Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lose Yourself

I was staring down the track yesterday, about to run my last 800 repeat when Eminem’s Lose Yourself came on my iPod.

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

I paused for one more second to let the words sink in and then accelerated and started my stopwatch to time my eighth and final repeat. 

Yes, perhaps a little dramatic to relate this song to my track workout but I was willing to do whatever it took at that point to push through the last half-mile of my fast repeats. 

Yesterday was a tough day at the track for me.  After last week’s post about learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, I really have been taking my own words and living by them.  I've been getting outside in the freezing cold (for Portland) weather and pushing myself as hard as I can.  I ran my best track workout of this training season last Wednesday and followed it up with another hard workout on Saturday and one on Monday.  By Monday afternoon, however, I was completely spent.  As in, lie-down-on-the-couch-for-two-hours-in-the-middle-of-the-day spent.  Something that I never do.  Not even after 20 mile runs.

Just one of the many beautiful sights from Saturday's chilly run

I started to think I was on the verge of overtraining and began to doubt myself, definitely not a good mindset to have when headed to the track yesterday morning.  I began with a 1.5 mile warm-up jog to a nearby high school track and started my first 800.  It.Was.Awful.  My legs felt so sluggish and tired.  Immediately upon finishing my first repeat, I started playing mind games familiar to all runners.  Instead of running 8 x 800, I could run just 2 x 800 and then run 3 “fast-ish” miles before heading home.  This way I would still be running the same total miles.  Makes sense, right?!  Runner’s logic, for sure.

After two 800’s, I decided I could quit after three because then I would at least be close to halfway done.  Once I had finished the third one, I had to do one more and make it to halfway.  Then I would run two fast miles before heading home, or so my mental argument went.  Long story short, I found myself staring down the track before my eighth and final 800 when the Eminem’s lyrics had me convinced that finishing my last repeat was the key to my success.  Ha! 

I followed up the repeats with one “fast” mile and then jogged home.  Honestly, I was surprised that I won that mental battle with myself on the track.  And my 800 times weren’t really that horrible…just not what I wanted them to be. 

I returned back home and made my post-run smoothie -- a tasty blend of frozen bananas, frozen pineapple, cucumber, spinach and Vega One protein powder.  I then tried unsuccessfully to sit in a cold bath while drinking the chilly smoothie before giving up and taking a hot shower instead.  But while I showered and got ready to pick up the little ones from preschool, I reflected on my workout and was immensely proud of myself for finishing when my body was screaming at me to quit.  And I thought about the last words of Eminem's song...

You can do anything you set your mind to

What kinds of tips or tricks do you use to get through a tough workout?  Do you have something specific you think of to help motivate you?  

What about favorite songs to help motivate you??

- Kristen

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable

When people first find out I like to run, they often say things such as "I hate to run" or "I wish I could run but I tried it and just couldn't do it" or other similar comments.  They often say it is just too hard.  If I ask a few more questions about their running, it is almost always the case that they are running at a pace that is simply not sustainable for any length of time and leaves them out of breath and miserable.

If they ask me for advice, I usually tell them to start by slowing down and running at a pace where they are comfortable enough to carry on a conversation fairly easily.  I really do believe that so many people who claim to hate running are simply trying to run too fast.  And by slowing down, they may find they actually enjoy running and will become a runner themselves.

Anyone who has been running for any period of time most likely has that pace where they feel they could run for hours on end, enjoying a conversation with a fellow runner friend as if they were both sitting in a coffee shop or out for a drink.  I know I have that pace...that pace where 30 seconds faster feels too fast and 30 seconds slower feels to slow.  My nice, comfortable pace.

I also have found myself running many, many miles on the treadmill over the past few years.  If it is raining or cold or dark the treadmill I go.  We have a TV in our "gym" that has Netflix and I have wireless headphones so I can listen without having to blast the volume.  There are windows I can open to help control the temperature, a window ledge for my water bottle within an arm's reach and a bathroom a mere 30 feet away.  I am definitely very comfortable running on the treadmill.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to be comfortable?!

Not necessarily.  My problem is that I find myself wanting to be comfortable way too often.  If I'm not training for a specific race, I don't ever push the pace on my runs.  I don't venture outside in the rain or cold or heat.  I don't run long distances.  And, as a result, I don't grow and improve as a runner and I miss out on so many opportunities.

I am currently in the midst of training for the Boston marathon.  This will be the first spring marathon I have ever run and, consequently, the first time I have had to do 20 mile runs in the middle of winter.  In order to be prepared for Boston, I need to run hills (the incline on our treadmill doesn't work well) and I need to run outside and experience the pounding of the pavement on my legs.  I also need to be incorporating more speedwork -- tempo runs, track workouts and strides.

All this means that I have forced myself outside of my comfort zone many times already the past couple of months -- into the rain, the wind, the cold, the snow and onto the track for 800's and mile repeats.  I have dreaded some of these runs, such as yesterday's when the temp was in the high 20's and snow flakes were swirling in the air and I had a tough 10 miler scheduled.

What I have found the past couple of months has surprised me.  I have actually enjoyed being uncomfortable.  I have loved the feeling of pushing myself and feeling my body respond...of slipping and sliding on a snowy trail but sticking with it for the entire run...of feeling the cool rain soak me to the core while realizing I have a huge grin on my face...of timing myself on my 800's and seeing those times dropping.

I am learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

And, even better, I am enjoying it!  My "comfortable" pace continues to drop as a result of the work I'm putting in each day.  The dread of heading outside in tough conditions has almost disappeared as I know how much I'll love being outside once I get going.  In order to get my run in this morning, I had to run on the treadmill while the kids were still sleeping and I found myself wishing I could be outside in the dark and cold.

As I was thinking about how much I've grown the last few weeks, I realized how much this lesson applies to not just running but life in general.  So many people avoid situations that make them uncomfortable.  They steer clear of settings where they will find themselves with people of a different religion or race or sexual preference or socioeconomic status.  Or they avoid trying something new or taking a risk with something that is outside of their comfort zone.

Being uncomfortable doesn't have to be overly challenging or painful or difficult. In my case, it was as simple as getting outside for a run in the rain. Or pushing the pace when normally I wouldn't. For others, it could be as simple as taking that first step...whether that is the first step of a run or the first step in making a change in their lives or embracing someone different than ourselves.

Do you have a comfortable pace?  In what way do you push yourself out of your comfort zone, either in running or in life?

- Kristen

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Living with Intention

Gosh, it has been a long time since I've written anything!  So much has happened in the past few weeks... My oldest daughter turned 4 just before Christmas and she continues to amaze me with her ability to wear pink from head to toe.  Although, technically, she is wearing purple on her toes, not pink.  I finally relented and painted her toe nails for the first time ever last week -- a sparkly purple color -- and I caught her licking her toes later that same day as she thought they might taste as good as they looked.

it appears my younger daughter is following in her sister's (pink) footsteps...

a very excited (one-eyed) birthday girl

The day after my daughter's birthday, we began the Christmas celebration with a house full of friends and family.  We hosted everyone at our house for three nights in a row and I was more exhausted at the end of it than I have ever been at any point during marathon training.  My in-laws were staying with us and my poor mother-in-law ended up doing a huge amount of the cooking and cleaning for me.  She worked until she was (literally) sick and boarded the plane home with a fever.  I only hope she will not be scared from any future visits!  I love you, mom, and couldn't have done it without you!!

my mother-in-law...a.k.a. the woman who saved Christmas for me

most of the rest of us

Christmas was followed by a week of vacation in a snowy winter wonderland with all the peeps pictured above.  Had so much fun skiing, sledding, running on snowy trails, playing poker, soaking in the hot tub and just being together.

and, yes, apparently you have to hold your arms up when happy

On the second to last night of vacation, 2012 quietly slipped into the history books as a new year began.  (It was especially quiet for me.  I climbed into bed with my girls at 10pm in order to get them to go to sleep...of course, it was me who fell asleep first and woke up to a new day and new year!)

The upside to going to bed early (and sober) on NYE is that you get to start the year off feeling rested, refreshed and ready for all the day (and year) has to offer.  I celebrated with a snowy 10 mile run in 10 degree weather.  It was cold out but the sun was blindingly beautiful and caused snowflakes to sparkle and dance with each passing breeze.

Although I've never been big on resolutions, I do always feel a new year brings with it all kinds of possibilities.  My head was full of those possibilities as I was silently crunching through the snow that morning.  I returned from my run full of hope, full of happiness and full of love.  Love for my friends, my family, my life and even myself.

Without a doubt, there are a lot of areas of my life where I could do better...from being a better parent and wife to being more generous with my time and resources to being more compassionate and forgiving.  The list is long, for sure.  But instead of making an actual list of resolutions, I like to take the positive energy that I get from life (and, often, from running) and focus on living each day to the best of my ability.

Living with intention.

Maybe that's the easy way out.  If I don't make a list, I can't fail to achieve anything, right?

But I like the challenge of waking up every day and trying to be the best that I can be that day.  Many days I will mess up.  I will yell at my kids or hold a grudge or disappoint a friend or tell a lie or quit in the middle of a difficult run.  I'm sure there will never be a perfect day.  The beautiful thing, however, is that tomorrow is always a new day and tomorrow I can begin again in my quest to become the best version of myself.  And best of all, when you live the best version of yourself, you inspire others to do the same.

Do you make resolutions?  

- Kristen