I’m Still Running!

Ugh, I have been so neglectful with this blog lately. Work has been very busy and I’ve been running in between.

Since I’m so horrible at race recaps this might actually work better. I can give you a brief synopsis of each race I have done with out going into all the details that I never seem to write about very well.

Philly Broad Street Run — This was the big one I was training for. I felt that if I could get close to what I did last year where this race sort of began my downward spiral that I could use it has by springboard into getting back into running/racing somewhat regularly. The week before the race I was thinking that I could even improve my time but then the weather decided to play a role.

From the moment I left my hotel for the race to the moment I got back it nothing but rain and rain, and rain even more. My corral started an hour after the first one so by the time I crossed the start line my feet were soaked and I was just cold. I ran with the plastic garbage bag on me the whole way. Mind you, not because of the rain but just because I was cold.

While I was waiting to start I eased back up on my plans and was happy to finish just a wee bit slower than last year. I ran well in the sections that I wanted to and knew what areas needed improvement going forward.

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I think all races should start near the water with this sunrise. (c) Stacey Cooper

Ragnar Cape Cod Relay — 12 women, 2 vans, 192 miles. What an amazing experience! Seriously, if you ever get a chance to do this type of relay please do.

I was so worried that I would be too slow and that I would let my team down but I didn’t need to worry. Everyone was so supportive of each other and it was so much fun.

I say this even though all of my legs had hills near the end and that it pure crazy heavy rain during my nighttime run on my second leg.

Retro 4 Miler — This was my first NYRR race since last year’s Pride Run and I was very nervous about this one. Even though I had been running with the beginners group I was co-leading for my running club, I still hadn’t run the four mile loop in Central park until the day before the race. Yeah, good timing on my part.

So it rained during this race too. I swear, mother nature does not like me. But at least this rain was the type I like. Nothing too hard but still made me feel a little hardcore.

I was bit slower than I wanted to be but for a first race back in Central Park I thought I did ok. Again, I know what I need to work on going forward and actually got to do some of that today during my run.

My next race is the Front Runner’s New York LGBT Pride Run on June 25. My favorite race of the year. It also just happens to be my first “long run” for my NYC Marathon training. For the first time I am going to do a 20 week training plan instead of the usual 18 week plan. I figured the two extra weeks will help me ease into he plan and get some extra base miles in so that I can really focus on the marathon.

This has to be one of my favorite times of year and Im so happy that running is a part of it again!

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I’m a Runner Again!

I can’t believe how happy I am to write that headline!

This is the plan I started so many months ago and kept restarting. This time I finally completed it.

This is the plan I started so many months ago and kept restarting. This time I finally completed it.

This week will be final week of that zero to 5k training plan that I started a gazillion months ago. The goal was to force myself to build up my endurance to avoid my usual cycle of re-injuring myself.

I have to admit that each time I tried to start this plan I was not at all confident in my abilities to re-engage with this sport. Maybe I still needed time away from it to heal emotionally. Who knows, but even as I started out this final time, it took a few weeks to feel I was improving. But I did.

As I was completing this past week’s schedule I just kept thinking over and over again that I was running again. That I am a runner again. I couldn’t stop smiling.

I’m a bit giddy about this and even more excited that the weather is finally cooperating so I can hit the roads again as a runner. To be able to start strategizing about my upcoming race is such a wonderful feeling that I didn’t think I would really experience again.

Speaking about that. I’m not putting any pressure on myself time-wise. I want to run the Philly Board 10 Miler and just be happy that I’m running again since I wasn’t exactly happy last year. This one is just about enjoying the experience.

Happy running people!

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Celebrating the Little Things

When I was going through the deepest part of my depression last year my therapist kept stressing to me that I needed to step back and appreciate some of the basic things I did as major accomplishments.

As I was running my reps from my training plan yesterday I was thinking that I had accomplished a lot and I was really happy and excited. Yes, this is from a person who has run countless 4 mile races, a whole bunch of 10ks, a few 10 milers, 26 half marathons, and three full marathons. But remember, I had hit my rock bottom as a runner late last year and am now starting over from the very beginning.

What I have learned along the way is to let go of measuring my current self against those past accomplishments and appreciate my steady improvement as I build myself back up again. That is probably the hardest thing to do.  But that is what this training plan has given me the opportunity to do and I am forever grateful for that.

This is from the Wortsboro 30k a little over two years ago. Also, probably the last time I smiled during that race. It was hilly and a major accomplishment in my running.

This is from the Wortsboro 30k a little over two years ago. Also, probably the last time I smiled during that race. It was hilly and a major accomplishment in my running.

So when I was on the middle rep of my training run yesterday I was reminded of the time when I was training for my first marathon. It was time when every long run was a point of celebration, Every 14 mile, 15, 16, 18, and 20 mile distance was new and a huge sense of pride in completing that long run.

In the following years marathon training became more about beating my previous time and not so much on cherishing the little victories along the way. That is how running was becoming for me, just logging the miles and appreciating them.

That really changed for me yesterday. Yes, I’ve logged many miles and distances but after not being able to run, not wanting to be able to run, and having a hard time getting back on track I finally feel as though I’m making progress.

I was so happy after my run and that I hit a wonderful new milestone in my training. I loved that I was sweating, I loved how my lungs and legs felt. I walked away with a smile and yeah, I celebrated that little victory yesterday and can’t wait to celebrate some more.

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Having Some Faith

Sometimes it can be difficult to stick with a training plan and believe that you will see the steady improvement each week.

When you follow your plan as closely as possible you don’t always notice the subtle increases in total minutes running or mileage added. That’s the point of the plans. You build up gradually and that ta-dah you have achieved your goal.

In all of the plans I have used from Hal Higdon, Coach Jenny, and numerous others they all require you to take that leap of faith. Suddenly there is that week where you need to run 10 miles on Wednesday or instead of increasing our run minutes by one minute each week they suddenly increase by two. But if you have been following your plan you begin to realize that you can accomplish this new distance.

Just a little snippet of what consistency looks like. (c) Stacey Cooper

Just a little snippet of what consistency looks like. (c) Stacey Cooper

Since I got back from DC I have been focusing on sticking to my training plan and thankfully I can say that I have been able to that. A new gym (Hi, Blink!) where I feel welcome has helped me show up even on the hard it’s too cold to do anything days.

I’ve been following the plan and starting to feel like a runner again. But this past week was one that had me concerned. It was one of those jump weeks. I’ve been following a run/walk plan to force myself to slowly build up without getting injured again. Every week we have been increasing our run minutes by one minute each week. This week it was two.

I was bracing myself for it and tried to be as mentally prepared as possible. If I accomplished this increase it would be a huge confident boost. If not, well, it would have been a blow.

To cut to the chase and not build up suspense — I did it! Seriously, I should have trusted Coach Jenny and this plan.

When one of my buddies joined me at the gym on Friday evening I decided to run a couple of extra intervals and I did it. While we were running, I had mentioned that I was finally feeling like everything was connecting and coming in line with my running.

I put my faith into this plan and I feel so confident and excited to go running again. It has been so long since I have felt like that!

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Falling in Love Again

There was a time in my life when running meant everything to me. I absolutely lived and breathed running. It helped me celebrate some really great days, kept things normal on the usual nothing to report here kind of days, and helped me heal on the really bad ones.

When I saw a necklace designed by Erica Sara that said “Every Mile Becomes A Part Of Me” I had to get it because it was so true. I practically stalked her booth at the NYC Half Expo when it debuted.

Then life fell apart. My mother died after a lengthy illness, I suffered a foot injury, and then went into a severe depression that I eventually wrote about. I stopped running with a few attempts to start up here and there but never being fully committed. My heart just wasn’t into it any more. It was also at that time that the clasp on my “Every Mile Becomes A Part Of Me” necklace broke. It was, in a way, telling me that the miles didn’t matter any more.

For an entire year and a half I had no idea what joy and pure happiness felt like. I just couldn’t remember and certainly had no idea how to find it again.

It has been a little over a year when I was at my lowest, writing that post about my depression, that I can confidently say things have and are continuing to turn around. Many areas of my life are feeling more balanced and while other parts are even more in flux than before I no longer feel as though I am the one spiraling out of control.

Finding the balance hasn’t been easy. I’ve isolated myself in many ways and hope that I can restore some of the relationships that I know I damaged during that time. I have taken more time for myself and did a few things that were meant just for me and no one else. It was some of those things, like my swimming class, that gave me some confidence and peace of mind.

Look! You can see a lot of running clothes that were worn while actually running and are now drying and waiting to be worn again! (c) Stacey Cooper

Look! You can see a lot of running clothes that were worn while actually running and are now drying and waiting to be worn again! (c) Stacey Cooper

After several starts on stops, I can finally say that I am running again. I am sticking to a training plan and feel good about what I am accomplishing. I’m losing weight again and just overall feeling healthier.

Running is something that I need again and feel like I missed out on something special when I am not able to go running. I love the feeling I have after I complete a run. I’m looking forward to the races that I have signed up for and can’t wait to start training for them.

And today, I ordered a new chain for my necklace.

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Who Runs DC?

In short, I did and improved my time from the Miami Half. Score one for me for hitting a goal.

Last Saturday at this time (7:14 pm ET) I had finally managed to get myself out of my AirBnB apartment and drag myself to get to some food. I was satisfied and happy.

I can say with certainty that I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon. The course is fantastic, with the minor exception of the hill in Rock Creek Park, and the crowd support was fantastic. I liked the start time of 7:30 am and the fact that I stayed in a place that was directly across the street from a Metro station, RFK Stadium, and the DC Armory made this a hassle free race.

My medal decided to hit the town the day after the race. #MedalOnTheTown (c)  Stacey Cooper

My medal decided to hit the town the day after the race. #MedalOnTheTown (c) Stacey Cooper

Now for race details. For the first time in a very long time I felt completely comfortable at the start of the race. The temperature was perfect, unlike in Miami where it took me a very long time to feel warm.

I got to see the DC Front Runners at the first water station so I got tons of cheers from them. In a way, just like being home. I’m not sure if there is any other running club that has “sister” clubs, not only in every major city in the US, but around the world. It really is amazing.

At that point, I got to settle in to a nice rhythm and keep a steady pace and not worry about a single thing. Really, that is a tremendous feeling to have and one that I missed so much.

In Rock Creek Park I even got to chat, briefly, with a woman that I kept leap frogging with. Yeah, that says relaxed. If I were racing this I would say too relaxed but…I wasn’t racing. But that is probably what kept me from freaking out about that 75 foot climb that was quickly approaching. Seriously, that hill was just pure evil and huge shout out must go to the military families who were lined up along that hill. Their cheers and words of encouragement got me up to the top.

I don’t know about others but there is always a certain point as I’m getting closer to the finish that I start thinking abut my post-race meal. It sort of serves as the motivation to get my ass across that finish line. For this one, the motivating meal were the dirty water dogs that I knew would be at RFK stadium and a can of Coke. I like to think that I am a simple woman at times. Even better motivation was knowing I only had to drag myself across the street to my apartment after the hot dogs were purchased.

I said it before, but I just can’t stop thinking about my good fortune of getting this apartment for the race. I didn’t have to check a bag and all I had to do was walk across the street to start my post-race recovery.

This race, in so many ways, was the motivating confidence booster that we all need from time to time.

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My Consistency is Like a Roller Coaster

So just about every week I am convinced that I’ll finally be able to do some consistent running and follow this training plan that I am on but right now, just about the most consistent thing I have been able to do is cram in some runs on Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday. This does not make for 1) properly following a training plan and 2) being consistent in that training plan.

Because of this, I have not built up the conditioning that I was hoping I would have by now. Theoretically, I should be on week nine or 10 of my training plan but in reality I am stuck on week three. My poor motivation jar is only collecting about five to six dollars a week.

But, and there is a good but, I am finally feeling a bit more confident in what little progress I have made and feel as though I am fully ready to move on to week four. Hoorah!!!

Good thing, since I’m planning on muddling my way through a half marathon this weekend in DC. Again, zero goals on this one but yes, it would be nice to improve my no goal time from the Miami Half. If anything, I hope my time will improve because it will be warmer in DC than it was on race day in Miami. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m also hoping that without the out and back on the “hilly” MacArthur Causeway I’ll be able to improve my time.

Nuevo zapatos!! Didn't know I was bilingual did you? (c) Stacey Cooper

Nuevo zapatos!! Didn’t know I was bilingual did you? (c) Stacey Cooper

Oh, and I have new shoes! New shoes always make you run faster. This is scientifically proven somewhere, I’m sure of it.

Ever since my metatarsal injury I have had a challenging time finding the perfect shoe. I’ve tried Asics, Brooks, and several models of Adidas shoes settling on the Energy Boost.

Then Adidas decided that it wanted to win my heart (and feet) over for good.

Adidas recently came out with the Pure Boost X. I have no idea if the X means “x” or “ten.” The shoe has been design with a woman’s foot in mind and is supposed to hug/mold to the arch of the foot to provide maximum support. In fact the bottom of the arch support on the shoe isn’t even attached to the sole of the shoe. What!?! Yup, you put your finger right on through it and look out to the other side. The shoe is also made of the sock-like material, again, to provide the best support.

At first the shoes seemed a little tight and I had to work my inserts into them but once I wore them for a day they fit like a charm and do provide excellent support. I have been on several runs with them and absolutely love how they feel. Of course, the big test will be the half marathon on Saturday but I feel confident with how they will feel.

And this week, I swear I will follow my training plan!

 

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