Consistency – You Can Do It

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This tattoo, with the words run, live, breathe and gratitude celebrates the rewards of consistent training. Check out the link below if you want the story behind the tattoo

As I’m approaching the San Francisco Marathon (the 9th!) I’m thinking about an important element in marathon (or any distance) training. Consistency!

While in the middle of training, or building mileage and fitness we might not notice how much or how hard we are working. But in looking back it’s easy to recognize the rewards of consistent training. It’s not the occasional good workout that will lead to a good race effort. Rather, a good race effort is found in consistently putting in the miles, week after week. It is through this consistent training that our bodies adapt to running.

All runners will have the occasional run they don’t want to do. It may be due to a busy schedule. It may be due to fatigue. It may be due to general soreness. It may even be that you just don’t feel like running. So what should you do? In most cases the answer is to run. How do you know if you should back off?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Feeling too Busy -RUN
    Even if you have to make the run shorter, it will help you to get out there. It may even help you get through your tasks in a better frame of mind. That’s a big benefit of running!
  • On Vacation – RUN
    A wonderful way to explore a vacation spot is to go for a run.
  • Experiencing General Soreness – RUN
    General soreness and injury are not the same thing. If you have achy and sore legs, a very easy recovery run may make them feel better. Make sure you run easy (as in slow).
    If you have very sharp, localized pain, this may be injury. It also may be stiffness. If, after a few steps the pain worsens then stop. If it feels better, then you are good to go. Sometimes we have little aches and pains that come and go and we have to make educated guesses about whether to run or not.  
  • Injured – DON’T RUN
    We need to learn to distinguish between good sore (your muscles are working and improving) and bad sore (injury). A good rule of thumb: if you have soreness that affects your gait (limp for instance) then take time to recover.
  • Feeling Crummy – RUN
    Although it might not feel comfortable, you can run with a head cold or allergies. The general rule is if the congestion is above your neck then you are good to go.
  • Have a Fever or Chest Congestions – DON’T RUN
    If your chest is congested, and/or if you have a fever, don’t run. You body needs to use its energy to fight the infection so allow it time to recover.

Sometimes, we’re just not sure. It’s ok to give it a try (unless you have a fever!) and then stop early if you’re not feeling well. You can always check with your coach if you’re not sure.

Happy Consistent Running!

About that tattoo: We Made a Pact!

 

Run in this heat? Yes!

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 9.40.21 AMConsistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

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.

fullsizeoutput_10aa.jpegAnd 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!

Consistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

That’s what it’s all about. In running. In life.

Happy Tuesday.

Fun? Endurance…Is it fun?

This morning I listened to Mario Frailoi’s podcast interview of UltraMarathoner Dean Karnazes.   https://www.themorningshakeout.com/category/podcast/

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.

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I showed this photo to the clerk at the Sam Adams Brewery to get a free glass. He asked, “why are you smiling?” Because I just finished!

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.

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The immediate aftermath of my first 50K! My husband didn’t want to take the photo because I looked so awful. I wanted it so I could remember. Yes, it was 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:

[fuhn]
SynonymsExamplesWord Origin

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com

noun
  1. something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun.
  2. 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!

The Running Skirt

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My first half marathon. I wore this running skirt until it was “falling off too big.”

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.

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These were my first running shorts.

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.

So much for never wearing a running skirt again!

 

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Cute and comfy…my new running skirt! I kinda like how my legs look here too.

The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight

A year ago I did a little series on my post Mountains to Beach Marathon attempt to “lose that last 15-20 pounds. I actually lost about 5 pounds, yet didn’t keep it off. I started that little attempt weighing in at 168. This morning, almost a year later I weighed 171. (Racing Weight – Getting ThereOOPS – Racing Weight, Week 1Really?!?! Racing Weight Week 3Slow & Steady – Racing Weight Week 4)

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This is from one year ago as I ran my Boston qualifier 

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.

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While I was still active when heavier, I don’t want to go back to this…

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!

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Me last week, with my son, showing off my “run now, wine later socks”

Training with a Group

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.

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I have no idea why my mileage peaked in June and not August. The race was at the beginning of September. My August mileage was 85.93 which was so incredibly insufficient!

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.

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June 144, July 162 and August 177. Much better!

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.

Did You Finish? A Post-Boston Marathon Sermon

This sermon is based on John 10:11-18

img_0093“Did you finish?”

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.