Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Squat Challenge Ends

My squat challenge has come to an anticlimactic end. By the time I reached the last five days, I was so ready to be done. I was just tired of doing them.

I'm looking forward to cutting way back on quantity and adding some weights and lunges to the mix.

I had hoped to see physical changes in my quads, specifically more definition and preferably a more compact, harder muscle. I don't really see any of that.
Strength-wise, though, I did see some great changes. My legs feel powerful. They're holding up under faster paces for longer distances (all things being relative, of course). I was really happy with those outcomes, even if I was disappointed in the lack of physical change.
It was fun to complete this challenge - it was the first time in ages that I've set a goal like this and seen it through to the end, so the mental aspect of the achievement was pretty cool. It also felt good to do some kind of exercise daily, even if all I did was squats. But, like I said...I am so burned out and ready for a change!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Tattoo Number Two

This weekend, Matt and I drove to the southeast coast to get my tattoo. If you recall, I wrote about wanting to get my second tattoo while in Fort Lauderdale for the A1A 5k. I ended up meeting my artist and putting down my deposit, but it was too short-notice to actually get anything done at that time.

That weekend, I emailed Phil some sketches I liked and he took some time designing an original tattoo based on those ideas. The final concept was gorgeous and everything I wanted. We set my appointment for 3pm on March 18.
These photos are what I sent Phil.
So, on Sunday I found myself at Into the Woods ready to go. The entire tattoo took about six hours including breaks, so we were there pretty much all night. It was worth it, though, for the detail and perfectionism Phil put into this piece.
After being in this position for basically 5.5 hours, I did my squats to loosen up haha!
Like with my back tattoo, the outlines didn't bother me much. There were a couple areas close to my armpit, inner arm, and the very back of my arm that were more sensitive, but generally I did well with this kind of pain. It just feels like scratching. It does get a little tedious after a few hours of it, but that's to be expected!
Lines done, starting the background.
After the outline was done, Phil worked on shading the background. I have never had shading done before and it was definitely uncomfortable. Where line-work feels like scratching, the shading felt like burning. Again, though: worth it. He was meticulous in creating a gradual fade in the background, and the edges are a little feathered and soft. He added some spot details that give the illusion of ash rising around the phoenix, as I did not want literal flames.

When we first discussed the piece, the background was the part I was unsure about getting, and it may be my favorite part of the finished piece.
Lines and background done!
At this point, we had been at it for a few hours and I had the option to stop and come back some other time to finish. I loved the way the half-done tattoo looked and played around with the idea of keeping it this way. But, Matt and I agreed that 1) we should trust the artist because he knows what he's doing and 2) if I'm going to get more done, I may as well do it while were there already. I was holding up fine under the pain of the needles; the worst pain was actually in my hips and legs from lying on my side for so long!

Phil mentioned that I sat better than 90% of his other clients. I think people are impressed that we did this all in one sitting, but really the pain never went above a 7, I think!
Phil really loves working with color, and at one point he was like, "You're killing me doing this in black and gray!"
My biggest concern with shading is that I don't like when tattoos look too dark and take on a muddy, flat look. Phil assured me he understood my concerns and that were would be lots of dimension and highlights.

Phil went to work on shading the grass, daffodils, feathers, and phoenix. There were some parts of the process where I worried the piece was getting too dark, but this is why I'm not an artist. By the time he put in the finishing touches - including white highlights around various feathers - the tattoo looked anything but dark and flat.
The finished piece.
I was blown away.

Now I have to deal with the next couple weeks of healing, but so far everything has felt fine. I feel, like I did with my first tattoo, that it was a part of me long before it physically made it onto my skin, so it feels natural and like it truly belongs there.
I love how it looks!
Obviously there are so many reasons to choose the theme of rebirth for a tattoo. While my first one had a pretty literal meaning for me, this one has a variety of memories and emotions wrapped up in it. I love how delicate the flowers are and how powerful the phoenix's face is. The juxtaposition of softness and beauty with the power and strength of the bird is exactly what I wanted.
I can't wait to see how it looks as it heals completely!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Good Balance: Solo vs. Buddy Workouts

I few months ago, when I was still laid up and hadn't been cleared to run, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted my fitness journey to look once I came back. I knew I wanted to focus more on my own fitness goals and also have the freedom to do whatever workout or run struck my fancy whenever the whim hit. I wanted the freedom to make my own schedule again.

But, I'm a coward and was scared to give voice to this because a major part of having more independence in fitness meant letting Elizabeth down. She has been such an amazing support through this entire process, and she's my bff. I felt terrible telling her that I wanted to be able to focus on what I want and what my body wants. I felt bad telling her that I didn't want to run every run with her.

Of course, Elizabeth is amazing and knows me way too well. Back in January, before my first run back, she texted me this:
Apparently I am incredibly transparent and she reads me like a book.
And I legit almost started crying because why is she so good to me?!

Later that month, we went to the gym and I told her that I had done a lot of thinking and wanted to be able to work out together two or three times a week, but that I also needed to have days when I could workout alone. She was really receptive to this (of course!) and we kind of discussed what that might look like. That's why my runs lately have been a nice mixture of alone/with Matt/with Elizabeth. It's been perfect.

Solo runs give me a chance to focus on my body and how things are going, get some alone-time, listen to music, and do whatever I want. They are incredibly important to me, and I appreciate them more than ever now.

Running with Matt offers a lot of the same, because we rarely talk during runs or even run side-by-side, but it also gives me a nice support system when I'm feeling uncertain or self-conscious. Plus, we're both so busy lately that running together gives us some good couple-time.
Matt's photography skills (and his willingness to be my own personal paparazzi) are an added bonus to running with him.
Running with Elizabeth gives us both some much-needed socialization during the week as well as motivation and accountability. I don't ever want to give that up completely; I just needed to cut back.

I started coaching track and field in February, but once my schedule clears up a bit, this is what workouts will probably look like:
I hope to be back to running 3-4 times a week by mid-April.
I know this schedule will remain flexible - none of these plans are set in stone - and I told Elizabeth I'd help her get out the door to run on her own on days I don't go with her to help her stay motivated.

This whole thing had been a big source of stress for me because I overthink everything and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but now that I know I'll have plenty of alone time mixed in with buddy-time, I feel so much better. Already I've seen that my workouts have really benefited from having the freedom to do my own thing, and now I feel much more comfortable telling Elizabeth or Matt that I want to run alone.

I am looking forward to every workout these days; everything feels new and exciting again. I hope this excitement lasts, and when it inevitably begins to fade, I hope the memory of a year of nothing and how awful that felt helps give me a kick in the pants!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Answering "Why?"

Then (why I started)

I think most women will relate to this. The feeling of inadequacy when you see your body and see what it can do versus what you wish it could do. The feeling of knowing, logically, that you are enough, you are more than your body, and your body is perfectly good, and yet constantly battling yourself to somehow be different.

The feeling of straddling two different realities, one in which you're confident and comfortable in who you are, and the other in which your flaws seem insurmountable.

The moment I decided to pick up running, I was fighting this battle in my head. I was 22 and in graduate school, earning my Masters of Education. I had never felt more confident or more lost. Every day was shrouded in contradictions.

Being "old" on a college campus is daunting. You are surrounded by 18-year-olds who are so much more fit, fashionable, and fiery than you were at 18. How do they keep their hair so shiny? How do they make jeans and a t-shirt look so chic? I was there, a student myself, and so I belonged...and yet, there was a huge divide that made me self-conscious and defensive.
A picture of my cohort and our professors at the end of our program.
Look, ten years on, I know how ridiculous all this sounds. But bear with me.

On campus, I saw young women running effortlessly along shadow-dappled sidewalks and I thought: If I could run outside, I would be more like them.

And so I started. It was not easy. It was partially for the wrong reasons I've already explained and partially for the right ones: health, stress-relief, a need to challenge myself. In the end, those reasons were mine, and that's what matters. They are what drove me to take on something I thought I could never do...and if I did it, that I could never do well, or enjoy doing.

And yet, there I was. Learning to run.
Snapshots of 2009
The Transformation (why I kept going)

When did running go from something that I was trying to use to become someone else to something I needed in my life in order to be myself?

How did that transformation happen?

I think it was a race.

When I first started running, I didn't know road races existed. I just thought people ran for exercise and races were reserved for organized school sports and the Olympics. So when a colleague of mine who had run in high school and knew more on the subject than I did recommended we sign up for a local running club (those existed?!) and a 5k (a real one?!) I was intrigued and immediately interested.

(Okay, wait. My first race was actually a 5k put on by a local church to raise money for relief after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But that "race" wasn't really open to the public and was untimed and low-stress. I ran it without training; I ran it like I'd run any other run. It doesn't seem to count these days. Plus, I wore cut-off sweat shorts and the race t-shirt. Sometimes I even forget I ever ran it. So, I'm not counting it as my first but here are some blurry 2010-camera-phone pictures to prove it happened.)
So. The first time I realized you could sign up for a true, timed, real race, I was nervous but excited. It was a Komen Race for the Cure 5k. We ran it together. Crossing the finish line was like nothing I had ever imagined. The race gave my running meaning. It gave me a goal.

I was immediately addicted. I searched for local 5ks and ran every one I could.
Finishing my first solo race (5k) - 2012.
The purpose of rehashing this is to get to the point of this post. My why changed from body-focused to self-focused. My whole mindset changed when I started racing. Running stopped being about forcing my body into a certain shape and became about challenging my limits and chasing a mental high that left me feeling accomplished and powerful.

It was the first time in my life I could remember ever feeling that way.

Now (why I run)

I don't need races to keep myself motivated these days, or to feel accomplished. In the ten years since I started running, I've found the drive within myself and races are just icing. That means my why has changed again.

Now, why do you run? feels like a question with an impossible answer. How do I explain the effects running has had on me, the changes it has wrought, the confidence it has built?

How do I explain that it has become a part of my identity? That without it, my perception of the world and my understanding of strength, resilience, determination, and self-realization would be completely different?

How do you put into words the simple but all-encompassing joy that comes with doing what you love? Doing what makes you whole?
I don't know if all runners feel this way, but I have to imagine they wouldn't keep at it if their joy weren't similar to my own.

I may not have even truly ever known why I continued if it hadn't been for this year off. Maybe it would have just seemed like something I do - I just do. But now I have seen how much it has impacted me and changed me, and I know what I am without it.

And I know I am better for it.

So...Why do I run?

Because I am simply not myself when I don't.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Squats Are Paying Off

I started the squat challenge on February 18. I took some before photos (although really I took them a few days in) but I don't want to post them until I have "afters", and that won't be until March 19. I'm just about halfway through, and I am noting some changes.

The changes aren't physical, mostly. I mean, when I squat, I notice that my quads have some more definition. When I engage the muscles, there are actual muscles there to see.

But the main differences are in how I'm feeling. The squats aren't nearly as difficult as they were at first. I can easily do 50 in a row instead of sticking to sets of 25. I could probably do all 100 at once if I wanted to, but I'm enjoying doing sets of them at work with my colleagues.

Also, my runs have been fantastic. It may just be the normal road to recovery, but I'm surprised by how quickly I've been able to progress.
I've been expecting to run set intervals averaging ~10:45 for awhile before I saw much improvement in pace or stamina. I assumed I might get a couple runs in where I extend the first interval to about 5 minutes before wanting a break...But then I ran Monday night. And I just decided to trust my body.

What did my body give me? Three miles in under 30 minutes. The first two miles under 20 minutes. Two 30-second walk breaks at each mile mark; and I took those breaks because I felt I should, not because I felt I needed to.
My legs felt freaking awesome on that run. Strong. Powerful. Capable.

I truly believe this strength and flexibility is partly due to the squats. It may have been the cool weather. It may have been that I've been back to running for about eight weeks now and my body is remembering what it used to do. But really, I think a lot of it is the squats.

When this challenge is over, I think I'll keep it up anyway. Clearly, it's paying off.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Personal Victories: Redux

Friday night, after a long and exhausting week, I paused at 1.7 miles into our run. I asked what we wanted to do. Elizabeth told me: "You said 4. We're doing 4." And I said: "Okay." And we did.
Back in 2012, I wrote about the first time I successfully ran four miles. I had to go back and find that post because tonight was the first time I've done so since...Well, since the A1A half marathon last February. (I'm not exaggerating. I just went back to check. It's really been over a year.) This has always been a special distance to me. It became my everyday easy-run distance, but before I got there, it was my Everest.

Four miles was a huge deal for me the first time around, and re-reading my post reminded me of why. It was the first time I broke a mental barrier and saw what my body was capable of doing. It was the first time that I understood the fragility - the illusion - of limitations.

It was the first time I knew I could make real progress. This time around, four miles feels much the same. I am seeing progress. As I wrote then: "...I realized I really could go farther, and that there was no limit because my body is an amazing machine that will adapt, progress, adjust, and grow strong."

So, in honor of this new beginning, I bring you a post from six years and many lessons ago. My heart ached reading it. When I wrote it, I never thought I'd recapture this pure, simple joy, or the feeling of awe that went with it. I never experienced it even in marathon training.

But tonight, I felt it. And re-reading the post, I almost felt I would cry.

In the summer of 2011, after taking a long break from running, I hit a personal milestone. I began running 4-milers.

Four miles doesn’t seem like much. After all, I’d run a Half that January. What’s four miles? But there was something special in those runs. For whatever reason, K and I weren’t running together a lot that summer, although we were still updating each other frequently on our logged miles. I think it had something to do with my ITB injury post-Half. But I finally rejoined the running world, and was running about three miles every-other-day, and she upped her distance to four.

I wondered if I could do that. At the time, I was running a path that had gotten stale. I had a horrendous mental hang-up associated with this route, and no matter how many times I ran it, I couldn’t get well over two miles before I needed a break. The path was a straight out-and-back, from my driveway, up the street, out to the main road, turn around at the corner intersection and come back. The particular corner is a bit of a sharp turn, and there’s enough brush there to block your view of the main road if you don’t continue all the way to the curb or turn the corner completely.

One day, spurred on by K’s increased mileage, I turned the corner. Where we live, the sidewalk corners at big intersections are covered in yellow plastic, signifying a crosswalk and stoplight. Usually, I’d get a foot on that yellow mat, pivot, and turn around to go home. But there I was, faced with the corner, the stoplight, a turn, and I went forward. 

Down the road I continued, and as I ran, I felt a weight lift from my mind. Here was a new, unbeaten path. Here was freedom. Here was unchartered territory, a wide sidewalk that stretched for miles, all there for me to claim should I feel ready to claim it.

I hadn’t yet discovered mapping a run, driving to the starting point, and going from there, so I’d grown bored with my start-at-home-run-straight-out-run-straight-back existence. I didn’t really know I was bored, of course. All I knew was that the run seemed sluggish, boring, and weirdly difficult for such an easy distance/pace. But when I turned the corner and saw beyond the hedges all that wide open sidewalk, I knew I’d discovered something. The brain-shackles fell off and the lightbulb went on.

The first time I ran four miles, I had to walk. But soon I was running four miles under forty minutes, running even the last two-tenths that put me over my goal distance because I knew I could do it. Running 4.1 and 4.25 and onward.

Four miles doesn’t seem like a far run, but this was the first distance I had ever really run on my own, for fun. (Before I ran the Half, the farthest I had ever run was a 5k. That’s including “training”. Remember how I said I didn’t train for that?)  It was the first time I realized I really could go farther, and that there was no limit because my body is an amazing machine that will adapt, progress, adjust, and grow strong.

This fall, as K and I hit four miles for our training for the Half in November, the running is for a different purpose. We are actually sticking to a training plan. Our route takes us down the street where I originally added the distance, and I sometimes I can hardly believe that it used to be so difficult to take that one extra step onto a new road.

Looking forward to this weekend and our first official long run of training, I feel a little daunted. The first step to an increased distance is always humbling. But I know, thinking about the pride and awe I felt when I ran a 4-miler for the first time, that the struggle will be worth it, and in the end I’ll have faced and conquered yet another obstacle, another fear, and will have come out victorious.

Here's to more progress, more growth, and more broken barriers.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Progression Plan

Last Tuesday evening, Elizabeth and I went for a run. I decided we'd do our neighborhood loop twice, which is usually 4 miles. Because we walked the first part of it to warm up, it came to 3.8.
Matching for our belated birthday run!
Things went really well. We did 2::30 intervals the first half of the run and 2:1 intervals for the rest of it. We ran the last half mile or so uninterrupted.

Then I was thinking, how do I progress from here? How do I build mileage or time and eventually cut out walking? In the shower, I had a mini-epiphany. (Hooray, shower-thoughts.) I suddenly remembered how I'd built endurance last time I took an extended break from running.
This is an unrelated shower-thought but one I have frequently. Matt has actually had to tell me to stop referring to my teeth as my "outside skeleton".
My plan is to start tracking time, not distance. I am going to build up to 60 minutes of running (with walks). Once 60 minutes feels pretty good/normal, I am going start lengthening my run intervals, and then shortening the walks.

Of course, the next run I did after making this plan didn't go according to at all. I ran for 3-4 minutes at a time and took 30-60 second walk breaks when I felt like it. My paces were safely in the 9s and I ran my first sub-10 minute mile in ages. (But really, this is kind of cheating to count because I paused once in awhile to take pictures, too.)
My walk breaks were more sporadic but my running intervals didn't seem to suffer. This was also a shorter run than the one with Elizabeth, of course. I was racing the sunset.
Anyway, my original plan stands and I think it's a good one, but the truth is I'm already so bored with scheduled walk breaks and part of me wants to just go for a run and just...see what happens. I'm months into recovery now; surely it's safe to stop...playing it safe, right?


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

100 Squats for 30 Days Challenge

Last Tuesday, I had the day off work because I spent the morning taking a 5 hour certification test. (I'm certified 6-12 ELA but am getting my K-6 General certification.) Afterward, my brain was mush so I spent some time on the couch watching YouTube.

One of the recommended videos that popped up on my homepage was this one:
I was intrigued. I know squats are a great exercise for your whole body, and I know women runners in particular need to strengthen hammies and quads to avoid injury. Kristina's squat and dead lift videos and progress are incredibly inspiring and cool to watch, too! I have always done my share of squats, but I liked the idea of a target challenge.

Taking a year off from running and basically any real workouts means I've lost lots of muscle definition. I am not happy with how my quads look right now and I want to be a strong runner. So, I decided that after the A1A 5k, I was going to start doing this challenge!
I figured I'd be super sore at first, so starting after a race is a good time because I'll be "recovering" anyway.

Track & Field, which I am co-coaching this year, began last week so I can probably incorporate some of my squats into practices, but mostly I'm going to try to break my squats into sets of 25. I'll do the first set when I wake up, the second set at lunchtime (my colleagues have already agreed to join in my squat party), the third after work, and the fourth set before bed.

Anyone want to join me? I am already three days into the challenge and feeling great! I created a Facebook group to help support/encourage/hold accountable anyone who wants in. I'm looking forward to seeing more definition and feeling stronger by the end of the month.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Fort Lauderdale 5k

It's been ~36 hours since I ran the A1A 5k (that's not really what it's called but I'm going to keep calling it that) and I still can't get my thoughts together.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening. Matt, Oden, and I met my sister and Gordon at the expo and did all the usual expo-y things. It felt strange. On the one hand, I felt like an imposter because the expo is really set up for the half and full marathons and we were running "just" the 5k. On the other hand, I felt happy to be at an expo again, and collecting my bib felt great. On the third hand (if I had one to borrow from someone), I felt disappointed that I wasn't gearing up to run the half. I felt both excited and underwhelmed. It was bizarre.
Gordon and Steph didn't run once before the race. His note made me laugh.
We had dinner at Outback before heading back to Oden's. The evening was so low-key. There's so little prep needed for a 5k! The race was set to begin at 7:30am so we agreed to be parked by 7am. Oden lives about 10 minutes from the staging area. I set up my Flat-Ali and went straight to bed. I slept well.
Wonder Girl tank and Lioness skirt both from Skirt Sports.
I chose to wear a black ribbon around my arm to acknowledge the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and in memory of the victims. The race was about an hour from Parkland.

In the morning, I had half a cup of oatmeal for breakfast and some water; I had forgotten to buy coffee (Oden doesn't have any in the house because he doesn't drink it) but I felt awake and ready to go. I didn't feel nervous at all; I was surprised, in fact, to find I wasn't really feeling anything.

We got to the start without an issue and had plenty of time to use the porto-potties and get pre-race pictures.
Matt gave me a good-luck kiss and then went to line up near the front of the line; he had looked at finishing times from last year's race and thought he had a chance to place. Oden, Gordon, and Steph stuck with me and we lined up toward the middle-right. I explained run-walk race etiquette to them, but figured Oden would take off on his own.

Sidenote: Oden runs two miles every morning but has never run a race. I was excited that he agreed to run with us this year!

The race was much smaller than I expected. Most runners in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend were running the bigger races on Sunday, so this race was made up of lots of walkers and first-timers, who I could pick out by the fact that they were running in the race shirt. The first mile was rough. We had to weave around a lot of people and it was very congested. I worried about losing Steph and Gordon and also didn't want to mess up my intervals so early on.
We hit the first mile in 11:45 and I told them it was too slow. My paces have averaged 10:45 or so using 2:1 intervals. My calves were a little stiff, but in the "I am just getting warmed up" sense. The next run interval, Steph took off! I played catch up and we ended up clocking in the mid-9s. This is how we spent the rest of the race, running in low/mid-9s for our 2-minute runs.

Around mile 1.6, I took stock. My legs were sore from the effort but they were sore in my hamstrings! "My calves feel GREAT!" I laughed. This was when I finally got kind of emotional; we were really working hard during the run intervals and it felt like homecoming. 

Oden had already left us and Gordon had fallen behind a little bit, so it was just us sisters from that point on. We took our final walk break and I told Steph we'd run the rest of the way to the finish. And boy, did we! We sprinted into the 7s.
Steph urged me to pass a girl in front of us and I was like, "Uh, yeah right," but then we cranked it up and did. And then we passed a second girl and came into the finish line together.
Sprinting felt SO. GOOD.
Our time was 34:23, faster than my "training" 5k, averaging a pace of 10:45, which was perfect. Also, we were pushing into the mid-6s in that final sprint. I placed 8/30 in my AG. I really can't complain.

Matt and Oden had already finished and met us at the end. I felt amazing. I actually felt I could've easily run more. My calves were completely pain-free.
We took our photos and checked stats. Matt came in 4th in his AG with Oden just behind; I think Oden was really impressed and pleased with how much faster he could run in a race setting and I think he'll do some more 5ks in the future.
Even though my legs felt great, I still iced, elevated, and stimulated after brunch.
The rest of my birthday weekend was amazing. We celebrated the 5k with a bigger brunch than we needed, but we felt we deserved it anyway. Saturday evening we all did an escape room together, which I had never done before and it was so fun! We solved it in 39 minutes and it was a surprisingly fun adrenaline rush to solve puzzles and work together to "escape". Afterward, Oden and Matt and I went to an arcade bar where you can play old video games while you hang out; I played some classic Mario along with Sonic and Smash Bros.
At 10th Level Tavern playing video games and enjoying a drink.
I am having some thoughts about this race.

One thing that I am trying to come to terms with is that the woman who won 1st in my AG would have been easily beatable if I were in my usual 5k shape. I have to let that go. It's hard and weird to be both so pleased that I even ran a race again and hit some of those crazy paces, and also to play "what if" and "what could have been". I have to remember this is my journey and try to avoid the comparison trap...And that means not comparing myself to myself-from-2016, too.

I'm left wondering what to do next to help myself progress. This race showed me that I'm ready to pick up some harder workouts, but I also shortened my run intervals because 3:1 was too challenging just last week. So maybe I need to shorten my walk intervals and increase my total distance and go from there.
Some of my fear of pushing too hard too soon has been cured by this race. My legs felt great during and after the race; I now know I can push my effort a little more. It's been three months since my second surgery, which is how long Dr. G told me it would take to feel "normal" again. So I think this means I'm ready to do more.

Overall, this was a great weekend and a good race to come back with. I was tempted to abandon my intervals but played it smart and safe, and now I'm champing at the bit to do more and be fully back. I'm looking forward to what's to come.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Getting Ready for A1A

When I read/watched Kristina's recent post about her 5k goals it got me thinking. It's honestly so strange to have a goal that is actually just "finish this race on my feet, uninjured, preferably at a comfortable jog." I have no A, B, and C goals here. I have no pace goal. And yet, I still feel nervous and have butterfly-tummy just thinking about A1A this Saturday!

This weekend is going to be a little strange for a few reasons, I think, because of how different it will be. Rather than being a race at the end of training cycle, it will be the first race of Part II of my life as a runner. It will be a beginning, not an ending.

Feeling this level of excited anticipation over a 5k is a little odd for me. I feel like I'm gearing up to run a long-distance race! Part of that is probably due to my memories of A1A, which I associate with long-distance, but obviously it's also because this race is huge for me.

I won't need piles of pancakes to replenish my calories after crossing the finish line this year, but maybe I'll get them anyway to celebrate this comeback.
I am too old to make such a big deal out of my birthday but I just don't care.
I like to run A1A annually because it's a pretty race and it gives Matt and me the chance to see our friend Oden. The thought out missing out on it made me sad; even though last year's race was rough, it didn't diminish my love for A1A. This year, running it has even more significance.

It's the last race I ran in 2017 before my diagnosis, so it feels like coming full circle.
Finishing in 2017 with Elizabeth was really special even though the race sucked and I probably had heat exhaustion.
It has a finisher's medal, which is unusual for a 5k and which will be a nice physical reminder of this race as a comeback.

It lands on my birthday weekend, as usual. This will be a great way to say goodbye to the pain and frustration of last year and to welcome the next year of my life! My usual "cheer squad" will be running too, some of them right along with me!
Mile 20 of the full in 2016 - Steph hopped on the course to boost my spirits!
I kind of wanted to plan to do the A1A full marathon in 2019, but it's looking like I'll be missing it because it falls on the weekend of friends' bachelor/bachelorette getaway, so this will be my first hurrah back and also a chance to say goodbye to this particular race for another year or two. I just know it's going to be fantastic; I can already tell I'm going to be ridiculous and emotional because just thinking about it gives me goosebumps and chokes me up a bit. (And how sick are you of all these "I'm making a comeback!" posts?)

Thinking about how overwhelmed and emotional I felt when I finally got to run after having my second surgery, I'm just sure race day is going to be a big, beautiful mess.


Monday, February 12, 2018

I Ran 3 Miles!

On Saturday, Matt and I went for a run on the golf course for the first time in months. I switched my intervals to 2:1 because 3:1 has begun to feel like too much effort too soon. At the end of each run, I'm totally wiped; there's no "easy" effort with 3:1.

About 1.5 miles into the run, I told Matt, "I don't know how I'll ever do that 5k next weekend. I'm already feeling so tired and weak." I felt frustrated and a little hopeless, knowing I've been able to do about 2.5 miles but that I still don't feel like I'm making progress as far as strength and stamina goes.

He assured me that even if I end up walking the last mile of the race, I'll be able to do a 5k.

We continued on our run. My body finally found its groove, as it would after a couple miles of warmup in the old days, and before I knew it my watch was beeping...we'd done 3 miles! The last 1.5 had felt really good!
Matt is such a good photographer!
We ended up doing 3.16 and on the last walk break I just decided to walk the rest of the way home; there was no point in pushing it.

This run gave me tons of confidence and made me feel so strong. I gave Matt a high five and spent the rest of the night totally jazzed. I didn't care that I'd walked about half of it with the intervals. I was so happy that my legs weren't sore and spent at the end.
The run took about 35 minutes. After spending 2015 going for speed and finally breaking my 5k PR, chipping away at the 26:xx range and trying to get to 25:xx, it's ironic that running that distance nearly 10 minutes slower made me so happy!

This is how you know you're back at square one. Distance completely supersedes pace. I'm too happy to be running to feel anything else. I'll run without intervals again eventually, and I'll get back to my previous paces. If I'm honest with myself, right now I can't really imagine ever getting there, but I know logically that I will. For now, I am just going to be patient and celebrate my small victories as they come.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Waking Up

The hardest thing right now is sticking to two runs a week. Often I want to do more, but my first week that I was cleared to run again, I did three runs (a total of 6 miles for the week), and I was sore for days afterward and I got all paranoid that I had injured myself.
I've done 6 runs since my return to running 3 weeks ago!
Last week I started adding a little bit of mileage to my runs, bumping from 2 to ~2.5. I have my 5k on February 17 and I want to be sure I can cover that distance without injuring myself.

Starting next week, I am going to try adding a third run and will see how things go.
I've also noticed that during the running portions of my intervals, I'm really slipping into some speedy territory. I've glanced down at my watch and seen low 9's, which is way too much effort, and I've had to pull myself back. I'm aiming to do the running intervals in the 10s because otherwise I really start to lose energy toward the end of my 2-milers.
I have no business running at this pace, even for a few seconds.
I've been anxious about running alone, but did manage to get a solo run in last week that really boosted my confidence. Then, I was in a rush to get a run done before Matt and I went out this Friday,  so I went alone again. Matt was still at the studio, but he found me on his way home and joined me toward the end of the run.
First solo run!
He has been so supportive. I mean, he always is a supportive partner, but the fact that he wants to come with me and takes all kinds of pictures and is excited for me is just so appreciated. On Friday, I veered off our usual loop to add some mileage and his response was, "Look at you, adding distance!" and he was just so proud and happy for me...It feels good to share the excitement of baby steps with someone.
Friday's run...this was the first one that I felt really decent overall the entire time, just tired near the end.
These runs are far from perfect. Both my calves feel a little weak and there are the usual aches and pains that accompany getting back into exercise after a long time off. I am trying not to overthink any of that; mostly I am just overjoyed to be running again at all. My heart and mind are in a state of pure bliss when I'm out there.
I am truly beginning to feel like myself again, like I've been in hibernation and am slowly waking up. I feel better overall. I knew being unable to run was having psychological effects on me, but now those effects are falling away and I feel this overwhelming sense of relief and hope. At the same time, I still feel scared; like maybe this is all too good to be true.

Anyway, I can't accurately describe how full my heart is during every run these days. I just hope the feeling continues.