Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Now? (Thoughts After My First Marathon)

It's been 48 hours since the completion of my first full marathon. I took yesterday and today off of work and aside from my joints & muscles being a little more achy and sluggish than usual, I feel pretty recovered.

Having decompressed from the race I am faced with the question, "What Now?" Do I train for another marathon, working on speed or picking an easier course for an almost certain PR? I do love speed work! Or maybe keep building on the distance base I have & train for a 50K or 50 miler? After all, long runs where I spend hours in the woods have recently become one of my favorite parts of the training week.

Nothing is set in stone quite yet. After all, I won't even start running again for another week or so but there are a few things that are certain.

Some Changes Here at Home

You may have noticed a change in focus in Chanda's posts from running to martial arts. About a year ago our oldest son started taking martial arts. After sitting in the gym watching him for about six months Chanda decided that rather than just sitting there watching she might as well start taking class with him. At the very least it would be good cross training. Turns out that she absolutely LOVES it! Rather than being good cross training martial arts has become her primary training. Together they are working hard and, at this time, they both intend to see it through to their black belts! That being said, the focus of our blog will officially be changing from strictly running-centric to more fitness-centric. I will still approach the blog from a runner's perspective and Chanda will approach the blog from a martial artist's perspective. We feel with this change we will be able to offer a more well rounded perspective and hopefully inspire more people to pursue a healthier more active lifestyle!

Additionally, in August we brought home baby number seven. You read that correctly, baby number SEVEN! She was an unexpected surprise and we are thrilled to have her! Amidst all the chaos of unexpectedly bringing home a seventh child we somehow neglected to announce the good news. So, today we'd like to officially announce the arrival of baby Hope!  

We are looking forward to all the things that are in store for us in the coming weeks, months and years! Running, martial arts, food, fitness, parenting...it's going to be a blast! We hope you will enjoy this new direction as much as we do! Remember, today is simultaneously the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be again. You will never be as young again as you are today so, until next time, train hard, eat right and live life to the fullest!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Run With Scissors Race Report

Coming into the finish!
Today I became a marathoner. As with every marathon this was a hard fought accomplishment and I am proud to have reached my goal. Thank you to everyone who supported me! Your kind words, prayers and support made a huge difference!

Within minutes of crossing the finish line I said to Chanda, "I've got to do a race report on this race!" This says a lot about the race considering I was soaking wet, covered in mud and shivering like someone on the verge of hypothermia. And though it is tempting to offer a mile by mile report, I will refrain because...well...whenever I've started reading that kind of race report I have gotten bored before mile thirteen. Instead I will highlight the best and worst aspects of the race. I hope you find my report entertaining.

Before the Race

All summer long I said to Chanda, "I just hope that it's not cold & rainy. I'll take snow but I just don't want cold rain." Unfortunately, the forecast this morning was a high of 45 and a 70% chance of rain. Ugh! The rain started about 45 minutes before the start of the race. Before I got out of my car and headed to the start line I checked the weather on my phone. Sever weather warning! Flood warning. Double Ugh! The trails were going to be a sloppy mess! "Oh well" I thought. "At this point there's nothing left to do but tough it out."

The Race

Everyone gathered inside a shelter where there where two fireplaces blazing. The warmth was a comfort in the face of what we all knew was coming. At 7:55 the race director asked everyone to step outside so the race could begin. Slowly people meandered out onto the adjacent shelter and lined up right at the edge, just out of the rain. "Come on!" he yelled. "You're gonna get wet anyway! Get out there in the rain!"

Nobody moved.

Standing on a picnic table he, watched a battery powered kitchen clock until it read 8am and then yelled, "Go!" We all stepped into the rain and started running across the field toward the woods.

For the first 18.7 miles I was having a blast! The aid stations were phenomenal! When they said "fully stocked" they were not kidding! Each station was loaded with coffee, water, Gatorade, Heed, half a dozen flavors of soda, soup, grilled cheese, PB&J, Chicken Roll-ups, Gu and more snacks than you can shake a stick at! And the volunteers running those stations were incredibly helpful and accommodating! I cannot say enough about how hard they worked to make sure every runner had the best possible experience.

At about mile 15 I came to a red skeleton with a couple books. As proof that I had come all the way to the furthest point of the course I was required to remove a page and carry it back to the finish line with me.

As I said, I was having a blast! Unfortunately, the course conditions were deteriorating by the mile. By mile 20 the vast majority of the remaining course was a muddy mess! We're talking about consistent mud ranging from ankle to knee deep. I quickly realized that pursuing a time goal was just going to leave me frustrated. My new focus became avoiding a fall or injury and just covering the distance. This meant less running (which had proven impossible in many places anyway) and more hiking.

As I began to slow my pace, the wind and the rain began to pick up. The stream crossings, of which there were many, were severely flooded. One time after trudging through knee deep mud I came to a stream crossing and thought, "No need to worry about being covered in mud! There are all these streams crossings where your feet & legs will be washed clean!"

I began to get cold and feel frustrated with my lack of progress. I've heard other runners talk about how they felt like quitting or turning back at some point. I never felt that. But I did start to become miserable. The wind and rain were taking their toll and my slower pace was not adequately keeping my body temperature up.

The last two miles were a breath of fresh air! The elevation was higher and the trails were runable once again. As I stepped out of the woods and into the same field we started the race at I could hear Chanda and a close family friend cheering for me. As I turned toward the start line they were right there, jumping up and down, yelling at the top of their lungs.

After the Race

After the race there were people there to direct me into the shelter to get some food and warm up. Inside, both fireplaces were still ablaze. A woman ran up to me to give me a "Run With Scissors" coffee mug. I was then directed to the kitchen where several gentlemen were cooking food for finishers and there where big pots of coffee and hot water for tea or hot chocolate.

The Virdict

Ultimately I had a good time at Run With Scissors! The race is run amazingly well and every runner is treated like an elite! However, "A good chance of really bad weather" is one of the selling points of this race. It is not for the faint of heart! This is a race you should come to expecting to suffer. A lot.

Will I run it next year? At this point I don't think so. I have different goals for next year that may not be conducive to running such a taxing marathon. However, if you are an experience marathoner looking for a new kind of challenge, I definitely recommend considering Run With Scissors!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Countdown to Raceday (1 Day!)


Distance running is basically a solo sport. Most runners train alone the majority of the time. In general, runners join clubs rather than teams. And on race day, a runners performance depends 100% on them. But, while we are all participants in a solo sport, runners enjoy a strong sense of community! Many of us spend a substantial amount of time connecting to, encouraging and seeking encouragement from the words of other runners. Then, on race day, during speedwork or on a long run, when the pain comes, we look to those words to give us the strength and encouragement we need to keep pushing forward.

Some runners quote the bible. Some look to song lyrics or poetry. Some use inspirational quotes from other runners or famous wise men. Today I would like to share with you some of the powerful words I will be using as mantras to help me push through the pain and hopefully have a great race!

"It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights."
           ~2 Samuel 22:33-34

"This is what you came for"  ~Scott Jurek

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"  ~Hebrews 12:1

"If you can walk you can run"  ~Scott Jurek 

These will be my mantras for tomorrow. One for each quarter of the race. They have carried me through long hard workouts. They have given me the strength, courage and inspiration to carry on when there was nothing left in the tank. Tomorrow, they will help carry me through 27 miles of wet muddy trails in the cold rain. On this last day of race preparation I am thankful for powerful words that can give you  the strength to keep pushing when you feel physically and mentally destroyed!  


Friday, October 26, 2012

Countdown to Raceday (2 Days!)


I heard it said that every runner has a support crew. Your family, regardless of how involved they are in your running, is your support crew. I believe this is a true statement. My family are the ones who have to deal with me being gone for 2, 3, or 4 hours on a Saturday so I can run in the woods. They are the ones who listen to me ramble about running. They meet me at the door when I return from a run. My wife makes sure I'm fueling right. Watches me and points out when I am over fatigued or at risk of injury. My family doesn't always get my love for the trails. But they do understand doing what you love, having goals, enjoying a sport and cheering for each other. We are a family who strives to be supportive of each others goals. I support them and they support me and for their support I am eternally grateful!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (3 Days!)


I'm sure there are people out there who think this is a silly thing to be thankful for. At one time I would have been thinking the same thing. When I first started running, I would go to WalMart, buy a pair of shoes for $20, train for 8 weeks in them, race in them, and then throw them away. I am fortunate to have good biomechanics and can get away with running thirty or so miles a week in junk shoes without really risking injury. But the truth of the matter is that the right pair of running shoes can increase your running enjoyment exponentially! 

What are the right running shoes? Well, that varies from person to person. For me it's a light weight shoe that sits low to the ground and offers little support but plenty of cushioning. For Chanda, it's a shoe that offers plenty of support to help compensate for severe overpronation. Finding the right shoes is a two part process, first you have to understand your biomechanics and what features your shoe needs in order to help prevent injury. Second you need to try on a bunch of shoes that meet those specifications until you find the pair that just feels right. If you're in the market for a new pair your local shoe store should be willing to help you determine what is right for you!

Two years ago, I ran in junk shoes and thought that I enjoyed running. Since buying my first pair of "real" shoes my level of enjoyment has grown dramatically! Shoe companies are always trying to improve their shoes. They are always looking to make a shoe that improves your experience! But people all over the world cannot afford this technology. Even here in the US there are people who cannot afford any shoes let alone the latest technology in running footwear. Today, I am blessed to be able to afford good shoes. They have helped me to train harder and run further with less risk of injury and for that I eternally grateful!

**Want to know how you can help provide shoes for people both domestically and worldwide!?! Check out Soles4Souls**

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (5 Days)


Growing up, fitness was not a priority in my family. That is not to say that my parents fed us Twinkies for breakfast and Doritos for diner. There was almost always some vegetable at diner but like many from my generation, healthy food choices and the importance of being active were things I learned as an adult. 

Things are much different now. My children have a deep sense of the importance of staying active. When presented with a new food the first question they ask (after "what does it taste like?") is "Is this healthy?" Even my parents have developed a healthier view of fitness. Instead of just chasing skinny my mom has started looking at overall health. They are eating less meat & more plant based meals. My father has taken up running & done some research on what is good fuel and what isn't. These days my family has a healthier view of fit. One that includes a strong body and an overall physical well being and for that I am eternally grateful!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (6 Days)

I stopped and snapped this on my run this morning.

When I'm out on the trails, my favorite platform for running, I am often awestruck by the majesty of the world around me! I marvel at God's creation, his imagination, the shear unbridled beauty of my surroundings. But such reverence isn't limited to the time I spend in the woods. Even running down city streets I am extra aware of the beauty that surrounds me. I marvel at architecture and large structures as I pass by. I revel in the power of the sun & find myself looking at the sky with amazement as a big storm rolls in.

I took this pic on a 21 miler a few weeks ago. AMAZING!!
I've heard people say that they feel connected with nature when they trail run and I know what they mean. I can think of no better way to see the world than running! But it's not nature I feel more connected to. It's God. When I run I take in the beauty of his creation. I see with my own eyes his infinite creativity! No two trees are quite the same. No two sunrises or sunsets, no two thunderstorms or snowflakes or animals are exactly like each other. Think of that. Imagine the creativity that must go into refusing to replicate anything identically! There is beauty and uniqueness in everything around us! Even our ability to imagine & create is a part of that! Wherever we run, whether in the woods or the mountains, downtown or in the suburbs, along a lake or an ocean pier, we are surrounded by beauty! And for that I am eternally thankful.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (7 Days)

In exactly one week I will run my first marathon. This is a moment, I am told, that is life changing. With that in mind, I feel compelled to prepare myself mentally for such a momentous occasion by reflecting on what it is exactly that I appreciate so much about this sport that I love. So, each day leading up to race day, time permitting, I will be blogging about something running related that I am thankful for. Here it goes!

Pacing my oldest daughter at the Tallmadge Labor Day 5K

This is something I think, most runners take for granted. After all, running is the most natural thing in the world! Kids everywhere run miles each day without even thinking about it. But honestly, not everyone CAN run. Some people, do to health or physical limitations find themselves unable to run. Whether these limitations are due to lifestyle choices, injury or simply an issue of genetics is irrelevant. I am not among the that group of people. I have been afforded a body that is able to run twenty plus miles. That my friends is a gift! And it is important that I remind myself that. When I am facing a long run, I don't "have to" run eighteen miles, I "GET TO" run eighteen miles! I am grateful for the ability to run and I want to appreciate every moment I spend doing it! Running, for me, is not a means to reaching an end goal, it is the goal! And for the ability to do it, I am eternally thankful!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fearlessly Ridiculous

Some of you might know that a few weeks ago I celebrated my 30th birthday.  Two days beforehand, I posted this tweet:
                This is it.  The last 48 hours of my twenties.  Some people spend this time being sad.  
                I'm gonna spend it being awesome.

And I did.  I enjoyed every second of it. I shopped, played with my kids, got my hair done, treated myself to Starbucks, went out of town with girlfriends, and wrapped it up with an awesome martial arts class.  When I woke up that Wednesday morning, I felt no different than when I fell asleep on Tuesday night. 

Of course, I would be lying if I said that I gave absolutely no thought to the passing of my third decade on this planet.  Over the last two weeks a few things have been brought to the forefront of my mind, and whether they are related or not to my being a "smidge" older, I wanted to share them.

The people I love need to hear me say it.  This one is sooooo cliche, I know.  But I just can't help it.  Today, this very day, three different people, who are not related to me, told me that they love me.  Three.  Of course I already knew cognitively that these particular people are fond of me and probably do love me, but they don't usually say it.  And it hit me. My husband, my kids, my parents, they hear me say I Love You all the time, every day.  But what about the other people I love?  They rarely hear me say those three little words. Because well... it's weird.  But weird or not, we aren't guaranteed tomorrow, if you love someone tell them. Go tell them now.  Right now.  I'll wait.....

The people I appreciate need to hear me say it. This is along the same lines and is just as cliche as the above.  Unexpressed gratitude isn't really gratitude at all.  If you appreciate someone, if you are grateful for something they've done or simply who they are, tell them!  Post it on their facebook wall, send a card, call them, text them, hire a skywriter, but make sure they know.

Life is too short to not feel beautiful.  I don't know if there has ever been a time in my life that I've felt more beautiful than I do right now.  And it has very little, if anything to do with what I look like. Life is just too short to despise the body that you live in. You were fearfully and wonderfully made... made to have, in this lifetime, one body and one mind.  Healthy is beautiful.  Strong is beautiful.  Your body was meant to move, find a way to move it that makes you happy.  Fuel your body with food that doesn't fill you with regret.  See the beauty in other people.  Seriously, look around. Chances are that you, like me, are surrounded by some gorgeous people.  Appreciate it.  And no, I don't mean lust after them (get your head out of the gutter!).  I'm not afraid to tell you that the people in my life are stunning, inside and out.  The most beautiful people I know are people who can preach and pray down heaven, people who can sing like angels, people who parent so patiently, people who run like the wind, people who make other people laugh, people who can fight like Jacob fought God.  Honestly there is nothing more beautiful than a person doing exactly what they were put on this planet to do.  Admire the people in your life.  Compliment them liberally and freely.

I will never again be as young as I am right now. Today is simultaneously the oldest I have ever been and the youngest I will ever be again.  This thought crossed my mind as I was stretching on the living room rug, attempting to work toward my center split for my martial arts class.  I looked at my husband and asked if what I was doing was completely ridiculous.  After all, I remember being 13 stretched out on my parent's living room rug attempting to get the same center split for ballet class.  Am I too old to be doing this now?  Ya know what?  Maybe I am.  Maybe it is silly.  Maybe (certainly) I do look ridiculous.  But ya know what else? I won't be any younger or less ridiculous tomorrow.  I love martial arts and consider it a gift, and so what if I found it at 29-30 instead of 9 or 10 years old.  It makes me happy.  If I decide to take up snowboarding at 40 or skydiving at 50 I hope I can be just as fearlessly ridiculous.