Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moving Past Chicago: A New Beginning

I know, it's been over a month since I last updated this blog - my mind seems to be in one large and dark cloud regarding the things I want to share; each day seems to arrive with a few words I'll jot down but just never seem to get posted.  But it's time to get my thoughts all out there, and there are lots of them, so it looks like another rambling Jill-style long post.  You lucky ducks!  First, I have to say a HUGE thank-you for all the amazingly warm comments about the Chicago Marathon; I was deeply touched to hear from so many of you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!   When I started my blog almost 4 years ago, I never even knew what a blog was, let alone over time one could find other folks with similar interests.  When I started this gig I just wanted to create a blog that felt like a journal where I could talk about running and its significance to me on every level, so that one day, when I am long gone, my kids could read more about my running and how it was an important part of my life (as if they don't already know ;)).  This is still my primary purpose behind this thing,  but along the way I've found some truly wonderful people for which I feel so incredibly blessed to have "met".  I have neglected my blog (and yours) strictly because life has gotten in the way, but there isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about this blog and all the goodness it has provided me.  And I miss it a bit lot.

So what's been going on since Chi-town....

The short version, I'm taking a giant step backwards and starting with a fresh, clean, and entirely different slate.

In the long, exciting detailed version, it's no big secret that this year has been one continuous struggle for me.  One run after another, one race after another all providing sub-par performances.  Let's just simply label everything as a myriad of pure crap!!  Yes, there are races I am proud of accomplishing (Leadville, Mt. Evans Ascent for instance) but I didn't train for them and "ran" them in very poor physical condition. My head has subsequently struggled whether I was okay with all the mediocre performances I've produced all year, knowing I am capable of so much more if I would just put in the work to do so.  But did I want to was the big question mark!

I could go into lengthy details about all the whys of this whole year, but I'll spare you the endless chatter (you're welcome :)).  Really though, there isn't just ONE thing to finger point this mess at.  Aside from the severe sprained inner ankle and torn foot ligaments mid-summer, which stripped Chicago training, there weren't any injuries (though this did sideline me for a few months...happy to say it's about 92% healed).  I basically just allowed lot of personal issues to control me, instead of me them, and I quickly lost sight of the runner I once was...and my wild love affair for running vanished.  

I have pondered for months just what it is I want from running and if my body was trying to tell me it was time to accept whatever inferior training or racing I wanted to produce for that day.  Lots of people go out there and "just run" happily (don't they ?), so maybe this was my destination?  I've also questioned whether or not my body is just DONE with the rigorous training and it was telling me now was the time to hang that part of my life up!  I'll be 50 next year.  I've been running hard (for the most part) for 35 years.  There are days I am just flipping... dead....tired!  I've questioned everything about running in the past few months.  Everything!
Because just one obnoxious
saying isn't enough in a blog,
here's another!
But, in my what-the-hell-do-I-want-to-do soul searching, I've slowly felt the itch to run well again return and I've come to realize I actually do miss the often meticulous yet frequently laborious training. I miss making my body hurt - bad - from a really tough workout. I miss going to bed utterly exhausted from a hard day's training.  I miss pushing my limits to see how much grit I have in me and I'm tired of settling for less than what I know I can do.  I truly believe in my heart this is not how my running story is suppose to end and I am SO NOT done.  

So Jill, get to the point for heaven's sake - what's the plan to turn this madness around.....

The Coach:  Sometimes taking my own advice is hard – I know what to do, but lately I can’t seem to accept my own good judgment.  I've said the same exact words to others, but listening to my own words has been a huge battle for me.  So, I'm turning the reins over to someone else for awhile and letting them take charge of me.  This initially wasn't easy for me; at first I felt like I was a complete failure ... but now I feel a major sense of relief - let someone else figure this madness out for awhile, I'm tired of trying and have no desire right now to do it!  The decision, and who, was something I searched for many months, watching and learning, until I chose whose experience most ideally matched the type of racing goals I have (silently) set for myself next year.  The coach and I started off a little shaky after the first couple weeks as we adjusted to each others' vastly different personalities (when I was swimming with Tara the other day and told her about my new coach plan, she looked at me - laughed - and said this is going to kill me :)) - but I think we worked out the character kinks and I truly believe the coaching thing is the right decision for me at this juncture in my life.  But, I'm going to keep my mouth shut for awhile - and trust - so I hopefully don't get my ass fired before year's end! :)

The Maffetone Training:  I was first introduced to this this training a couple years ago when I was emailing the sock doc frequently about my foot PF and AT.  He is a firm advocate for heart rate based training and thought a lot of my issues with my foot were stress-related due to, among other things, running too much in an anaerobic state.  He suggested I do the Maffetone training (or "MAF training" as some may know it) when my foot healed.  It's a slow and extremely tedious and patience-ridden low heart rate training program that makes one just want to poke your eyeballs out for someone who has no patience (ahem).  When my foot last year allowed me to finally get back to training, I went back to my basic old ways because, well, I was impatient!  But the impatient plan didn't work out so well .... so guess who has now been placed on the patient MAF training plan from the coach?!   The basic idea with the very low HR training is to get the body to use fat for fuel so you become more efficient in an aerobic state.  My HR gets to remain in a really low range for awhile.  A very long while probably.   I'm not even going to tell you what pace that currently is because it makes me cry just a little :)!  But I have to focus at the end result and trust the man.  I am feeling really good running right now (for once!) and am very excited to see how my progress increase over time.  In the meantime, I am seriously going to remove all sharp objects from my house and pretend that walking a brisk pace is really, really fun.  

The Diet/Weight:  This is something I have seriously neglected since the whole foot fiasco last year - and it shows.  It's not that I constantly ate crap; but rather I got into a I really don't care mentality because of a self-deprecating pity party when I couldn't run, and worse - when I couldn't return back to running well.  But something clicked when I got back from Chicago....I think it was the fact that my head felt so incredibly amazing there and I knew if Chicago felt good on no effort, then just imagine how another marathon will feel if I actually put in some effort.  So, I'm making some changes by eating cleaner by trying to eliminate processed carbs and eating just less overall!  I'm down about 10 lbs since Chicago.  I still have a long way to go (yes, I got THAT far from racing weight) but I definitely feel stronger in my choices
 (well, you know, minus the entire pumpkin pie I consumed on Thanksgiving!) and no longer feel that food needs to be a used to comfort me.  I'm injury-free.  I'm running well.  I don't need to sulk with my friend, sugar!  This isn't going to be an overnight process for me - I still struggle with some personal demons that food just makes feel better some days, but as the coachy guy told me when I had a particularly bad day eating crap at work: Just be disciplined and don't eat it.  Oversimplified and hard but as an athlete truly dedicated to improving this is the harsh reality.  No different than walking out the door to do a run when ti's 10 degrees and blowing snow.  It sucks but you just do it because it's the right thing to do. Obviously his world is a little more black and white than mine, but these words are now permanently embedded in my thick head.... because it's the right thing to do...because it's the right thing to do....because it's the right thing to do!!!

Weight Training:  I'm not a weight lifter nor do I ever expect to be :), but it's common sense that to run well, you need a lean body (ESPECIALLY A STRONG CORE!!).  And to have a  lean body, you need to have less body fat.  Easy peasy basics!  But when the body is hording an excessive mass of it (ahem), weight training is a really good thing to help rid that body fat!  Not heavy weights, but enough to work the running muscles and to build running strength.  I have been doing weights throughout the year, but nothing consistent, and nothing specific. So for about 3 months now, I've been going to an hour-long Body Pump class at the gym 2-3x/week - because something structured is just better than me wandering aimlessly around the gym doing whatever (Hum....sounds eerily similar for the coach need!).  Just recently BP class was revamped and is now a 30 minute weight lifting class followed by 30 minutes of pure core (CXWORX) work - PERFECTO!!  I'm actually starting to finally notice some muscle tone!

So that's it, basically.  Some simple things that should have been implemented a very, very long time ago....but when you lose all confidence in yourself, it's tough to figure out what exactly you need to do and it takes a lot of soul searching and your head landing in the right place to find it.  This wont be easy, and I'm certain it'll be pretty tedious for awhile, but whenever you take time off training for an extended period of time, you lose fitness and I have lost almost all of it. The longer the break, the worse it is and I can't say I have honestly trained hard in about 3 years.  Three!  But it's not the end of the world - it's just a new beginning.  I do, after all, love a really tough challenge.  Not just the result at the end, but the drudgery in the middle, the hard work, the sweat, the mess of transformation.  I love the process of getting there, especially when "there" isn't a fixed point, but the constant renaming as each finish line morphs into another start line.  I am not one of those genetically gifted freaks athletes who magically get fit overnight; it's going to be a long damn process for me with a lot of diligent, consistent, PATIENT, specific work.

But I'm already noticing some changes, both physically and mentally... my confidence is slowly making it's way back....

..... and I am so excited for this journey!!!

Quick Ryan update:
Finished up his cross county season last weekend by attending the Nike SW Regional Championships in Tempe, AZ.  He had a 2 second PR there of 17:04 (that's a 5:30 pace - crazy!!).  He was pretty disappointed he didn't go sub-17 - I think he peaked a bit too early this year - but he knocked off over a minute off his best 5k time from last season, so I think next year he'll get it.  Here's a little glip from his coach at the season end awards banquet....it chokes me up every time I hear it...

Next up: my other kids updates :), races I've done post-Chicago, training, and a great run up the Manitou Incline with Kathleen from Happy Trails.  Maybe some other stuff too, who knows.

Run Strong,