#RWRunStreak. <– I did that.

so my running in 2013, in terms of my say, past 4 or 5 years of running, to put it into context…it kinda stunk.

in the end, i almost made it to logging 600 miles. almost.

but instead of spending this entire post talking about my feeling about what may or may not be shortcomings in my running year past, I want to talk a little bit about the highlights.

last may I headed to the east if Madison a bit to run the Ice Age Trail half marathon. it was a kind of chilly day, but i ran hard and finished 3rd in my age group. i came in well under 2 hours (1:51 and change) and was in the top 10 women overall.

i also raced my first 5k. ouch!

oh, and in April, I did the MadCity 50k relay with a bunch of my favorite run buddies as a part of Team Unicorn Apocalypse. with that name alone, we are totally winning, guys.

but then I mostly laid low, trying to run for fun, not running a ton, in general – besides ultimate frisbee, and trying to heal this (sometimes literally) pain in my ass injury.

for the most part, i know what work i put in and what i didn’t so i understand why i am where i am physically…and i also want to get back to where i was.

in November i was supposed to run the inaugural fall version of the Madison Marathon, but unfortunately i had to drop to the half a few weeks out. it was an ok day and when i finally took a minute to really reflect, i realize that I ran a solid race – that it was my second best time, and while i didn’t feel awesome, the race also didn’t make me feel worse.

oh, and flash back to october….i ran the relay version of the Fall 50 with Krista and Jenny…again under the moniker “Unicorn Apocalypse.”

but turkey day rolled around and some of my aforementioned running buddies (Krista and Mel) mentioned that they were going to try to complete the #RWRunStreak and i decided to join them.

so, i saddled up. i accepted the challenge. and i completed it.

for one, for me this seemed like a HUGE accomplishment in the world of running. i had a goal and i accomplished it. i had some structure for exactly thirty five days. hallelujah!

but seriously, it was a big offing deal.

the thing is – and i think i could ask any yogi (as an example) who does some sort of intensive training how they feel during and after and i think they would feel similar. i think they would talk about how they discover something about themselves. and about something outside themselves.

so while there were days (quite a few) when i ran just over one mile. there were also moments of mental toughness to be earned on the treadmill. a seven-miler on a beautiful december day. runs with company. traditions. and also solitary, and eye-opening runs everywhere in between.

i wanted to keep my streak alive, for at least 50 days, but with today’s temps and it being a monday and other responsibilities made it pretty hard to get done. so, i decided it was in my best interest to get my feet under me this week – this first week of january. and then to get back into a swing.

tomorrow’s going to be colder than…well, it’s freaking freezing here. but i’m hoping i can sneak away from my desk for a bit to get a run in. and if not, i’ll deal and try again on wednesday.

in the end though…i am so glad i decided to run-streak.

it reminded me why i do this. it reminded me why i run.

and that is priceless.

looking ahead.

i’ve been itching for a goal race for a little while now. yes, it has been fun getting recovered over the last 6+ months – running when i wanted, as far as i wanted, and as hard as i wanted (or really, could…i pushed that last one a bit at times). that said, with friends gearing back up into their racing seasons, i’m getting the itch. and, i’ve been feeling pretty darn good lately, so i think it’s time!

a while back – maybe a month or so ago a few things happened. 1. i ran a trail half marathon (in newer shoes, no doubt) and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being a little undertrained. 2. my littlest sister, Jordie – she mentioned that she wanted to start running. and 3. i saw that Mizuno was offering an(other) opportunity to run-test some of their new shoes.

that combination lit a spark in me.

first, as i mentioned earlier, the running itch is back. second, i want my sis to re-discover running. (i say re-discover because she was a high-school trackster, even though she hasn’t run in a while) and i thought new shoes – for both of us – might be the perfect storm!

today i got an email from Mizuno that we were selected (i signed us up) to try out their new Wave Sayonara shoes. they’re slated as Mizuno’s improvement on the Wave Precisions (which are going away) – and the Precisions were my FIRST pair of Mizunos. i loved them. they helped me to find running again and soon thereafter, i snatched up a pair of Elixrs, too, so i had some options within the same family.

Elixr's on the left, Precisions on the right.

Elixr’s on the left, Precisions on the right.

i loved both of these pairs of shoes. as a sidenote, i lost the Precisions when my apartment building had a fire two summers ago. but i did slip on the Elixrs as i ran out of the burning building. they got me through summer running – the only thing that kept me sane at the time – and eventually, a pair of each later, i’ve run countless miles and distances ranging from 5k to 50 miles.

so, i love Mizunos.

and recently, i decided that my end goal for this Fall is too run my fastest marathon. i’m not sure which race that will be yet – i have a few ideas – but i know the new Sayonaras will be a key to getting me to that line healthily and happily.

and perhaps the most important part of this post is that i hope that looking ahead also includes a race (a 5k, maybe) with my little sister.

she was there when i ran my first marathon in 2010…

Jords and me after the Chicago Marathon. 10-10-10, baby!

Jords and me after the Chicago Marathon. 10-10-10, baby!

she wrote me a note for every 10 miles i ran of 50 a little over a year later…

and you better darned well believe that i’ll be there for her – no matter how many miles she decides to conquer.

i’m looking ahead and it looks good!!!

the difference.

this post is one part race report and one part inspiration. i woke up at 6am saturday morning ahead of the Ice Age half marathon. the race was slated to begin at 9am, so i figured i would hop out of bed, grab a little food and coffee and hit the road by about 7am to get there with just under an hour to start time.

the morning went off, pretty much, without a hitch. i actually rolled out of bed and into the running clothes i had laid out the night before. surprise, surprise…i was prepared. within minutes, my things were packed and i decided that with the 40 minutes before i wanted to leave, i’d quickly hit up the Madison farmer’s market. i narrowly missed it the week before and i wanted to grab some ramps, asparagus, and the most important thing – bacon! so, i made a quick loop, grabbing what i came for – plus a few more things, saying “HI” to some friends along the way, and jumping back into my car just before 7am. i swung by my house to drop off my goodies and was on my way!

the drive was easy. i grabbed my timing chip and bib in minutes and while relaxing in my car before warming up and deciding what i’d ultimately race in, i saw that fellow former-Badger, turned professional triathlete Gwen Jorgensen had won her second WTU race in Asia sometime in the last 12 hours. i got pumped up watching the highlight video and was really ready to go. my own silly goal in my mind was that i’d better beat Gwen’s finish time in my measly half marathon.

(read that with sarcasm, please. heck, it least it put a time to beat in my mind)

soon enough, i changed into shorts, deciding i would be warm enough wearing my MS Run Athletes kit (top and shorts) along with arm sleeves for the race. i warmed up and headed to the start line area with just under 10 minutes to 9am. when i arrived, the race director noted a discrepancy in start times posted on various online outlets and shared with us all his decision to postpone the start to 9:30 to allow for the mistake. so, i relaxed a bit more. took in some more water. and took the opportunity to stretch and warm up again.

one thing i’ve learned throughout my running ‘career’ is that for me, a warm-up is an important game-changer. i seem to get better as i go, as a general rule of thumb, which is probably why i enjoy ultra running. but more on that another time.

so, we started promptly at 9:30. the only thing i’ll note about the start is that there was a woman and about six men who took off like rockets right out of the gates. somebody made a comment about the woman in the group – which i find particularly funny because was the eventual overall woman! HELLS YES! i never saw her, but went out mildly aggressive to get away from the crowd a bit and gave myself until the first aid station to try to get settled into a rhythm. it was ok, but the first section of the loop was hilly so i eventually settled in, probably around mile 4ish. i had a bit of company for a mile or so which helped break things up – and i love having a brief conversation here and there. i think that helped me feel settled.

near the last mile i notice my friend Kristin who was doing the 50k up ahead. i didn’t have enough juice in me to sprint, but i caught up to her and we chatted for a bit. it was REALLY good to see a familiar face on the course and seeing Kristin, whom i admire greatly, lit a spark in me. we parted ways, but i told her i’d see her at the finish later and i took off again. at that point, i was near the half-way and noted my time, primarily so i could work to stay steady on the second loop.

i had another buddy for a bit of the first loop and then sort of got into my groove and just went. the second loop was good because i knew it would be hilly and also had some flats that i knew i could look forward to. there were also lots of 50k runners joining onto the course which was just the perfect amount of distraction. i loved running by them and telling them “good job.” this is one of the best things about trail running! anyway, i hammered away steadily and probably about halfway through the second loop i noticed a man who had passed me at about the same point in the first loop up ahead. he hadn’t disappeared and i decided i would work to chase him from that point to the finish.

i eventually caught and passed him with more than 1.5 miles to go and finished in 1:51.20. that was good for 6th woman, and officially 2nd in my age group – though they handed me a first-place plaque – which i realize today is incorrect, though the real #1 woman in my age group was the woman who won overall. anyway, i’ll take it! i’ll take it because i went out there and put out an effort that i was truly proud of. i remembered my motto, “constant forward motion” and that kept me pushing on, even when the hills seemed endless. oh, and i did beat Gwen’s time.

but another reason i brought up Gwen and also Badgers is two-fold. first, a great coach that i looked up to while at the UW had some media availability last week and he said something that really hit home. you can watch the video by clicking this link, but his wisdom that prevailed in my mind was, “the difference between the first eight and the second eight is simple. the first eight pulls harder, pulls longer, and is more determined….” (the specific comment is at about the 1:50 mark in the video)

and then today, this morning, in fact, i read Gwen’s race report which touched on a similar note. she says,

“Bobby McGee once told me, “Do you know what the likelihood of you feeling great at the Olympics is?” I shrugged as I had never thought about it.  “Zero percent,” he said. And he is right. The chance of feeling great on the one day you work towards for four years is pretty slim.”

and this is true, wherever you are in your sport if you’re trying to reach the next level. you’ve got to show up, do the work, and realize – the truth of the greats isn’t that they’ve trained so that their best race doesn’t hurt – they’ve trained to have the determination to push through no matter how hard it gets.

so on saturday while i was out there, when it felt particularly tough, i reminded myself that the best i could do was to keep going – to persevere – to not give up. i may never compete at the elite level but i do know what makes the difference in getting me from where i am to where i’m going.

it’s as true for running as it is for every facet of life.

because i can.

tomorrow morning i will toe the line for another half marathon. i’ll be racing the Ice Age 1/2 marathon and i’m excited to put it all out there on the trails.

i’ll be totally honest: i’m not sure HOW ready i am to do 13.1 miles. but the most important thing for me tomorrow is that i show up.

a little background: i signed up for another Ice Age race in 2012, but after discovering a tumor (which ultimately turned out to be benign) and fast-tracking surgery, i had to bow out of the race. the awesome race director told me he’d hold my entry for this year so when registration opened, i got right on it.

the thing that my little scare with my health taught me last year is that you can’t always be 100% prepared. heck, how often do we get the opportunity to say that anyway? and even when we think we are – life can kick you in the ass.

…which lead me to join forces with MS Run the US!

539678_10102073702700047_1769677452_ni think i’ve told this story here before, but the short of it is that late last year, i saw Ashley tweeting about looking for runners to join the MS Run Athletes team. i had followed Ashley (quietly) since she ran across the United States a few years ago and have since come to know that a number of friends have been impacted – either themselves with a diagnosis of MS or have a family member who is living with the disease.

and like i said, no matter how prepared we are, there’s always the chance that life might sneak up on you. so i joined the fight!

and the motto that i run by is “constant forward motion.”

i love that idea because it doesn’t allow me to dwell in past successes or failures. it doesn’t account for perfect planning or the obstacles life COULD throw in my path. so when i race, i show up at the line and go. constant forward motion.

just like none of my friends or their families chose to life their lives with Multiple Sclerosis, i can’t choose what might happen a week or month or year from now.

but what i can do is to keep moving forward. i can run, so i do. and in my running, i can be a voice and a pair of legs for those impacted by MS. i can raise awareness and money for research today, so i do. and i will toe the line tomorrow, remembering the reasons i run.

if you need a little inspiration today, checkout all of the awesome stuff going on with MS Run the US. oh, this video, for example:

and if you’re so inclined, visit my fundraising page where you can donate money that will go directly to MS Research.

what’s not to love about that?

keep moving forward, people!

on the rebound.

i have struggled with my running for, oh…the past…maybe 6 months.

my achilles ached. the area around it was angry. i felt lost. none of it was working – neither my emotional self or my physical self could get it together and just run. i began questioning myself. and feeling bad about myself. i didn’t like running and i didn’t like who i was last fall.

so i took some time off. i disengaged. from running and a lot from social media. i attended to other areas of my life, too.

but the thing is, today i got up at 5:45am and i ran. my foray into morning running this morning didn’t seem so foreign. i got some inserts for my shoes yesterday and for the very first time in ages, my on-going pain wasn’t.

i felt renewed.

and the thing i realized during that run this morning and then today while i was starving in the afternoon at work is that i love running for what it is. and i don’t need to ask for more or feel bad for neglecting it.

today’s return reminded me why i run. it showed me who i am and what’s important in my life.

i run in the morning when the streets are still relatively quiet – and waking up. i enjoy the calm and the birds chirping. i love to hear my feet hitting the ground. the smiles and silent glances between strangers –  even thought we’re alike in that we’re out there doing our thing.

that’s what running means to me. i’m on the rebound here. i don’t care so much where i’ve been. the point is that i’m back – on track – to where i’m going.

april.

seriously guys, how did it suddenly become april? i mean, i can remember christmas and that first big snow. now though, there’s no high temperature forecasted below 40-degrees in the ten-day forecast. spring is actually here. i’m confident about that.

my running has changed a bit over the course of the last few months. i’m just realizing this as i type it, so bear with me, but perhaps this is my running life – a two year cycle of peaks and valleys in speed and distance. and i think i am about to embark on a new journey.

in my own mind, i have been going back and forth on this for a while, but i made the decision last week that i need to be smart about starting out again. i was signed up for a 50k in may – a race that was originally a 50-miler a year ago, just before i had surgery. so i postponed the run and then, this year, i decided i would sign up for a 50k instead. 50 miles in may wasn’t going to happen for me. i was smart enough to know that back in december. and i kept promising myself that i’d get going and put in some good miles and run this upcoming 50k even though i’ve just started to feel better.

after some quiet time with my own mind though last week, my better judgement prevailed and i made the decision to see if i could shift down to the half marathon race. the race director is great and moved me down.

for me, sometimes it’s not testing my limits so much as it is about setting myself up for success.

when asked why i ultimately decided against doing the Birkie all-together this year the answer was simple – i experienced being completely unprepared when i did the NF50 last fall and i never wanted to experience that again. not if i could help it.

last week, too, a running buddy inquired if i was interested in joining her team to do the MadCity50k. i agreed and i am really excited. we’re going to have a really fun team with a silly name and it’ll be just the thing i need to kickstart my spring.

all in all, i would say that april is off to a good start. spring is here and ready to go!

spring, i know its here somewhere.

i lost a little of the joy of running late last year. i let my ego get in the way. and also, winter. i ventured to Washington D.C. last week for work and experienced some 50+ degree weather and clear sidewalks and i know that spring, for those of us here in Wisco, it can’t be too far off!

when i returned to Madison last week, it was chillier than i had hoped, but still, i got out for some really good runs over the weekend. i ran on trails and sometimes on ice and through the snow, but it was fun. the added good was that the pain that was plaguing me late last year has subsided.

i think that i am ready – both mentally and physically, to rejoin the running community.

now, i just need to stalk and purchase a new pair of (non-minimalist) shoes.

c’mon spring, i know you’re out there sometime. in the meantime, i’m on the hunt for my next great pair of shoes…