#TeamNutriBulletInspired

Emotions that ran through my mind when I got the acceptance email from Nutribullet for their 2016 LA Marathon training team:

  1. Excitement: I made it! I’m going to run another marathon! All my hard work on the applications paid off!
  2. Relief: I can finally stop checking my email every two minutes to see if I made the team.
  3. Terror: Holy crap, I’m going to run another marathon. What if I can’t train well enough? What if I get injured?

I’d like to thank my anxiety disorder for ripping me through all three of those in quick succession, but I’m trying to focus on the positivity of the first two and reassure myself that I have A LOT OF training days left until the marathon, and that I don’t have to run a marathon RIGHT NOW.

Although it sounds easy, applying to the team was a big step. Several things have happened in the past few years that have been a huge drag on my emotional and physical energy, and my running has suffered. Everything from nutrition to sleep went downhill, and I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. Applying for this team was not only a huge leap of faith that my circumstances have changed, but it was also an affirmation to myself that I want my circumstances to stay changed. I want to be working towards exciting goals again, and I want to be living a life that is balanced (whatever that looks like), well fueled, and healthy.

We’ll see how it goes! Our first workout is September 19…I’m going to try and keep training smart and not panic and increase my mileage beyond what I can do at this point. I’m really looking forward to the next 6 months.

2013 in the Rearview Mirror

Back in January, when the “Year in Review” posts pop up all over the internet, I started thinking about last year. It had felt like an off year. My running was generally iffy. Although I had a strong finish in the Griffith Park Trail Marathon, I DNF’d the Leona Divide 50k. I ran a 5k in June, but beyond that, hadn’t run a single race. I had attempted to train for 2 or 3, but every training plan ended up half-written, and my runs tapered off to 1 or 2 per week. When I went out for long runs, I usually cut them short by 4 or 5 miles and turned around early. Weight workouts went undone.

Riddle me this. Say you have a best friend, whose father died early in the year. Say that she started feeling disinterested in running after that, not completing workouts, didn’t feel like training for anything. Would you say:

“That sounds like it really sucks. You know, it sounds like maybe you just need to be kind to yourself and take a little time off. Want to go get coffee and chat?”

Or:

“Shut up and suck it up. God, you’re such a whiner.”

To be clear, I am both the friend and the responder in this little scenario. And I did not choose the nice response. I spent a year beating myself up for not feeling more “into” running and fitness, and never really thought that maybe my response to a traumatic experience wasn’t going to be “go run a 100 miler” but instead would be “take a little time to chill out and see what happens.”

My dad died in late February of last year. Three weeks after he died, I spoke at his memorial service. Then the next weekend, I ran a marathon. Two weeks after that, I DNF’d my first 50k attempt. I thought my response the rest of the year meant I was just a failure, but I think it meant that I am just a human.

I’ve spent enough time around runners now, both in “real life” and on their blogs, to realize that everyone’s running is affected by their life. Sometimes it means you have a really good year. Sometimes it means that you have a year where you need to take a little down time and gear up for the next one. But the best runners, the ones who truly enjoy the sport and seem to have longevity in it, seem to be the ones who can recognize which type of year they’re in and roll with the punches. They have patience.
It’s shaping up to be a better year. I feel like running again. I feel like getting into the gym. I’m training for a 50k in October. But most of all, I feel like I can more clearly see that sometimes you can’t muscle through and pull off an incredible year. Sometimes you need to let the year be what it wants to be, and set yourself up for the next one.

Depression

There’s a saying I’ve seen (attributed to anonymous) that goes, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” I’ve always known that being strong was my only choice, but I mistakenly thought that strong meant keeping everyone out, and pretending that everyone was ok. I’m slowly starting to realize that letting people in actually makes you stronger, and that trusting those around you can actually keep you standing, even when everything else falls apart.

When I was younger, I didn’t trust anyone.

A lethal combination of religion, shyness, isolation, and family issues gave me a screwed up interior, and a perfect exterior. I was always quiet, polite, Bible study finished and English paper finished. I could converse with adults, said “Yes ma’am” and “No sir,” and sat quietly in church and during adult meetings. I knew how to do things right, and I knew what was expected. What I didn’t know, was how to get help when I needed it.

When I was 15 years old, I got my driving permit. I did everything I was supposed to: took a lesson with a far too chatty professional, did my parentally supervised hours, and took a note with me when driving my sisters to swim practice. I drove myself to morning practices, and to school on the days I had classes.

And when I turned 16, I didn’t get my license. In fact, I stopped driving everyone except myself, and I tried hard not to do that. Because every time I got in a car, a very calm and quiet corner of my brain wondered what it would be like to floor the gas pedal, and run the car into the nearest immovable object.

I know now, that my experience is what’s known as suicidal ideation. That it’s common. That it’s a symptom of depression.

Then, all I knew was that something was terribly wrong. Although I had done a lot of reading, I assumed that “wanting to commit suicide” was accompanied by actions straight out of a movie. Purchasing a gun, obtaining alcohol and pills, climbing to the top of a tall building and bidding the world below goodbye – these were things that signaled to me “suicide” and “depression.” I tried to tell myself this calm internal voice couldn’t be anything so dire. It must just be an overactive imagination, or something else as yet unexplainable.

But somehow, I knew. I refused to drive my sisters anywhere, knowing that I absolutely couldn’t live with myself if something happened to them. I still drove myself places, pretending that I was ok, arriving at my destinations with clenched shoulder muscles and cramping hands, with the volume on the stereo turned up as high as it would go, in the hopes of drowning out my own mind. And I tried to ignore every adult who told me I was lazy, and making my parents’ lives harder by refusing to drive my sisters around.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was 13. I didn’t realize that until I was 20. I didn’t realize that I had thought about committing suicide for most of my life until I was 23. And I didn’t start to unpick all the reasons behind it until I was 25. I went through 4 rounds of therapy with different doctors, always answering the suicide question wrong, because I had never held a gun to my head or a knife to my wrists, so obviously I didn’t think I was in a place that deserved help. Their questions brought forth more perfect answers, and I would leave after my allotted number of sessions still feeling like I was trapped screaming inside an airless glass room.

I made progress towards more stable mental footing without knowing that it was what I was searching for. I started eating better. I bounced ideas off my then boyfriend, now husband, who always encouraged me to keep thinking about the ways I was feeling, and who has been an invaluable pillar of support. I started running, an activity which I think has done more to center my thoughts and encourage self-care than any other physical challenge I’ve taken on. I had a real conversation with a therapist, without trying to sound like a perfect human being who had everything together.

But most importantly, and most recently, I’ve started trusting myself. And because of that, I’ve started trusting others, and I’ve started being vulnerable with the people who I know will respond well. I told a good friend recently that when I meet someone, I know whether they’re someone I can truly trust relatively quickly. It’s an instinct, grown out of necessity, but one that I’d never taken advantage of. Until one night, after a small group diversity session which is meant to break down barriers and bring up emotions, I turned to a colleague, a friend, and said “I’m not ok.” And he sat down and spent the next hour of his night listening to me, talking through emotions and questions, and although it provided no answers (and I’m starting to think there really aren’t any), it provided clarity. And a measure of peace that never came when I tried to tackle the problems inside my own head.

Another person, an incredible runner who figured out I was having a rough time, took the time to reach out over Facebook and to offer words of comfort and a shoulder for support when I admitted that I was feeling overwhelmed.

I started thinking about all of this over the past few weeks, because I just ran the Leona Divide 50k. Well, I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) the Leona Divide 50k when I stopped at mile 24. I’ve heard varying estimates of the temperature that day, but most of them fall within 95-104 degrees. The course is almost entirely exposed, with very little shade. I was well trained for the distance, but not for the heat. I started to feel it at mile 16, and everything came crashing down around mile 17, as I climbed a 4 mile hill just as the heat started to peak. I got overheated. I stopped eating, since my stomach was upset. My bloodsugar crashed as my temperature rose, and by the time I death marched into the mile 20 aid station, I was a mess. I sat down on a cooler, put a cold rag on the back of my neck, and started to cry. I was terrified of having to get up and head back down the hill (which was necessary for dropping out of the race). And I realized, as I sat there, that this was how I used to feel all the time. Terrified. Alone. Like my emotions were dropping into a black hole somewhere inside me.

The aid station volunteers (almost all of them trail runners themselves) fed me, cooled me down, and talked me through my tears (and fears). When I finally got up the nerve to leave, they cheered for me like I was about to take first place, instead of having spent 45 minutes sitting in a camping chair.

I realized, after I had dropped out of the race and was waiting at the finish line, that I had come so far. That the feeling I’d artificially induced during the race, through heat and sugar crash and fear, was so close to the feeling that I’d spent 13 years of my life living with. That now, I could recognize it, name it, and reach out for help. That I didn’t have to spend my life holding on with my fingertips anymore. I hope that the next time it’s bad (because I have no illusions about being “cured” or “better,” and because I still struggle with the effects, even though right now they are at a more manageable level) I can realize it before it becomes my entire world. It’s terrifying to admit that I wanted to kill myself. It’s terrifying to admit that I became a shell of myself, and that I spent so many years so frightened and alone. But it feels so much better to say it out loud than to try and keep going by myself, and I’m incredibly lucky that when I did say it I had my husband and my friends there to listen.

I questioned for awhile why I wanted to put this on the internet. I wrote it out fully, knowing that I could just save it in some folder on my desktop, never for any eyes besides my own. But I read posts like THIS (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html) from Allie, and THIS (http://dooce.com/2013/05/06/if-this-isnt-for-you-its-for-someone-you-know/) from Heather, and THIS (http://inspiredrunning.blogspot.com/2012/03/running-through- darkness-runnings.html) from Jimmy, and THIS (http://persephonemagazine.com/2012/02/15/weathering-the-storm/) from Susan, and I see myself in them. And I see the comments, where other people who have felt the same things know that they are not alone. And I realize that when we talk about removing the stigma from mental illness, we’re not only talking about those who are not mentally ill coming to understand.

We’re also talking about removing the stigma from ourselves, and allowing those who are walking through hell to name their pain and reach out for help. I know that I needed more stories of honesty and vulnerability when I was there, more people who didn’t want to offer fake solutions and instead wanted to just listen. Maybe this can serve as a lifeline, or even just the beginning of understanding for someone else.

Runner’s World Is Reading My Mind

Jimmy Dean Freeman  posted a great article on Facebook from Runner’s World listing the 12 most common mistakes that runners make. I tend to open up these articles feeling a little smug, because sometimes the mistakes are things that I’ve managed to fix through trial and error awhile ago. But this list? Ouch. It was like someone followed me around for a week and wrote down everything I did. Thankfully, Leo isn’t as prone to these particular mistakes and tends to call me out on them, but they’re still things I really need to work on.

My worst ones?

Mistake #2: Make all runs “medium” runs. I have this ingrained idea that if I take all that time to put on my running clothes, rinse out and fill my hydration pack, and plan out a route, then I better run it fast! Once I get out on the road, I realize that it’s not really possible for me to run 10, 12, 16, or 20 miles fast…but maybe I can just push the pace pretty hard. “I’ll run it medium,” I think, convinced that I’ve come up with the next big training strategy. Except that I burn out partway through the run, crash, start whining, and generally become an unfun person to be around. It’s been hard for me to retrain my brain and convince it that an easy pace really is a good thing, and that I’m still a “real” runner if I’m running mileage splits that aren’t what I’d want to see in a race.

Mistake #4: Recover inadequately. When I start hitting the last few miles of a long run, the only things I can think about are a shower, and a couch. And if I’ve fueled particularly badly, a footlong Subway meatball sandwich. The thought of a long hot shower gets me through the last couple of miles, and the minute I hit my front door (or a little past it, since I like to run until my Garmin sings its little “you’re finally done running” song) I’m peeling off sweaty running clothes and heading for the shower. Then my butt hits the couch, and I don’t get up for the next few hours. Stretching? I’ll stretch later! Except when I go to stand up, my Achilles tendons have frozen my feet into permanent Barbie position, and my knees feel like someone forgot to oil them. I know that stretching (and delaying the gratification of a hot shower) immediately will make me feel better in the long run, but I often don’t put it into practice.

Mistake #8: Search for the perfect workout. Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m a librarian who can’t stop researching things. Training plans? I’ve read books about them, Googled them, and looked up blogs and followed training recaps through the weeks. Workouts? I’ve tried to find the perfect speed workout, weights workout, cross-training workout, hills workout, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. While I firmly believe that information is a good thing, I forget that a lot of working out is trial and error. If I don’t try one thing at a time, I can’t figure out what’s working for me, and what isn’t  Plus, when I get all fired up and create a new training plan, I tend to overschedule with every.cool.new.thing that I’ve found out, and I get tired just looking at what I’ve decided I’m “supposed” to do in a week. I’ve started trying to make more minimal training plans, that I can expand if I’m feeling good, but it’s hard to resist the siren call of the next betterfastermoreperfect workout.

Head over to Runner’s World to check out the whole article, including some suggested fixes for each mistake…it’s really worth a read!

The End of 2012

Last year, on the first day of 2012, I wrote that if it was true that whatever you did on the first day of the year was an omen for how the rest of your year would go, “I will apparently be rising obscenely early, running, reading funny books, and driving in LA.”

This was mostly true.

Rising Obscenely Early/Running

I had a lot of fun running the Virtual 12athon this year, although my participation was much heavier in the early part of the year. It was a good challenge to get 12 miles in on the 12th of every month, no matter what else was going on. I think my favorite 12athon run of the year was June, where I succeeded in running 12 miles all uphill, while staying up far too late (or early?)

Mile One

Mile One

I also ran a lot of races in 2012, again mostly in the 1st half of the year. Although I enjoyed them all, I’m most proud of my performance in the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon since it was the longest distance I’ve ever run by myself.

Photo Credit: RaceFace Media Race Photography

Photo Credit: RaceFace Media Race Photography

Driving

I did a lot of driving in LA as I finished up my Masters degree from UCLA and graduated in June.

UCLA MLIS Graduation

I also managed to land a fabulous job, and then cut my driving almost to zero by moving right across the street from my work. We are now a no car family, and it will be interesting to see how that works out in 2013.

Reading Funny Books

I don’t know about all funny books, but I read 69 books in 2012 according to Goodreads!

Goodreads 2012 2

2013

And what’s up for 2013?

Well, I’ve started a new running challenge and joined Moon Joggers! Our goal is to run enough miles together to run to the moon in 2013. I’ve pledged 1,000 miles, and I hope that’s a conservative goal rather than a reach. Should be fun!

I’ve also entered my first ultramarathon, and will be running the Leona Divide 50k race in April of this year.

Leona Divide Signup

 

As for goals:

1. Post more frequently! I enjoy reading others weekly wrap-ups and event recaps so much. I want to look back at the end of 2013 and have a great record of the year.

2. Train consistently – not trying to do too much, and not trying to take it too easy.

3. Be willing to be uncomfortable in the short term for gains in the long term – this means getting up early to run before work, and being willing to try longer and harder runs that I’ve done before.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, and a wonderful 2013. See you in the New Year.

Running in the Red (Softcup Product Review)

Anyone who gets iffy about talk of menstrual issues might want to click the little “x” in the corner of this tab, ’cause we’re going to talk about “that time of the month.”

When I first got my period, there were tons of books, websites, and various informational pamphlets on what to expect, what to do, and what to use. While useful, the “what to use” portion of these was limited to pads, and tampons. And while both are useful, I never really knew about any other options.

When I started running, one of my first questions (beyond, “what shoes do I get?”) was, what do other runners use during their periods? And the answers…well, there wasn’t much information that I could find. I assumed the answer was just tampons, which I used unhappily. They never felt entirely comfortable, and produced way too much chafing for my taste, even after removing that annoying little string.

Then, several months ago, I saw a note on another runner’s blog that she had gotten a sample of a menstrual product called Softcup to review. And she LOVED it, saying it was much more comfortable and convenient to use than tampons or pads. So I asked if I could be included in the sample pool. (Full disclosure: they also offered reimbursement for a race entry fee…but I was honestly more interested in the product than the perks).

A Softcup is a flexible plastic cup that can be worn internally for up to 12 hours. It collects menstrual discharge without leaking (once you get it settled correctly), and is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and doesn’t mess with your body’s natural pH balance (which helps reduce the risk of yeast infections). They’re approved by the FDA and have been on the market for 10 years.

It comes in a box of 24 (or a box of 2 if you choose the version that can be reused for an entire cycle). Thankfully, some wonderful person decided to package them without cutesy designs or figures of women running around.

From left to right: Softcup, tampon, overnight pad. Note the absence of cutesy designs.

From left to right: Softcup, tampon, overnight pad. Note the absence of cutesy designs.

When you open it, the Softcup seems a little larger than a tampon.

Looks a little large compared to a tampon.

Looks a little large compared to a tampon.

But, once you squeeze the sides of the Softcup for insertion, they’re about the same size.

Tampon vs. Softcup 2I found the Softcup extremely easy to use, very comfortable, and absolutely essential for good runs while on my period. During the LA Marathon, I carried a tampon in my sports bra in case of emergency (which was good, since I ended up being out there for 6 hours). If I’d had a Softcup, I would’ve had nothing to worry about. This is my new favorite product for “that time of the month” and I won’t be going back to pads or tampons any time soon.

I will admit though, that when I first got my sample, it sat in my bathroom cabinet for awhile before I could get up the courage to use it. It just seemed a little too different from what I was used to. Trust me, getting up the courage to try it is a good thing, and I felt pretty stupid for waiting so long.

Check out the Softcup website for tons more information on both use and ordering! And feel free to leave a comment or send an email with any questions you might have for me. I know people often don’t like to talk about these kinds of topics, but I think that the more information we all have, the more we can all find the solutions that work for us. Besides, runners seem to have a higher threshold for squeamish topics than most!

Open to the Experience

For awhile I was having very bad runs. I did almost no running 3 weeks before the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon, and even before that my runs started to become sporadic. It was extremely frustrating. Running has always been a really useful stress relief tactic for me, and to not want to run, and not feel like running, threw my whole mental state into a tailspin.

I wouldn’t feel like going on a run. I’d be grumpy and whine while pulling on my running clothes after work. I’d lay on the bed for awhile and contemplate not running at all. Once I finally got out of the house and my husband asked where I wanted to run, I’d grumpily say “nowhere” or “wherever” and proceed to huff and sigh my way through a run that left me feeling unfulfilled, untrained, and unchallenged.

I realized today what was holding me back. One of the reasons I really love running, is that at the end of a long or difficult run, it strips away everything you have. You can’t have any barriers or walls anymore, because all your energy is being poured into breathing, staying upright, and continuing to move. You become completely open to all of your emotions, and by the end, it feels like you’ve managed to get some sort of control by allowing yourself to be completely broken down.

This is not my normal state. In fact, I prefer to not face emotion at all, and to pretend everything is fine. This is for a myriad of reasons and past experiences, and while I’m doing it, I think everything really is fine. I can believe my own lies.

But I’ve been dealing with a lot of emotional things lately. Starting a new job, moving, dealing with my father’s poor health. And it became easier to not deal with those emotions, and to keep them hidden. And the longer I failed to deal with them, the scarier and more menacing they seemed.

So I started to avoid running, knowing subconsciously that pushing myself to my limits would mean facing my avoidance and dealing with all the things that I didn’t want to think about. Which, hilariously, only makes everything else harder to deal with too.

I think the race  finally got me over that hurdle. I feel like running again, and feel like I can think a little better than I have been. And hopefully, next time I feel like laying on the bed rather than putting on my running shoes, I can remember that there are a lot of really good reasons that I should be open to the experience.