Tag Archives: running

Catching Up

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You will not find me mixing peas with my mashed potatoes, nor will you see me stabbing up steak with my broccoli. Everything must have its place; and this translates into blogs as well.

I usually have 3 or 4 blog posts rolling around in my head at any given time, and normally I savor them, doling them out at the proper time and place. On a rare occasion, I will toss everything into the pot and hope for the best. This is one of those blogs. I will, however, apportion the ramblings into shish-ka-bob pieces for your enjoyment. Life has been so full recently, I fear a backlog unless I clean out the corners of my brain.

Happy Birthday!

Will 16

Today is my eldest son’s 16th birthday. I will suppress the desire to show you cute baby photos–this is my gift to him: refraining from embarrassing reminiscence. He is such a fine young man, and I’m incredibly proud of him. Not merely because of his intellect, humor and his creativity (which are each respectable gifts) but because he is a young man of wisdom and integrity. When he was little, I never imagined he would become such a good friend to me.

Food!

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try a website called “Real Recipe Plans.” Naturally, I began by messing up the entire deal by leaving town for my marathon, thus missing the first week of recipes. However, I am now catching up, and I have to say, I LOVE having someone tell me what to cook and provide a shopping list. Even though I have not followed the daily schedule, the vegetarian dishes are perfect for our family: easy to make, healthy, quick and most importantly, delicious. I will blog in more detail about this new endeavor, but for now, it is enough to say that Real Recipe Plans is going to be a huge blessing to our family!

Marathon #5
The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

I had many fears going into the Pitztal Gletcher Marathon, and some of them were well-founded. While I didn’t notice the altitude affecting my performance, the many miles of downhill took a toll on my left knee, and at mile 18 I had to slap on a knee strap. However, looking back, this also happened at the (flat) Koenigschlosser marathon last year (what IS it with mile 18??), so it might be a dietary problem (like my addiction to salty foods).

Despite the knee problems, altitude and the rogue cows running interference at the start (yes, Alpen bells clinging and all), the race went VERY well, and I managed a PR of 4:26, which is nearly 5 minutes faster than my last marathon.

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

The race course itself runs from the Riflesee Talstation at Mandarfen all the way to Imst, Austria, which means cars have to pass you along the (sometimes) narrow alpine road. I took the shuttle bus from Imst to the start line at Mandarfen, where an old German runner bought me coffee and encouraged me to run ultras because, he said, they are easier on the body. He also showed me photos on his phone of the Jungfrau marathon, which looks delightful in a grueling sort of way. He assured me that most people walk up the steep parts. I’d like to find out for myself someday.

But for now…

Noah & Libby finish with me

Noah & Libby finish with me

I ran my fastest marathon ever, clocking one mile that was just under 8 minutes (and NO, it was not the first mile). I had 9 to 9:30 minute-miles up until my knee trouble at mile 18, where my pace slowed considerably. The last mile was a long, slow ascent that made me want to cry–especially since they had run out of watermelon at the last aide station, and I had to gnaw a slim pink bit off a rind.

I still have to figure out vegan fueling for race day, as I am pretty sure I ran out of steam. I used chia ‘gels’ but should have begun consuming them earlier in the race (well before needed).

Run and learn.

I am certain I would have done much worse without Crossfit training. For one thing, I wore my hydration pack, which usually leaves my shoulders sore after 26.2 miles. But this time, my shoulders didn’t hurt at all. It might be because I ran out of water, so it was very light by the end, but I’m hoping it was due to the new muscles growing atop my arms. Also, my legs felt very good, and I was only walking like Frankenstein for about a day afterwards (as William and I did a modified WOD in the marathon parking lot–yes, I brought my kettle bells to the race). Two days after the marathon I was back in the box, which helped my recovery considerably.

I wore my Skora ‘core’ shoes for this marathon, and they were perfect. I had NO foot pain whatsoever (not even an ache), which is a first for me. I DO believe in minimalist running–and the Skora cores, while a little sweaty, do fit like a glove.

Several times during the marathon, I felt like giving up. But the one thought I had was: “Whenever you feel like quitting, have some gummy bears.” It worked like a charm, thereby validating my theory that gummy bears make everything better.

I may have some unresolved food issues.

I love running out in God’s creation, and the Pitztaler marathon was by far the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen on a race course thus far. It was a small race, with only about 250 people (most of them very fast Austrians). But I enjoyed its quaintness. We stayed in a perfectly clean & kitsch Austrian Ferienwohnung, with the MOST hospitable owners; and I hesitate to name the place, lest it be booked up for the entirety of our tenure in Europe.

The best part of the marathon? Crossing the finish line with my kids. That one brief moment is worth the months of training.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

Only God knows how these races affect our lives and my children’s futures. My prayer is that it teaches them something about being faithful in the small, everyday things (like marathon training), which can often equip you for something you once thought impossible.

Celebrating together

Celebrating together

As I sit here on my balcony on this sunny summer morning, reflecting on my son’s 16 years of life, and how swiftly time passes, I am reminded that we must make the most of every opportunity given to us–not for ourselves, but for those intangibles that shape the lives of those around us. That is the prize for which I strive in the marathon of my life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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Just Hang On

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Just hang on

My stomach has that flip-flopping feeling, which signifies another marathon. Sunday will mark my 5th, which is 5 more than I ever thought I would do in a lifetime.

This will also be my first marathon as a Crossfitter, yet another activity in which I had never pictured myself. It just goes to show, you never know the path God will set before you.

I am nervous about the marathon because there are so many unknown factors:

  • I’ve been doing Crossfit in lieu of my shorter runs
  • I want to fuel with ‘natural’ foods
  • Marathon #5 is in a new location
  • The first three miles will be up a mountain to a glacier
  • I will be running at altitude (though I live in the countryside)
  • It will be cold in the mountains but (hopefully) will warm up as we descend
  • The weather forecast is bleak
  • I’ll be wearing barefoot shoes (which I can’t wear my compression socks with–or else my feet slide around)
  • They only offer cola at km 36 (bummer…I love a cola halfway through)
  • I can’t bring cola in my hydration pack

The list could go on and on…

However, for me, it is a worthy endeavor, as the spiritual/mental/physical aspects of my life are rolled up into one package. If one suffers, the others suffer. The physical training helps me to be more focused, disciplined and peaceful in other areas of my life.

The rewards of training are not merely physical, but I’ve learned many life-lessons as well:

  • Quitting is mental before it is physical
  • When things get tough (and painful) just hang on
  • When the weight is too heavy, let it drop
  • Use the correct muscles for each exercise
  • Don’t squander energy
  • Keep good form, even when you’re tired
  • ‘Relax’ does not mean being sloppy
  • Commitment increases strength
  • Trust the coach, and do what he says

God is the one who created the body, and we can learn spiritual lessons from something as seemingly innocuous as a WOD or a really long run. The point is to stick with it, and to run well on the path before you.

2 Chronicles 15:7 “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

Magic of Gadgets

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TomTom

Ever since my Garmin died at marathon #2, I have been GPS-less.

So, for my 40th birthday, my husband got me the Nike +Sportwatch GPS. I was sold on it because #1 it doesn’t look like a laptop strapped to your wrist and #2 it is powered by TomTom, which seems to be accurate even in the technological black hole of Franconia.

I’ve been playing around with the watch, and while I wish it had automatic scrolling (like my old, dead Garmin), it does seem to track me eerily well through the farm fields.

The watch has been extremely helpful in figuring out just what exactly I’m doing out there for hours, other than deer watching and gummy bear eating.

The results:

My average pace has increased (most likely due to Crossfit training) by 30-45 seconds per mile, which means I will either PR at my next marathon, or I’ll have more time to stop and eat gummy bears and drink cola at the water stations.

I go faster when I run uphill. Weird, but true.

I go slower downhill. Also weird, but equally true.

My heart rate stays in the 150s for my entire run–hills and all.

With four weeks until my next marathon, I have a little time to play around with training.

I need to learn to keep my pace (and my balance) while going downhill, and I can ease off a bit uphill. I can also try moving a little faster during portions of my run, since my heart has promised not to explode.

I am constantly worried about going out too fast, which is my natural tendency. But with the watch, I can accurately monitor myself, until I can ‘feel’ it without the gadget, which is still preferable to me.

When you run through a lovely green countryside, you should actually see more than the back of your wrist. With a GPS watch, you can get obsessed with numbers, and unless you’re a professional, what difference does it really make?

I’m in this for the long haul, and that means as I grow stronger (with crossfit) my running will improve. As I age, the real payoff will be in the health benefits, not the numbers.

While I am always wanting to challenge myself and improve, my life is not made or broken by three-tenths of a second. So even though I am now numbered among the gadget-people, I also want to keep the joy of running alive.

Because it’s the joy that makes the race worth running.

Low Mileage

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bumper car

I have been using the same marathon training plan I pulled out of a book 3 years ago. I know that’s not the best way to go about marathon training; but the book was a good one, and frankly, it’s worked the past 4 marathons. I’m scared to deviate from it because it’s all I’ve ever known.

I’m not a superstitious person, but I do know that as a runner, I can be a little odd.

I didn’t like the race number they gave me for my upcoming marathon, so I had them delete me and ADD me back into their system to get a ‘better’ number–all in German (which I am loathe to use because my German sounds like I pulled IT out of a college textbook a decade ago, which, in fact, I did.)

I wonder if all runners are quirky? or if it’s just me? Are there certain shoes or socks you HAVE to wear? A particular water bottle? A special ‘last meal’ before a race? I’m not quite as picky as I used to be, but still, there are these little traditions I cling to.

When my CrossFit coach said I didn’t have to run quite as many miles for my marathon training (since I’m also doing Crossfit) I was skeptical.

When my coach also said he was going to “Change things up,” I was scared.

So not only do I have to let go of my magic feather of a training plan, I have to learn an entirely new act. 

But Crossfit is producing results. I can now do pushups from my knees, and it will be no time before I’m doing them ‘for real.’ It wasn’t THAT long ago when I was crashing to the floor in a trembling heap because I couldn’t lift myself an inch.

I actually have muscles now, and I really, really like it. Sort of in a freakish way, like when you have a mole shaped like Mickey-Mouse that you want people to see. I keep walking around the house in a tank top and showing my husband my shoulders.

“See!” I say, flexing, “There are MUSCLES there!”

He usually responds with his sweet, “Yes dear,” look and pats me on the back, which I also flex because I have muscles there now too.

One of the coaches said he didn’t recognize me while I was doing pull-ups because of my newfound muscle tone. Okay, I wasn’t actually doing pull-ups. I was really dangling from a giant rubber band connected to a bar. But I was bouncing up and down sufficiently to count them.

Even though intellectually I know I am more muscular now, I step on the scale and suck my breath between my teeth. Muscle weighs more than fat, and how am I going to run a FASTER marathon if I keep ‘gaining’ weight?

These things are a mystery to me. But I do know that I ran my fastest 6-miler ever–clocking in at just over 54 minutes, which is pretty great for me.

I won’t lie–it wasn’t an ‘easy’ run (is there such a thing?) but it DID flow. I had on my barefoot shoes and my arms and legs and core all worked together to keep me moving along.

I am nervous about my next marathon. I don’t want to get worked up about numbers, because really, this is not one for a PR. I want to run a mountain marathon and finish it well.

I think CrossFit is already helping!

Absolutes

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Sun rays

I do believe in evil, and evil showed itself at this year’s Boston marathon. I know that in our current age, each viewpoint is supposed to be equally valid. But that is nonsense in light of events such as this. I know no sane person who can say that killing or maiming others is simply an alternate expression of one’s self.

Rubbish.

There are no fuzzy corners on evil: it is a sharp as a sword and would cut the good things to pieces given the chance.

Don’t tell me (in irony) there are no absolutes, because evil is one of them.

However, however, however, however…

…there IS Good.

And Good is also absolute.

We cannot recognize the face of evil unless we have already seen good.

Good is programmed into the human conscience, provided we have honest enough eyes to see it and courage enough to act upon it.

Envy, malice, murder, strife: the list of evil things could go on for pages.

Love, joy, self-sacrifice, peace: these things are good, and they are from God.

There is no other suitable explanation.

My prayers are with the Boston marathon victims and the families–that they will once again experience good, even when faced with evil.

Crossfit and Long-Distance Running: A Comparison

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WOD Charlie

I know I’m not supposed to run long distances before Crossfit, but I can’t help it.

On Monday, the sun came out, and even though it was cold enough to freeze my extremities, I quickly geared up and headed outside. I ran six miles, and in the afternoon, I went to Crossfit.

I promised myself a day off on Tuesday, but as we were eating breakfast, the clouds cleared, leaving our village in a beautiful splotch of sunlight. Without giving it much thought, I pulled on the first running clothes I could find (I admit…they were in a pile on my floor from the day before), and I hit the road. I didn’t mean to run another six miles, but I had to avoid manure trucks, and thus altered my anticipated 4-mile route.

When I went to Crossfit on Monday, my abs were still sore from Saturday, and when I went on Wednesday, my shoulders were still feeling Monday.

But it is the kind of sore that says, “Hello, you have actual muscles here,” and not the kind that has you limping to the health clinic.

I love running, and I love Crossfit, but there are differences.

In running you are (usually) solo.

In Crossfit, you have a whole group of people welcoming you as if you’re a long-lost cousin.

If you fail on a run, nobody has to know about it.

You never fail in Crossfit (even if you’re struggling under a barbell, somebody is there to tell you to stand up and start over).

If you run, you stop going for pedicures because your feet are hopeless.

If you Crossfit train, you stop going for manicures because really–who cares about your hands?

While running you can let your mind wander.

During Crossfit all you do is focus (so you don’t do needless reps).

Running requires putting one foot in front of the other.

Crossfit requires using muscles you didn’t know existed.

You can take the dog running with you.

You can take the dog to Crossfit, but he can only observe.

When you run, you pray that God gives you strength to endure life.

When you do Crossfit, you pray that God gives you strength to endure the next rep.

Crossfit and long-distance running are like children: they might be similar, but they are wonderfully, uniquely, surprisingly different.

I love each of them.

Puppy Sunshine or Why Runners Should Love Dogs

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Training

Training

Last week I ran 44 miles in five days.

That is what a little dose of sunshine does to me.

Unfortunately, the sun went away and it began to snow again, which means a corresponding household spike in Maranatha Raw Organic Almond Butter consumption.

My husband says that I am solar-powered, and it is no joke. I feel like a completely different person when the sun is shining.

When it is gloomy, I want to cuddle up with my Mac while dipping my Wasa gluten-och laktosfritt Knäckebrot directly into the jar of almond butter and (ironically) shop for marathons. But when it’s sunny, I am the person I like to be–the one who actually goes running, rather than the one who thinks about it.

When the sun shines, I go running AND clean the house. The residual effects from last week’s daylight were so profound, I even cleaned out my pantry. And if you’ve ever been frightened by my pantry, you will understand what an accomplishment this was.

Yesterday I came home from a busy day and the sun was out. It was cold, and even though I am sick of the cold weather, the sun lured me out. Also, we have our houseguest Bailey here, and she is an AVID runner, so she coaxed me out-of-doors. So, I set down the jar of almond butter and put on my shoes. I even thought, “It is SO sunny out, I won’t need my balaclava!”

I know, I know…I should NEVER tempt fate like that.

It turned out to be like some kind of twisted joke, a cruel irony, bad karma, or in Christian terms, a time of refinement, as halfway through the run, the clouds swooped in and it began to snow directly at me.

Bailey and I were both covered with snow on the left sides of our bodies, as if someone were shooting a plaster-gun at us.

I had to laugh. It wasn’t the maniacal laugh that sometimes scares my children when I’m at the end of my rope. It was, strangely, a happy laugh. And the only reason I could laugh was because of the ever-cheerful labrador.

Bailey doesn’t care if the snow is blasting at the side of her body. She doesn’t care if the frigid wind blows her ears inside out. She doesn’t care if the snow accumulates on top of her head like a wobbly little party hat. She is just thrilled to be outside running. And her cheerful nature is infectious. How could I be miserable when she looks up at me, and snow is plastered to a single side of her goofy grin?

This is part of the reason we added Charlie to the family. I hope that someday he will love running as much as Bailey does–and that his good attitude and cheerful outlook will rub off on me, whether the sun is shining or not.

Down Time

Down Time

Almost Never Christmas

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I saw my shadow today!

I saw my shadow today!

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve quoted the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe since December 26th. Though Lewis has written more inspirational lines, none can capture Germany’s winter this year quite as well as his phrase: Always winter, never Christmas.

And I’m not just whining. There was a reason for chasing my vitamin D pills with multiple shots of espresso.

My husband sent me a link to an article in der Spiegel that states this has officially been the darkest winter in Germany in 43 years, which completely validates my compulsive macaroni-and-cheese eating.

After nearly 13 years living in Alaska, I know I shouldn’t complain. But at least in Alaska, I knew what I was getting into. I KNEW the Arctic Circle wasn’t arbitrarily named. I KNEW polar bears only lived near a pole, which meant, coldness. But Germany duped me.

When we moved here seven years ago, they had the mildest winter on record. It looked like the shire in perpetual spring. Gazing at the emerald fields in February, I thought, “This isn’t so bad!” In fact, the winters have typically been more mild than my native midwest, where you can go from 80 to zero in a day.

But this German winter won the fight. I have posts on this very blog describing the beauty of running in the snow–when the road is frozen and gentle flakes are falling all around–blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Enough! I am done with winter! So done with it that I briefly stopped running. I was simply sick of feeling cold. So, I slunk away and hid in the Crossfit box until things began to thaw.

Fortunately, the sun came out a couple days ago, and with it, warmer weather. It was above freezing for the first time in weeks, and I was able to run without a jacket and YakTrax. Today, I didn’t even need mittens. It wasn’t particularly sunny today, but it was warm, so I stepped out into the fresh air, and it felt so incredible, I ran for 12 miles.

I’ve heard rumors that winter will be back again, but I don’t want to think about it. In fact, my friends won’t even talk about the forecast in front of me (bless them…I have the most awesome friends).

For today, the sun is peeking through the clouds, the birds are singing, flowers have pushed their delicate white and yellow heads through the mud, and I went running.

Yes, I had mud to my ankles, bugs in my face and some remnants of snow to slide through, but I went running and did NOT feel cold! That is a reason to celebrate! That is a reason to hope! Christmas WILL come eventually! And we shall call it “Spring!”

Cancellation Policy

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There's a running shoe under there somewhere.

There’s a running shoe under there somewhere.

After a run last week through ankle-deep snow, I felt like a Barbie doll who had its leg pulled out and ineptly stuck back in the socket. This strange phenomenon happens to me from time to time, and all I can do is wait until my hip and knee pop in that peculiar way that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

While I wasn’t in pain during Crossfit last night, I kept unconsciously favoring that side, which threw everything off balance. It was a great workout, but a less-than-perfect performance. It didn’t inhibit me from doing 160 air squats, but it did make me lean forward during the thrusters, instead of keeping my weight on my heels.

My legs were already weak from running five miles through the snow before anyone was awake, and to top it with Crossfit that evening made my body cry out “Enough!”

Thus before bed, I made the decision to take an extra day off this week–even though I HATE canceling a run during marathon training! But my leg was hurting and my entire body craved rest the way a camel craves water.

For some reason my husband feels that getting up at 4am to run five to ten miles through the snow is a little extreme. I’m not sure I know what he’s talking about, but I do know he cares about me and above all else does NOT want me injured.

It does make me wonder when I began to think of marathons as common as Volksmarches? When did I go from collapsing after three miles to knocking out twelve just for fun? Why do I feel Crossfit is a great addition to my training, and not something that would sufficiently prepare a person for a career with Cirque du Soleil. And does this mean that someday I’ll see a marathon as the warm-up before my Ultra? Will I be an IronGrandma someday?

Marathons are extreme things (apparently), and the training requires a type of dedication that allows no excuses for snow or rain. However, it IS important to listen to your body. And I hate writing that phrase, because so many people use it without really defining it. So here is Keri’s easy translation:

Listening to your body simply means KNOWING the difference between your limits and your laziness.

To truly be in tune with your body takes time, effort, practice and on occasion, a day off.

Happy running, friends. And though winter may slow you down, don’t let the snow bring your training to a halt!

Running Israel

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Road Signs

View from the bus

I brought my running gear to Israel and didn’t wear it once. We were too busy snorkeling, riding busses, touring, hopping taxis, trekking through deserts and riding camels to make the time for running, and yet, I feel as if I’ve run a marathon.

I’m finding it difficult to compact ten days of adventure into a single blog. I could talk about unplugging, the horrors of family-friendly resorts at Christmastime, the luxury of Jordanian hospitality, the poverty of Jordanian people, the IDF or the soul-soothing beauty of the Holy Land. But I will start with this topic: Israelis can RUN.

Every morning, I would sit on the hotel balcony and watch the sun rise over the Red Sea, drink my coffee and watch runners go by–and there were many.

One morning when my husband and I ventured out for cappuccino and free wifi (*note: I will address my unplugging hypocrisy in another blog) there were packs of runners, each looking as if they could be RW cover models.

I would love to run the Jerusalem marathon in March, but after spending a couple days in the very hilly city, I realized that not only would I have to be in great shape to tackle the hills, but I would have to be in the best shape of my life to finish by Shabbat.

On the shores of the Red Sea

On the shores of the Red Sea

Eilat, touching the Red Sea, is the ideal runner’s paradise in winter. The temperature was cool each morning and the sun was always shining. You could literally run from Jordan to Egypt in a single training run. Eilat is where we spent most of our time, with side trips to Jerusalem and to Petra, Jordan.

One day in Eilat, we were heading towards the nice beach (in front of the ritzy hotel, where we were NOT staying), when a woman bolted from the shopping mall on our right. She was frantically talking into a cell phone, paused for a moment a few yards in front of us, and then dashed off.

The first thing I noticed was her running. It was not girly, late-for-a-bus running. This was perfect, gazelle-like form. I paused to admire her, the way a kid on a tricycle watches a motorcycle zoom by, when people with guns seemed to spring from nowhere, and rushed past us down the promenade. Some of the people were in uniforms, but many, like the cell phone woman, were wearing average getup like jeans and tank tops.

A police car soon followed, and as the commotion built, we decided to head back to the hotel for a pool day.

The episode brought home the fact that we were not touring your average resort town. This was a place where guys wearing jogging pants might have machine guns strapped to their sides. Where that pack of awesomely fit runners might chase down someone who would hurt you. It is a place where your bus gets periodically boarded by people with guns. It is a place where a Humvee escorts your bus for certain portions of the highway.

There are security checks at every public building and concerned officials will sincerely look you in the eye and say, “I’m afraid someone will ask you to carry a package for them and it will be a bomb.” To their credit, they never added, “because you look like an ignorant tourist.”

The funny thing is that all of the security measures and the guys with guns made me feel safe. Many American cities are more dangerous than Jerusalem or Wadi Musa–and many are certainly more dangerous than Eilat.

Would I go back to Israel?

In an instant.

Would I run a marathon there?

Maybe if I train like a soldier.