I ran on and off my entire life. no rhyme or reason. I would take off on a mid summer day with no destination at all. Half the time I didnt even have the proper shoes or clothing. Just ragged Kmart shoes, my dad's oversized tshirt and boxers. I would run until I couldnt and then call my dad on a payphone to come pick me up. I dont know why I ran, I just felt like it. Months would go by sometimes before I ran again, but it always gave me exactly what I needed.
As an adult, running became more important. Maybe it was stressors, responsibilities, a dying marriage, kids, a past I never faced, money...etc. It became an escape. I did a lot of escaping reality and I became a way better runner. I started entering races and I started winning to my surprise. I had never wore a watch before, so I never even knew what kind of pace I ran. Suddenly, the simplicity of running became more complicated. I was now a competitor and running took a whole new role in my life. It became all of my life. I needed the gear and I needed the win.
Life quickly gave me a much needed wake up call. An injury! I had time on my hands now that I didnt know what to do with. I felt myself spiraling out of control. I was a runner....what on earth was I going to do without running? You see, I became so wrapped up in it I lost myself instead of finding myself. As a therapist I was constantly telling others to find multiple ways to cope with life and here I was unable to cope. How did I lose focus? I loved running and what it had given me, but I allowed it to be the only thing that defined me. I was now Addie the runner, instead of Addie and a million other great things. So, as much as I hated 6 months of injury, it allowed me to find balance and focus again.
I trained while injured because I refused to forego a bucketlist to run Boston. The focus changed though as my training had to in order to keep me on track with therapy and healing my leg. I started running without a garmin, I ran slowly, I took in the smells of freshly cut grass, dryer sheets, the sun as it hits the horizon, I high fived passing runners, I waved at friends cheering me on, I coached new runners and I actually took my phone a few times to take pictures. I didnt even follow a training plan this time, I just went as long, short, fast or slow as I felt. I fell in love with running as I had years ago. I fell in love with the importance of running free. Perhaps this is all the reason I did so well in Boston, because I had no expectations and zero agenda. Running is a big part of my life, but running cant be my whole life. I think Im a way better EVERYTHING now in many ways because I had running taken away. Im resting today and instead of feeling guilty, Im laying in bed enjoying every moment of this rest I earned. Treat your mind, heart and body right...you are only given one!
Take away running and who are you?
I think we all have our annoyances as runners. You know, being told by others that we are gonna wreck our knees or being continually asked how far this marathon is. Honestly we can probably carry on for hours with the plethora of annoyances by non-runners. Lately, my biggest frustration is people's obsession on what I'm eating and when I'm eating. You would think it was on the 5'oclock news with how important it is to others.
I run and if you know me personally, you know I run quite a bit. All that running despite my stomach disease, makes me insanely hungry. For starters, you know its way better for you to eat 6 times a day and eat smaller meals. This isnt news!! Given my running and given my stomach disease, then this type of eating suites me well. The truth is, I eat every 3 hours or so. This is usually followed by, "omg you are eating again!!!" Yes, Yes I'm eating again!!! You gotta keep the tank fueled if you expect it to perform, right?? I just can't wrap my head around the importance of my eating habits to others. I am not shoveling McDonald's or Krispy Kreme down the hatch, so really its not even worthy of headline news.
At one point I was 60lbs heavier and what I was doing clearly wasn't working. As I adopted the running lifestyle and actually eating more, the weight came off rather quickly. You can't ever win though cause you are either the fatty or you are anorexic because you are dropping weight too fast. There is always going to be a comment one way or other. There are very few congratulations and very few good jobs in comparison to the negativity. So, I'm continually learning how to just ignore comments because they just don't know. Maybe its their way of asking for nutritional advice, but until they ask in the right way....TAKE A PICTURE!!! Yes, I am eating yet AGAIN!
Every single race I have trained for has taught me something valuable about myself or it has helped me work through something major going on in my life. Now add a few more hours of training a week and things start to change up quite a bit. Call it hysteria, exhaustion or hunger but shit starts to get real when you are going out for a 35 mile training run on a Saturday and 26 on a Sunday (dont forget the miles earlier in the week). So without further delay, here is my list of things I learned while I trained and ran an Ultra.
1. As kids, we are always taught to use our imagination. As adults, we tend to stray away from that very simple thing because wellllll we have to be adults. Now become an adult ultramarathoner and you are now back to that awesome 5yr old mindset. There is only so much to think about during your runs, so I can honestly say I have been a backup dancer, the winner of American Idol, the winner of SYTYCD, a cage fighter, a movie star, ive been skydiving, ive won the lottery, I married Adam Levine and The Rock, I became a transcon runner, some poor bastard gave me my dream finish line proposal, ive told people things ive always wanted to say and I finally got that hammock on the beach on my own island. All that happened on my training runs, so one hour quickly became 5 hours. So stop being a adult sometimes and fall in love with the magic of a cool imagination.
2. If you gotta go potty do it now or you may not get another chance. Accidents do and will happen, so dont be "that" guy. Then again, shit happens...literally!
3. Sharing is important. Dont be the asshole hoarding all your water and snacks. Offer them to other runners so when you are out there dying, that same runner will be the one to stop and be sure you are okay when you are struggling. In case you are wondering, cold watermelon makes friends.
4.Watch out for traffic. People are assholes and dont care that you are out running. Pedestrians never have the right of way. So like momma taught you, look both ways.....if your neck is too stiff from holding your shoulders up high (you know what Im talking about), then be "that" guy and turn your whole body.
5. Warm cookies and milk are good for you....well warm , cold, old....you really dont care at this point. Eat like a child and be proud. You earned that large pizza and eat it like a savage. Pizza sauce all over your face...the end.
6. Napping rocks! Make up for the ones you didnt take as a child.
7. Play fair. Always congratulate all runners or highfive/thumbs up them when you pass them on your route.
8. Clean up your own mess. I think this goes with the potty section.
9. Kids stink and for the most part its acceptable. Running for hours on end makes stinking acceptable. Bring sanitizer for your hands though cause shoveling pizza in your mouth with dirty hands is poor form.
10. Have fun. Through the struggle find the silver lining and laugh, even if it is that you peed a little on that last mile. No one else has to know, but if you do tell your friends about it just know they are not gonna let you live it down. It will be next weeks bar convo. "Hey Addie, tell everyone about that time you peed yourself!" Secrets dont exist.
This goes out to all the single moms out there. The toughest job on the planet and the masters of getting it done day in and day out. With that being said, my hat is off to all the single mommy athletes. We take go go go go to a whole new level. On days where im stressed, overwhelmed to tears and exhausted beyond measure...I know there is a mom out there stretching it way thinner that I ever could on a strong day.
On many of my training runs on the bridges, I passed a woman and her son always walking or running. We merely exchanged a nod, as she appeared deep in thought or trying to be free of thought. As a woman going through some rough points in my life, I understood that need for space. Her son always ran in front smiling and just before passing she would always give him a little nudge to move over. As a regular bystander, one would not think much of this redirection. After years of working in residential facilities, I knew what she was doing. She was teaching him something quite simple...social boundaries. You see, her son has autism. Her life involves daily repetitive cues such as these or ways to curb his obsessive compulsive tendencies. Her life will always be this and she does it bravely. While others see trips to Disney, she uses it as an educational tool. Every day and everything is one big therapeutic plan.
I finally met her while sitting at our chiropractors office...injured. The bond was instant. We were both injured and definitely sidelined. Both of us single moms unable to take our issues out on the pavement. While mine would eventually work themselves out, her battle will be lifelong. She never once made my issues miniscule to hers, she just understood that need to have our outlet. We both craved making those bridges collapse with our worries. She became my shoulder and joined me on the rollercoaster of 2013. She always said, its always easier when there is someone next to you screaming too.
While most of my issues are at bay now, she continues that same routine daily and running up her own bridge. Luckily, she can run about it now too cause shes been broken of the injury chains. Everyone sees this smiling boy so carefree, but we both see the challenges she faces daily. Ive seen so many parents give up and she keeps moving along, accepting this with arms wide open.
Today, I saw them running the bridge together again. She as always, moved him out of my way. His arms waved freely into the air and his smile was ear to ear. I thought to myself, everyone should run that freely. I yelled as they passed, "he looks so happy!!!" I later text to tell her he had made my morning and this, "He just looked so happy running along....we should all be that happy. Sometimes his world is better than ours. Good job momma." Her response, "I agree. Definitely a hidden blessing. A simple mind. If we all could just go thru life like that."
Its that time of year again where the world skips spring and jumps right into summer. Except Florida, we went from not too hot to a mild day in Hades. Unless you are training for Badwater, then training for a fall race can become quite taxing. So, the question is...how do you keep motivated and safe during these cow manure conditions? I can tell you what I do, but please dont necessarily try this at home.
If you dont have many scheduling conflicts then the best would be to join the VRC (Vampire Running Club). Just hit the pavement when the sun isnt out and your only issue will be that glorious feeling of running thru pea soup during a steamy day. I dont always have the opportunity to train during the dark hours, so I use the blazing sun to my advantage. Ive always said being able to run through shitty conditions make you a better runner mentally. Also, if you can work through a sauna run then think about how easy a 6am race start will be in way milder conditions. Work with what ya got. Use the not so great conditions to your advantage.
So how do you fuel for summer? If you recall, fueling for me is a big challenge and im quite weird about carrying things when I run. For the non weird, carry some form of hydration tool. I hate making recommendations because everyone is so different. Go to a store and test those babies out. Im not shy about returning stuff if it just didnt work for me. You can always trade with runner friends. For me personally, I do my long hot runs on a busier road so I know where all the water fountains are. Occasionally I have a crazy friend who wants to bike behind me with my water and a just in case IV. True story, my friend Vance biked behind me during a 20miler with his medic bag. I only sip water cause too much makes me nauseated. If my stomach is too bitchy, then I will try gingerale. During my 50miler to the Keys in nasty conditions, my drink of choice was flat gingerale. I also popped endurolyte capsules like candy. Endurolytes is definitely something I recommend highly and I dont mind some NUUN in my water (You are welcome Kara Goucher). Its all trial and error so definitely try things out on a shorter run.
Body temps can get dangerously high, so always be aware of how your body reacts. Know when its time to walk or call for a ride. Sometimes water is better on you than in you, so go for that good ole fashioned wet tshirt contest. Im also a big fan of laying on my nice cold tile floor when I get home.
So basically in a nutshell...come prepared and make summer your bitch. In just a few months everyone will be complaining about the snow and Im sorry to say that Im no help in that department. Queen of the tropics signing off!
So whats GP you ask? GP stands for the not so awesome disease called gastroparesis. In a nut shell my stomach is paralyzed and either will not digest food or on a good day it takes its sweet little time. Ive had it my whole life, but was only diagnosed about 3 years ago. Every doctor before then just told me to take nexium and call it good. Perfect fix if the issue was just acid reflux I suppose.
To say Ive been nauseated my whole life is an understatement. Ive probably spent more time praying to the porcelain gods than a freshman sorority chick during penny beer night. Ive been in and out of the ER for IV treatment and woke up many nights gagging on stomach acid (so attractive I know). When I eat Im almost instantly full like its Thanksgiving or during remission Im like a raging stoner with the munchies (minus the weed ofcourse). I will spare you all the other awesome details, but just drinking water is a major task that my stomach doesnt not take too kindly to...isnt water key for hydration??? Tell that to my stomach!
All of it is emotionally draining more than anything. I think Im used to the nausea and fatigue at this point. Its quite depressing to feel crappy all the time. Its even more taxing when the people around you think its all in your head. Finally getting a diagnosis was a relief because in all honesty I started to think it was all in my head too. It was a major ahhhhhhHaaaaaa moment when I was told, "0% of your food moved out of your stomach in that 2hr scan...results state significantly abnormal."
So what does this mean for running? It means that any day at any point during a run I can become violently ill. It means that Ive taken a few trips to the med tent and it also means a whole lot of finger crossing before a race. For races it means smalls sips of water, small bites of bagels, no gu, no gatorade, acid reducers, immodium, gasx and B12. GP may be paralyzing my stomach, but in no way will I let it paralyze my spirit. It makes running difficult and it can be difficult for those running with me too. One day I may end up with a pacemaker in my stomach or on a feeding tube, but that day is NOT TODAY!!! "With every broken bone...I LIVED."
"I just don't have the time!!!" Have you said it? Have you heard it? I say it daily to myself, but the truth is the lack of time never wins. I'm a single mom of a 5 and 4 yr old, who are both involved in gymnastics. I work two jobs and I also coach a local RunClub. Needless to say, I'm always on the go. I'm always tired and yes there are days I don't want to run. So, how do I do it? Well, time management is definitely key but managing your time well wont do you any good if the passion and desire just aren't there.
Im NOT a morning person but I still get up at 4am to get things done. I set alarms with motivational quotes or have "crazy" morning folk call to yell at me to get the hell out of bed. I run after my kids get dropped off at school and on my lunch breaks. I do my best not to let my running and cross training interfere with my time with them. Sometimes they even ask to do a workout with me, but for the most part its all done before they wake up or while they are at school. They are very aware of what do and I hear it when they play with their dolls or pretend to read fairy-tales to one another. Once I heard Liz tell her sister, "Once upon a time there was a handsome and strong prince. Strong like mommy because she runs alot." I catch them in my room sometimes just standing in front of my medal hanger in awe. I know at that moment Ive made them proud and that somehow they too will know that with dedication and hard work, they too can accomplish just about anything.
When it comes to work....Ive been blessed with great co-workers who embrace my crazy and my stench or who are quite crazy themselves. I'm sure they are thankful that I always come back to work with a clear head and a way better attitude. I may drag my feet out the door during lunch, but always return with a little more bounce. I can honestly say that Ive never ever regretted a run no matter how terrible. I keep that in mind when I try to find an excuse to not lace up and go. Plus, I get to come back to a room of people telling me how crazy I am.
Do I rest? I'm getting better at allowing myself a break from everything. When I'm always on the go, its just habit to stay on that path without noticing that its time to hit the brakes. Those days involve my bed, coffee, music and a good book. Do I feel guilty? Yes! Its something I'm working at daily. I'm learning to be ok with letting the laundry sit one more day or being ok with not crossing off that one item off the weekly to-do list.
"I hope you spend your days...but they all add up."
The greatest compliment ever paid to me is usually the, "you are crazy lady!" Needless to say, I'm complimented that way on a daily basis. Most people don't get why we run. Don't ever expect them to.
Everyone has a purpose for running. Most people start out with a fitness goal in mind but what they end up discovering is something way deeper than that. My purpose in this phase of my life was to lose the 60lbs I gained from pregnancy, but I ended up gaining something way more valuable. I spent hours on the road alone with just my thoughts guiding me through each mile. With each "mile"stone gained was another path of self discovery. For the first time in my life I really challenged myself and pushed the envelope. Each of those moments became empowering. In the moments I couldn't push myself any further, I pushed for those who battled something way more challenging.
So you ask why I run? Why run twice today? Why run, its raining? Why run, its cold? Why run, you just finished a race?....I say," because its what I love!" Its normally followed by, "you are crazy lady!" All I can say to that is, "thank you!!"
Looking back at the year, I am truly blessed beyond measure. As always the competitor in me is never satisfied for very long though and I find moments in the race I could have done something different to improve upon the end result. This keeps me grinding day in and day out, but can also leave me drowning in a sea of disappointment.
The truth of the matter is, I battled a lot of craziness this year in my races and I faced each head on and never surrendered. I have felt such victory in the fact that I did not once wave the white flag. The gains this year have nothing to do with speed but the mentality to handle that what ifs in racing. The what ifs meaning...the worst case race scenario. The runner years ago may have bowed out but the runner today bowed my head and gritted my teeth and pressed on. With the hypothermia at Boston that just about put me out and battling the 107 heat in the Keys for 50 miles just to name a few, I dug deep to find reason and showed myself that behind tears there is one hell of a fighter. Behind the "I can't go on," was "don't you dare lay down!!!" The truth is, I'm very proud of that person that got up everyday to get myself there in not so great conditions weather wise, emotionally and physically. The successes that came along with all of it were an added bonus, but something left me unfulfilled.
With summer arriving after my last race and no races till the fall, it has left me less than unmotivated and demoralized. Being a single mom of two and managing two jobs, most times it leaves me with the ability to only get a run in during the midday hours....the hottest. My easiest runs have become harder, my recovery time feeling longer and overall feeling exhausted. Each run just searching for the whys and unable to clearly see the accomplishments from earlier in the year.
A few weeks ago, two amazing triathletes lost their home in a fire while away at Ironman. Quickly our community came together for them and this last weekend organized an all night event. Without a single moments thought, I signed up to run all 12 hours. I felt I HAD to. Since May, I had only trained for the marathon distance and had maxed my long run at 23. I definitely was not ready for 12 hours and the added bonus was it was thru the night (this I had never done). No game plan for me on this one....just RUN and RUN some more. I knew it would hurt, but the reality stood that I could go home to my bed and rest comfortably when it was over. This was a luxury they would not have and suffering for 12 hours at the end of the day really wasnt a big deal.
The first half of the night was quite enjoyable and for it being in the middle of the night I was ready to keep going. I remember seeing the sun starting to peak over the condos on the beach and thinking that I had made it and looked forward to hitting the causeway to see the beautiful vibrant sunrise colors......but then it hit. At about 51 miles in, I reached the top of the causeway and looked over the water to see the bridge we needed to be at sooooo far away. I became suddenly distraught and the pain in my legs and back ignited like fireworks. I became paralyzed by my own mind. I had already gone 51 miles and the 5 more miles I had seemed near impossible. I cried and yelled (I needed a Snickers in all reality) and I pushed Mike away. I told him maybe a dozen times to leave me on the bench and to come get me later, but Id get up seconds later and try to move a bit more. This lasted 2 more miles (forever during a breakdown) and got to a water stop where i ate some pretzels and gatorade (equal parts Snickers). It was then i was reminded why I was out there and I got up and started running again. I promised them I would run all night and I promised a bit more, so I could not let them down.
As we approached the last bridge it started to rain and by this point both of us definitely needed a Snickers. Mike couldnt even handle the early morning walkers greeting us cheerfully. Under his breath, he told each of them to shut up. The struggle was alive and well. Suddenly, coming up the bridge was a little old lady and as Mike thought she would say good morning and I expected a little old lady to be knocked out....she said, "you two are running under a rainbow." We looked back and it was the fullest most vibrant rainbow I had ever seen. Everything at that point just made sense. I woke up this morning and I felt the most fulfilled I have been all year. There was no medal, no time clock, no giant crowds, no athlinks entry, etc. It was then I felt fulfilled, it was then that I got motivated all over again. It wasnt the first time I had run for a cause. It was the fact that I watched two amazing athletes take a giant negative and still push thru an amazing finish at Ironman and punch a ticket to Kona. It was the first time I went and did something I was unprepared for and got knocked to my knees in complete despair and pressed on for something bigger than myself.
Its not always about the medals and PRs and everything that goes along with a race. A race will not always leave you feeling complete. Ive had some amazing races this year, but the thing that meant most was the one that will be placed in my heart in a shadowbox and not on my wall.
My first steps as a baby according to my parents was actually a run. At 5yrs old my dad took me to the NYC Marathon, but truth be told I had no idea why people were running down the street. All this was foreshadowing for what was to be a life of running almost 30 years later. "If opportunity doesnt knock...build a door."