Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

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.

Sometimes Running Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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! 

 

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