personal record(s).

It’s taken me a bit to process the last two weeks, but I think I’m ready to talk about my most recent half marathon experience (!)

Thursday, Oct 17

Cole and I hopped in the car the Thursday before the Baltimore Running Festival and made our way to one of my favorite cities in the world. (Cue Good Morning, Baltimore score.) We don’t get to travel much because we have a herd of animals that require a lot of coordination to pawn off on people, but my parents were kind enough to let us have a couple extra days to enjoy the race.

We arrived in the Charm City feeling super hungry, so we decided to grab dinner right away. We settled on a local vegan restaurant called The GruB Factory, and then I convinced Cole to go to one of my old haunts – a microbrewery called The Brewer’s Art. Because we’re old, and it was early, beers were less than $4 (and more than 7%). We had a full day to recover before the half, soooooo we may have overindulged (e.g. by 11p, we were walking back to our perfect little Airbnb in Mount Vernon, completely inebriated).

Probably not the smartest decision two days before a race but.. like I said, we don’t travel much.

Friday, Oct 18

Friday, we both woke up feeling a little.. dehydrated.. so we spent the morning drinking lots of water and I sated my cranky stomach with a highly-craved tofu scramble from One World Cafe. Around noon, we walked down to the harbor, where the race expo was. We got our bibs and meandered around, drooling over the cool swag and trying to get our bearings on where things would be on Saturday.

Cole was starting to get pretty excited (as he should have been!). I wish that I still had that excitement over a half, but the more you do, the less novel they seem. I mostly was worrying about whether I’d puke during the run. We did a quick 1 mile run to stretch our legs, got a nice dinner at Golden West Cafe (is this post mostly about food..?), and relaxed the rest of the night.

Saturday, Oct 19 (Race Day!)

We woke up early, and I was still not feeling too jittery. I ate a semi-stale bagel with nothing on it (Cole ate a bowl of Cheerios) and we walked down Charles St to the start line. We got there pretty darn early, so we were able to sit and watch the 5K-ers come in at their finish. I started thinking about my race goals, which were as follows:

  1. Finish the race.
  2. Don’t throw up.
  3. Run intuitively and try not to check my watch every 30 seconds.
  4. Finish the race under my last Baltimore Half attempt (2:16:24).
  5. Finish the race under a 10 min/mile pace (2:11:00).

I figured that #1-3 were most important, so I mentally gave myself permission to walk if I needed, and decided that this would be more of a jumping-off point for my winter training.

After a bit of time, we checked our bags, I said hi to an old teacher friend, and then Cole and I entered our corral. My stomach did a tiny flip as I gazed around, soaking in the harbor. I remember thinking how nice it was to be back by the water. Cole and I gave each other a quick good-luck kiss, and, in just a few moments, we were off!

My first immediate thought as my feet snapped into motion was: Shit, I forgot how hilly this course is. But, instead of shutting down, I started searching for my hill mantras: “Every hill must end. What goes up must come down.” I repeated to myself. After a couple of rounds, I realized that, although I was still in a climb, I was feeling pretty good. So I shook off the cobwebs, set my gaze a few feet in front of me, and charged on.

I fought the urge to check my watch until I hit mile 3, near Patterson Park. This is where the full marathoners merge with the half marathoners, having already ticked off 16 miles. I’ve always found this set-up both inspiring and intimidating. Most of the marathoners looked sharp and I got a little twinge – how slow WAS I going? I peeked at my watch. 27:32.

I did a quick bit of math in my head and realized it was about a 9:10 min/mile pace. I felt a surge of panic: It’s too fast. I’m not fit enough to maintain this. But then, But this feels pretty comfortable. Maybe I don’t need to slow up just yet..

And with that, I let myself move into mile 4, again, giving myself the permission to slow down or stop if I felt like I needed it.

Miles 4-7 passed without much event. Around Lake Montebello (~mile 7) I took my first swig of water from one of the stations and popped a salt tablet. I flexed my toes as I peered out onto the lake, realizing that my feet and legs felt pretty okay. I wasn’t tired or breathless, and so I entered mile 8 with a bit of excitement, realizing that the next two miles mirrored one of my favorite running routes when I lived in Baltimore.

Waverly and Charles Village always turn out for the race, and so I plodded along through the streets, soaking in the energy. People had stereos blasting music and they were dancing on the sidewalks. Posters of Elijah Cummings, who had just passed, lined the roads. Kids had their arms outstretched, offering high-fives and jelly beans. (I took as many high-fives as I could get, but left the candy behind.) As I turned off of 33rd St, my heart lurched with nostalgia and tears pricked my eyes.

And suddenly, my watch beeped. I instinctively checked it. Mile 10 – 1:32-ish. The numbers surprised me. I was averaging a 9:15 min/mi pace overall, and I didn’t feel tired or sore. I was actually pretty comfortable.. and 28 minutes from the two-hour mark. I wondered.. could I go under two hours? 3.1 miles in 28 minutes? My fastest (official) 5K had been just over 27 minutes and I hadn’t already run 10 miles before it. But.. I felt good. There was more in the tank.

And so, I figured, I’d pick it up a bit and see where a final 5K push got me. The last few miles of the course had a net downhill, though there were some undulating parts of the road. I took a breath, relaxed my shoulders, and just let myself be comfortable with a touch more cadence. At mile 11, I took my second and final cup of water, and surged onward.

I crossed the finish line and thought, I think I did it. I think I ran under two hours. I immediately pulled my phone out to find that I had run the last 3.1 miles in 26:02 – that ~8:24 pace bringing me across the finish line in 1:58:34. A new personal record. And the only half marathon I’ve ever done where I ran a negative split. (Also, I don’t want to brag or anything, but this is faster than Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon record… yuk yuk yuk.)

Stunned, I took my medal, bypassed the cups of crab soup (uhhh) in favor of some orange slices, and began searching for Cole. He had already finished (as expected) and was waiting for me. (As it turns out, he had run a really awesome 1:50:51 for his first half.. though, he ended up feeling really overexerted and sick afterwards. I guess we all have to learn that lesson sometime.) We got our complimentary beer, sat for a bit until Cole felt a little better, and then snacked on two soft pretzels on the walk back to our Airbnb.

After a delicious dinner at Woodberry Kitchen, we curled up with Netflix and fell asleep. On Sunday morning, I laced up my shoes, did my obligatory 10 minute run (can’t stop that #runstreak), and then we had a quick breakfast before heading on home.

I still remain stunned by the experience: I felt great afterwards. I never got truly tired. Never felt sore. And I’ve continued my run streak with no problems. Am I.. fitter than I thought? And then.. the bigger question: could I have pushed even harder?

I think the answer is probably: yes, I could have. But I like that I was able to run a sub-two-hour half and NOT feel like death.. I like that I ran a race that felt mentally strong for me.. I like that I listened to my body and enjoyed the experience. I like that I’m back in love with running..

.. and I like that maybe.. it’s started to love me right back.

no human is limited.

Early on October 12th, between 2-4a EST, Eliud Kipchoge made history by running a sub-2 hour marathon.

The buzz leading up to the attempt was infectious. I poured over every article on Kipchoge’s training, team, and gear. I watched clips of his world record marathon win and listened to interviews. On Friday before the event, I chatted with Cole and my dad, telling each of them the same thing, “He’s going to do it. I feel it in my bones.”

Later on, I took a power nap and set four alarms, just in case I fell asleep before the start of the race. While Kipchoge took his first steps, bursting forward at a blistering 2:50/km (~4:35/mi) pace, I sat immobilized on the couch.

For the next hour, fifty-nine minutes, and forty seconds, my heart was taken on a roller coaster, first beating fast with anxiety as I wondered what human could possibly hold that pace for so long, then settling into the same metronomic one-two-one-two of Kipchoge’s seemingly-effortless strides. It jolted as his pacing teams, skillfully choreographed, swapped in and out. It slowed in moments where I was sure he was going to get it done. It rattled against my ribcage as he surged toward the finish line.

In the last kilometer, Kipchoge gave a knowing look and signaled his pacing team to back off. [Tears pricked my eyelids.] He opened stride and ran that stretch 10 seconds faster than the kilometers that came before it. [Gentle trickle of tears down my cheek.] He crossed the finish line 45 seconds faster than his first sub-2 attempt: a total time of 1:59:40. His family, his team, the crowd, erupted in cheers. [I am full on weeping now.]

I’ve since been mulling over Kipchoge’s famous catch phrase that has been hashtagged and strewn across the internet: #NoHumanIsLimited. Clearly, Eliud Kipchoge is superhuman. He may not be limited, but I’ve been wondering what that means for me.

Obviously, I am “limited” in that I’m not going to run a sub-2 hour marathon. In fact, I’m unlikely to run another sub-2 hour HALF marathon, at that. (Kipchoge ran this marathon about 15 seconds faster than my half marathon PR, for perspective. Lolz.) But I don’t think that’s his message – that everyone can do anything. I think the message here is: you are capable of more. Whatever you think you can do, it’s not even close to what you can actually do.

During a press conference before the race, a reporter asked how important strength of mind is compared to physical strength and Kipchoge replied, “You cannot be physically fit without being mentally fit.”

I have really been taking this to heart as I gear up to tackle my next half marathon in Baltimore this week. I’d been mentally giving myself a bit of shade over the last few weeks, telling myself that I’ll be lucky to finish at all, blah blah blah, but really, Kipchoge’s historic run has shifted my mindset.

I ran 10K on Saturday, and finished even faster (53:52) than I did in my race the week prior (55:12), using Kipchoge’s strategy of smiling through the pain. I’m sure I looked insane to the people I was huffing past in the park, but it did give me a bit of dig in those tougher spots. I may not run my very fastest, very best race this week, but I have made a promise to myself to challenge what I think my limits are in the moments of struggle that I know I will face.

This sport is incredible. It’s challenging. Educational. Meditative. Transformative. Freeing. But mainly, it’s democratic. It’s a sport that we can all love and learn from. I feel privileged to have it as my teacher, while I learn to push past the barriers I’ve set in my mind.

I’ll sum it up with one more Eliud Kipchoge quote: “I don’t know where the limits are, but I would like to go there.”

not writing, but still running.

I never was good at keeping up with journals or personal writing.

It’s nice to see that some things never change.

There’s just so much to catch up on that I’m not sure I even should. Perhaps, I’ll just hit the major highlights since I last wrote:

  • On August 4th, I sauntered through a very hot, humid 7 mile race in central park. I wanted to finish under an hour and ten minutes, and I squeaked by with a 1:08:23. That’s a 9:47 pace, folks.
  • On September 8th, I hit my secondary goal of 100 days. (So did Cole.)
    • This was actually the NYRR New Balance 5th Ave Mile. I ran a respectable 7:24, which is about 12 seconds faster than my attempt in 2017. Boo-yah.
      • Of course, I was still in the bottom half of all finishers because these folks are LEGIT.
  • On September 21st, I ran the 2019 version of my first real trail race (see this post). Same exact course and I shaved 5+ minutes off my time from last year. Hella proud of that one.
  • To keep with the trail trend, on September 28th, I ran a 5K trail race and a 3-hour trail race (at the same event, on the same day). At first, I worried if I was crazy for doing both but, really, it just reinforced how much I love trail running.. what a blast.
    • I also came in 3rd overall and 1st female for the 5K, and 10th overall, and 3rd female for the 3H.More importantly, I wasn’t totally crippled or exhausted. Does this mean I should consider a 6H race next??
  • On October 5th, I ran a PR for the 10K in 55:12. I’m obviously not a fast runner, but HEY my last PR at this distance was in 2011.. EIGHT years ago, when I was 23. It’s my first sub-9 min/mi pace (8:53) at this distance and I’m stoked.
  • I’m still on my running streak as of today. (So is Cole.) It’s day 129 and the current milestone is 200 days.. but, can I maybe do 365??

Okay. Now that I’ve caught this up, maybe tomorrow (or the next day. or the day after that..) I’ll actually have some running insights.

Or maybe not. But I’ll still be running.

achieving [micro]goals.

Blogging is definitely not something I’m good at. Evidence: have not posted since day 17 of #JuneRunStreak.

However.

HOWEVER.

I *did* complete all 30 days! Not only that, but.. I am still going. Today marks 35-straight days of running and I’m going to continue until.. I don’t want to anymore. I definitely hit a slump in the middle but since then, I’ve found myself excited to get out for my run. I think this has all had to do with a massive shift in mindset.

I started listening to this book on Audible (which has certainly come in handy on long commutes to the barn). It’s called How to Be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise. Now, I’m not normally one for self-help books. Not because I don’t believe in them or anything; I think they’re a great concept. But. I’ve never actually found one that has had actionable steps. Most of them tell you to “stop caring what other people think” or “let things go” or “stop worrying about being perfect all the time!” It’s all great advice, really, but for an anxious person, there is nothing more frustrating than being told to “just X” [stop worrying, relax, etc] because.. your anxious brain simply cannot.

Enter: Stephen Guise

In How to Be an Imperfectionist, Guise acknowledges this quandary and attacks it by explaining how to use micro-goals. Essentially, you lower your benchmark for success and it makes “winning” easier. It sounds counter intuitive to progress (shouldn’t goals go hard to reach? dream BIG?!) but has actually worked really well for me, especially since I have always found myself, upon having success, raising the bar without actually celebrating the minor accomplishments.

Guise claims that too often, we want to qualify our successes without giving ourselves credit for doing the thing at all. Looking at accomplishments this way has really helped me shift my mindset from “never enough” – an impossible thing to overcome – to “not quite enough” – something that allows me to make small pushes for growth and be okay if they fail, because I’ve already done something to “win.”

I won’t get too in the weeds about the book, but to put it into perspective, I used this strategy to sort of re-gain my confidence with running.

I started by counting it a “win” if I got myself dressed and started on the run. I decided that even if I couldn’t make the ten minutes, that would be okay. (And you know what? Each time I started those runs, I figured, “just starting is not quite enough” – I can and will finish at least 10 minutes.) I lowered my initial expectations and let my confidence grow before upping the ante. And, even if I “can’t” finish a prescribed distance or pace, I still find wins in the smaller milestones (getting out there at all, adding a speed workout to my week, etc). Instead of having a constantly-moving target for larger success, I have several small goals that are helping me achieve my larger one.

Man, that seems so simple in retrospect. Grumble, grumble, hindsight, something, something, 20/20.

a bad run is better than no run at all.

.. or is it?

Yesterday was probably the worst run I have had, mentally, in a long time.

My plan was to go to Watchung Reservation and recreate the trail loop I had run during my first race there. In hindsight, after a week’s worth of stressful, sleepless nights, this was probably not the best choice, but I rejected my anxiety and headed out anyway.

Cole joined me for this as well which, I think I’ve mentioned, has been another source of stress and insecurity for me. He is faster, fitter, and still in the enamored-with-running phase (something I am wholly jealous of). We decided to actually do the 6-mile loop rather than the 10-mile one, and maybe just tack on an extra two miles at the end.

“Ready?” Cole asked, gesturing to his watch. My stomach tightened, but I nodded. So it began.

After about a mile, it was clear that the 6-mile path was very well maintained and not at all technical like I was hoping for. Cole’s pace was a bit quicker than I was comfortable with and immediately, I was flooded with anxiety. 8 miles suddenly felt like a lot. I became acutely aware of the humidity. The strap of my hydration pack felt tight across my chest. My hip voiced its discontent. My shin followed.

We kept going, and switched over to the more technical trail. Meanwhile, the voice in my head started spouting off all the reasons I wouldn’t be able to finish this run: I’m too fat. I’m too slow. I’m out of shape. I’ll get lost. I’ll fall down. Cole will hate me for holding him back.

And suddenly, I was having a panic attack in the middle of the woods. I unbuckled my hydration pack, squatted with my head between my knees, and started sobbing. After some time, Cole realized I wasn’t behind him anymore and came looking for me.

I let all the internal voices come out of my mouth. I told Cole to go on without me. To take the pack and finish the run and I’d walk back to the car. He put the pack on, but refused to leave me alone in the woods like that. He told me that it was just a bad day, that he’d walk back with me.

I shook my head. I wanted to keep going. Without the pack, I felt like I could breathe again. I stood up, and off we went.

At the 4.5 mile mark, the trail was detoured, and we ended up at this cute little education center for the reservation. We paused so Cole could throw away a gel wrapper and some garbage he had picked up on the trail.

It took us some time to try to figure out where we wanted to go. After about ten minutes, we realized we were actually quite close to the car. My tired, self-loathing brain immediately made the argument to walk back to the car and quit. What I said was, “Let’s go back the way we came, and finish around 8-9 mi.” Cole agreed and started back in the direction we had come from. I followed suit.

10 steps later, I stopped. Tears stung my eyes. I couldn’t do it. I was paralyzed with anxiety over another 4-4.5 miles. I had another meltdown. I cried and kicked at some rocks nearby. I induced another little asthma attack. I wallowed in my inability to mentally push through. I told Cole I didn’t want to run with him ever again.

Cole wouldn’t leave me there, much to my protest, and we cut across the center about a quarter mile back to the car. I felt humiliated and defeated. The voice in my head kept telling me what I loser I am. How I am disgusting and lazy and fat. That I’ve never been a real runner. That I am terrible at this and it’s no fun and why do I keep trying to force it?

Eventually, I did open up to Cole and tell him how bad I was feeling. The truth is, I only become this self-loathing when I’m on the verge of a depressive episode. He asked me how I’d been feeling, and how I feel about the other parts of my life.. and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I’m stressed and struggling all around. I haven’t really been coping with it properly, and I’ve let myself get progressively meaner and meaner with my internal monologue. It’s not that I’ve been hating running – it’s that I’ve been hating myself.

This was starting to manifest in my “no stress” run streak, so much that I started approaching the challenge with too many unrealistic or unfair expectations of myself. I having been giving myself these ridiculous bars of success and then using my failure as proof, as evidence that my cruel internal voice was right all along.

Yesterday, I wanted to drop out of the run streak. I wanted to stop running altogether and say “fuck it” to this sport that I, deep down, really love. Even this morning, I felt a little overwhelmed and was unsure whether I’d attempt to continue on.

Then, I picked up the copy of Daniels’ Running Formula that, for some reason, was in the way of some other papers on my desk. I flipped it casually open and landed on a page outlining “Daniels’ Basic Laws of Running.” One tenet stood out to me right away:

10. A good run or race is never a fluke. Sometimes, a bad run is a fluke, but if you do run a great race, it is because you are capable of doing it.

Well, damn. I have had several good runs and races over the last few weeks. I’ll be damned if one shitty run, caused by my lack of rest and creeping depression, will negate that. I’m better than that. I’m tougher than one crappy run.

So, today is run streak day 17. It’s happening. I’m doing it. I’ve got this.

A week’s worth

I’ve become quite lax with my logging, but I haven’t missed a streak day yet – huzzah!

Last week was sort of a whirlwind, but I managed to hit my goal of at least ten minutes a day, and even raced two 5Ks! Here’s a quick recap:

  • Monday, June 3rd: It was a rough day at work, so I didn’t get my run in until after 5p. This generally isn’t ideal for me, as I usually have been awake for about 12-13 hours at that point. I tend to feel better if my runs are earlier in the day, before all the fatigue sets in.
    • Distance: 1.25 mi
    • Time: 12:17 min
    • Pace: 9:50 min/mi
  • Tuesday: June 4th: I reluctantly jumped on the treadmill at nearly 7p and managed to squeak out a quick run. With a 5K in the morning, I didn’t want to do much. I decided to try on some new sneakers, courtesy of New Balance (see below). But that was a mistake. By the end of my short run, my dormant tibial tendinitis had flared up and was pretty mad.
    • Distance: 1.33 mi
    • Time: 11:37 min
    • Pace: 8:44 min/mi
  • Wednesday, June 5th: It was Global Running Day! At the buttcrack of dawn, Cole and I trekked to Central Park for a very cool event: the NYRR 1 for You, 1 for Youth 5k, sponsored by New Balance. Each runner got a snazzy new pair of New Balance sneakers, and a pair was donated to a child. Pretty groovy! Cole PR’ed here – his first time ever running in Central Park (which is wild to me, since he’s a native New Yorker), tackling the course in an impressive 25:42. I was a bit slower and my shins were screaming angry things at me on the downhills, but I was overall pretty happy with my run, nonetheless:
    • Distance: 3.1 mi
    • Time: 28:07 min
    • Pace: 9:03 min/mi
  • Thursday, June 6th: I wedged a minimalist 10 minute run between spin and a 500m swim. I jetted off to a riding lesson after that.
    • Distance: 1.21 mi
    • Time: 10:40 min
    • Pace: 8:49 min/mi
  • Friday, June 7th: I was planning on doing 2-3m, but my right tibial tendon was cracking and painful to the touch. It actually was starting to surface a bruise. I decided to do an easy bare minimum and then cozy up with my friends: ice pack and foam roller.
    • Distance: 1.02 mi
    • Time: 10:00 min
    • Pace: 9:48 min/mi
  • Saturday, June 8th: It was hot and I had a race the next day, but the TLC to my leg seemed to have worked. I finally felt well enough to go for a 2m run around the park.
    • Distance: 2.0 mi
    • Time: 17:41 min
    • Pace: 8:50 min/mi
  • Sunday, June 9th: Sunday was the second running of the Branch Brook Doughnut Run, hosted by Montclair Bread Company. (Even before going vegan, I never really liked their doughnuts – they always taste stale to me, no matter how fresh they are. That said, the group does know their niche market and they put on some fun, robust events.)
  • We took our places among the crowd, inching closer to the back. My parents told me that they’d be taking it easy, since they had done a long group run the day before. I nodded, noting that I would run my own race, but stayed put in the lineup. (I loathe the thought of getting in the way of a faster runner, so I always try to start further back when I can.) I made a mental note that I would do my best, considering it was approaching 80 degrees and I would be running in a neoprene doughnut costume. Cole grumbled about how tired and stiff he was. I eyeballed him and told him to move up in the crowd. He gave a semi-sad look but sauntered closer to the middle of the pack.

    And we were off! I navigated around some walkers, as deftly as one can while dressed like a baked good, and made my way out to a clearing. In hindsight, it was probably foolish to wear the costume, as I grew hotter and hotter under the heat-trapping fabric but every once in a while, a few kids would shout something like, “GO DOUGHNUT GO!” I’d high-five them or give them a thumbs up. Every time this happened, I’d shake my sprinkles and charge onward. Donut give up!

    As I approached mile 2, my watch only read 1.78 miles. I wondered briefly if the course was shy or if my GPS hadn’t synced properly. I waved off aid-station offers of doughnut bites and what I think was milk (um. no. thanks.) and decided not to look at my watch again until the end of the race.

    Overall, my shins held up fairly well. There was very little terrain change, so no downhills to pound on the angry tendons. I held my pace with a broad man wearing a CrossFit shirt until the last 1/10th of a mile. Then I rushed past him in a surge of glory.. as doughnuts are wont to do.

    I crossed the finish line, completely drenched in sweat, but really no worse for the wear. My watch said 3.02 miles. Hmph.

    I tried to skate by the kids giving out medals (I personally think they’re wasteful.. and I feel some kind of way about getting a medal for a 5K), but an adorable, semi-toothless little girl shoved one into my hand. I gave her a gracious smile and walked away. As with most races, they were handing out snacks (little boxes of doughnuts) and water (in plastic bottles). I decided to forego a water bottle in favor of some package-free water from a park fountain. I *tried* to forego the doughnut box, but again, one was pressed into my hand. I guiltily took the box. (It didn’t go to waste.. I gave it to my mom to share with her students.)

    Cole waved at me and I found my way over to him. He curled his wrist, offering the face of his watch to me. It read 24:28. My mouth gaped at him. I told him he was amazing, but noted that I thought the course might be short. He checked his watch (which is actually my old tri watch) and it said 3.12 miles. Double hmph.

    We went back toward the finish line and waited for my parents to finish. They came in just over 34 minutes, which is pretty great for an “easy walk/run.” We all gave each other congratulatory remarks and marveled at Cole’s new PR as we checked our times. My dad was 2nd in his age group!

    Everyone’s stats:

As it turns out, everyone else’s watches came in around 3.12 miles, so mine must have been the inaccurate one. Oh well. I think it actually got me out of my head to just.. run. I’m pretty proud of my pace, which, if you squint at the bottom of the stats image, you can see came out to 8:42 min/mi. I also was pleasantly surprised to have been 13th out of 94 in my age group, 76th out of 491 women, and 147th out of 708 overall. I very rarely finish in the top half of races, so these small races give me a faux-confidence boost πŸ˜‰

And off we went off to the Maywood Pancake House for some well-deserved breakfast. I’m just so darned proud of everyone. I love that running is a thing we do together.

Today, I’m feeling pretty tired from the Mondayest Monday ever, so I’m off to do a quick 10 minute run for Day 10. Can’t believe we’re a third of the way there. For now – the streak continues!

i’m going streaking (!)

Though.. perhaps not quite the kind of streaking people usually think of πŸ˜‰

What is a run streak?

According to Streak Runners International, a run streak is “to run at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill.”

So, it’s basically what it sounds like.

For the month of June, I’ll be running at least 10 minutes (so 1+ miles) every day. EVERY DAY. Both Cole and my dad are joining me in this endeavor.

But.. why?

Well, for one, I just watched Robbie Balenger, a vegan ultrarunner, complete a 75 day transcontinental race. On his final day, I got to log ~7 miles with him and his incredible team as he trekked from Saddle Brook, NJ to the finish line in Central Park. Being part of the hullabaloo was really exciting and inspirational. An average of 47 miles a day for 75 days is not in the cards for yours truly, BUT.. I can certainly take a page out of Robbie’s book.

No, but really.. WHY?

During the run with Robbie, I also met a local athlete, Hellah, who has been on a 2+ year running streak. (Check out his YouTube channel or Instagram account!) He said he started out running just 10 minutes a day, without logging miles, and the lack of pressure made him fall in love with running. He said that because of how he started his journey, he still loves it every day.

As amazed as I was hearing about his 2 year run streak, I also felt a pang of jealousy: I want to love running again too.

I feel like I’ve mentioned before that I have been a little burnt out from running. I am 30 lbs heavier and about 100% less fit than I was at my “peak” (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t much of a peak anyway), and I find myself comparing what I can do now with what I used to be able to do. This is a dangerous game my mind likes to play, and it has put my relationship with running on the rocks.

Trail running has certainly been helping. There’s something about running in the woods that’s both meditative and mind-occupying all at once, and it keeps me from stressing about how [insert-self-deprecating-adjective-here] I am. But it’s not enough. On my non-trail days, I’ve found myself dragging to tie up my laces and get my butt out there. I’ll do it.. but the internal tug o’war I have to have first is really exhausting.

I’m always glad I did it though.

So, my thought behind this 30 day streak is to take the pressure off. Having a run every day means that I don’t have to worry about how “perfect” each one is. I just have to get out there and move.

I’ll try to do better with logging this in the future:

June 1 – 1.01 miles (00:10:00). I had just come back from a BBQ where I had eaten like, half my body weight in salsa. I felt ill but I did it anyway. Excellent start :sarcasm:.

June 2 – 8 miles (1:19:38). Decided to run in the park with Cole. Running with Cole has been stressing me out a little because he’s become exponentially more fit and, therefore, a lot faster than I am. I feel guilty because I feel like I am holding him back. To combat this, I just let him run ahead and focused on not hacking my lung up from the thick, humid, hot air. I probably finished about 5 minutes slower than him this time, but didn’t let myself get bent out of shape over it.

Onward to day 3!

running together.

This past weekend, I took Cole along for his first ever trail run (!!!). I also wanted to test out my new/cheap hydration pack and see how badly it would chafe my chubby arms.

The night before, it rained so heavily that we almost bailed. Instead, we played odds and evens to decide which reservation we should try to run at, and decided on a local one that is fairly flat, a little rocky, and has lots of paths that cross and converge in one giant loop. We figured it was a good place to start, and if it was hella muddy, we could always run along some of the smaller paths.

In short, it was pretty successful. Neither of us fell down, we only stepped in a few ankle-deep puddles, and we didn’t get lost. My hydration pack didn’t chafe but it did make this annoying sound as the water bounced around (is that normal?). I got used to it after a while and it ended up being fine. I liked having my hands free.

After one outer loop, which was about 4.5 miles, we decided not to push our luck with another lap, and went to get waffles instead. Cole mentioned several times that it was “pretty fun” and that he would “definitely do it again.” I’m going to hold him to that!

To be honest, having a running buddy is pretty nice. Even though he’s inherently faster and more competitive than I am. Maybe one day I’ll catch him πŸ˜‰

uphill battles.

Well, I have run ONCE this past week, which isn’t the most ideal thing ever.

On Monday, in between about 7 hours worth of work calls (wish I was kidding), I decided to wander out into the pouring rain and do 100m hill sprints for a half hour, or until I drowned – whichever came first.

Honestly, it was a pretty fun workout. I would start at the base of this hill near my house, sprint up the hill, and then walk/jog back down. Though my quads were pretty angry and you could absolutely see through my shirt by the end, I meandered back home with a sense of accomplishment. I went ahead and did a quick upper body lifting session in my basement before getting swallowed by work again.

Tuesday, I had a riding lesson, which actually felt pretty good. I had another long-ish day working, with a midday leg/back lift day, then went to a spin class before heading to the airport to pick up my partner, Cole, who had been away with some friends for the last week. (It’s good to have him home <3). I usually swim on Tuesdays as well, because it really helps keep my back pain at bay, but I didn’t have time.

Wednesday, I woke up and threw my legs over the side of the bed and nearly fell down. Something.. was wrong with my right calf. I must have somehow pulled it on Tuesday, or perhaps I slept funnily on it, but it was awful. And it made the entire posterior chain on my right side tighten up, as it is already wont to do (cuz thanks chronic back injury). I decided to forego my usual Wednesday run and lift, and when I arrived at the barn, I did some groundwork with Marvin (the horse I’ve been riding) instead of actually hopping on. I worked for a while, stopping only once Cole tempted me with some pasta and homemade pesto from the garden. I told myself I’d be up to spin and run tomorrow instead.

Today is that tomorrow. The nagging in my calf and lower back, though more-subdued, persisted, so I didn’t end up running. But, I did manage to sneak in a yoga class this morning before riding. I was so unbelievably stiff that I could barely touch my shins in a forward fold. An hour later, I felt good enough to go to the barn and ride (Marv was great). I decided not to lift today, because it’s supposed to be another lower body day and I’m just not sure my back is up to the challenge.

I am currently toying with the idea of going to spin tonight, but I also don’t want to push it, because I’d like to be able to get out and run tomorrow. Cole and I are also planning a trail run (his first!) for Saturday. I think perhaps I’ll just take it easy.

Trying to manage chronic injury, while still finding ways to push and get stronger.. well, I think that’s always just going to be an uphill battle. But who said the journey was meant to be an easy one?

Onward and upward!

happy trails.

So, I have done a whopping total of 3 “trail” races in my lifetime.

The first was a 5K that I did with my mom. It carried us along a well-maintained path, with just a bit of mud, very little change in elevation, and a nice little aid station tucked in around mile two. I finished under 30 minutes and enjoyed my free banana.

The second was a half-marathon relay, where I ran the first ~5 mile leg up in the Catskills. The race followed an old rail trail that weaved through a bunch of small, rural NY towns. My leg started, essentially, in a corn field, then brought me up a bit of paved mountainous incline, and then back down onto the trail, which was very flat overall. There was a bit of wooded shade thrown in, but mostly it was a soft beaten-down grass path in direct sunlight, flanked by curiously-onlooking cows. It was certainly hot AF, but the terrain was pretty forgiving. I ran my leg in 47 minutes, give or take. I thought this was “real” trail running and I was pretty darn proud of myself.

The third was something I’d entered on a whim, in place of a training run for the NYC Marathon. It was a 10 miler at a local-ish reservation, and given my vast trail running experience (lol.) I thought it would be easy peasy. I guessed that I’d finish in about 1:40 and celebrate with a crisp beer provided by a local brewery. Sounded perfect!

It was a cupless race, so I showed up with my handheld water bottle, ready to go. The starting line was marked on the grass and a hoard of much-more-prepared-looking runners skipped up to it. After the gun went off, I followed the trail markers until we reached a very. narrow. path. It was barely wide enough for one person, and yet, folks were trying to whip past each other. As we moved up it, like a lunch line of students, the path got steeper and rockier. Literally everyone was walking. I glanced down at my watch and my pace said 16:05 min/mile as we sluggishly trekked up the hill. I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

After about a half mile, the terrain evened out a bit and the path widened. From there on out, I navigated my way through the most technical terrain I had ever encountered. I am sure that to more-experienced trail runners, this was normal, but I was used to running on well-kept roads and paved paths through the park. It was scary, and I really had to think about a lot as I ran (“OMG don’t fall. Don’t fall. DO NOT FALL.” or “I haven’t seen anyone in a while.. am I still going in the right direction?”), but it ultimately became one of my favorite runs, ever, to date. I wasn’t stressed that I might be the fattest, slowest person on course. And I found myself getting less and less scared of actually falling down, even when navigating rocks and streams and a path that you literally had to run sideways on.

When I hit a steep, rocky hill, I looked ahead and saw everyone walking, using their hands to steady themselves. I peered at my handheld water bottle which, so far had been fine, but really hindered me here. I suddenly understood why packs were probably safer. I passed a fit-looking fellow who skeptically glanced at me and gave an unprovoked, “Even the elites had to walk this part.” I offered a little half smile and scrambled past him.

I emerged from the woods into the finish line area with 11+ miles logged on my watch, and was recorded finishing at 2:07:32. I wasn’t sure how accurate any of it was, but I managed to snag an age group 4th place finish and 10th place gender finish overall.
Even though I was slow, I realized I only had road times to compare to. I grabbed my beer and an incredible little pint glass, and walked back to my car.

I looked down at myself and realized I was covered in mud and crusted in salt from sweat. But as gross as I felt, I was also thrilled. This was FUN, quite possibly the most fun I’d ever had running.

I’ve since signed up for a 3 hour trail race in July, which may be foolish, but I am kind of excited for it anyway. It’s an interesting thing, doing a race by time rather than distance, and I think it will be mentally good for me.

I even got a hydration pack that I am ready to start testing out. Time to ditch the handheld and hit the trails again!