the next chapter

I am positively thrilled by some exciting developments. Last week, I found out that I got a spot in THE 2016 Chicago Marathon! To make matters even better, my soulmate and epic running buddy was also offered a spot. Here we are, registered for a race that began as a fantastical idea during a dark and cold run last November. I have run a number of races in urban settings, and I have run a marathon before; however, I have never run a world-famous marathon with 45,000 other people including my best friend. How fortunate am I? I feel very lucky indeed.

The news of Chicago was especially sweet after a wonderful experience at the Wenatchee half marathon a little more than a week ago. I did not PR, but finished in 2:04 feeling good and peppy. I am coming around to the idea that my half marathon time is now sub-2:10 for fun, and able to be sub-2:00 on a race day. Instead of running myself too ragged in Wenatchee, I took the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful and scenic route along the river, framed by mountains, greenery, and sand dunes. Very interesting stuff, great support on the course, and a lovely weekend with my running buddy.

Last night, I sketched out my first draft of an 18-week training schedule for Chicago. I will start officially training the first full week of June, and I’ve incorporated a few hometown races throughout the schedule to break up the long runs and keep them interesting. When I trained for my first marathon in 2013, I remember feeling that the monthly mileage was simply overwhelming. Presently, however, as I average 80-100 miles a month, the marathon training schedule seems pretty manageable. There will be some looooong runs in there, but I plan to use the time before the training “clock” starts to get more comfortable with the 14-16 mile distance.

I’ve completed yet another semester of doctoral work, with dissertation just around the bend and beginning in the fall. I am gearing up to begin marathon training… the journey of rebirth I crave and anticipate with excitement. On Saturday, I will run 14 miles for the first time in a few years. Dig in, hold on, don’t look back.

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March recap

March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, goes the famous saying, and I would agree that with the sunny weather and longer days, this month is leaving me peacefully. I finish the month with a total of 92 miles, which feels just about perfect to me. This month, I focused on running more frequent shorter distances, which I have found to be helpful in my overall pace for long runs. There were a few days that I elected to do another type of exercise, such as Zumba or yoga, but for the most part, I ran almost every day. I also elected not to run any races this month, which resulted in a more relaxed disposition toward my running practice. I enjoyed watching the trails transform into greenery, and like many runners, I was thrilled by the long-awaited return to Daylight Savings Time. My longest run was a spontaneous half marathon last week, which I was able to complete in 2:08 without much struggle.

A few things are on my mind as I enter April. I am running the Wenatchee Half Marathon in just two weeks, and I am getting very excited about enjoying this first spring race. So far, the weather forecast is looking good (knock on wood). I will also find out later in the month if I received a spot in the Chicago Marathon through the lottery system. If not, I am set on fundraising for a qualifying charity. Running Chicago is a dream of mine. Finally, along with dreams of a marathon comes the reality of training for a marathon. After Wenatchee, I will probably take advantage of my momentum to start slowly adding mileage to my long runs. I would like to be as comfortable running 16 miles as I am currently comfortable running 13 miles by June.

I find myself, once again, very busy this month of April. I have a semester of doctoral work to complete, a choral concert to perform, a fundraising event to co-facilitate, a child to care for, a full-time career which requires much attention… and yet, I feel confident. Running will see me through as it always has.

Happy trails!

February Recap

February 2016, with its extra day (wonderful!), produced a solid month of running. I was able to reach a monthly mileage total of exactly 100 miles, and within the month I set a new half marathon record, only to beat it by over 8 minutes at a half marathon race a week later. As I reflect on the month, I am feeling gratitude. First, for my wonderful family members, partner and daughter, who support my running daily by giving me the space and time to lace up my shoes without any grief. Second, and importantly, my treasure of a friend and running buddy, who keeps me company through many a mile and is a constant source of inspiration and positivity. Finally, I am thankful for good health. Some winters are worse than others, but I seem to be making it without much sickness this season (knock on wood). Oh, and I guess I am thankful for novelty ice cream treats. Really thankful for those. Because they are the perfect recovery snack in the evening after I’ve come home from a run.

March is off to a good start, and I hope to spend the month enjoying the changing greenery while continuing to run shorter distances (3-4 miles) very regularly (almost daily). While there is temptation to recapture the glory and run a half marathon or something this month, I need to focus on building strength and endurance as I gear up for the Wenatchee Half Marathon (and accompanying retreat with some lovely ladies) next month.

Things in the near future that bring me joy:

-Daylight Savings Time in a mere week! I’ll have some decent daylight for my evening runs!

-Chicago Marathon lottery opens in a week and a half!

-Leaves are growing back! Blossoms are in full splendor!

That’s all for now. Happy trails!

2015 Recap

2015 shaped up to be a great year for running. Six months ago, as I was battling the zombie death cold that ended up being a raging Mono infection, I thought I would have to hang up my shoes for quite a while. Luckily, my recovery was speedy, and I was able to enjoy a transformative fall season of running and training. On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, I will run my last race of the year, a trail half marathon. I have no time goals for this race (other than to make sure my butt is in a movie seat in time for a matinee showing of the new Star Wars movie). My goal is to simply enjoy the surroundings—icy streams, numerous evergreens, dustings of snow here and there. This race will bring my 2015 total to three half marathons, about a dozen other races, hard-earned PRs in my 5K and 10K distances, and two months (November and this month) of running more than 100 miles a month. I feel strong, committed, and ready to embrace a year of new running challenges in 2016.

Like many other runners, I am sure, I find myself dusting off the calendar (and debit card), registering for the next many events of the new year, and making my long-term plans. For 2016, I would like to:

-Average 1,000 miles for the year, ideally keeping up my streak and running about 100 miles each month (I am giving myself some leeway, because I know life happens and I can’t always run every day)

-Run a half in 2:10 or less. After achieving a 25:12 5K time and a 56 minute 10K time over the last few months, I feel like my time goal of 2:10 is within the realm of possibility. The goal here will be endurance paired with speed.

-Run a marathon. My marathon training was cut short last summer, but I have set my sights on an early fall marathon, which I hope to begin writing about once I register.

-Keep exploring new routes and trails in my own backyard. This year I learned about so many fun running routes—I think the best runs are the exploratory adventures when you get to play geographer and athlete at the same time. I hope to keep finding more pockets of nature with which to become familiar and traverse many times over.

-Stretch and plank. I do not do either of these things sufficiently, but they will keep me from injury and strengthen my core. I am going to set myself up an outdoor “plank” station on the back patio so that I drop down and do it at the end of my runs before coming inside.

I hope to report back soon on how my last race of the year treats me.

Winter running can be a dark and chilly time, but I keep reflecting on how this is the season when we grow our intricate and complex root systems before we can bloom come spring. Happy trails!

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Marathon Training, Week 2

Tuesday- 3

Thursday- 3

Saturday- 9

Sunday- 3

Total Mileage: 18

Week 2 started off very rocky. I woke up on Sunday morning with terrible ear pain. A visit to urgent care soon revealed a nasty ear infection. I spent the rest of the day laid up on the couch alternating between Vicodin and antibiotics. It was not fun. And, I was really upset about not being able to run.

Monday, I was under the weather, but no longer in pain. I spent the rest of the week taking it gentle and slow with my running. By Saturday, I was up for a long run. Happy to report that 9 miles felt great and that, despite my slow down, I did not lose my endurance.

Aside from running, I have been lifting weights a bit each day and also paying particularly close attention to stretching/exercising my piriformis muscles and IT bands. These are the first things to get stiff when the mileage increases, so I am being as proactive as possible.

I felt so good on Saturday, during and after my run. Glad for the return of my health, but also replenished by the distance itself. I love long runs, because they become as they emerge. The experience is shaped by each mile. It is an accomplishment that only the individual can do and know. I often run the same route on my long runs, and there is this liberty in reaching a certain point along the way, where the woods thicken and civilization falls behind. My spirit is nourished in that space.

Temperatures are cooling down just a bit this week, and I look forward to continuing my training!

Marathon Training, Week 1

I want to write about why I decided to train for and run a second full marathon, but will do so a bit later. I find that keeping a journal of training is really helpful as a motivational tool, so I will just launch into a summary of Week 1.

Saturday-3

Tuesday-3

Wednesday-3

Thursday-5

Saturday-6

Total Mileage: 20 miles

This week was all about recovering from one of the worst colds I can remember, and starting to establish a reliable base for increasing mileage. After hardly running the week before last due to illness, it felt really good to hit the trails/pavement and get sweaty once again. The silver lining of getting sick was that my body got a solid chunk of days to rest. I resumed running feeling really good–joints and muscles are pain-free and going strong.

I am working on feeling more comfortable with a slower mile time. After focusing on speed goals the last few months, it is time to switch back to distance goals. This morning, I ran a 10K race 6 minutes slower than my 10K race last month. Last month, I crossed the finish line and was completely spent. This morning, I crossed the finish line and could have kept running. That is one of the lessons I can remember from two years ago when I trained for my first marathon. Save energy for the end, burn your energy slowly, do not fret about notions of speed.

Since today consisted entirely of road running, I am going to kick Week 2 off tomorrow with a trail run. The plan is to achieve a long run of 10 miles during Week 2.

One thing is for sure–I could not do this without the support of family and friends!

crab

ma daughter

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?

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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The Best Self

When I am in regular running practice, I feel like I am the best version of myself. I do not mean that I feel that I look “best” or weigh “best” or that my speed is “best.” I mean that I feel mentally and emotionally grounded. I approach my work day with a hop in my step. Problems do not seem insurmountable. I sleep at night.

I am dipping my toe back in distance running… my fondest practice. 10K is in a week and a half, and I am repeating the Whidbey Island Half Marathon this spring. Although the thought of running another marathon, to be honest, made me recoil last year, I find that my heart is appreciatively open to tackling the 26.2 once again in 2015 (perhaps I am a biennial marathoner?).

This current cold and dark season is gifting me generously with opportunities to run. Health (knock on wood) is relatively good–with minimal time spend fighting colds. Running buddies are excellent and just the extra peer motivation I need to keep up my practice. A new headlamp is helping me see much better on night runs. Big, daring race goals are keeping the expectations high and the anticipation humming.

Yes, I enjoy being my best self. Here is to another year of running.