Eating my words and evicting my inner mean girl.

Only recently have I been able to say to people that I am a runner. The reason that calling myself a runner feels so strange is that I envision runners as mentally tough, unabashedly positive, pain loving, crazy persistent winner types. I do not envision myself as this kind of person.   The reason why? My mean inner voice.
I have this voice in my head – you probably have one too, although I hope yours is a lot nicer than mine.  Sometimes the things she says are hurtful but true, and sometimes the things she says are just plain mean. Take today for example, I ran in a local 5k and was hoping to improve my 5k time.  This morning before the race my inner mean girl started to pipe in. “I feel tired today, I’ll never make it”. “It’s really hot out today and it’s going to be so hard – why would I want to put myself through this?” “I didn’t make my time goal in my last race 2 weeks ago and I probably won’t make it this time either.” I stood on the starting line listening to her go on and resigned myself to running this race anyway.  As you may have predicted, my mean girl voice spoke up and told me that I was tired (I was). That I was hot (I was). That I would like to stop and go sit in some air conditioning (I did.) That this was just too darn hard (sigh). So I stopped, literally stopped and walked for a little while.  At the end I managed a bit of a kick to pass the person in front of me because I did not want to be seen by friends and colleagues running lazily into the finish.  That’s when it really struck me that I didn’t just have a bad race today – I gave up. I quit. I let my inner mean girl talk me into doing what I really wanted to do, stop running.

The problem with this is that I have another voice in my head that wants to do hard things, that wants me to push myself, that wants to believe I have some ability to be a winner.  This nicer girl wants to be challenged, she likes competition, she wants to run with the faster group and thinks it’s possible that she can, she doesn’t think about win or lose she just say yes when an opportunity presents itself. Why don’t I listen to this girl more often?
It’s easier to believe the mean girl and just not try. If you fail because you really don’t try then it’s not truly a failure right? There’s still the possibility that you could have done something great, and so the fantasy can live on in your head.  If I want to be the person that I think I can be, then I need to evict my mean girl.
I need to make a place for my inner happy voice – it really can’t be that hard right? After all, I consciously made a choice to keep the mean girl around so I can, now, consciously make a choice to keep the nice one around too.  If I do this, then I really will be eating my words.  Never run a marathon? Ha! Doing the Baystate Marathon on 10/19/14. Never run under 25 minutes for a 5k? Ha! I’ll get there. Next race is next weekend – I won’t get to my 25 minute goal yet, it’s a work in progress, but I can work on pacing and not giving up. Let’s see what happens then, shall we?
If I see you out on a run or on the next race course – do me a favor – shout down my inner mean girl, will you? I have a feeling she will put up a fight.

Until next time, stay positive out there – ok??

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2014 Boston Marathon Volunteer Experience Recap

Yesterday I had the honor of handing out water to the runners at this year’s Boston Marathon at the Mile 16 Hydration Station.  What a day it was! We finally had great weather – it started off sunny and in the low 40’s, increasing to the low 70’s over the course of the afternoon.

Mile 16 Hydration Station

Mile 16 Hydration Station

Expectations for this years marathon were running high in our city and the day was emotional on many different levels.  This is my first year as a runner and I was so excited to be part of the marathon experience.  I enjoy being part of a team, and, while I have no desire to run a marathon I am absolutely thrilled to support all of those who do run.

If you aren’t familiar with the course Mile 16 is just about at the start of the Newton Hills and not too far from the famous (infamous?) Heartbreak Hill.  It’s an extremely tough section of the course as the runners hit those hills on tired legs.

My job mainly involved filling cup after cup after cup full of water (I was advised to avoid the Gatorade table if I didn’t want to be one sticky mess at the end of the day and I am thankful that I got to do water instead.  Those runners do aim for the trash when they throw the cups but a lot of it ends up on the volunteers) and then hand out cup after cup after cup of water.  I thought my shoulder was going to give up and go home about halfway through the day.  Talk about workouts!

Handing out water at Mile 16.  My shoulder is killing me!

Handing out water at Mile 16. My shoulder is killing me!

We were far enough from the start that we had some time to get all the tables up and take a quick break at Starbucks.  However, once the elite runners came through we were at the tables non stop.

Watching the elite runners come through is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.  The women came by first, led by Shalane Flanagan and they looked beautiful.  Perfect form, just floating across the pavement and not even bothered by that pesky little hill. I like to think that’s what I look like on my long runs (it’s not, mind you, it’s just what I like to think).

Elite women running through mile 16.

Elite women running through mile 16.

Then came the hero of the day – Meb Keflezighi.  He was absolutely flying and all alone.  His nearest competitor had to be about 2 tenths of a mile behind him and the elite men’s pack was even further behind that!  I don’t even have the words to describe Meb.  I can only say to run like that is a gift.  A huge cheer went up from the crowd when he came around the corner and it followed him as he disappeared up the hill – Meeeeeeeeeebbbbbbbbbb!  Kinda says it all doesn’t it??!

Go Meb!

Go Meb!

After Meb, came the 4 waves of runners.  One thing that struck me as interesting was how many runners were in Wave 1.  (Wave 1 is the really fast but not elite runners.  These guys and gals can all finish the marathon in under 3 hours so they are running somewhere in the 6-7 minute mile range.)  They were all incredibly fit, strong and taking on that hill like it meant nothing.  Seeing how many of them were in that wave though made me think that the key to running fast is more about fitness and determination rather than just genetics.  Don’t get me wrong, to run like Meb and Shalane you have got to have the genes.  However, I think any “regular” human being who has some talent and the ability to work incredibly hard and push themselves has the potential to be in the fast group.  This gives me hope as I was starting to feel like I might be relegated to the back of the pack forever!

The last 2 waves were the slower runners and all the charity teams.  These are people with pure heart, grit and determination.  Many of them are new runners, perhaps signing up for the marathon as a way to get in shape.  They have spent hours, days, weeks, and months training for this one event.  They might have raised a lot of money for charity just to get the privilege to run that course.  They came in all shapes, sizes and ages which lends further credence to the fact that ANYONE can be a runner.  You don’t need to be Meb, you just need to put those shoes on and get out there at whatever pace your legs can manage.  As the saying goes, if you run you are a runner.

Many of the later runners walked through the water stop.  Some looked dazed, hot and tired.  Others looked determined and focused on the road ahead.  One gentleman took my cup of water and hobbled up the hill, crying the whole way.  I hope he made it to the finish.  Still, there were many runners who were joyful, happy, and embracing the energy of the crowd.  To quote a favorite blogger, Janae Jacobs of Hungry Runner Girl, I realized that it’s possible for us normal folk to do hard things.  You can do it, it’s just one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes a runner would come through and say a heartfelt thank you to us volunteers.  I have to say, these thankyou’s made me tear up more than once. It’s a bit hard to describe what it means to be a volunteer this year.  I’ve been part of a local running club for almost a year now and several of our members were running so I was looking forward to supporting them after watching them train all winter in the brutal cold.  I have, like many of you, watched the news reports on last year’s events and know people who weren’t able to complete last year’s marathon – so this year they are back to finish what they started.  There’s Team Hoyt running their very last Boston Marathon this year and they will be greatly missed in the years to come.  Then there’s a guy like Meb who puts the names of the 4 victims from last year’s event on his bib and runs his heart out for them, for this city, for this country and for himself.  I have huge respect for those of you who ran yesterday.  You crushed it out there.  You will forever be woven into the fabric of this city’s memories, on one of our most special, profound and meaningful days.  I’m proud to have been a part of your marathon experience.  I hope you are proud of yourself as well and I look forward to seeing you in 2015.

A sea of green cups at Mile 16

A sea of green cups at Mile 16

Until next time – ice bath, foam roll and rest up.  See you on the roads…

Carlsbad Half Marathon: Sunning, Running, and Chafing

When you are in the midst of your very first home remodel what is the smart thing to do?  Why, go on vacation, of course!  So that’s what I did.  Ages ago my friend Lynn sent me a half serious message asking if I wanted to run the Carlsbad CA Half Marathon with her, and, since I always say yes when people ask me to run with them (probably because, until recently, it happened so rarely) I hopped online to register for the race.  Fast forward to January and the time had come!  Regardless of new job, or current home demolition project I hopped on a plane to San Diego.  I have to say, I think I made the right decision because when I was landing I saw this:

Ah Sweet Sunshine, How I Have Missed Thee

Ah Sweet Sunshine, How I Have Missed Thee

After the bitter cold we’ve been experiencing here I was certainly ready for some sunshine.  I made it a point to arrive a few days early in order to give myself time to get over the jet lag and to enjoy an extra few days in the sun.  Best decision I’ve made recently!

Beach Run Scenery

Beach Run Scenery

Later that day I was rewarded with a spectacular sunset and an even prettier sunrise the next morning.  Also, it should be noted:  No Filter on these babies, this is all nature….

Sunset Carlsbad State Beach

Hello Pretty

Hello Pretty

My trip to CA couldn’t be all sunsets and rainbows however.  Race day had come and it was time to test myself against the 13.1 course.  Lynn came up and joined me in the hotel the night before so that we could get an early start.

Getting ready to rock it

Getting ready to rock it

And, as we were en route I got this fantastic picture from the big guy himself:

Aww, thanks Buddy!

Aww, thanks Buddy!

The course could not have been more beautiful.  We ran right along the ocean for most of it and the energy of the spectators was incredible.  There were so many people cheering, volunteering, holding up funny signs and just generally supporting us that the first 7 miles flew by.

Start of the course  - I can see the ocean!

Start of the course – I can see the ocean!

Best scenery ever

Best scenery ever

Starting around mile 9 I became very fatigued.  The half marathon distance is still new to me as I have only run one prior to this.  I am not going to lie, it’s taxing on my body and once I hit mile 9 or 10 things start hurting – hips, knees, feet….you get the picture. I also start asking myself why I’m doing this.  Man, did I want to stop.  Every time I went through a water station I had to fight the urge to just sit on the curb.  For me races are really between my will power and the voice in my head that’s telling me to stop, that I can’t do this, that it’s too hard.  It would be so easy to just give up, and many times I have wanted to but once I’m out there, I really don’t have a choice. It’s either keep putting one foot in front of the other or DNF (Do Not Finish) – if I don’t finish, I don’t get a medal!  (Right now I really like getting the medals).  I slowed down quite a bit at the end and at mile 11 I kept repeating to myself “just 2 more miles, you can run that in your sleep, in fact you may have on several occasions!”  Finally, I hit the last downhill that marked the end of the race and I was so relieved.  On the last .2 miles I ran past a man in a wheel chair who was heartily encouraging the bedraggled, hot, and weary runners.  I nearly burst into tears at the sight of him.  Here’s someone who can’t run and I’m complaining because something that I get to do for fun is kind of hard. That momentum carried me to the end and I got to reunite with Lynn. (And yes, I got my medal!)

Finally it's over!  I look happier than I feel here...

Finally it’s over! I look happier than I feel here…

One note here about something serious that happens during long races sometimes – chafing.  It’s not pretty and it definitely hurts.  If you are going to run any kind of distance I suggest you invest in some good compression shorts, tights or Body Glide.  What I used on race day did not hold up under the heat and I was pretty miserable for the last 3 miles or so.

All in all I had a great time.  This was a fairly easy course- couple challenging hills but nothing too major – and I couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather.  Plus, I got to spend time with my friend and her lovely family.  (Note: if you want to check out the race for next year here’s the link: http://www.carlsbadmarathon.com/ )

One last breakfast before I boarded the plane

One last breakfast before I boarded the plane

Until next time – Stay Classy San Diego…

Carlsbad State Beach

Carlsbad State Beach