2016: The Year the Honeymoon Ended

If I can use a relationship as a metaphor for running, this was the year the honeymoon ended and the hard work began.

This was a pretty tough year in running/health for me.  I ran nearly 0 miles from January through March due to a bad hamstring injury, then spent the next several months adjusting my hyperthyroidism medication and dealing with my fluctuating weight.  I started to run consistently in the summer, but we had one of the hottest summers on record followed by record lows in December.  For all these reasons and sheer laziness, I ended up DNSing several races and definitely didn’t PR in any distances.

But here’s the thing – I didn’t quit.  Just a little over 4 years ago, I lined up at the start of my first race (a marathon!) and wondered how long this new hobby would stick.  It’s easy to stick with running when you’re setting PRs and running on rainbows and happiness, but my commitment to and love of running was well and truly tested this year…and I passed the test.  I ran over 800 miles from April – December, learned to embrace summer running, and changed up my routine and strategy again and again to keep myself motivated and improving.

2016 wasn’t a fun year for me and running, but we learned how to take a healthy break (with my hamstring injury), keep things interesting (add in cross training), and stay committed (during the hot hot summer, haha).  The honeymoon may be over, but our relationship is stronger than ever – and I can’t wait to see where we go in 2017 :)_DSC0445

Merry Christmas!

I don’t post on weekends, so this is an early Merry Christmas from me! We’ll be heading down to my mom’s place for a day or two to celebrate with sister J and mom! I think ice skating, gingerbread cookies, and a Christmas service are on the agenda.

But before we get into the fun, I know this holiday may bring on mixed feelings for some of you – this time of year can feel hectic, sad, disappointing, or even sometimes maddening (see: crazy relatives).  And that’s confusing when the world tells us that Christmas is a time of happiness and joy and we don’t know how to find it in ourselves or those around us.

So I just wanted to share a reminder that Jesus came to bring us peace, love and fullness of joy. If you feel like you’re not enough, He provides strength where we are weak and in God’s eyes, you are more than enough! If you feel lonely, your creator is reaching for you and longs to pick you up or walk beside you. If you feel sad, he feels your pain and grief and offers comfort.  If you feel stressed, he offers a spot to sit, rest, and be strengthened by his presence.

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Source: wiirocku.tumblr.com

I haven’t kept up with my devotions this year, but I downloaded the First5 app yesterday and am making it a priority to sit and rest with God a few minutes each morning going into this holiday season.  If you’re looking for a practical, applicable (and easy!) way to spend time with God, try the app with me :)

Gratitude Wednesday

I was thinking about what to post today when I came across this post from Fit Bottomed Girls, and given the holiday tomorrow, a gratitude challenge sounded perfect :) Here are 20 things I’m grateful for right now, in no particular order.

  1. Sleep – it is so amazing to be able to fall asleep quickly (without meds!) and sleep 7-9 hours consistently every night, now that my thyroid levels have stabilized.  Given my long history with insomnia and recent hyperthyroidism diagnosis earlier this year, I’ll never take quality sleep for granted, and it’s truly an answer to many desperate prayers over the years.
  2. Mike – we’ve been together for nearly 10 years now, and it’s been so fun to go through different stages of life together – early adulthood, transitioning into working life, and lately, thinking about what comes next for our family.  He’s been there for me in all the crises of the past couple of years and I’m incredibly grateful for his support and love :)
  3. Family – ditto! I’m so grateful to have strong relationships with my sister and brother, and my relationship with my mom has improved in the past year.
  4. This blog – I’ve been on and off the blog the past year or so, but it’s so great to have this creative outlet to turn to, and I love interacting with the amazing blogger community.
  5. My faith – I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I want to get out of life and trying to rearrange my time and resources to match those priorities.  One of the big ones is a closer relationship with God, and He’s really been meeting me in the small steps I’ve taken towards Him lately.
  6. A healthy body – I’m so grateful to have this body that can run, jump, lift weights and do all sorts of amazing things.  I know I’ve gained some weight from my thyroid pills, but that doesn’t change the fact that my body is beautiful, strong and capable of enduring the challenges I put it through ;)
  7. An awesome project group I truly dreaded the group project aspect of my current class when I saw it on the syllabus, but I found a great group that has made this term project easy and fun.  The project isn’t due till early December, but one teammate finished coding the model and the other has written most of the final paper already, so we’re nearly done!
  8. My job It’s easy to forget what a blessing work is, but I’m grateful to have a wonderful job with great hours, decent pay, and a short commute.
  9. Supportive coworkers – My coworkers are incredibly hard-working guys and a joy to work with.  They were also concerned about me during my illness and covered for me during medical appointments.  I’m much younger than they are (by 30+years), so they’ve also been an invaluable source of advice for all my questions ranging from gardening to fixing appliances to house hunting.
  10. A warm house – with the cooler weather finally here, I love coming home to our warm house and cuddling with the cats while watching TV.  Can’t wait to turn on the fireplace when the temps drop a little more.
  11. Cooler running weather – in direct opposition to the above, lol – I’ve always been a cold weather runner; the cold makes me feel energized.  30s and 40s are my happy place!
  12. Bonding with my small group and church community – more community was one of my big prayer requests going into this year, and I’m so happy that our small group has grown closer together through activities, group texts, and more time together.  They’re such a great group!
  13. Time with friends – We’ve spent a lot of time reconnecting with distant friends and family this year through trips and visits as well as hanging out nearly every week with local friends.  I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to maintain relationships with our close friends from high school and college.
  14. New Glycerins ;) This will be my 4th pair! Runners know it’s no small thing to find a shoe that fits well, doesn’t hurt or cramp your feet, and provides comfort and cushioning mile after mile.
  15. Margin in life – I’m thankful for healthy finances that allow us to give generously and save for future needs, and more energy (see #1) and time to spend with people.
  16. Xtend Barre – I went to another Circuit7 class last night and left with wobbly limbs and a huge smile on my face.  Sometimes a new activity is all you need to reboot your fitness mojo.
  17. Our new dining table – the bigger surface area has been a HUGE improvement over our small round table.  It’s been perfect for scrapbooking, other projects and homework/work, and I can’t wait to host some friends!
  18. My mom moving to Richmond – it’s been so great to have her less than 2 hours away! I was able to spend her bday with her for the first time in many years this year.
  19. New running headphones! My old yurbuds broke 3 weeks ago, and I’ve been running with a spare skullcandy pair that I had lying around the house.  Well, sports headphones make a big difference – the skullcandies kept falling out of my ears and the sound got crackly as my ears got sweaty.  I finally ordered a pair of new yurbuds and did a happy dance when they arrived yesterday :)
  20. More time with Lucy – it’s been over 2 months since we went to the vet and found out that our cat might have lung cancer (or possibly just asthma), and while her coughing fits (and messes on carpet) continue, she’s still so happy most of the time and eating well.  We don’t know when we’ll have to say goodbye, but I’m just happy to spend a little more time with my beloved cat.

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    Source: Quote Fancy

What’s one thing you’re grateful for this year?

5 Things I’ve Learned From This Training Cycle

I mentioned last week and earlier this week that I’m no longer training for Richmond (half or marathon). The truth is, the summer was so busy and my training cycle stretched out to the point where I lost the motivation to continue training. After several missed workouts in a row and weeks of low mileage, I decided to push the half to next year and just focus on cross-training and find consistency in working out again.

That said, this was not a wasted training cycle – there’s something to be learned from every period of training, including incomplete ones ;) Here’s a few things I learned from my Jul-Oct training cycle.

1. My body does best running 5 days a week
Let’s face it, this is the second time I’ve tried Hanson’s and the second time that I’ve gotten really run down around 6 weeks in. For some reason, running 6 days a week feels really great for my joints but just wipes out my immune system, so I’m going to stick with 5 run days during marathon/half training and 3-4 run days during off seasons.
2. I need shorter training cycles
This felt like the never-ending training cycle – I think part of the problem was that my base-building period prior to starting marathon training felt a lot like marathon training, in that I was running 5 days a week with a long run, tempo, and speedwork. For future off-seasons, I’m going to limit running to 4 days a week with shorter long runs and incorporate more cross-training for fun. I think that will prevent running burnouts, and I’m going to hold to a 16 week marathon training cycle (should be plenty as long as I maintain the ability to run an 8-10 mile long run during off season).
3. Heat training isn’t all that bad
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but looking back, I didn’t mind running in hot weather this summer. As long as I was prepared to adjust my paces/ intensity and carried plenty of water, all my runs felt pretty good and I felt pretty hard core running in 80+ temps. That said, running in 40-60 degrees is still my happy range :D
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4. I need to start beating the blerch again
You know the blerch, right? That little voice that tells you to go back to bed, skip a run and get some rest, catch up on a little TV, enjoy a lazy Saturday morning? Well, I listened to the blerch a little too often this summer, resulting in missed runs and low mileage weeks. Next cycle, I’m going to find a more consistent routine and find ways to keep myself motivated with my eyes on the prize…and not on my comfy bed ;)
5. This older body needs more yoga
I seriously neglected yoga this training cycle, and my legs and hips really suffered as a result. I’m going to start finding time for yoga again, and hopefully it’ll stay in my routine when marathon training starts next year!

Why I’ve Stuck With Running

I’ve been running fairly regularly since I started training for my first race in 2012, and 4.5 years is by far the longest I’ve stuck with any sport. I was raised to value mental pursuits over physical, and while my mom didn’t let me quit piano till college, she readily let me drop basketball (HAHA) and track, which were followed by brief stints in crew and taekwondo in college. So how or why have I stuck with running for so long?

If I’m being honest, there have been several moments over the past few years when I’ve considered “breaking up” with running and finding a new activity/sport because I got bored or felt slow or wanted my Saturday mornings back ;) Whenever that happens, I try to think about why I run and want to continue running. This is the list I came up with the other day:

1. Running is fun for me – this is the #1 reason I keep running. Summer or winter, rain or shine, I still enjoy most of my runs and feel like a rockstar at the end. It’s not easy to get out of bed and go for a run first thing in the morning, but remembering how great it feels once I’m running helps me get out there.

2. Running gives me identity – While the core of my identity is my standing as a child of God, I’m also a big believer in the idea that the more traits you identify with, the more stable you are when your world is rocked. I NEVER thought of myself as a sporty or physically capable person before I started running, so it still gives me a thrill to say “I’m a marathon runner” in conversations. Identity also gives you ground on which you can connect with others – I love talking with others about their favorite running paths, races, and training experiences.

3. Running makes me gritty – I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast on grit while running last week; grit is the character trait of determination or stick-to-it-ivness that comes in handy for many events in life. Like I said earlier, I’ve quit plenty of things before, but I’ve stuck with running for a while and it’s taught me how to stick with something even when the going gets tough and how to maintain passion past the initial rush of interest. I can’t prove that grit has translated to other areas of my life though, haha.

4. Running makes me feel good about my body – I know I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but I really think one of the best antidotes to my inner negative body talk is exercise. I don’t always lose weight while running, but I do always gain appreciation (see what I did there?) for what my body is capable of and it helps me see my body as beautiful and strong.

5. Running has many aspects to seek improvement – Improvement and progress in something really help me to stick to an activity/hobby, and there are so many ways to improve in running! In different seasons, I find myself working on endurance, speed, hill strength, my mental game, consistency, form, or even exploring different trails. There are so many ways to track and see progress and keep running from getting boring.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with quitting (look at my track record!), and sometimes quitting is the smart thing to do to free yourself up for something you want to do more. But I’ve also invested a lot of time (and $$) in running over the past couple of years and I’m not ready to give it all up just yet :)

Lucy

This is my cat Lucy.DSC02835.JPG

In the fall of 2009, we went to the animal shelter to find a companion for our first cat Buster. While we saw several nice cats, my decision was made for me when Lucy walked into the room, promptly jumped onto my lap, and started purring. She’s been my cat ever since – following me around from room to room and sitting on my lap when I’m at my desk, on the couch, or even at the dinner table.  She got used to Mike and loves him too, but from day 1, she’s been my cat.0119150723.jpg

On a Thursday night two weeks ago, we made an impromptu decision to take her to the vet because she had been throwing up more than usual and had lost a bit of weight. I figured that she was developing a sensitive stomach as an older cat and thought the vet would tell us to feed her a different type of kibble. The vet took a few xrays and did some bloodwork to see if she could determine what was going on. She brought us back to the labwork area later that evening to point out a light-colored mass in Lucy’s lungs, and asked to send it to a radiologist for a diagnosis.

Friday afternoon, the vet called me with the one word you never you want to hear: cancer.

I was a mess for the next couple of days, and even took a little time off work because I couldn’t hold it together.  I stopped running because I couldn’t muster the energy and spent time cuddling her on the couch instead (she quickly got tired of all the attention, lol).  The truth is, I know Lucy is an animal and I’ve dealt with loss and grief on a far bigger scale – but somehow the loss of a beloved pet who’s been my companion for most of my 20s (and who’s been a comfort during some of the toughest periods of my life) is incredibly difficult to face.  1219151419a.jpg

We’ve decided not to pursue treatment (there’s also a slim chance it’s not cancer, but we won’t know without more expensive tests) and just keep her comfortable and happy as long as we can, especially since she looks quite healthy right now.  I’m also going to stop grieving her (in the words of Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet!”) and enjoy her company as long as I can.1124142122~2.jpg

I’ll be back with more #runchat next week, but this has been what’s on my heart and mind for the last couple of weeks.  Thanks for letting me share.

One Simple Change to My Day

After a difficult start to the year where my running or non-running was all over the place, my training over the past 5 weeks has gotten the most consistent it’s been since 2012 (the year I first started running – I stuck religiously to my training plan, haha).  Aside from resting my foot last week, I haven’t skipped a single planned run! I’m seeing improvements in my endurance and speedwork much faster than I have in the past after a break from running, and I think it’s all due to one small change in my routine – waking up a little earlier before my run.

My usual routine used to go as follows: wake up around 6 AM, get dressed, pull on my sneakers and head out the door. I often didn’t feel really mentally prepared or excited for the run, and a few times I ran about half a mile before calling it quits and heading back home. The mental aspect is 90% of your running game, and I just didn’t feel ready when I started my run. More recently, I didn’t even make it that far – many mornings I ended up hitting snooze and attempted my run in the afternoon after work. I’m all about flexibility and training when you can, but the afternoon running was hit-or-miss for me and I really wanted to get back into the habit of running in the morning.

So about a month ago, I decided to make one small change to my routine – I set my alarm 15 min earlier to give myself time to eat a small snack and drink coffee/ hydrate before my run. I also used the time to water my plants, get other small chores done and read a few running blogs/ Runner’s World for motivation before heading out the door.

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The sage and kale are really sprouting!

To my surprise, I found myself really looking forward to this morning routine and I haven’t missed a single morning run since I started it. Over a couple of weeks, I’ve slowly moved up my alarm to 5:15, giving myself a solid 30 min to get ready before my run and additional time afterwards for stretching/ planks. My body’s gotten so used to it that I often wake up a few minutes prior to my alarm.

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Iced coffee with almond milk and a little sugar, plus a Korean crunchy grain roll snack

My morning down time really prepares me in many ways for my run; drinking coffee 30 min prior to running ensures it kicks in and I get a chance to use the bathroom, I have plenty of time to digest a small snack to fuel me, and it gives me time to think about my goals for the run and mentally rehearse the tricks I might need to keep going during a tough workout. An additional bonus – I sleep better and earlier at night because I’m tiring myself out early and not working out close to bedtime.

So if you’re struggling with your morning runs or finding that the afternoons/evenings aren’t an ideal time to work out, try revamping your morning routine/ wake-up to make space for a little down time before your workout. You might not need a solid half hour as I do; even 5-10 min could make a difference in finding motivation and mentally preparing yourself for the run.

What time of day do you work out? Do you go right away (after waking up or coming home) or need time to mentally prepare?