Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

The genesis of running the Light at the End of the Tunnel started with a comment from a friend after I posted on Facebook about being disappointed in my performance at the Leavenworth Oktoberfest marathon. She simply said, "Congratulations. You can do it. Now pick a better race."

So I googled "Best Races to Qualify for the Boston Marathon". There were several options, including a few with large descents. Well, the Leavenworth marathon had a large descent for the first half and my quads were shot by time I reached the bottom so I didn't want to run another steep downhill race. I also wanted something that I could easily drive to the night before. And with those restrictions in place, The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon bubbled up as the top contender.

What made the race so appealing was that it was a gentle downhill grade for most of the race (more on this later), it was only 4 hours from home so definitely driving distance, and it was early enough in June that there was a good chance that the weather would be cool. The only downsides I could see were that it was on a hard-packed gravel trail, not super spectator friendly, and my running buddies couldn't make. But I was determined to make this my race and willing to accept the downsides.

My faithful cheerleader, aka David, drove over with me on Saturday night. It is amazing what a calming presence he is for me. Usually the night before the race, I'm super jittery and have a difficult time falling asleep. But not this time. It was almost like it was a typical night at home--a couple of TV shows, watch the 10 o'clock news and then lights out. And I was asleep pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The race started at 7 am so I was up at 5 to make sure that I could eat something and other attend to other morning necessities (sometimes it takes my intestines a little bit to wake up, if you know what I mean). Dave checked the weather and it looked perfect for running: 44 degrees at the start and maybe upper 60's by finish time. There were some scattered clouds which allowed for filtered sunshine. I was excited to get out the door and have him drop me off at the start line.

Check-in went smoothly, although there was some complaining about not having gear check bags as promised. No worries for me as I often just tie extra layers around my waist while running. Dave found a parking spot and then came to cheer me on at the start.

The gun went off promptly at 7 am and I was off on my biggest race.

The first 1/2 mile is an out and back around the parking lot and then we hit the 2.5 mile long tunnel. Running through the tunnel was interesting--it was narrow, a bit crowded because it occurs so early in the race that runners don't really have the chance to separate, well lit due to everyone's headlamps, and I felt like the tunnel was never going to end. I could be wrong, but it felt like it was a slight up the whole 2.5 miles.

After the tunnel, is when the down slope starts, but it is so gentle it is not noticeable. Although my feet and knees would tell a different story.

At mile 9 I felt the hot spot starting. I tried to wiggle my foot around in my sock to see if that made things better. Nope. There wasn't any vaseline available until mile 13. You can bet that I stopped and greased the heck out of my foot. But, it wasn't enough to prevent the blister. I think the constant down, even though it was slight, was too much. I have never had a blister like that before!

Aside from the developing blister, things went pretty good until mile 18. Mile 18 is my nemesis. It is the mile marker where my brain starts telling me it is tired of running. Then begins this lengthy mind game and war of positive versus negative talk. 

About this time I plugged in some music to see if that would help distract me. A track from Eminen came on and one of the lines was something about "What if this is your one shot?" I don't really remember the rest of the song, but that line stuck with me. This was my one shot. I wasn't going to let the negative win, not this time. That is why I had pushed myself to do such uncomfortable things as the Polar Plunge in a lake that had to have the 2 feet of ice cut so we could plunge. And the Spartan Race that required me to flip 200 pound tires all by myself.

So I pressed on. 

Mile 21 I saw Dave again (hadn't seen him since mile 13). He was super encouraging and said that I was on pace. I wish he could have run with me the rest of the way in as I really had to battle with myself. I did take some walk breaks, but tried hard to keep the pace at under 10 minute miles.

Had I known just how close I was to missing my goal, I may have allowed myself to venture farther in to the pain cave. I didn't know that the time that my Garmin was showing was about 4 minutes faster than what the clock was reading. My Garmin was showing that I was on pace to finish at 3:50. I can only guess that running through the tunnel had somehow messed up the time.

I was thrilled and crushed at the same time as I crossed the finish line and saw that the clock read 3:54:27 and my Garmin showed 3:51. Thrilled because I had achieved my goal of getting a Boston Marathon qualifying time, but crushed because I thought I had run faster. The 3:54:13 (official time) probably isn't fast enough to get me in to Boston.

Never one to give up, I am training for another marathon. This one is in September and will be a pancake-flat course. I'm excited! 

PS This turned into a really long post so I'll have to do a part 3 of my 6 month accountability

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Six Month Accountability: Part One

This year is half way complete already! At times, time has felt as if it was standing still and at other times, I wonder where the time has gone. This year is supposed to be a year of growth and DISCOVERY so I wanted to write an accountability post to document the progress that has been made. And make note of where there are still gaps. Oh, and talk about a truth bomb that hurt, but I did learn something from it.

Part of the year of discovery was to be to discover my creativity. I was going to do this through blogging regularly. Whoops. That one didn't go as planned. But, I have six more months to get better at blogging regularly and working on story development and word choice.

I was also going to learn to sew as part of the discover creativity process. This one is still a work in progress. I did spend time during Spring Break working with my mom and learning from her. I completed one polar fleece vest, but I have two more to complete. Apparently, teaching a 45 year old to sew is kind of like teaching a 10 year old sew and more time is needed than 1 week. Who knew? Even though I didn't complete all of my projects, didn't learn how to alter a pattern, struggled with operating the sewing machine, had to have my mom tell me what to do every step, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the time I was able to spend with my mom. We chatted like old friends, laughed at my mistakes, and worked hard. I need to get back over there and finish up those other two vests before October. That will be an August task as she and my dad will be travelling for much of July. I can't wait to hear all of her stories from her trip while I'm sewing in August.

I think that the biggest growth was in the area of discovering grit, stamina, and not quitting. This was also the area that took a lot of work to change my mindset. I did this by listening to different podcasts (the Physical Performance Show was the one with the biggest impact), challenging myself physically (hello Spartan Race) and mentally (Tunnel Marathon). It was such an exciting 6 months!

I really enjoyed the training that was required for the Spartan Race. I did some of the weight training on my own, some with friends, and some with David and Carson. I watched videos on the Spartan website and then made up my own workouts. A few Saturday's Dave and I went to a local gym and participated in their Saturday HIIT workout. Holy cow! HIIT workouts are the bomb! During one workout my ears started ringing and felt like I was underwater. Carson informed me that was an indication that I had pushed myself to the limit. He was pretty impressed that I worked that hard. I also continued my running as I was also in the middle of training for the Tunnel Marathon. I am convinced that the Spartan training (HIIT workouts and weight-lifting) made me a stronger runner and helped me get faster.

The Spartan Race itself was an amazing experience! First of all, I had to quickly get over my disdain for being muddy and dirty as the course was nothing but mud. So props to me for not giving up before I even started. I also had to learn to rely on my teammates for help as there were some obstacles that I literally could not reach on my own. Finally, just competing with David and Brooke was  so much fun! Yes, we had to do burpees but not as many as I was afraid we might have to do. Brooke and I missed 3 obstacles. David continued with his flawless performance. Because we were a team, we could share burpees. Yay! The only obstacle that I wish I could take back is the rope climb. I was so close to ringing the bell at the top, but I felt like I could not pull myself up that last 3 feet. So frustrating! But it did show what muscle groups I need to continue to develop. Dave and I are already talking about what our next Spartan race will be. Next year we might go for the Trifecta, which is a Sprint, Super and Beast (sprint 3-5 miles; Super 6-10 miles; Beast 12-15 miles). Aroo!
Part Two:
Tunnel Marathon and lessons learned
Truth bomb that hurt just a little

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Knocking Things Off the Bucket List

Most of my bucket list items are related to travelling far and wide. I want to visit all 50 states in the United States. I want to go on an African Safari. I want to visit Tahiti, Australia, and Bali. I want to go on a cruise at least once to see what it is all about (more on this later).

Some of my other bucket list items are related to physical activity and endurance. I want to get a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I want to complete a Spartan race. At one point in time completing an Ironman triathlon was on my bucket list, but I have since thought better of that notion.

Another bucket list item has really nothing to do with travel or endurance. It is to complete a polar plunge. For some reason, I have been intrigued by the notion of plunging into icy cold water on a cold wintry morning. And it really is a strange notion for me to have because I am not a huge fan of being cold! In fact, even though I am intrigued by the idea, I could never get myself down to a lake on January 1st to plunge with all of the other polar plungers. My excuses were plenty!

But this year I made the decision to do it. I thought it would be a great way to get over my fear of being cold and proving that I really can put mind over matter. And so on a cold February morning, I plunged! I plunged with a group that was raising money for Special Olympics so not only did I get to knock off an item on my bucket list, I was able to support a wonderful organization.

The organizers had to cut through 24 inches of ice on Friday so that we could plunge on Saturday. It was so cold on Friday night that there was a thin layer of ice on the water on Saturday morning. The fire department guys were there in their survival suits so they took some mesh fencing and skimmed off the layer of ice. After waiting on the shore for an hour in intermittent rain sprinkles, much fanfare and a 10-second countdown, it was time to plunge. My feet were so cold that I didn't initially notice the temperature of the water. However, as I got deeper, my hands over my head got higher as I tried in vain to not freeze all parts of my body.

The strange part about this whole experience? I feel like it was over so fast that I can't really remember if I was totally miserable while doing it. Haha.

Here is a picture of me as I came out of the water after completing the challenge. Apparently, I think making ugly fierce face is the best face to make when conquering a challenge :)
Proud of myself for overcoming my excuses and completing an item on my bucket list!

Oh, and the cruise part that I mentioned earlier...well this winter has been so long and miserable, I have already booked a cruise for Dave and me for next February. Being intentional about knocking things off the bucket has been empowering!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparing. We all do it. We are first exposed to comparing in our childhood when we are encouraged to look to others for model behavior. Or maybe we are the one who is told to be a role model and set a good example. Comparing ourselves to others and measuring ourselves against others becomes ingrained in us.

When you are learning a new skill, looking and learning for others isn't a wrong thing to do. However, it can be detrimental if we don't remember that we are looking to the other person because they have already mastered the skill we are learning. Forgetting that they, too, were once novices and instead comparing novice self to their master self can lead to feelings of frustration, doubt, self-loathing, etc.

I almost fell into the trap of comparison on Thursday morning.

I have a runner friend who I greatly admire. She is currently running 85 miles a week. She gets up at 4:45 in the morning every day to run at least 10 miles; longer runs on the weekends. She is diligent and determined to meet her goal of qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials. She is bad-a$$. And on top of that, she is super kind.

She is an inspiration.

I also recently read a Facebook post from a friend quoting Kobe Bryant. He was getting an ESPN inspiration award. During his acceptance speech he said he wasn't on stage because he had some super-human skill. He was on stage because of the hard work he had put in; the 4 a.m. practices, the double-days, the never letting anyone dissuade him from his dream. He was diligent and determined.

So, back to Thursday morning.

I generally meet a friend in the mornings at 5 a.m. to run. Thursday morning the alarm went off as usual. I checked the weather and saw that it was 13* but felt like 5* with the wind. I sent a text to my friend saying it was too cold and I wasn't going to make it. The text was sent and the negative self-talk immediately started.

"Your bad-a$$ running friend wouldn't cancel. There is no quit in her"
"Guess you don't want this BQ marathon goal bad enough"
"You should be a little tougher"
"I can't believe you cancelled. What is wrong with you?"

The self-insults went on for a few more seconds and then I said to myself, "Stop it! You can't compare yourself to T. She is on a different journey and has different goals. Let's take a look at all that you have accomplished so far this year."


  • I reached 100 miles for the year even though Mother Nature has been making it quite challenging to be out on the roads. Don't compare yourself to T's mileage. She is training for the Olympic Trials!



  • I have learned to not dread the treadmill and can now run 6-8 miles on it without feeling like I want to gouge my eyes out.



  • I have been doing double workouts almost every day. I try to get a run in the morning and then weights or yoga at night. On days when I didn't get in a morning run, I will run either before or after weights/yoga.
Reminding myself of my progress and my own goals helped draw me out of my self-loathing funk. I also reminded myself that if I compare myself to someone else who is more of an expert, I lose focus of the joy I have discovered in my journey.

Comparison isn't always bad,  especially when trying to learn a new skills. But comparison can be the thief of joy if we only focus on what we don't have yet.

As a friend pointed out on my Facebook video on this same subject, sin is the thief of joy. Yes, it is. And comparison can be sinful if it causes us to become envious, covetous, and full of self-doubt. Turning to God and asking for His help and grace is the cure for those behaviors, as another friend pointed out during the same conversation.

I will always look to my friend for inspiration. But I will remember that her journey and goals are not my journey and goals. She is much farther along in her running journey than I am. I will find joy in where I am at and the progress I am making. And I will remember that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Focus Word

Originally my focus word for 2017 was going to be creativity.
Then I read a book by my friend Tammy Christensen.
In the book she talked about barriers or limits we place on ourselves.
As I read her words, I thought about the various boxes I have put myself in.

The not-creative box
The not-a-very-nice-person box
The not-gritty box
The I-give-up box

All of those boxes.
I'm not very happy with where I have put myself.
So I thought some more about my focus word for 2017.
I thought about how I can change.
The only way to change is to really discover the barriers.
And then once the barriers have been identified,
discover ways to break through the barriers.

So my focus word for 2017 is DISCOVERY
I'm excited about this word.

I'm looking forward to discovering my creative side.
I know it is in me. I have just buried it because
of failed attempts at being creative.

I'm discovering how other people describe me.
For the most part, I don't think people would describe me
as a not-very-nice person.
I want to allow myself to see myself as nice and kind.

I'm setting goals for myself that will push me
and help me develop mental strength, fortitude and grit.

I'll be blogging about all of these things throughout the year.
I hope you will follow along.
I'm also doing Facebook Live videos to share growth and insights.

Here's to
DISCOVERY

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Hike in Waimea Canyon

When Dave and I visited Kauai six years ago, we went on some incredible hikes. Some of them were so great that we wanted to do them again. One of those hikes was to Waipo'o Falls.

Now, our visit six years ago was during a particularly dry year. We had been warned that there might not be much water flowing across the falls and that the trail would be hot and dusty. And the warnings were right on all accounts. It was hot, dry, dusty and the small falls were nothing but a small dribble. Still, the hike was worth repeating and one we knew that Katelyn and our 7 year-old niece could do (Katelyn doesn't enjoy hiking nearly as much as the rest of us).

So on one of the drier days, we all (minus Rich and Charlene) trekked out to the Waimea Canyon to hike to the falls. The trail that we remembered as dry and dusty was now soggy and incredibly muddy until we reached the ridge line that is traversed right before the falls. That part was relatively dry. The view from the ridge line is amazing, but if one is a bit nervous with heights, enjoy the view from a few feet back. And if you are hiking with young adults who have more bravado than sense, have them hike far ahead of you so you can't see how close to the edge they are walking.

The smaller falls were roaring, so different from six years ago. And even thought it wasn't a particularly hot day, some of us decided to swim in the pool to be pummeled by the falls. The water filling that pool was suprisingly cold! But the swim was so fun!



 Once we finished playing in this small pool, we walked back to the trail and hiked about 200 yards to the top of the Waipo'o falls. There was a crazy amount of water rushing across those falls and you could almost feel the spray!

While we were at those falls, there was a helicopter that flew a bit closer than any other helicopters we had seen that day. The chopper did a deep banked turn. I was glad that the passengers were buckled in tight. As it turned out, that was Rich and Charlene's helicopter! They were taking a helicopter tour while we were hiking and they were flying over us just as we were getting to the top of the falls. That was pretty neat.
As we finished up at the falls, the clouds began to grow heavy and we knew that rain was on the way. Not wanting to hike on an even muddier trail, we double-timed it back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, we didn't beat the rain and hiked the last half-mile in the pouring down rain. But even with the rain, everyone (including Katelyn) enjoyed the hike. The 7 year old, was tired of hiking about 200 yards before we reached the falls and there was no amount of cajoling that could convince her to walk the last 200 yards to see the falls. But, that worked out OK, because she got a bit of a rest and was ready to go when it was time to double-time it back to the trailhead.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Have Goals for 2017

I plan on sharing those goals, but first I have to return to Kauai because Kauai was awesome. And because it is 12 degrees outside and I need warm thoughts of Kauai.

In my previous post I promised to share some thoughts about hiking in Kauai. I loved hiking in Kauai. This trip we tackled the first few miles of the Kalalau Trail, a rugged trail along the Napali coast. In order to hike the whole 11 miles, permits need to be pulled and we were too late in applying for these permits to get them (secretly happy that we missed the deadline). The day we hiked the Coast was a bit damp as there was a hurricane off the coast of the Big Island that was wreaking havoc with weather throughout the islands. The wetness caused some challenges along the trail.

The first part of the trail is rocky, and wet rocks are slippery rocks. This was easy peasy compared to the red soil that is found on the rest of the trail. When that soil gets wet, it is like a giant slip and slide. And let me tell you, it was pretty funny to watch and listen to other hikers as they navigate d across the slippery trail. Pretty sure that there were at least 2 couples who probably weren't couples by time they returned to the car.

About a mile into the first 2 mile stretch that is hikeable without a permit, you are hiking along a ridge and the view of the coastline is amazing!

This ridge leads to a steep downhill section that dropped us down to Hanakapi'ai Beach. In order to get to the beach, there is a stream to cross. I'm betting at drier times, this stream is crossable just by boulder hopping. The water was too high to boulder hop so I took off my shoes and socks and fjorded the stream (it was about thigh deep). Back at home, the streams are very cold,  so it was quite pleasant to wade into water that didn't automatically make every sphincter in your body clench.

Carson had beat us down the trail and we came up to the beach to find him like this
After a brief respite and a selfie with my guy
we continued up a spur trail to find Hanakapi'ai Falls.

This trail was a lot muddier, not as heavily traveled so not as maintained, and had many more stream crossings. By time we hit the second crossing, Carson had grown impatient with me taking off my shoes and socks, so he plowed on ahead never to be seen again...well not until Dave and I got to the Falls. I also got tired of taking off my shoes and socks, and honestly my shoes were so wet and muddy from the trail anyway, that I started just walking across the stream with my shoes on. Now, most people might be worried about blisters, but because of my running, I knew the importance of good hiking socks and had worn a lightweight wool pair. I'm happy to report that my feet had no blisters at the conclusion of the hike.

The falls were totally worth the 2 mile slog through mud, muck, pig trails, and multiple waist-deep stream crossings. The travel books suggest the hikers take a dip in the pool that is below the falls and a warmer day I could totally see the appeal. However, it was a rainy day and the mist coming off the falls was cold enough to discourage me from taking a dip. The boys wanted to the full experience so they both jumped in. Dave captured a video of the falls because these are the biggest falls we have been this up close and personal with.

video
Since this is an out and back hike, and we knew that the rain was moving in quickly therefore the trail would be even more treacherous, we headed back the way we came. As usually happens, the return trip took a little less time than the initial trip. Although, we did have about a quarter mile detour where we thought a pig trail was the real trail and we tromped around in a bamboo forest. Finally, Dave said this isn't right and set off to find the correct trail. Fortunately, as good as Dave is at getting us diverted on to pig trails (it has happened more than once), he is even better at getting us back on the real trail.

If I can talk Dave into going back to Kauai, I want to plan better so we can get a permit to hike the whole 11 mile trail, camp at the end of the trail, and then return the next day. The permits are for overnight camping. I haven't heard of anyone hiking the 22 miles in one day, although one of our zipline guides is trying to accomplish that. He said that so far he has been able to get to 18 miles. I bet he didn't attempt it on a day when it was raining. The slippery rocks, slip-and-slide red soil, and flooded streams would make it next to impossible to get that far.

More hiking posts to follow.