I am tired of fitness memes. I’m guilty of posting them in the past, but I’ve been thinking about them lately and I just don’t get it. The whole, “Get up and workout and you’re going to look like this (airbrushed or not) fitness model,” idea is BS. I mean, really. Sure, I want to look good in a bathing suit as much as the next person, but I want to look like ME. Also, I like living life to the fullest. I used to say often, “Everyday is a party.” I didn’t mean go out and get smashed and act silly, but just enjoy life fully – live it up. You can be healthy and happy and workout and run and eat good foods and watch TV and movies and sit and relax sometimes and sleep in late and enjoy good beer/wine/cocktails if you wish, and be absolutely beautiful. You don’t have to “KILL YOUR WORKOUT” everyday. Let’s be real, even the most dedicated athletes have off days where going through the motions is all we have in us. What’s important is to be honest with yourself about your goals and the work you have to do to get there. My goals are to feel great everyday and to run well. So, instead of posting a MONDAY MOTIVATION MEME of some chic I’m never, ever gonna meet and never going to look like, I’m going to post a pic of me from last weekend’s Traprock 50k. A race where I felt AWESOME, ran smart and had a blast enjoying our beautiful Earth and the company of other trail runners. Today, get out there today, get it done, love life and love your fellow inhabitants on this earth – human and otherwise. Make today a party. ♥ Jen
Until this morning, everything since Monday afternoon has sort of been a blur. I haven’t been able to focus on work. I haven’t been able to sit down and write the race reports for the two 50ks I ran the days before the bombing. I really haven’t been able to focus on much of anything except what happened Monday afternoon around 2:50pm.
Today I awoke well rested – finally – and committed to living in the present and being thankful today. The events of Monday will continue to haunt me for some time I’m sure. I was about 2 blocks from the bombing — just .5 miles from the finish line. It had been an amazing morning from the moment the alarm went off. It all started as I sleepily but with such excitement, sipped on my spiked coffee (I had run 2 50ks in the days prior and told my boyfriend that the only way I was waking up before 4am AGAIN was if he poured a little Bailey’s in my coffee) on the way to the Battle of Lexington reenactment. Ken’s coworkers said we should go since we are about to move. We enjoyed the reenactment as much as one can when sleepy and cold, and then headed back to Boston. Ken cooked me a delicious egg scramble with veggies and salmon and avocado. We enjoyed each other’s company and then biked over to the Boston Beer Works for a beer with some of his co-workers before hopping on the bikes again to head to the spot we would watch the marathon right around the corner of Hereford and Comm Ave.
We arrived there around 10:30 or 11 and set up our space along with our friends, Luciana, Kevin, and Buggy. As the handcyclists whirred by, I was down on the blanket scratching away at signs for each of our friends who would be running that day. I would look up and scream, “Woohoo!” and “Way to go!”, completely impressed by their strength and speed. I finished the signs, and nuzzled in between Luciana and a little girl about 7 years old, whose parents were behind us. She was enthralled with the race and I enjoyed watching her cheer. I was greatly anticipating the elite women and was so excited to see Shalene and Kara run by. I cheered and snapped picks, proud of the American women’s display, even though they weren’t winning.
Later I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson finishing up her race that will go down as an age group record. I also saw Dean Karnazes run right by. Then so many more runners. The faces of many marathoners are complicated. I like looking at them. I can relate — I know I have been on similar journeys. So many faces full of pain, joy, and triumph all at once. They were only a half mile away from the finish. They had done it. Post-race plans were about to come to fruition. Hugs, high-fives, well-earned beers and burgers were just around the corner. My friends went by. I waved signs and jumped up and down and was so excited to see Adrian and Bethany glide past on their way to the finish line. I looked for but missed my friends Justin and Mary.
As I continued to watch, interesting, 3-5 second stories unfolded in facial expressions and strides. There were two masters runners who ran by and right before taking the turn onto Hereford the one in front by only a few strides turned back, saw his competitor behind him, smiled a smile that said, “Damn it, I thought I’d lost him.” He proceeded to turn it up a notch and for the next several minutes I wondered who would win that race. Then, a bit later, there was was another Master’s runner who stood out. I leaned over to one of my friends and commented on his age on the back of his Masters bib – 78. He was moving along and looked strong. I noticed his hair, all askew and longer in some places than others telling me day-to-day he had a combover, but a style like that didn’t stand a chance after 26 miles. I commented that I hoped I was still running like him when I was his age.
I continued to look for a couple more of my friends who I was expecting to see any minute. Then, the first bomb. The moment the first bomb went off Ken, and our friend Adrian, who had finished the race and walked over to meet us, and I all looked at each other, then looked to the sky. It sounded eerily like thunder from above, but it wasn’t cloudy and we all knew that wasn’t it. Then, the second blast. Those weren’t cannon blasts from some sort of Patriot’s Day event. Not thunder. I said the word we were all thinking – bomb. Ken said not yet, not to say that yet, we didn’t know. He was right, but I knew. I guess we all did. I had never heard anything quite like it. I’d never felt anything like it either. It went through me. In those seconds after the second bombing, I scoured twitter, watched police officers huddle, each with one hand on their weapon and their other hand over ear learning what had happened. A faint smell of smoke drifted into our space. Then, a female police officer ran into street. She commanded that everyone get behind the barricades, off the race course. Some runners went around her. I mean, they were .5 miles from the finish and I probably would have done the same thing. Those who went around were stopped by others and the number of those who stalled upon command, unknowing of the misfortune they missed by only minutes, began growing.
We gathered up our things, the posters I worked on for nearly an hour crinkled up and stuffed into a nearby trash can as we walked toward the Mass Avenue bridge to cross back over into Cambridge where we live. As we walked, we tried to call friends and family. Often our calls were met with that frustrating automated tone and voice informing us that our calls couldn’t be completed as dialed. We quickly got word that the friends who had been with us earlier in the day were okay. We continued to walk quickly home, checking behind us again and again, talking to family when we got through. I only got one call through and it was to my grandma. I just said, “I’m okay. I can’t talk more now, but if you’re watching the news I don’t want you to be worried. I’m okay. We’re okay.” I hung up. After that, I wouldn’t get a call through for hours.
A group of friends who had taken the train into the city, along with Adrian, Ken and myself made it back to our Kendall Square apartment and were relieved. I offered drinks, beer, and food. Posted on Facebook to let friends and family know I was okay. Answered texts when they would come through. Cooked for our guests – eggs and veggies and sausage. Not a typical dinner meal, but it’s what we had that would easily feed 6, and it wasn’t a typical dinner. I drank sweet mixed drinks that furthered my daze. I wasn’t ready to think about it all.
That night in bed, holding Ken close, I realized how fortunate we all were. I thought about those who had lost lives and limbs and were struck with numerous pieces of shrapnel. I cried. Those things are still weighing heavy on me now — the loss of life and the loss of innocence of the run. I’m jumping and even crying when I hear loud noises. The news is proving to be too much, and I have found myself sitting alone in a quiet room doing nothing after switching off the radio or tv. Maybe what makes it hurt so much more is that running is where I turn when tragedy hits in my life. When stress becomes too much. When I need a break. When my mom died suddenly, I ran. I ran fast – sub 6 minute mile repeats on the treadmill because I was angry. When I was lonely and didn’t have many friends after just moving to Memphis, I created a running club. When work becomes to much, I long to run and do. Now, that my very cheap and effective therapy has been tainted, blackened, by some fucking asshole(s), I’m angry and sad. And, at the same time, so amazed and touched by the heroic actions of so many. I’m touched by the kindness and bravery. This city, so often thought of as hardened and full of “Massholes” is a place full of good hearted people–full of “helpers”.
These last few days have been made harder still because, I’m ready to personally take back what some cowardly terrorist tried to take away — I’m ready to reclaim my running, but I’ll have to wait. I’m dealing with an injury that occurred near the end of the DRB 50k on Sunday and I’m unable to run. But I know that even if I can’t run until Massanutten in mid-May, those 103.7 miles will be spent reclaiming what is mine and yours. We each run for so many reasons and we won’t stop. We have and will continue taking back what is ours. I know that I’m going to be running faster and harder and with more heart than ever before. I’m sure you will be, too.
And after Massanutten, I’ll be focused on qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon because it matters. Because, it’s mine.
By the way, it ends up that the 78 year old Masters runner who I had commented on to friends moments before the bombs went off was Bill Iffrig, who was blown down by the blast when he was just feet from the finish. After being helped up by police officers he ran and crossed the finish.
He didn’t give up, and neither will we.
Back in February I was perusing the interwebs looking for info on ultra running and trail running in San Antonio when I found UltraRunning Mom, Liza Howard’s blog. I’d heard of Liza and knew she was a freaking incredible ultra runner. After reading a few posts, giggling several times, checking out her pretty remarkable results on Ultrasignup and thinking that she seemed to be a really cool, speedy gal, I noticed her “Coaching” tab. I clicked on it. I was just getting going with my training for Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT) and had been considering hiring a coach. I needed guidance in my training. My declaration of “embracing my inner crazy” and all the fear and excitement that followed got me through my first hundred but I knew MMT was different. It is possibly the most technical 100 miler on the East coast–basically the polar-opposite of Ghost Train Rail Trails Race that was my first 100 back in October of 2012. That one was flat (it is a race run on rail trails after all). MMT, however, is a race that begins with gnarly, single track going up, and up, and up. As the race progresses, that theme continues. Even when the trail isn’t steadily climbing, one has to deal with rocks and creeks and treacherous downhills. I needed guidance cause even though I’ve given my “inner crazy” a big ‘ol bear hug and am not planning to let go, I didn’t know if that would be enough to get me to the finish line.
So, back to Liza. I clicked the tab and read about her coaching and decided to reach out. At the very least I’d get to talk with Liza Howard and if everything went well maybe I’d hire her. So, I sent her a message and wham-bam, within just a few hours I was on the phone with her. I have to admit I was starstruck on the phone. All I could think was – This chic WON Leadville, came in second at Western States and has won lots of other races! Soon though, I calmed down a bit and once I was off the phone, I knew I wanted her to be my coach. That was the first week of February and I haven’t for a second regretted my decision to hire her as my coach.
Here’s a breakdown of why I hired a coach and why I decided that Liza was the right fit for the job:
*EXPERIENCE. Liza has multiple 100 milers under her belt and has done well in nearly all of them. So she knows how to train, how to attack different obstacles that come up along the way, and because she has been running long for awhile, she has a lot of resources on top of her knowledge base.
*ACCOUNTABILITY. I needed an accountability partner on my training and Liza is that. She makes sure that I’m doing my workouts by checking our shared Google doc and asks questions that get to the point of how my training is going when we talk on the phone 1-2 times a week.
*TRACK RECORD.She has a proven coaching track record. On her coaching page there are testimonials of past clients. They had gotten the results they had hoped for and more. Everywhere I looked, I only read positive things about her.
*LIKABILITY. Maybe not important for everyone, but I wanted a coach who I liked, respected and enjoyed talking with. I look forward to calling Liza and talking to her about my training and our lives because she is upbeat, fun and funny.
*PUSH ME HARDER. REGIN ME IN. I needed someone to push me harder. Maybe give me that speed workout that I wouldn’t normally do because I don’t like them. At the same time, I needed someone who would say, “Whoa, now.” if I wasn’t feeling well or if I was achey and still wanted to give it my 110%. Someone to say, sometimes the best thing to do is rest. I definitely needed this as I developed IT band trouble the first week of March. Liza was smart and encouraging, and after a week and a half of only a bit of training, I was back and slowly ramping up mileage again. Without her, I may not have been so smart.
*BELIEF. She believes in me. Not because I pay her too, but because she sees that I’m doing the work and she is a positive person. She has helped me set reasonable goals for Massanutten and we both believe I can accomplish them.
*LOCATION. This may or may not be important to you. For me, it’s a bonus. I am getting to know Liza over the phone and email, and then, when I relocate to San Antonio next month, I get to meet her! I’ll also get to meet all of her running buddies and get started discovering my favorite trails there.
I know my craziness and my desire to run “crazy” distances will help substantially come race day, but knowing that I had the expert guidance of Liza will help more, I’m sure!
I would love to know if you have ever hired a coach or trainer for an athletic/fitness/health endeavor and if so, how the experience was for you? Would you do it again? Why did you decide to hire a coach?
The past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been given lemons when it comes to my race training. So, I’m trying to follow the old adage of “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, but I don’t think I like the taste, which is odd cause normally, I really like the taste of lemonade.
It all started after the 39 mile Massanutten training run a few weeks back. I thought I was fine, but then several days later IT band and glute pain creeped up and started tormenting my every move. I couldn’t run without pain, biking hurt, even walking and climbing down the stairs was quite uncomfortable. Then, just as my IT band seemed to be on the mend, my left shoulder, which I have had some issues with in the past, started giving me fits. So, now “The Burpee Queen” can’t do burpees!?
Last Friday I had a fantastic sports massage. Immediately I felt relief in my IT band, hammies and hips. He also focused on my shoulder for a few minutes, but unfortunately, I don’t believe it helped all that much. My IT band definitely is better now that before the massage and I think it allowed me to get in a few miles last weekend, however, Saturday’s miles may not have been the smartest ones I’ve ever logged.
So, like I was saying, Saturday I logged some miles. Actually, 7 treachorous miles of icy hiking and running up to a peak of around 2334 ft. It was fun and all, but given the toll the few falls I took on the super icy descent had on my butt muscles (still sore), it probably wasn’t worth it. The next day I got up and ran a slow 11 miles. It was supposed to be a 15 miler, but the IT band was starting to flare, so I cut it short.
Less than two months out from Massanutten and I’m nowhere close to where I should be physically. Admittedly, I’m bummed. It’s not fun when things aren’t going your way and you really want to run and workout the way that you’re used to. I keep making adjustments – more time stretching and foam rolling, more icing, more core workouts, more yoga, more short slow runs, jump squats instead of burpees, and I keep trying to smile. While all this is good and my fitness isn’t horrible, I hope it’s enough to get me to the finish line just under two months.
All my injuries, plus the unrelenting snow, ice, cold, and rain is less than ideal. Look, I’ve seen the memes about “real runners” getting out there no matter the weather and pushing through. But you know what, I’m a Southerner. I’ll take the humidity, mud, summer thunderstorms, and intense heat over this snow every weekend nonsense any day. I’m ready to hit the trails in fewer than 3 layers. Call me soft if you want, but I’m just telling the truth.
Alright, enough with my whining. This weekend I’ll be toeing the starting line at the TARC 6 hour race with a goal of logging as many miles as possible without pain. If IT band pain creeps up, I’ll have to pull out, I’m afraid. Hoping for the best. No matter what, it will be a great day on the trails with fellow Trail Animals getting to play in the mud.
Next weekend, Ken and I are heading back down to the Massanutten course for a 26 mile night run. Will my legs be healthy by then? I hope so. It should be fun to log those miles with Ken and get some hiking in even if I can’t run as much of the course as I’d like.
Well, let me get back to sipping my too-tart-lemonade and looking out the window wishing for warmer weather to arrive.