Monday, March 25, 2013

The Reasons I Appreciate the Treadmill :-)

If you have been reading posts on Facebook or Twitter lately, you don’t even need to look outside your window to know winter is still here. Yes, it’s officially spring, but Mother Nature isn’t the kind of lady who follows any rules. The weather is unseasonably miserable, and it doesn’t appear that there will be any changes anytime soon.  So, with that being said, instead of whining about the blustery weather conditions we have absolutely no control over, let’s focus on the positive. No matter how crappy it is outside, with a gym membership, or perhaps in the comfort of your own home, the treadmill is always a reliable alternative to keep us fit until Mother Nature gets her act together.

Some runners despise the treadmill, deeming it to be a lesser version of the experience of the road or trails, and refer to it as the “dreadmill.” Although it sure isn’t exactly the real thing, I have grown to appreciate the treadmill for what it is. The treadmill is like that guy you have tons of fun with, but you know isn’t “the one.” He’s cool for the moment and keeps you on your toes until the right one comes around. And, when the right one (REAL spring) comes around, you will be that much more appreciative!

SO, in an effort to focus on the positive, I’ve decided to list the reasons I appreciate the treadmill. For every pro, there is certainly a con, but I’ll keep the cons out of this one. My glass is perpetually half FULL!

(1)    No Garmin needed- Leave the watch at home! No need to worry about finding a signal or constantly staring down at your wrist. The treadmill will display your time, pace, incline level, and calories burned!

(2)    Hydrate with ease- No need for those weird looking hydration belts (I could never pull that off, nor could I handle a liter of water dangling from my hips!) or slugging along a water bottle throughout your run. The treadmill has a nice holder for you to place your water, Ipod, phone…anything you need! AND, some treadmills have TVs on them so you can catch up on all of the shows you don’t have time to watch because you’re so busy running!

(3)    Easy pacing- It’s SO nice to truly be able to check out while running. Especially for the really challenging speed work outs, I’ll crank up the speed dial and just stare straight ahead thinking of everything else possible but the pain I’m currently enduring. The treadmill is like the coach I’ve never had, telling me it’s possible when my body is SCREAMING that it’s not. I’ve pushed the pace in ways I don’t think I could outside. I’m getting stronger, in great shape, and building the confidence to push paces I’ve never imagined possible.

(4)    It’s safe- There are SERIOUS creeps in this world. I tend to be foolishly fearless when I run outdoors. I run pretty much all of my workouts solo, and sometimes in fairly remote locations. Despite being speedier and having more endurance than most creepy dudes, as a female distance runner I recognize that I am vulnerable. Anything could happen at any time when I’m miles away from home, and in some cases, physically drained. On the treadmill, however, many of those concerns go away. It’s a safe location with many people around. And, with some health scares I’ve had in the past, it’s good to know that if I ever needed any type of medical attention I would be in good hands.

(5)    SHORTS- I love my running clothes! If I had my way, I would wear running clothes all of the time. It’s nice to put the gloves, headband, and Under Armour away and hop into a singlet and running shorts for my workouts.

(6)    Support- A few years ago, an old man at the gym asked me to sign a piece of paper for him. He told me that someday I was going to be in the Olympics, and he wanted to tell people he knew me! Watch out Kara and Shalane! HA! In every gym that I’ve trained in, I’ve always obtained little, what I call, “fan clubs.” I hope that doesn’t sound narcissistic! It's kind of funny how it happens as I pretty much just jump on to the 'mill and do my usual thing. Most distance runners just consider their intense workouts as routine, and don’t recognize that most people can’t run 10.0 on the treadmill without flying off.  And, most people don’t run consecutive miles for hours without stopping. What us distance runners do is AMAZING, and it’s nice to have people see it and remind us of that. Plus, I can’t count how many people have told me that I’ve inspired them to start running. It’s a great feeling knowing I have been able to do that.

(7)    Eye candy- I can’t lie. When I’m clicking through miles and miles on the treadmill, it’s nice to have something to keep my adrenaline flowing. As running has become more popular over the past few years, the number of attractive males participating in the sport has increased. However, those guys are usually in the back of the pack….or waaaaaay in the front. At the gym, no matter how fast you are…we’re all staying in the same place!

(8)    Sweat- If I’m not drenched in sweat by the end of what was intended to be an intense workout, I didn’t run hard enough. Being in the gym always helps me measure my sweat in my “sweat test.”

(9)    Easy pit stops- As we all know, $hithappens. There is nothing worse than being miles away from a port-a-potty and having to go. It can completely ruin a good workout. However, at the gym, a quick run off the ‘mill and then you’re back into the groove of your workout with no problem! It can make all of the difference.

(10)It’s fun- I have fun on the treadmill and ALWAYS have a great workout! Considering I run just about all of my runs solo, it’s nice to have people around! I love crankin’ good music on my Ipod, hanging out with my sister, and having good stories to share about the crazy old ladies in the locker room.

I recognize that it’s not the real thing. However, the treadmill WILL prepare you for the real thing when Mother Nature decides she’s ready. But, in the meantime, have fun and appreciate the treadmill for what it is. Just like that perfect guy, good weather is out there. We just have to stay on our toes and be patient until it gets here! J

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Falling in Love. Again. :-)

Spring is in the air! Or is it? The trees may be snow covered and lifeless. But despite the delay, there is love in the air! It may be unconventional, but I think I’m in love. AGAIN.  :-)

It’s been 5 years since my first race ever, the Cleveland Half Marathon in May of 2008. It sure has been quite a ride since that first race, and I have accomplished more than I ever imagined possible. Had you told me on that day that someday I would run a marathon, someday I would run the Boston and New York City marathons, and someday I would run a 3:16 marathon, it would have went through one ear and out the other. I had no idea what my potential was, and I’m still not sure what potential still lies ahead of me!

Despite collecting 10 marathon medals, 14 half marathon medals, and I don’t know how many age group awards, overall female awards, and my overall OVERALL award, the road to my accomplishments hasn’t been picture perfect. I have had races and training workouts that I have flat out BONKED. I have passed out on two separate occasions while running without any definitive answers as to why. I have had to figure how to balance my diet so I don’t get too skinny without getting too fat. I have to run before any after school event. I have to stay in every Friday night, and am often too tired to go out on Saturday nights. I have become very rigid with my focus and make very little to no room to let anyone in to break that (sorry, boys haaa). These five years have flown by, and considering I have minimal down time it is of no surprise. I have dedicated myself whole-heartedly to my profession, running, family (which has been growing significantly larger over these five years!), and solid friends. The less significant aspects of my life have been naturally siphoned out, and I have gained such great perspective of what’s REALLY important. Being as busy as I’ve been, I have moments of pure exhaustion that have me asking myself “UmMmM Why am I doing this? I believe it is essential for us to ask ourselves this question from time to time to make sure we are making the most of the little time we have to do something meaningful for others and ourselves.

So, why am I doing this? Well, I suppose I should clarify “this,” considering I haven’t blogged in quite a while. I’m training for my 11th marathon, the Cleveland Marathon, and hoping to P.R. I haven’t had a marathon P.R. since October 2011, and I know I have more potential than 3:16. The timing is perfect to switch things up and put 110% of myself into becoming a better runner. Again, why? Because I love running. I love the pain of speed intervals. I love the joy of glazing through each mile of a 20 mile long run. I love recording my workouts in my running log, and the runners high that comes from each workout. I love all of my cute track jackets and running shoes. I love being in great physical shape. I love reaching my goals and setting new ones. I love the alone time and the ability to get lost in my thoughts. I love the camaraderie of other runners while clicking through each mile of a marathon. The list could go on. But, it’s a simple answer to the “why?” Despite any draw back or challenge I’ve faced, I run because I truly love it. I always have, and I always will.

My training throughout this <extended> winter has been awesome. I am using a plan designed by Greg McMillan and have really enjoyed mixing it up! His program is specific to helping me reach my goals, and I feel myself progressing! I have P.R.’d in the 5k at the SnoBall Run 5k in Bay Village at the end of February in 19:26, 6:15min/mi. My goal is to eventually break 19:00 in the 5k, which I’m definitely working towards although I’m DEFINITELY not there yet. But, I am confident that I will get there! All around, I feel myself improving. I have been spending a great deal of time on the treadmill due to the yucky weather but am getting outside when I can. I ran an 18 mile hilly long run yesterday in 2:19 @7:46min/mi average pace. I felt GREAT throughout the entire run, and even ran an extra mile cool down. I have confidence in my ability to P.R. in the marathon this spring! But if I don’t, I won’t be too disappointed. There are bigger things that I am hoping to gain from this 26.2 experience.

Another reason I have found love in running, once again, comes from my new focus for this marathon. Throughout my training I am fundraising for Wigs For Kids, on behalf of one of my amazing students. I have never trained for a charity, but when I learned about Annie’s story I knew this was the perfect way to support her wonderful organization.  I have already reached my fundraising goal and have so far raised $2,045! Every time I click on my fundraising page and see a donation, my heart is warmed in a way that is indescribable. The kindness, generosity, and support of others has meant so much to me. Most importantly, knowing Annie’s story and the challenges she faces has inspired me immensely. She is so brave and positive despite everything she has gone through and continues to go through. She has to drive an hour for treatment every three weeks, and she describes it like it’s no big deal at all. In fact, she was smiling while telling me what her treatment is like. Annie travels throughout the country serving as a spokesperson for Wigs For Kids, sharing her story for the world to hear. She chooses not to hide behind her experiences, but instead puts it all out there to help others. Everything about her attitude and kindness has been a reminder to me that happiness is a choice. You can choose to rise above the hurdles in your life and make something amazing out of it, and that is exactly what Annie has done. She is the best example of the positive impacts of “paying it forward.” I am SO happy to be donating my hair, am SO happy to fundraise for Wigs For Kids, and am SO SO SO happy to say I know Annie. :-) Training for a charity, especially one that you have a personal connection with, makes training for a marathon so much more meaningful and worth every sacrifice.  I am so grateful to be able to contribute what I can!

I will be running my first half marathon of the season next weekend in the Just a Short Run Half Marathon near Pittsburg. I’m not anticipating a P.R. but am hoping to run around a 7:00min/mi average. I just plan on running it as a training pace run. I am also running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon at the end of April! Hopefully a P.R. will come then…as long as I’m not on my feet too much the day before, which is always my biggest challenge when traveling for marathons. There’s just so much to see and do!

The best part about my training this spring is that I will be joined by my sister throughout all of my running adventures!! It is a GREAT feeling to share what I love with who I love!

So, here's my advice. Take some time for self-reflection. Ask yourself,"Why am I doing this?" Write down your answer. Go from there. :-)

Oh, and I will be continuing to collect donations for Wigs For Kids until the marathon! Any donation is greatly appreciated!

Also, although blogging regularly is just not something I can commit to regularly, I keep my daily workouts updated on Twitter! Feel free to follow me  @RunLikeAGirl223
HAPPY RUNNING EVERYONE! And, Happy Spring <eventually>!!

<3 MP J