Sliding Down the Banister of Life: Lessons from Shamrock Shuffle 2018

Today was the the most arduous race of my life thus far but the most fun.

Because of friends I’ve made in my run club in the past year. I asked to get a ride with someone I’ve been wanting to get to know and she was excited to include me with her gang. We met at 6 a.m. at a local park and ride area and were together until circa 2:30 p.m., if I’m calculating right. I was one of six she happily transported in “Black Beauty,” her SUV.

And I learned that I have more — genuine– friends in this group than I realized. As I shared anxiety about being too slow to qualify for a “finisher’s medal” and having the course shut down before I crossed the line, two people in the club took that to heart. They both offered support and to help me in different ways.,one even offering to give me his medal if I didn’t make it in time. I appreciated the offers but declined, wanting to make it without any help. I took a chance.

And I still did it on my own. I was very slow. I had major shin splints after the first two miles, out of an 8k (4.97 miles) race. Why? Because I hadn’t run over a 5k since late October, at the 2017 Hot Chocolate Run 15k. I had managed to run once each month from November to March, due to the exceptional chill this winter. Honestly, I did a LOT of walking today.

I’ve also avoided running because I can be a perfectionist. If it wasn’t at least a 5k, why bother? If I knew I would be slow, better to wait until I had more energy. Until the weather was better. But several warmer days passed, and I didn’t run. I didn’t want to deal with those awkward miles, the transition.

“Junk miles,” you might call them. Thing is, you can’t avoid them.

Junk miles happen in every aspect of our lives. Those days you just don’t WANNA but have to anyway. That’s the whole concept of “adulting”– soldiering on. If you wait for ideal conditions, you’ll never finish anything important.

I almost didn’t even register for this race. I knew I hadn’t trained and that my time would be terrible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the whole race, like I did last year. I wanted to preserve that glory. Last year, I CRUSHED my goal, ran the entire way, and didn’t even need a bathroom break the whole five miles. I had a runner’s high so invincible that I legit FORGOT about work the next morning until a co-worker texted me to check in.

But I’ll admit it, I wanted the swag for 2018. A black racing t-shirt, the medal. Even the socks, though I could tell they were kind of cheap. More than those, I wanted to come back and spend time with friends from the two running clubs I joined last year. I loved that they all gather at Palmer House before the race. I had so much fun hanging out after the race, too.

And those running friends were encouraging me all the way. Even though I felt like I didn’t really “belong” since some of them are elite runners who race every weekend, regularly place and medal, and have run Boston multiple times. But they all told me to just go for it, that they hoped to see me there.

So today, I’m proud of myself. I did this knowing full that it would be arduous. That it would be cold and windy. It was harder than I anticipated.

But when I crossed that finish line and was given my medal, I really felt I’d earned it. I heard them call my name out and smiled like a fool! And then I claimed my stuff from gear check and met up with them at Miller’s Pub.

When I walked in, they all cheered! And it was genuine.

I realized how hard I’ve been on myself. None of my running friends are judging my time or ability. They like seeing me at races, they’re happy for every little bit of progress I make, even if it’s quite humble.

When I got home today, I took a long hot bath. After I publish this, I’m going to sleep. And then back to the grind at work tomorrow!

But I cried a few tears at home today, overwhelmed by it all.

I may be inconsistent and awkward as a runner, but I’m still in it.

And the weather was BRUTAL today! A cruel chill that felt much lower than the 35 degrees I saw displayed on the route. At least we had some sunlight. I had on two pairs of running tights, two pair of gloves, a base layer, the race t, AND a windbreaker coat for running. My Shamrock Shuffle 2017 hat, plus a warm scarf bundled around my neck and mouth. I was dressed warm and it worked!

And the best example of how wonderful today turned out is a moment I had with my friend at Palmer House, where everyone congregated before the race. We were in different waves and corrals, but we all met up and got ready together. It was exciting to be part of a tradition in such a classy place, no less.

Last year, she and I played on the stairs, taking silly pictures. She was sliding down the banister and I took a picture. I think that’s how we met! And I suggested over a chat recently that this year we should try to re-create that moment this year. Last time I hadn’t been brave enough to try taking the same picture. The brass banister was taller than my hip and I just couldn’t let go and slide. But today, I did it! Just like this race, it was a bit awkward getting up there at first. But I maneuvered on and stop caring how I looked or if I would fall off. I raised my arms and went to the top and slid down that banister! My mouth was wide open in a laugh and I went for it. I have great pictures, too!

I LET GO. For that moment, and of my expectations for today.

One race and one awkward moment at a time, I’m becoming more confident.

I’m having more fun. And I’m surrounded my some amazing friends, too.

 

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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!

Race Day Resilience

I nearly forfeited the 5k my work sponsors tonight because of a possible injury.

But I decided to buck up and give it a try: and I was fine! Two plus hours later, no pain.

Tonight I learned that our bodies recover when we least expect it, and to trust mine more when it comes to my running.

And I also had my first-ever race mantra:

“Protect my feet. Make me powerful.”

After running 7 miles (for the first time ever!!) Tuesday and two miles yesterday to prepare for tonight, I noticed some pain in my right foot last night and again this morning. It had been seven days since my last run prior to Tuesday. The pain felt like it was on the top of my foot where the toes themselves connect to my foot. I’m a toe-cracker (sorry if TMI!) and it felt like I had cracked mine too hard. Walking at all was painful, though not agony. Just uncomfortable. But since I’m a receptionist I luckily spend the majority of my day seated.

After doing some Googling and posting on the message board for my running club, I was terrified that I either had a stress fracture or “a complete tear of the plantar plate, where the toes connect to the ball of your forefoot.” The latter was suggested by another run club member who said she’d had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up going to a wonderful podiatrist.

But I wanted to participate tonight with my co-workers, clients, and running club friends.

On my lunch I bought my first bottle of Ibuprofen (normally a Tylenol girl)– because people had said my usual remedy is useless for inflammation. I went home and took two 200mg and grabbed a freezer pack and towel from home. Elevated my foot underneath my desk for the remainder of the day. After work I slathered Bengay on both sides of my foot and hoped for the best.

And tonight, I was fine! I walked a lot because I had to pee BAD. I was afraid to run the first mile, but then the urge passed and I was able to pick it up a bit. The humidity was still horrid, but there was a magnificent WIND and the course ran downhill around a curve too, so that was helpful.

But I really felt like a runner today. Instead of getting all in my head and skipping the race to go to quick care, I just took practical steps to treat the pain and showed up determined to at least try. I had to laugh at myself– I’ve become the very stereotype of a runner who seems to live in total denial of an injury, obsessed with racing.

I’ve already missed one race in April, that 10k that I trained two months to run only to be saddled with such a sever cold I couldn’t get out of bed that morning.

I just want to get the money’s worth for my entry fee! Today I felt bad ass. And beyond that, the thought of having to miss races or even just a few days or a week because of injury made me… surprisingly sad. I had no idea what I had done to cause this pain. Even the possibility felt so UNFAIR!

And along with a several other vendors, there was a physical therapy tent. After the race, I asked a woman to take a look at my right foot. She had me take my shoe and sock off and examined me. She said there was no bruising, nothing seemed broken– I have a healthy foot and the flexing was normal. Relief! She attributed the pain to upping the mileage AND trying a new route simultaneously.

Glad to know I’m back in business! I’ll tape it up to be on the careful side tomorrow, and ice it a few times this weekend. Seemed it’s just pains of adjustment.

Which means I’m making headway as a runner. Which makes me happy.

The biggest gift is proving that I can take care of myself and that my body can heal faster than I anticipated. To not get hung up on “what-ifs” and solving a problem that isn’t even necessarily a definite problem yet.

I’m usually so solution-oriented and sometimes I need to just RELAX.

I get why running is such a mental sport now. It’s all about grounding yourself in your body, whilst also getting OUT of your head.

Prior to racing, we all were lead in some yoga. I was cracking jokes to my co-worker about how UNSUITED for yoga I am. He was laughing along until he just quit the stretching all together, when it was my turn to laugh!

Tonight I allowed my heart to lead, and my feet followed.

Lucky Race #15– Running Rockdale

Today I took a step toward restitution with myself for the race I missed.

I signed up last-minute for a 5k in the same town, Rockdale. And lucky for me, part of the course was the same– a few streets. The weather was also similar- chilly and windy, but no rain. A little warmer, I think.

I began on Meadow Ave. and then up Morris St., just as I would have last time. But this time, I was healthy, rested, and ready. I had slept great the night before, I’ve been cooking vegetables and eating better.

I gave myself a full three weeks to get over my cold and recover. I ran twice this week at 5:30 a.m. with a friend from work. I rested on Friday. Those runs were slow, but today I felt great. NO KNEE PAIN! No pain at all.

It was a small race. I parked at a Catholic church two blocks away and got there in just enough time to drink a little coffee first. I stretched, and a race photographer took a picture of me.

I was slow and steady– and did actually run the majority. My estimated pace is 14:33 according to my Nike Run app, though I find it’s usually a little different than what official race times record. But I saw the clock– I finished at 45:43!! Within the 45 minute range. I hit my goal– pace under 15!!

The race was honestly pretty easy. I enjoyed the course– the hills and the space. I was confident in my outfit, too. Just 3/4 running pants and one base layer zip-up, a hat. Some light gloves, wool socks.

Near the last mile, I dropped one of my gloves. A woman who seemed close to my age was running behind me, and she stopped to pick it up. I thanked her. She brought it up to me, and then began walking. We were at the same pace for awhile– though opposite sides of the road. I tried encouraging her to run, “Come on, you can do it!” and “Let’s pick it up!”

But she was winded, really struggling. How many times have I been her? Many. She knows the limits of her body and how much rest she needs in a race. So I wished her well and passed her up.

When I saw the finish line, I went for it!! I feel like I finished strong. Volunteers were handing out medals for everyone– I was so grateful! We also were given a bottle of water.

I asked someone to take my picture! Posing triumphantly.

There was a variety of food in the tent.

I got a free sports massage, which I’ve always wanted to do at a race! He worked on my calves, it felt great.

I didn’t stick around– it was too cold! But all day, I felt wonderful.

Then I went and signed up for a three-month membership to my local athletic club. Tomorrow I get re-fitted for my new running shoes.

I can *FEEL my life getting better.

Now I’m a runner, but come tomorrow, I will also be taking some classes, hopefully swimming, and learning to cross-train.

I’m so glad I didn’t let the loss of missing that race break my resolve to run.

As I’m learning, I’m actually pretty good at it.

Priorities and Running

Happy Easter!

I’ve run four miles in the past 24 hours and I feel great already.

Sadly, I admit shelving running since November. My last real attempt was December 12, at 1.28 miles– which counts. I made one attempt in February but it was less than a mile.  I try to get at least two miles.

I haven’t run a race since Nov. 8– the Hot Chocolate Run 5k in Chicago. I ran it for my birthday with two friends.

It’s been too cold,  I’ve been too tired– I just haven’t been up for it.

And not just that, I committed myself to so many things that running was the first thing to go so I could make time.

And that was my rookie mistake. As much as I enjoy being reliable and involved in my community, I also need to prioritize myself and what makes me feel good.

Now that it’s getting lighter and warmer, the excuses are gone!

I see now that having a race commitment motivates me to keep training between. I remember when I couldn’t even imagine running 3.1 miles in a 5k. I’ve done five now!

My longest runs have been 4.83 miles in July and 5.01 in August. I know it’s in me!

And more than six months ago, a friend invited me to run a FIVE MILE race in May.

I just registered online! It’s called the Cinco de Miler and is in Chicago.

I’ve got a goal. I’m gonna keep running until I can do five miles regularly.

And I’m promising myself that I won’t sacrifice my running again to make time to do things for other people.

Because although those commitments are important, so is my happiness. If I don’t make time for myself, no one else will do it for me.

And even though running is a pain in the calves, the accomplishment?

That makes me smile like a fool.

 

 

Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

My Second 5K: A Hard Lesson

Yesterday morning I ran my second 5K, The Shorewood Scoot.

It was difficult and I lost motivation quickly.

I hadn’t run at all in a week, and I could feel the difference. It was my first slightly cold run and I *did* love that!

What I love about 5K’s is getting up early, meeting friends and taking pictures before– the camaraderie of being with a bunch of people who don’t care about the weather and want to do something healthy for fun.

Everyone seems to be relaxed and people are wearing so many different colors! It’s a wonderful environment.

And I LOVE crossing the finish line.

But yesterday early-on I felt defeated– I was too focused on the outcome– on my rank. On who was behind me.

I slowed to a walk in less than a mile. People– walkers!– from behind me kept passing me up.

Then I began to see elderly people who were running slowly, but still running– they passed me too.

I barely ran this one. I just didn’t have the energy, though not sure why. I did get enough sleep.

One  con about this race was far fewer volunteers– and they didn’t have much enthusiasm. They merely clapped and pointed, but most of them didn’t smile or cheer or even make eye contact. I was surprised how much I missed that enthusiasm from my first 5K.

I also had in a lined rain jacket and it felt too hot over the thermal shirt I had chosen. But my bib was pinned on it and I didn’t want to stop and re-do it. Also, that jacket never stays tied around my waist.

The race actually began on a trail I’ve run several times. I kept seeing entrances off the path to the woods. I had such a strong urge to ditch the race altogether and just explore alone in the woods.

But I kept on. I believe I crossed the finish line in 50:25?? That’s what I remember the clock saying.

I have no idea how I ranked– after several searches online there appears to be no link posted.

But maybe it’s better that way??

After, I had plans to go with a friend and her two dogs to a local arboretum. I was so psyched!

Especially since her little lady, Kaia, sat on my lap most of the way. She enjoyed being hugged, and I loved holding her. It was comforting to have this calm little creature snuggling up to me. Once we arrived, we both walked one of the dogs and marveled at all the pets and vendors! And the threes, of course.

It was a laid-back, beautiful day that felt like fall. We both had long-sleeve shirts on.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long.

Her little dog was pulling me and I couldn’t keep up with walking her. For some reason, my knees were really sore. I had to keep slowing down and stopping.

I felt like the Tin Man with rusty joints. I felt like every bit of 34.

It was confusing, because I’ve run 5 miles without any pain. What’s the difference in running a 5K and then doing some walking? It wasn’t even a large dog!

Regardless, it appears I over-did it by making those plans directly after the race.

A lesson for next time!

And although that race was a hard one, I’m not giving up.

I will simply run more often and continue doing 5K’s until they get easier.

I’m not waiting long to get back out there. Probably tonight!

Because when I do well, I love it!

I’m going to tr y and have the mindset that I’m running to ENJOY it. To take in the beauty of fall. To challenge myself. To have fun with my friends. To visit places I haven’t been.

And yes, to compete. The two 5K’s I’ve run have both been small and local.

I think I would enjoy a big one more. The anonymity would comfort me in a bigger group.

What’s a race that was difficult for you?? How do you motivate yourself when you start to get inside your head and lose heart during a race?  Tell me in the comments!