Time Out

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My Facebook feed is filled with lots of pictures of friends running. Some are doing local races and others are down for the big Princess Marathon weekend at Disney. Looking at all the fun everyone is having makes me envious and makes me want to lace up my running shoes and start training again.

But I am in time out. And it is a much-needed time out.

I learned this lesson in my early twenties after I had ankle surgery and got back out on the volleyball court a little too soon. Of course being in my twenties I was in the indestructible phase of my life so I could play through the pain (or at least I thought I could).

Time out to recover doesn’t mean a time out from an active life. It’s just a different kind of active and on a much different scale. Of course it is frustrating not being able to play but over the years I have learned to appreciate giving my body a break. I’m hoping giving myself a long break now will keep me from breaking myself when I get back out there.

Good luck to everyone running this weekend. Can’t wait to get back on the road with you.

The Art of Staying in the Moment

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The Marine Corps Marathon was a really difficult race for me. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to understand why it was so tough. During training I had my ups and downs. There were runs when after 10 miles I wanted to cry and quit and other days I felt fantastic like I could run forever. It wasn’t until I was flying down for the Princess Marathon and I ran into Erin (http://lovedisneyrunning.blogspot.com/) on the plane. She ran the Marine Corps and noticed something and it really put things into perspective. The marathon was the day before Hurricane Sandy hit. Because the storm was coming, people were not in the moment; their thoughts were everywhere but the race. This was true not only of the runners but the volunteers and Marines.

She was right.

From the moment we arrived in DC our focus shifted immediately from enjoying the weekend with family and friends to dealing with the storm. Jim and I got found out our flight home was cancelled. I was tempted to throw in the towel on the run and just head home, but Jim thought that was silly. Since we couldn’t fly we worked it out with the rental car company to just drive from DC to Rhode Island.

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This really impacted my run. Instead of enjoying the run, my mind was elsewhere. I was okay for the first half of the race. But then I reached a point where I was worried about sitting in a car for 8 or more hours. I ran the first 20 miles and after hitting the bridge, I decided to walk the last 10k. My mind was already on the car ride and I was thinking about how my legs would feel.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had the same issue during training. It was still the height of surf season. The water was warm enough to not have to wear but a 2/3 wetsuit. During so many of my long runs, I yearned to be in the water. My mind was anywhere but the run. My runs suffered.

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I find I enjoy running the most when I am in the moment, when my mind doesn’t wander off to worry about work, shopping, or bills. I focus on the steps ahead of me and continue to move forward. When I manage to stay in the moment, running is a joy.

My other love surfing is the same; you have to satay in the moment. The minor difference with surfing, if you lose focus on the moment, the waves can be very unforgiving.

Staying in the moment during a run (and in life) is an art I am still working to perfect. Once in a while I am truly able to eliminate distraction and enjoy just being. When I do, my stride comes easy and my breath is not labored. I had this feeling during the Princess marathon. While it was not my fastest race, it was so enjoyable because I was just enjoying running. Disney is fantastic for putting up great entertainment along the course, but I found it wasn’t necessary because I was in the present moment. I was simply enjoying running.

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This is a work in progress. But because I had such a struggle with the Marine Corps Marathon, I am much more aware. Jim and I have the Newport 10 miler coming up in a few weeks. Let’s hope all of the mental training I’ve been doing has paid off and I’ll be able to stay in the moment.

Am I Afraid?

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I read a blog the other day that made me pause and reflect. A woman who ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon wrote it, it was her first half. Though she had been training for a finish time of around 2 hours, she actually finished about an hour after that. It bothered her, she wanted to find out if she really deserved the Corral A assignment. Immediately after the race, she signed up for a 20k and crossed the finish line in under two hours. (http://thefinalforty.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/race-recap-miles-for-music/)

 

Awesome right?

 

As I read the blog it occurred to me, I’ve never really run a race to prove I can make a goal time. I have pushed it on a few 5ks but it was just because I was feeling really good and really in the moment. But most important I just felt like running. So a question has been lingering, why haven’t I tried to break 2 hours on a half marathon? Based on my 5k time it should be well within my limits.

 

In previous blogs, I’ve written about how much I just enjoy getting out and running. I’ve also written about how much I enjoy running with new runners. But I recognize that the pace I run is really comfortable. I am so much in my comfort zone that I can knock out a sub 2:30 half marathon with virtually no training. Am I satisfied with being comfortable? Am I satisfied with simply enjoying every run? Or do I want something more?

 

Answering the question is a struggle. One thing really bothers me. Am I afraid to try? Am I simply afraid to set a goal time? Am I afraid I won’t be able to do it?

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I love running. I love the not so competitive atmosphere running offers. I love the friendship and camaraderie. As I struggle to answer the question I also wonder if chasing a time goal will make me lose the things that draw me to the sport. Or am I selling myself short by not challenging myself and trying?

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There are a few more races on my schedule for this year. I’ve got the Newport 10 miler in April and I’m going to sign up for a half (not sure which one) in the fall. I think it’s time to reassess what I really want to achieve from this sport. And maybe, even if it is for one race only, I should make a goal of getting a PR (for both the half and full marathon).

Courage

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Over the past few years I have done quite a few distance races. At each race at a minimum I get a new race shirt. I browse the expanse of vendor booths set up at the expo and might pick up a few more things. From when I started running to now, I’ve had to develop a new strategy for shopping at the expo. When first started running, I wanted everything and my shopping reflected that. I would pick up far more than what I needed. The result, my dresser drawers are bursting with shirts, shorts, and other running gear. Now I go into an expo knowing what I need to pick up and quickly breeze by the other booths on my way to the necessary stops like packet pick up. It’s been a pretty successful strategy.

 

This year at the Disney Princess Marathon expo, I knew the places I wanted to hit, Official Merchandise, Sweaty Bands, Packet Pick Up and we were going to done. As I was cruising past the vendor booths I spotted a shirt that jumped out at me. Jim had decided to check out sunglasses so I double backed to really check it out.

 

It was a Kelly green shirt with the word courage printed on the front. The back of the shirt was a definition of courage that really resonated with me because it read, “to persevere with humility” and “falling in love with the person you were meant to be”.

 

Courage was word in my vocabulary but it wasn’t that important to me until I started working with the Navy. I am Coast Guard, and about a year and a half ago I started working with the Navy at their Senior Enlisted Academy. The core values for the Navy are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. During each class we discuss what the core values mean to the students. Listening to the students definitions made me really explore what courage means to me.

 

In the military, the word courage is often synonymous with courage in battle. Showing bravery when the enemy is near. While that is an important facet of the word, for me courage is much more than physical courage.

 

My definition of courage is still evolving, but here is what I believe courage is. Courage is when you are not afraid to be vulnerable, totally exposed to criticism. Courage is putting it on the line, risking it all (especially when the outcome is uncertain). Courage is trying something new. Courage is doing something that others tell you it is stupid. Courage is staying true to you. Courage is looking for the truth, even when the truth isn’t pretty. Courage is doing what you believe is right and not about always being right. Courage is treating everyone with respect, even the people many others don’t want to see. Courage is standing up to bullies.

 

Fellow Flowers (http://fellowflowers.com) makes this shirt. Their story is just as inspiring as the t-shirts. In 2011 a group of women started training for a half marathon together. Over the course of their training, they discovered that running is much more than just running; it is a journey of mental and physical struggles. It is a journey where you face your own fears and adversity and hopefully in the end, when you cross the finish line you will have learned something that you can apply in other areas of your life.

 

My courage shirt is now one of my favorite shirts because it reminds me what courage means to me. But more importantly it reminds me to live my life in a courageous way. Now if Fellow Flowers would only make a shirt defining honor and commitment, then I would have a complete set of Navy core value shirts.

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It’s not you, it’s me.

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The Princess Marathon was not part of my running plan until my friend Trish asked if I wanted to run it. My initial thought was no. I had just done my first half marathon and I didn’t see the point of doing another, but a few days later I signed up. I enjoyed the inaugural Princess Marathon so much; I did it again the next year.

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Running 5 consecutive Princess Runs never occurred to me until Jim and I went out to Disneyland for the half marathon. It was the 5th year for the race. Something during that weekend clicked. I made it a goal to run the first 5 Princess Marathons.

The 2013 Princess half was the 5th year of the race and I reached my goal. I am one of 324 runners deemed a perfect princess for running all 5 races. I’m not sure what I expected this year, but the magic that kept bringing me back to this race seems to have run out.

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This year the emphasis seemed much more on stuff and excess than on fitness and running. The expo was cram packed with people who needed to buy everything they could get their hands on. I freely admit my husband and I bought our max allowable Dooney & Bourke purses with the plan of keeping one and selling the rest. (However that plan changed when we sold one to a friend who didn’t get a chance to shop at the expo and gave one as a birthday gift.) And I bought the Disney Princess sweaty bands because sweaty bands are part of my race traditions. But watching people stand in excessively long lines for New Balance shoes, running to be first to get a purse, and grabbing handfuls of official race merchandise left me with an odd feeling.

Social media was the other big difference. I got the impression posting pictures to instagram, sending tweets, and updating facebook status during the expo and the race was a priority for many runners. The goal was less about running and more about documenting every step along the course. One of the perks of doing a RunDisney race is the entertainment and characters. I stopped twice during the run to take a photo with a character because there was no line and Mehgan didn’t get any pictures during the run last year. I guess I think the run should be the main attraction, instead of the entertainment being the main attraction.

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While the race has grown and evolved into something very different than just a celebration of women, fitness, and running, I recognize I have changed too. I am not the same runner who started doing this race series in 2009. The moment I recognized it was when I was really excited to see mile 7. We were no longer in the Magic Kingdom and we were on the road. In the past I dreaded the back half of the course because we left all the fun, but this year I felt like the fun was just about to happen.

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I didn’t PR this year, but it was one of the best races I’ve run. We managed negative 5k splits. I also helped Mehgan get a new PR.

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In a way this feels like a break up. The Princess Marathon Weekend was one of my first running loves. We grew together, but after all these years we ended up growing apart. I guess I always hoped it would last forever, but the magic is gone. I guess I’ve grown into a different kind of runner and the Princess Marathon has grown into a different kind of race. I really hope we can stay friends. It’s not you, it’s me.

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