Back to Basics

Yesterday the doctor confirmed what I’d already known (and have known) for months years now: I am very anemic. While this is information that concerned doctors have been warning me about since the age of 16, it’s usually something I ignore like the stubborn idiot that I am. For example, it’s probably not good to be gasping for breath after climbing one flight of stairs, or blacking out whenever you stand up at work. Believe it or not these are symptoms that I’ve learned to live with over the years, and even laugh at. However, once my running became affected, I decided to start taking better care of myself. According to the doctor, my current hemoglobin level is 7. A normal level is 12. As he put it, I’m running on a half-empty tank of gas.

It’s no secret my race times have drastically slowed in the past year. I used to blame my accident (that whole getting hit by a car thing), but now I’m not so sure. I think it’s more of a combination of health, too many long distance races, running alone, and abandoning speed work and strength training. I’ve been unhappy lately with my slow running and that ever-increasing number on the scale, so it is no wonder that this article I read resonated with me so well:

Crossing the Finish Line 25 Pounds Lighter

In the above article, the author talks about how years of running marathons and eating as though she could justify every empty calorie lead to a steady weight gain, and slower race times. She took charge of her health and running progress by training for a mile race (yes, one singular mile), eating cleaner, and training with weights. Obviously, training for shorter distances means more sprinting and speed work, which we all know burns more fat. She lost the weight and beat her mile goal as well.

I was completely inspired by her progress. Why had I been treating marathons as the be-all-end-all of race distances? A fast 5K, and even mile, takes lots of hard work and training as well. Also, there’s no way I’m ever going to get faster running slow, long, distances every weekend. I made a goal then and there to train hard for a 5K. My 5Ks lately have been disastrous, with average times around 29 minutes. I’m thinking a realistic yet challenging goal would be sub-26 minutes. I’ll be following this plan by Hal Higdon to get myself there, as well as incorporating more weights in my week, oh and taking my iron pills like a good girl:

Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K Plan

Being the impatient and impulsive creature that I am, I decided to start working towards this goal NOW, instead of waiting until next spring/summer when there are literally 50 5Ks any given weekend. Thanks to RunMichigan.com, I was able to not only find a winter 5K that’s exactly 8 weeks from now, but also a mile race in Milford on November 28th as well! Granted, both are marketed as more “fun” races, but I’ll be having fun kicking so much ass. You know what else is fun about smaller distances? Smaller registration fees! I’m sure my boyfriend is happy to hear that.

But Laura! Don’t you have two winter marathons to train for as well? Yes, unfortunately. I figure I can train for both by still doing a long run on the weekend, but not killing myself mileage-wise during the week. Hopefully the extra speed work will contribute to faster marathon times as well.

I’m excited for a new and refreshing running goal. If all goes well I can work towards a 5K PR in 2016, and get back that running mojo that once allowed me to run a 50-minute 10K on a 85 degree day in August (I still can’t believe I did that!!). Also, if I sign up for any more full marathons for 2016 you have my permission to stab me repeatedly.

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Down in a Hole

Long time no write. Well, as the rule goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

As I always do I started out this year with lofty goals and high expectations and have achieved NONE of said goals. It’s my own fault, I tend to make these goals to distract myself from other things in my life that are bringing me down. For years I’ve put up with unhappiness in my current job but just resigned myself to its clutches, feeling like an indentured servant. Besides, who else would want to hire me? In the past few months a switch went off in my brain and I finally realized, hey! I really DO NOT have to put up with this! I have something to offer! I am smart, I have a degree, I work hard, who wouldn’t want me? Well, as it turns out, tons of people don’t want me and it is difficult not to take the constant rejection personally. However, like I do in mile 22 of a marathon when I’m shuffling along in immense pain and on the verge of tears, I keep going.

As the job search started overtaking my free time, my training for the Detroit Marathon fell by the wayside. The constant job searching, online applications, personality tests, phone interviews, and in person interviews can be mentally exhausting. However, there is another factor affecting my training.  My body has been making it abundantly clear in the past month, with every exhausted and light-headed step, that something isn’t right internally. I know I’m chronically anemic, but it’s at the point where I don’t think kale smoothies and a daily multi-vitamin are even making a difference. I see the doctor next week to rule out anything more drastic. One of my lofty goals this year was to break four hours at the Freep; however, yet again, I may be lucky just to break five. Even my short runs are at a 10:30ish average pace, and that scares me. I haven’t been this slow since training for my first marathon three years ago.

Fun stuff, huh?! All is not lost though. I feel good knowing that at least I’m finally addressing issues instead of burying my head in the sand. My job search may not be as successful as I thought it would be, but I’m still trying. Inexplicably having no energy or speed is frustrating as hell, but I keep running. At this point I don’t even care about being fast anymore, I just want to get back to the point where running eased my anxiety instead of being a major source of it. I just want to Run Happy as the folks at Brooks would say. I have dark moments where I feel stuck, and I get frustrated, and I cry. But anything worth having is worth fighting for, so I’ll keep fighting through the pain, both physical and emotional, until I find a job where I’m valued and gain back that running strength I lost a long time ago.

Quit Your Bitchin’!

So anyone who read yesterday’s post can tell I was suffering a hormone-induced depression. A quick run this morning helped burn off the crazy and I’m happy to say I at least feel normal again, not some raw nerve walking around in a cloud of despair.

This morning I looked at my stats on DailyMile to see if I’d even break 100 miles for the month. When looking at my miles for last February I noticed I had logged 167 miles! In the winter! During a Polar Vortex! And divorce and moving! And I was pretty fast, too! How the hell did I manage all of this?

Browsing through my workouts for the month I noticed a few things. One, there were lots of treadmill miles. I was temporarily living with my parents at the time and I made good use of their often forgotten mill. Two, there were lots of miles ran through their neighborhood which was often plowed really well and full of nice people who actually shoveled their sidewalks. Three, my speed could be attributed to more strength training. I was getting good use of my Nike Training Club app last year, at least three workouts a week.

So, using my scientific deducing skills, I have decided upon two things: 1) Run more! 2) Dust off the old Nike Training Club app! Seeing as how it’s Lent and all, I’ve decided upon a Lenten Run Streak Challenge. This will mean at least one mile every day until Easter. Most running streaks I plan fizzle after two days, but this time I have God involved and I’m already on his bad side and trying to earn some Brownie Points. I will also start exploring some of the new workouts on Nike Training club that magically appeared when I updated the app. There are “Race Ready” and “Power Legs” workouts that I hope deliver on their promise.

In the meantime I’ll keep swimming for fun and occasionally do things I’m supposed to do as an adult woman like work, clean, and feed my cat. Sleep is overrated anyway.

 

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February Musings and Self-Abusings

If my Timehop for today is any indication, February is traditionally not a good month for me. In the past there have been job troubles, cat surgeries, oh and that whole divorce thing last year. To compound life’s troubles is yet another harsh winter. True, this year isn’t as bad as last year’s unrelenting Polar Vortex; however, saying this winter isn’t as bad is like saying “This sinus infection is much better than that stomach flu I had last year!”

The sub-freezing temperatures don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Neither do my five-hour marathons. New Orleans, despite a flat course and perfect weather, proved to be another difficult run. I have several excuses to offer but my overall feeling as of late is that I lost any running talent I once had for good. Maybe it was a fluke that I got fast for a few months and I’m back to my normal, back-of-the-pack pace. My body seems to be betraying me as well. I made the horrible mistake of participating in the Cupid’s Undie Run again this year. Last year I was at my peak of fitness and proudly showed off my figure. This year I felt like a burqa would’ve been a better clothing choice, and it didn’t help that during the run my butt was jiggling so hard I thought it might dislodge and hit the person behind me in the face (my boobs didn’t move a centimeter of course).

Yes, it’s no secret I have a history with body dysmorphia and eating disorders and am probably not the morbidly obese sloth on the outside that I feel I am on the inside. Maybe better weather and nutrition will help my pace improve and I’m just in a temporary funk. I’ve been trying to look towards the positive lately but depression seems to be winning out. Continuing to abuse myself with these thoughts won’t solve anything though, so I need a better plan, not just for running but for life. I have the tendency to make huge, unattainable goals for myself and then get discouraged when I inevitably fail, so here’s my “Meh, I’m Trying” Plan for a Happier Laura: One strength-training session a week. Bring your own healthy lunch to work. Continue to swim, even if it means getting your ass out of a warm and cozy bed, because it makes you feel strong all day. Just run for the sheer enjoyment and hopefully speed will follow. And for christ’s sake, stop comparing yourself to other girls!!!

On Sunday I went for a run around the neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny, 2 degree day. It felt fantastic to run on a day when most people were afraid to walk to their cars. I was slow, and the snow made things difficult, but it was one of my best runs in a long time. I had not a single self-defeating thought in any of those 50-minutes. There is a happy Laura inside of me, I just need to force her out sometimes.

 

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New Year, New Training!

We are now 12 days into the new year and I must say, it’s already off to a better start than 2014. Life is so much more enjoyable without divorce drama and a Polar Vortex to contend with. The short time I’ve been here in 2015 has mainly been spent working toward my two main goals this year: Swimming an open-water 5K and PRing the shit out of a Spring marathon, whether it be the Flying Pig or a different, local, race I may or may not register for that takes place at the end of March (*shifty-eyed glance*).

I’ll admit, I’ve been a terrible slacker on my long runs lately. I really have no valid excuse other than “I don’t feel like it.” I have a great guy and fluffy cat at home, making it way to cozy and difficult to take a three-hour run on a Saturday morning. However, now that I have that “sub 4-hour marathon” itch again, I’ll be forcing myself out the door more from now on. You don’t get fast eating caramel corn and perusing Twitter all morning long.

Still beats the treadmill.

Whatever it takes

One area where I have not been slacking is swimming. I logged over four miles of swimming last week, more than I swam in the entire month of December. I really enjoy my swim workouts. I feel my kick getting stronger and my stroke getting more efficient, even though I’m still getting passed by large old men on the regular. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I ordered some new goodies on clearance from SwimOutlet.com to reward my new swimming obsession, which included a new pink bathing suit and swim cap. Well, the swim cap already has a hole in it and the suit is cut high on the hips and makes my butt look like biscuit dough exploding out of the canister. Not exactly the motivation I was looking for.

Speaking of my exploding butt, I’ve decided to make a really big concerted effort to cut out the junk. Yesterday at the store I bought a bunch of power greens, berries, lean chicken, sweet potatoes, and other things that I usually buy and throw away after they’ve gone rotten in the fridge. But not this time! I have a new pink bathing suit that I need to fit into (and am too lazy to return)! More dinners at home will be the next step, which is easier when you have a boyfriend who makes amazing homemade chicken noodle soup.

More long runs. More swimming progress. Don’t eat crap. Easier said than done. I get lots of inspiration reading the training plans and progress of others and really enjoy all of your blogs. Hopefully you all can do the same reading my incoherent ramblings. Even if you aren’t inspired, there’s a chance I’ll post a picture of my cat every once in a while.

Thanks for reading!

 

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2014 Year in Review: Numbers and Math and a Preview of 2015

My father is a numbers guy and that has always bugged me. Whenever I mention a social gathering/race/whatever I’ve just attended, his first question is always “How many people were there?” When I point out that sorry, I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be counting, he starts throwing out estimates. “Were there about 20? More than 30?” It gets on my nerves for the simple fact that my brain isn’t wired that way. Numbers are my enemy. I’m a known generous tipper because of my inability to do simple math in my head. I would suck on the Price is Right because fuck if I know what a broom is supposed to cost. The only time I obsess about numbers, however, is in relation to my training. Here is what my 2014 looked like in numbers. My dad would be proud.

In 2014 I completed 2,198 miles:

I ran 1,794 miles

I biked 375 mile

I swam 28 miles

I ran 2 marathons with a PR of 4:29:10 (which included at least 5 potty breaks)

I ran these marathons in 2 new states (scratch Utah and Indiana off the long list!)

I ran 6 half marathons with a PR of 1:50:10

I ran 3 of those halfs as a pace group leader

I ran 1 half marathon through 2 countries (I heart you Detroit International Half Marathon)

I finished 1 half marathon holding the hand of the man I love

I ran 6 5Ks with a PR of 23:47

I entered 3 sprint triathlons and successfully completed 1 (damned open water anxiety)

I missed out on 3 races I registered for due to being hit by 1 car

I peed in the woods 2 times

I pooped my pants 1 time

And on that final (brown) note, I will end the data. I’m very proud of my accomplishments in 2014, even though it ended on a frustrating note with inexplicably slower speeds, including a 10K I ran in 1:01. Ouch. I’ve been going out for shorter runs lately and trying to really push myself and I’m happy to say there is still some speed hidden inside of me, I just have to work for it.

Though I’m already registered for two marathons in 2015, including the Skyline Chili 4-Way at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati (that’s a 5K, 10K, and full marathon all in one weekend), my main goal is to run less in the coming year. I feel like a lot of my training runs lately have been for the wrong reasons, whether to prove that I’m tough or to be like the cool kids who run 50+ miles a week. Running less will also give me time to swim more, which will help me achieve my main goal of 2015: swim an open water 5K. Right now the idea sounds ridiculous and I’ve been afraid of telling people for fear of being laughed out of the room. Really? The same girl who couldn’t finish 750 meters in a sprint triathlon is going to finish 5,000?! What can I say, I love an impossible challenge (unless it involves math). I love how strong swimming makes me feel and though I have a long way to go, I’m willing to put in the effort. I see many more group swims with the FAST Masters Swimmers in the coming months.

The past year was thrilling and difficult and exciting and terrifying and shitty and wonderful and I can’t wait for the adventures and life experiences the new year brings.

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 920 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

MY HIGHLY ANTICIPATED NEW POST, BRACE YOURSELVES!!!!!!!

Oh, hey there! My it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this thing. I’ve been BOMBARDED with requests to update my thousands upon thousands of readers with an update of my activities, and I’ve never been one to disappoint. So get yourself a snack and a beer and get settled while you read back on some of the exciting things I accomplished this past summer/fall:

1) I got hit by a car! Okay, this isn’t necessarily an accomplishment, but anytime you collide with heavy machinery it definitely makes the memory bank. One August morning I was out for a training run and crossed an intersection at the “walk” signal. Glancing over my left shoulder, I didn’t see any drivers turning right into the intersection. Unfortunately, a black SUV was turning from the far right turn lane and hit me with their front passenger mirror and front end. They also drove off, bastard! Anyway, I was lucky to walk away relatively unharmed. I sustained a bruised calf muscle and tendonitis in my left foot that took me out of the running game for nearly a month.

While I’m totally healed by now, my speed and endurance have not returned. At all. In fact, I’m practically back to the speeds I was hitting my first year running. It’s been humbling for sure, and a bit disconcerting. Running feels extra difficult lately. I’ve scheduled a doctor’s appointment to rule out any vitamin deficiencies, or cancer or AIDS or whatever.

2) I ran my fifth marathon in my fourth state! MEDALS AND RUNNING ALL THE STATES!!! I knocked Indiana off my list by running the Indianapolis Monumental on November 1st. I had no great expectations for this run. My lack of long runs due to my accident and slowing speeds made me adopt a “fuck it!” attitude. I knew I could finish, and that’s all I expected.

What I didn’t expect was how much fun I’d have. Indianapolis is a fun town- clean, safe, and full of bars and good eats. The architecture was also stunning. I made this trip with my friend and running-buddy extraordinaire, Mary Beth. After our respective races we ate and drank away the soreness.
Oh, and for the record, I finished in 5:02:06. Blaaaah. Whatever, I got my medal bitches!

3) I finished a triathlon without freaking out in the water! By far my proudest accomplishment this summer. On September 14th I completed the Holly Recreation Area sprint triathlon, held by Tri To Finish. It was one of the first chilly mornings of the fall and temps were in the low 40s. The scenery was pretty and serene and helped calm my out of control swimming nerves. I finished the swim, slowly but surely, and proceeded to one of the hilliest bike courses I’ve ever experienced. In fact, I saw many an athlete walk their expensive tri bikes up the relentless hills.

I, however, stayed on my 1,000-ton road bike and never walked. I ran the 5K with no feeling in my quads and crossed that finish line with immense pride. I did it! Finally a successful sprint triathlon in 2014! I fell in love with Tri To Finish events so much after this race that I entered their contest to be a sponsored team member in 2015. What does that mean? I have no idea! But they claim they pick “heart over speed”, so thank God for that. I submitted my pitch yesterday. Fingers and toes crossed!

4) I paced more races! Along with my Your Pace or Mine buddies, I’ve been fortunate to pace two half marathons this fall- The Brooksie Way and the Clarkston Backroads. What’s better than running a fall half marathon? Running for free and inspiring other runners, of course! I absolutely love pacing and can’t wait for more opportunities. There’s even been talks of YPOM being asked to pace the Charlevoix Half Marathon, which all my millions of readers will recognize as my favorite half marathon EVER.

So what’s next? I’m currently training for the Rock N’ Roll New Orleans Marathon on January 25th. My super-awesome-boyfriend Shawn will be running with me, although much faster and further ahead of me I’m sure. Jerk. Mary Beth and some wild YPOMers will be joining the fun as well. I would love a PR, no matter how small. In the meantime I’m cleaning up my diet (haha not really), doing more speedwork, and waiting to hear what the doctor tells me in regards to my recent sluggishness. I’ve also been hitting up the pool more often in hopes of an epic and wildly stupid goal I have for next summer…you’ll have to stay tuned.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your tips for getting over a running slump below!*

*Besides rest, because that would just be silly.

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Fighting the Fat Kid

One of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood was from my fourth grade gym class. It was the mile run day for the President’s Challenge, that horrible week during the year when your fitness was measured and I of course came up short in everything. As I recall I was already 110 pounds at age 10 and my idea of fitness was running to the cupboard to sneak a few Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies before dinner. The one area of the President’s Challenge where I excelled was the sit-and-reach, which measured flexibility. I was always number one in my class, the only advantage of being blessed with short legs and a long torso. Enough of what I was good at, now on to the cringe-inducing mile run…

The mile run was eight laps around a spray-painted loop in a field behind our school. Granted, it’s not like we had Nike technical apparel to change in to. I was most likely running in some uncomfortable skirt and sweater that my mother picked out for me. Anyway, fat kids in skirts don’t run fast. In fact, I came in dead last out of my entire class. I was so slow that everyone was done while I was finishing my final lap. Imagine being a fat kid with a perm (thanks, mom!) and having all your classmates stare at you as you huff-and-puff. To add insult to injury, my shoe fell off as I rounded the final corner. To this day I can still see the 25+ faces of annoyed school children watching me hop on one foot to my tear-filled finish.

Fast forward 21 years to last Saturday. I was attempting my second sprint triathlon in Lexington, Michigan. I hadn’t done any real training and the last time I swam was at my last sprint tri in September of last year. For some reason the waters of Lake Huron terrified me and I immediatley panicked when the gun went off. I couldn’t control my breathing, ended up swallowing a bunch of water, and threw up on myself. Lovely. Luckily the rescue kayaks had swimming noodles for idiots like myself. I took one after a few feet of flopping around erraticaly. While I wasn’t dead last to get out of the water, I was surely the only person under the age of 50 with a security blanket noodle. My ego was decimated. As I ran back to the transition area, I couldn’t help but recall my earlier embarrassing moment in athletic acheivement.

Every day of my life is a struggle against Fat Kid Laura. In my late teens to mid twenties I fought back in unhealthy ways by starving myself and smoking and eventually developing bulimia. At the age of 27 I started training for my first half marathon and finally found out that I was a decent runner after all. I fought against Fat Kid Laura by training and enjoying races, and every once in a while winning my age group. Running has given me more self-esteem than any other aspect of my life. However, there are moments like the Lexington disaster when Fat Kid Laura comes back in full force to destroy my confidence.

It’s easy for me to not feel good enough. I see girls with nice boobs and I feel inadequate. I see girls with good careers and feel I have nothing to offer. I struggle with the math while studying for my Series 7 and I feel stupid. These feelings can utterly consume me if I don’t fight back. So I failed my swim portion miserably in Lexington. I’m not throwing in the towel and letting Fat Kid Laura win this round. I am determined to let Kick Ass Adult Laura reign victorious. On Monday I participated in a tri training group and I even signed up for private swim lessons to improve my technique and efficiency. A bit extreme maybe, but Fat Kid Laura is a tough bitch to beat.

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Show me your Playlist!

One of the many things I love about running is the chance to be out in nature on my own with nothing keeping me company but my favorite tunes. I’m a huge music nerd and would trade in watching TV for listening to my iPod any day. While I’m an alternative/industrial/metal girl at heart, music I listen to on my run is a different story. I learned during my first marathon that it’s not particularly pleasant to have Trent Reznor scream at you when you’re wilting in the humidity and contemplating jumping into the Detroit River to end it all. Since then, my running playlists have been full of fun, upbeat, and danceable tunes that I’d most likely be embarrassed to have play in my car with company. Without further adieu, I present to you my running Playlist, appropriately titled on my iPod as RUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1) Running (Adam Lambert)

2) The Walker (Fitz and the Tantrums)

3) Applause (Lady Gaga)

4) Bangarang (Skrillex)

5) The Beautiful People (Marilyn Manson)

6) Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones)

7) Burn it Down (Linkin Park)

8) Came Back Haunted (Nine Inch Nails)

9) Carried Away (Passion Pit)

10) Closer (Tegan and Sara)

11) Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) (Foster the People)

12) So Whatcha Want (Beastie Boys)

13) Sure Shot (Beastie Boys)

14) I Got Mine (The Black Keys)

15) Safe and Sound (Capital Cities)

16) Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite)

17) Tongue Tied (Grouplove)

18) What’s on your Mind (Pure Energy) (Information Society)

19) Heavy Bells (J. Roddy Walston & The Business)

20) Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)

21) The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy)

22) My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Fall Out Boy)

23) My Body (Young the Giant)

24) Coming of Age (Foster the People)

25) Best Friend (Foster the People)

26) Dancing on my Own (Robyn)

27) Roar (Katy Perry)

28) Sexy Bitch (David Guetta feat. Akon)

29) Starships (Nicki Minaj)

30) Stronger (Kelly Clarkston)

31) Birthday (Katy Perry)

32) Fire Woman (The Cult)

33) She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult)

So there you have it. I used to have a much longer list of over 60 songs, but damn you Apple for putting the “edit” and “delete playlist” buttons SO EFFING CLOSE TOGETHER. You can see mixes of pop, classic rock, metal, modern alternative, and 80s New Wave. My two favorites are Groove is in the Heart and Fire Woman; for some reason these particular songs light a fire under my ass and make pain and fatigue disappear.

So tell me readers reader! What’s on your playlist? What songs get your legs and soul moving? What’s the most embarrassing song on your list (mine is Skrillex, no doubt)? Or are you one of those complete weirdos who listen to nothing on a run?

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