We Didn’t Start the Fire

It was 1989. I was a twelve-year-old, sixth-grade immigrant in Mrs. Cameron’s Introduction to Computer Class. Jon Villoch, Adriana Ochoa, Jeanette  Menendez, Robert Wilson, Daniel Syron, and I, gathered round a table next to our high-tech IBM computers. We were supposed to have been studying BASIC programming language, but we opted to talk about matters way more important to the adolescent mind – pop-culture. The girls and I, for the most part, were Blockheads (New Kids on the Block); while John, Daniel and Robert were headbangers (Metallica, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue). Garbage Pail Kids, Nintendo GameBoy, Batman (the one with Michael Keaton), stone-washed ripped denim jeans, and our raging hormones were common ground. Because I grew up in a Spanish-only speaking home, many of the musicians my peers referenced were foreign to me. The musicians I knew (Julio Iglesias, Jose Luis Perales, Emmanuel), were foreigners to most of my anglo-saxon peers. Sixth grade was my introduction to self-consciousness, angst, and Billy Joel. It wasn’t hard to be smitten with Billy Joel. His song, We Didn’t Start the Fire, possessed everything that captivates the adolescent mind: passion, drama, and energy. Jon Villoch, whom we called Goldilocks because of his curly blonde hair, knew all the lyrics and owned his album (cassette) Storm Front. I was jealous Jon had mastered the rote memorization of  Billy Joel’s lyrics, and I made it a personal goal to learn the lyrics as well.

A sunset in Eastern Oregon last Summer during a long run. I remember hurting during this run and hoping I could make it back before I lost complete daylight.


The lyrics, though filled with intensity, were actually meaningless to me. It was merely a list of what seemed to be important world events occurring way before my time. As a twelve-year-old, I was myopic to how their happenings were relevant to my own happenings. In spite of my developmentally detached connection to the historic affairs Billy Joel so zealously crooned about, that moment in time marked a significantly bold point on my time line. belonged. To a circle of friends who equally shared and diametrically opposed my interests and values. To a small group of people in a massive city whose existence was inconsequential to another group of people in a small distant city. To an age group misunderstood by the age groups that experienced Billy Joel’s lyrics. To a time in the cosmos when the masses on a planet named Earth was encapsulating a decade titled the 80’s, and bridging a futuristic one called the 90’s.

My sister visited me from Florida and we enjoyed the beauty of Anthony Lakes.


No, I didn’t understand back then, at the age of 12, the link between the past and the present. That philosophical abyss rang true for me in my teen years, and well into my twenties. In my thirties, a spark awakened, and I fully recognized I was never really authentic, interesting, or as revolutionary as I presumed to be. And then 34 happened. A miscarriage. The recognition that life was fragile. At 35, I had the opportunity to give life again. Four months later, my beloved grandmother exhaled her final breath of life. It was at that very moment, while holding my four-month old close to my heart, and witnessing the closing of my grandmother’s eyes for the last time, that I knew my fire was as easily extinguishable as it was combustible. My life, no longer a nebulous trajectory of events, had now shifted to the portion on the electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye. I could no longer consciously hide my actions within the shadows of ignorance.

Cause all I want is to be in the light.


On Saturday, June 4th, I will be running 26.2 miles in Newport, Oregon. I was considering missing the race in order to avoid disappointment and heartache. To avoid seeing numerical results that could possibly trigger feelings of inferiority. Avoid experiencing heartache and the cliche that Life is indeed unfair. To refrain from dealing with the hard truth that sometimes hard work takes a considerable amount of time to payoff, and sometimes, it never pays off the way we intend it to. It can be so easy to remain as ignorantly blissful as the twelve-year-old I once was. When life felt like a joyously vacuous existence wedged between historical time lines of the past and those of the future waiting to be plotted. But I don’t want to be ignorant. I don’t want to purposefully live on the perimeters of the spectrum for fear of visibly failing. I want to feel and experience the passion of Billy Joel’s Lyrics. I want to belong to an age group that reminisces about the 80’s, and shakes its head at the trends of the current youth. To an age group that equally shares and diametrically opposes the values of presidential candidates. I no longer want to just memorize the lyrics. I want to experience them. I want to START THE FIRE.

 

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No What-Ifs

Four more days! Those are the amount of days that stand between the Marine Corps Marathon and twenty weeks of training. While there are a few runs here and there that still remain, my marathon training for the most part is done.

My last twenty mile run was completed two weeks ago, and like most of my long runs this cycle training, it was arduous. My husband, who is also running Marine Corps Marathon, accompanied me during the run and we both faced headwind going uphill and battled 84 degree temperatures. With the exception of my last long run this past Saturday (14 miles), every single one of my long runs was filled with some form of adversity. If it wasn’t the scorching summer temperatures, it was the smoke-filled skies from burning forests. Thus, while I am completely elated with the upcoming race, I am exhausted and ready to go on a run for the sake of running and not for the sake of training.

It would be disingenuous of me to pretend like I am not stressing about what my performance will be like. There are so many different scenarios playing in my head right now of how the race is going to play out and go to great lengths to reign in scenarios that involve a negative and or self-defeatist attitude. Aside from really having a strong race, I would like more than anything to enjoy the race. Because I have never been to Washington D.C., and because of my service in the Marine Corps, the significance of the this Marathon is more than just completing 26.2 miles. As I sit here and exhale the heaviness of uncertainty, I really would like to look back on this journey years from now and remember it with a sense of fondness that will uplift my spirit.

During the 26.2 miles, I would like to reflect back on just a few of the various moments along my running journey that have lead to the starting line. Hopefully, these moments will help me cross that finish line feeling proud and knowing I gave it my all without ever looking back and saying, “What-if?”

This picture was captured in the Fall of 2013. My second daughter had turned 1, and I was just done nursing. Despite running years prior to this point, I felt like my running journey was starting from scratch. There had been so many life changes up until this point, and I made a personal commitment to start running and put forth my best foot forward.

You just gotta love Race pictures. This picture was taken in March of 2014. It was my first 1/2 marathon in over two years. It was such a wonderful experience despite the look of pain painted on my face.

Mother’s Day May 2014. This was supposed to be the race to test whether I could pull off a 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours. I came 26 seconds shy with a time of 2:00:36.

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August 2014 and I finally attained my goal of running a 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours with a time of 1:57. This was also my first time racing as part of the Oiselle team.

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February 2015. A surprising half-marathon PR! Without even making an effort to PR, I clocked in 13.1 in 1:50 and shaved off 7 minutes from personal best.

If only I understood the importance of strength training at a much younger age, I would have started decades ago. Now that I know how much of a big difference strength training makes in my life, I make sure to do at least two days of heavy lifting throughout the week. Pictured is one of my favorite lifts – front squats.

Rupturing my plantar fascia was less painful than the disappointment of not being able to race Eugene Marathon four weeks out. I remember how hard I cried and the giant tears rolling down my eyes after so much training. It took almost a month for me to shake off the heartache. This feeling of defeat and impotence will be my biggest source of motivation to fight the demons of negativity throughout the race.

Twenty mile run and a culmination of twenty weeks of training. Inhale….exhale….

Tapping into the Unconscious

Something was awry in my marathon training. Not in the marathon training schedule, but in the performance of every single one of my runs. Since my last 20 mile run over the Labor Day weekend, every single one of my runs have been sluggish, laborious, or just straight out unpleasant. There were a couple of long runs where I even questioned whether I wanted to go through with the marathon and couldn’t comprehend why on Earth I was putting myself through this. It wasn’t until this week that it became clear to me why. First though, let’s take it back to where my conscious struggle began.

Seven Weeks Out

After I did my 20 mile run in the Oregon Coast, I had a 16 mile run scheduled for my long run. Woke up on the morning of Saturday September 12th and I had ZERO motivation to run a mile let alone 16. For the most part, I’ve always found the long slow run exciting because there really is a feeling of runners high that occurs within me. On this particular day though, I was apathetic to everything and anything related to running. And so, instead of completing my run early in the morning like I typically do, I waited. And waited. And waited. I found every excuse in the book to postpone my run. It wasn’t until I exhausted every single excuse in the book of runners who procrastinate that I reluctantly put on my running outfit, my running shoes, my hydration vest, sunscreen, and visor. While I have proclaimed many a times how much l love running when it’s hot, the temperature at the time was 90 degrees despite the fact it was already 5:30 PM! I tried to shake off the funky mood I found myself in and thought perhaps it’d be gone after a couple of miles, but the temperature wasn’t dropping and my mood only got worse with each progressing mile. And because my body can’t seem to function properly when I’m in a negative state of mind, my pace got increasingly slower. With both the mind and body being in cahoots to sabotage the run, all I had left was shear will and determination, but it was definitely inferior to the voices of negativity that gained control of my body. Despite the fact I made a strong attempt to move faster and faster, my body felt like heavy lead and the setting sun that accompanied my vexatious run brought darkness in such haste that I felt like I was standing still while everything around me was spinning. It took two hours, fifty-nine minutes and nine seconds to complete this run. At that point, it was the most taxing run I had ever had on my training schedule.

I got to experience this spectacular sunset during my painful 16 mile run.

Six Weeks Out
It should have been a given that my body was not going to be able to complete 18 miles, but I knew that if I at least did not attempt to run them, I would go to bed with the “What if” feeling. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! I should have listened to my body when it said, “I don’t feel good at all. I just want to sleep and rest.” After fighting it out for two hours, thirty-six minutes, and eight seconds and only having covered 12.67 miles, I waved the white flag and accepted my body could no longer continue. While I was disappointed, I was also extremely relieved. This was my third straight day of hacking up a lung on very little sleep and a lower intake of calories from feeling so sick. After my husband picked me up, I ate a light meal, took a warm shower and went straight to bed. I slept for almost ten hours, which is 3.5 hours more than I sleep per night!! Looking back on this, I really should have stayed home and allowed my body the opportunity to recover. Lesson learned.

Not with me the force was.

Five Weeks Out
I was given a second opportunity to complete the 18 mile run I was unable to complete the week before, and while I was still not 100% (because I failed to give my body the proper rest), I was actually able to complete the full 18. I was slower than I cared for, but the goal was distance, so I consider this a win.

 

I got the opportunity to run a new route and I really liked! There were some pretty amazing views!


Four weeks Out

This week marks four weeks left of Marathon Training. I wrote on my running journal how disappointed I have been with my performance this training cycle and how I am having voices of doubt questioning my ability to complete 26.2 miles within a specified amount of time. So I went back and looked at my previous training runs for Eugene Marathon [ that I never got to fully complete]. That’s when I saw it! It was at seven weeks out that I started feeling an uncomfortable dull pain on the arch of my foot. Thinking it was completely acceptable to feel pain while training for a marathon, I dismissed it and continued with my schedules runs. My last long slow distance mile was an 18 mile run, and I ruptured my plantar fascia five weeks before Eugene Marathon. My next scheduled run was supposed to be a 16 miler, but I never got to it. This is when it became clear to me I was subconsciously worried about the final weeks of marathon training given my previous experience. Because it was such a heartbreaking experience to have trained so hard only to never even make it to the starting line, my mind was in a heightened level of anxiety, and the anxiety manifested itself physically in my runs.

A little flexing after a speed workout.

The GOOD NEWS
I have made it farther into this training cycle than I did for Eugene Marathon, and while I won’t feel like I will be safe to sing victory until I at least get to the starting line of the Marine Corps Marathon, I think it is safe to say I have gotten a monkey off my back. Have you ever experienced anxiety triggered by a past event that has impeded you from performing at your maximum level? How did you overcome your anxiety?

  

18, 20, 14 and Forgiveness

The 20 mile run, in my humble opinion, is the run that legitimizes marathon training. It is the distance you gradually build up to after you pay the hefty marathon registration fees and begin your 20 (or more) week training plan. Two weeks ago, I ran 18 miles under somewhat erratic conditions. The Pacific NW is experiencing heavy drought and we have had numerous fires throughout the summer resulting in unhealthy air conditions. Two of my long runs (14 miler and 16 miler) were ran under these toxic conditions, and it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the skies began clearing and breathing clean air was a little easier.

Unbalanced 18

My 18 miles were quite an ordeal! I started running under cloudy cool skies which then turned into gray stormy skies with small rain drops briefly wetting the pavement my feet were landing on. Finally, there was crazy wind blowing sideways causing stacks of hay and dirt to roll across the road. At one point, the wind was blowing saw hard, I thought a twister was going to form right before my eyes and then my imagination started going wild wondering what my response would be if a twister did form before my eyes. I looked around and noticed there was nowhere for me to take cover and a picture of me and a cow flying in the air flashed before my eyes. For a couple of seconds, I felt my heart pounding really fast and had to quickly bring my mind back to reality and focus on my run. Once I put my imagination in check, I started chuckling at how easily it is to become paranoid and start thinking all sorts of irrational thoughts.

  
Coastal 20

My 20 mile run not only took place along the beautiful Oregon Coast, but I also had the companionship of my husband for 4 out of the 20 miles. My husband is also running Marine Corps Marathon, but because of his demanding work schedule, he has not been able to log the amount of miles I have logged, and unfortunately, his training has been pretty inconsistent. Nonetheless, he is determined to cross the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. His presence during the first four miles definitely helped set a good pace, and I found myself feeling extremely comfortable with a 9:30 pace the first sixteen miles of the run. Then, on mile 17, my hamstrings began screaming, “I’m hurting.” Even though I reminded myself running twenty miles was not supposed to be a comfortable experience, my hamstrings were more sore than the usual. And of course, once the mind receives the message of discomfort from the body, the mental-tug-of-war between quitting and pushing through the pain begins. Yes, I wanted to quit. I wanted to start walking. And I did start walking in order to stretch my legs. Because I know how hard I can be on myself, I had to reign in the negative voices creeping inside my head. I reminded myself this was a training run and that mental training was as critical as the physical training I was exerting into the run. Slowly but surely, I placed one foot in front of the other, reciting positive thoughts.

“The marathon is not supposed to be comfortable. Luisa, you could not run five months ago. People around the world would trade their heartaches and sorrows for your discomfort. You are running the distance people drive to work. I can do all things through Chris who strengthens me.”

The best feeling in the world came when my GPS finally indicated I had finally reached mile 20! I battled it out for 3 hours and 14 minutes and felt victorious despite my bloody blisters and sore hamstrings.

The Oregon Coast in all its Splendor

14 Years of Marriage

On September 8, my husband and I celebrated fourteen years of marriage! We really didn’t do anything to celebrate, so we are planning on celebrating in Washington D.C. and going out as a family to a nice restaurant.

 

My sweetie who is stuck with me for life.

 
Forgiveness

I mentioned on this post how my mother had finally visited me and I am quite certain my tone came off as rather terse or resentful. I’d be lying if I said my little rant wasn’t filled with some resentment. There have been multiple attempts on my part to write about the conflicting relationship my mother and I had growing up and all the pain it has caused me for at least 22 years. Looking back, I am extremely glad I never wrote that post, because unbeknownst to me, the act of forgiving and self-healing was only possible because of my decision to purchase her the round trip ticket to visit me.

 

I love my mama!

 
I don’t want to go into detail about how it happened, simply because it would take away the intimacy of the internal transformation that occurred within my spirit. Furthermore, I don’t know if the epiphany was of any significance to my mother. Thus, I prefer to let the moment permeate my inner being and use it as a force to help me rebuild the relationship I always wanted to have with her. I forgive my mother. I forgive the moments in which she let me down as a child and scarred my heart. I forgive the moments in which she placed her needs above mine and made me feel unworthy. I forgive the moments in which she let herself down and triggered internal fear within me of someday ending up like her. I forgive her for the moments in which she made me feel like my life was more of a nuisance rather than a blessing. I forgive her for the moments in which she never apologized after hurting me deeply with her words or actions. I forgive her because I believe she is sorry but doesn’t know how to say sorry and wants to desperately show me. I forgive her because I believe she did the best she could do for me with the limited amount of tools she had. I forgive her because she and I both need forgiveness in order to get out of the quick sand and continue paving our paths. I forgive her because even though she has never told me she loves me, I truly believe she does. I love my mother, and forgiving her has given me the opportunity to feel congruent. I don’t have to fight my inner demons that for years have resisted thoughts and behaviors that would define me as being exactly like her. As a mother myself, I am no longer afraid to love and raise my children with the irrational belief that if I mess up, it is because I am destined to have the same relationship with my daughters I had with my mother. My mother may not have been the mother I desperately wanted her to be, but she was the best mother she thought she was capable of being. I too will be the best mother I think I can be, and I reckon my daughters at some point of their lives will either embrace or resist what I offer them. Should they choose to resist, I do hope they offer me the gift of forgiveness.

  
Have you ever had to forgive someone who has hurt you but never asked for forgiveness?

Back on the Training Train

Summer, Sunshine, Sweat, and best of all Running!!! Yes, I am now running and have begun training for Marine Corps Marathon. My first official training run began Tuesday June 2; a slow and easy three miles. While there is a desire to push my body harder, I am definitely starting off with low mileage and an easy pace to allow my foot maximum time possible to continue healing. I’ve been issued orthotics for both my feet, and while there is still a slight discomfort present when running, my foot is on the right path to full recovery. My marathon training will once again focus on not only running, but strength training via Crossfit and yoga, as well as walking on rest days, and just plain old fun at the park with my girls.

Sleeveless and leg exposure for the win! I’m so happy warmer temperatures are finally here!

When I set out to run Eugene, I wanted to do my best and quantified it with finishing in under four hours and 20 minutes. There is no doubt in my mind had I not been injured, I would have not only achieved my goal, I would have surpassed it. While completely irrational and superstitious for that matter (which I do not consider myself to be) I can’t help but believe putting a time slot on my performance completely jinxed me and caused the injury. Thus, I am now terrified of even dreaming about a strong finish with Marine Corps Marathon. Maybe it’s because I am not 100% recovered, or because I am afraid of going through another 17 weeks of training to only end up being injured four weeks before the 26.2 performance. Whatever the reason, I am not feeling very confident about my running abilities right now. This feeling is extremely frustrating, because it pushes me inside a box full of fear and suppresses the idea that dreams are possible. Perhaps the feeling will change in the next month or two when I have built up the strength and endurance to go further or faster. Yes, I am grateful to be able to run again, grateful that I have the freedom to do so, grateful my injury was small in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, I am still hungry for a strong performance in the marathon distance.

I’m avoiding running on concrete for as long as I can and while not very exciting, running around the track has reduced the shock and impact on my injured arch.

Running has not been the only way I’ve kept active. I have also been keeping myself on the move by walking our dog every morning and averaging at least three miles each day. Depending on how distracted or not my dog is, we are completing our three-mile walks in under an hour. Our fastest three-mile was done in under 45 minutes, and our slowest has been around 54 minutes. I’d like to see how fast we can power walk and beat our under 45 minute mark.

My dog Jake, who is governed by scents and food.

Crossfit has also been consistently on my schedule of workouts, and last week, I managed to do five consecutive Crossfit workouts. I don’t think I have ever done five straight Crossfit workouts in one week, so this was quite an accomplishment for me. Because the running miles have been low (11 miles total per week), I am seizing the opportunity to lift heavy before the weeks with high mileage begin. I do love Crossfit, but I have avoided doing five workouts per week not only because sore muscles make running extremely painful, but because some of the workouts require such a high  number of repetitions, some of them end up leaving me with pain that make my training runs extremely painful. There are some people I work out with that six days of Crossfit a week works for them, but I have come to learn that my body is different and prefers four Crossfit work out days maximum. Crossfit definitely pushes me mentally and forces me to step outside of my comfort zone. When my body feels like it cannot do an extra repetition, I visualize myself at the 20 mile mark of my marathon and remind myself that the extra repetition, no matter how painful, will help get me across the finish line strong. My mental training is one factor I have been diligently working on, as I feel that it can work against me even when I am feeling strong.

Flexing and working on muscle gains since it is evident for me that my legs are slimmer than I would like them to be. 

Furthermore, I’ve been spending at least two hours a day at the park with my daughters in order to get them out of the house while keeping my sanity for the Summer season. While they slide, swing, argue, cry, yell, and repeat the cycle, I try to practice some yoga poses. I’m definitely not even remotely close to considering myself a yoga enthusiast, but there are some challenging poses I’ve enjoyed trying. Some are good for stretching, while others seem just outright impossible. Yoga has never really been my cup of tea because the pace seems rather slow for me. A shooting heart rate and perspiration feels more challenging and satisfying than a methodical approach to a specific move. However, it is because of the specific aforementioned reasons that I am taking the time to do Yoga. It is a way to not only allow my muscles to recover while strengthening them, but allow my mind to slow down and focus. This comes in handy when I am running and losing my form or thinking too far ahead of the race. It is a way to enjoy mile twenty-one as much as mile one.

I love backbends! Not only do I feel it stretches all my sore muscles, I also feel five inches taller once I’m done.

Last but certainly not least, I have been putting a strong emphasis on of my biggest areas of weakness when it comes to training: food. When it comes to lack of discipline in eating, I am a good example. I pretty much each when I want, what I want, and as much as I want. I am not saying this to brag, I am saying this because once I the injury forced me to stop running, I started writing down what I was eating and noticed just how heavily carb-loaded my food intake was. More than 50% of my caloric intake were carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread, muffins, beans), followed by healthy fats (I was consuming at least two avocados a day and spreading coconut oil on most of my breads) and very little fruits and vegetables. While I felt like I was burning off all the calories running six days a week and justified my eating habits, once I stopped running, I had a hard time curbing the carbs and fats. Thus, I have put a strong emphasis on consuming more greens and reducing the amount of carbs – at least until I start running more than 11 miles a week.

I love good fats and I cannot lie!!

One final last but not least, here is a pretty awesome schedule (if I have to say so myself)  of my upcoming races:

June 19-20 – Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay in Utah. I will be traveling to Utah and joining eleven women I have never met before and traversing 203 miles of beautiful scenery! How exhilarating!

August 1 – Catherine Creek Classic Half Marathon. This was the half-marathon where I completed 13.1 miles in under two hours. Ten weeks ago, I would have made it a goal to break 1:50 in this course, but today, I am going to enjoy 13.1  miles without any time pressure. It will also be my first half-marathon since February’s half-marathon where I PR’d.

August 7-8 – Elkhorn Relay. This is a local relay race and it is the first one in the Blue Mountains. It will consist of 11 runners (not including myself) and it is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous scenery of Eastern Oregon. Best part, the entry fee was only $40, a steal for races of this magnitude.

October 25 – Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. This race will be so symbolic and I find myself not wanting to say too much about it because I do not want to do anything that may hinder me getting to the starting line, so I am proceeding with caution.

What are your Summer Plans? Do you have any upcoming races? Do you ever think you jinx yourself or are superstitious about something? How do you train for a marathon?

The Five Stages of (Running Injury) Grief

 

The mind is powerful. So powerful indeed that it cannot be replicated. While progress has been made throughout the years to understand how our mind functions when resolving conflict, solving problems, and making decisions, the research of how and why we do what we do has not proven to be an exact science; suggesting we still have so much more to learn about the human psyche.

In college, I first learned about the Five Stages of Grief developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss medical doctor who spent time working with individuals facing death. In her time with these patients, she recognized terminally ill people share a cycle of emotions which became to be known as the Grief Cycle. The emotions of the Grief Cycle though, may be also relevant to the various experiences we can face in our day-to-day life, such as an impending divorce, a forced career change, loss of faith, and in my case, a running injury.

Denial

It was Monday, day one of my 17th week of Eugene Marathon Training. Something was awry with my left foot, but I ignored it believing it was due to fatigue from Saturday’s 20 mile run (training week 16, which I have yet to post). When Wednesday rolled around, and I barely finished what was supposed to be a very easy five mile run, I should have made the decision to skip Thursday’s scheduled 8 mile run. 

On Thursday, I woke up determined to redeem myself from Wednesday’s treacherous run. I spent the entire morning reciting positive statements, and I spent 20 minutes doing yoga moves that really made me believe my foot pain was just a fluke. When I laced up my shoes and set off for my 8 mile run, the first 4 miles told me I had made the right decision and confirmed Wednesday’s run was just an “off” run. 

When the fifth mile rolled along, I immediately felt overjoyed thinking my blog post for marathon training week 17 would be filled with a story of redemption. Except, the vision of redemption turned blurry on mile 5.35, when something in my left foot collapsed. Still unwilling to accept that something was wrong, I yelled to myself, “Your foot is fine!” Instead of stopping immediately, I told myself to continue running until I reached 5.5 miles. I was unwilling to accept any kind of running injury after 16.5 weeks of diligent training! With less than 5 weeks remaining until the Eugene Marathon, I was not going to entertain the idea something was wrong. Denial, according to my thinking, was far better for my mental health than coping with the scary reality of an injury. 

Anger

When I reached 5.55 miles, and felt significant pain on my arch and around the outside edge of my foot, giant rage-filled tears flooded my eyes. Not only was I hurting, but I could barely walk. I hobbled to my tub and soaked my feet in frozen water. I began sobbing uncontrollably and cussing at my deformed feet. I despised them for being so weak. Unkind words and thoughts consumed my mind for believing I could actually be capable of finishing a marathon in a less than stellar time. The tears got hotter and rolled down with much strength thinking about my blog and how foolish it was of me to blog about my marathon training journey. I was an ordinary person trying to complete a distance in an ordinary time. My rage served as an armor to protect what was the inevitable.

Bargaining 

I should have listened to my body on Monday.”

“Perhaps it would have all been different had I not gone through so many different pairs of shoes.”

“Was I too ambitious with my training and pushed too hard? Maybe I should have been more conservative with my training?”

“Please God don’t let this be serious. I promise if you heal this right away, I’ll stop running for a month.”

Many should haves, ifs and maybes rushed my mind all at once as I stood in the shower, refusing to surrender to the thought that all my hard work was going down the drain. Perhaps there was still a way to salvage it. I made secret deals with God about buying less shoes, or not entering any more races after the year was over. I promised him I would be a better wife and mother, and I would be more humble with others in return for an opportunity to continue training.

I strongly felt I could change what had happened and go back to the Monday that set off the series of events. If I could just get a second chance, I wouldn’t have to face the reality of what was happening.

Depression

I spent the entire day Friday crying, feeling hopeless, and sorry for myself. Had it not been for my daughters present at home, I probably would have spent the entire day sleeping. I tried to remind myself I was blessed, that people were in far worse situations than the one I found myself in. However, logic could not help me shake off the sadness and disappointment entrenched within my spirit. Up to this week, marathon training had fully consumed me. At night, I would rest my head with visions of crossing the finish line in under 4:20. In my vision, my hands would raise up in the air to demonstrate the feelings of triumph and disbelief. Now though, I felt insipid for my conjuring such a vision. My path was muddled and I could no longer see where my training was headed. Furthermore, it was clear at this point I was not going to be able to put in the 17 miles scheduled for Saturday. To make matters worse, the two podiatrists in the city were not available until Wednesday. The walk-in clinic was closed, and I could not access a primary care physician unless they had a release of information from my previous doctor. So here I was, sitting on the couch, depending on my 11-year-old daughter to help me get through the day because I was completely useless. When 9 pm rolled around, I was ready to sleep for as long as the night would allow me.

Acceptance

It was still dark out when I opened my eyes. I dreamt of Jonathan Knight, who is a member of a 90’s boy band known as New Kids on the Block (NKOTB). I was so infatuated with NKOTB, I’d get into verbal spats with anyone who dared say anything negative about them. 

NKOTB Rule according to adolescent me!

The dream must have awaken me because I recall hugging Jon and forgiving him. What exactly I was forgiving him for I could not tell you, but it must have been something that really hurt me because I recall feeling relieved. 

When I reached for my phone, the time read 3:08 am. As I lay still in the darkness, there was a spark within me that lit up my soul. Perhaps there was some symbolism to the dream, because I went back to bed with hope and a plan. Even though I would not be able to run 17 miles, I was still capable of doing other things to cross train. I decided I was going to row 20,000 meters. I was done feeling sorry for myself. Yes, my foot was hurt, but the rest of my body was intact. With four weeks of marathon training left, I still had the opportunity to recover. Maybe I won’t be able to finish my marathon in 4:20 like I initially wanted, but I could still finish mentally and physically strong, which has been my goal all along.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Marathon Training: Week 15

SPRING BREAK! The morning chaos was on hiatus this week. My husband asked for the week off, so it made for an extra sweet week having him home as well. Three of my mornings were filled with Crossfit and I got to run outside 5 out of 6 days! This was an awesome 15th week of Marathon Training! Only seven more weeks to go.

Monday

Four miles. Did Crossfit in the morning and immediately headed out for a four mile easy run. My Crossfit friend, Bene, ran one mile with me and I had three morning miles to myself.

  

Tuesday

Seven and a half miles. Did Crossfit in the morning, went back home to switch out shoes, and took a couple of breaths before heading out to the track. The weather was miserable – rain, crazy winds, and cold. I felt great once my run was over. I was also really hungry, and made one of my favorite meals: pancakes!

  

Wednesday 

Five miles. Did Crossfit in the morning and once again, headed outside to complete five slow miles. 

My sister-in-law, her husband and my nephews visited us from Seal Rock, Or for the first part of the week, so we took them to see Wallowa Lake on Tuesday afternoon. The lake was empty, so we had a chance to explore and enjoy it all to ourselves!

  

  

Thursday

Nine miles. My husband and I decided to head out to the Oregon Coast on Wednesday afternoon, and I didn’t start my nine mile run until almost 9 am. Opted to complete this long run on the treadmill because I figured it would pressure me to go faster, and it did. Once my run was over, I rushed into the shower and we took the long way to the Oregon Coast.

Because I’ve been pining to visit the Painted Hills since moving to Eastern Oregon, my husband thought this was the perfect opportunity! Wish we would have had the whole day to explore, because it was absolutely beautiful!

  

Friday

Four miles. Not only did I get the opportunity to run in the Oregon Coast, I got a chance to run with my husband! My legs were hurting after yesterday’s nine mile run and sitting in a vehicle for more than 12 hours!

  

We wanted to explore the coast, so we ventured out to Cape Perpetua. The weather was what I consider stereotypical Oregon Coast weather: rain, wind, and fog.

  

Mentally prepared on Friday night for the twenty miles waiting for me on Saturday morning. I also physically prepared with a massive pasta, grilled chicken, broccoli, spinach, fresh tomatoes, and pico de gallo (for salsa) dinner meal! 

  

Saturday

Twenty miles!!!! These twenty miles had been on my radar since training day 1! There were all sorts of mixed feelings. Excitement and uncertainty were the most dominant feelings rushing through my mind and body. How would my body respond? Would I lose my mental bearing and end up walking? There was only one way to find out.

  

Water, Nuun Energy Tablets, Huma Energy Gels, and banana walnut cookie were in my Orange Mud water pack. 

After going back and forth on the course, I finally decided to run my 20 miles on the Newport Marathon course. The Newport Marathon was the first marathon I ever ran (2010). That experience was humbling, humiliating, and infuriating. There were probably more tears and blisters than there was sweat throughout my body. Because I failed to properly train and having only run 10 miles (on the treadmill) as my longest run, I suffered times ten the mental and physical anguish along every step of the course. After the first 16 miles, all I could think of doing was quitting. I think the hundreds of people who passed me along the way felt sorry for me and tried to encourage me to finish.

This time around, I wanted to redeem myself for at least 20 miles of the course. Most importantly though, I really wanted to ENJOY myself.

 

The first  six miles were spent messing with my gear. I had to stop and tie my shoe. Subsequently, a giant black cloud dumped water along the course and I had to waterproof my smart phone because I was not expecting rain. At mile 5.5, the rain had stopped, the sun made its presence, and the humidity was thick, so I stopped again to take off my jacket and tie it on a bungee cord attached to my water pack.

  

It took a good six miles to mentally settle down and find my stride. Once I did, my run was nothing but pure pleasure! I was able to observe the beauty of the course that I failed to enjoy back in 2010. The weather, the water, the breeze, the views, they were with me with each stride, and I felt like I belonged out there. So many times I’ve put myself down for being slow and feeling like I was a phony runner. Today though, I felt so much grace. I had the opportunity to reflect on how my mind and body had evolved into a stronger, sharper vessel. What was more amazing was the discovery that I finally felt like I could tame the negative voices inside my head. For years I berated myself. For years I felt like I was never good enough. With each and every task I endeavored, I wanted to prove something to others: my self worth, my mental aptitude, my charming personality. And despite all the efforts I placed on external approvals, I never seemed to fulfill the shallow void of impressing others in order to be liked and accepted.

  

The negative voices though were not present this time around. In fact, they’ve been absent for some time now. It’s become clear to me I can disown the voices as easily as I own them. As far as running is concerned, there will always be someone faster and stronger than me. But my goal has never been to be the fastest or the strongest. It’s always been to be the fastest and strongest me. And regarding approval, it’s only I who can approve of how valuable I choose to be. At the end of my life, I will be held accountable not so much by how hard I tried to impress others, but by how I treated others. I loved how these twenty miles proved to me that I’m on the right path!!!

 

 In 2010, I crossed the Newport Marathon in 5:46 minutes. Today, I ran twenty miles in 3:26! This means even if I were to have walked the last 6.2 miles of the marathon, I probably still would have crossed the finish line stronger than I did in 2010.