Plan, plan plan… Location, location, location…

Friday evening I got together with one of my PRGs (Personal Running Gurus) and we had a talk about goals and running plans and reality and limitations and starting all over all over again and how much closer I/we are to that last part than any speed/pace goals I/we might have tucked away in our mind/s.

For as much as I want to get to certain speed/pace goals (as does HCRP), there are three very real realities in our lives:
A) We simply did not run consistently pretty much any of last year.
(There’s nothing parenthetical about this, but I’m establishing a pattern here.)

B) We’re not getting any younger.
(HCRP hit 50 last July, I’m pushing it so hard I could knock it on its butt. And will in one month and two days!)

C) We are asking our bodies to carry more weight than they can hit those pace goals carrying.
(Such an evasive way to say “We’re overweight”.)

After consultation with my PRG (who is also an RRCA Certified Running Coach, one of many in Memphis) we have three goals and A Plan.
A) Develop consistency in running and cross training.
(The accountability of partnering with a friend in the 2,015 in 2015 program along with my PRG Coach Friend having an idea what I’m supposed to be doing will help.)

B) Train smart. And we now have a smart training plan.
(My/Our plan had us way over-training and barreling full-speed ahead – pun fully intended – towards injury.)

C) Clean up our diet and drop weight.
(This part I have more than ample knowledge to do, it’s the execution that’s my weakness.)

So that’s what the first six months of 2015 are focused on The Three Cs: Consistency, Commitment, Clean Eating!

Sundays are Short, Easy Run Days.
Sundays are supposed to be Short, Easy Run Days.
Yesterday we managed the “Short” part. We (and by “we” I mean “me” because I picked where we ran) did not manage the “Easy” part.
Memphis has a gajillion miles of running trails and bike paths both paved and unpaved. I am far more comfortable road running (Read: On pavement). I don’t like tripping over things. I hate snakes. And the idea of ticks falling out of trees onto my head freaks me smooth out. But seeing as how I’m closing in on my very own shiny, new, AARP Membership in the next 30 days; and having recently read an article (that I can’t remember the source of, because Pushing Fifty Brain) that talked about the benefits of off road trail running for AARP Membership Eligible runners (snakes and ticks notwithstanding) I decided we needed to run “off road”  ish. 

Aaaaanyway… With the concepts of that article pinging in my brain, and looking to change some things up in our running routine, I picked a gravel road/trail course for our “Easy” run Sunday afternoon.
I chose poorly.
I forgot about two things: The Hills and The Construction Detours.
The Hills part should speak for itself.
SFP is the largest park in our area and is currently undergoing a major enhancement project part of which impacts (albeit minimally given the scope of this whole thing) some of the running and cycling trails. So as we got to the point where a detour was inevitable we needed to run a good half mile further before turning around to get in the three miles we’d set out to run. Our options were: Run back and forth up and down the freakin’ mother of a hill; or turn off and run on the “mountain bike trail” before turning around and heading back.
Now, which one of these do you think I went with?
All those who guessed “mountain bike trail” run right up here to the front of the class and get your Gold Star.
Yep.
We went there, did that.
This did not make for an “Easy” run.
But we did it.
The takeaway from that little adventure: Having a plan is good, knowing where you’re going is even better!

Three Year Runniversary

In about a month it will be three years since I first laced up my Asics and stood in a parking lot with several hundred other women wondering what in blue blazes I was getting myself into taking part in our local running club’s Women’s Running Training Program. I was convinced of two things: 1) I was out of my mind; and 2) I was going to die. Clearly I was wrong on one of those two counts.

The Training Program is ramping up again, and for the third year I’m volunteering as a Coach with the Beginning Runners group. Earlier today a young friend I’ve known for a long, long time tagged me in a post on Facebook showing her registration confirmation for the program. And truth be told, I got puddled up. I am so proud of her for stepping out of her fear and putting herself ‘out there’ doing this in a group and in public.
She’s pretty convinced she’s out of her mind.
And she’s afraid she’s going to pass out, fail, or worst of all quit.
I’ve promised her she won’t pass out or fail and she’s given me permission to nag her so she doesn’t quit. Thus proving that she’s out of her mind. Never give me permission to nag! I’m good at it. I have references.
Me? I’m proud of her! Couldn’t be more full of maternal pride if she were my own child doing this.

Every year I’ve been a volunteer coach it has served a couple of purposes.
First, if my own running has faltered or I’ve begun to ‘fall out of love’ with it knowing this is coming up kicks me back into the groove.
Second, it puts me back into what my RYL (Running/Yoga/Life) Mentor calls “Beginner’s Mind”. I get that little excited/nervous flutter in my stomach. I get excited about running and all things running all over again. I start inventorying the answers to beginner questions in my mind, and in that process I ask them of myself.
How are my shoes?
How’s my running bra?
Am I eating to sufficiently fuel the maching?
Am I adequately hydrating for those hot, steamy, Memphis afternoon runs?
Have I lost my mind?

In encouraging my young friend I linked her to the beginning of this blog so she could see where I was early on in this and while I was there I scanned through some of the posts there and stopped when I came across this statement, made about three weeks shy of my own Graduation 5K: I have never, ever in my life stuck with any sort of exercise plan/program this consistently for this long! And it stopped me in my tracks. Because I am still sticking with it!
Oh there have been occasional lapses, but I’ve never quit or stopped. I’ve always come back to it, always begun again all over again.

And much of the credit for that goes to the very thing that got me started in the first place. A few weeks ago I was deliberating with RYL Mentor whether or not I was going to continue coaching with the Beginners, move to coaching with the Intermediates, or register as a participant for the Advanced training to up my own game. My personal jury was still out on the decision a bit. Until the email went out asking coaches to sign up and I decided to give it one more year and I found myself clicking the link and signing up. And today, when my young Rockstar friend tagged me in that post I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My heart is with the Beginning Runners, and there’s a tiny bit of selfishness in that.

The butterflies are marching and I’m excited for both of us.
On Monday, July 7th when we start that first Run With Coaches it will be a beginnig for her and an amazing continuation of a beginnig for me.
Three years.
Who saw that coming?!

Ready. Get set. Go Ladies, go!

Nearly a MONTH since my last post?!
Seriously?!
*looks back*
Yep.
Nearly a month.

Well, I have been running.
I have also been not running while dealing with The Mother of All Blisters and her Evil Spawn The Blister’s Blister.

Quick Lesson Share:
If you happen to develop a blister on the sole of your foot that is, oh, say, roughly the size of your thumb do not attempt to run again until it is fully healed.  This is The Mother of All Bad Decisions and will lead to missing over two weeks of running rather than seven to ten days.

But back to the point of this post…
Monday begins the 2013 edition of our running club’s Women’s Running Training Program.
Once again I’ll be volunteering as a Coach with the Beginning Runners group.
And once again, I already find myself so inspired by the women who are doing this for the first time who I had the opportunity to meet and talk to at the Expo this past Monday night!
Women who are, for the first time in decades, doing something just for themselves.
Women who are seizing control of their health.
Women who aren’t 100% certain what they’ve got themselves into.
Women who have always wanted to run but never knew how or where to start.
Women who are scared and excited all at the very same time.
Women who, in nine weeks, will go further than they ever thought possible.
Oh, and then they’ll run the 3.1 miles of the Graduation 5K.

And that’s when the fun really starts!

Some things you never really lose

The blog.
My blog is still here.

I also still have legs and lungs.
And they still work well together.
At least for three and four mile stretches.

I had every reason not to run in November – I was sick with an upper respiratory crud that just Would Not Go Away.
I had every reason not to run in December (okay two reasons) – I had surgery that required time for stitches to heal.  Six weeks worth of time.
I got back to running (and writing) in mid-January.
I continued running(ish) (and writing) through February and into mid-March.

And then.
Well then I got busy with the run-up to the 5K for which I am Race Director.  The race went well.  Thanks for asking.  It went well despite our local weathermen calling for freezing rain and sleet and snow the week leading up to the race, and cold (40s) temperatures and rain the day of.  (I know a guy who knows a guy and those weathermen won’t be a problem for next year…)

And then.
Well then was The Week After and I was that heady combination of overwhelmed and exhausted and tired of thinking about shirts and safety pins and water cups and packet pick-ups and all things race related.  And HCRP and I were getting ready to go to Big Texas City where Young Female Progeny (YFP) goes to college (freshman) for Easter Weekend.

And then.
Well then, some cook or server or busboy or barback or someone, at one of the many places we ate during the roadtrip and visit failed to wash his or her hands after he or she ‘did their business’ in the men’s or ladies’ room and yours truly ended up with Norovirus.
Norovirus, for the uninitiated (and non-link clickers), is (and I quote) “transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces”.  You do not want me to explain ‘aerosolization’.
Wash.  Your.  Hands.

There were a lot of excuses to skip runs, and we took them and . . . well . . . and didn’t run with them.  Earlier this week I started trying to beat myself up about it, but I realized that sometimes a break – intentional or not – is precisely what is required to renew our drive for something.
Yeah, I’m sticking with that.

So this week we got back to running.
Three miles Monday night, four tonight.
Not pretty miles, but miles (mostly) run.
I also spent a fair number (some would say too many) hours plotting our 30 week marathon training plan on a spreadsheet in conjunction with races we choose to run and races we choose to volunteer for.

2013 is going to be Our Running Year.
And I’m good with that.
For us running is about more than just pounding feet on the pavement.
We have become part of a community of runners and it’s as much about the races we do in support of particular causes as it is the races we volunteer to ‘work’ to support the runners who are racing to support those particular causes.
Just like running is about more than the miles, being part of our running community is about more than the races.

And my personal favorite thing is the volunteer coaching we’ll be doing again this year with our local running club’s women’s running training program.  There are no words for how much having this opportunity to bring running into a meaningful place in another woman’s life means to me.
I don’t know how many women have participated in this event in it’s 20+ year history here in our fair, hot, Southern, consistently ranked fattest/unhealthiest city.  I’m willing to wager that number could easily populate one of the many smaller towns in and around here.
What I do know is that in 2011 it changed my life.
I know that it led me to continue running and to become a Race Director (twice!).
I know that in 2012 I was privileged to witness it changing the life of a mother and her two daughters who are now running/racing machines!  And seeing that galvanized in me a desire to do more of that witnessing it thing.
I know that in 2013 it will change another woman’s life, many womens’ lives.  And being even a small part of that will further change me and my life.

As much as my mother/daughters running machine team thrilled – and continue to thrill and inspire – me; as much as I love the friendship that has grown out of those ten weeks spent sweating our rear ends off on a long, flat stretch of asphalt; it is another woman – one whose name I have never known – who is the reason I’ll be returning as a volunteer coach with the Beginning Runners again this year.

Every year WRWM is kicked off with an Expo.
For the Walkers and Beginning Runners it is their first ever Running Expo, I know it was mine, and for as simple as it was it was a heady experience.  Truth be told, anything more would have been Too Much!
Last year I was standing around with the other Beginning Runners Volunteer Coaches waiting to answer questions from nervous, scared, “Oh my starz! What have I got myself into?!” Beginning Runners when a woman I estimate to have been in her mid-to-late 50s walked up to me and more or less stood there like she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be saying to me.  Truth be told I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be saying to her either so I led with the obvious “Is this your first time doing this?” and the answer I got was far from the “Well DUH!” I was expecting.
She looked at the floor as if I’d caught her with her hand in the cookie jar, looked back up at me, smiled a little, and said “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me.”
What I wanted to do was burst into tears and hug her.  I also didn’t want to scare the crap out of her, so what I did do was pat her on the shoulder, smile back the tears and say “Well good for you!  You’re gonna love this!”
I meant that first part in all sincerity.

I kinda hoped she’d forget that second part the following Monday when it was 100 degrees in the shade and we were out running in the full sun of a mid-July late Memphis afternoon.
That following Monday she made a bee-line for me and was grinning from ear-to-ear and telling everyone around us “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me!” and we hadn’t even run the first step yet.  And week after week – rain or shine, heat and more heat – she came back always with that smile long after many younger, fitter-looking women had quit the program.

So that’s our year.
Lots of running.  A few races.  And even more reasons for all of it.

Oh.
And writing.
Always writing!

I should NEVER have started running

This was the start of a conversation – and by ‘conversation’ I mean monologue/diatribe by me – last night in the car as we were running an errand of mercy for/to my son. (Said son is, for the record, going to be 24 years old next Wednesday, is 6’5″ tall, and like a good Southern Boy still calls me “Momma”. Awww . . . )

Back to my diatribe . . . Which went a lot like this:
Me: I should NEVER have started running.

HCRP: Why?

Me: Because now I can’t just ‘quit’.

HCRP: Why?

Me: Because that’s just not how it’s done! You don’t start something like running and then just quit. Especially when you’ve Put It Out There that you’re going to run a Full Marathon next year! I mean to ‘just quit’ – which by the way I have the perfect opportunity to do what with the being too sick to run for a month and now the month ‘off’ after my surgery next week – at this point makes me look like a big ol’ [STOP READING MOM!] pussy.

HCRP: (Keeps driving and looking straight ahead. He is wise beyond his years that one.)

Me: But this is just stupid!

HCRP: What is?

Me: Running!
(Is he paying no attention to anything I’m saying?!)

HCRP: (Keeps driving and looking straight ahead.  Again.  Genius!)

Me: I mean seriously. I run and I run and I run all these *expletive deleted* miles and where do I get?  Nowhere.  Okay, generally back to the car, but still! It’s not like I’m going from Portland (Oregon, I realize there’s also one in Maine) to Boston with all this *expletive deleted* running!

HCRP: We could.

Me: Could what?

HCRP: Run from Portand to Boston.

Me: (Singes him with a blistering glare.)

HCRP: (Regains his senses and keeps driving and looking straight ahead.)

Me: This is just stupid. It’s a stupid sport.  And now that I’ve started it I can’t ‘Just Quit’. There’s no end to it. It’s not like I’ve suffered some permanent injury that would force me to stop so I’m stuck with this *expletive deleted*.

HCRP: Well what else would you do?

Me: For what?

HCRP: For fitness?

Me: I would eat! And sleep! A lot of eating and sleeping.  And hang out with friends in bars.

HCRP: That wouldn’t be very healthy.

Me: (Singes him . . .  You know the rest.) That is entirely beside the point.

HCRP: Which is? (Sometimes he’s not very bright… Really.)

Me: That I really can’t *expletive deleted* quit running!

HCRP: Why not?

Me: You didn’t hear that whole ‘If I quit now I’ll look like a big ol’ weenie’ (edited for inappropriate content for my mom’s sake) part before?! Besides, if I quit now what was the point of the entire last almost year and a half of my life? And all those shoes and socks and clothes and those freakin’ high dollar, industrial strength, double-reinforced running bras I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on?!  Huh?  What about all that?!
So.
*expletive deleted* it. I may as well keep running.
[Insert especially creative uses of ordinarily run-of-the-mill profanity.]

Of course what prompted all of this was having spent the morning sitting at a Finish Line I had originally intended to be running across.
Which wasn’t altogether bad.

Actually.

It was pretty cool.
It was inspiring watching the Elite Runners cross in times I will never, ever hope to make.  And they were, I might add, barely breathing heavy or sweating.  Much.
It was fun watching the non-runners who would stop a few feet before the Finish Line to pose their Finish Line photos.  (Costing themselves valuable seconds towards PRs… Who does that?!)
It choked me up seeing the people who – you could tell by the “I did it! Wait, I did it?!” looks on their faces – were finishing their First Ever 5Ks and Half Marathons.
Then there was the mom who had written in Sharpie on her arms and legs: My son couldn’t train for cancer.  I was full-on snot-slingin’ squawlin’ when I saw that.
Really being a part – any part – of an event that raised $5.8 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Well, how can you have a ‘bad’ time doing that?!

So I end 2012 with the following statistics under my laces:
1) I suffered from, rehabbed, and overcame my first ever sports injury.  Me!  *I* had a “sports injury”!
2) I was a coach for other women who were setting out on their own journeys as Runners.
3) I ran a Half Marathon! AND finished under my stated goal time.
4) And at the end of all that diatribe and deleted expletives up there – I’m going to keep on running. Because really, who wants to look like a big ol’ weenie (edited for inappropriate content)?!

We are what we say we are

A couple weeks ago I was looking for something to watch on Netflix during my Sunday afternoon ‘Kitchen Therapy’. I’ve not ever watched Lost and figured with six seasons of episodes it ought to keep me entertained for quite awhile. And I am hooked – just like people kept telling me I would be back in 2004.

HCRP and I carpool to work which means I get dropped off about an hour early most mornings which gives me a little bit of time to entertain myself. Yesterday on my lunch hour I’d got almost through an episode titled The 23rd Psalm that focuses on the character of Mr. Eko.

I’m not going to even attempt to go through a season and a half’s worth of episodes, let alone several years of the character’s backstory, to explain every little detail because . . . well . . . this is a blog, not Homer’s Odyssey. But there is a scene in the episode where another character asks Mr. Eko “So, are you a priest or aren’t you?” and the camera focuses in on Eko’s face and you see this Moment, this instant of choice, and he answers the question simply “Yes. I am.” And in watching that Moment of his I had one of my own when I had the realization expressed in this post’s title: We are what we say we are.

As if that Moment in that episode of a television show wasn’t enough for me, my Inbox decided to hammer the point home with emails from two completely unrelated sources.

The first was a quote from a daily email newsletter I’ve subscribed to for a couple years now called The Daily Love. This morning’s missive contained the following quote: “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
As I shared on Facebook that event was lacing up a pair of Asics and running 1 minute, walking 1 minute over and over for 20 minutes then doing that two more times that week. And the ‘stranger’ I met that day was Julianne The Runner.

It took me a long time to really, fully embrace the concept of myself as A Runner (capital R). I mean, I ran. Well, I ran/walked. The chances of me ever full-bore running even so much as an entire 5K are pretty slim. For one thing, I don’t necessarily feel the need. For another, that’s not how I train and as every runner knows – you race the way you train. So I will be a run/walk girl no matter the distance!
I’m not going to win, place, or likely even ever ‘show’ from a winning a medal standpoint. At least not until I’m in that 70+ age division and even then I sure won’t if Tonia or Terri Lee are running the same race! And I’m okay with that. I run to finish.

But back to Mr. Eko up there.
In his seminal moment of self-definition I realized the truth that we really are what we say we are!
Runner.
Writer.
Trainer.
Coach.
Motivator.
Even The Good Book tells us “What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.”
Well I’m ready to stand in that shining light and say I am A Runner and going forward I will be a Trainer and a Coach and a Motivator for others so that they, too, can lace up their running shoes and meet that stranger lurking deep down inside who is their Runner or Writer or Trainer or whoever it is they say they are!

Oh, and that second quote I mentioned hitting my Inbox this morning?
That one came from the blog of none other than Jeff Galloway, the Patron Saint of Run/Walkers everywhere.
Question: My friends think that walking is “less important” and that if you don’t run the entire way, you didn’t do it right. How do you deal with it?
Jeff: In every area of life there are individuals who will tell you that the only way to do something is the way that they do it. According to an original source, all of the marathoners in the first marathon race in Athens (1896 Olympics) walked significant portions of the race. By nature, running is a self empowering activity and each of us can choose how fast, how far and how many walk breaks we use on each run. If anyone says that run/walk/run is not doing it right, ask for the rule book that excludes walk breaks. They cannot, because each of us makes our own rule book.
Thank you Mr. Galloway wherever you are!

This is it!

 

 

2 Days – 10 Hours – 14 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

It isn’t the first one I have set out to do.
That was back in March.
But apparently it was the first one I was intended to do.
And I am, finally, okay with that.

I have butterflies in my stomach.
They’ve gone from stomping around in combat boots in formation to running wind sprints.
I can live with wind sprints.

I have a cadre of Runner Friends who have given me support, encouragement, congratulations, and one consistent bit of advice: Have fun!

I have HCRP who is being his ever-tolerant, patient self with my newbie nerves and nattering on and on about which tech shirt I should take as a back-up if the race shirt is sleeveless (sleeveless t-shirts freak me out a little bit).

Several weeks ago one of the RFs commented on one of my (many, many, many) Facebook posts about this upcoming race that this race is my “victory lap”.  It’s the celebration of all the miles I’ve put in training.  And while I appreciated the sentiment it really didn’t make sense to me at the time.
I mean the Half was The Whole Point of all the miles and training and . . . and . . . and well all the miles and training!
Wasn’t it?
She was just trying to keep me from getting too worked up and possibly attempting to prevent the combat boot wearing, formation marching butterflies.
Right?
I just didn’t quite get what she meant.

Until Monday evening when I was doing the last Coaching Run with the Beginning Runners in the Women’s Running Training Program that was the start of this whole Running Thing for me.  I was running along with one of the other Coaches and three of the Beginning Runners (a mother and her two daughters which I think is just so cool!) and we (the other Coach and I) were answering questions and Out Of Nowhere it hit me: The Race really is The Celebration.  It is The Victory Lap!  The miles and the training really were The Point.

Now The Marching/Sprinting Butterflies are still around.
And every time I look at the picture of where the Finish Line is going to be I get choked up.

Wanna see?
How freakin’ cool is that?!
And I know I’m gonna bawl if not actually crossing the Finish Line, because really who wants their Ugly Cry Face as that picture, but a few steps thereafter.
And the crying won’t be (completely) because “I did it!” but also because “I did everything that made me able to did it!”

Earlier this week (also on Facebook) I posted a status to the effect that this Half was the single most significant accomplishment of my life.
I left out that it was more significant than graduating high school or college, more significant than marriage, more significant than even childbirth.  I left that out because I really didn’t feel like being judged for including the birth of my one-and-only “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” child.  (I tried for others before him, but that didn’t work out so well.)
 Aaaaanywho . . . this isn’t my Therapy Blog so back to The Running Stuff . . .

Crap.
Where was I?
Not The Point . . .
The Victory Lap . . .
Single most signific . . .  There I was!

Okay so this Half Marathon is the single most significant accomplishment of my life for one reason and one reason only: It is the one thing I’ve done that never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself capable of.
All those other milestones up there?  Please.  Those were givens.
knew I would graduate high school and college.
knew I would get married.  Hadn’t counted on married, divorced, married, divorced, married but hey I get HCRP out of that so I’m good.
knew I would have a baby.  I had planned on three or four, but the one I managed to bring successfully (if surgically assisted) into the world is a pretty good kid so I’ll keep him.  Besides I don’t think they take back almost twenty-four year olds.
Running a Half Marathon?  All in one day?  Yeah sooooo not on my radar like ever.
Until Saturday, October 11th when I heard the words “we” and “half marathon” falling out of my face all in one sentence.

So I really need to be getting to bed/sleep because we have to get up early tomorrow to get in our last pre-race quick, short run before going to work.

But before I go I have to point out the single most beautiful piece of synchronicity about this whole thing.
This time last year I was a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first 5K as A Runner on the third Saturday of September.
This time this year I am a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first Half Marathon as anything on the third Saturday of September.
HOW freakin’ cool is that?!

2 Days – 9 Hours – 25 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning what matters

Two weeks ago HCRP and I ran a new-to-us running trail here in our fair little hamlet. It’s another of our city’s greenway running/biking trails (okay walkers can use them too).

/Sidebar
Given:
A) That we boast one of the country’s biggest running clubs and their Award Winning Women’s Running Training Program;
B) The number of running/biking venues;, and
C) The fact that getting a date for a 5K is getting dangerously close to requiring a sudden death cage match between Race Directors;
it simply astounds me that my hometown consistently ranks among America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities.

Who are they talking to when they do these surveys?!
Certainly nobody I know or spend time around!
/End Sidebar

The trail we ran two weeks ago has a fair number of short, sharp inclines which I was surprised to find myself reveling in. The interesting thing is that you run up the inclines going one direction and don’t end up running back down until you’ve turned around to come back. Since running short, sharp inclines is new to me (Read: That was the first time I’d ever done it!) I made the rookie mistake of running back down said short, sharp inclines (hereafter known as The SSI) rather than pulling back and walking. It didn’t take too many of those before The Other Knee – close friend and cohort of Ye Olde Knee and hereafter referred to as TOK – began expressing its displeasure with that particular modality of handling The SSI. I wound up (Southernism for “had to”) walking most of the last two of my seven mile run. I was not a happy camper, especially since we had joined one of the Half-Marathon/Marathon Training Groups for that particular run and I got to be seen WALKING back to the meeting point. Walking?! Seriously?! Despite the understanding I received since I was limping and all, I was still utterly humiliated. And hurting. So I R.I.C.E.D.ed it all afternoon and evening and got my plan in place for taking care of the strain – not injury – of a learning experience.

I headed for Vegas the next day which meant a lot of time spent pacing around in airports (six hours more than I’d planned for, but that’s another story for another blog) and sitting in cramped (even for my 5’4″ frame) airplane seats. So I wore my ‘big brace‘ and opted not to run on Monday. I got in a short (four mile) run while I was on vacation in Vegas, and it went well. TOK was talking to me a bit, but I attributed that to the stairs I had to climb crossing streets on The Strip. Owing to airline travel induced dehydration when I got home I didn’t get a second run in that week and set out to run eight miles on Saturday. That got cut short when TOK was full-on screaming at me at Mile Three and I ended up walking the entire last three miles.

HCRP and I got in a short (just under three miles) run Tuesday morning, but again no mid-length run before this morning’s Long Run. There were no reasons, only excuses. “I’m tired” being the leading one I used to roll over and hit the snooze Thursday morning and “Well now it’s just too hot!” being the go-to Thursday evening. Okay, maybe that was less ‘excuse’ than ‘legitimate caution’, but still I didn’t get that mid-length run in.

Which brings us to today’s eight mile run(ish).
I did make it eight miles.
I did not run all of it.
I also didn’t walk half of it.
This time I had A Strategy! (See? There’s strategy – I’ve learned!)

Having put some thought into things I decided to change up my run/walk intervals from 6:1 to 6:2.
The only reason I was running 6:1 intervals had to do with making a certain time for a given distance. And the truth of it is that for me it isn’t about “making time” or even setting/breaking a PR (Personal Record). For me it’s about the running and finishing the distance.
Including – and especially – my first half-marathon.
363 days after finishing my first 5K as a runner I will be participating in (not competing in) my first half-marathon.
Me!
The person who went into running saying “All I ever really want to run are 5Ks. Really, I’m good with that.”

Don’t get me wrong, 5Ks are fun! I love running them. Especially for causes. Doing a 5K is a great way to do more than just throw money at something. It’s about being physically present in support of that thing. Whether walking or running – you are there. You are part of it.

I just want to run further.
I like the feeling of knowing I’ve just gone further on a given course than I’ve ever been before. Further than *I* have ever gone before – even if only a few steps.

It is so easy to get caught up in PRs and finishing times/places. Heck, when I crossed the finish line of my first 10K my first question wasn’t “Where’s the water/bathroom?” it was “Am I last?!”
How ridiculous was that?
I had just finished My First 10K as A Runner.  Heck, At All!
I was vertical.
I was breathing.
I wanted to do another one! (We’re registered for one in October.)
And as I tell other women who are newer to running than me and come to me for advice (WTW are they thinking?!) I was miles ahead of all the people sitting on their couches at home!

Ya’ know, I was going to detail today’s run with a mile-by-mile breakdown of what happened when and where things went wrong, but in all truth that really isn’t important.
What is important is this: Today I ran a full mile further down the Greenline than I have ever gone before.
I ran over The Wolf River, under I-240, under White Station, Mendenhall, and Perkins, and I crossed Waring before I turned around and headed back.

And next Saturday I’ll go half a mile further than that before I turn around and head back.
And that, my friends, is what matters.

This is what Vegas does to people

It robs you.
Not of your money.

It robs you of your groove.
And hydration.

No matter how much Gatorade or water you drink while you’re there, no matter how closely you monitor your urine color – really I did this like it was my job – you arrive back home utterly and completely dehydrated.

Okay maybe it wasn’t just Vegas.
Maybe it was Vegas and airline travel.
But you arrive home utterly and completely dehydrated.
And you feel like hammered crap*.
And you miss your mid-length run on Thursday night because you are utterly exhausted from the dehydration.  And the delayed “last flight out of Atlanta to Memphis”.
Either way, you miss that Mid-Length Run that might have told you that your ‘Knother Knee was still a bit bothered from that sharp incline you ran down during your last Long Run – you who are unaccustomed to running down sharp inclines – so that you wouldn’t have come so completely unstrung when you had to cut Saturday’s nine mile run short when The ‘Knother Knee started screaming speaking loudly at the 2.5 mile mark.  Then making the (wise, prudent, forward-thinking) choice to turn around at three miles and walk – yes I said W-A-L-K – back the entire three miles.
And trust that your training for your first half-marathon (in 54 days from today) isn’t completely off track and that you will finish the race.

BUT!
To my credit, I did run while In Vegas and On Vacation.

I ran four miles.
Okay, I ran most of four miles.  I went up and down a lot of stairs.  I used them as my walking intervals.  There were a lot of walking intervals.
And I did not knock over any of the other tourists who were in my way on the sidewalks at 7:30 am.

But I have things to catch up with here.
Like my newest tattoo.  Herbert The Turtle.  And what he means to my running.

And I shall.
After tomorrow’s run as a Coach!

*Steel Magnolias reference.  Forward to 0:33 if you don’t want to watch the entire clip.

I left my title on the trail

Yesterday about halfway through this week’s Long Run (seven miles), which was actually the week’s only run that still went absolutely great, I had a title for this post come to mind and evidently it got left on the trail. (My empty Gu packets did not however get left on the trail.)

I finished the seven miles with zero negative input from Ye Olde Knee. Not a twinge, grimace, whine, or yap. The Secret was Pace.  (Wait!  That was my title!) Plain, pure, and simple! I started and stayed at a consistent 11:45 – 12:00 per mile pace from the beginning.  And intervals. Intervals are also key.  I ran to each half mile marker (about 5:30 – 6:00 minutes) then walked about a minute – long enough to take a sip of water and get my breath, but not long enough to let my heart rate drop completely – then started running again. And it worked like a charm!  So much so that I went ahead and downloaded the un-free ($4.99) Endomondo App so I can customize a 6:1 interval workout that will cue me when to walk and how long a minute is.

Next week we run eight miles and the week after that nine, and so on until Labor Day when we’ll be up to thirteen miles which allows for a taper week starting the weekend before our Half Marathon. And for the first time in a long time I can really see me doing this.

But!
One of my single greatest running accomplishments starts tomorrow evening at 6:00 pm. Tomorrow evening I will be wearing a bright gold singlet with five red letters on the back: C-O-A-C-H as a Volunteer Coach in the Women’s Running Training Program that got me started with this madness on this path.

This time last year I showed up in a gravel parking lot with about 600 other women milling around in the insufferable Mid-July Memphis heat wondering:
A) What on earth I was doing there;
B) What made me think I could run;
C) How far – or shortly – into this I was going to drop dead from a heat-and-being -overweight-and-out-of-shape induced coronary; and finally
D) When someone was going to come along and talk some sense into me instead of saying things like “I admire you for doing this Jules!” “I am so proud of you Jules!” and especially HCRP who kept insisting on saying “You can do this Honey!”
How was I gonna quit in the face of all that belief and pride and encouragement?
But then, caught up in what was quite obviously a protracted endorphin high or the after-effects of near heatstroke, the day after our first Run With Coaches I emailed the Head Coach of the Beginning Runners Group and told her I was already committed to being a Volunteer Coach next year. Which is now this year.
I did this for a couple reasons.
The aforementioned obvious endorphin/heatstroke thing.
Being impressed with the Volunteer Coaches who were giving of their (seasoned, farther-than-I-would-ever-run-ever-in-my-life-runners) time, and genuinely caring about my overweight, middle-aged, out-of-shape self and wanting to (hopefully) be (maybe a little tiny bit) like them someday.
But really mostly to put myself so far Out There with “this running thing” that I had absolutely zero opportunity to back out. Or quit running once the Graduation 5K was “in the books”.
I know me.
I’ve seen me start something with great enthusiasm only to fizzle out because there wasn’t a long-term end game.
So I gave myself one.
To be a Volunteer Coach would mean having more experience than “Oh, yeah, I did this last year but haven’t seen my running shoes since September but I’m sure it will all come back to me.”
Of course I wasn’t counting on this running thing to become everything it has.

Really, it hasn’t “become” anything.
It has simply given focus, direction, and physicality to things that have always been part of me.
The determination to do something no matter how difficult, inconvenient, or sometimes painful it may be.
The drive to keep with something even when I have every valid reason to “just let it go”.
The realization that The Goal I began with wasn’t so much The Goal as it was a stepping stone to The Next Big Thing.
The knowledge and understanding that the race I’m running is mine and that whether I’m first or last crossing the Finish Line isn’t the point. The point is that I kept going from Start to Finish and got there (in the words of Jeff Galloway) “vertical, breathing, and ready to do it again”.
I have learned:
That, like causes and battles, there are a million races out there and I simply can’t run them all. Mostly because there are only so many Registration Fees in our budget, but still . . . you have to pick your races.
That the races you can’t run, you can always be there to help with and cheer others on through.
That pace is everything.
That water is our friend.
That hills – even the steep ones – make the run more interesting and are less painful in the long run.
That it’s all about the shoes and supporting The Girls. And you will pay for cheap shoes one way or another.
That I can do this.
And if I can do this I can do anything!
And if I can do this, and anything, so can you.

See? I was born for this Coach thing!