Friday, December 28, 2012

Well That Wasn't What I Had In Mind

On Wednesday, I went out for a run with one of my running buddies.  While out and about, she and I chatted a bit about the gym, and I mentioned that I really needed to start using my membership more.  I'd been focusing so much time on running that I'd pretty much forgotten about the gym (except for that one swim after the marathon).  I really enjoy swimming and cycling, but with the business and the long runs I just didn't seem to have time for it.

Yesterday, I met up with her and another friend for another run.  We were headed out for a simple 4 mile run, and, while I was REALLY tired, I figured I'd be just fine.  Things were going pretty great until about 3.5 miles in.  All of a sudden, my foot started to hurt.  It was more of a bad ache, so I focused on my stride, adjusted my posture, and hoped it would feel better.  It did for a little bit, but on the last little stretch of run it really started to hurt.  I mean, it hurt so bad I was limping...significantly limping.  I figured I must not have stretched enough or loosened up enough and I'd be fine after a bit of rest and a hot shower.  I got in the car and went home.

By the time I got home ten minutes later I couldn't apply any pressure to my foot.  Walking sent pain shooting through my leg, and climbing the stairs was an adventure.  I got in the shower and hoped it would feel better, but it didn't.  I rested on the bed for a short while, and I hoped my foot would relax and feel better then.  It didn't.  When I stood up again my foot hurt so bad I teared up (not something I usually do).

I went in to work and I immediately researched "stress fracture."  Unfortunately, that's what all the signs point to.  Well, to be honest, I'm not sure it's a full blown stress fracture.  It may just be a stress reaction (the precursor to a fracture), but it still means my running will have to go on hold for a while.  It means I have to take things easy at work (not so easy for a girl who runs a doggy day care).  It means I have to rest for 4-6 weeks, maybe longer, and it means that I won't be able to enjoy long runs with Cody in the morning.  This last one is probably the most depressing for me. :(

I am trying to look on the bright side, though.  This is a great opportunity for me to return to the gym.  I can swim my little heart out, and that's great.  I should also be able to cycle fairly regularly, so I should be able to keep up my running dates as long as I stay on my bike.  As for the work thing, well I'm trying to reorganize my schedule so I can take a few more breaks, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Today I'm kind of down in the dumps and crabby, but I'm sure my first good swim / bike ride will make things better!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Worst Run Ever! (Almost)

Friday, I had a big day planned.  I had a full day of work, plus a Christmas party at Hans' work, plus I was doing a segment on the morning news about pet safety through the holidays.  This last thing meant that Cody would be with me, and it meant I needed him to get some exercise so he was tired, so it was the perfect day for a run.  I knew it would take at least 7 miles to really wear him out, but I was also scheduled to run 13 miles on Saturday.  Well, I just rearranged my days a bit, and decided to wake up really early and run 13 miles on Friday morning.  So, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, got dressed, and headed out.  I was happy that Cody really was ready and excited to go for a run that early, and I was happy that Hans had decided to bike at least half the route with me before biking in to the kennel.

I had the route all planned out, and headed out for a run.  I was doing great (albeit a little slower because I was tired) until about mile 3.  All of a sudden, my stomach cramped a little.  Ouch!  I willed that sensation to go away and continued on.  At mile 3.5 that cramp came back.  I was a little surprised because my morning had been fairly normal, and I'd done all the necessary things I normally do before a run, but I figured I'd be fine.  If worse came to worse, I knew there was a port-o-potty in about another mile or so, so I could take care of things there.  By mile 4.5 I had to stop and walk.  There would be serious trouble if I ran any more.  Luckily, I knew that port-o-potty was just on the other side of the lake, so I could quickly walk there.  When I got to the other side of the lake, however, the port-o-potty was gone!!!  This was bad...really bad.

One of Hans' co-workers lives right in that area, and Hans offered to call him, but I declined.  It was barely even 5:00 am yet, and I was not going to wake up someone I only saw at Hans' work just to use his bathroom.  I mean, I know he's really nice, but that would have been beyond humiliating.  Hans mentioned he thought he saw another facility back at the entrance of the park, so he could bike around to see if it was open.  I walked in that general direction.

By mile 5, I passed a grove of bushes.  I seriously (very seriously) considered turning off my headlamp and jumping behind them for a short while.  I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Hans reported back about the bathroom...locked.  I told him to bike home and bring me the car.  This run was over, and I was in full-blown emergency mode.  I even considered walking back to those bushes.  When I turned around, however, I saw a beacon of hope...the boathouse for the lake.  Lights were on around it, but I had no idea if it was open.  It didn't look open, but I had to try.  Hans, apparently, decided to text his coworker.

I made it to the boathouse, and before I even tried the door I could see it was cracked open a little.  It was open!!!  There was a public restroom, with working toilets and everything, and it was open!!  HALLELUJAH!  A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!!  I called Hans and told him I was fine, and he sounded relieved, although he did mention that his coworker was already awake, so that would have been an alternative.

I stayed in that restroom for a brief while, and then decided to continue with my run.  Things were not so great at first since tummy troubles tend to make for not so great running.  I took it slow, though, walked a couple of times, and decided to take a Shot Block for an added boost.  Finally, 13 miles later, I returned home; tired, but no worse for wear.

The rest of the day was busy.  The news segment went well, work kept me moving, and by the end I was EXHAUSTED!  I came home and crashed.  Oh, and you know that Christmas party at Hans' work I mentioned?  Well, I did see his coworker there.  Luckily, although I'm not sure why, I was not at all embarrassed about this ordeal.  I guess I know it's a fact of running that some time I might get stuck.  I know runners who have used the bushes (heck I saw some on the marathon), and I was just relieved it hadn't gotten that far.  So, Hans, his coworker, and I all had a good, long laugh over the ordeal.  I was the only one, though, who had also had a good long run! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Let Us Unite

On Friday, something horrible happened.  Something that brought the country together in grief and in fear.  On Friday, a single man entered a school and killed twenty children and six adults, and then he killed himself.  The nation has been left stunned.  We live in fear that this may happen again.  In a nearby county, one school official overheard a conversation between two administrators about emergency preparedness, thought they were talking about a gunman in the school, jumped out a window, and ran to a neighbor's house to call police.  After police arrived, they realized what had happened, and made statements that it was a good training exercise.  This would all be hilarious if it weren't so sad.

One thing we've all heard plenty of in the past few days are ways to try to keep this from happening again.  There's been talk of gun control, mental illness, video games, movies, the media, religion, anything you can think of.  And to some degree, each person who talks about these issues, probably has a valid point.

The problem that I'm noticing is that, when we should unite, when we should hold each other and mourn our loss, and tell each other that we love each other, we are instead dividing.  People who are for gun control are railing against the NRA who are fighting back.  People are angry with the government for our lack of mental health care, and that, of course, starts a whole new debate on health care in general.  People are angry with the media who, in turn, are yelling about free speech.  People are angry over the lack of religion in schools, but people of a faith other than Christianity, are shouting to have their voices heard too.  What I'm seeing is a lot of division.

I want to remind people what we're facing right now.  Right now, we are dealing with grief.  It's alright to be angry.  It's alright to be angry with God or with Adam Lanza.  It's alright to feel sad or depressed or disappointed.  Let us try, however, to feel those emotions together.  Take time to think about how the families in Connecticut feel.  Do you really think that the parents and loved ones of those 27 lost souls are really concerned about gun control or the media right now? 

Yes, these are all discussions we need to have.  Yes, changes need to be made.  Let us, however, keep things civil.  Let us remember that we are ALL upset.  The person who supports gun control feels the exact same way as the head of the NRA.  The priest feels the same as the atheist.  Pointing fingers, yelling, cursing...none of these will do anything to bring those people back.  If we want to honor their memory, let us do it together.  Let us not divide.  Let us unite.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hazards of Running

This past week, Hans and I had been planning a run.  I was lamenting over the fact that I would not be able to participate in a Wednesday night group run to see Christmas lights, so Hans suggested we go out on our own.  We were getting off work early on Friday, so an evening run was possible.  Hans would ride his bike, and I would run the 12 miles I had originally planned for Saturday.  This was a great opportunity for bonding.

At 6:00pm, I was lucky Hans was going with me.  I was tired from the events of the day, and I really wanted to just stay at home.  Hans, however, was really looking forward to going out, so I put on my running clothes and we headed off.

Around mile 2, I started feeling sick.  I handed my fuel belt and my jacket to Hans, and I immediately felt better.  On a side note, I really like having someone bike next to me while I run.  Hans could carry my supplies, and I didn't have to worry about things like getting to hot or too cold.  Around mile 3, I finally started to hit my groove.  This is a normal time for me to really get into a run, and I was finally getting relaxed.  Hans and I chatted gaily and pointed out Christmas decorations we really liked and decorations we really hated.  At mile 4, we paused briefly for our own little SAG stop, and I was happy we were already one-third of the way done.  Time was passing nicely.

Then, shortly after our break, something happened.  Something that, until last night, I could proudly proclaim had never happened to me on a run.  I tripped.  I was running on the sidewalk (which are more like rough trails in the city) and misjudged a drop.  The next thing I knew I was landing on the ground.  Apparently I had been moving at a pretty good clip, because I couldn't seem to stop the fall at all.  First my knees, then my hands, and then, to my horror, I felt my face skid on the pavement.

I heard a grunt come out of me, and then came the slew of curses.  I was mad at myself for falling, I was worried that I had seriously hurt myself, and I was upset because I feared the run might have to end.  Luckily, Hans was right there to help me asses the situation.  We poured water over the cuts on my hands, and I stretched out a little.  I could keep going, so off we went.

Unfortunately, I never found that relaxing stride again.  The fall had jarred me, and I ached.  My knees, face, and hands hurt from where I'd fallen, and I really just wanted to relax in a hot bath.  I had to pause at a local store for a bathroom break, and I had an extremely difficult time running again after that.  I could feel my stride had changed.  My feet weren't landing the right way, and my back ached.

Finally, just past mile 11, so close to the finish, I had to stop.  Hans offered to bike the mile home and get the car, but I figured I could walk.  It was a very painful walk, and even just 2 blocks from the house I almost asked Hans to get the car so I wouldn't have to walk another step.  When we finally made it home, I sat in a chair, washed my wounds, and applied Neosporin.

Today, I ache.  Some of the ache is just that of a long run, but most of it is so much more.  My shoulders and back hurt.  My glutes hurt.  My feet hurt.  I probably should have gone for a swim, but I was too worried that the water on my scrapes would sting too much.  I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow, but today is one for rest and recovery.

So, now I've had my first big issue on a run.  I'm proud of myself for running 7 additional miles, even if I didn't make it to the full 12.  I'm proud of myself for walking the last mile instead of having Hans come back and pick me up.  Heck, I'm even a bit proud of the road rash on my face that gives me a little street cred.  All I can say is it's a good thing I love this running thing, or else last night would have ended it for me!

After my run, as I try to tend to my wounds.  Trust me, it feels worse than it looks.

Friday, December 14, 2012


What is healthy?  Thin doesn't necessarily mean healthy.  Active and fit doesn't either?  So what is healthy?

This is something I've been trying to figure out for a while.  For the most part, I've come to the conclusion that healthy means have good balance in your life.  This means running AND yoga.  Parties AND time at home.  Fruits and veggies AND a cupcake.  And for the most part, I'm doing OK with this.  I run a lot, but I do get some yoga in, and I'm trying to get some cross training in there too.  I work a lot, but I definitely take time to enjoy my rest, and I try to make time for friends wherever possible.  Where I'm struggling most is with food.

Does eating healthy mean eating zero processed foods?  Does it mean no / low carbs?  Does it mean no meat?  Does it mean less meat?  What about red meat?  Everybody seems to have a different answer to this question.  Many runners talk about carbo-loading, but plenty of nutritionists and dieticians say that runners / athletes overload.  Some people claim that zero processed foods is the way to go, but then doesn't that put more stress on you as far as eating with friends / eating out / budgeting?  And don't even get me started on the carb / meat debate!

A lot of this has been at the forefront of my mind since Dad's diagnoses with diabetes.  You see, it's not just about wanting to see my dad healthy and living a long life (which I do).  It's also about the fact that his diagnoses means that I'm at risk.  Little things like a spike in blood sugar could just mean that I ate something a little too sweet, or it could mean that my body is having serious trouble regulating foods.  Eating healthy now could mean that I might avoid a similar diagnoses in the future.  Eating healthy now might also save my future children.

So, where do I begin?  Well, I think everyone can agree that eating more fruits and veggies is a good thing.  Most people can agree that whole grains are better than processed.  What I'm trying to figure out is the balance.  How many carbs can I or SHOULD I eat before they're a problem?  How often should I eat a salad versus a sandwich?  Is it alright if I eat out once in a while?  What if I have a doughnut or Qdoba or some other horribly fatty / sugary item?  Am I OK?

A while back I started tracking food on an online database.  For whatever reason (namely I got tied up starting the business), I stopped tracking.  Now, I'm trying to get back to tracking again, and apparently I'm eating more than I used to.  So, I'm back to relearning how to eat.  How should I eat when I run 12 miles in a day?  How should I eat when I'm fairly sedentary?  How will that food effect my energy levels, and will I be hungry within an hour or within 5 hours? 

Now, here I am.  I'm training for my second marathon, but instead of focusing solely on distance and eating whatever I want, I'm also focusing on food and how to properly fuel.  I'm looking at healthier options for desserts.  I'm reading up on Paleo diets AND Mediterranean diets.  I'm cutting some things back, and I'm adding in others.

How about you?  Where do you find your healthiness balance?  Would you care to embark on this journey of self-discovery with me?

Here's to hoping things go well!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Last night, I ran into an old high school classmate.  We were in the supermarket after lunch, and there she was.  For some reason, I immediately turned into a bumbling fool.  OK, so it really wasn't that bad, but I did go from feeling great about myself to comparing myself to her and feeling like I couldn't compete.  Hans and I had come straight from work.  We were covered in muddy paw prints (and he had paint and glue), and we were tired.  We walked like zombies, he in his jeans and t-shirt, and me in my over-sized sweatshirt and favorite pants (my favorite because they're extremely comfortable and equally durable and warm).  She, on the other hand, was in a stylish shrug with well-fitted jeans and boots.  Her fiance's hair was well-styled and the cut was obviously done by a professional...not done at home like Hans'.  Essentially, I got to the store feeling tired, but fairly good about myself.  I left feeling frumpy and cheap.  Now, I must make note, the girl I saw did NOTHING to make me feel this way.  She was perfectly charming and nice.  I, however, compared everything.

So, I have to wonder, why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others?  I'm horrible at this.  I'm constantly wondering things like: Am I thinner?  Am I faster?  Am I smarter?  Do I have enough nice things?  Of course, then I think about all the things I don't have to worry about yet others do (Will I be able to eat today?), and I immediately feel bad.  Even if I was thinner, faster, smarter, etc, I'm not nicer.  See?  I'm constantly comparing! 

I do this a lot too.  I'll do it when I see friends.  I'll do it when I see a stranger doing something I also do (running is a great example).  I do it a lot on Facebook.

Part of me feels that this is not a bad thing, and I may be right to some degree.  I'm never satisfied, and so I'm always working for more.  I wasn't satisfied with being a runner who could only run a 10k when so many other runners did more, so I did a marathon.  I wasn't satisfied with having a job that merely paid the bills when so many other people had better jobs, so I started a business.  I don't want to feel slumpy or pudgy, so I workout hard and try to eat healthy.  I'm not perfect at all, but I'm striving for better.

The other part of me, though, finds this to simply be exhausting.  It's overwhelming always feeling like you're not quite enough.  I stinks to feel like everyone might be better.  It sucks to be at a party and feel like the one person who doesn't really fit in.

Luckily, I'm learning.  I'm not nearly had judgmental towards myself as I used to be.  Heck, a lot of the time I feel pretty darn great.  I just have to wonder why I compare myself at all.  Why can't I just be happy with who I am?  Yes, I should always be working at bettering myself, but I should do it because I want to.  Not because I feel like I'm falling behind other people if I don't.  At some point I will fully understand that life is not a competition.  Some people will always be better at me at some things (Lord knows I will never be a skateboarder).  I will be better at some things than other people (I hope).  Some day I will see that those differences are what make us great.  They're what make us individuals.

Someday I will stop comparing myself to others and finding fault in myself.  Someday I will learn to accept myself for who I am and be very happy with that.  Until that day, I will keep working on making me happy.  I will run because it feels good to run.  I will work because I love what I do and it pays the bills.  I will do what makes me happy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overdue Update

Hello all! 

Sorry for the long-overdue update.  Things have been a bit hectic around here, and I hadn't quite realized how fast time was flying by.  Some things have been great, and others not so much, so let me tell you about it.

1)  I'm running again.  OK, so I never really stopped, but I did have some trouble getting back into it after the marathon.  I had planned on doing a running streak (running every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's), but a HORRIBLE 1.5 mile run on Thanksgiving ended that fairly quickly.  I took about a week off, but then I had a fabulous run, and things have been great ever since.  In fact, on Saturday I ran 9 miles and set a new PR for overall pace.  Actually, it was a new PR overall, so that's great.

2) My dad was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  This is a first for my family, and I'm not at all happy about it.  Dad, however, is taking great steps to improve his eating and keep him healthy.  So far, I think he has the right idea, but there are things I think we could improve upon.  I'm going to try to follow his plan fairly closely, because him having diabetes means that I'm at high risk for it.  The fact of the matter is I could stand to make some healthy changes anyway, so I'd better get crackin'!

3) My dad also recently got a new puppy.  I don't normally condone getting a puppy when there are so many rescues out there, but Hairy (the new pup) makes Dad so happy, so who am I to complain?  Plus, the little guy is so stinkin' cute!  Oh, and I got Cody as a pup from a breeder, so I'd be a bit of a hypocrite if I complained too much.

4) There have been major changes at the kennel.  I recently parted ways with both my groomer and my kennel manager.  One was over how we treat clientele (I want them to be happy) and the other was a bit of a self-realization.  This means there has been a lot of shuffling and a bit of scrambling, but I think it's all working out.

5) Cody and Lollie have been great.  Cody is still running with me, and Lollie is still happily sleeping until I return.

All in all, life is good.  Busy, but good! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Something To Be Thankful For

Yesterday I woke up cranky.  It was Thanksgiving, but I was struggling to be thankful.  It was like a battle within my mind that went something like this:

Optimism: You should be thankful for the roof over your head.
Pessimism: Yeah, let's be thankful for the huge mortgage payment.

Optimism: You should be thankful for the fact that you have a job.
Pessimism: Yeah, let's be thankful for 80+ hour weeks that haven't really started to pay off yet.

Optimism: You should be thankful that the kennel is filled with dogs.
Pessimism: Yeah, let's be thankful for the fact that everyone else in the U.S. has today off while you're working your butt off caring for their dogs.  You don't even get a Thanksgiving dinner!

I was trying to be happy, and I was trying to see the day in a good way, but I just couldn't do it.  Yes, I recognized that it was an easier day than usual, and, yes, I was grateful that I got to spend the day with Hans, but I was upset that I didn't get my traditional, relaxing holiday (first-world problems, I know).  However, two things happened to brighten my mood.

First, our neighbors asked to borrow our oven.  They were baking bread and needed more oven space, and since they had sooooo much bread they shared a loaf with us.  They also made sure we knew we were welcome to come over at any time for left over turkey / stuffing / potatoes / etc.  It made me feel nice.

Second, the only dog we had scheduled to be picked up yesterday was picked up by 3:00 pm.  This meant that Hans and I could go over to Jessica's house for Thanksgiving dinner like I've been doing almost every year for the past 12+ years.  Cue instantly better mood.  Yes, I had to work.  No, I didn't get a relaxing day of sleeping.  However, I would have my Thanksgiving dinner just the way I like it...with the people I love.

By the time I went to bed last night, the pessimism had been squashed.  My thoughts went like this:

Optimism: I'm thankful that I have a bed to sleep in.
Pessimism: I like bed.

Optimism: I'm thankful for legs that can carry me on my runs.
Pessimism: I like runs.

Optimism: I'm thankful for a kennel full of dogs.
Pessimism: I like dogs.

Optimism: I'm thankful for wonderful friends and family who make sure that we are provided for and who make sure we are loved, even when we're pulling 80+ hour weeks, even when we're sick, even when we're stressed.  Yep, I'm thankful for that.
 Pessimism: Hey!  Me too!!

Today I woke up in a better mood (well, aside from the fact that it was 4:30 a.m. and no one can wake up in a great mood at that time).  I have a lot to be thankful for, and that's something I should remember.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ditching The Funk

Last week, I wrote a post about the post-marathon blues.  To be fair, I wasn't just suffering from post-marathon blues, but also from the post-friends-in-town blues and the return-to-normal-schedule blues.  Things were rough, but I was doing everything I could to get over them.  This meant biking, swimming, reading when I could, and looking forward to my next run- set for Saturday.

Well, Saturday I went out for my first post-marathon run and the last group run for this training team.  At the end, I felt great.  I was obviously still a bit fatigued from my marathon, but the run had gone well, and I'd had a good time.  I felt connected with people again.  Unfortunately, that feeling wore off within a few hours, and I was left more down than ever.  So, I talked to one of my running buddies who I knew was planning to go out on Sunday, and we decided to meet up.  Cue another 4.5-5 mile run.

I left that run feeling much more relaxed and calm, but I couldn't revel in that because I had to quickly shower and get to church.  Hans was sick and was staying at home, so I asked him to please start the laundry in the washing machine and I ran out the door.  I came home 2.5 hours later, and the laundry had just been started- meaning the clothes I wanted to wear were not only not dry, they weren't even clean.

I don't know why, but it was that one thing, that bit of dirty laundry, that made me lose it.  I came home happy and relaxed (so I thought) and within ten minutes I was yelling at Hans about something as mundane as laundry.  Everything I'd been feeling all week seemed to spew from me, and I even ended up locking myself in the bathroom and sobbing (overly dramatic, I know, but it felt right at the time).

Then, I stopped.

It wasn't that I wasn't mad anymore, I was, but I just didn't have it in me to keep yelling.  I laid down on the bed and just hugged Cody (never underestimate the power of a dog in stress relief).  I had to run something out to the kennel, so I went out there, and when I came home, I stayed quiet.  I don't usually use the silent treatment, but I didn't have anything left to say.  How much can you say over unwashed clothes anyway?  Especially when said clothes were washed and dried by that point?

Eventually, Hans and I sat down and chatted.  There was a lot more crying on my part, but things ended up quite nicely, and I wasn't mad anymore.  Instead, I was exhausted...and hungry.  Hans and I went and got something to eat, and then we came home and settled in for the night.

When I woke up Monday morning, something felt different.  I went about my usual routine and felt pretty good.  It wasn't until later that afternoon that I finally realized that I had ditched my funk.  I still felt a little off, but I no longer felt overwhelmed or trapped.  I was ready to jump back into work, and I could face whatever life dealt me.

I guess I just needed some sort of big emotional release, and unfortunately Hans received the brunt of that.  Lucky for me, Hans is an extremely understanding individual, and he doesn't seem to think any less of me for it.

Today, I went running again.  I went out at 5:30 a.m., just me and Cody, no running buddies.  I took a similar route to one some friends and I ran during training, but this time it seemed different.  I noticed the stars reflecting on a lake, I heard geese waking up for the morning, I listened to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and I simply enjoyed the time to myself with Cody as companion and guard.

Finally, I've ditched my funk, and I can keep looking ahead to what's next.  This is far better than being stuck on replay of a single day!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ho Hum

So, I think this is what they mean when they talk about post-marathon blues.  It's a feeling of aimlessness, of loneliness, of isolation.

Last week was a fantastic week.  I felt fit and ready to go, two of my closest friends were in town, and I was actually getting some time off from work (I love my job, but breaks are appreciated).  On top of that, the house was showing some signs of cleaning, and I was eating really awesome breakfasts in the morning.  I ended the week by completing an awesome task and finishing a marathon.  This, of course, was followed by celebrations, words of awe and inspiration, and food (I like the food).

This week, well, this week hasn't been bad at all.  In fact, it's been quite good.  Aside from the fact that I'm tired, physically I feel great.  I've been biking and I've been working in the yards.  I've stayed on top of things at work, and I feel accomplished.  And yet, I still feel down.

I'm already looking ahead and planning my next marathon, and I'm waiting (impatiently) for registration to open, and that helps.  Still, though, I feel off.  Everyone I know has already heard my marathon story (and is probably sick of it by now).  Hans is sick and can't join me for a short run.  My friends have returned home.  Life is back to normal, and apparently I don't like normal!

I know this feeling will pass.  I know I'll feel better once I'm registered for races and running again.  I know I'll feel better once I have concrete goals to work towards.  In the mean time, though, I'm left feeling a little ho hum.  Not terrible, but not so great either.

OK, who's going to cheer me up?  Go!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Why And The After

As we enter the week after my very first marathon (yay!), I'm left contemplating the why.  Why did I start training for a marathon?  Why did I want to run one in the first place?  What made me decide that now was the time?

To be honest, I have no idea.  I remember when I first heard that people actually ran 26.2 miles.  Hans and I were watching an episode of The Biggest Loser, and for the first time they were having their contestants run a marathon as the final challenge.  I remember my thought process when I heard that, too.  "That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of!  Those people are going to injure themselves.  That's too much for the human body.  These people have not trained for this, and only super-elite athletes do stuff like this."  I then remember being shocked at what they accomplished (and I'm still impressed by their times).  Maybe that's when I started to see an endeavor like that as something that I could do someday?  I do know that it has something to do with how I see runners.

Runners, to me, were always svelte, gazelle-like creatures.  When I first decided to lose weight, back in college, I spent a good deal of time on the treadmill in an effort to achieve my goals.  I just wanted to run a mile.  If I ran a mile, I would be a fit person.  Well, I ran a mile, but I still didn't feel like a fit person.  So, maybe I had set my sights too low.  Maybe it was the 5k people who were the gazelles.

It took me A LONG time to reach 5k.  I'd start and stop and start and stop, and I just couldn't get the hang of it.  So, I sought help.  I signed up for the Up & Running course in the hopes of reaching my goal.  This was a great decision on my part, and the camaraderie and guidance provided through this simple online course was wonderful.  It was, in fact, enough to get me through my first 5k.  I finished in about 35 minutes (right on my goal).  I was on cloud nine for about a day, but I quickly realized that I wasn't where I wanted to be.  I still didn't feel gazelle-like.  Maybe the 10k would make me feel good although I knew a marathon was somewhere in my distant (way distant) future.

So, I started training for a 10k.  It took longer than I'd planned to get to a 10k, but it was much easier to reach than the 5k.  I dealt briefly with some lack of motivation and some physical issues (flu bug, knee issues, and neck issues), but once I got back on track, I was ready to go.  By the time I had reached my first 10k, I was seriously contemplating the marathon.  Should I jump straight into the marathon, or should I aim for a half marathon first?  Would I have time to train?  Would I fit in with all the gazelles?  When I ran my first 10k race, and beat my goal by 6 minutes, I was on cloud nine.  I made a decision that night...I was signing up for a marathon!

Now that I'm reflecting back on things, I'm starting to notice a pattern.  Are you?  I didn't feel good enough about myself, so I kept trying harder.  To me, this is both sad and awesome at the same time.  It's sad, of course, that I didn't feel good about myself, but I'm kind of proud that I was able to keep pushing forward instead of crying into a cup of hot chocolate (trust me, I did that for a few years too).

Anyway, the training for the marathon was such an eye-opening experience.  There were people of all shapes and sizes out there...not just gazelles.  I was faster than some of the gazelles and slower than some of the, well, not gazelles.  I learned that it was a challenge, but that one does not need super-human powers to do it.  You just have to be a little crazy and have a lot of heart.

So, how do I feel now?  Do I feel like a gazelle?  No.  Definitely not.  There are still things that I'd happily change about my body and things I want to do to improve.  That said, I'm also much more comfortable with my body.  Instead of a gazelle, I feel a bit like an ox (perfect because it's my Chinese zodiac animal).  I may not be super fast, but I'm strong.  I'm determined.  I can carry through even if it isn't easy.  That's a freakin' fabulous thought!  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am genuinely proud of myself.  I did something that even I wasn't sure was possible, and I feel great about it.  It will take me a while to come down from this.

In the mean time, to make sure I don't return to that spot of self-loathing, I'm signing up for more.  I want to run more marathons.  I want to improve my time.  I want to keep going to ensure I never fall back.  I never want to be that person who says, "I used to run marathons.  What happened?"  I want to be the person who says, "I ran my first marathon in 2012, and I never looked back."

To that extent, I have at least 2 marathons planned for next year and a couple shorter races.  Holy crap!  I'm that person who runs multiple marathons in a year!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Day After The Marathon

Ouch!  Ow ow ow ow ow!!  Ooh!  Ow!

It took me a good five minutes just to get out of bed this morning.  Not because I was trying to steal an extra five minutes of sleep, but because that's how long it took me just to maneuver myself out from under the covers.  I hobbled to the restroom where I was for once extremely grateful that my sink is close enough to my toilet that I can hold on to it when I sit and stand, and then I made my way down stairs.  The process went as such: Step.  Ouch.  Step.  Pain!  Step.  Good Lord!  How many stairs are there?!

To say I was sore when I woke up this morning was an understatement.  I was also very, very hungry!  I woke up, and the first thing I said was, "I want tacos."  Since I wasn't feeling so great yesterday after the run, eating was difficult, but this morning my appetite had returned.  Breakfast was needed right away!  I gave myself a little reward for finishing a marathon and burning 3500 calories in 5 hours...I ate whatever I wanted.  Jackie had left early this morning (sad face), so Dan, Hans, and I went out to a small city diner where I proceeded to eat 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon, a bowl of fried apples, a biscuit with jam, half of Hans' biscuit with gravy, and an orange juice.  Oh how delicious it all was!  I can't eat like that all the time, but I very much enjoy the times when I can!

As I said before, though, my body is a constant reminder that I did something physically challenging yesterday, and to that extent there's never been better proof that a body in motion stays in motion.  When I get up and move, even if it's just standing and shifting my feet, my body stays relatively relaxed.  The more I move, the more I'm able to move.  If I sit down at all, though, even just for 10 minutes in the car, I immediately stiffen back up.  Moving again becomes difficult.  In an effort to loosen up some more, I even went to the gym for some very light swimming.  I didn't stay long, but the slow motion of some easy breast stroke and some water jogging seemed to help a lot.  I recommend it for anyone.

For a moment, though, let's forget about the physical stuff, and let me tell you about how I'm feeling emotionally.  To be honest, it all seems surreal.  Other than the fact that my legs hate me, it's hard to believe that this thing I've wanted for so long, this goal I've trained for for almost half a year has already passed.  Both Dan and Jackie are gone, and life is quickly returning back to normal (although I miss my friends terribly).  I am trying to find races to sign up for so I keep my running up, and I'm looking at 5ks, 10ks, and even half marathons.  Heck, I'm even trying to decide when I want to run my next full.  The fact of the matter is, though, that when I woke up this morning I was officially a marathoner, and that's a fact that will never change.  I've done something that only 0.5% of the US population has done, and that's something that will always bring a smile to my face.

Here's to the next big thing!

I'm a marathoner!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Let me tell you about my week.  After last Saturday's run, I had another flair up of the chest cold.  So, I was officially panicking trying to get rid of it.  I slept as much as possible and took my meds and stayed hydrated, but nothing was working.  On Wednesday, I had to make a decision: Go on my last weekly run and risk having the cold get worse, or skip it and risk leaving my body unprepared to run.  Because it was so cold, and I was still coughing so much, I opted to skip it. 

Also on Wednesday, Hans' and my former college roommates, Jackie and Dan, flew in from Wisconsin and Missouri (respectively).  They came out to VA for two reasons.  1) Because we were long-overdue for a visit, and 2) Because they wanted to cheer me on.  I love my roomies!

Thursday and Friday were spent showing them around town, eating carbs, and having a grand time.  On Thursday night, we all went to a pasta dinner hosted by the marathon training team where we heard Bart Yasso, from Runner's World give a talk, and on Friday I had a private pasta dinner for close friends and family.  The support was wonderful.

This morning, the day of the race, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (and multiple times before then) to get ready for the run.  I got dressed, had breakfast, used the facilities, and headed out the door.  I was at the race start by 7:00 a.m., and after using the facilities again, I found my race corral.  Luckily, I also found one of my running buddies, so I was happy.  At 8:00 a.m. the race started, and we were off!

I first saw Hans, Jackie, Dan, and my dad at the 1/2 mile mark.  This was definitely a planned sighting since Hans works right near there.  They had t-shirts that said, "Go, Val, Go!" and I smiled.  I handed him my sweatshirt, gloves, and headband since I didn't need the cold weather gear anymore, and I continued running.

Usually the first few miles for me are kind of slow going because I'm still warming up, so I wasn't too worried about how hard it seemed.  When I had reached mile 6, though, and was still struggling I thought, "Oh no!"  Apparently having a chest cold and taking essentially 2 weeks off from running right before a marathon is a bad thing.  Who knew?  I immediately started my own mantra of "You can do this.  You can do this.  Just keep going.  You can do this."  I also took my first gel.

Thankfully, I finally hit a groove and got really comfortable for the next 6 miles.  At mile 11, I saw my crew again, and this time they showed me the backs of their shirts which read, "You Smell Bad!"  I cracked up over this little joke of ours (and the truth of it seeing as no one smells good after running 11 miles), grabbed some replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and continued on.  I would see them a couple more times before the end.  About 1/2 a mile later I hit a mini-wall.  I took some more gel a little earlier than planned, and continued on.  At mile 13.1 (the half way point), I saw my mom.  She was jumping and cheering, and I ran over to give her a hug and pet her dogs.  When she asked, "How are you feeling?" I responded with "Tired. But OK" and I continued on. 

At mile 15 or 16 I hit a serious wall.  There was a bit of a hill, and I finally made the decision to walk a little ways.  I wasn't feeling well (a little nauseous and shaky) and I wanted to finish before I got sick or passed out, so I walked.  I walked up the hill and continued on.  As we crossed the James River for the second time, I had to walk a little more, but I continued on.

This entire time, I had noticed some Galloway Runners.  I would pass them, then they would pass me, then I would pass them.  Galloway Runners have a method where they will run for an allotted time and then walk for an allotted time so they can get through a race at a decent pace without killing themselves.  There's was 7 minutes running, 1 minute walking.  Finally, I asked if they'd mind if I joined them.  These ladies were wonderful running buddies.  At this point in the race, they weren't quite following their structure, but I was OK with that.  I needed the companionship.  We ran and walked and ran and walked. 

Around mile 20, I saw my best friend, Jessica.  She was a sight for sore eyes (and legs, and arms, and hair).  I gave her a big hug, almost broke down into tears, and continued on.  At mile 23, I saw I saw my neighbors with their 3 year old son and their 3 week old son.  I wasn't sure that they would make it with the newborn, so I was thrilled to see them.  I ran over to see them, and tickle the 3 year old.  He of course, asked to be picked up, and how could I say no?  It was painful, but I lifted him up, gave him a hug, and set him back down.  I continued on my way.

I was close to the end, and I knew I could make it.  I ran and walked and ran and walked and ran and walked.  Finally, 1/2 a mile from the finish, I picked up the pace.  I RAN.

Luckily, the finish is at the bottom of a very steep hill, so the last .2 miles was all down hill.  I looked at my watch and I was running 8:30 miles.  Considering that mile earlier I was struggling to do 15 minute miles, this was an accomplishment.  I saw the finish.  I was closer to the line.  I gave it all I got.  As I crossed the finish line, my arms shot out in victory.  I was officially a marathoner.  I AM OFFICIALLY A MARATHONER!!!!  My time was 5:11:42, a little longer than I'd hoped for, but I don't care!

And then the real pain set in.  Every part that ached and that I had tried and kind of succeeded in ignoring, started to hurt.  I had to find my people, and I hated moving.  Luckily, one of the event volunteers had a cell phone and was gracious enough to let me use it, so I located my friends and family fairly quickly.  I wanted to drop to the ground, but Dad made me stay upright to keep from cramping or getting sick.  However, he also then had me lay out and did a wonderful job of stretching me.  Thanks, Dad!

So, now I'm done.  Oh, and according to my Garmin I actually ran 26.33 miles.  Does that make me an Ultra-marathoner?  :P  I can tell you now, this will not be my last marathon.  It was painful, but I'm thrilled I did it, and I will do it again.  Yay me!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week 23- Eight Miles

Yesterday's run was the last of our group training runs before the marathon.  In less than one week, I'll be running 26.2 miles.  So, let me tell you how this run went.

To start off, I actually have to go back to last week.  As I mentioned, last week I ended up not feeling so great during the run.  After the run, instead of going back home to shower and rest for an hour or so, I ended up having to go straight to the kennel to take a dog to the vet.  She was fine, but by the time I returned to the kennel my shift had started, so there was no time to go home.  This meant that I had to stay in my sweaty, nasty running clothes for the rest of the day.  Since I'd planned on going straight home, I didn't even have a sweatshirt to help keep me warm.  Needless to say, by the end of the day I felt like crud.

I hoped that a little rest would make things better, so I skipped church last Sunday and slept an additional 3 hours.  I felt a little better the rest of the day, but I still wasn't great.  By Monday morning, I was officially sick.  If I had a fever, it was low grade, but I definitely had a bad chest cold.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night all had me up most of the night coughing.

Now, I'm not really the type of person to take meds.  I prefer to let my body heal itself and support it with lots of sleep and hot tea and soup.  However, I also knew I had to get better fast, so Mom and Hans were able to easily convince me to go to Patient's First (like Urgent Care).  I was given antibiotics and Codeine for the cough.

Admittedly, my cough started to improve almost immediately.  In addition to the improvement, though, the meds also have given me chapped lips and an upset tummy.  It's not exactly the way I'd like to go into a run, and I seriously thought about skipping this week.  Since it's the last week, however, I just couldn't do it.  I was still battling the cold and cough, and I was still tired, but I had to finish this last run.  I promised myself and Hans that I would take it easy, and if I felt I needed to turn back I would.

Well, this run definitely wasn't my fastest.  I could easily tell that I was a little under the weather and breathing was much harder.  Luckily, my running buddies took it easy with me.  It was a beautiful day for a run, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I ended the run feeling good and happy that I had done it.  When I got home, I immediately hopped in the shower to warm up and enjoy the steam, and I relaxed even farther with a cup of hot tea.

I'm quite proud of myself with how far I've come.  Five months ago, eight miles seemed like such a far distance.  Today I ran it while recovering from a cold.  Now, the only thing I can hope is that I get 100% better before next Saturday.  If I can get through all this, I can do anything!

Monday, October 29, 2012


Lately, all you've gotten from me are blog posts about running.  I really haven't talked about the dogs or the kennel or Hans or anything else.  This is for one reason and one reason only...I'm exhausted!

Things are going well here, and the kennel is doing well for its first few months, but things are overwhelming.  If you want to know the life of a new business owner (especially one who's training for a marathon), let me give you a few bullet points.

  • You will never get to eat at home.  I'll be honest, I got so sick of eating out that I even started telling friends that if they wanted to board their dogs with me, they could trade a few nights for a few home-cooked meals.  Eating out isn't necessarily bad, but when all your meals are some sort of fast food, it gets old (and expensive) fast.  Even on the nights when we may have had time to cook, you won't have any groceries, so the combined time of grocery shopping and cooking just isn't worth it.  Hans and I have started to get into a bit of a groove, so we're eating out less.  Our wallets and our waist lines are grateful.
  • Sleep is a think of the past.  If I'm lucky, some nights I'll get as much as 7 hours of sleep.  That's if I'm really lucky.  It's not at all unusual for me to only have 4 or 5 hours, and I'm not exactly high-functioning at this point.  Often, these short-sleep days stem from nights at the kennel followed by early morning runs, so the runs leave me a little energized.  On mornings when I don't run, I often feel tired and cranky.
  • Forget about social activities.  There's a concert you want to go to?  Forget it.  A friend is having a party?  No way.  You want to go out to the movies?  Not an option.  On days / nights where you might have the time (and possibly even the money) for these extra-curricular activities, you most certainly will not have the energy.  Your life will consist of working, talking about work, thinking about work, and trying to escape from work.
  • You learn what and who is really important to you, and you make time for it.  Going to the movies is not important to me, but spending time with my best friend is.  I could care less about parties, but my running is what keeps me sane most days.  I am willing to sacrifice sleep and even a home-cooked meal so I can make sure I take time out for these important things.  My health and well-being are also important, so I am learning how to give up some of my time at the kennel for more rest and time with family.  This means letting go of some things and trusting my employees.  It's like leaving my child, and this is not easy by any means.
I don't want this blog to sound like I'm ranting or complaining, because I'm not.  Yes, I'm tired.  Yes, I'm often frustrated.  Yes, I sometimes think about what life would be like if I'd opened a store that had nothing to do with live animals or if I just worked a regular 9-5 job.  However, the rewards are fantastic.  Being my own boss is just the tip of the iceberg.  I love caring for the dogs, and seeing them go home happy and healthy is a joy.  I'm also finding that I'm discovering myself a bit.  I'm coming into my own and learning what I can tolerate and what I can't.  Of course, that's a whole other blog post.

I hope life is treating all of you well.  If it isn't, kick it in the ass!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week 22- Twelve Miles

Going into this week's run I was prepared to explain how we're tapering before the marathon.  I was prepared to talk about some running-related things (like how I feel when I don't run), but to keep today's post fairly short.  I mean, this was only 12 miles.  I've run 12 miles plenty of times.  Twelve miles is easy stuff.  However, I was not prepared for the reality of today.

This past week has been more than a little stressful.  My neighbor gave birth to her second child, leaving me to care for her two year old for the day.  While I am in NO WAY complaining about this, and I think he's a super-awesome kid, waking up at 3:30 in the morning, caring for a 2 year old, and working a 15 hour day is exhausting!  Then, on my morning off (the only one I get), one of my employees never showed, so I got to work a little extra.  After that, I thought I'd finally get some extra rest, but my best friend called and shared some upsetting news with me, leaving me with little sleep and a lot of stress.  Anyway, going into this run I'd gotten little sleep, had a lot of stress, had missed all of my weekly runs, and had not eaten so well, particularly Thursday and Friday.

Boy did I feel it!

My run started out OK.  I was running with two girls I don't usually run with, and they were taking things at a faster pace than usual...a much faster pace.  I enjoyed that pace for a while, but I quickly realized that pace was unsustainable, so I slowed it down a bit.  I shortly fell into a 10:30 pace, and I felt quite comfortable.

It wasn't until somewhere around mile 6 that things really changed.  My calves started to tighten, my breath was erratic, and to top it all off I was met with a gigantic hill.  I've gone up the hill before, but today was harder.  I wanted to stop right then and there.  Instead, I just slowed down some more and kept on going.

I made it past mile 8, and we hit another hill.  Last week, I climbed this hill at mile 19, but this week I just couldn't do it.  I was too exhausted.  I walked up the hill.  Once at the crest, I started running again.  Towards the bottom of the hill, I actually ran into an old friend and the person who first encouraged me to join MTT.  She said she and her friend were struggling too and were stopping at 9 miles.  This sounded like a wonderful idea!

I just couldn't do it, though.  I knew I'd be angry with myself if I didn't finish, so I continued on.  By mile 10, I was regretting this decision, and I slowed to a walk again.

The last two miles were awful.  I shuffled along slowly, and walked frequently.  When I finally reached the end, I wanted to cry.  There it was!!  I was done!

In conclusion, this week did not go so well.  I went into my run tired, stressed, and physically exhausted.  On top of that, I pushed myself way to hard in the beginning, and I paid for it dearly in the end.  Still, though, I finished.  I learned that even though I felt miserable, I was capable of finishing.  Of course, I wouldn't want to do this all the time, but today I feel proud...and tired.  Here's to sleep!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week 21- Twenty Miles

Honestly, I don't even know what to say in this post.  I feel like I've said it all before.  I'm so amazed at what I've accomplished so far.  I can't believe I've come this far.  This is such an amazing experience.  I suppose today would be a good time to let you in on some of the things I've seen in thought of as I ran 20 miles.

1) I'm running 20 miles!!!!

2) It is very interesting to see a man running in a running skirt.  Granted, it looked different from most running skirts, and he may often wear kilts, but it was definitely a skirt.  Hey, if he's comfortable, more power to him!

3) Running when the high for the day is only 70 degrees is much easier than when the high is 100 degrees.

4) Apparently, cool October mornings are when everyone and their brother walks their dogs.  One guy even ran past us with his dog.  I cannot stress how much I wish Cody had been with me.  This was particularly true when one guy passed us with his dog pulling on the leash and everyone said how well-behaved his dog was.  If only Cody could have been there to show off!!!  (Note: I did ask if I could bring Cody on some of the training runs, but they would not allow him.)

5) It is important to really know your route before you head out.  At one point, I realized there was no one ahead of me.  I checked my route and realized I had missed a turn approximately 3-4 blocks back.  This will really give you an "Oh Shit!" feeling.

6) The last 6 miles of any run is the hardest.

7) When all your teammates have just finished running 20 miles and you just finished 20.36 because of your missed turn, you will feel extremely special and awesome.

8) Choosing to not stop your watch at SAG stops will kill your time, but it gives you a better idea of how long it will take you to finish the full race.  My final time for 20.36 miles was 3:57:46.  My goal is to finish in under 5 hours, so I may need to step it up just a bit.  Luckily, I know my weak spots and have a plan on how to get through them.

Well, that's about it for today.  I'm so extremely tired, but I'm also very proud of myself.  This was our last looong run before the marathon.  Now we start to taper and prepare ourselves mentally.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 20- Twelves Miles and A Birthday

Yep!  Today's my birthday!!  Happy birthday to me!!!!!

When I first looked at the training schedule I was quite relieved to see that today's run would only be 12 miles.  At the time, 12 miles seemed daunting enough, but the thought of running 18 or 20 miles on my birthday was terrifying.  Truth be told, I'm still really glad we only had to run 12 miles!  And, while I contemplated skipping this run and sleeping in (I could really use the sleep), I'm glad I didn't. 

Today's run started out cold.  I'm actually quite proud of myself, because, while I was chilled, I actually wasn't as bad as what I thought I'd be.  I knew that I'd be moving soon enough, and I just wanted the run to start.  As a special birthday bonus, I happened to win a pair of gloves in a trivia contest just prior to the run.  Yay for warm hands!

The run started off, and my running buddies were back...and cheerful.  I happily ran along, chatting and having a good time.  Then, around mile 3 or so, one of the running coaches started running along with us.  I started chatting with her, and before I knew it I was going faster than I usually do...and I was quite comfortable.  I looked back and realized I had lost my running buddy.  This both makes me sad and thrills me.  I didn't mean to leave her behind, but I was loving the faster pace. 

I continued on this pace until our first SAG.  Apparently my buddy was not too far behind, because she caught up with me there.  We continued on, running together...until we were joined by another one of the coaches.  Apparently, his wife owns a veterinary clinic that I'm quite fond of, so we had lots to chat about.  Back to the faster pace. 

We continued on for a while, and a few other people joined us.  I kept the faster pace and felt pretty good.  I looked at my watch, and there were only 4 more miles left.

Finally, around mile 10, I started to feel the effects of my pace.  Running at that speed was becoming more and more difficult, and yet I wanted to keep up the conversation I had going.  Call it stupid, but I was going to continue on.  There were only 2 miles left.

Luckily for me, there were actually only 1.67 miles left, because I was tired.  I looked at my watch, and we had just hit the 2 hour mark.  I ran 11.67 miles in 2 hours.  OK, so that's not an Olympic time or anything, but by comparison, my half marathon time was 2:22, so I shaved some time off (approximately 30 seconds per mile in fact).  I know that's not the pace I want to keep for the marathon, and I'll have to be careful to not get sucked into a faster pace just because I'm talking, but I really loved it today.  I loved the cooler weather, and the fact that I was able to go faster because of it.

Afterward, I came home, and Hans was in the process of making me pumpkin bread French toast (super tasty).  After I had showered and had breakfast, Mom, Hans, and I went shopping, and I promptly treated myself to some running arm sleeves.  I'm super stoked, and I really hope it's cool next weekend for my 20 miler, so I can try them out.  Huzzah!

Alright, off to birthday dinner, where I'll happily eat all of those 1300 calories I just burned off!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week 19- Eighteen Miles

If one were to look in my bedroom now they'd see quite a sight.  They'd seem me laid out, laptop on my lap, wrapped in my comfy robe, hair wet, with two dogs and a cat surrounding me.  They'd see someone who looks both exhausted and content.  They'd see someone who just ran 18 miles.

One of the things I love about training for the marathon is that I get to see parts of Richmond I've never seen before.  Even though I group up in this area, there are plenty of roads I've never gone down and plenty of sites I just wiz past and never give a second thought to.  Running allows me to see these sites, and this run did not disappoint.

This run started out fairly normal.  We ran down streets we'd run down before and nothing was unusual.  As the run progressed, I got a little excited as we ran past St. Bridget's Catholic Church.  It's a beautiful stone church, and just the image of it made me a little stronger.  We ran through the parking lot, and there was one of our coaches, telling us to turn down this small side street.  That's when the run got interesting.

First, this road was practically all down hill.  Of course, this is not easy on the joints, but it's more enjoyable than uphill.  Second, there was tons of tree coverage.  Considering this day was sunny, warm, and humid, trees were quite welcome.  Third, and most important, it had to be one of the most beautiful runs I've ever been on.  The houses were gorgeous, the landscape was amazing, and I couldn't help but feel in awe of it all.  It was a particularly wonderful way to pass a few miles.

It was also during this section that I started to break away from the people I was running with.  The girls I was running with were wonderful, but I found that my body wanted to take things slightly faster.  My natural groove had me breaking away, and I just listened to what my body told me.  I didn't want to push to hard, but I also didn't want to hold anything back.  While I missed the conversation, it also allowed me to focus more on what my body was telling me.  I was happy to listen.

From that wonderful road, we ran through the University of Richmond campus (again, lovely), and then it was back to familiar roads.  By this point, we were out of the shade and the sun was HOT.  I did my best to make sure I stayed hydrated, but I could not wait to find a SAG stop.

By the time I reached the second to last SAG, I looked at my watch and saw that I only had about 5 miles left.  I was hot and tired, but I've run 5 miles plenty of times.  I knew I could do this.

When I reached the final SAG, my fuel belt was dry, I was thirsty, and there were only 1.5 miles left.  I had a few cups of Gatorade, filled my fuel belt (did I mention it was hot?), and set off, determined to finish.

The last mile and a half was tiring.  I wanted to be done, but I was so proud I'd come so far already, I wasn't about to stop.  I was in full sun at this point, I could feel the heat from the cars and the road, but I knew there was just one more hill until the finish.

Finally, along with one of our training coaches, I crested the hill.  I was rewarded with a cool breeze, and that was enough to get me through the finish.  I charged on, gave a few high fives, and made it to the end.  When all was said and done, I'd run 18 miles in 3 hours 19 minutes.

I may be exhausted.  I may not want to move right now, but I reached a goal.  In 34 days and 8.2 miles, I will run my first marathon.  Wow.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Week 18- Twelve Miles

Today's run was a short one.  Compared to last week's 16 miles, today should not have been any problem, and it really wasn't.  It was, however, an educational run.  Allow me to set the story.

After last week's 16 mile run went so well, I wasn't too worried about this one.  In fact, after receiving word that many of my running buddies would not be there for various reasons and that one of my buddies was even dropping back to the half, I was tempted to skip.  I wanted the sleep, and the past few days had been particularly stressful.  Because I wasn't too worried about things, I didn't stress so much over what I had for dinner on Friday.  While BBQ and mashed potatoes had been planned, somehow I ended up with just a slice of cake.  I was aware this might not be the best thing, but oh well!

When I woke up this morning, I was hungry.  I mean, I was really, really hungry.  I was nauseatingly hungry.  Luckily my pre-run fuel plan is pretty easy to grab and go, so I scarfed my breakfast down as well as a mini bagel, and I headed out to meet my team.

My Wednesday running buddies were there, and since I didn't have my usual Saturday buddies, I figured I'd run with them.  Recently, my long runs have been in the 11:00-12:00 minute/mile range.  This is slower than what I'd like to go, but it does allow me to go longer runs.  My half marathon pace was 10:52 min/mile.  My last Wednesday run (with these same people) was 11:07 min/mile.  The first thing I noticed was how fast we were going.  Our average pace in the end was 10:37 min/mile.  The next thing I noticed was how much shorter our SAG stops were.  Instead of taking long breaks to really stretch out, have a cup or two of Gatorade, and nibble on some pretzels or gummy bears, our stops were usually quite quick, with us grabbing a drink, and a handful of pretzels and eating them on the run.

My thought through most of the run was: I wish my other buddies were here.  No offense to the girls I ran with today.  They were great.  However, I was much more tired.  The run was much harder.  I thought I would spend most of this blog ranting about how much I hated my usual buddies not being there and how important it was to keep some sort of routine.  These things are true, but there's another truth too.

I loved it.  I loved running at a faster pace (although I'm uncertain I could sustain that for an additional 14 miles).  I loved finishing at an earlier time.  I loved how I felt about myself when I was done.  I loved discovering that I haven't lost the pace I started with.  Not only that, but running at a faster pace was somewhat more enjoyable for me.  In fact, at the very end, I got into such a groove that my pace increased, and I ran ahead of the girls I was running with. 

Now, I'm not saying I'll run like this every time.  I do enjoy my longer SAG stops.  I enjoy running with my usual buddies.  Oh, and I really enjoy proper fueling prior to a run.  Heck, I don't even know that I could keep up that pace for longer mileage.  However, I do know I may just push myself a little more.  I know that my body is capable of so much more than it's gotten credit for.  My run today was hard, but not impossible.  While I may not push so hard on every run, I enjoyed learning what my body could do.  I can't wait for it to show me what else it can do!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

MTT Week 17- Sixteen Miles...

...and a bit of a recap of the past few weeks.

Hello all!  I know I never blogged about MTT week 16, and I'm sorry.  I've just been so very, very tired (more on that in a moment).  The truth is that week 16 was amazing simply because it was such a non-event.  Let me explain.

Week 16 was a 10 mile run.  My thought process was, "Ten miles?  That's nothing!"  I still can't believe I thought that.  As we set out on the run, one of my running buddies wasn't there and the other wasn't feeling so well.  She ended up walking after about 5 miles, and I went on ahead.  My pace was a little faster than usual because it was cool, and I felt fantastic.  When I was done, I felt great.  I wasn't really sore, I was a little tired, but nothing too bad, and I was happy.  Running ten miles was actually easy.  What an amazing feeling!

This past week, however, has been anything but easy.  Monday night I started feeling kind of icky.  Tuesday morning, storms were setting in, so I decided to hit the gym and swim instead of running 3 miles.  By Tuesday afternoon, I felt miserable.  My nose was runny, my head hurt, and I just wanted to lie down.  I went to bed early that night and hoped I'd feel better the next day.

Wednesday, I was still a bit sniffly, but I felt OK, so I went out for an 8 mile run (again, no big deal!).  I felt great at first, but within an hour after the run I wanted nothing more than to go back to bed.  The rest of the day I felt miserable, and I even took some cold meds that night (side note: I hate taking medicine.  I don't feel like it helps me get over anything faster and coming off the meds feels worse than if I just suffered through the sickness.  I'm all about hot tea, rest, and soup.)  Thursday was by far the worst day.  My eyes were watery, I couldn't stop sneezing, and I'm pretty sure I had a few mild temperature spikes.  That said, my whole thought was that I needed to be better by Saturday, so I could run 16 miles with the group.  Fifteen miles was excruciating.  I did not have any inclination to do 16 miles on my own.

Yesterday, I felt a little better, and I improved even more after a bit of a nap under my desk during lunch.  When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought was, "Can I do it?"  My nose was still runny, but not too bad.  I felt a little congested, but nothing terrible.  I was unbelievably tired, but I figured I'd be OK.  I put a few tissues in my fuel belt, put some fuel gels and a snack bar in a treat pouch (by the way, a dog treat pouch attached to a running fuel belt is genius!), and headed out the door.  Off to meet the group I went! 

I can't say the run was easy.  There were numerous hills, the sun was bright, and I was tired..  Having to blow my nose every mile didn't help either.  That said, there were also a nice breeze, and the views were stunning.  Oh how I wish I'd had a camera!  On top of that, I had a better fueling plan.

While the run was in no way easy, it was 1000 times easier than the 15 miler.  At the end, I even found myself cheering and encouraging my running buddy.  Of course, those cheers were kind of cheers for me too.  I did take another ice bath (frigid), and I'm relaxing a little bit, but I feel much better than I did two weeks ago. 

Can you believe it?  In another 10.2 miles, I'll be a marathoner!  I'm over half way there!!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

MTT Week 15- Fifteen Miles

Hey, guess what.  I have a secret.  Running is HARD!  OK, so maybe this isn't so much of a secret as common knowledge, but I thought it would be good for people to know. 

Today I ran 15 miles!  This is 1.9 miles farther than my farthest run ever, and boy did I feel those extra 1.9 miles.  The run started pretty normal.  I was back with the training team and with my running buddies.  I was back in my old shoes since my new ones aren't quite broken in yet.  I was well-rested, well-fueled, and ready to go.  Off we went!

Things were fairly easy for a while.  We chatted and laughed, I listened to one of my running buddies tell stories about her work I talked about how things are at the kennel (busy!).  I hit my groove fairly quickly, and I was relaxed and happy.

Around mile 10 I started to feel tired.  OK, so I was tired before mile 10, but it wasn't until mile 10 that I started wondering how long it would take before the run was over.  No big deal.  It was hot, I was tired, and I'd just run 10 miles.  I was two-thirds of the way there, and I knew I had more fuel in me.

At mile 12 I really, really, really wanted to be done.  I actually felt this way during the half marathon too, but it wasn't as bad, and I was only 1.1 miles from the end.  Today was much warmer than at the half, my buddies and I had stopped to use a bathroom, and I was tired.  At this point, though, I was four-fifths of the way done.  I knew I could do it.

The last three miles were excruciating.  My legs hurt, my feet hurt, my fingers hurt, my hair hurt.  One of my buddies had stopped to walk, and I kept praying the other one would, so I would have an excuse to walk too (my competitive nature would not allow me to walk when she was still running).  I prayed for a red light, so I would have to stop for traffic.  I prayed for the God to send a freak thunderstorm so I'd have to seek cover.  I just wanted this run to be done. 

The last mile was the longest mile I've ever run.  I can't really call what I did running.  It was more like a shuffle / hobble combo.  My running buddy and I continued this until we reached our finish.  OH WHAT A GLORIOUS SIGHT! 

Upon finishing, I would have happily chopped my legs off.  I was in pain, and my legs were the source.  I had to do something, so I took my shoes off, and a giant blister was revealed.  Although not the source of the pain, I wasn't too pleased to see it.  I hobbled across the parking lot and flopped into my car.  Oh to sit!  This is why chairs were invented!

When I got home, I drank a nice, cool glass of chocolate milk (so refreshing!) and then I did my next brave thing for the day.  I grabbed a 10 pound bag of ice, filled my bath tub with cool water, climbed in, and dumped the ice in.  Yep, I took my first ice bath.  For all those wondering, yes it's cold.  After the 15 miles I just ran, though, it felt quite nice.  I can see me doing that again.

So, here's the verdict.  I just ran 15 miles!  I so very pleased.  As hard as what it was, and as much as I wasn't sure that I'd be able to finish, I did finish.  Not only that, because I pushed through and finished 15, I know that I'll be able to do 16, 17, 18, and more.  I only have to run another 11.2 miles before I've completed a marathon, and I have the confidence I'll be able to do it.  Here's to two more months of training!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

MTT Week 14- Ten Miles

This week was a downshift from last week's half marathon, and a preparation for next week.  Due to the holiday, there was no group run, but a SAG was available if one chose to use it.  In addition, a few routes were laid out, so people could run through the city, hit the mileage targets, and not get lost.  Last week, I made tentative plans to run with one of my running buddies.  Well, all that went to hell in a hand basket!

With as busy as what this week has been, I did not get a chance to look at the routes laid out, but I figured my running buddy and I would discuss it.  I texted her yesterday, and apparently her plans had changed, so I was on my own this week.  No big deal.  I've really enjoyed my buddies, but I've missed the long, contemplative runs on my own.  I decided to ignore the resources that were available to me and instead plan my route as I went and end up at the kennel.  It was only 10 miles.  It should have been fine.

First, it's amazing how, after running with other people for a short time, it's so difficult to motivate yourself on your own.  I had to set my own pace instead of letting my competitive side take over.  I had to think through my thoughts and try to convince myself to not stop when I wanted to.  I had convince myself to not call a cab (luckily I didn't have my phone or any cash).  Really, not having a buddy was not the worst thing in the world, but it definitely made things harder.

Second, weather was not really on my side today.  There was plenty of cloud coverage, but things were just hot and sticky.  I was probably slightly dehydrated going in too (good for cool weather, not-so-great for hot weather), so that didn't help things.  I had the hardest time staying hydrated, and I just wanted something cool and wet, and the Gatorade in my fuel belt wasn't cutting it since I'd only just filled the bottles this morning and they were room-temperature. 

Third, I'm one of those people who often doesn't listen to good advice.  I bought new running shoes last week.  I should be wearing them for short runs only right now.  I should be giving my body time to adjust to them, especially since they're EXTREMELY different from my last shoes.  However, with all my previous shoe experiences, I wasn't running long distances, so my transitions were fairly easy.  Instead of doing as instructed, I decided that, having worn my shoes for the past two runs, I'd be ready to wear them for my 10 miler.  BIG MISTAKE.  Admittedly, the run started off much better than the last two runs did.  And, admittedly, the pains I'd been feeling from my old shoes (sore hips, tight back) were much better in the new shoes.  However, my legs have obviously not adjusted to these shoes.  I couldn't find a good stride, I felt like I was wearing lead on my feet, and I just wanted to turn around and go home.

Needless to say, this was not one of my best runs.  At one point I actually thought, "I hope an ambulance doesn't drive by, because I'll be mortified if they stop to see if I need assistance." 

The route I made up wasn't bad, but I ended up shortening it just because I wanted to be done.  I ended up running about 8.6 miles...close, but no cigar.  However, I will have to keep that route in mind for the future.

By the time I reached the kennel, where my run ended, I had slowed to a walk.  I just couldn't run anymore.  I'd taken my fuel belt off, because it was too hot around my waist and I needed to cool off.  I walked into the kennel, drank a bottle of water, and sat on the floor.  Eventually, I got up, drove home, and showered, only to come back to the kennel to work.  I'm tired now, but luckily Saturdays are shorter days!

So, for various reasons, this was not my best run.  I'm going to do a few things to change this in the future, though.  First, I'm going to take time to break in my running shoes!  I should not assume I know better than the experts.  Second, I'm going to focus on hydrating better.  I'm not necessarily dehydrated, but I often forget the effects of a hot sun and physical exertion.  Third, I'm going to try to get a few shorter runs in by myself.  I cannot and should not stop running merely because I have no one to run with.  That's one of the reasons I love running!  I love the alone time!  I just need to remember how to self-motivate, and  few shorter, speed-focused runs may be just what the doctor order.

Next week is a long run, so we'll see how things go from there!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Shoes

Opening a kennel and training for a marathon at the same time is really hard work.  While every publication and training journal says I should be getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night, the kennel often dictates that I only get 4 (and I generally prefer 8-9).  While the kennel requires long hours and hard work, training sometimes means that I have to arrive later than I'd like or that I'm too tired to move at the pace I'd like.  Somehow, I'm making all this work (I like to say it's because I'm full of awesomesauce), mostly because I have awesome people helping me out.

Still, though, some things suffer.  For instance, a few weeks ago I gave up my Tuesday training runs.  I needed to spend a little more time at the kennel, Tuesdays are always the shortest runs, and I just had to miss them.  Luckily, I didn't feel this affected my overall training too much.  I was still able to complete the distances, and I felt OK.  What did suffer, though, was my mental stability.  Wednesday-Sunday was fine because of my runs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but by Monday I was craving a run.  Tuesday usually found me anxious and cranky; unable to think straight.  I was always in a panic on Tuesdays, and I knew it was because I had not run (or gotten any real form of exercise for that matter).  Do you know the best thing to motivate me to run?  New shoes!

After my half marathon (can you believe I just wrote that?) on Saturday, I decided to reward myself by heading off to Charlottesville and getting some new running shoes from a store I wanted to check out.  I tried on about ten different pair and I finally chose a pair that were completely different from what I had been wearing.  I could hardly wait to put them on.

My lovely new shoes

By yesterday afternoon the majority of my Saturday soreness had worn off, and I was ready to run again.  I couldn't bear the thought of waiting until Wednesday to run again, so I decided I would fit in a run this morning.  The best route?  While a little longer than I'd prefer, from the house to the kennel would make a perfect early-morning run.

First of all, Holy New Shoes, Batman!  These things definitely felt different, and they took some getting used to.  Second of all, water-retention is a terrible thing.  While I've made a concerted effort to stay well-hydrated, and while I felt great after my half marathon (I said it again!), this run was far from easy.  I was stiff and sore.  My new shoes are heavier than my old ones, and my feet felt like they were encased in lead.  I was tired.  I'd set out with the thought of running 7+ miles just because I could, but I quickly found that, today, I couldn't.  I made it to 3 miles and stopped to walk.  I loosened my shoes and tried to find the right fitting, and then I started jogging.  Finally, FINALLY I found my groove somewhere around mile 4.5, but I was pretty worn out by then.  I cut out all my extra loops, and I made it back to the kennel in 5.5 miles.  Then it was a quick trip to the gym for a very brief weight routine and a shower (luckily the gym is only .5 miles from the kennel).

While this run may not have been my best ever (far from it), I'm still glad I did it.  Buying new shoes made me want to get out there and run instead of becoming complacent and figuring I'd already done enough.  Plus, I never would have done that weight routine if I hadn't gone for a run.  So, new shoes=run=weights=healthy day.  Hurray for new shoes!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My First Half Marathon

Yesterday was a day I'd had on my calendar for weeks.  It was a day I'd dreamed of for years.  When the time came to register for this race, I didn't even have to think about it.  Yesterday, I ran my first half marathon...13.1 miles...21 kilometers.

For my first half, I chose to run the Patrick Henry Half Marathon.  This race runs through my home town, and I had dreamed of running it for quite some time.  I wanted to experience the beauty of my home on foot, and I wanted the familiarity of home for this first race.  I chose well.  Most of my fears and anxiety were minimal because I knew exactly where I was the entire time.  Even fears of parking issues were minor because I knew I'd find a place to go...even if that meant parking in a friend's driveway.

One thing I was worried about, though, was heat.  August is traditionally the hottest month of the year in VA, and things could have been rough.  I was pleased to see that the forecast called for clouds and highs in the low 80s.  I was only a little surprised to wake up and find that it was raining!  I guess it just wouldn't be a race if it wasn't raining.  So far, of the 4 races I've run, it's rained during every single one!  I told the other runners they could blame the rain on me.  Personally, I love running in the rain.  It keeps me cool and it's often refreshing.  I was quite thankful for the summer showers.

When I got to the race, I had about 20 minutes to kill, so I decided to use the restroom.  If I'd been thinking, I would have gone to the nearby Hardee's, but instead I decided to wait for a port-o-john.  The wait was long!!  It took much longer for me to get through the line than I'd expected, and at 5 minutes before starting I still wasn't close to my turn.  Unfortunately, by this point I also actually needed to use the restroom, so I didn't want to get out of line.  I came out of the restroom just in time to hear the train whistle start the race (it starts and ends along the train tracks).  I would have been super disappointed, but two things made it better.  1) There were still tons of people waiting, so I wasn't alone.  2) As I came out, I heard someone call my name.  When I turned around, I saw my two running buddies!  I was so relieved!!!  I knew they'd be there, and I'd planned on running with them, but I hadn't even thought about figuring out a way to actually meet up.  Luckily we all have small bladders.  :)

We took off together, and joked about how disheartening it was to start as the very last people in a race.  Seriously, we could see the entire pack ahead of us, and we were so far back.  We knew we'd catch up eventually, though, so we just kept pace together.

The first 3 miles were brutally painful.  I kept looking at my watch, wondering when we'd be done.  I hadn't found my flow yet, and I seriously wondered if I'd be able to finish.  My legs hurt, my back hurt, and my feet hurt.  I was wondering if I'd reach my goal if I walked.  Thank God I'm stubborn.  I wanted to run the whole thing, so I kept plodding along.

Somewhere around mile 4 the rain picked up.  It fluctuated between heavy mist and steady rhythm.  Somehow, this set me at easy.  It gave me something else to think about, and I just tried to keep water out of my eyes.  At the half way mark, I saw my mom waiting to cheer me on.  I stopped for a moment to say, "Hi!" and give her dogs a greeting.  Then I continued on my way.

When the rain stopped, things immediately felt warmer.  Oh, and my feet immediately felt like they were going to blister.  Each step I took was accompanied by a nice "Squish" sound.  It drove me nuts!  The change in temperature through me off, and I had to slow down briefly.  Eventually, though, I fell back into a rhythm. 

At mile 7, I saw Hans waiting with Cody to cheer me on.  He had chocolate-covered blueberries waiting for me, and I appreciated the sugary pick me up.  This, however, also slowed me down, and I had to pick up the pace to catch up with my running buddies.  No worries!  I hadn't paused for too long.

The next 3-4 miles felt great.  I was taking things faster than I had in the first half of the race, and the faster pace felt good.  I was happy to continue on this way.  This, however, is also where my running buddies experienced some of their own troubles.  The rain, the pace, and the excitement had taken its toll, and they each had to slow down a bit.  The nice thing about the hard part being in the beginning is that it's easier to overcome.  At the end, you're too tired!  Since I was doing well, though, I decided keep the faster pace, and I hoped by friends would catch up to me soon.

The last 2.5 miles were run on my own.  As much as I missed my buddies, I very much enjoyed the silent time to focus and think on this accomplishment.  As I ran, I saw other runners in various states.  Some were doing great.  Some where obviously in pain.  Some had nothing left in them.  One runner was even sitting on the side of the road.  Obviously in pain and upset, she was with another runner and an officer, who I'm pretty sure took her to the finish.

At mile 12, I felt the fatigue.  I was tired, and I was ready for the race to be done.  I just wanted to see the finish line, and I would sprint until the end.  Instead I just ran along the streets that I'd biked along, remembering times with Hans and Cody, and even thinking of the house I would have liked to have bought.  Finally, I turned a corner.

At mile 13, the route turned a corner.  There was only .1 mile left and I could see the finish line!  I can't say that what I did could be considered a sprint, but I did pick up the pace.  I was almost done!!

Finally, FINALLY, I crossed the finish line.  I ran through smiling from ear to ear.  Right after the finish, they handed out medals, and I could not have been happier to have received mine.  For the first time ever after a race, I was so tired and so full of emotion I almost cried.  I saw Hans and I rushed over to him so I could cry on his shoulder.

By the time I got to Hans, the tears had passed and I merely embraced Cody in a hug.  I followed this with a hug and kiss from Hans, and then I headed back towards the port-o-johns (again, I have a small bladder).  After that, I reunited with my running buddies, and I got some food (which Cody was more than happy to share).

My goal was to finish in under 2:30:00.  My final time was 2:22:21.  So, I guess I actually achieved two goals.  First, I finished a half marathon (without walking).  Second, I finished it in my desired time.  I could not be happier.

Running past the train depot
Around 7 miles
At the finish

Three lovely ladies...all half-marathoners.