Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stress, Stress, Stress, RUN!

I don't think it's been any secret that I've been abnormally stressed lately.  I've been tired and busy and worrying about so much.  Things happening with the business and Hans' family have left me completely drained, and half the time I don't know whether I should laugh, cry, or simply suck it up and work harder.  It's exhausting AND confusing.

Usually during these times I turn to running, but lately running hasn't been working for me either.  I'm either stressed about when to fit a run in, or I'll have a terrible run that has me questioning my ability to run at all.  Tuesday was one of those terrible runs.

I was hoping to go 6-8 miles, but I was tired and sore.  My legs hurt, and I just didn't want to pick up my feet.  It was a horrible run, and in the end I'd only done 4 miles...barely.  I did do some yoga when I got home, but I was still tired.  I figured I'd play Wednesday by ear, but I knew almost immediately that a run wasn't going to happen.  I was even more sore than I was Tuesday (probably because of the bad run and the yoga), and I just wasn't feeling it.  So, I planned to just do my usual run today, Thursday.  I made arrangements to meet up with my running buddy.  We would only do 4 miles, and I knew I could handle that, so I wasn't too worried.  Still, one of my legs was still sore, and I was worried I'd peter out quickly.

Thank goodness I went!

This run, while not my best ever, was certainly better than others I've had recently.  It was a little faster, my aches and pains went away once I'd properly warmed up, and I felt so relaxed afterwards.  Sure, the last half mile was awful.  Sure I had points where I wanted to walk (although I didn't thanks to my buddy).  Sure, afterwards I was a sweaty, sweaty mess.  Still, though, I did it!  I came home, did some yoga to stretch out a little, and went in to work, and I felt good.  In the aftermath, I thought about a few things:

1) I'm capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.  When I'm feeling weak or tired, I can generally pull something out to keep me going.

2) I'm capable of a lot, but I do have limits.  Just because 6 months ago I could easily run 13.1 miles doesn't mean I can anymore.  Maybe I need to look at things as though I'm starting from scratch.  Instead of planning 8 mile runs, maybe I should just shoot for the 4 milers.  They're a lot more manageable right now.

3) Friends help.  After the first mile or two, my running buddy and I don't talk much.  We're starting to get tired and we're out of breath.  Still, having her there helps.  I'm less willing to walk, because I don't want to make her walk, and it's helpful knowing I have someone else there should something happen.  Plus, well, misery loves company.  :P

Anyway, while today certainly has not been stress-free, I'm much better than I was.  I hope I can carry this feeling for a few days, and, if not, I hope I can squeeze in another (good) run.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Much Needed Sleep

I had big plans for this weekend.  I had planned on cleaning and getting the house in order, so it would look nice before our upcoming trip to MN (we're going up for the SIL's graduation).  I'd cleaned a good deal last week, so I figured I could finish it up this weekend.  Enter hitch number 1.

The theatre community had a beloved friend pass away last week.  It wasn't necessarily unexpected, but the thought of missing his funeral was unthinkable.  So, instead of taking the morning to clean on Saturday, we got dressed up to bid farewell to our dear friend.

We'd woken up late, and we hadn't had much breakfast (just a granola bar), so by the time the Mass was over we were quite hungry.  Note: Always make sure you've eaten a little before a burial or else you might come across as rude when your belly makes horrible hunger sounds.  We couldn't think of anything we wanted at home, so we stopped at Moe's Southwest Grill (yumm).  At this point, it was 2:00 p.m., and we were near the kennel, so we stopped to check in on things.  We finally made it home by 3:15, and I was so tired I could barely function.  I laid down to relax for a bit while Hans, blessing that he his, finished painting the bathroom.  That evening, we spent some time with the neighbors, but I was exhausted and wasn't feeling well, so I'm not sure we were fun to be around.

Sunday we woke up early to go to the kennel and then head out for our weekly pack walk.  As is becoming tradition, after the walk we grabbed a quick breakfast.  The plan was then to head to church, but we were running late, and I was still tired, so we decided to skip.  I fell asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, so I think we made the right decision.  The rest of the day was spent at the kennel with a short break to go grocery shopping.

Then there was yesterday.  I had to work at the kennel in the morning, but I figured I'd get some cleaning done in the afternoon.  The plan was for me to run home (literally run), change, and then get to work, however, Hans, who had the day off, had forgotten to take the dogs with him when he left.  Since Lollie can't run even half a mile, he had to come back to get them.  Unfortunately, he arrived around the same time I was supposed to leave, and I decided to cancel my run.  I just wasn't feeling it.

When we got home, I went over the list of things I could / should do.  I wanted to clean, or read, or cook, or even just sit outside, but by the time I'd taken off my shirt to change, I'd decided to crawl back into bed.  I was just planning or relaxing for a short while, but two hours later I was waking up with a GIANT puddle of drool on my cheek.

We then tried the whole neighborly bonding thing again, and this time it went much better.  We enjoyed hotdogs and hamburgers fresh from the grill, and some freshly made chocolate chip cookies.  Then, it was back to the kennel for the night shift.

This morning, I could have slept in a bit, but I decided to run instead.  I was a little groggy, but it was nowhere near as bad as the exhaustion I felt last week.  Apparently I needed some sleep.  After my simple yet invigorating 4 mile run, I came home and did some brief yoga to help stretch me out.  Maybe I'll even get some cleaning done later!

As I go into this week, I'm going to try to remember one thing: Sleep  A LOT!  Taking a nap is not always a bad thing.  Sometimes you don't need to read a book or just relax.  Sometimes you just need to sleep!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Weighty Issues

I don't like my body.

There.  I've said it.  I don't like my body.

And yet, why?  Why don't I like it?  What has it ever done to me?  It's carried me through a marathon, it allows me to lift 50 lb of dog food (and Cody and Lollie).  I'm healthy enough to bike / run / or walk to work if my car fails me.  I have decent vision, and I'm relatively low on back problems.  All in all, my body had been pretty darn good to me.  And yet, I can't seem to just appreciate it and love it.  Why is that?

This morning, I woke up at 4:30 to go for a run.  I had also gone for a 5 mile run on Monday, spent two hours mowing the lawn on Tuesday, and had run 2.3 miles yesterday.  Today, I really wanted to sleep, but I knew that I "needed" to work out.  As I put on my running clothes, I cursed my thighs which are slightly larger than last year and my belly which was tighter on my shirt than last year.  When I got the text from my running buddy that she wouldn't be able to make it, I was kind of happy...not because I could go back to sleep, but I could do a different work out; one with stomach crunches and push ups and all sorts of really difficult things.  I was exhausted, I wanted nothing more than to sleep for at least another 30 minutes, my body was already sore, and yet I felt it necessary to go work out again.

Well, needless to say, the workout didn't go well.  I started with a slow jog on a fitness path.  My quads were tired and my shins hurt.  I made it to station 1 where I was going to do some core work.  My hands and arms could barely hold on to the bar.  I went to station 2, where I did some lunges and balance exercises.  My balance was poor at best.  Exercises that a year or two ago were somewhat easy seemed so difficult.  I felt like I was moving through a fog.  I went to station 3, where I planned to practice some wall jumps.  I started to jump one time, made it half way over, started to lose my balance, and my jump turned into more of a crawl / shimmy over.  Yeah, I wasn't going to repeat that.  I decided I'd just run the rest of the course.  I made it to the next bend in the course, cut across the field, and walked back to my car.  I got home and planned to do some yoga to help me relax.  I sat on my yoga mat, then laid back, and then rolled over to fall asleep.  The dogs licking my face is pretty much the only thing that kept me awake (luckily they love yoga time).

I was mad at myself for not doing a good workout, but I was also kind of concerned.  Somewhere along the way I've lost any sort of balance in my life.  The kennel takes up 95% of my time.  When I'm not here, I'm either at home cleaning or I'm sleeping.  I'm getting much better about not eating out, but that often means that my meals consist of a Cliff bar, fruit and milk, or soup, fruit, and crackers.  Thank God for toaster oven meals, too.  I enjoy running and the runs I did Monday and Wednesday were mainly for the sheer joy of running, but I need some balance in there too.  I need to do more than just run, but I don't want to cut any of my running days, and I can't really take any extra time out of my day to more on top of the run.

Ideally, I'd work normal hours.  I'd be here from 8am-5pm with only 1 or 2 night shifts a week; as opposed to my current schedule which is often 6am-10pm with 1 or 2 mornings off a week.  To have two full days off a week (like a weekend) would be almost more than I could hope for.  Alas, I don't think that schedule will happen any time soon.  I'm going to have to find balance in my life while I still work 80 hour weeks.  Maybe I need to sacrifice a run for some yoga.  Maybe I just need to take some time to meditate each day.  I'm not sure yet.  What I do know, though, is that something needs to change.

I need to take the time to appreciate what my body CAN do, rather than complain about what it can't.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Staying Strong

Life has been really stressful lately.  I haven't been getting enough sleep, if I have a "home"-cooked meal it's generally made in the toaster oven at work, and work in general seems to be never-ending.  Ah, the life of a business owner.  The good news is that work is, in fact, going well.  I currently have one big stress hanging over my head, but even that has been offset by a lot of good dogs, good clients, and good weather, so there's not much complaining there.  Still, though, life has not been the easiest.

As you probably already know, I tend to alleviate stress by running.  Sometimes swimming or biking will help too, but they're better as add-ons to the running, and lately I've been running a lot.  I've been running a little longer or a little faster, and it generally feels good, but sometimes all it feels is painful.  Sometimes I lose sight of just how tired I am or just how hot it is, and instead of becoming this wonderful, blissful run where I finish feeling great about myself, it ends up becoming some horrible struggle to simply stay alive.  My face is beet red, my arms are flailing about, my legs want to collapse in on themselves, and it's all I can do to just keep moving forward, hoping I can make it home without having to call Hans to come pick me up.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I went out later than usual with the hopes of going a little farther than usual.  I wanted a nice, slow run that left me feeling good about the distance and decent about the pace.  What I got was really, really tired.  Going out later meant it was hotter than usual, and the fact of the matter was that I was already physically tired.  Less than half a mile into the run I realized how much harder this run was going to be than I'd planned, but I continued on.  Three miles into the run, I decided to cut my run short, changed my loop, and slowed to walk for a few blocks.  In the end, I'd run 6 miles instead of 8, and I held a 12:15 pace instead of 10:30 like I'd hoped.  This pace is probably because I walked the last mile.  I just couldn't seem to propel myself forward anymore.  When I got back to the house, I immediately had some water.  I was SO thirsty, even though I'd finished all the water in my fuel belt (Note: I generally don't need any water for a 6 mile run, so two bottles plus a glass is a lot).  I stretched out a little, had some breakfast, and pretty much collapsed on the floor for a few minutes while I let the dogs give me kisses (they like salty skin).

I should have felt miserable about that run.  Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled about it, but I certainly did not feel miserable.  I was tired and hungry, but not miserable or upset.  The fact of the matter is, I still ran.  Ironically, shortly after that run, I read this article in Runner's World.  It talks about how running helps you find who you really are, because when you're that tired there's nothing left but the true you.  And you know, I can't help but agree.  When I'm that tired, I don't care about how I look or what's stressing me.  I just care about finishing and recuperating.

On top of that, I can feel awful during a run and hate the run, but when I'm done running I generally just want to get back out and run again.  And that's great about running too.  No matter how awful one run is, I know it's just one run.  Throughout the run, I could be fighting negative thoughts.  Thoughts that say how fat I am or how terrible I look when I run, but at the end of the run I can still say I ran.  I can still say that I overcame those negative thoughts and did what I had to do.  And that makes me feel good.  It makes me feel good enough to bike to work the morning after a bad run.  It makes me feel good enough to pack my gym clothes so I can go for a swim.  It makes me feel good enough to plan my next run.  It helps me to stay strong, and that carries me through the stressful days as well.  So, here's to running!

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm Still Alive, I Promise!

Sorry I've been gone for so long!  I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how crazy life has been.  Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad, but all of it has been keeping us busy.  Let's see, where should I begin?  Well, since my last post I:

Took a trip to NJ / NY
Geneva (the groomer) and I took Cody up to NJ for a grooming competition.  We turned my fluffernutter Labradoodle into a shaved Airedale.  Talk about a transformation.  It's the first time he's ever had a shaved head or tail, and it's throwing me for a loop.  My biggest issue right now, though, is that I can't decide which version I like best.  Thoughts?


After the competition we also ventured into the city where I proceeded to get us thoroughly (and embarrassingly) lost on the subway system.  Oops!  I was, however, able to get us some delicious bagels from my FAVORITE bagel shop.  Oh, and when we finally left, we decided to stop at a random outlet mall for some shopping.  That was a blast!  I have the feeling I'll make that trip again some time.

On Monday, it was back to work, but I was still recuperating from the trip, so getting back into the swing of things took some hard work.  I was exhausted, and I found that I would randomly fall asleep given the slightest opportunity (e.g On a dog bed on the floor of the kennel).

Ran a social race.
Luckily, by Thursday of that week I was feeling a bit better, because I had signed up for a 4-mile run hosted by a local brewery.  I'm not a huge fan of beer, and I prefer smaller, more intimate events to the big, crowded, beer-centric events, so I was supremely nervous about this one, but I have to say it was a lot of fun.  I met up with a running buddy there, and we just took it at a nice, easy jog.  Afterwards we chatted, had a beer, and ate tacos.  I would happily do it again!

Ran a trail run.
Well, the same running buddy from the 4-miler also asked if I'd like to participate in a relay marathon for Project Athena.  Apparently, someone from their team had backed out and they needed a 4th.  Sure!  Why not?!  Well, I'll tell you why not.  That was one of the HARDEST 6.5 miles I have EVER run.  I was expecting a road run with possibly some mild trails.  What I got was 1.5 miles along a hot road followed by rock climbing, steep hills, and lots of inch worms.  Add to it that I ran the last leg, so I wasn't out until 11:00 a.m. and it was a very sunny day, and you'll get a very tired Valerie.  Oh well, I still had a blast, and I got to meet some pretty great people too!

All smiles after the race.

Finally life started to settle down a little bit, but I have also had some extremely stressful things happening (I'll talk about them later).  So, there were a lot of tears, a bit of yelling, and a general feeling of just wanting to crawl under the covers and go to sleep...which I did a little...only on the dog bed on the floor of the kennel (I'm tellin' ya, I'm here all the time!).  Hans has been a great support through everything, and is a good man for taking all my yelling like he has.  I hope I can some day repay him.

Well, there's one last thing I've done since my last post and that was yesterday.  Yesterday I...

Set a PR on a 10k!
One of the things I've lamented most about my injury was how much it set me back in training.  I was just gaining speed, and I was starting to see some significant weight loss, but that injury set me back to 12 minute miles and made me gain about 10 pounds.  This is not a good thing, so I've been working hard at getting back to my old pace. 

I wasn't too far off my previous PR of 10:24 min/mile, set during my first 10k, when I ran the Monument Avenue with a pace of 10:30 min/mile.  However, I really wasn't seeing much improvement.  I could push really hard some mornings and turn out almost 10:00 min miles with a friend, but other mornings I struggled just to keep an 11:00 min mile.  I knew a lot of it was dependent on sleep and the previous day's labors, but it was frustrating to say the least. 

Anyway, I wasn't sure what to expect with yesterday's 10k, the Carytown 10k.  I was going to try to run with a buddy, but she was hoping to set her own PR of 9:45 and I had not run that at all yet, so I figured I'd just see what I could do.  I knew that if I started with her, there was the possibility that I'd peter out too early, but I also knew that if I didn't start with her there would be no way I would keep a decent pace.  So, I started with her.

Unfortunately, I had to let her break away before mile 2.  I knew I couldn't hold her pace, and it was foolish to try.  We had started out too fast (often below 9:45), and I couldn't run fast and talk with her anyway.  So, I had to let her go.  It wasn't too long, however, before I realized that I did stand a chance at setting my own PR, but more than that.  I stood a chance of finishing with a pace under 10 minutes.

I pushed hard, and there were times I wanted to quit, but I persevered.  At one point, I felt like I was going to vomit.  I could feel it at the back of my throat, but I continued on.  In fact, this race also helped me to make a huge decision about something, but that's another story.  When I crossed the finish line, tired and sweaty, feeling like I could collapse, I stopped my watch and looked at my time.  I saw this:
I held a 9:46 pace!!!!!!!!
Apparently, I was only about a minute behind my running buddy, and a minute off from my goal of an hour.  I'm so close!  This is a very, very big deal, and it was just the victory I needed to start my week off right.

Now, I'm preparing for a lesson, and I'm gearing myself up for some pretty big stuff, but I've had a huge confidence boost.  If I can do that, I can do anything.

Me, post 10k.  Sweaty, way past red in the face, but happy.  Yay!