Running does not have logic on its side

If you are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been asked the following questions a few hundred times:

“So what exactly are you running from?”
“Do you get the runner’s high?”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”

Am I running from something? Well, yes, most definitely, I am running as a means to escape life’s difficulties, this I must admit, is completely true. We all find avenues of escapism purely as coping mechanisms. No matter how perfect our lives might be, we all experience conflict in one form or fashion. Life is messy. Relationships take work. It’s hard to be a parent. The workplace can be a stressful place. Balancing a family budget is rough. Managing a family is no small task. Resisting temptation is a constant battle. Being a successful adult means fighting through all the hard stuff and loving those around us. It’s all about honoring the spirit of whatever task is at hand and being passionate about the end result. So, yes, I’m running from my problems.

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 Do I get the runner’s high? I’m out running, and thinking, and problem solving. I’m getting my blood flowing and releasing serotonin, thereby elevating my mood and reducing my stress and anxiety. So do I get the runner’s high? Well, yes, I guess I do. With all my blood circulating so well and all of that there serotonin I’ve got going on, yes, it does produce a sort of high in me. This is most clearly demonstrated when I come home from a run to greet my basically still-asleep husband in the kitchen and I’m talking 90 to nothing and he responds with mild irritation. That’s when I think to myself, “yeah, you’re a little fired up right now, Dendy, aren’t you? Chill out a bit.” That’s when I proceed to clean up, eat, and get on with my day. I’m able to get ready very quickly when I’ve got that runner’s high going.

 

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Do I get bored or lonely? No, never. I consider myself to be a sociable person, but I’m also quite introverted. I enjoy the quiet solitude of my runs. I like to be alone. I like my “me time.” Long solo runs are my absolute favorite. It’s just me and the road or trail. I set the pace for the run, I pick the soundtrack to accompany my epic run, I stop and take selfies if I’m so inclined, I pick the route. I’m in total control. I like to be in control. Naturally, not every run goes according to plan. I struggle on runs at times. Some runs, however, are nearly effortless. I, alone, however; am responsible for the run. I don’t have to apologize to anyone, I don’t have to wait on anyone, I don’t have to feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone. It’s just me. I have to answer to no one but me. This is about me and my running. This is about me strengthening not only my body, but my mind. No one else will carry me over the finish lines of my races, I will have to do that for myself.
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 So maybe the reason I don’t get bored or lonely on long solo runs has to do with the fact that I am an antisocial control freak. I mean, I do display those characteristics. But more than that, I am out there thinking and getting stronger. The runner’s high I experience is an added bonus, certainly, but most importantly the time alone and the increased blood flow do wonders for my overall mood and my ability to problem solve. The clarity with which I see difficult life situations while on a run is uncanny. I have solved more problems than I can count while out on a run. This is, quite possibly, the most constructive use of my time possible. I’m maintaining my physical fitness, carefully considering life situations, and improving my overall mood.
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I mean, I get it, running does not have logic on its side. There’s no ball we’re running after, no reason to run around in circles, and it just seems pretty pointless. I guess I should be flattered by the questions I’m asked by non-runners. They are in awe of me. They cannot fathom why a person would want to wake up before the sun and fuel for a run. They can’t possibly grasp the concept of running for 2-4 hours straight. They worry they would get bored or lonely if they attempted to do what we do each week in the name of improvement. Not everyone is willing to put in this hard work.

So, we runners should embrace our unconventionality. We are unique. We are runners, and … running certainly does NOT have logic on its side.

 

 

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Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

Training for a Marathon is Exactly Like Marriage

“To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.”                                      -Mark Twain

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Let’s face it, being married is hard. My husband and I are celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary and I’d be lying if I told you that every day has been a day of wedded bliss. Just like I’d be lying if I told you that every run is great. We have struggled in our marriage, just as I have struggled with my running. There have been times that my husband and I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on our marriage, and I’ve felt the same way about my running at times. We have had incredibly bright, wonderful, meaningful times in our marriage, and so have I had with my running. There are days where being married is very easy, just as there are easy running days. There have been low points in our marriage where I have doubted my abilities to be a good wife, just as I have often doubted my running abilities. Often I am lazy with my marriage, just as I can be lazy with my running. But one thing is for certain, I do not regret my decision to get married, and I do not regret my decision to become a runner. Being married is a huge part of who I am now; I barely remember that other woman I used to be with that different last name, just as I struggle to remember that woman that wasn’t a runner.

So, my wedding anniversary has me thinking about marriage. I have a hard time thinking about anything without bringing my running somehow into the metaphorical mix. Running is truly part of who I am at this point. So indulge me here, if you will, in my marriage/marathon training comparisons.

Marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice, perseverance, dedication, passion and commitment. Marriage is often inconvenient. I have said all of these things about running more times than I can count. Running has truly taught me that if I want something to work, I must work at it. I may feel weak and discouraged at times, but I have to get up after I have fallen down and hit the ground running. I must continue to fight even when I don’t much feel like fighting. As I reflect on marriage and running, two trite running cliches come to mind: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and “stay the course,” and while they are overused, they are profound statements. Marriage is a struggle, there are obstacles in our paths and we often feel like quitting, but we don’t. We keep fighting.

I got married in 2002. Since then we created two beautiful daughters and countless fond memories. We have been through a rough bout of unemployment when the housing market crashed in 2008 and it turned our whole world upside down. We got through those tough 19 months on my teacher’s salary and our savings. We made it through that fog. We downsized our home and are still attempting to build our savings back. My running is sometimes a matter of contention for us. I have to remember to be mindful of fostering my marriage with the same fervor with which I foster my running. We find ourselves struggling with parenting, finances, household organization, and intimacy, as I know all married couples do. The bottom line is that we are family. We are a team. My husband is my best friend, and while I am not always happy with him, I love him. We love each other, warts and all, in good times and in hard times. We are committed and dedicated and passionate about our marriage.

This 15 year wedding anniversary is a milestone anniversary for us. Obviously, it’s that next big one after the important 10, but before the big 20, but it’s a milestone anniversary for us for a very different reason. The truth is, my husband and I are not the same people we were when we first got married. We are different. We have grown and changed. At 25 I was just learning to be a grownup. I was not yet a mother or a runner. At 40, I’m learning to negotiate my work, family, friends and running. I am infinitely more busy than I ever was at 25. All of this goes for my husband too. When we were first married we were dreamers. We were embarking on this adult world together. No one could stop us. These days we’re a bit bedraggled by this big, wide world. Parenting is really hard. We often admit that we’re just figuring all of this grownup stuff out as we go along. We don’t claim to have all of the answers, that’s for sure. We’re often tired and we often have a really hard time fitting everything in. We’re very busy and we let things slide. There’s always a dishwasher full of clean dishes waiting to be unloaded and items in the sink on deck to be loaded once the clean ones are emptied, and it’s the same story over in our laundry room. And that dog needs a bath, that lawn needs to be cut, those floors need to be mopped, those emails and texts need to be answered. We’re drowning in responsibility, but it’s everything we dreamed of as a young couple. We truly have everything we wanted.

I looked up the symbol for the 15th wedding anniversary and learned that it is crystal. I also read that “the ancients regarded the crystal as pure water congealed into extreme hardness by great length of time.” This concept intrigues me. I guess this could be taken in two ways. 1). we started out pure and now we are all hard and bitter. 2). We started out as two and have strengthened and become one over time. Number two is much prettier, but number one is also true. Honestly, we have had our bubbles burst a time or two by the big, cruel world, but we have always had each other, and that is really what matters. When things are rough, and we all know that things will get rough for us at times, it is comforting to have your partner with you with which to commiserate. We have each other to lean on. We are not alone. He is my family. We’ve made it fifteen years, and even though we’re different people now, we’ve grown together. We are stronger than we were in the beginning. We started out pure water and congealed into extreme hardness over time.

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Fierce & Forty

I turn 40 today and it’s a very happy day for me. I am much more evolved than I was in my twenties, for sure, but the true reason I am so excited about turning 40 is that I get to move up to the 40-44 age group in races. I know, to the casual pedestrian that would sound odd, but chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you totally get what I am saying.

It’s a very beautiful thing that the female 35-39 year old age group is so competititive. What it means to me, is that for the majority of women, their kids have grown up enough to be left alone at times and just generally don’t require as much attention and care. It’s very freeing when a mother can have some independence from her children. Her children are developing their own interests and talents and this frees up quite a bit of ole mama’s time. What to do? How about develop a nasty running habit? That’s what happened to me, at least. It’s funny, when I run with the high school cross country girls, I find that they don’t have the kind of perspective I do. I’ve lived a bit more life than they have. I’ve been knocked down quite a few times and have lived to tell about it. I have gone through pregnancy and childbirth. I have had tremendous highs and lows throughout my adult life, not that my life has been that rough or anything, but life is tough and even small hardships teach us to be resilient. I believe I try more now because I believe in myself more than I did when I was younger.

So, how exactly have I changed as I’ve aged?

1. Well, for starters, I’m an open book. I tell everyone everything that is on my mind. I show all of my cards. People tell me that my face tells them everything they need to know. I also don’t try to hide my flaws from people like I did when I was younger. I used to be very concerned with people discovering I was flawed. Nowadays, I almost speak too much about my flaws to people. It’s as if I’m telling them, “look, I know I’m a mess. I really do. I am working on myself, but sometimes it’s just so much fun to be the way I am right now.” So, the positive is that I am self-aware and can admit my faults.

2. I do pretty much everything with passion and heart. I invest everything into whatever it is I am working on. I sometimes get “tunnel vision” where I become completely consumed by things; however, I find that when I am truly invested in my task it shows in the end result. I like to be creative and successful and my key to this is the passion with which I operate. Overall, this is a good thing. I’m striving to do the things I love and to love the things I do.

3. I am much more decisive now than I was when I was younger. I believe a lot of this stems from the fact that I now know what I want. I find that I don’t grapple with decisions as I might have in my youth. I am starting to realize that I spent a great deal of time fretting over things that were pointless and not worth the stress, and I worried too much about making the wrong decisions. I find that I now trust my gut and I try not to feel guilty if things aren’t perfect.

4. While I still struggle with my confidence, I believe I am much more confident now than I was when I was younger. I tend to put myself out there much more. From rocking fashion risks to admitting my weaknesses, I am learning to do things for myself, not in order to look a certain way, and I enjoy laughing at myself. I believe this has all made me much more secure. But, in the spirit of honesty, I still tend to be quite insecure. Perhaps I can overcome this by my 50th birthday. Maybe 60th or 70th?

5. I believe I am more fierce at 40 than I have ever been. Fierce and forty … now that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I feel healthy, strong, beautiful, driven and dedicated. My perseverance and tenacity have given me more guts, for lack of a better word. I feel better, I respect myself, I’m starting to become less emotional and more practical. In short, I’m learning to like myself.

So, for these reasons, I’m happy to start this next decade of my life. I wish for PRs and happy moments with family and friends. I wish to forge a deeper connection with those that I love and admire. I vow to live my life with passion and purpose and to continue to strive to become better.

Marathon Mile Dedication

I will run my third marathon Sunday and I’ve decided to dedicate each of my marathon miles to a specific person or group. I have many people that are very important to me in my life. These people support me and offer me inspiration and motivation and taking the time to think about them during my race will force me to keep pushing. This will be my first year to try this, and I am very excited about it.

When exhaustion sets in, that’s when I feel hopeless. That’s when that horrible part of my brain tells me I simply cannot go on. I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted, and all I want to do is collapse on the pavement and dissolve into a pool of tears. I just want to curl up into the fetal position and sob. Like an embarrassingly loud, guttural, primal sob. A flat out temper tantrum. Naturally I won’t do that, but boy have I fantasized about doing that a few hundred times! This is where this bracelet with mile dedications will come into play. This is that moment when I need to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. This is where I remember that I should be grateful that I am running this marathon right now. This is when I need to acknowledge that there are many people in my life that are rooting for me. There are people that care about what I am doing. These people want me to succeed. These people are important to me and in this weak moment, I need to honor them. I’m not only running for myself, I am running for all of them.

I won’t publish my dedication list here … that would just be weird. Kind of like admitting my political affiliation or religion. Obviously, as evidenced by my blog, I am not afraid to share some of my deepest, darkest thoughts, but they are my thoughts that affect me. I shy away from writing about my political beliefs, church involvement, or specific people in my life. It seems rude. For some reason publishing the list seems too personal, too. But, I will tell you some of the obvious mile markers, just in case you are curious.

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Of course my husband, each daughter, mother, and father are on the list. These people are my biggest cheerleaders. Naturally, at times they resent the time I put into my running, but they are the very first people to brag about me to anyone who will listen. They are proud of me. They believe in me. They make me better. Then there are my dear friends. These people aren’t family … they don’t have to stay loyal to me, but they do. They ask me about my runs and offer me encouragement and support on a regular basis. I don’t have a long list of friends, but these people are quality people. What I lack in numbers, is made up for in quality, for sure. There is the cross country coach and the cross country girls. These people are like a family of sorts for me. No words could really ever express the gratitude I have for these people. There are all of my social media friends that inspire me to pursue my passion and cheer me on. There are my coworkers and the student body at my school. I love my job and I consider the people I work with a work family. There are the companies and organizations that took a chance on me and allowed me to serve as ambassador for them. These people opened many doors for me and created countless opportunities for me to become truly connected to the running community. Then, of course, there is me. I will run the last .2 for me and only me. It will be a mad sprint to the finish and I will be smiling the whole way. I will throw my arms up as I step on that finish line as I always do.  

I honestly can’t believe I never thought of this idea with my first or second marathon. I believe doing this will remind me to keep fighting. It will remind me to push past my feelings of inferiority. It will force me to focus on what is important to me rather than my shortcomings. It will remind me that even though I am feeling woebegone, I can ignore that emotional aspect of the discomfort I am feeling. It will give me that eye of the tiger I need. It will make me fierce.

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

Weekends away with my husband.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-39-59-amThis isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that I write about how vacation running is simply the best. But even more than that, a vacation away from our kids was simply the best for my husband and me.

 
I had to go to Austin for a meeting with the Texas book selection committee on which I serve, and for the second year in a row, my husband and I turned it into a mini vacation. It was just the two of us, and it was glorious. Then, the following weekend, my husband and I participated in the Shiner Beer Run in Shiner, Texas. So, for two weekends in a row, we took trips without our children and we enjoyed ourselves.

So what is it, exactly about a trip away from home, not even in an exotic location, that is so enjoyable?

 

  • Breaking routine

In short, we enjoyed no kids, no work, and no household chores. We traded in all of that routine for new experiences, meeting new people, and making new memories. It was so easy for us to enjoy each other with the absence of daily stressors. There wasn’t any yelling up the stairs, “Come on girls, we need to leave in ten minutes!” or “Callie, have you studied for your science test?” or “Are these dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?” It was just talking and laughing and hanging out and it was wonderful.

  • Rejuvenation

Like a defibrillator to our chests, these mini vacations recharged us and made us fresher. The daily grind can be quite cumbersome and a break from the constant commotion was such a relief. One doesn’t truly realize the amount of stress they are under when they are constantly coming and going from one event to another. I guess, in a way, that’s a good thing, for if a person is able to just keep chugging along without a nervous breakdown, she must be doing something right. However, even the strongest people out there need to get their batteries recharged or they will short circuit. My husband and I were able to hit the pause button on our day-to-day lives, hang out together with no real responsibility (except for that pesky all day meeting that Saturday in Austin for me) and get refreshed.

 

  • Appreciation of our lives

Being away from the kids, the home, and work makes us appreciate all of those things that much more. We got to the point where we were actually looking forward to returning home to our family and our work, even though we were having a great time. We love our life. It is truly what we dreamt of nearly fifteen years ago when we got married. We wanted a house, healthy children, and steady jobs. We have all of these things and then some. Our lives are really very good. We have a lot to be thankful for, indeed. Being away from the grind made us truly appreciate what we have back at home.

  • Good old fashioned fun

While we’re certain we couldn’t exist without wifi, it was nice to chill out on the work emails and detox from the excessivie social media interactions in favor of walks in the park, listening to live music, dining at new restaurants, and lazily cuddling. These are the things that truly make the world go round. It was quite fun to do these things with my husband. We’ve been together since the year 2000, but we’ve been parents since 2004, and we don’t always take the time to enjoy each other as we should. These weekends reminded us of this, and for that I am quite grateful.

 

  • Adventure

Even though we were in cities we’ve been to countless times, we felt a bit adventurous, and this was exciting. We felt more closely bonded to each other through our shared adventure away. It got me thinking, too, that I tend to be attracted to people that enjoy adventure. The “adventure gene” should be present in all of the people with which I choose to associate. Obviously, a 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour trip to a city within our state isn’t the same as a backpacking trip around Europe, but adventure can be found anywhere. I find adventure on my runs in my hometown, and we enjoyed the adventure we had together in Austin and Shiner. Additionally, I really enjoyed my Austin and Shiner runs, as always.

 
One day my husband and I will be sitting around in our rocking chairs asking each other where the time went. We’ll barely remember the specifics of soccer seasons, cross country meets, school projects, etc. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stresses of our day-to-day lives and to forget what is really important. Taking a break away from home and away from our children really helps us to remember that.

Rest Day Restlessness


We work hard. We train in the wee hours of the morning when our families are still asleep. We train in the heat, cold, and the rain. We train when we are sick, stressed, and unmotivated. We often don’t much feel like getting out the door and pushing our bodies to their limits, but we do it because it’s important to us and we are dedicated to our sport. We are athletes. We follow a plan. Rest days are part of the plan. We have earned our rest days through much hard work. So why do we have trouble resting on rest days? Why can’t we enjoy the rest day? We abuse our bodies on purpose to build them up and resting them is part of the build up process. We know we need to rest. We even dream of rest days when we are struggling and feeling tired. Then the rest day comes and we suddenly feel restless. Such a weird phenomenon.

So why do we have such a hard time resting? I have a few ideas.

  • Training gives us a sense of purpose.

Training is very meaningful to us. We would never dream of giving it up. Without it, we feel a lack of achievement; a lack of purpose. When we rest, we feel as if we are not actively pursuing our goals. We are idle and this makes us restless. We’re like lost ducklings. What on earth do we do with ourselves? We’re used to being a busy grownup AND fitting in our training. Our schedules are filled to the gills and we rather like it this way. So a day of rest? Well, it just feels wrong, doesn’t it?

  • It has become who we are.

It is who we are. We are addicted. Let’s face it: we’re junkies. We crave that rush of adrenaline. It has become part of our identity. It is in our blood. It guides virtually all of our life decisions. it gets to a point where we make our lives fit around training. We want to do everything, but we know our training is the thing that makes all of the other things better. Training makes us feel fulfilled, it contributes to this better version of ourselves that we are enjoying.

  • Rest days make us feel like quitters. 

Training has taught us to never quit. We feel like quitting, A LOT, but we don’t. We keep on keeping on. We push past our feelings of weakness. For some reason, rest days make us feel like we have quit. Like we’re slackers. It’s a guilty feeling we experience. We’re left thinking, “I can’t believe I’m not training at all today. What if this turns into two days, and then more? What if I like it too much and I lose all of my momentum? I can’t let that happen.” I have actually thought those thoughts in my head. Typing them out makes me realize just how crazy I am. I have to let myself rest. I have to remember that I am committed to my plan and rest days are part of the plan.

  • No activity compares to it. 

We try to find suitable replacements for our training, but everything pales in comparison. I know that a useful coping mechanism when we crave a certain thing we can’t have is to replace it with another thing. The problem is that I just can’t find a thing to replace training that matches its power. I will try many things on rest days, but ultimately I find myself biding my time until the next training day. Writing about it helps some, ergo this blog post.

  • It is our stress reliever. 

It’s no secret that exercise is a stress reliever. For us dedicated athletes, training at our intensity levels and never having a day of rest is a recipe for an overuse injury. We know this. We also know that an intense sweat session would clear our heads, improve our moods, and make us feel less stressed. But, alas, we’re sitting around feeling restless on rest day and can’t get in our “de-stressification” (yeah, I made up a word).

  • It is our escape.

Not only is it a stress reliever, it is an out and out escape for us. When we train we are away from our families and our work, simply doing our thing. Of course we love our families and our jobs, it’s just that it’s nice to have a healthy activity as our escape from all of that. It is our time when we don’t necessarily have to worry about life’s hassles. It is our “me time.” It is our escape. Rest days make us feel a bit trapped.

I have to say, this topic absolutely fascinates me. I know I am not alone in feeling restless on rest days. I know this because I’ve spoken to countless people that feel the same way I do on this topic. The fact that I am not alone is comforting insofar as I know I’m not the only crazy freak out there.

So, to all my friends resting out there: hang tight, training day will come soon enough.

I’m a fraud, and here’s why …

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and admit it. I’m a fraud. I’m not who I seem to be. I am always striving to project the image of a confident wife, mother, librarian, and runner. I strive to do right by the people most important to me in my life. I honestly try hard, but I fail often. I know that no one is perfect, but I am very far from perfect, and I really feel like you all should know about it. Not that any of you were thinking I’m perfect … I’m not that presumptuous. I’m just a little worried that in an effort to reassure myself of my successes I have painted the picture of someone I simply am not. I’m a fraud.

  •  I’m a fraud as a wife.us

Marriage is difficult. Marriage is rather like the marathon (more on that later, as my 15th wedding anniversary is coming up and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this concept). Marriage is not easy. I often put my own needs before my husband’s and our needs as a couple. I often approach situations with him from a “how does this affect me?” standpoint rather than a “how are we going to make this work?” stand. I work hard to squeeze all of my training in around our hectic schedules, but am I working as hard at squeezing couple time in with him? No. No, I’m not. My priorities in my marriage are a little out of whack and I need to work on this. Just as I am dedicated to my sports, so should I be dedicated to my husband. So, I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a wife.

  • I’m a fraud as a mother.girls

My daughters are smart, funny, sweet, beautiful, and talented. They are sources of great joy for me. Their spirits and tenacity amaze me on a constant basis and they inspire me to push myself to be better. But do I pay enough attention to them? I mean really look at them and listen to them? Do I let them know how much they mean to me? No, no I don’t. I am often distracted when I listen to their stories from school that day. I am often stirring something on the stove top while answering a text about soccer practice carpool and stretching my tight calves from my afternoon cross country speed work that I’ve raced home from. I mean I’m there, but am I REALLY there? In the car when they are letting me into their worlds by telling me about this one girl at the locker and this one funny teacher that does that funny thing and the funny song the younger one made up with her best friend, am I even really listening or just picking up pieces of the story here and there? Even worse, am I calculating my long run route and the paces I want to hit that weekend? Yes, yes actually I often am. I have to say, I have never wanted to be the mother that lives so vicariously through her kids that she has no real identity for herself anymore. That’s not healthy. But, have I gone too far the other way? Am I a self-centered mom? I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a mother.

  • I’m a fraud as a runner.run

Yes, I run. I run A LOT. I run roads, trails, and tracks. I run alone and I run with a partner or group on occasion. I run long and I run short. I run hills and I do speed work. I run races and I monitor my pacing on practice runs. I set running goals and I stick to them. I read about running. I talk about running. I write about running. I share my running passion in person and through social media. I am a runner, but I often doubt myself. I often am envious of faster runners. I often yearn for more running success instead of celebrating what I’ve already accomplished. It’s so easy for me to cheer other runners on and to remind them to quit doubting themselves. I tell them, “quit focusing on how far you have to go. Concentrate on how far you’ve already come”  and “you’re doing awesome. Don’t quit. Think about how many people that don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.” “There will always be someone faster. Focus on beating YOUR own best.” I say these things and I genuinely mean them, but I have a really hard time following my own advice. I’m happy for faster runners, but I am also envious. I often wonder if I can really improve any more. I often wonder at what point I’ll be exposed for the running fraud that I am. People must be on to me. I mean, isn’t it obvious? I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a runner.

  • I’m a fraud as a librarian.librarian

I love my job. I love working in a high school library. I love working with teenagers, for they are energetic, optimistic, humorous, and adventurous. I tend to have a great rapport with the students, and they inspire me to work hard for them. I love to read and write and I love technology, so being surrounded by books and technology is very comforting to me. But am I doing everything I should be doing as a librarian? Do I focus on the teachers enough? Do I focus on my administrative duties — the budget, ordering, technology maintenance, circulation reports, patron logs, collection analysis, etc.? To be honest, all of the repetitive duties and responsibilities are kind of a drag for me. I’m much more motivated by the opportunity to be playful, humorous and engaging, and I get to be this way with the students. What student doesn’t love a passionate, energetic librarian? I enjoy being that bright spot in the day for my students, but let’s face it, those bills and reports aren’t going to take care of themselves. Am I devoting enough of my time on the important, albeit mundane, tasks required of me? No, no I am not. Being a grownup means doing things we don’t like to do sometimes. I need to balance my priorities at work. I will admit it. I am a fraud as a librarian.

I know, I know, no one can be perfect. If you’ve read this far, you are probably shaking your head at me saying, “Come on, no one is perfect! We’re all frauds, really.” No one person can be all things to all people. Perfection is a myth and human beings are flawed. I know all of this, in my heart of hearts.  I know that by striving to do the very best in all areas of my life I am living an authentic life. Yes, I have made some grave mistakes in all areas of my life, but those mistakes don’t define me. Those slip ups do not make me a fraud. They just make me human.

I am flawed. I vow to focus more on living an authentic life. I am a good wife, mother, librarian, and runner … warts and all.

Peace In My Plateau

imageA Plateau is defined as “a period or state of little or no growth or decline.” I believe that in life, when people hit a plateau, it brings about a sort of life crises.  Some would define “crisis” as a dramatic upheaval in one’s life. By crisis; however, I mean “a turning point.” This is a turning point of sorts for me. I am nearing my 40th birthday, and this milestone birthday, coupled with the comfortable plateau I am currently snuggled into, has given me cause for some self-reflection.
Distance running is a godsend for a person who needs a bit more self-reflection. When I am out on a good, long run my attention drifts and my imagination thrives. It is as if I am in the wilderness, my mind wandering, and this frees up my creativity. I am somewhat aimless, enjoying solitude, discovery, detachment, and introspection. How many first drafts have I written on long runs? Countless drafts. The solitude, coupled with the rhythmic movement, create a completely cathartic experience. I think of many things on my long run and I also think about nothing. Often I think about some pretty dumb things. Silly things. Things that people have said that have made me laugh. Funny things that I have said. The witty comeback that I wish I had uttered in that perfect moment to get a laugh. Often I think about my family. I think about how I don’t deserve my husband and daughters, my loving parents, my coworkers and friends. Do I show them enough how much they all mean to me? Definitely not. I think a lot about how I need to fix this. At some point during the long run I think about how much running consumes me. Every single part of my body is active and engaged while running. There is virtually no body part that is not activated. This makes me feel strong and beautiful. If that feeling could be bottled up I would make millions of dollars. I truly believe that something happens to me on a long run. I believe I am changed a little. The running affords me a feeling of danger and the physical exertion brings out my alter ego. Suddenly I am transformed into a risk taker, seeking adventure and enjoying the feel of adrenaline. I am throwing out comfort in favor of testing my physical limits. I feel wild, free, and fierce. As trite as this will sound, running truly is my therapy. Running relieves my tension. Running improves my overall mood. Running helps me put things into perspective. Running forces me to put everything away and to focus on nothing but examining myself. It is my time to give careful consideration to my conduct, my motives, my priorities, and my blessings.
imageThere’s definitely more to running than just the opportunity to self-reflect, though. Running is also a form of escape for me. I would venture to say that this is true for many of us. It is a way to escape without packing our bags, leaving our families, and heading for the hills. We are bored. The daily life routine has gotten very, well routine. Realizing this, it’s really no surprise that many of us threw ourselves into running later in life. We get to a point where we look around and say, “wait … this is what life is? This is being a grownup?” As I sit here reading this back I realize how depressing that sounds, but it is just a natural, honest reaction that we all have. Running is a way to hold the reigns and take charge of our lives. We won’t just let our lives pass us by, conversely, we will hit the ground running. We will go after what we want and we will feel satiated. We know that by constantly upping the bar for ourselves we might very well be getting in over our heads, but we don’t care. The thrill of giving into our urges is electric and unwavering. In life, when I’m grappling with a difficult situation, I find that I choose to think about my running instead. I know that with trial and error I can improve my running. I know this because I keep improving. Likewise, when I’m on a run, I’ll think about my difficult situations, but I’ll know that at that particular moment in time, I can’t do anything about them. At that point in time, all I have to do is keep running. One foot in front of the other. I may slow my pace, but I must keep going forward. Additionally, running, unlike life, is a puzzle that begs to be solved. The goal of a marathon, for instance, is concrete. The goal is a measured, methodical, matter-of-fact entity: it is a finish time. Achieving that concrete goal is entirely up to us. We have a race date that serves as our deadline and it is up to us to do the things that we need to do to put us in the very best position we can be come race day. All of the training leading up to race day is what we thrive on. We may fail. Success is not guaranteed. We have wonderful plans, but there are many variables at work that could derail our best laid plans. We are always close to burnout, injury, and weakness, but just like in life, we struggle in running and we must work hard to keep going. Perhaps it isn’t a running escape we go on, that seems to have a negative connotation; like we are escaping our wonderful families and visiting an asylum. Perhaps it is a running retreat we continue to go on. It is our refuge. We are reenergized and restored, ready to be better versions of ourselves for others.
imageHuman beings, by nature, seek routine. Routines make us feel safe and secure. All of the things genuinely worth having in life are not just temporary gratifications, and they come with resistance and sacrifice. However, I find it somewhat ironic that the daily routine of life becomes cumbersome for us, but we rather enjoy the ritual of the long run. This seems to be a huge contradiction: we are bored by our life routine, but the routine of the long run intrigues us? Why is it that daily life rituals are stressful and annoying, but weekly long run rituals are exciting? I haven’t quite figured this little conundrum out yet. I think it must go back to the fact that the long run affords us time with ourselves for self-reflection. We need to somewhat abuse ourselves with our long runs in order to heal whatever it is that needs healing. Distance running is a healthy coping mechanism for us. The exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress and anxiety, increases bone mass, muscles, and endurance. Not only that, distance running helps us create self-awareness and confidence through the clarity with which we are able to think. While the physical benefits of running are many, for me, it is the outlet running creates that keeps me coming back for more. I am not afraid to admit it … I am quite a mess, and running helps center me and keep me on the right track. I treasure running. It is an absolute gift. Running makes me feel incredibly strong, and I remind myself of this feeling of strength when I feel weak. There is certainly a connection between mind and body with running. Running has taught me that once I push through the pain, it all becomes so much easier. It has taught me to cope with discomfort and pain. Let’s face it, pain and discomfort in life isn’t going anywhere, right? We all experience pain, it is not a unique experience. We all have our tough stuff with which we must deal. Running better equips me with the tools I need to deal with life’s discomfort. Instead of running from difficulties and discomfort, I will run towards them, head on, and deal with them. Often this will hurt, but I am strong enough to deal with the hurt. So maybe the long run is that part of our life routine where we allow ourselves to hurt and to struggle and to consequently feel the extreme gratification of overcoming such obstacles.
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So, this plateau I mentioned is not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing. I am doing a lot of things in my life well. I am comfortable. I have an amazing family and job. I have wonderful friends and a very fulfilling hobby. While my husband and I are certainly not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we live a comfortable life and are afforded many luxuries not everyone gets to experience. I am happy. Running makes me realize that I am driven and dedicated and if I want to push myself to achieve more I should. I want more running success. I am committed to pushing myself more. I appreciate all of the gains I’ve already made, running and otherwise, but I have reached a plateau of sorts. It’s time for me to start climbing until I reach the next proverbial precipice.