RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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When you fall out of love

With running

Life

The usual

It’s been a long hiatus. And to be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll keep this updated either. It’s tenuous lately. My resurgence of interest in running and such. And the school year is starting, which for some parents is glorious, but for me means the startup of my regular work calendar again. So…here’s a stab.

The last couple of months have been rough. I’ve been pretty straightforward about my ongoing struggle with depression, but it reached a pretty bad low point a few months ago. I think what further compounded it was the fact that I felt like I was doing every possible thing I could to deal with it, but it wasn’t enough. It feels unfair that I have to be doing so much more to stay afloat or feel “normal” (whatever that is) than the average person. Is it a chemical imbalance, family trauma, psychic wounds, blah blah blah? I don’t know. But I cringe every time someone asks me if I exercise or sleep enough or whatever, because I want to scream, “All of it, I do all of it!”

And actually, the last couple of months, even the running has fallen by the wayside. Yes, I’ve been trying to get myself to grind out at least a run or two a week. I had been hating even that minimal amount, though, and was mostly doing it to stave off the creeping weight. I eat ALOT, and mostly run to eat. When you’re not marathon training, it begins to catch up with you. And while it really is probably just 3-5 pounds, it was enough to make me feel worse physically and emotionally. And I realize that nothing was giving me pleasure. I wasn’t interested in anything. Maybe sleep. More B horror movies. Escape. Not life, not my kids, not my writing. Definitely not my running. Nothing that required me to engage.

So I’m trying some new meds and starting to feel better. I’ve even begun ramping back up my running. I’m actually watching the Olympics track and field events. Hitting double digit long runs. Thinking about races. But it’s still a struggle. The new meds make me tired, so early runs have been difficult. I’ve had to play around with dosage and timing to figure out what doesn’t make me feel like I need a 3 hour nap at 10:30 am or that I’m treading mud at 3 pm. Which means running alone and in the awful heat and humidity. I’ll say that running while playing Pokemon Go has helped motivate and distract me (and give me excuses for stopping).

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll stick with these meds or need to get back on that merry-go-round, but for the first time, I’m being pretty open about my struggles with folks. Even the fact that I know a couple of my students read this blog, and I’m talking about this is something. My less-than-perfect behavior has probably been most indicative of my struggles. I’ve had alot of impatience, crankiness, and general snarl near and far. My ability to have any emotional reserve in response to life has been about nil. I’m sane and grounded enough to know (mostly) when I need to make amends for that behavior, but it’s still not fun. It would be better if I just didn’t do it to begin with. And I’m still leaning towards isolation. My general belief of, “If I don’t interact with people, then I won’t have to act out and apologize later” isn’t really a great one.

On the road back from this cycle of depression, I’d realized that I had slowly been socially isolating myself. Other than kid-oriented activities or running with friends, I was engaging in almost no social activities. A friend took me out for dinner in the city, and I realized it had been literal years since I had done that. Years. How did that happen?

So I’m not saying I’m cured, but I felt the impulse to write today. So that’s something. But one could say it’s something for any of us to show up in life today and engage. To do what you can. To try your best. Even watching the Olympics, I thought about all the athletes at the back of the pack. The ones with no chance to win a medal. How do they motivate themselves? How do they push to keep going? How do any of us? But we do. Onwards and upwards friends.


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Hump Day Hill Repeats

Yesterday was rough. I crashed out at 7:30. After sleeping for 10+ hours, I still feel like I could sleep more. There wasn’t anything spectacularly bad, just sheer tiredness. The kind where you want to go to bed and not get out until the next decade. Or at least the next presidential election cycle, right? Sigh.

After dropping off pretty princess at preschool yesterday, I headed to campus and worked most of the day on all the various sundry and unglamorous aspects of professor life. STARTED thinking about some of my writing projects, but only managed to look at my notes and print a few things to get ready. That might need to happen tomorrow as today is filled with a million meetings and a cram session for a faculty book discussion I’m supposed to help lead.

Since I’ve been struggling so much with the speed, I decide to at least do something else different with training to get stronger. I took advantage of being out by Waterfall Glen and decided to go with hill repeats. Sadly, those hills felt/looked much bigger in real life than they do on the elevation map of my Garmin.

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I was going to do all of Big Bertha, but for the sake of time and efficiency, I just decided to do a big hill. Or what I thought was a big hill. Dubious now…Big Bertha is somewhere between miles 4 and 5. It’s about a half mile stretch, I think I got the bottom quarter of it. I didn’t want to spend half a mile doing the downhills because a) it bothered my left Achilles/ankle (I really gotta figure out what’s going on with that) and b) it seemed like too much rest/recovery time doing the downhills.

One of the nice things about the hill was a little overlook at the top so there was some reward for the work.

 

Today’s a rest day. Ideally I would squeeze in a yoga workout, but I think I’m going to have to settle for bringing some of my recovery tools to work (travel stick and foot massage ball) and doing it in between meetings. If I get home before 10, I might do a 10-15 minute yoga stretch routine. Otherwise, it’s too much.

That brings up something I’ve been curious about with ultra running. I stretch myself time-wise to fit in marathon training, and while the 50k seems somewhat more manageable time-wise, everything beyond seems really difficult. I’ve noticed that the bulk of folks who are most active on my trail/ultra running Facebook group are single and/or childless. I’m curious how working moms juggle training for ultras and still parent, work, and not go crazy. I might put it out there. That is definitely one thing that’s prohibitive about training. The other is the amount of traveling that seems involved with getting to races, especially in the Midwest. We only have so much open trail and ultra road races are fairly unpopular it seems. I’m new to all this, so feel free to pipe in with experiences, thoughts, etc. In the meanwhile, I might post on the Flatlanders group for a roll call about working mom ultra runners and how they manage.


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Belated Weekend Write-Up

Ugh, not sure what’s up…maybe the grey? The fickle early spring weather? I’m dragging and this blog-writing has been dragging too. Sigh. My son threw a tantrum yesterday morning that he was tired and just wanted to sleep all day and NOT go to school. #allthefeels He went to school.

The weekend’s run was…ok. 13 miles of trails out at Palos averaging around 10 min miles (with one flight of Swallow stairs). It was great company, but we did 1.5 loops, and that second .5 loop was tiring. The hills felt hillier, the mud muddier. I was just glad Kelly was doing it with me (the others only did about 1 loop). Still, we had a nice little crew out, and it was my first run with Deanna (I think) since the Hateya Trail Race in December (that’s her, third from the left)! And I think my first run with Katie in a year (second from right). Geez, people get busy. Katie’s busy training for a half iron distance triathlon in the fall. Sigh, I still haven’t made it back into the pool since that one time earlier this year…

One of the things I like about trail running is that no one makes you feel like a loser when you walk the hills 🙂

Most of the path was decently dry, but there were definitely some patches that were still bogged down. 

It was nice getting the group together, especially since Laura, Kelly, and I will all be at Ice Age (Laura is doing the half). I was sad to see most of the group break off, leaving me and Kelly to suffer through another 5 miles. I’m not sure if it was the 6 miles I did the day before that left me tired or if I’m just TIRED lately…either way, it’s not doing much for the old self-confidence for Boston. I’m also doing stupid things like looking at my mileage and comparing it to previous training cycles and then berating myself for not running enough.

Sigh. I’m trying to just be in it and just accept where I am, but it’s a bit much right now. For a variety of reasons, I feel pretty checked out from training, work, parenting, life…and I keep dredging the reserves to keep moving and keep doing what I need to, but it’s not great. A friendly recently called me out on some of that behavior and it hurt, but it was also much needed. I can’t keep using excuses of “I’m busy” or “It’s too much” to NOT show up for other people in my life and think I’m “getting away” with it. There does need to be some accountability. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think I need to find a way to both recharge and re-connect with what I need to do. This is the point where I flash back to those, “Calgon, take me away” commercials of my youth. Ha. A few years ago, I was really working on mindfulness and simplifying. Instead of running around so much like a chicken with its head cut off, I think I need to really slow down and reconsider what I need to do…

We had a pretty open weekend for the first time in a bit, so we decided to go downtown and check out the Field Museum. It was crazy busy, but we got in to see the terra cotta warriors from China exhibit. It was pretty amazing to think that there were thousands of these buried. I was slightly disappointed to see that there were less than a dozen figures on display, but it makes sense. They are over 2000 years old, so I’m sure it’s quite a production just to transport these. I was fascinated to see that they weren’t all the same. Meaning, it’s not like they were stuck in a mold and cranked out. Each figure was different with different facial features, positions, and clothing. Amazing.

They had a mock-up of what they thought these warriors looked like back in the day PAINTED. They weren’t just the raw terra cotta color, but they were painted to look more life-like. I guess there were enough bits of paint for them to reconstruct the appearance. The almost cartoonish brightness of the colors reminded me of the Sistine Chapel when they started restoring the panels. People had assumed for a long time that the somber, dark colors were what they were painted like. When they started restoring them, though, they were startled by how shockingly bright they were. It’s funny to think that the sepia-toned images of history we have get translated into us thinking that’s the color people lived in 🙂

Gotta say, you can’t beat Chicago’s skyline on a blue day.

I was really excited to get Japanese food afterwards at a joint within walking distance. The ramen, sadly, wasn’t as good as it looked in this picture. The broth was super-yummy and flavorful, but the noodles were on the dry side. Still, we don’t often get a chance to eat Japanese since the kids don’t do sushi, so it was a fantastic end to a pretty good day.

The boy also really enjoyed the ramen broth. I tried to convince him to either hold the bowl and drink it (the more Chinese-way) or stoop over the bowl and quickly spoon the broth into his mouth (the more Korean-way…I think, anyway, I could totally be wrong). He decided to go with a completely different method, the straw.


Anyhow, how do you try to juggle things in your life, be present and show up? But also not fry out completely? How do you keep your training fresh? Or at least grounded?


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Spending time on self care

Women can be bad at self care (yes, I know it’s an overgeneralization). Moms are even worse. Running moms the worst. One way I know this is even the targeted health advertisements I see for women to get mammograms or other screenings, and the advertisement is spun as a “You take care of everyone else, but you also need to take care of yourself in order to do that.” As a mom, you put your own needs and sometimes health behind others (ask any mom what happens when they are “sick”). As runners, we’re even more prone to ignore aches and pains until it’s too late. I get the extra awesomeness of being Korean and having grown up with self-employed parents–read: having minimal insurance/access to doctors–so I don’t go to the doctor when I’m sick or for much in general. Just to give you an idea, my dad slipped/fractured a disk in his neck and ended up having major surgery, wearing a halo brace, and being out of work for a year. And he didn’t go to the hospital, in fact SLEPT on the injury, until the next day.

So yeah, learning to ignore pain and what my body wants or needs runs pretty deep. Recently, Craig (my myofascial guy) gave me a long lecture about how I really needed to work on self care to keep myself injury-free. I couldn’t just ignore stretching, etc. And he may have muttered a thing or two about aging…

And the fact of the matter is that I’m not 25 and gutting out my first marathon through excruciating pain and thinking it’ll all go back the way it’s supposed to in the morning…or in 3-4 months since I refused to run for awhile after that first marathon.

Whereas before, I used to not understand what people meant by this “warming up” before running they would do, and I had no idea what a foam roller was until my second marathon. Oh, and I started training for my first marathon in cotton. A lot has changed. I still don’t warm up, but I do sometimes stick my legs (meaning I use “the stick” or “tiger tail” to massage my legs a bit) and do some dynamic pre-emptive stretching before a run. I wear compression religiously to ward off “something” much like garlic for vampires. I spend more intimate time with my foam roller than I do with my husband. And I’ve always been good at stretching afterwards, but it was only for at most 5 minutes. Craig was talking about spending some serious time getting into the tightness, maybe backing off the mileage, and doing more yoga and other activities.

The brat in me wants to stomp my foot and go, “REALLY?! You want me to do MORE STUFF to be able to keep doing the stuff I’ve always been doing?” Um, yes. As much as I hate to admit it, my body has changed. And my threshold for discomfort has lowered. Don’t get me wrong, I can take pain like no one’s business (hello, two natural child births), but I’ve begun to realize more and more that I don’t HAVE to. And maybe I SHOULDN’T (yes, this post is all about caps). Maybe that’s wisdom. Or just being an adult.  

14 miles in 2 degrees. i can take pain.


I see this in other areas of my life. The other night, I crashed hard at 7:30. After a brutally cold 14 miles starting at 6:15 am, my body was done for the day early. I demanded a lot from it, and it wanted a lot in return. I actually debated forcing myself to stay up. Watch bad shows. Read. Putz on the interwebs. As if some “cool patrol” was watching me and assessing my dork factor for going to bed on a Saturday night so early. But no one was watching. I was the only one who had to face the consequences of my actions. So I went to bed. I slept a solid 11 hours.

I have begun to realize more and more that if I don’t take care of myself, I will be one miserable runner, mom, wife, and educator. And I will make the lives of those around me miserable. And that doesn’t have to happen.

So I go to bed early. I call people when I’m struggling with my depression. I go to yoga. And… I drop down running plans. Boom.

Yup, I decided to move from the 5 day/week running plan to the 4 day/week. My body isn’t happy with what I’m doing or have been doing. Something needs to change. And for some insane reason, it freaks me out to admit it to myself and change the plan, and admit it to others. Even though no one is judging me for it, and most of my running friends would encourage me to be healthy and do what my body needs. But there’s a sick little devil on my shoulder that tells me that I’m not a REAL runner if I’m not cranking out 50+ miles a week. If I’m not running 5-6 days a week. If I’m not running a sub 8:00/mile on the daily. If I don’t make the top X percent. So you push and “dig deep” until your well is empty and you are spiritually or physically broken.

No thanks.

I’ve been there and done that. And I don’t need to go back.

But that’s taken me a long long time to learn. And it’s definitely progress, not perfection. It’s the long view. Boston was once a bucket list for me. And now that it’s on the horizon, I want to make sure that I can actually run it. I don’t know if I’ll run it more than once, so I want to make sure all my crazy work the last two years actually means something. I take it back, it DOES mean something whether I get to run Boston or not (as of right now, btw, there’s nothing to stop me but myself). That I can work hard, attain my goals, and bust my guts doing it. And regardless of what happens at Boston, I’ll know I did good and I’ll be with friends. *cue soaring, inspirational music* But that only happens if I’m healthy and strong enough to get to the starting line. And that only happens if I listen to my body and take care of myself.

Even the elite runners do this. Deanna Kastor pulled out of the Olympic Trials pretty last minute, and Kara Goucher said she “left it all out there,” but it wasn’t enough to make the Olympic Team (although since she was 4th, she’ll be the official alternate). Even Desi Linden, who pulled an amazing second half of the marathon, said she had to trust her plan and not punch it in the first half to keep up with Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan (and that plan is what got her to pass Shalane just within the last mile or so and nab second). Amazing. So even the elites have to listen to what their bodies and spirits need.

Sorry if this post was all over the place, but I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to figure out what I need and how to keep myself healthy on lots of fronts. I didn’t have a great foundation for those things growing up, so it’s new terrain. Anyhow, hope you all had a great run this weekend, whatever your plan was.

 


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Some Days Are Just Hard, Juggling Life

Yesterday felt really hard. Maybe because I was on day 3 of being alone with the kids–Mr. UnRunner (who, by the way has started running so he will need a new name soon) was out of town for work, an unusual occurrence. It was Wednesday, hump day. I decided to make it a hill workout day. It was windy. Who knows? But I had a bad workout, felt like I was going from zero to rage in 3 seconds all day, and felt completely emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sometimes we have those days, where things feel hard for no major reason. Or maybe it’s for a whole bunch of little reasons, like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt tired from the trail run. Not sore, but tired. But, like masochist I am, I decided I needed to do some hill training. And that made it an ugly, slow, multiple walk break run (my watch also crapped out again, what gives?!).

I also had horrible mom guilt later in the day with the kids. I was short with them. There were endless instantaneous tears for no reason. Fighting with each other. Whining about one thing or another. And I was snapping at them, which didn’t help anybody. At swimming, I met the mom of one of my son’s classmates and she was super kind and patient with her similarly squirmy child and I felt like, “What is wrong with me?” I just felt like I had no reserves to deal with my children acting like children (which is pretty much kissing cousins to wild animals).

But then my friend, Kirstin, who had a weird, semi-vaguely diagnosed ankle injury for 9 months (the ankle is a perpetual mystery) and who clawed her way back to finishing a marathon (her 10th) last weekend, posted that she has a stress fracture! She had pain during the marathon but thought little of it and pushed through it. I mean, the whole point of the marathon is running through discomfort. But it turned out to be a real injury after all. That’s the hard part of distance sports, differentiating between regular discomfort and a real injury.

Seeing her post that reminded me that I need to cut myself a break and stop pushing and stop beating myself. I tend to want to punish myself when I feel like I’m not doing well. To do MORE and go HARDER when I really need to take a break. I think that bizarre impulse is what makes people distance runners. Even the little bit of interaction I’ve had with Ironman triathletes makes me think it’s a runner thing. “Oh, it hurts?” I’ll just “run it out.” Versus, most triathletes I’ve met tend to go seek treatment or diagnoses when something hurts. Runners keep running. Into the ground.

I’m tired. I’ve done 6 marathons in 13 months–2 within the last month, 1 of which was a BQ and the other still a good pace. And yet I’m considering an ultra. And there is a little whisper that says maybe I shouldn’t and I should just rest. There is another part that tells me to seize the moment and the training and go with it, that I can do ANYTHING. And I don’t know which voice is the right one. No, I take that back. I have a pretty good idea which one I should listen to. Kirstin’s situation (and the multiple other running friends with injuries) tells me that I should back off. But this…

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So I’m taking today off, doing a yoga class if I can fit it in my schedule, and re-assessing. I know that being a working mom and athlete is a constant juggling act. I don’t even think it’s balance per se (because balance is a lie), but more about juggling and just not trying to drop a ball. And right now I feel like I’m just staring at all the balls on the ground, trying to figure out what I can handle.

So happy Thursday, people. We are one day closer to the weekend. How do you try to maintain balance/juggle in your life? What helps you figure out when to back off or rest?