Head Game

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The view on a recent morning run.

Let’s talk endurance for a minute, shall we? As many of you know, I developed a running injury last August. I went from running 8 miles to struggling to walk to the mailbox.

I was blessed to have access to great PT and time to do my exercises and was cleared to start running again in January (that’s right, it was almost 5 months). I expected to complete a couch-to-5K program by mid-March and to be running a 10K at the end of May.

Instead, my head got in the way.

All the months I had been training physically last summer had also trained my head to think, “I can do this.” Completing 5- and 6- and 7- and 8-mile runs had gone right into my confidence bank, and it was full.  Until I couldn’t run at all, and my mental balance was zero.

Instead of thinking “I’ve got this!” every time I run, I’m now thinking, “What if I get injured again? Maybe I should only run 2 miles today.” My mental game is shot.

I completely underestimated the power of my brain to make me run.

The first 2 miles of every run are okay, but by mile three, my head starts telling me I can’t do it. What if I get injured again? What if I’m increasing my mileage too quickly? Was that a twinge in my foot? What if it’s starting again? Maybe running today is too soon, and I should wait another day or two…

So mile 3 is when my mental training has to start. I’m back to running past two lampposts, then walking to the next one. Writing down every workout, so that at the end of the month I can look back and remind myself what I could do, instead of what I’m afraid will happen.

I wonder where else in my life I am afraid of injury.  So afraid I can’t start.  Where else do I need to record my success in order to remind myself I can instead of believing I can’t?

It’s time to get my head out of the way.

5th Runniversary

With our 20th wedding anniversary coming up next month, it seems silly to be celebrating my 5th runniversary.  But it feels significant to me.

I started running after getting the knee surgery Sam had been after me about for years.  I didn’t get the surgery so I could run, but so I could move.  My pain had been enough that I had limited my activity more and more, until even walking up the stairs was a challenge some days.  That was not where I wanted to be.  There are plenty of people who don’t have a choice about that, but I did.  So I had the surgery and 12 weeks of PT, and when I was cleared to run, I did.

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The view on a recent run.

No matter my mood before I set out (grumpy, tired, sad, fearful) it doesn’t take long for me to realize how blessed I am that I can move.  Smell the sweet Linden trees in bloom. Taste the sweat on my skin. Breathe. See the mountains and feel the sunlight on my face. Hear the birds.
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I wish that for you, friends.  Whatever your thing is, that thing you do that makes you feel glad to be alive, I wish it for you today.  Thanks for celebrating with me.

A postcard from my run

Dear friend,

I wish you had run with me this morning.  I made it out of the house while the air was still cool.  For two blocks, I wished for long sleeves.

I’ve changed my route to spend more time in the shade. The fringe benefit is the many gardens in full bloom.  Right now it’s peonies (my favorite) and roses.
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I passed at least eight small children, out with their moms or dads. I remember those days so well: days when the babies woke up so early I was ready for lunch by 8AM. We used to go to the dog park across the street in the wee, dark hours to watch games of fetch.  My boy used to clap when I pulled out his snowsuit, because he knew it meant we were going to the dogs.

The stream was stagnant this morning, with a still layer of scum on the top. The ducks didn’t care and paddled right through it in search of a yummier spot to skim.  The redwing blackbirds were noisy, and more than one robin panicked when I ran too close to the nest.
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I wish you many happy morning runs, full of cool air and birdsong.

Love, me

Spring Run

Spring has sprung here in Denver, and that means it’s time to shake up my running routine a little bit.

Signs of spring: discarded winter clothing.
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During the winter, I love to run in the little greenway park where the beaver lives.  I still haven’t seen him, but evidence of him is all around.

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Once the bugs wake up in the spring, though, I prefer to avoid the water, which doesn’t run fast enough to keep the bugs away.  (I must be running at my pace.)  While I love the dive-bombing swallows, the bugs love me more, and I hate getting a mouthful of bugs. And don’t tell me I should run with my mouth closed.  I can’t.

So anyway, I had planned 4 miles today.  Instead of going down by the water, I stayed in the neighborhood. There’s a row of houses with spring bulbs, and they did not disappoint.
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(As I bent down to take this photo, I found out that I was not two days post-period, but on day 7 of the world’s never-ending period.  Hooray.)

I turned north at mile two and expected to see my favorite porta potty outside the house that has been remodeling their basement forever.  Apparently the basement is finished.  No porta potty.  I’m happy for them and hope they enjoy their new basement, but I was not happy for myself.  You know how I appreciate a nice, clean mid-run toilet with hand sanitizer.  Today even more so.

Good thing I had my favorite podcast playing.  It was a best of, in honor of Another Mother Runner’s 200th podcast.  And they played my favorite clip: Bethany Meyer’s Boston Marathon recap.  If you appreciate a little TMI, be sure to listen.
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So I was running, running, appreciating the sparrows that have returned to town and the robins flirting with each other.  My BRF Renee said once that all she had to do to get me out on a run was to promise we’d see a bird.  And I saw lots of them.  I cut back toward the path, and lo and behold!- the green house was remodeling and had a porta potty outside!  Hooray for me!

When we first moved to Denver, we had a play kitchen with a wooden refrigerator.  The neighborhood was full of construction, and the little three year-old next door used to come over to play at our house.  Every time my kids had food in it, she’d take it out and put it in the oven, because she was sure the fridge was a “workers’ potty.”  Anyway, I’m happy to report that there was no food in the workers’ potty on my run. Just hand sanitizer.

How do your runs/walks change with the spring?  Have there been any recent surprises on your route?

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of a Run

Warning to delicate readers: this story contains graphic content and may be too much for you if you are male or haven’t pushed several babies out your your-know-what*. If you choose to read on, do so at your own risk.

*Normally I prefer to use the proper names for anatomical parts, but this is the internet, people.  Don’t expect me to use the word you-know-what in real life.

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The nights are getting longer. Coming earlier.  Knowing that winter is coming has made my late-afternoon runs more precious.  Last week, I had an agenda-free** run planned while my kids were at swim team.  Feeling pretty good, I planned to add a little extra distance to both the beginning and end of my regular run.

** Agenda-free here should be taken here to mean not a tempo run, not hill-repeats, and not a long run.  Just a regular run.

I dropped the kids at the pool.  Normally I stop in at the potties before beginning my run, but I knew it would be both dark and cold by the time they finished, and I wanted to get going.  Plus, I had peed before I left the house ten minutes earlier, so how full could my bladder be?

I turned on my GPS and started off.  Most trees still had some leaves, and it was beautiful.  I admit that I probably had a silly grin on my face as I passed red oaks, maples, and sycamores.  The Halloween decorations were mostly down, so I could enjoy fall color without skeletons and giant blow-up lawn spiders everywhere.

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At mile 1, I noticed that I needed to pee.  Stupid bladder.  (Those of you without bladders are probably thinking, “She should be grateful for her bladder.”  I am, really, I just wish it worked better.) But in half a mile I would run past the post office, and I knew it had a bathroom.  At mile 2.5, I’d pass a school.  Both had bathrooms.  I’d be fine.

Mile 1.5 I dodged angry postal customers fighting over 5 o’clock parking places and ducked into the post office.  And the bathrooms were locked.  What?  Apparently, they had just cleaned them and didn’t want them to be dirty again.  I should try that at my house.

No problem, except that once I told my bladder there was a possibility to pee, it decided it really needed to pee.  There was a park two blocks further on. Certainly it would have a bathroom.

No dice.  Checked the GPS: it said I had run 1.5 miles.  (What happened to my 1 mile split? Hmmm…) The school was only half a mile on.  By this point, I was looking for dense bushes.  Thinking ahead to the impending darkness, I had worn my brightest, limest green shirt.  I might as well have been wearing a searchlight.  Peeing in the bushes was not a good option.

Mile 2: The school was locked. Health center at mile 3-plus: closed.  I ran through my options: ice skating rink?  Nursing home? Private residence? Not looking good.

At that point, mapmyrun told me I had run 4.15 miles at a 1:03 pace.  I would have turned it off, but… well, I was still hoping it would recover from its delusions and track my path.

At this point, I could go half a mile back to the rec center, or go on.  I went on for fear that if I went back to the start, I wouldn’t restart the run.  I had to capitalize on my momentum, right?

Mile 3+  (real miles, as calculated in my head): bladder rebelled.  I moved from the sidewalk to the grass so that no one would see the trail I was leaving behind me.  Felt much better, picked up the pace.
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Mile not-quite-4: found a bathroom in the park.  Didn’t stop because what would be the point now?  I’d just have to pull wet capris back up.  If I kept running, there was a chance they’d dry, right? I capitalized on my already stellar run by blowing a snot rocket into my shoulder.

Mile  4+: really really really had to pee.  Again.  Sat down in the grass and had it out with my body.  Managed to get my skirt out of the way.  (I warned you, didn’t I?)  But after that, I felt so much better.  Decided to do another loop of the park.  With the hill.

And there was a the moon.

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Gorgeous, full orange moon, rising enormously over the horizon.  A photographer with a lens as long as my wet leg was perched at the top of the hill.  I stopped and tried to take a photo with my phone, but who are we kidding?   It was so stunning I stopped two other pedestrians coming toward me to tell them to turn around a look at the moon.  Both of them actually did, stopped in awe, and thanked me as I sprinted*** off.

*** By “sprinted” I mean ran off at my 11-min mile.  And if you call that “jogging” in the comments, I will delete it.
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Where I go on and on and on about running on and on and on…

Last Sunday my PRP (perfect running partner) and I ran the Colfax Urban 10 Miler.  All my previous race experience has been either at huge races (i.e. the Bolder Boulder) or tiny ones, and I have to say that this race was just the right size for me.  The race dropped us in at mile 16 of the marathon, so we had our own (very low-key) start but finished at the full finish line, which was a blast.

I was more nervous than I expected and was grateful for the notes I had made after my 9-mile training run. Notes like: “don’t wear the gray shirt!” and “body glide and sunblock”.  The night before the race I laid everything out, pinned my bibs on, and drank a lot of water. We tried to see Pitch Perfect 2, but it was sold out at two theaters and we ended up at The Market.  The guy in front of me bought the last piece of the Spring Fling cake, and I thought it was going to be strike three for me… but of course they had another cake in the cooler and all was well.  Other than the cake, I didn’t eat any differently than I normally do. I parked our car by the finish line Saturday night and went to bed at the regular time.

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Breakfast: a sausage and fried egg sandwich on a bagel.  Lots of water. Tea.  After I ate it I realized that my notes did not include the sausage. (Did this portend mid-race diarrhea?)  From my porch, I watched the runners on the early part of the course, which calmed my nerves.  My friend’s family picked me up and dropped us at the start, where I was frozen with more decision fatigue: what to do with my long-sleeved shirt? The sun had come out for the first time in days, and while I was still cold, I know I’d be too hot running.
before:
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The first part of the course wound through the Rocky Mountain School of Design. The sculptures by the road were a good distraction from my early race jitters. I find it so hard to hold down my pace when I’m nervous. Plus, we ended up starting earlier than they had told us, which was great weather-wise but put us with runners with a faster pace than ours. But the second to fourth miles of the course were downhill (240 ft over 3 miles) so the faster pace wasn’t the end of the world. At the end of the downhill, we came into Mile High Stadium and ran along the path next to the field. Super fun. At that point, I couldn’t see my PRP, but we had agreed just to go for it if we felt good, so I did.  We ran past Elitches, where empty rides ran full-tilt beside us.

I promise I moved to the side before I whipped out my camera.
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Can you see the rides?
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The aid stations were every two miles, which I practiced during training. At mile six, I consumed half a pack of Honey Stingers (the gel ones). During my first Bolder Boulder (10K), I made so many mistakes: too much water too early, a new skirt, early pit stop and then I couldn’t get my skirt on right again… But this time, all my practice paid off, and I was able just to run. No pit stops, no near-drowning myself with early water, no wardrobe malfunctions.

Miles 8-10 were hard. I followed a man wearing my old hat (he was my hat twin). One of the roads was bad, and I had to focus on where I put my feet to keep from twisting my ankle. The only part of my training that didn’t work was my mental prep for the last mile (plus) of the course. When I did my nine mile run, I knew exactly where I was in relation to home. To stopping. During the race, I wasn’t sure exactly where the finish was within the park, and my GPS hit ten more than half a mile before the finish line. Several runners around me asked the crowd, “Where the #$%^ is the finish?” The 26-mile marker seemed a long, long way from the line.

My gait is more of a shuffle, but I totally faked it here so I could have a photo with both feet off the ground.
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I finished in 1:56:55. (My goal was 2 hours.) I didn’t win any prizes or set any records except for mental ones. When I ran again Thursday, the legs felt good, but my feet were still unhappy.

We raised $400 of food aid for Project Worthmore. Thank you so much!

So now what? Thirteen miles is only 33 minutes more, so I’m planning to do a half marathon in July (but only if I can eat Spring Fling cake the night before).

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