Monday, April 29, 2013

Jazzercise, anyone?

This is not a running related post, but I wanted to blog about it for 2 reasons: 

1) it has to do with fitness to a certain extent,
2) it is a cute picture, and I wanted to share it.

Oh, and after this photo was taken, I was impressed with myself. So I guess that's actually 3 reasons.

If you don't know me well, or if you are just stumbling upon this blog randomly, you should probably know that other than running, I deeply enjoy giving back to the community through charitable works. For me, a lot of that charitable work is done through my membership with the 501st Legion. This organization is a screen accurate Star Wars costuming club that brings a love for the Star Wars movies to many people in an effort to not only share the passion for the movies but to help raise monies for charitable organizations which serve high risk, disabled, sick, or terminal children (to name a few). In my house, Ray is the big Star Wars fan, and I participate in this organization entirely as a way for us to do something together with the added charitable component. 

Recently we were invited to attend a local Relay for Life event at a local park. When we arrived, one of the first things that I noticed was how my costume would be needing some serious modifications as I was shrinking out of it. I've already replaced my boots because the calves were swimming on me, but as time goes on (eventhough we have already established that the scale isn't moving), I may need to revisit other components of the costume.

And that is incredibly exciting for me.

But what is even more exciting is that before I began this running thing, when we were interacting with the crowds at big events, I frequently felt myself huffing and puffing inside my helmet. I would be able to dance with the kids for maybe the chorus of a song, but much more than that, and I would get lightheaded and need to step away from the crowd to recoup. Last year, we attended a Star Wars themed wedding, and while I was able to dance for the majority of the evening, I never did much more than sway side to side performing dance moves similar to a slow-dance from 8th grade.

This time, things were different. After the first lap of the Relay for Life event, the music started blasting, and the stage was taken by two people from Jazzercise (you know, that aerobic half jazz half dance program that you haven't heard about since you last wore scrunchies and slouch socks).

And like at previous events, as I heard the music and I saw people dancing, I started to sway my hips and bob my head. And the Jazzercise women encouraged me to try the moves. So I did. And I picked them up. Really well.

And one song blended into another. And that song ended, and I found myself going up the stairs and joining them on the stage, because... well... what's cooler than a Star Wars character dancing on the stage with a couple of super fit women? And the song ended, and another started. I felt myself getting winded, but I kept going.

The moves were tough but I managed to hold on, finishing almost the entire half hour routine. 30 minutes of aerobic activity. Who would have ever thought I could not only do that, but do it in a complete costume? I certainly wouldn't have put my money on that bet!

I had a great time. And I'm considering attending a local studio that hosts jazzercise classes.

But when I do, I hope to leave the Star Wars costume at home.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Joy of Running Together

When I heard about the Boston Marathon Bombing, I was preparing to travel to Spokane Washington for a conference. If you remember, I was struggling with the intersection of being a New Englander, my professional development, and being a runner. Obviously, I felt lost and confused. I struggled over how to process the various feelings I was having. And I was glued to the news.

Some of it was good, but the majority of the news reports that were coming through were partial, or just really off base. And social media websites like facebook were spinning into a frenzy about what kind of retribution would be acceptable in the fact of such an atrocious crime. People were spewing hatred and vitriol left and right. It was overwhelming. And absolutely heartbreaking. What made it worse was that I was in Washington state, while my husband and the rest of my support system was in South Florida.

I even developed an honest-to-goodness eye twitch that wouldn't seem to go away. That was stuff straight out of Lifetime Movies. Yet it was happening. I felt alone, like I was drowning in frigid waters.

I am someone who deeply believes that violence and hatred are cyclical. I deeply understand that people are angry and hurting after such an atrocious crime... I'm hurting and angry too. Yet I also realize that at some point we have to stop the cycle. If violence and hatred only snowball to more violence and hatred, a little love and compassion could go a long way.

It is easier said than done. And as I write this, I am sure people are rolling their eyes saying I am an idealist thinking we should respond to the perpetrators of such heinous and cowardly crimes with compassion and love. Crap, I'm not even sure I feel love or compassion in my heart right now.

Amidst all my stress and anger and discomfort and hurt, I decided I will not be part of the ongoing problem that allows anger and hatred to breed. If I can't be compassionate (right now), I can certainly bite my tongue and not feed into the system that becomes an overwhelming avalanche toward violence. I will turn off the TV and withdraw from consuming too much media that may only fuel by hurts and frustrations.

Unplugging definitely helped alleviate some of my tensions. That dreaded eye twitch went away... but I was still sad. I needed to grieve. Properly grieve. Thankfully I found the perfect opportunity.

While driving to lunch with my travel companion through downtown Spokane, I screamed at her to stop the car.

I had seen what looked like a bunch of cardboard cutouts of runners lining the sidewalk, wearing poster-boards and surrounded by running shoes and flowers. I had to get out and investigate this scene a little more closely.

And I realized that they weren't cardboard cutouts at all. The park was actually Riverfront Park, which has partnered with the Spokane Arts Commission to house 21 semi-permanent sculptures.

What I had thought was an entirely impromptu vigil with cardboard cutouts, was actually an impromptu vigil at a sculpture called The Joy of Running Together, which was installed in 1984 by David Govedare. This sculpture, which consists of 40 freestanding iron running figures in all stages of racing, was commissioned to commemorate the Annual Spokane Bloomsday Run and was installed at what would be the finish line when the race is taking place. According to the Historical Spokane website, the installation near what would be the finish-line was not a coincidence... It was a conscientious decision made with the hopes that it would provide encouragement to the runners in the Bloomsday Run.

Looking all the sneakers, and flowers and posters which had been left behind in the wake of the Boston Bombing, I realized that not only was this sculpture providing encouragement, but it was also providing solace to those who were grieving.

And in those few moments, I had the chance to properly grieve.

Thank you to David Govedare for giving me a way to grieve.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beach Beast 5K - April 6, 2013

Around Christmas, before I found out how much I preferred the half marathon distance for my races, I was hearing about some friends out in the Tampa area who completed a 5K obstacle race on the beach. The first ever Beach Beast was so successful that the promoters decided to bring the event to Ft. Lauderdale in April. When they began to advertise for the Ft. Lauderdale event, they offered a rock bottom low price of $25/person plus an additional 10% off for a team of 2 or more. 

We figured, for that price, even if the event was a flop, we really didn't have much to lose.

We were signed up for the second wave (the first being reserved for the elite runners), but because we were only given our bibs and not our timing chips during the packet pickup, we were told that we needed to be at the beach at 7:00 am. Little did we know that we only had to be there that early if we were working the event, setting up the obstacles, giving out packets, etc... and not running it. 

So like idiots, we were at the race at 6:30 (because I have a serious tardiness issue and for races always plan to be there WAY earlier than I need to be), which was well before the sun even came up. And of course, it was one of those really rare frigid mornings on the beach where you could see your breath and your teeth couldn't stop chattering. 

On the plus side though, being at the race that early though meant getting to spend some time in the Famous Yankee Clipper Hotel, getting coffee, spending some one on one time together, and pre-race people watching (something that I enjoy immensely). It also meant getting to watch the elite wave as they navigated the obstacles. 

When they first planned this event, they had planned it to fall on a different day. Then, because a famous country artist was coming to town, the city forced the race to switch weekends. In a strange twist of luck, although they had all of the appropriate permits for specific areas of the beach, the musician (with his whole stage and setup) showed up 5 days early and forced the race out of their permitted area and onto another part of the beach. For this reason, the obstacles were a bit jumbled up at the beginning and end of the race, and the race wound up being a little shorter than their advertised 5k. Crap happens (I TOTALLY get that), so I don't really begrudge the race promoters for these issues, because they were legitimately beyond their control.

What I do hold them accountable for is the fact that some of their obstacles were poorly made. Granted, leaving some of their obstacles (like vertical wall climbs made out of plywood) outside overnight the night before may have exposed them to dew, salt and wind... but I think that their construction was poor quality. Poor enough that before even the first wave of participants finished, there was a safety issue as athletes were breaking through the plywood or support beams were coming unfastened. 

For this reason, I chose to forgo a number of the more difficult inverted climb obstacles. I'm sure with a little struggling (and maybe some assistance) I could have navigated these obstacles, but for my own safety (because we also know I am a complete klutz), I decided early on that I would opt out.

Me with Ray and Thomas with a couple of girls from Karma Athletes
When it was time for our wave to go, Ray and I made out way to the start line. I had seen people bunching up at the earlier obstacles, so I knew that there was no real incentive rush past the start line... We stood and talked to a man with whom we had seen when we ran the Warrior Dash. This man, who we would later spend a lot of time talking to, was kind of hard to mistake for anyone else: as a below-the-knee amputee, this man is a complete badass. When we saw him at Warrior Dash, he had been wearing some funky gold spandex costume, but this time, he was in a superman costume, and telling us about his new project... a recently launched website dedicated to "raising America's awareness to amputee needs" (I plan to write a more comprehensive post about Thomas and his Superman Walks project, but that will be reserved for another time).

For some reason Ray thought I needed a boost.
The race was fairly straightforward. From the startline, you run to 3 obstacles (a tire run, a series of boxes that you have to climb over, then a series of over/unders at the waters edge. These were not difficult obstacles, but (unlike my last run where I had no pain whatsoever) early on in this race, I knew that the arches of my feet couldn't handle the uneven terrain. I also struggled in the sand with my shoes, and quickly opted to remove them altogether.

Unfortunately though, because I took off my shoes, and the chips were attached to the shoes, I then had nowhere to stick my timing chip. I tucked it into my back pocket and hoped for the best.

The next 2 miles were a straight shot down the beach to the rock jetty, up the rocks and around a series of cones, then back onto the beach for the return distance toward the finishline. Oh, and a few areas where we were required to stop and crab-walk in the sand or do burpees or jumping jacks.

Easy in theory, but when every step into the soft and uneven sand brought tears to my eyes and made me curse everyone I have ever met over the duration of my entire life... just putting one foot in front of the other proved to be excruciatingly difficult.

At times when I felt like simply sitting my butt into the sand and giving up, I looked toward my new friend Thomas, reminding myself that this was  nothing like what he endured in losing his leg...

Before I knew it, the race was over and we were getting to the last series of obstacles. I think this is somewhat illustrative of my progress through this running journey. When I started, I could barely walk around the block without getting winded. That FIRST tenth of a mile really got me. Then when I started running 5Ks, I struggled to drag myself through them. But I did, and had an immense sense of accomplishment. And then when I started doing half marathons I struggled to keep going (which I openly admit I still struggle with), and I surprise myself everytime that I cross the finish line. But after having done so many half marathons, my perspective has changed.

What was once a whole mile, has now become a nice quick mile. What was once an entire 5K is now just a 5K. Where I used to think of 5 miles as a long run, I now think of 5 miles as a standard training run.

Don't get me wrong. This race sucked (because my own body was failing me, not through the fault of the promoter), and every step was torturous, however it went by in the blink of an eye. Afterall, it was Just a 5K.
The final obstacles were decent, we had sandcrawls, ramps with tires, crawling mazes, an inverted ladder climb (which I avoided lest I fall and injury my feet even more), 80 degree ramps (which I opted to go around because I wouldn't have been able to get the speed needed with my feet hurting so badly), a spiderweb maze, and a series of vertical walls to climb (which I opted out of due to the way they were constructed). 
We crossed the finishline and collected our medals, said our goodbyes and went to breakfast.

We later learned that both of our timing chips failed, so we don't know how long this event took us... but that's ok.

We still had a great morning at the beach.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Coral Springs Half Marathon - March 30, 2013

I've got to admit, this spring, I have become completely addicted to the half marathon distance. 

13.1 miles sucks. At my pace, it takes me well over 3 hours, and with my attention span? I'm lucky if I ever do anything for more than an hour at a stretch.

But there is something about 13.1 miles that just really works for me. Unlike 3.1 miles (a 5K) or 5.12 miles (my normal training run), 13.1 miles gives me that opportunity to do something other than just focus on running and finishing. In a 13.1 mile run, I get to really enjoy the process. 

I think maybe it is the difference between rushing through something for the destination, vs. really enjoying the journey.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but as a general rule, I try to avoid inaugural events. There was a time when we didn't care if it was an inaugural event or not, but we've been burned one too many times with promoters who have a disregard for safety or organization... and after experiencing the poison-water-pocalypse that Sunshine State put on, you could say that I've become a little gun-shy.

On the other hand, in order to get a good jump on my absolutely ridiculous goal to finish 13 half marathons in 2013, and knowing that the race season pretty much stops between May and September in South Florida, I knew I didn't have many options. The race season was winding down, and my options were running out.

So that meant I had a decision to make, would I register for the Coral Springs Half Marathon because it was really close to home, and take the risk? In the end, I decided it was worth it, and I promptly roped my friend Brina into attending with me, as her first race as a Half Fanatic
I'm glad that I entered this race. Despite the half marathon distance being a first time event for this promo group, whether it be the location or the give-aways, the volunteer support, the amount of law enforcement and traffic control, the friendly faces, the SUPER clean port-o-janes that came complete with running water for handwashing, the fuel and water stops, etc... I found that this race surpassed all of my expectations. I will DEFINITELY run this event again.

HFs Juanita, Bobby, me and Brina
The field of racers for this event was small, and the starting location was at a park, so this meant that parking and finding the start line was easy. After arriving at 5:00 for a 6:00 am gun, I met up with my friends Brina and Juanita for a pre-race Half Fanatics photo. 

When the gun went off, Bobby and Juanita said goodbye, and took off at their own pace. Brina, who had previously run the 13.1 Miami Beach race with me and later claimed to have really enjoyed our time together, opted to run this race at my pace again. I was thankful for the offer, because truth be told, after the excruciating pain I had felt not 2 weeks before at the Shamrock 10 Miler, I was concerned about whether I would be able to finish this race. Better have someone fun to distract me, than get swept in the first couple miles of the race, right?

Just like in other events, the race started and I began to regret my decision to enter. I don't know what's wrong with me. I go to these events, I get pumped about actually doing them, but then right before the gun, I get sick to my stomach and want to go home. Then I actually start running, and the first tenth of a mile I question whether I really want to be doing this, whether I enjoy this, and whether I might have been better off staying home in bed. That first tenth of a mile ALWAYS gets me.

The gun goes off, and we inch our way forward and begin our first running interval, and my brain wont let me get out of my own way. To distract myself, I picked a woman about 10 yards in front of us, and the goal was to pass her. In 13.1 miles, we didn't manage to pass her, but it was a distraction for a little while.  We giggled our way through the first 5 minutes settling into a nice pace.
We got to about a half mile in, and I realized I was holding back. I don't want to push it today, I said.

I'm scared my feet are going to hurt, I told her.
I (legitimately) was scared. I had no arch pain yet, but I knew better than to count my chickens.

You know? I just want to enjoy the journey. Lets forget about times and pacing. Lets just enjoy the morning, I suggested. 

And it sounded like a great idea. I did want to just enjoy the journey and forget about packing and times. But that is so much easier said than done.  

At mile marker 1, I didn't care. But by mile marker 2, I was chomping at the bit, dying to know what we were pacing. The sun had come up, I was enjoying myself, Brina and I were joking with one another, and we were having a great time with other runners too. But I was itching to know what kind of pacing we were making. I had a vague idea based on the clocks at the mile markers, but I wanted more accuracy.

Every so often Brina's Garmin would chirp and she would look down and smile.  I'd beg her to tell me, and she would just brush me off and start in on another story. By mile 4, I was going nuts.

Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! I begged. 

56:12. She said. 14:03 per mile.

Call me shocked. And still no pain. And we kept that pace up until around mile 10, when I began to feel some blistering in my left baby toe. And then after another half mile, there was some blistering at the right ball of my foot area (probably from compensation from the blister on my left foot).

Then around mile 11, when we began to get into the home stretch, I bottomed out. Because of course, nothing is easy with me and something always seems to go horribly wrong.

The sun was high in the sky, the temperature was rising and the air was becoming thick with humidity. I felt under-hydrated, and my stomach was upset. Every time I tried to push forward with a run interval, it felt like a 10 ton elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn't catch my breath.  Up until then, we were on pace to finally make it to my goal of a 15 minutes per mile finish time, but I also knew the risks of pushing it when I can't catch my breath. We slowed down.

Me with my 6th finish for '13, Brina with her 3rd
At mile 12, we passed a girl from Black Girls Run who was having some severe dehydration issues. I always said that even when I had a PR so close I could taste it, I would stop for another runner in distress... so of course I stopped to help her out. After giving her some much needed fluids from my hydration belt, we kept going.

Pretty soon, the finishline party area was in sight. And Juanita was standing there with her post-race flip flops and sweatpants on. I heard Juanita asking Brina if she knew what the clock was reading, and I heard Brina whispering back that she didn't want me to know.

Juanita jumped onto the course with us and I heard the thwap thwap thwap of her flip flops behind me.

As I rounded the corner and the finish line clock came into view, it was like having my own private cheerleaders.

You can do it! You're almost there! You're gonna PR!  Push it! Go! Go! Go!

And like that, I pulled out all the stops. The 10 ton elephant sitting on my chest and I sprinted toward the finish line. With Brina quick on our heels, that elephant and I ran like we've never run before.

Brina later told me that in the home stretch, we were running at just over 8 minutes per mile. I would never be able to sustain something like that long distance, because even doing what I did made me nauseous, dizzy and turned my lips blue... BUT, I did it.

Oranges, just what this (future) doctor ordered.
And that's got to count for something.

Chip - 3:17:23.330
Pace - 15:04
Overall - 509/531
Gender - 303/321
Category - 53/53

I had hoped to finish at or below 15 minutes per mile... which I didn't quite do, but I'm happy with what me and my own personal elephant accomplished. And hey, no arch pain.

*As an aside, in order to reach the next "moon" level with Half Fanatics, I needed to either complete 3 halves in 16 days or 6 halves in 6 consecutive calendar months or 8-11 in 365 days. For those playing at home, the Coral Springs half was my 6th in 2.5 months. Finishing this race qualified me to move from the Neptune (1-moon) to Uranus (2-moon) level.

The next stop is Saturn (3-moon) level with 4 halves within 37 days or 12-18 halves within 365 days or 4 halves in 4 different states, countries or Canadian Provinces in 51 days. If  When I finish my 13 in 2013, that will qualify me to moon up. Saturn, here I come.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The point two will getcha?

It feels strange to go back to my previously scheduled blogging when my heart and mind is still trying to get a wrap around what happened in Boston last week. My mind doesn't want to move on... But I know I need to. Because not moving on will only allow me to become stunted by the pain.

So today, while my heart is still with Boston, I keep going with my life. Because the perpetrators (so far) took 4 lives last week, I cannot allow my heart and soul to be added to the death toll.

Today, I write about something I hadn't intended to write about for another few weeks. And that is the secret I have been keeping close to my chest.

Let me start by saying that I don't like secrets. I think that has to do with my dislike for general anticipation.
I don't like it when people keep secrets from me because I feel like I am being left out. And I don't like it when people plan surprises for me (but tease me before hand about having a surprise for me).

I also don't like keeping secrets from other people, and I hate surprising others too.

That doesn't mean that if someone tells me something in confidence that I wont keep that confidence for them, because I tend to be really good at that. I don't know if it is just semantics, but somewhere in my brain I have made a distinction between confidences and secrets, and it is the latter that I have a hard time with.

Needless to say, I've been sitting on a secret for a number of weeks now.

And it. Is. Killing. Me.


The secret is...

That in January of 2014, after reaching my goal of 13 half marathons in 2013, I plan to run a full marathon.

I hesitate to say my first marathon because that implies that there will be a second, but it will be the first time that I will run a marathon. But I've hesitated to even say anything about it until now because I'm afraid.

I think when it comes to doing new things like this, I might be a bit of a commitment-phobe.

Because when you publicly announce that you are going to do something outside of your comfort zone (like train to run 26.2 miles in a row), people can then hold you accountable. If you put it out there for the rest of the world, you have to follow through. And yikes, that's scary.

That's 26.2 miles.

I decided, because it was Disney marathon weekend that got me interested in running in the first place, and my first half marathon was at Disney, what better a place to run the longest race I've ever attempted?

Photo courtesy of Karen Orozco*
Now, I know I complained a lot after my Disney half in January about them having too many entrants, and about how less-than-friendly the other runners were, and how I had really expected more from a race being put on by The Happiest Place on Earth, but there are also some benefits to running at Disney, that can make my marathon experience a good one.

For starters, because they don't start the 16 minute per mile requirement until the last person crosses the start line, if I am further up in my corral, I would have a little extra time to finish. Because there are so many corrals  and they wait 7 minutes between corrals to start, this also means an additional time buffer for someone like me, who has a naturally slow pace. Granted, this may change as RunDisney announced some changes on their blog recently about having fewer entrants and the possibility of adding corrals with smaller fields, but for now, I feel fairly confident that I can train hard for this race, then participate without getting swept.

And I'll keep my fingers crossed.

As of right now, the longest distance I've ever run at a time is 14 miles. That means that I will be adding an additional 12.2 miles to that distance. I anticipate that it will take me approximately 6 and a half or 7 hours to finish... but the time isn't really that important.

Of course I say that the time isn't all that important now, but I'm sure that will change in the coming months as the reality sets in that I am actually going to do this.

Thankfully, unlike my experience at the Disney Half this past year, I will not be running this event entirely on my own. My awesome running partner Brina has graciously offered to run the marathon with me, to help keep me on pace and motivated. 6-7 hours on my own might be a little rough. But it seems all the more doable with a friend.

*A special thanks to Karen Orozco at Losing the Glass Slippers for allowing me to use her photo. Karen is currently training for her first half marathon at Disney's Princess Half in February 2014. Keep working hard Karen, you can do it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bombs at the Boston Marathon

In less than 36 hours I will be boarding a plane to attend a conference on hate studies. While there, I will be sitting as an "expert" panelist (with four of my amazing colleagues), presenting a paper which we wrote about the ins and outs of why terrorism works.

Right now, I am sitting in my living room, completely unable to pull myself away from the news... clearly I am going into media overload, constantly being bombarded by the images from the explosions that happened less than 5 hours ago at the finish line at the Boston Marathon. These explosions haven't officially been classified as a terrorist act, and my verdict is still out because we don't really have enough evidence yet to determine whether there were ideological or political motives behind the attack. I feel in my heart that it will be classified as terrorism (domestic or international), but that is neither here, nor there.

I guess I just needed an outlet to get my feelings out there, and that is why I am writing tonight.

And those feelings are: that I'm not handling this well. My worlds are colliding.

I look at terrorism day and night. I analyze it from a million different perspectives. And over time, that shit just gets into my brain.

I run as an escape. I run to get away from the terrorism and the pain I look at day in, and day out. I run to process and stay sane when faced with hatred, and bombs, and war, and fighting.

As a New Englander (and we all know that New Englanders are honorary Bostonians), I grew up seeing the coverage of the Boston Marathon. Even as a young child, before I had even put on a pair of running shoes, I knew about Patriot Day, and the importance of the Marathon to the local community.

As an adult, I recognize that I could never run the Boston Marathon. I'm not fast enough to qualify. I'm not strong enough for the hills. I'd love that opportunity, but it is so hard to get in... I'd hate to take the space away from the runners who are fast enough and strong enough.

Besides, I've never run more than 14 miles at a time.

But what I have run is a number of half marathons.

The distance between the second bomb blast and the finish line was just over a tenth of a mile. And having run 13.1 miles, I can tell you that when you enter that final stretch, you are running off of pure adrenaline and endorphins. You are absolutely exhausted and excited at the same time.

So to watch these video clips and hear stories of not only first responders and law enforcement, but ALSO RUNNERS jumping into the fray to break down the barricades and apply tourniquets, it brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

In the past, I have been really hesitant to call myself a runner.

Today, I know I am a runner. And an event that 27,000 of my friends whom I haven't yet met were attacked, in a city that might as well have been my own.

Today, I have a heavy heart.

Getting out of my own way

I have a confession to make. I've been a little depressed lately.

Part of it is from a fear of change. In January, I ran the ING Miami Half Marathon, right in the middle of the biggest exam of my life... a 3 day/72 hour exam which spanned a week, and that would determine whether I was eligible for the next phase of my schooling, which consists of writing my doctoral dissertation.

This was a huge step, and a huge process. But also signified huge change.

I submitted my exam, and then as process dictates, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I waited for approximately 6 weeks. And during that 6 weeks, the tension and anticipation got to me.

The truth is... I don't handle waiting well. I don't handle surprises. I don't handle anticipation. I don't handle change.

And there is this build-up of excitement about getting those results. I thought about how awesome it was going to be to finally be done. And I got excited about celebrating with my friends and family. And I thought about how accomplished I would feel knowing I had passed.

And then when I got the results and learned that I had passed, I got none of those things. Or at least the feelings I got didn't live up to the unrealistic expectations that I had set on the situation.

And I was left feeling kind of... blah.

But that's not all. I also set unrealistic expectations on my relationships with others.

If I think about it honestly... lately, my relationships have been getting me down. I have to be clear that it isn't *all* of my relationships that are getting me down, and really I don't blame the other people. Really, this is more an issue of me, and what I need out of relationships. It is about what I am getting and what I am not getting.

Because lately, I have become acutely aware that I am a perpetual giver.

I always seem to find myself in relationships with people who need more than me, therefore they take more than me. So I give, and they take. And most of the time, that works fairly well... And that is not to say that there is anything wrong with either them (or me), just that we have very different roles in our relationship. And flipping those roles just doesn't work.

So in the end, I give and give and give of myself to other people, frequently at the detriment of myself. And over time, because I care for others without caring for myself, when I get depressed or down, I just don't have the energy left over to give to myself...

And I certainly can't turn to the people who have proven time and time again to be takers.

Because in the past, when I did turn to them, I was left being told that they can't give to me, because they needed everything that they have for themselves. And that's ok. People *need* to focus on themselves. But, on the other hand, I need to be able to focus on me too.

So there is this imbalance. And my unrealistic expectations of having a balance of relationship roles leaves me feeling let down. And incredibly abandoned.

Abandonment being one of my greatest fears. There. I said it.

Most people who know me know that I have an irrational fear of vampires, but most don't realize that even worse than that is my fear of abandonment. Even just saying it out loud... or articulating it through my fingertips as I am doing now is enough to get my stomach churning, and start my eyes threatening with waterworks.

My normal coping strategy when I get depressed or stressed would include doing something physical.

At one point that was to do things like dance. Then for years I was involved in martial arts, so that would help. Now a good coping strategy appears to be running.

And that's not some off the wall I feel better so it must be true kind of statement.

Research has shown that running increases endorphins which can have motivational benefits, can also boost your serotonin activity,  and can also increase dopamine. All of these things can help to keep depression at bay.

Which I believe may be one of the reasons that I became so actively involved in running since the start of the year (perhaps I was becoming "addicted" to the positive feelings I was getting after running and how it was helping me to cope with the increased stress and depression I was feeling).

But I think this also may be part of the reason that I have been depressed lately. If you go to my blog and search for the tag "injury," you will see almost a dozen posts about this mysterious arch and ankle pain I have been having. Yes, I saw a doctor. Yes, I got a second opinion. And while he suggested that I cut back on the running during the week, he said I should be able to finish out the season with the races that I had already scheduled. But that meant foot exercises during the week. And no running until the swelling went down between long runs. So whereas I had been running 3-4 days a week for approx 3-5 miles at a time, I was now limited to a 13.1 mile run on the weekend every other week and maybe getting in a single 5 mile run in the week between.

Not great for my training. And not great for my mind. I was depressed and needing the dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. I was injured and had to sit long periods of time with my feet elevated. Which meant that I had great big periods of time to think about running, but very little running was actually done.

And after feeling like garbage for almost a month, I went back to the doctor and promptly explained that I have no natural ways to combat the depression right now, and I really could use a short round of antidepressants to boost the serotonin levels and pick myself back up.

He agreed, and I started them that night.

And they started to work.

6 days later, when my feet felt good enough that I could try an easy 5 mile run, I put my shoes on and went out the door.

This time, things were different. What I had really been missing by not being able to go for these quick and easy training runs was the opportunity to get into my own head and be one with my thoughts. While yes, the serotonin, endorphins and dopamine are good... what I really missed was that time on my own, thinking about whatever issues seemed to be bothering me. During races, I don't get that opportunity because I am surrounded by other people and constantly distracted. In a training run, I can just let go, and BE.

As I ran, I thought about my recent let downs, and my fear of change, and my unrealistic expectations on relationships, and I realized that I wouldn't be let down by relationships or by change if I had a new best friend. Then I started thinking about how when I recently ended a friendship, Ray's response was that it was the other person's loss because they lost the best (and most loyal) friend they would ever have. And it made me think, when would I ever have the "most loyal best friend"? When would it be my turn?

Then all of a sudden, it was like clouds parted and rays of sunshine shone brightly on me. I could feel every muscle working as each foot pounded the pavement (without pain!). There might as well have been unicorns and puppies dancing in my path, I KNOW there were definitely butterflies... And it all became clear.

I got fat because I wasn't a good friend to myself. I got sick because I wasn't a good friend to myself. I take care of everyone else, but I don't take care of myself. But I was putting my foot down. No more putting other people first all the time at the detriment of myself.

From this moment forward, I would have the most loyal best friend and it would be my turn.

Because from that moment on, I would be loyal to myself. Because if I can't be a good friend to myself, who will?

And so I said it didn't matter what kind of pacing goal I had for that training run. And if that meant that I finished in 1 hour, that would be great. If it took me an hour and 15, or even 2 hours, so be it. Because I was building a new, lifelong relationship with my new best friend.

I got home both rejuvenated and exhausted.

And learned that I had set a new 5 mile PR.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

So I went for a run

So I know that I still have a bunch of race reports to share, and a bunch of other running related things to blog about... but the other day, Mark Remy from Runner's World posted a poem that really touched me.  I've posted it below in entirety if you are too lazy to click the links that I always give in my blog posts...

Any way, Ray sent it to me while he was off at work the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've since seen people on facebook linking to it like crazy. And every time I see the link, I click on it, and make sure to read this poem again.

And each time, it moves me.

So much so, that I thought it important to share.

And I think the reason that it is important to share, is because it reminds me that sometimes... life just sucks.

But as people who run (see, I still can't bring myself to label myself a "runner"), we have a coping mechanism in place.

And so yeah, sometimes life just sucks.

I'm not going to say that running fixes all of those sucky moments, but I do believe that it can make sucky situations suck just a little bit less.

And for this, I am grateful. Now, where did I put my shoes?

So I Went for a Run

Spoiler alert: Things got better. When you're a runner, they always do.

April 2, 2013
I was angry, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was confused, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was exhausted, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was lost, unsure, empty, afraid. Certain that whatever was left of my sanity had snapped, had come untethered and floated away, to a place so high and remote that I would never see it again, and that even if I did, I wouldn't recognize it.
So I went for a run. And things got better.
I felt like things could not possibly get worse, so I went for a run. And things got better.
(Another time, I felt like things could not get much better. I went for a run. Things got much better.)
After enough miles, over enough runs and enough years, I realized: No matter what, no matter when, or where, or why, I can find my shoes and go for a run and things will get better.
And that realization? Just knowing that?
It made things better.