The Fair Weather Runner

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but I have not written about running since the Casper Marathon. That’s for a good reason – I hadn’t run since the Casper Marathon, which took place on June 7th. In the good ol’ days (the 22 marathons a year days) I never took time off after a marathon. I didn’t feel like I “needed” to (although that’s probably not true) and I certainly didn’t want to. But, as you know, it’s no longer the good ol’ days, and things around here have changed.

I intended to take at least a full week off from running after the marathon this time. After all, training for NYC doesn’t start until mid-July, so there was no rush. I wanted to give my back ample time to heal from potential trauma from the race. Fortunately, I actually wasn’t sore in the days following the race and felt no worse for the wear. Given how much concrete we ran on during the marathon, I’m going to go ahead and attribute this to my HOKAs, because this would never have happened in my other shoes. Even though I was feeling good, I decided to still take time off for both my body and mind and intended to start back the following week. Well, as luck would have it, the temperatures shot up into the 100s (with humidity!) the following week, and if ever there is an excuse not to run, triple digit heat is it, my friends.

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Me from May – September

At this point it’s probably appropriate to mention that I sold my house on Friday and AJ and I are now currently living with his parents for a month while we wait to close on our new house. That’s relevant primarily because we’re living in a different town about 20 minutes away from our old one, and I have absolutely no concept of running routes in this area. So my 30 minute run was a lot of weird experimentation and just running back and forth up and down streets and trying to figure things out as best I could. It will certainly be interesting for the next month, but fortunately, I won’t have to do too many long runs here before we move. I’m hoping to join a running group in our new city to make marathon training a whole lot more fun. I’m kinda over the long-runs-by-myself-thing at this point.

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Last day as a homeowner! Rocket and I moved in there together over 6 years ago and now we’re on the way to bigger and better things (with AJ too, but he wasn’t there when I bought the house so he doesn’t get to be in the picture).

Yes, I’m a wimp when it comes to the heat. I’ll push through it if I’m training for something, but if I’m not? Sorry, I don’t like running enough to have a heat stroke over it just for a good time. So, I told myself I’d run when the temperatures went below 100…and as a result, the first time I ran was yesterday. Yup. My first run was 3 weeks after the marathon. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been slouching – I’ve gone to barre classes at my studio six days a week, ridden my bike a few times, and gone to the gym to get on the stairmaster. But I think any runner knows that the only thing that truly simulates running is running, so I expected the going to be fairly rough. Training doesn’t start for a couple more weeks, so I set out for an easy 30 minutes with my main goal simply being for my body not to break down or overheat.

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How does anyone take a normal looking “overhead” selfie? No, seriously. Look at the size of my head compared to my feet. For this and more excellent photographs, follow me on Instagram.

The run was actually an amazing success. I held a decent pace (or so I think), I never had to stop and walk from heat stroke or exhaustion, and I enjoyed being out there. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? I’ll be building my base back up and then slowwwwlllyyy easing back into marathon training in the coming weeks. Pray for cooler weather.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Would you rather run in the heat or the cold? Do you have certain temperature thresholds where you head inside to run on the treadmill or won’t run at all?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

If you follow me on Instagram or know me in real life, you have probably seen some of the very strange photos I’ve posted while at work, leading you to ask yourself, “What does she DO?” Well, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in asking yourself that because I can virtually guarantee that my friends and family could not tell you either outside of something vague like “she goes outside a lot and writes a lot.” Both of those things are true, but today I thought I’d give you a little peek into the other side of my life – the side that actually takes up the vast majority of my time and has nothing to do with running except when I’m fleeing from mosquitoes. We’re going to talk about my job! I promise not to make it a snooze fest and can virtually guarantee that you’ll learn something by the end, deal? Deal.

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Not to worry, more unflattering pictures of me are on the way! This one was taken during field work in southeastern Georgia during a combination rain storm and mosquito swarm – basically my worst nightmare.

Ok, so first thing’s first: my actual job title is Environmental Specialist. Pretty useless in terms of information, right? My job is a combination of three things: environmental planning (the writing part), field science (the outside part), and GIS analysis (the mapmaking part). The background of my position is that the National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1969 and requires federal agencies to take environmental impacts into consideration when they are making decisions and requires that the agencies look for alternatives that will minimize impacts to the environment. That basically means that your state can’t just decide to build a brand new road anywhere they want without first thinking about the best, least damaging place to build that road. In order to prove that they considered different options and that the new project won’t cause unjustified damage to the environment, they are required to write a document that provides the evidence. That’s where I come in!

I primarily work on transportation projects like road and airport improvements, but we also occasionally work for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. The environmental documents that I write for these projects cover everything from impacts to natural resources, such as wetlands, endangered species, wildlife, and rivers to human resources such as historical resources, neighborhoods, socioeconomic data, and more. Impacts to both the human environment and the natural environment are weighed across many categories to determine which alternative is the best choice. Depending on how involved the project is determines the size and scope of the document. It may take me a week to write a small document or three to five years working with a whole team to write a large one! If you’ve ever wondered why it takes so long to widen that highway near your house that’s backed up with traffic, now you know – the environmental process takes a very long time.

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Sometimes it takes longer because we have to walk across sketchy bridges like this

In order to get all of the information we need for the documents, a big part of the work involves going out to the physical project location and flagging out all the wetlands, looking for endangered species, and assessing aquatic resources. That’s where all of my crazy pictures come from! I didn’t know anything about wetland science when I first started working in this field. I had no idea I would ever end up outside. In fact, I was hired strictly as a GIS analyst (making maps on the computer) when I graduated college. Then, my bosses figured out that I’m a decent enough writer and after that, they learned that I’m not afraid of snakes and don’t complain much when I’m in pain, so they sent me out to the field and the rest is history. I’ve now become pretty decent at identifying the different plants and trees and looking for habitat, but I mostly play second fiddle to the guys who do this full time and make sure they don’t get bitten by anything and collapse while we’re out there. I genuinely enjoy going out to the field when it’s below 85 degrees. Above that, not so much, but my boss doesn’t seem to care about my temperature preferences because it was over 100 today at the airport we were flagging. Oh well, better luck next summer.

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The best part of my job is when I find new animal friends like Mr. Charles the turtle. The second best part is when I make my coworkers take reluctant selfies with me.

The documents are accompanied by tons of figures, charts, and graphics that help convey the data in a more interesting and understandable way. Interesting fact: the documents have to be written at an 8th grade level because the public needs to be able to read and understand them so that they can comment on projects that have the potential to affect them. I love that aspect of my job because I enjoy the challenge of taking extremely technical information and putting it into terms that are not only understandable to the average person, but also interesting to read. In order to do that, we include a lot of maps of the project area showing various types of impacts, which is the final part of my job. It’s funny that the field I got my degree in is actually the area I do the least amount of work in, but it’s all still related.

So if you’re wondering why it’s taking so long to widen the highway near your house or build the new metro line that’s been promised, it’s probably my fault. And if you’re wondering if there’s any method to the madness in how government decisions are made as they pertain to the environment, I can tell you that yes, there usually is. I can also tell you that public opinion is very important in what I do, so if there is an upcoming project you hate or one you love, don’t be afraid to stand up and make your voice heard! It really does matter, and I promise you there is someone just like me near where you live that is reading all of your comments and responding to each one. I know because I have to do it too.

I’d be lying if I said that this is the career I thought I would grow up to have, because it definitely is not. I wanted to be a large animal vet until I found out I had to take physics. So while a few years ago I don’t think I would have said I’m living the dream, I can honestly say I genuinely like what I do. It is interesting and challenging and it’s never the same thing two days in a row. It’s nice to be able to get out of the office pretty regularly and hone a variety of different skills. Plus, I’m not afraid of snakes and am very useful for moving them out of the way when running with a group.

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Almost stepped on my buddy Floyd here. He was cool about it.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What is your job? Can your friends and family explain what you do?

Faith and Strength – Casper Marathon Race Report

(Sorry for the time between posts, lack of comment responses, etc….things are little crazy right now and I’m trying to keep my head on straight while packing all my worldly possessions and organizing the sale and purchase of houses! Bah!)

The 4:30 am wake-up call came bright and early on Sunday morning. “Faith and strength,” I thought to myself over and over again as I tried to calm my nerves and get excited about the day ahead. Patty, Kate and I donned our matching shirts and headed to the shuttles waiting to take us to the start at the Casper Events Center. We’re on a bit of an anti-Maniac gear kick lately (not anti-Maniac, just anti-Maniac gear) for reasons none of us can entirely explain, but I think we all felt a bit of nostalgia when we walked into the events center and saw all our friends decked out. Whatever, we looked super cute in our matching shirts.

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Don’t quote me on this, but I think 1 out of every 3 runners was a Maniac or Fanatic. Something crazy. There were a lot of us!

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You know we’re adorable

We were lucky to avoid the rain as the marathoners took off. Kate was planning on running much faster than Patty and I, so she took off and Patty and I settled into a comfortable pace. Neither of us was wearing a Garmin, but she had a watch and we simply ran at a comfortable pace and then walked a minute at each mile marker. With the race starting at 6:30, it was nice and cool in the morning and we got some beautiful views of the Casper Valley. Have I mentioned how much I love Wyoming? Seriously, go visit, it’s the best.

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Behold, the valley! And other runners very very very far away because this was a small race.

One thing we were not noticing, thankfully, was the altitude. I’m not sure if we had adapted in the past 48 hours or what, but Patty and I were feeling pretty good. It probably didn’t hurt that we were running on a beautiful course and having fun chatting with each other and other Maniacs we saw out there. The course did a loop around the events center and then ran towards town and along the Platte River on Casper’s extensive bike path system. Seriously, every time I go to a city that is smaller than Columbia SC (the big city near where I live) and it has tons and tons more miles of bike and pedestrian paths than we do, I get irate. GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER, COLUMBIA. End rant. Anyway, it was beautiful.

There definitely were not many spectators out there on the course, but the aid stations more than made up for it. Our matching shirts were a huge hit. Everyone we passed yelled “there go the twins!” and some people were even observant enough to note that we had a triplet (Kate) at little further down the road. The aid stations were stocked with fruit, water, gatorade, and gu, and although there weren’t a ton of people out, they were certainly enthusiastic. One lady even told us optimistically at mile 8 that we were “almost there!” Ma’am, bless your heart, but no. That wouldn’t even work if we were half-marathoners. COME ON.

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Not almost there

The course had a few out and back sections, which are either fun or torture depending on where you are in the race. Around mile 11, it was pretty fun! It’s cool to see the leaders coming back and high five some of our faster friends. At this point, the course wound around a golf course for 3 miles. This portion of the race used to be run in the last few miles, and I could see why people would hate that. In addition to there being no shade, there are also even fewer spectators, so it is pretty lonely out there. I definitely agree with the decision to switch the course around! At mile 15, we stopped at the bathroom after leaving the golf course area and oh…there had been an incident, apparently. I mean, I get that our bodies do strange and sometimes unfortunate things during a race, but HOW do you manage to literally coat the bathroom wall with diarrhea and WHY oh God WHY would you not at least attempt to clean that situation up? Yeah, suffice to say that I was feeling a little nauseous after experiencing that. FOREVER UNCLEAN.

Things were still going pretty well for me at this point, traumatic experience aside. We weren’t breaking any speed records, but we were definitely sticking to the run/walk plan and I was in good spirits. My back was holding up fine as well. That continued until mile 17.5 ish. I think we saw Kate somewhere around then, and she said the course was kicking her ass (she says this while being an hour ahead of us). Between miles 17 and 18, the mile marker suddenly seemed really far away. The impact on my back was starting to take its toll in a major way, and my form was reflecting it. So, Patty and I took a recovery mile at 18 and walked the whole thing. We were still making decent time up to that point, so I told her if she wanted to run ahead and break 5 hours, I understood. I didn’t want to hold her back if I had to walk the entire rest of the way, but Patty being Patty, she said no way. That made me want to try a bit harder to run, so from that point on I just did the best I could and ran until the pain caught up with me.

The course got oddly hilly from miles 19-22 ish, and the turn around point of the race was near mile 20. As we crested the top of the hill, we hoped to see the turnaround, but no…it was so far away and never seemed to get closer. The people heading back could read the looks on our faces and kept saying “I promise, it’s right there. You’re so close!” but those people were LYING because it felt like forever. Patty and I swore that we would not spread false hope to others and if they asked, we would just say nothing. There’s no need to be cruel.

We had another recovery mile around mile 22, and things were looking up. It definitely wasn’t going to be a fast finish and I didn’t feel awesome, but I was surviving. I was 4 miles away from the finish, and it was all going to be ok. Then I got to mile 24 and I don’t know if it was the altitude or heat or what, but all of a sudden I got incredibly dizzy and nauseous and felt like I was going to pass out. The closest thing I can equate it to is when you’re very drunk and the room is spinning, so you try and close your eyes but you still feel everything spinning. It was like that. I told Patty and she was really concerned, but I wanted to keep going. She said that we had 30 more minutes to go 2 miles and finish the race under 5:30, and that motivated me for approximately 90 seconds. Then another wave of dizziness and nausea hit and I was like “Yeah I’m gonna be honest, I don’t think 5:30 is going to happen and I really couldn’t care less.” Well, as it turns out, Patty lied,  because when we got to mile 25, we suddenly had 20 minutes to finish the last mile! I ran as much as I could and walked when I felt like I was going to pass out, which was more often than I would prefer. Finally, finally, finally the finish was in sight and we crossed it, holding hands, in 5:27. SUCCESS!

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And no blisters or lost toenails from my HOKAs! Hooray!

So all I wanted was to sit down. I didn’t care about water or food, I just wanted to sit down or lay down and not move. Well, as luck would have it, someone from the Casper Marathon race committee had heard I write for Women’s Running, so they came up to interview me literally within about 2 minutes of me finishing the race. She asked me what I thought of Wyoming and the marathon and I could barely string together a sentence. Feel free to watch my lovely thoughts (and grimace…wtf is happening with my face?) below – it’s only like 18 seconds.

 

Danielle Hastings after the Casper Marathon. Love her Blog!

Posted by Casper Marathon on Monday, June 8, 2015

It just so happened that we finished just a few minutes before awards were about to start. We have a lot of fast friends and had been fortunate to stay at the host hotel, where we had late checkout, so there was time to hangout and wait for everyone to get their awards. So we’re just sitting there chatting and then all of a sudden we hear “…and in third place for women age 20-29, Danielle Hastings!” (I had registered for the race before AJ and I got married, apparently. But yeah, so I FREAKING GOT 3rd IN MY AGE GROUP. I could not stop laughing. A 5:27 marathon and I placed in my age group?? This is my kind of event! And it wasn’t even like there were only 3 people in my age group, so I really did place!  I got a sweet hat and a toiletry bag as my spoils. Then we found out Kate got 2nd in her age group, which was awesome too! The best and funniest part to me was that my super fast friend Cade (who ran a 3:03 marathon yesterday, by the way, no big deal) finished in 3:28 that day and he got third in his age group at Casper, too. I told him I was going to title this post “The One Where I Won the Same Award as Cade” and I was only half kidding. But I mean really, you have to love small races for stuff like this. I owe this one all to Patty for pushing me! She doesn’t get my hat, though. I don’t win stuff very often.

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AGE GROUP WINNERS! From my Instagram

So here’s the thing about this whole weekend, especially with the age group award. Going into Casper, I really didn’t know if I would finish the race. I also didn’t know if I would ever run another marathon again even if I did. I had no desire to train for NYC. It seemed like the universe was telling me to give up marathons. But everything with this race and this weekend and my life right now is falling so perfectly into place. Whether there had been anyone behind me in my age group or not, it wouldn’t have mattered. It seemed like a sign from above that I’m doing the right thing and should keep doing it for as long as it is fun. I’ll be in our new city just in time to start training with a new running group for NYC. And look, I might never be able to train the way I used to. I might be destined to a lifetime of 5:30 marathons. I can’t pretend that I’ll never get frustrated with that or that there won’t be days when I think about taking a break for awhile, but for now, I’m going to keep going. I love the life I have built for myself and the amazing friends and family I have to share it with. And now that I have my embroidered toiletry bag, I see no reason to quit now. I’m travel ready, baby. Life is good.

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We don’t believe in going anywhere without matching

Reunited and it Feels So Good – Casper Marathon Race Weekend, Part 1

As you all know, I was pretty nervous about running the Casper Marathon. I debated dropping down to the half or even not running at all. One thing that was never up for discussion, though, was whether or not I would go to Wyoming. After all, my flight was already paid for and even more importantly, this race would be a long overdue reunion with two of my favorite people (running or non-running) – Patty and Kate! It had been too long since we have all done a race together and I miss them like crazy. It’s kind of funny how you can build such a strong connection with people you met during races, but here we are, lifelong friends!

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An oldie but a goodie – New Hampshire Marathon 2012!

The days leading up to the race actually turned out to be pretty crazy in a good way. Although I haven’t talked about it on the blog, AJ and I are moving and I recently accepted a new job (same position, different company). So, in the five days before the race, the following things happened:

  1. We received and accepted an offer on our house (much faster than we expected to sell it) and found out we have to be out in less than a month.
  2. I had my last day of work at my former company.
  3. I received complimentary upgrades to first class for my flights out west – my first time ever flying first class! They made me an omelette for breakfast. It was basically the pinnacle of my life.
  4. We are in the process of trying to find somewhere to live before we close on our house.

So, yeah. Lots of changes afoot. You could say it’s not the ideal time to be out of town, and it definitely was not, but I chose to look at it like these were all positive signs from the universe. None of these things, with the exception of leaving my job, were things I expected to happen any time soon, and yet they happened in the span of a week. That has to count for something, right? This race was either going to go awesome OR I was going to crash and burn in payment for all the great luck I’ve been blessed with lately.

After the glorious experience of traveling first class for free (thanks to hard-earned American Airlines elite status), I arrived in Denver and waited on Patty and Kate, who had both been delayed. They got in eventually and we had a lovely 4 hour drive to Casper! Seriously, the drive was gorgeous. Sweeping view of the plains, rock formations, and mountains in the distance. Have I mentioned before that Wyoming is my favorite state? It is.

Friday afternoon consisted of heading to the expo, which was conveniently located in the host hotel where we were staying. It took us 3 minutes to walk through the expo, and that’s only because we sampled some soup. Otherwise it would have been more like 90 seconds. Gotta love small races!

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At dinner on Friday night

On Saturday morning, got up early to head to a sporting goods store and buy matching shirts for the race (seriously) and then we went for a shakeout run through the city of Casper. It felt good to move our legs after being in the car the day before, but damn if us flatlanders didn’t notice the altitude! We were all huffing and puffing while chugging along at a 10 min pace, which didn’t seem to bode so well for the next day. We also ended up finding a veteran’s parade going through the streets of downtown Casper and stopped to pay our respects while simultaneously catching our breaths and trying not to panic about the thought of running a marathon with no oxygen the following day.

That awkward moment when you have to stop for a picture to catch your breath

The agenda for later in the afternoon called for a trip up Casper Mountain to see some waterfalls, which were really beautiful. We were able to look out over the valley, but there was some (minor) hiking involved. I did that in flip flops and a dress because I was unprepared, but at least I looked cute while not breathing.

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Worst hiking outfit ever

The night before, we went to dinner with some friends and discovered that they knew people who own a CHRISTMAS STORE in Casper. Now, you may not know this about me, but I practice Judaism. I grew up in a non-religious home that celebrated Christmas and I went through the conversion process later, but that’s a story for another day. ANYWAY, old traditions die hard and I still love Christmas trees and ornaments, and AJ is Catholic, so I buy Christmas ornaments every I go. So knowing that I was about to have an entire store at my disposal was pretty much more excitement than I could handle. I restrained myself when we visited on Saturday and only bought 3 ornaments, which was a victory.

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I may have a problem. Yes, I wrote on the ornament myself.

When we got back to the hotel, I headed to the “expo” to buy shot blocks and was immediately accosted by some of my most favorite Marathon Maniacs! It was great to see everyone after what seems like forever! These are people that I used to see every few weeks, and now it’s sometimes only once a year. Reconnecting with them made me realize just how different my life is now compared to what it looked like just a couple of years ago. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. We had a mixed group of Maniacs and normal people (ha!) for dinner, and I had a blast catching up with everyone and reminiscing. It was like the good old days all over again.

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Maniacs and Fanatics at dinner!

As I went to bed on Saturday night, I was reading “Think and Grow Rich.” It’s an old book about how to use the power of positive thinking to obtain various forms of wealth and achieve your goals, so I decided to try it out for the race the next day. I put my anxiety as far out of my mind and came up with a mantra based on the book: “Faith and strength.” I decided that I needed to have faith that my goal was achievable and possible, and that if I put all my energy into it, I would succeed. I needed to have strength to push through when the going got tough and remember why I was out there in the first place. I made the promise to myself that I would repeat that over and over and not quit until I had no choice, and when I woke up on race day, the first thing I thought was “faith and strength.”

To be continued.

Race Preparation Expectations vs Reality

With less than a week to go before the Casper Marathon, I’ve been working myself up into a frenzy, as I like to/am prone to do. There was a time when the marathon distance stopped scaring me because I did it so often, but that time seems long ago now. Now, I am a ball of nerves at the start line all over again!  It’s kind of funny how life works.

I started this training cycle out with enthusiasm but also the utmost respect for my body and a ton of patience. I was determined to build up my mileage extremely slowly, not put any added pressure on myself through speed or hill work, and just focus on building a strong base. As you saw through about 12 weeks of training logs, that’s exactly what I did. I took it slow and was patient with my body.

I expected that I would arrive to the starting line of the race ready to run healthy and relatively fast. Instead, I’ll be showing up half injured and be lucky to finish. This wasn’t the training cycle I had hoped for at all, but when I look back, I’m not sure I really could have done anything differently. I was diligent in my core work and strengthening thanks to my commitment to barre. I built up my mileage slowly, did not push my speed, and still saw steady improvements in my fitness. I cross trained on the bike and never ran more than 4 days in a week, and never more than 2 days in a row. I followed the plan.

I expected to run the Casper Marathon in a confident and relaxed place mentally. I eschewed my Garmin for this entire training cycle and only knew my pace when running with other people or at the end of a race. Although I didn’t feel good on every run, I could tell I was making progress throughout training. Today, I’m definitely not confident or relaxed.  I don’t know if I will be able to finish the race or at what pace.

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Have you had enough of the Kardashian/Jenner clan for this week? I thought not. You’re welcome.

I expected to run the race in my trusty old Mizunos, but in reality, I’ll be wearing my HOKAs for the first time! I’ve never run longer than 15 miles in them, but to be fair, I haven’t run farther than 15 miles this training cycle. I’m expecting to have a great, cushioned experience though. As much as I used to love my Mizunos, I’m really excited about taking the new shoes for a test drive! Interesting fact: I ran my first two marathons in Asics, but lost toenails. I switched to Mizuno Wave Nirvanas and ran the next 45 marathons in those. HOKA has big shoes to fill (ha!).

I expected to finish the marathon at a relatively fast pace for me. Although I didn’t know for sure, my secret goal was to run under 4:30, which seemed very attainable when I ran the half marathon in March easily at 2:01. I wanted to really stick to my training plan and see what I was made of. I wasn’t able to do that thanks to injury, so realistically, the marathon will be a very slow one for me. I’m counting any finish as a victory.

Because I had higher expectations for the race, I also expected to line up for the Casper Marathon feeling anxious and focused on my time rather than having fun with my friends. Instead, I’m going into it just hoping to enjoy the experience. If my back has a fit, I will not finish the race, and I’m mentally prepared for that. Hopefully, it will just be slow going as a result of being undertrained, and I’ll enjoy the day with my friends. That’s all I can really ask for at this point.

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Amanda will be greatly missed in Casper! But we had fun running together today.

I wish I could be more positive about getting ready for the race. In fact, I really am looking forward to going to Wyoming (it’s my favorite state) and hanging out with my long lost Tulsa friends! That part is great, but I can’t ignore the fact that I’m really disappointed by how my training ended up going, especially since I was being so careful and thought I was really taking care of myself. Oh well, live to run another day.

 

Officially a Convert

In what has become an unprecedented commitment to strength training, I, Danielle, the T-Rex Runner, have now been strength training (with actual weights) for 2 whole weeks. Thank you for your applause. Sad that two weeks marks an unprecedented commitment to anything, no? Whatever. During the two weeks, I’ve also done a treadmill speed workout several times that, dare I say, I have come to enjoy.

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No, really! It’s true! OK, maybe I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t actively hate it, and that’s something.

No, I still don’t know where most of the machines and weights in my gym are and I still am convinced that everyone notices me wandering around and they’re all like “Girl, bye.” True story: As of yesterday, I have actually started writing down the locations of some of the machines once I find them so that I do not lose them again.

Maybe it’s just because it’s something new and I’ve been into mixing up my fitness routine lately, but it’s been fun so far! I keep track of how much weight I’m using for each exercise and it is entertaining to see it increasing. While I’m not sure that I will ever be a total gym rat and only want to lift weights, you never know. Regardless, it is keeping fitness fun for me right now, and that is what matters! Well, that plus the fact that it’s helping my back, but you know what I mean.

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Does anyone else miss Maury or is that just me? Ahh, a simpler time.

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact that I’m almost enjoying weight lifting is that I’ve come to actually kind of like my interval workouts on the treadmill as well. Granted, they’re short workouts of just 30 minutes, so it’s not like I’m on there forever, but still…I normally hate both treadmills and speedwork so it is a bit odd to find myself enjoying a combination of the two. I’ve also bumped up my speed just a little bit, which is very satisfying as well. While I’m not sure exactly how speed work on the treadmill will translate into speed on the road (and I don’t intend to find out until summer is over, because summer is the worst), I’m proud of myself for getting my heart rate up a little higher than normal and breaking out of my comfort zone.

It was on one of these treadmill interval runs that I actually realized what a full-on HOKA junkie I have become. See, I had worn old shoes to the gym last week because I was just planning on lifting weights and had no intentions of running. I ended up feeling like jumping on the treadmill for a quick set of intervals – just 10 minutes – and holy crap did I notice a huge difference! It felt like I was running barefoot by comparison, and I was shocked by how much impact I felt in my most recent (still cushioned and previously very comfortable) pair of  shoes. I guess it makes sense that I never really noticed it before because I basically started running exclusively in HOKAs as soon as I got my Stinson Lites and I never switched back and forth, but wow. What a difference! It’s crazy to think how much impact I had been subjecting my back to without even knowing it.

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So it turns out I’m way too self conscious to take pictures of myself in a gym with actual people in it, so there’s a 90% chance you’ll just see this same picture over and over again. Or at least until I stay in another hotel. Sorry.

That’s it for me on the workout front for right now. I’m about 10 days out from the Casper Marathon and I’ll be writing a post leading up to that next week. In the mean time, I’m happy to be mixing things up and getting healthier!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Strength training – love it or hate it? Would you rather do your speed work on the treadmill or outside?

Back to the Future

Man, this long weekend/short week has really thrown off my schedule! Not that I’m complaining, of course. I just realized I’d probably end up not posting this week at all if I didn’t do it now, so here it goes. This past weekend, AJ and I traveled to St. Michael’s, Maryland, right on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, for the wedding of my best friend from high school. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. Let me explain.

I went to middle and high school with the same group of people. Despite being in a very large school (my high school had almost 5,000 students the year we graduated), most of us were in the same classes together over and over again because we were two years ahead in math, and there was basically only one schedule that could accommodate that throughout middle school and high school. As such, we all became pretty close. With the competitive schedules and grades that we had, the vast majority of us went out of state for college, and pretty much everyone moved somewhere else after we graduated. As such, I haven’t seen most of these people, with the exception of my 3 closest friends, since probably freshman or sophomore year of college at the latest – maybe 8 or 9 years. That’s just how it has worked out. None of us went to our 10 year reunion, either, because it was in South Florida at the end of July and really, who wants to do that? No one.

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Just some of the high school crew on Friday night

I have to be honest, I was pretty overwhelmed to see everyone at first. I’m not really sure why. I guess I just didn’t know what to expect. As a result, I may have drank way too much wine at the welcome reception on Friday night and I may not have done my optimistically/stupidly scheduled Saturday long run. Oh well.

I was just so excited to see everyone and to introduce them to AJ. He got to meet my fifth grade boyfriend, fellow members of my elementary school math team, and people with whom I shared countless Friday nights at Ruby Tuesday and the movies. They occupied a huge amount of time in my life, and we have some amazing memories together! Although I haven’t seen my high school friends since basically graduation, we see AJ’s all the time – almost all of them live within an hour of us. So I was excited to turn the tables and make him listen to my high school stories, for a change!

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how, for lack of a better word, weird the whole experience was. On the one hand, I’m surrounded by all of these people who have known me longer than anyone else who is still in my life, except my family. These people saw me through all of my awkward stages and teenage drama. And yet, on the other hand…we kind of don’t really know each other anymore. A lot has happened since high school! So it was weird to feel so comfortable and yet sort of like a stranger at the same time. It was like nothing had changed and everything had changed, all at once. I think I told AJ about 400 times how weird yet awesome it was and he eventually tuned me out.

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My husband is so handsome!!

But anyway, the point of the whole weekend was to see my friend Scott marry the love of his life and girlfriend of 7 years, Cristina! I’m not an emotional person and I’ve never cried at a wedding, but I had a feeling this one might get me. I was right. The whole ceremony was so personal and the love those two have for each other was evident. Scott is an incredible person with a heart of gold, and seeing him so happy had me in tears. It turns out I do have feelings after all!

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Me and the groom! One of my oldest and best friends. T-Rex Mom said I look drunk in this picture. Thanks to Friday night, I most definitely was NOT.

This wedding was so much fun that I even got AJ to dance! That almost never happens. But the whole vibe of the weekend was just so positive, happy, and in a way, life affirming. We’re all good people. We’re all successful. We’re lawyers, accountants, consultants, journalists, and we spend half our lives in the swamp (ok, that’s just me). We own houses and are married, we love to travel, and we are starting to have kids. And despite everything that has changed, nothing can take the memories we’ve built away and the love and respect we have for each other. So while it may be another 10 years til I see everyone again (although I certainly hope not), I take comfort in knowing that those bonds will never be broken.

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Sam, one of my best friends in middle school and high school! We see each other every year.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you stay in touch with your friends from high school or college? 

Out of My Comfort Zone

I’ve been doing some crazy things lately, you guys. Some stuff that is totally out of character. Some things that might cause you to worry about me if you knew me in real life and caught me doing them.

I have lifted weights at the gym twice.

I ran on the treadmill. On purpose. AND I DID SPEED WORK.

There are a few fitness activities I really despise: 1) lifting weights 2) running on the treadmill. And yet, I did both. Why?

Well, I am trying to come up with ways to improve my fitness that will also help my body and my mind. As much as I detest weight lifting (and as much as I try to convince myself that barre is all the strength training I need), my back is something I really need to protect. The stronger my body is, the stronger my back will be, so I’m trying to suck it up. And while I have no intentions of becoming the incredible Hulk any time soon, I do want to get stronger so I can protect this poor, sad, broken body of mine. I’ve been using some verrrrrry basic machine and dumbbell-based workouts that don’t intimidate me too much. In fact, the most intimidating thing about the whole process so far is trying to figure out where the hell all those stupid machines are in my gym, and why they do not appear to be in any logical order whatsoever. Would it not make sense to put all the leg machines in one place? I don’t understand. /rant over.

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Do you even lift bro?

As far as the treadmill goes, that one had to do with trying to improve my fitness while reducing some impact and increasing my motivation. How could the treadmill possibly increase my motivation, you ask? Well, simple. I really, really hate running in the summer. It was in the mid-90s already this week and humid and I just could not bear the thought of running outside, so I decided to jump on the treadmill at my hotel gym. Recognizing that treadmill running is incredibly boring (to me), I decided to mix things up with some short intervals that I found on Pinterest. Holy hell, that workout kicked my butt! It’s been a long time since I have done any kind of speed work.

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Wasn’t sure how the HOKAs would fare on the treadmill, but everything worked out just fine. Minus the excessive sweating, but that’s not their fault.

The good news is that I stuck it out, made it through, and was really proud of myself when I was done. The time went by fast and I didn’t feel any worse (or more numb) for the wear the next day. I won’t do speedwork or treadmill workouts all the time, but I can definitely see myself incorporating them a bit more this summer. I’m trying to mix up my fitness routine as much as possible right now to get me back in shape while encouraging a healthy mindset and a healthy back, and I have to say, so far, change is  good!

How do you mix up your workouts? Do you have a favorite treadmill interval workout that you want to share with me/kick my butt with?

Running is Funny

Running is a funny thing, don’t you think? Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down, and it’s basically impossible to predict how you’ll feel on any given run. I think the nature of running sometimes means it can be hard to stay motivated – at least it does for me, anyway. I’ve noticed that quite a few running bloggers I follow are struggling with motivation right now in one way or another, whether it is sticking to a training plan, bumping down their usual distances, etc. And I totally understand why. I’m experiencing a little bit of the same thing as I try to come back from this latest back injury. My training was going SO incredibly well for awhile, and I felt like I was taking the right precautions and going about it in a smart way. I had a great 15 mile run and was feeling really confident about maybe not PRing in my next marathon, but certainly running well. Then all of a sudden I woke up hurt, and I’m still not back to normal. Whether running or one of my other activities or just bad luck caused it, I don’t know, but the result is the same.

So as I try to come back from this injury, I’m struggling with wondering “What’s the point?” I’m trying to build up my long runs to be somewhat prepared for the marathon in Casper (now 3 weeks away), but I know I won’t be able to run the way I was hoping. Hell, I might not even be able to finish. And I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t crossed my mind that maybe, just maybe, my body isn’t cut out to do marathons anymore.

But I’m not the type of person who likes to make rash decisions or quit before I’ve exhausted all options, and I know that I’m facing a solid month off, at a minimum, after Casper before I would need to start training for NYC. In all reality, no decisions about my marathon future will be made until it’s time for NYC training to start in July. And yet, as I pulled myself out of bed for my planned long run this morning I thought “Is it worth it?”

Today, the answer was yes. I’m on week 3 of slow improvement in my running endurance. My leg/back are about the same and I appear to have reached a plateau where some of my foot is still numb, but it’s less than it used to be and it’s not getting worse. My long run last week was 8.5 miles, which I did while visiting T-Rex Mom for Mother’s Day. She accompanied me by riding along on a very squeaky bike and we got to have a nice chat while I ran along the lovely (and most importantly, shaded) multi-use path near their house in North Carolina.

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HOKAs + shade + T-Rex Mom = happy me

That run went great, and I felt confident going into this week’s long run, which I planned for 12 miles. But still, with a marathon 3 weeks away, 12 miles seemed pointless. I can’t help but try, though! So I forced myself out of bed this morning and turned on a podcast and just went. I didn’t bring my Garmin, I didn’t get mad at myself if I stopped for a quick walk break, and I just ran based on how I felt. It turns out that I felt pretty good, so I ended up doing 13 miles instead. The thought of doing 16 crossed my mind, and I know I could have done it, but it didn’t seem like the smart move to double my long run mileage while I’m trying to come back from injury.  Plus, it’s not like a 16 mile run is going to magically transform me into some fitness machine that’s going to PR at Casper. Not gonna happen.

It’s discouraging when you feel like you’re doing everything right with your training and something goes wrong, whether it’s work, health, or life-related. It’s easy to lose motivation and wonder what the point of it all is. At the end of the day, I try and remember that whether I ever finish another marathon or not, the reason I run in the first place is because I genuinely enjoy it. I may not always love training, but I DO love running. So although my goals may change in the future – at this point, I have no idea – I know I’m a runner for life.

Are you a runner who sometimes struggles with motivation, or are you the type who never loses the pep in their step?

Lessons I Learned When I Got Divorced

The topics of love and marriage have come up a lot in many of the conversations I’ve had with friends and coworkers lately – more so than usual, although I’m not sure why. Some are finding love for the first time, others are struggling to deal with a divorce, and others are just navigating the daily battles that sometimes happen to the best of couples.  For some reason, I guess because I got divorced young and went from a lot of really bad relationships to one really good one, people ask my advice a lot. I’ve found myself reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned on the journey from being someone’s ex-wife (how I used to define myself) to being Danielle, who happens to be married, and how my perspective has changed as a result. And so, if for no other reason than I don’t really feel about writing about running today (not because it’s going badly, just because I write about it a lot), here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my divorce, brought to you by Dr. Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project. Unrelated, but you’ll have to hold me back if Hulu doesn’t pick it up for another season now that it’s been cancelled. Fix it, Jesus. ANYWAY.

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OMG this means AJ is my Kanye…yesss

1) Relationship issues are never one-sided. Although I will never talk about the circumstances of my marriage and divorce on the blog, everyone – including my ex-husband – who knows the situation would agree that what happened was pretty traumatic and unfair to me. My ex is not a bad person, but he did a lot of bad things at one time in his life. But just because those things are pretty egregious doesn’t mean that our divorce was entirely his “fault,” or that my behavior had nothing to do with it and was always perfect. I personally think that one of the best things about divorce is it forces us to examine ourselves and how we can improve as people and partners. No one is perfect, and no one is blameless. We all have room to improve and every divorce or break-up is a glaring reminder of ways we can be better. Learning to accept some of the blame allowed me to release the anger I felt and move forward with my life.

2) I only have control over my own behavior. As a person with major control issues and a rather naive world view (especially at 23), I believed that I could control my ex-husband by being a “better” wife. More successful, more beautiful, more thin, more whatever – if I made myself better, he would have to change his behavior, right? Wrong. My divorce taught me that I only have control over my actions and my reactions. I cannot control the behavior of others, and their bad behavior is not necessarily reflective of the effort I am putting in. Also, their good behavior is not my reward for being perfect. This has been immensely helpful in stopping my compulsive need to “fix” people and work on “fixing” myself instead.

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3) Most things are not worth arguing over. A couple weeks ago, AJ did something that kind of annoyed me. It wasn’t a big deal at all, nor was it intentional on his part. I was a little frustrated, so I spoke to a couple of friends about it, more to get it off my chest than anything else. They both responded with “OMG! I can’t BELIEVE he did that! He owes you a serious apology.” Both are in new relationships that are pretty up and down, and when they said that, I couldn’t help but laugh. All I could think was about all of the other stuff that has happened to me in my past relationships. My sweet, heart-of-gold husband unintentionally annoying me is not something to  get worked up over. Is it something to address? Sure, but not something to get mad about. And when it comes down to it, most of the things that couples argue about are just not that important. I’ve learned to pick my battles and choose to focus on the positive. After all, the positive is why I married AJ, and it so greatly outweighs the negative – as it should.

4) I must remember that I know my partner. When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you know the other person. You know why they do things and what their motivations are. I know AJ is a truly good person who would never, ever do anything to hurt me on purpose. He has proved that every day for our entire relationship. When he upsets me, I approach it from that perspective (that he is a good person) and try to understand where the miscommunication occurred, because that is all it is – a miscommunication. It makes issues a lot easier to recover from if you remember your partner’s heart. By contrast, if you are in a bad relationship with a person who is careless with your feelings, you probably know that too. Making excuses for the other person while you wait for their behavior to change will only lead to heartbreak.  Listen to your gut – you know who you’re with.

5) It’s ok to be sad, regardless of the circumstances. Despite the reasons my first marriage ended and all of the pain that it brought me, I was very sad when it was over for a very long time. That didn’t make sense to most people, who couldn’t believe I loved my ex in the first place. They expected me to be angry or happy or something else – anything but sad over the loss of something I had tried so hard to hold on to.  I felt like I was letting my family and friends down when I was sad. But divorce is hard, and no matter how bad things were, sometimes, you miss the familiar and the person. After all, you loved them for a reason. It’s possible to have mixed emotions – relief, sadness, anger, and happiness – about the same situation at the same time. It gets better.

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6) Life goes on, no matter what. The world didn’t stop when I got divorced, and thank God for that! I had to reestablish myself and my identity while dealing with all of the things that we all do every day – bills, job, family, friends, etc. Stitching my life back together while experiencing such deep emotional pain made me realize that I was capable of overcoming anything. I’ve taken a lot of risks that I would never have taken before simply because I believed that I was capable of making it work in the end, and it’s working out just fine so far.

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My dad used to say “I am my ideal, and I envy myself.” I still think it’s ridiculous, but maybe it’s not such a bad idea to try and live up to your own ideal of what a person should be.

I don’t pretend to know everything about relationships. I’m no marriage guru. All I know is what I’ve learned, and I live my life with intention every day. I guess my point in all of this is to say that divorce sucks, but it’s not a death sentence. It’s an opportunity for incredible personal and emotional growth if that’s what you choose to make it. I’m grateful, and I feel fortunate that my ex was/is in my life. So if you’re going through a hard time in your relationship, a breakup, a broken engagement, or a divorce – just know that you will come out better for it on the other side. And when you get here, I’ll be waiting to greet you.

What lesson have you learned as the result of a hard time?