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Running Changed My Life

6 Jun

Today is national running day so I thought it was a good time to write about running. You know…I get asked alot if I really, truly like running. I think so many people associate running with a form of punishment to whip our bodies into shape. A chore that some of us add to our exercise routine to burn fat, to look good, to be healthy.

At the prodding of my best friend, I signed up for my first 5k in 2008. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day at the time. I had been a smoker for half my life and had tried to quit more times than I could count and failed. Every. Single. Time. The problem was I really, truly liked smoking. I ran that 5k, still a smoker, and it sucked. I hated it. At the end of the race she looked at me expectantly, wanting me to love running. I looked at her like she was crazy and vowed to never sign up for another race ever again.

I honestly have no idea how she talked me into running a 10k next. “6.2 stupid, stupid miles” was all I kept repeating in my head. Why did I sign up for this? I had to actually train for this race. I couldn’t just wing it. So I trained. I kept smoking. But something changed when I finished that race…6.2 miles, to me at the time, was a REALLY long way…and I did it. There came a sense of accomplishment. A sense of pride. But inside I felt like a fraud…who can call themselves a runner and still be a smoker?

So I did something really crazy and decided to sign up for a half marathon. I quit smoking. I vowed that as long as I was going to spend the money and do a half marathon, I had to take it seriously. Something happened during training for that first half marathon. I went out diligently for my training runs. Mike joined me with Ava in a jogging stroller. He carried water and paced me. He kept me honest. He decided to sign up for that same half marathon. Our lives began to change…we talked about pacing, injuries, injury prevention and we ran many, many miles together. We did our long runs separately each week. Before I knew it, I started looking forward to the long runs.

My long runs were the only time I had that belonged to just me. No phone. No conversation. No bills. No Facebook. No email. No child. No husband. No friends. No chores. Just me and my thoughts. I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I was just a runner. And I knew as long as I kept running I would not smoke. I started to appreciate my body. The legs I once hated became the legs I adored. Not because they looked awesome but because they were strong and powerful and carried me along the way. My thoughts changed…I learned tenacity, commitment and sacrifice. I fell in love with running. The further I ran, the more I loved it. When everything in my body screamed for me to stop, I kept pushing on. I refused to give up. I counted light poles, trash cans, beach cruisers. I raced people on the bike path. I raced against myself. I raced for imaginary finish lines.

I get asked often, “What do you think about all that time while you run?” You have a of time to think when you spend that much time running…that’s for sure. Mostly I think about nothing and everything. I think about finish lines and seeing the people I love at the end of them. I think about the anticipation as I’m standing in the chute waiting for the race to start. But mostly when I run I just have this immense sense of gratitude for life and everything in it. Running is my meditation. It’s when I let go of everything and just run.

Running changed my life in a lot of ways. It brought me closer to my husband. I finally found something that made me want to quit smoking. I started living healthier. It changed the way I thought about my body. It made me realize that I was a hell of a lot stronger than I ever thought I was, mentally and physically. It taught me about commitment, tenacity and sacrifice. And I really hope that me running, sets a positive example for my little girl. I don’t know what her passions will be, but I hope that seeing her mama run lets her know that she is absolutely capable of anything she sets her mind to as long as she’s willing to put in the work.

Running is my therapy. I live for the long runs, the lost toenails, the sore muscles, the feeling that comes only when I know I’ve left it all out there on the path and given it every single ounce I had. I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

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There’s No Crying In Running

23 Mar

It’s no secret that I love to run…more than most people. I didn’t discover my passion for running until about three years ago. And when I say it’s one crazy love affair…it really, truly is. I wake up at crazy hours and run in all types of weather. I run through my lunch breaks, after work and early on the weekends. I run when I’m sad, happy, at a crossroads, sick, healthy, light, heavy…I run. It’s what I do. So when I was sidelined by an injury 8 weeks ago, I immediately went to an orthopedist who sent me to a physical therapist. Because people, I need to run.

I watched the days tick my on my calendar knowing that I was supposed to be training for my first marathon and couldn’t. With each day that I passed, I told myself, “It’s okay. You’re a strong runner, you can catch up.” But reality hit last night when I got cleared to run, but was told that my marathon would have to be put on hold. Eight weeks just simply isn’t enough time to train for the marathon distance.

Oh I know what you’re thinking, “Oh don’t worry Janice, there’s more marathons.” True. There are. To my friends who run, or have run, or who love to run like I love to run, you know the disappointment in being told you can’t chase this dream right now. Because it is my dream…to cross the finish line and know that I put in the time, the miles and the dedication to get there. I’ve been working for three years to get to this point. Not just physically but emotionally. And every day I wish that I had discovered my love for running earlier, but I know that there’s a reason I’m here now.

So last night I was so upset. I got in the car and called Mike but he was in the middle of giving Ava a bath, so I decided to wait until I got home instead of trying to have a broken conversation. I called Heather and as soon as she said, “Hello,” the tears started flowing. Who cries about running? I didn’t even know it meant that much to me. I was genuinely heartbroken with the news. And I know to some people it may seem crazy, but I love running like some people love football or soccer or baseball or basketball. I follow the high profile runners. Almost every book and magazine I read is about running. I am extremely passionate about it. So to be told I can’t run the marathon I signed up for is like getting your team to playoffs and watching them go on to win it without you. It sucks.  

My physical therapist (who is awesome) told me that she would think about a way to get me to 26.2 in 8 weeks but that she didn’t think it was possible to do it safely. She suggested walk/running it. None of this is what I wanted to hear. Even though she was dead right, it didn’t make the news easier to swallow. Heather was great…she listened, she told me to sleep on it and that I didn’t have to decide right now. She was so positive and just kept reminding me it’s one race and to keep looking at the bigger picture.

When I got home I relayed the whole story to Mike (between sobs) and seriously y’all…you know what that man said, “Babe, don’t worry about it. We’ll find you another marathon.” And I said, “There aren’t any marathons that work for what I am looking for in my first experience.” And he said, “Well, then we’ll make our own course and you can run your own marathon.” ß He’s flipping awesome. For real. Can you picture the little handmade mile markers? I can. This is the man that used to run with me just so I didn’t have to carry my own water. He was my personal course support on long runs.

And then an email showed up from JP, who was supposed to run it with me, telling me that he knows how hard this decision was for me and that when I’m ready for 26.2, he will be there in a flash. And then I reached out to Tuti, who was sidelined from running a long time ago but shares my passion for the sport and his response reminded me why I run.

I run because I love to run. I run because it makes me sane. I run because I’m a better mommy and wife when I run. I run to absorb the lyrics to the music. I run because there is nothing like crisp air on an early morning run. I run because I am genuinely in love with this sport. I run to push the limits, to be faster, to go farther. I run because God blessed me with legs that will take me wherever I tell them to go. I run because I love the solitude. I run because no matter who else runs, I’m the only one who owns my run. I don’t run to reach 26.2, although I want to get there one day very, very soon. I run for the journey along the way.

I Tri!

19 Oct

I’m a triathlete. Yup…that’s right…I did it! I’m sure some of you remember my Vineman post about my friend, JP, who inspired me to sign up for my first triathlon. He also was my coach and a damn good coach at that. He spent alot of time correcting my swim technique and trying to get me over my fear of swimming in the ocean. I’m terrified of sharks and the fact that I was going to look exactly like a seal in the ocean, well yeah, that didn’t help calm my nerves. I’d just like to share my experience and hope that I can inspire just one person to maybe give it a try.

The day started at 4:30 a.m. Up to get dressed, eat and get over to transition to get everything set up. It was cold and rainy. I get into transition and got an excellent spot to rack my bike and set up. Little did I know that when I’d return from my swim, some lady would have decided she liked my spot too and made it hers…literally. She moved all my stuff, including my bike over so she could have my spot. Pretty shitty in the world of triathlons. I did have the urge to move her bike to a completely different area just to mess with her, but didn’t. Here’s a shot of transition.

After leaving transition, Heather and I slipped into our wetsuits. Okay…slipped may be an exaggeration. It really should be illegal for me to attempt to get into a wetsuit in public. I’m dead serious when I say JP had to, literally, put my butt into the wetsuit. And people were watching. A bit humiliating. Once we are all wetsuited up we went over to the water and got in for a minute. Here we are coming out of the water.

Now it’s time to get with our wave group. I was doing fine until this point. They started playing the Star Spangled Banner and I got all emotional. It hit me that I could get injured doing this. Things could go wrong. I started to feel a little anxious about the water. And then I’m standing with a bunch of people I don’t know and Heather finds me again…instantly comforted. I almost started crying with relief. I felt a little alone for a moment and just seeing her, Annette and Liz made me feel so much better. And then it was time for high-fives and good-byes. It was RACE TIME! Here I am (far right, still standing) getting in the water. Orange is definitely my color. No?

The first four minutes of my swim I panicked like kid who just saw Jaws for the first time and was thrown in the ocean. It was the only time during the whole race that I actually considered quitting. I was that scared. It started okay and then I saw the kelp on the ocean floor. Not cool. It was dark, rainy, dreary and I’m in the ocean with kelp where bad things MUST live. I alternated between swimming and flipping over on my back to collect myself and calm down. Finally I gave myself a little pep talk. I said, “Damnit Janice…you didn’t train this hard to wimp out in the water…flip over and just count.” And so I did. I rocked the rest of that 1/2 mile swim and was so happy to get out of the water!

Transition 1 went smoothly and I was out on the bike. I was on a hybrid bike which is essentially a different version of a mountain bike. It was heavy. I was working my butt off and getting passed by all these people. I got frustrated because I knew how hard I was working and I just felt like the tortoise. Super slow and heavy. We did two loops around Fiesta Island. I was so done at about mile 10 where I gave myself another pep talk out loud. I even cursed at myself. I’m crazy good at kicking myself into shape. And then I hear “On your left” and I’m thinking, “That’s awesome. They just heard me go nuts on myself.”

I jumped off the bike, racked it and headed out for my run. Ahhhh running…my favorite part!!!! Until I get the dreaded side stitch which about killed me during Surf Cities Half Marathon. Of course…not even a mile in I get it. Not much to do but keep running. Which I did. I kept reminding myself, it’s only 3 miles…you can run 3 miles. This is a short run. Coming around the last turn I find some extra energy and pick up the pace for that last 1/2 mile or so.

Crossing that finish line felt super sweet. It was a really great experience being out there with so many women…some of them cancer patients and cancer survivors. I really loved the competitiveness of the women out there and the encouragement along the way. Another really awesome thing was Mike and JP were at every part along the way. When I got out of the water, when I got on the bike, off the bike starting the run, finishing the run…it’s amazing how hearing your name and knowing people are watching will give you that extra boost of energy. And I just want to say if you are ever a spectator of any race, we racers love hearing the cheers…whether they are for us or not. It’s nice to hear people cheering. It changes the vibe and energy of the race.  

I cannot express my gratitude to JP for the hours he spent whipping me into shape physically and mentally. He was there every step of the way and he believed in me. He believed that I wouldn’t wimp out in the water and I didn’t. And to Heather who inspired me a few years back to run that Skirt Chaser 5k and then a 10k and then a half marathon and then a triathlon. What will she encourage me to do next? And my wonderful, super awesome husband who has been there every step of the way. The man who cooked dinner so I could train longer. The man woke up at 4 in the morning to drive 2 hours to see me race. The man who didn’t bitch about my alarm going off on a Saturday morning to go biking. He’s been nothing but supportive and encouraging.

I have to say, I was overwhelmed with all the support that was shown to me throughout my training and up to race day…from my parents watching Ava to all of the wonderful Facebook posts, messages and comments. Seriously…I feel humbled and extremely blessed. I’m reminded again how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life.

DISTANCES: 1/2 Mile Swim, 20k Bike, 5k Run
OFFICIAL TIME: 1 hour, 42 minutes, 24 seconds

I’ve Lost It…Officially

17 Aug

I think I’ve officially lost my mind. Do you want to know what happens when I spend eight hours driving to Sonoma, four hours drinking wine, wake up the next morning at 4:30 am and watch a friend cross the Vineman finish line? I sign up for a half-marathon and a triathlon a week apart. For real.

I think I was feeling a bit inspired when I hit the “Sign up here” button. Because the problem is that it’s August 17th and I was supposed to start training two weeks ago but I decided to buy a house too. So yeah…there’s that whole moving thing getting in the way of my plan to conquer, well, everything. And then there’s that 9 mile run in there the morning after my friend Katy’s wedding. Yeah…that’s gonna happen for sure. As a matter of fact, if you’re in Michigan on September 11th and see me running just slap me because nobody should run 9 miles after attending a friend’s wedding. Running that day would mean I failed as a wedding guest.

A Typical Evening

12 Apr

So I sit down at the computer to sync my iPhone and download some new music. The tv is blaring Wonder Pets, Mike’s on the couch and Ava is standing over by him. I think, “I’m going to check my blog…see if there are any new comments from my dad or my two other friends who actually read this blog.” P.S. I love you three for reading it! When I get famous I’ll kick down some free stuff. 🙂

I get to my blog address and see that I have a new comment from someone who I don’t actually know. I read her blog but I don’t actually know her. I’m stoked…really stoked. This is what happens next:

Janice says: Babe…someone is reading my blog! Someone I don’t know is ACTUALLY reading my blog and commented!!!

Mike says: AVA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Janice says: Mike!!! Did you hear me??? This is serious!!!! Someone I don’t know is reading my blog!!!

Mike says: AVA!!! YOU DON’T WIPE BOOGERS ON ME!!! THAT’S DISGUSTING!!!

Ava collapses in a fit of giggles.

Once again the little booger steals my thunder! As I’m re-reading this for typos, I cannot believe I actually said, “This is serious.” Ha! But I do get excited to know that people read it.

On another note, I did the Irvine Lake Mud Run this weekend with a group of friends. There was a team there and the back of their shirts said, “What were we thinking?” After hitting that first mud pit, I thought of them. While it was the most fun run I’ve ever had, it was also the most uncomfortable. There are certain places where mud does not belong.

I swear…some people don’t get my sense of humor. At one of the obstacles some random guy kind of kicked mud on me and I turned around and said, “I’m sorry…could you try not to get mud on me? I really don’t want to get dirty.” He apologized! Poor guy…I had to explain I was joking…we were doing a MUD run, right?

The most fun part of the whole race was at the end…there was this HUGE mudpit. My three friends and I linked arms and jumped in. It was so awesome! Immediately I jumped on Sergio because he looked a little too clean. Then he and I turned and he says to me, “Casie and Sandra look a little too clean.” I yell, “Let’s get em!!!!!” It was so cool to just let go. In a world where I’m trying to clean everything, be everywhere on time and be everything to everyone, it was so liberating to just not care for that moment in time. Not care how dirty I got, not care that my shoes were going to be ruined, not care that there was going to be mud in places in doesn’t belong…to just have fun. Next year the Mudslingers are coming back bigger and better. My mission is to get my dad out there! Come on pops…you’re still young!!!! And if you can’t finish, don’t worry, the mud will make it easier to drag your butt across the finish line!

And on a sappy, I love my booger-wiping daughter kind of note, this was the first race she’s ever come out to watch. We take her on training runs with us, but usually Mike is running on race day too, so she doesn’t really understand when we tell her we’re going to race what we’re actually doing. This time Mike didn’t run and I came down the hill at the end and I see her beautiful, little face on Mike’s shoulders and her arms are in the air and she’s cheering for me!!! That was the best feeling…I’ve had alot of supporters come out and cheer for me and it’s the best to see familiar faces, but her there, was PRICELESS!!! I ran over to kiss her and she leaned back and said, “Mom…you’re all dirty!” Yes, honey, yes I am!