Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sky Running

I enjoy watching Kilian run the mountains.  If you are not familiar with Kilian, his full name is Kilian Jornet Burgada.  Check out some of his videos here to be inspired.  He dominates mountain running, aka sky running, at the age of 25.  It is fascinating watching him ascend and descend different types of terrain, whether rocky, snow-covered, grassy, steep, or across a glacier.  He lopes like an antelope and climbs like a mountain goat.  It’s as if he is running on air, he is so light on his feet.  And talk about fast…He holds the record for fastest ascent and fastest combined ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro.  He jumps and leaps, racing through the sky.  It is truly beautiful to watch.  It is awe-inspiring.

This past week, my family and I went running through the terrain at the park just down from our house.  It is nothing like the locations in which Kilian runs.  The depth and breadth does not even qualify as a portion of a percent compared to the mountainous ranges of Spain, Italy, Switzerland, etc., but for beginners, it was certainly enough.  We ran, we loped, we jumped, we leaped…and what fun it was!  I felt revitalized.  I felt alive.  I felt like a kid again.  It wasn’t just fun, though, it was hard, too.  My lungs burned with the effort.  My muscles ached from the output.  I paid dearly the next two days, with calf muscles so tight, it felt like they were ripping as I walked.  It was so worth it, though.  For a moment, I felt like I was Kilian ripping across that mountain, floating through the air.

I am under no delusions.  I know I will never run at the level Kilian runs.  I know I won’t even come close.  I am too old, I am a female, and I do not have the athletic background.  In my own way, though, I will sky run—even if it is at our local park for just 15 minutes at a time, for now.  And, maybe, just maybe, I will someday have the opportunity, after putting in a lot of hard work and training, to ascend a mountain of some significant height and then make the descent, running free.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Balance is Running AND Life

Written April 22, 2013:

“Choose Something Important to Run For; Make Your Running About More Than Your Own Personal Time Goals”~Coach Caleb’s Daily Running Tips

This quote stood out to me this morning.  I’m not sure why, except that I had not previously thought about actually running for something.  I had only thought in terms of running and, in that, bettering my time and reaching my own goals.  I am still so new to the running scene.  I have run one 5k (back in 2008), but quickly got away from running because, at the time, I was quite a bit heavier and I just did not enjoy it.  It was a chore.  It was drudgery.  I hated it.  That combination does not lend itself to being successful.  If anything, it leads to a quick withdrawal from anything running related.  Since 2008 and up until about two months ago, I moved my workouts back into the gym.  I initially went back and joined some of the fitness classes.  Boring!  I climbed on the Arc Trainer and on the stationary bike.  Again, boring!  I decided it was time to get back into weight training, specifically powerlifting (I had weight trained in the past, for about two years in 2006 and 2007).  I knew I needed to put on muscle to drop anymore fat.  So, I set a goal and decided that I would lift in my first powerlifting competition in June 2013.  I trained, and I trained hard, starting back in July of 2012.  I could feel the increase in muscle.  I could see the fat dropping away.  My clothes size dropped, even though I did not drop any weight.  My body composition was changing, for the good.

As I progressed in my training, I found myself withdrawing once again.  I dreaded going to the gym (and I realized that I had dreaded it from the get-go).  I took no pleasure in working out.  It was simply a means to an end, lifting as much weight as possible in June 2013.  After several months of toying with different ideas, I made the decision to stop training for the powerlifting competition.  I decided I would weight train to weight train, for my health and well-being.  It became easier to go in and workout, though still not enjoyable.  But, that was okay at the time.  Then, in October 2012, at the tender age of 38, I learned to ride a bike.  I tried several times to learn when I was a child, but never caught on as to how to keep the bike upright.  Because I had never learned and my husband had talked about getting me out there to learn how, he challenged our then 11-year-old daughter to teach me how to ride.  It took a few days, but she taught me.  And I was hooked.  I did not have the training gear, nor the bike, to get outdoors during the winter months, so I settled for riding the stationary bike, working on form and cardio.  Still boring, yes, but better because I had a new focus and a different reason for using it indoors.  Now that it is spring, we are still waiting on our bikes, though purchasing time is drawing nigh.

In the meantime, I decided one morning, about two months ago, I wanted to go for a run.  Where the thought or desire came from, I have no idea.  I ran, for about two miles.  It felt different this time.  I felt lighter, I felt better, it was fun and enjoyable.  I felt free.  I have run nearly everyday since that time, missing only in the severest of weather and when I felt my body just needed the break.  I have steadily increased my pace and brought my time down.  I have increased my distance and my stamina.  But, I don’t want to get back to that point where I wonder why I am doing what I am doing.  I know there will be times when I question, when I wonder, but I also know that that is typically when I quit, when I allow too much questioning, too much wondering; when I push myself to the point of it being all about the PRs instead of running for the love of it.  I think that is why that quote stuck out in my mind as important.

To run for something bigger than myself, my goals, my PRs, means I am running for more than just me.  It certainly gives me something to think about, something to work towards, something to believe in.  It gives me the potential for external motivation when the internal motivation is struggling.  So long as I do not rely on that external motivation over my internal motivation, I believe running for something greater than me can help in those times of decreased internal motivation, as I work to rebuild my internal motivation, my desire to run.  Now to decide who or what I will run for outside of myself.  I have some ideas, but I will take the next few days or so to make a final decision because I think it has to be meaningful to be productive.

Addendum, written 04/23/2013:  I have put more thought into the above subject and I think balance is important.  I want to find something or someone worth running for…but I will not run solely for a cause or a person.  Then it becomes all about the cause and that can make the running a drudgery, also; a forced activity that loses it’s spontaneity and fun.  I will continue running for myself, for the fun of it, for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment.  When it’s not so pleasurable, I will dig deep and focus on the cause, whatever that focus may be.  It may even change from time to time.

On yesterday’s run, when I felt like I didn’t want to keep going because my feet were a little tired, I thought of our grandson, who has an extremely rare congenital brain degenerative disease that has kept him in a wheelchair for the last several years, and he is only 12.  The disease has resulted in his mammalian brain degenerating to the point that he cannot speak clearly, he does not have control over bodily functions, he cannot walk or crawl, he cannot write.  However, it has not affected his prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain where thought and learning occur.  He is incredibly bright, but cannot express what is inside his head.  I know he would love to be out there like other kids, running and playing.  So, I thought of him and how he would love the opportunity to run and I kept going.  Later in my run, when it became difficult again, I thought of other things, such as the sun warming my body, the clarity of the sky, the beauty of my surroundings, and I kept running.  I focused on my breathing, my foot placement, my cadence, and I kept running.  I thought about my blog, my writing, things to write about, and I kept running.  I thought of many different things, besides my pace and my goals, and I kept running.  I don’t know what my journey is all about, yet, but then, that is partly why I am writing about it.  It is just that; a journey, with surprises, unknowns, indefinites.  I’m excited to experience this journey and I can’t wait to get back out there for another run.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Reflections on my run today, my longest run to date at 5.78 miles.  I ran this distance in 1:15:24 for a pace of 13:03.  Last Thursday on my long slow distance (LSD) run, I ran 5 miles at a pace of 13:57.  Today, I was not working on my pace.  My focus was only on the distance I would put in on the course I prepared last night.  My goal right now is to increase my distance by 10% each week.  I went a little over 10%, but I handled the distance well.  I had only a couple times in which I thought I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to handle the distance, once within the first mile and once when we had to stop for traffic in the fourth mile.  It was as though my muscles hit a wall at that point and didn’t want to continue on.  I pushed through by slowing the pace just a bit until I got my legs back under me.  Then I was able to push the pace back up to where I had been before stopping and I felt fresh the rest of the way home.

I don’t know what was different about today.  I often have to fight off the belief that I can’t finish, that I’m not going to make it, that my body or my mind won’t handle it.  But, today, I didn’t have to fight through that negativity.  I felt like I could run forever today.  I felt light, my breathing was good, my heart rate was excellent, my stride felt great, my body felt strong.  I felt alive.  Don’t get me wrong; at times, I hurt; my muscles ached; my body felt fatigue on the climbs.  But, my focus was not drawn to those moments.  It was on the breaks, the reward of the descents after the climbs.  It was on the beauty of the day, the clear, blue sky, the green of the grass and trees, the quiet solitude of some of the side streets we ran.  It was on the moment, the here and now, the sheer pleasure of being outside, feeling the wind on my face and the sun on my body.  I enjoyed today.  Immensely.  Can I say that again, louder?  IMMENSELY!  This type of day plays a key role in my motivation to continue running.  I can’t wait to get out there again.

I know I will have my moments where it’s not so fun.  I have already had many.  It doesn’t matter, though, because in those not-so-fun times I have the opportunity to shift my focus from the difficult, the aches, the fatigue, to the beauty around me, to how well I am doing and how I am progressing, to how alive I feel throughout the rest of the day following my run (other than the few moments where I could lay down and take a power nap, of course!).  It’s all part of the journey, part of life.  But, these moments, these moments, make the journey so much fun and so worth it.  Oh, and, of course, the bettering my pace despite not attempting to do so.  It tells me that what I am doing is working.  My training is working and that makes it fun and worth it, too.

Knowing Thyself

Written April 19, 2013:

As I sit here in our local Barnes and Noble cafĂ©, I prepare myself to write for the second day in a row.  I ponder just what I will write about, because, frankly, I’m just not sure what it is I want to say today.  Many thoughts ramble through my head, but none seem especially enticing to investigate further.  The most prominent thoughts have had to do with running.  I ran my furthest run yesterday, at a good solid pace for me.  I averaged 13:57 per mile with a total time of 1:09:03 for five miles.  My husband and I made the choice last night to take a break from running today.  We have yet to purchase new running shoes, and our older ones are, well, older.  With wet weather coming in, having run several days in a row now, and the lack of good shoes, we decided it would be a good day to rest.

I like rest days, but I find myself missing getting out there and running, even for just a short two to three miler.  I find myself obsessing over where I am going with my running.  I want to eventually get to the point where on my long distance run day, I am out hitting the pavement for a good two hours.  Right now, that translates into about an 8 mile run.  I don’t know if my body is ready for that or, almost more importantly, if my mind is ready for that kind of distance and time.  I WANT to be ready, though.  And this is where I find myself so many times.  I get the “I wants” and then end up losing the patience to put in the time and effort to earn my way up to where I want to be.

And that, my friends, is the starting point.  I know how important it is to know how I typically respond so I can change that response.  If I don’t realize that I tend to jump the gun and want what I want when I want what I want (meaning I want it NOW), how can I ever begin to modify that response to the point that I become willing to put in the necessary time and effort to get what I want?  The short answer is, I can’t.  I am not a magician.  I don’t want to be a magician.  What fun is the journey if there is no effort?  Heck, without effort, there is no journey!  I might as well just snap my fingers and be done with it.  But what fun is that?  Not much in my book.  So, what does this mean for me?

Well, it means I am at the beginning stages of changing how I respond to running.  Instead of magically thinking that I will be running a marathon or an ultra-run any time in the near future, I will focus on what I can do, and that is run a few 5k’s here and there over the next several months.  I can set a goal to prepare myself to run a 10k next summer.  I can keep going out, running nearly everyday but taking purposefully chosen rest days to recover from my training and take just as much pleasure in those days knowing they are part of my journey.  I can also keep pushing myself mentally and physically, running shorter distances for most of the week, but increasing my foot cadence for select time periods and distances.  I may not be ready to get out there and run 10 miles.  I may not even be ready for six miles.  But I know eventually I will if I keep training and pushing myself within realistic bounds.  And, I know that if I keep in mind my tendencies, I can keep them in check and remind myself that just because something has been a tendency doesn’t mean it needs to remain a tendency.  Just like implementing a new habit takes repetitively doing over at least 21 days time, so does replacing an old thought process or tendency, though length of time will vary depending upon how ingrained the thought process or tendency is.  So, I am taking my time, I am enjoying the ride, and I am learning to be gentle with myself when I push it too hard, too far, or not nearly hard or far enough.  And, I continue learning more about myself and others as I go.  Who could ask for a better experience?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Venturing into the Blog World...Somewhere I Never Thought I'd Be

This is new and strange for me.  I have always enjoyed writing, but I never thought I would venture into the world of blogging.  Why?  Well, I’m not really sure.  I guess I have never really thought of myself as a writer, even though I wrote for my high school newspaper, was on the yearbook staff, and wrote multiple papers throughout my bachelor’s and master’s programs.  And enjoyed doing it.  I don’t know of many people who would say they enjoyed the writing they had to do in school.  I always did.  I sometimes fought with myself in the initial stages of writing, not necessarily knowing what I wanted to say, but once I got rolling, there was no stopping me.  That is true to this day.

I guess I don’t always know how to get what is in my head out onto paper, how to share my thoughts with others.  Maybe that’s because I am sharing part of me with others and I have never been very good at doing that.  The thing is, lately I find myself yearning to express myself, desiring to share my thoughts with others.  So, here I am.  Starting a blog to share something of myself.  To share my thoughts, my experiences, my story.  To share my growth, my development, my passions.

I don’t know where this journey will take me.  I don’t know that anyone will be that interested in following my journey.  Part of me wants others to want to read what I have to say.  Another part doesn’t care if anyone else reads what I write, I just want to put my thoughts down on “paper.”  Mostly, I hope that by sharing I can help even just one person find their way to being a better him or her.  I have been on a long journey to this point, trying to figure out just what I want to do with my life.  Through college, I thought I wanted to help others through counseling (my BS is in Psychology and my MA is in Professional Counseling).  I found that the counseling setting is just too restrictive.  Many times you have to refrain from saying what you really want to say because it is important to let clients draw their own conclusions.  I am much more suited to a forum in which I can share my thoughts and say what I mean, still allowing others to draw their own conclusions, but without feeling constricted.  I like to be able to point out multiple sides to a situation and help others see things from a different perspective.  I do this naturally in my workplace.  I have done it in the past in my writing—in research papers, opinion pieces, and on discussion boards.  I was always the one asking questions to get people to think outside the box.  Did I tick people off?  You betcha.  I downright made some people incredibly angry because I pushed them to think beyond their currently held beliefs.  It may not have changed their beliefs.  That’s not what I am after.  I just want people to acknowledge that maybe they don’t have all the answers.  So, maybe that’s what I am really after here.  I want to challenge others to move outside their comfort zone whether that zone falls in the area of the physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, or otherwise.

I also want to challenge myself.  One of the ways I am doing that is through this blog.  I am challenging myself to write everyday.  I may not post everyday, but I will be writing every day.  I am also challenging myself to share who I am with others.  To be supportive of others.  To encourage others.  And this is just the beginning…