Category Archives: Marathons

Parenting with Chocolate

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… and yes, I am pregnant in this picture!

I ate chocolate.

It wasn’t dark, paleo-friendly chocolate either.

It was a big, square Ritter bar with nuts.

I ate two of them.

Not the little squares that you break off the grid–but ALL the little squares.

Two bars’ worth.

After I ate them, I thought: “Wow! That’s weird. Why did I eat those?”

Considering the mountain marathon I have coming up in September, I’ve been pretty good about my diet. I eat lean meats and veggies. No sugar, no gluten (as always), no nuts, eggs, fruits or grains. I ‘cheat’ on Friday with my gluten-free pizza and a glass of red wine, while the kids and I watch a movie; and Pancake Morning (or lately, Crepe Morning) on Sunday. IF I have chocolate, it usually coincides with Movie night. But TWO bars?! This was a first.

Why? I wondered. Why?

I can’t just eat chocolate and enjoy it–no, I have to psychoanalyze it.

I think it started with my eldest son saying he was buying a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

I’ve been preparing myself for his launch for a while, and honestly, I’ve been happy for him. But it’s just that talk about airline prices made the event a little too real.

But I know how it is when you’re waiting for life to start. While I LOVED raising my kids in Alaska, I always had this feeling that life had not quite begun for me. That while I WAS involved in the toughest, most important job on earth (which ironically included mind-numbing bouts of Dora the Explorer), there was always this sense that there was something else out there that would light the fire in my soul. For some women, child-rearing is that spark–and they are good at it. They have their babies, they adopt, they homeschool, and I truly respect them for how well they do this.

But no matter how much I enjoyed it, and no matter how good I was at it–it wasn’t quite me. Not quite.

It’s the same with teaching.

I love interaction with the students.

I love being there when the ‘light bulb’ clicks on.

I love being helpful.

But it’s still not quite me.

The one thing that does ‘light the fire’ is writing. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In fact, sometimes I hate writing. I’ll sit down to the computer, stare at the blank screen and think, ‘What the hell am I going to write?’

But if I stop over-thinking, the words will come. And before I know it, I have something to say.

When I was writing my fiction manuscript, I would read a new chapter to the kids every morning at breakfast–and even though it was course and unrefined, they loved listening to the adventures of the main character. We were transported from those dark winter days, sitting by the sunshine-lamp at the breakfast table, to another world where animals could talk and girls could fly.

While I can (and do) write non-fiction, fiction is my passion, my true love, and hopefully the words I craft can help people along the way. I am a firm believer that even fiction can make lives better. I mean, why do we have such a love for Cinderella stories or happy endings?

It’s because fiction gives us a sense of the good things in life. That life CAN and SHOULD be lived to the fullest.

It’s hard work though. Cinderella did get stuck with all the dirty chores and emotional abuse before things turned around for her. And while we can’t always expect a Fairy Godmother, we can work hard towards our dreams.

Why go through life without dreams?

And so…with the words one-way ticket and Guatemala in my mind… I prayed that I would have the strength to let my son go.

It didn’t take long.

After two bars of chocolate and a little crying, I felt genuinely happy for him.

Because I know how it is to feel stuck. To feel like your real life hasn’t started. And our time on earth is very limited. It should never be wasted.

Marathon running, CrossFit, writing–these things are part of me. They shape who I am as a person. Parenting is also just one part of my life–not the whole of it. Because if my only job is to be a parent, then I lose myself. And it makes launching children into the world nearly impossible.

I want them to live their lives and strive for their dreams.

That’s my job.

I just have to let go.

Of the kids, as they become independent.

And of the chocolate.

Because it doesn’t really help after all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Run Less and Still PR: CrossFit for Distance Runners

3 hours of running and hamming it up for the photographer

When a CrossFitter calls me crazy, I take it as a compliment.

And I have to chuckle.

These are the same people who will finish a WOD with bloody hands and broken bones. They hate burpees but still do hundreds of them–even if they’ve just had major surgery.

To be called crazy by this group is high praise–so I just smile and agree.

I am crazy: crazy for challenges, for living and feeling, for new experiences, for new milestones, for never quitting when the world goes to shit.

Three weeks ago I decided to sign up for a marathon for fun.

This was my 7th marathon, and in the past, I would run 5 days a week, building to a weekly total of 45-50 miles before the taper. My short runs were anywhere from 4-6 miles, medium runs of 8-14 miles, and long runs of 15-20.

This year was different, however. With only 3 weeks to prepare, I managed one decent long run (18 miles) and one medium run (12 miles). I did one short run of 6 miles and one medium run of 8. That’s it.

Except for CrossFit, 5 days a week.

Last year, I did CrossFit 2-3 times a week and ran a LOT. This year, I rarely miss a WOD, and run very little outside of class.

The result is that this year, I had a PR of 4:05:51, which is 15 minutes faster than the year prior.

You read that right: 15 minutes faster.

Wait, you might say…what ELSE have you been doing?

I changed my diet this year: 1) I didn’t eat cheese before the race. Cheese causes inflammation in my joints, so if I eat it (or a lot of dairy) I’ll have knee problems while running. 2) No nuts! Nuts make my body hurt. I can’t explain it other than that. 3) I adhered to a strict diet, particularly the week before the race, eating only lean meats, veggies and no sugar whatsoever. However, I DID eat toasted marshmallows the night before the race, but my kids assured me it was considered carbo-loading, and was thus ok.

Carbo loading with Noah

Carbo loading with Noah

The only mistake I made during this race was to wear socks that I’d not tested in training. The compression socks were great for my calves (which had been tweaky during my long run) but they were too slippery, and on the downhills, my toes slid into the front of my shoes. When I pulled off my shoes at the finish line, my toenails were blue. (The race doctor said they’ll probably fall off, but that I’m tough, so I can handle it–this from an Austrian is definitely high praise, even if he wasn’t a CrossFitter).Imst2

Aside from my nightmarishly blue toenails, I did a lot of things right.

  • I left my watch at home. With no numbers to scold me, I could stop and do air squats whenever I felt like it. Best of all, I was relaxed!
  • I didn’t crumple at kilometer 30. In the past, around mile 18 or between kilometers 28-32, I start to get weary. This time, I changed my mindset: Instead of thinking “Oh, hell, this is where I bonk, I thought, “Wow! I’m almost done!” Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge to Imst.
  • I wore a hat. It was an unassuming green sun hat sitting on a shelf, and I bought it on a whim. When the sun came out blazing, my eyes were shaded and my head was cool. I tend to WHITHER in the sun, so this hat saved the day.
  • I visualized kettlebell swings. During the uphill portions, I found myself breathing the same way I do during kettle bell swings. I thought about the WOD where we went heavy and did 100 of those suckers; and so, I kept visualizing myself doing KBS 100 at a time. The breathing was the same and even the muscle groups I used were the same: my core, my hamstrings and my ass. It all worked together on the uphills so that instead of fading, I ended up passing people. I could literally hear my coach’s voice saying, “Do NOT set those kettle bells down! Do NOT stop!” So I kept going when other people were walking. They might’ve been faster on the straightaways, but I was certainly better conditioned because of CrossFit.
  • I had fun. When the race is over, the bling doesn’t matter, it’s the experience that gets ingrained in your soul. What I remember is the empty village with one old lady on her balcony clapping for ME–and how she LIT UP when I waved back and smiled. I was running for her, along with the many others who’ve nestled into the cozy part of my soul.

Overall, it was an excellent day, an excellent race and an excellent run. I finished, smiling and laughing with my kids, and afterwards I soaked my feet in the Freibad. Later, I had three gluten-free beers, two steaks and a bag of peanut m&ms. My reward.

The kids took some silly pictures that I will cherish forever.

Imst3

 

Imst4

Our first camping trip.

My best race ever.

A new way of marathon training.

A new way of life.

As Rob says: It’s all good. 

 

At the finish line!

At the finish line!

*Official results: I placed second in my age group and in the top half for women overall.

Next stop: Switzerland!!

 

 

 

 


First Times and Thoughts While Running

 

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

I am sitting in my tent, watching the beads of rain roll off the plastic windows, and drinking a gluten-free beer–my first in two years.

Another first happened for me last night–I slept in a tent in the backyard with the kids.

It’s funny, the things you do when you’ve suddenly become a single parent.

I also signed up for another marathon.

This is not the Jungfrau (in September) but the Pitztal Gletscher marathon–the same one I did last year. Many factors went into this decision. 1) I wanted to take the kids camping. 2) There is a campground by the finish line. 3) It’s Tirol–one of my favorite places in the world. 4) It’s a marathon ‘from the glacier to the city,’ which means both mountains and descent.

The marathon is about 3 weeks away, and I’ve been doing nothing but CrossFit training. Thus, this weekend I thought it might be good to actually go for a long run.

“Twelve miles?” my coach asked.

“I was thinking 18,” I replied.

He looked skeptical but simply said, “See how you feel.”

Right, I thought. I’ll do 18. 

I’m stubborn that way.

Some people say running is boring, and I can see how they might think that. It’s just you–alone with your thoughts.

Scary.

So what do I think about when I run?

  • I love running
  • I hate running
  • I wish these bicycles would get out of the way
  • I wish I had a bicycle
  • I’m hungry
  • I feel sick
  • Three miles already?
  • Five miles–that’s it??!!
  • Ahh…alone time!
  • I’m lonely
  • Why am I doing this?
  • I feel great!
  • When I’m done, I’m going to get ice cream
  • I feel sick again
  • Do all German couples color coordinate?
  • ________.
  • Where the hell am I?
  • I see the ice cream stand!
  • What IS the meaning of life?
  • I hope they have coconut.

The list could go on.

In fact, the list DOES go on.

Usually, my 3 hour runs are a non-stop, stream-of-consciousness narrative containing everything from deep philosophical issues to utter randomness. On this particular run, I literally zoned out for about forty-five minutes. When I ‘woke up,’ I couldn’t remember which part of the trail I was on.

It was great.

I was curious how this run would go, since I haven’t actually been running consistently in months, though I have been CrossFit training five days a week. Overall,  I felt really strong during the run. My endurance was great, and I felt like I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. The only problem was that my calves started cramping at mile 15, so I stopped, sat on the lakeshore and watched the sailboats, while I stretched and ate the last of my apple slices.

After that, I walked for about a kilometer. It felt like ages.

In the end, I finished strong, and clocked in at just over three hours, which was pretty good for me, considering the stops.

I did not get ice cream. I wasn’t hungry anymore. But I did feel good. Good that I had made it. Good that I had stopped to enjoy the setting. Good that I could purge a few issues from my over-worked brain.

Running isn’t a hobby. Like CrossFit, it’s part of the landscape that defines my life. It makes me feel more like the real me. My kids understand this, which is why they push me out the door when I get those guilty feelings.

I’m not a great runner. And you won’t see me in a CrossFit Throwdown any time soon. But these are part of my life, as much as writing or reading or parenting or breathing.

This is my real life.

And it feels good.

Now, it’s dark. The birds stopped singing. My glass of beer is empty, and it’s time to zip up the sleeping bag and rest.

I’ve got to run in the morning.

 


How CrossFit Changed my Running

Bulgarian Split Squat

Last year I was a thirty year-old male named Kevi Williams, at least, according to a translation error while anmelding.

It’s too early to tell who I was this year.

As I stood in the Sunday sunshine, waiting for the starting gun and wearing traditional CrossFit black in a sea of neon, I was nervous because:

a) I’ve only taken two ‘real’ runs in the past four months, the longest of which was only 40 minutes long.

b) Instead of training runs, I’ve been swinging kettle bells and doing many, many back squats.

c) It was a 10k (which means ‘fast’).

d) People (especially Germans who have sport clubs for things that aren’t even sports) are pretty serious when it comes to racing. Plus, they usually practice.

But the goal of this city race wasn’t to go fast, per say, but to have fun (if possible); represent CrossFit Ansbach (since I was wearing the t-shirt); and to test how my CrossFit Training has affected my running.

I’d been a runner for about four years before I succumbed to CrossFit’s siren song. My running had changed during that time, especially after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (who DIDN’T start barefoot running after that?!) and slowly, I was able to change my form to a minimalist style: barefoot shoes, forefront strike. That slow evolution strengthened my arches (a previous weakness) and significantly helped my knee problems.

Now I was adding CrossFit.

I remember Rob once saying that you have to use your ass when you run; and at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. However, it IS possible to run 4 or 5 or even 6 marathons without ever using the biggest single muscle in your body.

What a waste of potential.

At last year’s race, I’d only been CrossFitting 2 or possibly 3 days a week for 4 months. This time, not only did I have another year under my significantly smaller belt, but I’ve been at the box consistently 5 days a week, doing the Bogatyr training program, which I love because while my life goes to hell, it makes me feel good to be part of a group of ‘warriors.’

CrossFit isn’t simply doing some kind of exercise: it’s about mastering movement.

Mostly, you’re using your hips, core and ass–and when you do it right, it feels right.

These foundational movements are also utilized in minimalist running technique.

That was the biggest difference for me.

When others were wilting on the long, hot stretch with no breeze, I was keeping my shoulders back, my gaze up, and my hips open.

When ‘in the groove’ my core floated along, and I felt light as my feet pushed the ground away behind me.

Mid-race, I was picking people off, staying strong and increasing my speed until the final sprint at the finish.

After the race (and this morning) I could feel it in my butt, which is something new (of course–that COULD be leftover from Saturday’s Bulgarian Split Squats; but my legs didn’t feel tired at all.

I don’t know how Kevi Williams did this year, but as for CrossFitter Mama, when she crossed the finish line the clock said 54 minutes (not bad for a chick turning 41 this week); and she finished strong and smiling–like a Bogatyr should.

It was a PR.

Next stop: Swiss Alps.

After that…the sky’s the limit.

As long as I can take my kettle bells.  

 

 

 


A Sugar Junkie Reforms (Again)

candy bugs

While I usually strive for excellent nutrition, this weekend I fell off the wagon–and I feel like it ran me over.

I’ve been participating in a strength and nutrition challenge, and I think I probably blew all my progress on one weekend of chocolate eggs, ham and potatoes.

But I reform!

Again.

My kids joke about me being a good addict because I always seem to mean it when I say I’m going to quit.

But it’s true this time.

Really.

From here on out, no more sugar (and a lot of other stuff on the verboten list).

The problem with being a junkie is that nobody believes you when you say you’re going to quit–you actually have to DO it. Even then they think you’re hiding M&M’s in your sock drawer.

However, before my relapse, I was feeling really good. I was more focused, energetic and I simply felt better overall (despite my dietary infractions with pommes).

I feel like I’ve arrived at a critical moment in my life, where several major events are intersecting, and how I handle them (like in a good time-travel movie) will shape my future–for better or worse.

I opt for better.

It’s easy to get caught up in the high of a single moment, instead of waiting for the rewards of a long-term investment.

No one forced me to eat chocolate eggs; it was a choice I made. A bad one, obviously, but it was still something over which I had control.

I was telling a friend about one of our WODs. I was doing a 100 meter farmers carry when it started hailing. She (not a cross fitter, but I love her dearly) said, “They MADE you go outside anyway?”

“Made me?”

“It’s not boot camp,” she replied. “You didn’t have to do it.”

“But it was for time!”

Sometimes you just do stuff–especially with the clock running. Getting ice down my tank top was just another variable that makes Crossfit interesting.

It’s the same thing with marathon training. I run in any kind of weather, except, perhaps, monsoons because I don’t like debris flying at me.

It’s a mindset.

If you think you can’t control your sugar problem, then you will relapse. But if you don’t give yourself an option, then you just might be ok this time.

There are a lot of things I won’t be able to control this week–like getting a face-to-face interview for the job I really want.

But what I can control, I will.

If it means choosing the 16kg kettle bells instead of the 12s, I will. Or at least I’ll try. If it means Just Saying No to pommes, then I’ll do that too.

It all boils down to something our coach asked while I was pressing:

How bad do you want it?

I was fairly happy with the press.

But how badly do I want a new life?

It’s all I can think about anymore.

And that means it’s time to stop talking about it and to dig in and make it happen. The whole course of my future could hinge on what choices I make today.

I want to make the right ones for a change.

I really mean it this time.

Wait and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In the Groove

running

There is a certain phenomenon in running when everything falls into place and you feel like you can run forever–this is called ‘flow.’

Crossfitters and other athletes experience this too: where your body and mind work together so well, you KNOW this game or fight or race or WOD is yours.

It is part training, part mental focus, part relaxation, and part endorphine high.

Flow is also elusive: the more you think about accomplishing it, the more it slips away.

It is not about ‘thinking;’ it’s about ‘knowing.’ It’s a difference I can hardly even put words to. You just have to be there once, even for a moment, to understand.

Buddhists probably have a term for this.

Many of us add a spiritual component to flow–a higher power that gives you this ability to face a giant with a slingshot and walk away with more strength than an entire army.

Last week my life was in the groove.

I hadn’t had a job interview since 1994, and last week I had three, back to back. I walked away from each feeling that I’d nailed it. When my resume didn’t speak for itself, I was able to put in the right words.

When you’ve been trained to move around like the stage crew, working, hidden between scenes of someone else’s play, it’s hard to step into the spotlight–to sell yourself. To make a potential employer see that you are worthy of the job at hand. To make them see that they would be foolish NOT to hire you.

But the thing they don’t tell you about the groove, is that you still work.

Your muscles still extend and contract; your lungs might burn; your feet still hit the pavement with up to three times the force of your bodyweight; though you feel like you’re flying, no one carries you to the finish.

To put it in Crossfit terms: even those with the most unrelenting thrusters still leave a puddle of sweat. They make it look easy, but it’s not. We all know it’s not.

Life is this way too.

Even in the groove, you have to work. There is no coasting through life. And when you have a goal, you can’t give up on it–despite the naysayers. You have to give it a shot. You have to use your talent, your wit, your strength to get out and accomplish things that are hard.

The challenges will come in droves, and it’s easy to get bogged down by them–to let them frighten or overwhelm you. But you can’t turn away. You have to press on.

You have to relax and put out that positive energy so you can receive some positive energy back. It’s incredible when that happens.

That’s when we find our groove.

If I worry about potential deadfalls, I’ll lose my cadence. It’s better to just run, and deal with the challenges as they come across my path.

And I know they’re coming. Challenges are on the left and on the right, behind me and in front of me.

But I’ve got to carry on. To let life flow.

It’s still hard.

And frightening.

But eventually, I’ll get to the finish.

And there’ll be a new race to run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Crossfit Isn’t Dangerous–I Am

IMG_0774

My grandma sent me an article about how dangerous Crossfit is. I read it, and like any good Crossfitter, I found it amusing.

Grandmas are supposed to worry; and someday as I’m doing handstand pushups and running ultra marathons, I’ll probably worry about my own grandkids too. It’s kind of the Oma’s job.

While I don’t entirely buy the ‘karma’ idea, I did manage to injure myself after I read the article. But I can’t blame Crossfit–it was entirely pilot error. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I did, but I think there was a problem with my improperly executed push-ups that left my shoulder-blade hurting. And like the stubborn marathon runner I am (pushing through pain) I kept working out until I literally could not put any weight on my left arm whatsoever.

Stupid, I know.

I tend to learn things that hard way (it’s a character flaw).

This shoulder ‘incident’ has left me feeling weak. While everyone else gets to do the WOD, I get the ‘injured runner’s special.’ It’s frustrating to NOT be with my fellow bogatyrs, swinging kettle bells and (as much as I hate the exercise) doing push ups.

It makes me feel weak.

We tend to think a lot about strength in Crossfit, but the ‘W’ word isn’t tossed around much.

That’s because no one WANTS to be weak–that’s why we Crossfit.

Weakness means not performing up to standard or to be structurally compromised or inefficient.

But being weak is so much more. Like strength, weakness is also a condition of the mind. Weakness causes people to roll over and die when things get tough, rather than facing challenges head-on.

We all have moments of vulnerability, moments where we WANT to give up. But the truly strong people will observe the weakness, and then elbow it out of the way as they push past.

Injury is not weakness. In fact, forcing oneself to recover from injury takes more mental strength than pushing through pain. It means staying humble by using a lighter weight; it means complete trust in your coach’s modification; it means willingly, purposely decelerating, though everything in you wants to put the pedal to the metal.

There is strength in self-control.

Given time, most injuries will heal, and with Crossfit, you can bet that you’ll eventually come out stronger than ever.

Weakness of the mind–that’s another story. No amount of time can heal it. Once it takes root, it will completely take over until lives are brambly and tangled with it.

The emotions we have are important outlets. Sadness, when it comes, needs to be recognized and given its proper respect. But it’s not a place to linger; and it’s certainly not a neighborhood you’d want to buy a home in.

So, we move on, without asking ‘why;’ without wishing we could change time; without hoping it was all a bad dream. We just keep moving forward. Though we might hobble along, we still keep moving. We don’t stop. We don’t look back.

Because if we look back, our progress stops cold in its tracks.

That IS weakness.

The best runners keep their eyes on the horizon. They don’t look down, and they sure as hell don’t look back.

If we’ve stumbled, then we learn our lesson, do things better, and make things right.

Being injured might make you feel weak–but that’s not true weakness.

True weakness is stopping to watch the clock run out instead of trying.

Even if you’re injured, you can still move forward, albeit slowly; because in this life, every rep counts.