F%$k That Run in Particular

I had the opportunity to run for the first time in a foreign state to me. I’m used to my little neighborhood and my various path distances… but when I saw that just a half mile from my hotel in Austin, Texas, that there was a beautiful unpaved running trail right along the river… I had to make time to run it.

I did all the right things. I had a virtual race (Zombies, Run!) all set up. I brought my medal, made a post-race snack pack, invested in a water belt (thanks, Texas heat!), and off I went.

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I had this run built up to be so many things in my mind… and I think that is the first place that I went wrong.

I was so excited to run the Zombies, Run 10k and run it somewhere outside of my comfort zone. I was excited to find the path, to explore it, to have this perfect 6.1 mile route I built in my head and with Strava… and I felt awesome. I was practically giddy as I found the trail head. I stopped to take a few pictures here and there, and I didn’t even care that this meant my first mile would be a bit slower. I was EXCITED. I was full of anticipation! I WAS GONNA KILL THIS RUN.

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Actually, the run ended up very nearly killing me. Not in a literal sense. I mean, I’m still alive, healthy, and all in one piece… But mentally, man this was a doozie.

I had talked to the hotel concierge prior to leaving to ask her if my prediction of a loop being just over 6 miles was right. She seemed to think it would be more like 4-5, so I figured I’d run it one and a half times just for fun. She wished me luck, and off I went.

I headed out the door with a bounce in my step, got on the path, and took off in the direction she had pointed me. The loop she had directed me toward ended up being only 1 mile. I wasn’t about to run in that loop 5 more times when I knew there was more path ahead of me, so on my second loop, I kept heading west until I met a different pedestrian bridge than the one the concierge had sent me to. I realized this was probably the one she had meant, since it was about three miles from where I had gotten on the path. It was also the trail head.

This is how safe Austin runners feel: they left a pile of keys at the trail head. I have never in my life seen that before. You all just trust no one will take your keys…

My mile times were disappointingly low, according to what I was hearing from my Zombies, Run GPS. 17-18 minute miles? That just seemed wholly wrong. I felt really discouraged and nearly just gave up and walked back to the hotel. I was tired, a little it lost, dehydrated, and feeling like this just wasn’t my day to run. All those preconceived ideas of how I was going to kick this trail’s ass and make my best 10k time ever were starting to turn to doubt… and they were starting to weigh me down.

A lot.

That’s when I looked at my GPS. 3.25 miles? Really? That’s all I had run? Oh for shit’s sake.This was going to take forever. And that’s when I realized I had accidentally paused my app. And taking a peek at the the other app i had running… I’d gone nearly 6 miles. Well, crap on a cracker.

You see, at the point I decided I was hopeless and I should turn back, I was at a point where I would literally be going back the same distance I had already traveled… Thinking originally that this was just 3.25 mile, that was no big deal. 6.5 miles and a half mile cool down walk to the hotel would be no problem. But when I saw I had actually gone 5.75 miles… I wanted to cry. Have I mentioned how much of a mental game running it? Yeah. And for someone who lives in her head most of the time, this was quickly turning my brain into it’s own battle field of:

YOU CAN’T DO THIS. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING. OF COURSE YOU’RE STILL THAT SLOW. YOU SUCK. WHY DO YOU EVEN RUN. JUST QUIT.

I was tired. I was hungry – nay, HANGRY – and I had five more miles left to run. I was thirsty, but there hadn’t been a bathroom in a few miles. I was a tiny bit lost but I was pretty sure I could get back… and did I mention… 5 more miles?

That’s when Endomondo was a life saver. One of my Zombies, Run friends sent me a pep talk right at that minute where I felt so hopeless and defeated…

“5, we’re picking up something strange on the cams. What is that? In about 400 meters. Um. You’re not going to believe this, but it looks like… A red mailbox. Can you see it? Go get it 5. You’re almost home!”

Now, believe me when I say that each and every pep talk I got on Endomondo was incredible and pushed me on… But at the exact moment that this one came through, I was literally nearly in tears at the realization that I’d botched my own race, I’d gone way farther than I thought I was going to go, I hadn’t planned nearly as well as I thought I had… and I felt so downtrodden. That pep in my step was gone. That excitement to run a new trail was turning in to regret…

And then this pep talk came.

I did shed one tear of happiness as it played. I took a deep breath, I settled my mind back down, and I took of in the direction of home. It was just 5 miles. I could do 5 miles… Right?

I ran more of this last leg than I ran the entire run so far. My breathing evened out, I step perked back up, and I just went for it. What other choice did I have? Sit down and cry until someone called me a taxi? NO. I was going to get this done and I was going to do it myself!

The last half mile was the hardest. I knew I was close to home. I had finally found a bathroom and refilled my water bottles. It was going on 2.5 hours since I had left. My brain was fighting to go back into panic mode, but I did my best to not let it.

When I got back to the trail start, I squealed. I looked at my NOT PAUSED app and realized I had gone 11.6 miles total from entering the trail to getting back to the hotel. And that’s when the pride kicked back in.

HA! Take that, self doubt! Take that, thinking I couldn’t run a ten mile race! Take that, letting myself get defeated and wanting to give up!

When I got back to my room, I opened my Zombies, Run race packed, enjoyed my chips and banana, sipped on my post-race beer… and reveled in the accomplishment of my mini-post race party of one.

Damn, that awful run ended up feeling like the best.

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The Red Mailbox.

It’s been nearly three years since my husband and I moved to this neighborhood in New Brighton. I remember the excitement of finding new running routes and exploring where we lived. There were new hills, new ponds, new trails… and there were new goals.

Back on one of my first runs, I did my usual technique of “run to that stop sign, walk to that bench”. I liked to think of it as land marking. Spot something, run to it. Spot something else, recover until you get there. Repeat.

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On my typical path, there is this red mailbox* about 1.5 miles into my run. Every day that I huffed and puffed past, I thought to myself… “self, someday, you’re going to be able to run ALL THE WAY to this red box.”

It’s been three years. And every time I pass that mailbox, I think to myself… maybe next time. Maybe next run. Maybe next year. Honestly, I never really saw it happening. It was just too far. I was just too slow. It still remained a goal.

Today, as I headed out on my run, I never even thought about that mailbox. I had my earphones in, I breathed in the fresh fall air, and I just ran. Slowly, mind you, but I ran.

As I felt tired for the first time, I looked up, and on the horizon I saw a little red dot. For a moment, I thought “that means it’s time to recover”. I told my legs to stop… and they didn’t listen. My breathing was steady, my pace was steady… why shouldn’t I keep going?

So I did.

I wanted to stop and take my picture with the red box… but that meant I’d have to stop running.** I didn’t WANT to stop running…

So I didn’t.

That’s when a strange thing happened. I just… kept… going.

And going.

And… going.

And suddenly, I got to my driveway. 3.2 miles… and I ran the entire way. The ENTIRE way. I ran… THE ENTIRE WAY!

Was it my fastest 5k time? Absolutely not. But the point is… How far I have come. I started this season disheartened by not being able to run a half mile without wanting to pass out. Then one day I could run a mile. Then I figured out the mental game of running (finally) and I made it two miles without stopping… and today, four years after I started the beautiful pain that is a love of running… I ran a complete 5k.

I honestly nearly cried as I ran up my stairs. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop planning for my next run. That’s the crazy thing about being a runner… As much as you cuss and swear and huff and puff… the second you’re home, you’re ready to get out there again.

So, Red Mailbox… here’s to you. Here’s to me finally beating you, and then some.

And here’s to me finally beating myself.

________

*It might be a Little Library.
** Hence the stock image. Not the actual mailbox/library pictured.

The Hero of (New) Canton

I wanted to go for a run first thing this morning.

That’s a lie. I wanted to put on my fluffy purple robe and take intermittent naps all day long. That’s a lot closer to the truth. I mean, I did want to go for a run. But then I saw the temperature. 35 degrees? HA! Who runs in that kind of BS?

The answer is me.

I spent a good hour revving myself up this morning. I even cleaned the kitchen, trying to avoid the inevitable. If I am going to run through the winter here and train for Run the Blue Grass in April… I couldn’t let the temperature detour me.

I made a lot of mental excuses. I told myself I’d do it tomorrow when it would be a few degrees warmer. I told myself my knee wasn’t ready. I told myself that I should get other things done around the house instead… but in the end, I grabbed my ColdGear, layered up, and hit the pavement.

My first mile was FAST. For me at least – a 12 minute mile. I knew I couldn’t keep that pace up, so I slowed down and gave myself a little longer of a recovery than I’d normally take… and then I continued to run sub 14 minute miles for all 6 mile I treated myself to.

As I got half way down Rice Creek Trail on the way home, I decided to take a detour. I realized that I didn’t quite feel done yet, so I wanted to make my run a full 10k instead of stopping at about 5 miles. You know… the craziest ideas come through your mind when you’re running. Still, I listened to myself and took a random, winding detour through the neighborhood until I found my way back to Silver Lake Road.

I can’t tell the story of today’s run without mentioning the app I run with, Zombies, Run! The entire fact that the only time I can listen to the story in Zombies, Run! is a weird negative motivation. I have to run if I want to know the fate of Abel Township in the post apocalypse… And Six to Start did a great job hooking me.

I started Season Two today, in which Abel and a town called New Canton have become allies after a bit of a clusterfuck. At one point, while running, the story made me jump and look behind me to a point that I nearly tripped over my own feet. By the end, after we had a huge successful mission and I was (virtually) on my way back to New Canton, Sam Yao, the comtroller calls Runner 5 (me) the biggest hero in New Canton. And I busted up laughing.

I’m a big damned hero. In New Canton.

Not only did hearing something as simple as “you really did an amazing job out there today, 5! Bring it back in, it’s time to celebrate!” make my day (because, let’s face it, that run did feel damned good and even if Sam Yao wasn’t actually there urging me on… it felt like he was), but the Joss Whedon loving Firefly dork in me has now had the Hero of Canton stuck in my head all day…

In the end, I guess what I am trying to say is that I didn’t let myself get defeated after my last post. I pushed myself. I surprised myself. And today has been a really reinvigorating day in regards to me believing in myself and my ability as a runner. Thank you to those who left kind words here and on Facebook for me. You all helped me push farther and harder today, and I can’t thank you enough for it.

And now… The moment we all have been waiting for…

“The Hero of Canton, the man they call… Me.”

Pep Talk.

Last night I got a pep talk. It wasn’t a new pep talk, but it wasn’t one that I didn’t need to hear* the millionth time.

I went out for the usual Wednesday night #BEERandBIKES ride to Dangerous Man with 8 folks from the neighborhood who I think are pretty stellar. Beers were consumed. Gaiety was had. I’d been in a really crappy mood all day long, and hitting the fresh air and riding to a brewery was pretty much the only thing getting me through the last few hours of work.

The conversation turned to running and my sourpuss** came out. Belittling myself and my accomplishments and being a downright grump was sort of out of my control at that point… and then came the familiar pep talk.

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Lately I’ve been feeling gross. I’ve put about 8 of the 10 pounds I lost this year back on and I can’t seem to make anything stick to keep it off again. I’ve been feeling fat*** and like I’m just stuck, so why not give up? My mile times are slow, I bike slow, I’m constantly exhausted just trying to keep up with other people who claim they are “so out of shape” and “so slow” and they keep saying things like I just need to ‘push a little harder’ like I am not pushing hard enough while I sweat buckets and feel heart palpitations coming on… And it starts to eat away at me.

First time runner: Oh man! I am SO SLOW! I can’t believe I run an 11 minute mile!
Me: *death stare* Oh that’s cool. I’ve only been training for three years and I run a 13:45 minute mile on a good day. *grumble grumble grumble*

So the pep talk I got was one I was familiar with, but it was a good reminder:

I’m not competing with anyone but myself. I need to give myself a break and I need to understand that I AM making progress. My progress isn’t anyone else’s but my own, and that is exactly how it should be.

I think coming in last**** at Esprit de She for my second ever 10k really was a bigger dig on my pride than I thought it would be. My joke has always been that I’ll run races so long as I don’t come in last. It wasn’t a joke for this race. But the thing I was reminded of as I told this story over the beers we drank at Dangerous Man last night was BUT YOU TOOK TEN MINUTES OFF YOUR LAST 10K!

Oh yeah. That thing.

I frequently bounce between being okay with being slow and being so annoyed with myself and my stupid heart murmur that I want to give up. I want to be a cheetah. I want to be a gazelle. I pretty much am a tortoise. I just have to be the best damned tortoise I can be.

Work that IT Band. Stretch those tight hips and thighs. Run your little heart out. And I’ve only got one person in the world to beat…

Me.

______

*double negative? No? Who’s counting?…

**it was determined yesterday that the physical manifestation of my grumpiness is a cross between Grumpy Cat and the Blerch.

***feeling fat, not thinking I actually am. I know the difference.

****Well, damned close and only cause I pushed HARD to make it across two seconds ahead of someone else.

Motivation.

Self-motivation can be a beast. Yesterday, with the high wind and grey weather, I nearly gave myself an entire bye and put on my fluffy pink piggy slippers to become a Netflix zombie for the night. Alas, my guilt got the better of me.

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I found a series of exercises meant to strengthen the muscles that support the IT Band, and since I have been struggling with intermittent knee pain since upping my average miles from 3 to 5, I told myself that it was in my best interest to start them on a regular basis… so away I went. Those moves were no joke. I felt like I was doing Brazil Buttlift all over again. Rumor has it the IT Band ties to the butt muscles, so when I say my knees are a pain in the ass, I’m not lying.

Perks for using this “therapy” for my IT Band on a regular basis:

  1. No more knee pain.
  2. Killer booty.

I can live with that.

I’m holding myself to getting out for a short run today. Fall is here, winter is coming, and this is not the time to start slacking off. I know this – but my hibernation instinct doesn’t.

Time to kick my hibernation instinct’s ass.

Oh Hai.

Welcome to my brain, folks. This is my attempt, once again, to get myself motivated and track my progress while I run, bike, and otherwise abuse my body back into the shape it should be in. Training for a half marathon is going to be a challenge. Running all winter long is going to be a challenge. Maintaining a blog is going to be a challenge…

Well, challenge accepted.

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