The first marathon!

Walt Disney World Marathon!

Once I started running,  I couldn’t stop.  Well, I did take a brief hiatus during my second pregnancy, but I started running again 4 weeks after giving birth.  It was a slow process and it is amazing how your body seems to lose interest in running if you haven’t done it in a while.  You have to give it a jump start!  Then there is the motivation issue again… fighting your way back into a running routine.  Oh well, I knew it was the only sure way to lose baby fat #2.

I ran along the coast of Half Moon Bay.  Mostly, I ran alone.  Bridget and I had moved into new homes that were nearly an hour away from each other.  It was tough to get together for consistent runs.  We still met up for the occasional race, but I was pretty much on my own.  Sometimes I pushed the jogging stroller.  Oh, the joys of jogging strollers!

Soon, it was time for us to move to Florida… a land that seemed so far, far away from all that I ever knew.  I arrived and tried to keep running.  It was so hot that I felt as though I were running in an oven.  Before I had time to adapt, I was pregnant… AGAIN!  I still ran a bit, but spent most of my days in the air-conditioned gym doing light weights and activities that weren’t so rough on my body.  However, I vowed that I would start running again as soon as this baby popped out.  I vowed to run my first marathon.  I really had to consider this after eating 10 cupcakes in one sitting.  Yes, now I had no choice but to run a marathon.

Four weeks after giving birth, I was ready!  I decided my best option would be to join Team in Training because I needed people to run with.  I needed some running buddies.  I wouldn’t get through the marathon without someone else by my side.

I saw her during the first group run.  She actually looked a bit snobby and I wasn’t sure if she was friendly.  Then I found out she was in the Coast Guard.  My goal was to get away from the Coast Guard, but I guess it was just meant to be.  The conversation started there.  I didn’t really run with her in the beginning.  She seemed rather hardcore and was always running further than the rest of the group.  Then one day I joined her on the longer run.  The next time, I joined her for an extra run over the bridge.  I ran faster and farther than I ever had before.

Tracey challenged me.  She made me realize that I could put in a little more effort and gain so much more.  We were friendly competitors always trying to outdo each other.  We forced each other to run faster and farther.  I knew I was more than ready when I stood at the starting line of my first marathon.  I probably should have been just a tad bit more prepared (or maybe I shouldn’t have indulged in so much food & drink the days leading up to the race) because Tracey whooped me in the end.  She took off and there was nothing I could do to keep up.  Oh, but that wasn’t the end of it.  I eventually got my revenge in later races.

Tracey and I had our war stories.  I remember the time she had to stop to throw up when we were training for our fastest 5K.  Or the time I tripped over my own big feet and skinned my knees in front of the Red Cross building.  There was the race where I ran on ahead (my glory days) while Tracey was stuck running alongside Jeff Galloway (her least favorite runner ever).  Speaking of Galloway, there was the time we yelled at a group of Galloways that kept stopping in front of us and blocking the whole path during the Bank Marathon. I seriously thought a high school brawl was about to erupt at any moment.

I won’t ever forget the time I went searching for Tracey in every ER in Jacksonville.  Yep, that fool decided to leave the group without telling anyone where she was going, except that she should probably get herself in the hospital.  I just happened to be running with another group on the other side of the bridge so when I returned everyone told me that Tracey was complaining about her swelling legs.  Hours later, I eventually found her at the ER on base.  I would have slapped her if she wasn’t lying prone in a hospital bed (don’t worry, after many months, she eventually de-swelled).

Tracey was the running buddy I could always count on to run with me rain or shine.  We would run together and then indulge in coffee and donuts (you can’t find too many friends willing to eat donuts in front of you).  She helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible (and I probably gained just as many calories as I burned thanks to her love of chicken wings and beer… and of course donuts).  I was truly sad the day I had to say goodbye as she headed overseas.

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The first half marathon!

Napa to Sonoma half marathon

Bridget and I met while attending San Francisco State University’s teaching credential program.  We became friends the first time we started talking to each other at lunch.  It was awesome that we had all of our classes together and we even got selected to student teach at the same school right down the road from where we lived.  Of course we spent a lot of time attending classes, studying and teaching.  I don’t think I was really involved in a lot of physical activity during that time…. I was too busy trying to get through the program.

That’s why I really have no recollection of whose idea it was.  At first it was a trail run 5K.  Somehow we talked our significant others into doing the race with us.  Maybe I realized that running would help me burn off the baby fat that was still lingering even though my daughter was already 2 years old.  We ran that hilly 5K pretty well and even came in on the top 10 list… okay, so maybe there were only about 20 runners in the whole event.  I suppose that sparked the next plan.  We were going to run a half marathon.  Not just any half marathon, but the one that would take us through the vineyards from Napa to Sonoma where we would finish with some free wine tasting.

Bridget and I trained.  We ran longer and longer distances.  I remember the longest was the loop that went past her house and my house along the bay.  It was a nice run and our paces seemed to fit well together.  We would often listen to music and occasionally engage in conversation.  We suffered together.  We were able to motivate each other and make it to the start of that half marathon feeling like we could actually finish.

Bridget’s boyfriend at the time (now husband) decided that he would run the race with us.  Yeah, he didn’t train for the event, but do men ever have to train for those things?  I was surprised that my husband came, but didn’t run with us.  He could also do it on a whim if he wanted to.  Yet, he remained my best supporter and race day photographer.  The night before we all went out for pasta.  The boys insisted on wine, but Bridget and I refused. We had worked too hard to let it all go.  Besides, wine would be waiting for us at the finish line.

I remember that it was a very warm day and the vineyards never seemed to end.  I don’t think we expected quite so many rolling hills, but they didn’t bother us so much.  Finally, the finish line was in sight.  It never felt so good to cross that line.  We had just finished our first half marathon!  Wow, that was quite an accomplishment!  Too bad we weren’t really in the mood to enjoy our free wine… but the mexican food was great.

After that, Bridget and I planned to run the Rock n Roll half marathon in San Jose, but Bridget wasn’t able to finish the training due to an injury.  Yet, she was still there to cheer me on as I ran my second half marathon.  We kind of tried to keep up with each other after that.  We did a few smaller races and eventually it was time for me to move to Florida.  It was hard, but we found new running buddies and we kept running.  Bridget and I eventually finished our first marathons.

The last time I talked to Bridget she was still pushing that jogging stroller.  I look forward to running with her again!  She was my motivation to achieve greater things.  I may never have finished a half marathon if it weren’t for her.  Thank you Bridget!

My first running buddy

Jacksonville Gate River Run 2011

I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to my running buddies, past and present.  Each buddy that I will mention has had a significant impact on how I view running and has shaped the runner that I am today.  Valuable friendships have arisen from my running experiences and I will never forget the memories shared during runs (especially the painful ones :).  I hope to share with my readers the importance of running buddies.  I do find enjoyment out of running alone, but the most fun I’ve had running has been shared with others.

Let me take you back about 10 years.  I was in Officer Candidate School for the Coast Guard.  It was a 4-month officer training program that incorporated both physical and academic training.  I was always good at academics, but the physical part was a bit daunting to me.  Being yelled at to get up at 4:00 am to jump right out of bed and start doing push-ups wasn’t really my thing.  I was surprised though.  I always gave it my best even if I wasn’t the best (or if I caused others to be yelled at because I wasn’t able to crank out enough push-ups).  Of course, there running was involved.  A lot of running.  And you were never alone when you ran because you had to run like a herd of cattle trying to move in a straight line while being poked and prodded by the cowboys on the edge.  It was really hard for me not to trip over myself or anyone else since I am so graceful (not!).  The marching was just a joke.  I can’t even count how many times I was yelled at for not staying in unison with everyone else.  I guess I should have made it clear that I didn’t have a dancing background.

After about two months we finally had some freedom.  During our free time we could actually go for a run on base without the herd.  It was then that I found a running buddy.  This really sweet, adorable man who was way more fit than I was.  Actually, he ended up getting the “most fit” award in our class.  But, I have always thrived on challenges so when he asked me to go for a run I said “yes.”  Okay, so he must have cut his normal pace in half while I struggled to maintain steady breathing (forget trying to talk).  Yet, when he asked again, I said yes again.  I knew that he only ran with me because he had the hots for me.  That was okay with me.  I liked him too.

Needless to say, that man and I got married just a few short months later.  We are coming up on 10 years of marriage.  I guess you can say that this was a pretty important relationship that I gained through running.  He was always a better, faster runner than me… up until 2 years ago.  I really took the challenge and ran with it.  I spent countless hours planning and training… to beat him, of course.  And I did just that during the Jacksonville Gate River Run 15K.  During the last 1/2 mile I passed him.  Then, a few months later, I passed him during the second half of the 10-mile Pumpkin Run.  Yeah baby!  Sure, it might never happen a third time, but I won’t admit that it didn’t feel good, especially when I think back to the running days when we first met.  I have come a long ways since then!

My husband and I don’t get to run together very often anymore.  Since we have 3 kids and different schedules, we usually have to take turns.  However, my husband is my biggest supporter and I love him for that.  He knows how much running means to me and he will do anything in his power to help me achieve my goals.  I couldn’t ask for a better running buddy (or husband :)!

Winter Running in October??

Winter running on the Ralston Creek Trail

I knew it would come sooner or later.  Actually, it appeared a couple of weeks ago… briefly.  I’m talking about snow.  Really?  It can’t be winter already?  The leaves just started to change colors and fall from the trees.  Now there are leaves and snow on the ground.  Halloween decorations in the yard are covered with snow.  My kids are bundled up in those puffy jackets that make them look like mini marshmallows.  Below freezing temperatures that only increase by a few degrees during the day.

Yet, people around here tell me that this is not the end of fall.  All of this beautiful snow could melt in a day and the temperatures might return to a balmy 70 degrees by next week.  The weather around here is more unpredictable than it ever was in Jacksonville.  I decided not to wait around to find out what would happen.  I decided just to go ahead and go on the run that I had already planned a few days earlier.  Why should I let snow and freezing temperatures stop me now?  I mean, what will I do in January when this stuff sticks around permanently?

Thankfully I had already purchased my running pants that were rated for below 40 degrees.  I must say that good winter running clothes should be put on the same pedestal as a good pair of running shoes.  You really can’t afford to go skimpy when it comes to running in freezing temperatures.  What if you hurt your knee and have to walk home?  You are bound to catch hypothermia if you don’t have the proper gear.

I woke up this morning to a lot of snow.  I knew it was coming, but the scene outside was still a surprise.  I pondered my crazy plan to go running outside.  Hmmm, I could just put on regular workout clothes and go to the gym.  Did I really need to go outside?  Yes, I had to go outside.  I only run on the treadmill when I have to (or when I don’t want to push a 60 pound jogging stroller).

I put on my running clothes:  my new pants, a fleece-lined running shirt, a fleece, rain jacket, gloves, hat and a pair of thin wool socks.  I didn’t really care if I was overdoing it because I knew that if I got hot then I could also take off a layer.  That would be better than freezing my rear off.  I was a bit worried about my toes, but I was surprised to find out that the warmer socks still allowed my already big feet to fit in my shoes.  Then I started thinking about traction.  Knowing my luck, I would crash and burn if I hit a patch of ice on the sidewalk.  I couldn’t really do anything about that so I just told myself I would start off slow.

And then I was off!  Yep, it didn’t take long for my face to feel like it would fall off.  I thought about the face mask that I probably should have brought.  Dang it, my toes were good, but my face and my fingers were not happy.  I wasn’t even sure how far I was going to run, but I told myself that I would at least do 3 miles so I could get acclimated to this winter running stuff.

After 2 miles, I was feeling pretty darn good considering the temperature and the snow falling from the sky.  I was starting to warm up.  Actually, my core was getting a bit too toasty.  I considered taking off my fleece, but the thought of wind hitting my sweaty shirt didn’t sound so appealing so I just opted to be a bit toasty.  My extremities could have used a little extra warmth, but it wasn’t as bad as that first mile.

As I coasted along in mile 3, I finally took the time to take in the scene around me.  Snow covered trees, a slow-moving creek and hills of white.  I couldn’t help thinking about how beautiful it was.  At that moment, I felt really lucky.  Not only was it a scenic run, but it was a quiet one.  There wasn’t a  soul in sight, unless you count the frisky squirrels or the bantering geese. (And what the heck are geese still doing here?  Shouldn’t they be heading south?).  Every now and then I saw a person walking a dog.  And there was one runner.  That’s it, just one.  I shouted “at least I am not the only crazy one” before I noticed he was wearing headphones.  So, that must have been why he gave me a weird look.

I was running a straight route.  That only meant that I would have to turn around at some point and come back.  Doing an out-and-back kind of forces you to run farther.  You are feeling good those first few miles and you don’t really think about needing to turn around.  “I got this” you say… until you realize you have run 5 miles.  Okay, I guess I am running 10 miles today.  I have no choice but to turn around and run 5 more miles.  Honestly, it’s been a few months since I have run that far.  It felt pretty good up until mile 9.  Yes, I was almost there, but there was a hill.  Damn those hills!

After I reached my car I couldn’t help but think about food.  Yet, that is nothing new.  I can talk about food at mile 24 while my friends are thinking about throwing up.

Today I think I showed winter who is boss.  I’m not going to run inside on the treadmill while staring longingly out the window.  Screw that.  Cycling, though, is a different story.  Can you just picture me cruising along at 18 mph and hitting a patch of ice?  That’s just a bit too scary.

It’s not a secret…

My ride up to Red Rocks

It’s not a secret that even the seemingly motivated people are often unmotivated.  That doesn’t mean that they always give in to these feelings, though.  They have to work to overcome these feelings just like anyone else.  I don’t know if people see me as motivated.  Sometimes I feel like a blob on the couch as I scan t.v. stations at night.  Occasionally I cook dinner in the microwave or order take out instead of actually using the stove or oven.  Once in a while, I lay on the floor as my kids pile books and toys on top of me  while I think about how I should be teaching them how to read and write.   I’m not quite the model citizen here.

But, you know what?  I have the special ability to fight and overcome.  Maybe it has something to do with how I was raised.  My life was never picture perfect and I always had to be strong in order to stay intact.  If I want to do something, then I will get it done.  However, I can’t fight all of the time or else I would be too exhausted.  I guess I kind of have to pick my battles.

For me, staying physically fit and healthy is very important to me.  If I am not running, biking or swimming, then I am not happy.  If I am not happy, then I can’t make my family happy.  If I become a stick in the mud, then I become depressed.  If I become depressed then I lose all motivation to do anything.  It is a vicious cycle, I know.  So, in order for me to stay motivated in all areas of my life, I have to run, bike or swim.  Sure, I might be extra tired from a 20-mile run, but I actually have more energy when I stay moderately active.  I do more chores later in the day when I have gone to the gym in the morning.  If I don’t exercise, then I tend to sit around all day and nothing gets accomplished.  I really can’t explain it, but I know what works for me.

A few people might say that it appears as though I put my fitness priorities before anything else, including my family.  But these people are far from correct.  I have to take care of myself in order to take care of my family.

Yet, it’s no secret that I feel unmotivated at times.  I felt so tired before my ride today and I tried to use the crazy wind as an excuse.  However, I knew that if I didn’t ride then I would only feel worse.  Once I got on my bike and reached the top of our hill, I was a changed person.  I wasn’t tired anymore and I was eager to head up the mountain even though I knew it would be hard work.  I came home in time to help with dinner and even get a few chores done.  I have my moments, but I know the consequences for not following through.

Running Without a Reason

 

Lately I have been running just to run.  I am not training for an upcoming event.  I am not trying to lose weight (okay, maybe I am always trying to maintain weight thanks to my baked goods addiction).  I ran 8 miles today.  I just thought it seemed like a good distance to run.  It wasn’t a planned “long run” day.  Actually, I am even surprised I made it that far because by the time I was done with work I didn’t appear to have any energy left.  The thought of going home and crawling into bed sounded like a very good idea.  Even though I woke up at 4:30 am and was tired of staring at the computer for 5 hours straight, I still made the decision to run.  I could have very well opted for a coffee and bagel instead, but I figured that I needed to earn that.  It seems to taste better when I earn it.

 

I managed to change into my running clothes and step outside.  The weather was perfect.  It was the ideal running temperature and there was not a cloud in the sky.  I told myself that I could just start running and decide how far I would go even though I was planning on the 8 miles.  The luxury of running by yourself is that you can always change your plans or your pace.  There isn’t so much pressure to go hard.

 

The first mile seemed endless.  I started to think that maybe I was too tired to run 8 miles.  Those are the negative thoughts that should never enter the mind.  I waved off the thought and kept running.  I ran to the other side of the city along the creek, under bridges and past sketchy homeless folks pushing overflowing shopping carts.  This trail has become one of my favorite runs because the greatest elevation change is about 50 feet.  I can just do a nice and easy run without having to compete with the hills of my neighborhood.

 

Once I arrived at the 4-mile mark I knew there was no turning back.  Well, actually, I did have to turn back.  It was another 4 miles back.  I would have to finish 8 miles no matter how I felt… and I did just that.  Of course the run wouldn’t be complete without the coffee and bagel to top it off.

 

The lack of pressure is kind of nice.  I can just run when I want to and however far I would like to go.  But, it won’t last long.  I need a new challenge to set my sights on.  I was thinking about a Half Ironman next summer and I might as well throw in a marathon while I am at it.  It won’t be easy, but isn’t that the point?