Monday, October 31, 2011

Pre Marathon Jitters to Post Marathon Blues

Some of the runners I love (my sister is missing)
If you love a runner, you will understand what I am about to talk about here. The people I am closest too have told me that I have had particularly cranky days leading up to the marathon AND I was told that I have lost a bit of my optimism over the last couple of weeks. I think I can, almost, safely say that I am in a better place today but I still feel it is necessary to address the topic!

Pre-marathon can be a particularly hard time for a runner. I think I mentioned this challenge in my post Truth About Tapering post. First of all, runners have to decrease their mileage pre-marathon and on top of it fuel their body properly. The decrease in mileage for some of us can drive us crazy, not to mention feeling like a sloth as the carbo-loading ensues. It is necessary though. I was particularly lucky to be spending time with the coolest kiddos the weekend before my marathon but any time I was not with them I may have been found shaking my leg and participating in particularly annoying active listening (I was told today that I do this when I am frustrated) with a lot of 'uh hmms' and 'yeps'. The people who practice patience with a runner while tapering are quite possibly the most amazing people. I was the type of person that, even though I may have been a little cranky, wanted to be around people to decompress the entire time. Others may retreat into themselves. Neither tactic is bad so long as the people around the runner understand it is not because of them but instead about the pressure, nerves, anxiety, etc. leading up to the race.

On the other hand, after the marathon is over a runner may struggle with any number of emotions. Again runners are not supposed to run for about a week after the marathon, especially if you are a newbie like me. Well, I did not follow that rule and may have injured myself as a result (I am better now though). Even though a huge accomplishment may have been realized there could be thoughts of 'how do I fill my time now', 'what is next', 'I hate running', 'is there anything more extraordinary or did I already reach my peak'. I had some of these thoughts with the exception of 'I hate running', and as someone put it best today, I lost my optimism. Post-Marathon depression is a real thing! I read one article, although I felt as though it was over dramatic,  that equated post marathon depression to post partum (sp?) depression. If I could find the article again I would link it here, maybe it was just a dream. Regardless after accomplishing a significant goal there can be moments of elation (which I know I felt for a few days) that can quickly fade and turn to sadness when the return to running is less stellar than expected. Again, the people who stick with the runner during this time are the most amazing people. If your runner is suffering after their marathon remind them that it can take weeks, even months, to fully heal. Remind them that they accomplished something extraordinary and should be proud. Tell them to sign up for their next marathon, and if they don't snap out of it appropriately tell them to go and see a freaking therapist; no one should stay in that state for too long!!!

So again, I find this post leaning towards the lens of extreme gratitude. It is because of the people who know and love me that I was allowed to be cranky, super un-optimistic and in some instances a baby! They are the people who have reminded me to stick with it because at some point it will all get better. AND guess what? It did! Today I had my first extraordinary post marathon run!!!

So for all you people who love a runner, national hug a runner day is coming up. November 20th is the day that you need to grab your favorite runner in a bear hug and tell them you love them!!! Being a person that loves a runner can be a challenge but you are a good person for keeping that person close to you!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Self Reflection

I am sitting here thinking about what I got myself into signing up for this lil' marathon I am going to run in four days. Many of you have been following me since the beginning of this journey, while others are newer to the scene but none are less important than the other.

If you know me at all, you know I spend a lot of time self reflecting and as I was sitting on my couch relaxing for the last five minutes I figured it would be nice to catch some of this self reflection (or perhaps I should call it a reflection on my journey) on my blog. I try not to get to personal on here because let's face it, this is about my journey to becoming an athlete NOT about my personal life beyond running/cycling/swimming; and I would kind of like to keep it that way. On the other hand there are a number of things I have learned about myself that I feel are tied into this amazing journey that I know is going to continue beyond the finish line on Sunday.

Here are my lessons:

Finding the Unexpected

I have learned that the things I love most are the things that have come in the most unexpected moments or are the things that I had to work at to find success. Take running for example; it is not something that came easy to me. I used to fret over one mile runs and now I get excited about anything less than 13 miles because, let's face it, 13 miles or less is considered a short run in my sick little mind. I never expected that I would fall in love with running especially because I wasn't looking for the love of running; what I was looking for was a jumping off point for my future goal of completing a half iron man. What does this mean in the long run? It means I am going to embrace running and continue on this journey; I am going to embrace the moment and love the moment. I am also going to continue to hold close the unexpected joys that have fallen into my life!

Training properly

People have varying ideas regarding proper training plans for endurance sports. My training plans, historically, have consisted of me having 'oh shit' moments when I recognize the event is four weeks away and I have only logged 10 miles on my bike, 1 mile in the pool and 4 miles on foot over the last YEAR!!! This year I approached training for the marathon very differently. I joined a group, read the schedule, followed the schedule and most importantly listened to my body. I know people who don't need training plans and have the personal discipline to achieve their goals on their own. I congratulate them and, in some regards, have a little training envy of them. The lesson though is that, although I am freaked out about the marathon, I also know I have put in the miles (hundreds of them) and have been holding myself accountable for achieving my dream.

Loving Yourself

I am a very happy person generally; I am also realistic. I would say that I spend most of my days smiling and exuding positivity but being happy and loving yourself are very different things. When you embark on a journey not knowing what might transpire, you are truly taking a risk. Self reflection is a risk and every time I run I am self reflecting. What I have found in every mile logged is that I have a deeper love for myself. I think the risk was worth it because it allows me the ability to love things/others without limit.

So to be truly honest I have not figured out why I took the time to write this blog today except to remind myself to hold on to and not be scared of the things that have enhanced my life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Truth About Tapering

First I have to say tapering sucks!!!

I have promised honesty while on this journey and I would be a big ole liar if I said I enjoy this low mileage stuff leading up to the marathon. A number of factors have impacted my training this week but one of the biggest factors is my brain. I have read the most recent article in Runner's World Magazine about tapering and it provided great recommendations on tapering properly; they are the experts, why oh why don't I believe them.

As I sit here watching some terrible movie on the Lifetime network (the number 3 reason for getting rid of cable at my house) my mind continuously drifts to the impending marathon. Here are some of my thoughts:

- If I don't run big mileage this week, how can I be sure I can finish 26.2 miles?
- If most of my runs were challenging and demotivating last week will I still have the positive attitude to complete 26.2?
- One of the motivational people in my life ran her marathon today, will I have the same success?
- Thank god I was not like the girls in this lifetime movie while in high school (or ever for that matter)!!!
- Will I have the discipline to take care of my mind, body and soul this week, including getting enough sleep?

Tapering, for me, is a lot more than just cutting back on mileage; this week was also meant to be a time for healing both physically and mentally.

I honestly thought this was going to be a time where I would be pumped up and excited but instead am frightened and nervous. What I have learned this week is that tapering can challenge any semi-confident runner!!!

Again, I have to thank my supporters for providing me an outlet. Without many of you I would be lost, especially those who have listened to me without limit and encouraged me along the way. I know that the support, especially from my daily confidants will get me across the finish line. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sharing the Joy

In ten days I will be running my first of many anticipated marathons. I am ecstatic, although suffering a little from a troubling run today. As I was driving to Chicago last night I was thinking about all of my running friends and feeling the joy of having so many wonderful people in my life. I have a feeling that I am going to be so self absorbed, once I cross the finish line next week, that I will forget it is also the starting line for expressing gratitude for all of the people who have been/will be cheering me on through Facebook, on my blog and along the sidelines of the marathon.

One of the most powerful things I have learned through this journey is that sometimes hearing about a friend's accomplishment is as awesome as having an accomplishment of my own. I have owned, throughout this journey, that I am a slow runner, and though this may make me feel inadequate at times, I am extremely proud to watch my friends achieve new PRs, fastest splits on a speed workout or fastest miles ever.

If we were to flash back just two years you would see a person who is planning to run her first 10k with two of her closest friends. After we ran the Human Race on OSU campus the three of us talked about the half marathon we were going to run in May while toasting, over beer and pizza, the first 10ks for two of us (one from the crowd already finished a marathon). My friends, again, came to Columbus in May and we all ran 13.1 miles. My friends finished more than a half an hour before me but as I ran across the finish line they were the first people to throw their arms around me to share the common accomplishment of finishing a half marathon!

After we finished the half marathon 2010
Yesterday I was driving home to Chicago, patiently awaiting a call from one of the most supportive people I know. You see, every time I finish a run I tuck away the joy, sadness or excitement and call my friend to share the accomplishment of the day. Yesterday I was taking the day off from running because of some knee pain and needed to live vicariously through someone; I NEEDED to feel the joy of running. When the call came and the excitement was shared I felt as though I had the best run of my life because my friend chose to share the joy of his run with me.

Without people calling, posting on Facebook or texting me about their amazing accomplishments I may not have the same desire that I have today to continue on with the amazing life I have created for myself. Knowing that I have people to share the joy of running/cycling/swimming encourages me to continue on this journey and own it as my destination.

This blog was intended to remind people to share the joy with those around you whether it is their accomplishment or your own. What you can gain from your friends accomplishments can often be more powerful than your own.

The following pictures are of some of the people who have been there along the way:

Me, my sister and our friend (Chicago Triathlon 2009 I think)

Me and my running buddy (Cbus 10 miler 2011)
I look forward to having more captured memories in the future with old and new friends!!!