It Takes A Village

13.1

It’s easy to think that you just train, you put in miles, you get up, you tell yourself you don’t hurt as much as you do, and then you do it again. But it is so much more than that. It is the entire community of people around me that has gotten me to where I am today. When I stop to think about all the people that have influenced me, encouraged me, kicked me, and prodded me, I am overwhelmed.

I had people cook for me, give me tools, give me gear, help me set up my Garmin watch, set up the Garmin connect on my computer, set up the tracking device. I had people email me asking when the race was, and encourage me, literally every step of the way. I had, and still have, individuals who inspired me to keep going, and in turn, I was told that I inspire others. It is a beautiful cycle.

I had a team of people that have kept my body in tip top shape – massaging muscles, making sure my spine was in alignment, showing me specific running stretches, stretching with me, reminding me when I need to rest, and giving me advice to keep me from injuring myself.

Even though I didn’t have a coach, and I made up my own training plan based on some pretty good guesses and something I read in a book, I had a whole team of trainers working with me. They challenged me to do the long runs, and then the longer runs. They explained the importance of speed and strength work. They told me not to skimp on core work and keep up with my plan. They reviewed my chart, my progress and told me where I was trying to do too much and when I needed to push harder. They affirmed my plan, and gave me options. They told me about different ways to approach running from the “run/walk” method to heart monitor training. At the end of the day, no one method is perfect, but part of my joy has been to try many things and see what works for me.

 

And then it was the day of the race. There were moments that I vividly remember….

I remember hitting the 1-mile marker and thinking simultaneously, “I wish these people would all get out of my way, they are slowing me down! And wow, I just have 12 more to go.” At the 4-mile marker, I realized I was almost a third of the way done. When I hit 5 miles, my hip started to hurt and I thought, “meh…give it two more miles and see how it feels.” At somewhere around mile 7, they were handing out gels and I had some because I knew I needed it, but oh, it was gross. Just before mile 8, I ran through a fire department and under two great flags – the Colorado state flag and Old Glory…. I jumped up to try to touch the flag, but missed by at least a foot. Somewhere around mile 11, another fire department was out in their fire fighting pants and boots (no shirts), giving us high fives. Upon reflection, it seems that I might have preferred them back at mile 4 when I might have been able to remember what they all looked like!

And I was humbled, oh so very humbled at the end.  I was somewhere around mile 12.5, and it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of another.  I kept seeing these people pass me, young people with their pony tails bobbing, still looking perky and talking to their friends, and older people with silver hair and skinny chicken legs…and all I could think of was that I hoped I could grow up to be that old person someday.  It was inspiring.

I remember crossing the 13 mile mark and thinking to myself, I’m almost there – I couldn’t quite see the finish line yet because it was around a curve, but somehow I was able to pull out the last of my reserves and I picked up my pace one more time…I was determined to finish strong, with a smile on my face and my arms up in the air.  And then I was over the line, and I realized I’d done it – that thing I’d set out to do, it was done.  My legs felt like rubber, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted something to drink or to just fall over.  But it was humbling to realize that I am part of an elite group now – I can never say that I’m not a runner again, and that is humbling in and of itself.

You learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself beyond your comfort zone and then push yourself even harder. In January, this seemed like an impossible thing to attempt. I did it, but I didn’t do it alone…it took a village.

#IRun4

IR4

Once upon a time, there was a boy who had bilateral hip dysplasia.  It hurt, and he had to stay in bed.  This boy had a friend who liked to go running.  “You can run for me anytime!” the boy said to his friend.  That simple phrase sparked a movement, and Irun4 was born.

Today, this organization has approximately 10,000 members in 24 countries, and it pairs up athletes (who are normal folks), with people who have disabilities or diseases that prohibit them from running or being active.  The athletes can dedicate their runs, workouts, or races to their buddy who can’t be out there.

I have two very special people in my life who inspire me on a daily basis; Kevin and Daryl are both my cousins, from opposite sides of the family, so even though they don’t know each other, they are sort of cousins, too.  For different reasons, neither one can run anymore, so when I’m out there, and when I start to get tired, I remember these two amazing guys who would trade places with me in a heartbeat, and just that thought makes it a little easier to push through.

When Kevin was 12, the summer after his 6th grade year, he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.  MD is a genetic born disease where the muscle cell walls break down and don’t grow.  He described it to me this way, “Imagine a balloon with little holes – the balloon can’t hold in air with the holes.”  There are nine major groups of the muscular dystrophies – he has the one called Facioscapulohumeral MD (FSHD), and it initially affects muscles of the face (facio), shoulders (scapulo), and upper arms (humera) with progressive weakness.  Kevin’s is the third most common form of MD, and while some forms of MD are life threatening, his is not.  He does not live in pain, but because his 12 year old muscles are supporting a full grown man’s body now, it is safer and better for him to be in a wheelchair all the time now.

I remember being in college and, as college students do, a group of us (including Kevin) were sitting around talking about whatever.  The topic turned to the dreams we have when we sleep, and somebody asked, “what’s your favorite dream?” and we all took turns answering.  When it was Kev’s turn, he said, “It’s when I dream I’m running.  When it feels so real.”   That statement has always stuck with me because he dreams about something that I just take for granted.  The last time he was able to run was in junior high….

Daryl has been a runner his whole life – fun runs, runs with family members, cross country in school, track, etc.  When Daryl was in college, he was road-tripping home for Thanksgiving with some friends, and enroute from Grand Rapids, MI to Loveland, CO, they were in a car accident.  Daryl was thrown from the vehicle, and when he woke up, he was a paraplegic.  Today, he is an accomplished musician, writer, and teacher.  Recently he told me he is getting back into Hand Cycling, which sounds pretty hard core to me.

These guys inspire me because they would love to run, even though they aren’t able to anymore.  More than that though, they inspire me with their amazing attitudes every day.  These are not the guys that sit on the sideline – they are out there living!  They are out there in their communities, at work, sharing with family and friends, living courageous and joy filled lives.  It is my honor to dedicate my runs to these two extraordinary men – they inspire me to go further, push harder, and challenge myself when I think I’m done.

#IRun4KevNDaryl.    #WhoDoYouRun4?

 

If you are interested in learning more about IR4, donating, or being matched up as an athlete or a buddy, please check out their site here.

 

 

An Admission

scaredkid

Fear is a funny thing.

For some people, fear makes them lash out.  They will get angry, and aggressive, and attack.  It’s the flight or fight response.  These people fight…tooth and nail, to the death, with their words, their actions, and their behaviors.    For others, fear makes them shrink.  They ignore the problem or challenge or procrastinate until they can’t do that anymore.  They make excuses.  These are the people that want to hide under the covers, and hope that whatever it is, goes away.  When it comes to training, I am in the latter camp.

I literally don’t think about going out to run 3 miles anymore.  3 miles is easy, and it’s routine.  4 miles is longer, but it’s not actually hard.  4.5 miles is getting up there, but I know I can do it, because I’ve done it before.  I’m not saying I’m ready to run 4.5 miles every day, but I know I can go out and get it done.  At least once….maybe two days in a row.

In the next 4 days, my training plan calls for me to run 5 miles one day, 4 miles the next, 3.5 the next, and 7 miles on the fourth day.  I’m scared.

First of all, I will run further than I have ever run before at one time.  I believe I can do 5 miles.  However, I am honestly not sure if I can do 7 miles.  I just don’t know.  They say that anything more than 4 is a mind game.  Well…maybe it is, but I have a really vivid imagination!  7 miles is a long distance, and at the current moment, it seems impossible.  It seems like something that I don’t know how to do.  It seems like I am destined for failure.  (I don’t like failure.)

Second of all, I will run as much in the next four days as I have ever run in 7 days total.  I am taking this game to a whole new level.

So I am scared.  Because this is something that is so far outside of what I know, of what I have experienced, of what I can imagine….it is different.  And it is scary.  So I am looking for the excuse.  I am checking weather.com to see if it’s going to snow this weekend, or perhaps wonder if allergies are going to reek havoc on my training plan, or something equally benign and also worthy of creating an “excuse”.  I want to have a reason to explain why I didn’t get around to doing either 5 or 7 miles….  I want that excuse because I am scared….

Here’s the thing, I also want to be brave.

So I will admit to being scared, but I will go to work tomorrow, and I will fear what it is that I want to accomplish tomorrow evening when I get home, but I will do it because I know I can.  Running 5 miles is not truly hard for me now; it is just new.  But it is my bravery that will keep me going, it is being brave that will remind me to not quit.  It is bravery to remember all the people that have faith in me, and then it is brave to believe in myself.

It’s ok to be scared….it’s what I do with it that matters.

The Little Wins that Add Up

Building Blocks

It’s the little wins that add up.  I can look back over the last 6 weeks and see improvement, and now, it seems like that improvement is just blossoming.  At first it was the sheer ability to run further.  What started as being able to run 1.5 miles without stopping or walking turned into 2 and 2.25 and 2.75 and 3 miles and more.

Then it turned into realizing there was desire to go running.  I found out that the Runner’s High is a real thing.  I figured out that I like knowing that my shoes are waiting for me, and that I have the right gear so that I can still run when there is snow or ice on the ground and it’s only 20 degrees.  (I admit, I like no ice on the ground and 55 degrees much better.)

That turned into realizing that I could go run, literally run, a 5k race at any point right now, and have no problem.  If a friend called me up on Friday night and said, “Hey, there is a charity run tomorrow morning over in xyz park – want to go do it with me?” I could say, yes!  And I could say it with confidence!

Today I did my first Speed Training session….This means I am supposed to do a series of short distances (today was 200 meters at a time) at a pace 15 seconds faster than my goal race speed, followed by a short distance of recovery or easy jogging after each sprint.  At first I thought I needed to go to a track so that I could make sure I was following the directions to the letter of the law.  I’m going to be honest…I’m not so much a strict rule follower as I am a rule breaker when that seems to make more sense.

I did not follow the directions…exactly.  But as I ran my neighborhood, I did do short sprints followed by giving myself recovery space before starting to sprint again.  The Little Win in this case was seeing that I was setting a much faster overall pace for myself, and I can honestly say, I felt good.  I also realized that by switching it up, I was having to pay attention to my form a little more, my stride, my pattern, my breathing, and be engaged.  I couldn’t just phone it in!

I know that anytime you train, you will experience a period of intense improvement followed by a plateau, and this is a cycle.  I haven’t hit my first plateau yet, but when I do, I know I am going to get frustrated, and to work past that frustration, I want to be able to remember the hard work I did and where I came from.  My little wins will add up and keep me going in those moments that are not as exciting as right now.

My race is 3 months from today.  When I think about all that I have accomplished in just 6 weeks, I am even more encouraged to think what I have to look forward to in another three months.  It makes me think that maybe my big audacious goal was not so audacious after all.

Stronger, Faster

images

I have been running consistently for a little over a month now, and I have learned a couple things.  1. Running really can be addictive, even if I fight against it.  2. There is such a thing as a “runner’s high”.  3. Slow and steady is the way to go to build up a base.  4.  I might sort of like this running thing. 

When I started this journey, it was with the end goal of being able to run a half marathon without stopping.  I was pretty sure that this was going to be one of those big audacious goals I had in life, and as soon as I finished, I’d cross it off my bucket list and be done with it all.  When I said I’d signed up to run the Half, my friend Amy said, “Oooo, if you do a Half, I guarantee you will want to do a full, and after you do a full, you may or may not want to do an ultra.”  I remember reading this and thinking, she is certifiably insane!  I still think Amy might be crazy, but I am getting addicted to running which is a huge surprise to me.  Last week when it was so cold, I was getting antsy and irritable because it had been too long since I’d had a chance to get outside and stretch my legs.  I look forward to each week of training now.  And as a bonus, that keeps me motivated to keep training!

Yesterday, I had the best run.  I got out there, and just went after it.  I didn’t check my time, my pace, or anything while I was out there – I just ran.  When I got to the end, I honestly felt like I could take on anything, and then I checked my watch….I had gone further and faster than I’d ever gone before, and I felt strong!  The high I felt 20 seconds earlier skyrocketed!

By concentrating on adding mileage in a consistent, and yet, not overly aggressive manner I have been able to get stronger and faster without hurting.  I’m pretty sure that I will hurt eventually, but I don’t hurt yet, and after a month, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be!  That’s exciting.

I’m still pretty sure that my end game here is to do a Half Marathon, and so far, I am not even entertaining the idea of running a full marathon someday, but I can see myself running after this Half….just for fun.  I think I might sort of like this running thing.

(photo credit unknown)