Nerves vs Fear

imageI debated writing a blog before my race on Sunday. I think a big part of me does not want to talk about what I am not proud of. I want to keep my thoughts to myself because my thoughts have completely contradicted everything I preach. However, I tend to do that. The quotes I post on social media are usually the ones I need to hear myself. It’s more ME putting my intentions out there, not just me telling others what I believe in.  So, when I tell others what THEY need to do, it is also me reminding myself of that same advice.

I also think that maybe I need to remind my supporters, clients, friends know I am not perfect. Far from it. I am not some “freak of nature” or “super human”.  I work really hard when I want something, and I can usually push past uncomfortable to get it.  However, going into my big race this weekend…my first ultra marathon….a race I have trained harder for than any race…I feel different then I ever have.

The best way I can describe it is that FEAR has replaced nerves. I feel pre race nerves are healthy. They are normal and can even be used as a way to push you. I experience these before most races as well as a feeling of excitement. for this raceI keep being asked, “are you excited” and I’m not sure how to answer this. As I may have posted on here (or you may know through me personally) I turned my ankle very badly while doing 7 sisters on a training run. It was one of those, “oh no” moments when I immediately thought, which way is the closest to civilization and help.  After the initial shock wore off and I caught my breath I walked it off and realized I was ok. I continued to run and it was bearable enough to get back to the car.

The next day I went out to Guilford to tour part of the race course with the hubs, and while running I turned the ankle again. E was running behind me and yelled when he saw it turn. He kinds freaked. It must have looked pretty ugly. Again, I walked it off, laced up the sneaks a little tighter, and finished the run.

Well, this was the theme for the last 2 months. The ankle would turn every other run, and just a couple weeks ago again pretty bad when running with my brother. Now, I literally strain it doing the stupidest things. Stepping on my dogs bone, stretching my quad, etc.

So, I have become a mental case lately. I have been running mostly on the road or the rail trail in fear of the trails and turning my ankle. What was once my refuge, my happy place, my solitude, now seems to be my biggest enemy. Now, I KNOW WHAT I WOULD TELL MY CLIENT. You are creating the injury in your mind before it happens, thus leading it to happen. So, I’ve got 48 hours to get my mind right. To get my act together. To clear my mind of can’t. To suck it up and run like I have no fear.

I have trained too hard, spent too many hours away from loved ones, too many early wake ups and early bedtimes for this. I need to practice what I preach and start a new vision: finishing the race STRONG, HEALTHY, AND SMILING as I cross the finish line well under my goal time!

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Why Not Me?

Iwhy not me have never thought of myself as a runner.  I ran to get ready for soccer season.  I ran as fast as I could up and down the basketball court.  I did “fun-runs” with my softball team, jumping into random people’s pools as we ran.  Going back even further….I ran as I child. Sometimes for safety as my brother chased me.  Sometimes as fast as I could around the block (1/3 mile) as my brother clocked me and other neighborhood kids seeing who could do it the fastest.   I ran the mile testing in elementary school, always one of the top females.  Not just because I was an athlete, but because even in 6th grade I was a competitor.   It was all I knew.  I HAD to be the best.

I guess I have been running as long as I can remember.  However, once I ended my collegiate basketball career I became a little lost.  Now what?  My whole life I stayed in shape for the competition.  To not puke during preseason. For the last 5 minutes of the basketball game.  Now what was I staying in shape for?  I would still run to stay in shape, but I never enjoyed it.  There was no end goal.  I wasn’t fond of running, and it became pretty miserable for me.  Then I signed up for my first 5K. My brother gave me a goal of under 24 minutes.  I did it.  Okay.  This was better.  Now I am running as competition and with goals. Training for a reason.  Then came the half marathon, then the marathon.  The big kahuna of races.  This was supposed to be IT…However, I still didn’t LOVE it.  As I raced I would place in my age group, and sometimes overall, but I still dreaded every training run.  I never felt like a runner, more a washed up athlete who still had a little speed left in her.

Then I learned about trail races.  I had always LOVED the woods, and have even done some trail running while prepping for an Adventure Race and even the marathon.  This was a whole new ball game for me.  I LIKED this.  Running in the woods made me feel like an athlete.  Twisting, turning, jumping through obstacles.  I felt free.  I felt a sense of, “this is where I belong”.  I started to LOOK FORWARD to runs.  I did what I never DREAMED of doing on the road…I ditched my headphones.  I wanted to hear the sounds of nature, or better yet, the sound of SILENCE.  I was alone in the woods, away from the cars, cell phones, people, and the craziness of life.  My mind went to a meditative state and my thoughts became so clear.

I signed up for a couple of trail races (you can read about them: Summer Solstice 2013, Bimblers Bluff 10K, Summer Soltice summer solstice 2013 22012 ) and started to read blog after blog about them.  Not only did I love trail running, but I begin to fall in love with the community of trail racing.  They seemed to have a more laid back mentality and also a very “green” approach.  I am learning that many enjoy a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and also share many other beliefs as me.  I think I have found my post-collegiate-athlete-calling.  So, I took the next step.  I signed up for my first Ultra-Marathon.  32.5 miles in the wioods.

So, I sit here a day after completing my longest (hours) training run (or run in general) ever.  My brother will be doing the race with me, and we ran 24 miles yesterday through Case Mountain and Gay City.  Over 4 hours.  I know I risk sounding very corny and cliché when I write these posts, but whatever..It is what it is.  Yesterday was a journey for me.  A journey of emotions, physical pains, mental roller coasters, doubts, joys, etc.  I’ll Explain..

There will never be a better training partner for me than my brother.  He is a ridiculously good runner, but more than that, a mentally strong runner.  His text he sent me the night before the run sums it up, “you are way more prepared than me, but what I lack in physical I try to make up mentally”  I have learned so much from him in this category, and I still have so much more to learn.  As we ran that 24 miles I had so many thoughts.

  1. “Okay, I told him we need to start slow, why are we doing a 9 min mile?”
  2. “Just tell him to go ahead, don’t risk your training run just to stay with him.  Run your run.  Dial back and let him go.”
  3. “He is pushing you outside of your comfort zone.  Stay with him.  Maybe you are capable of this.”
  4. “Why haven’t you been training with him more.  He is what will make you ELITE”

I survived the run with him.  When we crossed over to Gay City to do our last 6 miles I started to feel good.  I picked up the pace, and the Garmin was reading a sub 9 minute mile.  He told ME to dial back because we will never make it up the last hill if we maintain this pace.  This was when the back and forth of highs and lows began.  I would bonk, he would get energy.  I would just try to stay with him.  Roles would reverse.  Back and forth.  Then we hit that last hill.  The one we had both been thinking about the last 6 miles.  I hit that hill and just thought, “keep moving”.  At this point I was leading (a little strategic move by me.  I mentally couldn’t deal with him racing ahead without quitting, but also knew I would keep moving if he was behind me)  Well, we made it to the top without stopping.  And I would like to think it was a decent pace.  Once we hit the top Matt said two words, “great climb”.  Those words meant the world to me, because his words have always meant the most to me.

DSCN2516_0001Later that night he sent me a text that summed it all up, “…The only way I made it up that last hill was literally by not looking up, but just staying fixated on your feet and thinking ‘If they keep moving, I’ll keep moving’ Good partners push each other at different times. One doesn’t dominate the other.”

I had no idea how much I was pushing him up that hill, but he has no idea how much he pushed me most that run and through life.  I was the athlete I was in High School and College because of him and my father, and I am hoping to be the runner I think I can be because of him.  After yesterday’s run, 24 tough miles at a sub 10 min mile, I can’t help but think, “why not me?”.  Why can’t I be elite?  If I can dial in my nutrition and stomach issues I think I can be.  I KNOW this.  Just admitting that is a big step for me.  After this 50K I will have a better idea of where I am at, but maybe it’s time for me to start thinking the way I did my whole life, starting as a child running around that block.

“You have to do what others won’t, to achieve what others don’t.”

As many of you know, I have been training for my first ultra marathon these past couple of months. I signed up for the Bimblers Bluff 50Kish (the “ish” is what is killing me. An extra 1.5 miles. Seems so short. Tell that to my legs when I hit 18.5 miles on Sunday. Ouch) which is October 20th. It takes place through the woods of Southern Connecticut, consisting of mostly single track and forest roads.

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My training has been going well. Much different from my Hartford Marathon training. There’s the obvious: I am training mostly in the woods as opposed to mostly on the road.  However, there are other changes I have made that I am very happy with. I was lucky enough to find a great training partner who has taught me a lot about how to train. Probably because he has ultra running experience, and his wife is a ROCKSTAR runner. the real deal.  (www.msfitrunner.com) So, when a chick that rocks out sub 3 hour marathons & sub 18 min 5Ks tells you to do AB and C to get stronger & faster, you do it. Even if C is running on the ROAD doing 1/4 mile repeats. Yuck.

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But, me & the rockstars hubs do them. Why?  As he says, “coach said so”. Well, turns out, as it has happened through most my sports career, coach may be right. While doing my last 2 training runs (18 & 20 miles at Case Mountain) I felt strong. I felt good (except that last 1.5 miles Sunday). So, I have found a new, strange, love for speed work and hill repeats. I am realizing that training plans and coaches have you do these (awful) workouts because they work.

So, instead of just going out and running different distances at whatever speed feels right for the day, then adding 2 miles to each long run, I am now mixing in some hill repeats, track workouts, core and bootcamp classes at mission FITNESS (www.missionfitnessllc.com), 30-50 mile bike rides, and lots of foam rolling!  I am hoping this will all make sense and come together on October 20th  for a strong race!

This Gift or This Curse?

imageI will start by admitting my guilty pleasure: I am a big WICKED (the musical) fan. I know every word of every song, and love to play it extremely loud as I sing my heart out.  There. It’s out there. I said it.  Popular. Dancing Through Life. For Good. And…The Wizard and I.

The songs also play in my head during workouts. Today, as I trudged up a never-ending hill on my bike in 95 degree heat…it was a line from The Wizard and I that I could not get out of my head, “this gift or this curse, that I have inside..maybe at last I’ll know why”

I think this line started brewing from a comment my brother made yesterday while we were running. We decided to set out for our longest trail run, despite the oppressive heat. While running along at mile 13ish of 15ish, my brother was saying that we should give ourselves credit. Running 15ish miles in 90+ degree weather and only walking one hill was something to be proud of. He followed this up with, “we have a gift” ….I mumbled, “or curse?”

What did he mean by that statement? We both have been able to excel in multiple areas without doing the excessive training that most do. We can run 15 miles on a very hot day without much training under our belt. We can train for a marathon for half the time as most and do just as well, if not better. For me, I can play golf once a year and still shoot in the mid to low 40’s. I can join a volleyball team after only having played a few times and be asked if I played in college. I am naturally just an athletic person. I was a 3 sport all-conference/all-state athlete in High-School & a collegiate basketball player. However, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  And mental toughness, I believe, is 75% of the battle.

On top of having a lot of natural athletic ability, I also work VERY hard.  I may not train as often as some people, but when I am on the trails, the bike, etc I am giving it EVERYTHING I have. I am looking at each training moment as a way to become a better competitor. The harder I work when training, the easier race time will be.

When I first started racing I would regularly place in my age group, however, now, with some experience and better training, I am imagestarting to place Top 3 Overall.

A gift….or a curse?

I love the idea that I have the ability to be elite. My brother said to me on the trail yesterday, “you have to start thinking differently. You have to start realizing that you could be one of the best around.” Now, that’s a pretty amazing thing. It’s also a pretty scary thing.  Scary as hell.  To be the best, it takes A LOT of hard work. Training in ways I haven’t even touched upon. It becomes a lot of pressure. It becomes fun in a different sort of way. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a top finisher at a race?

BUT, it also becomes more stressful. To commit to TRYING to be one of the best already sets you up to possibly fail.   Isn’t it just so much easier to “kind of” train, then finishing at an average time is expected?  Wouldn’t it be nice to just start at the middle or back of the pack and just enjoy the race…the only expectation to finish? I may never know what that feels like. I’m an all out competitor. If I enter a race it is to RACE. Otherwise, it’s a training run.

A gift or a curse…?