Entries Tagged as 'Run'

LONG RUN: HOW TO SUCCEED

Friday, August 7, 2015

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The first month of marathon training is in the books.  After the past two week’s long runs, I’ve scribbled “slogfest” as the lone descriptor in my training log.  With humidity nearing 100% and temperatures creeping into the mid-eighties during my long run last Saturday morning, my inner monologue began debating the merits of downgrading the pace and walking it in.  I would resolve to keep running and then a few minutes later the inner debate would begin again.  Towards the end, every few steps I found that I had to keep deciding to run.

And this is exactly the reason I run marathons.

Marathon training is the best venue I know for practicing the act of succeeding.  This is because we come to cross a marathon finish line exactly the same way that all great endeavors are achieved:  we have to decide and then keep deciding.

The initial commitment to a goal is critical, but it’s the process of moving that goal from dream to reality that really matters.  And that process takes grit – a sort of “tenacious, dogged perseverance” (source).  There’s a burgeoning body of literature that says that the best predictor of success is grit, not talent.  Interestingly, marathoning is the metaphor used by the researcher investigating the role of grit in success:

 “We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.  Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.  The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.  Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change the trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” 

– Duckworth et al. in “Grit:  Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals”

It is likely that grit can be learned.  I remind myself of this on long runs – that the miles I’m logging in marathon training may have spillover benefits to the achievement of other long term goals.  This grittiness I am cultivating has relevance beyond a marathon finish line.  Because, in the end, whether it is marriage or career advancement or forgiveness or 26.2 miles, to accomplish great things we have to decide and then keep deciding.

LONG RUN: ON KNOWING

Friday, May 22, 2015

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A couple of months ago I read Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things.”  To use a cliché, I couldn’t put it down.  I inhaled her advice and tough love framed in with “sweet peas” and F bombs.

Since reading, I haven’t been able to get this quote out of my head:

There’s a line by the Italian writer Carlo Levi that I think is apt here: “The future has an ancient heart.” I love it because it expresses with such grace and economy what is certainly true—that who we become is born of who we most primitively are; that we both know and cannot possibly know what it is we’ve yet to make manifest in our lives.

I’ve passed these words along to a friend making decisions about residency, offered them as hope to a person trapped in indecision and spoken them during a celebration of someone’s recent accomplishment.

We both know and we cannot possibly know.

Ryan graduated on Sunday.  We drove to D.C. on Tuesday to attend the graduation gala, a gathering of about 1,000 affiliates of the School of Business.  It took us two tries to get to the right venue.  Tuesday night black tie galas are, at least from my singular experience, a bit odd.  It’s the middle of the week and staying out late on a Tuesday has consequences.  Plus you feel a little silly getting all dolled up.  We attended anyways and spent the night sipping cheap wine in a hotel ballroom, offering congratulations and inquiring about post-graduation plans.  Most of Ryan’s friends worked through the MBA program, so questions about next steps were answered rather wistfully – there were hopes of new opportunities and moving on from current positions, but few graduates had concrete offers.

This graduation was markedly different than undergraduate commencement ceremonies where students receive diplomas and are then thrust out into the real world.  This graduation lacked the same sort of punctuation and felt a whole lot like a Tuesday night black tie gala – situated very much in the middle of something else.

I began running a few months after I graduated from college.  I’d just started my first full time job and remember being exhausted at the end of the first week.  The thought of working like this for the next forty years nearly brought me to tears.  It sounds silly now, but the prospect of professional life after college felt big and long and I feared it would be exhausting and monotonous.  Up to that time life had been punctuated by graduations accompanied with clear transitions from one school to the next.  The task was scripted and performance was measured.  I had no idea how to navigate those first weeks of my career and felt at once trapped and completely lost at sea.  So, I started running.  I signed up for a marathon and found a training plan.  Running added structure to a life space that otherwise lacked any sort of finish line, so I pinned on a bib and found my own.  Punctuating my first steps into adulthood with mile markers and weekly long runs, I built endurance and began to gain perspective.

In the years since graduation from college, I still find myself wishing for punctuation — a pause between this and that— and a moment in time bearing witness to that which was in the past and this which is what will usher in the future.  A college-style three month summer vacation would do nicely.

But, I guess that’s the thing about life (as Robert Frost famously said):  it goes on.  And, as such, transitions are rarely as anticipated and discrete as college commencement.  The reality is that continues and it’s unclear where this next thing will begin.  And so recently Cheryl Strayed’s words took on new meaning for me:  whereas in the past I called them forth to bear witness, I now hold them close with great hope and expectation.

We both know and cannot possibly know.

Finish lines still matter and so we lace up and start running.  We count the miles.  We sign up for races and see how we measure up against the course.  In running we test the edges of ourselves again and again.  Along the way we find strength and a pack to run with.  We learn to endure and we come to understand the incredible places we can go if we just keep placing one foot in front of the other.  We run from here to there and move from this to that and in so doing we come to understand that we both know and cannot possibly know where these steps will lead us.

LONG RUN: RISING FROM ASHES

Friday, March 20, 2015

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On Thursday nights we go to spin class.

This sixty minutes is at once my most anticipated and most dreaded workout of the week.  We’ve been going to this spin class consistently for about two years and if my math is correct, I’d say that the average time from class start to feeling like I’m going to puke is 17 minutes.

Last night was no different. After being leveled by the flu at the New Year and an epic respiratory infection in Honduras, I am still building back to my fitness base state and, good heavens, I was feeling this workout.

The best part of this class is the instructor. My first memory of her is from about five year ago when she came to the gym on a Sunday morning with freshly marked triathlon numbers.  At that point I knew nothing about triathlon and thought it was odd for someone to have their age sharpied on their calf.  A few minutes later I overheard a fellow inquiring as to whether she’d completed a local tri that morning. Indeed she had, and then she casually mentioned that she won her age group…and was just getting in a bit of strength work after the tri.

Needless to say, this Thursday night spin class is a killer workout.  But, here’s my favorite part:  her words.  What’s funny is that they are largely the same every week, which means I’ve heard them about a hundred times, but each class they seem to ring true to whatever circumstances life has dealt that week.

Each week as we climb she prompts us to “add another gear, don’t be afraid of it.”  She assures us that our legs are strong enough to climb and that they will only get stronger if this week’s hill is bigger than last week’s hill.

I love running because mental knots seem to dissolve across miles.  I come back from a run and my head is almost always clear.  Cycling presents a challenge in this regard.  I get into a ride and I feel both uncomfortable and stuck.  When I run, I might feel uncomfortable, but I am moving and creating space.  When I am breathing heavily in the middle of spin class, there is something about having my feet strapped onto the bike that makes me feel panicked and trapped.  But, I wonder if this might actually be the best possible position to work through the fear.  You cannot move, you cannot distract yourself with the scenery.  It’s just you and the bike in a dark room.  Feel the fear, but choose to add the gear anyways.  I realized this is how I can avert the panic:  confront the fear and ride through it.

After spin, I picked up Thai takeout then came home and while scanning Netflix documentary options stumbled upon Rising from Ashes.  If you are having trouble finding motivation for your long ride or run this weekend, watch this.  Seriously.  The documentary follows the building of Team Rwanda, the nation’s cycling team, in the aftermath of the genocide.  This is one of the best stories of sport that I have ever seen and it serves as a powerful reminder that “the most devastating circumstances can yield the most powerful forms of hope.”  The documentary is at once tragic, full of hope, and a beautiful portrayal of the power of the bike as a vehicle for each of us.  Ride on, friends.

LONG RUN: SANTA MONICA

Monday, February 23, 2015

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I wrote this not long after our trip to Sedona when I was still feeling wrapped up in the same head space.  I was on the brink of something new professionally, but at the same time walking through the challenges that so often accompany life’s transitions.  This particular weekend  in Santa Monica was important in deciding where one thing would end and another would begin.   Now, from the other side, the weekend reminds me of the ways that running serves and accompanies us as we navigate change and uncertainty.

Recently, I have not wanted to run.  Last week the winds finally changed and I found myself lacing up, eager to get out the hotel door.  I landed at LAX on Saturday afternoon, greeted by sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s.  I dropped my bags at the hotel, enjoyed lunch on the veranda and then went out to run a few miles.

The next few days were really, really tough. That ever volatile combination of stress and frustration and self-imposed pressure combusted on Monday afternoon leaving me feeling at once shaky in the aftermath of a confrontational conversation and relieved for having said what needed to said.

With Tuesday morning came an important professional commitment.  I woke up early to prepare and was greeted by entirely too much of the emotion of the previous day.  As if reaching out to an old friend, I grabbed my running shoes and ran out the door.  I ran to Venice Beach, then I ran back to the Santa Monica pier and walked onto the beach.

The run was so hard — perfectly hard, I suppose.  My breath was heavy, so were my legs and so were my thoughts.  Disproportionate in difficulty to distance or level of exertion, the run perfectly mirrored the state of my heart and head – discombobulated, trying to find my breath, on the brink of exhaustion.

I stood at the shoreline for a few minutes, watching the waves.  I took in a big inhale of the salty air and thought about the day ahead.  I could see my hotel in the distance; it looked small.  I began to catch my breath and with it came the smallest sliver of perspective about the day ahead.

As I walked back up the beach to the boardwalk, I realized I wasn’t thinking about yesterday anymore.  Somewhere in the miles behind me, my mind’s vice grip on yesterday’s events had loosened and I’d let them go.

I turned back towards the hotel; internally I turned and faced the day ahead.  I consciously decided to replace my stress with hopeful expectation, then I ran back to the hotel and into a day much better than I could have imagined.

As for running, it feels so good to be back.  Seems I had almost forgotten about the power of our sport – the ability to move oneself from one point to another, the ability to create space and adjust one’s outlook.  Space to be and to think, forward movement and perspective – here’s to lacing up and letting go.

THE BEST TIP FOR NEW RUNNERS

Friday, January 9, 2015

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Perhaps you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to start running.  Maybe you’ve signed up for your first 5k or half marathon and are getting started with your carefully researched training plan.

Here’s the one (unsolicited) tip I would give you:  keep going.

I started running in 2009.  Ryan was training for his first marathon.  I was intrigued competitive and quickly followed suit.  My first race was an 8k.  I found a training plan then stepped onto a treadmill at the YMCA.  I ran for about two minutes and thirty seconds before I had to walk.  I was embarrassed and more than a little bit surprised.  I was young, thin and at least vaguely in shape.  And I couldn’t run one mile.

It took several weeks of run/walking to work up to being able to run a couple of miles.  So often friends say that they’d like to start running and then they begin by lacing up and trying to run a few miles.  This (almost) never works.  Running, especially in the beginning, is painful and hard.  Your lungs burn and your legs get heavy so quickly.  So, you stop and walk home after ten minutes.

When I found myself in this exact situation, I remember thinking “But this is what all my runner friends do!  They just go out and jog a few easy miles, so why is it impossible for me?”.  The key is to keep going — not by painfully extending initial outings, but by committing to seeing through the slow process of becoming comfortable running.  Allow yourself to be a beginner.

Set realistic expectations from the outset.  Going out and running a few miles is not realistic (at least for most of us) at the beginning.  Setting a five to ten week schedule to get to you to the start line of a 5k may be.  I wish someone had shared this 5k training schedule with me when I was getting started.  I know several marathoners whose first steps towards becoming a runner began utilizing this run/walk training schedule.

I often tell new or aspiring runners that the first time I ran 20 minutes continuously was almost as significant an accomplishment as crossing the finish line of my first marathon.  The beginning is hard, but keep going.  It will be worth it.

LONG RUN: NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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Sometimes you just get lucky.  That could basically serve at my New York City Marathon race recap.

Leading up to the race I had a few things going in my favor.  Namely:

  • A late race start and rolling the clocks back an hour meant that I actually slept eight hours the night before the race. I’m fairly certain this is the first time I’ve ever done this.
  • I hydrated well the week before.
  • I watched my nutrition the week before.
  • I stayed off my feet on Sunday.
  • I stayed warm at the race start by wearing an embarrassing amount of layers. Shivering = wasted energy.
  • I started out really conservatively and didn’t pick up the pace until after mile 20.
  • There were water stations every mile and I took advantage of every one of them.
  • And most importantly, I (am not ashamed to admit that I) downloaded the new Taylor Swift album the night before the race and told myself that I could listen to it once I got to mile 18. Pre-determined head game.

There were, however, two very significant factors that I thought would all but guarantee a terrible race:

  • I went in to a marathon completely undertrained. One should never, ever do this.
  • The weather. Twenty mile an hour headwind for the majority of the course; gusts that topped 50 mph.

I lined up at Fort Wadsworth nearly certain of what the day would hold:  a few fun miles at the beginning and then an irreversible, very painful downward spiral on the second half of the course.  The only question was exactly when things would get miserable.  Being underprepared, I feared that things might get bad by mile 13.  So, I went out really conservatively.  I incorporated walking from the beginning and watched my hydration and nutrition very closely.  At mile 20 I was still feeling good, so I picked up the pace and ran it in.  I have never felt good at mile 20; I was absolutely shocked.

That’s part of what keeps us coming back to the marathon, isn’t it?  The unpredictability, the unknown, the uncertainty.  It’s the convergence of what my body brings on a race day and what those 26.2 miles demand.  It’s an intersection that requires an offering up of our whole selves; it tests our resolve and our ability to endure.  It allows us to push ourselves to the edge and see what remains.  It affords us the rare opportunity of running right through our own doubts.  Every now and then, the stars align and that intersection is magic revealing reserves of strength that we didn’t even know we had.

LANDED: NEW YORK CITY

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


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We are back from an amazing weekend in New York City.  The purpose of the visit was to run the New York City Marathon, but we also managed to squeeze in some of our favorite NYC activities.  We visited MoMA (for free) on Friday night, enjoyed a great Thai dinner, sipped lots of coffee, saw a show (with James Earl Jones!) and had a delicious pre-race (gluten free) pasta dinner.  We stayed at Gild Hotel which was a total treat and made for an easy walk to catch the ferry to Staten Island for the marathon start.  Sunday night we traded marathon war stories over pints of pumpkin cider and craft beers.  All around, it was a really, really good weekend.

 

LONG RUN: GETTING BARRELED

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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A few summers ago there was a tropical storm off the coast of Florida that churned up the surf here at home.  On a perfect weekend afternoon our coast was just starting feel the storm’s reverberations and big, rolling waves were breaking on the shore.  I was at the beach with a group of friends, all of us born and raised in this coastal town.  We are good swimmers and so we waded in through the breakers and churned up whitewater – the kind that nearly holds you in place with the repeated force of incoming waves.  Past the breakers, we proceeded to play in the surf for the next several hours.  Diving through, floating over and riding in the waves.  The waves were humongous and we laughed at each other as we were barreled over and tossed around.  We left the beach that day waterlogged with swimsuits full of sand, tangled hair and a sense of buoyancy.

We closed on a house while I was in Madagascar.  A little hunter green beach bungalow that was built in 1955.  We are ecstatic.  In our ecstasy, we are able to look past the flaws of our new home:  the lack of air conditioning, the pet stained floors, the kitchen that hasn’t been updated since the 50s.  To put it gently, the house needs an immense amount of work.  So we’ve been spending our every waking hour outside of nine to five fixing it up.

This weekend my dad and I rented a couple of sanders to refinish the floors.  I knew going in that this wouldn’t be a diy for the faint of heart, but I sort of figured “what the heck how hard can it be?”.  (The answer, of course, is quite hard.  Quite hard, but doable.)  I googled how-to’s and read a few blogs and then off we went to Home Depot.

Tomorrow morning at 6:00am we board a plane for New York City.  A little (26.2 mile) run through the five boroughs is on the agenda.  My last long run was 17 miles the morning I flew to Madagascar…on September 8th.

It sort of struck me yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk, abs sore from ten hours spent wrangling an industrial floor sander:  life is a bit full right now.  Full, but doable.

We undertook a massive home reno with a little budget and crazy travel schedules, but I knew we could do it.  I signed up for a marathon because I knew I could do it.  Sure, I’m in over my head, but I waded into the water because I know I can swim.  Every now and then we dive in knowing we are going to get barreled.  But, hey, that’s half the fun, right?

See you on the other side of 26.2 and the home renovation.

LONG RUN: THE SPACE BETWEEN

Friday, September 5, 2014

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I spent yesterday in DC getting a new passport.

I vividly remember standing in line at my college town’s post office waiting to submit my passport renewal paperwork ten years ago.  Ten. Years. Ago.  It was finals week in December.  I rolled out of bed and threw on a t-shirt and a fleece.  As I waited to be called to the counter I remember thinking about how old I would be when that passport expired – almost 30 (I know, I know).  I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and as I thought about the decade that passport would carry me through everything looked so fuzzy.  I wasn’t sure where I’d live or where I’d work – heck, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find a job when I graduated.

I was about the travel to Africa for the first time.  On Monday, I leave for Madagascar.

Ann Lamott poses this question:  “Where is meaning in the meteoric passage of time, the speed in which our lives are spent?”

My instagram feed has been inundated with images of children boarding school buses and captions decrying the speed at which babies have grown up.  There are efforts to soak in the last moments of summer and there are efforts to embrace the changing seasons.  (Inaugural pumpkin spice latte, anyone?)  It seems that we are collectively asking, “where did the summer go?” or maybe even “where has this year gone?”.

To be honest, I’ve found it a bit irritating – relatable, but irritating.  I mean, come on people, let’s come to terms with it.  The seasons are changing; it iSeptember.  Then today, I found myself asking a similar question:  “where did the last decade go?”.

And that’s where Lamott’s words started to resonate.  We can’t stop time, but I wonder if we can’t slow down it’s meteoric passage to a gentler calendar page turn.

After yoga on Monday night, I rolled up my mat and walked outside to my car.  I said goodnight to a friend, then looked down at my phone and noticed I had missed three calls.  My phone started to ring again and at that point I realized I had mistakenly taken my husbands keys leaving him stranded at the house.  An urgent work email came in from a different time zone.  I started my car and music came on.  I scrolled through my instagram feed, liked a few images, and then I checked my personal email.  I put the car in reverse and as I drove home to rescue my stranded husband I thought about how many things I had given my attention to in the preceding three minutes.  At least seven.  In three minutes

My least favorite part of Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is when he describes the space between a stimulus and a response – a space that we control.  How inconvenient.  I find it much easier to be reactive than to give a careful, considered response to a given stimulus.  Covey says, “quality of life depends on what happens in the space between stimulus and response.”

Also, I need to consider the fact that choosing not to respond is a response.  If I chose to respond less, I wonder if my life might feel a little less frantic.  I wonder if the passage of time might slow a bit.  I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out.  I mean, isn’t that part of the reason why we love to run?  The solitude, the singular and intentional pursuit of something worthwhile?

I think it may be time for me to do a bit of editing — less mindless responses, more intentional action.  It’s time to own the space between stimulus and response.  Because the next time I go to get my passport renewed, I want to make sure I’m not just standing in line dumbfounded about how fast time flew by.  I want to be flipping through that old passport’s pages reminiscing about a hell of a good decade.

LONG RUN: LABOR DAY

Friday, August 29, 2014

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Running last night it hit me:  I’ve been home for almost two months (save a quick trip to Boston, meetings in DC and a weekend at the beach in North Carolina).  After traveling for the entire month of June, being stateside this has been both unexpected and welcome.

There is something magic about being seaside in the summer – maybe it’s simply the proximity to water.  Our favorite trail ends at the bay – the ideal place to recover.  After work we hop on our beach cruisers and bike to the bay – the perfect punctuation between the office and a summer evening.  On Friday nights we order takeout (or we did until our long runs got really long, now we have pasta) and head to the beach to eat and watch the sunset.

I’ve got 16 miles on tap tomorrow morning.  Afterwards, I fully intend on taking advantage of everything a seaside summer has to offer – there are plans to kayak, steam clams, make ice cream and relax at the beach.  Wishing you a long weekend full of the your favorite summertime things.

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