Cold Obsession

I managed to catch the sunset before I turned around.

I managed to catch the sunset before I turned around.

It’s day six of the #writeandrun31 challenge. I’d planned to meet Carl after work, so I didn’t do my mile this morning. I was fine with that plan because this dark-thirty running in the freezing-ass cold is, um, challenging. So I reverted to my usual routine of taking all my stuff to work, changing in my office at the end of the work day, and heading north. Carl’s plans changed mid-day, so I ran 3.25 solo miles¬†from the Scott entrance of the MKT trail. It got dark on me before I got back. (Note to self: that’s dumb. You have a headlamp. Use it.) It was 24 degrees and felt like 17. Truly, it isn’t as bad as it sounds after about the first quarter mile. I’m not sure why I’m obsessed with the weather these days — it’s January, it’s cold. Not earth-shattering. I suppose it’s because it’s *so* cold and I’ve decided to do this challenge *now*. Gah. I assume I’d be equally obsessed with the heat and humidity if I’d started this thing in mid-July. But I also assume, as I sit here in my pajamas on my couch, that while I will get up in the morning at dark-thirty, I will hit the treadmill instead of the road because the temps are going to plummet overnight to include dangerous wind chills and gusts in the 30 m.p.h. range in the a.m.

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Compliments and Feel Good Moments

The good folks at #writeandrun31 offer daily writing prompts. I haven’t used any yet, not because I’m opposed to them, but because what I’ve been writing about so far is simply my attempts at getting outside and doing my miles. But yesterday’s prompt was intriguing. The question was what is the best compliment you’ve heard on a race course? Oh my, there are so many! And I’m going to conflate “compliments” with “feel good” moments here. It’s hard to narrow down a very long list of inspirational moments during runs and races. But here are five, in no particular order.

I Almost Always See a Cardinal.

This is important because I consider it some sort of weird other-worldly signal from my dad, who died in 2008. I started running shortly thereafter. World’s biggest Cardinal (baseball) fan that he was, I almost always see a cardinal when I’m out on a long run – or even a shorter one. I must say that I don’t see them when running in the dark or near dark, but the moment I begin to struggle, a red bird flies across my path. Almost guaranteed. In fact, there are times now when I think, OK, I’m starting to feel like crap, where’s my cardinal? ūüôā Granted, there are LOTS of cardinals around here, but I do like to think some of them are sending me little signals of a still present connection.

Run if You Can, Walk if You Must, But Finish for Boston.

This was a sign at about mile 19 in the 2013 Illinois Marathon, about two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings. It was still raw, we were apprehensive, and I don’t think you can be a runner and not be impacted by the events of that day. So this sign gave me pause, and the strength to get through the last 7 miles of that race and get a PR too! This sign is tied for first place in the Best Race Signs game with a sign I saw in the NYC Marathon that said “Whiskey has missed you, too.” Ha. People are just great.

Let’s Go Boston!

Another Boston reference? Yep. This was the same race – the 2013 Illinois Marathon. I wore a Boston Red Sox baseball hat (my dad, I assume, was doing the proverbial “rolling over in his grave” at that little stunt… :-)) in honor of the city I love and as a small tribute to the marathoners and fans who were impacted by the bombings days before. This Illinois race is one that has a lot of crowd/fan support, so at one point, instead of yelling my name (“let’s go, Krista!”) in support and for encouragement, I heard a “let’s go, Boston!” Someone in the crowd was referencing my hat. I thought that was so damned cool, and I picked up my step.

You Are One Tough Sonofabitch

This may not seem very nice! But it was necessary. And it is correct. I am one tough sonofabitch, especially when it comes to pushing through during a particularly difficult point in a race. Sometimes I just need some prompting, and this time it came, as it often does, from Carl, my running partner, with about 8 miles to go in the 2014 New York City Marathon. Those were 8 damned hard miles. But with his help, and to what may seem to some as harsh words, I toughed it out, sonofabitch style, and I have that glorious finisher’s medal to prove it.

There’s a Party at the End of this Race, and We Got to Get There!

I’m pretty confident that this happened during one of the Memphis (St. Jude’s) half marathons. It was toward the end, maybe mile 10 or 11. I was around a bunch of people who just seemed to be struggling a bit. One woman was openly weeping, obviously struggling a bit more than others at that moment. But there was this guy. This guy was having the best time, letting his bigger-than-life personality carry him to the finish line. He shared that personality with us when we needed it most, saying loudly, so everyone around us could hear: “C’mon now! There’s a PARTY at the end of this race… and we got to GET there!” We laughed, and agreed, and carried on.

Posted in Illinois Marathon & Half Marathon, NYC Marathon, Races, Running Musings | Tagged | Leave a comment

An Ice Cold Test

16 degrees with wind chill temp at 1 degree. Winds at 15 mph.

16 degrees with wind chill temp at 1 degree. Winds at 15 mph.

This is day four of my #writeandrun31 challenge. I really have no doubt that I can do the mile every day. Physically I can do that, and more I assume. The challenge for me is getting off my ass and doing it. That’s a mind game.¬†It’s pretty easy, though, to¬†be able to¬†tell myself that for god’s sake it’s only 10 damn minutes. Get up. Do it. So far so good, but I’ve only had one day in the four where I was working. The other days were New Year’s Day, Saturday and Sunday. So, two underlying challenges lie ahead: running each day before work (because I know myself, and I will not do it once I’m home), and running in the FREEZING cold. There are always the days that I meet Carl for a run after work – those are not the issue. I’m used to taking my stuff, changing at work, meeting him and getting our weekly runs in BEFORE I get home. This other challenge is for the days that he and I aren’t planning to run together.

Anyway, back to today. Sunday. No problem. Except that it’s cold. Really fucking cold. I know what I’m really doing. I’m proving to myself and others that I can maintain my running habit in the cold winters of New England. But that’s for another post. ūüėČ

Home after my 16 degree mile.

Home after my 16 degree mile.

It took me more time to get dressed to run my mile than it did to run my mile. Plus I hemmed and hawed about for at least an hour. So silly! I made better choices today in terms of clothing (it’s not like I don’t have proper running gear for all kinds of weather – trust me, I have more running clothes than work clothes). I wore two layers on the bottom, and three on top, including a lightweight North Face jacket, a scarf, a hat, headband (for my ears – hats don’t cut it for me), and two pairs of gloves (tight-fitting ones under mittens). The clothes that touched my skin were wicking, as they should always be. Truth be told, I was a little warm when I got back. But I think those items, or slight variations of them, will work for me in this kind of weather. I do need to make one major adjustment. I hate the scarf. I need something to keep my face warm, but I can’t stand breathing into a scarf that gets wet and cold and makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Plus my glasses get so fogged up when I’m breathing into the thing I can’t see anything! The picture to the right is when I came in after¬†the run, so my glasses fogged up with the warm air, but this is what happened on the run when breathing into the scarf. No good. I guess I’m in the market for a face mask?

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Happy Trails

Today I went on a¬†trail run through the Rhett’s Run portion of the Cosmo Nature Trail at Cosmo Park, here in CoMo.

Sitting on the Rhett's Run rock at the beginning of the trail.

Sitting on the Rhett’s Run rock at the beginning of the trail.

That was my third trail run. The first one was a couple years ago (maybe?)… a five mile trail run out at Rock Bridge Park. I didn’t mind it, but it’s much harder to do a trail run, for me anyway, and I assume most people, because there’s no lollygagging. No daydreaming. You focus, or you risk hitting a rock the wrong way, twisting an ankle, or worse. The second trail run I did was more recent and I just freaked out toward the end. Carl was running what I thought was too fast, I couldn’t keep up, I was afraid of falling, or worse, watching him fall. A complete disaster.

No real idea which is the right direction. We did this a lot.

No real idea which is the right direction. We did this a lot.

Given all that, I still want to do trail runs.¬†I promised myself this time that I would try not to freak out, and that I would focus on my own run. My own head. It’s all I can do – learn. It was really great! And wow, what a workout. We may have done six miles, but my body feels like I did at least a half marathon. I was a good run I think. I took us two hours to go those¬†six miles, but I’m not worried about either of those things. This was a practice run for me for the Rhett’s Run trail race that we’re going to do in few weeks. It’ll be my first trail race and I’m anxious to see how I do.

It does make me wonder what my real fear is, though. I’m typically a risk-taker. I don’t mind the physical pain that comes with pushing my body to do something it isn’t used to. Could it be so simple as I am a novice, and so I’m scared, frankly, of hurting myself? It could stem from the fall last year that broke my rib. Whatever it is, trail running is something that I’m going to try to tackle. Carl was very patient with me today, explaining some of the ins and outs of trail running to me. And this time I was listening. As I got more into the run, I got more comfortable, and he could tell. That’s a good sign, so I think I’m ready for my next one. Not just yet, though. I need to finish this beer and rest for about a week.

I hope I'm always on the Forget-Me-Not Trail.

I hope I’m always on the Forget-Me-Not Trail.

This was a neat clearing of sorts once we found our way back onto the trail.

This was a neat clearing of sorts once we found our way back onto the trail.

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This was a neat clearing of sorts once we found our way back onto the trail.

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5:35 a.m.

I figured I can do a mile in (roughly) ten minutes, so I set my alarm for ten minutes earlier than normal. I had all my stuff laid out, so all I had to do was throw on some clothes and my shoes, and head out. And I did! It was hard to not think about every last excuse not to do it. Hella hard. But once I got moving it actually seemed pretty normal. Peaceful too, since I seemed to be the only human outside at such an insane hour of the day.

I need to consider that cotton is not good material to run in. I wanted to make it as easy as possible to get out the door, so I ran in what I slept in, with a couple extra layers in the form of a sweatshirt and pants. No good. I just need to lay out the right stuff, because even a mile made me wet and cold. And now I feel badly for not taking my dog out for her morning stroll like I had been doing. I can get myself out the door, but not her? That doesn’t seem very nice, so I’m going to have to figure that out. The problem is that she can’t run with me. I’ll have to do my thing, then go back and take her out to do hers. At the moment I’m happy with the fact that I got out at all.

Happy first Friday of 2015.
#writeandrun31

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2014 Columbia Eve Fest 5k; Other Musings; and #writeandrun31

OTHER MUSINGS

I’ll start with other musings. I’ve been saying I want to do more writing. I don’t have anything in particular in mind, but I keep saying it, and I have this blog, so, you know….. Hey, it’s the new year. I’ll give it a shot.

COLUMBIA EVE FEST 5k

I ran it yesterday afternoon – it always starts at 4:00 p.m. in the heart of downtown CoMo. It follows the same course as so many of the other CoMo 5ks…. out to the football stadium and back. I’ve done that course a lot, but the hills always seem to surprise me. Damn, it’s hilly. And the race ENDS on a hill. Good god it nearly kills me every time. I did not do as well — not nearly as well — as I did on exactly the same course on Thanksgiving Day, which I failed to write about here. It was that race that gave me my best 5k time ever: 27:48. I was thrilled! Yesterday, I couldn’t seem to settle down, never really got into a rhythm, and came in at 31:29, unofficially. I didn’t wear my Garmin, so I just went by the time I saw on the clock when I crossed the finish line. It also didn’t help that we waited for what seemed like an eternity at the beginning of the race for the organizers to thank the sponsors, and tell us instructions that I’m sure we all knew but couldn’t hear anyway. It was 25 degrees, with a wind chill that made it feel like 16, and at the end of the race my lungs were burning from the cold. I never knew what that meant before yesterday. I’d read it, heard other runners say it, but had never experienced that feeling personally. Now I know.

PERSISTENT LEG THING

It’s a thing. I don’t know what it is. It’s been persistent since the Thanksgiving Day 5k… a nagging, throbbing pain down the outside of my right leg. The good news is the pain no longer seems to originate in my butt. Just a leg thing now, which I assume is much better than a leg thing that starts in the butt. I have no idea, but it seems reasonable.

MORE WRITING

So yesterday I joined a Facebook group (more on FB next) called #writeandrun31. It’s hosted by the No Meat Athlete guy, who I don’t know personally but doesn’t bug the shit out of me, so I like him well enough. The idea is that the group will be a motivator for those folks who have a desire to both run and write more. Like ME! Yes, I thought. I could do that. At least one mile and one sentence (or whatever the goal) each day of January. But of course, yesterday was New Year’s Eve, the time when so many people make promises to themselves that they break by 8:00 a.m. January 1. I’m under no illusions that I will do what the motivator is designed to help me do, but I’m updating this blog right now and I am cozy in my jammies after running exactly one mile a bit ago. So there, January first! Take that! Ha!

FACEBOOK

I’ve made some changes to my Facebook feed.¬†I’m not commenting on/posting as much¬†stuff as before. I’m tired of spending so much mindless time and energy scrolling through so much nonsense (IMHO) that only serves to make me angry. That’s my fault, of course,¬†and so I’ve made some changes to mitigate that.¬†I’ve blocked people, totally unfriended others, left groups, joined new ones.¬†I’m still around, obviously, and I’ll still bore you with all my running stuff and travels if I’m lucky. And maybe this blog will morph into something other than just me talking about running.

Who knows. It’s a new year, and anything can happen.

PEACE.

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Strength in Every Pose, Always Engaged: My Thoughts on Finishing the NYC Marathon

Two weeks before the 2014 NYC Marathon we had a great 12 mile run and I hit this pose exactly how I wanted to.

Two weeks before the 2014 NYC Marathon we had a great 12 mile run and I hit this pose exactly how I wanted to.

At the beginning of every yoga class, we’re asked to set our sankalpa, our intention, for the class. Every class, every time, as I was training for the New York City Marathon, this was mine: Strength in every pose, always engaged. This was my way of focusing my head and my heart into my practice. And my way of reminding myself that in yoga, as in life, and — as I hope to convey in this post — in running, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to find your strength and stay engaged.

San = born of the heart. Kalpa = way of being. An intention isn’t necessarily a goal.

So with that in mind, let me tell you about my NYC marathon experience. I’ve been thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, since Sunday. We’ve been anticipating it since July! But I’ve been struggling about how to write about it – until today. I found two things inspiring enough to help me start. The first is this, written by a volunteer at the water stop at mile 15, as posted on the NYC marathon’s Facebook page: “So many…marathoners chip away at doubt and fear with every breath taken and mile accomplished. Overcoming a challenge, setting a goal, and relentlessly moving forward to achieve it, without excuses.” The second came in an email from the marathon organizers. It said, in part, “you’re now part of an elite class of TCS NYC Marathon finishers! Let that sink in.”

Honestly, it’s taken me a few days of letting it sink in. Carl tried to tell me during and after the race that hey, Krista, you are running the NYC marathon. Krista! You finished the NYC marathon! I was like, meh.

The pain was intense. The struggle to the finish line was fierce. But I was determined. Strength in every pose (step). Always engaged.

But let me back up.

At the start village, trying to stay warm. Just one of many challenges.

At the start village, trying to stay warm. Just one of multiple challenges.

This race was the hardest of my life. Up at 4:00 a.m., we took a bus to the Staten Island start line at 6:00 a.m. And there we waited – and waited, and waited – until our 10:55 a.m. start time. It was cold, and we could only sit (hard to stand on your feet while waiting 4 hours to run a marathon!) on the cold ground and try to stay warm. It’s difficult to describe the day up until the race start. There are four villages that separate the runners into start waves and corrals. We were in the orange wave, corral F – the LAST group to go. We got there and staked out our small piece of ground and settled in for the long wait.

We took pictures, ate some snacks, drank some coffee. Listened to the announcers announce all the other wave starts. Watched everyone else leave. Wait. Wait. Wait. It took real effort for me to not lose it before we even started running. Total mindfuck.

There’s only so much excitement I can muster waiting in the cold to do a really long run. Especially when my relationship with running is love/hate at best.

At the start village with Carl, doing our best to stay warm.

At the start village with Carl, staying warm.

It’s a challenging course in the most perfect conditions. Our particular race day saw 20-30 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 50 mph. We abandoned our time goal at about mile 1 – halfway across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, as we struggled to stay upright and moving forward through the brutal winds. At times on the bridge the wind was so strong it would blow the foot that was off the ground into the other leg. The elite runners (I heard) were laughing as the wind knocked them into each other. I’ve never even attemped a training run in winds like that, much less a marathon. At mile ONE, I knew we were in for a hell of a physical and mental challenge.

At the apex of the Varrazano-Narrows bridge, linking Staten Island to Brooklyn, and one mile into the NYC marathon.

At the apex of the Varrazano-Narrows bridge, linking Staten Island to Brooklyn, and one mile into the NYC marathon.

So off we went, through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan, each burrough exibiting its own style, with fans and bands lining the streets, all strangers supporting strangers as we pushed onward. I admit there were times when I failed to pay as close attention as I wanted to. But I’d bring myself back, remember my mantra, and carry on.

Brad came out to cheer us on at mile 20! Great!

Brad came out to cheer us on at mile 20! Great!

My brother-in-law, Brad, came out to support us at mile 20, a welcome mental boost that got me a couple decent miles. And then the wheels began to come off.

Around mile 22 (earlier if I’m honest) I started to experience pain. My lower body just hurt. That’s all I can say really. It’s at that point that the mantras kick in. One foot in front of the other. Forward. I’ve come too far to stop now. I’m going to cross that fucking finish line if it kills me. I began to feel a disappointment, though. Disappointment that I wasn’t able to enjoy every mile like I wanted to. Disappointed that ALL that hard work wasn’t paying off.

But then, as I was still trudging toward the finish line I thought, maybe, just maybe, all the hard work, all the training, those 409 miles, helped to push me across the finish line. Maybe without it, I woudn’t have finished. The coniditions were such that I think that is highly possible. I pushed myself, certainly. So much so that I ended up in the medical tent once I did get across the line. The cold and the wind really got to me, dropping my body temp below acceptable levels and contributing to my utter exhaustion. A great running partner in Carl, and great medical staff, knew exactly how to handle me and had me back on my feet in no time.

My co-workers welcomed me back with a sign and well wishes. Friends near and far said the nicest things, congratulating me on this accomplishment. A close friend said to me yesterday, “Krista! You know this is an amazing thing you did. You get that, right?”

Some distance from the race preparation and from the race itself affords me some perspective. But this isn’t about doing something that is any better or more significant than anyone else. For me – and I told my friend this – this is about finding my strength, both mentally and physically – to move forward. No one can run for me. It’s my mind, my body, my heart. Finishing that race was hard, but people do more difficult things EVERY DAY. This happens to work for me, but everyone can find their strong. I am still struggling with being proud of the accomplishment when I worked so hard to do better, and when so many stuggle with things in life that are so much more important. This is just running. Yes, it makes me proud, and strong. Kathrine Switzer says to run fearlessly, and I love that. But in the end, it’s only running, and I think I finally get it.

With the great and gracious Kathrine Switzer at the NYC marathon expo.

With the great and gracious Kathrine Switzer at the NYC marathon expo.

NYC Marathon Bling! The 2014 NYC Marathon was the largest marathon in the world. No, really. With 50,564 finishers, it was the largest marathon EVER.

NYC Marathon Bling! The 2014 NYC Marathon was the largest marathon in the world. No, really. With 50,564 finishers, it was the largest marathon EVER.


Strength in every (thing). Always engaged.
What’s next?

Posted in NYC Marathon, Races, Running Musings, Why I Run | 3 Comments