Be Present

Two simple little words that made a huge difference on Sunday.

Sunday was my last long run before the Vermont City marathon – a planned 22 miles. And I headed out early feeling calm and ready.

But, sometimes things don’t go quite as we plan and we end up needing a mantra to get us through. And sometimes that mantra finds us.

All was well until mile 10 when I stopped to pull my gel out of my pocket. And seeing a group of cyclists headed towards me ( knowing it could get dangerous if a car joined the mix on this narrow road), I opted to eat my gel there and wait for them to pass.

As soon as I started running again, everything felt tired and heavy. And the mind games started – you know…question everything.

I told myself it would get better. I told myself, just make it to 11 and see how you feel.

But I am an overthinker. In both life and running. I’m always planning ahead and then stressing over things that are like 2 months (or 5 miles) out.

I tried to calm myself with my usual “clear your head” “let it go” “just stop” kinda stuff. And I got to 11, then 13. And then, the my mind bounced around again.

I was thinking ahead to the next gel, and how far can I make it before I have to walk. And just generally worrying myself.

Then two words popped into my head. Be Present.

Just pay attention to where you are. Be in the mile you’re in. The rest will happen as it happens.

Stop and smell the lilacs. Bark back at the dogs. Watch the birds fly by.

Just be…

And I got to mile 16. And reminded myself again. And then to 18. At 18 I decided I was going to walk 1/4 mile so I could eat my chews. But after 1/10 of a mile I realized I didn’t need to walk and started running again.

To mile 19.25. Where again I was going to walk a 1/4 mile, but was fine with 1/10.

And I hit mile 20 feeling good. And ran all of mile 21, to actually a little past it. I took one last walk break of about .15. And then ran strong to finish at 22.02.

Looking at my watch I smiled. Because I realized that I if I can do this again in Burlington, I could walk the last four miles and still finish under 5 hours. Something even a month ago I wasn’t sure I could do.

I’m ready to taper. I’m feeling really good about the work I’ve put in. And I know, when I tow the start line in 11 days, I just need to remember to Be Present. ūüôā

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Moments of Brilliance

That’s how I described my long run this weekend to a friend who asked.

It wasn’t great. ¬†It still isn’t ME. ¬†But it had moments of brilliance. ¬†And that’s progress.

At this point, i’m just happy for progress. ¬†I’ve been stretching like its my job, only running 3 days a week, doing strength work in the affected areas and still hoping that “faith trust and pixie dust” can add an extra edge.

Because, while as we face our FOURTH freaking nor’easter of the month, I know that racing season is rapidly approaching and i’m still kinda freaking out about the Vermont City marathon. ¬†After this weekend’s run tho, i’m feeling a lot better about it.

Because see….something finally went right. ¬†Around mile 4.

The first 3 miles were the usual – my hamstring feels wonky when I land, my hips aren’t doing what they should – but I knew i just had to work through it.

Just after I hit mile 4, everything opened up and I was running like normal. ¬†I don’t know how and I didn’t even notice until I started down a hill and was like WHOA, nothing’s shaking. ¬†I’m not questioning every foot placement. I’m running without thinking about running.

SWEET!

I ended up running to mile 10 – which actually is 2 miles further than the last long run – before the first walk break. ¬†I did have to stop and stretch every couple of miles, because things started to tighten back up. ¬†But that’s better than walking.

I did a total of 14.5 miles. ¬†At 13.17 I stopped my watch because 1), it was 3/17 and its ‘cute’ and 2) because I didn’t want longer walk breaks to screw up my recorded overall mileage pace. ¬†LOL

I still have a long ways to go in the next 70ish days, and I know that Vermont is going to be a slow marathon, but according to runner math, if all I can run is what I did this weekend and then walk the final 12, I can still finish under the time limit.

When I was running I had a mantra going – Every Step is Progress. ¬†I kept repeating it to keep my spirits up. ¬†Because its hard when you can’t run like yourself. ¬†When your slower pace feels as hard as your faster one used to. ¬†But attitude plays a HUGE part in running.

And while i’m calling this a non-injury (and as god is my witness I will never do standing dead lifts again) it’s still a road to recovery. ¬†I’m still coming back from something (albeit something stupid) and I have to be proud of the fight.

lonely road of faith

Sunday was my final 20 mile training run for Boston.

20 miles is no walk in the park. It’s a battle of wills between you and the road. A battle you need both body and brain to win. It’s honestly almost as hard as a marathon. Almost.

A friend and novice runner recently asked why most marathon training plans only go to 20 miles. I think it’s because running 20 gives you the experience you need of being able to find that mental strength to push through without quite the same physical punishment as 26.2 so it’s easier to recover from.

I chose to run this 20 in New Hampshire at the Eastern States 20 Mile race. Some friends and Rett teammates were also running, it was a chance to run outside my neighborhood (always a plus), and it came with a medal and snacks at the end.

The course is gorgeous. It follows the coast line for most of the race so it’s very scenic. However, the weather was not the best.

Forecast was for heavy rain and wind. The rain fortunately stopped just as the race started. The wind (bout 20mph) fortunately was behind us for most of the race.

The best part of racing with friends is having people to hang out with before hand and after. I don’t race with them though. And not just because they are all faster than me. But because for me – running is a solo event.

I love the camaraderie of a race. Chatting with other runners at the start or randomly on the course as we pass each other. I met a woman doing her first 20 ever as she trains for her first marathon ever. As she took walk breaks while running (but was running a faster pace) we passed each other a few times. And I was happy to welcome her to the marathon club and answer training questions for her.

But my favorite part of races is just being alone in the crowd and sometimes alone literally on the course. As this was a smaller race there were a few times I had the road to myself. A little scary when you don’t know the course (lol) but quiet and calm is good when you’re distance running.

As the course was not closed to traffic I opted to run without music for safety reasons. And as I heard waves crash against the seal wall and seagulls call to each other I was glad I hadn’t.

I have my favorite running songs all bit memorized and can call them up as needed. But I also just let my mind wander a lot. It went over logistics for Boston, things I needed to remember for later and just zen over the sights of the huge waves and surfers.

For me – the race went extremely well. What that means is that I ran the entire 20 miles, at a decent pace and never struggled physically. Only mentally a little.

As I titled this post…running this far is a lonely road of faith. An internal struggle to believe that it is possible to go that far.

Around mile 15 I started to question that faith. Part of me wanted to walk. I wasn’t breathing hard, I wasn’t pushing and there was no reason to have to walk. I think my brain was just bored and wanted to do something different.

I wouldn’t let it. I tried to give it things to do – count blue shirted runners, look to see what houses still had Christmas wreaths up (too many), count steps between mailboxes.

But the one trick that really worked? Creating a mantra. One that I chanted a few times during those last five miles. Whenever I needed to.

When I needed the strength to pass a few people at mile 18.5, when I saw that finish line a half mile ahead. When I needed to remind myself this is my journey and the only person who can travel it is me. And I know, probably around the same distance in Boston I will start chanting it again.

It goes…quite simply…

My name is Kelly. I am a warrior. I will keep running. Until the end.

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