These words have been my mantra the past couple days. Officially I’m tapering for the San Francisco Marathon (July 29), but that doesn’t mean all running stops. It just gets easier, or at least it should.
So far this week I’m not feeling it. Instead I’m feeling hot, sweaty, tired, and cranky. I don’t like the heat! Well actually the high temperatures are not that bad as compared to others places…but their higher (86 yesterday) than is normal for us! Making it worse is the humidity. Right now it’s 77%…we’re not supposed to have 77% humidity!
I think the real problem is that the heat is trapped and we’re not getting our nightly cool down. As you can see in my photo, our low should be a nice cool mid-50 degrees this time of year. Instead we’re hanging out in the high to mid 70s. This makes good sleep in our non air-conditioned home elusive.
So that’s my whining!
Yesterday I woke up and thought, “it’s too hot to run.” Then I drank my coffee, changed my clothes, and did my 7 miles. My method for keeping my easy runs easy is to use my heart rate as a guide. My goal is to stay between 130-140 bpm. Yesterday my average HR was 133. My average pace was 9:51. Not bad for a hot morning!
At lunch time, I needed to do a strength workout. I do these in the gym at the back of my local running store, and there is no air conditioning at the back of the store! I thought all morning, “maybe I’ll just do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow (today now) I have a massage scheduled, so better get it done! Other than sweating so much that I could see wet spots all over the floor, the workout went well. Yeah!
Last night I went to bed hot. Woke in the middle of the night hot. Woke up this morning hot. I sat with my morning coffee (too bad I don’t like iced coffee!) and thought, “gonna have to skip today’s run.” I even had a second cup, which I never do before running.
And as I drank that second cup I remembered Des Linden’s advice, “keep showing up.” I thought about the inspirational Western States Endurance Race where athletes ran 100 miles in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. With these thoughts, I put the coffee down, changed clothes, and set off on my easy 5 miles. It went well!
As are all The Morning Shakeout podcasts I’ve heard, this one was insightful, inspirational, and informative. I love how the conversation continued to draw new questions out of Mario, as he said something like, “one more…”
One part of the dialog reminded me of a blog post I meant to write after Boston.
In the immediate aftermath of the race, whenever someone would ask, “How was Boston?” I’d immediately reply, “It was fun.” Then if we had time for conversation I’d go into a description of the horrible weather (freezing temperatures, torrential rain, grueling head winds My First Boston Marathon – The Race ).
Usually the response was, “you call that fun?” At one point I decided that maybe I need to come up with a better description of my experience. Hard? Tough? Laborious? Strenuous? Maybe these are all good descriptive words, but they don’t get to the reality of the experience.
As I think of my response to the question, “how was it?” on other races, I realize that I most often say fun.
My first 50k, The Ray Miller 50/50. This took just over 8 hours! For the last hour I suffered with the weird feeling of being simultaneously hungry and having a stomach ache. This race was exhausting in a way different than a road marathon. And as I think back, it was fun. I’m doing it again! Race Day – Ray Miller 50K Recap
Every marathon I’ve ever done has been HARD. Boston was maybe the hardest, because of the weather. But I can say doing them was fun.
The 5K. I have a love/hate relationship with the 5K. This is the hardest race distance for me. It’s the only race where consistently, I contemplate quitting. Usually just past the 2-mile mark. And yet, every summer I participate in Boogie Nights, a series of 10 Wednesday evening 5Ks. I love it! I hate it! It’s fun!
Here’s a definition of fun according to Dictionary.com:
something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun.
enjoyment or playfulness: She’s full of fun.
I can definitely say a race is not the kind of fun you would equate with a picnic. Maybe the second line gets at it with the word “enjoyment.” Certainly not in the sense of playfulness, but rather in the sense of enjoying the accomplishment.
Mario and Dean talk about this near the end of the interview with the discussion of a phrase Dean seems to be known for, “It’s supposed to hurt like hell.” Mario asked about this and Dean told the story of his Jr. High running coach saying this to him (listen to the podcast for the story!).
My own coach transformed my running when I wondered when I’d get fit enough that my long runs would be easier. He responded with the words, “It’s supposed to be hard.” Ohhhh….once I knew this, my running improved immensely! Filling our minds… or finding a mantra
So how can “it’s supposed to hurt like hell” and “fun” go together? They just do, for runners. Struggling and making it through are fun. Maybe not in the moment but certainly after.
Outside of my Boogie Nights 5K attempts the next three Wednesdays, my next chance to “hurt like hell” while having fun will be the San Francisco Marathon, July 29th. Yeah!
A few years, and many pounds, ago I couldn’t wear shorts when running. My legs were too fat and the material would bunch up between my legs. That was definitely not comfortable. I also wasn’t fond of leggings because, well, they just showed those hefty thighs rubbing against each other.
One day, while browsing through the running clothes section of my local REI, I discovered a running skirt. Basically a skirt over short tights. That was the solution. I wore running skirts throughout most of my weight loss journey. I also grew to dislike those running skirts, because for me they represented the reality that I was trying to cover up that which cannot really be hidden.
When I lost enough weight that I could wear running shorts I was ecstatic. I vowed to myself that I would never wear a running skirt again!
Of course one should never say never. Right?
A couple weeks ago a friend gave me a coupon to use at our local Lululemon outlet store. I’d never worn these running clothes, so with my 25% off I checked it out. I bought some awesomely comfortable shorts. Also, much to my surprise, I saw a skirt…yes, a skirt…that I thought was cute. I tried it on, liked it, and bought it.
The good news in this, is that weighing 3 pounds more after one year could be looked at as weight maintenance success. The challenge internally is that I continually bump up against 170 but never go lower. Maybe, this is a good weight for me, who knows!
What scares me though, is that it has been pretty hard to stay at this weight…it feels harder than losing the 80+ pounds in the first place. Some of this might be memory, as we sometimes forget how hard past struggles actually were. But the struggle is very real.
Last year I read the book, “The Hungry Brain” by Stephan J. Guyenet. This was both a hopeful and not so hopeful book.
The not so hopeful part is that our brains are designed to prevent weight loss. This quote and analogy gets to the heart of it:
“In effect, substantial weight loss triggers a starvation response, whether a person is lean, overweight, or obese – and this response continues until the fat comes back.
If you’ve never had the experience of fighting your own body’s starvation response, Jeff Friedman provides a helpful analogy:
Those who doubt the power of basic drives, however, might note that although one can hold one’s breath, this conscious act is soon overcome by the compulsion to breather. The feeling of hunger is intense and, if not as potent as the drive to breather, is probably no less powerful than the drive to drink when one is thirsty. This is the feeling the obese must resist after they have lost a significant amount of weight.” (129-130)
These are not very hopeful words at first reading. I think that anyone who struggles with weight can understand the analogy. I can think of times when the desire to eat, and eat anything is so intense that its overwhelming.
But then, on further thought, hope can be found in this knowledge.
First, with the realization that the struggle is real. It is not about will power or some moral failure. It is about a fight against our bodies. We can’t effectively engage if we aren’t aware of the struggle.
Second, we have nothing to be ashamed of. But when we make is about will power, we introduce the concept of shame. In our culture, it is shameful to struggle with weight gain…especially the re-gaining of weight. This insidious shame makes it worse, because one of our best weapons is to be open and honest about our struggles. It is only in a position of openness that we are able to receive support from others. This is why I am now open about my weight.
Third, and most importantly, your weight has nothing to do with your value as a person. Yes, a healthy weight…is optimum for quality of life. But the number on the scale or size of your clothing are not indicative of your worth. You are a precious child of God, created in God’s image, and the number on the scale will not make God love you any more or any less…because God already loves you unconditionally! Maybe as we learn this, we can learn to love and show compassion to ourselves and others.
So what do we do? We don’t give up! Really, what do we do? I’ll share some thoughts in another post. Meanwhile give yourself a hug because you deserve it!
In 2014 I ran my first marathon. It was hard. I trained alone. Mostly because I didn’t know any better. I did use an online training plan. It is one that adjusts itself to your current fitness and current goals. So as you improve it will automatically adjust workouts, distances, etc. They even have coaches available to answer questions. But it is not an actual, real, live, person as a coach. In retrospect I’d say this was a better than nothing approach to training.
But when I look back at my training volume for the months leading to that first marathon I’m amazed that I even completed the race. I was not running nearly enough volume! Unfortunately I no longer have access to the training log from this online plan, so I don’t know if I followed their plan as I should have. I do know however, that I am a stickler for following the plan that someone gives to me!
That first marathon (Ventura 2014) took me almost 6 hours! The exact time was 5:51:02:36. After the marathon I was so hot and tired that I almost fainted while taking a shower…and this was at least a couple hours later!
I also knew that I could do better. I initially set my sites on the Los Angeles Marathon…but didn’t train well enough and backed out a week before the race. I was neither physically nor mentally ready.
While on a vacation that included site seeing in Boston two weeks before their 2015 marathon, I signed up for a group training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon.
I was nervous. I was excited. I was nervous.
The hardest part, for me, was joining the group. I’m an introvert mostly…or more descriptively I’m very shy and quiet when I join new groups. Eventually, as I get to know people, I overcome this. But I’ve always been painfully quiet when new in a group.
I did it and it was wonderful! I learned that the previous program had me attempting to run way too fast for my current fitness. I discovered that, with the right coaching, I could actually run much more volume. And most importantly, I joined a great running community and have so many new friends as a result.
That second marathon (Ventura 2015) was almost 45 minutes faster! The exact time was 5:04:36. That’s amazing results!
Now, three years and a Boston Marathon later, I get to help coach the very same program. It starts June 16th and I’m pretty excited!
If you’re in the Ventura area why don’t you join us! If you are farther away and want some online coaching let me know.
The most common question asked after my completing the Boston Marathon.
“Did you finish?”
Not, “how fast did you go?”
Not, “did you have fun?”
Not, “what was your place?”
But, “did you finish?”
Why this question? I’ve now run eight marathons and I don’t remember being asked this question. Well, except for after that very first marathon.
So why the question now? I suspect it’s because this was the worst weather ever for the Boston Marathon.
25-30 mph head winds with larger gusts
Rain. Sideways sometimes (that wind!). Ever hear of car wash effect in a forecast? Me neither until last weekend. It was always heavy, with the occasional feeling of a bucket of water being thrown on you. At one point I got enough water in my mouth I could swallow it. And, sometimes it hit my face like ice.
That’s because it was also cold. 30° at the start. 38° at the finish. Pretty much felt like the 20s but with rain instead of snow. Snow would have been better.
Over 2000 people treated for hypothermia – during and after the race. At least 80 hospitalized.
Did you finish? Not everyone did! And (almost) nobody finished as quickly as planned or desired.
Did you finish? Some couldn’t. Some could but quit anyway.
I was tempted to quit. Like the hired hand in today’s text I was tempted to flee into safer places. Dry places. Warm places. The temptation was great because it was so hard.
I’ve always thought of the marathon as an example of the very real challenges we face in life. The 2018 Boston Marathon was an extreme example of this. Extreme because it was a bit crazy to even start running in conditions such as these. A coach who’s podcast I follow said, “no one in their right mind would set out to run 26 miles in those conditions except that it was the Boston Marathon” (On Coaching Podcast).
We all face times when we want to give up, to quit. Sometimes we should…if continuing means literally risking our lives…or our continued well-being. For those suffering extreme hyperthermia this was the case. But in the majority of times, when we face the extreme desire to give up, we can or should push through…we can or should dig deep for the perseverance and resiliency that takes us to the goal. Sometimes we give up when the goal is so close…but seems so far away. I saw it in Boston when so many were stopped in that last mile. I wanted to round them up and say, “keep going, you’re almost there.” How often do we give up when we’re almost there. I think I gave up in this way when I gave up on our Spanish language service a couple years ago.
Can you think of a time you wanted to give up? Did you? Or did you push through? What happened? Would you do anything different if you could do it again? Have you ever felt like the hired hand? Giving up when going forward was too scary, too tough?
Or maybe right now you feel like giving up on something. You don’t see an easy way forward. Heck, you might not see any way forward. So, the idea of quitting sounds appealing. It’s usually a struggle to even decide to quit because alongside any desire to give up is the feeling of loss. The feeling that it’s not the best choice. Maybe even the feeling that in giving up we’ve sacrificed a bit of ourselves.
Here’s some good news from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Jesus never gives up. Jesus never abandons us. He always goes where we go…even if where we go is not the best idea…even if where we go is to flee the task that is ahead of us. The Good Shepherd loves us, cares for us, and comforts us. Always. Even when we don’t recognize or feel it.
The Good Shepherd also invites us to love, care for, and comfort others (and ourselves). The Good Shepherd calls us to be active in the world…to help others through their own challenges.
Going back to my story of Boston. I experienced this love, care, and comfort from the thousands of volunteers that lined the course. They too were standing in the wind, rain, and cold. One man was so cold, as he handed me a cup of Gatorade, that his hands were shaking. He could have fled to warmth…like a hired hand abandoning his sheep, but he too braved the elements to help thousands of strangers.
I experienced this love, care, and comfort from the thousands of spectators that lined the course. From the cheering and the encouraging to the offers of food. After the race I read a story of another runner who was so cold that at the halfway point he approached a group of spectators. He asked if anyone had a blanket. Nobody did. But a woman took off her LL Bean jacket, gave it to him, and said, “now you can finish.” He did.
I read about this love, care, and comfort in the story of a church that decided to open their sanctuary to the very cold runners who were suffering from the extreme conditions. The pastor called upon members. They lit a fire, gathered blankets and food and opened their doors. The news photos showed lots of dejected runners sitting in the pews. Getting warm. Leaving water everywhere.
I experienced this love, care, and comfort after the race when the managers of an office building opened its lobby to the soaking wet runners, their families, and their friends. I remember seeing a man fruitlessly trying to mop up all the water! We were probably in their building for only 15 minutes, but it was long enough to dry off, change my shirt, put on a dry jacket and get ready to go back into the rain to make my way to my hotel. This probably saved lots of race finishers from hypothermia.
And sometimes it is in giving care to others in the midst of difficulty we find the ability to continue. Desi Linden won the women’s race. I’m so happy for her and I had been rooting for her. I’m a fan. When she started she didn’t feel like she was going to finish. She told fellow American runner Shalane Flanagan that she would most likely drop out, but first she offered her help. To run as a team. So help protect Shalane from the wind and rain by running in front. She later helped other American runner Molly Huddle.
Something happened when she quit focusing on how she felt to help the other runners. She started feeling better and stronger and eventually found herself to be in a great position. So she didn’t drop out. She pushed and won by 4 minutes. What a great example in finding strength in a touch situation by helping others.
It was all hard. It was all wonderful. Just like ministry is hard and wonderful. I would do it again.
Living my entire life in Southern California, it is entirely reasonable to hold out hope for a change in the weather, one in which the predicted storm was pushed away by the high pressure system that sets itself up off the coast. It is common for the predicted storms to move north and miss us. So I held on to a tiny bit of hope that the weather wouldn’t be as bad as promised. But Boston is not SoCal and the storm did not get pushed away.
I couldn’t see much on the drive because of the water on the windows outside, and the fog inside. I ate my SuperHero Muffin and watched Twitter feeds for the professional women’s news since their race had already started. Go Desi!
Once we arrived, we got off into torrential rain. Walking in to the waiting area I saw the perimeter of porta-potties and headed that way. OMG! I should not have done that…mud and water greeted me and everyone else. I was so so so thankful that I was wearing my give-away shoes. So many runners near me were sporting horribly wet and muddy shoes. A race photographer took my photo…You can see that the pink and cheap rain poncho was too light for the wind. I ditched it way sooner than I thought I would.
Getting off the wet, soggy, muddy field required a very short climb. I tried to step on what was left of the grass but still slipped towards the top. Someone offered to help me up but once I got me feet on something semi-solid I was ok…just had some very muddy hands. I joined the slow moving group of people who were making their way to the start. Looking at my watch we were less that 15 minutes from what was supposed to be our start time…where did all the time go? I learned that we would be walking about half a mile. At one point I asked a police officer if there would be anymore mud. He smiled at me and said, “no, and good luck today.”
With no more mud on the horizon, I looked for a place to change my shoes. There was a slight sloping paved area, where obviously many runners had already changed their shoes. I sat down. Took off my now muddy sweats and shoes…pulled a hand towel out of my bag and dried my feet. A man sat next to me and commented on how smart it was for me to bring a towel. He then asked if he could use it when I was done. I was happy to share it!
With dry feet and clean shoes I rejoined the line of people heading to the start. There would be no warmup… Just before entering the starting shoot we had to wade through ankle deep running water. So much for my clean dry feet…at least they weren’t muddy. But for the others, they probably benefited from the running water washing the mud off their feet.
I was supposed to be in Corral 1 of Wave 4. What really happened is that they told us to just start running when we get to the line. Organized chaos. I officially started at 11:19am, only 4 minutes behind schedule.
The early miles
I remembered Josh’s advice to start slow, which was easy to do. I was already so cold. My greatest concern was my fingers. They felt like ice. I put hand warmers in my gloves and wrapped my fingers around them. Eventually my fingers warmed up. Unfortunately my butt and thighs were cold and thus already achy.
At 5 miles they were playing Sweet Caroline…I managed a fist pump to go with the words, “so good, so good!” It was miserably cold and wet. I took my gloves off and shoved them in some pockets on my leggings.
At 8 miles I was amazed that I’d only gone 8 miles…I felt like I’d already been out there forever!
At 10 miles they were playing Dirty Water.
At 11 miles I was so thankful for all the people who were out in this rain to cheer us on.
The Middle Miles
At 12 miles I walked through the aid station and decided to pause for a photo, thinking any good time is out the window so I might as well take pictures. But I later talked myself out of that attitude.
At 13 miles I thought, “maybe I should go to the bathroom.” At 14 miles I stopped at some porta-potties. Because of all the rain and mud they were the most disgusting things I’d ever seen. I decided that I didn’t have to go that bad. And thinking of the teasing once from a friend while swimming in the harbor…I thought if I have to pee bad enough I’ll just go in my pants and it will warm me up (love you Mary Jones!). HaHa…I never had to go.
But a volunteer saw me and asked me if I was ok. “Yes” I replied and continued.
At 14 miles the cheering at Wellesley was cool even if there weren’t as many people. Were people stopping to kiss? I don’t know because I had to keep looking forward.
I don’t remember when but I eventually put my gloves back on, learning that wet gloves were way warmer than no gloves. All of me was soaked and cold…except my head. I marveled at how nice and snugly warm my head was. The combo of beany , Buff, and Patagonia jacket was working.
The rest of the jacket was so wet that I contemplated taking it off and giving it to my husband when I saw him. But then I decided that with my head being the only part of me that wasn’t freezing, I shouldn’t mess with things. Plus, the jacket probably providing some protection, just as my wet gloves had been.
At mile 18 I thought that I should tell Josh that I won’t need as much recovery time from this race because I was actually going slower than my normal easy pace. I also remembered my two bouts of Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema and wondered if I would get it running while so cold. The things that go through my mind!
I remembered my friend Shandra and a cold rainy ultra that she did last year…and that helped me to keep going.
Also by this time it was clear that my watch wasn’t even close to accurate…so I was going even slower than my splits! But I was only focusing on finishing and getting out of the cold.
The Newton Hills (including Heartbreak Hill) didn’t seem that hard…of course I was barely moving anyway. I was only happy to hit Heartbreak Hill because it meant I’d be done soon…an hour? Or more?
Sometimes the rain would be so hard that if felt as if someone was throwing buckets of water on us. Sometimes a gust of wind would push me back. Sometimes it felt like the rain had turned to ice.
I was incredibly thankful for the volunteers on the course. They were wet and cold too! One man’s hand shook as he handed me Gatorade. Most of them shouted encouragement to us as we passed. The last time I took water it was too cold. This was probably mile 22, so I figured I was ok with hydration.
Every time I felt the wind I reminded myself to stand up straight. Near the Citgo sign at mile 25 I got the combination of rain and water with such force that my mouth filled with water…ok that was my final water stop.
During the last mile I saw so many people that were stopping and stretched. I wanted to tell them to just keep going because they were almost there! Also, the closer we got, the more treacherous the course. People who ran with plastic bags, ponchos, etc were dropping them before turning on to Boylston. The worse was on Hereford. I had to weave my way through the mass of plastic so that I wouldn’t slip or trip. A request for all those faster runners…please drop your stuff to the side next time!
When I got on to Boylston I did my only stride of the day, happily making my way to the finish! My watch thought I’d gone 27.65 miles and I’ve since figured out and fixed the issue (I hope).
The finish area was very well organized. Water, photo, Cliff protein bar with a pleasant “want me to open that for you?” Then a banana, a bag of other food and a heat blanket.
Somewhere in this finish area I heard Megan yelling from the side. Boy was it nice to see her! She gave me the great news that Desi won. I somehow lost track of her and while I was just standing there a volunteer came to make sure I was ok. Unfortunately Megan was on the opposite side of the street from the family meeting area. Once I got there, nobody from my family was there yet. I momentarily wanted to cry.
I got out my phone to call and tell them I was walking to the hotel, but it started ringing and it was Matt. We figured out that they were close by. Scott then called to confirm my location. I found them and we found refuge from the rain in the lobby of an office building. The managers of that building were wonderful to let us in. A janitor was trying to mop up all the water that all the wet runners and spectators were bringing in. I changed my shirt, wrapped a towel around my waste, put on a dry sweater and a jacket and we headed to the subway.
My first Boston Marathon. I plan to be back in 2020.