neighborhoods or towns. When I run, I notice. I see homes being remodeled, kids playing with friends, animals dodging traffic, and the beauty of the moment. We always make it a point to run when we are on vacation or away for work. It is the best way to ‘tour’ a new place because I have time to take notice of more than when we drive by. I have run in Chicago, Virginia Beach, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Indianapolis, to name a few. I can’t really say which was my favorite because each holds special memories and unique qualities. 

Get out and explore. Notice the beauty around you and appreciate the little things like lovely trees, small critters, and laughing children. You don’t have to run; just go for a walk or ride your bike. Maybe you’ll have that special moment, too. 

Peace…

40-Day Running Streak

Just before Memorial Day, Runner’s World, via Facebook feed, issued a challenge. I was at a point that I felt like I needed a challenge; since running a half marathon in April, my running had been lacking. I had little endurance; the humidity had already set in; and we were crazy busy with end-of-school-year activities. It was so frustrating that after running 13.1 miles the month before, I could hardly eek out three miles in May. 

The challenge was a 40-day Running Streak: participants run at least one mile every single hot, humid, busy, exhausting day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I signed up (which only required that I ‘like’ their running streak Facebook page). Today is day ten. I have been a runner for five years now, and have never run ten days in a row, so that in itself is an accomplishment.

No one really cares that I am doing this. No one on the Facebook page knows if I really run or not, nor do they care. This is a challenge I embarked upon for my own satisfaction. I want to prove to myself that I can do it. Some days I only run a mile, particularly if it is typically my day off from exercise, or if I have taught two Tabata classes and busted out a bunch of squats. I like that I am pushing myself to do something I’ve never attempted. Will anyone care if I complete the 40 days? I will, and that’s all that matters. 

We, as runners, are often asked why we run. Why would we suffer through injuries, give up our time, trudge through snow, battle through rain and wind, and tolerate the heat and humidity? If you are not a runner, you probably should avoid asking that question unless you have a large chunk of time to kill. The reasons are endless, and most of them very personal. I’ll give you my short list:

  • It’s healthy. My dad and his brothers died of heart disease in their forties. With that family history, wouldn’t you run?
  • It makes me feel strong and accomplished. I feel good about myself after a run, no matter how bad that run was. I did something most people can’t, and that feels darned good.
  • It helps me control my weight. I try to have decent eating habits, but it’s a daily struggle. If I want to eat sweets or burgers, I have to run. 
  • It makes me happy. I can be so stressed out or upset, and running just makes things better. It gives me time to think and process my feelings, and it gives me time to chat with God. I have survived some of my worst days by going for a run.
  • Running makes me a better wife, mom, nana, friend, and teacher. See above. 
  • I want to set a good example for our kids and grandkids. I want my grandkids to tell their friends that their nana runs races. I want to be able to keep up with them. I want to be a cool nana!
  • It gives me a connection with my students. Seriously, most teens think English teachers are pretty geeky (shocking, I know). When I tell them I run and teach bootcamp classes, they seem to rank me a little higher on the cool scale. I want them to see that one is never too old to set goals and work toward them. 
  • There is nothing like running with friends. I could (and have) write a whole blog on running friends. I’ll give one example. Monday night Jackie and I decided to run sprints at the track. We used to do that pretty regularly, but hadn’t for a long time – like a year or two. We arrived at the track, and it started raining. Hard. We decided we were tough, and a little rain wouldn’t stop us. We’d run in rain before, and in the summer it can be quite refreshing. We ran our sprints in the rain, and it was awesome. Jackie is 50 and I am 47, and we were out in the rain running sprints. We felt like rock star runners. Athletes.
  • I run because I can. There are so many people who can’t run, or walk for that matter, and I run for them. I am so blessed to have a body that will allow me to run, and as long as I am able, I will continue. It’s hard, and sometimes it completely sucks, but there is always another run. 

I have 30 more days to complete my streak. Because my legs are tired from running every day, I haven’t been able to run more than three miles, but I will continue on. There is a 5k on July 4 that my daughter wants to run, and I think it’d be the perfect way to end my streak. But then will I wonder how many days I could run if I just keep it up? Will I feel guilty if I don’t run? That’s the way my mind works. 

When was the last time you challenged yourself? It doesn’t have to be running; it can be anything that pushes you. I believe if one wants to totally embrace life and live with no regrets, he or she has to face challenges and try new adventures. Come up with a summer challenge and go for it. If you want to be held accountable, put it in the comments or message me. I’ll help! 

 

Just Three Years

The other night my husband and I were sitting at a baseball game with our friend Jeff. His son, Sam, just completed his freshman year of high school, and I commented about how quickly time is going. Later, I thought about how Sam will graduate in just three years. Because my mind is often filled with crazy random thoughts that spin out of control, Sam’s future graduation led me to think about all the changes that would occur in the next three years, and how those years will pass so very quickly.

In just three years…

  • Addison – my baby – will be halfway through college, and she will be 20 years old.
  • Bethany will have a couple of years of teaching under her belt (Lord, I hope she finds a job in that three years.)
  • Morgan will be nearing 30 years old. Yikes.
  • Layne will be starting kindergarten.
  • Rhett will be 3 1/2, and following his big brother around.
  • Molly will be driving.
  • Lucy will enter her teen years.
  • Gabe will hit double digits.
  • The first class I had as third graders will be graduating.
  • My first eighth graders will be starting their senior year.
  • And I….well, I will be 50, no longer able to deny middle age (Hell, I will be just about past middle age. What comes after that? Upper middle age?).

Add to that list that loved ones will die, babies will be born, new friends will be made, and lives will be changed, whether it be for the better or worse, by choice or circumstance. Just three years.

So, what is the point of all of this? It enables me to see how quickly our lives evolve, how change is inevitable, and that I had better make the best of each day rather than letting those three years pass without making them count. What changes do I want to make in those three years? Who do I want to be three years from now? What goals do I have? Here it goes…

  • I want to continue to run. That might sound simple, but with the knee issues I have had, it is no longer a given that I will run into my twilight years. I want to take care of my body so that I can continue to do what I love.
  • I want to continue to teach classes at the gym, and hopefully inspire a few people to love their bodies, and to never give up on themselves.  In the past two years, I have made so many incredible friends through Everbody’s; I am blessed by their presence in my life.
  • I will continue to grow and learn as a teacher. I will care about my students, encourage my students, and help them find their talents. I am so fortunate to have such a great job, and I will not take that for granted.
  • I will stay fit and strong. I will continue to cross train, and set a positive example for our kids and grandkids.
  • I want to be living in town within the next three years (in a house with a large yard and a pool).
  • I need to work on taking time for prayer. I always wait until I go to bed, and then my mind wanders like crazy. I will be in a big old conversation with God, and suddenly I am thinking about what to wear to school the next day. I need to focus.
  • I will run sprints. I will run sprints. I will run sprints. I don’t like sprints, but know they are good for me, so I will do it.
  • I will stop avoiding running up Mozart. Just like sprints, hill work is a necessary evil. I will run hills.

And, there are some things I know won’t change in three years:

  • I will still dislike most vegetables. Give it up, Mother.
  • I will stay say stupid crap without thinking.
  • I will still be neurotic about arriving places early.
  • I will still like candy, dessert, and junk food.
  • I will still tell my girls what to do, even though they’ll all be adults.
  • I will still tell Gary where to go when he is driving.
  • I will still use sarcasm when I probably shouldn’t.

Where will you be in three years? Will you make that time count? It’s just three years.

A couple other random thoughts for the evening…

Thanks to all who read and shared my last blog about accepting homosexuals. It was read by over 1700 people. That might not seem like a big deal, but 1700 readers learned that this happens to real families with real feelings. If that blog makes even one person think twice about how he or she treats others, it was worth the effort. Just be nice.

Running. My goodness, we went from a long, cold winter straight into hot, humid weather. I am not complaining (because I complained all winter about the cold), but my running is suffering tremendously. Six weeks ago I ran 13.1 miles in a race; now I am struggling to run three miles. I committed to the Runner’s World Running Streak, which means I will run at least a mile every day for 40 days, from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I finished day seven today. I thought this might help me build back up my endurance, and it forces me to exercise every single day. I am also doing more walking because my daughters like to go. This is the first time that all three girls have been home for an extended period of time in a few years, so it also gives me time to spend with them.

Make this week count! You won’t get a do-over. Peace and Love..

 

 

 

Rainy Night Thoughts

It’s rainy and I am home alone, so it’s the perfect night to blog (even though I have nothing specific on my mind, so prepare for a bunch of random thoughts). I am still in recovery mode, but not from a big race; I am recovering from our eighth grade class trip to Washington, DC. We left last Thursday at 5:30 pm, traveled all night on a bus, and spent three full days and evenings seeing everything we could possibly squeeze in. We then loaded the buses at 10:00 pm Sunday, and arrived home at 10:30 Monday morning. We had a fantastic trip; our 80 students were incredible. I hope they all realize how fortunate they are to have had that opportunity.

So, for those days, my exercise was walking. Kelly, my friend, DC roomie, and coworker, wore her Garmin (she is also a runner), and we walked over four miles Friday, and that doesn’t include the walking we did indoors at four different museums. On Saturday we walked over six miles. I didn’t get the count for Sunday, but that was the day we went to Arlington National Cemetery, so there was a lot of walking, and it was hilly. Usually when I stay in a hotel, I try to hit the workout room, but after waking up before 6:00, touring all day, and returning to the hotel at 9:30 at night (and we still had to monitor halls while the kids were up), I was absolutely beat. I also planned to run Monday afternoon after I had napped. That didn’t happen. I was exhausted, so I skipped the run. And I skipped running on Tuesday. Yup…I was still tired. 

Today, I had no choice but to go to the gym. I am the instructor; I had to go. I taught a HIIT class this morning, and again, had planned to run two or three miles afterward. That didn’t happen. Perhaps I would run tonight. Nope. I found all kinds of excuses: it’s raining; I don’t want to run on the treadmill; I have laundry to do; I’m still tired. Tomorrow morning I teach two Tabata classes, so I will get a good hour of high intensity intervals in. Saturday I WILL RUN. I have to get back into a routine, and I have to stop making excuses.

Considering how difficult it can be to make myself run or workout, why do I even try? What motivates me to stay fit? I do it for so many reasons; I will attempt to explain.

First, why did I even start exercising? My father died of a heart attack when he was 42; I was seven. When I was 41, I began dreading my birthday. I didn’t think I was going to die, but all I had ever associated with the number 42 was my father’s death. At that point in my life, I didn’t exercise at all, and it was beginning to show. I was completely out of shape, and gaining weight. My husband knew that I was becoming depressed, and (in the kindest way) told me I needed to get a grip or get help. We both decided to exercise, and our sport of choice was running because several of our friends were runners. We also thought it would be inexpensive, which has proven to be a false assumption. We started out just trying to get to one mile, which seemed to take forever. Since 2009, we have run countless 5Ks, a few 10Ks, several half marathons, and Gary has run two marathons. We have both become instructors at Everbody’s Fitness, and have helped others on their fitness journeys. That brings me to the next reason I continue…

Once one puts it out there, whether it’s on Facebook, a blog, an ebook, or in conversation, she is committed to sticking with it. People know that I run and workout, so they ask about it. I can’t imagine saying I quit. People depend on me to encourage, teach, and share. If I didn’t teach early morning classes, I can just about guarantee my butt would stay in bed on those cold winter mornings and those rainy spring days. Knowing my friends are waiting for me motivates me to get up as soon as the alarm sounds. Once I am at the gym, I am always glad to be there. 

Friends…nearly all of our friends either run or workout. My best friends are all runners; we just understand one another. We speak the same language, keep secrets, know we can depend on one another, and love one another. On a run, people tend to open up. We talk about topics that are taboo in our other circles of friends. If I don’t run for a few days, and I see my friends posts about their runs, I know that I need to get out and get moving. When I begin to doubt myself, I know that one of my friends will step up and encourage me, or give me a kick in the rear. 

Confidence. Talk to any runner who got a late start, and I would bet she would tell you that since beginning to run, she has gained confidence in all areas of her life. I know that if I can set a goal, such as running a half marathon after knee surgery, train properly, and achieve that goal (especially at my age), I can also accomplish goals in other areas of my life. 

My body. I have never been proud of my body. Honestly, I always thought about what I wanted to change. I wanted to be taller [in DC, the girls in my group had trouble finding me because they thought I was one of the kids]; I wanted to get rid of my freckles; I wanted to be more shapely; I wanted different hair. Now that I know my legs can carry me over 13 miles in a race, my lungs can support my running, and my heart continues to be strong, I appreciate my body. Is it perfect? Heavens no. But now I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to invest in expensive sport bras; the cheapos do just fine. ‘Nough said. I appreciate that although my legs are short, they can run. Now that I have been doing Tabata for several months, I appreciate that my arms have a little definition (not Michelle Obama arms, but better than they were), and I can easily bust out squats and burpees. For a nana, that isn’t too bad!

My family…Gosh, I love my family. Gary and I are blessed with five incredible kids (38, 35, 25, 22, and 17), and five energetic grandkids (13, 10, 7, 2, 5 months). I want to show them that age is truly just a number. I want them to see that one is never too old to set goals or to challenge her body. I want them to be proud of me, and I think they are. I hope that we are setting a positive example, and that they will always go after their goals. I hope they will always be willing to work hard for what they want. I want to play with my grandkids and be around to see them all marry. My father wasn’t there when I graduated, married, had children, or earned my degrees. I don’t want my daughters to feel that loss when they go through important life events. I want to stick around. 

It makes me happy. Really. As much as working out improves my physical state, it also improves my mental state. I can be in the worst of moods, go out for a run, and come home with a whole new perspective. Sometimes the smallest thing can change my mood when I am running: a student yelling, “Hi, Mrs. Stath!”, an animal that crosses my path (except a skunk – that just annoys me), flowers, or a wave from someone I haven’t seen for some time. 

Running makes me feel strong. Don’t get me wrong – some runs suck. Sometimes I feel like I am going to puke. Sometimes I think I need to find a new hobby. But much of the time, even if it isn’t the best run, I feel awesome when I finish, simply because I can finish. I can do something the majority of the population can’t do, and that feels really good. I thank God for my health and for the ability to workout. I know of far too many people battling illness or injury who cannot walk five miles, let alone run that far. I appreciate what my body can do, and I don’t take it for granted. It won’t last forever, so I will value each and every day that I can get out there. 

I run for me. I see so many parents who live their lives through their children. I love my children immensely, but I also want to have my own life. I want to accomplish my own goals. I have seen parents so wrapped up in their kids achievements, that they act like crazy people. I am proud of my kids, enjoy their activities, cheer when they’re successful, and wipe tears when they’re not. But I recognize that there is always tomorrow, and they need to also experience failure in order to appreciate success. They need to understand that sometimes life isn’t fair. They need to know how to stand up for themselves, and that Momma isn’t going to make everything alright. They don’t have to win in order for ME to feel successful. I have my own ‘stuff’. 

Gosh, now that I have written all that, I want to go out and run! What makes you feel good? Confident? Proud? What do YOU do that you’re proud of? 

 

 

Staying Motivated

In my previous post, if made the analogy that running a big race, such as a half marathon, is much like Christmas. Runners spend months planning, purchasing gear, and anticipating their big day. The day comes, and with any luck, lives up to the hype, and then in a couple hours, it’s all over. It can be somewhat of a letdown. The anticipation is half the fun. I am now ten days post-race, and wondering what’s next. I might do a couple of shorter races in the coming months, but my next big goal is the Women Rock Chicago Half Marathon in September. I still need lots of work on my endurance and speed, so this summer I have my work cut out. Hills. Lots of hills. Knowing my next big race is along Lake Michigan will be an awesome motivator. That, my friends, is one of my very favorite places.

I am part of a women’s running group on Facebook; there are about 12,000 members, so there are always posts. Some are motivational; some are questions; and some are from women who need to vent and can’t do it on their personal pages. I have been surprised by the number of women who have begun running or just trying to get in shape, and feel no support from their friends. Many have had friends post negative comments about their running or fitness endeavors. While I am sure there are those who get tired of running and fitness posts, I have never had anyone post negative comments, and have actually had the opposite: I feel very motivated by the encouragement I have received. It has made me so grateful for my family and friends. I feel that we should all be supportive of one another, no matter what our pursuits. I really don’t understand why anyone would be critical of a friend – Facebook friend or otherwise – who wants to get healthier. Shouldn’t we celebrate that?

Which leads me to my job as a fitness instructor. I started as a Zumba instructor, but now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT. If anyone had told me a few years ago that I’d get my lazy butt out of bed at 4:30 AM and drive to the gym to teach classes, I would have busted a gut laughing. I am not a morning person. But here I am, teaching five early-morning classes a week. So, why do I do it? Several reasons come to mind. I get a great workout in to start my day. Every person who is there wants to be in my class (unlike the 8th grade language arts students I teach all day! Believe it or not, some teens don’t like language arts). But the most important reasons is the joy – and I mean pure joy- I get seeing people struggle and drip with sweat. Just kidding! I love seeing people do things they never thought they’d be able to do. I love seeing the pride on their faces when they’ve held a plank for just a little longer, or when they’ve done one more push-up. I hate when they are discouraged, but love how they still come back. I love having a small part in their getting healthier and stronger. I love challenging participants, and having them tackle that challenge. Being a fitness instructor, in my opinion, doesn’t mean I am perfectly fit and strong (far from it), or that the workouts are easy for me. I often struggle right along with my classes, and I let them know I think it’s difficult, too. I am no better than they are; some are much stronger than I. But I will do my very best to keep class challenging, interesting, and fun. Yes, fun. We might have to adjust our connotation of fun, but working out can be fun!

What do you want to do to improve your life? Do you need to work on fitness? Do you need to spend more time with family? Do you want to learn a new craft? Write a blog? Meditate? Pray? Study the Bible? Do it. Don’t let life pass you by; live it now. And support your friends and family in their dreams. If you know someone is trying something new or working to lose weight, encourage him or her. Your words are powerful. Choose them wisely.

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!

17 More Days!

In my mind, that sounds ominous. I have 17 days until the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon. Only 17. I have one more long run, which if the weather cooperates, will happen this Friday after school. I would prefer to do my 11-miler Saturday morning rather than after a long day at work, but the girls have their first tennis match out of town Saturday, so Friday it is. This week I have taught four bootcamp classes in three days, and my legs are sore and tired. They  are so sore, in fact, that last night after I showered, I immediately crawled into bed. I  then texted my husband, who was still downstairs: I want to come kiss you goodnight, but my legs are too tired! They refuse to carry me. I love you to the moon and back! How pathetic is that? Seriously, I was that tired, yet, I couldn’t sleep! My body didn’t budge, but my eyes refused sleep. This was especially frustrating because I had to teach HIIT at 5:30 am.

I had planned to run four miles this evening, but – at the strong encouragement of my husband – stayed home instead. Rest is good, right? I teach bootcamp again in the morning, and we will be focusing on arms and abs, purposely avoiding power squats (that’s for my benefit, not the participants’). I might try to run a couple of miles on the treadmill before hitting the shower, but my legs might just have a different plan.

Then I will rest up for Friday. Hopefully my friend Jennifer will be running part of my long run with me. It goes so much quicker when someone is with me. I enjoy solo runs, but have done far too many in the past couple months. Because I still lack confidence in my knee and my endurance, I have hesitated to run with others much. And for some reason, this race is really personal to me, and I just want to do it on my own. Weird, huh? I am really excited for my friends who are running, especially those who will complete their first half marathon, but this race is for me – and for my friend Katie, as I previously posted. After bailing at the 8-mile mark last year, not running a single race since, and going through knee surgery, this is, perhaps, my most important race to date. Just a couple months ago, I was convinced I would never run 13.1 again; I just couldn’t do it. Then running seemed to get a little better, and I was able to run a little farther, and I decided that I have to run 13.1 again. I cannot give up what I love, until my legs refuse to move. Last year, I spent a lot of time focusing on several of my ‘newbie’ friends, and I loved it. This year it is going to take all of my focus and energy to get myself across that finish line. Once I cross, and I will even if I have to crawl or ride piggy back on someone, I will celebrate with everyone else. Lord, I hope I make it.

I said that running has gotten a little easier, but it is still so flippin’ difficult. Every single run takes so much effort right now. I am not running nearly as fast as I was a year ago, but I feel like I am putting in even more effort. We all have tough runs, but I would like to have just a few easy ones. Monday was a beautiful day, and I had looked forward to my run all day as I looked out the windows of my classroom. I was finally going to be able to run in shorts and a tank, and work up a great sweat. My legs felt like bricks. Most of the time, my first mile is tough, but then I fall into a rhythm, and it gets easier. That never happened. I had run five miles Sunday, so once I hit the three-mile mark, I stopped. I could run no further. I walked the mile back to my car, and chalked it up to a bad day…another bad day.

I have thought about goals for the race. Common sense tells me that my only goals should be to enjoy running the race (which is an incredible race with a huge crowd on a beautiful course), and to cross the finish line with my knee healthy. My husband would tell you I don’t often use common sense. The last time I finished Derby, my time was 2:04, and my last complete half marathon time was 1:59. While I know it impossible to get close to those times, I would still like to have a respectable time. And, I have been online looking at last year’s times. I always say I am not going to do that, but I always do. Always. I really have no idea what to expect. When Jackie and I ran our 10-miler, we ran about a 10:26 pace, and usually one runs faster in a race just because of the adrenaline (and because I get caught up in the crowd). If I could run a 10:00 pace, I would finish in 2:11. First, I don’t know if that is possible; second, I surely wish I could run faster. I should just finish this to prove I can run that far, and then concentrate on running faster for a fall half marathon. Will I? Do you see how there is a constant battle going on in my head? No wonder I couldn’t sleep.

My mind will be in turmoil for the next 17 days. My stomach will likely follow suit at some point, hopefully not race morning! That would be awkward. I am not a fan of porta-potties! My next few blogs will probably provide more information about the race than you care to know, but as you know, I write whatever is on my mind (not everything – you’d be shocked if you knew what all goes on in my head; it’s very cluttered in there).

Run on, Friends!

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