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From Strong Roots…..

Grow Mighty Girls

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Running

(Re) Commitment

Silence is deafening.  The silence on this blog that is.  Actually, in real life I love silence.  I rarely get it, but I love it.  Blog silence, however, is something I’m working on.  In that spirit I give you this update.

Last time I posted I talked about a simple plank challenge.  And also about the more meaningful subject of keeping promises made to oneself.  How did I do, you ask?  Well, out of the 28 days in October after I last posted I managed to complete 22 planks.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Given that I had previously quit after a mere few days of planking, this actually marked quite an achievement.  If you round up (and you should) I achieved a 79% completion rate.  Better than ever.  The naysayers among us might point out that it wasn’t 100%.  And they would be right.  It wasn’t.  But perfection rarely happens.  Progress does.

Progress also begets progress.  In November I hit planks 19 out of 30 days.  In December, well, let’s not talk about December.  The holidays happened and I lost myself a bit.  Some planks were done.  But I don’t know how many.  In fact, there are two weeks in December completely unaccounted for in my BuJo.  Horror!  January, however, has been a thing of beauty.  I have planked for 24 out of 27 days so far!  Perhaps this will be my best month yet.

So, you could say I failed.  I failed to achieve 100% completion.  I have a different take on this, though.  I made a commitment to myself and I did a pretty good job of keeping it.  Yes, I forgot a few times.  Yes, sometimes I just didn’t feel like doing it.  But most of the time, I kept my promise to myself.  I showed up and did what I said I would do.  My core is stronger (is that a hint of musculature I see there?) and so am I.

Commitment

I just finished a one minute plank.  Why, oh why, would I choose to do such a thing???  Everybody knows that planks are hard.  And boring.  And sometimes painful.  They are also apparently really good at improving core strength.  Core strength happens to be important if you want a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  And I want a BQ time.  So I’m doing planks.  (This is an oversimplification but it’ll do for now.)

Now, I’ve been here before.  I’ve committed to “doing planks” no less than a hundred times in my running life.  I’ll do them for awhile (3-5 days, max) and then I’ll fall off the wagon.  After three days in a row of once daily planks I pretty much have a six pack and my core feels invincible.  I stop before I get too carried away.  The end result of all of this on again, off again planking is that I never really make any progress with my core strength.  My core looks and behaves the way it did ten years ago.  The other, perhaps more important end result, is that I’ve made 100 promises to myself that I haven’t kept.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  I’m not going to claim that this an original thought.  Certainly others have talked, blogged and written about this difficulty that most of us have with keeping the promises we make to ourselves.  It has recently struck me, however, that these promises we make to ourselves are really, really important.  I make commitments to other people all the time.  I make commitments to my children, my family members, my coworkers, my friends and my patients.  And I keep them!  I don’t want to be the kind of mom, daughter, coworker, friend or doctor who can’t keep promises.  Unfortunately, I don’t give myself the same importance.  Somehow, the commitments I make to myself seem negotiable.  I allow myself to be treated in a way I would never tolerate from a friend or family member.  And I think it’s holding me back.  Because of my inability to keep promises to myself, I set and fail to achieve, the same goals over, and over, and over again.  And this makes me feel ineffectual and impotent.  So I’m trying to change this but I know it’s going to take time and effort and I know it’s not going to be easy.  I’ll have to work really hard to resist the urges to cheat on myself.  So I’m starting small.  Small but measurable and meaningful.  I’m starting with a plank a day, for at least one minute, for the remainder of the month of October.  That’s 28 days for those of you who are counting.  And I’m writing it down both here and in my BuJo to hold myself accountable.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  Until then, here’s to promises made, and kept!

Race Recap Missoula Half Marathon

I decided this summer to race a few half marathons.  Usually when I race, it’s a big production.  I train for months and months.  Tempo runs, hill repeats, 800 repeats, long runs at marathon pace.  I stretch and strength train and clean up my diet.  I have goals and expectations and training plans that go on for pages and pages.  And while there is a lot I love about intense training, I have also realized that intense training creates a lot of pressure for me.  I feel pressure to get in all the runs, pressure to meet my goals, pressure to perform.  And sometimes this takes away the fun of training and racing.  So this summer I decided to do something different.  I would sign up for a few local races and just run them.  Sure, I would train but not intense, crazy, full of pressure training.  I would run 4-5 times a week, throw in some strength training, and throw down some pace work when I felt like it.  I would show up at race day and just run.

My first test run happened at the Governor’s Cup (see previous race recap).  Despite the hilly course and lack of specific training I did manage to pull off a half marathon PR at 1:56.  It didn’t really feel fun, though, mostly because I spent far too much time looking at my GPS watch and worrying about my splits.  I felt the pressure again.

Round two was the Missoula Half Marathon five weeks later.  I wasn’t even going to run this one despite it being my real hometown race.  It was on a summer weekend and I had more camping, hiking and beer drinking to do.  My running partner gently talked me into it, pointing out that I had to do a long run anyway so I might as well run the race with her.  We showed up at the start line more than just a little rough around the edges.  I had been camping for the past week without a shower or a cell phone (which is divine). She had spent the week dealing with her father-in-law’s untimely death.  We had no expectations about how this race would go.  Our big plan was just to run.

If you’ve never run the Missoula Marathon or Half, you really, really should.  Online registration is easy and packet pick up is a breeze with a nice race expo.  The start line was well equipped with an assortment of port-a-potties, music and pre race fireworks.  The course for the half starts on a short incline but soon flattens out and then you drop downhill over the first mile and a half.  It is a glorious way to start a race.  The first 4ish miles are spent running along the river and over a single lane bridge.  You then wind through a rural neighborhood before entering the town of Missoula.  The course winds through residential areas, by a city park and along the university district before turning onto the Higgins Street bridge and heading to the finish line.  Aid stations are frequent and well stocked.  Locals are out in force.  There were bands, a grand piano and bagpipes along the way.  There were wet sponges and lots of sprinklers turned on.  There were creative signs and lots of encouraging spectators.  I’ve run a lot of races now and I think Missoula has some of the best local crowd support I’ve ever seen.  It makes a big difference.  After the finish line there are medals, water, and food.  There’s beer if you want it.  It’s a perfect summer Sunday in Missoula.  For those of you who don’t know, the Missoula Marathon was rated the #1 Marathon by BibRave 100 and for good reason.  It’s a fast, scenic, world class race in one of the most beautiful and friendly places in the country.  This is a feel good kind of town and a feel good kind of race.  It’s the kind of race that makes me proud to be a runner in Missoula.

It was the perfect race for us to just run.  We were tired and a bit distracted which I think played in our favor.  We started out just running and after quite a few miles were surprised to glance down at our watches and realize just how fast we were running.  Hmmm.  Well, let’s just roll with it.  We carried on, running at an effort that felt moderately hard.  By mile 10 my lack of sleep was starting to show in my legs.  My lack of specific training was making me work harder than I probably should have had to.  The beauty of the half, though, is that it doesn’t totally punish you for the gaps in your training like the full marathon does.  So we looked at each other and agreed to push through the last 3 miles as hard as we could.  It was painful.  My muscles ached, my back strained, my mind wandered into “let’s quit” territory.  My lungs burned and my chest heaved.  We turned the final corner and hit the incline of the bridge.  We kicked hard and ran strong to the finish.  Our time of 1:55 was a PR for both of us.  The run was exhilarating, the kind of exhilarating that comes after you have been all out for 13.1 miles.  The run was also freeing.  This “just run” strategy was a total departure for me but it worked beautifully.  I don’t think this will be the last time I run this way.

Race Recap

My previous post was all about training my kids to run a 10K in my hometown.  As that post mentions, I also ran the half marathon that day.  I haven’t historically done race recaps on this site but I’m going to give it a try both as a way to document the race for my own memory as well as to provide a format to share race info with fellow runners.

The Governor’s Cup race series is held annually in June in Helena, Montana.  The series includes a kids race, 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon.  The half and full marathon courses were new courses this year.  Having not run this race previously, I can’t really compare and contrast.

Online registration is easy.  The website is reasonably well done.  I loved the videos of the course.  I had a question that I posed via the Facebook site which was answered within hours.  I didn’t attend packet pick up as I was working that day and driving in late from out of town.  My dad was able to pick up packets for myself and my daughters.  Totally appreciate that they allowed that to happen.

Race day started at 7:00 AM.  There were buses to the start but I hitched a ride with my dad because it allowed me an extra half hour of sleep.  Getting to the start was relatively easy but not well marked for those venturing by private car.  To be fair, the race organizers definitely encouraged taking the bus.  With the help of the locals, however, I made it to Clancy Elementary School where the start line was with plenty of time to spare.  There was water and gels at the start.  Bag drop was very easy at the start line.  There were ample porta potties.  So, so exciting!

Weather was nice with starting temps in the mid 50’s.  By the time I finished just shy of two hours later the temperatures were definitely warming up and were close to 70.  One advantage of the new route is that the start is somewhat cool and you are protected by the shadows of the mountains for the first half of the race.

We started on time with a nice, gentle downhill.  The course is all on paved road with limited traffic.  Great course monitors helped keep the little traffic that there was where it belonged.  The course is very scenic with beautiful mountain scenery for much of the race.  The first 9 miles or so are hilly with lots of ups and downs.  I felt great until about mile 6 when the ups and downs started to wear on a lower back and hamstring issue that had been plaguing me for weeks.  Regardless, the hills are real.  None are too big but they do start to feel relentless.  There is a relatively long climb coming out of Montana City going into Helena then there is a short stretch of relative flat.  At mile 10 you get the climb “Cardiac Hill”.  I really didn’t find it that steep, it just lasted forever.  The last mile and a half is mostly downhill until you turn onto the walking mall which is a slight uphill grade.  On a normal day I wouldn’t even notice the grade but after having my legs trashed on hills for the previous 12.5 miles, I noticed it.  It felt like a cruel joke.  As always, thought, the finish line came into sight and I crossed it, feeling completely worn out in a pretty good way.

On course support was good with aide stations approximately every 2 miles, more frequently at the end.  There was water and Gatorade as well as gels which I did not partake in.  One station towards the end had a sprinkler set up which was heavenly.  Multiple porta potties along the route as well.  I did find on course spectators, lacking, however.  There were very few people along the route, even along the finish chute.  One of the things I love about racing are the spectators who are out on a Saturday or Sunday morning, cheering on random strangers.  There was almost none of that at this race which I found disappointing.  Once I finished, I did my part and went back along the route, cheering and clapping for runners coming in.

The finish line was extremely well stocked.  The marathon and half marathon runners had their own finish line tent with great foods, cold bottles of water, and cold cans of soda.  Probably one of the best finish lines I have ever seen in terms of quality and quantity of post race fuel and fluids.

All things considered, certainly a well organized, well executed race with a scenic and well supported course.  So come run in Montana, and if you live in Helena, let’s see you out on the race course next year!

Running

Sometimes we go on epic adventures in far away lands.  And sometimes we venture much closer to home.  Or return home, as the case may be.

It was early, early spring in Montana.  Which really means that it was still winter but we just couldn’t stand the thought of winter any longer so we decided that it was spring.  In early spring we hatch a lot of great ideas.  More on that later.

In one of our moments of isn’t-winter-over-yet desperation, my daughters and I decided that this year we really ought to participate in a June race known as the Governor’s Cup.  This race is held annually in my hometown of Helena, Montana.  Every year my brother runs the 10K.  Sometimes my dad has run with him.  They always talk excitedly about the race, the training, the course.  As soon as registration opened this year, my brother signed up.  His enthusiasm must have been contagious because my daughters were inspired to sign up for the 10K, too.  Not to be outdone, I thought I had better sign up for something as well.  As a runner who has completed a few marathons and a handful of half marathons I thought the 10K sounded, well, too short.  But the marathon sounded just a touch too long this time around.  So, the half marathon prevailed and I signed up.

If you have ever run before, you know that there a few moments associated with running where you get this little endorphin hit.  Somehow, that really rare and really fleeting hit is enough to convince you to run mile upon mile, most of which are really just a lot of drudgery and nothing amazing at all.  One of those endorphin hits occurs after you hit the “Complete” button on your race registration and before you realize just exactly what you have done.  Another of those hits happens at the start line when you are all caught up in the amazing potential of the race before you.  The next hit usually happens for me at the finish line.  Everything in between…..well, it can get kind of ugly.

Usually, I only have to worry about my own training before a race.  This time, however, I had a 9-year-old and 11-year-old who were training for their first 10K.  Left to their own devices, I’m pretty sure they would have toed the starting line without any training what so ever.  Which, in retrospect, would have been an amazing learning opportunity for them.  But I am here to temper, to some degree, their learning opportunities.  So, we made a training plan, sprinkled in a few local races and set about meeting our goals.

Those first few training runs were brutal.  Always, someone had an ache or a pain.  There were side aches, stomach aches, foot aches, headaches (those were mine).  We stretched and warmed up (goodbye side aches), talked about fueling properly (see you later stomach aches) and bought new shoes (au revoir $95.00).  The foot pain, by the way, is just my youngest’s way of saying she’s over this.  And she was over this by mile 1 of the first training run.  But, she had committed to this and I was there to make sure she honored her commitment.  Because if you aren’t accountable on the little things, you probably won’t be on the big things, either.

So, yes, there was some complaining.  There were doubts and second guessing.  There were bribes of hot chocolate and lemonade.  We’re only human after all.

There was also some magic that happened in the midst of the hard and ugly.  As we were running (complaining), my girls talked to me.  They talked about things that were frustrating and things they were thinking about.  They talked about things they wouldn’t have talked about if we were busy leading our usual lives.  We spent time together in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise.  We solved problems, we encouraged each other, we got through some tough stuff and we were okay on the other side.  I don’t know if either them will embrace running as a life long sport but I do know that, as always, the journey was totally worth it.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did not “make” my children train for or run this race.  They wanted to do it, we talked about how long 10K is, we talked about how hard it would be and during the training I reminded them multiple times that they chose to do this.  I also, multiple times, gave them the option to reconsider their participation in the race.  When push came to shove, they didn’t want to back out.)

On race day, I handed my little bundles of race ready children with expensive shoes and a propensity for side aches to my sister.  Somehow, she had also got caught up in the early, early spring excitement and had come home to run the 10K with our brother and her nieces.  I felt like my children were in good hands as I departed for my own start line that morning.  Luckily for my children, my sister does not possess my Type A personality.  She really didn’t care how they got from the start to the finish.  In fact, the slower the better as far as she was concerned.  I’m not entirely sure how the race went down but I do know that my favorite Instagram post of the day from my sister shows a photo of my brother and my daughters with the caption “A rare moment of actual running”.  So it seems that they might not have really run that much.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t “leave it all out there”.  But I think they did a difficult and brave thing.  They committed to an adventure, they started down the path, the path got rocky and rough but they kept going.  They cried and laughed along the way.  They grew closer to their mother, their aunt and each other.  And they crossed the finish line, affirming that they are capable and strong and tough when they need to be.

And then we got lemonade and coffee, because, really, maybe that’s what it’s all about.

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