Marathon Training: Week 10

I am officially in the double-digit weeks of marathon training! With a PR under my belt, I am also feeling a little – just a little – more optimistic about being able to finish my marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes. While remaining optimistic, I’m also not resting on my laurels. I have followed many bloggers who have trained their glutei maximi off only to not meet their goals come race day. Health issues, weather, or even a mental setback are all variables that can impact all mortals on race day, and as a mortal, I fully recognize I am not immune to any of those variables. I am still citing my mantra of “stick to the plan” when I want to skip a run, and making every attempt to not allow negative runs spoil my training weeks. Last week definitely challenged me, and I do feel so much mentally stronger for not allowing a missed run or a bad run to have defined my training week, especially my half-marathon race!

Monday

Sunshine, blue skies, and mountains all around our four mile recovery run.

Four recovery miles. Because it was President’s Day, my husband had the day off, and we decided to do a family recovery run together. I pushed my two-year-old in the jogging stroller, my husband ran with our dog, and my ten-year-old rode her bike. It was sunny, in the 50’s, and absolutely wonderful to be running with my family. This recovery was such a treat, and the four miles flew by so fast because of the company, the weather, and the beautiful views.

Tuesday

Five miles. I got the opportunity to run outside once again and I was completely grateful for all the riches and experiences in my life. My gratitude for all of my blessings cannot be quantified with words, so I will not attempt to do so. The best way to express my gratitude is to acknowledge that all of my materialistic belongings are inconsequential, and that in the end, what people pine for most is freedom. Freedom to express oneself, whether verbally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, artistically, and yes, even financially. I’ve been blessed with all of the aforementioned freedoms, and being outside with nature is a clear reminder that my life is filled with unlimited opportunities to embody the liberty so many pine for.

Wednesday

Four miles. My outside running streak came to an end. These four miles were on the treadmill, but I was okay with that. My legs were rather sore, but not from racing on Saturday, but from heavy back squats on Monday and heavy front squats from the morning. Despite the sore hamstrings and quadriceps, I was both shocked and appreciative of how rapidly my body had recovered from racing 13.1 miles. In fact, while running, my joints, legs, muscles, and back felt great! In many races, the first part of my body that begins to feel fatigued is my back. It begins to lean forward, which then causes me to lose my already imperfect running form. During the race, I expected for some kind of discomfort to occur, but surprisingly, my discomfort stemmed more from my lungs while training to maintain a breathing rhythm as opposed to my joints or muscles. It is my only hope I will experience this same physical  and mental strength during my marathon.

Thursday

Six miles on the Treadmill. I did a sprint session following the six miles and I ended up with a total of eight miles once it was all said and done. After my run was over, I was drenched in sweat, and I felt like a sinner in church who had been absolved from sins. Sweat is so humbling yet so powerful. A good sweat session always leaves me feeling like I’ve conquered the highest mountain climbing it with my bare hands and feet.

Friday

Four easy recovery miles and nothing more to it. By the time Friday rolls in, I’m ready to get my long run in so that I can check off another training week.

Saturday

Eleven miles. My running friend (Sarah) is injured, so it was just me and my shadow on the run. There wasn’t much of a shadow though, because it was windy, gray, cloudy, cold, and semi wet (it rained the night before and I got pelted with small, hard drops during my run). It took some self-cajoling to step outside the door, but once I was out there, I was ready to tackle the 11 miles that stood between me and the last day of training week 10.

I started off at a very lethargic pace, but I tried not to fret too much about it because I understood it was supposed to be a long and slow distance pace and not a racing pace. Besides, after a long hard run on my half-marathon race last Saturday, I wanted to take my time.

Prior to the run, I wrestled whether I should tackle the hill with an elevation gain of 800 feet, or the one with 400. Last time I attempted to climb the former, I ended up stepping on black ice and slipping about ten feet. Because there has been an abundance of sunshine the last couple of weeks, I decided by mile two that I would tackle the slippery hill in hopes that the snow and ice were no longer present. Should the ice and snow still be on the floor, I would tackle the other hill and still get some good training in my run. Much to my success, the snow and ice had disappeared and the trail was mine for the taking.

The view as from my turn-around point after an elevation gain of approximately 800 feet.

The last time I tackled this hill was last Fall (September 20) and it was the first time I had made the 800 feet climb without stopping. My time: 15:20. This Saturday, I once again made the climb without stopping in 14:49! While it does not seem like a big difference, shaving off 30 seconds on a steep hill was enough for me to feel good about my training and how far my running had come! It was also a great way to wrap up week ten of marathon training.

Heading down to the city and feeling like I am on top of the world.

Marathon Training: Week 8 and 9

I am behind on my blogging duties, but not behind on my training duties. Nine weeks have passed and I am still as eager to complete every training run now as I was when I started nine weeks ago.

Since I need to squeeze two weeks worth of training, this post might be good for curing insomnia, but I promise I’ll try to make it where you will fall asleep without worrying about my writing giving you nightmares.

Marathon Training Week 8

Monday (2/2)

Ran 6.25 miles during lunch, followed by a Crossfit session prior to dinner time. Heavy back squats. Not much excitement.

Tuesday (2/3)

Five miles on the treadmill and my legs were sore. It was a good sore though. Crossfit in the afternoon.

Wednesday (2/4)

Seven miles on the treadmill, 3 which included running at half marathon pace. I was not sure what my half marathon pace should feel like since the last time I ran one was in October and I was recovering from the flu. Took a wild guess and did an 8:41 pace. Remained in that pace for all three miles and I felt good about myself. Continued my training with Crossfit in the afternoon.

Thursday (2/5)

Five miles on the treadmill and then Crossfit in the afternoon.

Friday  (2/6)

Four easy miles.

Saturday (2/7)

I was ready for ten miles. My clothes, my shoes, my energy gels, my hydrating equipment, and my Garmin were all set-up for me to use when my alarm was supposed to go off at 5:20 in the morning. Only problem was, I set my alarm to go off at 6:20, a whole hour after I was supposed to be awake. To make matters worse, my running partner made it to my house around 5:50 am so that we could take off running at 6:00 am, and that did not happen. I called her at 6:20 and asked her if she was still interested. Fortunately she was a good sport and agreed to run seven miles with me, the amount of miles I could get away running outside so that I could make it back home in time for my husband to make it to work by 8:00 am. I felt great running outside. The weather was perfect (no wind and above freezing) and despite rushing to get ready, I felt physically strong.

However, seven miles was not going to cut it, so after saying thank you to my friend Sarah, and planting a see-you-later kiss on my husband’s lips, I mustered on to the treadmill and sluggishly ran the three remaining miles. This transition was more difficult than I could put into words. It was as if there was no gravity to hold me up. I seriously felt like my lungs were the size of peas and I just could not breathe. I wanted to stop after the first mile, but I kept pushing through. This was the first run where I doubted my goal of running a 4:20 marathon, and it did not feel good.

IMG_7510

All smiles after squeezing in seven miles. I did not look like this after running the remaining 3 miles on the treadmill.

Marathon Training Week 9

Monday (2/9)

Five miles after a heavy back squat Crossfit session. This run was tough.

Tuesday (2/10)

Six miles and I tried to run hard because I ate two LARGE chocolate bars my daughter is selling for a school trip fundraiser and I felt gross after consuming them.

Wednesday (2/11)

Six miles on the treadmill and I felt much better this time around than the previous day.

Thursday (2/12)

Five miles that never happened. I was extremely stressed out about the upcoming half marathon race on Saturday. I was questioning whether I should run the race or not. If I did run the race, should I “race” or just use it as a long slow run? It was also a busy day and in the end, I just didn’t have enough time or energy to run them. There was a bit of guilt in my failing to have a perfect running week, but I had to remind myself I wasn’t perfect.

Friday (2/13)

It was supposed to be four miles, but I decided to make-up the five miles I failed to do on Thursday instead. Let me just start by saying, IT WAS AWFUL.

I began to run the first mile on the treadmill, and I just could not do it. So I stopped. My husband, who asked for the day off encouraged me to run outside. I went outside and ran the remaining four miles and they were no better. Don’t have clue why or what was going on, but I just could not seem to get down the mechanics of my running motion down. Once again, I felt heavy and extremely lethargic. It was demoralizing, because the only thing lingering was the race happening on Saturday. I was trying really hard to not allow my dismal performance on this run define what tomorrow’s run would look like. A horrible run on Saturday would definitely taint my training. I was so afraid, I really wanted to skip the half marathon.

IMG_7622

One of my favorite barns that always salutes me while I am out on my run.

Saturday (2/14)

Run 4 Luv Half-Marathon – 13.1 miles.

Run 4 Luv Half-Marathon

This race almost did not happen. I pondered for a week whether to run it or not. I was worried about how I would do and full of “what ifs?”

“What if I do terrible?”

“What if I’m thinking I’m training hard, but my race performance shows otherwise?”

“What if I just skip the race and not worry about it?”

“What if I do great?”

“What if I do better than I did at Catherine Creek Half Marathon?”

On Friday, the day before the race, I had a really bad four mile run. My body felt so heavy and I was short on breathing. The run furthered fueled my insecurities, but I knew that if I wanted to gauge whether my training was working or not, I needed to run it. I needed to give it all I’ve got and use it as another training tool for my marathon goal of 4:20. I decided I needed to show up and not allow my fears to interfere with all of the hard work I have been doing the last nine weeks. The only way to answer the “What ifs” was to run the race.

Let me preface my post by stating that because of the what if’s, this race recap had the possibility of going a different direction. I could have given you a plethora of reasons why I didn’t race, or why my race was terrible. Fortunately, I am giving you six reasons why this race was not only worth running, but necessary for my marathon training.

Reason 1: Price
I paid $14 to enter the race. Yes, $14. This has been the least expensive race entry out of all the races I’ve ever done. When I received an e-mail last fall indicating that the entry fee would only be $14 for one day, I figured that if I didn’t end up running it, my loss would not be as great of a loss.

Reason 2: Start Time
The start time for the race was 11:00 am. This meant that I could wake up at a decent time, eat a nutritious breakfast, and have plenty of time to digest my dinner in a flushable toilet and not in a portable toilet. Furthermore, a later start time meant the opportunity for warmer weather (I prefer warmer running temperatures).

Since the race took place in a city that is three hours away from where I live, the family and I drove up on Friday night and we were able to have a nice dinner where I loaded on a plate full of carbohydrates.

IMG_7643

Friday’s dinner was a plate full of carbs! I love carbs! I had linguini with zucchini, broccoli, roasted tomatoes, and grilled chicken with olive oil and basil with a large serving of toast. No leftovers.

Because of the latter start time, I wasn’t worried about sleeping in, which made it easy for me to sleep through the night. In all, if not 99% of the races I’ve run, I’ve lost good amounts sleep throughout the night for fear of oversleeping. Or I’ve had to wake at the crack of down because of early start times. In the morning, we actually sat down to eat breakfast at the hotel without feeling rushed. We all walked back to our hotel room and the extra time allowed me to do something I rarely do on race day – I braided my hair. An 11:00 am start time was absolutely perfect for me.

Reason 3: Temperature in the 50’s
I don’t like cold weather. I don’t like wind. I don’t like rain (although I’d prefer rain over cold and wind). The sun was shining, and even though it was a chilly morning, the temperature had risen to the high 40’s/low 50’s by the time 11 am rolled in.

The 50’s was perfect enough to keep cool during the run without worrying about overheating as the race progressed. Of course, perfect temperature meant not having to worry about how many layers of clothing I needed to wear. Thus, I did not need to peel off any layers during my run. It is important to note that the temperature for this time of year was an anomaly. Last year, this race saw snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Needless to say, I was very grateful I was spared the Winter weather.

IMG_7645

Perfect temperature! I am wearing Oiselle arm warmers, a t-shirt underneath my racing tank (I don’t like to race in tank tops because my hair slaps my shoulders and it really irritates me), and Oiselle Leslie capris along with ProCompression socks. I also wore my shades and of course, my Hoka shoes. The arm warmers eventually went down, which made it so convenient. I did not have to take anything off or tie anything around my waist. Arm warmers have been one of my favorite investments.

Reason 4: The Course
The race took place in Ann Morrison Park. The park is a greenbelt course with scenic views. It is relatively flat (if you are from Florida, you’d disagree) and even though you share the course with the public, it was not an issue due to the fact the paths had ample room to accommodate pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. The park has distance marked on the floor, so it was a no brainer how far out I had gone and how much was left of the race after reaching the turnaround point. Incredibly, my Garmin and the course were in sync. For me, it’s mind-boggling to hit mile markers before my Garmin does or vice versa, because you never know if the course is going to be short or if you are going to be running extra.

IMG_7644

There are four runners behind me and a couple of pedestrians (on the right side of the path). No rubbing elbows and plenty of running room.

Reason 5: Number of Participants
While it’s fun to run with the masses, it’s no fun to be elbow-to-elbow with the masses. This was the case last year when I ran the Rock n Roll San Diego half-marathon last summer. Because we (husband and I) were weaving in and out of people, we ended up running almost a half mile extra. In all honesty, it wasn’t fun, but since I had never experienced what running was like with 30,000 plus runners, I did not know what to expect. I’ve learned to enjoy and now prefer smaller races. This 1/2 marathon had 317 runners, giving me plenty of elbow room to move without worrying about being crammed and searching for an opening to make a move when the person in front of you is going at a different pace. A smaller group of runners means there isn’t crowding at the aid stations. I was able to grab a cup of water and go without bumping or weaving around anyone. I managed to stay hydrated and loss very few seconds because of how smooth it went.

IMG_7633

Taking off and crossing the starting line within 5 seconds after the horn going off. In large races, it takes minutes to cross the starting line after the race has begun.

Reason 6: PR
Little did I know that reasons 1-5 were going to help me attain a Personal Record! I was in complete shock when my pace was still in the low 8’s at mile eight. When mile 10 rolled in, and I wasn’t feeling any kind of physical pain anywhere in my body, I started getting excited about the possibility that I might be able to run every single of my 13 miles in under 9 minutes. And then, when I saw the finish line and my Garmin indicated I had just run 13.1 miles in 1:50:25, I simply couldn’t believe it! In fact, I’m still in a state of disbelief. As lame as it sounds, I may have just experienced what winning a gold medal in the Olympics feels like! In the end, I was thrilled I did not allow my fears and insecurities to prevent me from racing.

IMG_7586

Feeling so strong, so happy, so proud of myself. This smile is still planted on my face. My official time: 1:50:28

My Running Musts

I’m in the midst of marathon training, and there are products that have certainly helped me remain consistent and motivated. I would like to say that I have purchased all the products I will mention. It would have been nice to have received these from the companies that make them, but I’m only an average runner, so I have to pay for it all out-of-pocket.

Shoes
Shoes were of little importance to me when I first started running. My first official pair of running shoes were a white pair of New Balance issued to me by the Marine Corps on the second sleep deprived-day of boot camp (or maybe it was the third day – I don’t recall). We were commanded to form a line and give our shoe size to a Marine who would be handing us a pair of shoes. Those shoes were so kind to my feet, and I ran all over Parris Island with them. I regret not knowing their final resting place.

Prior to 2006, my method to purchasing running shoes was based on whether the shoes were on sale or not. I quickly discovered though that a cheap shoe didn’t necessarily translate to a comfortable shoe. Adidas, Reebok and Nike are all on my junk list.

In 2006, when I committed to running a half-marathon, I went to one of those running stores where they observe you run and recommend a specific shoe depending on how good (or jacked up) your running is. Brooks became my go to shoe. Then, I erroneously ventured into the world of shoe temptation and had flings with Asics, Saucony, New Balance, and Mizuno. Whether it was the shoe, or the pregnancy, or the 47 pounds I gained during pregnancy, the plantar fascia on my left foot began to impact my running. I didn’t want to get injured, but I also dreaded the thought of giving up running. And so, like the guy you’d never consider dating because you don’t feel like you have anything in common, I decided to give the unattractive Hoka One One shoes a try.

First of all, these shoes were pricey! We are talking $170 bucks pricey (ouch). But I figured $170 was cheaper than a doctor’s visit and much more tolerable than sitting on the sidelines caused by an injury for weeks. Despite its bulky and homely appearance, the Hoka One One have been tremendously helpful in my training. I’ve been able to log almost double the amount of miles this past month with little to zero pain. The Hoka shoes have saved my running. In the future, I’d like to do a thorough review of the shoes.

IMG_7639

Hoka One One Conquest

Fuel and Recovery

Nuun
If you’ve ever run a marathon or half-marathon, then you’ve been given Nuun as a drinking option. I usually drink water the first half of the race, but towards the end, I need a pick-me-up, and Nuun is my go-to choice not only during races, but also during my training. I usually drink Nuun during my long runs or prior to runs where I need a little boost of energy. The flavors are delicious and the company is conscientious about their ingredients. I like Nuun so much, I applied to become an Ambassador, and much to my surprise, got accepted! I don’t get the products for free, but I do get the opportunity to represent the company, which I think is a privilege because I think their products do what they claim to do – they energize me and hydrate me.

IMG_7642

Vega Sport Performance Protein

Protein Recovery drinks are very popular in the Crossfit world, so when I started doing Crossfit, I started looking into protein recovery drinks to help with my sore muscles. The only problem was, the majority of the drinks contained dairy, and dairy does quite a number on my stomach. I went to AMAZON to research dairy-free protein drinks and discovered this one. Now, I will admit that the powder does not mix easily, so it can feel a little chalky when swallowing, but for me, the chocolate flavor tastes good and don’t find the chalky flavor to be repulsive. Plus, it’s gentle on my stomach and it helps with my recovery. I’ve only tried the chocolate flavor, and based upon the reviews, the chocolate seems to be better. I usually mix the powder with 12 ounces of water immediately after a heavy lifting session, or a long run (longer than 6 miles). I’ve tried the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator in the past, and while it did help the recovery of my muscles, I discovered after multiple uses that the ingredients seemed to irritate my stomach, so I had to stop using it.

IMG_7498

Huma Gels
I’ve only been using these gels for three weeks, but I like how they taste, the assortment of flavors to choose from, and the different levels of caffeine potency. I do feel like they are pricey, but I’m only using them for my long runs. I have used Sports Beans in the past, and while I do like them, I like these just as much. These gels are not overly sweet, are easy to carry, and I’ve liked most of the flavors I’ve tasted. I consume one of these 30-45 minutes prior to a long run and consume a second one during a run that is longer than eight miles an hour into the run.

IMG_7499

Products
Orange Mud
This is actually a product I did not purchase. In fact, I was lucky enough to have won this baby from Raina, blogger at smalltownrunner.com. I don’t have any luck when it comes to raffles, but I got good mojo with this raffle.

I love the Orange Mud Hydrapak. It’s strong, but lightweight and comfortable as well. The bottles are easy to reach when running, and easy to clean when not. It has multiple pouches to hold my keys, gels, and phone. It does not slide around like the ones you wear around your waist line and it has a little bungee cord on the back to hold apparel. Because it’s rather on the pricey ($109.95), it is one I’m very fortunate to have won and definitely putting to good use.

OrangeMud

Taking my Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel for a long run.

Believe Journal
I had a running journal once, and while I enjoyed it, I thought it was best to go the digital way and never bothered to think about purchasing another journal again. When Kristen Yax, blogger of AllthatGlitters raved about it, I figured I would invest in it and use it to chronicle my marathon training. Now that I have been using it consistently for the last 9 weeks, I’ve grown to love my journal. There is something so calming about being able to layout your running schedule and physically see it before your eyes. No need to log into anything, download anything, upgrade anything, or fear losing anything. It’s almost as if the path of decision-making sits right before your eyes and you can pompously meander through your day without a care in the world because you have the answer. Alright, that was a little too dramatic, but my Believe Journal has not only kept a record of my distance, but my personal thoughts as well. I’ve seen my personal growth as runner in the mere 8 weeks I’ve been using it.

IMG_7641

Apparel

Oiselle 

I love Oiselle. In fact, I like the apparel and the brand so much, I didn’t think twice when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of “The Flock” for a $100 membership fee. What does it mean to be a part of the “The Flock?” It means I get to represent the Oiselle brand, which is paving its way to represent women on and off the track and to challenge the big brand name apparels that have become an imposing presence in the athletic industry. It means I get to connect with a national running community. No, I do not get free apparel in exchange for raving reviews. Again, I’ve purchased all of the items I’ve mentioned in this post (with exception of Orange Mudpack), so I’m not getting any freebies. Some might find it absurd to pay a company a fee to promote their brand and still pay for the apparel, but hey, Costco seems to be doing okay. Yes, I do think some of the items are a little on the high-end, but their clothes are well made, stylish, and they are extremely functional when it comes to running.

IMG_7516

Oiselle shirt, arm warmers and distance shorts.

ProCompression Socks

I am a heel striker, which means I really pound my feet. When I first saw runners wearing compression socks, I thought they were the latest fashion trend for running. Personally, I did not care for the look, so I did not think much about them. I later learned that the socks were more than just a fashion statement. Supposedly, they helped muscle efficiency by preventing oscillation of the muscles and helps with muscle recovery following  long run. While that theory varies for runners, I have found compression socks to really help my feet, calves, and shins when running. I feel like the compression helps keeps all of my muscles tight. I don’t use them for recovery like others do, so I cannot comment on the recovery.

IMG_6868

Running in my compression socks during a Christmas in the Oregon Coast.

There is a saying that goes, “Running is cheaper than therapy,” but if I were to calculate how much money I’ve spent on race fees, apparel, products, and the latest trend that come with running,  I would say I have spent as much as therapy. Since I don’t invest in myself with manicures, pedicures, hair cuts (I cut my hair about once a year), or coffee, I don’t feel guilty about investing in my love for running.

Do you have any running musts? Are there any products you would recommend that have helped you with your training or recovery? Do you also invest in manicures, pedicures, haircuts and coffee?

Memoirs of a Wetback – Part One

I must have been six, because I no longer had to carry my desk to Profesora Sarita’s house near my barrio. My new school required all of us to wear dark navy bottoms, a white shirt, and a red scarf around our necks. At the beginning of the school day, we all lined up wearing our uniforms and sang the hymn. I don’t know what on Earth I was singing about, but I do recall singing loudly “ni se venden ni se rinden luchamos contra el yankee, enemigo de la humanidad” (not sold, or surrender, fight against the Yankee, enemy of all humanity). Even though I pride myself in remembering every single one of my teachers’ names from first grade on to my senior year in high school (and most of my college teachers), I can not not only remember any of the teachers at this particular school, I can’t even remember ever seeing their faces. It was as if their corporal vessel was comprised by a mere pair of legs, a torso, and two hands. I, however, do remember the lady whom I lied to every single day in order to eat. Because there wasn’t a cafeteria that included free or reduced lunch, the only way I was able to obtain any kind of calories throughout the school day was to lie to the lady with a food stand in the middle of the recess court. “Manana se lo traigo” I’d tell her in exchange for a bag of fruits or a corn tortilla with cheese. But then, the next day would come, and I wouldn’t have the money I promised her the day prior. She either believed I would someday bring her a huge chunk of the money I owed her, or she felt sorry for me. Whatever the reason may have been, I repeated my false monetary promise to her, and every single day, she handed me food to fill my belly.

The classroom was hot, with doors swung wide open and big squared windows letting the bright sun in. I remember seeing numbers on the chalkboard and using my pencil to jot down exactly what I saw. Despite my diligent ability to transfer numbers from the chalkboard to my paper, I did not comprehend the value of any of the numbers I copied. In all fairness, I had never written a single number on a piece of paper prior to going to that school. Nobody in my family that I could ever recall up to that point had ever sat with me and asked me to count from 1-10, or 1-100 with them. But, I could at least write because I did learn to use a pencil and draw shapes and write random lines as a form of punishment in kindergarten. If I was a good student, there was no way of knowing it because there weren’t any conferences between teachers and parents.

At home, we did not own any books. My grandmother was illiterate, so she never read to my mother as a child. My mother, despite being literate, never read to me. My father came in and out of the picture depending on the level of blood alcohol content in his bloodstream. When you are technically a single mother working a full-time low-wage job with three children over the age of five and one more on the way, reading or anything related to one-on-one time with children is probably daunting. So I learned to see my mother as a an unhappy individual who was stuck with too many children she did not have extra time for in her already busy schedule, and my father as an individual who aimed to please but always ended up disappointing.

In the evenings I’d spent my nights playing with kids in the barrio. There was no curfew, no family gathering around the table to enjoy dinner, and much to my delight, no homework time. Because we had a dilapidated television set with poor reception, we rarely sat in front of the tube. Showers were random, and if you would have given us a toothbrush with toothpaste on it, we would have thought it was meant to scrub the bathroom floors.

While my school days were a potpourri of general recollections, there was a specific experience that I will never forget. A teacher called me and asked me to go to the board. I obediently walked up to the board and nervously picked up a small piece of chalk. “Roca” was the word the unknown teacher without a face asked me to spell. I placed my head down in shame, scribbling squiggly lines pretending to write. I felt my ears turning red, my breathing becoming more methodical, and my heart beating rapidly. Even though my back was to my unknown classmates without a face, I could feel their eyes piercing every square inch of my body. If they were snickering, I couldn’t hear. I was too busy holding back hot tears of humiliation. Why did the teacher ask me to go up the board to spell that word? Did “it” know I was unable to read or write? Was it teaching me a lesson? I was so angry at myself for not knowing. I was angry for not being able to figure out which letters to write on the board. I was angry when I saw my dirty shoes over my dusty socks hiding my dirty calloused feet. I was angry I did not know what sounds belonged to letters. I felt like a rock. Dumb as a rock. And even worse, everyone in the classroom knew it. I may have stood there for a minute or so, but I felt as if the world stop spinning and every single inhabitant was mocking me, letting me know I was the dumbest six-year-old in the face of the universe.

That night, I went to sleep feeling sorry for myself. Nobody in my household knew what happened that day at school. The humiliation was so grand, letting out my pain would have consumed my insides with such force, it would have ruptured me to pieces. I cried strongly enough to soothe my pain, yet quietly enough so that the large bedroom partitioned with wooden frames to separate the sleeping quarters for six people did not interfere with anyone’s sleep. Little did I know that upon finally closing my eyes, my life would soon embark upon a life transforming journey.

This is the only picture in my possession taken while living in Nicaragua. I was either five or had just turned six. From left to right: My cousin Veronica, me - holding a doll that belonged to my neighbor friend who is pictured next to me along with her little sister- my expectant mother, and my older brother, Alvaro. One of the popular things to do in Nicaragua is to sit outside your home and socialize with your neighbors. Because my neighbor friend owned a doll, a luxury that most families could not afford, and she lived in a house with iron gates, we called her "little bourgeoisie." The smile on my face depicts how happy I was to hold that doll.

This is the only picture in my possession taken while living in Nicaragua. I was either five or had just turned six. From left to right: My cousin Veronica, me – holding a doll that belonged to my neighbor friend- who is pictured next to me, along with her little sister, my expectant mother, and my older brother, Alvaro. One of the popular things to do in Nicaragua is to sit outside your home and socialize with your neighbors. Because my neighbor friend owned a doll, a luxury that my and most family could not afford, and she lived in a house with iron gates, we called her “little bourgeoisie.” The smile on my face depicts how happy I was to hold that doll.

Marathon Training: Week 7

Monday

On Sunday, I went to bed with all sorts of sinus issues and the night got progressively worse when I couldn’t get shut-eye due to the non-stop sneezing and sniffling. When daylight hit, my nose was red, my eyes had massive dark circles around them, and my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. I Spent most of the morning pining for some rest and questioning whether I should run the five miles scheduled for the day. I’m typically not an individual who needs eight hours of sleep to feel completely rested, but the four and a half hours of interrupted sleep I had the night before were making me wish I was Rip Van Winkle. When my two-year-old mentioned being tired and wanting to take a nap, I was tempted to just cuddle up next to her and sleep as long as time would let me. But I didn’t oblige. Instead, I mustered the strength to put on my running shoes and headed on over to the treadmill. I told myself that the only goal was to run five miles and not worry about time. Despite my desires to quit in the middle of the run, I kept the slow motion of placing one foot in front of the other and managed to complete the five miles. While I was so darn proud of myself for sticking to the plan, I was still feeling extremely exhausted and craved sleep. Unfortunately for me, I did not have enough time to shower, dress, and nap before my daughter woke. I did however, go to bed as soon as my daughters went to bed on Monday night (9PM) and managed to get 9 hours of sleep!

Fear has kept me from trying in the past, this time, I am using fear to motivate me and prevent me from trying.

Fear has kept me from trying in the past, this time, I am using fear to motivate me and prevent me from trying.

Tuesday

While I felt 75% better on Tuesday, I was still not 100%. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to running (yes, again, on the treadmill) my six miles stronger than my previous five miles. Started off my six miles slow, but by the second mile, I felt like I could push my body harder and managed to average an 8:52 pace. I was very happy with my performance and incredibly thankful that my body was in the final hours of fighting off whatever was ailing me.

In the afternoon, I went to do a Crossfit session and I knew that the 55 repetitions of heavy back squats would make their presence known for Wednesday’s five miles.

IMG_7435

All smiles after my run.

Wednesday

Tender. That is the only word I could use to describe what my quads, hamstrings, and glutes felt like while running. “Ouch.” Legs moving. “Ouch.” Legs landing. “Ouch.”  Muscles pounding. And so that physical motion and verbal expression continued for at least the first two and a half miles. It was until the third mile that my muscles were warm and relaxed enough for me to finish the five mile run without the constant awareness of pain in my legs.

IMG_7488

One of the many poses I struck to stretch out my aching body.

Thursday

Six miles. On the treadmill. Still sore. But, I made sure to use this run as a great physical and mental training run. You see, something strange happens to the mind and body once you hit mile twenty on the marathon. It is that point in which you have to fight, fight, fight. The point in which you have to dig deep and answer the barrage of questions and thoughts that attack your consciousness.

“Why am I doing this.”  

“Why is it 26.2 miles long?”

“Why can’t a marathon be 20 miles long?”

“I still have 6.2 miles to go?”

“I am so ready to be done.”

“I don’t care about my time anymore. I just want to finish.”

“When is that mile marker coming up? This mile has taken too long!”

On top of the thoughts, you’ve got the physical pain working in cahoots with the mind. The chest starts to slouch because the shoulders feel too heavy to hold up. There’s creaking and discomfort in your knees and ankles. Your legs feel like lead and each swinging motion of the arm feels like you are holding heavy weights. If you are unfortunate, you’ve got chafing or rubbing, and if you are cursed, you’ve got bleeding from chafing or rubbing. The energy gels no longer have their magic, and you can smell the sweat before it makes its way out of your pores. The screams of the crowds are muffled, and you are doing everything you can to either keep up, or pass the person in the purple shirt ahead of you whom you’ve had your eye on for motivation the last ten miles. But you have to dig deep to not give in to the desires of quitting. You have to remember how far you have come both figuratively and literally. You have to remember your journey, and why you are running to begin with. And then you are moved with emotion and the salty tears join the sweat on your face because you have not quit. Because you are going to cross the finish line in spite of you.

Thus, while my six  miles were painful, they served as excellent marathon training! Much to my surprise, the six miles were not as dramatic.

Friday

Four easy miles on the treadmill. That is how I wanted to keep them because by this point, I was so sick of the treadmill. I wanted to run outside, and I wanted for my husband to be home after being away for twelve straight days. I wanted someone else to put my daughters to bed, to help me with the litter box, to put out the trash, to get up of bed at the crack of dawn because the two-year-old refuses to sleep in. I wanted to sit on the couch and feel like I could count on someone else to attend to the needs of two smaller human beings. And I was so thankful that the position I was in was only temporary and how I would perhaps be an overly stressed out individual if I had two daughters and zero support.

This made me laugh, because social media can be such a powerful tool for motivation or deprecation.

This made me laugh, because social media can be such a powerful tool for motivation or deprecation.

Saturday

My husband was finally back home and I could alas run outside! It was so therapeutic to simultaneously move my legs and see the scenery around me change. Plus, my friend Sarah once again joined me, which made my nine miles quite a treat. Once I got to thinking about how sore my legs had been, I realized that perhaps the combination of my sinus (allergies?) and the stress of single parenting may have taken its toll on my recovery. My nine miles were both challenging and healing. I was so grateful for having survived the last two weeks alone.

IMG_7449

It was such a beautiful running day. No wind, no rain, sunshine, and scenery all around me.