A different marathon

This semester in my doctoral program, I took a statistics class. It was a new challenge.

First, I settled in for what I knew would be a long journey.

I found myself reading some very boring chapters.

Things seemed pretty manageable as we were introduced to descriptive statistics.

I felt especially good after passing IRB at two universities.

However, as we moved into new territory, I was faced with a lot of work.

I realized that in statistics, interpretations and answers are rarely easy.

In fact, forget the answers. It’s tough to figure out the right questions to ask in the first place.

Then, I was enlightened on the problems with p values, and the fallacies of null hypothesis testing.

And I had to become really comfortable with confidence intervals and effect sizes, which were new concepts for me.

Finally, when I learned enough to analyze my own data, I had to teach myself non-parametric analyses, since the data were not normally distributed.

But you know what? It worked out.

I now feel confident in my ability to employ the language of statistics in my research.

Like the end of a long training season, like finishing a long race…

We cannot always predict when we will need to stretch our efforts…

But with mindfulness and dedication… two gifts earned from running practice… all is possible.

May Mileage

I’m thinking about attempting another mileage goal for the month of May. Last month, I tried to run 100 miles total for the month of March. I made it to 80. I think I might attempt 100 miles again in May.

I am starting to look at summer and fall races. It’s like strolling through a bakery with really delicious cakes, cupcakes, and cookies strewn about.

The beginning of this week was very stressful at work. I was mitigating several crises and my co-workers and colleagues were also visibly stressed. Yesterday, I got home from work and immediately put on my running clothes. I enjoyed around 4 miles of trailing running under the green canopies of the trees and plants. I felt so rejuvenated and cared for when I returned home. Running is an amazing conduit for meditation and relaxation. I continue to owe much of the sustainability in my work/life balance to this practice.

and now we return to our regularly scheduled program…

I am still deciding what I want to train for this summer… marathon or half marathon. So much depends upon how my body feels in the coming months. Pleasantly, other than a blister beneath a toenail, I did not incur any injuries from the Whidbey Island half marathon. My upcoming distance race is a half marathon in mid-June. Because rates for the Bellingham Bay marathon do not go up until after June 30th, I am going to make the decision about which event I will be running after I complete my next half.

I plan to go for a nice run down to the harbor tonight. According to the weather report, it is supposed to be warmer and sunnier later on in the day. I spent the weekend rehearsing and preparing for a chorus concert on Saturday night, so I did not get any miles in. This weekend, I am running a charity 5K on Saturday morning. On Sunday, I plan to enjoy a long run… aiming for 6 miles.

Here is my tentative long run schedule for the next half marathon:

May 3rd– 6 miles

May 10th– 7 miles

May 17th– 8 miles

May 24th– 9 miles

May 31st– 10 miles

June 7th– 12 miles

[Taper 2 weeks]

June 21st– 13.1 miles [race day]

Once thing I need to be more cognizant of is what type of surface I run on while training. I love trails so much, that I often sacrifice miles on the road in order to spend more time in the woods. I know my upcoming half will present a mix of pavement and trails, as did Whidbey.

Which do you prefer… trails or roads?

Epic Race Weekend Recap

I have a little time for pleasure writing, so I think I will recap last weekend. A few words come to mind. Sunny, celebratory, sweaty, fast, epic. Well, there you go!

Oh, you wanted to more know?

I suppose I can give a few more details.

On Saturday, I ran a local 5K for the third year in a row. It’s called Fun with the Fuzz, and it is a race through town with the police in order to benefit a charity for the families of fallen officers. It is quite the party. Many people come out for this race; it’s relatively flat and there are a ton of supporters along the route since it goes through densely populated residential areas. I was not in a great mental state to run a 5K, given that I was ending my taper week and I had a half marathon the next day. I had a hard time getting jazzed for the race in the morning, because I was focusing on what was to come. However, as I lined up at the start of the race, I got pretty excited. Several running buddies were racing throughout the crowd, and the weather was shaping up to a brilliantly sunny morning.

At the first mile marker, I looked down at my watch and realized I was running a faster mile (sub-9) than I usually do. Rather than slowing down, I decided to keep pushing. I was this fast, this far… why not make a game of it and see what kind of damage I could do? The race route flew by, and I finished with a new mile time record and fastest 5K record, according to the old Garmin. Wow, I was not expecting that! What a fun way to kick off a marathon weekend.

fwtf

I showered and packed, and then I met up with my two friends for the drive down to Whidbey Island for marathon weekend. They were registered to run Whidbey’s new 5K event, and I was getting excited to run the half marathon for which I trained all winter.

We had a really lovely day before the race on Whidbey. After a barebones expo, we had delicious Thai food (I am getting more daring with my pre-race meals), a beer (or two), and enjoyed the hot tub beneath a setting sun. As is typical before a big race, we all slept terribly. However, a hot cup of coffee was enough to catalyze my adrenaline in the morning, and we were soon off to the start of the races.

I headed to the start line feeling filled to the brim with gratitude. First, and most of all, I am so grateful for all of the people in my life who were supporting me in person and in spirit. I had my friends cheering me on to the side of the corral, friends in the pack getting ready to run the half, and family members at home thinking about me that morning. I was going out there to run for many more people than myself. Second, I am so grateful for my running practice, particularly my distance running practice. I have learned so much about my own capabilities and strength through working at this practice day after day, week after week, year after year. It is immensely emotional for me to know that my body is a trustworthy vehicle that can power me through a long run. Finally, I was so amazed by the natural beauty of my surroundings. The sun was out, the mountains were visible, the water glistening… there are races all over the world, but on Sunday, I got to run in one of the most spectacularly gorgeous places.

I decided I would run the race next to the 2:15 pacer, since my goal was to finish under my 2:22 time from September’s half marathon. After about two miles with the pacer, however, I decided to break off and run ahead. I was feeling pretty good and fast, and knowing that the last few miles of the course presented some brutal hills, I wanted to give myself a cushion. I am so glad I did this!! I did not have a negative split, but I did not have to rush when I felt the most tired later on.

Like I experienced it in 2013, the first eight or nine miles were scenic, fast, and highly enjoyable. Also like I experienced it in 2013, the last four miles were the true race. At mile 9, my 5K friends were cheering me on. I have to say that seeing them as I ran into what I knew would be the hardest part of the course meant the world to me. Miles 10 and 11 are a hazy blur of working really hard to talk myself out of hitting the wall. My legs were getting heavy, my hands and feet were tingling, and I was tired. The uphill was really hard for me. I lost some time getting sucked out of my zone and into some self-doubt. Luckily, all of my mantras from marathon training kicked in and really helped me avoid what could have been several miles of walking and frowning to the finish.

Finally, at mile 12, I hit the last downhill, coasting to the finish. It truly took ALL GUTS to run the last portion of that mile. I was pushing and pushing. I crossed the finish line shaving 9 whole minutes of my finish time from September! My Garmin beeped at me again that I had two new records: fastest 10K and fastest half marathon. I drank some chocolate milk, hugged my friends, and reveled in the accomplishment of another goal.

Upon comparing chip results, however, my time in 2013 was still 2 minutes faster, and therefore remains my half marathon PR. I didn’t have my Garmin yet at that point, so that is why I got the record that I did, according to my watch (“Cruddy fart knockers!” as my husband would say). However, I feel really proud of this race for a lot of reasons.

-I ran smarter this year than in 2013. In 2013, I was limping around the next day with agonizing IT Band pain. This year, I am barely sore at all.

-My mile time was much more consistent through the race. I did not have to walk more than one minute here or there.

-Even though I felt some pre-wall symptoms, I fueled better for this race than two years ago. I’ve matured in understanding what I need to use during a long run to sustain enough energy but not become nauseated.

Next on the agenda? Why another half, of course. I am running one in late June. And this time, I am hoping for a 2:10 time and a new record.

 finish

bosses

Surrender

After being inspired by a few close friends, I made the decision to give up artificial deodorant. I observed the other day, by mid-afternoon, as my body warms up, I smell like… an actual body. Not a perfumed apricot. Obviously, part of my motivation for removing one more source of chemicals on my largest organ was driven by health and environmental concerns (we’d all like to prevent cancer when we can). However, I am also appreciating that I am combatting a media standard that women are not sweaty or stinky when they are engaged in athletics. Oh, what is with the fiction that women end their exercise with perfectly bouncy ponytails, not a single flyaway? That they have smooth, cellulite-free skin bereft of body hair? That their bodies are hourglasses, but not too curvy; that their muscles are toned, but not too large? To be strong and active looks so different, depending on the body, the preference, and the activity. Let’s take a moment to celebrate that fit and strong women do not fit into a specific mold.

I am in the midst of enjoying my Wednesday routine. Deep water running with a friend at lunch followed by hot yoga in the evening. My yin class is helping me to grasp what it means to surrender. As I look ahead to the half marathon, I muse on the importance of both pushing through and surrendering. Endurance is critical to the accomplishment of a long distance run, but so is acceptance. When I lace up my shoes, and I start out on the first few blocks of what will shape up to being perhaps a 9 mile run or longer, I must accept and embrace what is to come. I surrender to that experience. I know that I am looking at more than an hour or two of pumping my legs and pounding the pavement or trails with my feet. I know that a podcast or music will only provide marginal entertainment. I know that parts of my anatomy will become tender or exhausted as time goes on. My spit might start to taste metallic, my sense of smell dulled by the congestion accumulating in my sinuses. My lips will dry out, and they will be salty when I run my tongue over them. The sweat will trickle between my ribs, and from my hairline into my ear canals. My fingers may chafe as my hands moisten. So much to fight, or so much to accept. This is the long run. Every long run is a surrender to the practice.

During this tapering week, I reflect on the surrender to come. I surrender to the natural appearance, smells, and sensations of my running body. I surrender to the first steps of a 13 mile journey.

Honeywagon Recap & A Good Friend

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of revisiting a race with longtime running buddy Private Robot. We did our local running club’s Honeywagon Run. The last time we ran this race was in 2013, and I ran the half marathon distance. This year, Robot and I ran the 4 mile together. It was a beautiful sunny race day! Mountain vistas, county roads, the smell of manure in the air… Even though the pack of runners was small, the residents of the town hosting the race sat on their front porches drinking coffee and waving us on. It was such a nice way to kick off the weekend. Our local running club is a dedicated organization, and we are lucky that they put on so many great events during the year. Even though each member volunteers as a condition of membership, several of the running club members put in a TON of time and energy to make these races possible. It’s awesome to run the same races in different years and take note of the growth of the events.

Back to Private Robot, I’d just like to take a moment and celebrate her. I am lucky to have such a long term relationship with a good friend AND running buddy. We continue to challenge one another to be spontaneous, ambitious, and balanced in all of the right ways.

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Private Robot and me in our favorite moment… sweaty and stinky after crossing the finish line.

12 Miles, and Brei

I did it! I got in my 12 mile run yesterday. It was a pleasant experience–sunny skies, green trails, beautiful views of the bay through many of the miles… In fact, I don’t really recall the run having a beginning middle and end. There was no wall. I just enjoyed the entire experience. I listened to one of my new favorite podcasts, Gilmore Guys (it’s ridiculous), and caught up on another episode of Serial. I realize that I run a bit slower when I listen to talking and not music, but my time (had I continued for a 13th mile) still would have produced a finish time in line with my goal, which is to best my 2:20 time from September. And now… sweet sweet tapering. I welcome the tapering. With only a few weeks remaining in the courses I am taking this semester in my doctoral program, and less than three weeks remaining until my spring chorus concert, I can really use the extra time.

My goals for the next two weeks leading up to race day are:

1. Enjoy shorter recovery runs and keep up the cross training

2. Get in the pool at least three times for water jogging or swimming

3. Go to hot yin yoga at least once

4. Hydrate well

5. Eat wholesome foods

Speaking of eating, it is the third day of Passover. Yesterday morning, before my run, I was fiercely craving some carb action… a banana and yogurt was not going to cut it. So, I decided to cook up one of the most delicious creations on earth–sweet matzo brei. It tastes like French toast. But even more amazing. Okay… maybe I am just missing anything reminiscent of bread… but I still think this brei is amazing.

Here’s the recipe!

1. Take 2 sheets of matzo and soak them in water for 30-45 seconds… until just slightly mushy.

2. Remove the matzo from the water and break into small pieces. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together two eggs, 6 tablespoons of whole milk or half & half, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

4. In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Pour the matzo pieces in the pan, coating with butter and heating for about a minute.

5. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Scramble with the matzo for about 2-3 minutes… until cooked through and golden brown.

6. EAT. ALL OF IT. WITH MAPLE SYRUP AND YOGURT AND JAM AND ANYTHING ELSE.

I can testify that matzo brei is a great simple carb supply for runners. It powered me for 12 miles!

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Acceptance.

Acceptance.

This is the word that guides my reflection today.

I accept my body and abilities for what they are, today. Not what they were, not what they will be. Today I embrace the present of how I am feeling, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head.

I have been struggling with whether or not to run another full marathon this September. The journey of training for a marathon appeals to me for many reasons—but chiefly that the entire process amounts to a rebirth. There is something about the pure tenacity, the closeness to endurance, the span of so many miles by foot that I crave. I am hungry for it.

But today, I listen to my body. I feel the twinge of IT-Band aggravation as I hit double digits in my long run mileage. I go to yoga and to the pool, I ease off of running, knowing that this Saturday is a race and Sunday is a long run of 12 miles. To run 12 miles, I must be delicate with my body. I must nurture and pamper that pesky area of fascia running down my right hip and leg.

I wonder if I can care for my body and train for a marathon this summer.

I wonder if I can responsibly sustain my running practice in the long term if I take on so much mileage.

Acceptance.

I accept that this is what I am navigating now.

I accept the tenderness as a sign that I am in my own body.

I accept what I will learn and gain by strengthening the muscles and form to prevent the injury.

I accept that distance running is the journey of finding joy through the miles… not about the length of the run.

I approach my own uncertainty with fresh eyes.

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