Cycles

Running is a funny thing.  I almost never LOVE it while I’m doing it, but before and after, it’s my favorite thing ever.  When I’m at work, or driving, or with friends, I think about running, and can’t wait to get out there.  When I see other people running, I wish I was too.

2 weeks ago, my running felt as easy as it ever has.  I’ve never been one of those runners who can effortlessly fly down the road; for me, every step is work.  That being said, some runs feel easier than others, and it’s not about the speed, it’s about how it feels.  Sometimes, my legs feel lighter, my arms feel smoother, my lungs feel fuller, and my head feels clearer.  On those runs, running is as close to effortless as I will ever get.  On the flip side, some runs feel like my legs and feet are weighed down with lead, my lungs can’t get enough air, and my head is full of negative thoughts.  Most runs are somewhere in the middle.

More broadly, my runs tend to go in cycles.  I will have weeks where running feels good, my paces are decent, and my legs/lungs/head feel good.  I also have cycles, days or weeks, where my runs all feel like poo, for lack of a better term.  I do have more good feeling runs than bad feeling runs, but there tend to be cycles.  I feel like having upswinging cycles and down-swinging cycles is natural, just like most everything in life, the stock markets, win or lose streaks in sports, etc.

 

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I had a half marathon last weekend that was half amazing, followed by half frustrating and disappointing.  I’m not talking about the time on the clock; I’m talking about how I felt, mentally and physically.  The first half, I was running on the high that I’ve been riding for a few weeks – running felt good, and as easy as it ever has.

Halfway through the half marathon, when I walked for the first time, it was like a switch was flipped, mentally.  I think walking was the right choice, I got dizzy, and when I pushed through last October when that happened, the dizziness continued, and got worse, and I had to walk or I am pretty sure I would have passed out.  This time, it was not that bad, but I didn’t want it to get that bad, so I walked.

But when I walked, it was like a switch was flipped, and I felt defeated.  Frustrated.  I blew it.  It was over.  Why even bother.  I know that seems extreme, but in my mind, at that time, that’s what my thought process was.  I walked until the dizziness subsided, then when I started running again, my legs and feet were lead, my mind was jumbled, and my lungs couldn’t get settled down.  It was uncomfortable, and my mind convinced my body to stop and walk, time and time again, until I finally covered the remainder of the 13.1 miles.  (I’m not trying to downplay the fact that I completed my 8th half marathon, and that I am proud of finishing, but I’m trying to lay out my feelings related to how running cycles up and down, and this is my example, today.)

In the days since that half marathon, I’ve been in a funk, a rut, a “down cycle.”  I haven’t wanted to run, but I have.  I know it’s part of the cycle.  I feel better when I run, but mentally, getting out there is the hardest part during the low part of the cycle.  I’m digging my way out, each run is healing and cleansing and forgiving.  And I think this is a natural part of running.  The first couple times I would hit a rut, I didn’t understand why, because I love running.  But now, I understand, not every run is going to be good.  Not every week or month of runs will feel good, or bad, it’s all in flux, and it’s a cycle.

I may have a great up cycle where running feels amazing for 2 or 3 months, and the down cycle may only last a week, but it’s still cyclical.  I also believe that understanding that it is normal is a huge part of getting out of the rut and into an upward swing.  I’ve had a heart to heart with myself and with those close to me, about my feelings from the half marathon, and how it’s affected me.  There are some things I’m going to work on, to try to do differently during my next half marathons, and to improve on.

In the most general sense, I’m going to try to get out of my own head about all of it.  It’s not about how other people do, or what they do, or how they do it, when I run, it’s for me, and about me.  There is no competition aside from with myself.  Sometimes I need a solo run, sometimes I need a run with friends.  Sometimes I need a run to clear my thoughts, and sometimes I need a run to catch up with friends.  Sometimes I need an easy, slow, fun run, and sometimes I want to lay it all out on the road, emptying the tank.  And running is there, for all of it.

Running doesn’t judge, it’s there, waiting for me to lace up my shoes and get back at it, and that, right there, is why I love running.  It is always there.  Always.

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Rock the Parkway 2016

Last Saturday, I ran the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon for the second time.  Rock the Parkway, in it’s 7th year, is one of the largest and best run races in the Midwest.  There was a half marathon and a 5k option.  I felt like I had a little something to make up, after a personally frustrating Rock the Parkway experience last year, due to a head cold that was plaguing me during the race weekend.

Friday, after work, we checked out the expo, picked up our packets and some fun KC run local shirts.  Amy and I had a quite delicious spaghetti dinner, complete wth garlic bread and wine.  Then, it was time for bed.  I laid out Flat Runner Renee, and headed to bed.

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5:30 came very early on Saturday morning, and I got ready to go, and Amy and I headed out to the race.  Parking was no problem, and we had about 40 minutes before the race to use the bathrooms, check our bags, and try to keep warm.  It was a bit chilly, around 35 degrees, but it was sunny.  The cooler than expected weather, and the promise of warmer temps at the finish made me second guess my outfit a bit, but after adding throw-away gloves and an ear warmer, I was set.  After one last bathroom trip, we made our way to the corrals, and a few minutes later, the race started!

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If only a half marathon was 8 miles, this race would have been the best ever.  The first half of the race, for me, was picture perfect.  Miles 1-2, I stayed slow and steady, got into a good groove, and ended up tossing my gloves and taking off my ear warmer.  Miles 3-5, again, were great.  My splits had picked up a little bit, but I felt comfortable, I was enjoying the scenery; I was taking water/gatorade while running through every aid station, and had downed my first gu with no problems.  There are a few rolling hills, nothing too terrible, during the first 5 miles.

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Photo courtesy Backprint Photography and KC Running Company.

After mile 5, we turned to head toward Loose Park, the hills were still rolling at this point, but were a bit steeper.  There was a beer aid station around mile 5.5, which made me chuckle, as it did last year.  The spectators were great, and the signs were funny.  The race was going splendidly.  Miles 6-8 were good, though I was starting to have the itch to walk. I expected this, because my longest training run has only been 8 miles.

 

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Photo courtesy Backprint Photography and KC Running Company.

Near the end of mile 7, I began to get a bit dizzy.  Nothing like the KC Half Marathon last fall – that was a very dizzy feeling.  When a bit of dizziness came on Saturday, I slowed, and then walked.  I still don’t know what is causing the dizziness, as it only comes during long long runs, but I’m going to experiment with taking salt/electrolyte pills, as I think I may be sweating out too much sodium (I am a very salty sweater, and I begin sweating very quickly).

Once I walked, I feel like the drive fizzled out of me.  I continued with a run/walk/run through the last 4-5 miles, becoming frustrated with myself for not pushing through.  Mentally, I have a lot of work to do to improve my half marathons.  Physically, I know I am in better running shape than I was last fall, and better yet than I was last year when I ran Rock the Parkway, and even better yet, I’m in much better shape than when I did my first half marathon 2 years ago… but mentally, I have a long way to go.  I am confident that if I am not dizzy, I can physically complete a half marathon with no or minimal walking.  However, mentally, I struggle, and once I let myself walk that first time, it feels like it’s all over.

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Photo courtesy Backprint Photography and KC Running Company.

Mental rant aside, I finished the last 4-5 miles as strongly as I could, for me, on that day, during that race.  I finished the race with my second fastest half marathon time overall, which makes me happy, and shows my progress, considering I walked at least 3-4 times more than I did in October, when I finished the KC Half Marathon a mere 4 minutes faster.

I met up with Amy, and several other running friends, after the race.  Lots of my friends had huge PR’s; I’m so proud of all of you!  We got changed into some dry, warm clothes, enjoyed our chocolate milk, and celebrated our half marathons!

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Compared with last year’s Rock the Parkway, I finished about 15 minutes faster, I felt stronger, and I definitely feel like I ran smoother.  I didn’t have a head cold this year, which probably helped some!  Last year, Mom and Dad came down, and Mom ran, too.  I’m looking forward to having that experience with my parents again next month, at Running with the Cows.

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The rest of the weekend consisted of having some post-chafing issues, watching baseball, eating pizza, and getting pedicures after a shakeout run on Sunday with Amy.

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Did you run Rock the Parkway, or another race? Let me know how you did! What’s your next race coming up?

Monday Mentionings: April 11

Another Monday, another post! Last week was a great week, let’s jump right in!

On Monday, I met up with Thayne for dinner; he was in KC for opening day on Sunday, then flew out Tuesday for a work meeting.  It was nice to see him, it’s been since Christmas! Thayne, did you give Kristen her hug from me? We went to Joe’s KC BBQ, and it was delicious, as always.

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Jazzy has been leaving Michelle toys several times per week.  So precious, that little kitty, and his love for Michelle.  She’s moving to her new place this weekend; Jasper and I will both miss her like crazy, but I know we will see her often!

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We finished off the Amaretto Slushies last week, so tasty!  The weather has been warmer, which means Jasper hasn’t been snuggling as much lately – he likes to snuggle when it’s cold out.  I soaked up every minute of snuggle time I had last week.

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This is what I see every morning while I’m getting ready for work.  He sits patiently while I get ready, then about 5 minutes before I’m ready to go, he starts crying, to make sure I don’t forget to give him his morning treats.  So spoiled, this one.

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This tweet exchange cracked me up so much.  Kristen wrote about hedgehogs in the wild, and our Granddad’s response is just too funny.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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There were hot dog races at work last Friday, which cracked me up.  Some of the guys from the building next to us had the races, and we stood by the window in our building to watch them.  I love love love the place I work!  We work hard, but play hard too!

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This may be a dangerous search.  I’m contemplating trying a duathlon this summer/fall! Have you ever done a duathlon or triathlon? Should I go for it??  I’m also looking at trail races for this summer/fall!

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Saturday morning, bright and early (and cold), was Rock the Parkway, my first half marathon of the year.  I will have a race recap up later this week, once the race pictures are posted, but I wanted to share a couple pictures with you – pre and post race.  It wasn’t a PR for me, but it was for Amy, and for several of my friends, which was so great, and I finished with my second best half marathon time!

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Then, several hours and a painful shower later, this happened…

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I think Jasper’s most favorite thing ever is sitting in/on all the places he isn’t supposed to be.  He has probably sat on everything possible in Michelle’s room.  I think he’s just trying to make sure all of his extra fur goes with her to her new apartment.

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Last night, after yummy fajitas and quesadillas, Michelle and I decided we needed some good old fashioned TCBY.  We made the trip to Prairie Village, and had a very strange TCBY experience, but the ice cream was yummy, and that made up for it!  What’s your favorite froyo flavor?

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Have a great week friends!