Happy and Alive!

Comfort zone

I run because I love it.  I love the me time.  I love the endorphins. I love the effect it has on my body.  I love the mental boost that it gives me.

And it’s so comfortable. And familiar.

The last 6 months have, for me, been all about doing the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Reaching out and making new friends. Fat biking. Group spin classes. Spin classes on my own.  My first ever bike race. Biking on a lake.

And in stepping out of my comfort zone, I’ve been fulfilled – physically, mentally and emotionally – in ways that have made me feel so happy and alive.

My first bike race this weekend was humbling. I’m used to being decent – even above average – at running.  With this race I was literally at the back of the pack. I finished 83 out of 87 (and a ton of the 30k racers beat me – even though I was only doing 20k). It was single track in the snow. It was my first time not biking with Scott (he raced the longer distance).  I was scared when I was lining up at the start line. I got really tired 1/2 way through it and started getting struggling on the single track – turns, ups AND downs. I felt like I was slowing people up (I was – there were times there was literally a line of like 15 people behind me).  But despite this, I felt happy during the race.  Happy to be doing something that was a challenge for me.  Happy to be experiencing something new. Happy to be healthy.  Happy to be outside enjoying the winter. Happy to be alive.

I’m still loving running.  I’m in full swing for Blue Ridge Marathon training.  It’s going well and I’m loving it. But learning to step out of my comfort zone and try new things has made my life so much more full. It’s all good.

And speaking of LOVE, I’m engaged! Scott asked me to marry him this weekend!  I could not be more excited and thankful and content. We share the same outlook about life and value the same things – our kids, our health, endurance activities. We have fun and adventure with everything we do.  I’m feeling really really happy and alive right now!

 

 

 

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100 Days til Blue Ridge Marathon!

The countdown is on!

100 days until my next marathon.   The Blue Ridge Marathon.  Also affectionately known as America’s Toughest Road Marathon.

Why Blue Ridge Marathon? Partly because I had a free entry since I had to defer last year because of the stress reaction.  But mostly because I want something really physically and mentally challenging to train for. And  7,430 feet of elevation change over the course of running 26.2 miles sounds physically and mentally challenging! (Compare to Twin Cities which has less than 800 feet of elevation change). It’s literally running up and down two mountains around the city of Roanoke.

Bonus that there is a Hill Week Cycling Camp the week before the marathon, so Scott and I are planning on making a fun trip of it.  (I’m not cycling – I’ll be resting the legs and looking at the mountains and dropping F-Bombs, wondering what I was thinking when I signed up for it, while he cycles!)

So what’s my plan?  I’m planning on getting through it with a combination of running and power walking – it looks like some parts are so steep that it will be impossible to run.  No time goals.  Just a goal to finish it with a smile on my face.

How am I training?  I’m following Pfitz 18-55 plan. With an added week, so it’s actually a 19 week plan.  I’m in the 5th week and feeling great!  I am also adding in 2 – 3 days of cycling (spin and fat bike rides) a week, as well as 1 – 2 days on the step-mill.  A friend who ran a mountain race last year said the step-mill provided GREAT cross training for hiking/running up a mountain.  My biggest challenge with the step mill is not to fall off that thing and hurt myself.  Have you seen it?  I am definitely not one of those who can chat and/or read while on this thing.  I have to concentrate on my feet and not falling off.  The most important thing that I’m doing for this training is TONS of core.  With the PT from my stress fractures, I’ve learned how important it is to keep my core and hips and glutes strong and in balance and working together, so my form doesn’t get all wonky, leading to another stress fracture.

step mill

The Step-Mill.  Scary looking, huh?

I’m super motivated and excited about the challenge of Blue Ridge Marathon!  Stay tuned!

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2015: And That’s A Wrap!

2015 is (almost) officially in the books.

Some runners might say it sucked.  I was gearing up for Blue Ridge Marathon and got a hernia in February and then got ANOTHER left tibial stress fracture (reaction, actually) in March.  So I spent March, April and May not running.  And then I spent the rest of the year very, very gradually rebuilding and healing. It was the first year in 10 (+) years that I didn’t do a single race.  Not even a 5k!

So if you are measuring the year in terms of races run, 2015 was a complete bust.

But if you are measuring the year in terms of figuring stuff out – about yourself and your place in this world – then 2015 was a resounding success.  Here’s what I learned in 2015:

  • Seeing places you love (Seattle), and new places (Portland/Eugene), with your almost adult kids is far better than any running trip!
  • Adventures with the one you love are The Best!  [Cedar Key, Kauai, Leadville, Hayward (x 3) with Scott]
  • It’s not always about me.  Sometimes supporting the one you love, at the thing he loves (Leadville 100 MTB), is enough. More than enough.
  • There is almost nothing better than being well, after not being well (and not realizing it) for too long.  Since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease in September, I am feeling a MILLION times better in so many ways.  I have energy.  The moodiness and anxiety are gone.  I’m back to normal weight. My stress fractures have healed. My brain fog has lifted.   This – figuring out my health issues – has been the best part of 2015!
  • There are things that are just as fun  – and good for you – as running. Fat biking! :-) I am so thankful for Scott’s encouragement, guidance and gifts to me, which have allowed me to find an additional endorphin – and social – outlet.
  • Passion for running can build new friendships that will last a lifetime. My experience at Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat was a highlight of my year for sure. 
  • Treasure every minute.  My daughter is a senior.  She’ll be away at college  – TBD, but far away from Minnesota – next year.  My son is a junior.  He’ll be away the next year.  It’s sneaking up on me too fast. It’ll sound dorky – but I find myself looking at them an extra few seconds when they say or do something particularly funny or memorable – so that I can attempt to slow down time and file away the image they just created into my memory forever.

If 2016 is half as good as 2015 was for me, I’ll be incredibly blessed.

 

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So heavenly!

fall running

Today’s run was the best run I’ve had all year.  10 miles in 50 degrees enjoying the last of the Fall colors.  Best part was ending at Meg’s bakery – with her having a chocolate old fashioned donut waiting for me.  Heaven!

donut

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Lessons for the Aging Runner from Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat

enjoy the journey

One of the big draws for me with the Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat (other than Kara Goucher!) was the focus that it promised on running as you age and on injury prevention.  Because for me, the 40’s are NOT fabulous in terms of my running.  I just turned 44 and I’ve been injured and NOT running for more of my 40’s than I’ve been healthy/running.

Before I get to what I learned at the retreat, however, I do want to make a pitch to aging women runners to consider getting tested for hypothyroidism (and Hashimoto’s Disease) if you are feeling any of the following symptoms, many of which can be written off as “normal aging” (I did – only to discover I had hypothyroidism – which is now controlled by a daily magic pill of thyroid hormone): gall bladder issues or pain, feeling tired and very low energy – all the time, brain fog/memory issues, problems concentrating, irregular periods, joint pain, weight gain, depression, constipation, dry scalp, extreme emotional swings, always being cold.  Seriously – if you are feeling these symptoms, get your TSH level tested (but make sure the testing lab is using to correct range – many labs still use the old guidelines).  The test is easy.  The fix is easy (for me; knocking on wood). And SO many people – especially middle age women -develop hypothyroidism.

As I think about what I learned in terms of aging advice and injury prevention advice, much of it is common sense and/or stuff that we have all heard.  But we all ignore it.  We tell ourselves we don’t have time for it.  Or we don’t need it, because we have been fine and fast up until now.  But the truth is that the things that were talked about are so important to being a healthy masters runner.  So, without further ado, here’s what I learned at the retreat (from speedsters Kara Goucher, Janis Klecker, Katie McGee and Dr. Ann Sudoh):

  • You have to get more creative on how you get fit as you get older.  You can’t run every day, or do doubles, like when you were young. You MUST have a non-running activity that you enjoy.  It’s important for injury prevention (you can’t run every day – you need to cross train with something to stay healthy and fit).  But it’s also important so you don’t have all your eggs in the running basket – so that when you get injured (because you probably will, as you age) you don’t let yourself fall apart mentally and physically. So pick whatever you like – skiing, yoga, cycling, elliptical (do people really like that thing??), swimming, walking, pilates.
  • You MUST strength train.  I am SO guilty of ignoring this one.  Mostly because I don’t have a clue what to do in terms of lifting weights or using weight machines.  I can’t remember the statistic Dr. Sudoh gave us, but it was some significant percentage of muscle mass that you lose each decade after your 30’s, just by virtue of aging.  So you NEED to do strength training to remain strong and healthy.  No more ignoring this – I know I’m going to FOR SURE find a strength program and figure out what I need to do to get stronger.  Someone check back in with me in a month and kick my butt if I haven’t started strength training!
  • Obey your stress/rest cycle.  You know – the old hard day/easy day/hard day thing.  Only as you age you need to change this for something that works for your aging body. Listen to your body.  Your new “older” stress/rest cycle might be:  hard/easy/easy/easy/hard
  • Consider doing 10 day training cycles instead of the “normal” 7 day training cycle.  This will give you more days to get the key workouts in and to recover/rest properly.
  • Consider doing longer rest intervals.  If you used to do 1000 meter intervals with a 60 second recovery, your aging body may now need 90 second recovery.  It’s more important to take the longer time to recover and hit your paces.
  • Post hard workout you NEED to be taking in recovery nutrition in the very short window that it matters, which is like 15 minutes after you run.  You need to replenish with carbs/protein with one of those recovery type drinks (I don’t know the exact carb/protein ration – but you all know what I’m talking about).  Kara Goucher’s post hard workout (long runs and fast efforts) is tart cherry juice (antioxidants) and a garden of life protein shake.  But whatever works for you – ensure, chocolate milk, whatever carb/protein drink you can tolerate – just get it in you within 15 minutes of running.  Kara described how much more difficult her runs are the next day or two after a hard effort if she skips her recovery nutrition.
  • Prehab.  You know, like how we rehab after an injury occurs.  Prehab, before an injury occurs.  Stretch. Foam roll.  Massage.  Baby those little “niggles” that pop up, before they become full fledged injuries.  Side note:  I found it so reassuring to hear that Kara and Katie (both younger than me) wake up in the morning and their bodies feel creaky and old. It happens to all of us – we just need to adjust our routines to work with the creakiness!
  • Rule of Too’s (via Katie McGee):  Don’t do anything Too Hard, Too Fast, or Too Often.
  • Masters racing is about getting to the STARTING line.  Love this.  So true.  As I’ve been in my 40’s I’ve had to back out of two marathons because I was too injured to even make it to the starting line.  Which sucks.
  • Better to be 4% under trained than 1% over trained.  Over training leads to injuries, blow ups and not meeting your goals.
  • Train your weakness in your off season.  Instead of marathoning all year round, take a break and do shorter distance in the off season.  Or focus on strength or whatever your weakness is.  Give your body a break and a boost.
  • Think about the choices you are making each day.  Ask yourself “is this choice I’m making allowing me to stay even, move forward or go backwards”?  (Side note:  I thought about this during the retreat as I helped myself to seconds on brownies and thirds on red wine – but I justified it with “I’m on a mini-vacation – I’ll start making good choices on Monday!”)
  • Still keep pushing yourself to reach new goals, explore new things.  Always be curious and ask what’s possible.

Good stuff.  I swear I’m not going to ignore this advice anymore – I want to be running when I’m a senior citizen!

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Janis Klecker’s Running, a Celebration of the Heart – at Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat

Janis and barneyOne of my absolute favorite parts of the weekend at Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat was getting to know Janis Klecker.  Going into the retreat, I didn’t know much about her.  I knew her name, that she was a running legend and that she had really fast kids who went to Hopkins (near where I live).

At the retreat she gave an amazing presentation with a power point that wove together her running life story with the life story of her relationship with her husband (running legend/olympian Barney Klecker), her children (all amazing runners and athletes) and her amazing running mom, Mae Horns.  She has won a bunch of marathons (Twin Cities, CIM, San Francisco – all multiple times), competed in the 1992 Olympic marathon and just run an incredible number of races for a long time. All while putting herself through dental school, being a dentist and then having 6 kids in like 7 years.  There was not a dry eye in the room when she spoke of her mom – who was her training partner and best friend and biggest fan – developing ALS and eventually dying from it.  I have such a special place in my heart – because of my work as a guardianship attorney for elderly and mentally ill – for people who suffer from devastaing and cruel diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s (and an even more special place in my heart for their families, who suffer right along side their loved one).  It moved me so much to hear her speak with love about the special memories she and her mom created together through running.

Janis talked frequently of her bible studies, and quoted bible passages that meant a lot to her in life and running.  They were inspirational passages, that you can clearly see relate to running and the relationships formed from running.  I love them!

hebrews_10_25--close-308x308

habakkuk-3-19

Other bits of wisdom that I learned from Janis:

  • You can’t plan for the race of your life.
  • Every one of us have a weak link.  We all train until we find it.
  • When we stumble, we get back up.
  • We encourage each other.
  • Find your greatness.
  • You have to get more creative in how you get fit as you get older.  As an aging runner you HAVE to find another type of fitness that you can tolerate.

My favorite part about Janis was running with her.  On Saturday morning we ran 6 miles together, with just the two of us chatting for a good 3 miles.  We talked about our kids running cross country (they are both running for local high schools now; her daughter just ran at Gale Woods, about 2 miles from where I live).  We talked about how kids choose the college they go to (and how parents/kids pay for it!), because my daughter is just applying to colleges now. We talked about our kids nordic skiing.  It was just a real and a casual conversation.

Janis and her love for her God, her husband, her children, her mother, her running and her health were SO inspirational.  This weekend Janis taught me not just about running, but about the type of human being that I want to be.

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