Monday, July 14, 2014

The Monster Inside

Coming back from an injury, or from a extended break is hard for even the most seasoned runner. A once deemed "easy run" can feel like running a marathon, both physically and mentally. Lacing up your shoes and heading out for a run can be such a struggle, just because you know that at this point, every run is hard. Having to walk, or take it slower than what you have been able to do in the past is something that can mess with your head and make each step just a little bit harder.

Why, when we are coming back to running from and injury or a break,  do we mentally beat ourselves up so much?

I have always struggled with the mental part of running. My head is my own worst enemy. Doesn't matter if it is a slow recovery run, or a major race, my negative self-talk can make any run pure torture.

Even before my month-long break from running, I had issues with my head. I have talked myself out of so many races while waiting in the starting corral. Though I have never actually left a race, I did down-grade from a 10k to a 2-miler because of my negativity in the starting corral. I somehow always find a way to pull myself together, and get excited about the event. It is however, a real struggle for me, and one that I have not yet figured out how to deal with, aside from arriving pretty late to the corral.

 The beginning of a race is full of questions: Did I train hard enough? Did I train too much? Did I fuel right? Did I hydrate enough? Where is the closest bathroom?  Am I going to finish? Is my costume going to chafe? So it seems natural that we all struggle with some sort of corral anxiety, either nerves, extreme excitement, or in my case pure panic.

But training runs is where my negative self talk seems to rear its ugly head the most. I should have a law degree, because I can argue myself out of any run, any day of the week. I have found that it is best for me to just jump out of bed, and throw on my running clothes before my head knows what my body has planned. This is the way I am functioning these days, in order to get my training runs in.

Thanks to my little break, getting back into top running form (top? hmm.), has been a real challenge, and because it is physically harder than I thought it was going to be, there have been too many opportunities for my head to get into the mix and mess things up even more.

The 3 mile runs I used to enjoy so much, have become a struggle. Physically they are hard, I am not going to lie, this last month really hurt my cardio, and I feel like I am breathing in fire! But mentally I am struggling more. When I should be cheering myself on for getting out there and training, and not missing workouts, I am beating myself up because I cannot run as fast, or as far as I used to. When my lungs start screaming, and I know I should push through, my head tells me to stop, to walk to give up.

It is so frustrating to be plagued by such terrible negativity. I try to tune it all out by listening to music, but that doesn't help. I repeat positive sayings in my head, and tell myself that I can do it, and that I am strong. But that awful voice keeps popping up, telling me I can't.

I am not bi-polar, nor do I have multiple personalities, I just have some pretty awful self-talk, that I need to take care of. I have races to run!! I have to get back at it, and start feeling good about my run again!

So, why do I do this to myself, why put myself down? I am not sure I have the answer to that right now. But I know that I am going to keep pushing myself, and keep battling this little negative voice, until I have made my comeback and it has nothing else to say.

How do overcome your negative self talk?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Challenges, Setbacks and Heartbreak

Ah! It is so good to be home!!

While I love traveling, I enjoy it most when I am on my own, and can do what I want. For the past month, I have been a "caged" woman, and it feels so good to finally escape!!

Don't panic! I haven't been abducted, or held against my own will, but instead I have been chaperoning a group of 16 teenagers in Germany and Austria! Many of you would probably rather be in that cage, am I right?

I successful completed my 7th trip with students, everyone came home in one piece, and with a lifetime of amazing stories! We traveled through Berlin, Bremen, Munich and Salzburg, on our month-long exchange. It was crazy, it was fun and it was tiring, but I am proud of my students, and overall had a nice time. It wasn't a vacation, it was definitely work, but it was fun.

During the trip, my students get to live with German families for 2 weeks. During this time, I am also living with a German family, attending school each day, and teaching. This year, I was able to plan a little side trip (sans students!) to Ireland. It was a much needed break, and gave me a small look at a country I would love to visit again in the future!

The trip was a challenge for me, as I didn't ever have enough time (or energy) to respect my training plan, and I was able to only run once during the entire month! Yikes!!! I can assure you that, while my running was on vacation, I was walking on average 6+ miles a day (not including the BIG city days, where milage could reach 10+!!).

I felt like I was constantly busy during this trip, and when I actually did have the time to run, all I wanted was a nap! It was a real challenge!

In hindsight, I wish I would have had more willpower to put through, as I am struggling now to get back to what I once had!

My first day back to running was July 5th. My sister took me out on a 4 mile run. My legs felt great! Perfect in fact! But my lungs were screaming at me! I was really struggling to breathe, so much so I had to walk way more than my legs needed.

Luckily, I have time to get back into things before my next 1/2 marathon (end of August). Getting back into a routine, and giving my lungs a chance to function again will be my goal for the next two months!  I am excited to get back into a training plan, and to challenge myself again! I need the release of running in my life.

Running has always been for me a release of anxiety, and stress. Without running for the past month, that anxiety and stress has really built up, and with everything that is happening (or should I say: not happening) in my life, I am a big ball of emotions, and we are not talking about the good kind! I am a total mess!

First, I got my hopes up way to high for a job that I applied for at the beginning of June. It was the perfect job for me, and I was beyond excited even thinking about it. I received an email from their HR, letting me know that they would interview me via Skype while I was in Germany, and that they would be scheduling the interviews the next week.

I haven't heard back from the HR since then. I even emailed inquiring if the position was filled: no reply.

I am heartbroken. Seriously.

I wanted this opportunity so badly. I just don't understand what happened. I can fully understand that someone was more qualified than I am, but I need some closure. I just don't get it.

Second, and this may seem petty, but I didn't make it into Nike SF. This is now the 3rd time I have been rejected by the SF area (the job was in SF, the other rejection is coming…). Ugh! I am going to contact "my people" at Nike and see what I can do, but I was really banking on this race….so I am bummed, and the rejection just came at the wrong time.

Third, I feel like I am losing a friend. (Who lives in SF ….what the F is wrong with this town?!). It is a very long story, and I really don't want to get into it here on my blog, but it hurts. Being ignored, being forgotten, it hurts. I have always been the asshole-type of friend, the one who doesn't need you as much as you need me -- you know the one, right? I am more of a loner than anything, always have been. Don't get me wrong, I love people and love my friends, I just am not the type of person who worries about losing friendships, or is necessarily good about "keeping in touch". Its just not my style.

I think that is why this particular situation hurts me so badly. I needed this friend more than he ever needed me. I just want t throw rocks at him, or something. Ha.

Again, all of these things, while small and pretty petty, are coming at me at the same time, stacking on top of each other and breaking my heart.

Hopefully this is nothing that a good 10 or 12 mile run won't cure. Time to tie up my shoes and beat the hell outta that road!

** Photos to come……my life is a mess right now! :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lola's 1/2 Marathon Recap

For the last week, I have been in Germany, and have had a lot to do and a lot on my mind, which I will write about in a few days, but first, I wanted to recap my last "two" races!

On June 1st, I was slated to run the Team Ortho Minneapolis 1/2 Marathon. Unfortunately, due to thunder and lightening, the race was cancelled. It was the first race of mine to be cancelled and I was quite upset about it. It would have been my 7th half this year and the 10th of my life. It was pouring rain before the race start, and the race was delayed for an hour. About 50 minutes later, all the runners were called to the starting line, only to find out that they organizers cancelled the race. I have to admit that with the rain and the delay, I didn't really feel like running a half marathon. I was upset that the race was cancelled, but in the end, it just wasn't my day for a race! Unfortunately for others, the weather didn't get worse, it actually got better and the race really could have gone on as planned. 

The very next weekend, Anne and I had another race. We ran the Lola's 1/2 marathon in Lake Waconia, Minnesota. I was very excited about this race, because the shirts and the medals had mermaids on them! (It's the little things!). 

After taking to co-worker, who ran this race last year, I was freaking out! He is a BQ runner and said that the course was a killer for him!!!! "Extremely hilly" were his exact words! Hmmm. We all know that I am not the biggest fan of hills, while I don't mind them at all on training runs, and never avoid them, they freak me out in a race situation! So, needless to say, I went into the race pretty nervous. 

We woke up really early (5am) to drive to the start of the race, about 45 minutes from where my sister lives. It was POURING rain!! I was having flashbacks of the weekend before, and wasn't feeling so excited about running 13.1 miles in pouring rain, and brutal winds (not to mention the hills!!!!). 

After arriving at the race parking lot, we noticed 2 things: first, there were very few people, second, they all looked very fit and fast!!! 

Anne and I sat in the car, as the wind whipped the flags on the buildings, and the rain poured down in sheets. We both feared that this race would be cancelled. About 15 minutes before the start of the race, we were given word that the race would be delayed for 30 minutes. We continued to hang out in the car, staying dry and warm. 

Five minutes before the "New" race start time, I was pretty sure that this race was going to be cancelled. But, it was not and all runners were asked to make their way to the starting line. Anne made a quick stop at the port-o-potties, and we didn't get to the starting line until after the gun went off. I think there were only about 5 people behind me when I crossed the timer!! Overall, I think there were about 300 people running this race, the smallest 1/2 marathon I have ever run. 

It didn't take me long to catch up to the 2:30 pacer, and I stuck with him and his group for about the first 8 miles. It felt good to run with other people and to have someone to chat with. The pacing group was made up of about 4 others! Again, there were very few people behind me!

The hills weren't actually that bad for me. For every uphill there seemed to be a good downhill. But this course is not for someone who "never runs hills" there were some pretty long and steep ones!!! At mile nine we hit the steepest hill and I was forced to walk. I was soaking wet, since it was still raining, and I was very happy that I had decided to wear a long-sleeve shirt: the wind was chilly!!

I was feeling really good until around mile 10. At that point, I started to notice fewer and fewer volunteers on the course, which was poorly marked!! A lot of the course (about 80%) was run on open highways, and it was pretty dangerous. There were lots of side roads, and w/o proper signage, I really had no clue if I was going the right way. 

When I reached mile 12 (according to my Garmin), there were NO VOLUNTEERS!! At this point the course leads to a path, that then turns into a fork. I was running with 4 other women at the time, and none of us knew where to go. We actually stopped dead in our track, not wanting to run extra miles. Nobody was around to help so we chose a path and stuck with it. We were lead back into the town of Waconia, and felt like we were on the right track. The roads were open (even though they were supposed to be closed for 3.5 hours and we weren't anywhere close to that time), and we had to stop and wait for cars. Again, there were no signs pointing the way, and no volunteers. Other runners were making their way back to their cars, and we had to shout out for help. We took enough wrong turns to finally cross the finish line having run 14.5 miles total!!!! I was beyond mad!!! 

I collected my medal, found my sister. I was so tired, and so upset about the end of the course, all I wanted to do was leave and take a warm shower. I felt really bad about the entire race, even though it was actually a really good race for me, and I would have PRed, had I not run an extra 1.4 miles!!!!

Overall, I probably wont run this race again, unless they change a few things. The end of the course needs to stay closed to traffic and have volunteers or at very least signs showing runners the way! It was crazy, having to stop and wait for cars so I could cross the street. 

In hindsight, I was proud of myself for running and finishing this race. My training in the last month has not been very good, and I very much dislike running in the wind and rain. The hills were KILLER and I am proud that I got "up and over" them!!

Now, I am taking a break, getting my training back on schedule and will race again in August (unless I am able to run the SF 1/2 at the end of July!). 

Have you ever gotten lost during a race?