Thoughts From An Endurance Athlete

Endurance

 

Even as I type out the title for this blog, I’m left pondering how and when, I turned into an endurance athlete.

It was certainly never on my radar at any point in my life like, “Hey, when I grow up I wanna do crazy things like run a stupid amount of miles or bike that many or do BOTH!”

No.

I wasn’t an athlete in school. My athletics involved band and being involved in twirling the last three years of school.

I wasn’t athletic most of my adult life.

I started running when I was 46. I ran my first half marathon in 2011 and was hooked.

I crossed the finish line feeling triumphant and exhausted already plotting my next one. It would be several more half marathons before I really felt the pull or the “calling” to do a full marathon. Some of my friends have simply referred to it as me going crazy 😉

I never really let myself examine to closely the (craziness) of deciding to run 26.2 miles.

Really. Only real runners did that stuff, right? Real athletes. I never backed down from that first one, and one time, and one time only did I look those numbers in the face and feel terrified and almost back down. I put that thought away and never let it out again.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

I simply started training and embracing the whole discipline of the preparation it took for a marathon.

Then with quite a few half marathons under me, and a couple full marathons, I jumped into a 50K.

THAT… is when I’d see friends in the store and they’d pull me aside and quietly whisper to me..

“Honey, are you ok? Really? I mean, a 50K…. I think you’re crazy!”

Ha… I guess looking at it from some sort of rational perspective, it must seem that way. I had just come to the realization that running a lot of miles at once was just…well normal….. right?

Normal, sane, grounded people just don’t decide to train for a 50K race.. and then do it.

Something though about endurance running meshed with me.

Was it the constant challenge to push my body to more? To see how far and long I could go? To simply know that I could do it? If I’m honest, for the natural kinda high that came along with it ?

Ah yes, that was the biggest thing. To know I could take on something that felt so much larger than life to me, something that seemed so impossible and so far from anything I’d ever been or done… that huge challenge… and then go out and do it.

It builds confidence in you like nothing can.

In the mix of running I started cycling some. Just to mix it up and because, hey why not another sport?  Cycling of course worked my body in a different way from running and I liked that.

But running still remained my main passion. Maybe it was the fact it took such strength and mental discipline to do it, and to do it for long periods of time.

Getting up on those early Saturday mornings and being on the road by 5:30 to knock out my long run… as hard as it could be some weeks getting out of a cozy bed and leaving a warm house…there was something I relished about it. Running in the black, quiet morning still sleepy with nothing but the soft sound of my feet hitting the road and the sound of my breathing, it was almost comforting.  I loved passing houses all dark, people still sound asleep as the miles built under me.

As the darkness gave way to light I loved having often 10 or more miles under me while the world was still getting it’s first cup of coffee. And by the time the sun was up in the sky I would be wrapping up a run in the teens’s or 20’s miles and it felt amazing.

Somehow completely exhausting myself at the start of the day made me feel empowered.

Geez how many people were out running double digits before the sun came up?

Not just that… but somehow out there on the road on those runs….  you find yourself in ways you didn’t know before. You come to understand things about yourself and what you’re really made of. When you do endurance sports you have to dig deeper into yourself and pull things out that you previously didn’t know were there.

Quitting isn’t an option. Your mind and body need to be disciplined and pulled into a cooperating agreement, which can be hard when your legs are starting to ask ” are we there yet?”

You find a strength you previously didn’t know existed. You learn to give more when you think you can’t give more. That is where your mental muscle is really built.

You begin to relish the feel of your body responding to the demands you put on it, how the road feels under you, how your mind is so…alive.

I do some of my most creative thinking and problem solving when I’m out on the road.

When I had to cut back on running last year with an injury, time on the bike was a replacement for giving me the miles I had come to crave. Not the same as running, but I had the ability to go out and ride for miles and challenge myself in new ways ( riding a bike up a hill is a different game than running up a hill 😛

I loved the new level of strength I built from cycling along with the running. Ok, and I will admit, that it’s a total head rush flying off a hill at wild speeds and holding on for dear life and feeling like you’re 12 all over again… that’s the reward for climbing hills haha

And then I started entertaining the idea of doing a duathlon, an event where you run, cycle, and run. Two things that I was beginning to feel I was pretty good at.

It was on my agenda for last fall… but this nagging Achilles injury just wouldn’t let me put the training in for running like I needed to so that event was shelved.

So yesterday, I was out on my bike. The first time in well over a month…closer to 2 more likely.  The doctor wanted me off of everything that could possibly irritate it and keep it from healing.

Yesterday was the day after the period he had suggested before I tried some cycling again.

I hardly slept the night before I was so excited. It’s the same feeling I have the night before a long run or a race.  The day started off foggy, misty and warm but I didn’t let that stop me. The sun eventually popped out. It felt so amazing to be out again…so free… I cut myself off at 17 miles thinking that was probably enough for my first time back out.

I’ll be honest… I’m not sure where this injury is gonna land me or how long it will be till I can really get after what I want to do. It’s still hanging around and I need to hit it face on. I’m terrified of being side railed for a long time and getting to do nothing. Terrified.

What I remembered out on the road (again) yesterday… is how ALIVE I feel when I’m out there.  How endurance sports make me feel alive, and strong, and powerful. There’s something heady about it that I can’t explain and you probably only understand if you’re an endurance athlete.

Somehow, in the pouring out of yourself on the road, you dig deeper and learn more about who you are and what you’re made of than you ever knew.

I’m ready for bigger challenges and new goals.

I love having an event I’m training for, my calendar laid out with my mileage I will be doing for months, my cross training days plotted in and each day knowing what I’m doing is moving me that much closer to my event… the new challenge.

I miss it. I miss it so much right now, not being able to have something I’m intentionally training for.  Yes, I workout for my mental sanity, my health, and continued fitness goals. But I miss the focus of training for a big race or event.

I think this endurance thing is in my blood now and I want to keep digging deeper into it  taking on bigger challenges and new goals.

What about you? Does the idea of running long distances make you twitch? Or feel alive? Do you love having something to train for? Do you enjoy multiple athletic activities?

endurance-podcast

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Running And The Art Of Surrender

surrender

 

“Hey, how’s the running going?!” a friend inquired of me…..

I wanted to blab something like… “I’m training for a 100 miler next” or “I’ve got a couple marathons on the books”… heck I wanted to say I was doing the local 5K Bubblegum run… anything…something.

Instead my response was…. “it isn’t” and my blah, blah, blah that I’m still tethered by an ugly injury.

I shared with you, my lovely readers, in a post a few weeks back that my sports doctor told me ( again) it’s insertional Achilles tendonitis. I had been doing some (light) running and it got no better and no worse, and so like many runners  I had this ( stubborn) mentality, “if it’s not gonna get better, flip it, I’m running.”

But after seeing sports doc and his “no running” at the top of the list…

I had to take a hard look at some things. If I wanted to get old with running I had to surrender.

It’s funny, in the beginning, when one starts running, there is a surrender. You surrender to a call, a pull, to be on the road. You feel the desire to go longer and farther. The surrender of your body to push more…to reach deeper in yourself… in that surrender… you find yourself out there on the road.

In the dark early mornings. In the sunset runs. In the hot and cold. In joy and sorrow.

If you’re a runner, you know what I mean. It’s a surrender to yourself..an abandonment.

I guess I had an epiphany the other night.

Let’s call it the other side of surrender.  The “ok, I give in. I yield. I will do what I have to do. I surrender my plans, goals and visions…for now”.

I surrender.

Because if I want to grow old with running, and if I want to get out there and have another shot at a 50K, or train for another marathon, or work on kicking my speed up to drop my 5k time, I have to surrender to the time it takes to heal my body properly. I surrender to the fact it could be a long time until I can run again without the injury being an issue.

And with all that in mind… I will do what I need to do.. and I am. In fact, on some levels I can feel a difference already. And even though my heart longs to run, my body is being kept busy doing other things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bike which gives me the miles and exhilaration I crave. That’s not a bad thing ’cause I want to do a duathlon someday ( a run, bike, run event).

I’m doing a lot more strength training and being careful to stay away from any activities that will irritate or cause it further stress. I’m icing, stretching, rolling my legs and feet a lot more.

Andddddd I’m super excited over my new cardio activity that’s coming to me….

I got a rowing machine (thank you amazing hubby who supports my athletic endeavors 🙂 rowing is a kick butt intense cardio workout that will fill in the gaps for me while I’m not running. It’s also non-impact/ stress on the tendons and joints so it will be perfect for me while I’m healing. I intend to spend some serious time on it.

When I get back on the road, my body will be strong for the task. Yes, I’ve already faced the frustration that it will almost be like starting over, but, if I’m at the point I can run, I will happily start building myself up again.

I did it once. I can do it again.

So for now, as hard as it is, I surrender to the process believing in the long run ( pun? 😉 it will all be worth it.

What about you happy reader? Have you ever had to come to a point of surrender in your life ? Was it worth it ?

embrace

 

Running, Passion, And Vision

Running. I just feel like talking about running.

Maybe because I was out for about 4 miles yesterday morning and I was reminded how much I love it. And how much I miss it. And how irritated I am with this stupid injury that seems to hold me back from the potential I know that’s in me.

I’m not talking about my injury in this post.

injured runner 4

 

Injured-runner1

 

injured runner 3

I want to just talk about the joy and freedom I have in the act of something so simple that we’re all born to do.

How do we lose the ability? the desire? the joy? of breaking into an open run, feeling our bodies surge under us as our legs kick in and the scenery goes flying by ?

When do we become to old, to tired, to lazy, to disinterested to run like kids ?

But then sometimes, later on, we stumble back upon it again.  We gingerly test out the legs and find out they are still capable of performing that task.

For myself and many others, once again, we find ourselves embracing the joy of running in sometimes an often child like way.

Just for the sheer joy and beauty of being able to do it.  

 

running gift

To feel the wind and sun in your face or the bite of a cold morning .  To embrace being out in the dark for a long run or doing speed work that makes you feel just a little bit …crazy for doing it. The feel of your heart beating strongly and your lungs deeply taking in air, sweat forming on your body, the sound of your feet against the road.

To nail a 20 mile run…  and actually enjoy the tired ache of your body…. and the victorious feeling in your mind of accomplishing it.

Maybe the thing I’ve loved about running is how you’re always competing against yourself and how you can always step up your game… just a little bit more……

Running has been good to me.

In the beginning, it was definitely helpful for weight loss. In time, it began to carve and chisel muscles in my body I had only formerly thought existed.

It became my time to think, roll creative ideas through my head, process life, let anger and frustration out, and sometimes, it allowed me to cry and grieve at some of the agony in my life.

Running became my passion.  I didn’t see it as a chore or something to be endured, but a gift and a privilege to be able to do it.

I laugh and love it when my friends tell me I’m crazy or nuts, or make all those silly runner jokes.

You  know why ? I LOVE doing stuff the majority of people around me aren’t doing.

As time went on and my distances grew from short 10K runs, to setting my eyes on a half marathon, then full marathons, it never entered my mind that, I , little old me, would be a distance runner.

Seriously????

Yet, one thing led to another. A bigger challenge. A new goal. A new opportunity to challenge myself to something beyond my comfort zone.

Needless to say when I set my sights on a 50K last year, that was an adventure that had many asking me if I had lost my mind.

And trust me, if I allowed myself to slow down to much and reallllllyyyy think about it… I too began to see the insanity of running that many miles. And not just that race, but all the training that led up to it, all those training miles under me to get to that point.

Things like that are best not looked that close in the eye.

That’s the deal when you’re a distance runner. You don’t think. You just do it.  You get out there, let your body settle into a rhythm and you just…. go.

And besides all those things… besides getting strong and healthy and fit and being called crazy… running makes me feel ridiculously…. alive…. powerful…..strong…. confident… and makes me feel like I can take the world on.

I don’t think that’s a  bad thing, do you ?

So my struggles right now… it’s hard… so hard being kept in check physically with a injury that just won’t….be gone..

And wrestling with my mind that knows what my body is capable of, has done, and wants to get back to doing again…. is well… sometimes torturous.

I miss it in the worst way.

But get this… I don’t give up easily. And my mind is plotting and planning and anticipating all it wants the body to get back out doing.

Goals. New adventures. New chances for my friends to tell me I’m crazy and insane. New opportunities to prove to myself I can do something bigger and a little more fierce.

In between times, I’m tearing up the road on my bike with long miles and lifting heavy things to keep strong… and keeping my eye on growing my running distances.

Passion. It’s a good thing to have in life, right ? We all need to be passionate about something… it makes our heart beat fast and invigorates us … hopefully it challenges us as well making us feel alive.

Tell me… what’s your passion? What makes your heart beat fast and makes you feel invincible ?

new goal

 

Not Running Sucks.

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Let me tell you how I really feel….. #nofilters

The shirt says it all.

I recently picked it up ’cause I had really scaled my miles down to almost nothing and was totally … hating it…..

After todays doctor appt. it reflects how I’m going to be feeling for awhile.

At some point it was bound to happen…. work hard… play hard… play harder…. injuries become a possibility. Or a reality. You can get hurt doing stuff you really love that you throw yourself into with abandon.

It sucks ’cause this is my first running injury.

Oh, I got sidelined a few years ago for like… 6 weeks… when I took the motorcycle down learning to ride….. that’s when I learned big bikes and gravel aren’t a good combo. I hurt my knee which knocked me out of running.

I literally cried the first time I was back out for a run. I had been so afraid the time away would make me not want to do it anymore. Nothing, was farther from the truth. I embraced that run back out celebrating my freedom and my restored health.

So I’ve been babying my heel for a month or two. I’ve intentionally brought my miles down hoping and allowing it would give my foot a break to heal.

In the last couple weeks I’ve scraped running and just focused on cycling and other stuff… still… it remains..

Which pushed me to an official appointment.

In a nutshell…. foot doctor confirmed what I knew…. Achilles tendonitis.

No running…at all.

No impact sports at all.

No movements that put strain on the tendons which rules out strength training moves with my lower body like squats, deadlifts etc. Cycling if questionable.

I left thinking… I’m going to go stir crazy…. almost all active movement has been axed.

Please hear me… I get it. Once again, I’m crazy, but not stupid. My health and getting 100% again is my most important goal now so I can get back out on the road.

But…..still…. no… running ??

I actually found a sports med doctor I’ll be seeing in a few weeks. I want someone who understands athletically where I am and how to treat me. And a second opinion is never bad. He does triathlons so I feel like he’ll “get it”.

Meanwhile, I am being a good girl. Ice several times a day, no running around barefoot (this kills me too, I’m a barefoot girl! ) I have discontinued all activities that would possibly strain or further irritate my injuries.

Swimming appears to be the most recommended and supported activity for this kind of injury. How ironic that I am constantly telling people how weak I am with swimming that this will now be my main form of cardio for awhile. Hmmm maybe when I go through this time I’ll come out a stronger and better swimmer.

Is this the silver lining in having my wings clipped ?

I will confess to tears… and frustration… and pain… and wondering how this will impact the goals I had set for myself in the remainder of the year. I have worries of “what if”.

Serious marathon training is set to start in August… at this point I don’t know if I’ll be healthy to do that yet.  My marathon in December… will it happen ? The goal of finding a duathlon to train for ?

I just don’t know.

This I do know.

I miss being on the road. I miss the feeling my body gets from running long and hard. I want to plan a long run and be out early and see the sunrise while I’m doing it. I want to be drenched in sweat and feel like a million bucks from challenging myself to do more. I want to tear up hills and feel my body respond to the challenge.   I’m jealous when I read running posts or see someone running.

I want to stop and say… “don’t EVER take for granted what you’re doing right now… it’s a pure, sweet  gift.. value it”.

Ok… this post… is really letting me process and get this outta my head. I know what I have to do and will do it… I promise to keep you updated and make my whining… minimal…..

You just don’t take a woman who’s been running and active and clip her wings without a lot a few tears and angry stomping of her feet.

I will regroup and look at what I can do, implement, and improvise. I might come out of this a better swimmer, which means, maybe a tri wouldn’t be out of my realm of possibility at some point. I will learn to do more activities that work my body while protecting the hurt parts. I will add more boxing with swimming to get in some good cardio..

Basically, I will develop a new game plan and bounce back while I “recover”.

I’m wired like that….get pushed down… and figure out how to get up and fight again.

But for the love of all things running… I really…. hate… this.

Talk to me…tell me… have you dealt with an injury that sidelined you ? How did you handle it? This is my first serious one so …do you have words of encouragement ? What helped you through it ?