A Lesson in Humility: My first DNS Race

I had trained two months for this race: The Rockdale Ramblin’ Run 10k.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I arose and trained 5:30- 6:30 a.m.

DNS is runner code for “Do Not Start”– or forfeit. Since 2015 when I began racing, I had never missed one. This was unlucky #14.

And the morning of, my body said no. Need overcame will. Shot pride.

At 6:15 a.m. April 29, my alarm went off. Our team was meeting at 7:15 to stretch– the race began at 8 a.m.

But literally, I couldn’t even get out of bed. Sometimes I have random eye pain and it flared up that morning– I couldn’t see, let alone drive. I put my prescription eye ointment in, applied a cold wet washcloth, texted my trainer and a friend who was going to cheer me on that I wasn’t going, and went back to bed.

But I had also been desperately trying to fight off a cold since Weds– I even called off work Thursday. I had the works– sore throat, majorly runny nose, coughing. And the weather forecast was cold, windy and most likely rainy. I also have a suppressed immune system– so it takes me longer to get over being sick. It wasn’t worth it to miss another day of work just to for pride’s sake.

I slept till 11:30 a.m. and felt rested. But also kinda devastated. Especially since it’s the last year for this particular race, which is historic and has earned the nickname “The Toughest 10k in the Midwest” because of several steep hills. Plus, I just wanted to be there with my friends. We had so much fun doing the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago in March– and I had crushed it!

Also, it was going to be my first race with people cheering me on! I’ve been wanting that a long time.

I had promised myself I would go and try– at least up the first hill, where my friend Marlene would be cheering me on since she lives directly on the route, and I had asked for her support. And if I couldn’t, I wanted to be there to cheer on support my friends were were racing. I felt like I had let down my teammates, though running is a solitary sport. I have friends now through the training and also two local running clubs I’ve joined.

But most of all, I hated feeling weak and out of control of my body. I was convinced if I rested, I could summon the strength to power through. But truthfully, I burned myself out training so hard.

I had begun going to bed early and waking up early. About halfway through I just stayed up as normal and was barely getting 4-5 hours the days I trained. All I did for two months was run, work, sleep, and beat myself up about not running if I missed it. I didn’t really see my friends.

I thought my runner friends would judge me. But none of them did– they were actually very supportive. They wrote on my wall that they were sorry I couldn’t race, but there were other races. That I should just get better and rest.

I also realized I couldn’t expect myself to perform on their level when these awesome people have been racing for years and are a higher level of fitness. Most of them race nearly every weekend– if not twice! They do halfs and marathons. They can do 10 miles easy.

I’ve been racing two years but am only now getting “serious” about running. I’m starting to care about my times and train for specific pace goals. Learning about nutrition, stretching.

I’ve spent the past few weeks coming to terms with what changes I need to make so that this doesn’t happen –hopefully– again. I need to be realistic about my goals.

I decided to cancel my plans for the Solider Field 10 Mile I had been hoping to do for months–I just can’t add that mileage confidently in three weeks. My body needs more time to adjust, and that’s okay. Two people invited me to do a half-marathon this fall but I’m going to table that, although it’s a huge compliment!

I’ve decided that to make this loss right with myself, I will run the course anyway– just so I can say I ran the route. I love the event hoodie that came with the packet, but I feel like a liar wearing it. I have the course map and some friends who have run the race a few years. I’m going to use that route for training to get myself comfortable with the 10k distance and hill work. I will do it alone too until I can run it hopefully without the map.

And then I will pin on my race bib and run my best time, and maybe ask my friend to cheer me on again. I forgive myself but I can still learn from the experience and take on the challenge!

I’m still a little stuffy) but my throat is clear and no cough. I’ve been on two run since yesterday– 8 miles!

I may be slower to learn, but I’m not quitter! I have a 5k in Rockdale next weekend– so I’ll be running in the same neighborhood with some hills, even if it’s half the distance. That makes me feel better.

As runners often say: “It’s just a hill. Get over it.”

Running Though the Bad

I’m in a bit of a snit with running lately.

Truly, I have no idea why. My guess is that as I’ve become more aware to the running community, I’m feeling intimidated.

I joined a bunch of running groups on facebook and added several members of the two local running clubs of which I’m now a member. At first seeing everyone post their daily miles and races was exciting, but being inundated with paces in the 6-8 minute range has caused me to compare myself.

There’s that envy again! Now Lent is over, but I still struggle with it.

Suddenly, the activity that inspired me and was starting to feel natural got harder. I’ve fallen back with my pace– my confidence took a major dive with it. I’m feeling stuck.

However, there are also awesome benefits. For the first time ever, I (kinda!) knew some people running the Boston Marathon. Seeing their bib numbers and progress posted was exciting. And if these are the individuals in my running clubs, aren’t I lucky? I’m bound to learn and absorb SOME of their skill and running mojo.

If you want to be great, surround yourself with greatness. These people genuinely LOVE running– they run early, in all kinds of weather. Some race nearly every week. They look fit– like runners. They know their pace and seem RELAXED while running– they are able to go on long group runs and even have conversations while running. They travel to Boston just to support other club members– that kind of devotion is impressive. They know who they are — runners– and they’ve built a comfortable life and group of friends around it.

I want that!

I’m in the process of doing the same. I just have remind myself that I can’t compare my beginning to the established routines and athletic excellence that took years to develop.

And I have to be more forgiving of myself and the humility of my body’s limits.

As much as I aspire to it– I’m not Haruki Murakami. I can’t magically up my mileage whenever I feel like it and run endlessly, without walk breaks. He was born with some genetic predisposition to running that is truly a gift.

The rest of us have to earn all those skills and miles under duress.

But I know that I have the heart of a runner, even if my legs and my lungs fight me.

Because I’m reading books about it, signing up for races months in advance, and making major lifestyle changes to better enable myself to perform at a higher level. I’m foregoing other purchases, thinking, “I could put that toward a race fee.” The next thing I fantasize about buying is a new pair of running shoes– mine are starting to feel flat.

Because although right now trying to improve and acclimate myself to this sport honestly sucks, I’m thinking long-term.

Growing pains are awkward, but that’s all these are. Pains of transition.

I can’t wait till my next race– this weekend. It’ll be my first 10k– in an arboretum.

No one I know is doing this race, and I love that. I’ll be free.

No pressure. I’m just going to enjoy myself, push my pace, and look at the trees.

 

First Hill Training: Winded and Windy!

A four week hill training workshop is hosted this month by a local running store to prep us for a race coming up April 29– with monster hills! I had missed last week.

I was STOKED for my first run in a t-shirt and shorts, too. It was gorgeous, around 65.

For the first time I pulled up to Four Seasons Park in Shorewood, Illinois. I’ve run often nearby, as it’s been my neighborhood twice. But I’d never ventured that far up Seil Rd. I was happy to find the place teeming with people and sports in progress. I drove around and spied a large group of adults in neon colors, who seemed in running attire. That was my crew. But by the time I parked a little bit farther up, they had all turned and began running toward the street!

So I broke out into a full run, trying desperately to catch up. I recognized two ladies from my training class near the back.  I had to stop and breathe several times. “WAIT!” I called to my two classmates. They turned and saw me. They slowed down and I was able to get nearer, at least.

I thought we were here to run hills, not go on a run?! Apparently it was a warm-up. Finally I caught up to the group as they gathered for dynamic stretches and some verbal instruction and demonstration on how to run hills.

So many adults around, all in a great mood! I recognized members of the local running club I’ve joined, people I saw at the Shamrock Shuffle or who post frequently. I knew some people. I was so dang happy to be outside. I even put on my Warrior Dash 2016 finisher shirt: hills are serious business!

Our leader explained there were three levels of hill-running: advanced (all running), intermediate (run hill, jog down, walk back,) and beginners (run hills only at pace/extent they are capable.) I put myself in the intermediate group.

The first pass was brutal! But still, I loved it. I seek out hills in my own runs but have never known a strategy for them. He demonstrated strides for us. I may be slow, but I was reminded that I *am athletic. I was able to muster more energy than I expected.

I wasn’t counting at first but he said we should do a minimum of six passes. I believe I did, if not seven. Our leader stood and gave us encouragement and feedback. He said my form was good– hearing I was doing it right spurred me forward.

After I turned on my running app, I got probably the last 4 or 5 passes.

I got stronger each time.

Afterwards, we all did a team cheer where we put all our hands together and yelled, “HILLS!” Like in middle-school. 🙂 A group of people did some shots to celebrate. Some went back out to run more.

I went home! The wind was getting to me. I didn’t want to get sick. I could feel it in my legs today, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. Those leg muscles must be getting more tolerant.

This is going to be my new favorite place! I will do hill repeats on my own. I will explore the park and find a new running route. I might go back with a friend.

I feel like a whole new aspect of my community opened up to me. What a gift!

A Run and A Confession

I ran five miles tonight after three days break.

Afterward, I drove to Confession at St. Ray’s. I made for the last hour and spent most of it in line, waiting.

And what a wait it was!

I had conversations with three random women. When was the last time a stranger talked to me in public, doing anything? It was refreshing and unexpected.

At first I felt a bit self-conscious in my skirt, even though it’s an athletic skirt. Everyone else was so buttoned up and well, Catholic. Hee! But a woman in the pews pointed to my skirt and asked, “Do you play tennis? Cute!” We got to talking about exercise. She had a big black boot on her foot. “I’ve never been a runner,” she told me. But she loves tennis. She said she’s not sure what kind of work out she can do with her foot.
“Yoga?” I suggested. She agreed. Pointing to her arms, she grabbed one and jiggled it! She likes to lift free weights. She was wearing a bright orange shirt, black pants. Cute choppy blonde haircut.

The line moved up, so I moved. I said goodbye to her and we smiled at each other.

Two women in front and behind me were having a conversation. Whispered, so I couldn’t decipher what they were saying specifically.

I was looking at the woman in front of me, scoffing internally at her bright yellow banana clip– straight out of the ’90s!– and the wierd black pipecleaner thing she had somehow wound around it.

And while I was judging her, she began talking with me. The woman in front her saw my Shamrock Shuffle hoodie and asked if I had run in it. “Yes!” I said. “My daughter ran it,” she told me. I felt so proud. This hoodie wasn’t cheap but I knew I’d live in it. It felt so good to be recognized for an athletic achievement by a stranger. I’d told myself it’s just an 8k, a mere five miles. Small potatoes in the running world. But that’s five miles I couldn’t dream of two years ago!

It was her turn.  So it was just me and the woman behind me, who had a thick braided ponytail– almost white blonde. She was holding a small finger Rosary.

“Is it Amber?” I had asked.

She wasn’t sure. “I got it in Poland,” she told me.

I told her that on the other side when I got there, there were several nuns waiting in line.  “I wonder what nuns confess?” I mused.

She said a lot to me, but I couldn’t hear most of it. But clearly, she was alive with faith. She spoke of Jesus, I caught that much.

Then it was my turn.

I told Father that it’s been about a year since my last Confession. I had missed Advent. I was kneeling on a dark wood bench– there was simple cloth curtain separating us. It seemed to be a large confession booth. He was a good listener. It was almost 9 p.m., closing time, but he wasn’t hurrying me at all.

I was surprised at how good I felt– I wasn’t wracked with guilt about anything. I told him the truth– that I haven’t been to Mass much lately.  That I had a hot dog for lunch. That I quit choir so I could get to bed earlier and focus on running. That I gave up envy for Lent, and that I struggle with it. That I gave up sleeping in for Lent too– also for running– and have failed that on multiple accounts! That I want to be more independent. I’m trying to save my money.  That my parents are my best friends and I want to do right by them. That I want to learn the Rosary but it’s overwhelming and not happening yet.

I told him other things of course– but I’m keeping that to myself!

I was genuinely shocked by his reaction.

He didn’t chastise me once. Not even for going MIA from Mass for awhile.

Instead he told me that God wants us to progress in our lives. That I’m doing that with my running. That my tenacity will pay off.

He asked me to say One Hail Mary and one Gloria.

I left feeling lighter. I’m always inspired by how forgiving and open-minded priests can be. I should have gotten his name. I’d like to confess to him again. He had a soft accent.

I left feeling grateful and cleansed, like I do after a good run.

Confession was like a five mile run for my soul. I feel more spiritually fit.

If you haven’t been to Confession in a long time, don’t be afraid. Be honest. And let it go.

 

 

 

Lucky # 13: My First Shamrock Shuffle 8k!

I’m floating!

On endorphins. On CRUSHING the race goal I set for myself.

On the joy of new running friends. On knowing that I am indisputably more fit.

This was my lucky 13th race, and a phenomenal PR all-around.

To give some context, the only other race with a comparable distance was the Cinco de Miler last year– a five mile, not an 8k. It was May 7, 2016, also in Chicago. At that point I had neglected running for seven brutal months– and then only did that race because my friend Lisa invited me to push past 5ks and try it with her. Like the naive casual runner I was, I ran four miles the night before– rather than resting. My race suffered immensely for it– I had to walk/hobble three full miles due to intense knee pain. I had to stop and sit and massage my knee. Three separate times, I desperately wanted to quit– there was also horrid wind and rain along the Lake Shore Drive. I ended up with a “pace” of 18:18 for 5.15 miles at 1:34:26. I was just happy to finish, period!

Today, my time is ONE HOUR, FOUR MINUTES, and SEVEN SECONDS!! My Nike Running app said my pace is 12:12, but the official race time reports 12:54. Whichever, I’m ECSTATIC either way!! In about 10 months time, I shaved nearly SIX minutes off my pace and nearly 30 full minutes off my finishing time!

Twinges of light knee pain a couple times, but otherwise felt like a gazelle. No knee pain post-race or hours later. I’m getting more fit!!

Today was the first time I’ve felt truly confident in all aspects of a race!

Last night I felt the beginning of a blister on my instep and put a Band-Aid on it. No problem today!

I knew to rest yesterday, save for walking around the expo to pick up my packet. I knew to eat a good dinner and a light breakfast. I drank water and avoided coffee. For the first time in a race, I feel like I finally knew how to DRESS! I had a real base layer and wasn’t cold once all morning. I had a race shirt that was exactly the right size. My race bib wasn’t on crooked. I was even okay doing a gear check without worrying about it. I’m more relaxed in general with the racing scene. And my bag had everything in it– band-aids, Bengay, Tylenol– though I didn’t need any of it.

Probably my biggest accomplishment?

I DID NOT NEED ONE BATHROOM BREAK THE ENTIRE RACE! I truly feel like a bad ass.

A few times I felt the urge to pee, but just told myself to hold it and shortly it subsided. I also only took the first cup of water, but only drank about half in sips and threw the rest out.

I ran only forward the whole time– not even considering what was behind me. I ran mostly in the middle of the road, at my own steady pace. Thanks to the official race results, I know I finished ahead of 2,885 people. BAM.

I saw one woman give another an extra ponytail holder as she passed by. I saw a woman in blue and white run to hug what seemed to be family members briefly, then keep on going. I saw signs of encouragement. I saw people shedding their hats and layers.

I was surprised by how warm *I felt– but I kept my racing stocking hat on because I didn’t want to carry it as I have in past races. And also because yeah, it looked cool!

Crossing the finish line, I was so calm. As I passed into the chute, I reached the volunteers handing out medals. I stepped forward so a man could put it around my neck. I grabbed my banana, water and chips from the boxes.

I asked someone to take a picture of me, sweaty and glorious– brandishing my medal.

I went to gear check, then easily found my running crew peeps.

Everything today went amazing. I was so warm after the race I changed out of my base layer in a porta-john and just wore the race day t-shirt.  People were excited to hear about how I did and so supportive! I got to meet and chat with several people.

I loved picking everyone’s brains about their own racing goals and bucket lists.

Runners are my tribe.

I’m smitten with racing. It’s my happy place.

Now onto my next race goal: the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run on April 29th!

I’ll be learning hill work and building up to 6.2 miles– my first 10k.

Cannot wait for the next adventure!!

 

 

 

 

Carry On, My Wayward Feet

“THUNDERSTRUCK! YES!”

I felt like a bad ass in a movie montage this morning at circa 5:45 a.m. as my training class headed out into the parking lot on our first group run on the street. Nine of us assembled and I was pumping my fist like John Bender at the end of “The Breakfast Club.”

AC/DC came over my Pandora into my my earbuds and we were warmed up. I was ready.  I had also jogged 1.5 miles to training this morning since my car is in the shop till about 8 a.m. and who am I going to ask for a ride at 5:30 a.m. anyway? I realized my predicament last night after a friend dropped me off, but decided then it didn’t matter. I was GOING!

My alarm went off at 4:15 this morning, I was up by 4:45, and out the door by 5:00 a.m. I gave myself 30 minutes to make it on foot and was still eight minutes early! Which is hilarious because otherwise I’m usually a couple minutes late.

Today was my favorite day in this training. We ran a full three miles and I kept my pace under 15 minutes!! I’ve been feeling anxious about the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle this Sunday, since it’s my first timed race and I need to finish in under 1:15 minutes to qualify as a finisher. I normally need 1:30 to complete five miles.

Now I’m believing I can accomplish this. My first mile was 13 minutes even! I was a straggler, but our trainer Gloria kept an eye on me and made sure I didn’t get left behind. She gave me some pointers– such as committing to using a set run/walk interval time. She said certain apps can help, and to ask my classmates for recommendations.

We ran at a 2 min run/1 mile walk interval. Usually I would think that I had no time for that– just trying not to get left behind would be the priority. But there was no pressure to do that– she would call out to me, “Walk!” I learned that even if you’re slow, the run/walk method is still a benefit. And I can feel a difference– my pace improved substantially today. My overall average was 14:42 miles, which would have me finishing the race with time to spare on Sunday!

And the coolest thing happened on the run– I saw some flashing light packs and sure enough, it was four members of the local running club I just joined. I waved and smiled at them– they run at 5 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. When class is over I plan to transition to running with them to keep fit.

To recognize friends on the route was such an incredible feeling!

On the home stretch back, “Carry On My Wayward Son,” played by Kansas. Hell yeah.

When we ended the run, all of us stretched by the wire fence. I’m learning great dynamic stretches, too.

Best of all, I made a new friend today! I mentioned to someone I had jogged here and another short woman like myself who I had talked to before offered to give me a ride home. Since I’d already gotten in 4.5 miles in, I was happy to accept. Turns out, she’s Catholic, too! I saw the Rosary in her car and asked. She gave me her number for a ride to class anytime. 🙂

Life is extraordinary, if you’re willing to change up your routine a bit.

 

 

Inchworms and sprints and plies squats!

I feel so happy.

This morning we had a sub trainer, and she kicked our asses!!

We ran a mile around the track, then the bleachers, then one more round. Then we took the bleachers two steps at time– that small change gave me a terrific burn.

I was third-to-last running the mile– Tuesday I was dead last. My competitive spirit kicked in when I saw a shadow to my left. Nuh-uh, not today!

The biggest surprise was doing sprints– probably about five times.

Kelly yelled for us to”Give it all you got!!”

And I found myself third from the lead while sprinting?! Something changed with my body– I felt sleek, powerful, energized. We didn’t need to go far. But it helped me realize that I’m capable of more than I think, physically.

The inchworms were so hard! I loved every minute.

And afterward I had zero craving for a donut. I’m changing. ❤

Good morning to all, time to get ready for the work day!