musings on running, life, and everything in between

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When you fall out of love

With running


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.


Been too long

Ok, so it’s been the LONGEST time since I last posted. I’m not gonna lie. I’m in a funk. Between feeling burnt out crispy with running, teaching 3 nights a week back to back (for 4+ hours), and the winter, it’s been tough. Just to give you a sense of what that means, here’s an exchange I had with Jen last night. I guess she and Jenny had a discussion about me during yesterday’s long run. I was in DC for the weekend so I did my long run earlier in the week (more on that in a bit).

Do you like how her offer of “taking me out” gets meet with immediate suspicion? Although, on the flipside, do you like how Jen downgraded the “taking you out” part to just all going out? Gotta love my friends, right? But seriously, it’s nice to know that people care enough to make sure I don’t go off the deep end.

I’m in DC for the weekend, really 36 hours for some English teacher conference planning (neeeeeerds, I know). Anyhow, I had the opportunity to meet Tracey last year at the same planning meeting and she was pregnant at the time, but we got to talking about running. We ACTUALLY got to run together this time since baby has since exited the womb and she’s back running. She just did a half marathon last month! Admittedly, she tried to duck me about running early Sunday morning, but I convinced her 🙂 AND, this makes her officially my first running buddy from traveling on the blog. Woohoo! So here we are at the mall. You may remember a similar (solo) picture from this run/trip last year.

And of course, we had to stop by and see the Obama’s. They had coffee ready for us.

And to top it all off for fabulousness, I got a free extra drink after the run! I was asking about the “flat white” drink at Starbucks (not my preferred caffeinated beverage vendor, but the only thing open in our neck of the woods). I’m not sure if they were being very generous or just confused, but I got both my almond milk cap and flat white! Extra caffeine is never a bad thing. Also, I tend to get “fancy” drinks only after a run. I’m all about the black coffee otherwise.

EDITED TO INCLUDE: Ha. I forgot. During our run I saw a black squirrel, and I commented to Tracey that we don’t see those in Illinois, and did they have them in Arizona. “Uh, is that like a groundhog?” So, no, they don’t have squirrels everywhere like the midwest. Furthermore, Tracey said “I run by javelinas and coyotes, is that like the same thing?” Um, no. Differences in running around the country!

Because I didn’t feel like finagling a 12+ mile run out of town when our time was so booked, I decided to do my long run Thursday. To try and shake things up, I decided to head out to the hills and trails of Waterfall Glen. There was a threatened fierce blizzard Wednesday night, but that didn’t really manifest. There WAS snow on the ground, though. You can see some of the path was less travelled than others. It was gorgeous and quiet. Really beautiful, and the sun started to come out. I’ve also been realizing that running in snow might help your form, but that’s another post.

The snow was powdery enough, and the trail was probably clear before the “storm,” so I decided against the Yak Trax and went with my trail shoes. I wish they were more water-resistant as my feet did get wet, but I definitely didn’t find myself missing the Trax. With the exception of some squishing around from the soft snow, I didn’t have much issue running in it. Of course, I also visited one of my favorite port-a-potties. Right around the halfway point 🙂

I also realized that I haven’t run much at Waterfall Glen in the winter. I’ve run it in the fall and early spring, but with all of the snow we’ve gotten the last couple of winters it’s been tricky trying to get any decent running there in February. With all of the foliage gone, though, I stopped around mile 5 because I noticed the foundations of an old building. I think usually there are at least some leaves covering easy viewing of it, even though it’s just a few feet from the path. I think it might be the remains of the Old Lincoln Park Nursery on this map? I did see another building ruin a bit further later on the run as well, so I’m not sure. Still, it was cool to see something that I’ve run by so many times before. Forcing myself to do hill work at Big Bertha? Not cool. But I was channeling my inner Patty Herrera (who’s obsessing about Boston’s hills) to get out there and do it.

I really did need that long run as a break from the routine, and my run with Tracey this morning. This face just about sums up how I’ve been feeling lately, both about running and life in general.

I thought about doing some very bloggery “Top 10 Things to Do to Shake Up Your Run,” but I’m a lazy blogger. So here’s a couple things, 1) Take a break. Cut yourself some slack and go do something else. 2) Try running somewhere new or WITH someone new. If you feel like you’re in a rut or routine, do something to shake it up.

There. I know. Life changing. But get out there and do something. Nobody’s making you run, so if it’s not fun, do something else. Just keep moving.

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Another day, another mile

It is officially late spring/summer around here, which means it’s raining or extremely humid. Bleh. Either way, it saps the energy right out of you! Today’s early morning run was originally started as a 6 miler, which got cut to 5.5 and then walking the last half. I did a 4.5 mile run last night (in training for Ragnar), that I was hoping to hit 5. It was so dark last night and my Garmin doesn’t have a nightlight that I couldn’t see the mileage until I got home. I was at 4.46 and almost cried, forced myself to the end of the block (because God forbid I run a “weird” number) to get to 4.5 and called it a day. Jen K and I discussed how it better not be humid for Ragnar cuz our “speedy” times aren’t going to be so speedy.

Speaking of Ragnar and people who are going to be awesome, I got to run with this lady and her entourage last week. Kelly is not even 3 months post-partum and she is AMAZING. I went out to meet her thinking, “Oh, this will be a nice easy run with the post-partum lady and her baby AND her dog.” NOPE. We were pushing sub 9’s almost the whole way. I wanted to ask her to slow down, but I was embarrassed, cuz you know, I just ran a marathon, and she’s pushing a stroller, and holding on to a dog, and I’m running carefree. Boohoo. Her daughter is cute as a button, though, and totally just slept the whole time. I need to meet up with Kelly another day when she’s awake so I can get my baby fix. Get this, though, sometimes she runs with the DOUBLE stroller and the dog. And here I am complaining about running by myself in the humidity.

BTW, that ended up being a ridiculous 9 mile run because my GPS crapped out on me and I wasn’t sure what time I started running. I was super-tired by the end. I swear, running without a plan makes me crazy. I ended up running a 40+ mileage week last week because I had no plan. As much of a creature of chaos I am, that is exactly why I need a plan. Left to my own devices, I will run entirely too much or not at all. I still need to sit down and decide what I’m using to train for the fall. I think I’m going to do a mashup of my two coached plans and one of Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning plans. I’ll keep you posted, or feel free to chime in with plans you like!

Here’s the splits from Saturday’s long run. You gotta say, we’re consistent if nothing else! And I was happy to see that we picked it up for the last couple miles.


Finally, we’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the weather more since it’s getting warmer. We went to the zoo where Iseul got to try some new forms of transportation. We also finally have an almost fully-functioning (we still need grass over the dirt) backyard so we’ve been eating outside alot. We had an awesome paver patio put in and had our rotted, collapsing back stairs rebuilt. We also called 1800-GOT-JUNK to haul away several large piles of lumber, junk, and landscaping stuff this past weekend. It was awesome.

10359232_10153108201497949_394853080393721021_nAnyhow, it’s already almost halfway through the week! Hooray! Hope you had a great weekend. Happy running!

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Marathon training is like locking yourself into a personalized prison cell

Today was the first 20 miler of the season.

It was hard.

I’m not entirely sure why it was so hard. It was surprisingly hard. While it’s not like I want to run 20 miles every weekend, most of last year’s were surprisingly doable. They didn’t feel like an immense struggle for big chunks of it. Today’s was a different story. The last 8 miles were torturous, and I found myself having to talk myself through it much like I would the last 6 miles of the marathon. I went to a dark, lonely place. My two friends were similarly locked in their own individual prisons as all conversation shut down, though I think at one point I jeered, “You’re almost there” to Jen. We even stopped running as a group but strung out single file. It was grueling. Granted, it was 32 degrees and a 12mph headwind the whole way back. And we had already run the toughest week of training, with almost 40 miles for the week before the long run. Oh, and Jen’s kid had barfed all over his room right before she was ready to leave. Like barf on the ceiling and on furniture. Hm, maybe I’m starting to understand…

There was a hill right before an overpass around mile 18.5. There was alot of cursing. This picture makes it look like nothing. That’s Jen in front of me in our little line of runners. She was very intent on finishing as soon as possible although I kept hollering at her to not push the pace too much.

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I have no words of wisdom on how to talk yourself through those miles. Alot of it is just trying to find a groove to settle into so that you are on auto-pilot and your feet keep shuffling along. This autopilot can be a great thing on a strong run, and it can be a saving grace on a hard run. I like to think of it as perpetual motion or inertia. It’s easier to keep moving if you keep moving, harder if you stop.

When you get into that head space, though, it’s hard to talk yourself through. You have to constantly nudge, encourage, berate yourself to keep moving. You lie to yourself and say you “only” have x miles left, you can do this, etc. I actually was thinking about this line, “We make the road by walking.” I know it in relation to a book by Ira Shor and Paulo Freire (two critical education scholars), but I’m not sure if it originates with them. My baby attempts (Googling for 5 seconds) at finding the origin online brought me to a poem by Antonio Machado, a turn-of-the-century Spanish poet. Whether it begins with him or not, the poem is lovely and appropriate.

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing else;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking makes the road,
and on glancing behind
one sees the path
that he will never trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road—
Just foam in the sea.

Our reward for this test of mental and physical strength? Strong, hot coffee. Mmmmmm. This is a fairly cute picture, but I have to be honest. I cropped part of it out, because my outer layer had a pouch that made me look pregnant and Michelle (in the middle) had a waist belt that hung in an–uh–“interesting” spot.You can still see my bad tired posture, though. And #nofilter

2015-03-22 09.57.06I will say that I am glad this week is finally over. While the training plan still has another 20 miler, since all the weekly mileage is less from here on out, I consider it taper! Woohoooo!!

So, friends, what do you use to get yourself through those tough miles?

Favorite post-run treat?


You know you have a good running group when you can do emergency pit stops unannounced on a run

It’s inevitable. The long run. Bathroom emergencies. It happens to all of us, the best of us, and the rest of us. Running for long distances–or even short distances–tends to, ahem, help move thing along. I have honed my early morning pre-run ritual to a point where it’s usually not an issue. However, today’s run didn’t happen until late morning because of my friend’s childcare issues. [Aside: Annoying how things like kids and parental responsibilities get in the way of your long run. I mean, you gave birth to them, now you have to actually watch and care for them?!] Anyhow, long story short, I was running a long run at a time I usually don’t. So at about mile 12, things got serious. Looking over my splits, mile 12 was the fastest…

Anyhow, so we had two choices: 1) Sprint over the one vaguely hill-like piece of road within several square miles on the way to the nearest coffee shop or 2) Stop unannounced at a friend’s house around lunch time and hope they were home AND ok with their bathroom being used. Fortunately, this home also belonged to that of a runner so little explanation would be needed. Obviously, I chose the latter.

I rang the doorbell and cringed, as she has a baby and it was approaching nap-time and the dogs (forgot about the dogs!) went crazy hearing the bell. And then her husband (why didn’t I think about that?!) answered the door. “Uh, hi, can I use your bathroom? Um, is Julianne here?” Keepin’ it classy. Yup. He was very nice about it, as I bolted past him to the back bathroom, hollering hello to my friend in the kitchen. A very brief time later, with a refilled water bottle and a renewed sense of enjoyment of life, we were back on our way. I’ve told my running group that we should start putting our logos up in our front windows like the bat signal or safe houses. HA.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. My friend Jen and I were pretty excited to get some trail running in (though not really “trail,” it’s paved, but it goes through woods) and get off the concrete. We were nervous that not all of the snow had melted, but with the exception of a couple slushy spots, it was clear. This was good as we were doing tempo for 11 of the 14 miles. In nervous anticipation, we had both brought headphones but ended up being able to run and talk the whole time. Thank God for great running friends and great runs!

The only hiccup (besides the emergency pit stop) was that I had somehow routed us a couple miles short (I’m usually the “routemaster” on long runs), but we quickly figured out how to plug in the extra 2 miles before the end. I love how that becomes a runner’s local “superpower.” I’m sure it will come in handy one day in a more meaningful way…

Anyways, in celebration of a great and successful run, we ended with some coffee. However, Jen and I have very different understandings of what is an “appropriate” amount of post-run caffeine intake.

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I was even more horrified when she told me it was her first cup of the day. It was 1 in the afternoon. Be still my beating heart. The horror.

Finally, I just have to say how much I have loved the 50 degree weather we have been blessed with the last few days. And while this next picture was taken indoors at the swamp house of the zoo, it still is inspirational for reminding us of the hope of spring and its burgeoning bliss.

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What running superpowers do you have?

Do you have emergency pit stop locales? (I’ll refrain from asking for your worst pit stop emergency. We’ll save that one for a rainy day)

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Daylight savings can kiss my … and you can bear anything for 10 seconds

I had set my alarm for 4:50 so I could get up, drink coffee, and get things moving (ahem) before getting out the door at 5:30 for speedwork. However, my body decided it would be a brilliant idea to wake up sometime before 4 and be awake for the day. Somehow my daughter got this memo and woke up right around the same time and came to our bed and rolled around for some time. This was problematic as I had to get out of the bed to get dressed, and my children always decide it’s the worst thing in the world for me to leave the house when I have things to get done. She seemed to finally nod off a little after 5, so I called on all my stealth ninja moves to get out of the bed and the room. There may have been some crawling on the floor as well. Oy, the things we do to wake up before the sun to get a run in!

All this to get out the door for a speed workout with my friend/training partner (Jen). BARF. I hate speed training, with every fiber in my being. I was a sprinter on my high school track team for a hot minute before I realized that I hated running myself breathless, and that it was torturous. So I threw shotput (after trying high jump and long jump). True story.

I am working with a running coach (and my friend) to attempt to qualify for Boston, the holy grail of marathons. It involves a lot of speed work. And a lot of self-doubt. I have struggled through about 7 weeks of training thus far, and have about 7 left. One interval and one tempo workout a week have caused me to question myself more as a runner than I have almost ever. Having hardline times to hit and horrible distances like 1000m or 1200m and having to do most of these on the treadmill because of the snow/ice have hit me hard. The last 7 weeks I blamed the treadmill. You can either hit/maintain those speeds or you can’t (and you step off). That whole “do or do not” is hard to take. On the track, it’s easier to pace yourself, modulate your effort, etc. So I’ve clung to the belief that it’s the treadmill, not me….mhmm.

We’ve had a virtual heat wave the last couple days, so everything is melting. I drove by one of the local tracks yesterday and saw it was clear (at least the track part, ha). Jen and I decided to risk it the next morning for a chance to do the speed workout outside.

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Alas, despite the posted sign that the track was supposed to be open starting at 5 am, it was locked up. So we took to the streets, running up and down long semi-empty stretches of neighborhood. 2 mile warm up, 4x1200s (i.e., ~0.75 miles) with 400m (~0.25 miles) recovery, 1 mile cooldown. Not pretty, but seemed doable. First 2 1200’s were ok. Third one was ugly. And when it’s you out there hyperventilating, pushing yourself, in the FOGGY DARK, you begin to lose all hope.

[I couldn’t get a decent shot of the foggy pre-dawn, but here’s some from later in the morning.]

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So you know what ridiculous thing got me through? Thinking about this new Tina Fey-produced series, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” starring Ellie Kemper (from The Office [US version], and Bridesmaids). The premise of the show sounds ridiculous, Kimmy is rescued from a decade of living in a bunker with a cult leader who told them the apocalypse had come. Upon rescue, she decides to try and make a go of it NYC. I thought the first couple episodes were ok. Anyhow, there’s a scene where she’s trying to offer someone else hope. She suggest that you can endure anything for 10 seconds, so you count to 10. When that 10 is over, you start over again. As inane as that sounds, that is what I did out there this morning. I would quickly calculate that I had a quarter mile left of the interval, realize it was around 2 minutes, and then break it down to 10 seconds. I realize now that I could have just gone straight to the 10 seconds without thinking about the 2 minutes, but your brain isn’t getting all that much oxygen when you’re sprinting, ha. And while my last interval wasn’t fully on pace, I got through it without stopping.

I don’t know if I will qualify for Boston, although I feel like if I can survive this training plan I might have a shot. But I do think about why I run, who I am as a runner, and what the point is. And I realize that I am developing–evolving perhaps–as a runner. I used to just go out and run without worrying about speed/tempo/pace. However, by joining a running group (Best Foot Forward!!), I’ve met other runners who push me and make me want more of myself. And while it’s not always amazing and runners’ highs, how often do we ever really push ourselves beyond our comfort zones to see how much we can accomplish? I joke that I started distance running because I accepted I’d never be a fast runner. And while I don’t think I would call myself all that fast, I’m beginning to realize that I can be fastER. All the same, I’m happy tomorrow will be an easy recovery run day! Keep moving, friends.

And just to show how I’m keeping it real, here’s a post-run shot of me and Jen. There are no filters, it’s blurry, and I look inexplicably aged in this picture (not to mention sweaty), but it’s real.

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Do you ever doubt yourself as a runner/athlete? How do you get through it?

How do you feel about speedwork? Favorite workouts? And how do you do speed in the winter?