Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bigger isn't always better....and that's just fine

The thing about being a part of a running or triathlon community is that it's really easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of "it's time to do a marathon" or "you're ready for an Ironman!" It's easy to start registering for race after race, longer distance after longer distance until you're out $1500+ and insanely busy training for the next 8 months.

For some people, this is awesome. It's what they do and they love it.

Me?

Holy crap, the thought of all that just exhausts me.

I've had a few years where I raced a lot and I did love it. I did 3 marathons in one year and they were the three fastest I'd done at the time. Last year I did 6 triathlons, but none longer than an intermediate distance, and I had a really great time. So much fun that I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 (through life circumstances beyond my control I had to cancel that race, so it didn't actually happen).

This year has been extremely low key and while I do sometimes miss the constant thought of "when is my next race and how am I going to improve from last time," I have to admit that the low-key year has been really great overall. I have long term goals that I'm slowly chipping away at. I'm in no hurry to sign up for a last minute race "just because." Or to sign up for something bigger.

I'm hardly racing at all this year. As a matter of fact, I've only done 4 races this year, with only 2 more planned. What a relief! Seriously.

BUT....

It's tough sometimes not giving into the pull of "SOMETHING BIGGER." It's tough listening to my friends and their crammed race schedules, or the friends who are signing up for another Ironman, or another century ride, or another ultramarathon, and thinking that I SHOULD WANT TO DO THAT TOO!! Is there something wrong with me that I have absolutely NO DESIRE to train like that? They are so dedicated and their training is so regimented and it's a really big freaking deal to them (as it should be). Meanwhile I'm over here like, yeah, my marathon is still over four months way. It's only a little marathon.

Damn, it really just kind of messes with your head. A marathon is a big deal, every single time I do it. And I'm making it sound like it's "just another race." Perspective has clearly been lost in the age of BIGGER AND BETTER.

I didn't get to do my 70.3 and I'm pretty disappointed about that. I really did want to do it, and I would still like to tackle that goal. I've thought about which one I might want to sign up for, but in all honesty the big desire I had last year has dissipated and I'm not yet pulling the trigger on a race that big. And I'm certainly not giving any thought whatsoever to an Ironman 140.6. I know my friends don't believe me when I say that I don't want to do one, but seriously, I DON'T WANT TO DO ONE.

Then I start thinking, but maybe I really secretly do want to do one and they're all RIGHT. Maybe this Ironman thing is really really cool and I should want to be in the "club" because Lord knows just about everyone I train with now is part of it. But no...I'm going to stay on the outside.

I've been thinking a bit about how I want 2017 to shape up. It's going to start out with my Birthday Marathon in January and I'm seriously excited about that race. Then I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE PLANNED. So far. Nothing.

There is not one thing...YET...that has interested me enough to commit to it (although...and I'll get to that in a bit...my eyes are on a super special prize I might compete for later in the year). But it's been weird to feel like I "should" want to cram my race schedule with bigger races and yet have little desire to do so. It's making me feel like something is wrong with me. And then I started thinking about how this attitude is just so pervasive in society in general, about so many different things.

Where is the heck did contentment go? Why isn't small and simple okay anymore? Or rather, why are we telling ourselves that simple is not okay?

IT'S FREAKING OKAY! At least for me, it is. For those who relish in the big races, go after it. I just am not ready for that.

So, if I were to go after something bigger, it would be Boston. It's funny because for so long I didn't really give much thought to qualifying for Boston but it's been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. Mind you, I'm not nearly fast enough. I have some work to do, and I have to be careful about the race or races that I choose. My qualification window for my next age group opens in a year, and I keep leaning towards going after it as soon as I can. I have a couple races picked out that I'm pretty excited about, but I've got plenty of time to commit. So, with this goal looming, it's hard to focus on many other goals. I'm not really one who can think of achieving a whole lot of greatness in a short amount of time (that's typically when I get injured, and there's no more time for that crap). So the 70.3 might be on the backburner for a year.

It leaves room for sprint triathlons, however. It might be fun to do a few of those during the spring and summer before the crazy BQ training begins. It all keeps circling back to small and simple, and this makes me happy. I don't feel stressed. I need to shut the voice up inside my head that keeps trying to tell me I should want something more.

Instead I'll cheer on those of you who do want that.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five more weeks

Five more weeks. That's how long until my first of back-to-back half marathons.

When I counted how much time I had left I admit I was a bit surprised it's ONLY five more weeks (well, technically it's 39 days). Plenty of time, really, but it seems like it's creeping up on me so fast!

I've been hemming and hawing about how I want to approach these two races. One, the City to the Sea Half, is a net downhill course with very few turns, although there is still quite a bit of elevation gain, probably over 500 feet. Not horribly bad, but not easy. My hardest half marathon was over 900 feet of gain and I ran fairly well after a rough final few weeks of training. The second race, Nutrabolt Oktoberfest, is much flatter with a million turns.

In all honesty, I think that I do better on hillier courses. City to the Sea has miles-long straightaways, plus the first few miles and the last mile are downhill. I'll be able to recruit lots of different muscles throughout this course versus the monotony of the flat Oktoberfest course. City to the Sea is the first race, with Oktoberfest following 7 days later. I don't want to "race" both, but I definitely want to race one of them. I'm not sure I have a sub-2 in me, but I do think I can suck it up for 13.1 miles and put in a good effort. I'm leaning towards the hilly course as my "race" course.

If I approach it this way, I can run the Oktoberfest at marathon race pace, which will be 9:40-9:45 pace. That puts me at about a 2:07 and I know I can accomplish that without too much wear and tear on my body. It's not the slowness of long run pace, which would bore me in a race, and by being marathon pace the race will hold purpose in marathon training. It sets me up for running a similar type long run closer to marathon race day and comparing my progress.

It's probably way too much thinking for two little races. But I want a successful marathon season and I'm going to overanalyze a little. Or a lot! I'm not in the best shape I've ever been in (sad!) and I actually have very lofty goals in a few short years, so I'm trying to approach my return to marathon as intelligently as possible. It sets me up for a successful 2017 season, leading to the REALLY BIG THING I want to accomplish in 2018 (it's initials are BQ). So yes, I will overanalyze.

My confidence has been a little shaky, as it always is in the summer. I get very impatient for cooler weather because I know I'm going to feel so much stronger. The past few weeks, however, have actually been pretty decent regarding our weather. August is typically the hottest month of the year, but save for the first week of August, which was brutally hot, this year we've been spared. The temps have been really great and we've gotten quite a bit of rain. I think I'm seeing improvement because of this.

This past Friday morning I ran hill repeats on a moderately steep hill. I did 10 repeats with descending time intervals (2 x 90 seconds, 2 x 75 seconds, 3 x 60 seconds, 3 x 30 seconds), making sure I was not resting too long between intervals. I had an extra long warm up (1.7 miles). I figured as I was running my first 90 second interval (which feels like forever when you're running fast up a hill) that it was about 8:30 pace as it didn't seem like I was working too hard, just hard enough to want it to be over by the time I hit 75 seconds in. Imagine my surprise when my pace was 7:50. I did not think I had even come close to dipping under 8-min pace. My second interval came in the same.

Overall my interval times averaged 7:28, which is not something I've done in a very long time. Plus I was in the sun with 80+ degree temps the entire workout. 5 miles of work and I felt absolutely fantastic when I was done. It was truly an awesome workout.

Two days later, I ran for 2 hours. I haven't run that long in months. It wasn't particularly fast during the first hour, but we made it back after the turnaround in 55 minutes versus another whole hour (yes, I ran an extra five minutes to get a full 2 hours in). It was totally fine except for the last 20 minutes when the heat was getting to me. By then the sun was out in full force with little cloud coverage. But I didn't quit.

Yesterday morning was a 5k time trial. I ran most of it alone, in 95% humidity, after a one mile warm up, wishing the whole time I was running that I was on a track instead of in the creepy dark. But I did it in 8:15 pace. Nothing like my glory days but I'm pretty happy. I was in zone 5 heart rate for the last 20 minutes so I know I was pushing myself adequately.

These last three runs make me feel a whole lot better. I'm looking for all the motivation I can get right now!

I just finished reading David Boudia's book. He's an Olympic Gold Medal diver who just took home a silver and bronze in Rio. He talked a lot about how he was able to put a disastrous Beijing Olympics and destructive lifestyle behind him to have glory in London (while giving glory to God rather than focusing on his own personal glory). One thing that he said God revealed to him during his redemption journey that he needed to do when he struggled struck me as being extremely relevant in endurance training.

"Be process oriented, not results oriented. Remember the Olympic creed? The important thing is not the triumph but the fight. So many times in our lives, results are out of our hands and we are dependent on things we can't control for the outcomes we desire. Learning instead to focus on the process, the journey itself, allows us to focus our energies more on the things we can control. That, in turn, leads to greater fulfillment and more enjoyment as we go through life leaving our ultimate path in the Lord's hands (Psalm 37:5)."

Although I do have goals and I like to keep some focus on them as I train, he's totally right that in order to achieve our goal we have to focus on the process. The process in marathon training is months long. Each week serves a purpose, each workout serves a purpose. When the big picture and a focus on everything you still need to do in the months ahead, when you have a million doubts because you're having a tough training spell, you have to step back and focus on the process....what is the purpose and goal of THIS workout, why is it important, what does it mean if it's successful, what does it mean if it's not, what have I learned that I can take into the next workout, the next week, the next month, or even race day? We have complete control of that attitude.

In the next 39 days I'm going to do my best to focus on the journey, the process, and take baby steps as I make my way towards October 9.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If I could call you

I loved talking to you on the phone. I loved your voice. Your giggle. Your sarcastic tone.

I loved all the stupid and silly names you used to call me. I think my favorite was "freak." You never spoke it with malice. I could picture your head shake to go with it. And "seester." That was a great one, especially when you'd sign my birthday cards with it.

My memories are growing fainter over time. It's a bit harder to conjure up that voice. That laugh. The laugh that used to make you turn purple.

During the dark times over the last few years, and there have been so very many, I have so badly wanted to call you. I have wanted to ask your opinion, seek your advice. You always listened. You never judged. I was never afraid to tell you all my feelings.

Being parents of girls was something we shared. But we never really got a chance to support each other in all the challenging times that come with pre-teen and teenage parenting. You were gone too soon for that. It makes me feel cheated, because you would have been the perfect voice of reason when I felt so down on myself, when I just didn't know what else to do to help my daughter. You would have talked me down from the ledge. You would have been my sanity.

I'd like to think I would have been the same to you.

But we never got that chance, did we?

There were so many times when we were there for each other, however, when we told each other things that we just couldn't say to anyone else. I hold those memories close and dear. The words that were spoken will stay with me, our "secrets" safe. A sisterly bond that will never break.

Every year, during this week, I go through all the emotions of the grief cycle over and over again. Except denial. It was the first emotion I experienced when I heard the news and it was a tough one to shake. But I understand reality now. There's no denying the past seven years. But the anger, the bitterness, and depression...those come and go. I wish I could say that it has gotten easier. I suppose in some ways it has. But there are the days when it is all encompassing, when it's all I can think about. There are days when I can't go thirty minutes without fresh tears sliding down my cheeks. I try to hold them back, but it's impossible. Today is one of those days.

Imagine if I could just call you.

I see the bickering around me in the world, in my community, and among my friends and I want to shake them. I want them to stop and to appreciate what is around them. I want them to appreciate who is in their lives. "What if they are gone tomorrow?" I want to say. They always think there is a tomorrow. But we know better, don't we?

I can think of little else than how much I miss you. There is absolutely no one who can take your place, who can truly comfort me. My heart is absolutely broken. Parts of it have been stitched back together, but it's a tenuous repair. The stitches are strained, some have burst and need to be repaired. I always hope each repair will hold up a bit better than the previous.

Today the stitches burst. I will try to repair them tomorrow.

But for today, I mourn.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Heat of Summer

It's hot out there.

It's DAMN hot out there.

5:30 am, 80 degrees, 90% humidity, off-the-charts oppressive. Not a surprise (this is my 10th summer here after all) but it still sucks every single time.

I am trying to push through the discomfort as best as I can. I have started to complete much longer weekend runs with my triathlon group, and although I slow it way down and take a couple walking breaks, I'm getting through them. I continue my mid-week evening hill workout, typically in 95+ degree temps, but those, too, are getting to be quite difficult. I'm wearing my heartrate monitor and have not overtaxed myself yet, but it sometimes feels like death.

My hydration is a struggle this summer. I'm not sure what is different, but I am having trouble feeling sufficiently hydrated. I need to change some things because this concerns me. For an endurance athlete in a Texas summer, hydration is everything.

With it being summer, I really had no idea if my fitness (read: SPEED) was even close to being up to par going into marathon training. I think my intervals runs have been pretty decent considering the weather conditions, but the short relay I had this past weekend was a good judge of where I'm at. It's not great, but it's actually not as bad as I thought. It was a 5K 2-person relay, so only 1.55 miles each. But it started at 10:00am, in 86 degree heat, and by 1.55 miles they really meant 1.68 miles. So sweet of them.

What I really thought I could run was 8:15 pace. What I hoped I could run was 8:00 pace. What I actually ran was 7:44 pace. The only time I looked at my pace was 6 minutes into the run and then I just tried to hold it for as long as possible. My second mile was 15 seconds per mile faster than Mile 1, even though I totally thought I was falling apart (seriously, that last 10th of a mile lasted 30 minutes I swear). My partner, Drew (freaking youngster) ran 6:08 pace so we managed to run 3.35 miles in 23:17 for first place in our division. It was Drew's first medal since high school, although he's come so close in a couple of his triathlons this year. It was a medal I was hoping we'd get, but was cautiously optimistic about. What a great surprise to pull it off!


My two half marathons are coming up in October and I am technically training for them, upping my weekly miles, trying to add another weekly run. I would like to have two good races, but I really need these temperatures to give me some mercy. Not likely to happen anytime soon. July in Texas after all.

On the bright side, it feels really good to only be focusing on one discipline this summer. I think when late winter/early spring rolls around I'm going to be ready to (literally) get my feet wet again and compete in triathlons. My mind has so much trouble focusing right now that it's a blessing I made the tough decision I did to sit the triathlon season out.

I might even admit that when I'm watching my team compete and I see them racking up podium spots, I actually do miss it. Triathlons are definitely something special.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Musings

I was a mess last week. You wouldn't have necessarily known it if you were around me, but inside I was a mess. My thoughts were jumbled and all over the place and I couldn't concentrate on too many things.

First, I am feeling a bit lost about my physical well being. This time last year I was in the middle of a good triathlon season and I was having fun. I had a pretty decent, consistent schedule and I saw progress. It was good for me.

This year, I'm feeling a lot of guilt for NOT having a triathlon season. How dumb is that? I know in my heart that I simply can't concentrate on a rigorous schedule like that. It would just put more stress and guilt on me if I kept having to miss workouts, and I don't want to be away from my daughter that much when I know she does better when I'm at home with her.

So because of this, my motivation is lacking. I am frustrated by this. I want to feel differently. I still take care of myself....I run, I go to the gym, I get on my bike when I can. But it's not a priority and it's usually the first thing that I let go of when I'm overwhelmed emotionally. I don't like this at all. It's not me, and it's not making me feel comfortable.

On a brighter note, however, I do officially start marathon training next month and that will be a more structured schedule, with mileage goals that I will need to hit. I am hoping this is what will help me come out of this funk. This funk is the pits and I'm tired of it. I feel lost and need that extra hand, but it's no where to be found. There's no hand to pull me up and out of this right now. I see others all around me in the midst of their training schedules and I feel like I'm on the other side, watching them through a dirty window.

All those thoughts were right up at the forefront of my mind last week. And then there's my kid.

You see, I had to take my daughter to a psychiatrist on Thursday, so in the days leading up to it I was in a perpetual state of anxiety. Would she freak out going to the appointment, would she cry and not be able to stop, would she be unable to speak in the appointment, and worst of all....WHAT WOULD BE HER DIAGNOSIS?

I am so worried about her. With psychotherapy she's been doing better overall. Her episodes are fewer, but not gone. They'll never be totally gone, but slowly it appears she's learning to manage them better. But when she can't, it hurts me so deeply as a parent. I can't even describe the feelings.

We got through the 75 minute appointment and I think it was successful. I am not going to go into great detail because I need to keep some of it private. We do not have a definitive diagnosis, but we have some ideas, we have something we can look at in more detail, we have a clearer path. I liked the psychiatrist. His main concern is making sure we are going to function as a family and we are all going to be in agreement at whatever treatment path we choose. Unfortunately, this appointment is not a one-and-done kind of deal, and we will be seeing him one or two more times to hash out our path. He wants us all in agreement. He wants to think more about what he sees as my daughter's main challenges. She will continue to see her psychotherapist three or four times per month.

I am scared of treatment. While I know she is gaining coping tools through therapy, her brain just isn't wired in the same way as a normally functioning child and there is only so much we can do without looking at medication (hence....the need for psychiatry). I am terrified of this. Absolutely terrified.

Medication is helping me, as it helps so many people who have chemical imbalances. But when you're talking about a child, it's a scary endeavour. The psychiatrist wants to be sure we have all the information we need to make a decision together, so my husband and I will be seeing him without my daughter in a couple weeks. I hope our path becomes even clearer then.

I want my girl to be happy and balanced. I want her to have confidence in her abilities. I want her to feel good about herself, to be able to handle stressors in a healthy way, rather than getting angry and shutting down. I want her to be successful at school and to enjoy what she's learning. I hesitate to say "I want her to be normal," however, because I don't think there's a clear cut definition for "normal." She and I have a different kind of normal we live with, but we can both find a way to contentment. It just may be different than the majority of people out there.


Friday, May 13, 2016

RUNNING!!! Yes, I'm still running...a little

I have a feeling this is going to be a weird year for me.

I'm not planning to do any triathlons.

I don't have another race until October.

I'm kind of feeling like a lazy piece of crap.

But I still love running. It's my first love.

The husband and I celebrated our 17th anniversary (I know it's creepy just how young I was when I got married...I mean, sheesh, I'm only 28 *lies*). Most couples would plan a nice dinner out without kids, but us? Nope, we ran a trail race together. Greg had never done a trail race before, although he's run Lake Georgetown Goodwater Trail with me several times. The Wildflower Trail Half Marathon was in Bastrop State Park. (Correction: I totally forgot about Ragnar Trail Hill Country!!!)



It ended up being a beautiful day, and although I just felt a bit sluggish and really thirsty the whole time I totally enjoyed being out there, especially with Greg....despite the fact that for the first seven miles he kept getting really far ahead of me. I do love spending time with him in races....he's a good pacer and keeps the conversation going when I'm too tired to speak. It's our quality time together with nature.

I did much better than I thought I was doing in the race. I felt sluggish and walked most of the inclines, as I usually do in trail racing. The deep sand was a bit annoying as it took way too much energy to get through. But overall the trail was really great, not too technical, and to be able to see how much the park has improved since it was destroyed in an enormous wildfire five years ago was pretty spectacular.

Our sunrise


The race was a three loop course, so by the third loop basically we were experts. I wanted each of my loops to be about equal in time, but my first one ended up being a few minutes faster than loops 2 and 3. My splits were about 43, 47, and 47 minutes. With as tired as I was getting in the last loop I'm surprised I didn't slow down from loop 2. We finished in 2 hours, 17 minutes. And yes, it was a short course. I can't run trail half marathons THAT fast. 








I placed 75 out of 212 total finishers and 32 out of 129 women. Not bad considering I didn't kill myself during the race. I'm usually pretty far back in results in trail racing. Pleasant surprise to have held my own during this race. My friend Kalynn was 2nd overall women and was 21 minutes faster than me...so basically she's not human.



So now what's up....

It's almost summertime and the temps have started to rise. Because I'm not technically starting marathon training for 2 more months, I'm taking it easy on the distance running front. My "long" run will only be about 6 miles instead of the usual 10+. My mileage will be relatively low. I will continue to focus on core and leg strength to prepare for the higher mileage of marathon training. My training plan for Louisiana Marathon is my most ambitious yet and I want to be prepared.

I'm signed up for one October half marathon, the Oktoberfest Half in College Station on October 16. I will be in California the weekend before and discovered that the City to Sea Half is that weekend, so I do plan to register for that race as well. That means two half marathons on consecutive weekends. One will be fast, one will not, but I haven't decided which will be which. My PR is 1:51:36 and I still think that is out of reach this year. HOWEVER....you never know. A sub-2 hour half will be just fine.

It's a pretty light racing season and I'm happy about that. Very little pressure on myself, time to continue to build a strong foundation for endurance. I'll have the right mental outlook for a marathon PR in January. Did I mention that badass friend of mine, Kalynn, will be running it with me? Of course if she hasn't gotten her BQ yet I will refuse to allow her to pace me. She WILL get that BQ come hell or high water and I'm not about to hold her back!

There are a lot of personal stressors in our life, and some days are better than others. But the stress is ever present. We as a family have been challenged more now than any other year. To have a few things to help with stress relief is always good, but not overburdening myself with expectations is vital right now. I know a lot of my training buddies want me to race more, but it's just not going to happen right now. I will miss it, but there is always next year. I hope to God we have been able to reduce the stress significantly by then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Instincts

I suppose this blog post is going to be a bit of a PSA. If it sounds preachy, I'm sorry. If I sound angry, I guess I kind of am a little bit.

If you feel like something is not right with either you or your children, physically or mentally, listen to your instincts and get help.

One of two things will happen...either you can rule out anything major OR you can find out your gut was right and take the steps to make things better. Just get help.

If your friends or loved ones express concern about anything with their family, BE SUPPORTIVE.

Don't tell them it's just a phase.

Don't tell them to look on the bright side.

And whatever you do, don't laugh it off.

Their fears may be completely justified.

Obviously, I speak from experience. My family's mental health journey continues to evolve and take turns that will take all of my strength and attention. My parenting instincts were right in thinking that "this just isn't normal behavior," even at puberty. Yes, there is drama, yes there is disrespect, yes there are tears. The issues of a pre-teen or teenager are very real and very difficult, different than toddler or elementary age problems, but typically problems on a bigger scale....this is all true. But I know what's normal and what is not normal.

MY INSTINCTS WERE RIGHT.

The journey to professional help began two years ago, when I had to quit my job to focus on helping our daughter, but it hasn't been a consistent journey. After a few months of counseling sessions, I believed that perhaps we could deal with the issues that my daughter faced and we discontinued counseling. Over the next year-plus, things continued to get worse and worse until we finally had to face the reality that we needed serious professional help for her. Over the last 10 weeks she has been in psychotherapy. But even then, we knew it went even beyond this.

WE WERE RIGHT. The journey continues on a new path and it will be something that she has to deal with potentially for her entire life. 

Considering my own mental health struggles I guess I should not be surprised by this. But I am angry and frustrated.

We have been told by those around us that "she's a girl," "she's a pre-teen," and they are "difficult" at that age. That she will outgrow this. Or to "just wait...it gets even worse!" followed by a laugh or two. Probably all true statements, but it completely invalidates our concern and need for support.

My husband and I have doubted ourselves so many times over the last two years. Thank God we walked into the psychologist's office and were told that this is not normal and she was there to help us and our daughter. She validated every single thought we've had and has been there to help us make sense of it all.

We begin today processing everything we believe to now be true, to finding a new path, and to helping our daughter (and our son, who struggles dealing with our household issues on a daily basis) to lead a happy and balanced life.

I am so angry about all of this. I am so frustrated that we were dealt this bad hand in life. I'm feeling very sorry for myself. I'm trying to let go of those selfish feelings, but for now they are real.

If you have a friend or family member going through a very real and very scary struggle, be supportive.

Be patient.

Be forgiving.

If you have not dealt with mental health struggles in your immediate family then you can't truly know what it means. If you do not have children of your own, then you can't know what this is like. I would never presume to know how it is to live with something I have no first-hand knowledge of. I know I've done it, however, and for that I'm sorry. But what you can do is be a listening ear if someone needs it. People always need a friend. If you have "the greatest kids ever," embrace just how lucky you are.

I know that in the face of all of this, my husband and I need to take care of ourselves as well. The stress is very overwhelming at times and we need our outlets for that stress. I take medication for my anxiety, and I use exercise to help cope. I will always need that. But I'm also cutting myself a lot of slack by resting as much as I can. I'm looking forward to a summer spent in my backyard, enjoying what we've built and created and using it for stress therapy. I wish I could just run away from all of it sometimes but parents don't get that choice. We must face what's given to us head on.