My team meets at 6 am. During the winter months it’s dark. Very dark. We’re all in black which isn’t very wise. At 18* this morning, we’re also covered pretty much head to toe. We look like Running Ninja’s. Unfortunately, you can’t see us very well. Fortunately, we’re not on the road much. Here are some tips for running in the winter. Other than the obvious – Bring a light, wear reflective clothing, be seen, take horrid selfies in the near dark of your house so you don’t wake up your kids, use your phone light so you don’t trip on dogs and said kids, know that when you’re getting back, they’ll be just about waking up and happy to see you, write ridiculously long, run on sentences…..
I’ve been struggling the last 6-9 months. With running, with swimming. With everything endurance related. Several months ago I ran with my teammate Olivia who is a doctor. She was amazing as always but she kept telling me to slow down my breathing. I did a season of races all which were slower than I had planned. As in, over ten minutes slower in a half marathon. A minute a mile slower. I spent months working hard, trying my best. Feeling like I was giving it more than my all, but looking at my watch and my times with confusion. My teammates were making comments when I ran. Relax your hands. My hands??? Running makes me relax. Why do my HANDS look tense??? Relax your face!! OK. MY FACE??!! Geesh. I need Botox. Why am I so tense?? Over time when I ran I felt increasingly nauseous, burped constantly, had cramping, exhaustion, dizziness. It was discouraging, deflating. I thought maybe I’m not cut out for half marathons anymore. Maybe I should drop down to the 10K. Maybe it’s a mental thing. Maybe I should go back to fitness competitions.
Then I ran the last half marathon of the season. My favorite distance on a tough course with another teammate and friend Pete pacing me. Maybe I just needed a pacer. Someone to push me. But it sucked. Pete was great but I threw up the second I crossed the finish line. Then I went home with my kids and literally fell asleep half sitting with my face mashed into the couch. I blogged about that race not going well and Pete messaged me that he wanted to talk to me about it. I thought he’d offer sage advice, help me bust through the mental self sabotage I didn’t know I was doing. Give me the physical answer to why I’m slowing down so much.
The next time I saw Pete was at swim. He waited for Olivia to be by me and knelt down. “You have exercise induced asthma. You can’t breathe when you run. You wheeze. It’s a struggle for you the entire time you’re running. You need an inhaler.” I looked at Olivia for some sort of confirmation that this was completely wrong. She’s a doctor. But she nodded. “Just use it and see if it works. It should make a big difference. It’s not uncommon.” Yeah?? Well it’s uncommon for ME!! My first reaction was anger. That 2 seconds that passed where I was just pissed. I do NOT need anything to help me!! I am NOT weak!! There is NOTHING WRONG with me!! But I looked at them and said, “Um, OK. Thank you. I’ll try it.” And then??? Despair. Sadness. The next ten seconds I felt like life as I knew it was over. Complete dejection. I got it together but then cried to myself off and on during swim. I left early. I wanted to go hide. Somehow I felt as if I was failing. But who knows??? Maybe it will help? Maybe I’ll do better, feel better – more like myself. Maybe this was the answer to why I’m cramping, sucking in air, exhausted, slow, dizzy?? When life hands you lemons – throw them back at people!!!!
About a year ago, I ran with a man from New Zealand who is an Olympic athlete for the 10K distance. I asked him how he chose the 10K. After all, it’s ONLY 6.2 miles. I think it’s an unspoken attitude that the marathon is the ultimate running race, the Ironman full distance is the ultimate triathlon race, qualifying for Boston is the runners dream, Kona is a triathletes dream, etc… He told me that it shouldn’t be about doing what we think everyone else is doing or having goals that aren’t what we really want. The stigma with distance is a self-inflicted perception that really has no merit. Pick a distance that you like, that you feel comfortable with and stick with it. Perhaps he told me that because he’s a big wimp and can’t DO the full distances, but for me it was sage advice. I’ll never go Pro or semi-pro, I’m not an elite athlete. I’m an almost 43 year old single Mom of 11 kids who wanted to age gracefully, be healthy, stay in shape and pass those tools down to my kids.
I bring this up because post Irongirl I found myself telling people I “only did the sprint distance”. Like it was nothing. No big deal that I trained and tackled 3 different sports at the same time. I chatted with my teammate Theresa on our Tuesday night run about it and it was reassuring to hear her echo my feelings. Coincidentally, they mirrored my Olympic friends statements. Pick the distance that you can do and stick with it. The half marathon is my favorite running distance. I can keep myself trained for it year round without it interfering with my family and my life. I am signed up to run Napa Marathon in March, but after that I probably won’t run another marathon. Honestly, it’s a lot more time for training. The same goes with a full Ironman. Even the half. It’s really, honestly too much for me to consider. I’ve always wanted to maintain that it’s challenging but FUN to train and participate in events. When I take on a distance that feels like too much, it’s no longer fun and the amount of challenge becomes stressful. I’ve already decided that a triathlon over the Olympic distance is more than I want to do. Now I need to learn not to apologize for it.
For newbie runners, taking on a 5K is an amazing accomplishment. Running the 3.1 miles without stopping, increasing minute miles. That’s fantastic!! After my hysterectomy I couldn’t run a mile without having to pee and I was over 10 minute miles. I ran a half marathon in 2:17 and I was proud because I DID it. Now I’m hovering at the sub 1:45 time and I don’t have to use the bathroom for a half marathon. That was less than 9 years ago. It isn’t whether or not I CAN do more – of course I can. It’s more about doing what you WANT. And always with me, it’s about having fun.
I’ve been working a lot lately. It’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. Just a lot of hours. Add in family – my kids are the most important thing in my life – and training – my decompression – and it adds up to being very busy.
Not to worry!!! It may be a lot of hours now, but I’m taking a couple of days off. 6 months of planning, training, plotting, being excited…… And it’s finally almost time!!! This is a “girls weekend with a race – it’s supposed to be fun!” weekend. I’ve only done one Super Sprint Triathlon this past summer. The Tri has been on my bucket list for years and I can’t imagine doing a better one for my first “real” Sprint Triathlon. Irongirl puts on a good event, the people are outstanding and a weekend in Vegas is very much desired. I’m not going to place, to win. I’m going to do my best and ease myself into the world of the triathlon. To see how I like it. To have fun.
In the last year I’ve run several half marathons, but two of them I ran in almost exactly the same amount of time. In one, it was a slow, easy run. I felt amazing the entire time. At the end I had that feeling like I could go forever. I did not push myself, it was relaxed. In the second I had miles where I felt fantastic, but I pushed. I pushed the entire way and harder for 4 miles of it. You can tell I was pushing hard because my time dropped. The numbers showed my struggle. In the easier race, I was by myself, doing my own thing, wanting to push harder but sticking to the plan that it was an easy race. In the second race, Pete paced me. Without him I would have walked, my time wouldn’t have been nearly as good.
At mile 4 I felt a little nauseous but it went away. At mile 8 I told Pete I felt really nauseous. He told me in his calm, supportive manner that I could throw up when I crossed the finish line. Okie dokie then. By mile 10 the feeling was gone. I had some tough miles and some great miles along the way. It was cold, constantly drizzling, windy, rolling hills, breathtaking autumn views of trees, fields, a lake. Pete commented that the scenery and weather must remind me of New England and indeed it did. At mile 11 I felt my body ache. My right hip is a little out, my upper back doesn’t feel too bad, my muscles are working….. At mile 11 I was feeling tired. Then the finished loomed. My kids were cheering, Taylor ran us in and Pete’s power of suggestion happened. The last 3 miles I didn’t feel nauseous at all but as soon as I crossed the finish line I dry heaved in some bushes. Sexy, I know.
For whatever reason, this was a tough race for me in a string of tough races. After my first half marathon of the season – which went perfectly – my time hasn’t been what I wanted. I’m fine with a tough race, but I want to push through it and still finish strong and this season hasn’t panned out that way. I’ve contemplated dropping down to the 10K distance, but the half is still my true love. I could give a list of reasons that it didn’t go well but in reality there is no rhyme or reason. Nutrition, training, etc.. are all good. Attitude, drive, desire all the same. Now that the season is over, Irongirl is coming up and then the winter training sets in. My sights will be on the Napa Marathon in March and the increase in mileage. I can relax and train and set my sights on next season.
I’ve said it before but I’m reiterating. I heart going to packet pickup. The swag, the energy, the happy faces. I’ve passed my dysfunction down to my children who also adore going to packet pickup. Today was the day. Packet pickup. 5 of them are running the 5K, one of them is doing the mile and I’m running the half marathon. My coach and amazing race director puts on several races throughout the year and this is the final in a series of three. It was scheduled for last month, but we had so much smoke here that it needed to be postponed. At least it’s happening!!! Supporting local is also something I try to do, so all around this is a great event. Usually my kids run the Halloween 5K, but it’s on the same weekend as my Irongirl triathlon in Vegas. Bummer. But fantastic that they’re doing this one instead.
My primary goal in every single race is to have fun. Life is too short to spend it agonizing over the little things that bring you down. Altering your perception to having this as your #1 goal makes the disappointments so much easier. It is such a rare thing for me to go to an event and NOT have fun. The events are why I run. To surround myself with like-minded people striving to be healthy, to be outside, to push ourselves, to be better. Sure, not all races go as planned. Of course there are times that it’s frustrating. Absolutely, even when having fun an event can feel like it really sucked. But attitude is everything and remembering to have fun first and foremost takes the sting out of the dings. After all, I GET to run. The people that inspire me to tears, the energy, the connections. I GET to do this. It is truly a blessing.
Learning to love the swim. Ok, Maybe more like learning to tolerate and possibly get better at the swim…. I’m working on it. It’s my weakest 1/3 of the triathlon. I really just want to get through it. So I’m trying. My triathlon is equivalent to 20 laps in the pool. Last pool workout, I did 40. Although that may sound impressive, they aren’t anywhere close to consecutive. That’s nearly an hour workout. So, if I want to get through the swim in about 45 minutes and do a backstroke, I’m good.
Swimming, although unnatural in so many ways, feels incredible. A full body muscle workout and stretch, once I get in and get moving I like the way I feel. Here’s to moving out of your comfort zone!
I added biking and swimming into my training. I also added to my work schedule going from 4 to 6 days of work. Maybe doing everything at once WHILE moving wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve made to date….. Honestly, it was too much all at once. SO, I dialed it back (as in didn’t bike for a week, swam only once) before my half marathon. Now, just feeling a little better from whatever bug bit me during the race, I’m getting ready to slowly increase my training. I’m finishing my move as well. Taking a month to move has pros and cons and right now I’m just looking forward to the end of the month because I know it has to be done by then.
For those of you who already train for triathlons, my training schedule seems light. It’s all relative. I keep myself trained year round for half marathons. I know if I get a call to jump in on a race, at any point in time, I can do it. Still waiting for all those invites…. That’s more training than some people, less than others. I’m so novice at swimming (although in the 2 times I’ve been with Scott I’ve learned a TON!) as well as biking. Sure, I know HOW to do both, but adding the structure, streamlining, not wasting energy, figuring out distance, learning the gears on the road bikes, etc… is all a foreign language to me.
I have the privilege of being on a team of athletes who are better than I am. They are also excited when anyone tries something new and always there to help. So even though I sometimes feel like the weakest link, they make me feel like a rockstar. I’m up to 17 miles on the bike. Nothing spectacular but thankfully the muscles that screamed at me the first time I rode are settling down a bit. In large part because I’ve relaxed. Yes, I’m still terrified to fall, go fast, go uphill, switch gears, but there are moments when I just enjoy the ride. My triathlon in October is only a 16 mile bike, so my training can stay right where it is. I just need to get more efficient at this distance. And my bottom needs to become more calloused!!
We ran 3 miles on this day. Exactly what the distance will be in October. Rubber legs are fun!!! I felt exhausted, exhilarated, accomplished and very, very hungry. I brought my swim bag so I could stop at the gym and shower. I’m so freaking smart!!! I figured my clients at the salon would appreciate it….. I forgot a towel. I’m still adjusting to packing half of my workout gear and always having it with me….. So I used a spare t-shirt.
Then it was breakfast time!!!!! Happy training!
Team run over 6 miles. Felt great. I love running. We ran intervals which is probably one of my favorite things. The time flies by because you concentrate on everything else except distance….. I have the best, most elite team who inspire me to be better every day, great conversation with Kristen and a chance to push myself!!