In Appreciation of The ‘Ugly’ Runs

On Monday I had an ‘Ugly’ run.  You know the kind.  They are diametrically opposed to the ‘Good’ runs.  Good runs make us runners anticipate doing it all over again.  They bring on runner’s highs and leave you with a feeling that anything is possible.  ‘Ugly’ runs, on the other hand, do nothing of the sort.

sidewalk close up - edited

My ‘Ugly’ run took place after work, as all my Monday runs do.  I was tired.  My legs were sore from a cross-training workout the day before.  I was mentally drained and physically exhausted.  I was cranky.  But, of course, I still went out for my run.

When I got changed, it was raining and a little chilly from the wind.  Accordingly, I threw on a lightweight jacket over my singlet and shorts.  About five minutes into my run, the rain stopped, the wind came to a standstill and the sun began peeking out.

I got hot.  Like, uncomfortably hot under my long jacket sleeves.

My thighs grumbled at me with their muscle soreness.

I got a pebble in my shoe that I stopped twice to try and fish out, only to push it down further away from my reach.

I felt dehydrated and thirsty.

The spot on my foot where my shoes had been pressing all day at work experienced sharp pains with each foot strike.

Drivers were distracted and cyclists and pedestrians were not in the mood to share the road.

It was most definitely an ‘Ugly’ run.

Reed Field and Path - edited

These are not the runs that leave me feeling exhilarated and powerful.

But I realized after I returned home that they do leave me with a deep sense of strength and resolve.  These are, to be completely and totally clichéd, character building runs in the truest sense.  These are the runs that I think of when a race is hard and I’m wondering if I have it in me.  I can remember these runs and know that I do.

And, while one might think that a run like this would leave me in as poor or worse of a state than I was when I started, it doesn’t work that way.  While I don’t finish feeling thrilled and excited about my running at that moment, I returned home on Monday with a clearer head, a diminished stress level, and a sense of pride in what I had accomplished.

So while I hope that I continue to have more ‘Good’ runs than not, these ‘Ugly’ run have their purpose, too, and it’s one that I’ve grown to appreciate.

Race Report: Pints to Pasta 10k (The one in which I surprise myself)

I surprised myself this weekend.  I ran the Pints to Pasta 10k on Sunday and managed to pull out a much better performance than I had anticipated.

Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

Looking serious before the start. Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

I say that because I have not been ‘officially’ training for this race.  I’ve been focusing very specifically on building my weekly mileage at the expense of any real speedwork or fine-tuning for any performance peak.  I plan to add more variety (including speedwork) back to my training techniques once I’m comfortable averaging right around 40-43 miles per week on a consistent basis.  I signed up for this 10k knowing full well that was my plan and, as such, I expected that my pace would be slow, but I still wanted to participate in the event regardless.

But, I repeat, I surprised myself.  I ended up finishing several minutes faster than I expected and even had (what I consider to be) a decent showing in the final rankings.  Here’s how it fleshed out:

  • Finish Time:  50:44
  • Average Pace:  8:10
  • Overall Finish: 299 out of 1738
  • Age/Gender Group Finish:  18 out of 203
Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

This was my first 10k race, since I jumped right from 5ks to half-marathons and then the full marathon in my running, and I will say that I was pleased to see how much I enjoyed racing this distance.  The route was quite enjoyable, too.  We started in North Portland, headed South, crossed the Broadway Bridge, and then headed further South along the waterfront.

Yes, that’s right, we crossed a bridge.  This is another reason that I surprised myself.

Let me explain.

I am TERRIFIED of water and, by extension, bridges.  While various things may freak me out to some extent, this is my major fear.  I don’t know how to swim (no triathlons in my future!) and deep water really unnerves me.  I cross the various Portland bridges by car or bus almost every day to commute across town, but crossing one on foot felt even scarier to me.  I was definitely intimidated by the prospect, but decided to look at it as another challenge to conquer.  I even managed for a short time to look out over the side of the bridge at the Willamette River below without getting overwhelmed by the watery aisle of terror and death that flowed beneath my feet, and without hesitating in my stride one bit.

Shannon = 1, Scary Water = 0

Fun Morning!

Fun morning!

Another thing that stands out for me about this race was my prowess on hill inclines.  Now, this race was not very hilly at all, but where hills did exist, I was quite happy with how I took them.  I managed to gain some solid momentum on the elevation increases and passed quite a few other runners in those key spots.  Living in a hilly neighborhood is paying off!

Overall, this 10k was a big win for me.  Beautiful day, fun course, and to top it all off, with today’s race I have now logged over 1000 miles for the year

Not bad.

Hip Health For Runners: Exercises to Keep You Strong and Improve Your Stride

Happy Friday!

Guess what?

I’ve got a guest post up over at Herbivore Triathlete.  Herbivore Triathlete is an incredibly useful and engaging blog run by Anna (vegan triathlete extraordinaire).  I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to guest post there while she’s off enjoying a vacation with her family.

Please go check it out here and read about my tips on how to keep your runner’s body healthy and happy by maintaining strong, flexible hips.

The Surprising Benefits of Running Unscripted

I’m a planner by nature, you see.  A scheduler.  A write everything down in lists and calendars and always arrive 10 minutes early kind of gal.

I don’t generally do well with unstructured time, parts of a day carved out to just ‘relax’ (whatever that means), or scheduled plans that are changed at the last minute.

A short bridge on one of my running routes

A short bridge on one of my running routes

This is true in pretty much all parts of my life and up until recently I thought it was absolutely true in regards to my running self, as well. I’d always pretty much been running with a plan.  There was, of course, the four months of marathon training that I planned out and followed without fail.  Even prior to that very specific training, I would plan out my runs pretty precisely.  Google Maps was a big help in this, allowing me to draw out where I would run to achieve just the right amount of distance.  I’d map it, commit it to memory and head out, not deviating from my route or schedule.

All of that planning was great.  It helped me become a strong runner and got me successfully through a marathon.  But in the two months since that achievement, I’ve been a little less structured in my training – and I’ve been amazed at how well it’s going.

Of course, I still have some structure (I AM still me, after all).  I still go long every Saturday, hit intense strength training on Sundays, and fill my evenings after work with a variety of runs and bits of cross training.  I still commit to 4-6 days per week of running, plus cross-training on at least 4 days, always with one full day off of training (generally Fridays).

I love rounding this curve.

I love rounding this curve.

But, all in all, it’s a bit more free form.  I’ve been running long enough in my neighborhood by now to know it intimately.  I know the streets and the turns, which sidewalks are smooth enough to go fast on, and which ones feel like a little obstacle course with their broken cement and tree roots taking over.  I know where the hills are and which stretches always seem to create some sort of wind tunnel that I can’t understand from a meteorological standpoint.  I know which streets to take on a hot day if I want more shade and I know where to find drinking fountains if needed.

I love that I have become more familiar with distance now, knowing it by experience and feel. I don’t need to map my routes, because I know where to go for 5 miles or 6 miles or 8 miles.  I know if I want to hit 10, I just turn and add on a 2 mile stretch at a specific point along my way and when I’m going long, I know how to create loops to get me to 15, 16, 17 and so on with enough diversity of environment and elevation changes to keep it interesting.  It’s all become so natural.

My base mileage is getting strong.

This pleases me.

Reed Field and Path

A path at Reed College in my ‘hood.

My long runs are consistently longer – but they don’t necessarily feel like it.  They just feel fun and good.  Hard when I decide to make them hard and refreshing when that’s what I need, too.  My shorter runs have inched their way along also, growing in subtle increments and making my consistent weekly mileage creep upwards.

My slow, easy pace has dropped and my recovery time is shortened.

It’s all just fantastic.

There’s something quite satisfying about just building that base to be a bit more than it used to be and in feeling the positive impacts of that in my body and mind.  It’s certainly increasing my confidence as a runner.  I find myself having a bit more insight into what I can do, should do, and shouldn’t do.  If I feel the tell-tale signs that a rest day is needed, I take it.  And then I get back out there the next day and see the benefits it provided.  Maybe before too long, I’ll get up the nerve to tackle some track workouts (still something I’ve never done).

I’ve honestly never felt more like a true runner then I do right now.  I see how much there is for me to do to improve, but I also accept how much I already have.  And this time for me, a little more relaxed and a little less rigid, has been remarkably valuable to all of that.  I can foresee my lessons being learned right now only benefiting me when I do lay out a new specific training plan for that next big race.  I wonder what race that will be?

Last Day for Warrior Pose Book Giveaway!

bookJust a shout out to alert everyone that today is the last day to enter the giveaway for your own copy of Warrior Pose:  How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life.

Who needs a little summer reading???

Head on over to my book review and leave a comment by midnight (PST) in order to enter to win.

Book Review: Warrior Pose, With A Giveaway to Win Your Own Copy!

War correspondent and ultra-yogi aren’t exactly two identities naturally linked in my mind.  At least they weren’t until I read Bhava Ram’s Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life.  And, now, just like that, they are.

I read quite a lot of memoirs, but despite my broad exposure to them, Ram’s (aka Brad Willis) stands out as particularly remarkable.  Plus, if you’re in need of a healthy dose of inspiration, this should do it.

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The story goes something like this.  Willis leaves small town America to rise up through the ranks and become a successful, hard working war correspondent, traversing the globe to cover stories of international importance.  Already, you’ve got an interesting story, right?  Willis, however, suffers an injury (a broken back), which he tries to hide and live with.  As to be expected, the injury worsens over time and, through desperate attempts to cope, Willis finds himself addicted to alcohol, pain medication, and unable to maintain his career.

Then, he gets cancer.

Yep.  That’s right.  Cancer.

Things were not looking so great for our friend, Willis.

The story that takes over from there tells of Willis’ discovery of yoga, re-discovery of his sense of self, and a transformational journey to his own health and wellness: body, mind, and spirit.

I will confess that when I started this book, I was most interested in the parts about his days as a war correspondent.  My mind was piqued by stories of war, travel, and the human condition.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the rest of the book.  I tend to be somewhat wary of stories that speak of such dramatic transformation through spiritual means of any sort, so my guard was a bit up.  Surprisingly to me, as Willis’ story of his career shifted into the discovery of himself as Bhava Ram, I found myself remaining just as engaged and just as intrigued as I was at the start.

Yoga may or not be your thing, but I see in this book a narrative of embracing humility, exploring possibilities, and developing wisdom that just about anyone can relate to.  Yoga is the conduit through which Ram found these things for himself, but surely there is any number of methods that could be used for similar journeys.  And, if yoga is your thing, Ram’s story will uphold the belief of the restorative powers of a dedicated and consistent yoga practice.

Read this book for some international adventure, sure, but also read this book for a bit of inspiration and, just maybe, a dash of motivation to try some new approaches in your own life.

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And, now, for the giveaway.

Ram and his publisher have agreed to offer a copy of Warrior Pose to one lucky reader of Move Eat Create.  If you would like to get your hands on your very own copy, please leave a comment below.  Each reader may enter once.  Comments will be counted and ordered, a winner will be selected with a random number generator, and said winner will be contacted via email, as well as listed here on this blog post.  The giveaway opens now and will run through Wednesday, 7/17/13 at midnight (PST).  My apologies to non-US living friends, but the giveaway is only open to those who can take shipping within the U.S.  Be sure to include your email with your post so that I can contact you if you win.

This giveaway has closed.  Congratulations to zebveg who won a copy of Warrior Pose!  Thank you to all who entered.

Disclaimer:  Though I was provided a copy of this book free of charge and invited to attend a workshop with Ram, all opinions about the book are completely my own. 

Good luck and happy reading!

Stripped: The Experience and Exposure of Running My First Marathon

Nearly a month has passed since I completed my first marathon.  Since then, I have sat down many times with the intention of writing a post about what I learned through the process of training for and completing the 26.2.  My plan was to make a list and offer up my mistakes and successes as tools for others starting their own marathon quest, but every time I’ve started to do this I’ve gotten stuck.

I’ve gotten stuck because while I did learn many things worth sharing, I keep coming back to one key, core lesson.  So that’s what I’ve decided to share with you today.

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

I learned, more than any other thing, what it feels like to be stripped down to the very core of my being.  To be raw, exposed, and so completely of my self.

Here is my journey to that place.

At the start of my race, I imagine I was like many other first-time marathoners.  I had about a million and a half thoughts and feelings running through me, many of them contradictory, all of them clamoring for attention.

There was both excitement and anticipation (obviously). There was fear and apprehension (seems typical).  There was tiredness (who sleeps well the night before a big race?!), but there was also exuberant energy (thank you, adrenaline).

There were the voices of logic and reason (“Remember your training.  Don’t start out too fast.”), of pride (“I am so impressed with myself for getting here.  I am a badass.”), and of skepticism (“Who am I kidding?  I didn’t nearly train enough!”).

There was gratitude (seriously, I’m lucky to have two people here today to support me, cheer me on, and believe in my success), as well as anger (also seriously, certain other people didn’t even bother to text me good luck?!).

And more.

Runners along cars and mile 11 sign post - edited

Then the ‘gun’ went off and over the course of 26.2 miles, it all got stripped away.

First went the adrenaline-fueled, childlike excitement.  After the first 3-4 miles, I had to let it go.  The realization sets in of what I’m doing and I know I need to be focused on the present moment, the lifting and planting of my Mizuno-clad feet.  There is no room for exuberance that hasn’t yet achieved its goal.

Next the apprehension is shaken off.  I’m here.  I’m doing it.  It’s happening.  There is no sound reason to believe I can’t finish, so get your head in the game, Rose (my last name).  You’ve started this; you’re finishing it.

Another few miles down the road and I could feel the anger slipping away.  It ate up too much energy.  It didn’t make people’s actions (or lack thereof) okay, but I needed my energy for the race.  They didn’t get to have any of it right now.

Further on goes the vanity.  Sweaty, knowing as you pass by those clicking cameras that the look on your face will be anything but attractive, but who cares?  A few bad pictures are absolutely worth the end result.

Further still, deep into the race, when inklings of pain and discomfort begin to manifest, all bravado and lingering facades are dropped.  It doesn’t matter anymore if I’m smiling at bystanders, if I’m exuding confidence, or making it ‘look easy.’  All of that has to go because all that matters is what I’m doing – one foot in front of the other, with as much speed and precision as I’m capable of.  Period.

All of this stuff, these extraneous feelings and thoughts that seem so important on so many days and in so many moments suddenly just.  don’t.  matter.

What’s left then without them?

Finish Sign 2 - edited

Well, the simple, honest, and most accurate answer is just Me.

What I learned, you see, is that there is a point in a marathon when all of the expectations, the pressures, the images we create, and the faces we wear, are all gone.

All I was left with – all that I had in those moments – was the truest part of my own self.  Stripped of ego and artifice, I have never been so raw and essentially in tune with my self than I was during those last few miles.

There’s something about that – something incredible about that – testing your limits and pouring the sum of your physical and mental energy into a singular activity, for a sustained amount of time, that strips you of pretty much everything else.

And I can unequivocally say that (despite being pretty generally terrified of being exposed and vulnerable) that state of self-clarity and awareness is amazing. Completely amazing.

It teaches you; at least it taught me.

It taught me about who I am, what matters to me, and what I’m capable of (and I don’t just mean physically).  The wisdom and strength I gained from that experience is unmatched.

And while I may find another time to share what I learned about fueling and training and race day preparation, this lesson is the most valuable one I could have ever hoped to have gotten.