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!