Hello again: some updates!

Well, it’s been a minute, huh?? Okay, it has only been 12 days since I last blogged, but I’m not one of those people who takes long unplanned absences from blogging so this feels weird. I feel like so much has happened in the past 12 days.

I had a super busy week with our huge work event of the year last week, so not only was I not active in blogging I wasn’t doing much blog reading either. I read a few here and there but I didn’t comment much.

Here’s an update since the last time we talked:

I stopped training. It was a hard conversation to have with Laura after all she has done for me putting together my many weeks of training. She’s done a fantastic job with my training, but I finally just had to admit the truth: my heart is not into this training at all and I really, really don’t want to do it anymore. It feels pretty lousy to quit something, but I’ve felt so much better since I stopped so I know it was the right decision. I had a pretty bad 5 mile race a couple weekends ago – despite perfect running weather, I ran like crap and finished short of the very reasonable goal I had set for myself. Again. But more importantly, I hated every minute of that run, didn’t feel any exercise high afterward, and actually thought to myself that I could have just skipped the run, went straight to the beer festival that followed, and had a much better day. That thought concerned me, because I’ve never felt like it wasn’t worth it to run, and at that point I realized I could no longer deny what a rut I’ve been in and how unhappy I’ve been training for a goal I have no passion for. I knew it was time to cut the cord.

But that’s not all, because not only am I not training…

I’m not running right now. I¬†am now 9¬†days sans running. In 2-3 more days, that will be a new PR for me for time off running. I didn’t intend to take time off this soon, but it just happened this way. Last week when work was crazytown and I was super stressed and busy, I ended up not¬†running all week. And then at some point I realized – it felt great. A bunch of stress I’ve been feeling lately has disappeared. Even with a high-pressure work week, I’ve felt happier and more like myself this week than I have in months. So, I’m gonna roll with this unplanned break and see where it goes.


I’m still on the fence about what this means for the races I’ve signed up for. I’ve already registered, so I don’t want to throw that money away, but I also don’t want to drag myself to a couple of 10Ks and a 5K that I don’t want to do – especially if I’m still not running at that point. I’m going to wait and see how I’m feeling. Luckily these short local races aren’t exactly breaking the bank, but still.

Here are some updates that are a little more positive:

I quit Strava. I don’t just mean I removed the app from my phone, I mean, I straight up deleted my account and never looked back. I suddenly had this epiphany that these social training apps add nothing to my life and are only a source of negative feelings. So, I just ditched it. #ByeFelicia.

I’m signing up for my next marathon!!

Chicago Marathon Logo

Guaranteed entry registration for the 2017 Chicago Marathon opens in 8¬†DAYS and I am so excited! Seeing all the stories from the 2016 race really pumped me up for my own journey to Chicago next year, so I was over the moon to find out they’re opening registration early and I get to sign up soon! I have a good feeling about this one: I think it’s going to be my most fun and meaningful marathon journey yet. This training cycle has really showed me that I am a distance runner through and through, and I’m eager to return back to my strengths. My appetite for longer distances is very slowly coming back, and I know that taking some time to recharge now followed by a long break from structured training in the spring will be just what I need to be raring to go when training officially starts in June.

I’m rebranding my blog (read: creating a new one). This didn’t come from a dissatisfaction with my current blog;¬†rather, I was just suddenly struck with a great new blog idea and decided to run with it.

Here’s the story: while I am absolutely stoked to run the Chicago Marathon next fall, there will be a lot going in my life that will require me to simplify my running and training. Budgeting will get tighter, and I won’t be able to spend a zillion dollars on workout gear and tune-up races. With a lot more going on in my life, I won’t have the time or attention for a hardcore training cycle and I can’t make running so much of a priority that it’s “like a second job” anymore.

So, how can I incorporate a “less is more” strategy into my training – doing the quality work that will prepare me for the distance without going overboard, obsessing over details, and letting training dominate my life? I think my journey to answer those questions would make a great blog, and voila – the “minimal marathoner” is born!

I’m still developing minimalmarathoner.com, and I’m not sure when I’ll make the official switch. I want to do it after I sign up for Chicago since that’s when my journey to marathon #4 will officially begin, but it seems kind of weird to have a running blog while I’m not running, so I think I will wait until later. I hope you’ll all follow along! I’ll make an announcement here when I’m making the switch and until then I will keep blogging about who knows what on here. Stay tuned!


Honestly, I have really been enjoying my time off from running – and blogging. As much as I love to blog, I often find I’m a lot happier when I’m not so immersed in what everyone else is doing all the time. I love to read about people’s running journeys but sometimes I just need a break from reading about so much damn training (no offense!). I’m not going to take time off from blogging like I am with running, but I probably will cut back a little bit until my new blog is born.

In the meantime, life¬†has opened up for me lately. While planning for and carrying out our big work event was stressful and busy, it went great and¬†I was really proud of the hard work I put in and my coworkers put in to make it happen. It made work¬†feel so alive again. I drank beer, I said yes to nights out, I hung out with friends I haven’t hung out with in forever, and this weekend I even went on impromptu bike ride just to see some fall leaves. I ended up riding 20 miles! And it was easy and I wasn’t the least bit sore or tired afterward either…maybe I’m in the wrong sport?ūüôā

20 mile leaf peeper ride


Fangirling when the TOUR OF GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS came to town!
Cats still thinking they own the place

So, I’m going to continue in this vein of just taking my life as it comes,¬†letting things open up for me, and finding out a little more about who I am when I’m not a runner. Surely not every week will be as good as this one, but I know this is something I need to do for the time being – whether it’s for the next couple weeks or the rest of the year. Stay tuned!

On This Day

Most of my Facebook memories are utterly forgettable, but today’s was actually special.

It was 2 years ago today that I ran my first marathon.

What a special day that was. The weather was perfect. Lakefront is an impeccably organized and put-together marathon that also fosters a great sense of community, as it is put on by our local running group. I made new running friends while training who I got to share that experience with – some also running first marathons, some BQing. My mom and brother came up from Iowa to surprise me at the finish line. Kevin biked along the course to cheer me on at multiple points. I ran a great race – not perfect, but pretty well-executed for a first marathoner. I didn’t hit the sub-4:00 I was secretly dreaming about, but I came pretty darn close and was 100% proud of myself anyway (still am). And I actually enjoyed the training and never felt overwhelmed or stressed out by it.

It really was a dream first marathon day, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I can’t wait to run Lakefront again one day.

But this memory was also bittersweet.

I can’t tell you how sad it made me today to bask in that happy memory and then fast forward to to¬†present day…when my recent posts have been about feeling unmotivated to train, not wanting to run, and being so mentally burnt out from 2 years of pushing myself that I’m already looking forward to a break¬†after this training cycle.

In the infamous words of the Talking Heads:

“You may ask yourself, well: how did I get here???”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the improvement I’ve made in the last two years and everything I’ve accomplished, including two more marathons. I’ll also never forget the pride and happiness that came 8 months later at Grandma’s Marathon after I trained my butt off, ran a flawlessly executed race and took 15 minutes off that Lakefront time (and also shared the experience with new running friends!).

But that’s the thing. I have no regrets and wouldn’t trade those days for anything, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe it was all just too much too soon. Not that I ran the two more marathons, but that I poured so much of myself into training for each of them. In hindsight it seems like the euphoria of running “firsts”, new accomplishments and easy improvements as a beginner runner just overwhelmed me and I got a little carried away.

I really miss the pure joy and innocence and wonder of those Lakefront days. When it was enough just to run a marathon and be proud of my training, without having to get a PR or qualify for something.¬†¬†After this training cycle ends in a few weeks, there are going to be some big changes around here. The batteries that got me through the last couple years of greedily and relentlessly chasing “faster” are wearing down and I can feel that it’s time for a big running reset.

I’m hesitant to make a bunch of declarations for the future, because I am the queen of laying out all these grand plans on my blog and then not being able to follow through with them. But then I think, well, I’ve already mentioned it on here anyway, so what the hell?

I’m not going to be training for any race until June 2017 – 8 months from now. I’m going to spend that time trying to detox all the pressure and expectations I’ve put on myself over the last few years and get the passion and love back into my running. I don’t know if there’s any magic bullet solution to do that, but I’m going to try anything.

Including giving it up completely.

Now pull those jaws back up and put those eyes back in the sockets – I’m not quitting running forever. But after a lot of thought, I’ve decided that after my final 10K race in November, I am going to take several weeks completely off from running – possibly even the rest of the year (6 weeks). I’ve tried everything, and I really think I need a clean break for a while. I want the chance to actually miss and crave running again. I want to lose my speed and fitness. I want to have to start back at square one. I want to relish in the possibility of running personal worsts in a¬†spring half marathon.

Well…that’s a tad dramatic. For someone who has been running for a few years, 6 weeks off isn’t going to result in that much lost fitness. But my hope is that it’s enough time for all of this competitive nonsense to work it’s way out of my system so that I can come back to running feeling truly fresh and have somewhat of a clean slate. I feel like forcing myself to revert back to slower paces and a minuscule aerobic base and “starting over” will eliminate the pressure I always feel to maintain a certain¬†fitness level.

And then, hopefully, I can start running again because I really truly want to. Not to¬†get “fast”. Not to train for a race. Not even for health and fitness. Just simply because I want to enjoy a quiet morning outside and have¬†something to get my energy up before a long day at work.

And then, hopefully, when I start training for a marathon again in June, I will actually truly enjoy the process again. Without the pressure of trying to PR and build an insane aerobic base,¬†perhaps I won’t run myself into the ground with training and expectations and I can actually just have fun with it again. Maybe I really can get back to a place where it is good enough just to be able to run a marathon, not a X:XX marathon.¬†

That, right now, is what I want more than anything in my running. I know it can never be like my magical first marathon at Lakefront again, but maybe it can be special and fun again. I’m tired of feeling like I’m not good enough if I don’t get faster. I’m tired of the training culture and running being a means to an end. It’s time for me to DNF this neverending¬†race to nowhere.

I still have several weeks before my last 10K race, and rather than let this revelation kill my motivation even more, I’m hoping it will actually help breathe new life into my training. Perhaps I can relax my expectations now that there is no real reason for me to get fast or improve anything this training cycle, and in turn, enjoy my runs and workouts a little more knowing that there isn’t so much riding on them and it’s a blessing that I can do this at all. I also hope I’ll have a good race this weekend and that will make me feel better about running.

A new chapter awaits, and while I can never cross that 2014 Lakefront finish line for the first time again, I hope the next one I cross can be magical in its own way.

10K Training Update: Week 9

Well, this week of training was a lot better than last week, but that’s really not saying much. It was pretty good. I did all my workouts, and my two hard speed workouts – a fartlek on Tuesday and a tempo run on Friday – were really strong and went well.

My high #1 for the week was my Tuesday night fartlek. I was ecstatic to be able to wear LONG SLEEVES for the first time this season! ¬†The weather was perfect – a little misty, cloudy and chilly in the high 50s. In my light long sleeves and long tights, I didn’t even get that sweaty and was so much more comfortable. While I didn’t see a drastic improvement in my paces, it’s amazing how much easier running feels in this weather. My fartlek was “countdown” intervals at a hard pace – 5:00, 4:00, 3:00, 2:00 and 1:00, with halftime recovery after each interval. Due in part to the unevenness of the trail, changing direction a few times and running my first two recoveries way too fast, my paces were kinda all over the place: 7:19, 7:26, 7:39, 7:11 and 7:06, respectively. I actually felt strongest on the 5:00 and the 1:00 intervals.

My high #2 was my tempo run. I needed to kill this workout, and I delivered. It was rock solid. 2×2 miles with a half mile recovery in between. My tempo splits were super consistent at 7:49, 7:52, 7:48, 7:52. I paced myself really well and it was nice, for once, to not end a workout with a positive split and inconsistent paces.

My low for the week was my 10 mile long run. I felt like crap for the first half. My body wouldn’t warm up, I couldn’t get my breathing under control, and I didn’t wear my Fitbit but I’m pretty sure my heart rate was way high. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was the humidity – I was, after all, drenched in sweat even though it was only 63 degrees – I don’t know but I was getting so frustrated and upset which only made it all worse. I started feeling better once I turned around at the halfway point, but it still mostly felt like trying to run in a sauna. I wasn’t paying attention to my splits throughout the run, and I later found out that I started pretty fast and didn’t really ease into the pace, which is probably why it felt so damn hard; most of my splits were the same in my 10 miler two weeks ago, but my first two miles of that one were about 30 seconds slower, which is probably why it ultimately felt more effortless at the same pace.

Despite a better week, things are still not all sunshine and rainbows over here. Last week many of you commented on how you appreciate my transparency and honesty in how I talk about my training, so continuing in that spirit, here’s the whole story about how I felt this week (and how I often feel).

I did feel really good and proud of myself when I nailed my two speed workouts this week. They gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe my race goals are only slightly out of reach instead of totally out of reach, and that maybe my body is picking up on some of this work after all.

But I still struggle with motivation. I always feel good after I run but there are so many days when I just really, really don’t want to, and I can’t tell you how many of my good workouts only happened after I summoned every bit of mental strength I had to get my butt out the door. It’s not that I even feel tired or burnt out, I just sometimes miss being a normal person who doesn’t have to worry about training all the time.

And, while I had some great workouts this week that have boosted my confidence, I still don’t feel like I’m good at this running fast thing, and I am still trying to brace myself for the fact that I’m probably not going to get the huge PR I was originally hoping for at the beginning of this training cycle. I seriously believe the whole “OMG I totally surprised myself at this race!” is something that only happens to other people – I’m just not that lucky. I already used up all my luck going 3 for 3 in the kissed-by-the-gods marathons I’ve run, so now I will have to settle for not being able to run that much faster than my training paces in the shorter distances, methinks.

In all honesty though, based on my past experiences with races, I think the training will be there for me, and what it’s really going to come down to is how I feel physically on race day. I’ll need to have a rock-solid taper and feel well-rested going into the race, and I’ll need to be eating well and getting enough carbs (and greens!) and all the nutrients I need, as well as staying well hydrated. And, obviously, I need cool weather. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why a race went so awesomely, but looking back at past races, one thing that most of the good ones have in common is that I felt really fresh and springy going in and not weighed down by fatigue and lack of recovery.

As for the rest of the week, it was mostly just work stress crap but I did ring in October by being suuuuuper fall-y this weekend. I made crockpot apple sauce with Door County apples, cinnamon, a little nutmeg and a pinch of ginger. You guys….it is rull delicious.

I then finally had my first pumpkin beer  of the season: a brandy barrel aged pumpkin imperial ale from our own Lakefront Brewery. It was really good but at 13% ABV, tread lightly.

This weekend I have a 5 mile time trial race, and speaking of kissed by the gods, I’m overcome with glee because the weather forecast looks literally perfect – it will be in the 40s and sunny. I’m just beside myself. I keep re-checking it, terrified that it’s going to change, because I can hardly believe this kind of luck. As many of you know, my last two time trials have been duds, so I really really want to nail this one. Unless the course is super hilly, my goal for the race is a 7:50 average, which is the exact pace from my tempo run on Friday. It should be doable for me since it will be so much cooler and the race is pretty late in the morning which works to my advantage, but I’m a little nervous just because my last two time trials have been flops. I think I’m going to run without GPS, and in order to be successful I just need to go into it with I’m-in-control-of-this attitude that I had for Friday’s tempo run.

The race is part of the Central Waters’ Great Amherst Beer Fest, so it will be fun. We are going up there as part of a nice long weekend getaway for our 5th anniversary, which is on Sunday. Really looking forward to a relaxing weekend away and, with the perfect weather we’re supposed to get, hopefully outdoing ourselves in fall-y-ness.


10K Training: Qualitative Goals, and what it all means

When Laura was giving me my weekly feedback for¬†last week’s utter failure of a “training” week, she gave me some “homework” to come up with 3 qualitative goals that have nothing to do with pace or finishing time.

So I thought, and thought, and thought some more. Qualitative goals? This¬†isn’t like a marathon where I can say my goal is “just to finish the distance strong.” I mean, this is a 10K. I’m not trying to be a distance-snob, but given¬†my running experience and current ability, if my only goal was to finish a 10K and feel strong at the end, I could do that any night of the week with little to no training if that’s really what I wanted.

Get and feel really fit? Sure. That’s a nice-sounding objective. And that was one of my big motivations¬†going into this training cycle. But I’d be lying if I said that it’s been on my mind lately, or has been particularly motivating. It’s a well-meaning but vague and ambiguous goal, and besides, I wouldn’t be able to maintain that fitness unless I keep training. It will just wear off once my races are over so what’s the point?

What about the long term? I’m a big picture thinker, right? Wasn’t part of the idea of this short distance focus to build speed that I could apply to longer distances next year? Yes, it was – but I no longer have the same goals for next year. In fact, what’s both unique and exciting about 2017 is that this is going to be the first year that I have no time goals. None. For ANY distance. I mean, there is that vague sort-of-goal to crack 1:45 in the half marathon but since I won’t be doing race-specific training for the half, it’s more like a wish.

So I thought even more. I thought about how difficult and weird this shorter-distance stuff has felt and how yet again I OMGCAN’TWAIT for¬†next year when I’m just running for fitness and health and sanity. Because the grass is always greener on the other side, right? And that’s when it hit me. The frustration, the difficulty, the discomfort – that is the point. Picking something new and outside my comfort zone – and sticking with it when the going gets rough – is what this training cycle is about. That’s the goal: to expand my horizons.

This training cycle has been really tough for me mentally. And physically.¬†Marathon training is much more suited to my strengths as a runner, so¬†everything came easy for me. But 10K training is a completely different style of training, so needless to say, things are not coming easy for¬†me. I’m not good at running fast, so naturally, these past 8 weeks have been met with a lot of frustration, discouragement, and doubt. The heat and humidity of summer have been no help either. Add in¬†the fact that my frustration and learning curve are occurring¬†while so many of my friends are flourishing in their own training, and it’s no wonder I have weeks where I just want to say “f@%k it” and throw in the towel.

But if I truly wanted to be comfortable and do what came easily for me, I would have just signed up for a half or full marathon. And yet, I didn’t do that, because I think deep down I knew that I was at a point where it was no longer appropriate for me to just keep doing what was familiar and comfortable. The same reason I signed on to all this is the reason I need to see it through: because it’s hard. Because it’s different.

I also want to complete a strong 10K training cycle so I can hopefully show everyone out there that there is more than one way to grow and get stronger as a runner, and that you don’t have to train for marathons to be fulfilled or be a “real runner”. And in the first 6 months of next year, I hope to show everyone that you actually don’t have to train for anything to be fulfilled or be a “real runner”. Everyone in the running blog world is always training for something, and I can count on one hand the number of run bloggers I know who have devoted a training cycle to something shorter than a half marathon. I’m not trying to be some crusader out to convert everyone away from the marathon, nor am I trying to knock that distance. The 3 marathons I’ve trained for and completed were among the most meaningful accomplishments in my life.¬†I simply¬†hope that by sharing my experience of exploring other options, I can bring another perspective to the table. I bet¬†if more runners shared their own stories, there wouldn’t be so many out there who get the implicit message that they’re not a “real runner” if¬†they¬†don’t run¬†marathons or participate in races.


In fact, I actually feel more in tune with my endurance strength now than I ever did during marathon training. Probably because I appreciate it more now that I have to rely on it to complement the short fast workouts that I’m not as successful at, and stepping away from it has made me see how I took it for granted before. If you’re a lover of long distances, it’s worth it to take a temporary break from them for that reason – you don’t always appreciate something until you see it from another angle, and absence makes the heart grow fonder (note:¬†I am still not yet back to the point of being “fond” of marathon training, but I am gaining a deeper appreciation for longer easy miles, as you saw in my last post).

So that’s it. That’s my big goal, the meaning of all of this: that by completing my 10K training cycle, no matter the results, I can show all of you and myself how worthwhile it is to push yourself outside your comfort zone, to do something that scares you, to learn more about yourself and grow by veering off the beaten path for a while. I flatter myself to think that maybe some reader out there will be inspired by my journey to¬†go in a new direction for a while and add something new to their own running journey – whether that be focusing on a shorter distance, training for your first ultra, going data-free or simply signing up for your first race just to see what all the fuss is about.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two more qualitative goals to come up with…

10K Training Update

I never got around to posting a recap of Week 7 of training, so I’m going to have to roll weeks 7 and 8 into one.

Cliff’s notes version: Week 7 went really well. I did a mile repeats workout, which was HARD, but it felt great to get it done. I then did a tempo run and I hit 10 miles in my long run. The 10 miler was awesome. I forgot to charge my watch so I had to use the Strava phone app, which worked out well because I wasn’t able to check my pace all the time so I was just able to focus on getting into a comfortable zone and tuning into my effort. I ended up with a really great pace and felt awesome the entire time, like it wasn’t even a “long” run for me. This run also reaffirmed for me that I am an endurance runner, through and through. While I struggle with the short fast stuff, my endurance strength continues to come through for me and if it weren’t for these confidence-boosting longer, even-paced runs, I would be lost this cycle.

Celebrating being done with my long run in the MORNING last week so I could enjoy the rest of my day

Well…then this past week happened. I only logged 15 miles this week and did NO workouts.

Throughout most of this week I had an annoyingly persistent niggle in my right hamstring. It was mostly just soreness and nothing to be alarmed about – niggles are normal in training for me, they always go away eventually – but I really didn’t want to risk aggravating it with speed work. From what I hear, hamstring injuries are gnarly and can take a lot of time and patience to heal, so I decided better to be safe than sorry. I talked to Laura about it and she agreed to let me do an impromptu cutback week. Same mileage but all easy.

But that was only the minor part of it. I had a lot going on at work this week – some late workdays, lots of stress – so it was a big relief to not have to push myself through grueling workouts. I know I’ve grumbled about the slow easy miles before, but I was really grateful for them this week. Running serves different functions to us at different points in time and right now, I really need it to be my stress relief, my free time, my opportunity to just zone out and move through nature.

But, I know, that doesn’t answer your question: so why didn’t I get all my mileage in this week?

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately, but my motivation to train this past week has been zero and I am just not feeling it at all. I haven’t had the mental energy to push myself to do workouts or follow a schedule. I bailed on my long run – something I have never once done in any training cycle.

Maybe it’s just a PMS induced funk, but with a hectic work schedule and other life happening, I just couldn’t deal with training this week. It’s not like me – sure, I grumble about training here and there, but I always go out and get it done. This week I just gave up.

I never want to come on here and say “yeah I don’t have much to say cause I just didn’t feel like doing the work this week, tee hee, oh well.” And I really don’t like to be that runner who makes excuses, so I’m just not going to do that. I can’t blame an injury or illness or life emergency – I could have squeezed more runs in this week and I just didn’t do it.

I feel bad because Laura has worked hard to put together a really smart, well-crafted plan for me, and for some reason, this week I was just not.having.it. And I don’t have a lot of readers, but the readers I do have have always complimented me on how good I am about my training and how they have looked to my past training cycles for inspiration, so I feel like I’m letting people down coming on here to say that I’m pooping out on my training this week for no reason.

That said, I have been motivated to run, I just haven’t been up for anything more than the easy miles I’ve been logging. Like I said above, I needed running this week – I just needed it to be there and be my outlet. And, like always, it was.

Anyway, I’m hoping that this unplanned step-back week has allowed me to regroup a bit and get back in the game this week. I’m hoping to rally, shake off this funk and do all my work as planned this week. My next time trial race is coming up in 2 weeks, so I want to make sure I get a solid week of work in this week so I can do a mini-taper next week. Since it’s September 25th and we are still having summer weather here, I’m not feeling too optimistic that it’s going to be much cooler by October 8th. It’s really frustrating, but what can you do? My first 10K race is October 30th and I’m starting to brace myself for the possibility that on race day we’re all going to be wearing tank tops and shorts because it’s still 70 friggin degrees and humid out.

I’ve also began to adjust my goals for this race season. I went into this cycle raring to go and convinced that I could shave at least 2 minutes off my current PR of 48:43. While I guess still possible, I think I was being a little too ambitious and now I’m trying to shift my focus to just running any PR and ending this training feeling fit and good about my running. I’m now working on setting A, B, and C goals for myself.

  • A goal – pie in the sky, perfect day – run a 46:XX (7:24-7:34 pace). This has been my dream throughout this cycle. It would be 2:00+ off my PR and a FAST race for me. I’ve hit this pace in tempo runs and workouts in the past, so I know it’s possible. Or at least I thought it was. I have not been able to hit these paces much in my training (I barely hit them in my MILE REPEATS workout) so I’m not very confident that I can run 6.2 miles at this pace on race day.
  • B goal – run a PR. Any PR. Even if it’s a paltry one, hey, it’s a PR. As we get more experienced, PRs don’t come that easily, so being able to get one is still a victory.
  • C goal – if nothing else, hopefully get my 10K time back under 50:00. It would kinda suck to go through all this work and not PR, but a sub-50:00 is still a solid time.

Sometimes it is a little frustrating that my A goal has to be a pie in the sky goal, because I feel like I should have gotten to this level already. It’s been really hard for me to understand this year why I haven’t gotten faster or made big fitness gains like all my friends have. But, I’m also just tired of worrying about it. And now I feel like I’m actually willing to accept getting slower so I can just get over it. Running crap has taken up way too much of my mental energy already.

I’m also thinking of cutting my race season short and not doing my December 4th race (which I have not registered for yet). I’m just not sure I want to do all these races. 4 races in 5 weeks is a lot, especially for me, and I’m afraid that by the time 12/4 rolls around I’m just going to be tired and over it instead of ready to run a peak performance race. I’ll wait and see how I feel as fall goes on, but I’m liking the idea of limiting myself to 2 10Ks and 1 5K and ending my season by Thanksgiving.

This bad week isn’t the reason I’m scaling back my goals/race season. The reason I’m doing that, I think, is actually the same reason I pooped out this week: I’m just feeling overwhelmed. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on myself to get faster, and I think it’s hurting my progress by causing me to second-guess everything and preventing me from enjoying training and being proud of the hard work I put in.

So, that’s my update. Sorry I don’t have more positive news to share, but it’s a new week, and hopefully I’ll start feeling more like myself!

Being Honest about Fall

It’s heeeeee-re!

Today is the first day of fall, and I’m sure that those memes about leaves crunching under feet and curling up in cozy sweaters are already filling up your social media feeds faster than an empty¬†beer stein at the local Oktoberfest bash.

I’m not much for memes or social media bandwagons, but I¬†don’t mind it as much this time of year, because I do love fall. I love football and chili and leaves and being able to run at better paces just as much as the next gal.

But I’ve also noticed something about the way we talk about fall – well, the way we talk about all seasons, but this one in particular. The chatter around fall is just so…dreamy. Maybe it’s because I live in the city where there are far fewer trees and apple orchards, but when was the last time we actually had the picture-perfect fall depicted in all those memes? The social media meme¬†portrayal of¬†fall seems to be¬†symbolic of the way social media works in general: it thrusts the high points into the spotlight and obfuscates the day-to-day reality. To be fair, I can’t just blame viral social media content. Even in the days before dial-up we were in the habit of looking at things we love through rose-colored glasses.

I write a heralding-of-fall post on my blog each year, celebrating my love of the season but trying to put a different, creative spin on it. One year I wrote a letter to fall. This year, I want to honor my favorite season by speaking more honestly about it.

Yes, a few days – several if we’re lucky – are¬†crisp, sunny, foliage-coated 50-degree splendors.¬†But just as many days, more actually, are unseasonably warm or blustery, cold and rainy.

Yes, fall fashion is fun and cozy. But let’s also remember that fall, being the transitional season that it is, is also really exasperating¬†to dress for. How many times have we struggled to figure out what to wear for the day because there might be a 20-degree temperature differential from one rush hour to¬†the next?

Yes, the cool temps are such a welcome change, especially after one of the grossest summers on record. But let’s not forget that with cool temperatures come less sunlight and early darkness. Actually, I don’t really consider this much of a downside. I know I’m in the minority in this but I enjoy the first couple months of early darkness. There’s something about it that just makes me want to rush home, light a candle and get cozy with blankets and a good book or TV show or home cooked meal. Just me? I figured.

And yes, I love that the community seems to come back to life with events, things to do, and the desire to get outside before the temperatures plummet, the sun retreats and the trees go barren. But I tend to forget that the busyness of fall¬†has a dark side. There’s a good busyness, like spending your weekend hitting up Oktoberfest and the farmer’s market, running a half marathon, picking out pumpkins and apple bushels, and still finding time¬†to catch a stream of football games over a batch of chili. But there’s also the¬†stressful busyness, the work and event duties that pile up at my job this time of year, and the fact that it’s just really hard for me to focus on anything. Fall is inspiring and lovely but I think we can all admit that at times it’s also a little overstimulating.


I am honestly not trying to be a Debbie Downer here or ruin anyone’s excitement for fall. There’s nothing wrong with being excited for fall – goodness knows I am excited too. Perhaps I’m just in a pragmatic mood lately, but after this year and the lessons I’ve learned about setting realistic expectations and what happens when you try to over-structure life, I’m really feeling the need to emphasize that the things I¬†love aren’t perfect, and pretending they are doesn’t help anything. And, I’ll be honest, I’m also just kinda over sugar-coating things.

So yes, let’s celebrate the much-heralded arrival of what seems to be the favorite season of the overwhelming majority of us. Let’s say hallelujah that cooler weather is finally around the corner, let’s get pumped that our much-anticipated race seasons have arrived, let’s rejoice that the world around us is about to explode with gorgeous color even if it comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

I’m going to do all these happy things and more.

But I’m also going to cool it with the clich√©s this year (get it?? COOL it?! Cause fall is cooler? Apparently I’m not going to “cool it” with the bad puns though…).

I’m going to love and ENJOY fall but I’m going to love it as it is, not how I dream it to be. Instead of acting like it’s going to be three months of happy fun time in pumpkin-scented la la land, this season¬†my mindfulness practice is centered around taking the good with the bad, and appreciating and being grateful for the highs but not expecting them any more than I expect the lows.

That means loving the crisp cool sunny days while taking the ones that are cold, wet, and gross.

That means loving the energy, while accepting the occasional overstimulation.

That means loving all the fun new activities and events, while accepting the busyness and managing the lack of focus and the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed.

That means loving the perfect-temperature days when I can comfortably be outside in a cute sweater with no coat, or run in long sleeves and shorts, while acknowledging there will also be days when I’m shivering my ass off at the bus stop because the forecast said it would be in the 50s so all I wore today was a thin trench coat.

That means loving pumpkin everything, and accepting pumpkin EVERYTHING.


I hope fall will be great, and dream-like, and everything fall is supposed to be. But maybe it won’t be. So I resolve to appreciate the good days when they come, be patient through the bad ones, and for once, in our little game of hide-and-seek, letting “the magic” have its turn as the seeker.

Now, let’s all grab a pumpkin beer and cheers to what is, in spite of its imperfections, the best season.


Do you enjoy fall?

What is your favorite season? What is the best – and worst – thing about that season?

On Goals…and Ambivalence

Yesterday I signed up for my first 2017 race: the Wisconsin Half Marathon. The Wisconsin Half Marathon was my first half marathon back in 2014, and I wanted to make it a “streak” race that I did every year until this year, when I had to sit it out because it was 6 days after the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Normally when I sign up for a race that long, I’m not just signing up: I’m making a statement. I’m typically not a person who runs half marathons just for fun, so when I pull the trigger and pay that registration fee, it means I have big plans. Indeed, I have dreams for the 2017 Wisconsin Half

Well…maybe. Sort of. I don’t know. I plead the 5th?

I posted my registration to Facebook with a triumphant declaration that this would be the race where I finally succeed in nabbing one of my longest-standing wish list items: a sub-1:45 half marathon. Granted, I also added the caveat that even if that doesn’t happen I still wanted to have fun re-running my first half marathon in my college town. But still, I felt nervous about declaring that goal on Facebook. I’m not sure why. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows it’s not some big secret that I’ve been drooling over a sub-1:45 for the better part of two years now. Every runner has a dream that they just can’t get over: for many, it’s a sub-2:00 half, completing an ultra, or qualifying for Boston. For me, for some reason, it’s running the half marathon distance at that elusive sub-8:00 pace. While there’s no guarantee I won’t just immediately start lusting over a sub-1:40 after that, the <1:45 is my “it” thing I just can’t let go of and I know I will feel some form of running closure once I can finally prove that I, too, am capable of it.

The problem is that things are changing. I’m changing. And as much as I want that sub-1:45, I’m just not sure I want it enough. Not more than I want to be able to live the rest of my life without devoting so much time and energy to formal training plans.

I’ve been able to devote myself so fully to training for marathons and improving my times because I have a lifestyle that has allowed for it. A steady job, with set hours, no children to raise, no plans for change and really no unpredictability whatsoever in my life. Going on vacation for a few days or a week was the biggest wrench in my training plans.

But I’m getting to a point where I’m just not sure that improving at a hobby is worth all the sacrifices that need to be made in other areas of my life and the single-tracked mind it requires. I love to run and run well, but running isn’t as huge a part of my identity as it is for other people, and I often find myself feeling like I’m being¬†pulled in many different directions. Running for improvement used to win that tug of war handily, but as this year has gone on, its grip has drastically weakened. I want to improve at running but I no longer want it as much as I want to let go of it and move on to other things for a while.

2017 is already shaping up to be a big year for me. We have a lot of travel planned for the spring, which obviously would interfere with a training plan (that and the nasty winter we’re apparently supposed to get this year…). But I’m also looking to shake up my lifestyle a little bit¬†in the coming¬†year. I turn 30 in March, which as you can imagine, is prompting some introspection as of late, and I’m getting the feeling that after several identical years, it’s time for a change in my life. Since it’s still in the tentative/brainstorming stage, I’m not ready to publicly talk about what that is yet, but let’s just say it’s less of a “change” and more just something that will eat up a lot more of my time and focus, leaving little room or desire to cram in race training. I also want this to be the year that, in the same spirit as I trained for my first half 3 years ago, I try new things with no strings attached. Without the pressure of time goals and improvement, maybe this could be the year I finally run my first trail race or do my first triathlon (SPRINT triathlon, people! 70.3 and 140.6 are NOT in my future!).

Which brings me here: why did I declare a goal of a 1:45 half marathon knowing I won’t have the time – or, frankly, the desire – to devote myself to training for it?

Because I do still want it, and I’m not ready to rule¬†it out as a possibility. I’m already so close. While the best I have managed so far is a high 1:47, I ran that race on a tough day in my peak weeks of marathon training with zero taper, and my fitness indicated that with better weather and fresh legs, I was¬†capable of a 1:45-1:46 – which, regardless of what they say about “woulda coulda shoulda,” I continue to fully believe. Add to that the killer fitness base I will have built up at year-end from this fall’s 10K training, I think a 1:44 or better is a possibility for me even without an intense, targeted training plan if¬†I stay in shape and keep running as a part of my lifestyle. It may take me a few tries to get it this spring, but I think I can do it.

But, I’m also accepting – and okay with – the possibility that it won’t happen.¬†I do still want to run and participate in races, but things are going to be different next year. My priorities and values are starting to go in a welcome new direction¬†that I’m eager to follow. Being fast and improving my race times is really beginning to seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t regret the time I’ve spent devoted to that passion, but the growing discontent I felt after the Pittsburgh Marathon was more than simple burn out, it’s telling me that it’s time to move on and that running can’t come¬†first anymore.

None of this affects my current 10K training, by the way. I’m in it, I’ve committed to it, I’m enjoying it and I intend to see it through. But, I am starting to rethink my goals a little bit, and wonder if I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself and setting my standards for this one cycle at an inappropriately high level. I think second-guessing myself and my workouts is natural since I’m out of my comfort zone with this type of running, but I also am feeling like I’m starting to get a little too greedy with my expectations for success. Given that this may be my last formal, improvement-focused training cycle for a whole year, I need to start making it a priority to actually enjoy it and appreciate the opportunity as well.


P.S. – I’m sorry ¬†I have not yet responded/followed through with the feedback I got from last week’s post calling for blog recommendations. I did check out several of the blogs and I’ve been meaning to follow and get engaged, but it just keeps getting away from me. Since we’re busy this weekend but staying in town, I hope to have time to get on that!