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Tag: marathon

The Journey

I completed the Go! St. Louis Marathon on Sunday, April 10, marking the 4th time I’ve completed this journey and run 26.2 miles.

IMG_0129Statistics say that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has ever run a marathon. So according to the numbers, I’m in a pretty elite group. But I didn’t feel accomplished on Sunday. I was disappointed with the number on the clock as I crossed the finish line.

Instead of going below my best time , I added 37 minutes, taking 5 hours and 7 minutes to cross the finish line. In my mind, it was a failure.

I trained for the last four months with Fleet Feet to prepare for the event, and my dedicated, loyal coach ran 19 of the 26.2 miles with me, including the grueling back half of the race. I began complaining somewhere around mile 15.

“It’s  hard to keep going knowing that this is going to be my slowest marathon time ever. Why bother?” I pouted.

It's all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.
It’s all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.

She went all “coach-y” saying,  “I want you to see this as an accomplishment, a win. You’re running with an injured knee. And it’s your first marathon in a long time. Absolutely everything has to come together perfectly to get a PR (best time). That doesn’t happen often,  so it’s better if you focus on the journey.”

Then she told me that the main reason she coaches for Fleet Feet (a volunteer position that requires a LOT of time) is because she gets to spend time with people who have learned to enjoy the journey. The journey that leads up to the race is the fun part. The race is a piece of that journey, but it’s not about the time it takes to finish it.

“I hope you’ll be able to see it that way, even if you can’t right now” she said.

She was sharing these golden nuggets of wisdom during the worst possible miles of the marathon. Even when I’m having a good race (which I wasn’t) and when I’m feeling great (my knee was howling) and when the weather is good (we were getting drenched in rain and whipped by wind), I am not in a happy place between miles 19 and 23 of a marathon.

So, I promptly ignored her Polly Anna pronouncements. Thankfully, I kept all “shrew-like” thoughts to myself, so I don’t have any amends to make, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think them. Sorry Lindsey.

The next day, however, it all started to come together for me in light of another statistic and another journey that is tied to my running. And those things helped change my perspective.

About 16.6 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2013 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only about 1.3 million of those adults received treatment in a specialized facility in the same year —  about 7 percent of those those who have a problem with alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t release much information about its membership — thus the anonymous part — but estimates are that there are about 2 million members worldwide.

I am a sufferer of this diseases, but was blessed with sobriety more than 11 years ago through a 12-step program.  That’s also when I began distance running.

Relapse rates for alcoholism are high — some estimate between 50 and 90 percent. By God’s grace, and the fellowship of others in a 12-step program,  I am NOT part of that statistic.

So again, I’m in a couple of elite groups: the group that got sober and the group that has, thus far, stayed sober without a relapse. Truth in advertising: It’s  not my doing. God and the fellowship get the credit.

Recently, however, instead of being grateful for my blessings, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

I was with a dear friend in Italy on an incredible vacation where the wine flowed with most of the meals.  It was social drinking, meal-oriented drinking, perfectly normal drinking that was intertwined with food and culture and festivity. But I couldn’t participate in the drinking part of the festivities.

The trip was so fabulous and I was having so much fun that I really didn’t care one iota about that. In fact, I didn’t even think about it while I was in Italy. I was with one of my closest friends. I was seeing the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, and Positano and Rome! I was laughing and shopping, eating and touring. I jogged on trails cut into stone overlooking the Mediterranean below and Pompei in the distance.

I didn’t have the time or the inclination to feel sorry for myself until I got back home. Then, in the days following my trip and leading up to my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I began brood about how I won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I return to Italy in a month with my daughter to celebrate her graduation and birthday. Yes, I will be back in Italy in a month!

Instead of focusing on that — on the fact that my 21-year-old daughter chose a trip with ME to Europe as her college graduation present — I was brooding on how flawed I am, how “less than,” how “left out.” And I was letting the time it took me to complete 26.2 miles diminish the fun I had preparing for the race.

But over the past few days, as friends and family have texted and called to congratulate me on the marathon finish, and posted words of praise on social media, I began to reflect differently on both the race and the gift of sobriety.

I am back to seeing the value in the journey — both the journey leading to my slowest marathon ever and the journey that means I am blessed, or so very blessed, to be among the small percentage of alcoholics who GETS to live a sober life. It doesn’t make me flawed or “less than.” Instead, it means He made me for more.

My daughter and husband asked if this is my last marathon. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Miles 19 to 23 are still too fresh in my memory, so it’s not a good time to decide.

But it wasn’t my last race or the end of my journey.

 

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Marathon Training — Trust the Process

My family is harassing me – in a loving way, of course — because I announced my plans to run another marathon this spring.

Their reactions?

“But you said . . . . “ and “I specifically remember you stating . . . “ and “What about your hip?” and . . . “Are you crazy?”

I swore off this 26.2-mile event in October 2011 as I crossed the finish line of my third marathon. I was running Chicago, hoping to get a personal record, hoping to maybe even hit that 4-hour marathon goal. Instead, I added time, going 4:38:35. And I was miserable for the entire second half of that race. I said a lot of things, and one of them was “I am never doing this again.”

I kept my promise and haven’t done a full marathon since that time. But I love running, and I’ve done shorter distances – a half, a few 5k’s. I even took 3rd place in my age group in a Make Tracks for the Zoo 5k in 2012. Mostly, though, I’ve gotten slower and my running distance has decreased. Those are hard words for a proud runner to type.

Lately, I have begun to feel the marathon bug again — that itch to go further; do more; challenge myself again. I’m growing bored with my current exercise routine.

When I run errands on a Saturday morning and see someone running, I fondly remember my marathon training days.

marathon trainingI remember the feeling I get in my chest when I’m breathing hard but steady for a long period of time. I remember how much I like the feelings that follow a long run – mentally, a sense of accomplishment and overall well-being; physically, a general heightening of the senses, expanded lungs, strong heart, fatigued muscles that have enabled your body to thoroughly expend all its energy. The mental and physical combine to create a buzz.

I don’t miss the pain, however – the limp when I get up in the morning; the pain in my hip while I drive; the ache that radiates from my glute, down my hamstring and sometimes around to the front of my knee.

I was having doubts about whether I could do it.

Then I happened across Fleet Feet’s training program.

I’ve never had a professional running coach. I ran my first marathon with a charity and trained myself for my second and third. I’ve run most of my life, but never with a coach.

Professional Marathon Coaching

Fleet Feet has professional coaches. And scientific V02 Max assessment “takes the guesswork out of training by analyzing an athlete’s oxygen consumption while they run . . . The collected data defines their heart rate training zones so they can maximize their training efficiency and minimize their risk of overtraining.”

And they have a functional movement test that identifies tightness and weaknesses.

And a training program that includes individualized training, twice-weekly runs with pace groups and speed work, a professional head coach, mentors, classes, support.

So I’m doing it. But this time, I’m going to do it with support. I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve got a program! Being a goal-oriented, project-focused individual, having a program is perfect for me. And having a program backed up with science is even better.

Brandi Barbre, Fleet Feet’s training director, conducted my V02 Max test and went over my results with me. She’s designing a plan that will include a recommendation for the pace group I should start in for my marathon training, which begins in January. She identified my anaerobic threshold and is going to have me train under that threshold. More on that later. It’s all very “science-y.”

Tim Cary, Fleet Feet’s head coach, did my functional movement assessment. Then, he showed me some individualized exercises and foam rolling techniques to improve my movement, reduce my tightness and improve my running. My favorite line from him: “The best foam roller is the one you’ll use.’’

One of the biggest “ah ha” moments of my work with Tim was this: my quads, rather than my hamstrings, are tight. I’ve been stretching my hamstrings for a couple of years now, trying to reduce the pain I feel in them when I run. Tim showed me that my tight quads are pulling my hips forward, putting an arch in my lower back and keeping my hamstrings in constant state of extension. I didn’t really believe him until he had me use the foam roller on my quads – yowza. That lit me up. They are tight, indeed!

Trust the Process

Now the hard part – I have to trust the process. Isn’t that always the hard part!!? Whether it’s a move toward healthier eating like the Whole30, or embarking on a journey to write a novel, or re-learning how to run, it’s hard to let go of what you’ve always done and trust something else.

Brandi wants me to do a couple of “field tests” where I stay within a heart rate zone that is below my anaerobic threshold, and then report back to her what my pace on one of the runs and my distance on another. Staying in this heart rate zone means I have to run really slow. REALLY. SLOW.

I’m not fast, but I’m proud. I’m going to have to ask my ego to get out of the way here and trust that Brandi knows what she’s doing. She explained it all to me and like I said, it’s very “science-y.” When I’m comfortable that I completely understand it myself, I’ll write about it in more detail.

For now, I am going to do what she says. And I’m going to train with the pace group that she recommends. And I’m going to try to find my foam roller, because I think the best foam roller is the one that you pull out of storage and use.

I’m super excited about this training program. If you are looking to start running, return to running or improve your running, Fleet Feet offers a bunch of training programs including:

  • Marathon
  • Half-marathon
  • 5k
  • Boston
  • Trail running
  • Speed School
  • Youth Running

They also offer lots of free running opportunities. You can find out more about those here.

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