Tag Archives: marathon

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Marathon

The tent was still dark as my eyes opened, my body wrapped up like a microwaved burrito. I had shed my socks, stocking cap and flannel pants during the night. It is one of the anomalies of having a good sleeping bag: the nuclear world within and the frozen world without.

But it wasn’t because of the climatic disparity I woke so early.

It was nerves.

There are now less than 24 hours before I board the bus that will take me to the starting line of my tenth marathon.

It is my third Jungfrau marathon, so you think I would be a little calmer, knowing what to expect.

But a marathon, as I told a friend recently, is a lot like having a baby. You spend months preparing. You know basically what’s going to happen, but you’re nervous because of the thousands of unknown things that might play out.

Your body has changed since the last one–for better or worse; and you don’t know how that will affect the labor.

You don’t feel like you’re doing anything admirable. You’re still the same person who scrubs toilets and forgets to bring her own grocery bag to Lidl. It’s nothing extraordinary. You’re just doing something that you do.

However, it is exciting. It is nerve-wracking. It gives you both self-doubt and self-confidence.

It is emotional.

The first time I ran it, I cried like a baby at the end. Yes, I was glad to finish–but it was so much more than that. A friend of mine accurately described marathon running as cathartic. It is. The weights you carry when you begin are scattered across the path like a trail of breadcrumbs. If someone could read the emotions left behind on the trail, there would be enough stories to last multiple lifetimes.

What is my story this year? What will I leave behind?

I didn’t run a marathon last year. Last year, I spent a lot of time letting my health go to shit. I didn’t take care of myself. I incarcerated myself in an emotional lockdown.

Then suddenly just before my 44th birthday, my husband, my hero-turned-nemesis, died.

At age 53.

The text messages with silly animal emojis stopped.

The skype requests stopped.

The phone calls stopped.

My nightmares stopped.

23 years of history.

Stopped.

Dead. Cremated. Interred.

All I have left are medals & patches & ribbons & photos & these 4 incredible humans who bear half his DNA.

And the memories, of course. However, foggy and (sometimes) romanticized they might be.

Michael had always scoffed at my marathons–calling them selfish or a waste of my time. But he was always the first one to brag to other people about them.

During the height of his psychological problems, I signed up for my first mountain marathon–the Jungfrau.

Michael was always worried about my marathon running: “What would happen to the kids if you got hurt?” he would ask. His years in Alaska search and rescue fed into his fears like a glacial river.

I never ran marathons to spite him. It was therapy for me. My quiet time. My escape. He could never fully understand that. When you marry at age 20 and spend your life homeschooling four children, sometimes, you need a little time alone with your own noggin. Maybe it is selfish–but it is a much-needed selfishness. The type that staves off depression in a weary mom. The selfishness that gives you some semblance of control over your own body, your own mind, when you live a life in which those two elements belong to god, your husband or both–but never to your self.

I ran the Jungfrau depsite his long-distance skepticism. I ran it again the next year, though stress had already begun to gnaw at the edges of my health.

The next year, I skipped the marathon altogether.

Then Mike died.

And I was alive.

Suddenly. Completely.

A princess startled and alert, not from a kiss but by the death of a deep love.

I was alive.

Alive!

Let that word roll around on your tongue for a bit. Let it sink into your mind. Breathe it in and out.

Life means you still have the ability to choose.

You can eat more vegetables or take the dog on longer walks. You can go to the gym and lift heavy shit; or to stay home and drink two bottles of wine. You can choose with whom you share your bed; to whom you give your heart; and you can decide if those two things are mutually exclusive.

You can do the really hard things–like mend broken relationships or walk away from unhealthy ones. You can say what’s really on your mind; to be authentic; to expose your inner thoughts and weaknesses; to forget about busting your ass to be a people-pleaser.

You can make the terrifying choice to be happy, which is like jumping off a cliff, when all you’ve chosen before is to cling to anguish.

I am allowed to be happy?!

Mike’s death is not a crossroads for me–it is a trajectory. Whichever way I point the sharp end, that’s the direction I’ll go.

I am choosing a life that makes me happy, healthy and strong. I can see the person I want to be from here. I can’t lose sight of her–not now, not after going through so much.

The marathon is symbolic for me–this year especially. My whole world has changed. I am happy. On the road to health. Discovering myself along this rocky new trail.

I carry a lot with me this year. The sadness, the anger, the depression and self-loathing. Regrets.

I plan to leave it all behind; and at the end, come out with something beautiful and healthy. A rosy-cheeked bundle of joy.

Kicking.

Crying.

Cooing.

Alive.

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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.  

 

 

 


Strength and Nutrition Challenge

keri rack pull

As if life weren’t challenging enough, I signed up for the strength & nutrition challenge at the box. This “stupid-easy” challenge has turned out to be a battle of wills between my healthy new self and the slothful old self who occasionally wakes up, yawns, and inhales a portion of pommes mit mayo.

I blame it on the health clinic.

You would think a place where getting people ‘healthy’ would have more fresh options besides bananas and chocolate.

I have to credit the little cafe though–it’s probably the only place in Germany that doesn’t sell alcohol, though that might be due to its proximity to the drug rehab facility.

But you can buy your cigarettes, schnitzel, pommes, soda and ice cream.

My new self would carry an emergency pack of tuna in her purse; but I haven’t become as organized as I’d like to be. Like spores, my ‘to-do’ list asexually reproduces every time I turn my back. I don’t even bother writing things on my calendar any more until after the fact.

Thus, I am failing the challenge so far.

However, I have learned that this nutrition thing really does work. My worst WODs this past month were ALWAYS after I’d been eating badly.

Always.

Ironically, the worse I eat, the more I sleep. It’s as if my body knows that fat, salt and sugar require more down-time for storage.

So, I am pounding my fist on the table (again) and saying, “Enough!”

From here until my birthday (where I WILL eat cake), I am going to stick to the eating plan.

I have to remind myself that I AM an athlete–and by the way, I have a mountain marathon in September. I can’t pack on any weight at all–even muscle or my knees will go on strike.

It’s hard to get rid of old habits. But I need to keep in mind the person I want to be. This is a huge time of transition in my life, and I’ve got to start snipping the strings of things that are holding me back, which in this case, means french fries.

This challenge has proven more difficult than I thought it would be. But I want to get rid of my cravings, and I want to give my body the very best so I can perform the best.

I’ve discovered that nutrition really does affect all areas of my life. When I’m eating properly, my mind feels sharper, I’m more energetic, and this sounds strange, but when I look in the mirror, my eyes seem brighter. If I DO get that face-to-face interview for the job that I want, then I want to be at my very best.

When I feel good, I’m more confident, and I can handle the pressures life is throwing at me.

When I feel bad (from eating junk), I become a weepy puddle. That’s not a good look for me.

So, after I finish drinking my coffee this morning, IF I’m hungry, I’ll go find some fresh veggies to fuel my day.

I know my old self is going to rear her ugly head; and I can anticipate a fight.

May the best girl win.