Hurricane Motivation


Fancy Pumpkin Patch 5k trophy.  Is that pumpkin smiling or laughing at me??

It has been a long time since I ran a 5k without kids… maybe at least 4 years.  I don’t run 5k’s because you are supposed to run them fast.  I prefer to run slow and steady for a longer period of time.  I’m too old to run fast.  Or so I thought.

As most of you already know, I have been in a bit of a funk lately.  No real reason for that, unless you count getting displaced by a hurricane, losing most of your household goods and having your family split apart.  But enough with dwelling on my woeful circumstances.  My concern most recently has been my history of depression coming back to haunt me.  Whether or not people want to believe it, depression is a real illness and should not be taken lightly.  It is not just about feeling sad.  Other symptoms include hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, fatigue, loss of interest in normal activities (or activities you once thought were fun), difficulty concentrating and making decisions and loss of appetite.

It has been about 14 years since I have taken medication for depression.  Instead, I have used exercise as my medicine and it has worked.  There were times I worried about it coming back, like when I had a protruding disk in my back and was unable to run (and barely walk) for 3 months.  I did my PT religiously and then I found a way to gradually get back into running… by doing triathlons.  From there I took it all the way to a half Ironman.  Yes, I fight back and I fight hard.

Two days after the hurricane hit and I was stateside, I went outside for a run.  I could barely run.  I dragged my feet and quit after 2 miles.  It was a tough week and I struggled with every run I attempted.  Honestly, I felt like I could barely do anything.  Then one day I went for a run in the woods and I felt the fight begin to stir within me.  I kept fighting and some days I would win and other days I would lose.  It has remained a tough battle even after all of this time.

Last week I signed up for a 5k on the nearby Navy base.  It was free so I thought it couldn’t hurt.  As I already mentioned, I don’t really do 5k’s.  I just figured I would at least get out and run with a group of people.  Then last night I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach and had second thoughts about going.  I made up excuses in my head:  “Well, I don’t have a costume” or “It’s free so it doesn’t matter if I show up or not.”  Even this morning after I dropped off the kids at school I was still debating in my head.  I went back to the house and just planned on running alone around the neighborhood.  Somehow I managed to tell myself to at least drive to the base and I could just change my mind if I wanted to.  I had to go the Exchange anyway.

Next thing I know I was lined up at the starting line.  Once again, I just told myself I was going to get a run in with a group of people.  I mean, I even had taken a weight training class the day before and my legs were still hurting.  What could I even do if my entire body ached?  The countdown started and my adrenaline and need for competition kicked in.  I know by now that I can’t just “run” a race.  I have to race a race.  I started off too fast as I always do (but I always coach people to start off slow and finish strong… just so you know).   Then all of a sudden my emotions surfaced.  It wasn’t joy or sadness.  It was anger.  All of a sudden I was just pissed off.

The sorrow and woes had turned to anger.  The many stages of grief.  Right.  I summoned up a new mantra:  “Fuck you Maria!”  I repeated it over and over again in my head, and maybe out loud a few times (but only when I could actually breathe).  When my body started to shut down, I fought against the pain and lack of air in my lungs.  As I got to mile 2, my mind was definitely on the prize.  I knew I had to win one of those trophies that I had seen on a table at the start.  At that point, it was definitely possible.  I knew there were only 4 or 5 woman ahead of me.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I had the fight within me and I could overcome all of the crap that has rained down on my family.  I know it seems crazy to obsess over a cheap trophy, but it symbolized not just a win in a race, but a win in this internal battle.  I fought so hard that last mile.  I thought I was slowing down so I kept pushing hard (and I found out after I finished that my mile 2 was actually the same exact lap time as my mile 3).

I walked away with that trophy after placing 2nd in my age group.    My finishing time was 23:10 and I am pretty sure that is my second best (if not best) 5k time ever… and I am not getting any younger!  Um, and let’s just go ahead and throw this out there:  I was faster than most of the Navy guys.

Even though I have a headache from the heat and lack of proper hydration, I feel much better today.  I feel like I have a fight stirring within me again.  I will continue to have the strength to do what needs to get done and I will even go beyond that in any way I can.  The next step is to find a purpose now that extends beyond my motherly duties.  Running keeps me on the right path and it will take me to where I need to go.  With that thought, I hope everyone faced with difficulty figures out what gives them the strength to move forward.


Running Keeps Me Sane

Here I am finishing my first half marathon.  I just kept going after that...

Here I am finishing my first half marathon. I just kept going after that…

It happens every couple of years.  I have to pack boxes for the umpteenth time.  The last time we moved I hastily packed (well, the movers actually did most of the packing) and didn’t bother to sort through papers or donate unwanted items.   This time I decided to be more thorough.  There was no point moving that extra stuff (junk) that we would never use or need.

So, I poured a glass of wine and started poking through piles of papers, binders and books.  Lo and behold, I came across some old journals.  I prefer to call them journals, but I guess you could also call them diaries.  However, I don’t have any secrets to keep (you should know that by now if you read my blog) nor did I back then when I was on my own writing in these “journals.”  It was just me and my life roaming free.

As I read through them, I laughed at my former self, pitied my former self and felt anger towards my former self.  It was obvious that my journals were only meant to convey negative thoughts and emotions.  I never had anything nice to say about myself and I felt like the world was out to get me.   Then I got to the part about the “black hole.”  I had sunk so low that I felt like I was in a black hole.  It was the time in my life when I was so depressed that I lacked the ability to communicate with others, didn’t sleep and was barely able to eat.  I didn’t need the journal entries to remember that time in my life.  I had to visit therapists and take prescription medication.  I felt hopeless and lost.

Then something changed.  I began to claw my way out of the black hole.  Even though I was married (and still am) to the greatest man ever and had just given birth to the most beautiful baby girl, it took more than that to get me out of the hole.  Running threw me a lifeline and I was able to finally heave myself out of the darkness.   As I focused my negative energy on running, I was helped along with the support of my husband and my friends.  They encouraged me and I kept going.  It did take a few years, but I finally made peace with myself and was finally able to accept me for me.

In an effort to never go back into that black hole, I keep running.  I don’t need therapists or medication to stay mentally healthy.  Running keeps me sane.  I run because I am training for an event, I run to stay healthy or sometimes I run just for the heck of it.  I spend quality time with myself when I run.  I challenge myself to achieve greatness.  I find strength that I never thought I had.  I rise above and conquer.  I absorb the world around me.  I accept it all just the way it is.

As I read through the last journal entry, I felt the need to write a new entry.  I told my former self about how I have grown up and become self-disciplined, intrinsically motivated, independent, fearless, strong, determined, fit, healthy and beautiful… all the characteristics I thought I was lacking when I was at my lowest.  Running, along with my family, saved me from myself.

Depression is painful.  You feel lost and alone.  No one can understand what it is like unless they have actually been there themselves.  It is not just about feeling bad for a day.  It can last weeks, months, years.  Running might be helpful for some.  It is worth a try.

Post Race Blues

Today's ride was slow, but at least there was a view.

Today’s ride was slow, but at least there was a view.

First there was nervousness.  Then there was misery.  Next came pure euphoria.  Now all that’s left is a bit of depression.

Post race blues are actually pretty common.  I was just talking to my friend the other day who finished her first marathon the day after I finished my first 70.3.  She said she was having a rough week because everything seemed a bit off.  When I mentioned “post race blues” she considered this and admitted that it suited just how she was feeling.  I told her that I completely understood what she was feeling.

The day after a big race all you want to do it slump on the couch and stuff your face with vittles that you didn’t dare touch during the week leading up to the race.  For me, it was pizza, chips and chocolate.  I felt like I had earned a little splurge.  Then I kept eating the same amount of food I was consuming during my training phase.  I still felt so hungry for some reason even though I wasn’t burning any where near the same number of calories.  I realized that I had to cut back on my food intake and that made me depressed.

The DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness) lasted a couple of days.  It made perfect sense to take a complete day off on Sunday (the day after my race).  However, on Monday I wasn’t quite sure what to do.  I really didn’t want to rest.  I really felt a NEED to go out and get moving.  So, I decided to do a semi-workout.  I loaded up the girls in the jogging stroller and hobbled/walked/jogged for about 2 miles.  Every time I started jogging I thought that maybe I was an idiot. That made me depressed.  Every time I walked I would see someone run by.  That made me depressed.  I just decided to go home and cry.

When Tuesday rolled around I was set to head to the gym (because that is what I do every Tuesday).  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at the gym, but I was determined to get there.  The DOMS appeared to be wearing off so I decided to run on the treadmill.  I only ran.  There was no walking involved.  Then I decided to go for a swim.  I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need to do more than one workout, but my mind was still in double/triple workout per day mode.  So, I just decided to do a short 30 minute easy swim.

Hello Wednesday!  I couldn’t go too long without getting on the bike (I mean, I did used to take a ride at least 3 times per week before the race).  I opted for a flat route (good choice) and settled for a one hour ride.  I tried to tell myself to go slow.  I tried to tell myself to just enjoy the scenery.  I couldn’t.  I tried to pass as many cyclists as I could.  Then I was left wondering why I felt so tired at the end of the day.  I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to go to bed early or why I didn’t feel so energetic.

Yes, then there was Thursday.  Once I again I grabbed the jogging stroller (along with 75 pounds of weight) and headed out for 5 miles of pure running.  I was feeling great at the turnaround point and then my running started to get slower and slower.  I kept wondering what had happened to my running libido. That made me sad.

Okay Friday.  If you insist.  I took the day off.  That made me depressed.

I was hoping to run with my running group on Saturday morning, but I had to work.  Therefore, I decided to hit the trail early and run 6 miles.  That was my long run for the week.  I figured it wasn’t too bad.  After I reached the 3-mile mark and turned around, I realized that I had been running slightly uphill for the first 3 miles.  That made me smile.

Sunday.  Once again I couldn’t go too long without getting on that bike.  And no, I didn’t choose a flat route.  I chose a very hilly route.  Yeah, brilliant.

I feel kind of lost.  I don’t have a training plan.  I am not signed up for a race, but I do spend many hours browsing through  I have been contemplating my next move.  I think that once I sign up for a new race that my post race blues will disappear.  Hopefully.

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.