Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Pregnant Pause

Not a goodbye; simply a see you later.

Still battling the day-long nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, I long to be out running again.  I see runners dart past my house, and I mentally cheer them on, wishing that I could jump in alongside them. However, this is a time of pause for me.  There is no way my unstable stomach could handle the constant jostling of a run; some days, I can barely manage a speed walk to the bathroom!

I expect this miserable state of pregnancy to end in early December, which is, admittedly, a terrible time for me to restart a running program.  I'm also unsure how my body will respond to running after so many weeks on the sidelines.  But I hope I take the chance to try.  Running does wonders for my mental health and gives me a sense of identity, which I sincerely miss.  I know I am still a runner, but my body and my brain ache to prove that by hitting the road again.

In the meantime, this blog may lie silent for a while.  I've meant to post so many times over the past few weeks, but my energy level is low, and it seems a bit pointless to post in a running blog when not running.  I'll be back, I promise.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Because I am a Mother Runner...

Because I am a mother runner, I can survive early pregnancy all-day sickness (anyone who says that morning sickness is restricted to pre-noon hours is lying).  As with my other pregnancies, morning sickness kicked in at exactly 6 weeks, and if history repeats itself, it will last until 16 weeks.  So I will survive the next 10 weeks using all the skills I've acquired as a mother runner:

1.  Break the day up into manageable pieces.  On a long run, I break the distance down into non-threatening increments.  A mile sounds easy, so I just run a mile.  And then another.  And then another...But each mile feels manageable because it's only a mile.  Likewise, I break up my long days of nausea into micro pieces that I can handle: fix one snack, read one story, assemble one puzzle...

2.  Remember to breathe.  A deep, cleansing breath can work wonders to clear my head, both during a run and in my daily life as a pregnant mama.

3.  Focus on this moment; do not think about what comes next.  This goes hand-in-hand with #1 above.  I start to feel overwhelmed on a run if I think about the whole distance, but I can handle it if I stay in the moment, stay in the current mile.  Similarly, I focus on one task at a time to make it through these difficult days.  At 11:00am, the thought of surviving until my husband gets home at 5:30 seems impossible, but if I stay in the moment, I can survive 10 minutes at a time.  Before I know it, he's home and I can clock out for a while.

4.  Just pray.  When a run feels tough or unfinishable, I start stringing together some Our Fathers or Hail Marys.  The repetitive prayers help break the I-can't-do-this thought pattern and bring me a sense of peace.

Though I wish I was out on the roads running, I know that my body can't handle it right now.  I'm comforted knowing that I'm still putting my mother runner skills to use - just off the road.  I'll get back to running, but in the meantime I'll keep honing my survival skills.

Just like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pregnancy and Goal-Setting

I may have an explanation for the totally unexpected bladder issues in my recent 5k: it turns out I'm harboring a stowaway.  Baby 3.0 for our family is due in late May!  I'm excited but also a bit apprehensive due to our recent miscarriage.  I'm trying to set aside the negative thoughts and focus on the positive, though of course, that is easier said than done.

With my previous two pregnancies, I was not a runner at all.  I didn't discover running until my second child was 18 months old, so this whole running-while-pregnant thing is uncharted territory for me.  I have been looking forward to running while pregnant - something about a runner with a baby belly is infinitely badass and admirable.  Thus far, however, I've not been a pregnant runner at all due to pregnancy fatigue.  Coupled with early morning darkness, my brain just laughs at my alarm at 5:00am, then quickly goes back to sleep.

This is exactly how I expect to look as a pregnant runner: dazzling smile, perfect hair, and impeccable form.  A girl can dream, right?

I hope to combat this by sneaking in naptime runs on the treadmill and weekend runs when I can go later in the morning.  My goal while pregnant is just to maintain some level of cardiovascular fitness and a bit of strength in my legs.  I'm not looking to run far or fast.  Ideally, I'll run 2 or 3 days per week but probably only 2-3 miles at a time.

I expect my next finish line to be the delivery room.  If a great 5k opportunity comes up, I may consider it, but I don't plan to run any distance races until next fall.  I would, however, love to set a half marathon goal for next fall.  It would be a great way to motivate myself to get back into shape once the baby arrives, and training will give me some much-needed personal space.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Race Recap: 9/15/12

This past weekend, I ran a local 5k, a race I also did last fall.  Three days after the race, I'm still feeling very conflicted about my race and my reaction to it.

In truth, I've not been in training mode of late.  I've been running without my GPS and from my heart more than from my head.  After the stress of this summer, running has taken on an adjusted role in my life.  I'm not running against the clock or with a specific plan; I'm running for me and for my mental health.

Bearing this in mind, I should not have even considered trying to break last year's time.  But I did.  I know that I'm a stronger, faster, and better runner now than I was 12 months ago, and I wanted my race time as hard-and-fast evidence of it.  Alas, I finished the race 2 seconds slower than last year, proving that I am nothing if not consistent.

I should be elated!  Without really training, I ran the course as well as last year when I did, in fact, train steadily for it.  I finished in the top 40% overall, top 25% of women, and the top 32% of my age group.  I laced up my shoes and traveled from the starting line to the finish line, which is certainly an accomplishment in and of itself.  And seriously, Kate, 2 seconds?  Definitely not worth hemming and hawing about.

But I keep beating myself up over it because I could have run better.  I took a walk break right near the end.  I didn't want to stop, but my brain seemed to have no control over my legs - or my bladder, for that matter.  Holy urinary incontinence, batman!  I've never battled with my bladder so much on a run.  I don't feel like I drank an excessive amount before the race, but something was surely different.

Bladder aside, I know I should hold my head up and be proud of what I accomplished.  I crossed the finish line to the cheering of my sweet kids, and then I got to cross it a second time with my son when he finished the 1-mile kids race.

I need to look at it through my children's eyes.  The whole time I ran with Mr. D, he kept shouting that we were going to win and that "the finish line is so close!  We can do it, Mommy!"  The look of joy on his face when he crossed the line was priceless.  And J-Bug, who proclaimed that her 2.5-year-old legs were not long enough to run that far, ran as much as she could and said she was "doing it just like Mommy!"

They were proud of me, and I should be, too.
Finishing out the fun run with Mr. D, age 4.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Running-Related Personal Questions

I have not yet posted about my profound admiration for the ladies of Another Mother Runner, but I promise, that post is still to come.  Yesterday, however, Sarah invited us to answer 10 questions about ourselves, and as a rule follower, I feel the need to oblige.  You can read Sarah's answers on the AMR blog; Dimity's are to air later this week.  As for me:

1.  Best run ever:  A scenic 6-mile run last April near my parents' wooded cabin.  The weather was gorgeous; the newly green trees beautiful; the views around the lakes breathtaking.  Before this particular day, I had not run much at their cabin, so the sights and sounds were all new to me.  At one point, I came out of a wooded passage, and as I rounded the curve, the view of the sun rising over the lake was nothing short of spectacular.  In fact, I was so inspired by the beauty of the scenery that I hardly noticed the killer hills, though my quads definitely felt their effects the next day.

2.  Three words that describe my running:  Always moving forward.

3.  My go-to running outfit is:  Fairly basic: a pair of Champion running shorts from Target, a wicking shirt, and a headband to keep my hair out of my eyes.  If I'm running in daylight (unusual on these dark fall mornings), I'll wear a hat, too.

4.  Quirky habit while running:  I always end my run at a house near the end of my block with a giant flagpole.  I have no idea why this became a ritual, but now the flagpole always signifies my finish line.

5.  Morning, midday, evening:  Morning is always my first choice.  I love the quiet stillness of the world when most of its occupants are sleeping.  But sometimes life gets in the way, and I sneak in midday treadmill runs while my kids nap or an evening run after my husband gets home from work.  But morning is always best.

6.  I won't run outside when it's: icy.  I'm cool with rain, snow, heat, and humidity, but I refuse to deal with ice, especially since I have a treadmill for those too-icy-to-hit-the-road days.

7.  Worst injury - and how I got over it:  I've only been running for a little over a year, so to date, I've not had to deal much with injury [have I just jinxed myself by saying that aloud?].  When I increased my mileage last spring, however, I found that my calves were extremely tight all the time.  I added in additional post-run stretches - and forced myself to do them after each run - and my muscle pain quickly dissipated.

8.  I felt most like a badass mother runner when:  I completed my first 10-mile run.  I wanted to log a double-digit run before my one year running anniversary, and I did it two weeks ahead of the deadline. One year previously, I could barely run 60 second intervals.  That lovely June day, I rocked 10 miles and felt like a BAMR.

9.  Next race is:  This Saturday (9/15) - a local 5k in the neighborhood in which I grew up.  A hilly course, but I love running those familiar roads.

10.  Potential running goal for 2013:  I hope to toe the line for a half marathon, most likely in the fall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Morning in the Life

5:07AM = go time
A snapshot of my morning, just another day in the life of this mother runner:

5:07am - Alarm chirps, and I'm able to silence it before its second beep because I'm already awake.
5:13am - Awake, but still not out of bed.  A mental fight with myself to put that first foot on the floor.
5:31am - Dressed and ready to head out the door for a dark but beautiful morning run.
6:07am - In the shower after 3 peaceful and refreshing miles and minimal post-run stretching.
6:23am - Dress, apply mascara, and pack my bag for work.
6:29am - Assemble dinner in the crockpot: chicken parmesan.
6:49am - Morning snuggle time with my wonderfully silly children.
6:55am - Breakfast for the kids while I make coffee (nectar of the gods!) and unload the dishwasher.
7:23am - Dress the kids, brush hair and teeth, find shoes that meet my fashionista 2-year-old's high standards.
7:43am - Kids head off to school while I run to grab the train to work.
8:23am - Realize I never refueled after my run.  Inhale my refrigerator oatmeal while checking e-mail and voicemail at my desk.
8:31am - Refueled and sipping coffee, I'm prepared to face the day ahead.

Busy as it was, this sort of morning fuels my fire.  A morning run makes me infinitely more productive during the day, and counterintuitively, it gives me more energy than if I had spent that extra 40 minutes in bed.  Had I not gotten up for my run, I never would have gotten dinner in the crockpot before work, and I would have faced my usual what-in-the-world-can-we-eat-tonight dilemma at 5:00.

The hardest step of this whole day was putting that first foot on the floor at 5:13am.  After that hurdle was cleared, it was all easy :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Best Time to Blog

When I'm out for a run, I compose the most eloquent and insightful blog posts.  They are witty and entertaining, not to mention poignant and thought-provoking.  Then somehow, when the run is complete, my brain draws a sudden blank.  Not only do I forget my clever phrases, but I can't even recall the basic subject matter on which they were based.

I blame Mommy brain.  After a run, I'm quickly thrown into the three ring circus that is my life, so all leisurely moments for independent thought evaporate faster than the sweat in my sports bra.  (Much faster in fact.  Probably time to invest in sports bras that weren't made in the 1990s...)

I love snarky ecards ;)

So I do my best to put some inspiring words in print here, but know that my best work probably stays in the recesses of my brain only to be released while out on the road.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Looming Large

I'm planning to run a local 5k in about 10 days, a race during which I made my 5k debut last year.  Which in fact, is still the only race I've actually run.  But that's an entirely separate post.

This race traces through the neighborhood in which I grew up, and I love running along those streets that I've tread since I was very small.  There's one part of the course, however, that is a treacherous and seemingly endless hill.  It starts right around mile 2, and for me, that is always the hardest part of a 5k.  I've run far enough to feel fatigued but the end is still nowhere in sight.  Add that mental low to a serious hill and it makes for a tough race.

The hills are all in my head.  I know my legs are strong; it's my brain that needs to catch up.

I haven't run this part of the course in months, so I revisited it last week, and as I remembered, it felt very difficult.  The trouble is that the hill seems to go on forever.  You can't see the entire hill from the bottom as a curve obstructs the view.  When I reach the point that initially looked like the top, I follow the curve and realize I've only finished half of the hill.  Even though I've run this hill many times, it still looms large in my head.

This weekend, I knew I had to nip my worries about this hill in the bud.  We visited my parents' cabin, which is set in a heavily wooded and highly hilly area.  The hills near their cabin put all inclines near my house to shame, so as I ran up and down them on Saturday, my legs learned the true meaning of the word hill.  I conquered some big ones this weekend - longer, steeper, and scarier than the one in the upcoming 5k - and it felt great.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fall is in the Air

Though the temperatures remain sky-high, other signs indicate that we are much closer to fall than to summer.  I now see many school buses during my morning runs, as well as students standing around waiting for them.  I was surprised to see a flock of students waiting for the bus at 5:55am!  I knew some schools started early, but I could not imagine having my kids ready and waiting for the bus before 6:00am.

A sure sign that fall is now upon us.

The biggest sign of fall for me, however, is the darkness of the sky when I head out for my run.  I like the peacefulness of the dark morning, but I'm really not a big fan of running in the dark.  Although I run familiar routes along which I've memorized every crack in the sidewalk, I still fear that I'll miss a crack one day and injure myself.  I contemplate running in the streets instead, but somehow I don't feel I'm ready for that step.  I feel like I need to be a more hardcore runner in order to pull off street running.  Silly yet true.

On the darkest of dark mornings, I'm sure I'll resort to my treadmill, but I'm not quite ready to give up on my road (er, sidewalk) runs yet.  I love the fresh smell of the morning air and the stillness of the world when most of its residents are sleeping.  Fall is one of my favorite seasons for running, and I'm ready to embrace it in all of its darkening glory.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two Runs to Remember

I've drafted many posts over the past week but have yet to publish anything.  I'm feeling out of my groove, in both running and regular life, and though drafting posts about it has been useful, I've been too chicken to actually publish the raw, inner workings of my brain.  So today I try, yet again, to write something I'm willing to publish.

A terrible morning run on Saturday spiraled into a terrible mood for the remainder of the day.  I couldn't find my rhythm throughout the run.  It was hot and humid.  The path I was running was crowded.  My shoes weren't laced properly.  My phone rang multiple times.  I stopped to walk more times than I care to remember.  I was only trying to pound out 3-ish miles, but every step was torture, and I felt absolutely defeated by the time I returned to my front door.

There are good days and bad days in all of life.  Why should running be any different?  But it seems particularly frustrating to have a bad run since my run is my "me" time, my chance to regroup so that I can conquer the rest of the day's tasks.  When the run is sour, I come home crabby, frustrated with my body and my brain, and unfortunately, my family gets caught in the crossfire.

Fast forward (past the crabbing and the apologies) to Monday: I returned to the road and was rewarded with a beautiful run.  It was insanely humid (my palms were slick the entire run just from the moisture in the air!), but oddly, that did not faze me at all.  I quickly found my rhythm and ended up running further than I had planned simply because I was having fun.  My brain was quiet, my body in sync, and all felt right with the world.

The difference between the two runs was incredible.  While nothing felt right on Saturday, the world was my oyster on Monday.  It serves as a good reminder that not every run will be great, but I can appreciate the good runs because I survived the bad ones.  Yet another way that running is a perfect metaphor for life...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why I Run: For Friendships

Yet another reason why I run: running gives me a connection to people with whom I'd otherwise have nothing in common.  Running is a unique activity, and those who run are bonded in an indirect but powerful way.

A perfect example in my life is my next door neighbor.  In the six years that we've lived within four feet of each other, we've had only the most trite of conversations, usually about the weather or the Cardinals.  Since I've begun running, however, we've had countless discussions about running and and related topics.  We are both morning runners, too, so I often see him out on the road mid-run.  He's training for a fall marathon whose course winds through our neighborhood and has tried to convince me to join the half-marathon, but I don't think this is the right time for me to take on such a significant distance.

Through Facebook, I've become good friends with many former classmates through running.  We may have talked a bit when we were in school together, but we've become much better friends as adults because we are all runners.  We are bonded through sweat, hard work, and determination in a way that non-runners don't quite understand.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Naked Run

A racy title, but it feels like an apt description of the runs I've taken lately.  Since I've chosen to run without my RunKeeper app, I feel quite naked during my runs.  Without that voice (I call her Rita, the name we give all computerized voices in our lives) telling me my total mileage, elapsed time, and average pace, I feel totally exposed.

Cutting the technology cord feels both liberating and terrifying.

I'm going naked these days because I'm refocusing my running.  Since I started running, I've been striving to improve my pace and increase my distance.  Right now, however, I'm more interested in achieving and maintaining a pregnancy.  Though I've never said it aloud, I wonder if my high-mileage month of June in part lead to July's miscarriage.  I've never had very high body fat, and I wonder if the intensity of that month's running tipped the scales just enough to make my body unable to carry the pregnancy.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I can't get the thought out of my head, so I've cut back my mileage and altered my running goals.  No races on the horizon.  No milestone mileage or pace.  I'm running to clear my head and build a strong body that can hopefully carry another baby someday soon.

While I know this is the right choice for me for now, it is a difficult one for my severely Type A brain to accept.  I crave data and love seeing measurable progress and achievements.  I also feel more accountable when I have the app charting my workouts.  I love to see the mileage add up and the pace go down.  Running naked is a tremendous personal challenge, but one that I want to follow for the greater good of my family.

As I've said before, I want to run for life, but I have only a relatively small window of opportunity for expanding our family.  If family goals mean that I cannot run a fall half marathon, then so be it.  There will be other races.  I have plenty of time to set and achieve my running goals.  At this moment, the non-running goals take priority, and I'm okay with that.

So long for now, Rita.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Social Run

Though I've occasionally run with my husband, I am almost exclusively a solo runner.  I mostly run solo out of necessity: I have few real-life running friends and my usual early morning runs don't appeal to a broad audience.  This week, however, my runner cousin is visiting from DC, and a run seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to reconnect.

She's training for a late-fall marathon, and I'm just easing back into running after my hellish month of July, but we were surprisingly able to settle into a comfortable pace for a 3 mile run last night.  We chatted the entire way, covering topics from alternative transportation options in DC to preschool temper tantrums.  We also had those conversations that only appeal to runners, like emergency bathroom stops and our favorite places to run in our hometowns.  We are separated in age by 5 years, which as kids was a sizable gap, but it was wonderful to connect as adults and runners, bonding over shared sweat and a few killer hills.

I've been slowly climbing out of the funk brought on by my frustrating summer.  I've had some reasonably good runs this month but none that brought me anywhere near the euphoria of past runs.  Last night, however, I felt great physically and mentally.  It turns out that a companion was just what I needed to find my runner's high again.

I didn't know the truth of this until this week.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Digging Deep

Earlier this week, I had a non-running moment during which I called upon all the mental (and much of the physical) strength I've developed as a runner.  With an insufficient number of carseats, I found myself needing to make an urgent 4 mile round trip with four kids in tow.  I loaded up a stroller with the three older kids and strapped the baby into a carrier on my chest.

As we set off on the 90 degree day, I knew my task was going to be incredibly difficult.  I was pushing 100 pounds of kid plus 30 pounds of stroller while wearing a 15 pound baby on my chest.  I tried to find the least hilly route I could, but the walk to our destination was brutal and slow-moving.  My legs worked as hard as they have on hill workouts, and my arms were screaming from the effort of pushing the heavily-laden stroller.

Difficult as the first walk was, the walk home was even worse.  One mile from our house, a tire blew out on the stroller, rendering the stroller useless and forcing the three older kids to walk the rest of the way.  Tired little legs plus excessive heat equals a crabby one mile parade.

Admittedly, our walk was shorter and less hilly, but in my head, it looked and felt exactly like this.

Throughout the ordeal, I called on all my runner's mental strength.  I parceled out the trip into small, achievable intervals so that I could accomplish what I needed to.  I tried to stay optimistic, counting off the miles covered rather than the miles remaining.  Most of all, I put my head down and soldiered on.

The trip was stressful, grueling, and far from pleasant, but I was able to do it because I am a runner.  I know how to find that hidden inner strength to persevere and keep fighting when the road seems impossible.  Without those skills, I never could have overcome all the obstacles that faced us that day.  Thank you, running, for making me a stronger person - both on a run and in my daily life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Running Haiku

A little haiku I composed today while riding the train to work:

sweet muscle fatigue
reminder of a strong run
brings me inner peace

Today's tired legs mean I will be strong for tomorrow's run.

Strange as it sounds, the achiness in my legs after a run is a pleasant reminder of the time I took to make myself stronger.  I embrace the pain (within reason) as part of my road to inner and outer strength, and it serves as a tangible reminder of what I've done for ME lately.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Find your Greatness

A great Nike ad aired during this week's London Olympics.  It features a young boy running along a wide open highway.  His physique does not fit the traditional runners' mold, which makes his act of putting one foot in front of the other all the more inspiring.

A still from the Nike ad.  An inspiring boy finding his greatness one step at a time.

We all start somewhere, and a person's journey as a runner begins with just a single step.  I like this reminder that we don't have to be elite athletes to feel the euphoria and joy that comes from meeting a physical challenge.  Additionally, our inability to be elite athletes does not excuse us from making ourselves physically strong.  We can all achieve physical milestones and push our bodies to be great.  My barometer for greatness is surely much different than an Olympian's, but that does not make my challenge any less meaningful or significant.

We set our own goals, find our own greatness.  Thanks for the inspiration, Nike!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Run: To Set (and achieve!) Goals

I run to give my life structure and clearly-defined goals.  After the rigidity and predictability of academic life and the obvious goals that go along with growing up, I was shocked to find myself floundering in the adult world with few goals in sight.  I'd finished my master's degree, gotten married, bought a house, found a job in my field, and started a family.  As far as adult goals are concerned, I didn't know what else I might hope to achieve.  And I was surprised to find that without goals, I felt aimless and ungrounded.

Enter running.  Running has become a perfect way for me to set goals, both large and small, and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes along with meeting them.  My goals have included finishing the Couch to 5k program, running my first 5k, gradually extending the distance of my long run, running a 10k, consistently running 4 days per week, adding in a day of cross-training, and most recently, completing a 10-mile run.  I love the built-in goal setting that comes with running and the tremendous feeling of pride as I accomplish new milestones.

Setting goals and hitting the mark.  It's what we mother runners do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I ran for the first time today since July 3rd, and though it wasn't effortless and it certainly wasn't pretty, I am happy to be back.  We spent the last 10 days in sunny Florida where I did some pool running, but mentally and physically, I needed a complete break from road running.

During today's run, which had to be on the treadmill, my legs felt strained from underuse over the past several weeks, and I had to use every ounce of willpower to complete the miles I had planned.  (Full disclosure: a promise of post-run Cheetos and Diet Coke may also have helped motivate me to finish.)

While I appreciate my treadmill and all that it does for me, the hamster wheel concept rings true.

I think I will take a break from my running log for a bit.  I need to reconnect with my love of running and not feel encumbered by counting my weekly miles and studying my average heart rate.  As a self-declared nerd, I love analyzing those statistics, but for the moment, I think I need to run with my heart rather than my brain.  I'm looking forward to running my local outdoor routes this weekend.  How I have missed those roads!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Good news / Bad news

The good news:  I'll be able to run again in about a week.
The bad news:  I have to finish miscarrying this pregnancy in order to get back on the road.

Though I was only 6 weeks along when my body miscarried, I have felt deep and serious grief over the loss of this baby.  I can only imagine how much more heartbreaking a miscarriage is for those further along in their pregnancies.

From the outset, I did not think this would be a viable pregnancy.  My heart knew that I was never meant to hold this baby in my arms, and though I thought I had prepared myself for this outcome, I can't shake the incredible sense of sadness and loss over the tiny life that will never be.  The sweet face I will never see.  The happy laugh I will never hear.  The soft baby skin I will never feel.  The fresh newborn scent I will never smell.  The tiny toes I will never kiss.

You weren't meant for this world, sweet baby, but you will always be in my heart.

But I know that I will (eventually) survive this heartache and come through it a stronger person.  I find myself hugging my children closer these days and enjoying even the most banal of interactions with them.  Life is a gift not a guarantee, and I must remember to treasure the moments I am given.

When I'm ready, I'm looking forward to a refreshing, cathartic run.  I imagine it will be a tear-filled endeavor, as I let my guard down and come face-to-face with my feelings on the miscarriage.  But I can't wait to go out on the road, mourning the loss but also celebrating the life that surrounds me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dealing with Frustration

For medical reasons, I'm currently a sidelined runner.  I haven't run in a week, and I'm not sure if it will be days, weeks, or months until I can run again.  I'm trying to exercise patience with the situation, though that is easier said than done.

Our city's heat wave finally broke today (with a high only in the low 90s), which really had me itching for a run.  As I took care of a few errands this evening, it looked to me like the entire city was out running while I sat idly by.  I passed my usual routes and felt a pang of envy for those out running on my favorite stretches of sidewalk.

However, I'm trying to keep this hiatus in perspective.  I don't necessarily have to run today; I want to be a lifelong runner.  If not running right now means that I can continue to run for years to come, then my current break from running is well worthwhile.  I'm allowing myself this virtual pity party, but I need to accept this as a bump in the road and move on with life.  There will be more runs for me in the future when my body is ready to accept them.  In the meantime, I need to focus on all of the good things in my life and know that my return to running will be so much sweeter because of this break.  Absence makes the (already fond) heart grow fonder.

A good reminder for me as I wait out this period of unknown.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why I Run: To Set an Example

I run to set an example for my kids.  I want them to see running as not only an activity that improves my health, but as one of the ways I take care of myself.  I brush my teeth, I visit my OB annually, I run; in all of these ways, I take care of me.

My kids watch me as I spend most of my day taking care of others: fixing meals, patching up skinned knees, settling arguments, folding laundry.  But when I put on my running shoes, they know that I'm heading out for some personal time.  When I come back, I'm hot and sweaty, but I'm also relaxed and refreshed.

I want my kids to know that taking care of themselves is just as important as taking care of others.  Not in a narcissistic way, but if we do not care for ourselves, what could we possibly offer to anyone else?  A broken foundation can do little to support its surrounding structure.  Since I feel like the foundation for my family, I know that I need to care for myself, and I want my kids to learn this lesson, too.

Running is the mortar that helps hold the bricks of my foundation in place.

Though they are only 2- and 4-years-old, I think running is starting to infiltrate their lives.  They point out passing runners when we are in the car, and they hold races in our backyard all the time.  They joined me as we cheered for my husband at his first 5k earlier this summer, cheering not only for their dad but also for all the other runners who passed our corner.

Even if running does not become their lifelong habit, I hope they find something to do that is just for them.  Perhaps it will be music, woodworking, poetry, or cycling.  I don't care what it is.  I just hope that they find it and cherish it as much as I do running.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Slogging through the Humidity

As we're entering our sixth consecutive day of 100+ degree temperatures, an outdoor run at any time of day seems like an arduous task.  I've done a number of treadmill runs during this hot streak, but this morning, I set off early for an outdoor run.  Though the temperature was wonderful (low 70s), the humidity and air quality were abysmal.  My lungs felt like they could never quite fill up, and the air felt thick and heavy.

Today's run felt as humid as this, though of course my landlocked city does not include a gorgeous beach view.  All the humidity; none of the views.

I told myself that my pace didn't matter; I just had to go out and do something for 30 minutes.  It's difficult for my Type A brain to accept such an assignment, but I did make a concerted effort to take it easy.  And if my heart rate monitor's data is trustworthy, I did relax my effort a bit.  Both my maximum and my average heart rates were slightly lower than they were on my recent treadmill runs.

I'm hoping for a break in the heat to clear out the humidity and refresh the air supply.  Though in July in St. Louis, this hope is probably more of a pipe dream...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Faith-Filled Running

One thing that has surprised me most about running is that I use it as a chance to pray.  As I perform the repetitive act of running, my mind is free of the usual clutter, and I can really focus on prayer.  Especially on a long run, where I have many, many miles to spend in solitude, prayer keeps my feet moving forward.

Occasionally I launch into detailed conversations with God, but most times, I just repeat a single prayer over and over as a sort of mantra.  I pray for strength to conquer the battles in my own life, and I pray for the broader social troubles in our world.  Sometimes I don't formalize it as prayer, but when I run, I always feel gratitude for the clean air, the physical and mental strength that allows me to run, and the peacefulness of the world in the early morning.

Those who hope in the Lord. . . will run and not grow weary.

I think running strengthens my soul as much as it strengthens my body. To me, running is a physical manifestation of our spiritual trials.  While running, I force my body to plod onward climbing one more hill, finishing one more mile.  Likewise, in my spiritual life, I carry on through trials and tribulations knowing that I just have to keep going; I have to sweat through the spiritual miles, trusting in God that He will see me through.  The practice of sweating through the physical miles builds spiritual as well as physical stamina and keeps me mentally capable of enduring the spiritual miles, too.

The spiritual component of running has been significant for me almost from the start.  Yet, this is probably the first time I've shared this part of my running with anyone.  When people ask what I think about during a long run, I never say that I spend much of it praying.  Instead, I say that I enjoy quiet time to think and solve the world's problems.  Why am I afraid to talk about my spiritual connection in running?  Perhaps because most people think running 10 miles is crazy enough; if I told them that I spent those miles talking to God, they'd probably send me to a loony bin.

But I don't think it's crazy.  And I think the spiritual aspect is one of the main reasons I've been so religious (pardon the pun) about sticking to my running schedule.  Running makes me stronger: mind, body, and soul.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why I Run: To Recenter Myself

I run to recenter and focus myself. With temperatures at 106 degrees for the second day in a row, the little people in my house (and the taller ones, too) are a bit cranky. We've played outside in the mornings, but they are feeling cooped up in the house, and it seems we all have short fuses lately. After a particularly rocky morning, I knew I needed to do something to regroup during naptime. Sitting on the couch with a pint of ice cream sounded appealing, but I knew that would leave me feeling frustrated with myself. A run, on the other hand, could help me regain balance and feel focused.

It's summer in St. Louis: hot, humid, and just getting warmed up.

After singing the requisite naptime songs, I sought the solace of my basement treadmill. I always prefer running outside to running on the treadmill, but on blisteringly hot days like today (or blustery days in the winter), I'm grateful that I have an indoor option. I set low expectations for today's run. I just wanted to run for 30 minutes to get my heart rate up and burn off the frustration of dealing with overheated and overtired toddlers. I surprised myself by setting a PR for the treadmill course I selected, and according to my heart rate monitor, I logged a higher maximum and average heart rate than I've measured on my outdoor runs lately.

Now, after a shower and some stretches, I'm feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to face the rest of my day. And the icing on the cake? There's still 40 minutes left of naptime ;)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Route Phobia

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem: I am afraid to try a run outside my neighborhood.  Heck, the only 5k I've ever run was practically in my backyard.  It's not the newness that scares me necessarily.  I love running in my neighborhood and the adjoining ones, and I always experiment with new routes within their boundaries.  But the thought of running outside their limits paralyzes me.

I run this stretch of road almost every time I lace up.

I can't explain it.  I've lived in this area for most of my life (save the 6 years I spent in college and graduate school), so I'm very familiar with a wide area outside my neighborhood.  I drive these roads all the time without batting an eyelash, and I see runners on them regularly.  But when it's time for me to run, I'm a homebody.  I've trapped myself within the limits of Princeton Heights, Southampton, and St. Louis Hills and can't bring myself to run outside their bounds.

I ran my first 10-miler a few weeks ago.  Because of my new route phobia, I ran every possible neighborhood loop to cover the distance.  It seems rather absurd to say that I ran 10 miles but was never more than 2 miles from my house.  But that's a fact.

I think the beauty of a long run is the chance to see more of the world, to cover more ground, and to run in new places.  But I'm stuck within my perceived boundaries and seemingly unable to break out.  I don't have a solution or even a strategy, but I'll keep working on it.  In the meantime, I'll continue to wear a path on my familiar, comfortable roads - and I'm okay with that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fitting it all in

An unexpected and urgent house project has completely derailed my running routine.  For the past two weeks, my (barely existent) kid-free time has been spent sanding, painting, staining, and tiling our bathroom.  After staying up past my usual bedtime to work on this project, my alarm sounds angry at 5:00am, and I usually snooze it without a second thought.

Hanging out with these guys rather than running is eroding my sanity.

I'm frustrated that I've not been running as much, but I've been pleased with my ability to sneak in mini workouts throughout my day: planks and wall sits while waiting for a coat of stain to set, yoga during a painting break, sprinting up and down two flights of stairs to retrieve missing tools.  None of these are as satisfying or fulfilling as my early morning miles, but I'm trying to be satisfied with what I have.

And if all goes well, this project should be finished by the end of the week.  Then my running (and our bathroom routines) can return to normal.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lake Running

I've read about pool running but have never had occasion to give it a try.  While spending the weekend at my parents' lake house, however, my mom and I tried running in the lake.  And boy was it a great workout!!

Sandy beaches and peaceful water at the lakes of Innsbrook.

We ran laps in waist-deep water.  Between the wind, the wake we created, and the sandy bottom that kept sucking our shoes, it was an intense 30 minutes.  I definitely got my heart rate elevated very quickly; it felt like a good hill workout.  After running our laps, we tread water for still more cardio work.  My mom is far superior at treading and did an interval of hands-free treading.  I, on the other hand, had to use my hands in order to stay above water.

All in all, it was a great workout and a nice deviation from my regular routine.  I hope to do more lake running throughout the summer!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Daylight Savings Time to the Rescue!

I owe daylight savings time a beer.  And profuse apologies for all the times that I complained about how springing forward and falling back decimate my children's sleep schedule.  DST just saved my day.

Countless hours of excessive whining and insufficient napping left me at the end of my rope.  I tried to keep my cool all day, but I was boiling just beneath the surface, and I knew I needed a release.  I tucked the kids into bed at 7:45 then snuck out for a much-needed, sanity-saving run.  I'm not normally an evening runner because I don't like to run in the dark (and I'm usually dog tired by the time the kids head to bed).  Thanks to DST, however, I was able to enjoy a sunny evening run tonight.

I returned to my house feeling in control of my emotions, refreshed, and pleasantly exhausted.  I even peeked in on my sleeping kids to remind myself that even through our days are not perfect, I am truly blessed.  A run and sleeping angel faces helped give me renewed perspective and peace.  I owe you one, DST!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Runiversary!

One year ago today, I began my journey as a runner.  It has not always been smooth or pretty, but I am so glad that I've welcomed running into my life.  I am a more balanced person now that I have running as an outlet.  On my morning runs, I can work off pent-up frustration and stress, and that tired, slightly achy feeling in my legs post-run remind me that I took time for myself that day, which is most certainly a good thing.

An anniversary calls for a celebration, right?  And if you ask my kids, no celebration is complete without balloons.

As a wife and mother, I find it very easy to lose myself while tending to everyone else's needs.  Running has helped me find a piece of the world that is just for me.  In those early morning miles, my mind is free to think about anything I wish, as I work to build my muscles, my endurance, my strength.  The sweet smell of pre-dawn air brings a smile to my face and reminds me that life is good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cross Training

Recently, I've come to realize the power of cross training.  I run four days per week, and at this time, I believe that is the most running my body can handle.  I am extremely cautious and careful to avoid injury since I need my body for so much more than running.

To keep me moving on non-running days, however, I've started doing Pilates, and I'm amazed at how much it has impacted my running.  Pilates has strengthened my core, which I can feel every time I run.  With a stronger core, my posture is improved, and better posture leads to more efficient breathing and speed.  I try to do Pilates 1-2 times per week to increase my strength and to provide a workout source on my non-running days.

I'm not quite here with my Pilates core work yet, but someday...

It has taken me some time to admit that Pilates is actually a workout.  Coming from running only, Pilates (at least the DVD I own) did not feel intense enough to count.  I'm not very sweaty at the end, and my heart rate barely leaves my resting zone.  I've had to teach my brain that workouts can take different forms.  My Pilates is obviously not a cardio workout, but it undoubtedly serves to strengthen my core and increase my flexibility.  Which helps me to be a better runner.  Which makes me a happy camper.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why I Run: For Me

There are so many reasons to run that I could fill a book with them.  Instead of compiling my reasons into an omnibus post, I thought I'd post a series of "why I run" posts.  Today is the first entry in the series.

I run for me.  In my life, 98% of my energy is spent catering to other people's needs: my children, my husband, my family and friends, my co-workers, etc.  When I run, however, my focus is solely on me.  I decide how far I will go and how fast.  I pick the route, the water breaks, and the music.  I sometimes feel like my days click by without much input from me, but my runs remain an area of my life over which I can exert some modicum of control.

And when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Running Trifecta

This morning's run took place early in the morning before the rest of my household was awake.  It felt like a run where all the stars aligned: the temperature was wonderful - low 60s with little humidity, the sun was rising as I set off, and my legs felt great the whole time.  Breathing in the fresh morning air and cruising (almost) effortlessly through my miles definitely started my day on the right foot.  Life is good.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Post-run Stretching

Thus far into my running career, I've been remarkably lucky on the injury front.  I've had my share of tight muscles and intermittent discomfort, but I've not faced any ailments that have caused me to miss multiple runs.  I attribute much of my good luck to my post-run stretching routine.  Though I sometimes slack off, I try to do a series of stretches after each run, and when I'm really dedicated, I do them on non-running days, too.

It is sometimes tricky to fit in stretching, especially after a long run.  Mommy guilt rares its ugly head when I've been gone for a lengthy run, and I feel like I shouldn't spend the extra minutes stretching.  But my body is always grateful when I do.  To lessen the mommy guilt, I often stretch in my living room with my kids.  They sometimes join me in doing their own "stretches", which always brings a smile to my face.

Neither my running nor my yoga form are this good, but a girl can dream, right?!

I found a couple great stretching resources that I use in my regular routine.  This Runner's World article outlines several yoga poses that are beneficial to runners.  My favorite poses are the Triangle and the Pigeon Forward Fold because they stretch out my hips so nicely.  I've not done much yoga in my life, but I feel like these stretches are easy to do and hit all the major running muscles.  Finally, this psoas stretch is incredible.  It really stretches the quads and hip - it hurts so good!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Evening Out

Last night, my husband and I enjoyed an all-too-rare evening out without the kids.  We headed to a nice restaurant on the Hill, a famed Italian neighborhood nearby, and I pulled some dressy clothing from the recesses of my closet for the event: cute little black dress, strappy sandals, coordinating jewelry.  Yet while we were driving to our destination, we passed a woman running, and I would have traded her outfits in a heartbeat.

Italian food done right: the Hill boasts St. Louis' best Italian restaurants and bakeries.

Of course, I had a wonderful evening and enjoyed some much-needed adult conversation, but for a brief moment, I wished we were going for a running date instead of a dinner date.  As that thought crossed my mind, I knew I was miles away from the woman I was last year.  I must really be a runner if I would consider trading penne and candlelight for running shoes and a sweaty sports bra.  Maybe we'll have to plan a running date in the future - followed by pasta carryout from our corner Italian eatery, of course.  Best of both worlds!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who is Kate?

I'm Kate, a 30-something mother runner from St. Louis, MO.  I started running last year because I needed to find something in my life that was just for me.  As a mother of two toddlers with a husband who worked long hours at a job he despised, I longed to find brief escape from the daily pressures of life.  I craved me-time and decided to create that time for myself through running.

I began the Couch to 5k training program on June 21, 2011, the longest day of the year.  Out of necessity, my workouts had to take place at 5:00am, so I began on the day that the sky would be brightest at that early hour. The first workout was incredibly hard for me.  Those 60-second intervals felt endless, but I pushed through and felt elated at the end of the workout.  Now nearly 12 months later, I ran my first 10-miler last weekend.  What a difference a year makes!

I'm proud of my running accomplishments over the past year, and I'm even happier about the balance running has provided for my life.  When my husband was unjustly fired from the aforementioned terrible job, running gave me an outlet to release stress and find a bit of peace.  The predictability of running kept me grounded during the subsequent months of unemployment and the resulting financial uncertainty.

For me, running is a metaphor for life.  There are runs when I'm sure that I cannot possibly go one more step, but I dig deep and run just to the next tree...and then the one after that and one more, and before I know it, I've covered my distance.  The same goes for life.  When I face days of seemingly endless frustrations, I know that I just need to dig in, put my head down, and soldier on.

I hope to use this blog to reflect on my running life, my life as a wife and mother, and anything else that may seem important to this mother runner.  I hope you'll join me!