Appreciating the Support

Salt Lake City Marathon was fantastic. I finished slightly under my goal time of 4:30. I didn’t want to run the race quickly with Salt Flats 100 next weekend. The new course wove through beautiful neighborhoods lined with old gnarled trees. It slalomed down City Creek Canyon and skipped through the center of the city. It then cascaded to the south only to return you back to the center of Salt Lake.

I love watching people finish a marathon. You can generally tell who the first timer finishers are. They are beaming with pride and glowing with joy. All right and their knees are wrapped in ice and shoes are kicked off. The sun has burned their cheeks. And they are collapsed beneath the trees surrounded by family and friends.

Honestly, I don’t think many of us could be runners without or family and friend’s support. I know I couldn’t. Especially, the distances I run. My family and friend are my pacers and crew. My dad helps me with my boys when I run relay races that take between two and three days to complete.

Family and friends are a valuable resource to runners for so many reasons. They provide encouragement and support throughout the training program and the race. The possibilities for helping out during training are endless. At race time, they can volunteer for races, be at the starting line, finish line, and out on the course cheering you on.

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support. Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try, or not.

If I have someone at the finish line cheering for me it encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going. As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes

Supporting and encouraging a runner is a big responsibility. Our families deal with us being gone on our long runs on the weekends. They ignore our grouchiness from being tired after our long runs. They are quiet when we are going to bed early, as if we are seventy-five years old instead of thirty.

They help save money for us to buy our hundred and twenty dollar shoes every four hundred miles in addition to the gels, registration fees, and clothing we need. They smile at strangers who watch us wolf down entire pizzas at a restaurant after a race. They listen to our crazy stories and ideas that come to us out on the trail and road. They pick us up when we don’t meet our own expectations. They cheer as we cross the finish line and even when we don’t.

So make sure and do something special for those who support your crazy running!

You’re a runner?! Why?

Traffic sucks. The freeway has been transformed into a parking lot. I’m supposed to be at a conference at the other end of the valley in 20 minutes. I’m going to be late. My phone rings. It’s my 13 year old calling from school. Two seconds after it stops ringing, he calls again. I don’t answer. He calls again. And again. We still have not moved forward on the roadway. I sigh. I wonder if it would be faster to run to my office, today? I could just pull my car to the side of the road and run. The phone rings again. I stare at it. It would probably alleviate the slowly rising frustration. I know what he wants, he wants me to pick him up and let him stay home. It happens every spring. His anxiety goes through the roof. His ability to regulate his emotions plummets. The phone rings again. “I’m too sick to go to school,” he said this morning. “I just can’t be there today mom. Please? Don’t you care if I’m sick?,” he asked. This has been his mantra for three days. Yeah, a run would be great right now.

I give in and answer the phone, “Hi bud, what’s going on?”

“Mom, you need to pick me up. I don’t feel well and I am getting really frustrated and annoyed.”

“I am sorry to hear that sweets, but I can’t pick you up. I’m stuck in traffic and am going to be late for work already.”

“I’m not asking you, mom. I’m telling you.” I take a deep breath.

“I love you son. I’ll see you tonight.” I hang up the phone. It rings. I turn the phone off.

Why do I run? It’s usually the first question I get from non-runners. I think runners know the answer, “It’s complicated.” It shouldn’t be that difficult to answer, but it’s so multifaceted and all consuming that it becomes nearly impossible to make someone who does not run really understand. But, I’ve never been one to turn away from something that is difficult.

FREEDOM. Running provides me with a doorway into the world. I can go anywhere I desire and experience the world in a beautifully simple way. I can turn left or right, it doesn’t matter. I can splash through the stream and brush the leaves with my fingertips. I feel more connected with the world around me. My thoughts come and go and I can just watch.

RELAXATION. That’s right. I said, I relax when I run. I let everything go, or I work through anything that has been bothering me. My feel my feet roll from midfoot to toe and push off. My knee drives forward and my arms brush against my sides. My breathing comes evenly, in for three steps, out for two. And then contact with the other foot. The air on my face is cool and crisp in the early morning hours.

SELF EXPRESSION. Strength, courage, and an unconquerable spirit. My limit is myself. I am my own competition. Before me stands a mountain, a wall, a river, and it is me who decides how to get over it or around it. But I will never just go home.

As runners, we don’t shy away from challenges. We look them in the face, smile, and say, “Bring it on,” pushing forward with every ounce of energy we have left. Giving up is not in our nature. We may be tired, unmotivated or have an ache in our hip, but we get out there each day becoming stronger and faster. Rain, sun, or snow we face them all with our pounding feet and pumping arms. Determined, ambitious, goal oriented, strong, brave, adventurous, and forgiving– these characteristics make us excellent runners and are the same characteristics we need to be loving parents.

I turn my phone back on. Five missed calls. One message. “I love you mom.” He had a great day at school despite calling me 30 times panicked throughout the day.

 

Getting It All In

As a single mom with two teen boys, two dogs, two cats, and a fish, life for me fluctuates between total chaos and minimally contained chaos. You know the feeling, it’s like an ever increasing electrical current just under the surface of your skin. So how do I fit in training and racing ultramarathons? Structure, priorities, multitasking, and absolutely no procrastination.

My children are my first priority. Always. If they need me, everything else has to move out of their way. This is where the most chaos comes in. My oldest son (16) is very involved in the community and is an honors student. He has sporting events, tournaments, and school activities going on all year. I attend 95% of these. The only time I miss is for a race, but I always make sure he has someone there, like grandparents supporting him. My youngest (13) has a neurological disorder, which requires regular doctor’s appointments, meetings with his school, and lots of attention and help regulating his emotions.

My career as an attorney is my second priority. I work Monday through Friday 8-5 and am on call for a week (24/7) every other month. Being on call adds to the chaos occasionally. When I’m on call, I take all emergency calls for my office at all hours for one week. Trials also cause some chaos, but it is usually contained to work hours.

My training comes in third. I get up in the morning before my children are awake to complete my training. I run four days a week and do strength training and cross training (swimming and cycling) three days a week. My training calendar amounts to approximately 20 hours a week at its peak.

My sleep and social life suffer the most because no matter how you split it, there are only 24 hours in a day. Not many people can manage my schedule. It’s intense and I would concede that it’s probably pathological in some way. But here is the thing, If I can manage this, anyone can manage training for a 5k (3.1 miles).

 You really have to ask yourself, and be honest, what is important to me? Is surfing the internet for two hours important? How about watching that hour of TV every day? Spending an extra 20 minutes in the shower? Keep a journal about how you spend your time for a week. I am sure there are things you can cut out to make room for running or exercising in some way.

As a single parent, structure is critical to maintaining sanity. I get up at 445 am finish my workouts by 7 am. Get my 13-year-old up and make breakfast. My 16 year old is already up and showered because he leaves at 715 am. I am in my office/court from 8am-5pm. I get home around 530ish make dinner, clean up the house, help with homework, snuggle and watch a TV show with my boys. Bedtime is 9pm.

Multitasking is essential. I try to include my children in as much of my training and racing as possible. I do my strength training with my 16 year old. I watch my 13-year-old play minecraft while I do my workouts. I talk with my kids while I am doing pretty much everything. We sit down to dinner together every night. On my shorter runs, I take my kids with me on their bikes or running next to me.

No procrastination. This is something I learned in law school. I stay on top of all of my responsibilities. I clean up the house a little bit every day. I throw in a load of laundry during the week just to reduce the weekend duties. I keep up with the dishes. I cook extra meals on the weekends when possible.

Many of us need to learn to let things go or “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Sometimes we are hung up on things we think are critical in our life, such as house cleaning and yard work. These things are important, but they are not as critical as we make them out to be. I’m not saying live in a pigpen, so you have more time to play. What I am saying is if you are choosing between scrubbing the kitchen floor for the fourth weekend in a row and the kids want to play a game of Clue. Go play, it’s okay, the floor will be there once the mystery is solved. If you miss a run, don’t panic. You can back on schedule the next day. Don’t double up to make up for a missed workout. Just breathe and let it go.

 Kid issues are, at times, huge and overwhelming. Our children are not always perfect and some really struggle in life. We have to first realize what is in our control and what is not. Our child’s behavior is not within our control nor is our child’s feelings. This is really hard for some people to hear and accept. Our response to our child is within our control. Pre-planning and preventative measures are the best way to deal with difficult behavior. Talk with your child about the plan to deal with difficult behavior while everyone is calm so everyone knows what the expectation is and what the results will be. Other times you have to break things down into pieces and address each piece one or two at a time. Just like with strength training. You focus on a particular weak area at a time. Pick one or two of your child’s most challenging behaviors and really work on those and let the other less significant behaviors, just be. You’ll get to them once you have the others under control. As a beginning runner, you don’t start with the whole 26.2 miles, you take a little piece at a time it is the same when taking on a long term parenting project.

 The unexpected is going to come up, you will have to move things or disregard them entirely. Every situation is different and each child is different. Being able to change your parenting style to your child’s needs is like changing from road shoes to trail shoes.

Strength of body, mind, and heart.

What?! Strength training, you say? I don’t have time for strength training; I’m much too busy running.

Strength training is essential for runners of all distances, not only to improve speed and endurance, but to avoid injury. Twenty to thirty minutes, three days a week, is all it takes. You can do it all at home using your own body weight. No need to travel or pay for a gym membership if you don’t want to. Do it in front of your favorite TV series or while you read spelling words to your kids.

Most running injuries are caused by overuse, muscle imbalances, and your form deteriorating during long runs or races. Increasing your strength reduces injury risk from these three sources.

Overuse injuries are cause by running more miles than your body is ready for. They include things such as shin splints, pulled hip flexors, pulled hamstrings, and the feared stress fracture. By increasing your strength your body will be better prepared for an increase in miles.

Muscle imbalances cause injuries in two different ways, by pulling against the weaker muscle, straining and tearing it and by overuse. The stronger muscle then becomes injured because you are relying on it more than you should. Muscles work in concert with one another, extending and contracting.

Deteriorating form during a race happens as your entire body becomes tired because of the speed and/or distance. Your shoulders droop, your arms cross over your middle more, your head sags, you don’t pick up your feet as high. All these small changes add up and cause stress to muscles, which are called on to make up for those that are too tired to do their job any longer. In other words, you compensate for the weakness. The muscles you incorporate are susceptible to injury because you do not normally rely upon them.

Focusing on overall strength one day a week, hips and ankles one day a week, and your core and gluteus one day a week will round out your training. You can find workouts for these on my Strength Training page.

Strength of heart and mind is necessary if you want to be able to stick with running, as your long-term mode of exercise or even just to finish that marathon. You have to be ready for combat. Boredom, lack of motivation, mental and physical fatigue are going to attack you with all their succulent temptations to stay in bed, sit on the couch, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, the latest episode of (insert favorite TV series) is on, the kids need me, or whatever. There are a million reasons not to get out there and run. You have to be prepared for these and have a strategy to overcome them. You need have backup strategies as well because the first line of defense may crumble to its knees at the sight of the enemy.

I run first thing in the morning. This eliminates the taking time from the kids, who are asleep, along with most other excuses not to run. I remind myself how great I feel after my runs. I love to start the day having accomplished something. I love the quiet of the city during the wee hours of the morning and watching the sun come up over the mountains. In the winter, I enjoy the sparkling snow lining the branches of the trees and the unmarred powder covering the ground. I change my route continuously, so I don’t get bored. If you don’t have a Garmin you can use mapmyrun.com to figure out the distance of a route. I make sure and dress for the weather (we’ll talk about this in a future post). With all the TV recording, Netflix, redbox, amazon, apple TV, options missing your show should not stand in the way.

There are an infinite number of ways to entertain yourself while running. If you are going to use any devise with ear buds, I recommend keeping the volume low enough to hear cars or leaving one ear bud out. Audio books, music, and running partners are all excellent choices. There are itunes apps, which tell you stories as you run, check out Runtastic. The mapmyrun app will tell you distance, time, and split pace in real time. Pearspots.com offers coaching in real time, encouraging you, and inspiring you to keep going. Charityrun, itunes app, will donate money to a specific charity for every mile you run. These are just a few ways to fend off boredom.

The finish line of your goal race is also great motivation. Visualize crossing that finish line with your goal time being called out to you as you beep across or flashing in red numbers next to the finish arch. Feel the weight of the metal being hung around your neck. Hear the cheers and cowbells from race fans and volunteers. Relish in the hugs, kisses, and butt slapping from family and friends. Staying motivated and inspired to run is not an unconquerable foe, but it’s something you have to prepare for and fight against.

As a parent, you watch your children struggle through things as they learn and grow. It’s the most challenging aspect of parenting, at least for me. I don’t want them to be emotionally or physically hurt, but it comes with life. Being able to show them that I have struggled and overcome physical, emotional and mental challenges is just one of the ways my running benefits my children. My training demonstrates to my children the importance of setting goals and working toward them even when it gets tough.

Whatever it takes, just get out there and run!