Monday, August 21, 2017

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I thought I was going to die during a 1/4 mile run on a treadmill.  It was terrible but intriguing.  I kept running at the YMCA that June, slowly increasing my distance, and sometime later that month, I ran my first nonstop mile outside.  I still remember it well.  Red-faced and gasping for breath, I walked into the house and told my husband, "I just ran a mile!"  He was duly impressed.  June in Tennessee is probably not the ideal month to start running outside, but I do enjoy a challenge!

My first 5K was that August in 34:59.  My goal had been under 35 minutes.  I was immediately hooked and proceeded to run one 5K a month for the next several months, beginning a string of PRs (personal records).  I like to call this the honeymoon period.  Every race was faster than the one before it.   In February, I upgraded to the 10K distance and finally broke 30 minutes in the 5K.  I joined the local running club.  In April, I ran the Country Music Half-Marathon with 30,000 other runners, with a happy 2:19 finish.

I find it difficult to dabble. After the half marathon, I was all in.  I continued running 5K's, 10K's, and half marathons, sometimes multiple races per month.  Since I don't like to do anything half-way (see what I did there?) only twenty-two months after that first short run, I completed the Country Music Marathon.  Then I decided I needed to share all of this running goodness with others.  I became a Road Runners Clubs of America certified running coach.  Just after the start of my third year as a runner, I was hired by the YMCA to coach a half-marathon training group.  Since then, I've coached over 140 half marathoners.

For a few years, my life revolved around running-- my own runs, my running friends, competing in races, running club activities, and coaching others.  It was more than a hobby and a job, it was a one-dimensional way of life.  I planned my week around my runs, not my runs around my week. My type-A-ness took over.  I was consumed by it. I think after having been a stay-at-home mom for 5 years at the time, I was just thrilled to have something FOR ME outside of these four walls, outside of being a mom and a wife. Other than my family, it was the primary source of my fulfillment as a human.

In hindsight, I see I was not just immersed in running, I was drowning in it-- to the detriment of my own health.  I was somehow able to remain uninjured the first few years of running, but when my obsession got the better of me and I began experimenting with ultramarathons and multiple marathons a year (plus Crossfit), I found myself injured part of the year every year.   There might be a pattern there, or maybe it was just turning 40!

During one particularly challenging training cycle in my early forties, my immune system decided to attack my thyroid gland.  I noticed my body was breaking down, my hair was falling out, I was constantly fatigued, I couldn't sleep, and my emotions were, let's just say, volatile.  There is a family history of thyroid disease on my mother's side.  There can be a genetic component that is latent until some source of stress activates it.  Did running give me hypothyroidism?  No.  Did training extremely hard for a goal race with little recovery, high mileage, and too many "quality" runs? Probably.  Since my foray into hypothyroidism, my race times and enjoyment of double-digit runs have both been slowly but definitively declining.  I have had to learn to let go of the runner I once was and embrace the one I am now.  A quick(ish) two-miles?  Run/walking a gentle 6 or 7?  Sign me up!   

So, after ten years, I find myself in a very different place regarding running.  Don't misunderstand, I'm still in to a degree, but not all in.   I work part-time as an English teacher, which I love. My job and my family give me the fulfillment that I once sought from running.  I still run, because it is now ingrained in my DNA, and I still do races every few months.  I hope that I will always run two or three days per week, but I also enjoy other activities like hiking, walking, cycling, and weights.  Plus, I get to do all of these things with my family!  I want to be fit, happy, and healthy, and I think I've finally found a degree of balance regarding running that supports all of those.

Monday, April 3, 2017

And I Can't Do Squat(s)...

I did the Music City Half Marathon in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't go great.  At about 8.5 miles, I hit a bit of a wall.  Pace dropped WAY off, and I ran/walked the rest. It wasn't because I went out way too fast.  I'm not sure what happened.  I took these pre-race:

It had been a tiring week. The time change really messed my sleep up.  I would say I had a very hypothyroid week!

After that race was over, I decided to really focus on strength training.  I had stopped most of my strength training due to a knee injury-- chondromalacia patella.  For some reason, for about two years, anytime I do squats regularly, I get knee pain.  I also get it from running too many long runs back to back.  So, I gave up squats after my physician's assistant told me that loading a bent knee was a bad idea.  But I can tell the DIFFERENCE.  I loved squats.  I felt strong when I did squats.

After 3 months of pain-free running and a sub-par half marathon, I declared myself healed and started doing squats again.


Nope.  I've had knee pain for a week and a half now.  I've just got to accept that I can't do squats, and I can't do squat about it!

I will have to find other ways to strengthen my legs.  I already run hills and trails.  Maybe that's enough.

I did have a great hike (with a tiny bit of running) this past weekend at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  I loved the rocky trail!

I am going to run a trail half at the end of the month, and then I'm going to ease off the distance running and focus on 5K and 10K.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Still Kicking

It has been ages since my last blog post-- 9 months.  I'm not sure I've ever neglected the blog this long before.

The blog is somewhat representative of my running, I suppose.  At one time, it was absolutely a focal point in my life.  Now?  Notsomuch.  I run fewer miles and race fewer races.  I work more hours than I did when running filled a void in my stay-at-home mom life.  I developed Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and am struggling through menopause.  Now that I'm on the other side of 45, in some ways, I'm older and wiser, and the hobby that became LARGER THAN LIFE is really just that now-- a hobby.

I'm thankful for the people running has brought into my life (well, most of them).  I'm happy to still be an athlete, though not a competitive one at all anymore (not that I ever was, really!).  But honestly, I'm glad to not have to plan my life around running!  I've decided that road marathons are the devil, so those were the first to go!  It's been two years since my last one.  I attempted one last April, but I became ill on the course, and dropped to the half.  I still love trail running, and I think trail running and hiking--maybe even backpacking-- will remain a part of my life.

Recently, I realized that any road runs over 9 miles are just leaving me so beaten up.  My achilles tendon or my right IT band or my left knee hurts in most long runs.  The road miles over the years have taken a toll.  I've run close to 10,000 miles at this point in my 10-year running career.   Trail runs leave me feeling centered and happy, not beaten up.

I had an amazing time at the trail/road hybrid 50K last June.  I was happy for the entire race.  I didn't worry about pace.  I just enjoyed the day.   I think I need more runs like that in my life.

In the interest of maintaining somewhat of a race report long on here, here's what I have raced since then:

August 2016-- I did the Wild Thang 9-mile trail run again.  I pushed as much as I could that day.  My time was slower on that run than in some years past, but I felt like I put forth a solid effort.  I was so happy my friend Michelle surprised me and decided to meet me at the trail that day.  My friend Vanessa also ran it as her first trail race.  Friends make running better1

September 2016-- I coached my good friend John for his first full marathon, and I joined him on the day of the Run 4 Water marathon.   I ran the half marathon and then worked as his crew along with some of his family members.  It was a tough, HOT day, but John finished his first 26.2.  Between my half and run/walking with him, I got in 20 miles that day!

October 2016-- My sweet friend Elleana decided to meet me at Land Between the Lakes in nearby Grand Rivers, KY for the beautiful LBL road half marathon.  We got separated at the start, but then we ran miles 2-13 together and had the best time chatting!  My stomach was very unhappy about the Patty's pork chop from the night before, so miles 8 on were kind of rough, but Elleana stuck with me!

I took a big break from races after October.  I had been struggling with my left knee, so I limited myself to only 4-miles at a time in November and 6 in December.  Reduced mileage helped!  I also started running with a shortened stride and faster turnover.

In February of 2017, I ran my first race of the year.  Elleana and I ran the Dry Creek 10K+ (7.3 miles to be exact) trail race.  We once again had a fun day.  We climbed over downed trees, splashed in puddles, and climbed a mini-mountain.  It was her first trail race!   The whole day felt like an adventure.  I loved it!  It really renewed my love for trails.  I enjoy this course so much:

I am planning a few trail adventures this spring because I love them!   I'm also running a road half-marathon in two weeks.  I ran 12 road miles today, and well, UGH.  I've been worthless the rest of the day.

I'm going to run the half, but then I plan to focus on trails! I'm also coaching 6 awesome ladies for the St. Jude half marathon in April.

It's all good.....

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I tho...