Official…Like a ref with a whistle!

When did you start feeling like a runner? Swimmer? Cyclist?  At what point did you actually label yourself according to what you do?  I always thought I was a “runner”, even though most of the time I felt like an air sucking jogger.  I’ve been an athlete my whole life.  I have spent most of my life training, practicing and working towards some sort of sports related goal.  I guess I never thought about the moment I BECAME a basketball player…a volleyball player…a softball player…a snowboarder.  Those things were simply just part of my life and what made me…well…me.
Yesterday was my longest run EVER.  I had only run 9 miles twice in my whole life.  I must admit I was slightly intimidated.  I started the day by failing my megacode in the first 4 minutes.  I felt like ass.  Spent a good 45 minutes crying…don’t judge me…I’m a crier.  When no one is watching I cry.  Don’t act like you’ve never done it!  I had made plans to run with Marcus, a fellow athlete and medic.  Again, someone who is a much better runner than myself.  In the past, I always trained with the better athletes.  I played with the better ball handlers…rode with the better snowboarders.  You don’t get better if you don’t meet challenges along the way.  Marcus agreed to run around a 10 min pace and I thought I would cruise right through it in spite of the intimidating number 10 hanging over my head.
Off we go!  Downtown Kingsport felt a little hotter than I had expected.  I thought it was going to rain, so I wore a hat.  Mistake number 1.  Everyone thought it was a great day to mow and trim trees.  I didn’t take anything for allergies.  Mistake number 2.  I borrowed Jamie’s fuel belt and failed to fill up both bottles.  Mistake number 3.  I wore my notorious spandex booty shorts…WINNING!!
After we climbed Konnarock and made our way down Warpath, I realized it was hot as shit.  We were coming up on 5 miles and I knew I had to eat my GU before we picked up the pace.  This is something I suck at.  When I had a road bike, I had no issues eating GU.  I could eat a basket of french fries on the bike…it didn’t bother me.  I still haven’t mastered the art of eating a GU while running.  I breathe heavy as it is…and the heat made me breathe harder.  I nearly aspirated and got my rhythm all out of whack.  “BEEEEEEEP!”  That was mile 5…time to pick up the pace. 
My head was telling me NO.  I actually spent a lot of time yesterday trying to overcome the asshole in my head that frequently tells me to stop.  My legs felt ok.  My lungs were manageable.  I felt like the heat was sucking out my energy.  It was frustrating because I actually felt good…just hot.  We made it back to downtown Kingsport.  I latched on to a couple downhills along the way…love those little descents that pop up in the midst of agony!
We had a 5K remaining.  That’s easy, right?  It felt like the longest 5K of my life! 
To make the last few miles short, we finished at 1:39:30.  Success was mine!  I completed my run and beat my goal by 30 seconds.  I survived.  I felt like dying the last 5 miles but pushed through the pain.  I had virtually no ITB issues and my right foot didn’t go numb at all.  My calves cramped a little but I’ve been working on my gait and expected some discomfort. 
I don’t think I could have done that run alone.  The recent addition of running partners has really made a huge difference in my training.  I feel so fortunate to have these people in my life.  I’m stoked to see the improvements from week to week.  While my short runs haven’t been spectacular, I have seen the hard work payoff during my long runs.
Yesterday I crossed over.  I had that “Ah hah moment”.  I finally “felt” like a runner.  I felt accomplished.  I felt like I could do anything.  It’s amazing how much a little 10 mile run can impact your whole life!
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Charge to 360! Clear!

That’s right.  If you don’t believe you can, then you can’t.  This statement hit close to home last week. 
“You need to do this for you.  And if you don’t want it enough, then you sure as hell won’t achieve it.  So take the easy way out…”
My fellow paramedics and paramedic students know exactly what I’m talking about.  We make a huge sacrifice for this program.  We shut out the whole world just so we can focus on all the crazy shit we have to do in order to get that little patch.  Relationships fail, stress levels rise and we soon forget what it was like before the days of wearing EMS pants EVERY SINGLE DAY OF OUR LIVES.
It’s hell.  We start asking ourselves if this is really what we wanted.  We eat, sleep, breathe ACLS algorithms.  We dream about working cardiac arrests, even when we’re not sleeping…and we usually DON’T sleep.  We bust our asses to stay on top of the constant flow of new information…our brains are full. 
If you’re female, you lose your sense of womanhood.  You wonder if you’ll ever wear makeup and high heels again.  You become one of the boys.  Wives and girlfriends hate you.  They think you’re sleeping with their man.  “You home wrecker!”  “I can’t believe you would choose a field primarily made up of men!”  “Something must be wrong with her.  Why would a chick want to work car wrecks, house fires and take rope rescue?” 
Then we have that little test widely known as “THE MEGACODE” (dun dun duuuuuuuuuun!)  We hear horror stories of how this guy failed…and this girl forgot to do this…and that guy got so worked up he started to give atropine for PSVT.  “Don’t worry, you’ll most likely fail it the first time.”  Really?  As if working a 30 minute (simulated) cardiac arrest isn’t enough, we have to listen to all the horror stories beforehand.  We set ourselves up for failure.  We feed off each other’s negative energy.  We act like complete idiots when our time comes…and forget everything we knew so well 10 minutes ago.  “Shit.  I’m going to fail out of medic school.  Why did I ever think this was a good idea?” 
This is where you can take one of two roads: Road 1- HTFU and do work or Road 2- take the easy way out and give up.  Which one do you think I took?  That’s right…
They never said it would be easy…they said it would be worth it.
My training took a similar route last week.  I felt shitty.  I ran shitty.  This made me feel shitty all over again.  Negative energy feeds off itself in a vicious cycle.  I beat myself up.  I went into each run with a poor mindset.  If you think it, you will do it.  The stress of my poor performance in school bled over to help create my poor performance during training. 
Why am I even running?  This is hell.  I can’t do this.  “Take the easy way out and remain unhealthy and continue to gain weight because you can’t realize you are the only one hurting yourself.”
“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.”
–Arthur Blank 
And then something great happens…
Yesterday was my long run day.  Lauren, her boyfriend and myself went to Steele Creek Park for a 9 miler.  I always get a little nervous before a long run…especially when I run with others.  I’m always a bit worried that I won’t be able to keep up or even finish.
We started running…30 minutes into it I was feeling pretty good.  We kept a nice pace and I was able to talk the entire way.  45 minutes…I had to eat a GU.  My legs were starting to get tired.  My lungs felt great.  I learned that eating a GU while running is difficult.  I thought I was going to aspirate.  GU in the lungs can’t be a good thing. 🙂
1 hour.  We are almost there!  Other than the slight numbness in my right foot and a little ITB tightness, I was hanging in there.  At this point I just had to keep the bad vibes out of my head and keep moving.  “Good thoughts.  Even breaths.  Keep moving.”
At mile 7 I was feeling the legs tighten up as they usually do.  I had energy though.  I even had energy to step it up a little.  At mile 8 we sped up our pace by about 30 seconds.  The last mile is usually my best.  Then I heard Lauren’s Garmin beep…WE DID IT.  It was my longest run of 2012, Lauren’s longest run ever and I felt pretty damn good about it.  We managed an avg pace of 9:45, pretty solid for 9 miles.  Finally, something I can smile about.
In a span of 2 weeks I experienced joy and defeat.  I failed my code and experienced a stress I can’t even put into words.  I sucked at running and seriously considered giving it up.  I picked myself up and put the pieces back together…I couldn’t throw it all away after coming so far.  I confidently passed my code the second time and finished off the week with a solid long distance run.  This roller coaster is whooping my butt!
I’ve been hard on myself lately and my heart has been heavy, but I’ve never felt closer to being a medic and never felt better about my life as a runner.


The Suffer Shuffle

We can’t always get what we want.  Sometimes we just have to take what we get.  We set goals that might be just a tad ambitious and we tear ourselves down when we don’t meet those goals.  Those who can’t handle the pressure give up.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t push ourselves.  If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t have to work hard to get “there”. 

Today was the Chasing Snakes 10K.  6.2 miles.  I had never seen the course with my own two eyes, but figured I would do well considering my recent training.  I had big plans of running a 56:30; a minute slower than my Eastman Road Race 10K time.  Lauren and Jenna decided to pace me.  I felt like this was attainable.  Runners on your mark…get set…go!

At mile 1 I heard the lady yell out, “8:34!”.  Uh oh.  I’m screwed.  My plan (like always) was to run negative splits.  I pretty much shot that idea out of the water.  My 5K was still looking strong.  Glad I enjoyed the first 3.1….the second half would be a thorn in my side.

Every time I turned a corner there was another hill.  And another one.  And another one.  I was dying.  My quads were toast.  I even took a couple 5 second walks.  Lauren and Jenna were ahead of me.  I wanted so badly to catch up to them.  They waited for me at the first aid station.  “I’m dying.”  Jenna said “You’re racing.  It’s going to hurt.  You can do this.”  I kept moving. 

After what felt like forever, we reached mile 4.  Do I really have 2.2 miles?  My god…I’m going to die.  After climbing another long hill, I finally got some relief and coasted downhill.  The last 1.1 was awful.  Jenna was yelling at me to dig deep and Lauren was trying to encourage me through the last few minutes of the race.  It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t going to make my goal.  In fact, I felt like I was going to pass out.  I had reached my threshold.  I was barely running.  I call it “The Suffer Shuffle”.  “Please God, let me just get to the finish line.  I want to be finished.”

With the finish in sight, I tried to kick it.  I usually have a great last mile and an even greater last half mile…I tried to sprint, but all I got was a fast jog.  Finished.  59:34.  If I had the energy, I would have punched myself in the face. 

This week has been hell for me.  Bad school days and bad training days.  Not much sleep.  Clinicals.  My own personal issues.  This week has been stressful, yet I made the time for every single workout.  If I wasn’t crying, I was sweating.  I guess I should be proud of the work I accomplished in spite of all the things playing against me.  I should be proud.  I don’t feel that way.  I would like to put this week behind me and move on to the next.  Let’s move on…

Today wasn’t a race, it was a training run.  I learned how to suffer and finish.  That is my silver lining. 

The Black Hole

You know you’ve been there.  If you say you haven’t, you’re lying.  The black hole gets everyone at some point.  The day starts out just fine, then BOOM!  The proverbial crap hits the fan.  One thing leads to another and your entire day is trashed.  One bad outcome leads to a negative thought…then another bad outcome…more negative thoughts about past/present/future bad outcomes.  The black hole sucks you in.  It’s deep…it’s black…and it’s really tough to get out. 

I had a huge pharmacology test today.  Been studying hard since this medic school madness started last summer.  Stayed up late last night and got up at 0400 to study.  I’m an overachiever in everything I do, so I had to be ready.  I WAS ready.  To make a long story short, everyone was thrown for a loop and the test sucked major ass.  I actually shed tears over it.  I don’t like being less than excellent…especially when it comes to school or athletics.  I don’t do well with failure.  Obviously.

Since school didn’t go so well, I thought I would smash my 3 miler this afternoon.  3 miles…come on!  I did 7 on Saturday so 3 isn’t tough anymore, right?  I failed to acknowledge my 2 hours of sleep last night on top of my collective lack of sleep over the last few weeks.  Add crossfit workouts twice a week and an increase in mileage from my norm.  How did I expect to run a quick and easy 3 miler?  Because I always want to be better than myself…better than the last time.  I want to get faster…stronger…less mental.  Basically, I want to be awesome.  I don’t care that someone else’s awesome isn’t necessarily my awesome.  None of that matters when you are your own worst enemy.  You just want results.  Now.

15 minutes into my run…I’m killin’ it.  Perhaps I started out of the blocks a little hot.  I had so much bottled up aggression and frustration…I tried to take it out on, well, myself.  I don’t know my pace (because I don’t have a fancy GPS), but I know it was a lot faster than usual.  I got to the halfway point…DEAD.  Legs dead.  Lungs dead.  Emotions dead.  I was like a fish out of water.  I wanted to stop…and I did stop for a few seconds…twice.  I ran as hard as I could and stopped….TWICE!  I can’t believe I stopped on a 3 miler.  “Megan you are such a puss!”  That’s what I kept telling myself.  “You can’t do 13.1!”  I started to cry…again.  Second time in less than 5 hours.  I cried the last mile.  I cried during my cool down.  I cried while stretching.  I cried all the way home.  What a shitty run.

I took a short nap, went to Mohr Fitness to destress and DO WORK, and now I’m here…writing and reflecting…and finally NOT CRYING.  I had the opportunity to speak with a few friends who coached me through the day.  Training parters, classmates and dear friends…they helped put things in perspective.  Am I hard on myself?  Hell yes.  Is this just part of life and the training process?  Yes.  Will I have more days like this?  Ohh yeah.  Can I run a half marathon?  I sure hope so. 

I’m still trying to pull myself out of the black hole tonight.  I’m still having doubts about my ability as a runner.  I still don’t know if I can run 13.1, but I’m going to give it hell trying.  Strength can only be measured in times of weakness.  This is my time.

….

I am pooped.  School is kicking my ass.  Clinicals are kicking my ass.  Still fitting in my runs and crossfit workouts.  Both of which are kicking my ass.  I can do this….I can do this….I can do this….

Go Big or Go Home??

Running is an addiction of sorts…why else would we wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to torture ourselves for X amount of miles before going to work?  Runners are endurance junkies.  We can’t wait to get high again, even if it means sucking every inch of oxygen from the atmosphere as we suffer through another death run. 

Although I have been running for a while, I haven’t been on a strict schedule like I am now.  Training for this half has made me realize a few things.  1) I can go past my “no go” point.  It’s all in my head…I just have to realize this in the moment and press on.  2) Trying to fit my training into medic school is a MEGA BITCH, but I’m doin’ it.  3) The power of camaraderie and friendship I have experienced during this process has been overwhelming.  Old and new friends have made all the difference in my training.  Training partners “get it” and have been super supportive.  I’m so blessed.

This brings me to my newest epiphany.  If I haven’t croaked by May 5th and I still have two working legs, why not HTFU and do a full blown marathon?  Why yes, I think I’ll have that.  You heard me…a full 26.2.  I like a challenge…I can do this, right? 

Since I’ve been running hills like a madwoman, I feel a flat(ish) marathon would be a good place to start.  Soooo, this week I will be signing up for the Marshall Marathon on November 4th.  It’s 2 days before my 32 birthday.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than spend a day torturing myself for the sake of saying “I DID IT!”

Check it out and sign up!
Marshall Marathon

The Comfort Zone

“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

No one likes to be uncomfortable.  I personally try to avoid discomfort as much as I can.  I don’t think I know a single person that wakes up in the morning and says, “You know what? I think I’ll put myself in an extremely uncomfortable position today”.  We are totally selfish as human beings and spend a great deal of time looking for the easy way out.

Let’s take dating for example…it sucks.  At 31 years old, I cringe at the thought of going through the motions of a new relationship.  Most of my friends are married and agree dating is a nightmare.  In order to have a relationship at this age, you have to be willing to put yourself out there…to get out of your comfort zone.  It’s a very scary place, let me tell ya.  I think I’d rather run The Bear with a rabid dog chasing behind me.  Deep down inside, I’m stoked at the thought of a new relationship, but all the bad outcomes have made me fear the outside world.  The world outside of THE COMFORT ZONE. 

When I moved back to Tennessee, I was pissed off at the world.  What was I going to do here?  There’s no big pow…no snowboarding…no Yosemite.  I was leaving my dream town…my friends…my life.  I wasn’t thrilled with my decision to move, even though I knew it was the right thing to do.  I was well beyond the walls of my comfort zone.  It wasn’t comfortable…at all.  It was sink or swim.  At first I wanted to sink…and I honestly didn’t care that I was giving up.  My soul was gone and I had lost every ounce of my spirit.

At some point, I pulled myself together…slowly.  The more time I spent outside my comfort zone, the stronger I became.  When I started to look back at the last few years of my life, I realized I spent a good deal of my time outside of my comfort zone.  Climbing….which soon turned into one of my true loves.  Skiing…especially pow.  I was a snowboarder…what do you do with these two sticks??  But I learned.  New relationships…good and bad…all equally heartbreaking.  I survived.  I survived it all.  I actually turned out to be a pretty descent human being in the process. 

Training for my first half has been uncomfortable.  The majority of my runs have been painful.  My head has been my worst enemy and I’m really struggling with the mental aspect of my running.  Some days I wonder if I’ll even be able to run 13.1.  I have been sticking to my program and working harder than ever to achieve my goal…but that voice in my head won’t shut up.  I gave myself a high five after last night’s crossfit workout because I finally told my “voice” to kiss my ass.  It worked.  I was proud of the effort and know I will see results if I continue to push myself. 

Why are we so scared to step out of our zone?  Are we afraid of rejection?  Scared we might look stupid?  What if we are missing huge opportunities for success simply because we don’t want to be bothered by discomfort?  I’m guility.  You have to take a good, long look at yourself…what do you want?  What do you want to be?  What do you want to accomplish?  Anything worth having is worth the blood, sweat and tears.  No one ever said “Doin’ Work” was easy. 

I guess it’s time to HTFU and press on.

OBVIOUSLY NOT MY COMFORT ZONE….