The Glow

mom

In the early 90s, my Mom said goodbye to cigarettes and hello to running shoes.

I think she hoped running would stave off any resulting weight gain from kicking the habit. But when she’d come in from speeding through the neighborhood sweaty, spent, face tomato-red, you could see a glow about her that proved she got so much more out if it than that. I could sort of see glimpses of her as a kid in those moments — carefree, spunky, give-it-all-you’ve-got-ness.

Like clockwork, she’d run every other day in the wee morning hours. But never with a plan of how long she’d be gone or how fast she’d be running. She didn’t train for races. She didn’t monitor her stats on a fancy running watch. She ran by feeling.

I always wanted to be like her. But alas: I hate mornings, I’m not consistent, I go through running spurts and lulls, I obsess over numbers and pace and running goals (though I’m trying to get better). I always know where and how long and how fast I’m going to go.

From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t notice a whole lot of similarity between my mother and me, in running or in general.

But from the inside looking out, I know I am becoming more like her year after year. And I think it’s by purposeful design that by the time we reach the age of becoming our parents we’ve finally gained enough wisdom to truly appreciate them. That’s not to say we never did, just that it changes over time for the better. I used to admire her running consistency and compatibility with early mornings. Now I admire those things plus that she managed them while raising two teenage boys and a high maintenance little girl, cleaning up meticulously after slobs, going to school, and trying to keep up with what can only be described as swimming-pool-sized amounts of dirty laundry her family threw at her daily.

How did she do all of this and still find the energy and the passion for running?

I don’t know if I’ll ever train myself to be an early morning person or to ignore my time and pace, but I do know this: making time for that running glow somehow, some way, in spite of crazy days and curveballs and possible death by drowning in dirty laundry is worth it. That sentiment is one thing we do have in common.

Hopefully it’s not all.

Cheers to my running role model, my Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms inspiring their kids every day without even knowing it.

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Don’t forget to smile

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Cotton Belt Trail

For me, racing is fun until it’s not.

I think I get competition fatigue. Is that a thing? It’s self-induced, for sure. There’s a line in the sand I seem to always cross, from a friendly competition against my past times to a get better, get better, get EVEN BETTER mantra that starts siphoning out the joy from my runs.

For some people the competition is the joy. For me, the run is the joy and the competition is like that bossy friend from childhood – in small doses we can play nice, but too much time together and I get downright sick of her telling me how things are going to go. Playing isn’t fun anymore.

The fatigue has settled in, even though I TOLD myself this would happen if I didn’t *just relax* and have fun with monthly races this year and not get stuck on numbers. As if.

This past Sunday during my long run I was trying hard to shake off a brain and body fog for the first five miles, which I think had a lot to do with the competition fatigue sucking away my happiness like a Dementor from Harry Potter. But I decided to employ one of my favorite long run best practices: smile, wave, and say hello to every stranger you meet. The Cotton Belt Trail on a Sunday morning is actually a perfect scene for this: it’s populated with herds of cyclists, walkers, runners, dog lovers, sulky teenagers, and couples in their matching active-wear from lululemon.

I don’t care if you ignore me, I’m going to smile and say hello to you anyway. Yes, even to you, arrogant looking middle aged dude who is too cool to make eye contact. Even you, cyclist, zipping by too fast to acknowledge anyone on the trail. Even if you look at me weird, I’m going to send you smiles.

But I’ve found that majority of people just really appreciate a warm hello and happily return the gesture. Some are powering through their workout struggling physically, some seem to be working through a mental battle, and others are one-two punching both challenges simultaneously. Sending a simple vibe of love and encouragement might be just what someone needs – and it feeds you spiritually in return, I believe, becoming fuel for whatever you may be battling.

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Strangers can uplift you when you least expect it. A couple of weeks ago, I was out on the trail and happened to pass by two women runners.

“Great job! Keep it up!” one of them said to me.

“Thanks — you too!” I called back over my shoulder.

Then she said, “You are passing us going uphill with a hydration pack on. You are awesome. Remember that!”

And when runs feel hard, I do remember that.

It turns out I’m running a half marathon next week on the same day we’ll be working on moving into a new home. And right after turning thirty one, (not that it’s really relevant…but what if I wake up slower?) During that long run, though, I decided to take the pressure off of that race and the remaining training runs and just focus on the joy of running. I think this is important for my sanity right now. I tracked my run but didn’t look at numbers until afterward. I focused on the footfalls, the breathing, the smell of rain-doused trees and grass, and the positive energy I felt the need to share with every person I crossed paths with.

I’m on track to meet my goal of a sub 2 hour 13.1, but you know what? I think I’ll just go out to the race, have fun and not worry about it. I don’t need a stress-induced injury or sickness right now. I don’t need a PR, I just need joy.

And the next time you’re working through something hard, don’t forget to smile. It helps!

Ego

Sometimes your Ego needs a bit of a boost. I don’t mean you need a healthy heap of happy-go-lucky confidence (a la Ryan Gosling telling you hey girl, you’re worthy) – I mean you need enhanced Ego, specifically.

You know her: Miss Ego is fierce, pushy, competitive, butt-kicking and self-serving. She’s hot stuff and knows it. She doesn’t try her best, she is the best.

She hinges on a delicate balance — nobody likes a jerk with a too-inflated sense of self worth. But there are times when Ego has taken a hit and needs bolstered, and we don’t like to cater to it for fear of feeling conceited or obnoxious or narcissistic. We may not even recognize that’s what we need.

Something in life might take a sizable bite out of my Ego and then the effects build on themselves to sink me down deep, the tide pulling me out progressively farther from feeling grounded if I let it. Depression and anxiety work through a similar mechanism. (Ego being the antagonistic mirror opposite twin to self doubt makes these things interconnected.) It can happen behind my back and right under my nose. Continue reading

Beer, running, pumping, + doing it all

You’ll never find me running a race in which I haven’t invested at least a little preparation.

Unless, of course, there’s free beer at the finish line. I mean like good free beer, not the kind that tastes like it’s free.

Letting loose a little and going against principle, I let a friend talk me into running the Rahr Oktoberfest 5k even though I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been out for a run. Months ago, for sure.

In my opinion, races become a little logistically difficult when you’re a pumping mother. (Yes, I’m still doing that, 11 months later. Yes, by the way, drinking beer and pumping is okay– it’s all about timing and moderation. I mean, you shouldn’t do a keg stand or anything, but one or two drinks are okay). Best case scenario is pumping immediately before a run for optimum comfort. This is tough at a race – you’ve got lag time between your arrival and the start gun, especially if you want decent parking and time to pee one last time, and I prefer to have both of these things. So I had to pump in my car on the drive to downtown and bring a cooler for the milk.

An aside: I actually pump and drive quite a bit for schedule maximization; it’s one of the ways I’ve been able to make pumping work with my time-starved life for 11months. It’s easy to do it discretely under a nursing cover. And if by slim chance someone catches a quick glance of my boob through my tinted car window, I’m sorry, but it’s worth the extra 30 minutes at home I get to spend with my family instead of sitting alone chained to a breast pump. I really don’t think this has ever happened.

I love fall races because the weather is perfect, and this day in particular was heavenly for running: overcast, cool, and drizzle-y. And I just ran. And enjoyed it. And didn’t think about time or pace or mile markers or the fact that I had done zero training and I might actually have to stop and walk at some point, Godforbidit. I went too fast for the first couple of miles and then felt like puking, so I decided to take walk breaks for the last mile. I finished at 31:11 feeling drenched, energized, a little sick to my stomach, and wonderfully happy, like remembering a fond memory. I got my finisher pint and filled it up once with Rahr’s delicious Stormcloud IPA, enjoyed my not-free-tasting beer, and then made my way home.

And I thought, for the billionth time this year, I really need to find time to run again.

The thing is that my priorities have been: family, work, pumping, eating, sleeping, pretty much in that order. Evenings are filled to the brim with baby feeding/playing/calming/bathing/rocking, dinner making, laundry washing, dish loading, (tag-teaming these duties with my husband), and day rehashing with my husband and stepson. I wouldn’t trade that stuff for running. Early mornings are filled with…sleeping, waking myself up for pumping, and then more sleeping. I tried to do early morning runs for a little while in place of more sleeping, but my body couldn’t take the deprivation.

I was hard on myself about this for a little while. But then I thought the one thing women so often don’t give themselves permission to think: it’s okay to not do it all.  I decided to cut myself a little slack.

Maybe when I’m done pumping (in a month or so! Woo-hoo!) I can make running (and blogging) a priority again. I’ll start over like I’ve done so many times before. Right now I’m focusing on a different kind of marathon, and I’m on the home stretch.

Running will always be there, like an old friend.

I can’t wait to race again.

My word

There were cobwebs everywhere on my run yesterday.

I mean the gross, sticky strings that slap you in the face out of nowhere and defy nature because they seem to be attached to nothing in particular. They’re just hanging around in the air, invisible, waiting to surprise you.

I think my running route was sending me a message with these. Like: neglect me for three weeks and this is what happens. I collect cobwebs.

Okay, message delivered. I didn’t mean to neglect you, running route. It’s just that I get on these kicks where I like to take running breaks for a physical and mental rest. And these “kicks” easily and quickly slide into a life’s-too-busy-for-running routine, and then what was intended to even me out has put me all off kilter. Continue reading