Category Archives: Cheaper Than Therapy

Running without purpose…

This is a weird time of year for me. I kinda felt it last summer, but I was so stressed about my first triathlons that I at least had other things to focus on, even if I didn’t have any major running goals. This is the time of year I let Donnie lead the training schedule, I plan my runs around his workouts. And since he’s training for an Ironman in September, he’s working out twice a day many days, on Saturdays he could be gone for 5+ hours depending on where he’s going for his long bike ride. So, I squeeze in what I can, when I can.

My goal was to try to hang around 30 miles a week still this summer, which I’m getting close to. I’m usually hitting 24 or more, but never quite hitting 30 like I had hoped. It’s just tough because I’m doing my “long” runs on the weekends in the middle of the afternoon when it’s hot and I’m often alone which makes it very difficult to motivate myself to do more than 6 miles which is my standard running distance. If I’m getting out? I’d like to do at least 6 miles. And this time of year? It’s hard to motivate myself to do more.

Our Tuesday night Cross Country runs started last week, so that helps me get six miles in pretty easily at a time where Donnie never needs a workout. And our Fleet Feet has a Thursday night fun run that started last week too, I’ll be doing that. It’s scheduled to give me 5, but I can add one before just to give me the 6 I usually like. So, that’s two runs WITH people every week. But the weekends? OH MAN, THEY ARE KILLING ME.

On Saturday I really struggled to leave the house. It was hot and I was tired and I had no reason to run. That’s my problem, without a race to train for, I have a really hard time getting out the door. I know I need a good base so I do it, but man…I can not bring myself to do much. I tricked myself this weekend by do 3.5 miles out along a straight path from my house. I knew if I could make it the 3.5 miles, then I would have to come home and there’s not shorter route than straight back. To push myself to the 3.5 miles mark, I brought some money to buy a gatorade with at a gas station. That’s the other problem, in this heat? I drink 20 ounces EASY over 3-4 miles. So I have to either A) carry my hydration pack which I don’t want to do in the heat or B) plan for an aid stop or drop somewhere.

But this trick worked, I forced myself the 3.5 miles to the gas station. I relished my cold Gatorade, and made it home. That may become my standard Saturday route even though it’s flat and straight and BORING AS SHIT.

Sundays I might have more chances to find people to run with. Donnie’s workouts are shorter so he won’t mind sometimes giving me the morning, and I have friends who can’t run Sunday mornings so Sunday afternoons would work for them. Sundays I can work with. And if I keep tricking myself on Saturday’s then I might start getting the 30 miles per week I need until I start ramping up at the end of July.

It’s just hard. I know I’m a runner. I have no problem wearing that title. But MAN, I hate the summer and I hate not having something specific to train for. Even for me, a self-declared runner, it’s hard to get out that damn door.

Do you have any tricks?

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My Runner Girl

I don’t know a lot about Cross Country Running as a sport that kids in school do. I know where it’s done locally because we have “Summer Runs” there every summer where Fleet Feet brings out their clock and people can run the 1-mile course at 6:15, the 3-mile course at 6:30, and then the 2-mile course at 7:15. I’m assuming the teams have meets at the same park? At least the local schools? Oh! And I also know it’s abbreviated XC because every summer they use that on the registration forms.

Last night was the first one of the season and I love these runs because there are tons of teenagers there as most local school make it a summer “requirement” of sorts for their Cross Country runners. Do I love the teenagers being there because of my affection for teenagers in general? No. I love beating them.

I have no idea how Cross Country running works as a sport, but I’m guessing the kids out there are not taking these Tuesday night runs very seriously because – without fail – every summer I get giant ego boosts from running past kids who should be kicking my ass. I guarantee you if we were racing they would be running faster, but they just seem to be out there for fun during these Tuesday night runs. This means I get to fly past 15-year old guys walking up the hill and I get to tell myself, Zoot is faster than athletes half her age! She is lightning! She is speed! Bow down to her as the running queen she is!

What?

Anyway, it’s really good for an ego boost. I stayed with two young guys all the way until the end last night. There was a third guy in their group who I played leapfrog with for awhile, I’d pass him on the ups and he’d pass me on the downs, but eventually he faded and I took his place with his friends and hung with them to the finish. And I stuck all of that ego-building energy and stuck it in storage where I can use it on the days I get really down on myself as a runner.

But remember, Zoot, you are faster than some teenage Cross Country athletes!

(My ego knows how to ignore the part that they’re just goofing off while I’m running so hard I want to die.)

I took Nikki last night. She’s gone with me before but never as an “official” participant. She does the 1-mile course every time while I switch up the courses. She was getting tired at one point, kind stumbled in the woods, and said, “UG. I’m an awful runner!”

And let me tell you…I shut that shit DOWN, right there, on the spot.

I didn’t lecture her in the middle of the run, other than to say, “There are not many – if any – other 8-year olds out here doing this. You’re awesome, quit that negative talk!” But on the way home later? I lectured her the lecture to end all lectures.

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Most people can walk, but not many can or will run. Anyone who is running, no matter what their speed or how often they fall, is a total badass. Do not get down on yourself. If you’re running? You’re a rockstar. Period. End of story. I am very proud of every run I do because I know many people who can’t and even more who won’t run. It doesn’t matter how fast I am, it doesn’t matter if I fall, it doesn’t matter who runs the most…all that matters is that I’m doing it and I’m going to be super-proud of every run I do. You need to be that way too. Every…single…run…be proud of it! There are a lot of things I get down on myself about in my life, and you have a lot of those things too, but let running be the thing you celebrate. Every time you make it out the door for a run, pat yourself on the back for being amazing and awesome. Because you are. And I will NOT let you spit out anymore negative talk about it. If you want to get better, we can get better. If you want to get faster, we can get faster. But we won’t do it by talking negative about our running because we are running when other people are sitting on their butt…and we will be proud of that.

She stopped listening after the first sentence, of course. But still! There was musical accompaniment and everything!

(There was not.)

I hated running as a kid. My Dad tried to get me to run with him when he would visit the local high school track several times a week for a run, but I declined 99% of the time. He never got to see me learn to love running. He saw me try to train for races, and complete them even if my training fell off the track (Hello 7:40 marathon time!) but he never saw me become a runner who simply has to run. And while I wish he could see that (he wouldn’t believe it, for the record) I really wish he could see Nikki’s natural desire to run. That was what he wanted me to have, he would look at her and see how much fun she would have been. Instead he was stuck with whiny, moaning, boring and lazy Zoot who would rather sit on the bleachers and read her Babysitter’s Club books than run even one lap around a track.

(For the record, I still hate speedwork on tracks.)

I’m proud of my girl. She’s up for the challenge of running and while she gets hot and miserable during the run, she always goes back for more.

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Notes On Cotton Row 2014

The Cotton Row Run is my favorite in Huntsville for several reasons. First of all, it is held on Memorial Day, so they incorporate many elements that honor the men and women who lost their lives in service of our country. They play Taps before the race (I tear up every time), they have the Honor Guard, they speak a special invocation that I wish I had a copy of, and they do a rifle salute (I believe it’s called a 3-volley salute? But I may be wrong.) Today they added something new – a stretch before the finish line where family members and friends of soldiers killed in action were standing with large photos of their lost soldiers and holding flags above the home stretch. If that doesn’t inspire you to kick it in to the finish, nothing will.

Second of all, it’s a large race for our city, so it acts like a homecoming event of sorts. You get to see your running buddies you haven’t seen in a while. There’s also two races: a 10K and a 5K so you can see your friends from all levels of training. There are nervous hugs given before and sweaty hugs given after, I love it. I just look around and say, “HELLO!” to all of the faces I’ve come to love over the years of running in this town. Faces I just saw this week and faces I haven’t seen in years. As you stand around waiting to start, you find your group grows as people stop and say, “Hi!” to their friends. It’s the coolest thing to be at the start line and be – quite literally – surrounded by some of your favorite people. Right before they fired the start rifle I soaked in the awesomeness of my running peers and thought, “If it weren’t for running, I wouldn’t have been blessed with any of these people in my life.”

AND THEN! The friends you don’t see running the races, you see along the course. I had friends volunteering at aid stations and directing traffic at intersections. I had friends cheering along the course and I was so excited to see them I would call out THEIR names just to say, “Hi!” (It’s hard to find people you know running a race that big, so it helps spectating if they find you :)) It seemed like I couldn’t go a quarter of a mile without seeing someone I knew and I loved it. And then I saw even more friends after the race as we shared war stories and discussed whether or not we met our goals.

Basically – it is this race every year that reminds me that running has brought much more than health and fitness into my life, it has filled it with friends and fun. I’m full of social anxieties that keep me from making friends in any sort of traditional context, but running has helped force me into groups to meet people I would have never met otherwise. I moved to Huntsville in 2001 and until I started boot camp in 2010 and running in 2011, I could count the number of friends in this area on one hand. Today? I talked to no less than 30 people that I would not hesitate for a moment to call a friend. It just filled me with such joy and is exactly why I do this race every year.

Now! To The Race Report

I knew ever since I finished last year at 56:03 that my goal this year would be to beat 56 minutes. I came SO CLOSE last year! I had done a sub-25 5K recently so I knew physically I could run a 10K in under 56 minutes, but this course has it’s challenges. Mainly, the first 3 miles are uphill with one MEGA steep (and infamous) uphill at the 3-mile mark. You can’t pace it with a straight consistent pace like you normally would. I successfully ran sub-56 in training a few weeks ago, but I had the help of two training buddies doing the math and pace decisions for me. (I’m married to one of them, it was his “easy” run day and my “killmenow” run day.) I knew my main challenges to meet my goal today would be 1) HEAT/HUMIDITY and 2) PACING. I don’t pace myself well, my GPS isn’t the best and my body delivers mixed messages that aren’t consistent regarding pace so I make bad judgements.

THANK GOD I ran into my first running coach before the race and let her know my goal. She didn’t have her own racing plan and had been helping with 10K training periodically, so when she found me early in the race she decided to help pull me to my goal. There were a few times where I wanted to sneak off into the bushes when she wasn’t looking, just to fail quietly on my own, but I stayed strong and stayed with her the whole time. The sun was rough, I am NOT a hot weather runner. I opted to throw the water on my head/face to cool off at the aid stations and just drink the water I was carrying with me. Doing that probably saved me because that heat was zapping me of my will to live, much less my will to run.

You know I pushed it hard when I don’t sprint at the finish…I always save enough to sprint at the finish. But not today. It took everything I had just to hold my 9′ish pace to the finish-line, knowing if I slowed a tiny bit I’d miss my goal. My former coach and another running friend just ran with me and cheered me into the finish, reminding me to stay strong and to hang in there because if I did – I’d have it in the bag.

Official time: 55:28.

BOOM goes the dynamite.

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One Funny Note…

Remember when I talked about how you use social media to engage, not just promote your business/events/causes? photo (2)And we met the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center “mascot” of sorts – Buzz Huntsville? Well, I suggested that he find a runner to tag along with for the Cotton Row since it’s a huge event in this city and then subtly hinted that I’d be willing to give him a ride. Well, they trusted me with the task! I even gave him a race bib and everything. It was hysterical. They probably didn’t realize how seriously I would take the job, BUT I TOOK IT VERY SERIOUSLY.

The first time I met Buzz, I PR’d a 5K. Today I PR’d Cotton Row 10K. I’d say this little guy is my good luck charm!

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The Mother’s Day I Became An Athlete.

Nyoka got in the car and IMMEDIATELY said, “I’m not really happy with the Mother’s Day gift I made you. We had to use the words ‘Smart,’ ‘Beautiful,’ and ‘Hardworking’ – but I wanted to use the word ‘ATHLETIC.’”

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She doesn’t realize how much that ONE sentence means to me. If someone had told me 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years ago that my daughter would be frustrated that she couldn’t use the word “ATHLETIC” when describing me? I would have laughed in their face. Hell, even this morning it might have shocked me because – even though I know I run a lot of miles now stay fit, I don’t ever think of myself as athletic. I always describe myself just the opposite: “Me? I don’t really have any natural athletic ability.” But my daughter…the girl who sees me every day…she was mad because she was limited in her word choice describing her Mom. Which word did she want? ATHLETIC.

ATHLETIC.

ATHLETIC.

ME!

But then, I dug into the present and it got even better.

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First? “Ewok and Her family are very important to her.”

HA! For those of you who don’t know, Ewok was given to me by my Dad for my 10th birthday. He was very instrumental in helping me cope with grief after my Dad died, and he still is out and about in the house for periodic cuddling needs. When the tornadoes came last week? There were three things in the basement/garage with us: Important files, External harddrive, and my Ewok. E even commented about it in a picture I posted. So, I love that she put Ewok…even BEFORE family…on the list of things that are important to me.

I also love this part: “She loves to run but doesn’t like to Swim & Bike.” HA! It’s my multisport credo! I suffer through the cycling and the swimming JUST so I can get to the running part!

But the best part? “I like to run with my Mom.”

She thinks I’m an athlete. She likes to run with me.

This is why I run.

Happy Mother’s Day to Me.

#TeamDonnie

How To Spectate A Triathlon

Oh, man. Sorry I vanished for several days. We spent all weekend at a nearby lake so Donnie could participate in a triathlon festival. (6 races in TWO days!) And then yesterday I was playing “catch-up” on life and work but it didn’t go well because I’m still barely functioning at 80% on my BEST day thanks to allergies. WILL THEY EVER GIVE ME A BREAK?!?!

ANYWAY! Today I’m putting all of the lessons learned from this weekend and 3 triathlon seasons prior into one blog post to help any newbies out there NOT take four years to build up this knowledge!

How To Spectate A Triathlon

Triathlons are more fun to spectate than foot races because – most of the time – you can stay in ONE SPOT and still see TONS of action. Therefore – it’s often best to stay there for the whole event with your athlete so you can see them do everything. However, it’s not as easy as just being there. Here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years.

#TeamDonnie
#TeamDonnie
  • If you can, arrive WITH your athlete. This may seem like a HUGE page to get there early, especially if they’re not going to actually get in the water and start the race until later in the event. BUT STILL…going with your athlete means they don’t have to drive themselves home, which is helpful to them. It also means you don’t have to part too far from the event. Having your car easily accessible will mean you don’t have to drag everything around with you all day. The later your arrive, the worse your parking spot will be.
  • Bring seating. I suggest those campground chairs that travel in bags, but throw a beach blanket in the car if you have one because sometimes that’s actually better and you don’t want to HAVE to carry around chairs if you don’t need. But always bring SOMETHING to put your butt in BESIDES the ground.
  • Bring snacks. Even if the triathlon is a Sprint event (a short one) you will be there awhile including early arrival (to set up transition) and possibility of late start (triathletes all start their race at different times) and you’ll be surprised how hungry you get watching people exercise.
  • Sunscreen! You will also be surprised how sunburned you can get.
  • Bug spray. Because of the need for a source of water for these events, the prevalence for mosquitos is strong.
  • First aid kit. This is especially true if you have kids with you because they’ll be running around like maniacs betweens sightings of their athlete, but it’s also true for any adults because, well, some of us are clumsy and fall down a lot.
  • Put thought into your spectating spot(s). Near transition is a given because it means you’ll see your athlete AT LEAST twice (once when they transition from swim-to-bike, and once from bike-to-run), but most of the times the START and the FINISH is near transition too. SO! If you’re smart, you can stay in one place for the whole event. All of the athletes will be asking about the Run and Bike ins/outs so you just make sure you get that same information. It’s best if you can see them LEAVE transition because cheering them onto their next event is better then cheering them into transition. But, be aware of where the FINISH is so AS SOON as they’re out on their run, you can relocate if necessary.
  • Change of clothes! For the kids, obviously. Hopefully you won’t need one. I forgot that key element this weekend: HUGE MISTAKE.
  • Take a lot of pictures. You have NO IDEA how much your athlete will love this!

I hope this helps you have many successful events as a spectator! Let me know if you have any other tips!

One Final Note: This triathlon festival this weekend had one Olympic Distance Triathlon (I learned you can call those “Olys” this weekend. I’m a cool kid now.) and then 5 other events. One of them was a single rider time trial meaning you get on your bike and race the clock. They send riders out every 30 seconds or so, so there is SOME competitive motivation, but mostly you’re racing the clock and results are read out later. WELL…look at how they started this thing! HOW COOL IS THAT?