"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘running’ Category

God’s Got My Playlist

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I love starting a new year.  The first few weeks of the year are filled with anticipation for getting a fresh start in life.  It’s like a brand-new notebook with blank pages to fill.  I love getting a new calendar and getting all my colored gel pens out and planning out my dreams for the year.  Things left unaccomplished the year before can be revisited; a new year always holds such promise for good things to come. 

Last summer, I had made plans to run a half marathon in the fall.  The MO Cowbell Race is the first half marathon I ever ran, and it’s held close to home.  For me training in the summer is a challenge because Missouri summers are hot and humid.  I started training in June, a few weeks before our summer vacation, and disappointingly, did not continue once we got back.  I was filled with good intentions and equally reasonable excuses—it was hot, I was too busy, I was lonely running by myself on long runs—crowned by my favorite, this year was just not my year for running.  My long runs on Sundays had been replaced with attending worship service with Mom in the nursing home with my dad.  I could not rise to the challenge of training because I convinced myself the timing was all wrong.

Fall came and went, and I put running aside.  A friend of mine texted me in early November asking if I had planned to do any spring half marathons.  She had just signed up to do the full marathon and hoped we could encourage and hold one another accountable.  I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to it.  The holidays were on the horizon and I didn’t want to agree to something I couldn’t keep up with again. The fear of failure stymied me.  What if the timing wasn’t right in 2019 either?

Fast forward to the fresh page of January on the 2019 calendar.  After eating (and drinking) way too many calories over Christmas and New Year’s, the notes and pages of dreams and promises I was making for myself glared at me almost as harshly as the bathroom scale.  I missed my Saturday morning run that I’d planned because the bed felt much better than lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement.  It turned out to be a beautiful day, a rare 60-degree January day, and I spent it lazing around the house curled up with my thoughts and my notebook.  But instead of finding joy in my journaling and planning, the realization hit me that life happens whether you plan for it or not.  I can doodle my ideas in one hundred different colors, but that is all they are, ideas.  I was full of ideas, but unless I took action, they remained there on the pages on a notebook.  If I stumbled on this notebook in two years, would I be proud of what I did with those dreams?  Or would they serve as a reminder of when I thought the time was just not right?  What if there was no perfect time, and I just needed to suck it up and start doing instead of dreaming?  If I waited until I was ready I would never get started.

Determination brewed out of disappointment in myself, and Saturday night I laid out my running clothes, set my alarm and selected my “Getting Started Again” one-off workout on my running app.  My plan was to keep it simple—take my tried and true running route I always run when I’m trying to just get in the miles and not think too much.  But I couldn’t let it be too routine.  I didn’t want to fall too much into a routine I abandoned before.  My answer was a brand-new running playlist.

There are songs I always put on my running playlists, but I wanted to have some new ones to freshen it up a little.  In addition to my tried and true song additions, I added a few just because I liked the title, and hey, if Spotify thought it was a song I’d like, they were probably right.  This was a new season of training and I wanted to shake it up a bit.  My taste in music tends to run the gamut, so I never know if I’m going to hear cheesy pop, inspirational, classic rock or alt metal next during my run.  I went to sleep pleased with my plan and my newly-found motivation.

When I got up Sunday morning, I followed through with my plan and got myself out the door.  It was another gorgeous day for a run, and I started my slow trek up the street thinking that this would be the start to many weekend runs over the next few months.  My workout plan guidance barked out the walk/run intervals I’d set up the night before.  They weren’t overly ambitious, but I needed to feel like I could start at this place near the bottom and feel encouraged when I improved.  The first running interval, my lungs burned, and my knee wanted to protest, but I kept it up until the walk interval kicked in and saved me.     

My playlist was spot-on, too.  I was rounding the corner, starting on the third running interval, when one of the songs came on that I picked based on the title without ever hearing it before.  If I hadn’t been trying to keep up my pace, I probably would have stopped dead in my tracks, but I plodded on, listening in awe to the lyrics.  On a playlist with songs one would be more likely to find on Hair Nation or Ozzy’s Boneyard than Joy FM Christian radio, one of a handful of inspirational songs came on. It was called “Get Your Hopes Up” by Josh Baldwin.  I’d never heard the song or the artist before, and had added it on a whim.  The song lyrics began:

 Get Your Hopes Up*

I see the sun waking up in the morning

Reviving dreams

I feel the wind on my back with promise

Reminding me

There’s a garment of praise for heaviness

There’s a new song burning inside my chest

I’m living in the goodness that He brings.

Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.  I wanted to know that I wasn’t in it alone and that it was okay to aspire to things within times of uncertainty in my abilities and circumstances.  I wasn’t too old for new beginnings, and I wasn’t out of line to dream outside the box. I wanted validation, and a simple, randomly shuffled song on my playlist during a run was where I found it that day.  It went deeper than just the running, it was a rare moment that filled me with peace about where I was in my life in that very moment.  It’s only when doodles and thoughts on notebook pages become action that life happens, in spite of loved ones on Hospice, kids leaving home and getting older.

I have twelve weeks to get ready for this half marathon. This time I signed up to train with a running group on Saturday mornings so I can’t talk myself out of those long runs on the weekend.  Because I’m terrified of getting left behind somewhere unfamiliar on a group run, I know I’ll be working on keeping my pace up, too.  Nothing like a little peer pressure for motivation to not slack off. 

Oh, and a good playlist.  I have an awesome, eclectic playlist to keep me going that seems to have been divinely shuffled.  Everyone needs one of those.

*written by Josh Baldwin, Bobby Strand, Nate Moore, Tony Brown

© 2016 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) / Bethel Worship Publishing (BMI) / Mouth of the River Music (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing) / Tony Brown Music Designee (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing). 

Running the Race: Erin’s First Half Marathon

Erin at me at Finish 4-2016

Erin and I after finishing the GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis

When you tell people who don’t enjoy running that you are training for and running a race, you usually get one of two reactions:  A response of total disdain for running, or someone who thinks it’s great that you do it, even if it’s not their cup of tea.   I did not start running until I was in my late thirties, so to see my daughter, Erin tackling training for a half marathon at her age brings out my Momma Pride.  Before I started running, I couldn’t imagine how people managed to trudge through that first mile, let alone three miles for a 5K.  Erin completed her first half marathon last week at the tender age of 14 at the GO! Half Marathon/Marathon in St. Louis.  She runs faster than I do, so other than being at the starting corral together, I did not get to run the 13.1 miles with her, but as I lagged behind, running those same streets in St. Louis, I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about during those miles.  Personally, besides realizing Left Knee was not happy this run, I was worried we were going to get caught in a nasty thunderstorm.

Running those long training runs, there is a special magic that happens to your body and your mind.  Scientifically, we know there are endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones, released that give us a “runner’s high” and help us cope with stress.  When I run with a friend or running group, the magic factor is boosted even more.  My running partner, who is also one of my best friends, has said we solve all the world’s problems on our long runs.  We also say that we could probably increase our speed if we’d shut up a bit, but then it wouldn’t be as much for us—such a trade-off.  Our training with Erin allowed her to always get a few more miles in than we did, as she’d run ahead at a faster pace and needed to circle back to meet up with us.  Thankfully, she has some friends to run with who challenge her to up her pace on the shorter runs.

Running this half was bittersweet.  My running partner, the one who solves all the world’s problems with me while we run together, had a family tragedy happen the week before the race that shook us all to our very core.  The event is too raw and too personal to share here on a blog, but she was not able to run with us.  We chose to run in honor of her loved one, which made this run very personal for Erin and the other runners in our group, and she was on our mind and in our hearts the entire way.

Erin and I both agreed that when you first start a long race, the excitement and the crowd gets us in the mindset that could keep up the running for hours.  Conversation flows easily, in spite of all that heavy breathing, as you check off the miles.  At The GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis, runners get to run over the bridge into Illinois, and the view of the Arch as you come back into Missouri is stunning.  Many people stop to take selfies with the Arch in the background.  I chose to just lift up my camera and shoot a picture, minus my sweaty face.  I thought it turned out great, considering I didn’t come to a stop to take it.

Scene from bridge at GO 4-2016

Normally it’s around Mile 8 that I start to ask myself, “How much longer?”  This race, it was closer to halfway through Mile 9, which is the part of the race that goes through the Anheuser-Busch brewery area.  We trudged on through past Soulard Market and onto Mile 11, where they were handing out little chocolate candies from Crown Candy Restaurant (another longstanding St. Louis landmark).  As my friend, Tina, and I approached Mile 12, I kept thinking about how the end of the race was so close, and the hills seemed especially steep.  The crowds cheering along the side of the course gave us words of encouragement about the end being “just around the corner”.  It was more like around a corner, and another and another.  Then a really long straight stretch.  In other words, the last mile kind of felt like five miles.  But the finish felt fantastic and miraculously the rain held off until we had walked back to our hotel.

Erin ice cream at Go! 4-2016

There are times when I feel like a snail running these longer races—if a snail had creaky knees—and wonder what keeps me motivated to do another one.  One look at my daughter and I am reminded of our talks during our training runs over toenails, running shoes and how good it feels after you’ve accomplished a goal you’ve set your mind to.  I see her excited about meeting up with her running pals, and her determination to improve and finish what she starts.  So I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving it up any time soon, even if I am riding in her tailwind.

Forget the Skinny Jeans

I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 2. Let me re-phrase that…if I am a size 2, somebody should be shopping for my coffin, because I don’t have long for this world. This is due to several reasons—genetics (body type), age, eating habits and a lack of willpower.

That being said, I, like most people, want to stay in shape. I like when I put on my jeans and I don’t have to suck in my stomach to the point of not breathing to zip and button them. The practical part of me appreciates not having to buy new clothes because I’ve gone up a size (though I don’t mind if it’s DOWN a size!) And I’m not going to lie—I like when I look in the mirror and I’m not sporting a muffin top.

A few weeks ago I joined a gym near my house that my running partner belongs to. Since we’ve moved into the winter months, getting in our morning run has been more of a challenge. It’s not so bad as long as it’s over 25 degrees, but when it’s colder than that and the mileage is over five miles, it becomes more of a torture session. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill, but they’ll do in a pinch, and the gym I joined has a big theater room that plays a movie. Last week we watched “Dodgeball” during our long run on the treadmill, which made the miles go by a little faster than when I only have music in my headphones to listen to.

I’ve also started going to their Body Pump class. The first day just about killed me, but I was able to scale back the weight enough to keep up through the class. Ibuprofen took care of the next few days. Word to the wise: do not try an ambition exercise routine and follow it with eight hours in the car. It’s a recipe for disaster. The next time I took the class, it was a teensy bit easier, in part because I knew what to expect. The next day I didn’t even need the ibuprofen.

When I signed up at the new gym, there was a special for personal training sessions, and since a friend I used to coach Girls on the Run with is a Personal Trainer there, I took them up on the offer. I have met with her to put together an action plan for my fitness goals. Even though I run quite a bit, my upper body and overall strength is pretty pathetic these days. But not for long.

This is where my perspective has changed over the last fifteen years. When I first started regularly working out post-third-child to get back into my regular, non-maternity clothes, my goal was to look good. Now, though I still want to look good, I am really after the boost in mood and energy to keep up with my life! Especially in the winter. And I’m really more excited about becoming strong more than skinny.

But you know what my favorite thing about the gym is? The social part. I never went to the gym I used to go to because I didn’t know anybody that went there at the times I could go. When I walk into this gym, I see other parents from my kids’ school and meet others in the classes that I didn’t know before. There’s a special bond created when you’ve seen each other with no make-up and hair styled in bedhead form. And having someone to chat (or groan) with makes it fun to show up at the gym for me.

So later today I’ll be meeting up with Missy again to see what’s next in my training and I know I’ll have to exercise more than just my jaws. (Too bad talking alone doesn’t strengthen the rest of me.) While I’ll still never be a size 2, I know at least I’ll be reaching for some pretty lofty goals. Bring on those tight-lidded pickle jars!

One Down, One to Go

Left to right, me in my gorgeous headband, Dave and Tina

Left to right, me in my gorgeous headband, Dave and Tina

 

Two weeks ago, I ran the Cowbell Half Marathon in St. Charles with my friend, Tina. I felt great after the race, but I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that my time was almost ten minutes longer than my time from last year at the Cowbell. I have to say it was a very enjoyable race—the weather was awesome and this old body of mine didn’t have any tremendous aches or pains for days afterwards. I met Tina’s co-worker, Dave, and the three of us really had some great conversation on our run. I know serious runners would NEVER talk like that during a race, but if I kept my mouth shut that long I’d burst. While a lot of my running friends enjoy the solitude of a good, long run, one of my favorite parts of running is being with other people. In fact, at one point I started a story with, “You don’t have to listen if you don’t want to, but I have to tell you this story so I am distracted for a mile or two.” And I wonder why my time doesn’t improve!

This Sunday is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I’ve not done a Rock ‘n’ Roll race before, so I am really excited about running it. Today and tomorrow I’ll be hydrating and getting psyched up to run the streets of downtown St. Louis in what is supposed to be great running weather. It’s my last long race for a while, so I’m putting a lot of stock in this being an awesome event. There are bands every few miles to help me with my Runner’s Attention Deficit Disorder and I’ll be running with my training partner, Amy. I’m hoping to have my best time at this race, but if not, I know that at least I’ll have a good talk therapy session. In my case, slow and steady doesn’t actually win the race—but it finishes it happy, anyway!

Time for MO’ Cowbell

As I write this I’m getting ready to go pick up my race packet for the MO Cowbell Half Marathon on Sunday. I’ve trained, I’ve been hydrating and I’ve read through all the event website information. And yet, I’m still edgy!   Apparently this anxiety is a pre-race ritual for me; I’m sure many other runners share in this nervousness. You may remember my post the day before the last Half Marathon I did in the Spring of this year. Of course, post-race not only had I survived, but I actually enjoyed myself. In fact, the worst moment in that whole process was when I hit the pole in the parking garage entrance going to pick up my race packet for the Go!

In reality, I think there’s a fine line between what I think of as a case of nerves versus just being excited about something. I don’t run to take home a medal (other than the finisher one) so I don’t get worried about that sort of thing, although a new PR would be nice to achieve. In two weeks, I’m doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, so even if I have the worse race ever Sunday (I won’t!) I will have another crack at a running a Half. What it boils down to really is that I’ve been training for this race for so long, I just don’t want something stupid to mess things up. Things like being tired from not sleeping well before the race, not finding a place to park, or having to go to the bathroom on the course (ask any runner—that’s a big one!) I have had several dreams where I’ve shown up to run a race, but I’m a half hour late to the start. It’s like the dream we all have where we forgot to go to class all year and have to take the final. Slightly better than the being naked in front everybody you know dream. At least I know I will have my clothes on—it’s supposed to be chilly Sunday morning!

Time to get my packet, gotta run. See you at the finish line!

The Last Lesson

Today I attended my last Girls on the Run practice as a coach. It was a fitting ending—we did the “freeze tag” lesson, which is always one of the girls’ favorite, and as Coach Missy says, “makes great memories for the girls”. Lately I’ve been thinking of how this will be my last season as a coach, and how proud I am for having been a small part of this wonderful program that helps builds character in young girls through running.

The program came to our school, Progress South Elementary, in 2009, through the efforts of Coach Gina—a mom who wanted her daughter to learn the lessons taught the in Girls on the Run curriculum. She put out the word through our Girl Scouts Neighborhood, which I am involved in, and I thought it sounded great. I’d heard of the program through a friend who was a Practice Partner at another school in our area. I replied that I was interested, though I had no prior running experience, and the next thing I knew I was the Head Coach of this team we were trying to scrape together. You needed to have eight girls for a team and somehow we managed to get eight girls by the deadline.

That first season taught me a lot—not only about running, which I learned from my wonderful Assistant Coaches that had been runners for years—but about motivating girls to do more than they thought they could. Sometimes they were reluctant to run at all, but I will never forget watching one of the girls cross the finish line at our practice 5K, red-faced and breathless, full of pride and a sense of accomplishment. In that moment, all the challenges we faced that season became worth it. I also enjoyed seeing my own daughter’s determination and confidence grow as she became a stronger runner with each practice.

The Girls on the Run program at our school has grown significantly since that first season. We now have two teams and are almost filled to capacity each season (that’s 34 girls). We have traditions and our own unique identity as a club at the school. In the St. Louis area, the Girls on the Run program has grown, too. Each season, each race, has become better organized and the processes more streamlined, from online registration and scholarships to moving the race to downtown to accommodate the larger number of race participants. There is now a Junior Coach program that both of my daughters who are no longer in elementary school have had the privilege to be a part of. What a joy it is to see something positive thrive!

I’d be remiss to not mention how much this program has made me a better person as well. Before Girls on the Run, I’d never run a 5K. I think I was just as excited as the girls that first race and I will never, ever forget it. To this day it is probably my favorite race I’ve ever run. And since then I’ve run a lot of 5Ks, 10Ks and two half marathons. I’ve had two daughters that are Girls on the Run alumna and past Junior Coaches—one who runs with me in every race she can and is looking forward to Cross Country in High School. All because I said “yes” to coaching.

A few seasons ago, I stepped down as Head Coach and handed the baton to Coach Kelly, who has five daughters that will be going through the program. She has done a phenomenal job getting our team numbers to what they are today and doing all that it takes to organize 30+ families. This last season I stepped back into the Practice Partner role from Assistant Coach. My daughters are no longer in elementary school and it is time for me to let someone else experience the joy of working with truly awesome coaches and fantastic girls.

To Coach Kelly, Coach Missy, Coach Sheri and Becky, I treasure our friendship. I admire each of you not only as runners, but as mothers and mentors to all the girls who are on our team. To all of the parents through the years, thank you for sharing your daughters with me. They have so much potential and I love seeing that in them—I know you do, too. I hope they see it themselves as well and that they will remember their Girls on the Run experience fondly—and never forget to plug into their positive cords.

So, Saturday will be my last race as a Girls on the Run Coach and I will wear my tutu proudly. We are the girls, the mighty, mighty girls—and I know they are going to continue to roar.

After the Race

Amy and I before the GO! Half Marathon 4-6-14.

Amy and I before the GO! Half Marathon 4-6-14.

I ran last Sunday in the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. The day dawned clear—a little chilly, but no rain. I ran with my friend, Amy, who I’ve been training with since January. As usual, my 20/20 hindsight really doesn’t know why I was so worried. We finished with a time of 2:45:56 (that includes a line at the bathroom in the middle). We had a great race—no walking breaks at all—and at the end I felt fantastic—no knee pain. We even crossed the finish line to Kiss’ Rock N Roll All Nite. Epic!

I learned something this time around about Gu. If you’re not familiar with it, Gu is a product that runners “eat” during a race to keep the carbs/electrolytes in check. There are various other products that you can eat to accomplish this…some people eat Stingers or Chomp Blocks or even just gummy bears or candy. I love the gummy products if I’m going to be able to actually chew and eat them—say before a long run when I’ve not eaten in a while, but during a long run, I just need something simple that won’t have me landing on my face. Gu is the consistency of cake icing. You rip the top off, squeeze and slurp it in. It makes me gag, but I’ve gotten used to it—the citrus ones are pretty good, and so is the salted caramel (my favorite). The chocolate and vanilla ones I can do in a pinch, but I think they’re a little too sweet. In any event, I’ve had training runs where I’ve waited for a specific mileage or time to use the Gu instead of just seeing how I feel. The problem is, you don’t necessarily know you’re in need of Gu until you feel like a deflated balloon and then it’s too late. So at my race Sunday I adjusted when I did the Gu to mile 4 and 9, and I really think it helped me. I know adrenaline at the race also plays a part in your energy level, but moving up when I did the Gu kept my energy level strong.

The other highlight of our race was the Will Ferrell impersonator who banged on the cowbell with his belly sticking out of his half shirt wearing a curly-haired wig. (In the fall, St. Louis is host to a race called the MO Cowbell. Last fall, the theme song for the race was Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. You have to watch the SNL skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken to know why that song was chosen. https://screen.yahoo.com/more-cowbell-174128899.html) This course-side cheerleader had enough energy he probably could have ran the full marathon, but I’m so glad he decided to cheer for the runners. There’s nothing like running and seeing something that makes you belly laugh. And yes, I’ve been told I’m easily entertained!

Speaking of easily entertained, the Comic Con convention was in town the same weekend as our race, so we got to ride in an elevator with Gandalf, spot a fully decked out Transformer and sit next to a guy at lunch who had buttons glued to his face over his eyes. No celebrity sightings, but who needs a celebrity when you’ve got these people with amazing costumes! The people watching was fantastic.

So to summarize this race/weekend:

  • No logistical worries (those who know me know how I freak out about being late, lost or in need of a bathroom!)
  • Great running buddy! (Thanks, Amy!)
  • No knee pain issues/hitting a wall/sag wagon
  • Awesome personal Cheer Squad of Darrell, Tina, Rich and Anna to see us through to the end

All in all, I couldn’t have pictured it any better. Okay, maybe not hitting that post in the garage at packet pick up. But overall, a successful race—and one I will remember for the rest of my life!

%d bloggers like this: