Setting Goals and Sticking With Them

Having goals is good, sticking with them to the end is even better.

If that sentence doesn’t scream, “duh,” I don’t know what does.

A few months ago I set out on a plan to try an improve my 5k time, a distance that I never really ran that much but found myself running more frequently this year. I’m still ways off of my 5k PR time but I wanted to improve my time from over the previous year. The year where I tried to get running consistently again over and over again.

This year has seen a tremendous improvement on the consistency so I knew that setting a goal like this was realistic. That’s part of the deal with settings goals — they should take work to achieve but still be in reach. That’s what I have found to keep moving forward and achieving those goals then setting new ones. That’s my life coaching hat I just put on for you.

(LC hat now removed)

So I kept plugging away at my training plan and enjoyed seeing the endurance return as well as the confidence. My next step was to actually go out and run a 5k race to achieve this. Details.

My original plan was to run a 5k while on a trip to Arizona but that just was not going to work out. So the next option was a 5k about a mile from my home. It was perfect. I could sleep in a bit and not have to rush to the race.

The weather the during the week was awesome and beautiful so of course that meant it was going to be chilly and pouring rain during the race. Thank you Mother Nature and Running Gods!

I pretty much knew that my goal time was not going to be met. But I accomplished my “B” goal of sticking to my race plan and having fun. The time goal would come another day.

That “another day” came on Memorial Day when I decided to sign up for a 5k on Roosevelt Island in NYC. Yup, it rained on race day! While it didn’t rain as heavy as my last 5k it did bring the temps down a bit. This time around I switched my “A” and “B” goals by making sticking to the race plan and having fun as the “A” goal and beating my time as my “B” goals.

This 5k course is flat so my chances of hitting both goals was improved before I even crossed the starting line. The start of this course has a couple of tight turns near the start and a couple at the finish. Other than that you just run around the island.

Turn out keeping it calm and relaxed did allow me to enjoy the race. It wasn’t until I was off the island and headed to my best buddy’s place that I realized that I hit my time goal. Yup, I had a bit of a goofy grin on my face when I realized that.

By having those realistic goals I was able to accomplish them and now am in full on training mode for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Labor Day Weekend. There was a hurricane there last year when my buddy and I went that brought the temps down to a very comfortable level. I’m fully expecting the super crazy heat and humidity this year that may make me wish that I never decided to do this race again. That’s just how it rolls!

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Just Running Around Here and There

Just because I haven’t anything in a gazillion weeks doesn’t mean that I have stopped running. Quite the contrary. I have been running and steadily building up my endurance. It’s just that I’ve been busy with other things lately. All good things but we’ll keep this post focused on the running since this a blog about running.

I can’t tell you what a difference a year makes. Last year at this point I was training for the Philly Broad Street Run and the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. I was really overweight and focused on just being able to run three minutes without stopping.

Right now I’m at a much healthier weight with more to go and running much better and longer. Things are so much better that I’m back at the point where I feel a void if I don’t go out for a run. It seems like ages ago that I had that feeling.

I even got a chance to run in the Canadian Rockies last week when I had a quick overnight business trip to Banff. Running there was fantastic and invigorating. I’ve never been to Banff before and with just a quick turnaround I am so glad that I got the opportunity to see a little of the area we were staying in. I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit and run.

IMG_0042

It’s easy to forget how far you’ve run when this is in front of you. (c) Stacey Cooper

Next week I’ll be headed to Scottsdale, Arizona for another business trip and found a 5k that I’ll be able to participate in after my meetings are completed. I’ve been following a Coach Jenny training plan so that I can try and improve my 5k time from about a year ago. I’ve been feeling so strong while running that I’m sure I can achieve this goal.

After I take on the streets of Scottsdale I plan on running a local 5k that it about a mile from my home. It will be my first race in this area and I’m really looking forward to it before I start focusing on my next planned race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Half Marathon in Virginia Beach during Labor Day weekend. My friend and I enjoyed it so much last year that we decided to do this one again. The course is really beautiful and I highly recommend it. Of course, last year we were there for a hurricane that kept the temperatures down so I’m expecting plenty of heat and humidity this year!

What may be the last big trip of the year that I’m in the planning stages for is the Havana Marathon. There are several races on my bucket list and even though I have always wanted to go to Cuba the timing of this race never seemed to fit and so it just remained a dream. Now it seems that the stars have aligned and I’ll be able to go this year! The trip is from November 17-20 and please let me know if you are going. Perhaps we can have a mini scoopsontherun blog meet-up!

I just wanted to give you a quick run-down (ha!) on what has been going on and the future plans. It’s spring and getting warmer so let’s get out there and be active!

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Feeling Stronger

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tzu

One of the hardest things when you stop running on a regular basis is what happens when you start running again. It is incredibly amazing how out of shape you feel if you’ve only stopped for a few days or months or years. Starting up again is a challenge and always feels like your legs are going fall off or a lung will pop out of your chest. But somewhere deep your brain you know that with a little work you won’t feel like that all the time.

That’s the physical aspect of it but the emotional aspect can sometimes, I think, be worse.

Trying to find that deep recess in your brain where logic lives can be hard to find and rely on when it is being block by this gigantic blob of emotions.

It is so easy to be hard on yourself and compare the current you to the you of oh so many PRs and amazing accomplishments of yesterday. Believe me it took several months and you can possibly say even a year before I stopped that comparison. It was only then that I was able allow myself to really get started on my journey to be a consistent runner again.

But even letting go of some of that emotional stuff it was still difficult to get out of safety zone and not push or challenge myself to run longer and faster. I would always tel myself, “You’ll start to focus on increasing your pace next week. Let’s just make that you can get through a week doing this and maybe then you will feel stronger.”

I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was the successful weight loss or joining Coach Jenny’s Challenge 2017 that has an incredibly supportive group of members, but it happened.

Look at that lovely training log that has consistent activity of running, walking, and cycling with one rest day. That makes me happy. (c) Stacey Cooper

Look at that lovely training log that has consistent activity of running, walking, and cycling with one rest day. That makes me happy. (c) Stacey Cooper

I was able to run consistently during the week to meet the challenge goals and then started pushing myself. When I did, that magical thing happened — I was ok and felt fine, great even. And with that I got that little boost in confidence that has continued to push me.

Having that confidence enabled me to be able to look back at my past accomplishments in a healthy way. For example, when I was running at my peak I was logging two abbreviated runs a day; one was outdoors and the other on the treadmill. At that time I noticed that I was able to increase my speed and quickly get comfortable at that new speed. This is similar to what is happening now, minus the two-a-days. When I started back up with my running a could barely reach half what that old fast speed was but the past couple of weeks I have been able to increase that speed.

Recognizing that feeling of increasing my speed I referred back to my old log book from that time and realized that while I still have a ways to go to get back to that speed I am getting closer and it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable task. I know that I can accomplish that speed again.

It really is great to feel this way again. So all I can say is if you need that little pick me up or reminder that you can get back it, let this be proof that you can!

 

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Running in the Snow

I don’t like snow but on some very rare occasions I can pretend that I do and well even enjoy running in it. But it may not necessarily have anything to do with you know, actually liking snow.

It was 6:00 pm on a Saturday evening when this was taken. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Well except the runner. The runner was running. (C) Stacey Cooper

I love running when it is quiet and calm. Being able to hear my breathing and my footfalls is one of the most wonderful experiences that running good gives me. This is why I love running in the dark, either early in the morning or in the evening. Knowing that no one will be out and about gives me that amazing time all by myself.

I had another opportunity this past Saturday when a light snow had started falling. Yes, I could have started my run at any time during the day but I admit, I got a little giddy at the thought of running in the snow. 

A couple of weeks ago there was much more snow and it was a bit more difficult to run through so I only ended up getting a couple of miles in. But last night I wanted more and completed a four mile loop.

It was fantastic. Hardly anyone was out and yeah, the snow helped make it that way.

It wasn’t a speed breaker due to making sure what I was running on wasn’t ice so it was slow, but when I was done I felt like I had a good workout and felt fulfilled. So yeah, this snow stuff might be growing on me.

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Hello 2017

Man am I happy to see 2016 gone. It wasn’t necessarily a bad year overall but it certainly presented me with challenges that seemed to be more of a long slog. Now we get to start with a clean slate.

For the first time in a long time I am not registered for any races and don’t have any specific goal races in mind.It certainly is bit freeing from the pressure of having to maintain a training plan and keep paying race reg fees.

Speaking of which, some races are now so pricey that I feel like race directors are making the decision for me. I’m at the point if I am going to pay $60 or more for a race that I should make it a destination race rather than pay that much to run in places I can go to every day.

That said, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been running.

I’ve been alternating between running a nice little three mile route near my home and doing the same on the treadmill. As I mentioned in my last post I have rediscovered the joys of running at night, even now that it is getting colder outside. It is supposed to snow overnight here in NYC and I’m looking forward to heading out sometime tomorrow and go running in it. Who am I, I hate snow!?!

This running for joy has allowed me to me focus on being more consistent, and surprisingly, I’m finding it much easier to do without a training plan. So much so that I joined Coach Jenny’s Challenge 2017 which is about being consistently active and creating new healthy habits. You can find out more about it here.

What I love about it so far is the instant, amazingly supportive community. This is something that I felt has been missing in some ways in my day to day running life. As we all know, sometimes you just need to change things up a bit or start doing things that you used to but haven’t done in a long time.

For me, that not only involves running for the pure joy of it, but getting back to going to my deep water running classes. Those brought so much joy to me and even helped me try yet other things, like improving my regular swim stroke in another class that the DWR instructor offered.

I’ve pretty much stopped using my Garmin and have using my Apple watch to track my runs. I was so stat and analytic heavy that I think that started taking the joy out of running. I can still get into the data and number crunching with the Apple watch but right now I’m just content with logging the miles in my paper log book and spreadsheet.

Motivation Jar

This little guy is going to stick around in 2017. (c) Stacey Cooper

I’m also continuing to use my motivation jar. It was just a great tool in getting me out the door and I netted a few hundred dollars in 2016. I’m hoping that I can bring in more than that this year. Think about having some extra cash on hand when you are at an expo for one of those destination races. I’m so tempted to get that massage thing that looks like a car buffer.

You can also do normal stuff with it like by running shoes or even a nice dinner while you are at that destination race. After all, you earned it!

I’m finding that there is so much more that I’m open to in ways of motivating me this year and that is such a great feeling because I haven’t had that in a really long time. Yeah, that was a bit cheesy but oh well.

I think just overall I’m looking forward to really being healthy. I feel better and that translates into wanting to do all this running and healthy living stuff. Hopefully that will mean more dough in the motivation jar.

Here’s to an awesome and healthy 2017!

 

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Night Running

When I started running again as an adult for what now seems ages ago but in reality was really only in 2009 I always ran in the evening with the exception of weekends. It just seemed logical to me. I slept my usual hours, got up at my regular time, went to work, came home, took care of the dog, and then went running. Repeat as needed throughout the week.

Then in 2013 when my mother became ill and for a time had recovered enough to go home I committed myself (Ha! Perhaps if I really committed myself to an insane asylum things would have been so much easier!) to training for another marathon. Not only was it just train for the marathon but this time around I used a more intense training program. Doing these training runs during the evening and caring for my mother just was not going to happen.

What did happen was that I forced myself into becoming a morning runner. But I still only had a limited amount of time before work so that I could make sure that I got enough sleep. I devised a great plan of during those weekday training runs into two-a-day runs. There is always some debate about this but in my case it worked and my long runs were never compromised or turned into two-a-day runs.

I would get up at 4:30 in the morning and head out for a four mile run. When my body finally got accustomed to this new routine I thoroughly enjoyed this morning ritual and wondering why I had been so devoted to running at night. I can still recall that amazing feeling of being out on the roads so early that only a few other die hard runners were out and about. It was great to be out in the stillness of the early morning and only hearing your footfalls and the occasional automatic sprinkler turning on. There were the rare car or two but most often it was just me, the chipmunks scurrying about, and the few deer now and then.

During my lunch break I would head to the gym and run the remaining miles left for that day’s work out. I went through a tremendous amount of running clothes during the week but I was convinced that I was forever a convert to the early morning run.

But, as life would have it, my circumstances changed. My mother passed away and began to lose my desire for running, then when I tried to get back into it I got injured and then my consistency faded and I’m now in the up and down motion of running. When I get into a regular schedule everything works out well but as soon as I miss a few days it usually takes a few weeks to get back onto the road.

With getting back into regular training I have turned back into an evening runner. To put it more precisely, going to the gym right after work and running on the treadmill runner.

The book that helped motivate to re-learn how to run at night.

The book that helped motivate to re-learn how to run at night.

But lately I have been feeling the urge to start running outdoors during the evening. I’ve got a wonderful and safe route so there was no excuse that could prevent from going out.

So last night was the night, even though I had been home all day and could have gone out at any time during the day but I was lazy during the day. Hey, it happens. There was an NCIS: Los Angeles marathon on tv.

I got dressed around and headed out at 6:00 pm. Where I live its dark and not so crowded out. Ah, the ultimate definition of a bedroom community. Most of my route is well lit so thankfully no need for my head lamp. I met a really nice giant dog who was a giant mush ball and got tempted to stop for an Italian ice (the place by me is pretty famous), and got to look at some really big houses with awesome holiday lights.

I was reminded about how much I used to enjoy this. It was an easy run and everything felt great. Then things got a little tricky.

The last mile of my route is very dark and kind of woodsy with uneven sidewalks where they even exist. But I had come prepared, or so I thought.

I had been wearing my headlamp from the get go along with all of my reflective gear. I must mention that it is always important to run wise and make sure that you can be seen from a good distance by people and cars. (My PSA is complete). Yeah, but you should make sure everything is in working order before you head out.

Sure enough, when I reach up to turn my headlamp on nothing happened. Batteries = dead. Not all was lost because I at least had my cell phone and could use the flashlight on that. Yup, I left my small handheld light at home. Then, my cell phone died. #NightRunningFail.

Thankfully, I only stumbled once but nothing could take away my happiness of being able to go out for a nice relaxing run when most people were getting ready for the evening meals. I felt that I earned mine and started planning my run for the next evening.

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All That Thankful Stuff

So here I am on Thanksgiving with my dog stretched out on the sofa with me. My best buddy will be here later and we will chow down on our Thanksgiving feast. I am so thankful for that but this a running blog so let me do a quicksy review of running things that I am thankful for without it being all too end of the year review-like. We still have 38 more days until the end of the year and more to accomplish.

I’m thankful for my 25th and 30th half marathons. Number 25 was the Miami Half that I wasn’t at all trained for and walked half of it. Not pretty at all but it is one that I was incredibly proud of. I could have easily dropped out for the first half of that race but somehow kept going.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half was not supposed to be number 30 but just a training run for the NYC Marathon. I just was not able to train consistently for the marathon this year and I figured I would give it one last attempt. If I could do an 18 mile long run I would feel confident enough to give it a go and run the marathon. With that in mind, I added Grete’s Great Gallop to my race schedule with the goal of adding an additional five miles. The additional five didn’t materialize and at that point I knew the marathon was out of the question.

I think that gave me some relief in just going out there and running with nothing on the line. I finished, collected a nice medal and bonus R’n’R goodies, and made my way home.

With race behind me I was just able to relax and not get all hyped up about the fall marathon season. The only races I put on my schedule were a few 5k’s with zero pressure. I’m thankful for being able to run without any pressure and just enjoy it.

Since I’m just enjoying things I feel great about running regularly again I can start thinking about accomplishing things that are not racing related. So with that I’m going to participate in the Runner’s World Run Streak. I’ve done this in the past but during the summer from Memorial Day through July 4. This one will be from today, Thanksgiving, to January 1.

runners-world-run-streak-cover-photo-finalI ran two miles this morning and can’t wait to hit the road tomorrow for a few miles. I’m so thankful that I feel like this is a a doable challenge.

But really, I’m super thankful for the turkey that I’m about to put in the oven!

 

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