Monday, August 17, 2015

My Running Identity

I've been running consistently since 2007.  It's been so long now, that I can hardly remember a time when I didn't like running.  Believe me, those days existed.  I was the kid who walked the mile in 20 minutes.  But now, I'm known as the girl who runs.  People ask me how my running is going when they haven't seen me for awhile.  I'm told almost daily that someone saw me running.  Being a runner is a huge part of my identity.  The adjective "runner" describes me just as well as the adjective "sarcastic," or the adjective "introvert."

I'm not really sure when running became a part of me.  If I don't run for too long, I feel like a piece of me is missing.  I feel like I can't breathe as well.  I feel lost and sad, as if I lost a good friend.  And this is what I've been struggling with lately.

It's no secret that I've been struggling with a hip injury.  It's not so much my hip as I am certain it is my piriformis.  It's extremely tight and knotted.  I've been to the doctor and she told me to get a massage.  Last spring, as I was training for a marathon, I was sidelined by some random knee thing that I am certain came around due to overcompensating with my left leg to take away from the pain in my right one.

I went from running 60 miles a week to 11.  I should not have even run that, but since running is so much a part of me, I am stubborn and went out anyway.  Luckily, the injury came at a time that I was going on an extremely long road trip where I was forced to sit for hours and not use my legs.  It was hard to not run whenever we stopped for a moment.

I slowly increased my milage as soon as I returned home, but only to 20 miles a week.  Coming from 60, 20 felt like absolutely nothing.  I knew the marathon wasn't going to happen.  I was devastated.  I had trained hard.  Obviously, I trained too hard.  So hard, that my identity as "runner" had been stripped away from me.  I volunteered at the marathon I was supposed to run and got a free entry into the 10k, which I ran.

I promised my runner friends that I would go slow.  That was until my competitive edge kicked in and I threw it into high gear, coming in third woman overall.  My last two miles were in the 6's.  My knee locked up so badly after the race that I couldn't even cool down.  I was sidelined again.

I took a few rest days, then slowly began running again.  I helped Karen mark her course and then helped out at registration and the finish line, but just stared at the runners in envy.  I've helped at almost all of the club races since May, but have not raced since that 10k.  Every single time, I feel like I need to be wearing a giant sign that says, "I SWEAR I run!  I just hurt!"

In the middle of all of this, I met Z.  He runs, but he doesn't identify as a runner.  He helped me realize that most people don't even run 20 miles in their entire life, let alone in a week.  It was also easy to use my hip as an excuse to not run as far or even take one or two days off to spend time with him.  My milage dropped significantly, and I just didn't care as much as I had in the past.

Then Costa Rica happened.  My milage dropped to zero.  ZERO.  For nine whole days, I did not run.  Except four feet to pose for a picture.  I still exercised daily.  I did workout videos in the evening after it had cooled off.  I biked around with my mom.  But I didn't run.  That was the longest stretch of not running that I had done since I began running 8 years ago.  I struggled with it and probably bugged the crap out of my mom every time I said, "Remember when I used to run?" But I didn't really miss it.  Was I losing my running identity?  Was I going to run again when I got back, or was that a chapter of my life that was closed now?  My hip was feeling better, I had tons of energy, and I was still being active.

Of course, since running is as much a necessity to me as breathing is, I went for a run the day I got back.  And it felt good.  I didn't realize how much I had missed it.  Sometimes we just need a break from the things we love to remember how much we love them.

I've gone about running completely differently since I've been back from my nine day hiatus.  I run most of my runs slow (for me).  I stop when I reach the milage I say I am going to run instead of going extra, just to go extra.  I've felt great!  This last week, I went for a 14 mile run in the mountains with my best running friends.  I hadn't done double digits since June.

Thank you Karen for this beautiful picture!

I did speed work with Karen on Saturday and remembered that my legs CAN go fast if I want them to.  Sometimes it feels good to go fast.

Thank you again, Karen!

Then I ran 10 miles on Sunday.  I am finally feeling like my running identity is coming back to me.  I feel more like myself than I have in months, and I know it's because I am feeling good about my running.  I had no idea that running was such a part of me until I couldn't really do it anymore.  I had no idea that running was such a part of me until I started running regularly again. 

This weekend, I am going to try my hand at racing again.  We will see how my hip holds up and if it starts to hurt, I will slow down.  I don't want the running part of my identity stripped away again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Every once in awhile, I remember that I actually have a little space on the internet where I used to write every single day.  I don't know why I stopped blogging regularly.  There wasn't any real moment where I consciously decided to stop documenting every moment of my life for the internet.  It just kind of happened.  I always think about writing a blog post, and then by the time I actually sit down in front of my computer, all I want to do is read blogs and go to sleep.

I woke up like this.

There have been a lot of life changes happening over here lately. It's been so long since I last blogged (two months) that I have so much to say.  So I will mainly just photo dump and give a few words.  Pictures are more exciting anyway.

I have a new stamp in my passport!  I took my mom to Costa Rica for her 55th birthday.

I told her to choose somewhere tropical that we needed our passports to get to and I would pay for the trip.  At first she chose Mexico.  I told her that was boring because we had both been, so then she started researching Costa Rica.  She planned the entire thing, and I paid for it.  It was an excellent compromise.  

Just swinging on vines like Tarzan.

There was a three-way fork in the road on one of our hikes.  Turns out, it was just a loop.

We did several hikes through the jungle.

Selfies of selfies in the jungle.

Just a sloth hanging out in the tree.

We stayed two nights at a sustainable organic farm with tons of hiking trails on the property.  We even did a night hike through the jungle!  We saw sloths, toucans, deadly snakes, frogs, and tons of other jungle wildlife.  We also made our own chocolate starting with roasting the cocoa beans, then grinding them.  I like the cocoa beans just as much as the finished chocolate! 

Fresh homemade breakfast, endless coffee, and avocados the size of my head!

Hanging out in the Caribbean Sea.

Endless rainfall didn't keep us from biking 11 miles one day.

The next three days were spent at the ocean.  We drove 6 hours to get to Puerto Viejo, which is this little Rasta town on the Caribbean side of the country.  I fell in love.  A huge storm came through, so we didn't spend much time on the beach.  In between breaks in the rain, we rented bikes and biked all around town.  My mom is pretty bad ass for a 55-year-old. 

By the end of 9 days, I was ready to push my mom off this cliff. ;-)

We were literally the ONLY people at this hotel for two nights.  It was very horror movie-esque.

The only time I ran the entire 9 days was for this picture.

There was a lot of hammock time that happened. 

This looks like land, but it really is the middle of a river.  That we were stuck in.  On a boat.

The last two days were the weirdest 48 hours of my entire life.  We headed to Tortugero, which is where the turtles come to lay their eggs.  It is only accessible by boat.  We had originally planned to take a boat ride there and then boat back to the mainland to catch a ride back to the airport.  Well, the storm had other plans.  Our two hour boat ride turned into a 5 hour ride thanks to a giant clog in the river.  We spent an hour and a half cutting our way through what looked like a lawn in the middle of the river.  Then, we got to our "hotel" which was completely empty except for us and the guy (Bernie) who runs the place.  It was incredibly creepy and the first night as we were falling asleep I said, "Mom, this is how most horror films begin."  Luckily, Bernie was exceptionally nice and figured everything out for us.  The only way back to the San Jose airport due to all of the roads in Costa Rica being closed was by plane, so we booked a flight from Tortugero to San Jose.  The flight consisted of 12 people and the pilot and co-pilot.  After waiting at an abandoned shack, we loaded our own bags onto the bottom of the plane, sat in whatever seat we wanted, and got a nice speech from the co-pilot, "Welcome aboard.  We will be in San Jose in a half an hour.  If you need more safety information, read the card."  Then we took off and I spent thirty minutes praying that we wouldn't die.  

I had an amazing time in Costa Rica, but it was nice to return home.

I spent the 4th of July with my favorite people. 

Yes, we do have to dress like it's December every single 4th of July.

Another change that has happened.

Another big change has happened in the last two months (actually, it's been three, but I didn't want to jinx anything).

We're crazy dog people.

Milo loves him more than he loves me.

He's more into nature than I am, I think.

When you find a guy who can sew your pants and fix your sink, you keep him.

Our recent trip to San Francisco.

Car selfie.

We met in May and haven't really been apart since.  He's handsome, hilarious, and treats me incredibly well.  He is always offering to do things for me, like fix things around my mom's house, sew my pants, and he makes me dinner every night.  He's from the East Coast, so I just dropped him at the airport a few days ago.  Thank goodness for FaceTime.  He's not a runner, but he is very health conscious and is big into working out.  We go to the gym together often.  

Running hasn't changed, but I haven't raced since May.  I am still volunteering at every single race that I can, though.  The biggest change is that I had to say goodbye to one of my best running friends.  

He's been running for 20+ years and has taught me so much about running.  He's extremely talented and fast.  Except, whenever we ran together, he always bitched at me to slow down.  Not only was he one of my favorite people to run with, he quickly became one of my best friends in life too.  We logged so many miles together, it was easy to open up and become really close.  We spent a lot of time together over the last 15 months.  He got a job about four hours south, and he moved away on Monday.  The goodbye was so hard and my hometown feels a little bit more empty without him.  I think I am really in denial that he is gone.  We spent our last days together running a theater camp for kids and pounding it out on the pavement every single day.  I know we will be friends forever, it's just so hard to say goodbye to someone who means so much to you.  

Not much has changed on the gym front.  We're still being total goofballs and not caring what anyone thinks about us.  

I feel like I really have my life together when my workout clothes match.

I've also been doing a lot of nature things, still.

Dogs for days!

Only some of my favorite beings on the planet in my happy place.

The boy is big into birding, so I've been learning a lot about birds.  Apparently raptors aren't just a kind of dinosaur...

It's easier to breathe out here.

For some reason, California decided the first week in July would be a great time to downpour after two years of no rain at all.

I'm also getting used to a brand new classroom.  The end of last year was a really hard time for me.  I didn't know what I was going to do or where I was going to end up.  I thought about moving out of the area, even.  Then, a job opportunity arose at the school I've been at for 8 years and I jumped on it.  I feel so lucky, yet so overwhelmed.  It's like my first year of teaching for a second year in a row.  Luckily, my best friend brings me coffee every single Friday.

I even have my own office now!

There are so many more changes that have happened in the past two months, but this post is already entirely too long.  Don't worry, more will come.  Whenever I get the motivation.  Until then, I really enjoy reading everyone's blogs daily!  I will leave you with a video of my athletic ability.  I'm a true athlete.