197 miles

Going the Distance

The other day I went to visit my friend Star, who used to be my neighbor before I moved in with Michael (about 4 years ago). On the way home I stopped by the nearby library to return some books and I had a very distinct memory about when I used to live in that neighborhood and I went to the library all the time. My apartment was about a mile away from the library and when I was 250 pounds I always drove. I could have walked but never did. It seemed so far away.

I remember when I started losing weight and getting more active, I decided I was going to ride my bike to the library. It was my old childhood mountain bike (that was all I had) and I remember the feeling of nervousness and anxiety I had about biking all the way to the library to return my books. It was only a mile but it still seemed far away. Once I got on the bike and did it, it wasn’t that far and I realized how perspective changes.

Once I got more active, distance didn’t seem so overwhelming. Running my first 5k seemed really hard and I wasn’t sure I could make it. Then I did. And then I ran an 8k. Once I got into cycling with Michael and started doing longer distances, I biked the Reach the Beach ride (55 miles) and then there was a dramatic shift. Instead of being intimidated and overwhelmed by big numbers, I flipped to the complete opposite and had a feeling of being INVINCIBLE! I could do anything!!!

yay

So I signed up to run Hood to Coast (just a little 197 mile race) and to bike the Portland Century (100 miles). It was crazy! I thought I could totally do humongous distances like that. And in a way I could. I trained really hard all summer long and once the Century came to be, I successfully biked 72 miles (wasn’t quite ready for the 100) and recovered beautifully. Isn’t it funny how that changes?

hoodtocoastrun

Doing those two long distance events changed my mindset. I started looking at other events with disdain–why would I go back and run a 5k when I did Hood to Coast? Why would I sign up to bike a 40 mile event when I already did 72 miles? It felt like a step backwards and I kept setting my sights on bigger and better things. Despite an injury that set me back (IT Band), I never felt discouraged or like I wouldn’t be back to doing long distance events. Well, long distance for me.

Last summer I was biking to work a lot and my weekly mileage was up to 60-80 miles depending on whether or not my stupid bike tires got a flat (I was cursed last year). Whenever coworkers found out my roundtrip bike ride to work was 25 miles their eyes always widened in shock and dismay. “WOW! That’s so far!” It didn’t feel far. It seemed small to me.

Now? Now that I’ve been dealing with my stupid knee issues since October, I am back to feeling like distances are really far away. The first few months of the bad knee flare-ups, I was wary about whether I could walk two blocks without being in pain and not being able to get back. Whenever I have good weeks with my injury, I try and bike or run. The other day at the gym I ran almost 3/4 of a mile and I was so happy! It was a short distance but it was SOMETHING. When I was able to do that 12 mile bike ride, I was ecstatic! It was better than nothing!

It’s crazy how perspective changes and evolves. I hope that someday soon I can get back to striving for bigger and better things and not feel as restricted as I do now.

Running is Hard

One of the things I’ve needed to remind myself of post-injury is the fact that RUNNING IS HARD. Running HURTS.

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Running HURTS. You will push yourself to the brink and then run a little further.  The funny thing about running is that it is often difficult to distinguish between legitimate pain (i.e. injury) and just the discomfort of pushing ourselves hard. For me I knew immediately when I was truly injured. It felt different than the normal aches and pains of running.

Running CHALLENGES. Once you reach a goal, there’s always another goal not far behind it. At first my goal was to run without walking or stopping. Then it was running a certain distance, then it was running a certain distance within a certain amount of time. Then the goal was racing. The challenges and goals were always evolving.

Running is MENTAL. I will think a million times during a run “I can’t do this” and “I want to stop! I can’t make it to the finish!” but most of the time it’s all in my head. It’s a mental block, something in me telling me I CAN’T when I know I CAN. I often tricked myself when I was running and starting to feel that mental block creeping into my thoughts. I would tell myself “One More Mile” or “Just run to that lamppost down the street and then you can walk” and most of the time by I got to that lamppost I had gotten over that mental block and kept running.

Running can be INCONSISTENT. Sometimes the food I ate the night before makes a difference. Sometimes the snack I eat right before the run can really effect my run. Weather, clothing, moods, everything can effect the performance of a runner. The important thing to remember is that not every run is going to be great. There will be ugly runs, slow runs, fast runs, great runs.

Running is NOT FREE. Sure, in theory it could be a super cheap form of exercise. In reality it’s not. Don’t make the mistake of skimping on the gear. Get fitted for running shoes at a real running store. It makes a huge difference for comfort and injury prevention. I am so serious about this one. Pay the extra money for good shoes. Same with socks. Don’t wear cheapo socks that will give you blisters. I like Smart Wool (available at REI, Nordstroms and online) and have never had blisters when I use those running socks.

Running is WORTH IT. The pain sucks. Sometimes it’s really sucky. When you’re running and tired and your legs are burning and your brain tells you you can’t make it, you wonder if it’s worth it. Is it worth it? Totally. Hood to Coast hurt. It was brutal and a lot of it was miserable. I don’t regret doing it at all. Would I do that particular race again? No. But I am happy I did it!

Running isn’t COMPARABLE. Stop comparing yourself to other runners. One thing my running injury taught me was to stop comparing myself to other runners, other bloggers. There will always be people faster than me, or slower than me. If I run a race, I’m a runner–whether I cross the line first or last.  Just because I’m not running a marathon every weekend or continually training for some race doesn’t mean I’m not a runner. I’m more than a runner. I’m a swimmer, biker, hiker, walker, weight lifter. All of those things make me a stronger runner.

“When all else fails, start running!”

-Dean Karnazes

QUESTION: In what way is running hard for you?