2018 ~ Setting Focuses…Not Resolutions!

At the end of each year, I like to reflect on what the last year brought into my life.  Much like a daily gratitude journal, a yearly reflection allows me to assess how far I have (or have not) come.  Before I look forward to the next year, I take account of my lessons learned.

2017 brought much into my life.  I proved to myself that I am a capable endurance runner and much braver than I thought.  I tackled trails all alone that would have scared me in years gone by.  Kenny’s and my relationship grew to a whole new level of wonderfulness.  I was given the opportunity for a temporary promotion which I feel I tackled successfully.

On a rougher note, our boys had a difficult year in a few ways.   By association as parents, we did too.   And juggling Kenny’s return to school was a tough transition for the family.  But through these experiences, we grew to be an even closer family.

While in a few ways, 2017 was one of the most difficult years of my life, in others, it was a year of tremendous growth, love, learning, and adventure.

Learning from the past is critical to plan better for the future.

Looking ahead to 2018, I do not care for New Year’s Resolutions.  Like many, I do not see value in making a promise that is destined to be short-lived.  Resolutions like, “I will never eat another piece of candy again” are bound to fail!  Instead, I prefer to use any new beginning as a chance to determine how I would like to grow and commit to focusing on those actions next.  This happens at various times throughout the year, but after the winter holidays, and with the returning of the warming energizing power of the Sun, the New Year is a fitting time to re-examine my focuses and commit to them out loud.

As I step into 2018, I have established three areas of focus for my life:

Intimacy in My Most Important Relationship

I cuddle with my kids. I share meals and stories with friends.  At times, I spend more time with co-workers than I do my spouse.  But oh sweet intimacy, only my best friend/partner/spouse receives that.  I divulge thoughts and feelings I would not share with anyone else.  I give my physical being to my spouse.  I trust him with every bit of my vulnerability. Yet despite the importance of intimacy in setting this relationship apart from all the others in my life, it is easily lost in the daily chaos.  For 2018, I would like to focus on making intimacy in my marriage a higher priority.

Getting my Children Outdoors More Often

My boys are pretty active.  They jump on the trampoline every day, play on their swing set, love bike rides and swimming.  Inevitably however, they get overly excited about playing on their tablets or wanting to find “easy” entertainment.  Yet, whenever we venture into the great outdoors, they always find joy in it.  Getting dirty is good for the body, mind, and soul and while I do it regularly for myself, I don’t drag my kids along often enough.  For 2018, I would like to focus on getting my boys into the great outdoors more often.  Camping, hiking, swimming in lakes and rivers, kayaking, paddle-boarding, mountain biking….anything that leads to fresh air, dirty feet, and a joyful heart.

Running with Women Who Are Stronger and Faster than Me

I love the times when I have runners who join me to push themselves.  I find great joy in helping other women find their next level.  But when I am destined to be the slower runner, I get nervous, anxious, fearful.  What will they think of me?  Will they assume that I am a terrible person because I can’t run as fast as them?  What if they never want to run with me again or even be my friend?  HAHA….It is just ludicrous the ideas that go through my head when vulnerability knocks down the door.  Yet, the times I have overcome my fear, I have found great pride in myself at pushing to a next level.  For 2018, I would like to focus on allowing myself to be vulnerable and dare to chase that next level of accomplishment.

Setting focuses for the year remind me of the intention I like to set before a run or yoga class.  There are always areas I want to improve in my life and if I try to do them all at once, I will fail at everything.  Breaking down my goals into smaller focuses will give me a chance to make some real progress towards the woman I want to become while not losing the beautiful parts of who I already am.

The journey continues……

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Every Run Needs a Purpose

Running is a powerful tool in coping with depression and really just life in general.  The physical activity relieves stress while releasing endorphins that elevate the mood.  Many of the runs I do have the sole purpose of giving me release from the chains of depression.  

Runs all need a purpose.  Some days it is a cure-all for emotional distress.  Other days it is pushing for a new personal record.  And at other times it is also a chance to seek out new adventures.  

What happens when a run lacks purpose?  Most runs that lack purpose feel flat and unfulfilling.  You naturally fall back into habits and the full benefit of that run gets lost.  On the other hand, giving a run purpose provides a foundation for the movement in that run and helps you focus expectations.

How do you set purpose for a run?

  1. Begin by planning ahead.  Having a training plan that identifies each run and its purpose ahead of time helps set the stage long before you lace up your shoes.
  2. For each run decide what conditions you need to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if I am doing a tempo run, I like to get some faster friends along for the ride to help me push the pace.  Make arrangements to have those conditions met.
  3. The night before set the stage for execution.  Is the intention of your run to socialize with friends after work?  Then be sure to pack clothes so you don’t have to come home after work, but rather can go straight to your meet-up.
  4. At the beginning of each run, silently or out loud, set an intention.  Tell yourself, “On Today’s run I want to……”  Use this intention to set the expectation for the run and let all other expectations go. If your intention is to use the run as a recovery run, that is the intention.  Do not expect to set a new personal record on Strava that day and be okay with that because running fast is not the intention for that days run.  
  5. Don’t be afraid to adjust your purpose if you need to for that day.  You may have an endurance run planned, but just need to get anger and frustration out so you can be present for your family.  Do it.  Maybe you are tired from a long week and just need an easy run or have missed a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Change your purpose to get what you need in your life.  

What are some examples of purposes for a run?  We often think of the purely physical purposes….tempo run, fartlek run, long run, and so on.  But for the majority of us, there are far greater and more important reasons to run than just getting faster or running longer.  

Here are some of the intentions I choose to set before a run:

  1. Social interaction – spending time with friends and deepening relationships
  2. Good for the soul – spending time in nature and reconnecting with my inner self
  3. Adventure – seeing and exploring new places
  4. Stress Relief – pounding out anger from a hard and frustrating day
  5. Recovery – moving my muscles in an easy way to stimulate recovery from hard efforts
  6. Building Speed – shorter bursts of faster speed to build speed for longer runs
  7. Building Endurance – long miles in an aerobic zone to build the bodies endurance

Picking the purpose of your run helps you be ever mindful of what you are seeking to get out of your running.  If you give running the chance, it will deliver far more than physical fitness.  It will deliver some of the strongest friendships, the best mental health medicine, ability to deal with conflict and challenging events in life, and so much more.  

What are some other intentions you have set for a run?  How do you give your run purpose?

Build longevity, embrace the delicate within and let the journey continue…..

Finding Progress Not Perfection…An Update on HR Monitor Training

As a recreational middle of the pack runner, I often question the validity of my running.  Am I a real runner if I am not super fast?  Lots struggle with this question and my answer to anyone else  – “Of course you are a runner no matter how fast or how slow!!”

To myself I am less kind.  I second guess my “runner” status all the time.  I compare myself to others who are stronger and faster.  If I miss a run then I must not be a “real runner” cause “real runners” never miss a workout.  Oh the things this brain will do to bring me down.

Irony is, while not fast, I am not slow either.  I have run times that I am proud of, especially given my lack of natural running talent.  My Personal Records (PRs) are all hard won after lots of dedicated work.

My 5K PR is a 24:22, run in 2009 at the Medved 5K to Cure ALS in Rochester, NY.  While I haven’t beaten that time since, my last 5K on April 22, 2017, just 2 shorts weeks after completing the Whiskey Basin 57K and in 100+degree weather, I ran a 25:39.  This isn’t too shabby considering ultra training involves little speed work and heat is notorious for slowing a person down.  With some focused speed work, I feel confident I could break my PR.

Never before have I been able to break the 2 hour mark for the half.  I came close with a 2:00:29 half in 2011.  At last broke 2 hours at the San Diego Half Marathon on June 4, 2017.  I felt on top of the world with my running identify after this accomplishment.

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Capturing the moment after setting a PR for the half marathon (June 2017)

Two weeks later, I began my HR journey.  Running within my HR zone these last several months messed with me mentally because I had to slow down so very much.  Choosing to run slower left me once again struggling with my identify as a runner.  I had to put aside ego and focus on the goal I was trying to achieve.  Definitely not easy, though anything worth obtaining should not be easy.

Being able to focus on my goal, my end game, the truth of the science behind running slowly, was a key part of sticking with the training plan I had laid out.  Accounts from others who have tried this method seemed to see results anywhere from a month to six months.  I desperately wanted to see results to validate this decision.

My hope was to be able to see those results in how I ran the McKenzie River Trail Run (50K).  Alas this hope was dashed when raging fires in Oregon threatened the race course and the race directors had to make the difficult choice to cancel the race.  What a grand disappointment to me and to my training.   This sent me into a bit of a tailspin with my running.

After coming home from our waylaid trip to Oregon, I had a whirlwind of activity at work keeping me occupied and focused on everything but the status my running.  Eventually I was able to pull out of the tornado that had become my life and check in again with how my progress was coming along.

Not seeing immediate progress was definitely a challenge through the many months.  But I knew that this was a long game.  So I did a “test run” in which I ran my baseline 5 mile loop and compared to another baseline run that I did at the beginning of this adventure.

Much to my surprise, my pace had increased substantionally!

My first baseline run in the middle of June was done early in the morning.  During this run, I did a simple loop near my house.  I warmed up for a mile, then began my tracking for the next three miles, leaving the final mile for cool-down.  I did an average of an 11:48 per mile with an average heart rate of 151 bpm.  After just averaging 8:53 per mile for 13.4 miles, the idea of slowing to an almost 12 minute mile for a short 3 miles run  was difficult to swallow.  And this slow down only grew greater as the temperatures rose, the miles compiled, and the hours added onto each other.

Upon doing my check-in run after the disappointment of my cancelled 50K, I mimicked the same route at the same time of day.  The only thing I couldn’t keep consistent was the temperature, but by running at 5:30 am, I was able to keep the temperature for both runs to a minimal factor in the results.  I went on the run expecting to see little improvement while simultaneously hoping to see low 10 minute miles.  Wanting it all, expecting nothing.  Neither proved to be reality.

My new baseline was a 11:03 per mile, though this was run at the much lower average heart rate of 144 bpm.  If I had aimed to maintain my heart rate closer to the top of my aerobic zone (151 bpm), I would not be surprised if I wouldn’t have been 15 seconds per mile faster.  This is a theory I will put to the test soon.

So I have not gained perfection.  Ideally I would be running that half marathon pace of 8:53 per mile at an aerobic heart rate.  Maybe one day I will, but for now I will gladly take the progress.

As the months continue, I plan to adjust my running some.  Closer to 80% of my runs in the aerobic zone, rather than 100%.  If nothing else, this gives me a chance to just go out and enjoy the run without a care in the world.  This will be a welcome change.  But after seeing these results, I plan to continue to incorporate aerobic training into my regime.

The journey continues……..

PS – Check out my Upcoming Races….I recently made some changes to my plans you can check out here!

HR Monitor Training Requires Focus

Running according to my heart rate requires an intense amount of focus. Throughout the summer, I did every single run within an aerobic heart rate zone. This means that at the beginning of each run, I had to focus on starting slowly and building up my heart rate to the max level over about 10-15 minutes. Then, I had to focus on keeping my pace slow enough that I was able to keep my heart rate under the max limit but also fast enough that I didn’t drop more than 10 beats below my max.

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