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Must Do This Awesome Race

Awesomeness.  Where is this race?  This amazingly cool picture was posted on the Go Mommy! facebook page, courtesy of Iris. Thanks Iris!

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So this is the shirt I SHOULDA bought during my last VA Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And it’s also the shirt I SHOULDA worn at my race this last Sunday. 

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The company is One More Mile Running and I get absolutely NOTHING if you buy something from them.  (Come to think of it, I should talk to those guys about some kind of finders’ fee–but I digress.)

I love the hilarious shirts this company makes.  Going to an expo for me is like going to Vegas is for some people.  I give myself a certain (small) amount of money that I know I will throw away on super-fun running gear on the (likely) chance that I will have a great time while wearing said gear in the future.  Actually, in this light, the odds are far better than Vegas, but again…I digress.

So I did NOT buy the shirt but I did INDEED have the experience the shirt indicates at a race this past Sunday at one of my local running club’s signature events. 

Explanation:

Each year our awesome local running club, the Kennekuk Road and Trail Runners, hosts an event called the Wild Wild Wilderness Run.  Runners from all over the midwest descend upon our lovely little hamlet to challenge themselves on the Wilderness Trail. 

See, the thing is, the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run includes at least one portion of trail that is not really a trail for human beings.  True, some deer and squirrel may have ventured up the side of that beast, but humans…not so much.

And the OTHER thing is, THIS year I knew that beast was coming.  I ran the stinking trail last year.  And I heard from my friend–let’s just call her Ami (because that’s her name)–that the run was SO much easier when you knew what to expect.  Just so you know: she totally lied.  (A different experience, but NOT easier!  Still love you though, Ami.)

So now in the interest of Truth, Justice and the American Trail-Running Way,  if you’re EVER considering the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run, you should know THIS is TRULY what to expect: 

7.55 miles (or 7.45 miles, depending on the race year) of some of the most beautiful trail in the region.  Including: 

3.5 initial miles of relatively bumpy, grassy trail, in and out of the woods.  Wear your deet during tick season.  Basically an enjoyable but moderately challenging run.  Followed by…

4 miles of hell on earth.  A mountain fit for certain animals, but definitely not people.  Creeks to leap over.  A slippery bridge to run across.  Hills, hills and more hills.  A “stairway” built into the side of a nearly-vertical hillside just before mile seven–that conveniently had its STEPS removed this year–where you are basically sliding up a rooted-mud-hill.

Essential Aside Advice:  Try to strategically select the people who are running in front of you and behind you as you face these natural obstacles.  Sliding down a mud-hill onto the head of the helpful, but completely unsuspecting, gentleman behind beneath you as you lose your footing on one of these obstacles is not the most polite way to make new friends.  Even if he does promise that he won’t let you fall down the hill.  As you are practically sitting on his head.  *sigh*  Well, after hitting solid ground, at least there’s plenty of motivation to pick up the pace and get outta there as fast as you can after that little getting-to-know-you adventure. 

And back to the shirt.  See, while the front-half of the shirt would have been me on Sunday, the back-half of the shirt would be me TODAY.  After my rugged adventure.  While trying to walk or move quickly.  Thank goodness for my friend, Ibuprofen. 

And regarding the WWW Run.  Would I do it again next year, even after all of the muddy drama?  OF COURSE!  Maybe even several times next year.  Because, come to think of it, it wasn’t really that tough after all.  Yeah, in fact, it was more like awesome.  Kinda like childbirth is awesome the farther you get away from it. 

I’ll be there.  Probably with a cool new shirt.  And definitely with a strategy that calls for me making new friends in more lady-like ways than sitting on some poor stranger’s head.

 P.S.  As proof that I should have known better and for the entertainment of the historians among you:  Here’s the post about a couple of last year’s trail runs:  Trail Runs Before I Knew Better 

 

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Instead of writing an Official Blog Post on Sunday, another Rest Day [insert heavy SIGH], I did what every other warm-blooded American did tonight.  I watched the Survivor finale and reunion. 

Love it or hate it, this show is a microcosm of life.  It’s your life and mine, under pressure and under a microscope.  How many of us could survive 39 days with our every minute on camera?  (Give me a shot at a million dollars and I’d try it, mind you.)

Apply enough pressure and a microscope and a camera to any human being and it will get ugly.  This show is about the human condition.  And that fact is why I absolutely love watching it, week after week.

What does this have to do with running?  Or midlife?  Or any of the other stuff you’re accustomed to coming here and reading?  I’ll tell you.  This show is about strategy.  You may love or hate another person’s strategy.  The one thing that is certain is that no one is successful without a strategy. 

Priorities.  Values.  Morals.  Focus.  Passion.  All these go into making a person successful.  Or not successful.  These will determine our strategy.  And the biggest guarantee of failure is to avoid having a strategy. 

I’ve noticed that in races, my age group “Masters Female” (translate that: older broads in their 40’s) is usually larger than  the groups younger and older.  This surprised me at first.  Especially when I noticed that if I were two years older or three years younger, I’d have come away with an award, even with my Very Slow Pace.  What was going on here?!

Well, I think when you get to be about *ahem* 43(ISH), and you start to fight metabolism and hormones and failures and expectations, you start looking for something–no matter how emotionally or spiritually mature you are.   Many of us have buried a parent.  Some of us have buried friends and even children.  We view our lives WAY differently than we did when we were in our 20’s.

So a 40-ISH woman faces her world and thinks, “Sheesh, how did I get here, compared to where I figured I’d be (even if “here” is absolutely Wonderful!) and where on earth am I headed.”  And that 40-ish woman looks at her life and her wonderfully metabolism-challenged body and says, “Well, this is ONE area where I actually CAN make a difference, God willing.”  And then she begins to make some decisions. 

In short, she begins a Strategy for managing the Wake-Up Call that is Midlife.  For many, that involves taking up the sport of running.  And THAT, I believe, is why there are so many stinking competitors in the Old Lady Masters Female divisions of the races that I run. 

And Survivor?  What does this have to do with Survivor?  Especially because the cute little pixie who still has her metabolism intact won the big prize? 

It has everything to do with Survivor.  Because the game is about Strategy.  Strategy.  It’s about being On Purpose.  People with WAY different values and ethics and morals–VERY different strategies–have won this game in different seasons.  But nobody won on accident.  Everyone who won, won with a strategy.  Just. Like. Life.

If you want to “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” whatever issue you’re facing in life, you’re going to need a strategy.   And everybody’s got some Issue that they’re facing.  Most people have lots of Issues working at the same time.

Your strategy won’t be the same as your neighbor’s.  And whether yours is noble and worthy and righteous is between you and God, quite frankly.  The thing I know for sure, is that without a strategy, you’re sure to drift into the stream of life, with no real purpose and leaving no real mark.  You’ll be voted off the island of your hopes and dreams.

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My strategy, when I looked into the mirror and barely recognized myself anymore, was multifaceted.  Part of that strategy involved a focus on my health.  Part of that focus involved exercise, specifically running.  Part of that involvement, included races and training.  And part of that training includes each and every run and rest day in my training schedule. 

I’ve picked a strategy for this part of this season of my life and I’m sticking with it.  Every stride and every mouthful is part of my strategy for navigating the “physical” part of this season of my life.  For me this involves Long Run Friday, trail runs, race numbers, and Body Glide.  It will probably be different for you.  But still I ask you and I challenge you: 

What’s your season?  Make a decision.  Make a plan.  Commit to a strategy.  If you’re a godly person, commit that strategy and plan to God and allow Him to change it if you discern your strategy is out-to-lunch.  And by all means, Get Busy. 

Plan.  Commit.  Act.  Learn.  Adjust.  Grow.  Encourage.  Enjoy Results.  Give Thanks.  (Repeat regularly as necessary, which will be often, and bathe each step in prayer if you’re so inclined). 

It won’t look the same for any two people.  It’s not a cookie-cutter approach to success.  Without it, the best of us are doomed to failure and with it, we each have a shot at our prize, whatever that means to us.

It’s the formula for effectiveness in running.  In business.  In raising a family.  In being a good friend.  In playing Survivor.  In life. 

Which is exactly why I Love The Game.

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I’m 64 days away from the 26.2 with Donna starting line and I’m possibly starting to freak out, just a teensy little bit…

I’m just wondering, if you have ever run a marathon, if you had similar experience to me while training for my first one… 

See, for the first time, yesterday, my training run was over half the distance of my final race.  And I happened to notice when I finished it, that the training run had SO kicked my fanny.  Seriously.  I had the fleeting thought that if this run was so exhausting, how on earth was I going to run 26.2 miles and finish it EVER and in ANY condition, let alone in the time limit and without medical attention.

I’ve heard that there’s a portion of the training where your mind sometimes plays tricks on you, but if you stick with the program and get those long runs in on the weekends, that you absolutely CAN and WILL finish the race.  Frankly, I’m counting on that.  Kinda like I imagine a pilot relies on his instruments to fly when it’s dark.  ‘Cause I don’t even know what I don’t know.  I’m just trusting that the plan will work if I work the plan. 

I’ve also heard that the training comes together in the end.  That the race, while grueling, if you’ve trained well, can be conquered.  Relying on that too.

Would love to hear some wisdom from marathoners (or 1/2 marathoners, or ultra runners, or triathletes…) who can still remember their First Big Race and possibly had thoughts during the training as to whether they’d be able to get to that finish line.   And maybe there are some other novice runners out there that are having their own little freak-out sessions.  Your pearls of wisdom will help them out too! 

Thanks in advance for your wisdom and encouragement!  🙂

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I’m running my Longest. Run. Ever. today.  14 miles.  Kinda freaked out about it.  Now, I’ve BEEN out there longer, having run a 5-hour how-far-can-you-go run and an 8-hour ultra.  But both of those longer distance runs also involved lawn chairs and a change of socks.  This run involves me, my shoes, my water bottles (binkies) and hopefully, a stop at Mom’s Halfway House Potty Stop.  

I. Can. Do. This.  

Last week’s long run was only 6.5 miles, so I’ve officially done the “backing off” portion of this cycle of the training program.  The verdict:  yuck.  I need a long run, for sure.  I may be getting pretty far gone with this running sickness thing.  Possibly.  Perhaps it’s too soon to tell.  

What’s that?  You want to know where the heck I’ve been for the past 10 days?  Besides whining about my not-so-long run?  Well, I’ll get into that story on a different post if you really want to know.  But for now, I gotta get out there and hit the pavement… 

 

Photo Credit~Again, This ISN’T Me~Hardly! 

THE PLAN:  14 mile run today.  Longest ever to date.  Woo Hoo! 

PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course. 

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive. 

 [UPDATE]:   Well, 14 miles is a very, very long way.  But I made it!  And I was able to run the whole way (of course, be mindful that I run very sloooowww, so I was out there a loooooooooonnnnnnggg time!).  

The weather was perfect for me.  Not messy enough, mind you, with the dry pavement, but in the 30’s the entire run.  Only felt too cold at an especially windy stretch.  

I was at the 13.1 mile point (half-marathon distance) a full 10 minutes faster than I ran in VA Beach in September, so that’s a big improvement for me.  

[GUY ALERT: I don’t care at all if you’re a guy and read the next three paragraphs, but you might.  I’m just saying…]  The biggest challenge, though, was the dreaded PMS that I’m SO sick of dealing with.  My family, they love dealing with it,  but me, I’m sick of it!  You’d think that when you’re perimenopausal, you’d at least be able to get rid of some of the more obnoxious PMS sidekicks, like the Zit Monster and the Desire-To-Eat-Everything-In-The-House Monster.  But NO.  It’s like you’re being squeezed in from both sides of nature’s timeline.  Monsters everywhere.  Just. Not. Fair. 

The delightful PMS sidekick that went with me on my run today was the Water Monster.  More appropriately, it would be named the Water Retention Monster, but that doesn’t sound nearly as scary.  Now, back when I wasn’t watching what I ate with any real consistency, or before then when my favorite method of dealing with stress was diving headfirst into a family sized bag of peanut butter M&M’s, I really didn’t notice the Water Monster much.  But now, when I’m doing Weight Watchers and sticking with the plan for REAL and STILL end up putting on a pound and a half in the course of a week, I am acutely aware of the villain that is Water Monster.  So today, I ran 14 miles with the equivalent of several water balloons happily sloshing along for the ride.  

 

Photo Credit 

Not the most enjoyable way to spend the morning, but hey, it was beautiful and quiet and generated a supply of endorphins that are sure to help me doing battle with the Mood Monster, Water Monster’s ugly twin.  And that’s a win.  Any way you look at it! 

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I am jealous beyond words.  And VERY proud of two of my long-distance running buddies, Shelly and Kari. 

See, neither of these amazing women is particularly fond of running in the cold, icky, slushy weather.  I’m fond of it, mind you.  But them?  Not so much.

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So today, while Shelly was on the East Coast, she ran in a Jingle Bell 5K in the snow!  She even got a PR!  Wow!  I’m so excited for her.  😀  And so jealous.  😦

And Kari, well, she ran in a Jingle Bell 5K on the West Coast, and it sounds like it was in the snow!  Again, excited!  😀  Jealous.  😦

And me?  Well, they did all this while I was sleeping in.  🙂

Just thinking about how I’m So Proud Of Both Of Them!  As I sit here in the cold-but-snowless Midwest. 

Suffering through a Rest Day. 

Running shoes beckoning me….(fingers in the ears, la la la la I’m not listening!)…practicing self-control. 

This is what vicarious running feels like.  Not so fun.  Anyway…

Shelly and Kari, you rock!  Congratulations ladies!  Celebrating with you here in the heartland.  So. Proud. Of. You!

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I started running in the very warm weather.  At the time, the key training issues for me were strategic hydration and forcing myself to haul my body out of bed to run at the crack of dawn to beat the morning heat.  I remember wondering vaguely about how I was going to handle running in the elements, but secretly considering the thought that icky weather would be my excuse to avoid running. 

Then I met Dotty.  Yes, the same Dotty that filled my mind with visions of the Virginia Beach Half Marathon and enticed me to register for the 26.2 with Donna Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.  That one.  When I found out she had been a distance runner for many years, I asked her about how she handled rain, wind and snow.  She shocked me with her response.  As I recall, it went something like this:

I run every day it’s on my training schedule and I always run outside.  The only reason I would not run outside would be if there was lightning. 

Two or three seasons full of running excuses, blown to smithereens in about 20 seconds of conversation!  And yet how awesome was that?  With snow on the ground even?  Yep.  Even when it’s really, really cold?  Yes.  Pouring rain?  As long as there’s no lightning.  How on earth do you do that?  Just have the right gear and go. 

Wow.

So, I figured this was probably a gold standard for outdoor runners and, since I hate the treadmill, I immediately adopted this as my standard too. 

Now, you may recall that in our neck of the woods we have had a really, really rainy Fall.  In fact, as of today, there are still crops in fields locally that have not been able to be harvested because the ground is too wet.  It has been one rainy season!  Interestingly, I have not had one run cancelled due to lightning.  I’ve watched for it, but all this rain has produced almost zero lightning.  So on I ran. 

Then in the late Fall, the weather began to do something famous for our area of the Midwest.   It started to get COLD.  The shorts and cropped running pants had done just fine so far, but what now?  I’d already learned that the wicking material did wonders to stop the chub rub.  What to do about those frozen legs? 

Enter Coach Shelly:

Me:  What kind of gear am I going to need for the winter?  I don’t plan on dealing with that stinking treadmill unless I absolutely have to and I’m afraid I’ll lose my mind cooped up inside the gym all winter.

Shelly:  There are some things you’ll want, for sure. 

Friend [Anonymous friend, we’ll just call her Chris for this post, offering her thoughts]:  Hey, I like the treadmill and the gym.  Could do without that creepy gym guy, however.

Me:  I think all gyms must have a creepy gym guy.

[Random conversation about gyms, creeps, and other Very Important Girl Talk that ensues when girlfriends are having important conversation about things like Gear.]

Me:  What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, what gear do I need to avoid the gym this winter and still keep training?

Shelly:  You’ll need a long sleeve wicking shirt made for cold weather, something for your head, gloves, and you’ll want some compression pants.

Me:  Compression pants?  Are ya kidding?  Like those skin-tight things that real runners wear?

Image Credit  (and before you ask, NO these are NOT my legs…Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.  No.)

Shelly:  [cheerily] Yes, those are the ones.

Me:  Um…No Way.  There is No Way I am putting this behind into something like that and running around my hometown terrifying innocent bystanders.  There could be an accident or something.  I would have to slither through the streets under cover of darkness.  I simply Couldn’t Do It. 

Shelly:  I know, they look terrible, but they work wonderfully and they are absolutely worth it.  They will allow you to run in very cold temperatures and there is zero chub rub with these things.

Me:  That is because they are SKIN TIGHT!

Shelly:  If you really had to, you would wear a pair of shorts over them.  Either way, it is something you really should consider. 

Me:  No.

Chris:  No.

Shelly:  Well, it’s up to you.  Maybe you’ll change your mind later.

I can tell you that I struggled against the compression pants for weeks and weeks.   Finally, I took the plunge and bought a pair of the hideous things.  I put off wearing them for a long, long time.  Always able to find a way to run when it was a little warmer. 

Then I found myself in 30 degree weather the morning of the Indianapolis 5K (yet another race that Chris had talked me into!) and there was no getting around the compression pants.  I pulled the suckers on and, grateful that I’d remembered to bring the little black shorts to yank on over the top, to protect the unsuspecting public, I ran my first race in the compression pants. 

And to my complete surprise, I had my Very Best Time Ever for a 5K.  The pants kept me warm without overheating.  And they didn’t rub or twist or bunch around.  These things were great! 

They still looked hideous, mind you.  But they were great! 

Since then, the hideous compression pants have become like an old friend.  They accompany me on most of my runs, especially when the temperature is under 40 degrees.  They’ve been on long runs and short runs, uphill and downhill, on the street and on the trail. 

If I get the nerve, I’ll find and post a picture of the Indy 5K compression pants maiden voyage here.   But it ain’t pretty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

And I find myself, again surprised and saying:  Shelly, you were right!

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