Deployments ARE Marathons!

Having a few races under my belt including a marathon, as well as a few deployments – I couldn’t help to note some striking similarities.

During shore duty, the duty stations where deployments are not a factor, my mind goes to what I call the “shore duty mental bubble”. These are the tours where deployments do not exist. This is where we emulate as close as possible to civilian life. Spouse goes to work, comes home. Rinse, Recycle, Repeat, much like a 9-5 job most of the time.

Then the PCS season rolls around and, like little pin pricks in a balloon, reality starts to pop my shore duty bubble. We have the “where to next?” conversations and things are up in the air for a while. It’s the moment when you realize that like life, none of this is really in your control. You have to just go with it.

What the heck does this have to do with running marathons?

When running distances, it is imperative to have your mental game on point. You cannot run a marathon and at some point not ever have deal with your brain. Thoughts you haven’t ever dreamed you’d be thinking – you’ll have them while running. Like gearing up for a PCS move and/or deployments, you take it day by day, or mile by mile, as they come. To be at peace with being uncomfortable, being in transition, or being smack dab in the trenches of a long run, it comes with going with the flow instead of resisting what is.

Marathons and deployments both require preparation. You wouldn’t go out and run 26.2 miles without training for it in some fashion. (If you do, you’ll likely pay for it.) Likewise, deployments require preparation and planning. As the cliche goes, fail to plan – plan to fail. 

On the heels of planning and preparation, there is only so much you can prepare for. Then you have to just let go. Running a marathon forces you to let go of what if. What if you get injured at mile 18? What if I’m dehydrated and there isn’t an aid station? What if my knees give me trouble? What if I need a bathroom? (If you are runner, you know strategy is everything in this department!) Anyone having gone through a deployment knows that the deployment gremlins always appear within the first month! It’s military murphy’s law. The washer will break down or the car will have trouble. The garage door will not open. The gremlins never seem to jack with your life with as much enthusiasm as the beginning of the deployment. Like running, we have to accept that this crap may happen. You may get injured at mile 18. That washer may break down. But what good is it going to do worrying about either before it has even happened? Worrying is like the front porch rocking chair: gives you something to do, but gets you no where.

There will be good deployment days and bad. Some of them are so awesome that the only thing that is not perfect is that your spouse isn’t there to share it with you. The kids had a great day, you had a great day. You got done what you wanted to do, or you just played all day. Some miles are like that. Free and easy, those miles remind us runners why we love to run. The distance ticks by and you barely notice it. It’s those miles that we chase, running all the other ho-hum miles, just to experience a few of the really incredible ones. Savoring the good days and good miles carries you through the not-so good ones. 

Deployments force you to be independent whether you think you are ready or not. Standing on the start line feels the same way. Ready or not, it’s go time! 3 months into a deployment or 8 miles into a marathon – it’s you. You put one foot in front of the other and go. There is support along the way, but ultimately it’s you, being independent. Day after day, mile after mile. 

Deployments and marathons will grow you in places you didn’t know existed. You’ll do things you never thought capable. It goes without saying that pride is a big factor in both. There is no experience like laying out a plan, setting goals, and achieving. Pride in your ability to endure and cope will astound you. 

Deployments and marathons have many things in common. It’s too bad they can’t both be over in one day!

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Motivation’s Opposite

If yesterday was all about how we stay motivated to be consistent in our workouts, today is the exact opposite.

It’s been a week. I had appointments all lined up, new clients no-showed, others were late. Some showed up when they didn’t have appointments. It’s just one of those weeks where you have to laugh and roll with flow. Now it’s Friday and I’m not motivated. It’s humid out. I feel tired. I almost stepped in dog poop in the front yard (that wasn’t from my own dogs). Blah, blah, blah. Its ironic that when I don’t feel like doing something, I can find all the reasons excuses why skipping it would be “justified”. Some days are just like this. “Workout, I’m just not that into you.”

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But, I don’t give myself a choice in this. I know I will feel better after, so just stop taking selfies and go workout already! That’s what I did.

But…

Half way through the run I see very ominous looking clouds. “Sure feels like rain,” I told the dogs. (Yes, I do talk to them. Yes, out loud.) “I’m sure we’ll make it home before it really picks up.”

Drip, drip, drip.

Nope. Didn’t make it home before the rain. What started out as a light sprinkling in a matter of seconds became a big ol’ fat Texas downpour. My poor dogs. Buck was especially displeased with the sudden change of weather. We were also on the trail by my house, which means the soft dirt quickly became slippery mud. With every step I gained a half inch in height due to the accumulating muck on the soles of my shoes. At this point I just have to laugh because how else should a week like this finish?! Soaking wet, we trudge home both dogs shooting me irritated looks.

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Although you can’t tell, I’m soaked through and I’m dripping from my ball cap!

It’s just one of those days. After I showered, my phone buzzed with a client requesting to reschedule today’s appointment because her child is sick.

Again, I have to laugh. It’s gonna get better.

It always does.

The Question

“Do you love running those long miles?” she asked me in an ongoing text conversation. We do swelfies (sweaty selfies = swelfies) with each other as an accountability check for both of us. It’s what battle buddies do! It was a question that hit me like a ton of bricks.

I thought to myself, “Wow. I hadn’t even considered if I love it or not, I just do it because that’s what the training schedule I mapped out says to do.” If I want to be prepared for this race, I need to do the training so it won’t end up being like last time where my legs give up at mile 14 and give me the finger. “I just want to improve my time,” I texted back. Which was true, but it got me thinking deeper.

I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago, (and after a 2 week break) have since been running, but it’s still not 100%. It gets aggravated by longer distances. During this busy fall season, adding in long runs in addition to work schedules has been proving more and more challenging while maintaining sanity and time spent as a family. (Not to mention what not ever being home does to laundry piles, kitchen floors and dogs denied their usual overflow of attention!) Do I love running those longer miles? Honestly? I love the way I feel when I’m done. I like knowing I can do it. This time around, the training and the timing has sucked the fun right out of the whole thing.

I gave myself the weekend. A weekend to mull it over and really contemplate whether training for and running this marathon would be worth it. Do I love it? Am I having fun? Aren’t these extra things supposed to be fun? We went to the movies as a family. We went to church. We played outside. What kept running through my mind was, “If I decide not to run, doesn’t that make me a quitter?”

Maybe.

I took the training runs off of my calendar and felt physically lighter. I had no idea I was feeling pressure at all. Isn’t what I tell clients applicable to myself? Find something you love to do…

Is one race worth it?

Is it worth being crabby and tired and overextended time-wise? Is it worth the time away from family? Is it worth risking a more serious injury to this ankle? Is one race worth risking not being able to run over the long term? My gut reactions came back fast and furious; no.

There will be other races. There will be another marathon in my future. The timing just isn’t right yet. Sometimes the best we can do is exercise good judgement and evaluate just why we do what we do. I wouldn’t call myself a quitter. A postponer, perhaps, but not a quitter.

I want to continue to love running. For a very long time.

What about you? Ever have to cancel a race due to injury or other circumstances? How did you wrestle with the question of whether or not to continue?

What Medals and Miles Will Teach You

When I started running, I remember my friends tracking numbers. Things like pace, distance, miles over the year. I remember thinking 300 miles seemed like so many to run over the course of one year. Then I started goal setting. Apps on the smartphone like MapMyRun and RunTracker got the job done, and eventually I got a GPS watch to track my stats.

In 2011, I logged 188 miles. 2012 saw 326 miles and in 2013 I eeked out 170 miles. (Thank you deployment!) Last year I made the goal of 500 and as of right now, 2015 mileage sits at 507. These miles seem insane to me on paper and goal setting is really only one tiny fraction of what running has given me.

Not only have there been running challenges, laps on tracks, fartleks, races, tempo runs, trail races, medals earned, bib numbers pinned, traveling runs, sprained ankles, pain, victory, sprints, nausea, euphoria and more, but there has also been therapy, solace, and peace in these miles.

Running is transformative. It changes who you are and who you think you can become. It changes your mood. It takes the impossible and makes it reality. It offers comfort in the uncomfortable. It’s an escape, if only for the duration of the run. It forces you to be in the moment. Every single time you run, you return better for having done so. Running has brought self confidence. Running will bring out a mental strength you had no idea you possessed.

It will shock you. 

It will shock you just how difficult it can be. It will hurt. It will ache. In the beginning for me there was a reckoning of just how far I’d let my physical fitness go. I had to learn to focus on each little accomplishment because the road ahead seemed just too damn long. Sometimes those little accomplishments are just making it around the block. There are shin splints and cramps and side stitches. Then we learn to move past the physical pain. We discover work arounds to the pain and the inconvenience. Running is a fantastic metaphor for emotional pain. That sometimes the only way around the pain is through it.

It will challenge you.

When you stick with it, it becomes impossible not to chase after that next thing. That faster pace, that longer distance, the next goal. Running will whisper in your ear, “That was awesome. Can you come just a little bit farther? What about this distance? How much do you love me? Wanna go a little faster?” Running will taunt you. “Betcha can’t beat your last time…”

It will change you.

Running will restore your belief in the impossible. Distances or paces just out of reach will become your new reality as you set your sight on the next goal. Striving for improvement will bleed over into every other facet of your life. Running just does that. It changes who you are; physically, mentally and emotionally.

What has running taught you?

Dear Running

You have taught me many things since we started this relationship. There are times I don’t like you. I’ve even thought about quitting this whole deal. I’ve bought new outfits, gadgets, and even shoes to impress you, but you don’t care about that stuff. You never criticize when I’m slow, or I’m just not feeling “us”. I experiment with others – but I eventually come back to you. I will likely always come back to you.

You see, you were my first love.

You have taught me a world of possibility
That I must continue to have dreams for me
Any goal can become a reality
That if I put in the work and the time
I really can cross any finish line

You’ve helped me learn to celebrate
No matter how big or small,
Each and every victory
Achievement in them all

That first time, looking up and catching their eye
feeling that I am worthy of the greeting
as the pounding pace of footsteps fly

Running that first mile
without stopping to walk
The first time I heard someone
refer to me as a jock

You have taught me to need you
and in the beginning I really had no clue
I didn’t like it at first
but somehow, somehow you knew.

Never a time when we are together
do you make it the same – nearly never.
We each bring something to the table
and you again show me how I am able.

Hard work is crucial – this is true
You don’t make it easy
But I’ll never be through

With you
I am more me
than with anybody

I will likely never get enough of you
Running, oh running,
when we are together
the experience is always stunning.

Mishmash and Miscellany

We have rounded out the second week of school in our neck of the woods and it has been busy, as usual. Here’s the mishmash rundown…

My dear hubby thought what better way to start off the back to school season than with a school of fish?! Eric texts me from the pet store, where he was purchasing items for the pets we already have, and says, “The kids would like fish**.” I reply back, “NO. NO NO NO.”

**Later it was discovered that it wasn’t the kids who wanted the fish, it was Eric, and the kids wholeheartedly agreed.

He comes home with this:

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Fish?! Apparently it’s a yes!

I have to admit, the kids dig it. They are excited to get up and check on them each morning. (They check on them every morning now because the first school of finned friends were floating the first morning.)

I’ve been doing some reading. There are seriously not enough hours to read all the books I want to read! Fiction, non-fiction, text books, you name it – I want to read it! Here’s just a small sampling of what is on my short list:

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I just finished Rising Strong by Brene Brown. LOVE. If you read The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, this is the next steps or the How-To manual for getting back up after falling. (HIGHLY recommend all Brene’s books!)

Speaking of falling…I sprained my ankle last weekend. In the middle of a 12 miler out and back. Mile 6 I catch a concealed dip in the grassy area along side the sidewalk. No, I did not bring my phone. I had to walk/jog it all the way back. Did I mention it was on a busy street? With cars driving by? Yeah, there was an audience as I totally twisted my ankle, went down on all fours in slow motion. Rocks digging into my palms, grit in my teeth, me and my bruised ego got back up and walked a bit before attempting to jog slowly on it. There were not-so-nice words spoken uttered spat as I kept moving forward.

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My swollen ankle. I can put weight on it. Doc says to stop running for 2 weeks, then marathon training will resume!

Hannah is enjoying kinder and has been “on green” all week (their behavior-color change system) and got to go to her class treasure box and picked out this gem!

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Not quite sure who this crazy is in my car! I thought I had picked up my daughter from school, but when I turned around I couldn’t find her!

Finally, we have entered the phase of extra-curricular activities. We dabbled in a bit of little league with Jacob a couple of years ago (herding cats, anyone?!) but he didn’t really dig it. We do believe that if we start a season, we finish it. So we make very sure when we commit, it’s something we really really want to do. (And that includes Eric and I!)

What I love (so far) about the Boy Scouts is the commitment to getting outdoors, as well as the community outreach component. All in a non-competitive environment. (No, competition isn’t a bad thing. I just like that it’s not a focus.) The kids earn their badges and their awards, all while learning, camping and experiencing other nature-based activities. They are in competition with themselves. (Which is also why I love the running community so much.)

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Could he be any cuter?! (The hubby isn’t bad either!)
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His first little Tiger uniform. In first grade they are Tigers. How appropriate since Eric’s childhood nickname was Tiger.
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Just love..and a dog begging for some fetch!

Now it is Friday. Ahhh, Friday. No homework, some games of Uno and Trouble are on the agenda. Spin this weekend, some fun training clients – and perhaps some holiday waterslides to cap it all off!

Happy 3-day Weekend!

More Miles

“Mom, I want to run one mile a day for a hundred days. Then I will have ran 100 miles!” – Jacob, 6.

Be still my beating heart.

Out of the blue my son told me this while driving to a haircut appointment. I wasn’t asking him to run, I wasn’t telling him “Hey, you should be active and get some exercise” while I sat the couch.

I’m sure he’s overheard Eric and I discussing plans to allow for me to run and get in my miles these past few weeks. He gets excited to play dodgeball in the back yard. He hears us discussing workouts, eating healthfully, and planning meals. He loves going on family bike rides. He understands why our dogs need plenty of exercise. It’s sinking in. When I lead the kids (and the dogs, for that matter) by example, they will follow. “Do as I say, not as I do” never works.

The fact that he chose running is the cherry on top! It looks like I’ll be continuing my streak at least to 200 – with a really great running buddy!

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