A Runcation, A Vacation, and Other Things

Whew! The last few days have been insane - and not necessarily in a good way. I feel like I've been chewed up and spit back out. I've spent the last week trying to figure out some important stuff and make some important plans, but a lot of it has been dependent on other people and that stresses me out! I'm a control freak and hate not being in charge of what's going on. I don't handle stress very well and I have pretty much been a basket case since last Thursday. It got so bad that I spontaneously burst into some sun salutations in the middle of my kitchen while cooking dinner Friday night. Like seriously, just out of nowhere, that felt like the appropriate thing to do I guess?

This weekend I did a whole lot of random things and took exactly zero pictures. Saturday morning my dad and I went on our last long run before our half marathon this weekend. Even though I haven't been training to PR it per se, I know that I have gotten faster since my last half in November (that's what spending the months of November-March training for 2 full marathons will do I guess?). Based on my last couple of long runs I do think I have a shot at a PR, but mostly I'm just hoping to have a good time! The race is in the Outer Banks and we are sharing a house with several friends who are coming to race or just watch. I love runcations! :)

The rest of Saturday I decided to just relax. I got a massage in the afternoon and after that Ben and I got Chinese for dinner and had wine and watched "Your Inner Fish." We caught a little bit of one episode on PBS a few nights earlier and it was so interesting we decided to catch up on the other 2 episodes. It was seriously the most fascinating program I think I've ever seen. Look it up!

Sunday Ben had to work and I had a bunch of homework and housework to do, so that pretty much sums up my day. I did make a breakthrough on what I've been stressing over, though, so that perked me up and made me a little more hopeful. I know I'm being really vague but I don't want to say anything until things are more finalized and official. If I had it my way that would be like, yesterday, but it's not up to me. I'm trying to trust that it will all work out. Just breathe.

I woke up this morning feeling a little bit better - probably because this is the first Monday in 3 months that I didn't have to wake up at 5:30am! It's the last week of classes and I'm already done with my Monday am class. The rest of my classes will be over after tomorrow and then exams start on Thursday!

I've had a lot of self-doubt lately. I've felt completely unable to make the "right" decisions. I've felt defeated. I've wondered why I can't just be "normal." I just haven't been my usual, go-get-'em, I-can-do-anything self. I checked Facebook this morning and when I saw this picture, I knew it would all be okay.

Another thing getting me through right now? Ben and I finally booked a vacation! I'm in desperate need, can't you tell?! Our vacation starts the minute my last exam ends next Wednesday.

Any guesses on where we're going? The answer might surprise you! ;)

3 Years of Running: A Letter to my Former Self

Dear first-day-of-Couch-to-5k Tracy,

Hi, it's future you! It's three years later, and you're still running! You are what people call a "real runner", how unbelievable is that? I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I wouldn't lie to you.

You just completed your first of what will be many runs. I know you don't think it really counts, because you walked twice as much as you ran today, but I promise it does!

A quick word of advice: those hideous Brooks you got fitted for? Don't trade them in for a cute pair of Saucony's you find on the internet. You will get shin splints, and you will be sad.

In just a couple of weeks, you are going to feel like a whole new person. You are going to wonder how you lived the first 23 1/2 years of your life without running. You are going to feel euphoric every time you reach a new goal. Those 5-minute runs scaring the life out of you right now? Girl, you got this! You are going to wish you could give yourself a giant high 5 every time you make it back to your apartment and realize you just ran there.

You are going to huff and puff through some of your runs. You are even going to cry sometimes. That's okay. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's hard.

In a few weeks, you are going to run in your first 5k, your first ever race. You are going to make a rookie mistake and not pace yourself correctly. You're going to end up walking at least a third of it. You will feel like you're dying by the end. It won't be the last time.

It's going to take you longer than 8 weeks to complete Couch to 5k. You'll get busy, you'll make excuses, but it's okay. You're going to make it. You're not going to be able to run a full 5k by the end. That's okay too. You'll get there.

You're going to run your first real 5k, the whole thing, without stopping, on your cousin's birthday in October. You are going to be proud that you accomplished something he never got the opportunity to. It will take you over 38 minutes to finish. You won't know that that's a pretty slow time. You wouldn't care if you did.

After that race is when the real fun is going to begin. A few weeks later you'll run your first 10k. In the months that follow, you'll run a 5k in under 30 minutes for the first time. You'll run your first half marathon. Again, your time will not be great. Again, you won't care. You will experience a feeling of pride that you've never felt, at a depth you didn't even know could exist.

You are going to learn to push yourself. Even when you think you have nothing left, you're going to dig deep and find more strength than you ever knew you had.

You will run through the summer and curse the blistering heat. You will run through the winter and your face and fingers and toes will be numb, but you will be happy.

When others are sleeping, you will be running. You will want to be in bed too, but you'll push yourself out the door anyway. You will learn to appreciate the solitude of being the only soul out at 7am on a Saturday morning. You will feel like the world exists solely for you to admire it on your runs.

You will appreciate your sacrifices when you finish your second half marathon over 30 minutes faster than your first one. You will feel like falling over at the finish line, and you'll know that's because you gave it everything you had.

You'll have some big life decisions to make, and running will give you the clarity and the confidence to go after what you want. In a couple years, someone is going to try to bring down the sport that you have grown to love. You won't know what to do, so you'll lace up. Because that's what you do when life gets hard and confusing and you don't know what else to do.

You will learn to dream big. You'll dream the biggest dream of all, a dream you never even knew you had: to run a marathon. You will run all 26.2 of those miles on a cold day in January, on a day when you are 26.2 years old, in the city where you were born. When you cross that finish line, you'll wonder if it all was just a dream. It wasn't. Future you is a marathoner, Trace!

Today you started on a journey that is going to change your life. Over the next 3 years you'll think about this day often, on days when you have success and marvel at how far you've come, and on days when you fail and wonder why you ever started in the first place. You'll have many mantras you'll repeat to yourself over the next 3 years, but the most important one is this: You are going to be great. Keep going.

Keep going. Always. You won't regret it.

Runners Tell All Linkup #3

As I sat down to write this post, I thought back to all of the bad training runs I've had, and even a few bad races, and wondered how I was ever going to choose just one to share today.

I could tell you about the time that I ran my first half marathon and had an asthma attack (among other issues) right smack in the middle. I could tell you how disappointed yet totally proud of myself I was that day. I could tell you how I didn't train for that race properly, and how I learned to follow a training plan. I could tell you about the many places I've had to make emergency bathroom stops. I could tell you the number of times I've had my husband come pick me up because there were no bathrooms in sight. I could tell you how, despite all of these times, I still sometimes break my number one rule: Don't leave the house for a run without going to the bathroom first! I could tell you about running around a track in 100 degree heat, and how I learned to become a morning runner. 

But then it dawned on me that, while I've learned things from all of those experiences, I'm going through a bad training experience right now - and the lesson I need to learn from it might be the biggest (and hardest) of all. 

For me, running has always been like climbing a ladder. I love the Couch to 5k program and can say with 99% certainty that without it, I would never have become a runner, but I think it taught me to view running in this way. Ever since I started, I have always had two-fold goals: accomplishing the task at hand today, while looking ahead at what I can accomplish tomorrow. A 5k led to a 10k which led to a half marathon which led to a full marathon which led to turning right around for another full marathon...I'm finally starting to see what a slippery slope I've been going down. And it's going so fast now that I'm afraid I can't stop. 

This weekend it all came to a head and I had a little bit of a meltdown (I know, people in the world are starving, and I'm flipping out over running). I kept telling myself and everyone I knew that after I ran a marathon, I was going to do a half Ironman triathlon. So, after I ran my first marathon (and then a second), with about 12 weeks to get ready for the 70.3, I dove into yet another training plan. I'm 4 weeks into that plan and this weekend I finally had to admit to myself that my heart just isn't in it right now. Training right now feels like a burden. I don't want to spend 3 hours on a Sunday riding my bike and then swimming for an hour. I just don't. I want to be excited about the training process and working toward a new goal. I don't want to see it as just another wrung on the ladder.

I'm still a little uneasy about this revelation. It does feel freeing, knowing I haven't tied myself to a commitment I may or may not want to make. But it also feels like I've let myself down, like I've failed before I've even started. I haven't made any firm decision yet about what my plans are - but that's kind of the point. That's what I want to use this experience to work through. I pride myself on my ability to set a goal, work toward it, and reach it - but the downside of that is that I have no clue how to just be where I am. I have spent the last 3 years since I started running focusing on where I want to be, not where I am right now. I need to learn how to be where I am, right now, currently. I believe goals are important, but I also know that making them just for the sake of making them is unrealistic and unhealthy. I almost want don't want to do the race I planned on doing, just so I can prove to myself that I don't have to. That the world will continue to spin even if, for whatever reason, even if it's by choice, I don't complete a half Ironman on June 15.

For me, being at a crossroads like this, not knowing where to go or what to do next, that's the true hardship of running (and triathlon) for me. The hard runs, the bad runs, the downright awful runs...they come and go. More often than not, a good run can come in and erase all memory of a bad one. Sometimes all you need is to find a port-a-potty! It's that simple. Learning to find balance, though...that's not as easy of a fix. This time, rather than putting my head down and continuing to move forward, I'm committed to taking a step back and really evaluating what I want to do and why I want to do it. I know this probably wasn't the type of experience Amanda intended for today's topic, but it's where I'm at right now and I doubt I'm the only one who's ever been through this. It was more important to me to keep it real and hope someone can relate!