The Middle

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In January, I committed to my health in two important ways. The first, registering for yoga teacher training and training for a half-marathon.

The two journeys started on their own path but like many things in life, they are starting to support and combat one another.

Somewhere deep down (very, very deep down) I have missed running. I didn’t miss training indoors on the dreadmill or repetitive loops around the track. I didn’t miss battling Mother Nature’s elements either, but I did miss the routine and the build running programs offers. One week you’re absolutely certain there is no physical way your body can run more than six miles and a month later you’re running ten miles. I’m still in the “Ten miles, no way!” camp of training but I can see a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Yoga teacher training is a completely different discipline and I’ve embraced my role as a student. I’ve completed four of the ten weekends of teacher training and my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m energized, humbled and intimated. Some weeks I’m more committed than others. New yoga pants have been purchased but a solid daily meditation practice? Not so much.

You know that feeling when you’re on a long road trip? You’ve burned through the trail-mix, looking forward to the next state but you’re not sure how and when you’ll ever reach your final destination? Is the final destination the best part or is it the trip itself? Does it matter?

Too literal of an analogy?

Even so, that’s where I am. The trail-mix will do but, didn’t we just eat that an hour ago? Each state is better than the last and how did I not know that Idaho was this beautiful? Where are we going again? Will I even know when we’ve arrived? I’m in the middle and by definition, the middle is the messiest. If not the messiest, it certainly feels the most confined.

This type of nonsensical question-asking is just the sort of the thing The Middle loves, I assume.

What does The Middle feel like?

A little yoga 101, there are eight limbs of yoga (we’re familiar with the third limb asanas, postures). The second limb are the Niyamas which are moral codes that guide us toward positive behavior. They are principles that help us live our yoga practice on and off of the mat. The third Niyama is tapas meaning, discipline and “burning enthusiasm.” Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away “impurities” physically, mentally and emotionally, and paves the way to our true greatness. It’s the fieriness that gets our heart pumping, heightens our desire for personal growth.

Pretty intense, right? And that’s where I am right now.

For me, yoga has also become the “insulation to my live wire.”

Another tool in my toolbox to pull out when my thoughts get the best of me. The practice helps me pause and ask “Is this situation worthy of an emotional, intense, dramatic reaction?” The discipline has helped me stay present and recognize that emotions are not something to push through, but rather embrace and honor.

It is not a magic bullet, an easy pill or the means to an end. It’s intense to see real physical change and recognize the path to personal growth. I’m constantly worried I’ll slip back into bad habits or behavior patterns. Or that I’m a fraud or undeserving. I’m worried state of vulnerability is fleeting and over time, my shell will build back up.

We tend to be comfortable with the end result. We love the before and after. We love to know about the process to transformation but please, just give me an overview and a path to follow. Boxes to check until I can check the biggest box, the end result! Rarely do we pause and reflect on the true discipline personal transformation requires. Or, at least I rarely paused.

Since this reflection is truly about the middle and the transformation might only be significant to me, there’s really no ending. Only comfort in knowing we can make small incremental changes. They matter to our physical and mental health, our families, friends and community. Or maybe they don’t, maybe they’ll just matter to you and to me and that’s alright too.

Inside the mind of a runner at racetime

pre-race-selfie

Yesterday, I ran the Lucky Leprechaun 7k. For those of you wondering how long that is in miles, I can tell you it’s not four miles as I had assumed, it’s actually 4.35 miles. This is important later on.

Also, it’s the first race I’ve run this year, and even the first race I’ve run since last year’s Ragnar Relay in June. So, I was a bit nervous.

Okay, really nervous.

But I did something I’ve never done before. Before the race, I sat in my car and frantically typed out all my pre-race thoughts as I waited to go line up with the others. And after the race I quickly jotted down a lot of the things I remembered thinking throughout the race. I’ll recap some of my post-race reflections at the end, but I thought it’s about time you see the mental mind f***ery that happens to me before and during races.

Spoiler alert: I am not cool and collected. I am a big baby.

Enjoy!

………………..

[Before the race]

It’s 9:28. I just got my packet, went to the bathroom (the lovely porta potty option), and then I walked back to my car to keep warm until the start of the race.

Nerves are really getting to me. It’s just four miles. I’ve done this distance a million times.

But it’s a race. And races have timers. And it’s not MY running path. And it’s one more marker of how much I’ve progressed since I last ran a race. Spoiler…probably not much. My last race was ragnar relay last June. Almost a year ago.

Breathe.

These pants are ridiculous. But at least Jake can find me in the sea of green and black runners.

Stop being nervous.

Is my stomach going to cramp from that yogurt I had an hour ago? It was Jake’s yogurt. I wish I had my yogurt. I should have saved one for today instead of bringing it for lunch on Thursday.

Don’t let it be windy.

It’s just four miles. I will be FINE!

Oh my god. It’s only 9:34! Why is time crawling like a snail? It’s cold. Those people already lining up are crazy. Go be warm for a bit.

I wish I could have that beer now.

I’m parked on a hill. Does this call for using my emergency brake?

Those guys have shorts and a t-shirt on. I’ll be fine. If I run hard I’ll warm up in no time.

These race t-shirts are sweet! Not running sweet. They’re cotton. But the material is that thin cotton material. Perfect for wearing later today.

I’ll be like, “Yeah I did that. (Pounds chest) you wanna go?”

What is this, west side story? I’m not going to fight anyone. Also no one is going to notice my shirt.

OMG. First banana costume sighting. Yes!! It’s not a race until you see the guy in the banana costume.

I should get my stuff pinned on.

[And then I raced out of my car back to the registration booth because I completely forgot that I had no pins to put on my race bib with tracker]

……..

[During the race – mile 1]

Adrenaline. Yes! You are my friend. I am totally conquering this hill. Bring it!

Whew. Okay. That’s fine. Catching my breath.

Oh. Another hill. Come on adrenaline! Okay it’s gone already? F*** this hill. I can’t believe I’m walking up half of it. Whatever! It’s steep and I was running really hard.

Okay. Gotttttt this.

[During the race – mile 2]

Ha! I didn’t even see the mile marker. I was that “in the zone.”

Another hill? Okay. I can do this. It’s not as steep. Holy sh** it goes forever! F*** this hill.

I’m good. It’s fine. I’ve only walked twice. It was totally necessary.

Water stop! Halfway point? Oh there’s the two mile marker. Nice. Two more miles is nothing.

[During the race – mile 3]

Just focus on the next three songs. Just get through mile 3.

What is this song? No. I need GOOD songs. Skip! Skip! Skip! Okay. I can deal with that. Ugh. Should have made a playlist.

I feel like I’m hitting 10-min miles. I mean those first two were fast. I bet it averages out to 10 min miles.

3 mile marker! Almost there!

[During the race – mile 4 to finish]

Quick walk before I finish up the last mile.

1 mile is so easy. It’s like going from the park back to the house. Easy peezy!

Downhills? It’s about god damn time!

Second song. Okay two more songs. Ugh, getting tired. But it’s just two songs! You’re so close.

Third song come on  be good! Masterpiece by Jesse J? This is perfect.

Omg I’m tired. I seriously can’t breathe.

Sing. Sing to the lyrics! The finish is  just around these trees.

Oh sh**! It’s not there! Oh no the song is done. What? That was three songs? Where is the finish.

F***, it’s so far away. Omg I just want to walk. What loser walks a third of the mile before the finish? Just do it!

15 seconds. Walk fast. Okay go!

Everything hurts. Oh god, I hope nobody saw me walk.

I’m almost there! Push it!

I can not push it.

[Looked up to see the time on the clock: 10:47:55]

…okay. That’s okay. No ten-minute mile but it’s on the range I predicted.

Omg. I need to catch my breath.

Walk. Go to Lefs. Find Jake. Chug that beer!

………………..

[Recap of the race]

I did better than I expected. The weather was nice. It was only four miles. I met up with Jake, had my green beer and then we continued on with the day.

I was able to pull up the post-race results on my phone when I stopped for gas, and it was at this point that I saw I was under an 11-minute mile, not closer to a 12-minute mile like I originally thought.

race-results

So that was my feel-good for the day. My calves were killing me. My back was (and still is) seriously messed up. But it was a good check in on how well I’ve kept up my running and fitness goals over the long winter.

The next time  you’re thinking about running a race, don’t ever be intimidated by the other runners you see. Because most likely, they have their own thing going on in their head. For me, the race is about checking off a box and being able to say, “I did it!” And my hope is that the next time I race, those negative thoughts will start to turn into positive thoughts. Something along the lines of, “I’m killing it!”

So now you know what it’s like inside the mind of a runner. Go sign up for a race and don’t forget to wear fun pants!

Past the point of “young and reckless” but I totally get what you’re saying

I’m in the middle of another hectic week. And I’m resorting to my best bad mood lifter – music.

Speaking of which, is anyone else a little embarrassed about how much they love Taylor Swift? Well, once again she comes out with a song that is catchy and honest and even pokes a little fun at herself.

I kind of feel like another Taylor when it comes to admitting this. Yes. Taylor Wolfe over at the Daily Tay says it best.

Alright, well before we move on, just go watch Taylor Swift’s new video, “Blank Space.”

 

Now for the dissection. Get your scalpels out, and put on those latex gloves because this is going to get messy.

First off – I know on the surface level this song is really a big disclaimer for all of her past and future relationships. DUH.

But let me lay this on you: This is also a metaphor for the success in her life. She’s going to be crazy and passionate and write about crappy breakups. She’ll bear her sole, she’ll rip herself and others to shreds. She’ll make enemies. She’ll be the media darling. She’ll be poetic and she’ll be basic. She’ll be all of those things and she’ll serve it up on a platter that makes it REALLY hard to turn your back on, because deep down you see sides of her that you are too scared to show, yourself. She speaks for the crazy in all of us.

There. I said it!

Second – Can we all just admit that she has a knack for storytelling. Yes, I consider what she does to be storytelling. Here’s my favorite part of the song:

But the worst is yet to come
Oh no
Screaming, crying, perfect storms
I could make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like oh my god
Who is she? I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Oh the fire, in this one! I bolded the lines that were especially delicious. I mean, I’ve never been this kind of a girl, but I love imagining a character like this. So vicious when you cross her. This is definitely giving me some ideas for that book I’m working on (I swear this isn’t another post about NaNoWriMo).

Third – If ONLY I could react to bad news the way she does. This would be the week for it. Vases of roses flying. Lots of mascera-smeared tears while I cackle widely to no one in particular. I could really use some of that consequence-free, emotion-fueled rampage for just a bit.

But alas, I’m no longer young and reckless (as she claims she is in this song). I’m a grown, sort-of responsible adult. And I can’t lash out when things don’t go in my favor.

Coping mechanisms.

Okay, these past two weeks could have gone more smoothly, but I can get past this. I have my tried and true coping mechanisms.

  1. Running: A good run and some punk music usually do the trick. I think this evening is very deserving of one.
  2. Writing: Oh look! Here I am, blogging on HBD. Check and check.
  3. Music: We covered Taylor Swift extensively, above. Other good songs I’m into this week include: Pitbull’s “Fireball,” an interesting cover of “The One that I want” (ignore the video itself, it’s a weird Chanel video…just focus on the fact that it’s an amazing “Grease” cover), and an oldie but a goodie, Michael Jackson’s “Scream“.

This too shall pass

I’m not going to get really deep and talk about how “We’re only on this earth for so long and it’s pointless to waste so much energy on unpleasant events that are so fleeting” but I kind of believe that. So while I get lost in the music, pick out my running clothes and hit publish on this post, I’d be interested to hear what your coping mechanisms are.

Cheers, friends!

Happy…but tired…but happy

 

I call this one, "Sanctuary."

I call this one, “Sanctuary.”

I had great intentions of writing a more in-depth post about some things rumbling around in my head, lately, but it’s takes too much energy and this week has me spent. Anyone else feeling like that?

So here’s a quick run down of some things that make me happy

Note: I’m purposely not adding friends and family because this list would get really long, but ya’ll know who you are that make me happy.

  1. Puppies. Especially those named after Seinfeld characters. RIP Uncle Leo!
  2. Red Moscato wine. Call me trashy, I don’t care!
  3. My green blanket
  4. Running
  5. Writing
  6. Watching cartoons with my son
  7. Netflix bingeing with my hubby
  8. Any form of baking with apples – Apple crisp or applesauce anyone?
  9. Disney princesses (and Disney movies, in general), there I said it!
  10. The show, Once Upon a Time. Don’t judge!
  11. Getting a jump start on the day. Alarm goes off at 4:45. Time to rise and shine! (and pass out at 9pm, promptly)
  12. Beyonce.
  13. This short clip of Jackson showing off his half yoga/half bodybuilder skills at my cousin’s wedding.

There’s a lot more, per usual, but I think that’s a pretty good list for now. Anything weird or funny make you happy today? Share it in the comments below!

Happy Sunday night, everyone.

TBT: Memories from when we ran but didn’t consider ourselves “runners.”

If you run, consider yourself a runner. Scratch that – call yourself a runner. Hold your head up high and declare “I’m a runner!” Here, we take a look back at what running was like before we became the runners we are today.

2011 Rock n Sole 10K

Lindsay’s Take…

My favorite shoes are running shoes

Everyone can run. If you have shoes and can find a path, you can run. I started running three years ago in over-the-counter running shoes and ill-fitting yogaesk pants. Remember when they were cropped and flared? When I registered for my first half-marathon, I knew “real” running shoes were in order. Have you ever gone to a concert and fallen in love with the band? Earlier that day you really didn’t get what all the fuss was about now, after that amazing live experience, you’re their biggest fan. That’s what it feels like to get outfitted for running shoes. Oh, that’s what it feels like to run on pillows of air. Oh, my ankles are not supposed to turn this way and that? I may be running in clearance Target gear but I’ll never run in cheapo running shoes – worth every dollar.

To track or not to track

When I started to run, I manually tracked my progress by checking off the workouts on Hal Higdon’s running schedules. If, like me, you love to check off boxes on a never-ending to do list, this can be a helpful tool. But, as time progressed, I needed more stats to obsess over so I checked out Map My Run. I loved to map my runs. This is before FitBit and all that jazz so I manually (manually!) calculated my pace. Fast forward to the introduction of Nike Running apps (cue angels singing) – I’m not ashamed to call myself a tracking addict. This baby lets me know how many calories I’ve burned. It has built-in training programs and offers generic virtual coaching messages. It’s amazing how helpful generic coaching messages can be when you’re ready to throw in the towel. “HALFWAY POINT. KEEP GOING.” Ok, robot voice, I’ll keep going. Thank you robot voice.

Feed me, I’m rungry

It’s so easy to overeat after a long run. Here are a few dos and don’ts:

Do: eat a lot of protein.

Don’t: eat five servings of chili and cornbread.

Do: drink a lot of water.

Don’t: drink a lot of beer

Do: treat yourself to a cookie. You just ran!

Don’t: eat a lot of cookies and doughnuts.


Some races will really suck

After a successful run, I want to literally give myself a high-five. Yes! I did it! I can conquer my day with a big ol’ smile. Bad training runs are annoying at best and at worst, painful. A bad race? That’s another story. Weather, timing and anxiety can make a so-so race experience turn bad in no time. My worst race (to date) was the 2012 Crazylegs. The weather was dreary, that hill was insane and it kicked my ass. I ran fast to keep up with my friends and in the end, ended up walking a lot and  beat myself up mentally. Then, I got passed by someone in a banana suit. Awesome. Jamie, correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we both been passed by people in banana suits during races? Now, after experiencing highs and lows during training and come race day, I can push through and tell myself to do my best and not to get to wound up about the experience. That’s the beauty of running – if you have the courage to fail you have the courage to succeed!

Lakefront Discovery Run

Jamie’s Take…

It’s been eleven years since I first started running. There have been many ups and many downs, and years when I flat out didn’t run at all. The running part has never gotten easier with age, but a lot has changed since I first started out. Let’s take a trip down memory lane….

Discman:  When was the last time you heard that word? You probably dropped that vernacular as soon as you started handing over your paychecks to the bank of “All Things Apple.” But yes, there was a time before iPads and iPhones and iPods and Nanos. It was a simpler time. It was a bumpier time. It was the time of the discman. This was in the early internet ages when you could download songs and burn them to a cd…but it would take about 5 hours to complete the whole process. And why would someone want to do that? Because that’s how you listened to music on the go. The real challenge with this? Holding your discman in the exact right way so that the songs wouldn’t skip. Think of how annoying it is to hold a water bottle during your run. Now imagine the water bottle is a cup and you’re trying not to spill it…over miles and miles. That’s just about how annoying it was to run with a discman. But it was WAY better than running without music. So we put it up with.

WAY too much cotton: Unfortunately, the time in which Lindsay and I started running was the age of the “cool” sweatpants. This was right when Juicy couture was becoming popular and J Lo was rocking the velour sweatsuit. It looked cool. But that was an awful workout experience. As a Junior in college, this translated into wearing your college sweatpants or something from Victoria Secret with “PINK” on the butt. Sure, you could pull out your Umbro shorts that you used in gym class, but that wasn’t what the cool kids wore to the gym. Pair that with a cotton t-shirt, your normal cotton socks, and cotton underwear, and you were ready to workout to the point where you looked like a middle-aged man just leaving a steamy sauna. Not a pretty sight. This is also referred to as the “Age of Chafing.”

Garmin Shmarmin: The conversation would go something like this:

Me: Wow, I just ran four miles!

Lindsay: How do you know?

Me: I drove the path yesterday and watched my odometer.

Lindsay: Nice. Can we drive what I just ran? I went from here down to the DQ, up through the park, and over to First and back.

Me: Sure. And then let’s stop at Erbs and Gerbs on the way back. I’m starving.

Lindsay: Ohhhh. While we’re over there, let’s go tanning.

Me: Yes. And then a stop at the liquor store?

Lindsay: Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me!

One thing was for sure, we had our priorities straight. But this is how you figured out your true running distance – you drove it. This was back before you had garmin or mapmyrun.com and any other easily -accessed technology.

The gear doesn’t make the runner…but it sure helps. A hardcore runner might think, “This is all just stuff…you can run with or without any of this.” I totally agree. In fact, I step out of my corporate job, toss my heels to the side and am fine running miles and miles in my pencil skirt, non-supportive bra, tights and accessories…said no one ever. But let’s get real. I’m a wimp. And anything that can make my run more comfortable and enjoyable, is one more thing that will keep me running in the long run.

So I give thanks to my iphone that rests on my arm during my runs, to my dri fit clothes and anti-wicking garments that destroy all forms of chafing, and to technology that allows me to accurately track my whereabouts and keeps me accountable.

Acceptance is the first step in order to fall in love with your passions

 

How do you respond to the request “Tell me a little about yourself.”?

Typically, I launch into a 30 second elevator pitch – checking off accomplishments and current status. Went to school (insert school), work in (insert industry), which means (explain industry/company/role) and I live (city/neighborhood) with (self/people/family). Blah.

Last week at a work dinner, I was asked to “Tell my story.” As I launched into my typically story – bullet points about my past – I was interrupted and asked a series of follow-up questions. Many, many follow-up questions. It was a great way to get a few laughs at the dinner table and a memorable way to get to know someone deeper. Sure, I played tennis in school, but he wanted to know if I enjoyed it now. Throughout this line of questioning, he correctly deciphered that I enjoy running and loved cooking shows. It was a great way to get to get the answer: “What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?”

A hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for fun. I’ve dipped my toe into various hobbies but rarely do I dive in and give it my all. I rarely experience the reward in learning a new skill. I have a dusty sewing machine, almost-new knitting needles, half-assed attempts at calligraphy and boxing gloves. I’m not even certain how the boxing gloves made it into my closet.

The point is, we’ve all latched onto some craze or felt a surge of energy when trying something new. I enjoy learning about new subjects. I’ve checked out sewing books from the library and signed up for online calligraphy classes with little to show for the investment in time and money. It’s frustrating and annoying. Why do I bother to explore hobbies when the majority of them fail? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? Why am I stressing out about my calligraphy form? I’m sure someone could analyze the reasons why but I’ll take a stab in the dark and assume it’s because I think it’s easier. Easier to not try verses try and fail.

It’s easier…but not fun. Or fulfilling. Over the past year, I’ve experienced personal success with running. It took me months to even call myself “a runner.” It took me even longer to realize how much I truly love the sport. With every new investment – running shoes, race fees, clothing – I questioned my intentions and commitment level. Would this be “worth it” in the end? Ultimately, I experienced some level of “mom-guilt.” Everyone (EVERYONE) tells you to take time for yourself but, is this too much time? Too much focus on my needs and wants? Regardless of someone’s definition of “too much,” I fell in love with running and now consider it to not only be one of  my hobbies but, one of my passions.

Rather than skim the surface of my loves: running, yoga, writing…what would happen if I took a leap to really give it my all? The risk of failure is greater but the reward is sweeter (Jamie hits this point in another post). Ragnar gave me a taste into the pay-off of training. Now what?

In order to keep myself accountable, I joined my gym’s yoga/running program. Our class instructor sends out a weekly running schedule and healthy recipe. Each Saturday morning we get together for a group yoga class and go on a run. I was hesitant to sign up for this program because of the investment. It’s not expensive but, am I willing to wake up early every Saturday in order to run? Am I willing to make up these runs even if I’m out of town?

My goal is to continue running on a regular basis – regardless of race schedule. Plain and simple.This program combines my three fitness “loves” – running, weight training and yoga into one. How could I resist?

Getting “into” something takes guts and can sometimes be read as selfish. Who cares what others think. Just go for it and take the shot.

Tackling Ragnar: A Q&A Session to Get to the Heart of It All

Team shot minus one

Ragnar Relay team shot minus one

View our slideshow at the end of this post. Photos from members of Team 171.

Just this past weekend, Lindsay and I ran and finished our first Ragnar Relay.

What is a Ragnar Relay?

Glad you asked. In the Ragnar Relay Series, teams of 12 people run 36 legs, totaling a 200-mile relay over two days and one night. The relay we participated in started in Madison, Wisconsin and ended in Chicago, Illinois. Both Lindsay and I totaled around 15 miles each, spread out over three legs, in less than 24 hours. In total, it took our team 30 hours and 47 minutes to complete the entire trek down to Chicago.

As this was the first relay race for both of us, we thought we’d put together a look back at our journey and share how we did on the race days. Why? Because we quickly realized that although we both followed similar training plans, and we were working towards the same goals, we had some very different takes on how everything went.

So here is our first Q&A style post to get to the bottom of this experience.

1.  What made you sign up for this race?

Jamie: Lindsay’s good friends did this race last year and said it was a really great experience. Also, I had done a couple half marathons over the past year and was interested in how different this was…nothing like I’d ever seen before. And let’s be honest – I needed a fitness goal before the summer started so this fit perfectly, timing wise.

Lindsay: Last year when my friends signed up for the relay, I had zero interest to join. Running multiple times per day and driving in a van with five other people sounded like a nightmare. Worse, living off of protein bars and bananas sounded like a recipe for crabbiness. But that wasn’t their experience at all. My good friend organized a team and everyone loved the experience.

Combining the individual challenge of running with a team dynamic sounded interesting. Last November, I ran my first half marathon and although I loved it, I didn’t feel the urge to sign up for another this summer. I needed an early summer race on the books to get myself running again. I wanted a challenge.

2.  What was the toughest part of your training?

Jamie: Going into it, I thought the toughest part of the training would be actually running twice in one day. Or doing back-to-back runs from evening to morning. Surprisingly, though, that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was getting done with a Saturday morning run and not having that feeling of “Ahhhh…I can do whatever I want now!”…because you knew you couldn’t just lounge around, eat bad food or have a couple drinks that evening. At least, not until AFTER you had finished your evening run. That was hard for me because I could never just relax, mentally. But little did I know, that was what I was REALLY training for.

Lindsay: I echo Jamie’s initial “fear” of the double-run. It sounded impossible and unappealing. As race day neared, I started to look forward to running at sunrise and sunset. The toughest part of my training was to run multiple days in a row. I typically run every other day due to my severe arthritis. Once a doctor proclaims “You have the knees of a ninety year old!” you can claim “severe arthritis.” Again, that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t able to reach my weekly mileage goals with running alone but I was able to run for three mornings in a row and cross train the other days. Lesson learned: don’t assume you know how far you can stretch yourself. Create a challenging training schedule that works for you.

3.  Do you feel like your training prepared you well for race day?

Jamie: Yes. It’s funny because when you train for a half marathon, a lot of times you’ll never run the full distance until the actual race day…so sometimes you feel skeptical that you’ll actually be able to run that far. With this race, though? It’s amazing how well your body recovers after running each leg and how the next run isn’t as hard as you’ve mentally built it up to be. But again, my longest distance was 6.2 miles. Would I have the same reaction if I had to run the 9-miler leg like some of my team mates? Hmmm. Maybe not.

Lindsay: Short answer: Sort of. Honest answer: This race is about challenging yourself, connecting with your team and conquering the physical and mental challenge of running three times in a day. Physically, I was ready. I thought I was mentally strong, as I pushed through some tough training runs. Two weeks before the race, my first leg course was adjusted from four miles to six. After that news broke, I started to get pre-race jitters that couldn’t quit. Lesson learned: Mind over matter.

4.  What was your overarching view of this race before race day?

Jamie: I had looked at a couple blog posts where other runners had recounted their Ragnar experiences and there seemed to be a lot of pressure to follow the signs posted or you’d get lost. I remember that being my number one concern. Am I going to get lost? What if I miss a sign and head off in the wrong direction? What if a bear jumps out of the woods and eats me during my night run? Other than that, I was just anxious because I had no idea what to expect, having never done something like this.

Lindsay: Somehow, this experience would be fun and worth the effort and expense. Friends and co-workers who ran Ragnar offered good pointers and tips:

  • “Don’t think of Ragnar as a race. It’s a run. A run shared among friends. No one cares about your time.”
  • “Racing and training hurts. Accept this and the rest will be easy.”
  • “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”
  • “Pack your clothes into three separate zip-lock bags. You don’t want to mix clean and dirty running gear.”
  • “Buy compression socks.”
  • “Have fun.”

Lesson (soon-to-be) learned: Expect the unexpected.

5.  Race day – what was the hardest part?

Jamie: First and foremost, the mental anxiety attacks.

It first hit me on my first leg. For the first half mile, it wasn’t just nerves or being excited about this new adventure like I normally felt during races. No – I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because all I could think about was my team waiting for me at the next exchange point. Now, in my mind, they were waiting there and judging my slow-pokiness and wondering why I hadn’t arrived yet.  And after I had a good sob fest under a tree providing the only shade I’d seen on my entire run, I confessed this to them. I was waiting for their disappointment. I was waiting for them to tell me with sympathetic faces, “It’s okay Jamie. We know you tried…right?”

Funny thing is, I was dead wrong. Not only had I run my fastest pace EVER…like…in my life so far…they assured me that this was not a competition against them. This is a race where everyone pulls together as a team. And not the kind of team that’s looking to run any world record races. Even with their encouraging words, though, it still didn’t sink in until my very last leg. And by that point, I had better things to worry about…like the fact that I hadn’t slept in 24 hours.

A close second in what made this race hard was just being “on” all the time. Even when we had the opportunity to relax, my mind was racing with questions like: What do we need to do next? Where do we need to be? Am I going to be able to run with this much Lasagna in my stomach? How much time until I start my next leg? What’s my course like, this time?…etc.

Lindsay: Ding, ding, ding! Jamie hit the nail on the head. The hardest part for me was to get over myself. I was a ball of nerves during the entire first leg. I was running around the lakes of Madison at a decent pace. It was a beautiful experience and I was doing fine physically but, my mind wouldn’t stop crossing over to the negative. Even though I was running a typical pace, I noted a :15 faster pace to my teammates. I cursed myself for not correcting this oversight. As the first runner, I believed that I was setting them up to fail. I was a turtle and kept turning around, assuming that the next wave of runners would soon catch up. This never happened, of course, as I ran a consistent pace and arrived at the finish line with cheers from my friends. As individuals, we all finished a leg (or two or three) faster than anticipated. We all ran great legs and not-so great legs but we all finished with honest-to-God cheers from our friends and complete strangers. Lesson learned: You are a victim of your own mind.

6.  Race day- what was the most rewarding part?

Jamie: On race day, the most rewarding parts were running faster than my normal pace and not dying, being able to connect so deeply with 12 other people experiencing the same things I was (most of whom, I had never met until a week ago), being able to accomplish something so completely outside my comfort zone.

Lindsay: Ragnar is rewarding. The entire “run-drive-sleep?” experience is rewarding. It’s rewarding to pass another runner and say “Nice job runner!” And it’s really rewarding to run, and run strong. One of my favorite runs was during my last leg. At 4:10 am and I was running along Lake Michigan and it felt like home. With only a half of a banana, I was running on empty. Cursing myself for not grabbing an energy chew, I stopped by another Ragnar team van to ask for water. They gave me a bottle and a few blocks later, their runner caught up to me. As I stopped to walk and take a much-needed drink, he asked me if I needed anything. I declined. He told me that he was counting on me to finish. He was counting on me to keep running. In that moment – after running 12 miles and only sleeping for 90 minutes – I whole-heartily believed him. I ran with my heart first and didn’t give a shit how I looked or how I felt. When I finally handed off the slap-bracelet to Jamie, I felt like a champion. Yet, I didn’t even let myself celebrate. I started making jokes about my slow pace and it wasn’t until our amazing captain asked me to stop it. I had just finished Ragnar and who cared if I was slow? Certainly not my team. It’s rewarding to be surrounded by supportive friends and fellow runners and rewarding to finally, FINALLY accept that you are indeed, a runner. Lesson learned: Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Be kind to yourself.

7.  Race day – did anything unexpected happen?

Jamie:  Some good, some bad. First the bad – my sob fest after my first leg. I just wasn’t prepared to be feeling all of those feelings! The good – actually having a pretty “spritely” run after going with out sleep for 24 hours. Who knew? Certainly not this girl.

Lindsay: It was one of the best experiences in my life. I was not expecting that outcome or the following:

  • To laugh, that hard, for that long. From wearing unicorn masks to watching glow-sticks explode in the van. I had a perma-smile from my wonderful teammates and from a lack of sleep
  • To discover that cold deli chicken wings are the perfect post-run snack
  • To bond with my husband, who also ran the race. I loved experiencing this as a couple and feeling the “pain” the next day as we entered reality with a crabby toddler

Lesson learned: Let go and have fun.

8.  What’s your advice for others considering a relay race like this?

Jamie: If you have a good training plan, a super supportive captain, an overall organized approach and a really kick-ass team, you’ll do great. But the hardest part of this isn’t the physical endurance, or the logistics, or the time and energy. It’s the mental endurance that you need to be prepared for. So take a good long look at what kind of a person you are and think about how you handle stress under pressure. Do you retreat? Do you attack it? Do you embrace it? Because this race is not for the faint of heart. If someone would have told me, “For 24 to 36 hours you’re going to feel like you’re entering a meeting where you have to defend everything you stand for and you can’t show an ounce of weakness. Can you handle that?” I probably would have run screaming for the hills. That’s a really long time to sustain that amount of stress. And to me, that’s what Ragnar was. Yes, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and yes it was a success in so many ways, but I’m still trying to process how I feel about it. As I told my team when they asked if I’d be back next year, “Well…you have a year to convince me.”

Lindsay: Great meeting analogy, Jamie! Under normal circumstances, embracing a positive attitude comes naturally for me. Embracing self-doubt also comes naturally for me. Not a good combination. I flexed my mental toughness muscle the best I could but I know it can be stronger. My advice would be to trust your training, join or organize a great team, listen to your captain and make a killer playlist to motivate you through the tough spots. It’s a challenging run regardless of fitness levels due to the mental exhaustion. Keep up with running so training isn’t such a beast. I will run Ragnar again and hope you consider it too!

Lesson learned: You’re stronger than you think you are! Have fun!

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Morning People Have Super Powers

Morning run motivational quote

“The best part of waking up is (a grueling workout followed by coffee that’s better than) Folgers in your cup!”

A couple years ago, I remember hearing this “I’m a morning person” speech from various individuals:

If I don’t work out in the morning, I feel like my whole day is shot. I need to get my endorphins boosted so that I can make it through the rest of the day. I actually find that I’m less hungry when I workout in the morning.

And a couple years ago, I rolled my eyes. I just wanted to turn around and shout, “Quit shoving your ability to be a morning person in my face!” At that point, I liked to sleep in. The thought of waking up at 6am to get ready for work was torture. If I wanted to work out, I was fine doing that after work. I loved going for a walk or run outside —while it was still light out — not something that can often be enjoyed at 5 a.m. I also didn’t love going to the gym during the 5 p.m. rush, but at least I wasn’t alone. On the contrary, the few times I tried to work out in the morning felt like wading through a never-ending sea of molasses. And what’s the point in that?

So I came to the conclusion that morning people were born that way and that how they functioned was supernatural. Maybe it’s similar to how those born left-handed are more likely to be creative. Whatever it was that made them this way, I didn’t have it. Even if I wanted it, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t born that way, right?

Cue movie sequence where a lab accident happens and I become super human

And then at some point, I became supernatural.

In my mind, the transformation would look a lot like the scene where Spiderman inherits his mutant powers: a little spider bite and VOILA! – super human abilities! But I live in reality. And in reality, it was probably more like a lab assistant falling into a vat of icky chemicals, and then slowly over time he transforms into this evil super villain both because of the vat of icky chemicals and the new way of thinking he’s acquired. But then let’s drop the villainy part, and that’s me…plus I have female parts.

In laymen’s terms, what really happened is I had a kid. And to be perfectly clear…yes, I’m comparing that to falling into a vat of icky chemicals because basically that was nine months of torture for me. And like the lab assistant, it didn’t change my state of mind, at first. At first I was just in shock and trying to cope. “Okay my life is different now, no problem, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. Oh I can’t? Okay, adjusting expectations then. And I don’t get to sleep…ever? Okay, REALLY adjusting expectations now.” And so on and so forth.

This is how I basically went from dreading early mornings to building a tolerance for early mornings…because what does it matter when you’re sleep deprived, in general.

Harnessing and growing my super powers

About nine months after little man was born (and some sort of routine was forming), I not only accepted the early mornings and lack of sleep – I started embracing it. And let’s face it, I still had a good 20 pounds to lose and this was the only reasonable time that I could truly call my own. So I started to have thoughts like, “What would it matter to wake up a half hour early and go for a walk before everyone wakes up?”

So I started getting up at 5:30 a.m. and walking around the nearby park and running for a minute or two, every couple minutes. The biggest shocker was that I did this WITHOUT coffee (don’t ask why…it was a silly decision, in retrospect).

Once my activity level increased, I found that I needed a little more time before everyone woke up so that I could get in the miles I was building up to. So then I started waking up at 5:15 a.m. Now I was able to get in a solid three-mile run. It was about this time that I noticed that I wasn’t dragging through the day or feeling ravenously hungry, like I thought I would be.

But let’s not forget about the factors of influence

To be clear, motivation and determination are the primary factors of influence in growing my morning super powers. However, other factors helped get me started and are certainly worth mentioning:

  1.  The temperature. Once the summer hit, getting up in the morning started getting easier because I wasn’t worried about how cold it was. I was actually more concerned about humidity. I then found for the first time ever that I was happy to be working out while it was still dark.
  2. The “Couch-to-5k” training plan. I found a really great mobile app with voice directions that would come through over the music I was playing while running. I found it very important to think as little about running as possible, while I was running. I liked that I could just be told what to do and when, and then go back to being lost in the music.

Other factors, such as comfortable running wear, proper running shoes and a good playlist, can also make your life a lot easier in the morning when you’re debating whether or not to get out of bed.

The final test

I came to a point where I could consistently run three miles. It took a couple months to get there, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to stop. I used to train for half marathons so that seemed to be the next step.

Once the training progressed to four- or five-mile runs, I made the jump to a 5 a.m. wake up time. Again…without coffee. And as any coffee drinker can attest, my running was okay, but still a little bit of that “running through molasses” feeling at times.

So that’s when it happened. To start my day off right, I knew it would be important to have a cup of coffee before my morning run or workout. And one day I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. the next morning and laughed at how ridiculous that was. And these thoughts started swirling through my head, “Clearly, I’ve crossed the line. No one in their right mind can wake up that early, do that many things and still be a productive member of society throughout the day. I will be a zombie. Clearly.”

And the next day, I continued with my plan. Was I a zombie? Of course not. Did I want to dive straight into my bed at 8 p.m.? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my mind.

My super powers…which aren’t really super powers after all

I’m here. I’ve done it. I’ve conquered the world. Okay, maybe not the world, but I’ve conquered the ability to be a morning person.

I can get up way earlier than I ever thought was humanly possible.

  • I can find and harness the motivation and the drive needed to make better choices.
  • I can dig my way out of the sweet syrupy fog of sleep for the betterment of my personal health.
  • I can finally start my day on a positive note.

And most importantly, I can be that super annoying morning person you hate. And I make no apologies for that.

I now know that being a morning person is not easy. Sure, there may be some exceptions for those whom it does come naturally. But for others, it’s a combination of personal circumstances and hard work pushing us forward each and every morning.

Is it still a work in progress? Yes. I no longer have the lack of sleep that I once had, and now have to work harder to get up early each morning. Some days I downright fail. But I know that when I do get up early, it’s always worth it. So I’ll keep trying.

How can you get morning super powers?

Like most goals in life, it’s hard to get started, but once you’ve started, it’s a lot easier to keep going.

  1.  Start slow and keep building on your perceived limits.
  2. Drink coffee. I’m convinced that if you’re not caffeinated…or at least slightly high strung…you’re just plodding through life, at this point.
  3. Have a good reason for getting up, and make sure that reason is so strong that you will have major regrets if you don’t commit.

And if all else fails, fall into a vat of icky chemicals…i.e. have a kid. You will have no choice but to become a morning person.

Good luck!

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I guess when you're 34 an ideal morning is getting up early, working out, brewing coffee and looking at the tree. Let's get wild, Friday.

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