Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lori's Story

Still waters run deep. Such is the case with Dirty Girls Trail Leader Lori Burt... except she doesn't sit still all that much. If she's not running up a mountain she's out hiking one somewhere. On her days off from running she loves reading, craft projects, and taking road trips around the Pacific Northwest (and Mexico) with her fiancĂ© Rob and their pup. Lori knows a ton about the Pacific Northwest, particularly when it comes to wildlife. If there's an Orca anywhere nearby she'll tell you where to spot it. She's a true endurance runner with a mean finishing kick, whom most recently completed her first 50K at Baker Lake. Lori knows a lot about running, and she's especially gifted at setting a steady and sustainable pace for those she leads... which is one of the reasons we made her a trail leader in the first place. True fact about Lori: you'll never meet a person who takes a better race picture than her. It's simply maddening for the rest of us! 
Lori's Story: By Lori Burt
Growing up, I didn’t participate in sports all that much. Though I tried soccer, volleyball and other team sports, I felt I lacked coordination. In college I participated in track and cross-country. While I enjoyed cross-country running, my coach didn’t put much effort into developing my abilities since I wasn’t his top runner.  This was so sad, because even though I enjoyed being a part of the team and the feeling that running gave me, the coach made me feel branded as a person who simply wasn’t good enough. I carried this feeling with me after college. When I would describe myself as a runner, I always added the tagline: “I just run for fun. I’m not fast.” Over the years, my running dwindled to an occasional treadmill run at the gym. 
Life happened. I got married. I got divorced. I found myself searching for new horizons. About five years ago, a colleague who was a marathon runner sparked my interest in running again. I ran a local 5k and was re-hooked on the sport, and I signed up for other events as well. Around this time I met a great man (Rob, my now fiancĂ©e) who supported my efforts and encouraged me. Even when he wasn’t participating in the events himself, he was still my number one cheerleader. 
Though I’m admittedly an introvert and don’t enjoy group dynamics too much, I found I lacked friends with common interests. With a helpful push from Rob, I joined the Dirty Girls Saturday morning trail training group. At first I felt like an outsider. Even though the group was friendly and welcoming, a lot of its members had been running with each other for a while. I found this a little intimidating. I remember worrying that I wasn’t “fast enough” to hang. But Alexa is very good at matching paces and running styles so I was partnered with a group that ran a pace that was comfortable for me. It wasn’t too long before the miles started floating by and I found I was really enjoying myself. Now I didn’t want Saturday’s to end! Rob would always ask me for a recap when I came back from my runs, and he always told me how proud he was of me.  
After the runs, the group would head out for coffee and brunch. Everyone was invited. Over coffee, I started to get to know the group leaders better. They’d draw me into conversations regarding training, running destinations, pace groups, etc. and they seemed to really respect what I had to say. One day there was no one to lead my pace group. I knew all the info, and where to go… it just took that extra step to speak up and be the one to lead. It really was a very natural progression. 
Alexa talks a lot about the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition, and she’s asked me to write about this topic. By nature I have a competitive spirit so this one is a tough one for me. Having met people from all walks of life, I remind myself often of what it takes to get to certain points. These points might be miles, jobs, marriages, anything really.  I have watched people struggle with their health personally and in my profession as a medical assistant. Being able-bodied is something I try not to take for granted. Instead of comparing or competing I try to remind myself to be thankful for what I have and what I was given. I look at others now and wonder about their own struggles. I remind myself that something that might be easy for me might not be so easy for them. And vice versa. It’s a lot more rewarding to congratulate someone on an accomplishment than to belittle them for doing less or having less.  
I truly believe the Dirty Girls/Dudes is a very welcoming group for all abilities. This group is very diverse. It’s fun meeting new people and learning about where they come from geographically and personally. Some of my best friends now are people I never would have met had I not joined this group. There is something special about runners, and trail runners especially.  We come together and accomplish these “crazy” miles. We spill information about ourselves that no other person wants to hear. We run in ridiculous weather, up and down mountains and participate in competitions to give ourselves the moniker “the dirtiest girl/dude”. Running trails is therapy.  The camaraderie that is built out there cannot be matched.  So many of life’s problems have been solved amongst those trees and on those mountaintops. You can’t imagine what a privilege it is to witness a person accomplishing something they never dreamed possible before joining this running group. Certainly the Dirty Girls has been my best running experience. I hope you'll join me on a run sometime! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Laura Council Vs. The Mountains: The Ones In Her Head & Some Real Ones Too

While I knew Laura Council for several years (she's that friendly face at QFC after all) I did not get to know her until she started coming out to our training groups. She was always on the sidelines of her very busy running family, cheering them on, helping to volunteer, and being "the mom." Turns out Laura didn't really know herself all that well either. It was a delight for both of us (and everyone in our training group) to get to know Laura Council better. This woman is so funny, smart, kind, beautiful, intelligent, creative, and oh so tough! Read on to learn how she transformed into being not just a runner, but a woman with a very strong identity who ran up 4500 feet to the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. 
Laura's Story
By Laura Council

Growing up, I did not participate in sports until the 8th grade. I wanted to be like all the popular girls who did sports or who were cheerleaders. So, having never touched a volleyball before I tried out for the volleyball team. After three days of tryouts, I got cut. While I wasn't all that upset about not making the team, what my parents said really stung. "We knew you wouldn't make the team but we let you try anyway." From this point on I was afraid to try anything. I didn't want to fail again.

After my dad passed away my sophomore year, we moved to a small town in North Dakota. When volleyball season rolled around, I was asked by the coach to come play. There were no tryouts. They just needed girls. My coach was very sweet and a great coach. After two years of playing JV, I made varsity my senior year and started every game. I was voted "most improved."

My family today has always been into sports, starting with my husband Cordell. I used to get mad going to his races. With my small babies in tow, I'd sit around and wait for him to finish. Of course, once he finished I was always very proud of him. I guess I was mad because I never took or made time for myself. I was always spending my time trying to be the best mom and wife I could be. As my kids got into sports, I made it a priority to support them in whatever way I could. I gave them the support I wished I'd had for myself growing up.

I got the running bug the year our whole family worked the Seattle Rock N Roll expo. Everyone was so excited about the race and there was tons of information about other races you could run. The one that caught my eye was called "The Princess Challenge." I LOVE Disneyland! Cordell said to me and my daughters, "If you take up running, I will send you there." We were like, "Run 13 miles? Not us!" The following year, when I watched Cordell and three out of four of our kids cross the finish line of the Rock N Roll half marathon, I started to think a lot harder about running. That spring, Cordell ran his very first Boston Marathon. It's hard to describe just what it was like to be there and be a part of this event. The cheers and tears of all the people really got to me. When Cordell finished, we both cried. I grabbed him in a hug and said, "You just ran Frickin' Boston!"

Then one day Cordell saw a posting on Facebook for a 5K/Weight Loss class. When he told me about the class, I took it personally. Truth be told, I signed up for the class only to prove to Cordell that I would fail. I went into Route 16 Running & Walking, where the class was being offered, and told my new coach "this has to be about me, not him." I was so nervous! My coach settled me down, and we headed out on our first run. I was scared to death to fail in front of all these other runners. But like my sweet volleyball coach, my running coach actually coached me and I started to relax.

The following night, inspired to see if I could improve my time, I parked at Route 16 and went out to run the same route that we'd run the night before at running class. The next thing I know, here comes Cordell with about five very fit and skinny girls from his own running group. As they passed me and sped away, I started to cry. I thought to myself, "He comes to running club to be seen with thin people."

I kept feeling sad until the day my running coach gave me a very challenging hill workout on the trails. I loved every bit of this run, and felt great... well, until I fell. But somehow I got back up and that night a fellow Dirty Girl told me I was ready and able to run a 5K. So I did run a 5K, and that "most improved" feeling I got from Volleyball came back to me in a huge way. Then I realized, "This is why my husband runs. It's not because of the skinny girls. He runs for the feeling that running gives you." It was a huge awakening.

I was starting to love the whole running group thing, and now there was talk about a race called "Orcas" or something like that. I kept hearing other runners moaning about how hard it was. At the same time they were all signing up for this race! My coach told me I should think about signing up too. I was like, "yeah, right," but then I realized the day of this race was the same day of my birthday. This didn't seem like a coincidence. I was sold.

Running he Orcas Island 25K on my birthday was pretty much like giving birth. You train for it for months. You wait. The day arrives and every emotion goes through your mind. You are worried, excited, scared, and hoping that you are ready. Well ready or not here you go. At first it's not too bad. A hill here, another hill there. Then the hills just keep on coming like contractions. Pretty soon the hills become an actual mountain. Now you're breathing really hard, swearing, sweating, and crying. Your IT Band is killing you. You want drugs! Then, the summit of Mount Constitution. You're on top of the world. Literally. The feeling you get is like being pumped through with happy drugs. Now you know it's all downhill. But it's a long downhill on a throbbing knee... an exponential ouch! But then you see it, that beautiful finish line, and there are all these beautiful people waiting for you, singing happy Happy Birthday as you run towards them.

Orcas on my birthday. Birth. Rebirth. All the time I was out there on this challenging mountain course, I kept thinking how beautiful my surroundings were, and how beautiful it was that I was a part of it all. I would do this race again in a heartbeat, and I would challenge anyone who might be thinking about attempting it to "Just do it!" I had a ton of support from my daughter Ariel who ran it with me, and kept me laughing. She had no idea what she was getting into when she signed up to be my companion during this race. She had to run up that darn mountain too. My husband finished the race before us, and then came to find us to run us in. That meant a lot. Now that it's over there are some people who still say snide things like, "You're too old to run... that's why you got hurt at Orcas." I just smile because they will never know the elation of being on the top of Mount Constitution. I didn't just climb a mountain. I ran a mountain.

These days I am grateful for the hills and mountains. I am running towards my fears, instead of running away from them. I know now that I don't have to be "skinny" to be fit and strong. Even though I don't run crazy fast like my husband, I'm a very happy runner. Running gives Cordell and I another bond. We have started running races as a family, and we try to make our running events fun-filled days with the kids. What's next for me? Getting even stronger. I want to try some of the same races I've run this past year of running, just to see how I have grown. But I'm not going to be hard on myself. I know better now. I also hope to complete a couple more of the Rainshadow Running Races (the group that puts on the Orcas Island 25K), and of course Disney!

With my girls grown up and out of my house, and my sons in high school (crazy fast guys like Cordell), I need my Dirty Girls. I don't know if this essay will inspire anyone to run, but if you have any interest and are nervous about it, come be a part of this running community. You and your fears will be in great hands. Every one one of us has wrestled with fear. After your first class it will go away. I promise you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Susan Olive Lives To Tell About Her First Year As A Runner

Headlamps, Hip Pains, Hysterectomies, Hills & Hokas
My First Year in Review as a Bona Fide Runner

By Susan Olive

 It was in the not so distant past when I would be driving along and notice that dedicated athlete, huffing away as they pounded the pavement in less than pleasant conditions.  I would always think to myself “Why on earth would they run voluntarily?”  I would become even more perplexed if it was early or really late in the day, pouring down rain, or some other typical northwest weather unpleasantry.   Yet at the very same moment, I was secretly wondering if that person could ever be me.  

So about a year ago, at the ripe old age of 46, I began entertaining the thought of running for the first time in my life.  I was trying one of those popular “Couch to 5K” training programs and was having a hard time getting past the part where it would have you run for more than a couple minutes at a time.  I hated that part.  It hurt.  My legs felt like I had lead shoes on.  Absolutely nothing about it was fun.  I dreaded the “run” portions and couldn’t wait for the “walk” portions.   I was starting to convince myself that I must not be the runner type.  

Then my good friend, Aimee (who is a long time runner) started telling me about a running class called “Dirty Girls Trail Running” that she had recently joined.  She seemed to really like it and was having a lot of fun.  I distinctly remember my first thought being, “Why would you ever pay somebody to go running with you?” ..with my second thought being, “How could running possibly be that fun?”  But she seemed genuinely enthusiastic about it.  So I thought that perhaps I should give it a try and take one last shot at seeing if there was a hidden runner inside me waiting to come out.

I proceeded to check out these so called “Dirty Girls” and wanted to see how they were managing to make running fun.  Aimee hooked me up with Coach Alexa and I took a peek at her website.    I was relieved to see that the participants were not all zero percent body fat ultra-marathoner twenty something year-olds.  There appeared to be various shapes, sizes and ages taking the classes.  And best of all, every one of them was smiling and looking like they were having the time of their lives!

I decide to go with the “beginner” 5k Wednesday night class 6 week session.  I remember my first day very well.  It was the middle of winter, the class was mid-session, and it happened to be meeting at a local track that night.  It was cold and dark, but I was prepared.  I was nervous, but excited at the same time.  I wouldn’t know anybody there, which made it a little bit out of my comfort zone.   Plus I was trying something new where I didn’t feel particularly confident in my abilities.    It also didn’t help that on my way to the class, I had called my mother to excitedly tell her about joining a 5k running class and her response was, “Are you sure you will be able to run at your weight?”.  She actually really is a sweetheart and meant well (and totally regrets that she said it to this day).  However, she said it because she had the preconception that I and many others had/have:  You need to be thin/in shape to run.  Running isn’t for overweight people.

Despite the non-vote of confidence from my dear mother, I continued to drive and went to the class.  As I approached the group in my embarrassingly clean and newly purchased first pair of real running shoes, I introduced myself and was pleased to find the people to be extremely welcoming.  My nerves started to settle down and I began to think that the worst was over.  And that’s when Coach Alexa announces that it is time to start the “warm up”.  Apparently, the warm up consists of running two laps around the track.   Wait.  Hold on a second.   Did she just say run two laps?  I thought I was here to learn HOW to run…….over a period of time!    Even the Couch to 5K lets you start out walking!  As people took off on the track, some of the lovely runners gently took me under their wing and assured me I’d be fine.   I decided to suck it up and started running alongside them, praying that I wouldn’t embarrass myself while desperately repeating “don’t pass out, don’t pass out, don’t pass out” in my head.  By the time we were done with the two lap warm up, I was completely out of breath and wondering how I could possibly survive the entire class.  But secretly, I was a little bit surprised and delighted that I actually was able to run that far and live to tell about it.    I really had no idea I had that in me.

Well, since that fateful first day of class last February, Coach Alexa and the Dirty Girls (and Dudes!)  had me hook, line and sinker.  I kept re-enrolling in the 6 week class.  By the time summer rolled around, I was adding the Saturday longer distance trail classes as well.   I even started dragging my husband along so I could share this positive experience with him.  There truly are not enough words to describe the many things that I love about this group and how it has enriched my life.   I have fallen in love with the splendor of the forest trails and appreciate exercising in the magnificence of the great outdoors.  I have met so many encouraging and inspiring people.  I am forming wonderful lasting new friendships.  I am discovering that my body can achieve things I never thought could be possible.  And last, but certainly not least, there is the amazing Coach Alexa, who has the uncanny ability to know exactly when to push you and when to pull back.  She is like a mother, mentor, best friend and your biggest cheerleader rolled into one zany, hilarious, smart, fearless, beautiful package.  

Now don’t get me wrong, the Year of Running has not been a complete bed of roses.   I did have a couple of setbacks in the beginning.  I needed a little physical therapy for a sore knee (despite what my title says, it wasn’t really hip pain -  but knee didn’t work as well into the title’s alliteration). Then there was the unexpected hysterectomy surgery in July that set me back 6 weeks.   However, I surprised myself by not using either one of them as an excuse to give up.  I found myself being determined to recover as quickly as possible so that I could get back to running again. I found out that I actually missed it!

I also feel I must disclose that I haven’t broken any speed records and I’m certainly not running any marathons.   I do enjoy a nice kind pace (Alexa doesn’t like us to use the word slow).    She has taught me that it is not a failure if you need to walk for part of your run.   She has shown me how to listen to my body and know when I need to rest and when I need to push a little harder.    My original goal was to just be able to do 5ks, but I just did a 15k recently and hope to complete a 25K in May.

I recently find myself wanting to branch out just a little bit more and test the running waters.  I want to push myself just a little bit harder.  I attribute a lot of this to Alexa’s recent ingenious “Diehard Challenge” (and perhaps my recent induction into the Hoka Cult) .  The Diehard Challenge was created to help encourage us all to continue our outdoor running during the winter months.  The worse the weather/conditions, the more points you earn.   Now I’m excited when I find out my run is going to be on a dark, cold morning with sideways rain and howling wind.  More challenge points! I’m even getting up on Tuesdays at 5 a.m. to run in the middle of the dark cougar populated forest with a bunch of headlamp wearing “Dirty Before Dawn”, diehard girls/dudes before work…and I love every minute of it!  All of a sudden I find myself starting to feel more confident about my running and wanting to see what else I am capable of. 

Recently I ran a 5k for time.  It was a course I ran in November where I was just happy to have been able to finish the race without walking.  Now I wanted to see if I could step it up.  I wanted to see if I could sustain, what for me is, an uncomfortable pace.  It wasn’t my prettiest of runs.  My legs felt like lead for most of it and the least bit of incline was a struggle.   I couldn’t even talk to my friend running alongside me because I had to concentrate on my breathing or I thought for sure I would pass out!  My friend was a great encourager and helped pace me and inspire me to keep pushing along.   As we rounded the final corner and dramatically increased our speed towards the finish line, I started to feel a new exhilaration that I hadn’t experienced ever before.  When we crossed that finish line and I knew I had gotten my PR, I couldn’t help but burst into tears.  I was on cloud nine!

I am proud to see how far I have come in this last year, and am eager to see what this coming year has in store.    I look forward to all the fun races & running trips planned with a remarkable group of people and the cherished friends I have made.  I look forward to seeing what challenges I will face and how I will overcome them.  I look forward to continue working on conquering those hills and see if I really can pick up the pace a little.  Heck, maybe I could even pick up the pace AND talk at the same time?!

In December our Dirty Before Dawn  group ran the Narrows Bridge at 5am on Christmas Eve.  Cars were honking as we ran in our Christmas tutus, Santa hats and jingle bells.  It was then that it occurred to me that now I am “one of those runner people”.  The ones that people drive by and think, “Why on earth is she running at this time of the morning?!”  

It took me awhile to feel comfortable describing myself as “runner”.    Not only am I now a bona fide runner…. I’m a crazy early in the morning, out in the dark pouring rain kind of runner!   I had no idea it had been sitting there inside me for 46 years, patiently waiting for a chance to come out and play.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Essay Consequence: Marcel Warren

Meet Marcel Warren, aged 13. Marcel has been coming to my running classes for approximately a year now. A Lacrosse player and goalie and a natural athlete, Marcel has been adding distance running to his training regime. Currently he's a part of my teen training groups and my Saturday Half Marathon Training Group. He makes us grown-ups feel a little sick because he makes running look so very effortless and easy. He likes to run a short ways ahead. We'll see him at the junctions waiting for us. Then, just when we think maybe we'll be getting a break he goes bounding off, and we are left to try to catch him. If all goes according to plan, Marcel will be taking on his very first half-marathon at the end of September, the Race For A Soldier Half Marathon. Recently he ran his first trail 10K, on the Wildwood Trail in Portland. He finished 4th in the age 13 to 19 division. Not too shabby. His intelligence is off the charts. His humor is quirky. Once he threatened to sue me. Thank goodness for those waivers. Another time, when I was flattering myself by trying to keep up with him in the woods (i.e. I was using him for a workout), he broke into a walk.

"What are you doing?" I gasped. "Why are we walking?"

"You're breathing too hard," he replied. "You need to take a break."

I comforted myself with the thought that at least the kid is listening to everything I teach.

Marcel is one of the gang on Saturdays, and we feel bummed when he's not there. His energy is infectious. Though he has yet to tell me this, and though he may never admit to it this is a kid who runs with pure joy. A very picky eater, Marcel has been known to under-eat in spite of his mother's heroic efforts. So guess what? Marcel's essay consequence is on the importance of running and nutrition.

Marcel's Essay
By Marcel Warren
When you are running, especially long distances, you need to have very good nutrition. Nutrition is very important because it gives you energy. The energy will help you in every way with speed and endurance. Also, if you eat right after 30 minutes, you will recover from your run extremely fast. 

Not eating nutritiously can lead to serious problems. If you are running a long distance, lots of carbs are needed, and also some good fats. Protein is definitely needed if you want to have big muscles, and to re-grow your muscles after a run. Protein is not really for energy, although you still need a lot of it. 

A week before a big run you need to eat almost twice what you normally eat so you will have tons of energy for the race. You also have to drink a ton. Now, on the day of the race, the time of the race will determine what you eat. The first meal should be something simple like a bowl of cereal. The meal after needs to be a lot of food so that you don’t have an energy crash later. During the run, you need lots of carbs. LOTS. If you don’t fuel with carbs, you will not finish the long race. Also protein and electrolytes are good too. If you're out of energy, feeling sick, breathing hard, being passed by people you already passed, you should eat. If you hallucinate, call 911 and get off of the drugs.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Tale Of Two Runs: By David Grear

A Tale of Two Runs
By David Grear 

IT WAS THE BEST OF RUNS, it was the worst of runs, it was the run of wisdom, it was the run of foolishness, it was the run of belief, it was the run of incredulity, it was the run of Light, it was the run of Darkness, it was the run of hope, it was the run of despair…  It’s not often running moves me to paraphrase classic literature.  That’s especially true when you consider that in my youth all of my book reports on the classics were actually book reports on the Cliff’s Notes of the classics (if you are under thirty ask your parents about Cliff’s Notes).  But I digress; my academic laziness is really not the point here.

I run with a training group on Saturday mornings that targets longer distance races, half marathons and up.  Our group run on Saturday is intended to be our long run of the week.  Ideally we form groups in which the members are similar in some combination of pace, energy level, stage of training, experience, and desire to be running on a given Saturday morning.  These groups tend to change a bit from week to week but in general we go in knowing who we are the most comfortable running with.  This allows us to run at a conversational pace, which is what coach Alexa so fervently desires for our long runs.  It is also a chance to connect with other runners and build community when we aren’t gasping for breath during a tempo, speed, or hill workout.  In other words we can talk and catch up.  That was exactly what I was looking for last Saturday, a chance to hang out with my training group, catch up, run at an easy pace, and log some quality miles on the trails.  That’s not what I got.

Our group is primarily women with a few token men thrown in the mix.  That’s not a statement about the ability of the group; these ladies are tough, dedicated, and QUICK!  I generally run with the kindest paced, or middle paced group.  For some reason, I think it had to do with some "boy talk" on the group drive to the trailhead, Alexa sent me out with the other two guys in our group.  I have enormous respect for these two men, in fact they are running role models for me and I aspire to achieve their ability someday.  Someday being the operative word.  Not today and certainly not last Saturday!  They have a comfortable pace that is easily 2 minutes a mile quicker than mine.  I knew in less than a half mile that I was in over my head.  My mind and body told me I should thank the guys for the warm up and double back and rejoin my usual group.  But I have discovered a new force that can act to undermine my running.  Pride.  I was proud to have been sent out with runners I look up to.  I was proud that I was holding my own even though I knew they were holding back so as not to lose me.  I was TOO proud to rejoin the other group and admit that I couldn’t keep up.  So I kept running. 

This trail system was brand new to me so as the miles ticked by it was becoming less likely that I would be able to find my way back to the main group or the cars.  So now, not only was I expending energy at an unsustainable rate I was in danger of getting lost if I fell behind.  That would have been another assault on my pride if my fellow runners had had to send out a search party.  So I kept running.

The other guys were very kind to me.  They both at different times asked how I was doing.  My pride answered, “Doing great”.  They were also very encouraging, telling me I was impressing them by keeping up.  This just fed my pride even though all the empirical evidence said I should stop.  So I kept running. Mercifully we reached our turn around point.  I had paid enough attention to the turns that I thought I had a reasonable chance of getting back to the trailhead unassisted.  I was tired and feeling quite defeated.  Especially with the realization that this was the halfway point!  My pride had cost me my energy reserves, conversation time with my training buddies, the ability to truly take in and enjoy a new trail system, and finally, ironically, it cost me my pride.  So I quit running.

That’s right, I quit running.  With half the run left I was forced to stop, and let the guys go on without me.  I didn’t present it as quitting of course (maybe some of my pride was hanging around).  I told them that I sensed they wanted to pick up the pace, and that I was confident I could find my way back, and that I didn’t want to hold them back so they should go ahead without me.  Truthfully I couldn’t have run another step with them.  I was done.  I was tired. I was cranky. I didn’t want to play anymore. 

After they were out of sight I was seething.  I certainly wasn’t upset with them or Alexa for sending me, I was furious at myself.   Because I KNEW what I had just done to myself.  I have spent the better part of a year learning how to train smarter, how to listen to my body, how to keep unhealthy competition at bay, that to race fast you have to train slower.  And I threw it all away so I could be proud of myself for a short time.  In the end I got the opposite of what I wanted.  While I wanted a nice relaxing run with friends, I got a stressful run/walk back to the car alone.  Pride certainly does goeth before a fall.

Had this been the end of my weekend running I would probably still have been in a very negative place two to three weeks later.  Fortunately the weekend was far from over.  Sunday I received a text from Alexa asking if I wanted to run with her at yet another new to me trail.  Considering how I was feeling about the day before my knee jerk reaction was to decline and site tired legs or some other excuse.  I presented the text to my wife fully expecting that she’d rather I didn’t run two days in a row on the weekend and spend some time with the family.  She, never ceasing to surprise me, thought it was a good idea and encouraged me to go.  So I did.  Reluctantly, unconfident, still a bit defeated.

When I met Alexa she told me that this was not a training session and she was not in coach mode. It was to be simply friends running the trails.  Almost immediately my apprehension subsided.  We started off nice and easy.  Taking in the scenery, chatting, and generally enjoying a oneness with nature that is why so many of us love running trails.  With my pride out of the way I was able to relax and just let my legs go.  The running was almost effortless.  Not to say there weren’t times we were working hard but for some reason the perceived effort was less. 

The contrast with the day before was startling.  I was running with a partner who was running a similar pace with similar expectations and it made all the difference in the world.  The miles melted away and before I knew it we were back to the car.  Never was there a feeling of exasperation or dread that we were only x number of miles into the run.  In fact I almost didn’t care how many miles we were doing because we were well within our aerobic threshold, in fact with the exception of one hill climb we never really even flirted with it.  I felt like we stayed right where we were supposed to for a healthy long run.  In contrast to the previous day I didn’t feel like I was dragging myself back to the car thankful to be finished.  Rather I got back feeling like I had run plenty, but at the same time feeling like I could have done more and desiring more almost as soon as I got in the car.  I think that’s how long runs should feel when they are finished.  So with a lesson about pride learned both in the pain of a less than successful run and the euphoria of a run that was all I wanted it to be and more, I’ll keep running.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Susan Olive's Essay Consequence

Do you see that beautiful woman in the picture above, her hands thrown up in surrender? This is Susan Olive, one of my newer runners and a real inspiration to me and countless others! One of the great things about Susan is that the moment you meet her you feel like you've known her forever. You'd trust her with your life and your dirtiest secrets. This very special lady is also a breast cancer survivor. Like pretty much every woman I know, she struggles with how she feels about her body. Body image issues are particular close to my own heart, since in my teens and twenties I struggled with anorexia and bulimia. You might say I have an internal radar for women who are afflicted with the body-dissatisfaction gene! On a recent run, I listened to Susan make a number of harsh remarks about her body--which broke my heart, since she is so very beautiful and dear. As a coach, I understand just how much negative self talk can affect how you feel about your running and can limit your progress. To help Susan realize just how awesome she is, I assigned her the following essay. Look for her soon, strutting her stuff down the catwalk! This lady has the goods!

Running at the Mouth

By Susan Olive

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  

“She assigns essays for punishment," I was told.  

“She made me write an essay for complaining last class," they whispered.  

I had figured she’d cut me some “newbie slack”.  I was wrong.

So here I am, only 4 weeks after joining Alexa’s 5k/10k running class, and I’m writing my “punishment essay”.  I suppose I deserve it.  No, I know I deserve it.  To be fair, she assigns these essays not really for “punishment”, but more to help the offender self reflect and work through something that may be holding them back physically and/or mentally.  Alexa figured me out right away.  I use humor a lot.  It’s a significant part of my personality.  I would like to think that I always use it appropriately and that I’m universally hilarious to all audiences, but I know it’s not the case.  (I admit I get some eye rolling, or worse, the blank stares).  I also might be a little overly sarcastic and self deprecating with my humor.  And that’s what got me into trouble.

I am currently at the heaviest weight I have ever been in my life.  I reluctantly admit, even heavier than the day I gave birth to our son.  I like to imagine that I’m still just hanging on to that pregnancy weight, but considering our “baby” is now an 18 year old college student, nobody’s buying it.  So four weeks ago I join Alexa's 5k running class.  There are many reasons why I joined.  Alexa’s classes came highly recommended, and it sounded like a good way to meet some new people. Plus, I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of being a “runner”…and, of course, I thought that maybe running would help me get back to a healthier weight. Flash forward a few weeks, and I am absolutely loving the class and doing so much better with running than I ever imagined I could.  However, Alexa is noticing that I point out, poke fun of, and joke about my weight/body a little bit too much for her liking.  She apparently decides that I need some tough love and proceeds to dole out the dreaded “punishment essay”.  It’s a doozy.  I have to write an essay on what I like about my body. You would think that would have gotten me to immediately shut up and stop with the jokes.  Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because a couple of self-deprecating jabs later she assigned me the second part of my essay.  Now, in addition I also have to write about the dangers of negative self talk. Damn, she’s good.    

I decide to take this assignment seriously and start really thinking about why I publicly poke fun of my body/weight.  After a little self reflection, I’m supposing it’s because I am uncomfortable, embarrassed, and maybe a little ashamed of my current size. I joke because I want people to laugh with me and not at me. Perhaps I do the public joking to address my size and have it be out in the open.  Like I’m pointing out the elephant in the room - figuratively and literally!  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, Alexa. Please don’t assign me another essay!)   Clearly I’m dealing with a couple of different but related issues here.  I’m belittling myself AND I’m not embracing my body in its current state.  Intellectually, I understand the dangers of constantly putting myself down and making negative jokes about my body.  Being negative, even if I’m “joking”, is putting out negative energy.  It’s not helping me to move forward on this issue, and it’s not helping me to feel good about myself.  It’s common knowledge that positive thinking is beneficial to the spiritual and physical self.  I’ve read the books.  I watch Oprah.  I really do tend to be a pretty optimistic person, I swear! But I can work on giving myself more pats on the back.  I will work on cutting back the negative thoughts/jokes at my expense.  The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Now comes the hard part.  What do I like about my body? Sigh. Like so many people, I’ve had my ups and downs with my weight.  It’s been awhile, but I have had some good bikini days here and there.  Although I have to admit I never ever remember being 100% satisfied with my body. I suppose only a lucky few people get to 100%.  A quick trip to Google comes up with a 2011 poll from Glamour Magazine that reported 97% of women experience “I hate my body thoughts” on a daily basis. That’s a depressing statistic.   I can honestly say I’ve never hated my body. I’m usually just not happy with it.  I recently found one of those memes that sums it up pretty well, “I wish I was as thin as I was when I thought I was fat”.  That’s so me.  Two years ago I had gotten down (once again) to a comfortable weight, was exercising regularly and starting to feel really proud of my body again. Then I was blindsided with invasive breast cancer at age 43. Four surgeries, two years into a five year sentence of endocrine therapy, and an additional 40 pounds later, here I am.  I could play my “cancer card” and blame it for all the weight gain, which I would happily do if I was actually making an honest effort and not stuffing my face. But I don’t want to search for excuses.  I know exactly how to get to and maintain a healthy weigh--I am just having trouble following through again.

How on earth do I stop this vicious cycle?!  And if I don’t…how do I accept and embrace my current body/size?  Honestly, I don’t want to accept it.  I really don’t.   And it’s not just about the size (though it does annoy me to not be able to wear 1/2 of the clothes in my closet).  It’s about eating smarter and making better choices.  When I’m eating right (which usually results in a healthier weight) I feel better, I have more energy, my cholesterol is down, my blood pressure is good,  I feel more confident and strong.   I also know that eating right and being a healthy weight will decrease my unfortunately real chances of a breast cancer recurrence.  You think that alone would motivate me!    I’m thinking I need to (excuse my French) “shit or get off the pot”.  Put my money (not the brownie) where my mouth is.  Quit with the self abusing jokes and excuses and make a serious effort to eat healthier and get the weight off.  But if I’m not able/ready/willing to do that right now, then I need to learn to suck it up (and in),  live with it, and accept that this is who I am today, and that’s okay….for now. How does that saying go?  Have the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

So here I am thinking that I’m ready to wrap this essay up and that “this wasn’t so bad”, when I realize that I never did answer “What do I like about my body”.  Ugh.  Hmmmm…. Errrrrr….Well…. I do have decent looking feet.  My nose is certainly a respectable size.  I’ve never ever once complained about my earlobes.  I have admired my thumbs on occasion.  My elbows have never caused me any kind of embarrassment.  Admittedly, in the right outfit and a good pair of spanx, I will look in the mirror and think, “I’ve still got it”.  I don’t like to brag, but this was recently confirmed to me by some very playful winks and flirtatious smiles from members of the opposite sex.  Granted, they were near sighted residents of my father’s retirement home, but still.

I better stop before I get in trouble again.

Seriously, this “punishment” has been a very good exercise in self awareness.  It has made me really think about how I am presenting myself to others (and to myself), and why I should change that.  My body and I have been through a lot.  I think that I need to give it a little more respect for hanging in there and not giving up on me.  I need to stop constantly poking fun of it and treat it a little kinder and gentler, physically and mentally. And I need to focus more on the positive and work on quashing those negative thoughts no matter how well I think they fit into a great punchline.

Huh.  I thought that I had just joined a “running” class. I can already see that it’s going to be so much more than that. Me and my magnificent earlobes are looking forward to finding out what else we will discover as we travel down Alexa’s road.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tammy Brooks Tries Something New And Lives To Tell The Tale!

Tammy Brooks is a regular at Momentum Mondays, a class I lovingly refer to as being full of "grown-up juvenile delinquents". Tammy is our token good girl, and we love to tell her how perfect she is. She is the embodiment of patience, joy, and balance. She knows when to push herself and when to run at a conservative pace (unlike the rest of those hoodlums who grin wickedly when their coach pulls her hair at their "too-brisk for their own good" times) Tonight Tammy even showed up wearing an all-white jacket, which makes her an angel in my book! But secretly, she gets a kick out of hanging out with the trouble-makers--the ones like David Grear, and Kelly Alsin, and Lori Lynch whom are always running their workouts to fast and muttering snarky things about their coach under their breath! And lately, though she won't fess up, Tammy has even been ENABLING their bad behavior! Tammy, we love you. You truly define what it means to be a "self actualized runner!" That is the highest form of runner there is!

Tammy's Long Training Run In March (Aka the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon!)
By Tammy Brooks
Let me start my essay with a qualifier. For me, running on the other side of fifty isn't something I over think, so writing an essay makes me sort of chuckle. Honestly, I am content to lace up my Brooks running shoes, go outside and run happy. I head out the door with no running goal, no garmin and honestly no pressure. Just so you know, when Coach Alexa instituted a ban on running watches for the month of January, I concealed my grin and silently whispered my gratitude. The good news is that I am a compliant soul so I do put forth effort on Monday nights. Yes I am grateful for the hills once I get home and soak in the hot tub. Yes I am a stronger runner when I focus on my alignment and my breathing. Yes, I am inspired by the dedicated runners who show up every Monday with a positive attitude, good work ethic and words of encouragement for everyone in the group. Still, I am content and complacent in my own running nirvana. So why would I add on the stress of a half marathon in March when I can show up at the waterfront on Saturday morning, run with my girlfriends, and then slurp down a 16 ounce peanut butter-espresso yogoccino with no remorse? 

For the record March is way too early for a half marathon if you agree with my "run happy" way of thinking. When Alexa suggested that I sign up for Lake Sammamish and use it as  a "long training run", I was stuck on how to respond. I don't mind  a long run but I am not super motivated to wrap a timing band around my running shoes and steadily pace myself for 13.1 miles. I was caught off guard though, and Lake Sammamish seemed reasonable so I signed up. A few days later, the runner's registration remorse creeped in. I wasn't entirely confident that I could pin on a racing bib, ignore the timing band, and really treat it as a training run. Why was it, then, that I registered for this half marathon?

Well I will admit that I like showing up on Mondays to hear the weekend running anecdotes. There is also something motivating about joining the crowd and getting through the challenge.  The goal for me is learning how to join the crowd and still keep a reasonable pace.  Saturday was the perfect day to go out for a "long training run" along side 1700 runners. Who knew that in early March we would hit a sunny morning and enjoy such spectacular views along the lake? I managed to keep a steady pace, and I didn't give the timing band or the mile markers any consideration. Even better, I was running with two of my favorite people who were content to just be in the moment and run. So was there an "aha" moment at Lake Sammamish? Yep there was. (Keep in mind if I answer no, Alexa will make me rewrite the essay!) The payoff came near the end of the race. I finished Lake Sammamish feeling  relaxed and strong. The long training run was all about finding my own pace and being content to stay in the moment. I wasn't searching for the finish and it came sooner than I expected. This is a great lesson for any run of any distance. What are my plans for next Saturday? I will be running with my girlfriends and slurping on a 16 ounce yogoccino!