Conquering or Being Conquered?

Oh my, it’s been a long time since I blogged.  I’ve actually run 3 races, which have gone undocumented, since I last hit the keyboard.  Summer went by in a blur and before I knew it, I was back at work and busier than ever.

Race recaps in a flash

In July, I stayed an extra day after USAV Junior National Championships to run Afton Trail Run 50K.  It was to be a challenging, hilly course and I was excited to run a race that would cause me to struggle.  Except I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would.  The course was 2 loops of 25K and I did suffer some fatigue during the first loop.  I didn’t start the race feeling my best and did the first loop at a  pretty good pace, considering the hills I had to climb.  Near the end of the first loop, I cursed myself – A LOT – for not overriding my ego and *just* doing the 25K.  I DID NOT want to go back out on a second loop.  I stopped at the aid station before heading back out and made a spur of the moment decision to throw out my fueling and nutrition strategy.  I ate M&Ms, pretzels and drank Coke then headed out on the 2nd loop. I ran conservatively the first part of the loop but broke off with 10k to go and ran a really good pace.  I wanted to finish under 6:30 and knew that I would really have to push to get to the finish in time.  (At this point, I feel I should remind you how TERRIBLE I am at run math.  I CAN NOT correctly do run math during a race.)  I kept fueling on Coke, M&Ms & pretzels at the aid stations but got in and out as quickly as possible.  I was also starting to feel the fatigue creep in, but the lure of sub 6:30 was enough to keep me going in spite of it.  I ended up finishing in 6:23, which was just 14 minutes slower than Wildflower but there was also much more elevation.  I was pretty happy with the way I pushed at the end and with the overall result.

In August, I traveled to 7iL Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas for Trail Racing Over Texas’ Habanero race weekend.  My coach was attempting the 100 miler and I was going to be one of his pacers.  Since I was already going to be there, I signed up for the 30K.  The thing about Habanero is that the race starts at NOON.  In Texas.  In August.  So it’s HOT.  I, luckily, only had to do 3 loops of 6.2.  When I finished, the heat index was 106 or something crazy like that.  It was brutal.  BIG kudos to all those who kept battling out there loop after loop.  I don’t perform well in the heat and I was starting to decline fast there at the end.  UltraSignUp has this ranking system.  I should never go in and look at these rankings, but I do.  I was ranked 3rd overall female going in – please know the field wasn’t large.   Even with a small field, I honestly didn’t believe that I could get 3rd OA female.  But….I finished 4th overall female and just 5 minutes behind 3rd place.  I wasted more than 5 minutes in that race.  This was the beginning of a wake up call for me.  Still, I was really proud of myself for battling it out with the heat the way I did.  It was a victory, for sure.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went down to Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas to run another TROT race.  I know they have worked hard to find places to host events that are outside the Houston area and wanted to support their efforts to host more races North.  Plus, I had 36 miles scheduled that weekend and a 50K is a nice way to get miles in and break up the monotony of training.  I was NOT prepared for the hills!  Seriously, these hills reminded me of Afton Trail Race.  This race made me realize just how unprepared I am for my upcoming 50 miler in the Hill Country.  Again, I went in ranked 3rd overall female and, again, I thought there was no way that I could pull that off.  I started out with the lead group but I was having a little calf issue and slowed down on the first big climb.  It was dark.  At the time, I didn’t know that I was the only female in that lead group, so I thought that I had fallen WAY out of contention for the podium and I just set out to check off the loops and get to the finish.  As it turns out, I was in 2nd and 3rd most of the race.  Of course, I didn’t have any crew there and I didn’t check the screen after each loop so I was completely in the dark.  I struggled during the last 5k and it was during this time that I got chicked.  I later learned that I was in 3rd place at the time and this woman knew I was 3rd place and she gave everything she had to pass me and try to stay ahead of me.  Second race in a row that I missed the podium, coming in 4th OA female (my time was 6:27) and this time I lost by THREE MINUTES.  I have to sharpen my skills and get myself to become more aggressive in these ultras.  I am SO AFRAID of bonking.  I MUST get out of my comfort zone in this area.  If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears…  This one is totally mental and I think I may be subconsciously sabotaging myself due to a fear of success??  Or maybe I just think too much.   img_7098

I may have conquered myself but training is conquering me

I’ve been thinking a lot about my word of the year: conquer.  It’s amazing the effect of simply choosing a word has on your life.  I do not think of my word on a daily basis.  Sometimes not even on a weekly basis.  But the simple act of choosing a word has a profound impact in shaping the year, or it has in my case.  This is the 3rd year that I have focused on one word throughout the calendar year and each year, I am amazed at how things come together.  I think this relates to goals, as well, and posting our goals where we can see them daily makes a huge difference in us meeting those goals.

When I originally chose this word, it was to conquer my inner demons.  I was going into Houston Marathon trying to get a BQ.  I had gained A LOT of confidence but I still didn’t trust myself the way I should.  I still had a lot of self doubt and anxiety about my performances.  I trust myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I believe in myself so much more than I did 10 months ago.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner, for now, in that department.

But I’m still being conquered.  Training for a 100 miler is NO JOKE.  I thought that my biggest challenge would be juggling my hectic schedule to get all these miles in – and it has been a big challenge.  But a bigger challenge has been battling the fatigue that comes with 40-50 mile weekends.  I.  AM.  EXHAUSTED.  Like Walking Dead zombie exhausted.  And I’m just getting into the real meat of training.  I have 2 more months of the Walking Dead before taper.  I know this is all designed to give me the best chance of success on race day, but that doesn’t keep me from whining like a big pansy.  Still, I’m thankful for the ability to run and the opportunity to train for a 100 mile race.

Brazos Bend will be a blast, but first….Rawhide

Next weekend, I’ll be attempting my first 50 mile race.  This race is held on Flat Rock Ranch, which is where Ragnar Trail Hill Country was held last year.  I didn’t get to run all my legs at that race, so I felt like I needed redemption on that course.  Now that the race is getting close, I wonder if redemption is overrated.

Seriously, though.  Originally, the thought of this race took my breath away.  It scared me to death.  I thought that there was NO WAY that I could manage 50 miles, PERIOD, and especially on this course.  I thought about my word of the year and how the only way I could conquer anything was to step out and attempt what my brain registered as impossible.  So I signed up.  I love the transformation that happens during the course of training.  I am not sure at what point I realized that I could do it, but I began to believe, fully and completely, that I am capable of finishing this race.   However, I definitely still have my doubts.  I’ve been wrestling with them the past few days but doubts aren’t all bad.  They keep you humble and grounded.  I’ll need to stay humble and grounded to keep my ego from getting in my way on race day.img_7230

Brazos Bend will be the next up on the schedule and the big finale for 2017.  Most days, I feel pretty confident about being able to finish.  Some days, I panic and wonder what I was thinking to believe I could do this.   So many people talk about getting “the buckle”, but that is the least of my concern.  I am not doing this for a buckle.  I am doing this because I wanted to push myself farther than I ever have.  I am doing this because I wanted to put myself into a place so low and so dark that I have to fight with every cell in my body to keep going.  I am in it for that life-changing moment.  The buckle will just be a tangible reminder of what I was able to accomplish.

But first, I have to survive the training.

OH!!! Almost forgot….I got another tattoo 🙂

In July, Carmen went with me to get another tattoo.  I’ve been waiting for the perfect inspiration for my running-specific tattoo and I didn’t waste any time when it finally came to me.  I hadn’t used this artist before and chose him because of a couple landscapes that I saw, but when we got there he mentioned that landscapes weren’t even his thing!  I settled on Kokopelli and the cool thing is that he grew up in Arizona and knew all about Southwest and Kokopelli culture.  He ended up being the perfect artist for this tat, and I LOVE the completed piece!img_6688

Happy Hump Day,
Jen

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2015: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Initially, I wasn’t going to write the obligatory end of the year summary.  As the year winds to a close, however, I naturally started thinking about where the year had taken me, and I wanted to document it – if only just for me.  It’s been A year!  I have had some heart-stopping, stellar moments.  I’ve also had some heart-stopping, heartbreaking moments.

2015 Word of the Year

Last year, I chose a word of the year: Balance.  I felt everything in my life was OUT of balance and I desperately needed to get control of things.  My running was clearly out of control – I was prone to over-training and terrible at supplementing my fitness with cross-training and strength.  I was over-scheduled in almost every area of my life – there were some things over which I had control of scheduling and many things that I did not.  I’m not going to lie….I still struggle with balancing all of life’s demands.  But, I am better at the balancing act now than I was 365 days ago.  Truth be told, this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m up for it!

The Bad and The Ugly

I’m lumping “The Bad” and “The Ugly” together because I simply want to be DONE with all this negativity! LOL

  • Started the year with an ITB injury that stole the first 4 weeks of the year from me.  I was finally able to s-l-o-w-l-y return to running the last week of January.
  • Battled another injury – stress fracture in my heel – in July.  This hiccup took another month of running away from me and in the setback I wondered if I would be fit enough to run the full at Dallas.IMG_4598
  • The entire year felt like a battle.  I was battling to beat my ITB.  Then I was battling to recover from my heel.  Recovering from injury takes a lot of time, patience that I don’t have, and mental fortitude.
  • My biggest battle was in my mind.  It isn’t a secret (or at least I don’t think it is a secret) that I don’t have a lot of faith in my abilities – unless you count my ability to injure myself, in which case I have full faith in that!  Spending basically an entire year injured caused me to doubt myself.  I didn’t believe that my body could recover enough to ever run long distances again.  I didn’t believe that I could run smart enough to stay uninjured.  I just didn’t believe in me at all.  This was, hands down, the biggest tragedy of the year.

The Transformation

When I looked back at some of my earlier blog posts, I realize how much I had to learn….and how much I have learned!  I can’t believe how much I have matured as a runner.  I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I have been able to find a peace with running that I never had before.  Some things I learned on my own.  Some lessons were taught to me by John, my partner for part of the year until he moved, and others I learned from my current coach, Brent.

  • I started the year with the intent to train by heart rate, but that change didn’t happen fully until I started working with my current coach in October.  The beauty of this is that all things prepare us for what will happen in the future.  Since I had been monitoring my heart rate all year, I knew how my heart would react in certain situations. Since my training with Brent is set up almost exclusively by heart rate, I was ahead of the curve, in a sense, because I already “knew” my heart.  This type of training has been very good for my running!
  • My partner, John, taught me the importance of running slower (which, ties right into the heart rate training).  With his guidance, I learned how to pace myself (which is something that I COULD NOT do before running with him).  Developing this discipline in my running certainly laid the groundwork for great things to come and made it much more easy for me to execute workouts properly.
  • I finally learned to listen to my body, even though I didn’t always act upon it.  I hope that will come as I continue maturing as a runner.  The fact that I now notice those little things is a huge victory.
  • I gave up running with music.  BEST.  DECISION.  EVER.  Taking away the distraction of the music opened up so many amazing things.  First, I can listen to my footsteps to see if there are any imbalances.  I am more aware of my breathing.  I don’t get lost in songs and beats, which formerly meant I would end up running too fast.  In addition, during those tough spots in a run, I had to rely on myself to get through it rather than finding a song to distract me though it.  BIG difference.  I think that helped my confidence A LOT.
  • The most beautiful thing happened when I started believing in myself.  By the time Dallas rolled around, I began to have a quiet confidence and somehow learned to have peace with what would come – good or bad.  I honestly didn’t fret over that race, which, if you know me, is a MIRACLE.  I am carrying that peace and confidence with me into 2016!

Cycling helped me through the rough patches

I love to bike….outdoors.  I dislike riding on the trainer, but I did a lot of that early in the year because I knew how much the cross-training would help my recovery.  Cycling also saved me during my heel fracture, because I was given the green light to ride as much as I wanted as long as I didn’t suffer discomfort.  I biked A LOT in July!

This year, I transitioned from a hybrid to a road bike, and with that came clip-ins.  Most people know how clumsy I am, and so you can imagine the number of falls I had because I would forget to twist my foot out….all of them happened in my drive-way!  I still laugh about it.

I do love any time that I get on the bike, however, and who knows – there may be a tri in my future.

The Good, Running-wise

Despite the setbacks, I had lots of victories on the roads this year.

  • Ran Skyline HM in May, even though it might have been too close to rehab and recovery.  I was 8 minutes off my PR, but the important thing is that I was able to run a fairly strong race, and it felt like a HUGE victory.Medal
  • I ran Rock the Block 10k at the end of May because I wanted to focus on some shorter distances to help bring down my HM time.  I was able to PR this race by about a minute @ 57:46.

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter :)

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter 🙂

  • Even though Plano Balloon HM was the WORST race of the year for me, it was a victory.  I ran this race after being back from my heel injury only 7 weeks.  I realize (now) that I was being to aggressive, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever :)

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever 🙂

  • I joined Renegade Endurance and love having the support of the athletes in the club.  It is so much fun to hear about their successes and lift them up, and racing is much more fun when your teammates are there racing as well!

    My RE team members are the BEST!

    My RE team members are the BEST!

  • Rock n Roll St. Louis was one of the highlights of my year.  I went into this race just wanting to finish strong, plus the main reason I went was to socialize with my group of Twitter friends.  At this point, I had run Plano Balloon just a month earlier and missed an entire week of workouts afterward because my body wasn’t ready to run that race.  I had just started working with Brent and the main goal was Dallas Marathon.  I was completely shocked and surprised when I ended up with a PR 2:13:17 (by 43 seconds! LOL).
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    My Sole Sister Jenn

    My Sole Sister Jenn

  • Believe 10k was the first 10k I ever ran.  Every year, I want to get down to McKinney to run it again but it never seems to work out.  When I asked my coach if I could run it instead of the 8 mile training run, he gave the green light and I immediately signed up.  But then, the monsoons of Thanksgiving  nearly washed away my hopes of running the race.  The race went on as scheduled, and I went, prepared for a wet, cold race.  I ended up with another PR 56:15 (1:30 better than May) and first in my age group!
  • I knew that I would have to run a TERRIBLE race to not PR at Dallas Marathon this year.  2014 was the race of the bum ITB and it took me wayyyyyyy too long.  This race was to be the highlight of my year, plus I felt I had something to prove on that course.  I was somehow able to run the most perfect race ever…for me anyway…and ended up with 4:15:12, considerably faster than the 2014 bum ITB marathon. Plus, I beat my time goal by 15 minutes!  My biggest fear is that I have now peaked.  Even so, I’ll take it, because so many runners never have a race experience as good as the one I had!  This is the race that made me feel like a real runner; like a real marathoner.

Here are just a few of the well wishes I got from my friends, near and far during and after Dallas:img_6754


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This one had to call me at the finish line ;)

This one had to call me at the finish line 😉

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The Non-Running Stories

So many non-running things happened in 2015.  As I look back, it probably seems that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but I think I decided that I am too old to care what anyone thinks, plus I’m running out of time to do all the fun stuff!

  • I lost my tattoo virginity.  By the end of the year, I had already gotten my second tattoo!  Be looking for a 3rd after Ragnar….I’m forcing myself to wait until then!BraceletIMG_6173
  • I jumped out of a plane.  SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I will go again in 2016, to take Logan when he turns 18 years old!Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034
  • Taylor went to Thailand, lost her passport in Tokyo and lived to tell the tale.
  • Taylor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University.147
  • Alli’s team, Madfrog 10 National, was the highest placing American team at AAU Nationals, placing 7th in the nation.  The top 6 teams were Puerto Rican.rainforest
  • While in Orlando for AAUs, I rode in a helicopter!Takeoff
  • Logan made a 34 on his ACT, which was supposed to be “just a practice”.

Looking back, 2015 was a very good year!  I look forward to continuing this progress in 2016!

Happy 2016!!

Jen

 

Navigating faith with some help from tattoos

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

We all go through times in our lives when we are growing and questioning our basic beliefs.  When I have gone through this in the past, I haven’t actually questioned God, but I do question the way humans live out their faith in the name of God.  I am once again wrestling with what it means, for me, to live out my Christian faith.

My current “faith struggle” has been brewing for quite some time.  I don’t think it is a secret that I am socially liberal, although I try very hard not to rub it in the faces of those with differing opinions.  Plus, I am in the clear minority in my area.  I really don’t want everyone I know to be pissed at me all the time.  However, my heart truly hurts when I hear the comments that “Christians” make so flippantly on  a day-to-day basis.  Generalizations are spoken about how anyone on government assistance must be lazy and worthless, anyone without a job must be lazy and worthless, all these people do is sit home and do drugs, and the list (sadly) goes on and on and on and on.  And now….add in all the opinions on the refugee crisis and it has become almost too much for my soul.  I haven’t even brought up the other issues that are causing huge divides such as race issues, marriage equality or the political differences that seem to divide us further each day.

I am not afraid of ISIS.  I am not afraid of Muslims.  I am not afraid of refugees.  I am not afraid of people who are any color other than white.  I am not afraid of people on welfare.  I am not afraid of LBGT having equal rights.  I am afraid of complacent, holier-than-thou Christians.  I am afraid of becoming a complacent, holier-than-thou Christian.  And I am afraid of my own judgments against this group of people, because they make me very angry.

As a result of this, I have allowed myself to become disheartened with ALL of Christianity and with ALL of humanity.  I am no better than the people who have angered me, because I have allowed anger and judgment to enter into my heart.  That stops today (well….my journey to stop that has started. 😉

I think the root of the problem is that we (ALL of us) refuse to see the people in these issues as fellow human beings.  We MUST remind ourselves that each person is a Child of God and loved unconditionally by God.  (I MUST remind myself that person who spews negative, generalized statements is a Child of God and loved unconditionally by God.)

I know I can’t change the world.  I know I can’t change even my city.  All I can change is my reaction to the negativity that is out there.  Today, I pledge to see each person as a Child of God, loved unconditionally by God and I vow to treat them as such.

A part of the journey to the place in which I find myself today was the urge to get another tattoo.  I began to realize that one way I would deal with my current struggle would be to use my next tattoo as an expression of my faith.  I knew that Micah 6:8 would be the verse on which my tattoo would be centered, as it is my FAVORITE verse of all time and it is the verse to which I turn the most in living out my faith.

I also REALLY want a Texas tattoo on my ankle that is specifically running related.  When I made the tat appointment a few weeks ago, I fully intended to go ahead with the ankle tat and save Micah 6:8 for later on down the road.  But God had other plans.  In the past week, I have seen some version of Micah 6:8 EVERY SINGLE DAY, multiple times.  I was paying attention, for once, and realized that now was the time for Micah 6:8. 

So a couple of friends and I went yesterday and we each got a tattoo that was very meaningful to us.  Ben, our artist, showed me my drawing last, but I caught a glimpse of it before he got around to me and it took my breath away.  It was amazing and perfect.  I am so glad that I paid attention to those little clues God was sending me!IMG_6173

My friend that took pics while I was in the chair told me that I HAD to post a pain pic.  So here it is.  Yes, it HURT!  LOLIMG_6178

Remember….pray with your feet.

May God bless your Thanksgiving!

Jen

Sometimes “keep moving forward” requires standing still

Many of you know about my tattoo, “Keep Moving Forward“, which I had placed on my left wrist.  It has ties to my marathon and running, my best friend, Allison, and the way I want to live my life, in general.  It’s taken on a new meaning of late, as I have been sidelined with *sigh* another injury.  In the days since the injury, I’ve been thinking about my tattoo – a lot.  My tattoo is speaking to me again, but in a slightly different way.IMG_4398

The Backstory

On Friday, July 3rd, I went out for a short 3-miler.  In hindsight, I wish I had stayed home.  The weather was crappy and I felt crappy.  I DID NOT want to go run.  I felt exhausted.  I honestly believe my body was screaming at me to stay put.  Smart Jen has been more present lately than not, but Crazy Jen took the wheel that day, and, well…..I ended up hurt. That run was tough from the beginning.  My calves were screaming at me the entire time.  I figured they would shake out as normal and I was expecting to get in a rhythm that would never come.  At the 2.5 mile mark, something drastically changed and I could not run through my stride on my right side.  I was running with a very pronounced limp.  I considered stopping to walk, but knew that would be just as painful (but walking takes longer) so I opted to finish it out.

The Further-Back Story

I had been suffering from tight calves for about 4 weeks.  I avoided foam rolling my calves because – it hurt!  I stretched some, but not enough.  I knew the slacking was going to come back and bite me in the arse.  While I was on vacation, I only ran twice toward the end of the week, so I considered it a rest week.  However, the calves were still not-so-happy.

The In-between Story

In the 10 days since “the injury”, I have stretched, foam rolled, iced, used essential oils, compression socks, Ibuprofen (which I later discontinued bc it made me feel TOO good!), Epsom salt baths and two visits to my myofascia guy.  My calves were better, but the “ankle” wasn’t getting any better.  I finally decided on Sunday that I needed to go to an orthopedic to see if I could get some answers.  I knew in my gut that this was more than a simple strain.  I went in thinking that the bursa behind my Achilles might be irritated, but the words “stress fracture” had started creeping into my thoughts….A LOT.

The Current Story

On Monday, I was lucky enough to get in to see Alli’s orthopedic.  I.  LOVE.  HIM.  (I did not expect to feel this way when I walked into the exam room.  I was very apprehensive.)  (Side note: yes I liked him for Alli, but I want a doctor that understands runners and running, which, for me has been hard to find.)  The first thing he said to me was, “My job is to get you the most out of your athletic life.”  He followed that up with a very intelligent discussion about foot strike and how incredibly high my arches are and lots of running stuff in general.  When we were discussing the cons of running on concrete versus cross training, he told me he couldn’t give me a magic number of days to run on pavement and a magic number of days for cross training – because each runner has to work out that balance for themselves. I totally agree!!  Every runner is different.  The balance is so hard – I’m still working on finding the right balance for me.  And I think I just found my medical soulmate.

He thoroughly examined from my calves down to my toes, discussing my symptoms and how they were presenting.  Along the way, he used the phrase “as we age” more times than I would like to count, but always tempered it with “but I’m not saying that is you.” LOL!!! He shared that while it is too soon for a stress fracture to show on X-Ray, he felt very strongly that it is indeed a stress fracture and all the reasons he felt pulled in the direction of that diagnosis.  However, my calves are still tight, and he feels that contributed to the injury and, at the very least, is now hindering my recovery.  As a result, I am in a boot 24/7 for a week and after that will continue the boot at night (yay…not really).  Plus, I have the green light to swim and bike, as long as the activity doesn’t cause pain during or discomfort in the hours following.  How awesome is that??

How does this relate to my tattoo?

Since I’ve gotten used to having my tattoo on my wrist, I don’t always notice it.  But I’ve been noticing it a lot this past week.  I’ve let some negative thoughts creep in like, “It’s hard to keep moving forward if you are sitting still because you are injured.”  It dawned on me today that sitting still is a part of moving forward.  In this case, trying to move forward with training will only cause me to backtrack.  Today I realized that giving my body the time it needs to heal will propel me forward in ways that I cannot yet know.  I’m committed to doing what I need to do right now in order to get back out there as fast as is possible – as healthy as possible!

The Silver Lining(s)

There are many pros to this situation, if only one looks for them:

  • Alli and I are Boot Twinkies. (OK…this may not be a pro)  IMG_4598
  • All this required rest has given me time to finally start watching Game of Thrones. (May I say that I was hooked after the first 15 minutes?!?)
  • Being on my feet too long causes my ankle to swell.  So maybe the floor shouldn’t be swept after all.
  • Extra time can be used for hair straightening.  IMG_4567
  • Alli and I can experiment with new cupcake flavors (and decorations….I stink at the decorating!).IMG_4559
  • I can still cross train on the bike and in the pool (Hip, hip, hooray!).
  • Laying out by the pool.
  • Laying out by the pool.
  • Laying out by the pool.

The Not-So-Silver Lining

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.  Sleeping is…..a challenge.  I have some sensory issues and can’t even sleep in socks.  A boot is throwing my nervous system into overload.  I did sleep in 2 hour increments last night (the foot needed a few minutes to “breathe”) and am hopeful that will improve.  The most obvious drawback is the hit that my training is going to take.  I am really concerned about the fall races that are planned.  I didn’t mind sitting out the 15k on Sunday, but my cornerstone race was to be Plano Balloon Half Marathon in late September.  It is now 9 weeks and 5 days away and I feel that one has already slipped through my fingers.  Even if I recover fast enough to train for that distance again, I know that the PR I was chasing will be out the window.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t mourning that a bit.

I want to thank EVERYONE who has voiced their support and concern.  I love the running community (and my non-running friends 🙂 !!!

It’s Tuesday – Eat some tacos!

Jen

Keep moving forward: A tattoo story

Something happened this weekend.  Almost 2 years of searching, debating, contemplating and discussing culminated in finally settling on a tattoo, then losing my tattoo virginity.

Wayyyyy back when I was training for my first marathon, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my accomplishment.  I spent a lot of time during training trying to decide what I wanted and where it would go.  Of course, the race was cancelled due to a freakish ice storm, aka Icepocalypse, which bought me time to decide.

I looked off and on throughout the year, finding things from time to time that spoke to me, yet never finding something that I felt confident I could put on my body and be happy to see there 20 years down the road.  I wanted a tattoo that spoke about running, but, then again, deep down inside, I wanted something more meaningful.  I didn’t take lightly putting something PERMANENTLY on my body.  So the marathon that I actually ran came and went, and I was no closer to finding “THE tattoo” than I ever had been.

I finally decided a few weeks ago that it was time.  I just knew it in my gut….and I always trust my gut.  You see, a couple months ago, around MLK day, I started thinking that “Keep Moving Forward” might be the tattoo for me.  Still, I wanted to wait and let the idea simmer and percolate for a while.  And recently, the idea had matured and blossomed into something that I was comfortable living the rest of my life with.

I LOVE Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of his quotes.  But I especially love the one (that I chose) that runners often quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  So it does have a connection to runners and running.  And it had a connection to my marathon.  First, I trained for this marathon TWICE.  Then, with my ITB injury, finishing was a mental and physical challenge, but throughout the race, I kept moving forward.  During the last 8 miles when every single step was so painful, quitting was never an option.  So the quote gave me a real, emotional tie to my marathon, which totally commemorates the race!

This quote speaks to me on so many other levels, though.  Most of you who know me or who have read my blog much know that I lost my dearest friend 11 years ago.  That was the biggest and most monumental life test I have ever experienced.  To say moving forward was a challenge would be a gross understatement.  I didn’t want to move forward….I didn’t even understand how I could go on; how I could live.  I was so devastated.  My heart was smashed into a thousand pieces.  But I did go on.  And I did live….even if at first I just went through the motions, but I was doing.  Little by little, moving forward took a bit less effort.  The sparkle slowly returned to my eyes (but not completely until I found running).  In all honesty, this tattoo is as much (in reality, MORE) about Allison as it will ever be about my marathon.  Every time I look at it, I will be reminded that I am NOT a quitter and I CAN overcome whatever life throws my way.  It isn’t lost on me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of Allison’s favorite people of all time.  In fact, Kaitlynn recited MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech for the Princess contest one year.  Every time I look at this work of art on my body, I’ll know she is with me.

Of course, it is also a reminder that there are injustices in this world that still must be remedied.  Our society STILL discriminates against anyone and everyone who doesn’t quite look like the majority or think like the majority.  And for a liberal hippy-trippy like me, this tattoo will be a constant reminder that we must fight back against the ignorance and hatred to keep moving forward.  We must put aside our differences and treat each other like human beings, regardless of the color of one’s skin, one’s religion, or sexual orientation.  People are people.  Period. (And while I’m at it….why am I considered a “liberal” person just because I feel people should be treated equally?  I don’t understand why that is such a far-fetched thought.)

Finally, this tattoo speaks to my faith.  It’s no secret that I identify myself with the progressive faith community.  I hope that my actions speak to the fact that my main concern is acting justly, loving kindness and walking humbly with my God.  (By the way, Micah 6:8 is my favorite Bible verse 🙂 ) I (we) can’t rest until everyone is treated justly and with kindness and dignity.  Until then, I will keep moving forward and doing what I can, where I can, when I can.

As for the placement of the tattoo, that has a significance as well.  I had it placed on my left forearm.  I wanted it on my arm so that I could see it everyday.  When this idea originally came to mind, I imagined it somewhere on my foot.  As my ideas evolved, I realized that I needed to be able to see it.  But my left side….my left side is my weak side – the side prone to injury.  I needed it to be on the weaker side because I need to focus on that side in order to be whole…as a runner specifically.

Last weekend, Alli accompanied me (I TRIED to get her to stay home) when I went in to make the appointment and put the deposit down.  On the way, Alli said, “What if you have surgery on the spot where you get this tattoo?  Will they be able to put it back right?”  Only Alli would see that angle!  I had to admit, it was something to think about!

So the date had been set and a good friend accompanied me so that she could lose her tattoo virginity as well.  Of course, having never had a tattoo, we had NO CLUE what to expect!  Luckily, Taylor came with us so she could get a second tat (and keep us straight).

We have friends that own Homestead Winery (in the metropolis of Ivanhoe, Texas) who have a tasting room in Denison.  We decided to make a stop there since Taylor had never been.  Of course, Taylor is taking full advantage of being 21 and looks for these “opportunities” whenever and wherever they arise.  We tasted just enough wine to take the edge off, then were on our way.

May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy.  I came home with a bottle of that!

May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy. I came home with a bottle of that!

We talked to our artist about what we wanted and he set off to draw them up.  Aaaaaand the first draft didn’t work for me.  If you know me, you know that I try to be tactful (most of the time) because I don’t want to unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings.  Well, I HATED that first sketch.  As I was trying to formulate in my mind how to break it to the guy, Taylor said, “MOM, just tell him you don’t like that one! Don’t get one you don’t like!!”  (OK, for the record, I was NOT going to get something I didn’t like….I was just trying to let him down gently!)  So we discussed again what I wanted and when he came back the second time, I was ready to marry it!

Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all before, during or after.  (I’m sure it had NOTHING to do with the wine tasting prior!)  I was a bit anxious, but I think that was just me, ready to git’er done!

The actual inking took no time at all and wasn’t THAT painful.  However, it was a little painful and my friend was ready and waiting to capture the moment!

I am not smiling.  I am gritting my teeth.

I am not smiling. I am gritting my teeth.

This was in no way as painful as running on shot ITBs.  "#justsaying

This was in no way as painful as running a mara on shot ITBs. “#justsaying

And before I knew it, I was done!

Keep Moving Forward

Keep Moving Forward

It’s no secret that I usually eat as healthy as I possibly can, but after this experience, we went for some comfort food!heart attack on a plate

Yes, I ate most of this.  I also had a strawberry daiquiri that I had been looking SO forward to, but it was a terrible disappointment.  It wasn’t sweet at all and mostly rum! (OK….I love rum! So not going to complain about that!!)

And here I sit, roughly 24 hours later, happier with it than I could ever have imagined.  I am SO glad that I finally bit the bullet and had it done!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Jen

 

The suspense is over: she ran!

Yesterday I held an ongoing debate with myself on whether or not to run.  This may come as a surprise to most of you, but I ran.  My plan called for a 10 mile run, but life gets in the way, and in post-time change so does sundown.  I know I can run in the dark; I am sufficiently equipped with paraphernalia, but I really dislike it!  (Warning: Please seat yourself before reading on.)  So I did something that I rarely do: I went out on my run without a mileage goal OR planned route.  I know you are asking yourself how OCD Jen managed this feat.  Well, I actually was concerned about my calf (even more so than running in the dark) and decided best course of action would be to let my calf dictate the run.  I’m not going to lie, it hurt when I first started.  However, it didn’t take long for the soreness to go away; less than 1/2 mile.  At this point, I figured that I should hold my distance to 5 miles but found myself dreading running the same ‘ole roads.  I am SO bored with my routes AND my playlist!  I was considering my alternatives when I remembered it was “Hug A Runner” Day. My chiropractor had commented that I should come by and get a hug, so that’s exactly what I did!  I changed my route, quickly stopped in for a hug and said hello to everyone, then went down to run the loop at the park where I first started running.  Even though I have “outgrown” that 1-mile loop, I always feel like I’m getting back to my running roots when I go there.  As I was heading back and hit the 4-mile mark, I realized I was on track to set a 10k PB, if I amended my route to 6.2.  Note: this is usually the point at which I lose all self-control and motor on as fast as I can to break my own record.  This time, though, I kept a steady pace and had a heartfelt discussion with myself.  I ended up deciding to run the route I was on and put the looming PB to rest.

I made no attempt to hide the fact that I LOVE "Hug a Runner" Day!!

I made no attempt to hide the fact that I LOVE “Hug a Runner” Day!!

I ended up running my fastest 5.5 miles to date!  I don’t usually like to discuss my pace, because I feel like a turtle, but I averaged 9:18/mile.  And while I pushed the pace for much of the run, I felt comfortable most of the time.  I tried to focus on my hip extension, and have NO idea if there was any correlation between that and my pace.  By all rights, it was a very good run!

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy lately.  I wouldn’t describe it as a sadness, but I am not my usual chipper self.  When I find myself in a funk, I am always bothered if I can’t identify the problem.  I am a lot like a guy, in that I like to “fix” what is wrong.  I suspect that my mood is highly correlated to my current stage in marathon training.  I am anxious.  REALLY anxious.  I’m sad that my last long run is this weekend.  I’m nervous about tapering and even more nervous about the race.  Then there is the added stress of my recent ITB scare and my stupid calf problem.  And, quite frankly, I am missing a friendship and what I thought that friendship meant to me and as the race draws closer I am reminded again and again that I miss my training partner and friend.

My friend, Running Lonely, discussed his disappointment regarding his performance 50k race last weekend.  Part of me wonders HOW could he be disappointed – he finished!  I’m in awe of his accomplishment.  But the other part of me completely understands.  So many people have told me that, in running my first marathon, the goal is “just” to finish.  I can give lip service to that and say that is my goal, but I need to be true to myself.  I know exactly what I want from this race and I won’t be satisfied if things don’t go as planned.  (And guys, I AM smart enough to know it WON’T go as planned, but this is me and this is how I think.)  Of course, all this added pressure on myself is contributing to my anxiety.

In other marathon news, I “think” I have settled on THE shoes.  I am an Asics girl, through and through, and generally wear Gel Nimbus.  I have strayed from Nimbus a few times but always come back to it.  (My feet REALLY like this shoe, OK?)  Upon the prodding and poking and suggesting of my Twitter friends, Paula and Mark, I tried Gel Kinsei.  Kinsei has taken me a couple of runs to get used to it.  My foot strikes a little differently in this shoe, but I like it….a lot!!  I’m wearing them in my next long run and if all goes well, they will be THE shoes for race day!  The commemorative marathon tattoo, however, is STILL up for debate.  I’m really sad that I haven’t settled on a design, because I want to get it as soon as possible after the race!  Suggestions are welcome!

The winner has been (almost) crowned!

The winner has been (almost) crowned!

Something that always makes me smile (and scratch my head at the same time) is when friends ask me for running advice.  I’ve had so many people reach out to ask how I got started.  They always go on to say that I have inspired them to try living a healthier life.  This boggles my mind, people!!  I have never seen myself as inspirational, but I am so humbled and honored by this.  When I began eating healthier and running, I did it for ME.  I still do it for ME.  But, it’s a nice side effect of a healthy lifestyle, and a happy way to end my Friday post. 🙂

Have a fantastic Friday!!