A blog by a lively, 20-something runner who gets her kicks from running long and being strong!
This WAS my first blog documenting all the miles I ran for my first marathon in November 2012! Now, it's a seasoned running blog that likes to discuss racing, workouts, and the joys of running! Deep thoughts, aching body parts, killer quads, and an evolving writing style are still explored in this blog. The purpose? I'm seeking a bit of personal inspiration and encouragement in my own thoughts and words. I will hopefully be able to look at this on my gloomier days, and see how far I've come, and realize how far I still want to go! Thus, the mantra: Run, Steph, Run!

Mind is everything; muscle, mere pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.

--Paavo Nurmi
This blog has moved! Visit my new site at www.runstephruns.wordpress.com
Merci pour votre patience!
but I have limited computer time since my wifi abroad has run out.
Thus, the only time I have to update is when I can make it over to a cafe.
And I'm also making updates to this page.

but it might be a while.

But know that I have another BIG race coming, and I am so so so so pumped!
Hips hips hips
March 21, 2013:

The effects of not cross training are becoming very apparent. My hips, for example, hate me. I know I probably don’t have the best running form. I probably over-pronate or under-pronate or I just don’t pronate correctly—isn’t that the issue all runners have? Also, my shoes are getting rather old—I’ve had them for almost five months, and ran a marathon in them. Honestly, though, my hips are revolting against me, and I blame it on a lack of cross training. I don’t have a gym here, so my only option as far as cardio goes is running. Personally, I prefer this—however I’m starting to realize how beneficial swimming, biking, and elliptisizing actually are for my body. I am sitting cross-legged right now, typing this blog post, and my hips are aching. ACHING.
The one form of cross training I DO have available to me is yoga. Actually, my yoga DVD was one of the last things I grabbed before I went to the airport. I had forgotten something, we went back, and along with whatever I had forgotten, I also grabbed my Rodney Lee DVD! What luck. Yet, I have been neglecting to actually DO any yoga. I did the 20-minute hip routine after a 5k run today, and it hurt in all the right places. I probably should do it again today, and then twice a day for the next 37 years.

Speaking of today’s run: it was AWFUL.

But let’s backtrack: yesterday I went on my first run in a week. Seven whole days without running. In those seven days I entered a mild depression—go figure. Part of me really hates how dependent I am on endorphins to keep me happy, but the other part of me doesn’t mind. We all have are vices, right? I feel like running is an alright vice to have. I wasn’t so surprised that my run yesterday (5 miles) felt really heavy. I felt super slow, like I was trudging through mud when I was actually just running on fairly flat sidewalk. Even though I felt slow, I still averaged sub-8:30 miles. This isn’t particularly great, but it’s about average for me.
TODAY was equally awful. I really was trudging. My first mile was a little over 8:30, second mile was 9, and my last mile was 8:55. It did not feel good at all. Not only did I feel sluggish, I was breathing heavily!—like it was really taking a lot of effort. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a snob, but c’mon. 3 miles and I’m struggling? I know I took mini break, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so BAD.

I’m chalking it up to still recovering a bit from bronchitis, being tired from traveling last week, and also my body recuperating from all the nonsense I ate during my mini-depression. (I really need to work on that.)

On the bright side, IT’S SPRING, and it actually feels it in Chambéry! Nothing like a little sunshine and some mega-pain-inducing yoga to make you a little more optimistic about life. Hoping for a better run tomorrow. Also, I’m renting a bike tomorrow—for transportation, but also for cross training purposes!
Another Nice Run
March 13, 2013:

So after the Paris Half (or lack thereof) and bronchitis, what am I doing with my life? Well, I’m still running. I’ve run four times since last Wednesday. The last time I blogged I actually did end up going for a short run—after I ate an entire chocolate bar, but let’s not dwell on the past. I did get the pretty neat opportunity of running in Nice, again. Currently, my boyfriend and I are traveling while he is on his spring break.
[Side note: Please know that I know that sounds über privileged even as I write it, but I don’t know a modest way to elucidate this fact. Just know that my life doesn’t normally consist of gallivanting around Europe, but I’m abroad, and as I’ve said before, my life is a little weird abroad.]
Two nights ago we went on a 5-mile run at night along the French Riviera. It was stormy over the ocean, and the lightning was actually a little unnerving, but the run was exactly what I needed. Endorphins are always good, even if your boyfriend of nearly 4 years is visiting, and life is awesome anyway. You can’t go wrong with a good endorphin rush.
I’m hoping to get my endorphin on again in London, which I will be at in approximately four hours! Currently I’m not planning on racing again until I’m back in the States. Wish me luck in two weeks—I’m trying to get into the Marine Corps Marathon!
Bronchitis probs
March 8, 2013:

Being abroad requires no sleep, and copious amounts of energy. It is absolutely essential to run on nothing. Sleep is a foreign concept in a foreign country. You HAVE to keep going; you must not listen to your body; you must push through the little signals of fatigue and sickness. If you get the indication that your immune system might be shutting down on you, you ignore that SOB. Because you, my friend, know better. You are abroad. You are 20. You are invincible, after all. If you miss this pub crawl, the world will probably end. If you do not stay out until 3am think of everything you are going to miss. The cities become alive only after 2am, after all. If you give in before 1am you might as well count your voyage to this country as a complete failure. Never, ever stop. KEEP. GOING.

And then you come back from a Barcelona game and realize you can hardly walk to the shower. When you finally make it in, the hot water does little to warm your shivering body. A week later when you finally make it back to a country in which you understand the language (comparatively), the Paris nurse takes a little extra time listening to your breaths.
You have bronchitis.
But but but...I can still run the Paris Half in two days though, right?
You take in the scathing look and scoff of this Paris nurse and slump down, losing at least 2 inches in height, realizing not only have you been lugging around running shoes, running clothes, and your medical certificate all week without having run at all, you also aren't even getting to do the big race. You will not finish the trip with a bang, even having rested and not ran for the past 11 days. Absolutely exhausted, you also realize that mustering up the proper amount of sadness to properly respond to this news is nearly impossible. All you want to do is sleep.

I didn't get to run the Paris Half. I didn't even get to pick up my packet. But this is alright. I can say that I've never let sickness prevent me from running before--I guess it was my time. Sophomore year in high school our track team made it to states--I was seriously ill, but I ran those races; I also infected every single one on my relay team. Listening to my body when it's telling me something I don't want to hear is really difficult. I don't want to admit that I'm not healthy enough to do what everyone else is doing. It's that way for all of us, isn't it?
The Paris Half was 5 days ago, and I have since returned to my cozy town of Chambéry, slept a lot, and improved immensely. On Wednesday I ran for the first time in two weeks, and it was absolutely glorious. The entire 3 miles I had chills due to the sheer euphoria of running again. Yesterday I also ran--4 miles--and it didn't feel quite as euphoric, but I'm still glad I did it. Today it looks like I probably won't run due to weather--I'm not risking it. It still felt awkward to take big breaths on my runs, and I still have a scratchy voice, so I know I'm not completely improved. However, I also know it can take a while for bronchitis to go away.

The lessons I have learned over my spring break?

1. Be patient with others.
2. Be patient with my body.
3. Do not run 13.1 miles if I have bronchitis.
4. Be okay with a slow recovery.
Conversation with myself
February 19, 2013:

When I was talking with my mom the other day, she mentioned that she was happy I had my running while I'm here, in France. Being a runner herself, she understands why I'm hooked on endorphins, sore muscles, and tired lungs. I, of course, have realized how important running has been to me while studying abroad. Not only have I been able to explore my city, it has very literally kept me from going crazy. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that had I not been committed to training for my races, I would have gained weight by now. (I assume I haven't only because my clothes still fit the same.) And it wouldn't really matter if my face was a little rounder, but knowing what my body looks like and what it feels like is how I gauge my health. I know whether I'm treating my body well by how it looks and how it feels--whether my hips crack every time I shift around in my bed, or if I have to pull my waistband up to my belly button when I sit down. They're little things, but they indicate whether I've been treating my body with respect.
And I know that running not only expects me to respect my body, it demands it. I know I've talked about this when I was training for my marathon--I was physically incapable of running as much as I needed to if I wasn't feeding my body properly. Cereal for dinner wouldn't fly, and neither would a chocolate binge.
Running in France has similarly kept me aware of how I'm treating my body. For example, my race on Sunday indicated that I need to stop with the all-chocolate nights. Did I get through it? Yes. But from sheer bottled-up frustration and emotion. I wasn't as healthy as I needed to be for a RACE. I was prepared physically, I had put in the miles, but I had been mindlessly eating. I knew what I was doing, but I was letting depressed-Stephanie control me.
My runs act as so many things, and often they act as wakeup calls. I know what a good hurt and a bad hurt feels like. And if I have a bad stomach ache during a run, and I know it's due to not eating properly, then I am forced to evaluate myself. I have to ask myself how I'm feeling, and why I feel a certain way. Being alone in a foreign country is difficult, because I can push my feelings down, or I can frantically vent to my boyfriend, but that doesn't mean that I'M really listening to what the problem is. I won't think about how I feel. I'll just suddenly be inexplicably sad and eat all of my granola bars, crying, as I read the final chapter in yet another book.
But then I go for a run and realize my head is clearing, and I'm becoming a happy person again. I have time to figure it out. Whatever it is that has been tormenting me. Generally these depressed episodes come from a lack of communication with myself, I think. Running gives me time to have a conversation with ME. Sometimes I'm organizing my week; sometimes I'm fixing the world's problems; sometimes I'm reflecting on a conversation, or a class, or a trip; and sometimes my mind is just quiet. I let this peace seep through me until my legs are worn out and my face is numb from the cold.
I really do not know how I would sort myself out without this physical outlet. I don't know how other people who are in my situation deal with it. Journaling, maybe? Or perhaps they just know how to have conversations with themselves? Either way, I'm truly grateful to be healthy enough to pursue such a rewarding and eye-opening outlet. I take my body for granted a lot. It's amazing what it can do, and what I choose to do with it. I don't know what I would do without running. Especially here. I'm just really happy I have it.
Bravo, bravo!
February 18, 2013:

Carnaval Rock N Roll 10 miles -- Nice, France -- 2/17/13

I walk outside yesterday morning and am instantly chilled. I’m coming equipped with only my body, my running shoes, and my Garmin. I was lucky enough to even remember to pin my number on my shirt before getting locked out of my room. That being said, I have no jacket. Hugging myself to stay warm, I head toward the beach and instantly hear a band in the distance. I’m starting to feel the adrenaline pumping through me; I don’t even think about the fact that all I’ve had for the past 15 hours is a bottle of wine and a granola bar. I got this, I think. I’m running a race in France. Who AM I?
Despite being in France to study French, I’m still pretty unconfident with my speaking skills. However, when you’re thrown into a French-speaking situation, instinct kicks in. If you need to vie for time you say Pardon? and give a look that says, Oh I didn’t hear you because I was so wrapped up in my thoughts—not Oh, I heard you perfectly but now I’m trying to decipher whether the sounds you made form multiple words or one explicative. Once I realize that the old man approaching me is not cussing and/or reprimanding me, I realize he’s just asked me why all these crazy people in running clothes are out on a Sunday morning. “Pour le carnaval!” I reply as confidently as possible. He seems happy with the reply, to which he responds something that might have had the word “to swim” in it. I, of course, laugh and say Merci! and walk away. (It wasn’t until after I was 20 meters away that I realized I probably just thanked a man for saying, “Oh well it’s better than swimming!” Oops.)
When we line up at the start line I get the familiar giddiness that accompanies racing. Everyone is bouncing up and down around me, cracking necks, checking watches, rolling shoulders—all the involuntary pre-race ticks. Given the festive season of carnaval, many were dressed up in wigs, silly socks, masks, face paint, and for the truly dedicated—complete costumes made of some kind of horrible plush material. I was grateful to these lunatics for giving me something to look at along the course.

I clocked my first mile at something close to 8:40. There was a lot of stutter stepping at the beginning, but I was distracted by the beach to my left and the costumes all around me. I discovered that when you run a race in France, kilometers are marked, which was interesting because 10 miles = 16 kilometers. So my brain flip flopped between knowing I had to get to ten and knowing I had to get to 16. As it turns out, anything numbers-related will keep me preoccupied for probably half a mile. Anything having to do with pace or distance or the current time based on what time I started is something I will roll around in my head forever. Once I grasped the 16km concept, then I had to mentally prepare to run to 11km before I did anything like speed up. (Because then I would have 3.1 miles left.)

About this speeding up business--there was a significant shift from mile one to mile two. At mile two my watch read 16 minutes, indicating that my second mile was sub-8. I ended up actually maintaining this for a while, and at mile 5 I was under 40 minutes.

About the wine/granola bar combination--not so good. Obviously I didn't drink wine before my race, but the night before there was a light parade, and I may have had a few drinks to enjoy the crazy floats.
By mile three I was so hungry I was feeling lightheaded. However, the course felt like it was all downhill. I have a tendency to think I'm running on a flat surface when I am actually running uphill. I won't realize that I was running up until I turn back around and discover I'm running down. Needless to say miles 4-7 were really easy.
BUT THEN, coming around the bend on mile 9, I saw it. The most glorious sight I could ever see on a predominantly flat course--a HILL.
Sweet, glorious, tall, Hill. How I love thee with thy incline and thy steep direction. O lovely hill which taketh away the pressure on my poor shins and hips. O majestic hill on which I pass all the huffing Frenchies. Je t'aime.

Until the hill decided against me and flattened out, at which time a stomach-lurching nausea overtook me and I started doing the gagging-while-I-run thing, where the entire top half of my body convulses and I make this weird face trying to keep down what's trying to come up. Thankfully, by keeping my head way up and slowing down for a bit I was able to get my nausea under control. It returned later when I thought I saw the finish and a surge of adrenaline went through me. This excitement is normally used for the final kick, however I knew that what I saw was a tease and I wasn't actually 50 meters away from the finish. Nonetheless, the physical response of adrenaline was still in my body and when I didn't use it I started with the gagging-while-I-run thing again. Determined as I was to not blow chunks in Nice, France (and also because I knew I was on my way to a pretty decent time) I slowed down again, held my head up high, got it under control, made it to the actual final stretch, and kicked it in.

Officially, my time was 1:19:36. I finished 2nd in my age group, too! If I had to describe this race in one word it would be gutsy. I'm proud of myself for keeping it together during all of my nausea spells. I was doing some major mental hyping-up the last 3 miles of that race. I felt so strong! The days before my race were awesome (being in Nice and things), however I love the cleansed feeling that a hard run gives you. I feel like I'm purged of any impurities of the week and I can begin anew. That's one of the reasons I like beginning my weeks with long runs. It's great to clear out the mind and the body.

Other things that need to be noted in numbered form:

1. Allez, allez! and Bravo! are the French fans' cheer of choice
2. French fans have NOTHING on American fans. At times the course would be silent. Unacceptable! I am running a race, I want some encouragement!
3. I caught a whiff of smoke around mile 8 and wanted to strangle someone.
4. An old man with a cigar was standing out on his deck looking at us like he'd never seen a bunch of crazier people in the world.
5. I tried PEPSI after my run. (They had it after I finished, along with chocolate, cookies, fruit, and banana bread--YUM.) I was hesitant, and then I realized I ran 10 miles, not 26...so I went for it. I didn't go into a sugar-shock or get nauseous afterwards, either! It was delicious. AND I even made small talk with the volunteers (a big deal, because of course all small talk is en français).
6. No one can beat my American fan club back home. I missed them all.
7. When I was waiting for mes amies outside a store, I sat down, and a concerned French woman asked if I was alright. I appreciated her.
8. There was a woman way far ahead of me in a superwoman costume, and she was RIPPED. In a good way. She was gorgeous with amazing abs and beautiful hair, AND she was wearing a superwoman costume. I admired her.
9. The Rock N Roll aspect of this race was missing a little bit. Perhaps because it was the first one they couldn't get many bands...but there really wasn't that much music. I enjoyed when we would pass the drumlines, though! They were in the parades from earlier in the weekend and stayed for the run, I'm assuming.
10. My shins hurt like crazy after this race. It was really bizarre, because my shins never hurt after running. I think it may have been flat surface + oldish shoes.

Paris Half Marathon in less than two weeks! I'm anxious for this one--there will be 28 THOUSAND more people in it. Eek!
It's OKAY to eat the Reese's.
It's about control
February 13, 2013:

It's about control.

I've said that probably 76 times. Why am I so weird about eating? It's about control.
Washing the dishes today, I'm singing Florence and the Machine. I'm fighting my urge to eat the house. Cereal, crackers, mac and cheese, the big pack of reeses my mom sent, peanut butter and jelly, the 1.5 liter bottle of Coke I bought. I'm fighting the urge to eat it all. Why do I want to eat it, though? Am I hungry? No. Then what are you?
I'm out of control.
No, I don't mean I'm going crazy and being reckless.
Just, I'm in a different country. I haven't been to class in two weeks. I don't know anyone here; I hardly speak French at all; I miss my boyfriend like crazy; I have a cough, and am taking rest day number TWO from running.
I'm out of control. And I realize, as I'm scrubbing my coffee cup, that I don't feel particularly depressed or sad. I just need to manifest this lack of control into something visible. So I take food, put in it my mouth, and eat it. I eat mindlessly, without knowing what I'm doing. It's not until after I'm done that I feel depressed. I wasn't sad or upset before, I was just out of my element. And over the years, stuffing myself has become that coping mechanism. Thankfully, Part Two of this procedure has been dying away for the past few years.

That's really all I want to say. (I actually did not "eat the house," but I have in time past.)
This post was supposed to be a reflection on the 8.3 mile run I did in 6 inches of snow on Monday, and then waking up on Tuesday morning feeling sick, and then probably a little bit of complaining about how I wasn't able (decided not to) run today because I want to feel better for the 10 miler Sunday.
But I guess that's just not what needed to come out.

Anyway, attempting a longish run tomorrow. Hopefully 6, but I'll need to listen to my body.
No comebacks without setbacks
February 10, 2013:

Setbacks are a part of life. They are a part of running. They are a part of everything.
Nevertheless, missing my 13 miles today still has me a little bummed. Rome was amazing, but exhausting. I slept until nearly noon today, and my apartment had no food in it, so I needed to go get food, and then I needed to eat it. Somewhere between the eating food part and the going for a run part I decided to completely go CRAZY with the food. This is a habit that clearly doesn't die easily, and, anyway, after gorging myself I wasn't exactly sure if I was ready to run 13.
I did go out, around 3:30, and run 5.3 miles with a 8:30 average pace. (8:38 is the time I can't get away from. My first mile is always close to 8:10, and everything after that is around 8:40. It's so annoying.) Because of this, I felt a little better from the endorphins, but alas, I will go out and hopefully run 8 tomorrow to even it out.
Running on Monday is always difficult because 1) it's Monday, and 2) I have class, which always tires/exhausts/infuriates me. BUT, I'm going to do it. Because I'm a runner, and I'm dedicated, and I also have a ton of food I need to work off from Rome.

So, let's focus on the good things:

1. I'm healthy. I'm more than able to run my 8 miles tomorrow. Bring on the cold and the snow.
2. I just read an entire story in French, out loud, instead of reading the English first and skimming the French.
3. I did 50 pushups tonight, so clearly my arms are going to look GRRRRReat tomorrow.
4. I get to run a 10 miler in NICE this weekend.
5. And, oh yeah, I'm abroad in France and get to run in the Alps.

I got this.
Petite Update
February 6, 2013:

In February, apparently I say things like, "Sorry, can't give too much detail, I'm going to Rome in a few minutes..."
BUT, I wanted to report that yesterday I had a GREAT 6 mile run. I don't know if it was due to the extra energy I had from eating SO MUCH the night before (not good) or my pent-up frustration, but I felt really strong. I averaged 8 minute miles, and, actually, my last two miles were sub-8. I sped up!
In other news, I am actually going to Rome in a few minutes, which means I won't be running today, but I'm hoping to get in another 6 on Friday, which will put me a mile over what I ran last week (at 24.25), and then I should be ready for my 13 on Sunday! And the week after that, I GET TO RACE IN NICE. I'm excited.
February 4, 2013:

For me, looking back on my marathon is like looking back on high school.

When I remember high school, I think about good times. I remember soccer: direct kicks and scoring goals from 40 yards out; I remember my runner's highs and goofing around during long runs; I remember being asked to be the girlfriend of one of the sweetest, smartest, most compassionate boys on the planet; I remember blasting Panic at the Disco in my car and singing at the top of my lungs with my best friend. I do not automatically recall the busy work, the early mornings, the ridiculous tardy policies when I'm a senior and give absolutely no cares whatsoever. I don't remember silly drama on the soccer field, or unmotivated teammates or unmotivated classmates or stupid fights in the hallways. I don't remember my incessant, consistent, overwhelming obsession with my body.

Similarly, when I think about my marathon, I remember the afterwards. I remember the long runs that went really well--the runs where I felt invincible. I remember the week after, when I read my running blog, and realized how far I came. I think about my half marathon the weekend after my marathon, and how it felt so easy. I remember how at-ease I was with my body.
What I don't remember?
I was tired. All the time.
I regularly waited until the morning my homework/paper/exam was due to complete it. I stopped drinking coffee because it interfered with how I felt during my runs. My stomach seemed weaker, and unable stomach the food that my school cafeteria made. I threw up often due to constant nausea. I cried. I had to go to Blacksburg every weekend for my long runs on Huckleberry Trail. I didn't work as much as I normally do, due to overall exhaustion. My hips hurt. My GPA dropped (by .05).

So, the other day when I was thinking about how I want to try and register for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is the last week in October, I was seriously considering giving myself a break. There's nothing wrong with signing up for a few half marathons, and then going into training mode over winter break for the Blue Ridge Marathon in April 2014 (this, I will be doing. Sort of a last hoorah before graduation). It would definitely be better for my academic life, and probably my social life, too (although, with most of my friends graduating this May I anticipate minimal social interaction, anyway). BUT THEN, do you know what I see? I see some runner on twitter tweet about a new marathon PR, and it's pretty close to what I think *I* could do if everything went swimmingly, and suddenly the competitor in me comes out and I'm ready to go and run another marathon!

It's a vicious cycle.

In other news, I'm going to Rome on Wednesday. I ran 12.25 miles yesterday, I ate a lot of food today, I'm going to run some kind of short distance tomorrow, and I miss America. Also, in another life I'm a dancer, not a runner--I have flexibility and good hips, and I dance like Beyonce.
That's all.
Les courses
January 28, 2013:

En français, une course is a race. I have two races coming up:

February 17: Rock N Roll Nice 10 miles du Carnaval
March 3: Semi-Marathon de Paris

The former race commences Mardi Gras celebrations in France. Costumes, parades, performances...the weekend will be exhilarating, and by Sunday night I'm sure to be exhausted. From seeing pictures on their website, it seems like the carnaval du Nice is quite the event for costumes, whether you are running, cheering, or eating. I would love to dress up for my run, but I also need to keep comfort in mind. A costume that = chafing? Not worth it.

Perhaps surprisingly, it has been no problem training for these semi-long distances in France. It keeps me healthy and sane, and it also allows me to explore Chambéry. Ask me why I run? I run to get lost--to explore. Yesterday I ran 11 miles and finally found the countryside. How did I get there? I have no idea. I'm hoping that on more expeditions out there I'll figure out a route so that I can bring people and share the views I experienced. There was a huge park, and at its highest point I could see miles out. The brown mountains spotted with white were closest to me, and in the distance I could see the Alps that were pure white, untainted by habitating humans and unaffected by the sun's melting rays. Adrenaline just pumps through me at times like that, when I find something truly beautiful and it is only mine to experience. I have this overwhelming desire to tell someone and share it with him, but am also so moved by the solidarity between myself and nature. I sound like a bad poet, but it's so true.

There have also been no glitches to my training because I am in Chambéry all week with class. However, next week we're taking a long trip to Rome, and the last week of February begins an excursion through Spain, where running might not be my top priority. Thankfully, if I can get in my long run next Sunday, then the next weekend I have my 10 miler. And then my week in Spain is right before my half marathon, which I should be tapering for...so my travel and my race schedule or corresponding rather perfectly!

Total miles last week: 21.7
Total miles the week before: 15.5
Anticipated miles for this week: Probably a little more than 21. Hoping to get in a 6 miler at some point and some shorter 4s.

Happy Running!
January 24, 2013:

Sometimes, your days are shit. Sorry, no other way to say it. Perhaps I could have said, "Somedays, your days are bad," but that would not really have given you the entire effect. I needed a gross word, an overused word, a word that people often throw around in phrases that make no sense at all, such as "That's cool as shit!" or "This is good as shit!" If you're a person with a brain and an ear you know that those phrases make absolutely no sense, and if you're like me, you wonder if the person saying such phrases realizes that he just equated snowboarding to feces, or the piece of cheesecake to poop, because, my friends, "shit" does not stand metaphorically. It does not encompass a wide range of objects or events. It's disgusting, gross, and dirty, and you should feel that way when you hear it. That's its purpose. It is a crude word that should make you cringe, and it should make you cringe from ALL of its sad uses put together--to the matter it ACTUALLY refers to (feces), AND to the pitiful over- and misuse. So.

Today was shit.

Perhaps if you want more details about that, you'd read my travel blog. Well, no, because I'm still bitter about it so if I actually typed out some snarky sentences about my day it would read like, well, my diary. And I'm trying for something a little more elevated, here. (Not much, but a little.) Also, this is a blog about running and choosing what you want and deciding how you're going to go get it. So no elaboration on the day, all you need to know is that it was shit. (See, there, I've already used that word SIX times in this post. Completely unnecessary. The word permeates like the stench of...well...we don't need to say it again.)

But you know the only part of the day that WASN'T? You know the only part of the day when I didn't feel like strangling/screaming/hitting/kicking someone? It was when I went on a run. It was when I put on my layers and put my hair in a pony tail and RAN. It was the only time when I wasn't fuming about everything going wrong in my day; everything that this place ISN'T; everything I can't control; everything the French do that drive me NUTS. It was the only time in my day where I might have even described myself as peaceful. The one time today that I was actually breathing hard, grunting up hills, and flying down streets? That's when I felt most like myself. That's when the feeling of loneliness and displacement evaporated. For 4.23 glorious miles, I was myself at my best. I was who I want to be. I was who I wish everyone else saw anytime they looked at me.

I hope everyone has something that makes them feel like this--that gives them a sense of serenity and hope. When you're passionate about something--anything--you tend to talk about it a lot. Others might call you the person obsessed with this-or-that. Suddenly you're being defined by the thing you love to do or are passionate about or just really, really like. But I really hope that upon looking back, people who have just met me, or only met me once, or spent a short amount of time with me--I hope they don't think of me of the girl that runs a lot. I hope they get WHY. I hope they have something like it.

This post is completely disorganized--kind of like my day!
I'm in France!
January 23, 2013:

If you don't know, I'm in France, and have been for a week and two days. Some days are better than others, and today is one of the others, so I apologize if the tone of this post is melancholy.

An observation I wanted to point out--that I made very early on in this trip--is the similarity between studying abroad and running a marathon. I would say that study abroad is about as taxing as a marathon, both mentally and physically because it's spread out (in my case) over 4.5 months. There are times in a marathon when you want to quit, and you wonder why the hell you ever got yourself into that mess; and there are times here in France when I want to leave and never look back. In marathons, though, there are also times of complete endorphic euphoria--the cheering crowd or the extra surge of energy you get at mile 25 (not like that happened to me--I speak hypothetically); and likewise, during my stay here I have had some completely euphoric moments--conversations in French, booking flights to Italy and Spain, signing up for the Nice Rock n Roll 10 miler. I know I have more to come--I'm here until May. And I know that even if I'm feeling like giving up now, I'm not going to. I'm going to keep going. I decided a long time ago that study abroad was an aspect of college and of life that I found important. I do. So, just like when I was training for that marathon, I'll have my bad days (now) and my good days, and I'll keep on going. Hopefully when I look back, I will reflect on my experience similar to my marathon: an awesome experience that I reflect on in a shocked disbelief.

I am training for the Paris Half Marathon on March 3rd, currently. I ran 10 miles last Sunday, 4.5 yesterday, none today, and I'll run 6 tomorrow. I also signed up for a 10 miler in Nice on February 17th! I haven't ran a 10 mile race in forever, and I have never done it when I was in shape, so I'm pretty excited for it! My training is very casual--I'm looking to stay sane over here in Chambéry, not break any records. Although if I did, that'd be pretty neat.

I have another blog I update: travelstephtravel.blogspot.com. I will probably be neglecting this one, but I'm going to try and post at least weekly. It is a good release for me, and I like to look back on what I have done! If I've learned anything here, it's that my kind (the Runner) is rare.
Haircuts and Fur Balls
January 11, 2013:

Everything is becoming a blur. I leave this lovely country in two days, I need to pack, my feelings are a mess, my legs are sore, and I'm heavily caffeinated. Yet I am still running, still working out, and still hopelessly passionate about it and talking about it. I'm very sorry if we are friends and I talk about running all the time. I know it happens, and I know it must be annoying. What I need to be doing is documenting my exciting exercise life on HERE, so I don't bore the crap out of my non-runner friends.

This past week has been traumatic to my legs. And by traumatic I mean deliciously hard. I did a lunge/duckwalk/jump routine late last week, and only just started walking normally this Monday. Then on Tuesday I did the same thing with my mom's track team--only we did it longer. I probably would have been okay, except I went to another leg-intensive class at my YMCA on Wednesday... The soreness pervades. It's a magnificent thing, soreness. It's the remnants of hardwork. (Disregard the fact that you can't walk.)

Despite all the busy-ness that these days have for me, I still wanted to run this morning. I had appointment with my hairdresser today, and I wanted to get the run in before the appointment (10:30) because I had things to do afterward (like pack...don't ask how that's going). I woke up too late, though, and as I sipped my coffee and the minutes dwindled I had the great idea of running TO my hairdresser's salon. It's only about 3 miles, tops, I thought to myself. I can run there, run back, and then I can shower and get on with my afternoon!

I still keep my Christmas Eve 2012 run as my stupidest run to date (10.5 in freezing snow/rain, minimal visibility), but this morning follows as a CLOSE second.

Why, you ask?

The hairdresser isn't far away, but I'm still on a semi-main road to get there. Also, I'm not from the suburbs. There are no sidewalks, only ditches--full of everything from litter, poison ivy, and roadkill.

Weather = overcast and rainy (the only thing I have to justify my decision to run in this condition on a main road again is that I bought this really bright and reflective running vest--if you can't see me in it, you're blind).


And finally, it isn't 3 miles to my hairdresser's. It's 5.5. Oops. I was late for my appointment, and I knew I was late. As a result, I averaged a 7:49 pace, and got a new record mile time (7:30) and a new record 5k (23:55) time on my Garmin. So it's not all bad. I ended up not running back home, because it started pouring down rain. Okay, and I was a little afraid to be chased by the menacing fur ball again.

I seriously hope I don't get chased by any dogs in France. Today was my first experience with that, and I would prefer not to experience it again. There was another dog (a much, much larger dog) with the fur ball dog that was tied up, thankfully. I'm not sure if I would be blogging right now if that dog had decided to meet me in the road alongside his friend.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll ever be running to get my hair cut again.
January 8, 2013:

Skip working out for three days
Buy two disgustingly delicious cheap danishes from the Wawa after work
Not drink enough water

if you want to feel lovely, strong, beautiful, and fit.
if you want to remain nausea-free and vomit-free.

Wear your garmin with normal clothes

if you want to feel like a badass runner.
if you want to feel like a gigapet is on your wrist.

Get your medical release form signed

if you want to run the Semi-Marathon de Paris en France

Figure out how you are going to train for the latter race
Pack your bags

if you're leaving the country in five days.

Forget your running shoes

2012: A Reflection
December 31, 2012:

Writing about this past year is turning out to be harder than I thought. I just attempted three different ways of approaching my year, but whether it’s due to form or the hour (morning), nothing seems to be working. So, I’m just going to have to do this honestly without any new, creative form. And now that I write that out, how appropriate it seems—since 2012 was a very honest year.
At this point last year (I like doing that—comparing where I was a year ago to where I am now), I was feeling depressed. Unlike 2011, 2012 had no shiny adventures planned or prospects of life-altering experiences. The sophomore slump seemed very real to me, as I was about to go into my second semester of my second year in college.

Last night I flipped through my journal entries of 2012. Now, this really shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in how I evaluate my year, because I don’t journal very often (although I have been, recently). However, it was interesting to see the shifts in the year. (I hate how everything I’m posting is beginning to sound like a cliché; I’m trying to avoid it, but forgive me if we happen to run into each other at any point during this post.) The definitive difference in my attitude starts somewhere in April, when I decided I was going to run the Lynchburg Half. Little did I know, this would be the decision that would define my entire year: not the half marathon itself, but the deciding. That decision eventually turned into my marathon decision. The decision that got the theme of my year going! DECIDE.

Of all the things my avid readers (!) get from reading my blog, I hope that one sense is the honesty of the run. A few days ago I was looking through my previous posts, and I saw that I had said the road is honest, but not kind. It will watch you hurt, be nauseated, suffer, vomit, whatever—and it doesn’t give a damn, I had said (or something to that effect). But, I had said, the road is patient; it is always there, and it is waiting for you to come back. You might want to give up, but the road doesn’t wish or expect anything like that, which is part of why I love it. Similarly, at the end of this year, I can say that I’ve become pretty honest with myself and with my body. Deciding to run a marathon is hard. It’s not kind. Scroll back to recovery mode afterwards—see how I HURT? I couldn’t walk for two days! The determination that my marathon brought to me rubbed like a blister. I was raw by the time I ran that race, but I was ready, because I had made my decision, and I wasn’t going to let the big, bad 26.2 scare me away. Not only that, I craved that crazy kind of hurt. Aren’t runners a bit masochistic, after all? Okay, let me avoid the passionate, poetic, running rant in which I would often indulge myself since the start of this blog.

What did my choice to DECIDE do for me this year?

• I finished three separate half marathons
• I ran one marathon
• I broke 23 in a 5k!
• I started a blog
• I probably annoyed the hell out of my boyfriend
• I had to be mindful about what I ate
• Gained confidence
• Gained FIERCE calves
• HUGE thighs
• Did not gain weight
• Made connections with other runners
• Freedom from self-hate
• Freedom from obsessing about my body
• Freedom from comparing myself to others
• Peace with myself
• Endorphins. Lots of ‘em.
• Love of what I am capable of doing
• Appreciation for my health
• A comfort in running gear
• An obsession with numeric car magnets
• Graciousness toward everyone who has helped me throughout this process

I am looking back on this year, and I’m just warm. Warm toward anyone who motivated me throughout my training process, from the mentors, to the annoying no-names I wanted to beat in my races. With 2013 staring at me, I know this next year is going to bring so many new adventures and experiences, and I am not going to have to create a single one of them. 2013 is going to be the kind of year that changes me, despite me. But in 2012 I learned that if I want to change me, I don’t need fate or any outside forces shoving me toward alteration or enlightenment—I am strong. I am beautiful. I decide. While I am so incredibly anxious to see 2013, I am also incredibly proud of how I made 2012. In my journal in April I wrote, I'm going to make 2012 noteworthy, in reference to my marathon. Well, I really had no idea how noteworthy signing up for a marathon would make my year--how that decision would become such a definitive part of my personality. I really do see myself as a runner now, which is something I probably would not have defined myself as before this year. If I had, it would have been tentative for sure.
In 2012 I decided to run a marathon, which in and of itself had so many other effects on my days and my life and my Self. "Decide" is not the only encouragement and reminder I have to motivate myself. I have MYSELF to motivate myself. "Decide" is in me; it's a part of me. How refreshing it is! And how refreshing it is to know that I can remind myself of this, anytime I need to.

Au revoir, 2012. I'll try to make 2013 as honest as you were.
Yeah, but
December 30, 2012:

Despite the training and the racing and the feeling confident about myself, I still have my “yeah, but” moments. IE: Hey, I ran 24 miles this week! Yeah, but you have hardly done any strength training. Yeah, but I clocked an 8:30 pace for my 5 miler! Yeah, but you also clocked an 8:30 pace for your 7 miler—you could go faster. Hey, I have strong legs! Yeah, but your arms are looking kind of wide.
I have been doing really great at not worrying about how I look for the past year. In fact, if I had made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 (I don’t think I did), finding peace with my body would have been number 1. For years my resolutions involved weight loss. I’m 20, so the fact that I’ve had these resolutions since I was 14 is sad. I would go to the gym and pick locker 123 in hopes my weight might one day reflect that number. (I picked that locker yesterday, but more as an ironic gesture, knowing that I never would, could, or should be even close to that number.) Younger me obviously carried very unrealistic expectations about weight. Not only would I look sickly and disgusting at 123 pounds, I have never been successful at losing weight. EVER. If I lose weight, it’s normally without me trying, and it’s definitely no more than 5 pounds.
BUT there is sometimes this little thought, it escapes, like the stray fuzz from a blanket, right into my nose, and it tickles me, asking, yeah, but wouldn’t it be awesome just to shock ‘em a little bit? To lose 10 pounds and look really good, and prove all those PEOPLE wrong. Who are the people? Well, I don’t know. The people I make up in my mind when I’m having a bad day, or I’m looking like a bum, and I enter paranoia-mode and think everyone is judging me for looking ugly, frumpy, and fat. Who knows if those people actually exist?

Yesterday I got off work really early. My anticipated gym arrival time was moved two hours sooner, and I was able to run 5 easy-ish miles in the sunshine. For the first time in a long time, I lifted weights. I did the hip flexor machines, and discovered how weak my hips really are. Then I did lunges, and while I was doing lunges, I thought I looked like one of those body builder girls. My mom thinks those women are beautiful; I carry my reservations. No DOUBT, those women are impressive. But I’m not a body builder; do I really want my legs to look “jacked”? Maybe I’m flattering myself. Maybe my legs don’t look as “jacked” as I think they do. But I have short legs, anyway. And my thighs, after all, are HUGE. My calves are fierce. And when I was doing my lunges in front of the mirror yesterday, I just realized (and I realize this a lot) that I’m not built to look like that girl on the treadmill who I can see out of the corner of my eye, the Victoria’s Secret model physique and her bouncy blonde ponytail and yoga pants, looking like just the fittest person you’ve ever seen.

On Pinterest, I pin crossfit girls onto my “Mind Over Matter” board. To pin skinny chicks in bikinis is unrealistic and masochistic for me. I will never, ever look like them, so why torture myself? I would much rather find motivation through real women who are strong and have muscles. I am a real woman who is strong and has muscles! I might as well work with what I got. So, I’m strong and my legs are muscly. Yeah, but NOTHING. My legs are big because I run a ton, and my calves are big because my dad’s calves are big. And because I run a ton. EMBRACE IT, STEPHANIE. Embrace it. Decide to embrace it.

(Here ends my never-ending pep talk…)

Looking forward to future posts:
2012 Running Accomplishments
2013 Running Resolutions
13 miles for 2013 New Year’s Eve Run
An Honest Framework
December 28, 2012

Today, I did not run. Today I did not do much of anything. A review of my week so far has been:
Sunday 23 – nothing
Monday 24 – 10.5 mi loop
Tuesday 25 – nothing
Wednesday 26 – 2 mi (This was on a treadmill. I had eaten cherry pie before. I ran out of time…I did stretch afterwards, though; the fact that this can be noted as something different and significant is sad. I desperately need to stretch more.)
Thursday 27 – 7 mi
Today 28 – nothing

There has also been a substantial amount of alcohol this week. And by substantial I mean any at all, since I don’t normally drank on a normal basis. Today I just felt tired.
Of course, on Monday when I ran it was pouring down snow--then rain--and freaking COLD; Tuesday it was beautiful, and I didn’t do a thing (it was Christmas, so I said I could do what I wanted), and then I had wanted to run outside on Thursday but the weather was awful and I really couldn’t bring myself to be cold and wet for a 45 minute 5 miler. And it looks like I’ll be in the same boat tomorrow, because I’ll want to run to wrap up the week, and it is going to be rainy and freezing. Lovely.

In other news, I will be leaving for France in SIXTEEN days. Holy cow. As I have mentioned before, I signed up for the semi-marathon de Paris on March 3rd so that I can say I ran a race in France, and also so I make sure to keep running and staying in shape. Although, honestly, at this point running is such a given in my life. It’s one of those things that I really feel comfortable doing in every aspect of the action: the run, the clothes, the location, the silence. I can’t imagine not doing it, because it defines a part of who I am. Running is like the really good friend who I can just be quiet with on a lazy day.

All of that said, I hope to and plan on updating this blog while in France, because I expect to have many running adventures. I considered making a France blog, but honestly a blog like that would be too broad for me. I would have to omit certain things, and because of that I would just prefer to journal for myself, since I imagine I will be doing a lot of soul searching, probably most of it inadvertent, and I don’t want to have to run it through a filter. Although my running blog is also for me, I’m also aware it’s public, and I’m also aware that more people who care about me might discover this blog as a way to keep up with me across the pond. And that’s cool. So, the point is, any self-discoveries I make in France and abroad will come neatly packaged to the public in the honest framework of a run. I will enjoy delivering my adventures through this lens, since when I read through my past posts, I realize that most of my discoveries aren’t really about running at all, but about myself.
The Writing/Running Process
December 20, 2012:

This should have been posted last night. It would have been had my internet been cooperating.
Yesterday I had the strangest run. I began comparing the running act with someone I knew. I compared breezy with still and open with closed. My thoughts were coming out in poems. I wish I had written them down immediately when I got back, but I'm always reluctant to attempt poetry. I decided later, though, to try and put them down. That being said, I have not written a poem since 2010. I claim no brilliance in the genre. I claim only reluctant attempt.

I love form in poetry. I think it does a lot. I'm not completely sure if these poems deserve a spot in this blog. But I'm fairly sure, which is hopefully enough, because they reflect my running process. They also reflect my thinking process--which should probably scare me a bit. Regardless, here they are. She vs. Her. A comparison in personality, form (poetic and running), image, and outlook.

A soldier’s gait: rigid
a child, still in darkness
frightened; locked; unmoving, unable.
Never knowing the feline sunshine stretch,
back arched with toes apart
Never releasing the crack in her neck
Or lifting her forehead with widened eyes.
Pursing her lips, she says more
than one hundred chirping parakeets.
She never utters a word.

simple signature
on the line.
Her, the jellyfish.
A child rolling
Grass in hair.
Her mouth is open,
gasping air that is crisp
as the crunch of an apple, and sweet
like syrup sapping from the maple tree
with a single red leaf
waving in the wind.

Her arms are open,
Her legs wibbly-wobbly
down the hill, with the earthy air
slapping her face
Her fingers
Her breath comes in bursts
swallowing crunchy, apple air
Torso leaning over thighs,
Her power
becoming sunshine
Rays glittering up.
Stretching out,
she strides
to the world.
"Wow, your thighs are HUGE..."
December 18, 2012:

Last night when I got home from this really intense one-hour workout, I was recalling the horribleness to my mother. The “12 Days of Christmas” completely kicked my butt, with planks, suicides, mountain climbers, prison cell burpees (they sound bad because they are), leap frog pushups, skiing squats, handstand pushups (kill me), and five other exercises I can’t remember because I’m repressing them, apparently. I was expecting maybe raised eyebrows or an “ooooh” of sympathy. Instead, she enthusiastically grabs a pad of paper, and begins scrawling down everything I’ve just said, saying, We’re going to do this at track conditioning tomorrow! Would you mind coming up to demonstrate? Needless to say this was NOT the response I was expecting.

Yesterday when we were doing all these quick, repetitive, interval-type exercises I really thought to myself, I would just rather run 10 miles, which would take probably 30 minutes longer. I tried to tell myself, you liked doing this once. Remember soccer? Remember track? Well, I do remember, but I really lack any enthusiasm to get back into track OR soccer shape. I’ve moved on! I’m a distance runner! An endurance athlete.
But then I think to myself, what about all that talk about mental strength? Miss Think-My-Way-Through-Anything? Alas, I must confess, at this point, when I’m so used to running long, the distance hardly fazes me. NOW, it’s the short stuff, the quick stuff, the strength stuff that has me anxious. What the heck happened?

Today I did a modified version of the workout I did yesterday with some high school kids. It’s weird being back there because I don’t know anyone. The freshmen who were there when I was a senior are now seniors. It’s a good way to make me feel old. We only went up to 6 "days," and did the 1 minute of planks, 2 100 meter sprints, 30 second(ish) wall sits, 4 prison cell burpees, 3 sets of 15 second mountain climbers, and 6 leap frog pushups.

Before the conditioning started I had a girl tell me I had FIERCE calves.
During conditioning, I was sitting against the wall doing my sitting, and this girl looks at my legs and says, "Wow, your thighs are HUGE. You must work out a ton." Uh, how am I supposed to respond to that? I think I mustered up some sort of laugh of acknowledgement, and then I looked over at the friend who I had asked to come with me and gave her a "Dah fuh is wrong with this chick" look. Which for me includes sticking out my tongue and crossing my eyes.

Currently, I'm thoroughly exhausted--the kind of tired I remember during cross country conditioning. The thing with group workouts or working out with a team is that you are not fully aware of how you feel. For me, I always have endorphins and I'm trying to beat everyone around me that I'm not focusing on how I feel, really. This is good, of course, because you can push yourself farther with competition. But there is also the aspect of doing everything TOO quickly, sacrificing form for speed, which obviously won't help your fitness as much as really doing the exercises correctly and slowly. The thing with that is, there is no way I'm doing these kinds of workouts at that kind of intensity on my own. So I'll just try and keep my form in check.

A slowish run is on the agenda for tomorrow. I'm sure I won't be able to move when I wake up. I'll need to work my sore muscles out somehow, though!
Ivre (un peu)
December 13, 2012:

Sometimes at the end of your last semester before going abroad to France, you want to do a little something to celebrate. Despite the fact that the semester might not have gone the way you would have liked, you got through it. And that's something. So you might want to do something you wouldn't normally do on a Thursday night. You might want to drink some wine. So there you are, slumped on the couch like an over-squeezed stuffed animal feeling rather melancholy and sleepy because wine does that to you and you've just had 2 or 3 or 4 glasses, and you start being all, "Im nervous about France, and I'm failing school (AKA getting all Bs), and I don't really know what I'm doing with my life," which is actually pretty ridiculous because France will be great, you're not actually failing, and you got great feedback from your internship. But regardless, whether it's the wine or the month talking, it's how you're feeling.

So what do you do?

Why you decide to go to the gym of course! At the gym you will run 3.11 miles, and you will notice a girl who was rude to you yesterday on the elliptical and you will silently scoff and think, Oh yeah? Watch this. But keep in mind you will still be tipsy and not really with-it, so really, even though you notice Rude Girl, you don't really care, and even though you're running at an 8 minute pace on a treadmill that normally seems so monotonous and awful, you don't really feel it. You'll feel it in your head, which is starting to pound. But elsewhere, you got nothing. Vaguely, you think, this is good I'm doing this, because I'm running out/off the wine. You will think this and you will get cotton mouth. You will be unable to spit. You will sprint at the end. Then you will get off, and your blood will rush to your head when you bend down to stretch. The rush will be like a whirring release of tension, and your muscles will sigh in relief.

And then you'll get back and you'll have a headache, and be blogging on your computer wishing that you had a big stuffed animal to over-squeeze. So then you'll decide to end early, not mention the squats, and retire for the night, happy with the fact that you will not be setting an alarm for the next morning.
News, news, news!
December 11, 2012:

A month and a day after my marathon I am happy to report that I have not gained 15 pounds or completely lost all muscle definition due to running less. Hoorah! In fact, I might even have lost weight. Although, this MIGHT be because I've lost some muscle definition. I think I still have fierce calves, though. So, there's that.

My hips give me trouble always. My body is generally stiff. I blame this on decreased yoga time, and just not stretching enough in general. I'm seriously considering going to a chiropractor soon, because I think my left hip is out of whack. I know for a fact that my left leg is shorter than my right, but who knows if it actually is, or if my hip is just at a whacky angle. I think I might give in and let a professional tell me. Wonder if he'll use the words 'whack' or 'whacky' in my diagnosis...
Besides that, I feel pretty okay. I'm having a shoulder issue. Like my hip, it's the left shoulder. And like my hip, I've always known that something was weird with it. I can pop it voluntarily, and it makes a really audible crack.

You know how when you were little your dad would always ask you if you were sick, and you'd be like well I don't know, but I don't feel well. And he would ask, so you're sick? And you would wonder why he was asking you, you're only 6, and Mom always knew before you if you were sick. So you thought dads just didn't possess this all-knowing skill. And then when you get older you realize he was asking you because you are the only one who REALLY knows what's wrong with your body and suddenly Mom's all-knowingness is really annoying because she always seems to know when you are sick at college because you've been running tons, sleeping none, and ignoring high-iron foods...wait, this didn't happen to anyone else? Oh.
WELL, I DO know, parents aside. Something's up with both shoulder and hip. I would like to get the hip checked. Ah, heck, maybe both of them!

Okay, so I briefly covered the post-marathon stuff. Now for the Jingle Bell 5k! My races seem to get shorter and shorter; my times, better and better! (Compared to previous PRs, anyway). So when I checked for the results of the 5k today for the 7,000th time since Saturday, I was so happy to see they were actually posted! And not only that, when I finally got to the age group results, guess whose name was 2nd on the list? Mine! AND, not only that, I FINALLY broke 23! My time was 22:55! My previous PR was 23:09, so 23:55 is a pretty significant drop for me! (We just won't mention the fact that I tried to break 23 for four years during high school...) But that's not the point! I am strong, I am beautiful, and I even run kickass 5ks! Okay, maybe kickass isn't the word. But I run sub-23 5ks!

Maybe I'll reconsider my relationship with the 5k...perhaps do some more? But honestly I don't think I could enter the 5k so light-hearted and optimistic had I not come off half a year of 10 milers and more! The long distance runs really make the 5ks seem SO short, and that's how I can maintain a pace I never could in high school. So, good try 5K, and I see you!--but. I don't think I'm ready to commit to anything habitual at the moment. You shall remain a fling. I'm totally psyched about the run, though! I might try and find a New Year's 5k, mostly because I've never done one and they sound festive and exciting!

So, that was my exciting news tonight. YESTERDAY I also got really psyched because I registered for another half marathon! The semi-marathon de Paris! I'm beyond excited. Now, you either know I'll be in France next semester, or you're just assuming I'm super wealthy and can travel to exotic places to get a running high. The former is obviously the case, as I am as broke as any college student. I won't be close to Paris--about 3ish hours away by train--but I'm counting on optimism, spontaneity, and a host-mom to come through for me before March 3rd so I can go and run in this thirty-THOUSAND-participant race! It's going to be INSANE. I'm so excited. Also, it's a way to make sure I don't get fat off baguettes, wine, nutella crêpes, and wine. Also, wine.

Eventually I'll change the format of my blog. I guess the central focus of it is changing since I've already completed my 26.2! Perhaps, RunStephRun: A fierce-calved, endorphin-dependent, wanna-be competitive distance chick.
Too long? Yeah. I'll work on it.
Anticipatory Posting
December 10, 2012:

Things that need to be addressed:

Me, a month after my marathon
The Jingle Bell 5k I ran on the 8th
My impending half marathon in PARIS!

Too late to write now, but fun post(s) to come!
November 18, 2012:

I ran for the first time since my marathon on Saturday, exactly one week after my marathon. I ran a half marathon in Roanoke and it. was. wonderful. I have never felt so good on a run in my entire life. Unlike Richmond, Roanoke has hills. I. love. hills. People would stride by me on the downhills and I would pass them just as swiftly on the uphills. If nothing else, my thunder thighs give me power.

I finished 8th in my age group, 98th overall out of 573 runners, and I was the 28th female to come in overall out of 320 women. I finished in 1:47:03 with a pace that averaged out to be 8:10. I sped up! I was maintaining 8:30s up until about mile 8.
I'm really excited about this race! I felt so great. After running 26.2 the previous weekend, 13.1 literally felt like nothing. That's not to say I wasn't grimacing when I strode out my last stretch of the race, but overall I just felt so good. The weather was also perfect, being chilly and such. I just want to keep racing! I love being at this level of fitness--I don't want it to end!

In high school, I always felt most at ease when I was on the soccer field in my gear. It didn't matter if I was wearing makeup and my hair was messy. What mattered was what I did on the field. Similarly, now I feel most comfortable when I'm running. When my hair is up and my watch is on and I'm in running clothes and my cheeks are flushed from a long run. The difference between then and now, though, is that now the only person I'm trying to impress is myself.
Distance running really suits me because even though I'm not the fastest and I never will be, and frankly don't really want to be, there is an element to distance running that gives credit just for DOING it, you know? I'm the only one in my group at school who has ever run 13.1 miles, let alone 26.2. I'm not bragging when I say that, the point is that I can see that distance running is obviously not for everyone, because everyone doesn't do it. In this I can carry around a bit of pride, because I'm doing something physically demanding, mentally difficult, and rare.

Another cool thing about distance running is that the goals I set for myself are really dependent on what I can do. They are entirely based on my body and my limits, and I don't have to live up to anyone's expectations of a good time. There are people who run half marathons and marathons in ridiculous times, and I obviously admire that. But it's honestly something I never really want to have--record-breaking times, or an elite-athlete status. I push myself based on what my body can do, not on what some standard tells me I should be doing. I think this was my issue when I ran cross country. I HATED the pressure of meets. I have absolutely no gift for 5ks, and I hated having my mediocrity placed before me at the end of every disappointing race. The 5k is short enough that there is a standard. High school cross country runners need to get their times down if they want to be successful. I'm not knocking it; it's a sport, that's how sports are supposed to be: competitive. But distance running is different. (I may have said this before.) Distance running is less discriminatory. If you don't maintain your pace for the entire 26.2 miles, the distance doesn't mock, ridicule, or judge you. It congratulates you on conquering that distance--and that IS what you do; you conquer the distance by merely running it. And it lets you FEEL that feat for days afterward. The distance stays with you. It lingers. In your hips, your quads, your hamstrings. It lingers in your NECK, it lingers in your BACK, your feet, and your stomach. And most of all it plants, roots, solidifies itself in your mind. Any disappointments from the race, any mishaps and things-gone-wrong fade away like forgotten dreams when you just wake up in the morning. They are stored in the depths of your mind, only to return at very specific, triggering occasions. Honestly, those memories of disappointment, mishap, and wrong will probably never return. Not until you run another race.
The only thing that remains is the fact that you DID it. In one day you ran the distance that most people don't run throughout an entire week. The physical hurt just proves that you did it. Even while you can hardly walk and you want to cry about your screaming hips, all you can think about is the next race. All you want is to feel as badass as you do right NOW, right when you're thinking about the race. You don't want the feeling to go away, but you know it will eventually. And because of that, you need to run another one. Another race. And another!

This is how I'm feeling right now. I don't want to go back to what I did before with my workouts and my measly 5ks. I don't even like 5ks! I don't want to go back to wishing I looked differently, and being stupid about food. Sure, I can tell myself, love your shape, be proud of what your body can do. But I can't love what my body does if I don't show myself what it can do. I know it can run 26.2 miles because I've done it. But can it complete a triathlon, or another marathon, or 15 marathons? I'm just really in a pickle at this point. I'm completely addicted to this whole racing game.

I just don't want to stop!
November 14, 2012:

Nearly a month later, I'm posting again.

The marathon was 4 days ago, but I have some explaining to do up until that point. So, why my absence from the blogosphere for a month? Did I stop running? Well, no. One reason is that I got pretty busy with school. But the other reason is that tapering doesn't bode well with me. Once my mileage started decreasing, I started getting depressed, it seemed. I was unsatisfied with myself. Honestly, I really lost perspective of this entire project. One day, though, I realized that I just casually ran 6 miles between classes. And that's what it was: casual. There was a time when 6 miles would have had me tired for an entire day. When I think back to my first 15 miler, and think how exhausted I was, I realize how freaking far I've come. It's CRAZY what my body can do now. Literally. Nuts.

So, what did I do? I RAN A FREAKING MARATHON. 26.2 miles! It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I honestly can't remember anything harder than it, so at this point it is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Regardless of my training, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles. It's difficult.

Richmond is an interesting place. I took a bus tour of the route on Friday, the day before the race. The city's dynamic is so diverse. One block you're in VCU, college hipster town, the next block you're in something resembling a rundown ghetto. Richmond definitely has character.
But you know one thing Richmond DOESN'T have? Hills. No hills, whatsoever. The Richmond Marathon is literally the flattest course, probably ever. My hips only started feeling normal today. The first hill we did have, I charged. I was so grateful for that incline, I wanted it all at once.

Alright, so the course is flat. What else happened? Well. This marathon did not go as planned, to be sure. I think a list is in order, here.

1. It was so neat to be around PEOPLE the entire way on the course. I always have a tendency to separate myself in races, but I didn't in this one, which was cool. There were about 6100 people running the marathon, so it's not terribly huge, but it's enough.

2. It was relatively warm. I think the high got close to 70 degrees and the sun was out. This didn't bother me because we started at 8am, there were shady parts along the way, and I get cold running for that long anyway.

3. I had an amazing support group. Total, I had 11 people come down and support me. It was terrific. I can't even thank them enough. It was so great to have all those people cheering for me.

4. There were problems. The one that has prevented me from writing for 4 days after my marathon, is that I wasn't able to get food at mile 8. The course was not very spectator-friendly, and my parents/boyfriend didn't get to mile 8. I knew I was in trouble when we started going into more isolated residential areas without many fans. Thankfully I had carried a Gu from the start since I wanted to take something in at mile 4, relatively early in the race. The next time I had food after mile 4 was at mile 13, and by that point I knew I had gotten too hungry. Eating was an issue because I felt nauseous. My pace was good, too--around a 9 minute pace, so I wasn't conserving any energy from miles 1 to 13, really. Without food at 8, things just really weren't looking good. I began falling apart around mile 18. I slowed down. Once I hit 20 I was hurting, a lot. You know, you hit 20 miles and you think, Holy shit, I just ran 20 miles, and then you hear someone say, "Can you run a 10k!?" MOTHERF@&*#ER. Sure I can run a 10k, but how often do I do it after running 20!? What was meant as inspirational and motivational, was actually the stupidest thing to say. (To me, at least.)
Around mile 22 I was in URGENT need of a bathroom, and they have bathrooms at every water stop, which by 22 is every mile. When I stop, though, I discover there is no toilet paper in either of the two porta-potties. Knowing I still had 4 miles (and who knows how long it would take), I really couldn't not have toilet paper. Then the rancid smell got to me and I threw up. Then I went outside and I threw up again. And again. The Gu and the Chomps I had eaten by that point were completely out of my system. Afterwards, I did feel better. Less nauseous, but of course I was weak and exhausted. From that point on I ran to mile markers. At each new mile I would walk through the water stops, drink my cup of water and cup of powerade and start running again. My pace, of course, was a crawl.

5. I finished in 4:20:16.

6. As a first marathon time, this is fine. Or at least I'm trying to convince myself. I couldn't help being disappointed because of the food fiasco and then the throwing up. This had never, ever happened in training, and I was just really angry I didn't anticipate it for the race. But how I could I? The first marathon seems to be a learning experience. When I registered for the marathon I put down an anticipated finish of 4:20, thinking this would be difficult. So I did get that goal. But I was really hoping for 4:00 or right around it, since that was the pace I'd trained at.

7. I still don't have a 26.2 sticker. This is not acceptable.

8. The medal and shirt are really cool.

9. OH YEAH, one of the BIGGEST stressors (and another reason why I dropped off the map for a month) is that I have a plantar wart on my foot and it was really painful. I was so nervous it was going to inhibit my running ability during the race. Well, guess what? I didn't even feel it. And, initially, when I realized that my foot wasn't holding me back, I was so hopeful that I would be able to run this marathon like I wanted to. Of course, I found out a few miles later that I wasn't getting food and I was getting hungry, and this was a huge problem.

10. I want to do another one. Marine Corps 2013? I'll be in France during registration, but you can bet I'll be at my computer trying to get in. My parents have done the MCM several times each. 30,000 runners. It seems even more insane than the Richmond Marathon. Also, I've caught the racing bug. I'm running the Star City Half Marathon this Saturday and then a Jingle Bell 5k in December.

Overall, having had time to reflect, I'm super proud of myself and all that. I decided to run a marathon, and I DID. I am strong, I am beautiful, I run kickass marathons. I am red. I got this.

I got my body to accustom itself to 10 milers and above. Anything below 10 is cake. What is that madness? That's crazy, absurdity, nonsense. It's just awe-inspiring. To know that I have that kind of discipline and control over my body. What an amazing vessel my soul lives in. What amazing legs and arms and feet I have. I crave those miles, now. I don't want to stop, ever!

God, am I nuts? I literally thought to myself "WHY AM I DOING THIS" every minute from miles 20 to 26.2, and yet all I can remember is the action of doing it. The completion. The kickassedness of the ACT.

Yes. Yes, I am nuts. But that's alright. By now, I own it. Own myself, own my body, own my mind, own my actions. I am strong, I am beautiful, I write kickass papers. I RUN kickass MARATHONS. I decide and I am red and I own myself, my body, and my mind.

I am far from done.
October 23, 2012:

Even two days after my long run my body wants me to know that what I did was not normal. I'm still not feeling 100%, but I do feel much better than yesterday--I could hardly walk my hips were so sore. Today the hips were better but I just didn't feel well.

I was feeling masochistic today and decided to run my 5 miles on the treadmill in a hot, sweaty gym. My timing wasn't very good, though, because after my run a bunch of guys (probably a team) had taken over the weights, and I didn't feel like fighting for/waiting for machines. I ended up only doing 2 sets of 10 hip flexors, calf raises, hamstrings, and quads. Of course, what I really need to work on are my abs and arms. Alas, I can only muster up so much motivation for these things when I'm running a lot and feel pretty okay about myself because of it.

By my mom's advice, I'm going to run 6 miles tomorrow instead of 9. I think this will be better a) because my schedule is busy tomorrow and b) because I can tell I'm still recovering from Sunday. After my 5 miles and a shower I got really, really nauseous. I also have this problem with eating now that I'm back at school--a lot of what is available makes me sick, and I just really don't feel like dealing with that. I ended up ordering Chinese food, instead. The fact that Chinese food feels better on my stomach probably reflects badly on me, but the place I go to makes the food fresh--so it really is pretty whole food-esque: chicken and rice.

Also, I think being back at school just has me really stressed. My stomachs been fluttery all day and my eye won't stop twitching. I need to take some calming breaths--and probably start getting my work done and stop blogging...
October 22, 2012:

Picture me freaking out on Friday. I just ate ice cream and now my stomach hurts and I'm going to feel AWFUL during my 22 Saturday. Picture me regaining sanity and clear-minded-ness after talking to my mom and deciding, hey I can do this Sunday.

Now picture Sunday (yesterday). At 6am it's DARK. So I eat my nutella/peanut butter/banana bagel and drink some water and stretch (mildly) and then it's 7am and less dark. I start running.
And I don't stop running until 3 hours, 35 minutes, and 19 seconds later, when I am done with 23 miles, probably closer to 24 miles.

Everytime I see that number I just don't believe it. Twenty-anything miles, running?? Am I nuts!? The run itself was fine. I pass a gas station on my route (I combined a 7 mile loop with a 15 mile loop--which, incidentally, both happen to be a little longer in distance than just 7 and 15) and I was able to make a pitstop for the bathroom which was wonderful. I remember thinking, okay 7 more miles to go...so that was around mile 15/16ish when I stopped. I felt fine by that point, I just needed a bathroom. I ate throughout the run and drank close to 36 oz of water, according to my mom, who was my relief. (I was home last week for fall break.)

I feel like I've got the whole eating thing down on my runs. It starts the day before, when I eat good foods and don't snack unnecessarily, and then the morning of my run I have a bagel with peanut butter, and then when I start running I take in a Gu around mile 4, and continue taking that in for probably the next two or so miles. Then I continue eating the Gu chomps--I normally start with 2 or 3 in a row and then I take them in for as long as I can every mile. I stopped eating altogether around mile 19 or so, but I drank the entire way. The last 5 miles I had a water bottle in my hand and took sips periodically.
The only issue I have is feeling REALLY really thirsty, so that I want to chug a lot of water, but I know if I do I'm going to feel nauseous so I compensate by just taking lots and lots of sips. This seems to help.

I felt really, really good at the end of my run. Or about as good as one can feel. When I saw the stop sign that indicated the final stretch (~1 mi) back to the entrance to the park where I live, I was JUBILANT. The endorphins of almost being done with that run all came at once. I even picked up my pace. This is no easy feat. I felt good, but I still had been running for over 3 hours, the limbs were not exactly fresh. Then about .75mi away from home, my mom says to me "you are way over 23 miles!" which just made me feel like a super badass and I tried to pick up my pace even MORE.

Ironically, throughout the run I had been hearing barking dogs without apprehension; however, whenever I passed a herd of cows I was totally freaked out by their beady little stares. Then near the very, very end (after I had seen my mom) I hear a cowbell pretty close to me and it's a DOG running up to me. And I just thought it was so funny that the animal I wasn't nervous about was running up to me wearing a bell normally around the neck of the animals that DO freak me out. He was a friendly dog, though. I kept running and his owner called him back.

Today, I hurt. My hips don't want to work with me. I did yoga after my run, but there's just nothing you can do after running that far. You're going to feel some pain. My body is letting me know what I'm doing is NOT natural. Needless to say I'm popping pain killers like candy. I'll try to do yoga at some point today...maybe...I'm tired.

Mostly I'm just so excited that the tapering now begins! The next longest run will be the MARATHON! Less than THREE WEEKS away! It's going to be great, I can't wait.

An Excerpt
October 18, 2012:

This excerpt is from a (required) reflection paper I'm currently writing. It's relevant to running so I wanted to include it here.

"Taking on a marathon is a little like buying a new puppy. You have to pay attention to training like it’s about to pee on your new carpet. If it’s not given the appropriate amount of time and attention, you ultimately suffer. Your carpet stinks, your anxiety heightens as a result of this new hyper force bouncing about inside your house, and you don’t develop the relationship needed to truly appreciate everything this newfound aspect of your life offers you: relief, laughter, companionship. You just end up getting annoyed and want to give up altogether. Return it and try something else, you want to exclaim. How about a half marathon, or a parakeet? But if you work with it, results appear. The puppy becomes obedient. You’re able to run 18 miles and end with a kick. You’re able to find joy in those obligatory runs. You’re able to talk yourself through nausea at mile 15. You control your form; you control your mind; you control yourself. Your schedule suddenly works with you, not against you. The puppy matures into a dog; he’s your friend. And similarly, all that time you spend training becomes a part of you, so that after your race you can’t just abandon those months of hard work. Are you going to just lose your dog on a trail one day? Sayonara, you once-stubborn puppy—you’re a dog now so I must leave you! Of course not. Spending months in training with Body and Mind—or Puppy—no one could freely part without at least an excuse, a kind of explanation.

In my case, there’s no way I could just give up running completely. For one, my moods are completely dependent on whether I can run during the day. If I run, I am happy. If I don’t run, I’m generally not. I’m completely and shamelessly addicted to endorphins. Without them, the Defeatist will come out from its hiding place and gnaw on my mind, degrading it and allowing negative thoughts to seep in. The most debilitating of these thoughts include the ones that persistently haunted me through high school and up to my first year of college: the ones that deal with eating and my body. I have this mindset of all or nothing. I can either be all about fitness, all about homework, all about greatness—or it can be the complete opposite. Spiraling down I go, as quickly as that first cookie slides down my throat and settles guiltily in a now-poofed belly. But training for a marathon has given me relief from that distorted mindset. To be honest, a marathon takes over your life. It rearranges. Everything about my day revolves around when I am going to run that day. It’s a commitment, and within the commitment to the race, there also exists the commitment to myself—to not get down on myself if I have a bad run, to nourish my body and treat it with respect, to love what I can do and be proud of what I accomplish. The marathon is a mental giant as much as it is a physical giant. To complete a marathon, I’m learning, is probably one of the biggest mental feats I will ever accomplish. At the end of a long run, my brain is as spent as my legs are. And a lot of the mental work happens days before a new long run distance. If I can focus on none of my other accomplishments when 2013 rings in on January 1st, I will certainly remember the 5 months of training, from June to the beginning of November, that eventually got packed into one day and a 26.2 mile run. When there’s seemingly nothing that’s made my year noteworthy, I find something to make it meaningful—for me, if for no one else."
October 15, 2012:

If there is one thing that training for a marathon has taught me, it's that your body requires fuel to function properly. Fuel refers to good foods with nutrients and vitamins and protein. NOT bad foods with sugar and chemicals and grease. My body unfortunately gave me this wakeup call in a very violent manner after my 15 (actually probably closer to 16) mile run last night.

Summation of the days leading up to this run:

Last week was a pretty stupid week. It was the week before Fall Break, and I'm pretty sure everyone was just ready to be done, if only for seven days. I remember feeling weepy all week--whether to exhaustion, my lingering sore throat, or just hormones--my poor boyfriend probably heard a lot more whining from me than normal.
For one, I did not do yoga at ALL last week. Somehow I just couldn't find the time and my hips ached all week. This is completely my own fault--if the Body is sending a message, one must LISTEN and make TIME for said Body. Otherwise that body isn't going to work for you.
Secondly, my eating habits plummeted into the depths of bingeing after I received a care package from a family member. I've never had any self control when it comes to eating, particularly if I'm hungry. However, I've gotten exponentially better in this regard after starting to train for my races. Somehow, long runs and habitual training schedules allow little room for obsessing over food. In this way, running simplifies. It orders my brain if I'm stressed out and it also takes away unnecessary concerns: for me, my unnecessary concern is OBSESSING over what I eat. Nevertheless, old habits don't die easily, and it took one package of popcorn, trail mix, and Special K bars to do me in. I believe it was Tuesday afternoon that I picked up my package. I had had one full day off of running and hadn't run yet that day, so I was endorphin-deprived already. I was hungry and feeling sorry for myself--the work I had, the sleep I hadn't--and I just dug in. One thing led to another and suddenly an entire package of supposedly low-calorie, light snacks were gone.
Yeah, that's the other thing. How silly am I, not only do I binge on individually packaged bars (instead of something delicious like pie or cookies), I binge on bars that are supposed to enforce weight control. I think I missed the point.
So that one binge stuck with me all week. I was eating whenever I wanted without mindfully considering how those meals might affect, not only my run that day, but also my long run that weekend. In addition, near the end of the week I ate something from our cafeteria that did not settle well with my stomach. (It seems like nothing from my school ever does, recently.) I went for a 7 mile run and felt very nauseous, and that night during dinner I threw up the salad I had eaten and anything else remaining in my stomach. The next day I just didn't feel well physically from purging my body. Whenever that happens, the feeling in my gut likes to follow my mind around even after my stomach starts feeling a little better.
As a runner, I think I have great potential for indefatigable mental strength. With that potential for great strength, though, also lives the opportunity for an awful mental defeatism. The defeatist lurks in me like a shadow, hidden by a bright soul and shiny optimism that usually persists as my being. Yes, sure, everyone gets stressed out and weepy and mad at the world, but overall I would say I'm a reasonably happy person. I am a runner, after all.

To anyone who doesn't believe that depression is a real sickness, I would have to disagree. I wouldn't say I am chronically depressed, but there are times when an almost indescribable gloom overtakes me and physically stops me in my tracks. Probably many, if not everyone, experiences something like this at points in their lives--whether it is triggered by actual tragedy, or simply a stressful week ahead. I think it is also influenced by personality types. I'm a mild perfectionist (we all are, let's be real) so I easily obsess over things. I pick. I pick at details and I pick at myself. I'm sure you know the feeling, and it sucks.
Yesterday when I woke up this gloom was over me. I couldn't bring myself to leave my bed. I kept falling asleep as I attempted a reading assignment. I just didn't care. I had overslept my 8:30 alarm to go run my 15 miles. Because the distance wasn't new, I wasn't too excited about it. Plus, I hadn't run my 8 miles on Saturday like I was supposed to, so I was already feeling a bit like a failure. And of course, my skewed mind figures it's all or nothing: I'm either on track and awesome or I'm off track and fat. When I reread that sentence it sounds comical, but when I'm at my worst, life really does work that way--there's no middle ground. Again, I'm sure I'm not unique in this sense and many a-person experiences these types of lapses in mood and motivation, but when that gloom settles I feel like I'm the only person in the world as crazy as me. No one is as nuts and sad-for-no-reason as me. Not fun.

So by the time I made it out for my run it was 5:30pm. There was no appreciation for the sunset. That day I had not eaten enough, nor had I eaten "good" food. Most of what I had eaten was Honey Nut Cheerios. Delicious, sure. But not a great pre-run meal if that's all you've eaten. And, okay, YES, I did realize that I was not well-prepared food-wise and I figured it probably wasn't going to be the best run EVER. But at that point I was trying to get myself out of the gloom and out the door for my run. I miss some of my runs, but I can't miss my LONG run. The longest run is what I'm preparing for in the first place.

I ran about ~8 miles out and ~8 miles back. The out was fine, but coming back it got DARK. And actually, it worked in my favor for a while--I was rolling. Mostly from fear more than anything else. Huckleberry Trail is under a lot of trees and the pavement is black so I really couldn't see anything and I have a tendency to imagine things moving in the distance. I was so happy once I reached the beginning of the trail again, but by that point I was dead. My legs just wouldn't move. It was a crawl back to my boyfriend's apartment. Literally the only thing I could be proud of was that I finished it, because the last 3 miles were torturous.

What was WORSE, however, was the nausea I had after my run. I didn't eat during my run and only drank water and gatorade. It took about 5 minutes after getting back and laying on my yoga mat until EVERYTHING came up. I figured I would try eating peanut butter because I knew I didn't have anything in my system and previously, after my 20 miler, peanut butter gave me relief.
Alas, no relief after the peanut butter. I was freezing from running so far and got chilled after stopping. I did about 10 minutes of a 20 minute yoga DVD to stretch my hips when I decided to shower and warm up. The shower was awful. I was keeled over most of the time trying to decide if I needed to throw up. When I got out, I did. All the peanut butter and then I just kept heaving.

It was literally one of the worst reactions my body has had after a run. And this was after only FIFTEEN miles. Eventually I was able to get down some Greek yogurt and a few bites of steak and broccoli that my boyfriend had made for me. I fell asleep for about an hour after that, and when I woke up I felt a little more human and had some more steak and some more yogurt.

Part of me is really concerned about my body's reaction. I had a similar experience after my 20 miler in that I was extremely nauseous and threw up. However, 20 miles is pretty insane and I feel like my body was just telling me, Hey WTF woman!? Last night, my body was telling me I need to prepare better and I need to eat better. During cross country in high school if I ate poorly (which was often--a story for another post) it wasn't so bad because a race was only a 5k and workout generally consisted of around 6 miles. But my mileage has jumped significantly since high school and I have absolutely NO room to fill my body with junk and not drink enough water and not take care of my joints.

In conclusion, Body, I have taken your precautions to heart and I will work harder to fill you with the things you need. Not only did you remind me of this last night, I've been reminded ALL DAY with a twitchy, nutrient-deprived eyelid.

I have only THREE more long runs until my marathon. Next week I'm doing 22, and then I taper down--16 miles and then probably just a 10 miler. Wow, not until I write it down does it seem so real! I really need to book a room in Richmond. I know all the hotels closest to the start are booked solid already. Anyone wish to donate to the Poor College Student Runs a Marathon fund?
Speaking of spending money, I believe I'm getting new running shoes this week. The ones I've been using are worn down and I think it's be smart to replace them before the BIG DAY. (Potential "Homage to my Running Shoes" post?)

I'm running an easy 4 tomorrow and hopefully doing some yoga and ab work. And eating to FUEL my body. One day at a time!
October 11, 2012: (3am)

Some things I want to take note of:

I ran 7 miles today (yesterday, technically) and almost 3.5 yesterday. I was supposed to run 4 and 9, but my schedule has left little time so I did what I could. I can make up the 2 missed miles when I run again on Friday. No biggie.

I'm developing a plantar wart near the heel on the outside of my foot. I caught it early, but I'm concerned. My friend had to have hers burned off and it was a long recovery.

Last week I went hiking with my choir and a girl behind me said to the girl she was walking beside: "Why don't I have legs like HERS?" and she was talking about ME.
It made my day/I kind of didn't believe her because I'm just awful at believing people if they compliment my shape. The woes of being a woman.

Today someone else said that she would want to come see me run my marathon, and at first I was super pumped--of course I want more people to support me! But then I thought about it and I wondered, do I really want someone I don't know very well, who has no idea of what my progress/process has been like, to be a part of my actual support group composed of my family and close friends?
This probably sounds mean and selfish and silly, but honestly. Sometimes when I tell people that I am training for a marathon I get the (what I consider to be) appropriate response of a gasp and a shaking head, followed by "you're nuts" or "that's crazy" or "I could never do that." And sometimes I get the person who really just has no idea and smile and nod and say oh, that's great, when is it? But without any real appreciation for the distance. And, yeah, okay, maybe I'm just being snobby if someone doesn't give me the appropriate amount of AWE, but honestly I think I deserve to be a little bit snobby--anyone who trains for a 26.2 mile race DESERVES to be a little hoity-toity if someone familiarizes herself with your experience when you are perfectly aware that person hasn't run over 5 miles, ever. I guess I need to step off my pedestal, but really. Sure I haven't RUN the damn thing yet, but I have been training for months and my long runs are up to 20 miles. I'm the graduate student who is about the get her article published but I'm just waiting for the magazine to come out. My authority in the subject isn't OFFICIAL, but it's still there, right? At least enough that I can be a little irritated if I feel someone non-chalantly decides, "oh yes, I would love to see you run 26.2 miles! You have fun with that--aren't you cute?"
No. The people I care about who are going to be there have either a) run marathons before b) been biking with me on all my long runs c) birthed me or d) have been following my process and have cared about my well-being and training at least enough that I know THEY know that what I'm doing is a big deal.

So, I guess in conclusion, I think I realize I am being a little melodramatic in this situation of girl non-chalantly deciding to watch me run. Honestly, if she sees me run and then decides she wants to take on a heftier goal--whether it's a 5k or a 10k or a half or a marathon--I think that is absolutely fantastic. I am 100% pro-running, pro-exercise. I think it keeps you focused and happy. So even if she doesn't know what it is I am going through with my training now, nor will she know what I am going through on race day--maybe she will eventually. But maybe she won't. Either way, it's really okay.

As long as she doesn't shout "ALMOST THERE" at any (*A N Y*) point in the race, we should be fine.
Sunsets and another furry caterpillar
October 7, 2012:

The reason I don't immediately report on my long runs is pretty systematic.

1) Most of the time I'm pretty tired and not thinking about blogging.
2) Often I'm hurting. I'm more concerned with not falling in the shower like a 70 year old grandma than I am with blogging.
3) SOMETIMES IT JUST SUCKS. You know, sometimes 20 miles is just something I don't ever want to do again after I finish. If I run into stomach issues by mile 13, knowing I have 7 to go. If I lose sight of my boyfriend's bike as he leads me through an unfamiliar final 4 miles...I'm in a pretty crappy mood. The last thing I would want to do is log my pessimism over the interwebs.

Instead, I reflect. I give it a day or a night and I think, instead, how awesome it is that I actually ran 20 (TWENTY) miles yesterday.

So, some reflections about this run:

a) I decided to run yesterday in anticipation of the really cold and rainy weather this morning. It's actually not raining at the moment, but, regardless, it's rather chilly. And I didn't pack enough cold gear for this.

b) Because of this quick change in schedule, I had to QUICKLY prepare myself mentally. Instead of having an entire day and night waiting in anticipation, I had about three hours. For some reason, though, I was under the impression I would be running for 4 hours. It wasn't until I was 4 miles into my run that I realized, 'Wait. It only took me 2 hours and 50 minutes to run 18...It's only going to be around 3 hours to run 20!" Sometimes my lack of mathematical prowess serves me well. Suddenly I think my run has gone down in time by an hour...when really I just suck at addition.

c) I began my run at around 4:30pm yesterday. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was the quintessential fall day with crisp air, a light breeze, and a sunshine that made all the turning leaves look angelic with their red and yellow and brown hues. In order to fit in the extra 4 miles on my typically 16 mile route, I followed my boyfriend around Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus mindlessly, and took in all the gorgeous sun-setting sights. I don't know if you've ever been to the less academic parts of campus like the farms or the duck pond--but the campus really is gorgeous. So, the eye candy was definitely appreciated.

d) My stomach gave me some issues throughout the run. I knew it would because the entire two hours before I started running my stomach was rejecting my lunch. And that's about as pleasant as I can put it. I was nervous!
Also, the fact that I haven't been eating super great because of my week off probably didn't help. Nothing like a 20 mile run to get you back on the healthy-eating bandwagon.

e) I saw a furry caterpillar on this run! His presence was more than welcome, for I consider the furry caterpillar an omen of optimism. Superstitious, or not, I have things I like to see during my run. Furry caterpillars, cardinals, and red leaves are among the few items on that list. And I actually saw all of them. Sometime before mile 10 a really big, red leaf was hanging above me on a tree. So I jumped and got it. For the next mile other people on the trail looked at me curiously as this girl--who, by the way, was looking like an Easter egg in a coral long sleeve shirt and lime green shorts--was running and holding this really large leaf. I eventually dropped it and on the way back I picked it out on the ground. It's the little things that keep you going, you know?

f*) It's interesting to look back on my thoughts throughout a 20 mile run. I picture a carefully organized drawer before my run...or a tightly wound sling shot. Once I start, everything is smooth--the drawer remains organized, the rock slung from its shot begins a graceful arc through the sky. Then things begin to get a little shaky. An small earthquake shakes the contents in the drawer and suddenly pencils are mingling with post-its; paperclips with staples. The rock begins losing momentum and its arc becomes wobbly as it starts a slow, slow drop. Similarly, my thoughts become jumbled and my form sometimes suffers.
A little ways into my journey BACK home--so I was probably on mile 14 or so, I came up this hill to a view of the sun setting behind the Blue Ridge mountains. Suddenly I was comparing the symbolism of a sunrise--which I so often see on my long runs--to the symbolism of a sunset.
Instead of shedding light on a brand new day, suggesting a new start as the dew disappears from spiderwebs and the wildlife scurries back into their log homes and leaf covered safety nests, the sunset works a little differently.
The sunset is quick. If you're a photographer trying to get that perfect shot, you only have a short period of time to gaze at the clouds and determine your positioning before the sun itself has disappeared. But if you get that perfect shot, or your glance is just right, you see a majestic sight with the sun highlighting the light blue contours of the mountains. The golden view can take you by surprise and you wonder how you don't come out to see the sunset every night. You realize that 15 minutes is the difference in a visceral hope-inducing thump in your chest, and complete darkness. So much could be inspired in a person in that small span of time. And yet most of us miss it but for a few times a year--whether we're at the beach or you happen to have a romantic evening planned. What a shame.
So, that's what I think about on mile 14 or 15 of a 20 mile run.

*my poetic relief section

And I think I will make this the final bullet, e) Sometimes when you're running 20 miles you can be filled with RAGE. Like when I lost sight of my boyfriend on mile NINETEEN and I had no idea if I should head back to the apartment or run up back into campus a ways. My breathing gets all funky and I want to cry and yell at the same time. Until I decide to turn around and head back to the apartment, at which time I find my boyfriend coming back for me, and he says "You're almost finished 19." Oh man, and then all you want to do is stomp around like a disgruntled toddler and cuss so many cusses that you lose your voice.
But I didn't. I just kept running and I finished that last motherf$&%ing mile.
And then I sat. There was no whoop of conclusion at the end of my run yesterday. It was all internal. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was an odd feeling. My time was around 3 hours and 6 minutes. Part of me thinks I may have run a little over 20 miles because my pace was pretty consistently 9 minute miles.

What 20 miles does to your body afterwards is somewhat of a mystery. My boyfriend made me a protein shake which I later threw up. Nausea likes to be my friend at the end of tough runs--which I hate, a lot. I knew I needed to eat something, but at the same time I didn't want my body to reject what I put into it because that is also an unpleasant experience. Once I had a spoonful of peanut butter relief seemed to spread through my body as the nausea went away and I felt a little more like a normal human again. Later I ate (very slowly) pasta and chicken. I can't eat a lot, nor can I eat very fast, but it is, of course, absolutely essential. Afterwards, I slept.

And today, I rest.
My knee hurts a lot. At some point during my run I couldn't really feel my legs anymore. I knew I would pay for the way I stomped down hills without any consideration for my poor knee. (Injured multiple times playing soccer in my past life.) I took some anti-inflammatories, though, and I'm going to stay off of it. I should probably ice but there's no ice in this apartment. (Don't ask.)

The nice thing about running on Saturday is that now Sunday is not a total waste as far as school work goes. I'll actually be able and willing to get some work done!

Only one more run longer than the one I did yesterday until the big 26.2!
Love myself
October 4, 2012:

Optimistically, I just came off six days of rest.
Realistically, I just came off six days of stewing aggression. SIX DAYS without a physical outlet to release stress. Six whole days of letting my mean mind get the better of me, manipulating my weak and tired spirit--exhausted from the hard life of academia--to eat recklessly without regard to how it's working with my body.

Well, today, my friends, my body was given a reality check: you can't eat like crap for 6 days and expect 5 miles to feel good. Sometimes--sometimes--if I eat a bunch before a run it actually works with me. I guess because if someone eats "normally" during a busy day, it can actually not be enough, so in those circumstances, it's okay. Well, it's not okay, but it doesn't negatively affect my run.

But today, under my circumstances, all the nonsense I ate in the past 6 days has not been good. I just felt BAD. Nausea and fatigue. The fatigue I'm chalking up to still not being healthy--my throat hurts BEAUCOUP--but the nausea probably had to do with eating too much the past week and then not eating enough or hydrating enough today.

I'm torn as to whether I want to run tomorrow morning before une autre busy day still being sick. I'm not SUPER sick. Just a sore throat. I might test it out. I MUST run my 20 miler this Sunday, though! It's supposed to be my 2nd one! Oh, well. Sometimes life happens.

So, goals:
Stop eating everything.
Love myself.
Work on my abs.
Do yoga at least once this weekend and twice next week.
Find lifting time at least once next week, preferably two.
Be okay with life happening.

Side note: fall break is coming up, which means it will be fitness, fitness, fitness for a whole week!

Good things to come, and 36 days till my marathon!
The Blahs
September 30, 2012:

Alas, after posting and running for months after I initially wrote about how athletes deal with sickness, I'm sick.

Long story, short, I didn't run 20 miles this morning and I don't think I'm going to.
I feel rather awful.

I have some options. The most appealing includes running 10 tonight and running 10 tomorrow morning, so that the runs are less than 12 hours apart and my body registers it as a 20 mile run.
However, I do not feel well. I'm tired. Lightheaded. Gross-feeling.
So the actual most appealing option would be to skip my run and go to sleep early and sleep late.

BLAAAHHHHHHHH. This sucks. I carry know optimism with me at the moment.

I am trying to ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES, as they say. But it's hard.

In other news, my hair is significantly shorter; I grew impatient at a cash register and left; and I can't wait until election season is over.

A bientôt.
No Other Vice
September 27, 2012:

I can only allow 20 minutes for this post. Ready?

This week has been so, so stressful. I hate complaining and I try not to. Actually, I think I probably say that as much as the complainers say complain-y things. Does that make me just as bad? Well, regardless, the fact remains--this week sucked and I generally kept it all bottled in. (Except for my poor boyfriend. He gets ALL of my despair. Love yoooou.)

I had to miss my 9 miles yesterday because I'm so behind with all my work. It's never ending. I'm to the point where I just wish my marathon was THIS Sunday, 1) because I think I am ready and I'm feeling good about it. I just want to do it! But 2) training for a marathon is a BIG commitment. Gee, who knew?
I mean I obviously had an idea. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. It definitely is not.

BUT I'm positive the payoff is going to be so rewarding and I'm going to feel so proud of myself. Major ego boost--the best.

NEVERTHELESS, I've been super stressed out this week. Everything is piling up and I just can't get on top of things, it seems. The weekends offer no promise of productivity, either. And my Sundays go kaput after my long runs. I just can't do anything but sit around or nap.

I realized today, though, just how dependent my body is on those runs I do every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. I missed a fairly long one yesterday and I was SO antsy today. All I wanted to do was work out, work up a sweat, get my heart pumping, lift some weights--I was CRAVING those endorphins.

Thankfully, I was able to work out today after class. I did half an hour on this super-elliptical (I burn like 500 calories going only 1.5 miles and it takes me 30 minutes!) and then I lifted weights with arms and legs and THEN I did the ab ripper.
It's been awhile since I've lifted weights. I'm afraid I've lost some strength.
It's aight, though. I'll get it back. My priority is "staying center," stretching, and getting in those distances! "If you don't respect the distance, it won't respect you!"

My mood shifted so significantly after that workout. I was DANCING in my room.


For real, what? I'm this lugubrious BLOB of despair and darkness an hour before, and after 30 minutes of cardio and some fairly mild weight lifting I'm a woman TRANSFORMED. I'm this joking, peppy, JOY-of-a-person who wants to make small talk with all the freshmen on my hall!

It never ceases to amaze me how much a work out will calm me down and put everything in order. It's like my mind--a frazzled woman crawling around among literal piles of books and papers and deadlines, crying and making awful faces--suddenly takes a BREATH, gets up, and calmly starts to organize things. I can see the floor. I can see the end. I have HOPE again.

It's just amazing. I can't understand how some people choose not or simply do not prioritize exercise as a part of their lives, because for me it's so essential. I can't imagine having any other vice that makes me feel as great!

Whew. Well, time's up. I'm going for 10 tomorrow morning if I can get this paper finished in time--otherwise, I'll do a 10 mile night run.

For Tyler
September 24, 2012 (again):

How selfish am I? It's my boyfriend's birthday and I don't even talk about him in my blog post?
Well, he deserves a separate blurb.

Not only has this boy been there for me for everything from high school to college to work to, just, LIFE...literally, everything...he has put up with me for the past four months in my devotion to training.

Not only that, ever since school has started again, he's the one who's biking (sometimes RUNNING) WITH me on these runs to give me water and gatorade; to give me food I sometimes reject; to be there when I finish--and let me tell you, it's not always pleasant.

But he doesn't complain about waking up at 6:45 every Sunday. He doesn't get mad at me when I'm a complete bitch to him after a bad run. He's just perfect and, really, the reason I am able to train and able to even get through all the craziness that one's schedule takes on when deciding to take on a marathon while living a normal life, too.

All that being said, if you are reading this, dear--which I know you will eventually--I love you so much. Happy birthday, and thank you for ALWAYS being there for me. Really, I don't know what I would do without you.
Mixed Feelings
September 24, 2012:

Looking at this week:
Today: REST
Tomorrow: Easy 4
Wednesday: 9
Thursday: Yoga, Cross training of some sort, WEIGHTS
Friday: 10
Saturday: REST (actually scheduled as a rest, too!)
ALL FOR SUNDAY: The big 2-0. (As in 20 miles.)

A look at yesterday:
I ran my first 18!

Some comments about 18:

1. Those 2 extra miles from 16 are the 2 extra that had me exhausted even TODAY. I've discovered--or it seems--anything over 16 miles requires two days of recovery. I was basically useless after my run yesterday--I took two short naps. And then today I was just so sleepy, even after a two hour nap.

2. I NEED not be around people after completing any sort of long run over 10 miles. Particularly after EIGHTEEN miles.
I was TRYING to do yoga in my dorm's common room (which, by the way, is a feat in itself--I did NOT want to do yoga but I had made my boyfriend promise he'd MAKE me do it the night before) and like 40 people (small exaggeration?) decide to come sit down and talk loudly! Whatthe. I just did not have any tolerance for this. I feel like running this far places me in this little self-contained bubble that only other people who have trained for marathons can get into without feeling the passive-aggressive WRATH of post-long run Stephanie. At brunch a few hours later (which was way too crowded; WAY too many people) I kept hearing echoes of "I'm so tired." And yes, okay, sure, you can be tired. But yesterday? In my mind you were NOT tired.

So, where did I run? I ran up Catawba mountain and back. 9 miles there, 9 miles back. The most painful parts included running DOWN the mountain. I have a feeling that is why my HIPS are SCREAMING at me right now, and have been all day.
Surprisingly, maybe, I felt mostly well throughout the entire run. I tried out these new GUs and little chewable GU things and they worked great. The actual GU went down easily which was good, and then the chewable things I ate at mile 9 and beyond--I thought they tasted really good.
Before my run, I had a PB&J bagel. I think this protein/carbs mix plus eating so much during my run really, really helped. I never felt hungry or nauseous. The only hurt I had to worry about was hips and knees (and there was some of that!).
Actually, there were a few times I felt nauseous. But it was a result of seeing roadkill. A bird, a small mammal, and a larger mammal...I had to turn away once I noticed these large creatures.

At around 13, I was a little over 2 hours, which means I started off slower than I normally do (which is a good thing). Also, if I have a ballpark estimate of 4:20 finishing time for my marathon, then I can still run even SLOWER.
I finished by run in under 2 hours and 50 minutes; I forgot to stop my watch when I was done which is why I don't have an exact time. If you believe it I even ended with somewhat of a kick. By that point my knees were aching but I just wanted it to be DONE. Whatever works, right?

It's weird for me to think that some marathoners only train up to 20 miles and I am doing that NEXT SUNDAY.
But why don't I feel ready!?!?
I've been practicing mentally preparing the last 6 miles of any of my runs. I am actually going to train up to 22 miles, so IDEALLY I'll only have to gut out the last 4.2 miles.
Thinking about the actual marathon is really weird. It's emotional. When did I start this blog, end of June? And I was running for weeks before that, too! I've essentially been training for this thing for four months already. FOUR MONTHS where my schedule is dominated by long runs and cross training and weight lifting. What am I going to do when it's over!?

Guh. The nature of this post is sporadic because I'm tired and rushing. But I definitely wanted to post about my 18! Another milestone marked off.
Knock on Wood
September 19, 2012:

Twelve hours ago, I was at my internship. Thirteen hours ago, I had just finished running 8.5 miles.
It's been a long day.

Now, I do NOT want to jinx myself. I actually hesitate to publish this--well I've already started so I might as well...(Wait, didn't I make a post once about how I'm not superstitious?) Okay, well, I'm not messing around with this topic, so let me just knock on wood when I say, SO FAR I have been extremely fortunate and I have not gotten sick. EVERYONE around campus has a cold of some sort. A bunch of people are always around each other; we don't wash are hands like we should; we cough and sneeze and wipe our eyeballs. We're just disgusting.
Well, nevertheless, I've somehow managed to stay healthy. I'm really trying to stay in-tune with my exhaustion level and get enough sleep because I know the first week that I stay up late, wake up early, and run long distances all at once--I'm going to get sick.

Why do I mention this? Well, I woke up early today after staying up late, went for my run, had a full day, and now I'm struggling with homework as the hours tick by...
This is my reminder to myself.

My run today was pleasant. I really enjoyed actually SEEING the mountains this morning. I found a new road and ran down as far as I could. There were some pretty steep inclines and I ran by a nice golf course at one point which had a really nice view. ALSO, the leaves are beginning to change! I love this time of the year like I'm sure so many people do. Before the leaves make their depart from those treasured branches they have to flare up and show off all they're potential so everyone notices them before they leave (ha) us behind. And bien sur, what color do those leaves first show us? RED. Whenever I see them I always think, I am RED. (See blog post about Trees if this sentence confuses you.) I am strong and full of potential and power and beauty!

Thanks, turning leaves, for letting me know!
Strong is Beautiful
September 17, 2012:

This morning I went swimming!
(Shoutout to Danity--I definitely would not have gone if these two fiancéed hooligans didn't want to go.)

I swam 30 laps and was surprised by how easy it felt! I guess endurance training can apply to all areas of my life--I can run farther, swim longer, do homework more efficiently...(??) I'm hoping that last one falls into place...

Anyway, what I want to take note of is my reaction to my reflection after I was finished swimming. For the first time at the YMCA when I glanced in the mirror, I thought, Damn. Look at that MUSCLE.
And NOT:
Holy cuss cuss, look at how HUGE my legs are. My GOD, are my arms really that big!?

For once, I actually, INSTINCTIVELY thought, yeah--I have muscle, and I like the way that looks. I like the way I look.
I'm not saying my entire body image has shifted overnight; It's a process. But the fact that I thought positive things with just a GLANCE in the mirror makes me really happy. I feel like I might finally be shedding part of the horrible self-depricating self that taunted me all through my awkward teen years.
(Because now I'm 20 and refined!)
Of course, I can tell myself to love my body and what it does--but that instinctive part, that's hard to change. I can catch a glance of myself, wonder who that fat girl is, and then say "NO NO NO, Stephanie! That is YOU and YOU are BEAUTIFUL and GREAT and STRONG." But to actually glance at myself and think, "Whoa, hey, look at that muscle! How beautiful!" and actually be SINCERE about it--that's some significant shifting within my psyche. That's something to be excited about!
Lessons for Tri-Relays
September 16, 2012:

I'm irritated currently. I accidentally just deleted 1/4 of my entry because I was fiddling with my new Mac, trying to make my blog screen full screen. Damn you, technology! Alas, I can do nothing about it, so I will start over.

Let's just start with a short intro. I raced yesterday. My parents picked me up Friday and we drove to Claytor State Park and lodged overnight so our trip Saturday morning to the race would be only half an hour or so. The lodging and the area were absolutely gorgeous.
I realized fairly quickly that I would have to take this weekend as a learning experience. For some reason, I didn't consider the repercussions an 8:00 start time would have on my running leg. (I use "leg" in the relay sense...I was the running leg; one guy was the kayaking leg; another guy was the biking leg.) So, with that, I present a list,

What I learned doing a Bike, Kayak, Run Relay Triathlon:

1. Expect the unexpected.
Again, I'm not sure why I didn't consider my actual start time before the night before the race. Obviously if we start at 8:00 and the biker has to bike 40 miles and the kayaker has to kayak 12 miles, I am not going to be running before NOON. And actually, that would have been best-case scenario. As it turns out, I didn't start running until around 12:40. Luckily, the weather was cool and overcast for most of my race. We also ran under the shade of trees for nearly all of the race--until the last mile when we were heading back to the open grounds to finish. Neverthless, all that waiting gave me a lot of nail biting, getting-annoyed-and-frustrated time. I don't blame the other legs for my late start, obviously, I should have just prepared myself better, mentally. Unfortunately, I did not.

2. Music can be absolutely ESSENTIAL.
Again, this is no one's fault--but the drive to the running starting line was stressful. We weren't totally sure if we were going the right way, and I just have a thing with directions. I have a horrible sense of direction and at the same time, I hate being late. I LOATHE getting lost, but I get lost a lot, and it's just really stressful for me. I'm really self-conscious about my bad sense of direction, but I just do not have that "gift." Even if I think I know where I'm going, I pretty much always get myself turned around. So, to ignore the potential "Oh, crap, we're lost" talk, I put in my headphones and blocked it all out. That kept away the frustration at least until the LOOOONG wait.

3. EAT.
With a start time so late, I didn't think about the whole, "Oh wait, I've only eaten breakfast and it was at 7:00 this morning and now it's lunch time. I'm going to get hungry!" I think I had a piece of a bagel with some nutella an hour before the race, but it was NOT enough. Thankfully, at the water stops there were cliff bars, so probably about half way through I picked one up and tried to eat it, but I don't think I got much down. Eating and running is hard! The nausea set in and I could feel my stomach grumbling. I let the waves pass over me and tried to make it to the next water stop. This worked pretty effectively--but it didn't prevent me from vomiting at the finish line. And what came up? Right--nothing, because I had nothing left in me. Not a good situation. When I tried to eat a banana 45 minutes later, that also came up.

4. Don't do a relay triathlon, ever?
Okay, so if I ever did this again, I would obviously do it a lot differently. It might be harsh to say I would absolutely, never, ever want to do this again. But it really did take up a LOT of time. I lost an entire day because of the race and an evening because of being too tired to really do anything. (Homework or otherwise.) This definitely was not ideal, considering I'm way behind on all my work. But at the same time, I do have all day today to work on things. I don't know. There are pros and cons. The pro: it's done. The cons: everything I just talked about.
Oh, also, can I just express my frustration at these two things: the course was NOT marked. I had an IDEA of where I was because of my time (I wore my watch) and because I knew there were 5 water stops about 2.5 miles from each other...but really? No markings? That's just awful. I can't imagine being an actual triathlete running, after a 40 mile bike ride and a 12 mile kayak...if I had just done that I would NEED those mile markers!
Secondly, and this is personal preference, I really disliked the course--it was SO flat. The shifts in elevation were so slight. It was like running through this eternal vortex with no sense of ending anytime soon. Thank goodness we were along a trail where I could hear the New River and see trees and nature to distract me...otherwise I'm not sure how I could have made it.

I finished in 1:53:33. I was rather disappointed by this, actually (~2 minutes slower than Lynchburg). I felt like my pace was pretty speedy--I passed quite a few people, and apparently I was the first woman to come through, but, still, I guess I must have not been going as fast as I thought. I was pretty stiff at the beginning of the race, so maybe my first few miles were slower. Who knows? I also really hated the finish because I knew it was close but I still had no idea how far. My breathing got panicky near the end--I just wanted to be done. But that's not a horrible time. And I'm marathon training now--I need to add another 20 minutes onto that time if I want to even have a chance of maintaining a pace to get me a 4:20 marathon finish time. That being said, I'm not stressing about my marathon time. I just want to get through it. And if possible, I would like to feel strong through most of it.

So, with my half marathon yesterday, that puts me at 36.5 miles for the week. This week I think I have some longer short runs scheduled...it's going to look like I didn't run almost all this week since my long run was technically part of LAST week--but it's okay, I'm running my first 18 next Sunday :X That's frightening!

I'll try to be an avid blogger this week and record my running experiences. With this new computer I should be motivated, but the workload might get in my way. In that case, I'd have to DECIDE to do homework and be a good student.
In my old age...
September 13, 2012:

So, I ran 3 miles today and I did some hip abductor weights and lunges.

Getting there, however, requires some explanation.

It's been a weird week. I've had a ton of great news, but at the same time it's like I have this diminutive Self who wants to bring me down. I feel like my emotions have just been up and down all week. This morning I was feeling good about the day. I don't have classes on Fridays so all I had to do was get through today and I would be home free until Monday.

Well, as I was getting reading for my 8:30 class I guess I moved strangely and I threw out my back! I'm embarrassed even writing it! What in the world is a someone like me--young, fit, (arguably) agile--doing THROWING HER BACK OUT? Initially I thought my back was cramping up, but the pain felt different than a cramp and it kept getting sharper and sharper, eventually bringing me to tears. I was panicking, even thinking I might have to go to an Urgent Care or the ER--googling "sharp shoulder pain" is actually a lot more terrifying than you may initially presume. I was thinking my rotater cuff was finally giving in and had torn or something! The pain wasn't actually my entire BACK, but more like the area between my spine and shoulder blade on my left side. I've always been able to voluntarily pop this area if I'm sitting down and move my shoulder backwards. I'm thinking this isn't normal because it's painful to do--but, what I'm trying to say is, I was obviously really concerned. Plus, my left side likes to do its own thing anyway--my hip is off-balance, my left eye is more blind than the other.
To make this long story short, though, I sucked it up, took some ibuprofen, went through my day and the pain eventually decreased, although it wasn't completely gone. After class I decided to do YOGA.


Everything hurt, I couldn't breathe, I kept yawning. I made it through standing poses and gave up half way through back bends. Pathetically sprawled out on my yoga mat, I bawled to my boyfriend about how useless I was (via text).

Later in the night I knew any chance at productivity was slim and I wanted to watch Glee. (Literally the only show I watch--don't hate.) So I may have poured myself a cold beverage or two and relaxed while watching 26 year-olds trying to pull of being 18.
Yet, the common room's stimuli was affecting me--between my athletic training friend's INSPIRATIONAL female video about being strong and all these tweets about marathon training...and, oh yeah, the cold beverages...I was feeling super bad about not running and super inspired TO run. By this point in the night my shoulder felt really fine, and I knew I could manage running without any issues.
So, in a trance AS THOUGH inebriated, I quickly put on my running shoes and sports attire before I could think better of it and DASHED to the gym, ran three miles, and admired my legs in the mirror as I did lunges.

A note on checking yourself out at the gym:
Guys do this ALL. THE. TIME. It's socially acceptable for guys in the gym to stare at themselves for the two hours they "pump iron," yet I feel women never look at themselves at the gym. Or, we might, but we're not going to go out of our way to do it. At least I normally don't...which I guess is good because tonight I thought I looked different in that mirror than I had last semester. More toned and even skinnier!
So, guys, keep checking yourselves out. Watch the pot boil. I will continue to ignore myself for weeks and be pleasantly surprised semesters later.

After my workout I felt much less depressed--SHOCKING--I'm glad I got the endorphins pumping after such an emotional week. This Saturday I'm doing the running portion of a relay triathlon--so my long run will be 13.1 this weekend, WOO HOO! I jump to 18 the week after that, though! As my mother would say, I am running with the big dogs now. It's rather scary, but honestly I'm getting too busy to really dwell on any fear. I just decide (mostly) and do it. I do have my rough days (like today) but it's all part of the process, I suppose. I'm working through it!
September 9, 2012:

Today I ran the most miles I've ever run: 16! And actually, it was probably a little more than 16. I finished in 2:30:33 with one bathroom stop. I've been having issues with actually PRACTICING my goal marathon pace (9:20 to finish 26.2 in 4:20) and always seem to run around 8:30 miles (if I'm feeling good). Well, this run I really realized that maintaining an 8:30 pace won't be realistic...the fatigue sets in and the legs just won't move any faster...but I'm just going to run at the pace I like. If I go to slow, my knee starts to ache and I can't handle that for 26.2 miles. I'll slow down when I slow down and work on not CRAWLING at any point.

Even though I'm breaking the 14 mile markers and, now, with a 16 logged, I still feel like I have a LONG ways to go before I can even fathom 26.2. As I exclaimed, exhausted, to my heavenly boyfriend who wakes up early on his Sundays to give me water, "I just ran 16 motherf****ing miles! WHY would I do that!?" He responds OH SO eloquently, "Because you'll have 10 more come November."


Nooo, I'm kidding. He's right, though, and I do have a long way to go. This week will be pretty mellow because I'm racing in a triathlon (doing the running portion) this Saturday--two long runs in a week.
I AM happy to report that I followed my training plan perfectly this past week, with the exception being the easy 4 miles yesterday. However, I've decided I will take off Saturday before long runs whenever I please. When I trained for my half marathon I never ran the day before or after my long runs, so I'm okay with sticking to that. That put me at a little over 33.5 miles for last week. I'm thinking I'll run two 5s and two 4s this week, before my 13.1 on Saturday--which will put me at...47 miles!? Holy shit. (Can you tell I just worked this out for the first time?)
That's a really big jump...so maybe I'll substitute the 4s for 3s? Or maybe I'll take an extra rest day? I'm really behind on my homework. The whole LET'S DRINK/LET'S TRAIN FOR A MARATHON thing has been mixed...I need to add the, LET'S DO HOMEWORK thing into the fun group! Womp, womp.

Another fun fact, I practiced eating during my run this morning. I bought these energy burst Powerbar gusher-type items. I did not like them. They were really sweet and too big. I felt like I was choking if I didn't take little bites. Plus, the sweet after taste was not pleasant. When I drink Gatorade I normally think it tastes like straight sugar but I can at least wash it down with water--if I'm eating, I have to take it and wait for the next water stop in two miles, which is not a pleasant experience. So, we'll see what other items there are and hopefully I'll find something bitter and satisfying!

In other, regular news, my sports bra band line on my skin STILL chafes like crazy, despite a tight bra and copious amounts of Body Glide. Showering after running is a purely horrible experience, as the most sensitive area of my torso (it feels like) is being pricked with 8928304 needles. I was hoping with the weather this morning--a balmy 50 degrees--I might sweat less and chafe less! Alas, no such luck.

Something else impressive about today, other than running my first 16 miles: I have taken NO nap. I don't really know how. That being said, I'm EXHAUSTED. Alors, bonne nuit!
Labor Day?
September 3, 2012:

At my college, school is in session today. I didn't really know people still got Labor Day off, actually, and besides, I wasn't going to dwell on the fact that SOME people get off because my school doesn't, so why depress myself?
Well, Labor Day made itself known to me, nonetheless, as I absentmindedly drove to the YMCA thinking I could get a relaxing swim in before my day really started. Alas, when I pulled into the lot it was completely empty.
I, however, still didn't get it. So I'm walking up to the door when I see a man who looks like he might be a groundskeeper or maintenance man, or something (groundskeeper...is that a profession? Or did I just get it from Harry Potter? Well, regardless...) and he says to me, I think they're closed.
I, of course, have the gumption to reply, why yes I see, but I'm wondering why? And he proceeds to give me the two words, which I've been ignoring all week as people have been mentioning them, with an upward inflection on the latter word to imply, why yes, I am an imbecile. Labor Day? he says/asks me, and of course I look like an idiot and continue rubbing my forehead, which I had been rubbing previously because I banged it leaning into my car to get my towel. I realize now that that was probably my last worldly sign that I would not be swimming today, although I was too blinded and stubborn to see.
WELL, I see now, World.
I'm not swimming today.

I have, however, done yoga, and it was glorious and heart-pumping. I feel rather great! Besides the stupid bump on my forehead...

Happy Labor Day!
Back on Track
September 2, 2012:

So, I guess I have to first say that being at school with easy access to fast internet actually doesn't make blogging any easier. The whole school-schedule thing does take up quite a bit of time. I think I am going to try to make an effort to write more because, after all, this whole process is cathartic and meaningful for me, which is the whole reason I started.
I admit I avoided writing last week because I found it incredibly depressing. With a 13 miler turned 7 last Sunday and a 6 miler turned 3 on Friday, I was just not having any good runs. My mileage for last week barely totaled over 20 miles. Instead of dwelling on my bad week, though, I've moved on and started anew! How brave of me.
The "starting anew" began this morning around 7:30am with a 14 miler turned around 14.5 miler. It was a great run--misty, drizzly, foggy, and on a LONG trail. It was easy ("easy") to run 7 miles out and back. I finished in 2 hours and 6 minutes which would be exactly 9 minute miles for a 14 miler but I actually maintained sub 9 miles since I ran a little more. Plus, I'm fairly positive I never ran a 9 minute mile during that run. My pace was pretty speedy and I felt really good up to mile 11.
My biggest issue began at mile 8 when my stomach began grumbling. I felt SO hungry. For breakfast I only had coffee and a bowl of sugary cereal--not smart. I definitely needed to have more protein before that run. My boyfriend was able to give me support with water a Gatorade, thankfully, and I looked forward to that shot of carbs and sugar every 2 miles, but I definitely need to practice eating on my long runs.
My mom, a former marathoner, has told me that "The Wall" happens when your body switches from burning carbs to burning muscle. When I have asked her what that feels like she has said it's a full-body experience where you just feel horrible. She also mentioned that you are suddenly, inexplicably MEAN.
I was concerned during my run when I began feeling nauseous and thought I might throw up. Then when I randomly snapped at my boyfriend on mile 12 and then later, after I was finished, I figured I was pretty close to the wall. Had I been going any farther without food, I'm sure I would have hit it quickly, which definitely isn't good--if I hit the wall at mile 16, during the marathon I still have 10.2 miles to go. Needless to say I definitely learned today how important it is for me to start eating while I run.

I also learned today, or was reassured, that routines are very important to my running. Yesterday, I spent most of the day pumping myself up to run 14 this morning, so that by the time I went to sleep I was so anxious for it to be over that I slept horribly. I also biked the course I wanted to do yesterday, so I had an idea of what I was expecting, which has always been important for me.
Then, when I woke up this morning I had my coffee and my breakfast like I always do and I was ready to run. All of it, I think, added up to a good run this morning because I was mentally prepared. While I was running I never once thought "2 down, 12 to go" or something equally awful. I just focused on where I was, how I felt, and maintaining my relaxation and stride.
As I start this new week in preparation for my first 16 miler next Sunday, I'm going to maintain my routines and keep psyching myself up. Physically, I know I'm prepared for any run I have scheduled. It's the mental-ness that I have to work on, relentlessly. Challenge accepted!
Training Woes
August 27, 2012:

I've been avoiding my blog because bad things have been happening.

I present to you, in no particular order,
A List of All the Not-So-Good-Things about Mixing Marathon Training and College (and the semester hasn't even started):

1. Your friends don't give a flying SQUIRREL about whether you have to run the next morning. Alcohol is of course the biggest issue with this. NO I CANNOT DRINK WITH YOU AND STILL RUN 13 MILES IN THE MORNING. Okay, this hasn't been an issue yet. But it will be.

2. I DON'T KNOW ANY FREAKING LOOPS. HOW am I supposed to run 13 miles while wandering aimlessly around hilly neighborhoods and no sense of how far away something is? I was supposed to go 13 yesterday. I only made it to 7.25. So, there's that.

3. My motivation. Where'd it go? Everything school-related is bombarding me. This is normally the time that my exercise time dwindles away as I drown in essays and building arm fat. Alas, this is now the time where my time drains just the same but I'm upping my mileage to insane amounts.

4. My knee is being really stupid and hurting a lot. I might need to pull out the knee brace again.

5. I've been sleeping poorly due to being anxious about school, living with obnoxious freshman, and having a semi-social life.

6. I'm suddenly being weird about food. I ate the world tonight for no reason and I'm not sure why.

It's late and people are being loud so I'm not in a good mood, anyway. Plus I didn't do any sort of cross training today like I was supposed to. So basically I'm summing this up with: things suck right now, but they can only get better. (Right?) And with that touching bit of optimism I bid you goodnight.
August 22, 2012:

I couldn’t help but notice the lush trees around me during my run this evening.
They seemed to tower over me as I gradually found my rhythm with my stride and breath. As I was observing the trees and appreciating nature like I only do when I’m working up endorphins, my mind started to wander. I recently finished The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and I remembered the overwhelming use of one color. At first I remembered green, but I second-guessed myself and thought maybe it was blue. My mind then began to analyze each color being used as a prominent symbol in the novel. While doing this, I recognized a bit of symbolism in MY runs.

Recently, the caterpillars have abandoned me--I used to see at least one on every one of my runs--but the RED has returned. If you recall my cardinal sighting a few weeks back, I had thought the bird manifested itself into a single plot of red leaves on a perfectly live and green tree in the middle of summer. But it turns out that the closer and closer I get to September, singular red leaves appear to me on my runs, every run. Now before my credibility as an intelligent person is thrown out the window entirely, let me just say that YES, I do know about seasons and I know we're getting closer to fall. (Which I'm stoked about, by the way.) The strange thing about this leaf, though, is that it's always the brightest thing smack in the middle of an otherwise solid green tree.

So I'm running and I'm thinking symbolism and I'm thinking sporadically and I'm making lists.

Blood, war, hate, resentment, secrets, pain, heat, fire, lust, love, passion, action.

Birth, life, regeneration, change/transformation, nature, TREES, roots, commitment, strength.

I think to myself how appropriate this one tiny, vivid leaf which, to me, represents the rebel of the group--the bright red dangerous leaf that tries its flashy color among the other normal leaves--frames itself around all the familiarity and solidity that the green tree represents. I might not have even noticed this leaf had I been looking the other way, or paying attention to a car speeding by, and because of this I take that the red leaf, although rebellious, doesn't want to shy away from its original nature TOO much. It's different, but that red leaf doesn't reject its framework. And in fact, the majority of its greenness doesn't mind the single red spot. The green tree itself may even overlook the red leaf as a blemish that will be gone by the morning with proper pruning.

But, what's different about THIS tree with its one red leaf is that I noticed it. I saw something different in that leaf being singular and red and I dubbed it as special. Whether the tree wants it or not, I actually just associated MY run with THAT leaf. I associate my run, and actually my entire training experience, with the singular red leaves I see amid flourishing green foliage and I think to myself, I am GREEN. I am a strong, stable, runner. I am committed. I am alive and well and organized and, sure, occasionally I can be blown sideways by a strong gust of work or stress, but I also have that something extra.
Extra, being RED--the fits of irrationality and stubbornness, but also of passion and drive and love. While I am just another runner going after a marathon and entering another realm of crazy, I am also me. I am me, stably rooted like the green tree--like so many other green trees--but I'm also that 2nd glance back at the red leaf. That special glance. Special whether I want people to know or not, I know that what I have decided to do is important to ME; it's special to ME, and that's ultimately what determines whether I can make it or not--I have determined, on these runs, that my training for a marathon is sparked by the red leaf within me. And that's why I won't stop. That's why I'm doing this.

And not only, after thinking about all of this symbolism, did I get myself pumped up, I realized I was WEARING green shorts and a red shirt. I embodied my symbolism--my inspiration--inside and out.
A Marathoner's Arrogance
August 15, 2012:

I've come to terms with the training distances.
I've even tried out some marathoner's arrogance.
IE: Pft. You think 8 miles is hard? Try 18.
No, I'm kidding--if you're running 8 milers, you're cool too.
But it must be understood that this mental hyping-up is 100% necessary. Of course I have to think to myself what a WEAK distance 8 miles is. How the heck else am I going to run 26.2 in one day? How the heck ELSE am I going to run 52 miles in a week?
I'm discovering that the marathon requires a bit of arrogance from its participants. I'm discovering that the marathon is a bit full of itself, for the obvious reason of being a freaking beast. I'm discovering I fit this mold just fine...I'm discovering the mental games I play with myself are sometimes just flat-out lies.

Today I ran the 10 mile loop (which will forever be called 'the 10 mile loop' despite the fact it is a little over 10.5) with my marathon PARTNER today. It was a very good run. She's faster than me and gutsier, too, which is awesome for me, because I get really good workouts if we run together.
I was mildly concerned about the pace we started off at; it seemed a little faster than something I could maintain. But I discovered two tricks that I could play on myself if I ever felt tired.

1. Talk. If your partner is going too fast--TALK to her! It gives the illusion that you're slowing the pace down naturally, while at the same time it reassures you that you're okay--if you can manage a conversation in between those hills then you are fine. Then hopefully you get distracted with the conversation, then your own internal thoughts about the topic, until you finally get tired again and find something else to talk about.

2. Run ever-so-slightly behind your partner. For me, I pretend that I'm slightly behind because I'm saving that extra step for when I'm going to need it. Instead of being panicky that I'm hip for hip with my partner and feeling badly and wondering if she feels badly or is actually feeling great and wants to go faster, I can just chill out slightly behind her. Plus, it stops us from racing each other, THINKING that the other person wants to go faster--which happens a lot with us.

So, nothing new, really. Mind games all ovah da place. A successful partner run is good since I'm normally a solitary runner. I'm also really happy I felt so strong just three days off of racing 13.1. We finished with almost a kick!
Now I have FOUR days until I attempt my first 15 miler. Needless to say I will NOT be starting out quite as fast on that run as my friend and I did today. The first time I try a new distance I run for completion--not time.
In other news, I'm looking for a running club near my college to learn some longer running routes once I go back. If I can't find one, I'll probably look on MapMyRun for any local runners and mooch off their routes...or just make some of my own!
I haven't napped today, but I'm still tired from my run this morning. Too bad, so sad, though, because I work in an hour!
Freaking Out
August 13, 2012:

So, I haven't worked out yet today. I am going to--there is a class at my YMCA at 5:00 that I want to do and then I'll do extra lifting and running if necessary. I have to write now because basically I'm completely freaking out about the next 13 weeks. I'm following a Runner's World training plan. It describes itself as intermediate; made for the runner who regularly logs about 25 miles per week. I fall into this category, only because I have been working up to a half marathon all summer. But the next few weeks--quite frankly--TERRIFY me. Not only is 10 my shortest long run, but over the next few weeks 10 gets run multiple times in the same week--say what?? And then, only a day after running THAT--I have 20 milers to run! WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?!
Last night I was putting all the miles onto my calendar. It just seems insane.
I've decided to just follow to training plan perfectly and move my long runs to Sunday. So, one of my later weeks looks like this:
Sunday: 15
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5
Wednesday: 10
Thursday: rest
Friday: 10
Saturday: 4
Sunday: 22

Say whaaaaaat? Doesn't that seem completely insane? Absolutely terrifying? Totally out-of-my-mind-to-be-committed-to-26.2? Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
You know, my friend who is also the person I'm running the marathon with, told me that the behavior of a long distance runner is directly parallel to that of a drug addict. Do I want to be a drug addict??
Okay, I'm being melodramatic.
You know, I kind of think I get this way on Mondays when I don't run long in the morning. This has happened before--I'll delay my run or I'll move it and I feel completely antsy. I say completely a lot. You know, it could have something to do with a two cups of strong coffee I had this morning.
If I were in an English class and my professor asked me to describe to TONE of this post I would definitely say frantic, scared, rushed, chaotic. Would you? Well I'm definitely not typing lugubriously so if you guessed that then you are W R O N G. My fingers are working a mile a minute!


Lord. I'm having running withdrawals.

My friend is right. Runners are addicts.
The L-Burg Half Marathon
August 11, 2012:

Okay, so last time I blogged I was talking about how I was a lazy runner. Well for the past 8 days I've been a lazy blogger. I have been running, obviously. I just couldn't find the time to sit an write about it. (Plus, I had a rough running week last week.)
If you've been keeping up, today was the day of my Lynchburg Half Marathon! My friend, mom, boyfriend, and I left yesterday and stayed overnight since I would not have been feeling a 3 hour drive this morning for a 7:30 race.
I'll backtrack a bit, though, and tell you about my less-than-perfect running week. The days leading up to my race were supposed to be pleasant. I had a 7 mile scheduled, two 3 milers, and a 2 miler. Monday, though, I was out for a 7(.5) and my stomach was not feeling it. I also completely freaked myself out about going down isolated back roads and was scared...have you ever read Room by Emma Donoghue? Without giving anything away (because it IS a good book), a woman is kidnapped as she is walking back from the library in her college-years and then is locked in a small shed which her child (conceived by...) calls 'Room.' It's a great book told from the perspective of the 6 year old boy, but it's absolutely HAUNTING. I always think about that book when I go on the route I attempted on Monday and normally I just put my morbid thoughts away but I freaked myself out too badly. So between that and my finicky stomach I turned around at 2.5 and just ran 5. Then the rest of the week I just ate the world and felt bad about myself. It was not good. Reminded me of 10th and 11th grade all over again. I ended up only running a mile on Tuesday, and then two 3s Wednesday and Thursday. Thankfully I had a good run Thursday, which I needed to boost my confidence for today's run.
Everything paid off today, though--pastries and all--because I felt SO strong during the half marathon. Last night we ate a HUGE pasta dinner and I think the extra carbs definitely fueled me!
We (including my two friends who ran as well) could not have asked for better weather. It was less humid in Lynchburg which was great, 70 degrees, cloudy, AND breezy. The course was a dream--for as long as a course can be a dream, anyway...the last few miles is always rather unpleasant. My first mile was 8:20 which was perfect. I was anticipating a big climb from miles 4 to 5, and the course delivered! There was a VERY steep climb, but it wasn't terribly long (definitely not a mile) and it wasn't at the end of the race so I wasn't exhausted. Plus, I was itching for an uphill--the first part, which was also the last part, was very flat. Flat and I don't get along well for too long. After the first big climb we had to run this long loop twice which took us from mile 6 to mile 9 with rolling hills, which I appreciated.
I took advantage of almost every water stop which was something to look forward to; although the scenery was beautiful, in general. The first and last part of the race were underneath trees along a paved path. Because we looped around a lot, the first time I started running back and I could see everyone behind me was REALLY cool. It made me feel super fast.
About mile 10.5 I started feeling the race and my faster-than-normal pace. Plus, the pleasant flatness and downhill incline that I appreciated at the start was also my finish. I was used to this because of the 10.5 mile loop I've been training on at home, but it didn't make it suck any less. By that point, though, your almost done, so you just keep chugging along! I stopped my watch at the finish at 1:51:37...it might be a little faster--I'll definitely check once they post the race results. Either way, I'm satisfied. I was expecting around a 1:50 finish but secretly hoping for a 1:48. I definitely slowed down on the last 2.5 miles but I wasn't crawling or anything. At that point I just had no juice left. I was just trying to maintain what I had.
So, a successful day and race overall! Now the FUN part starts: It's REALLY marathon time now. And how lovely, the new semester is coming up as well! I am definitely getting in my mother's alleged "15 mile" loop (watch it be closer to 16) before I go back to school. That may affect my runs this week because I was originally planning a 10 on Wednesday and then 15 the following Monday (because I want to keep Monday as my long-run day...as of now, anyway) but I have since been advised I might not want to do that because I don't want to wear myself down. And I mean, also, I have two more full months to pick up my mileage, so I'm not in a time-crunch.
I just really want to get in 15 before the end of summer. And on that note, I also really want to finish the book I'm reading before the end of summer, too!
In case you were wondering, I did take a two hour nap when I got home from Lynchburg...so I'm not completely insane staying up this late after being up since 5:30.
Mind Wanderer
August 3, 2012:

I have been such a lazy runner this week. Meaning, instead of heeding my alarm and getting my butt into my running shoes and out the door, I press ignore and go back to sleep for 2 more hours, chill with some coffee, watch the USA women's team beat New Zealand (awesome goals by Abby and LeRoux, by the way--so inspiring!), and THEN I decide to get my butt out the door for a run. So I guess I can't really classify that as "lazy" because I'm still running...it just takes me a while to get there.

Despite my late start and heat of the day, I had an AWESOME 6 miler. I contribute this to a few things. First, I went absolutely CRAZY at work yesterday--I ate EVERYTHING. (I work at a restaurant.) I was actually feeling pretty bad about it. There was no self-control; absolutely none. Recently I've been feeling hungry a lot (not a surprise, really) but yesterday was just completely unnecessary. I typically make healthy food choices if I'm going to pack it in--last night, though, no easily-accessible food item was safe. I even ordered a cheese burger! (Off the children's menu, in my defense...but still.) And I put mayonnaise on it! So needless to say, I was FUELED for today's run.
Secondly, I went out without GPS or watch. It was hot, and I didn't feel like timing myself knowing the heat might affect my overall time. Plus, my half marathon is in a week--if I'm not ready by now, I'm not ready. There's no need to time myself--I got this.
And THIRDLY, part of my run was on a trail. I decided to do this because of the sun (which at 12:30 was right above me) and because it added a little more mileage onto my overall run so I didn't have to do this stupid loop twice (only once). In the woods, my mind just wanders. Actually, it wandered a little too far at one point when I tripped and almost landed flat on my face.
Which brings me to an obvious but often ignored tip: don't forget to pick up your feet while running! Especially on a root-y trail. I got so far into my head that I hardly noticed this one hill that always makes me pant like a thirsty bloodhound. (Slobber's everywhere; I'm attractive.) I was pretty close to the zone.
I've been in the zone three (maybe four) times that I can remember. Once after a soccer practice when I was in 8th grade. And then twice during track practice--once during a mock-meet 500m race and then again doing fartleks by myself because I was late to practice. And the maybe fourth time would be during this rainy soccer game during my freshman year. But I always got into a zone for soccer. It's an amazing feeling of invincibility and for me it's completely random. I wasn't quite to that point on this run, but man, it still felt great. On my last stretch I pictured Syndey LeRoux's goal this morning and her reaction--I couldn't help but smiling and going faster. Love love love love love it. I'm sure the car that passed me, sweating, running, and SMILING thought that I was completely crazy or taken-stupid by the heat.
I wanted to try out a trail to see how my knee would handle the surface--my September 15th race will be a combination of road and trail surfaces, so I'll need to incorporate both after my half marathon next week. My only main concern with a 13.1 mile trail race at this point is starting off too fast. Woods always make me feel like I can run as fast as I please. But I'll work on that.
Other observations on this run:
A group of horseback riders had the gumption to call me a JOGGER as I approached. (Bitch, do you see me? I. am. running.)
Coughing loudly when on a trail to let walkers know you're behind them works well. But so does saying, "Coming up on your left!"
Apparently I'm going to have 4 children. (Wandering minds can take you ANYwhere...)
I still have a kick! My neighbor was at the mailboxes as I turned into my driveway and I SPRINTED to my deck (100 meters or so).

I'm such a showoff.
Grateful for Fit
As any athlete is, I think I am particularly in-tune with my body. Whether it is hating, loving, ignoring, or accepting it--I always know just how I feel about it. Right now, for instance, I'm feeling fatigued--like my 6 miles on the treadmill was a good decision. I'm also feeling like the nachos I ate weren't the best decision for a flat stomach. But I also DGAF because I was craving some damn nachos. That's one nice thing about running so much--I can eat without worrying if it's going to affect me drastically. Today for lunch I had a chicken cordon bleu and ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate sauce. The nachos I had tonight were well-over 1000 calories. But I burned over 1000 running today! Why do I care?
Well, the funny thing is, I used to care a lot. Too much. But running gives me a refuge from that obsession. It gives me a reason to love myself and love my body. I'm noticing that the jeans I used to wear for a few days in a row are suddenly pretty baggy after wearing them for one night. I also don't think twice about wearing sleeveless shirts anymore. My arms aren't small, but they're muscular now, and I'm not ashamed of them. Then there are other things I lose that I'm not so sure I'm happy about. Mainly, the more feminine features. I've somehow found my waist, but lost my boobs and butt. (Okay, okay--I am probably the only one who notices these changes, but I'm telling you they're real. They are the results of marathon training!)
I know everyone's perception of beauty is different. I admire strength. Muscles are beautiful to me. I think Emma Watson is pretty, but I think Alex Morgan is absolutely gorgeous. Slender is nice, but I'd rather be fit.
When I'm not running, I sometimes forget to be grateful for fit, and wish for something outside of my realm of reality. Long legs and a 120 pound frame will never be me. But strong legs and a 160 pound frame is. (Repeat that on any social network, I will not be happy with you.) So I'm just trying to work with what I got. As it turns out, training for a marathon works well with me, I think.
Or I at least feel best about how I look when I'm running.
I'm about to enter a stage of running that I've never really experienced before (15 milers, 18 milers, 20 milers!) but I expect it will be just as empowering, if not more, than training for a half marathon is.
I also think I'm trying to pump myself up for it, because I'm kind of nervous.
July 31, 2012:

Since I last wrote, I've ran a 5 miler with some cross country kids (which was good--I finished sub-40 and probably started off a little faster than normal) and yesterday I did my 10(.65) miler. Last week I logged a total of 30.7 miles, which is the most I've done this summer. It's absolutely terrifying to know that 26 of those miles will be logged in one day, come November.

Yesterday I set my alarm with the intention of going on my long run at 7:00 in the morning. But I decided to go back to sleep until 10:00 and was feeling okay with delaying my run until today. (If you're curious, I was not a good marathon training runner on Saturday.) However, I started feeling guilty and at 1:00 I decided to go out and do the loop--without any water stops!
The weather was trippy. At first the sun kept peaking in and out of clouds, then it randomly started to sprinkle and I kept going through patches of humid air, then the sun came out full blast, and THEN it started to rain on my last half mile. The last bit of rain was a blessing because I was not feeling too good. Overall the run was okay. I ran a little better than 9 minute miles according to my MapMyRun app...but I have a feeling the first 5 were at least at 8:30 minute pace. Around mile 7 I started getting thirsty, which I contribute to the sun beating down on me for miles 5 and 6.
Afterwards, I went to work. I didn't feel like I was going to die, which means I'm finally building up the endurance I'm going to need for this upcoming semester! (I think.)

From here, I'm not running anything over 7 miles until my half marathon on August 11th. I just looked at the course map...it's not too intimidating. There is a lot of looping back around and there is a major elevation change from miles 4 to 5--I think I'll be climbing for a full mile. But if I get through that I should be okay. There is actually another loop I run where the last mile is on a horrible, horrible incline--so I'll probably run that next Monday on my 7 miler. The rest of the course seems to just be rolling hills, which I'm okay with--and then we actually finish going downhill which will be nice.

I booked the hotel reservations today! Should be fun.
It was supposed to be me, my boyfriend, and my friend running in the Lynchburg Half...but I'm pretty sure it's just going to be my friend and me. Boyfriend has been too busy working and doing homework and being awesome in other ways to have much time to train. (I'm okay with this--I'd be mad if he beat me after not training AT ALL while I've been training all summer!) So, I'm excited! Plus I get my t-shirt. Which we all know is half the reason to do it. Top 3 finishers in each age group get an award--maybe there won't be many 20-somethings running and I can pull out a 3rd! It is a small race...
I'm just going to focus on finishing in 1:50 or less. Originally I wanted to finish in under 1:40, but I don't think I'll be able to maintain 8 minute miles at this point.
I know I'm going to start off too fast. Everyone does. Hopefully I don't start off at 8-minute fast or 7:45 fast, though. That won't be pretty if I do. But I know my pacing and my body so I think I should be fine. I was always the pacer in high school.

In other news, gymnasts are absolutely amazing. I'm enjoying the Olympics. I'm lifting weights and swimming today before work. My dog came home. I'm running 6 tomorrow.
I have to go watch gymnastics now!
A Hot One
July 27, 2012:

There are things that don't phase me. Hills, for instance. Cramps. Freaky breathing. Coffee an hour before. But then there are things that do--wobbly knees, carpal tunnel hands, roadkill. Heat. It was this latter that got to me today. I just don't do well in heat. Does anyone? If so, I envy you...but not that much. I won't be caught training every day at 2:00 in the afternoon to become a better in-heat runner.
Nevertheless, sometimes I do sleep in a little later than I anticipate, I meander around and read a chapter or two; I make muffins. (Bet you can guess how my morning went.)
I didn't make it out for my run until almost noon. Of course, the clouds decided to disappear for their friend Sun about a mile into my 6(.3) miler. So, it was a hot run. I finished 6 at 51 minutes, 31 seconds--not exactly 8 minute miles, but not 9 minute miles, either! Somewhere in between. I definitely slowed down after mile 3, but I was never crawling. I'm labeling this run a hot one, not a bad one. I was thinking I was just going to shower afterwards but I did end up doing the ab ripper again.
I feel so ridiculous whenever I type that--like immediately after I say I did the ab ripper I need to add: rawww, my abs are ripped! I'm pretty sure I DID do that in my last entry...I won't do it again. Just know my abdominal muscles got some work today and they're lookin' nice and toned. (See, now I need to add a winky face. The ab ripper is just asking to be mocked.)

Tomorrow there is a cross country run at my house...Yes, I graduated two years ago. Yes, the team still runs at my house. I don't even know the kids anymore. They're babies!
But I'm glad they will be here tomorrow because I'll run 5 with the kids who are going to run 5. Well, I'll run...at my own pace...whether that is behind them or in front of them I don't know. But I'm not a captain anymore--I have no obligation to herd up the slowpokes with words of encouragement. Nor do I feel any pressure to kill myself with some over-excited freshman who takes off at a 6 minute pace...
Haaa, yeah right. I'll catch her later.
THE POINT IS: I will definitely not be running in the heat of the day tomorrow because they're arriving at 8:00 in the morning. This is good because I'll be working late tonight and I'll need the extra push to wake up early.

So far the weather is looking good for my Monday long run! I'll have to behave myself Saturday to save myself from needing to drink one million bottles of water on Sunday...
We'll see.
More Races, Continued Fixes
July 25, 2012:
(6 months till Christmas!)

There is nothing like registering for another race to give you the pep you need to get out the door and go for a run! This morning I wasn't feeling very runner-y. My friend had stayed over and was leaving early in the morning to go to work and I really just felt like relaxing with my coffee and a book on my deck until my relatives showed up for a visit.
But then my dad got a phone call from one of his coworkers asking if he wanted to participate in the New River Trail Challenge, a triathlon, and do the half marathon portion. My dad said he was in no shape, briefly mentioned his super-great, running daughter and hung up the phone. Then basically after that I double checked my schedule, figured I didn't have anything else to do on September 15th (ha), and committed to it! So it looks like I'll be doing the running portion of a bike/kayak/run race with some older fellas who work with my padre. I mean, I'm always down for free registration and a t-shirt! Plus, by that time a 13.1 miler will probably be a welcome break from my 18 mile long runs!

My current racing schedule is:
August 11th: Lynchburg Half
September 15th: New River Trail CHALLENGE (meaning trails, not just road...that will be interesting--I'll have to prepare extra for that)
and finally Novemeber 10th: Richmond MARATHON
I'll have to figure out something to do in October!

The brief adrenaline rush of committing to another race made me feel runner-y again, so I went out and did my 6 miler. Now I know correlation doesn't equal causation, BUT, I had a really good 13 miler on Monday after I drank coffee...and I had a REALLY good 6 miler today...after drinking coffee. I'm thinking maybe the caffeine might help me out...
Total, I ran a little over 6 miles but my 6 mile time was sub-48, at 47:25:80. (Meaning better than 8 minute miles, woo hoo!) I felt really good while running. I didn't wear my armband again (I'm probably about to permanently ditch it...I bought a new watch and it clocks me just fine) so I figured I might be running a little slower than normal because I felt so relaxed, but I went through my first mile right at an 8 minute pace. I don't know what it was, the coffee, the weather--it was really cool this morning--or maybe I'm just getting comfortable with 6s now. Either way, today's run was a definite ego boost. We all need that every now and then. It was nice.

Afterwards I did the P90x 15 minute ab-ripper, so my abs are ripped! It's a good thing, too. Everyone knows a runner is nothing without a good core!
I love summer because I can focus on looking good and feeling good. During school I can get pretty mean towards myself because I don't have as much time to focus on exercising. This won't be an issue this semester, obviously, because I'll be training for my marathon.
THAT was the secret all along!
Feeling fat?
Feeling cranky?
Feeling like you can't run a fast 5k?
Feeling unorganized?
Feeling unfocused?
Foggy? Ugly? Sad for no reason?

Just start training for a marathon! Because if I can run 13 miles on Monday, I sure as hell can feel good about myself on Tuesday--I ran 13 miles! And if I feel good about myself on Tuesday, I can easily write emails and apply for things and look into opportunities for myself and figure out how I'm going to make it happen. Because I'm optimistic; life is g o o o o d.
It's not my own will that makes me do all of that! It's running! It's getting enough endorphins to motivate myself and be myself. That's why I run; that's why I think of myself as a runner. As a runner I'm happy, I'm productive, and I'm confident. If I want to run 2 miles farther on my next long run in a week, then I'm going to do it. If I can do that, why can't I get that internship? I can do whatever I damn-well DECIDE to do.
It's a mental, physical, psychological thing.

Probably a little addictive, but we all have our fixes.
Rubbed Up
July 23, 2012:

Monday = Long run day! Today I ran a little over 13 miles!
Woo hoo, woo hoo! I know I can run a half marathon! Yayyyyy.

I'm not sure the EXACT mileage because I didn't wear my armband with my phone and GPS app but I'm fairly certain I went at least 13 and probably a little more. I had a really good run even though I started a little later than planned. Today I did one thing VERY differently--I had coffee before I ran! For unspeakable reasons I wanted to drink some coffee, even though I wasn't sure how my stomach would like it at mile 7 or 8...but this morning it was a necessary evil. And as it turns out, I had no issues and I had a really great run! I finished in 1:50:01, which if you've been keeping up with my long run times, is much faster than my 12 miler and a little faster than my previous 10 milers! Also, more good news, I didn't feel completely dead afterwards! My hips were feeling the miles by the end but my knees were okay! My only complaint would be at the very, very end (on the LAST, stupid, more-than-a-mile, FLAT AS A PANCAKE stretch home) I let my arms relax and I thought my shoulder and neck were going to cramp up. I was obviously a little tense the last few miles, and the release of that tension was very painful. It eventually went away and I kicked it to the LKA sign and my wonderful mother who was waiting with water and Gatorade.
Ironically, I think I chafed more on this run than any other run, despite not wearing my armband for that very reason! Right at my sleeve line under my arms rubbed, and of course the sports bra line. I apply Body Glide literally EVERYWHERE before I go out. I have a feeling I'm going to need BG stops as well as water stops during my marathon otherwise I'm going to be one rubbed up chick...and not in the sexy sense.
It was actually a relief to not have my splits called out to me from my phone. At the beginning before I went out of the park and onto the 10.5 mile loop, I think it freaked me out a bit because I wasn't completely certain when I hit a mile and what my pace was. But then I realized I know my body and my breathing better than any APP does and I just started focusing on my important marker points. For me, this is the second to last road I turn on--I go down and then I climb up and up and up. I know if I make it to JP (abbreviation of road name) and I make it UP JP, I'm good to go. After that road I'm headed home and I have less than 3 miles to go, which, mentally, is just the most exciting thing ever. I realize now that if I wanted to run a fast 5k in high school, I should have just trained for marathons all four years. 3.1 is NOTHING once you start running these greater than 10 distances normally! But anyway, once I settled into my run and let my mind focus on my breathing or my form or the sunrise, I could just keep JP as my goal--and once I got there, I knew I would have no problems getting back. (Although, the infernal flat-as-a-pancake, more-than-a-mile stretch home will continue to be the most awful part of that DAMN run. God, it's so awful.)
When I run my route my mind has markers. The loop outside the park is basically the main part, so anything I add on INSIDE the park is hardly noticed (my 2.5 inside the park today, for instance).
Once I'm out of the park, the flat-as-a-pancake, more-than-a-mile-stretch isn't so infernal, because I'm still just starting. I might even call it the pleasant-flat-pancake stretch at the beginning. Then that road narrows into a smaller road shaded by trees; it's basically downhill and I breeze through it, even though in the back of my mind I know I'm going to be coming back up it eventually...and it won't be so pretty then.
Now I'm at my first water stop and the first intersection--it's the same road but a little hillier. After a swig of water I run up this pretty decent sized hill but it feels g o o o d, because I was just going down for so long. I pass some barking dogs, some creepy cows, a babbling brook, and then I see the damn anaerobic hill--named by my mother--which is this short steep hill that just absolutely takes your breath away. I don't recover from that hill basically until my next water stop, but hopefully I've been pushing through despite my wheezing.
Next I turn onto a different road; the road of rolling hills, I'll call it. None of the hills are particularly intimidating. They're all long and steep enough to have a rewarding downhill after the climb. I pass farmland--I look to see if the horses are out; if more creepy cows will be by the fence. I pass some hay bales and I listen for this rooster to crow as I pass by a barn. Unfortunately, now, a certain plot of trees remind me about my LAST long run and nature calling and doing when you have to--but during this run seeing that area was reassuring because I didn't feel nearly as horrible, or horrible at all, when I passed those woods.
By that point I'm looking out for the Christmas tree farm. Once I'm there, I'm nearly at JP and another water stop. I take in Gatorade here, too. Then I go down...and then I climb. A huge hill, followed by a moderate inclining road with a few downs and some flatness in between. On this road, I'm looking for the Tree Reservation sign. Once I'm there, I'm almost at the white house, and once I'm at the white house, I'm almost at the mailbox with the wooden boy on top of it...and once I see THAT, I'm almost back at the FIRST road, another water stop, and the home stretch. I climb the uphill that used to be the downhill and then I eventually get to the (now infernal) pancake road. I trudge (it seems, although actually I'm still pumpin') through that and then I'm back!

Mapping all of this out is quite the process. Especially while running. But it's so important! Without all my mental markers I would feel so lost and probably panic.
That is my biggest fear with the Lynchburg course--I'm afraid not knowing the course or the little things to be prepared for is going to impede my ability to have a really good race. But I plan on studying the course map and mentally preparing and all that, so hopefully I will be okay. I'm sure I will be!

I attempted a nap after my run, but I'm just no good at it. I may try again shortly. Or I might just hold out until bed time.
No running tomorrow, woo hoo! If I wake up early enough I'm going to try to hit up a pilates class at my gym and swim and lift. If I don't make that, though, I'm definitely going to do yoga on my own. I appreciate cross training so much after long run days!
The Guilty Runner
July 21, 2012:

It took me a while to get to my run today. My alarm went off at 7am and I got up and did a few morning routine things and then I decided to hell with it, I'm going back to sleep. I thought I was scrapping my 5 miler and vowed to be the diligent self-disciplined runner I knew, this following week.
Well, then I went and watched my boyfriend and my friends race in this 5 mile obstacle course. It turns out I am a pretty bad spectator because the entire time I was thinking how ideal the conditions were for a race (cool, cloudy, misting) and how much fun all the obstacles looked. Although, I did take some pretty bad ass pictures. If you ever want pictures of yourself exercising and you want them to look good, give me a call. I'm not going to get you in that awkward mid-stride position where it looks like you're walking and your leg is fat and your arms are Tyrannosaurus Rexed. No, no. I get the long stride, muscles flexed, I'm-a-freaking-rockstar-and-I-make-it-look-easy photograph.
But anyway, after I went home with my smelly (albeit cute) boyfriend and he was napping from all his exercise, I was feeling way guilty and suddenly I felt fat and my dog was lost and I hated working and my feet ached and my teeth were super obviously crooked and my nails looked weird and I looked ugly...The world was collapsing around me!
Not really, but I was being really annoying and melodramatic in my head so I DECIDED to get my butt outside and go for my freaking RUN and it was GLORIOUS! 70 degrees, breezy, awesome.
I had forgotten how much I love, love, love running in the afternoon. You have all the adrenaline and aggression and energy from the day behind you and you just feel amazing! My first year in college I would go to the gym every night and have these amazing 3 mile runs on the treadmill. I felt great and I was scoffing silently at all the elliptisizers around me; of course, racing anyone on the treadmill next to me (never had a chance, poor chaps).Then I would lift some weights and my body would just hum happily all night. Part endorphins, part exhaustion.
I was reminded of that today when I went out, uncertain if the pizza would settle well on my stomach, and suddenly hearing my first mile was at an 8:09 min pace I kept getting faster and faster. I averaged a 7:56 mile at the end and finished in just under 40 minutes. (Part of that was seeing this really huge black animal--I'm thinking a dog?--and turning the heck around and sprinting away.) It was a really good run, except I did have to make a pit-stop at about 4.65mi, which was annoying. Nature called and couldn't just leave a message.

For the week I'm at 23.6 miles with only three runs! Next week is going to be rather intense, starting with my 13 miler (who knows, maybe 13.1) on Monday! I got my shifts covered tomorrow so that I can rest my feet (which are actually aching, by the way) and so that I can go to sleep at a decent time and hopefully not wake up every 2 hours anticipating a long run, like I did last week.

Only two more long runs until my half marathon!

Also, I swam the day after my twelve miler and it was rejuvenating--it was the perfect workout to loosen everything out and still get a good full-body workout.
Also, I had a really good steak last night which might have contributed to my stellar 5 mile performance today. I don't think I'll ever be a vegetarian.

I said I wanted to finish this post in 30 minutes and I did!
Bad Puns
July 18, 2012:

This one's going to have to be in a list-format. I just got home from work and I'm exhausted.
Pourquoi, tu me demandes?


It was awful.
No, really.
The first 6 were good--8:25 minute miles.
But then:
Nature called.
And wouldn't stop calling.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
And you gotta doo when you gotta doo.
(This is my blog I can say what I want.)
But you know it's true.
After I did what I had to do, I couldn't get my groove back. My pace dropped to 9:30 min miles and then to a 9:45. My knees and hips were screaming at me to either get moving or just give up.
I crawled all the way home.
It was not pretty.


Even though it was such a horrible run, I still feel pride in getting through it! I really want to do it again next Monday but we're getting closer to my half marathon in Lynchburg on August 11th, and even though I'm treating that run like a training run, I want to make sure that run goes well.

I've had so much protein today. And two different types of fish. Tuna and salmon. Is that okay, you think? I probably shouldn't eat all that fish. Oh, well. Maybe mercury is okay for endurance runners. I know all this information is merely a google search away but speculation is much more fun.

In other news,
I don't think I'll be running tomorrow. Cross training of some kind will precede weight lifting. Then I'm scheduled for a 6 and a 5. I'm only going to be running 3 days again this week but I'll still be at 23 miles! Craziness!

Well, like I said before I had to work tonight and my eyeballs are drooping.
Late night blogging like this is probably the culprit of my oncoming lazy eye.
Some Modifications
July 17, 2012:

So, it's Tuesday. Normally I post on Mondays. Normally I post on Mondays because I run long on Monday.

Well, my running schedule has to be slightly modified this week because of a bout of food poisoning I got on Sunday. I'm not completely sure that's what it was, but I ate something on Sunday, immediately started feeling bad after consumption, then woke up on Monday hardly able to stand because of stomach issues.

Now it's Tuesday and I'm pretty sure all the bad has passed, and I feel a lot better. Between yesterday at 1:30pm and this morning at 8:30am, I have slept over 17 hours. Others have suggested to me that perhaps I caught the flu or some other mysterious sickness, but I'm absolutely positive my symptoms were a direct result of what I ate. Needless to say I won't be eating what I ate, nor will I be eating from the place where I ate what I ate, again. I'm not completely positive that the food itself was contaminated; I have a finicky stomach sometimes, so the food and my body might have just not mixed well. I don't know. But I do know I got sick and was out for an entire day because of it.

Today I plan on taking the day off again and hydrating, with the hopes that TOMORROW I will be able to run my 12 miler. That will give me one full week since my last long run, plus 3 full days off from any physical activity, so tomorrow I should feel pretty good, in theory.
We shall see.
2nd Place!
Ribbon Winner!

Ribbon Winner!

Fresh2o 5k Race
July 14, 2012:

From my picture you can see that I not only ran the 5K race this morning, but I got a ribbon! I finished in 23:51 with an average pace of 7:41. I was 2nd out of 36 females and 14th out of 71 runners. If I hadn't bought new shoes yesterday I could have put the $50 gift certificate I won towards them! Oh well.

Obviously this was an extremely small race. Normally 23:51 wouldn't get you anywhere, but I'm not complaining! I would describe this run as tentative. Even though 3.1 feels like NOTHING when I've been running 10s and 6s all summer, I didn't want to start off too fast, especially because I wasn't familiar with the course. The course, though, was incredibly easy. Mostly flat with some nice, long inclines and long downhills I could stride out. A strange thing happened on probably the last half mile. I was coming up on this girl with a long ponytail and planning on catching her, when I think someone on the course told her I was about to pass her because she turned around, saw me, and then started walking! When I passed her she gasped a "good job." By that point I knew that there was only one other woman in front of me; she finished in 22:20. Had I known how easy the course was I might have tried to stay with her and PR!
My PR is 23:09 for a 5k. I was the displacer in high school, meaning I was helpful to my team because by my running there would be other girls behind me. I talk a lot about mental strength, but honestly, when it comes to races under 5 miles, I generally don't do well. Just the word "race" makes me panic. All through high school I would do really well in practice but would flake out on race day. Well, maybe flake out is a little harsh because I WAS consistent. But consistently mediocre.

That's why I like long runs. There's enough time to talk myself out of a panic attack when I'm running 10, because if I don't, I'm going to be struggling for a lot longer than 23 minutes. But I think it's smart for me to put myself in actual race situations once in a while to prepare me for the atmosphere of the race. But this race, like I said, was incredibly small, so I didn't have issues starting off too fast or anything. I did have a nice cheering group on the last stretch which was encouraging. I used to hate knowing people were watching me run, but now I use it as another mental trick--if I see someone I know, I'll smile or give a thumbs up. Even if I'm not feeling great, I know that by doing this I make the person watching me THINK I feel great, and then I also think I feel great. Such manipulators, us runners.

When adding warm up and cool down time, I ran around 4.5 miles today total, which puts me at a little over 25 miles for the week! I'm thankful for a day off tomorrow, even though I'll be working on my feet all day. Hopefully it will be cool and cloudy on Monday!
July FRIDAY the 13th, 2012:

Are you superstitious? I'm not. I bet clarifying that it was FRIDAY the 13th made you think I was, but I'm not. It kind of goes against the whole DECIDE mantra I have going on. I believe in making your own luck! Oh, gosh, now I'm throwing cliches around. Anyway.

If I was superstitious, which I'm not, I might think it a little strange that TODAY I woke up stuffy and sneezy. I don't feel achy or really sick yet, but I'm afraid these might be signs of an upcoming cold. AKA the most annoying setback ever. No one likes being sick, but I feel like runners have a special distaste for sickness. It's not like we can't deal with it. Like many other people with obligations and jobs and lives, I am particularly keen on ignoring sickness, especially when it comes to running. When I'm running I just feel my pounding heart, my pumping arms, and my pacing legs. I don't feel sick! I would much rather give up sitting in class being miserable than giving up my hour alone with the version of myself I most admire: Runner. But that being said, I'm going to try REALLY hard to rest and take a break if I need it. (Which is not right now, obviously, I'm only sneezing and stuffy...it might not be a cold...I have dogs...and dust. I might be reacting to those things...) And that being parenthetically said, I did run 6 miles today. I also lifted weights for the first time since I went to Florida! (Which, I don't think I ever mentioned, but I ran a little over 25 miles the week I left for Florida. So I kept up with it! I just want that to be noted.)

Sorry, I keep sidetracking. MY RUN TODAY: was hot. Of course I blatantly disregard my own advice and I run in the hottest part of the day. Kind of like how I advise rest to people who are sick and then run through my own sickness. So, I'm a hypocrite. But aren't we all?

I ran with music today which is weird for me. I feel like running with music (for long runs) is cheating, in a way. If I'm outside and I'm going farther than 3 miles, I never have music. For training purposes, I like to be able to hear my breath and be in tune with my own body and mind; for survival purposes, I like to be able to hear cars. But I know it's a preference thing--I won't judge you if I see you running with your iPod. I also never run WITHOUT music if I'm on a treadmill. But that's pretty self-explanatory--treadmills are bloody BORING.
So, I ran with music. But I kept it pretty low and I mostly ignored it to pay attention to my breathing (labored) and my form (stable). My first mile was too fast--just under an 8 minute mile. I like to think that if it wasn't 2:00 in the afternoon it might not have been too fast and I might have been able to maintain it, but I'm not sure. It probably would have been tough to do even if I ran at 7:00am. The course is challenging but it's not insane. For every uphill there is a downhill and I've already mentioned that I have no qualms with hills. I really like hills, actually. I felt really good throughout my run until halfway through my 5th mile when, I think, a physical exhaustion settled itself in my legs. Ironically, I was coming up a hill and I just couldn't speed up afterwards. (It's ironic because I just said I don't have issues with hills. I feel like I always have to explain myself if I use ironically because it's used incorrectly so often.)

So, the sun was beating down on me and I just couldn't move any faster. It took probably a quarter mile and being pushed by a downhill to make it back to my normal pace. MapMyRun told me I averaged an 8:33 pace, so I definitely slowed down after the first sub-8 mile.
I am extremely happy to report that my knee and hip didn't bother me on this run, despite running in my old shoes again. And I am also super, extremely happy to say that I bought new shoes after my workout today! When I tried them on it was like walking on a cloud. My feet will be so happy on my short run tomorrow. At least, they will be assuming I'm feeling healthy tomorrow. I'm currently at 20.58 miles for this week so I really do need to run tomorrow to keep my mileage up. There is a 5K race that I think I'm going to do tomorrow morning. (Not sure how I'll register considering I dropped all the money I have on new shoes today, but I'll figure it out. My parents like me.) Part of me thinks it really might be a good idea to rest, though. My body is feeling a little worn out. This is just a sneak-peek to the exhaustion I'm going to feel once classes start and I'm going to be wrestling with running time, homework time, other school-related commitments time, AND boyfriend/friend time.
I'll figure it out.

If I don't post tomorrow, then it can be assumed I took a break and I'll be back on Monday with another riveting long run tale! I'm running 12 on Monday for the first time! Two days of rest might be warranted due to that fact alone...
Une autre mystère d'un coureur
July 12, 2012:

MY STOMACH WON'T STOP GROWLING. I'm stuck in this awful place where I'm constantly hungry but my digestive system rejects anything I give it. I've read about this in runner's magazines...about the less-than-pleasant effects that long runs do to your stomach. I'm hopeful my body will eventually accept food after long runs, but this in between time is...uncomfortable...to say the least.

I'm definitely feeling yesterday's run. I did ab work (P90x) and a 30 minute yoga routine (Jillian Michaels DVD). Twice during yoga I thought I would be reduced to tears. Is that normal? Probably not. My right hip gives me a lot of trouble. Both do, but particularly the right. I just can't pop it. I'm sure lots of runners have hip issues, but I feel like the lighter runners (in pounds) probably struggle less because they bare less on their hips. Thinking about this makes me gloomy, then, because I would infer, of course, that maybe my weight has something to do with my aching hip. So what would be the logical solution, then? Exactly. But how am I supposed to try and drop pounds at the same time I'm managing long runs and maintaining enough calories, while I'm also I'm lifting weights and building muscle to stay strong for the years AFTER my marathon?
I ignore the growling in my stomach? Well, sure. But then you have a malnourished and passed out Stephanie. And how is that conducive to training?

My point is that I'm not trying to lose weight and I don't want to start trying. I just want to keep running and yoga-ing and weight lifting and eating healthy, like I already do. And I want my hip pain to go away. Maybe the aches in my hips AREN'T a direct result of my weight?
Sigh. Je ne sais pas. Une autre mystère d'un coureur, je pense.

That's all for today. A 6 miler is in the books for tomorrow.
The Power of the Mantra
July 11, 2012:

Today I rebelliously ignored my 6:30 alarm and slept until 9:00. I drank my coffee and I ate my waffles and I was content with perhaps skipping a long run this week and running 6s three days in a row. However, it turns out I'm friends with a lot of fit people. Or, a lot of people who like to update Facebook with their workouts and I started feeling anxious about not running. And, okay, a bit competitive, too. Plus, I couldn't waste a perfectly cloudy, overcast day, so I ran my long loop. My MapMyRun app said I was at 1.28.01 at 10 miles. Not altogether great; some room for improvement; but hey, I did it. And on a Wednesday. (There was no way I was running 10 in Florida on Monday. I can't take Florida's flatness. Gimme some hills!) Today was a perfect example of how my running is completely and totally 100% mental. Even after I DECIDE to run, there's still the whole running process--and that's when my mental strength gets work.

A few semesters ago, I had to write a string of essays in just a few days amidst studying for finals and other college obligations, so as encouragement I wrote on a sheet of paper, "You are strong. You are beautiful. You write kickass papers." I hung it above my laptop every time I sat down to write, and it actually really played with my mind...in the right way. During my run today, negative thoughts were creeping in before I even got to mile two. Knowing I had to suppress my doubtful mind if I wanted to get through it, I began repeating, over and over, "I am strong. I am beautiful. I run kickass 10.75 milers." Other modifications were inserted when necessary:
I run kickass 11 milers when the detailed 10.75 got to be too much.
I run kickass hills.
I charge kickass hills.
Then when the sun came out I changed it to, And the freaking sun's got nothing on me. This went on for at least 6 miles until I was finally able to listen to my breathing and clear my mind. Near the end, when I was hurting, I of course replaced my long mantra with the shorter:
You got this.
I got this!
I feel great.
I feel strong.
IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT? (Speaking to whatever I thought was slowing me down. Sunshine, hills, a car that nearly ran me over, etc.)
C'mon Steph. (Yes, I do call myself Steph.)
I change my pronouns depending on what I'm feeling. If I don't quite believe myself I use "you" and when I eventually buy into what I'm saying I'll use "I."
I might just be a freak, but I doubt very much that I would be able to get through these long runs without my own mental support. If you're a runner or an athlete of any type, you already know the power of the mantra. Some days it's less important than others, but when I need it, I'm always happy that I have a few in mind.

After my run I actually iced my knee! I should probably do this after every run, but my long runs in particular. It's not an awful awful pain. Just sore. I also need new running shoes, I think my current ones are a bit wore out. Unfortunately, I blew all of my money in Florida, so I'll need a few work shifts before I can make that happen! Tomorrow is a cross train day. My limbs are in DIRE need of yoga. In other news, I think a venomous ant bit me because my arm is inflamed, my left shoulder is peeling from too much Florida sun, and I had cheerios for lunch because we're out of bread.
Running with Horses
Monday, July 2, 2012:

Ahh, Mondays. Long run day! Which also results in a super long post--sorry 'bout it.
I ran 10.75 miles this morning. It took 1 hour, 31 minutes and 14 seconds. I maintained 8 min 14 sec miles for about the first 5 miles and I ended at an 8 min 29 sec pace.
Now you might be wondering, why didn't you just run the last quarter mile to get to 11, or you might just be thinking, why would you run 10.75 in the first place? Well, we know the answer to the latter--and to the former I will say: this 10.75 miles is part of a loop outside of the park where I live. I start from my deck and I stop at the LKA park sign. The final mile and a half is this awfully boring road with sneaky curves that trick me so I think I'm about to see the previously mentioned sign, but then I actually have another curve to go. So by the time I get to that DAMN sign, there's no way I'm going to run up the baby hill to my house. Plus, I'm TECHNICALLY scheduled for 10 milers on Mondays at the moment, so that extra .75 is a feat in itself. So that is why I PROUDLY put 10.75 on my calendar instead of going the extra quarter.

Some things to note about this run:
It felt SO much better than last week's run. Knowing where I'm going and how far I have is extremely helpful, mentally. Also, my wonderful mother met me at every road-change with water and Gatorade and the sips were refreshing and something to look forward to.
Waking up at 6:00 to run at 6:30 IS a good decision. And going to sleep at 8:00 the night before is, too.
HOWEVER, a little side note--getting completely intoxicated on Saturday night makes for a crummy Sunday...and it also makes it extra extra difficult to hydrate properly for the Monday long run. I drank 3 bottles of water at about 6:00 on Sunday and could NOT stop peeing until 11:00. Moral of the story, get drunk on Saturday, expect hydration to be difficult on Sunday. I had fun on Saturday, though, so I'm not complaining.
I saw some VDOT workers on the road around mile 6; one of them said I was looking fast! I liked him.
Today the furry black caterpillar had thick, horizontal red stripes! He wasn't moving...
Other animal sightings: possible hunting dog, roadkill bunny, two horses, some cows. I hate hate hate seeing roadkill. It makes my breathing panicky. I always have to look up and away if I don't want to feel nauseous. And this was a BUNNY. Poor thing. The horses made me happy, though. The two of them were startled when they saw me but as I passed them they started to run beside me within their enclosure! I began imagining myself running with horses in some prairie with high grass and a setting sun. It was a nice distraction from the actual rising sun and very hard road beneath me. The cows freaked me out a bit. One by one they would stare at me as I passed them. A particularly brutish looking cow looked like it was about to charge and I wasn't too convinced that its electric fence would prove effective if the crazy animal decided it didn't like my neon shirt and pony tail. A bit unnerving, to say the least.
My knee did okay during this run. I've had issues with my right knee since a soccer injury my senior year of high school, and I actually re-injured the same knee (playing soccer, of course) around October last year. Fairly recently I ditched the brace, but so far my knee has been cooperating! I had mild discomfort at the beginning of my run, but I'm not totally sure my drunken shenanigans on Saturday didn't have something to do with this. Funny, it turns out that alcohol only temporarily blocks pain when you knock your appendages into sides of pools and hot tubs. Whoops!
CHAFING HURTS SO BADLY WHEN WATER HITS THE RUBBED AREA. My arm band rubbed right under my arm and now I have this gross welt. When I took a shower it felt like 200 bees were pricking the area. Neosporin was applied shortly after.

I think that's all I've got! I'm super excited because I'm going to Florida tomorrow with a friend from school! I've never been. I probably won't be blogging there but I will still be running! Hopefully I can get in some 5 milers in on my normal running days (Wednesday, Friday, and next Monday). I'll be back next Tuesday! Which means long run day will more than likely be moved to Wednesday next week. So, until then, au revoir!
Furry Caterpillars
Friday, June 29, 2012:

Some observations from this morning's run:
Waiting until 11:20am to run on a day when the high is 102 is not a good decision.
The furry black caterpillar was crawling extra fast today.*
There were way more cars coming out of the park than in, making me move off the road way too often.
~~A brief interjection and announcement to cars: THE SPEED LIMIT AT LAKE ANNA STATE PARK IS TWENTY FIVE MILES PER HOUR. SLOW THE !&#@ DOWN.
Cheerios are always a great choice before a run.
Sports bra tans are hot.
As are shorts and socks tans.
Having a full-sized towel at the end of a 5 mile, super hot run is a good decision.

*I see one furry black caterpillar on every run. I doubt its the same one. On Monday I actually saw a white furry caterpillar. It might have been albino. For a while I kept seeing cardinals, but then one day I think the cardinal manifested itself into a single plot of red leaves on this tree in the park. So we're back to caterpillars. And as I mentioned before, the one I saw today was moving exceptionally fast.

So, as you can see from my observations, I did not listen to my 8am alarm and I ran in the BLAZING heat. I didn't bring a watch or my phone to clock my 5 miles because I anticipated not feeling very good. Surprisingly, though, it wasn't SO awful. I maintained my form and my pace and I got home at noon, which was about 40 minutes after I started! Holla.
I did the ab ripper (15 minute P90x routine) afterwards so that I can have abs of steel. And so I could write more than 5 miles on my calendar. I log all my workouts on a big calendar that also has my appointments and stuff, so it looks like I'm a social butterfly but I'm actually not--I just exercise a bunch.

Looking forward to a quick 3 tomorrow and resting on Sunday!
A bit masochistic
Thursday, June 28, 2012:

My first actual post about my training is not actually going to be on a running day, but a cross-train day. To give you an idea of how my weeks work, M/W/F/Sa are running days, Tu/Th are cross training days and Sunday is rest day. Everything works out so smoothly during the summer...once school starts I'm sure I'll have absolutely no structure whatsoever, but I'll clear that hurdle once I get to it.

Today was 35 minutes of Power(-esque) Yoga with Jillian Michaels and about 45 minutes of weight lifting, focusing on my legs, back, and arms. I had planned on doing ab work and swimming but a new book was calling my name and I might have lounged with that and my coffee a little later than planned.

One thing I can say about cross-training--it is absolutely essential to feeling good for my runs. Particularly when I do yoga, my hip flexors probably crack at least 15 times--not surprising considering the hips are an area that runners always have issues keeping loose. And let's face it, I definitely don't stretch long or deep enough after my runs, which is why yoga is so important for me. Even just doing it once a week, I can tell a difference. If you're reading this and you run and you've never done yoga, consider this my personal invitation to you to try it. Please.

Weight lifting is something I've actually eased off of this summer, but I still try to get in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because I do it less, I do a LOT on those two days. I've always been proud of my strength and would consider myself a strong person, gender aside.
I lift around 70 with my legs and with weight machines I probably average around 50 lbs with my arms. I only use 15 lb dumbbells for militaries and curls and things. I don't focus on adding on more weight, but rather maintaining a weight that I have to work through (but not kill myself) for 3 reps of 10.
I could list out all the nonsense I did today but I don't feel it's necessary and I'm tired.
I do think that building strength and muscle is essential to being a good runner, as well. Plus, I just feel so much better about myself when things aren't jiggling around all over the place.
The simple equation: Weight lifting = Sexy bod.

Today was one of my less enthusiastic training days, but I'm not discouraged. I know these days are part of the process. On Monday I ran my first 10 miler (I had been maintaining 8 before) which turned out to be closer to 11, and it absolutely destroyed me. I literally napped for 2 hours afterward, woke up and forced myself to eat, sat around all day, and then napped for 2.5 more hours around 4:30. THE JOYS OF RUNNING! I'm running the same loop this Monday, though, and I'm excited about it because it won't be my first time and I'll hopefully do a little better. I think we're all a bit masochistic--runners, I mean. I also think that's why runners have to cross train--it's on cross training days that I can start mentally preparing another 11 miler!

One thing I've thought to myself about a jillion times since the start of summer: running is not kind. The road is unforgiving; it will hurt me if I'm not ready and it's not going to feel one bit bad about it; I expect no apology from the road nor will I hear one. Cry, walk, fall, bleed, vomit--the road doesn't care. The road is a bitch.
But the road IS patient. It waits and hears and endures. And eventually when I am ready for it, it's ready for me--just as it's always been.

That's why I love it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012:

This is my first post to the blogging world, so hello!

I've created this blog to document my trials, errors, and (hopefully) successes as I train for the Richmond Marathon this Novemeber. My main purpose is to motivate myself by seeing how far I've come/run from now to then.

Where I'm at right now: I'm currently logging a little over 20 miles per week and I'm actually preparing for the Lynchburg Half Marathon on August 11th. I'm past the beginner stage of training but I still have a long ways to go to 26.2, which brings me to a brief explanation of the title of this post: decide.

This mantra isn't originally mine--it's the word, encouragement, and occasional kick in the butt that my high school cross country instilled in me as we plugged through countless miles. It's the short reminder that I am in control of how I'm feeling. I discovered that if I decide I'm going to pump harder, my legs are going to obey. It's the encouragement that says I'm stronger, mentally and physically, than those fleeting thoughts telling me I can't make it. For me it goes beyond running and on towards other aspects of my life--school, relationships, personal stuff. Decide. Decide to charge that hill; decide not to be psyched out; decide you're going to have a good run; decide you're going to focus on the good, not the bad. Decide to love yourself. Decide to write that kick-ass paper in a day. Whatever. Decide to do it and you can.

At least, that is what I've discovered. And now I've decided to run 26.2 miles in Richmond on November 10th. Hopefully, happily, and sometimes begrudgingly, I've decided--leggo!
Decide. Work the downs, charge the ups. 26.2. Train.
Richmond 26.2

Richmond 26.2

November 10, 2012 4:20:16
Marathon Signs!

Marathon Signs!

Probably my favorite :)
During the Race

During the Race

One of the race photographers snapped this. I look like I'm pushing through it!
13.1, anyone?

13.1, anyone?

What do you do a week after 26.2? 13.1, or course!


Richmond Marathon Finisher Medal 2012
Star City Half

Star City Half

A week after my marathon, I PRd with a time of 1:47:03 in this hilly Roanoke race!


The unique and pointy, locally-made Star City Half Marathon medal.
Running Fam

Running Fam

My uber supportive family and me at the end of my marathon.
My other fan

My other fan

The night before my 26.2 with my second family at my friend's house in Richmond.


My best friend from home came down to watch me (and our other friend) race in Richmond.
Lynchburg Half

Lynchburg Half

Mile 10 of the Lynchburg Half in August 2012
Running Friends

Running Friends

With the same bestie who came to see me in Richmond, a few months prior had just run a half with me!
I Run Richmond

I Run Richmond



Had to buy new shoes before the marathon. I only ran in them twice before the actual race!
Star City Half

Star City Half

Gotta get that bib!


The most important part of any race is the shirt you get, but what about the shirt you wear FOR the race?
Lovely PAIN

Lovely PAIN

Not sure why I'm posting this awful picture that some race photographer so kindly snapped...but man look at that calf! ;)
A 5k for one...

A 5k for one...

a 5k for all!
Good news

Good news

2nd place in my age group AND a sub-23 PR!
Star City Half

Star City Half

A race photographer shot this one. This was such a fun race!
10 miler!

10 miler!

Rock N Roll Nice 10 miler during Carnaval--so fun!
Nice 10 miler

Nice 10 miler

Medal and time :)


Donning that extra nice hardware
Nice form

Nice form

I swear the head-up look was only to prevent puking :P
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