My First True Long Run: 8.33 Miles!

Today I proved to myself that I really am improving as a distance runner.

Next weekend is my first 15k, and I have admittedly slacked off in my training. I went out the first two Friday nights and missed my Saturday runs, which is very unlike me. Usually I’m very responsible. Honestly, I think it was passive-aggressiveness because I was afraid to try. I want this so much. Deep down, I didn’t think I could do it. Why find out the truth?

But swag saved me! I got an e-mail telling me that since this is my 3rd consecutive year doing the Hot Chocolate Run in Chicago, I qualify as a “legacy.” I will get an extra medal with a pink “bronze” level diamond shape, plus a pin and a black beanie with the same design and “3” on it. SOLD! That was when I officially signed up– the money had been paid. No backing out!

So this weekend I told myself this 8 mile training run needed to be DONE, because I can’t fail in Chicago October 29. I need to be ready and confident.

Why? Because my Dad is going to support me. It’s my birthday present. I asked that he come to one of my races, and thought he’d pick a local one. But he instead committed to the one where I need him most: my first TRUE distance race! (I define that as a race beyond a 10k.)

And my Dad does not like going into the city. I think it’s been years– he’s 75.

But he’s going to do it, for me. We’re going to ride together. And while he’s not going to hold a sign, it’s enough for me knowing he’ll be out there at the finish line. I plan to text him when I’m coming close so that he can keep an eye and yell loud for me! And of course, take pictures. 🙂 Then we’ll go eat!!

This especially means a lot because he cancelled the original delivery date of his new fridge– the 29th– specifically to keep his promise to me. When he first brought it up, I thought it was his excuse to cancel. I hadn’t wanted to get my hopes up.

My Dad used to go to all my volleyball games in grade school, even though I rarely played the first two of four years. I was 4’7″ and uncoordinated. In college, he once drove 2+ hours to my college to see opening night of a play on a Thursday night! And brought flowers. I was just an ensemble character.

But I’ve been racing since 2015, nearly three years, and he hasn’t been to any of my races. I felt sad and resentful about it. But I told myself that he’s older, he’s set in his routine, and I shouldn’t take it personal.

Maybe he’s going now because I’ve proven that I’m serious about running? Or because this year I finally expressed to him how much I *wanted his support.

A 15k is 9.3 miles. And I’m running this alone, without a friend. For that reason, I almost backed out — a couple times. I didn’t want to face such a monumental moment in my running career without SOME kind of support. But I ultimately wanted to advance my training more than I wanted company. I could have easily signed up for the 5k, since that distance is on the circuit for my running club.

Instead, I chose to push myself. I even corresponded with my running mentor and she drew up a plan for me. I didn’t follow it, but I knew I was still capable. I was still touched she made the time to draw it up and is still encouraging me.

The race is next Sunday. But I’m smart enough to know that I can’t get in a long training run the day before; my legs will need rest.

So today when I went out, I set my distance for 8 miles. And I had heard of possible rain, so prepared by wearing a rain jacket specifically for running. And am I glad! I faced headwinds nearly 15 mph on an incline and the last four miles it was raining! My arches were hurting inside my shoes, too. I ran on.

I have never exerted myself so much running. The inclement weather half-way only motivated me to keep running, rather than slow down. When I got home, I was legit exhausted in a way I’ve never been prior!! I ended up surpassing my goal and making it 8.33 miles instead! I thought about 9, but my feet hurt too much.

I was laughing to myself, flushed. Ecstatic. Talk about a runner’s high! I took a post-run selfie and posted it via Nike Running Club on facebook!

Eight hours later, my legs hurt. But it’s a gleeful pain. It’s a runner’s rite of passage.

And of course, my music helped tremendously.

Lord, THANK YOU for this glorious burst of athleticism and confidence today.

I need it. And I earned it!!

Mile by mile, I’m proving to MYSELF that I’m strong and disciplined.

Advertisements

Run Like a Child: A Training Epiphany

I changed my mind tonight about running at the gym. I used to think it was a cop-out to run on a track or in the gym. I like trails, twists, hills, variety.

But I saw a video today in a running support group I belong to on Facebook that inspired me:

This man lines up on the sidewalks of NYC behind a blue chalk starting line to see if passers by will engage him in a spontaneous race. They do, and he clearly holds himself back so they can win. Then they all receive medals at the end. They were all so ecstatic!! I liked that it was diverse: children to older adults who maybe were athletes once. There was a whole line for the challenge!

But my favorite was watching the children. They were squirming to start, and several races were with multiple children and then groups of teens as well. It was pure PLAY for them!! They ran as FAST as their bodies were able, arms pumping hard, bolting ahead of the dude instigating this video. They ran with ragged breath and a giant smile on their faces.

And I was so happy!! I realized that they were teaching me something. I NEED to run like that. I need to remember that running is STILL PLAY– that it’s fun.

So tonight I switched up my run. It’s now dark earlier. Instead of running outside, I went to my health club and ran the track. I set a time instead of distance and told myself I would run as hard as I could for that amount of time.

And I LOVED IT! I was breathing hard, sweating. Because the track was smooth I didn’t have to worry about tripping on anything in my path. It’s on a carpet. I never run like that because I’m always in my head. What’s my pace? How far have I got left? Do I like the song playing?

I realized this a great way to do speed work and interval training.

Tonight I realized that running indoors at a health club isn’t weak at all. In fact, it’s inspiring. It was packed! Seeing so many others working out gave *me ideas on workouts I could try myself, especially on the machines I am clueless about using.

I resolve to do this type of speed training once a week– without worrying about maintaining a pace. I can run safely in a well-lit, smooth area without tripping. And seeing others pass me up also motivated me to keep it moving when I got tired.

I’m learning to design my training the way I like it.

I’m proud of me.

And hopefully I’ll learn eventually to run like I’m playing Red Rover, straining to break through the chain of my friends joined hands.

The Truth About Running

It’s more than hard.

I’m realizing that it’s a constant series of injuries and disappointments. They’re small, so you can do deal with it. But for me, anyway, it’s regular. And that constant– it breaks your heart a little.

And then fleeting moments of unexpected success where you surpass your own humble expectations. Those moments, those ENDORPHINS, make you feel more than human.

They make you feel better than you knew it was possible for you. Flabbergasted.

In those moments, you’re so confident and positive.

That’s when you dare to dream your new goals : to increase your distance, to PR.

That’s when you sign up for races.

This year since February has been extremely humbling to me.

I know now that I’m cleared by a respectable orthopaedist specializing in knees to keep training. My knees are healthy, I felt no pain when they rotated them. Four x-rays showed no bone spurs and plenty of open spaces– a wonderful thing.

He answered my question on the difference between normal discomfort and real pain that requires stopping a run or calling it a rest day, or a longer break from running.

He told me to start cross-training. Because what had caused my fall was what I expected: my right knee over-compensated for my left, and the knee gave out. He said if I start strengthening the muscles, it’ll be less likely to happen again. That I’ll be able to run longer distances.

So I renewed my health club membership, and I began cross-training last night.

I swam. And I felt free. I felt strong.

I felt proud, walking in my bikini. I could feel people looking at me. I felt voluptuous and strong simultaneously. Like Wendy Peffercorn, dammit! Amazing.

I swam forty minutes.

I’m doing what I can. I plan to invest in some goggles and a better suit.

I plan to start going to classes at my health club– maybe power lifting.

I want to to do this the right way. I want to be well-rounded in my exercise.

But today I got a blister on my second toe, underneath. Because of flip-flops. And it hurts to walk and I’m not tough enough to run on it yet. I did an Out of the Darkness walk on behalf of my friend Andi. That was my exercise today.

But later on I did put my running shoes through the washer and dryer.

Despite all these “surprises” and the recovery times and setbacks…

I still want this.

I can only pray that with time, my injuries will be less. My recovery time faster. My mileage higher and my pace quicker.

Because maybe what hooks us to running is the magical ability we gain to learn about about our bodies and their limits.

Running teaches us to be aware and to heal ourselves. To persevere.

I was supposed to go to a friend’s celebration of graduation from her doctoral program tonight. I brought my dress to change into after the walking event.

But instead, I came home. I washed the dirt off my blister. I cleaned it up, disinfected it, but Neosporin and a bandage on it.

I took care of my foot, because my feet are important to me. And then I texted my friend and told her I wouldn’t make it tonight– she understood. And it was just too HOT. I wasn’t up to driving 80 miles round-trip and meeting new people tonight. I just wanted to stay home and rest.

My body told me to pay attention today and I did.

So I’m getting smarter. I knew better than to ignore the pain and continue on.

Pain is a signal to stop and rest, to evaluate where it’s coming from and why.

So today I chose to pay attention to my body and that makes me feel responsible.

And now I can sleep deeply, knowing that I still have dreams to run.

Owning My Story

That’s exactly what I did — to a local class of nursing students two days ago.

Because I was invited! They’re studying the liver right now and I’m a liver transplant survivor since 1984. Initially, my friend Michael was in that class and asked me last February if I wanted to be his “show and tell” for that unit. I was game!

First, I congratulated them on a wonderful, important, career choice as nurses.

I did ask that no one record or take any pictures. I shared details about my diagnosis, lab results, the financial impact of buying health insurance, prescription refills, and hospital bills. I wanted those nursing students to leave with more empathy for their future patients and an appreciation to how managing liver disease is a part of so many aspects of your identity and daily decisions. With some humor sprinkled in on the fun aspects for comic relief!

But I didn’t want it to be public. This was something I normally keep private, as my Dad had advised me early-on not to talk too much about my illness. Mainly because he didn’t want me to lose any opportunities– especially business-related– based on my diagnosis. Most companies see any “health issues” as a liability and discriminate because of it. It’s not legal– but that’s why we have protections against having to reveal that in a job interview. Because all of have the right to work, even if one of those health issues includes a serious illness or disability.

I grew up to share his stoic views, but for a different reason. I didn’t want to be stereotyped as weak– as a “sick” person. It can also scare people off when it comes to dating. It’s the kind of information I don’t typically share until it looks like it’s headed toward a relationship, rather than the initial dates.

But in this context, I have an opportunity to empower and inspire hope.

In this context, being open about something I normally withhold would be helpful to others. I wanted to be an example of a person managing a serious diagnosis who has a normal life — and I wanted to embody for them a name to go with the diagnosis. To maybe help them become a little more understanding the next time a patient is difficult, angry, anxious or hurting.

The first time I spoke about it, I was more facts-oriented. I made sure to use technical terminology and the teacher sent me her power point so I tried to make connections to their material. It was more about feeling validated intellectually for me– I didn’t want the class to think I was uneducated about my condition and my body. I wanted to impress them with terminology, procedures I’ve had– facts like comparing lab values from when my liver almost rejected and present day, when it’s stable and healthy. Things they may study.

The students were attentive but also quiet. I wasn’t sure how I did, but Michael said I was great and the teacher invited me back.

This second time I spoke, I was confident. I validated myself, I didn’t need their approval. I relaxed. I did include some facts and terms, but decided instead to focus on telling them about me. What I like to do, what makes me happy, accomplishments!

I brought my own “show and tell”– running medals!

Two. From Warrior Dash 2016 (my first!) and the Titan 10k, just in July 2017. Two races which really challenged me. I JOKED about the Derby Firecracker 2017, when I was *dead last and was passed up by a 77-year-old woman and a snotty speedwalker. And I could laugh about it– especially since my Aunt Judy had been there taking pictures. And that was more important than my time and ranking!

And I never undermined myself by saying I was a “slow runner”– it never occurred to me. I got to stand in front of that class and reminisce about defining moments in my life when I did something with passion. I told them how happy running makes me, and that it gives me hope when I feel overwhelmed by the doctors’ appointments, price of medication refills, and those mornings when getting blood drawn hurts.

At the end, I got a bit emotional. I didn’t cry, but my voice broke a little.

The way *I see myself has changed since my first talk last February, and it was reflected in how I spoke.

Now I see myself as more than a liver transplant patient.
Now, I’m also a runner with serious training plans for long-distance races.

This opportunity was something I didn’t know I needed; it was a gift for me. Reminded me how far I’ve come– how resilient my immune system. Most importantly, my faith. My legs!

I told them my training goals for races this fall. I felt not just articulate, but healthy. You can’t run five miles without a certain level of fitness!

And I can run seven. I will run nine after training for this upcoming race.

Those students were all watching me. I had their full attention. And best of all, they really laughed and were more interactive. The teacher asked a few questions, and then I was done. And within the time limit!!

Last time I just left quietly, and then the teacher went on with her lecture.

But this time, two students approached me. They were on a small break. One brought me a postcard for an upcoming local Halloween 5k hosted by the college. She told me her name and that she’d be there. On her way out, she turned and stopped, made eye contact. Smile.

“Thanks so much for sharing your story.”

I’m invited back again. And I feel proud, happy, and healthy.

Excavating the Splinter

I feel seriously tough tonight!

For a week, I’ve had a splinter festering. The culprit was a wooden fan.

I kept hoping it would work it’s way out– but it was burrowing deeper. Worse, it was underneath the skin; nothing was poking out.

Like most kids, I grew up with my Dad doing the minor surgery required in the past. We always used a needle and alcohol– usually at the kitchen table.

I could feel it had already been too long and knew I had to take action today.

I asked a co-worker who is a mother of two to appraise it: she suggested tweezers. Obviously I didn’t have the tools at work.

This evening, I called over and asked for my parents’ help.

I brought my own needle and alcohol pad wipes over.

With a new sewing needle wiped clean and sterilized, my Dad broke the skin and then used the needle to try and push it out by dragging the needle across it. It wasn’t working. It made me sad that he didn’t seem to know anymore how to fix it.

He’s always known exactly what to do– always able to make quick decisions.

Luckily, I was paying attention all those times as a kid. And *I remembered the routine he had shown me myriad times in my life. Plus, my hands are smaller. I can maneuver better.

But he did help me– with moral support. My Step-mom Diane, too. And I needed it.

He held my finger steady while I poked around with the needle to dig it out. I YELLED. Doesn’t matter what age you are, splinters are always a bitch!

Then I asked Diane for some tweezers and she went upstairs to loan me hers. As she returned, they were gleaming. Might as well have been a surgical instrument! She stood by.

I grasped the edge of that splinter and –with my LEFT hand, mind you!!– yanked!!

I GOT IT!

It wasn’t long, but was a good size. Underneath the skin. It was square and jagged. It appeared to have all come out intact, what a relief! I yelled in joy.

“YES!!”

We worked as a team. They were happy to help and we all laughed about it.

Sometimes life gives us those little problems to remind us that we’re loved.

That it’s okay, and even good, to ask for help.

And maybe one day, I’ll be lucky enough to help my own kid excavate their splinter– just like my Dad taught me.

A September Run, A Dog, and My Ego

The September breeze enticed me to run tonight– for the second consecutive day.

I was thrilled to put on leggings and a hoodie! I decided on just a simple “recovery” run- 2.5 miles; half of the 5 miles I did yesterday.

Right away, I felt strong. I tried running a different route than I have previously– the wind smelled like a bonfire. It was supposed to just be an “easy” run– but when I checked my pace I was doing so GOOD! Emboldened, I kept it up and kept going.

I encountered my first unleashed dog on a run, which startled me! I heard barking to my right and saw it running beside me. But as I turned to spy my possible attacker, I realized it was just a yippy little thing. Less than five pounds. It was dark so I couldn’t make out the breed, but I laughed to myself! Probably some kind of Terrier. It didn’t chase me– and I continued in safety.

I was having such a good time. I love running in the dark!

But yesterday, I pushed myself to five miles. After three, my left knee and left ankle were hurting a bit– but I stuck it out for the last two miles. I told myself that one day when I run a half, I’ll need the endurance to run on fatigued legs. I never walked.

It was exciting to THINK in those terms– to just assume that someday I’ll run a half-marathon. It’s the first time I’ve thought about it as a given, absolute.

But last night I had less than a quarter mile left when my right foot tripped. I was using it to compensate for my weakened left, clearly. Unconsciously. I think my shoe scuffed and then I tripped. I skinned my knee pretty good– it was bleeding freely.

But I pissed off to have such a great run interrupted, so I did something awesome. I NINJA-ROLLED to the right, then leapt off the sidewalk and continued running. My Nike app never even registered a pause! And I made my goal of 5 miles exactly when I got to my building.

I’ve never felt so hardcore in my life! I was proud. Once my run was over, I got some paper towels from my car trunk and cleaned up the blood before I went in. I poured Hydrogen peroxide on it, dabbed it dry, and put on a couple band-aids. It didn’t even hurt today where I scraped it, thought both knees did feel a little creaky.

I should have taken a Rest Day. But I had to be stubborn.

Tonight when I fell, it shredded the band-aid. I felt minor bleeding through my one pair of Lula Roe leggings. At least the leggings weren’t ruined!

More Hydrogen peroxide. A new, bigger, band-aid. Ice pack. Elevation.

I’m more annoyed that my goal was 2 miles and I went down at 1.89!! So. Close.

With each run, I learn. Tomorrow, a definite rest.

Welcome, September chill! This runner is thrilled to welcome you.

Runner’s Trots : 0 Amee: +1!

I ate a full dinner before running after work tonight. Half a mile into my run, I was regretting it!

That telltale rumble happened- but not in my gut.

Rather, in the place every runner fears. Usually I would turn back and deal with it at home first. Maybe even stop my run and start over.

But I had four miles planned, it was already getting late, and I was resolute.

I knew there was a bar up head on my route. So I just ran faster!

“Not yet, not yet, not yet!” I scolded my digestive tract.

I had taken a longer route to add more mileage– but I cut over from a trail to ensure I’d make it!

I ran into the bar and bolted into the ladies’, passing through a pool tournament. Paused my run!

And whew! Safe.

GI crisis averted.

Instead of starting over or giving up, I’m learning to improvise.

The remainder of my run was relaxed, even pleasant. I hit my goal of 4 miles.

You never know how far the next porta potty is on race day!

These small victories on training runs matter.