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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The Silver Half

This milestone half marathon sort of sneaked up on me. I guess this is what happens when you haven’t been running that much. So when I did the math and counted all the half marathons I started to panic. I have been slowly building my mileage and conditioning

My medal and bib earned a trip to the beach. (c) Stacey Cooper

My medal and bib earned a trip to the beach. (c) Stacey Cooper

back up, in other words, I was not anywhere near to being conditioned for a half marathon.

The one thing that I was holding on to was the fact that two of my buddies would be with me and would provide the perfect distraction for me. Yeah, then a blizzard came to NYC as it usually does when I go to Miami. This time, my friends’ flights were canceled. Let the panic ensue!

I was in major panic mode and maybe had a nothing short of at least five anxiety attacks. How far would I be able to get? Would I make the cut-off time for the half? What would happen if I couldn’t finish? What if I got injured again?

There were several times during the night that I thought about skipping the whole thing and not even giving it a go. But for some reason I still got dressed in the morning, still took the shuttle bus to the start, and the nearly froze to death waiting for the start.

The temps were in the mid-40s, perfect running weather but with the incredibly strong winds it felt like it was in the 30s. Even with my long sleeve shirt and jacket I was still shivering and still thought about how I could get back to South Beach.

I started and thought that I could always drop out when the race went through South Beach and by the street where my room was, not once, but twice. It was then that I ran out of gas running and I knew that the only way I would be able to finish was if I walked the rest of the way. Yup, I walked about the entire second half.

I still didn’t know if I would make the cut-off and I wasn’t exactly happy with the fact that I was walking. But, I realized that I was doing the smarter thing (the smart would have been not to start since I was not conditioned) and not pushing myself to run and re-injure my foot.

So I finished and it took me about an hour longer that my slowest half that I ran all the way through. Surprisingly, I’m ok with that.

I completed my 25th half marathon.

 

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A Little Motivation Goes a Long Way

There have been a few ups and downs on my comeback trail but finally I seem to be getting back into a regular routine. The fact that I’m registered to run the Miami Half on January 24 serves as a huge motivation. I at least want to look like I attempted to train for this race.

I know that it will be ugly and most likely my worst half marathon time but I’m ok with that. I am after all starting from the very beginning. I’m rebuilding my conditioning and my confidence. Finishing a half marathon will serve as a good reminder that I need to keep working at this and that I can get back to being a runner.

I’ve had to really push myself this week to get out and run. Some days are easier than others but it seems that old adage of when you get out the door and start putting one foot in front of the other will allow things to follow.

A little visual and monetary reminder that I do indeed love to run. (c) Stacey Cooper

A little visual and monetary reminder that I do indeed love to run. (c) Stacey Cooper

Finding other motivational tools has also been a help. I recently a small article in the January/February issue of Runner’s World about a runner who put a dollar aside for every mile she ran. This helped her train for a marathon and she had a nice stash of cash to splurge on something.

I thought this was a pretty cool idea. But instead of just using it for one race I figured I would do it for the whole year. That can add up to whole lot of cash!

So I found a mason jar and pulled out a bunch of the stickers I get in my monthly StrideBox and made my running motivation jar. The stickers finally became useful! Now if I can only find something to do with those strange energy enhancers that StrideBox gives me I’ll be all set.

Anyway, I’ve been doing this for two weeks now and I can honestly say that it did help me get out the door yesterday. I bailed on my morning running with my running club, Front Runners New York, but felt guilty that I would not be putting as much money in the jar as I could be. So last night I put on my running clothes, stepped out the door, and went for run. When I got back home I immediately put my weekly dollars and change in the jar.

The freakin’ jar worked!

My weekly mileage is very modest right now. I am starting from the very beginning but I am looking forward to a big week when I do the Miami Half and plan to keep building up my weekly total. I feel energized about the nice payout I can get from this but also about how I feel physically.

I really enjoyed running this week. My conditioning is still no where I ultimately want it to be but let’s be honest, I really haven’t put any effort into running for a year. This is what finding that motivation is all about. The goal of putting money in the jar helps but knowing that I’m enjoying this again and look forward to improving is really what I’m looking forward to.

 

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How Do You Begin Again?

Today marks two years since my half marathon PR. If you are a regular reader of my blog, and thank you for sticking around during my long hiatus, you know that this PR was a long time coming.

The original PR was set in Philly on 2009 and became so elusive to beat. Then I had that magical year in 2013 where almost every race I ran I got a PR including two half marathon PRs in consecutive weeks. I then followed that up with a 1 hour two minute PR in the NYC Marathon.

Then there the injuries and so many other things that just threw my life off track. 2013 seems like decades ago.

I’m still battling some recurring tendonitis in my feet but my heart is starting to feel like it wants run again, really want to run again. Maybe it has something to do with it being fall and all those great marathons like Chicago and New York. But why does it matter? I want to run.

This is how you start over from the very beginning.

This is how you start over from the very beginning.

But how do you start over when you know you are going to have recurring tendonitis, you have gained a lot of weight, and are seriously out of shape? My answer — start from the very beginning. Really, the very beginning. I’m doing a couch to 5k program for beginners.

There have been a couple of false starts but yesterday I got to run outside. It felt good to be out there. I’ve let go about my pace. It’s not where it was and how knows, may never be back there. But I was absolutely ok with that and happy to say, “Im going to run for 30 minutes.”

This plan I’m doing ends on December 18 and the Miami Half is on January 24. Trust me, I’m not setting any goals for Miami like I have stupidly done every year. But I just want to be happy running a race again which is something I haven’t felt in a really long time.

For the first time in a long time I am not registered for any races. Well, except for the NYC Marathon but I have decided to defer that. I need to get right and back in the right frame of mind and for the first time in a long time I feel like that can actually happen.

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Testing the Waters

I’m slowly dipping my toe back into running but it’s still hard.

The fact that I haven’t been running consistently means that I’m still horribly out of shape and have very little conditioning. I am running slower than I ever have as an adult and this is killing me. But I still don’t have the motivation to do something about it.

As we’re nearing the end of spring I have started racing again – well at least finishing races. And that right there is about all I can handle right now. I’m still very pissed off that I’ve let this happen to me and just as pissed off that I’m beginning to accept that finishing is just fine. I’m beginning to accept that I may never get a PR again or even come close to my old ones. I’d like for just a bit to find the drive to push myself to work harder and get focused on getting in shape again.

There have been more false starts in this than I would like. I’ve tried running in longer distances hoping that it would give me the motivation to actually train. No luck. I’ve hoped that running in these races would get me motivated. No luck. I’ve tried doing a run streak to see if that would keep me motivated. No luck.

Part of the problem is that I don’t have anyone to train with. It’s hard to find someone who runs or is willing to my pace or do a run/walk as I find my way back. Even though I’m in a great running club we all have various training goals and mine doesn’t really fit in with others right now. It’s lonely out there and I greatly miss having a regular running buddy.

My Broad Street Medal did some sightseeing before we went home. (c) Stacey Cooper

My Broad Street Medal did some sightseeing before we went home. (c) Stacey Cooper

But as I mentioned above, I’m still doing these races. In early May I ran the Philly Broad Street 10 Mile Run. This race had been on my “to do” list for some time and this year just seemed like the right time to do it. Up until this point, I had not finished a race since the Miami Half in January. That entire weekend I had a lot of questions about my conditioning and about how long it would take. My goal, a realistic one, was just to finish. The race proved how out of shape I’m in and slow I’ve become. But I was glad I did it. I had nice weekend and got to spend some time with a good friend that weekend. One day, when I’m in better shape I would like to do this one again. It’s a great, quick trip from NYC and I loved how the Philly community came out to support this. Plus cheesecakes!

In between this, I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Still just as slow as Philly and angry at myself for being that slow. It rained hard during my least favorite part of the race and I was an emotional wreck afterwards. It was perhaps my lowest point ever as a runner and all I kept thinking was, “I’m slow and fat.”

My Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon Relay Medal wanted to get one last look of our balcony view before we left. (c) Stacey Cooper

My Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon Relay Medal wanted to get one last look of our balcony view before we left. (c) Stacey Cooper

Two weeks after this I headed to San Diego for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon relay. The one and only reason I was looking forward to this was because my best buddy was celebrating her birthday on race day and we ran the relay. I wanted to run the race better and faster for her. I wanted to give us a really respectable time but I just couldn’t. I’m still slow and fat. But on the whole, this was a fantastic trip and I’m so glad I did it and don’t regret it.

Now I’ve got to figure out a way to get serious and motivated about running. I’ve got plenty of races coming up and I need to start training for the NYC Marathon soon. I cannot do that without being in the right mind set.

Just a brief update on what I’ve been up to. I miss you blog.

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When the Depression Takes Hold

This blog is about running and that’s what I’ve always wanted it to be about. For me, it has been a way to talk about something that I love so much and share that passion with others. But lately I just haven’t had a passion for it or much for anything else. You see, I suffer from seasonal depression and another form of depression that I won’t go into details about here. But I do want to share what things have been like for me lately as I try to get through this phase.

As the fall season begins to fade away I only half jokingly say that the doom and gloom of winter is upon us. The not joking part is that for me it really is doom and gloom. All I see throughout winter and most of spring is gray. I never see color, ever.

No matter what I try to do to prepare for it I never succeed in overcoming it. Some years are a bit better than others while some are worse that others. This is one of the worse years. Even with medication I can’t seem to beat it.

Probably the best way for me to describe how this feels is that I’m walking along a gray corridor and the ceiling is barely above my head. But it’s not a hard ceiling or it’s more like a blanket, something that you would think you could easily break through or push out of your way. But it’s like someone or something is holding that blanket tight at the corners so that you can’t get out from under it. The more you struggle the more tangled up in the blanket you get and the harder it gets to get out from under it.

In the past I have been able to lessen the effects through my running but right now my running is only adding to my struggle. I’m trying to run when I feel I can but most times I can find an easy excuse for not running. And here’s the catch, being active and moving does help. The problem is that darn blanket prevents me from getting motivated.

When you seek help from professionals one of the things you try to learn is accepting little things as accomplishments. These accomplishments take the form of getting out of bed and going to work, following your daily routine, making meals, and so forth.

Now let’s throw in my anxieties. For the most part I can keep them at reasonable levels but when things on my to do list that should be easily accomplished can get completed my anxiety levels start going escalating and get more depressed because I can’t accomplish simple tasks.

I’m doing my best to not isolate myself but it’s hard because I can’t always just fully be in the moment right now. When I’m home by myself I am often crying.

It’s very hard for me right now so please understand if I do withdraw a bit. I may not post anything to blog for a while or be on Twitter or my personal page on Facebook. But if and when I do, I hope you’ll still be around.

 

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