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.

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.

When Running is Your Coping Skill

A conversation with my Dad this weekend zapped me out of a no-running funk.

I told him I was volunteering for a second race. They were three days apart.

Dad: “Have you run this week?
Amee: “No.”
Dad: Pause. “Are you still running?”
Amee: “Yeah.”
Dad: “Better stop procrastinating. Gotta do what you gotta do.”

I had to laugh. Months ago he was asking me why I was running so much! It had been 14 days since my last run. A week ago, I had a major panic attack at 3 a.m. I’m back on track now, thanks to being pro-active and reaching out to people as well as using different coping skills.

But I notice that lately if I’m in a bad mood or struggling to accept something, my friends and family ask about my running:

“Would a run help?”
“Have you run today?”

It’s sweet and reassuring. It means they’re paying attention.

It’s an alert that maybe running is more important to me than I even noticed.

And I’m starting to get it. If you lace up and go consistently, especially when you don’t want to– running becomes a vital aspect of your routine. It’s another source of stability in your life; something you do regardless of your moods or even if you feel a little ill.

Dory told us, “Just keep swimming.”

I want to be like her. In my case however, the mantra is “Just keep running.”

I’m so hard on myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other runners.

And when I volunteered at these races, my running friends were thankful for my support on the course. But they also made a point to ask why I wasn’t running it.

“You gotta get back to running!” one person told me.
“It’s great to have you out there cheering,” said another, “but you need to get out there kicking some ass.”

That made me laugh. Me, kicking ass at a circa 14 minute a mile pace? But I realized, that’s just my own insecurity.

I’m racing on a regular basis. In the pictures, I’m clearly working hard. I’ve got a good stride, I’m IN IT. I LOOK like a runner.

Even if I don’t always feel like one.

Tonight I was well-rested and got a lot done at work! I came home excited to run. I broke it in half: I ran to and from someplace I was going. It wasn’t quite 3 miles– 2.92 when I added up both distances.

But I already feel more sane. And going home was easier, I was faster.

I’ve got a 5k this weekend, and there are several races from September to November I’m planning. GAME ON, I’m ready!!

Mud Factor 2017: Save Your Cash for Warrior Dash

I did my first (and maybe only) Mud Factor race today in Wilmington, Illinois. My first Warrior Dash was in 2016, last summer. I’d do it again if I can find someone to go. You might be wondering about the difference: I will tell you.

I actually had a great time! Got major sun on my shoulders. And it was totally last-minute. Wednesday afternoon I was craving a race for this weekend and found this online. I asked a few people in my running club, but no one was game for mud. I decided to chance it solo and then found a friend and her daughter had commented on the Facebook event page. They invited me to join them to run with her granddaughter.

So I was in! They weren’t running until the 1:30 PM kids’ wave, which was only a 3k– 1.86 miles. Of course my giant ego thought that wouldn’t be enough challenge– so I signed up for an earlier 12 PM adult wave to make sure I got the whole 5k experience. I had planned to run BOTH!

Yeah, that didn’t happen! That’s my beef with MF: this course isn’t a full 5k and requires that you run two laps to fully complete it. Warrior Dash gives you a solid continuous 5k course in one long lap.

But my shoes literally got sucked off in the mud about halfway (I’m estimating?) — I finished the rest of the lap in my socks! I stuck them out of the way on that mud hill and my plan was to go back for them and finish in my shoes, time be damned. But my socks were so caked in mud that I couldn’t get my momentum back. And for some reason, my toes were cramping?! It was damn hot and I told myself, “I’ll make up the difference in the 1:30 wave.” So I re-hydrated, had someone take a picture of me, all mudded up. Changed into clean pair of dry socks.

Then I realized I couldn’t wait that long, so I tried again. I think I made it about a quarter mile in (however long was left) before I knew I was done.

This was also my first DNF (did not finish) race: but I’m okay with it. The clock said it took me 36 minutes to get to the 3k mark. That’s respectable. I don’t in any way feel like I wimped out. There was A LOT of mud, it was damn hot, and I had gotten there at 11 a.m. so had already been in the sun 1.5 hours by then.

So I headed over to the wash-off station, which was a joke. The line was probably 45 minutes because they had a shoddy wooden structure with weak trickles of water, it seemed less than 10 people at a time could use it. Right when I got up there, it faltered. Warrior Dash had a more sophisticated system designed to get a big group through quickly– hoses which you can control yourself, with a steady, COLD water pressure.

I ran a mud race alone today. At 12 noon! That’s seriously bad ass. I almost didn’t sign up because I thought I’d feel like a loser running by myself. But it was the opposite: I felt brave. I felt proud. I felt strong.

Mud Factor has less obstacles than Warrior Dash– and my arms are weak. I really struggled getting up the walls with ropes at WD– but today, I kept moving. Even though I haven’t worked out my arms, it seems I’m overall stronger. I ran most of the course, whereas at WD last year I was mostly walking and gasping for breath.

I texted my friend and we met up at the taco truck. Things were getting packed up by then. We took pictures together and they were just as muddy as me! By the time we left it was about 3 p.m.

One thing that’s better about MF is the parking: attendants directed me and it wasn’t in a big mud field like WD had been. It was easy to get out, quick. But there are extra fees for everything: parking, bag check, food truck, bottles of water or Gatorade, merch. And the merch tent has less options, although the staff was great and didn’t hurry me along to make a choice.

I’d say this is a perfect race if you’re a family and really want to enjoy the course with your kids or just have fun with your friends. The savings could go along way if you’ve got 4 or more people to register.

But if it’s just you, the extra fees for Warrior Dash are worth it. The course is more challenging, there are better, vastly different obstacles. There are on-site photographers at several points and your race times are posted. I think pictures were up in a couple of weeks. Going down the big water slide at the end and then leaping over fire to finish WD just makes you feel invincible!! You can opt for a meal-included, and it’s easy to redeem your food ticket. You get a more ornate medal and a big fuzzy hat. There are multiple places to take photos before and after the race, and plenty of props as well to climb on and show off your guns.

Glad I tried a second brand of mud race today or OCR, obstacle course race.

My plans didn’t work out, but I improvised and had a blast! Bonuses were the cool head wrap included with the bib and safety pins. The finisher’s medal is cool and I like the race logo. I bought a neon yellow race tank as well but thus far, it’s not entirely clean after two washings. Hoping I can get it clean tomorrow with some Oxyclean!

And I got some great pictures!

It’s official: I’m addicted to racing!