Confessions of a (Not So) Average Runner

I am a runner.  An average middle-of-the-pack runner.

Or so I thought.

That is…until I got deeper into the running community.  And I realized…I’m a bit of an anomaly in this particular fellowship.  Maybe I’m not so average.

Maybe I am actually a black sheep.  A unicorn.  I’m feeling more and more like a star trying to fit into a round hole (as my roommate so blatantly put it awhile back when I took a moment to whine about this very subject).

I am a runner…that didn’t run as a child.  No cross country or track in high school.  Basically my running in my non-adult years was the bases of a softball field.  IF I was fortunate enough to hit the ball.  I wasn’t much good at hitting.  I was a damn good catcher though.  Maybe squatting was more my thing.

I’m digressing.  Back on track…

I am a runner…that will never have some inspirational Transformation Tuesday photos.  If anything, my pictures tell a very different story.  I started running just after being diagnosed with Celiac.  My body was depleted of essential nutrients that it stopped absorbing.  My pictures show someone going from being tiny and maybe fitting that “fit” standard all social media aspires to…to someone with a little bit of meat on her bones and muscle tone that isn’t as defined because my body is healthy.  Maybe the scale tells me things I don’t like…but I feel strong and I feel healthy…and that beats a number on the scale anytime.

I am a runner…that didn’t start running to lose weight, maintain a certain lower weight, or to make my body smaller.  In fact…the more years I’ve run, the more I’ve weighed.  I keep hoping it’s muscle and not the desserts I love so much.  HA. (It’s okay, though, if it actually is the desserts because we all need to live a little!)

I am a runner…who didn’t take up running in place of other habits such as smoking or drinking.  I never took up this sport to replace some demon I was battling or some habit I was dispensing of at the time.  It was never my rehab.

Nope.  Much like Forrest Gump…one day, I just felt like running.

But what I have discovered is that this isn’t your typical running story…and in a sense, it has left me feeling like quite the outsider in a truly diverse community.  And it’s perplexing how I can be surrounded by great people…and yet still find myself running alone more times than not.  How is it that in a community that has every shape and size of person…I just don’t fit?

I think social media recently illuminated this light bulb and got me thinking on this particular subject.  Good or bad…the gears started turning in my head.

Awhile back…when lots of Transformation Tuesday posts were still fresh in my head…my local MRTT/SRTT social media post showed a pic of two of the chapter leaders and invited everyone to tag their BRFs (Best Running Friends).  And this is where it all clicked with me.  I have this great community all around me…and yet…I do 90% of my runs alone.

And this wasn’t always the case.  When I first started running, and after a big bridge repair happened and made going over to Louisville a lot easier, I started running Monday nights from a new running store in the Highlands of Louisville.  It was the Monday Fun Run and I showed up, the girl from Indiana, who didn’t know anyone there…and afraid I’d be running alone and get lost…had people to run with for the first time.  My first run, I met Courtney, who was kind enough to run with me and guide me around the Loop at Cherokee Park, because I was certain I’d get lost as I didn’t run in Louisville unless it was a race…and that’s marked out…and…and…she was awesome.  And she put up with my RunKeeper clicking off my pace and miles from my pocket…because I didn’t own a Garmin yet.  Courtney and I are still friends…and this store brought so many more people into my life.  Especially when I started training for marathons in 2013.  That Monday group invited me to come and join them on their weekly long runs as I dove into marathon training for the first time.  A large group of people met up at the running store (the store is gone now) every Saturday morning for long runs.  All paces.  All levels.  Everyone welcome.  As someone who met this group by taking a chance, I decided it would be a much more fun way to train.  I love running with people.  And from there…I gained a lot of friendships and running buddies.  I ran fast…I ran slow…but I always had someone to guide me through the process and take me the next mile week after week after week.

And keep me from getting lost in Louisville. (I actually do get lost…a lot).

But…these days I feel like I’ve lost all of that.  Many members of that group no longer run together.  Some have health issues that prevent them from participating in the sport anymore or for right now.  Some have just taken to training solo.  Some have outgrown the group because they’ve gotten superhuman speed or are doing triathlons so their focus has to be on other aspects.  Some are battling injuries.  Some are taking time away…for no other reason except that they want to explore other hobbies that they enjoy and need time to do.

And all of that is fair.  And fine.  We all have our own goals and aspirations and restrictions and limitations.

I am always game to run with people, but as someone who is known as one of the “fast” runners (I’m really not…but thank you!), I feel like everyone feels intimidated and doesn’t want to slow me down.

Insert my coach saying, “PLEASE…SLOW HER DOWN!”

The great thing about running is that it can be an individual sport, but it can also be a team sport or a sport that you can buddy up or form groups and make the miles tick away as you please.  Where I see so many groups out there running together, I feel like my training and my so called “speed” have left me more isolated than ever before.  And it sucks.  It sucks, because I am such a social person, and I love the social aspect of training with people and running with people, because that can be far more entertaining than waiting on the next beep from the Garmin watch, or simply getting lost in the sound of my footfalls on another empty road or my breathing as I run, perhaps, a little harder than I need to be for a training run…because my mind is now focused on nothing more than finishing another solo run.  It’s definitely more rewarding.

I probably sound like I’m whining…

I guess…being someone without a past in running, or someone who has dropped weight, or someone who has overcome addiction…I guess it just makes me a bit more of an outsider.  And, yeah, sometimes I’m jealous.  People with stories are the people who inspire others.  No one gets inspired by the girl who just one day decided to run instead of walk…and has had to battle back after some pretty bad (and always poorly timed) injuries…time and time again…because people usually give you the, “Oh…I’m sorry you got injured…again.” look or tone or whatever.  I don’t like being the person who gets told, “you’re so injury prone,” or that “You shouldn’t do that because it will make you get injured again.  You’re always getting injured.”  There was a time where that didn’t matter…but now it’s so ingrained in my head that I feel like pushing the limits in running will just lead to injury.  Funny how people can change your way of thinking…and make you feel like less of a person, even if that isn’t their intention.

Yep…I have been injured.  What runner hasn’t?  But, it seems that in the time I have had to take off from running was when my community crumbled and scattered and all that’s left are a few bits of the foundation…and, God, am I ever thankful for them.  Because, I’ve not had an easy time of it, regardless of what people think.  When you’re told by both your orthopedic doctor and your physical therapist that your body just isn’t built for running…but this is the one sport that you’ve actually been able to show up for, enjoy, and, sometimes, even be good at…well, stopping is not an option.

Not yet, anyway!

Through all of this…the very struggles that make elite runners feel human…is where I have felt the most lonely.  My comebacks have been slow, steady, and silent.  My setbacks have been disappointing to myself and to those I felt were counting on me to show up every weekend and run some miles with them.  It’s all a very internalized struggle that just recently showed me how very different I am from most people I know who are runners.

But I’m not an outsider.  I’m one of them.  I just came to it differently.  I fight for it differently.  I do it for different reasons.  And sometimes…when I’m digging into another mile on a long training run, I need to remember MY WHY.

It’s not always easy being an average girl, with an average build, who runs a rather average speed, an average amount of times a week, who has been pretty basic her entire life…with an average story…feeling anything but average in this life these days.

I’m okay with being average.  Just…tell me there are more out there like me.  Because I’m looking for you!

Practicing Patience

patienceGood morning, friends!!

Anyone else out there have a problem with patience?  Especially when it comes to being patient with yourself?

STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.

And…its my impatience (I totally blame being a go-getter New Yorker) that often leads me to setbacks that don’t move me forward and only end up dragging me down and feeling defeated.

I’m trying to break the mold this time around.  And…trust me…this isn’t easy.  Not at all.  As I mentioned before, I recently participated in The Dopey Challenge at Disney World.  Over 4 days, I ran 4 races…each of which got longer in length (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon), and I actually did really well on the races, given that I was bouncing into the parks every day and not resting up the legs.  Honestly…I’m so super proud of my performance.  This being the 2nd time I’ve participated in The Dopey Challenge and having improved on all the times of the races I actually raced (10K, Half, Full), I felt amazing (mentally) but tired and sore (physically) following the actual events.  I went into the weekend with a sinus cold and came out of it with the Disney flu.  I took a lot of days to recover…from sickness and the races.  I knew, following Dopey, that I would need to let my body recover well.  I still probably would have gone back to it sooner had my body not been drained from sickness.  This past week, I decided to give easing back into it a try.

And I started on Wednesday with an hour long spin class…that totally kicked my ass.  I was done within the first 20 minutes…my power, energy and speed all really dropping down.  Our spin bikes light up to tell what zone you are in and I didn’t even care that I was in the white and blue instead of yellow and red like the rest of the class.  I had to listen to my body.  And while I valued the movement, I wasn’t going to push myself to try to hit a level my body wasn’t ready to reach yet.

Call that growth, because I do believe the me of the past would have felt the need to press on and keep up with the rest of the class.  But I’ve also had a recurring stream of injuries to deal with the past 3 years.  After building up and failing over and over again…you do actually gain wisdom.  There is no shame in listening to your body and backing off intensity as you see fit.  I put this body through a lot physically both with the races and then trying to fight off illness…it’s no wonder my body isn’t feeling as strong as it used to be.

Have I lost some fitness…you better believe I have.  Some mornings, it is a struggle to just simply get through my PT exercises.  And for as much as I have stressed their importance to me coming back stronger, the past 3 weeks have seen little to none of the stretches and exercises I was prescribed.  And I didn’t feel guilty about it.  My body needed the sleep and the time on the couch more than it needed the movement.

But, like any active person, my body does crave movement.  I like moving my body.  I just needed to give myself the time to get to where it could handle some.  Nothing big.  No long miles or hard runs.  No pushing the limits on the spin bike.  Just gentle movement.

This past weekend, with the weather warming up and the snow and ice melting away, I took advantage with  my first run since Dopey.  And, while I was out there for 30 minutes, believe it or not…only 8 minutes of it was actually spent running.  I took my time to warm up with 5 minutes of walking…then did 4 x 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking…then a 5 minute cool down.  And it felt hard…and amazing all at once.  And that was how I needed to take it.  I’m not ashamed that I only ran 8 minutes.  I’m damn proud of those 8 minutes and what my body managed to do in that time.  I took Sunday off completely and didn’t feel bad about it.

Today, it was close to 60 degrees this morning.  So, I decided I would pull on a pair of SHORTS and take advantage by doing a short run.  I decided to just run…easy…and deliberately…keeping the heart rate down…but do it without the walk breaks.  It was the struggle bus.  My body is still recovering, but I managed to do 20 minutes and keep the heart rate in Zones 1 and 2.  I count that as a win.  I went to spin afterwards, and that’s when my body let me know it was too much for the day. The first half of class I felt strong and almost normal, but my energy levels crashed soon after that…so I turned down the resistance, sat down when I needed, and just let my body do what it needed.

I’m not mad.  I’m recovering.  And I will still take complete rest days and lift lighter weights when strength training…and keep the intensity down.  The me of the past would have taken this as failure…but I feel so empowered that I can trust my body, my mind, and myself to practice patience and self-love and trust that I will grow from this.  Constant forward progression.  Tired of taking steps back.  It’s all a matter of changing the mindset.  And I still struggle…but I know, in the end, this will make me a better, faster, stronger athlete.patience2

AND…as another form of self-care and self-love, let me also emphasize that just because I am not working out doesn’t mean I’m not fueling my body.  My body went through a lot and proper nutrition is key.  I am not just eating fruit and low calorie foods just because I’m not working out.  WRONG.  I have actually changed a lot of what I eat to give me more nutrients and better sources of vitamins and fuel to help this body maintain fitness and strength through all of it.  Starving your body only starves yourself of further potential and forward progress.

Patience is not an easy thing to practice.  It’s something that can gnaw at you and really make you question yourself.  Learning how to be patient with my body and myself has been one of the hardest things I have set out to do…and while it’s still a constant work in progress…I can see where my mindset has changed so that I am kinder to myself and…more willing to give myself the time I need to get to where I feel I want to be.

Patience, grasshoppers.

It’s worth it!

Recovering…like a boss!

If there is one thing I might have taken for granted or just not done properly in the past…it’s taken recovery time.  No runner likes time off.  I have yet to meet one who actually does proper recovery after hard efforts or distance races.

Guess what?

I actually did this time.

Some of it might have been forced.  After all…thanks to the petri dish of germs that is Disney (especially on Marathon Weekend), I came down with the Disney Flu.  Yay.  And no, this doesn’t come with fun Mickey Ears and character experiences.  It comes with a big dose of Theraflu and sleep.

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I mean…it has been non-stop since I returned from the freezer that was Orlando over Marathon weekend.  Coughing.  The coughing is the killer.  I am finally able to breathe again.  Thank you for calming down sinuses.  Remember…a co-worker gave me a sinus-only cold before I even left for Dopey.  Run all the races.  Go to all the parks.  Is it any wonder I ended up like this?

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Has my recovery been a bit forced?  Perhaps.  But here’s the thing…

I set a goal this year.  A goal of having an injury-free 2018.  So when my running coach tells me to rest…dammit…I’m resting.  When my mileage is lower than I like it to be…well…so be it.  Trust the process, right?  I have a few other big goals I’m hoping to reach in the next year or two…so I have to learn to believe in myself…and the method that will help me get there more efficiently than…past attempts.

I admit to, in the past, rushing back into activities.  I bounce back quickly.  I do.  But I also break down too.  We all do.  We just don’t always like to admit to it.

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Here’s the thing…we might feel good…but we put our bodies through a lot and push it to the limit, not just in races…but in training too.  Maybe moreso in training…and we’re LESS likely to take recovery/rest days during training.  I don’t care what distance you raced…if you raced…RECOVER!!  Like…actually recover!!  Would I have taken time off if I hadn’t caught the Disney Crud?  Yep.  I actually would have.  Like I said, I have big goals this year and to achieve them, I need to respect my body and learn a little patience.

I mean…granted, I hurt for about 3 days following the Dopey Challenge…but I also pushed through most of the 48.6 (and more) miles that I covered over the course of the weekend.  And that’s just running.  I still had parks to visit in between.  Because, as much as I’d love to lay low…I pay for those Disney tickets and they aren’t cheap.  By God, I was going to get my money’s worth.  Park hopping…princess hunting…fast passing rides…all of it.  I was doing it.  And…I did it.  All.

But it doesn’t have to be The Dopey Challenge to make taking down time a priority.  Any race…any distance…anywhere where you push yourself more or further…do yourself a favor.  Take some time off.  Depending on the race distance…it could be a week…it could be two…it could be more.  Don’t think you HAVE to get to the gym the day after a half marathon or hop on a spin bike or even go for a “recovery run.”  Let’s face it…whether you back of the speed or not…a 6 mile run is generally a 6 mile run…”recovery” or not.  I listened to a podcast recently from a running coach who said that there was absolutely no such thing as a recovery run.  You’re still putting in an effort and working the same muscles that your regular runs do.  And most people don’t actually run these that much slower.  Your entire body needs to heal up to get stronger…don’t rush the process.  You might feel good immediately after the event…but you’ve still put that body through a lot.  You might feel good a week after…and you still might need more down time, depending on the distance that you ran.

Remember…there is no such thing as over-training…just under recovery.

RECOVERY…is super important.  I have been fortunate enough that my recovery time has fallen when it’s gotten stupid cold outside, with the addition of some ice and snow on the ground.  Bonus.  I’m always cold…so I hate running in the cold.  And I especially hate winter weather running.

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In addition, let me be the first to remind you that you should NEVER stop eating properly or regularly despite recovery time.  Your body needs all those nutrition benefits, especially as you recover from a hard effort.  With the Disney Flu…I have still maintained my regular food times.  I mean, I do live on a schedule.  What I have done is simply change what I have been eating.  Mostly because I can’t taste flavors right now…and just eating food for texture isn’t working for me.  So, soup and chili have been my go-tos.  But I am making sure I am hitting all my nutrition needs every day.  And yes…I’m eating well and I’m definitely eating enough calories each day.  Eat well, eat enough, eat healthy.  So many people focus on weight and get really crazy with their nutrition.  When you’re training, you need to eat.  And you need to eat well.  When you’re recovering…you also need to eat…and yes…you need to eat well.  Now is not the time to cut down on your nutrition.  I promise…you aren’t going to get fat.

As I stated, for the past two weeks…all I’ve really wanted it soup.  That being said…I love that soup has so many different varieties out there because it keeps it interesting.  I’ve been serving mine up with different gluten-free crackers.  And sometimes I add avocado or something to bulk it up.  I mean…who doesn’t love tomato soup with a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich?  I know my body needs certain things to stay in good shape even when I’m not working out as much.  NEVER skimp on nutrition when you are training or recovering.

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So…I’m on the mend.  I took time off from work to sleep and recovery both before I left for Disney (initial sinus bleh) and then basically all the rest of the week after I got back from Disney.  Sleep and rest and proper nutrition have definitely helped me bounce back from not just the races…but the sickness too.  My muscles don’t ache anymore (also…thank you Roll Recovery!) because I’ve let them heal and get stronger.  I’ve been using my new Roll Recovery R8 and R3…as well as my foam roller.  And stretching.  Never underestimate the power of stretching.  I even went to 2 of my spin classes this past week.  I took it easy.  I didn’t push as hard as I normally would.  And I still felt like it kicked my ass.  I’m not mad.  I’m taking my time.

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That being said…if you thought I was a germophobe before…you should see me now…

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Remember, friends…living your best life is all about balance.  Find time to rest…recovery…find balance…eat well…play…laugh…and yes…return to that activity you love…once your body is stronger from the respect and rest you allowed it.

I took 2 weeks off…and I still feel I fatigue easily.  I’m easing back into with with longer walks and short run segments.  And I still feel like I’m a badass.  I’m a very smart…totally recovered…less injury-prone badass!!

YAY!

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