Tag Archives: road runner

Colfax Half Marathon: Just Wing It

22 May

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After a long hiatus from running, I finally returned to the race circuit on Sunday. I decided to run the Colfax Half Marathon again in Denver after having done it for the first time last year. A family friend wanted to do the race, so I told her I’d do it with her since it was her first half. I had good intentions to train hard and set a PR, but alas the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

I didn’t anticipate I was going to fall deeply in love nor did I anticipate I was going to get extremely sick with a severe upper respiratory infection that nearly had me hospitalized. I fell in love with a handsome foreigner who has a dangerous job with the military/CIA and was facing an 8-month deployment this month. So, instead of training, I chose to spend all of my time with him, making the most of what we had together. I was also out of commission nearly a month with my illness. So I didn’t train.

In fact I hadn’t run 10 miles since January. When I was in Las Vegas in March, I did a 7 miler on the Strip at sea level, which was wonderful. Then around the start of April, I did a 6 miler with my handsome foreigner, but other than that, I had mostly just been doing short distance speed work on the treadmill and strength training during the week. The half marathon was in the back of my head, but at the same time, I had other priorities.

My handsome foreigner was deployed on Saturday, the day before the race. It was devastating to have to say goodbye, but we are in a good place in our relationship, and I know when he returns in 8 months, we’ll be stronger than ever. Nevertheless, it was extremely difficult to say goodbye. After he left, I immediately went up to Denver with my friend to pick up my race packet and get checked into the hotel for the night.

The race honestly could not have come at a better time. I needed a release from the stress and tension I was feeling over my man’s departure. I knew that running those 13.1 mile was going to help cleanse me and start to heal. I also figured if I could “wing” a half marathon, then I could definitely get through his 8 month deployment.

I had offered to run the race with my friend if she needed the support, but also told her she was free to run it on her own if she wanted. She chose the latter, and I was relieved. I wanted the alone time to clear my head. Unlike last year when I was a complete nervous wreck, ready to barf and crying from being so scared, this year I was very calm. I was looking forward to the run even.

I ate a good breakfast and marched over to the starting area like a seasoned pro. There were no butterflies in my stomach, no tears and no nerves. Instead of a frightening obstacle, I saw this race as my salvation during a dark time. We marched up from our corral and started the race.

I started it off by listening to “Run” by Matt Nathanson and Jennifer Nettles, which is a beautiful love song that reminds me of my relationship. It brought tears to my eyes, but calmed me down and allowed me to get into the groove of this race.

The miles kept coming, surprisingly very easily. I was shocked. Last year I had trained and trained and I thought every mile was hard. This year, after running a full marathon, this seemed so easy. I kept going, each mile peeling off a layer of sadness and giving me a glimmer of hope that I will get through the next 8 months.

Around mile 8, my foot started to hurt per usual and I was feeling the lactic acid build up. I knew I’d make it through, but I was starting to think maybe I should have trained. I figured though if I could make it to mile 10, I was going to be just fine. Once mile 10 came around, I knew I was in the home stretch. Last year, I saw mile 10 as an obstacle—I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next 3 miles and was terrified. This year, it was welcomed. I knew once I saw it that a 5K was nothing, and I’d be done in about 40 minutes.

The last 3 miles were hard, no question. The lactic acid had built up, and my legs were becoming very stiff. But I knew I’d get through it. I remember thinking last year that mile 12 seemed to last forever. This year,  it seemed like nothing. I began to wonder if I’d get the same rush crossing the finish line this year as I did for my first.

As I came around the corner and saw the finish line, I felt my stone legs begin to loosen and I picked up the pace. I was sprinting home, finishing strong. A huge grin spread across my face and my eyes began to water. I didn’t have a downpour of tears like last year, but I felt such extreme joy again. I sailed down the last 0.1 mile and through the finish line knowing somehow everything was going to be okay. I crossed under the archway listening to Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Stronger” knowing that I was stronger at that moment.

A year ago, I was barely finishing the race and a terrified, unconfident mess. This year, I completely winged a half marathon, finishing it only 8 minutes slower than last year for 3:05:23. What a difference a year makes! I felt so confident and happy like this was something I did everyday.

Finishing the race was a very cathartic experience. I knew as I crossed the line that everything with my relationship was going to be okay. Not to say that the next 8 months aren’t going to be extremely tough and sad for a while, but I know we’ll be okay, and I know I’m strong enough to get through it.

I’ve decided I need a project to keep me busy. I’m doing what I said I’d never do again. I’ve signed up for the Walt Disney World Full Marathon in January 2013. That is the month my man is due home, and training for that race will keep me occupied until his return. I’m too strong to fold under these difficult times. I’m going to do what the Pink Ninja does best: fight through the tough times. So, in two weeks, I’ll be starting my training for the race. I may be a ninja, but I can’t wing 26.2 miles.  

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Running Trail

1 Mar

Before I delve into my post, I have returned. I’ve been so insanely busy, I had to take a break from blogging. Work, social life will do that to you I guess. I apologize for being MIA for so long. Even my exercise wasn’t very consistent, which was annoying. I feel much more back on track now and spring is around the corner, which always helps. I think I’m one of those seasonal affective disorder people as I tend to hibernate more in the winter.

Anyhow, I’ve been running for almost a year and a half now. I was never very good at it, but I liked it. It was a hard pill to swallow to not be good at it, but I kept at it. Since completing the marathon, I’ve found a new love for running. All the pressure of the race is gone, and I actually truly love it now. I run just to feel good and enjoy myself. I don’t look at my Garmin to constantly check pace. I just run and go with it. At the gym at work, I do speed training like I always have. I noticed some improvement, but nothing major. Still a slow penguin.

Last weekend, I went running with a friend who is getting ready to do her first half marathon. We decided to do a 6 mile run together, which was her first time going that distance. She led on pace, which was definitely harder than what I was used to. However, I was able to keep up surprisingly. After we turned around (we did an out and back of 3 miles each way), I got a second wind and was actually doing really well. I was even able to charge up some hills, which was a first.

I couldn’t believe it! Normally I end up walking the hills as my legs cramp up, but this was no biggie. We kept going until we finished our 6 miles. I finally checked the Garmin and we completed 6.03 miles in 1:17:21. I thought that seemed like a pretty fast time, but I wasn’t sure. When I got home and checked my running diary, my previous PR for 6 miles was 1:29:50. I had shaved 12 minutes off of my time! I wasn’t even trying! It just came naturally. I was so excited.

I finally, finally was getting to be a better runner. Maybe not great and never going to be fast, but this was a respectable time. So when I finally gave up trying to get faster and worrying about getting faster, I actually got faster!

Stocking Shuffle 5K: PeRfect PR

10 Dec

After the marathon, I was feeling a bit lost. I had nothing to train for and very much had a “now what?” type of attitude. I’m planning to do several half marathons next year, but I don’t need to start training until January. I really needed a break from all the heavy running since my work life has been horrendously busy and the holidays were coming. However, I didn’t want to do nothing until January either. So I signed up for a 5K race here in Colorado Springs called the Stocking Shuffle.

It’s sponsored by a local running group and benefits a local charity that provides toys and food to needy families at Christmas. It was a great cause and it gave me some direction to keep up my running.

The race was this morning. Unlike all of my previous races (there isn’t that many—2 5Ks, half marathon and a full marathon), I wasn’t nervous. I was finally running merely because I wanted to. I didn’t train to set a PR and just figured I’d have fun with it. If I set a PR, it’d be a nice bonus, but I was really braving this cold December morning just because I love running and racing.

There were only about 150 – 200 participants, so it was nice and small. The purpose of the race was to raise money, not spend money, so there weren’t any fancy timing chips, one small water station and no mile markers. Crowd watching was fun as everyone was decked out in holiday themed gear. I donned a santa hat and red gloves, but otherwise stuck to my running clothes since it was super cold this morning.

The horn buzzed and we were off. I flipped on my iPod and just enjoyed my run/walk. It was a cold, but pretty morning and we ran through the campus of Colorado College, which is beautiful. There was one very steep hill, which coincided with a walk break on my run/walk cycle, so that was lucky. I only checked my Garmin once, which was after the 2-mile mark and the only water station. I’m not very good at math, so I wasn’t quite sure if I was on track to set a PR. I decided not to care and just keep going. I was trying to push my pace much harder than normal since was a short distance, but I wasn’t going to get hung up on it.

I finally saw the park where the finish line was located and checked my Garmin again. I was at 2.70 miles and 33 minutes. I thought to myself, holy cow, I could actually set a PR. I found my marathon finish line song, “Sing” by My Chemical Romance, on my iPod and I decided to book it. I started running harder and harder, which thankfully it was down hill at that point.

My previous PR for a 5K distance was 39:40, and today, I sailed through the finish line at 37:04. I was so excited! I hadn’t stressed or pushed myself or even cared about a PR, and I beat my previous time by over 2.5 minutes! It felt fantastic. I’m still definitely one of the slower runners, but I made huge strides today and I had so much fun with it.

I have to admit though that the finish line high for a 5K wasn’t the same feeling like a half or a full marathon. Could I be getting the bug again to take the plunge for a full? I promised myself I won’t attempt to do a full marathon for a full year. I’m going to work hard on my half races next year and see where I end up. But, maybe, those finish line sirens are calling.

 

Running With Joy

9 Nov

I’ve been reading Ryan Hall‘s book called “Running With Joy” about finding the simple joy in running. I never understood it the entire time I was marathon training. I’m a perfectionist, and every run I went on, I was stressing out about the marathon. My times were always pushing the limit on how slow I could be and still finish on time. It was a constant battle the entire 10 months: would I finish? would I get faster?

Granted, I had some really good training runs where I felt great afterward and rocked an awesome runner’s high, but the question of finishing and being good enough were always at the back of my mind. I never quite fully enjoyed my runs with the pressure I had put on myself.

This past Sunday I went for a run. Not because I had to follow a schedule, but because I wanted some exercise and needed to clear my head after a stressful week. It was crisp and cool, but the sun was out so it was a nice day. I planned to do 6 – 8 miles depending on time and my energy levels. I hadn’t done a long run since the marathon, and I had just gotten new shoes last week.

I set off on the trail, which was fairly deserted. It was a beautiful fall morning. I had my iPod on, but otherwise just enjoyed the scenery. Squirrels and rabbits were out scurrying around trying to bulk up for winter. It was a lovely day. I ended up doing 6 miles. Before when I ran, I obsessively checked my Garmin for my pace, distance, time, etc to see if I was at all on track. I only checked my watch once on this run when I felt like turning around to make sure I had gone out 3 miles.

Otherwise, I didn’t have a clue the entire time what my pace was nor did I care. It was honestly one of the best runs I’ve ever been on. There was no more pressure, no need to accomplish anything. I was simply there to enjoy my run and get some exercise in. When I finished, I was really happy. It had taken me 1:29:50, but I didn’t care anymore. I just had enjoyed a beautiful 6 mile run on a great fall day. What was there to be upset about? I’ve already conquered the marathon. Now I can just sit back, relax and enjoy running with joy.

I Heart NY

6 Nov

Almost exactly one year ago, I watched the ING New York Marathon for the first time. I barely had two 5Ks under my belt, and had never run more than that when I started watching. I was so excited to watch it, not really thinking that I’d be conquering the distance a year later. I was thrilled to see an American, Shalane Flannigan, place second in a sport dominated by Kenya and Ethiopia.

Today I am watching a live streaming of the marathon online with a new set of eyes. I watch it through the eyes of a marathoner instead of just an admiring spectator. I still watch the elite men and women runners with complete awe, but watching the “normal” people take on the 26.2 mile monster is thrilling. I know what they are about to go through, I know what they will feel in those tough, later miles. And I know the extreme joy they will experience crossing the finish line.

The New York Marathon is an amazing event in our country. It’s the largest marathon in the United States and this year is hosting 47,000 participants. It used to be a series of loops around Central Park until Fred Lebow dared to take it to all five boroughs of the city he loved. It is a spectacular event, unique from any other and one day would be a thrill to run.

I read in the book “First Marathons” an account by a runner who barely finished his first marathon. He struggled the entire time and had battled obesity and divorce, but he finished. He said he wore his marathon tee shirt and medal all week long he was so proud. He also said that while the stories of the elite runners are impressive, he thinks the most inspiring stories come from the back of the pack.

I would have to agree. As one who ran in the back of the pack, I heard a lot of great stories from those runners who were with me. Like me, they had a lot of obstacles to overcome and it was a long, difficult fight to conquer the 26.2 mile monster. While we all are different and run at paces from the extraordinary to the tortoise-like, we are all runners and we are all finishers.

So, if you get a chance today, check out the New York Marathon. Coverage is being broadcast live on UniversalSports.com and there will be a two hour special on NBC today. It is an amazing event full of inspiration, guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

A Letter to My Podiatrist

29 Oct

I swore after I finished the marathon that I’d be sending a letter and a finish line photo to my podiatrist telling him just how wrong he was. I’ve been so swamped with work since the race that I haven’t had time to write it until today. It’s going in the mail on Monday. It was a very good, cathartic experience writing it. It’ll feel even better mailing it!

Dear Dr. _________, (Leaving name out for privacy reasons)
You probably don’t remember me, but you did surgery on my right foot on November 16, 2007. You had to rebuild my arch and lengthen my Achilles tendon as a result of an injury sustained in a 2006 car accident.

You told me that once my foot healed, I would be fine to do anything I wanted except run. You also said I’d be out of pain within 6 – 9 months of the surgery.

Exactly one year later I saw you for my final check-up. Everything had healed, but I was still in daily, excruciating pain. I had asked when it was going to stop, and you told me that I should have been better months before and the pain I was experiencing was all in my head. When I started to cry, you walked out of the office, and that was the last time I saw you.

I guess you were sick the day medical school taught that all human bodies are unique and can react differently to surgeries, illnesses and other traumas. I think you were also out sick the day they taught proper bedside manor with a patient. I hear that the University of Chicago just received a $50 million grant to focus on classes that will improve bedside manor among medical school students. Maybe you should enroll.

The pain did go away. It went away on my body’s terms, not your timetable. It went away about 6 months after I saw you for the last time. It wasn’t in my head, I wasn’t crazy, my body just took longer to heal. Probably the weight I was at (205 pounds) didn’t help the healing process either. But instead you just chose to make me feel like a lunatic.

Walking out on a crying patient who is in pain is an incredibly cruel thing to do. It very much goes against your Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm.” Other people may have just gone on in life and accepted the lot you gave them. I, on the other hand, had a fire lit inside me that NO ONE could extinguish. I was done being the weak, fat girl people made fun of. I was done with people treating me badly, you especially. Just see what happens when you tell me “you can’t.”

Determined, I went back to the gym in spite of the pain I was in. I lost 65 pounds over the course of a year. I appeared in Fitness Magazine as a reader success story for my weight loss. I won my company’s staff fitness competition and was the captain of my company’s Lighten Up Colorado fitness team that won a silver medal in the Rocky Mountain State Games.

I had all of these accomplishments, but what I wanted to do more than anything was run. Why? Because you said I couldn’t. Because you treated me like I was a crazy person and showed no compassion when I needed it the most. Because now I was a strong, determined, confident person who was going to overcome one final obstacle in my life. Because one arrogant prick of a doctor with a God complex was not going to keep me down.

You’d been wrong about everything else—the length of the healing process, the pain being in my head, I decided you were wrong about running too. I tried out my hypothesis and on August 2, 2010, I started to run. One month later, I ran my first 5K race.

Just a little over one year later, on October 9, 2011, I became a marathoner. That’s right. I ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Denver and finished a full marathon in 6:01:01. That is a whole lot of “never running again,” don’t you think?

I even had a tee shirt made that I wore at the race that said “October 9, 2011: Proving my doctor wrong for 26.2 miles.” It received a lot of support and feedback from the other runners. Quite a few of them had similar diagnoses from their doctors. One participant was 81 years old and had finished full marathons in all 50 states. His doctor told him to stop marathons after he did 11 because they were bad for his health. Well the 81-year-old man was running in Denver and his doctor, who was 10 years younger than him, was living out his life in a nursing home.

You may have gone to medical school and learned anatomy and biology, but you definitely didn’t learn the incredible strength and power of the human spirit. Bones can break and tendons can tear, but nothing can crack that awesome power and determination. That strength comes from within the soul, and it is strong enough to overcome anything thrown at it. Even you doctors. Remember that next time you tell a patient, “you can’t.”

In closing, take this final little nugget with you…when I crossed the finish line, one of my dear friends and supporters who was there at the race shouted, “your doctor was full of shit.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Signed,

Noel D., a marathon finisher who has run over 500 miles in the past year

In the Club

26 Oct

A lot of people I’ve talked to who are experienced marathoners say that finishing a marathon is like giving birth. In 2009, 4,136,000 babies were born in the United States. During that same year, about 450,000 people finished a marathon. A lot more babies were born than people finished a marathon, so I’m going to venture out there and say (as one who is childless) that nope, a marathon is a harder challenge than giving birth. People would rather go through the pains of childbirth than run a marathon. Seriously. It is a very elite club of people, and now the kid who was always picked last in gym class and was made fun of for being fat, is part of it!

On the same day as my Denver Marathon was the Chicago Marathon. A friend of mine ran it and she visited Colorado last week. We got together to talk about our races. It was exhilarating, and we were both so excited to have someone to share it with. We both concluded that no one gets it unless they do it. That’s not to say that we didn’t appreciate the support and encouragement of our family and friends, but you really, really can’t get it unless you do it.

My family and friends had more of a unique perspective because they did do 6 miles with me at the end, so they knew what I was going through and what the experience was like, but unless you do all 26.2 miles, you just don’t quite realize the magnitude of the this race.

My friend and I dished on our highs and lows of the race and the brutality and horribly long training we endured. We talked shoes, free tee shirts and our medals. It was great. It was so exciting to share that with someone.

Driving around in active Colorado, I tend to see bumper stickers all the time with “13.1” splashed on them or “runner” or “Marathoner.” But, I rarely see the elusive 26.2 sticker. That is a big deal to see. I have one of my car now, and since I put it on, I’ve been waiting to see another one. The other morning on my drive into work, the car in front of me on the interstate had one. I was so excited! I wanted to drive up alongside them and say, “yes, me too! Me too! We’ve done it! We know!” But I figured I’d get into an accident or get arrested for being a psycho.

I’m not at all trying to sound like I’m better than anyone or that I’m some super elite athlete. Gosh, it took me 6 hours to finish, that’s not elite at all. I just mean, it’s a really unique experience to be a part of this special group, and I’m excited about it. I feel so lucky and privileged to be amongst the 450,000 finishers. Lord knows it took all of my energy, all of my stubbornness and an extremely support group of family and friends who helped me on race day to get to be a part of it.

This is an open, welcoming club. We want more members! Lace up your shoes and start training today. I promise you, it’s a high you will never forget and it will stay with you always.