Monday, March 5, 2018

February Review

Miles: 73
I'll be up front: I had some challenges this month. I ended up missing my long run twice--once due to illness and once due to weather. I missed some weekday runs due largely to weather. This was life.

 But then sometimes you run in the fluffy beautiful snow and get frost in your eyelashes and everything is right in the world. 

I had two notable runs. The first was on Valentine's Day. A project I'd had under review for two long, agonizing years at work had finally been accepted. When the email came I got up, changed, and went for a run. I ran fast. I ran happy. I ran 5.6 miles at an 8:12 pace, and was trying to go slow at first. I ran mostly negative splits. It was one of those runs that is everything. You fly, and you smile.

Then the next morning, I went running with my neighbor. I told him I needed a shake out run after going so fast the day before. We spent it dodging last bits of ice and snow, most of which had melted overnight from warmer temperatures and rain.

When we got back to our street and stopped at his house, I looked down at my left ankle, which hurt, and was surprised to see it was bleeding. My sock was so short it didn't protect my foot from the top of my shoe, which isn't usually a problem. It hurt to walk. "Should I drive you home?" my neighbor kindly offered. It's about a tenth of a mile. No, I said, I'd just take the shoe off. But then it was weird to walk in one shoe. So that's how I came to walk barefoot in Cleveland in February.

Yoga classes: 5
I attended my weekly 45-minute lunchtime Vinyasa class four times. Man, I love this class.

I also attended a Yin class with my friend Candice at the end of the month. I'd never heard of it, Yin. In the first 5 minutes I thought, "well, at least it's only an hour I'm wasting." But by the end I was ready to sign up to go back.

The good: Such.Deep.Stretching.
The bad: I'm just not that into my chakras.

Runners talk about everything. We talk about poop a lot. We talk about our bodies a lot. We talk about pain, and triumph, and random, mundane things. You know what we don't talk about? Our chakras. Not one time--ever--have I heard someone mid-run be like, "You know, my air chakra is just out of whack this week." No. Not a thing.

So yinning, what is it? It's holding a pose for 1-4 minutes. You won't sweat, or feel frustrated. You will leave feeling amazing. Try it. If you hate it, it was only an hour.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

January Review: A Tribute To Yoga

Total Miles: 84.9
Yoga Classes: 5. This might, in all seriousness, be some sort of record for me.
Other: I went skiing one day with my older son. I love those days so much. 

Before I get to my Tribute To Yoga, a brief review of running.

Mid-month my friend Candice was finally ready to start re-entry to running, after dealing with an injury. I was happy to meet her one sunny Friday to see how things would go. After a quick 30 minutes we were all smiles.

People sometimes ask how I manage to run outside in Cleveland in the winter. How do I deal with the weather?

Sometimes you get lucky and it sleets on your rest day. Often, you suck it up and run on snowy roads or in a snowstorm. When forced to, you get on a treadmill. But sometimes, if you can just wait and go at a different time, either the storm has passed or the roads are cleared. My delightful Sunday run group used this last strategy a few times--just ran later. On this day, I think we started at 4 or 5pm. This is one of my favorite pictures of us.

 My Tribute To Yoga
In about 2004, I regularly attended a Pilates class for about a year. A few years later, I discovered yoga, mostly through DVDs I found in clearance bins. I don't, frankly, remember the first yoga class I ever attended. What I am certain of is that I saw a sports medicine doc and a sports massage therapist for a knotted left piriformis early in 2011.

I went to a few classes in St. Louis, sometimes with my friend Linda. In Utah, I attended a weekly class at my work for about a year, then an early morning class near my house another year. The class was seldom difficult. I enjoyed the feeling I had when I left. But I can't say I enjoyed yoga. It was something I did to avoid injury. I did it because I felt I had to. 

I felt like that until just a few months ago. Back in September, I realized that my knotted piriformis was part of the problem I was having with my knee. I also learned that I'm really tight in places, and that my iliopsoas was really, really angry. Yoga could help.

I also finally learned the expression "set your intention" for your practice. Prior that, I saw yoga as essentially standing still and sweating while frustrated. I finally grasped that I needed to take yoga inward. That was difficult at first for this runner, who loves to go fast and who is decidedly extroverted. But with practice, I got it. Finally. 

Then, about 3 weeks ago, in mid-late January, my piriformis finally released. After at least 7 years of living with it in a sometimes-painful knot, it finally released. You might wonder how I did this. The answer isn't glamorous: Weeks of sitting on a golf ball for long stretches, then rolling on a pressure point ball until one day, it let go.

After that, yoga positions that call on hip strength became more realistic, but on my left side, it often feels like there is nothing there to hold me up. Like my body has to learn how to live without the knot now. Like it just stopped trying to build muscle there, because a knot was in the way, or because my body had to compensate for it. But I'm going every week, and I'm slowly seeing improvement.

What's better? I actually look forward to it now.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 In Review


2017 was our first full year in Ohio. My highest mileage year ever. A year of new PRs for the 5k and 10k distance. My fifth marathon. New friends. So many other things.

The Big Picture
Running miles: 1320.6. Highest ever! Woohoo!!

I can  easily pick out some notable events on this graph. For instance, Marathon #5 happened April 30, and some time off in May. Then, one day in September some pain I'd been having came to a head, and I had to drastically cut mileage, even dropping back from the Towpath Half in October to its 10k distance. I spent November and December slowly building back up. On New Years Eve, I finally got back up to 10 miles for my long run.

Bike miles: 15
Really just biking to yoga class and back over the summer.

Yoga classes: 14
I went about twice a month from June onward. I know it's not a lot, but I'm calling this one a win.

The Actual Pictures
Past the numbers, this year was nothing short of incredible. It started out a little rough, as my transition out of Utah and to life here was a bumpy one in some respects. The year ended on such a bright note--logging ten miles in ten degree weather with a group of funny, honest, strong women I got to know along the way.

That "along the way" covers so much! It's an odd thing to type, but I feel like I gained a metric shit-ton of wisdom this year. The year brought some preposterously less-than-rosie situations and also some new and renewed friendships that have made my heart so full.

I learned (or re-learned) how crucial it is to always cheer for your people. Even if you disagree with them. Especially when you're competing with them. If you can't support a friend, you take a breath, exit stage left, and reappear when it's blown over.  

So, this should apply to everything. EVERYTHING. It's in economics--cooperative competition makes a thriving set of businesses in a region. In running, Shalene Flanagan taught us about applying this to running. I watched the NY Marathon finish like 20 times. I wasn't misty-eyed you were misty-eyed. It was awesome.

In general, runners are great about this life lesson. We're conditioned over thousands of miles to cheer for other runners. In November, I ran a local 5k with friends. I paced my friend Candice for the first two miles, and then knew she had it and I wasn't any additional help, so I went ahead. When she later realized I won our age group and she won second, she exclaimed, "You bitch!" with the biggest smile and a congratulatory hug. Because the fact that I ran faster only means she chased me. The fact that my friend Katie runs faster than I do only makes me stronger, because for months I chased her on long runs. Your ability does not diminish me, it makes me better.

This flip-side of this lesson learned is respecting the voice in your head that alerts you to red flags. That tells you that sometimes, other people make you uncomfortable, and you need to respect that and shift the situation rather than ignore it. This year, I gained the confidence--through some hard-learned lessons--to hear that guiding voice, and to set some limits on what I was willing to accept.

     Put yourself out there

Part of the confidence needed to hear that guiding voice is in the willingness to put yourself out there to change your situation, whatever the issue is. Put yourself out there. Try new things. There was so much good waiting for me. I just had to look. Soooo many applications of this this year, but take this picture from early 2017. The hardest part of running in the winter is convincing yourself to just go. Go! And then you go and it's not terrible at all. Look at us. We're laughing. It was cold as $&%^* that day.
Such a theme of my year. Where I felt overwhelmed by getting to know neighbors in 2016, I embraced it in 2017. When I missed a long run one Saturday this past summer, I joined up with a group I didn't know (through MRTT) on Sunday, and began forming friendships that have come to mean so much with an amazing group of women. And when I had the courage in other situations to say, "hey, these things don't sit right with me," I found support and more doors opening than closing.

About Those PRs
The 5k PR happened by accident, pacing my friend. After that I realized I hadn't run a 5k literally in years. YEARS. So this is a goal for 2018--to race one for real and see what happens.

I PRed the 10k twice this year. First, at the Hofbrauhaus 10k in August. I had a head cold which slowed me down, but I was happy with the results.
With Cathy at Hofbrauhaus
Then, one day on a long run, some pain I'd had for months just came to a point where I couldn't keep it at bay any longer. Cathy found me walking back to the start during a long run. "What's this?" she said as she came up to me. I told her I was in pain. This was September. On the last day I could, I dropped my Towpath Half registration to the 10k. I wasn't sure I could even do that without hurting, but I did (you can read about that here). I won my age group and PRed, both of which were a surprise. I turned in a 48:13 that day, and while I'm sure I still have more to give at that distance, I'll take that one.

My long run group was in full force that day, a few of us PRing and cheering each other in. My friend Kelly came from WV which made me so happy, and I got to watch her turn in her first sub-2 half.

But then, despite a consistent training cycle, I did NOT PR my spring marathon. Because it was 86* and sunny. But that's the thing about marathons--there is no certainty. I'm not sure I'll re-attempt that one in 2018, but I will go for a half PR for sure.

Looking Ahead
I finished 2017 feeling so hopeful. I have come to love Cleveland, and it has come to be my home. As a family, we have found our people in our neighborhood and elsewhere. Maybe it sounds corny, but my heart is so full ending this year--full of thankfulness for our street and our neighborhood, full of love for this crazy tribe of runner women I've come to be part of, full of appreciation for other aspects of life that have nothing to do with running.

So, 2018, I'm coming for that 5k PR. I'd love another 10k PR. And I'd most of all love a 13.1 PR, but that one will be difficult. I'm going to have a great time trying. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

What I Learned Through Helping a Mentally Ill Person for a Year

This post has taken me more miles of solo running to work through than perhaps any other in this blog's history. It's not running related other than I've used running to work through it. It is, however, important. It is important that as a society we permit mental illness to be discussed without shame. I can only hope my words help achieve that goal, or help someone else in the effort.

I listened to and tried to help a friend suffering from mental illness for a year. We'll call my friend Pat. At first I didn't know it was mental illness. At first I only knew Pat was going through a rough period in life. At first, because it isn't in my wiring to realize it, I also did not realize the role narcissism played in Pat's mental illness. To summarize an incredibly complex story, after a year, a group of friends working with Pat attempted an intervention, to push Pat toward professional psychiatric assistance. It did not go well, and afterward Pat lied to us about seeking treatment we came to learn Pat did not actually seek. Out of exasperation, exhaustion, and sadness, we all cut ties with Pat. We blocked Pat on social media and via phone. 

The year took a lot out of me. It wasn't anything I wasn't happy to give for a friend, and I'm not sorry for trying. But it was emotionally exhausting in a way I'd never experienced. It's taken me a long time to process the lessons learned from this experience.

I have no training in psychology or any health field. I offer you no warranties about my experience. I have no credentials to support the labels I have affixed to Pat (depressed, narcissistic). I offer this because I went looking for help online and found things like this helpful. Here's what I learned from a year of trying to help Pat. 

1. Do not expect any of it to make sense
Pat's downward spiral started with one self-constructed lie, told to heal an old wound and with flagrant disregard for reality or realistic expectations. Pat engaged in some very bad and life-altering behavior as a result of believing this lie. Pat was burned by this behavior. Pat could not accept that the behavior had been bad, that the repercussions had been predictable and warranted. Pat lashed out, primarily by sharing inappropriate information publicly and constructing stories from manipulated parts of other stories.

Sharing inappropriate information was shocking behavior from Pat--totally out of character. When I say inappropriate, I mean incredibly personal information about Pat and others. I and others warned Pat--you shouldn't do this, this is too much. I believe Pat's intent was to convince others how upstanding Pat was, and what a victim Pat was. It was shocking. And scary. And weird. And made no sense. 

Like the over-sharing, stories were constructed to portray Pat in a particular way. The story line was made up of elements of real events, but each element had been dissociated from its original context and turned to fit into an image of Pat as a victim and hero simultaneously. The stories became Pat's reality--became Pat's prison of obsession. The stories consumed Pat. There was no relationship with Pat outside these stories. The over-sharing of personal information was sometimes done to support pieces of these stories, which also did not often make sense.

The stories only made sense if you accepted that they were constructed to portray Pat as victim and hero, to garner attention and build up Pat's ego. If you expected the stories to come from reality, that was another matter entirely. And Pat screamed this story and its new elements 24/7 as they developed. It thickened, and after a while standing at the edge pointing Pat back to the light of reality became impossible.    

2. There will be a lot of intentional fishing for the mentally ill person to figure out how to get a rise out of you
Any hint at questioning the story was met with brutal and swift personal attack. To get through the personal attacks, I had to embrace the knowledge that they weren't real. Pat probably did not even believe the horrible things said. After watching Pat attack someone else, I realized Pat had been fishing for some time, just slipping bits of bait into conversation to see what would get a reaction, then waiting. Example: When Pat saw someone hesitate to discuss domestic violence, Pat remembered it. Pat later accused that person of having had domestic violence in her life and wasn't Pat a great friend for not having judged her for not dealing with it, and how dare she judge Pat for Pat's life. This had the desired effect of temporarily disarming her.
3. Someone has to want help
Yes, we've all heard this before. I did not fully appreciate that it also means you cannot talk someone into wanting help. Remember, you cannot expect the thoughts and actions of a narcissistic, mentally ill person to make sense. That means you cannot logically outline the reasons they should seek help. Logic will not apply. You also cannot appeal to the emotions of a narcissist to get help, because a narcissist believes they really are special and above others. The desire for help has to come from within them. They have to want it, and you cannot make them want it.

4. Sometimes, there will be nothing you can do
This one was the hardest for me by a wide margin. If you haven't gathered already, I'm pretty logically oriented. I see problems, I evaluate their possible solutions, and I implement one. In this scenario, it felt like knowing the wiring in your house was unsafe and doing nothing. Actual people, multiple actual people, felt unsafe. I worried about Pat's physical safety. We tried all possible avenues to get Pat help, even a few avenues we just forced to exist out of desperation. It was incredibly difficult to accept that there was a problem of actual human safety and well-being--a problem I could see and explain clearly--and no viable solution.

5.  Getting out is hard
I have yet to meet a narcissist who does not want to control others. I have garden variety narcissists in my life in other capacities and struggle with this with them. Some do it passive aggressively. Some forcefully. Some by manipulation. But they all do it.

Pat was no different. Pat wanted our attention unconditionally and at all times. We tried to remove ourselves via silence, but Pat was relentless. We asked Pat to stop contacting us. It went poorly. It was painful. But when you tell someone they don't own you and they respond poorly, that has to tell you that leaving was the right choice. It was for us.

At the end of all this, would I do it again? Yes. I would hope anyone would. Part of our job on Earth is to care for our friends. But I would look for clues more wisely than I did before. I learned a lot about self-care through this. It's real. It's important. Sometimes caring for others can gut you. There has to be a limit, and you have to know when you've reached it. It's something I'm continuing to learn.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October-ish Recap

Back in September I started having real trouble with an injury coming out of my left hip. The strain wasn't new. I'd been struggling to contain it most of the summer. But then one day, I just couldn't any more. I couldn't keep my left knee from turning out. I couldn't take shorter steps to keep it from wanting to slip. I couldn't hold the pain at bay. So to make a long story short, I eventually downgraded my registration for the Towpath Half to the 10k. It's why I never posted a September recap. It was such a disappointment after a great training season.

Despite rest, yoga, and limited massage therapy, the problem hasn't gone away. So...October was pretty low mileage. Let's be real about this for a moment. Yes, I was bummed to miss cool mornings and fall foliage. But...after 9 straight months of training, the mornings sleeping in weren't so bad either.

At the end of this, I ran way more miles in September than in October. It sounds better if I tell you the 2-month total: 186. Let's go with that.

The highlight of my October was certainly the Towpath 10k. My friend Kelly and her older daughter came from West Virginia, and this was running gold. Kelly started running relatively recently and has gained a ton of speed in a short period of time. I see pictures of her smiling during races. We've talked at length about training. In short, it's been fun to watch her take on running, and even better to get to share a weekend.

The other reason I loved this race day: my Sunday running group. We coordinated logistics and cheered each other on. They are wonderful.

On Saturday Kelly and I went to packet pick-up, where we ran into Cathy. We picked up some goodies, our bibs, all the hoopla. There was a sweetly presented yet quite confusing promotion about pee cups. Since Kelly lives in WV, she doesn't have a local Athleta (true story: I was 20 before I saw a Gap), so we went to the mall for a bit. Ice cream was involved.

Then, because we're both 10s on the Type A scale, we were up, dressed, and out of the house ahead of schedule on Sunday. We met my friends to switch people between cars, Kelly with them to the half-marathon start and Kathy with me to the 10k start. We headed to the parking and our starting lines. Kathy and I stretched, as we were both having some issues. 
At the start line
Race day weather was outstanding. It had rained the previous day, which kept the dust down on the Towpath. It was cool and beautiful. I felt good. Somehow, magically, probably from adrenaline, my knee/hip didn't give me trouble. I used my old mantras, and reminded myself how many hours I'd trained for these minutes. That it didn't matter if I was tired. I just pushed, and enjoyed it.

I came in at 48:04, which was enough to win my age group. Go me!
With my age group award
I went through the finishing area and came back around to cheer in my friends. One by one they came in, with two setting their first sub-2 hours half times, and getting new PR's in the process! That's a big day for any runner, and I was so pleased I got to be part of it for them.
Front, left to right: Kathy, Katie, Tina, Cathy
Back: me and Kelly
Once everyone was in, Kelly and I went to the Park's general store (which is completely adorable) to buy a cup of coffee. She said she'd dropped her debit card and cash when she'd gotten her fuel out of the zippered pocket of her water bottle mid-race. As I was paying for our items, the cashier asked if it was together and I mentioned her loss. The cashier replied that someone had turned in both items. We found our way to the lost and found and--yes--there they were! The lost & found people were as happy she turned up there as we were someone had turned in her items. The running community is great.

After lunch at one of my family's favorite spots, Kelly and her daughter were headed back home.

The rest of October was low-key. I didn't run a whole lot. My last run of the month was in cold rain. Because the forecast said 5% chance of rain but it's Cleveland so.

Moving into November, I'm hoping my hip/knee will find some peace. I'm enjoying yoga in the meantime though. I've gotten onto going to a place by my work over lunch time, sometimes with another running friend. There's a nice studio near my house too, and I go there sometimes. It's taken years--literally years--but I do finally actually enjoy yoga! It's possible.

That's the recap! I'm hoping for a few more miles in November.

Friday, September 1, 2017

August Recap

It's September 1. This morning I ran with my beloved purple plaid arm sleeves and a tank top, and this evening I will change out my summer wreath for a fall one on my front door. Summer is over. Yes, I love summer. I'm an academic--of course I love summer. But fall running is the best. The leaves. The cool mornings. The races. So here's to putting a bow on a pretty spectacular August.

Early August
The first week of August led up to the Hofbrauhaus 10k, which holds a special place in my heart. Last year I ran it just to see if I was fit and uninjured enough to hold a sub-9 minute pace for 6 miles. I loved the super flat, out and back course, and the post-race party. I looked forward to race registration all winter, and was delighted when my MIL paid for my entry as a birthday gift.
Pre-race with Cathy, part of my Sunday morning crew

When August rolled around this year, I'd set my sights on really racing it, with a goal of running about a 7:30 pace. Mother Nature had other intentions, and saddled me with a terrible cold. I was not able to run my desired pace, but I was thankful for the opportunity to race.

After the race I heard an announcement about checking your finishing place at a tent. I was curious how I'd done. I made my way over and had to laugh when the guys' side had a really long line and the women's had about 5 people--it felt like justice for women's restrooms (and, ok, maybe a testament to the male ego). I checked my place and was surprised to learn I'd placed second in my age group!
I'll take it!
By mid-August, to focus on the positive outcome of a fairly terrible story, I had the occasion to reconnect with some wonderful ladies I used to run more with than I had recently. We planned a Dash & Dine, which is exactly what it sounds like. I had so much fun. I really missed this group.
Robin somehow escaped the photo op
Also, mid-month, I did my first speed work in several months. It was 800s, which I love doing. I was at the end of my cold and wasn't sure if my lungs were ready to be pushed that hard. I hit my target paces. I also wondered if my neighbors thought I was crazy as I kept running around the block.

Late August
By late August my Sunday morning group found ourselves in the dark at 6am. The first time this happened we just ran together until the horizon lightened enough to let us see our surroundings better. After that we decided to meet a little later.
We clean up ok! Missing Katie's mom and Cathy though
I've enjoyed my Sunday morning group so, so much. I admire and have fun with the women I run with, and the place we run at is absolutely beautiful. The last few weeks we've watched the fog lift off the river as the sun rises and watched egrets (I think) hunt over the water. I've taken in fields full of yellow wildflowers, and along the riverbank, beautiful wild lilies. This is an easy place to love.

On weekday runs, by late August I'd mixed things up by running in other neighborhoods a few times. On one of those runs Candice introduced me to one of her running friends who I'd never met. Good times!
Meeting new runner friends
Looking forward to September, I have a month full of training leading up to the Towpath Half in early October. I'd love a PR but will settle for a course PR. We'll see how this month goes.

In summary:
Miles: 124.5

Cross Training
Days lifting weights: One! Yikes! I thought I was doing better than this.
Yoga: Twice.
Ok, so clearly the bump in miles this month meant less cross-training. I will try to do better on this in September. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

July Recap

My July was everything summer should be--tons of outdoor activities and taking time to try new things. I just missed the 100 mile mark, but not by a lot, and in exchange for more cross-training than I've done in a long time.Welcome to the July recap.

Variety was the theme this month! I not only attended three yoga classes, but I also did three weight lifting days and started tracking my food intake again. My husband claims ping pong is exercise, so I'm also posting this picture of me playing croquet on the 4th of July.

Cross training and food tracking comes through commitment and practice. No one wakes up wanting to track their food intake. It takes time. It takes discipline. For me, it's worthwhile when I have a goal, like trying to lose weight, or lose fat, or feel healthier. Introduced to it last winter, I've been using the MyFitnessPal app from Under Armor. It's great--and free! Doing this has encouraged me to try new foods, to reach daily nutritional goals without getting bored with my diet.
Greek yogurt blended with ice, frozen berries, and 1 tbsp agave syrup
With weight lifting, I started with a handful of machines at the gym and with truly pathetic weights on them. Over three sessions I added one more machine and increased my weights a little on the others. I lifted a little when we went on vacation, too. There is something satisfying about it.

And finally, one day I went on an 11 mile bike ride through various city neighborhoods. This was the longest bike ride I'd ever done! It was so fun. My guide for the afternoon was a colleague who knows the city very well and told me all about how various development projects had come together. I have lots of pictures from this day, but will share this one: The house from A Christmas Story. Did you know it was filmed in Cleveland? You can take tours!

On the running front, I continued meeting my wonderful little Sunday morning running group. Each week we meet and run 10 miles. Sadly I don't have access to a group picture at the moment, or I'd share. I also finally "ran the bridges" downtown, which I also have no pictures of, but thoroughly enjoyed.

Mid-month I went to Pittsburgh to hang out with my best friend. Our hotel was near the Heritage Trail, which runs along both sides of the rivers and I believe elsewhere as well. I enjoyed seeing some of the sites while only getting a little bit lost. I actually ran across the bridge pictured below, and on the other side saw the Duquesne Incline and Fort Pitt Tunnel. 

On the last day of the month my fall training cycle started. I'm training for a half marathon in October, with a minimum goal of a course PR. The training schedule is tough, but I'm as ready as I'm going to be. I've built a lot of endurance this year.

In Summary
Running miles for the month: 93.7
Weight lifting sessions: 3.5
Yoga classes: 3
Miles biked: 24