where is the line?

I’m thankful I was able to run with + support someone who means a whole lot to me today. I have been coaching Beth for the last few months and she never ceases to amaze me.
A “kind-hearted badass” with an incredible mindset, Beth is a dear friend to all as well as a determined and passionate leader. She stepped up and stuck to her training while also opening a new biz with her husband Kevin in downtown Raleigh and working another job simultaneously.
We had a LOT to celebrate today. Her first big goal race of the year got cancelled, but today she showed up and ran it anyway because that is what felt right to her. Kevin mapped out a loop she and two friends could do 5 times, and had music, cowbells and water bottles waiting for them each time they came through. It was awesome! When they crossed the chalk-drawn finish, they were given handmade medals. Beth rocked her goal of breaking 2 hours and finished in 1:55! ❤️👊🏻💥
Here’s the thing, though: I debated whether or not to go. This virus outbreak has me feeling all sorts of anxiety and uncertainty about simple choices that are usually so obvious to me. I feel strongly that I need to be even MORE careful as I do my part to stop its aggressive spread. Ultimately I decided it was such a small group (I mean, the grocery store is more dangerous, I think?) and that I would be mindful and careful. And I was! But then I put my arm around Beth for this happy photo which I LOVE but also makes me wonder was that irresponsible? Was taking a picture like this irresponsible right now? This is the world we are living in at the moment….
I wonder now … was that foolish? Where is the line and is it possible to avoid crossing it before it’s too late?

I’m not beating myself up over it, but I do want to share because:

1. This taught me it might not be realistic to still think we can get together to run, even in small groups, and NOT wind up taking risks unintentionally that put others potentially in vulnerable positions, and
2. We make mistakes! Humans are great at that. The mistake thing, I mean. Most of us are trying our best, I believe, but without super-clear guidelines – and guidelines that are changing day by day – and with something so new and so crazy, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s best. Restaurants and stores are still open, studios are still having small classes, etc… it’s confusing to me and I think to many others.
After the run, I realized no matter what anyone else thinks, I felt like I made a mistake. As much as I so badly want to run with my friends right now and support my athletes in person whenever I can, this doesn’t feel like what’s best for the GREATER GOOD at the moment.
And that matters a whole lot.
We will get there. Let’s hang on and keep moving forward doing what we truly feel is best. I think, pray, hope and BELIEVE that the more closely we are able to adhere to the #socialdistancing and #stayhome mindset, the sooner these things won’t be necessary anymore. ❤️ I will run alone for a bit, and connect more with others online and over the phone for now.
What do you think? How are you feeling?

a hiccup on the way to Indy

Two weeks ago I was finishing up the cool down of my run after a hard workout, and out of the blue my right knee started hurting me. It was a burning pain, on the inside just below the kneecap. A sharp signal from my body, demanding a change. Demanding that I STOP running. I felt that instant rock-in-the-throat feeling. What. Is. This. Really, we can be fine one moment, in fact we can feel amazing, and then in the next – BOOM – not fine. I stopped immediately, massaged and stretched and walked a little. The pain went away like magic, but returned the second I tried to run again. The run was over. I cut it short. It is not ever worth it to me to run in pain like that.

Could training really just be totally side-swiped like this? I mean, I have been dedicated to all the things – daily Pilates and PT work, daily foam rolling, dedication to a pre-run activation routine … I eat and sleep and rest as best I can while still feeling like I have a pretty healthy balance. I acknowledge that there is room for improvement, but this was such a blow. I held my head up high and walked back to my car. On the way, I started googling this knee pain because it didn’t seem familiar to me and typically I have not been one to have joint issues thus far in my life. I wanted to solve it on my own and understand what was going on here. Was it my calf? My hamstring? My psoas? Ugh. I called my PT before I even made it to my car and got on his calendar for the next morning. Decided to rest. And hope for the best.

The next day I saw my PT Lee and he explained that it isn’t actually my knee that is hurting. It’s a bursa called the PES ANSERINE. A couple of the hamstring muscles and a quad muscle all kind of intersect there and that area was inflamed. It was good I stopped running when I did. He gave me some needles and taped me up and told me not to worry too much, that I would be ok. Since then, it has whispered to me but not screamed, and I am being mindful to tend to it with exercises, stretching, rolling and just listening to my body. I thankfully haven’t had to modify my training at all so far because of it, but I have felt less confident at times. It shook me. At the same time I do feel empowered by this happening because I am now even more in tune with my body and am more purposeful with strengthening the areas that need extra help.

This happening really is a reminder that we just have to be in the moment. If we worry about “what-ifs” too much, we definitely aren’t enjoying the here and now and can ruin our experience. I have to keep trusting in myself and my path – and that if for some reason my body can’t hold up to the load I am asking of it, I will know how to adjust and take care of myself and keep my priorities in check. Because I just really want to have a great race in Indy in 7 weeks and that will first and foremost require being heathy and durable. I truly have been enjoying this training so much. Feeling strong and hopeful. Man, I wanna RACE that marathon!! It’s been so long since I have felt this good and I so want to celebrate it with a strong race on November 9th!!

The little things

Yesterday I went for my run in the late morning after getting everyone off to school. It was really hot and sticky out – by 9am around here at this time of year it’s just how it goes. I am really looking forward to the cooler temps rolling in; I think that will completely change how I feel about having to go later than sunrise. My miles yesterday were all to be easy effort – so I decided to listen to a podcast which usually keeps me pretty mellow. I found one interviewing James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits that I mentioned yesterday. The podcast was called “Ten Perfect Happier” with Dan Harris – I later learned that he wrote a book by the same name about his meditation practice and how it has helped him cope with anxiety and addictions and other aspects of his mental health. I enjoyed listening to this conversation about how to cultivate better habits (and eliminate bad ones!) in lasting ways in our lives. Ultimately to work towards being the best version of ourselves, improving who we are and our quality of life. The concept of each one of our actions being like a tiny vote we are casting for ourselves really resonated with me. It’s the idea that little things matter, that they are almost ALL that matter – we don’t necessarily feel the changes overnight but if we keep going, keep choosing well for ourselves, keep picking ourselves up when we falter, we will transform and we will get somewhere better. Not entirely unlike training for a marathon, right?

I have been thinking about the cultivation of habits a lot lately. There are some I have in my life that I really love, that feel like ME, and that I know I’ve worked hard to do regularly and make a part of who I am and how I DO life – running is one of them, my Pilates practice (which I do for a min of 5 minutes a day and I know helps me even when it’s only 5 minutes), drinking water … but there are areas that I feel I want to work to incorporate more good habits into my life (such as reducing social media consumption, putting my phone AWAY at night, and just being more mindful/intentional with that, reading more books, making time to create (draw, needlepoint), writing, and getting two strength workouts in each week).

Mr. Clear said to start by aiming for 2 MINUTES of doing something you want to make into a habit. It sounds so TEENY and pointless but he swears it makes a difference. He said you have to ESTABLISH a practice before you can work on IMPROVING at it. That makes sense to me. So it’s like rather than trying to eat the whole elephant you just take little bites. Rather than saying you’re going to run a marathon, you run just one more mile. And the next thing you know, all those daily tiny steps you’ve been taking have made you a marathoner. It’s who you are.

Habits are all about consistency, or they wouldn’t be habits at all – they would just be something you do every now and then. So start small. I do believe in that. It’s so much less overwhelming when you think about it that way, too. Here’s to a new day, and to doing the little things that make us feel better, be better.

New routine, where are you?

Robert flew to Atlanta yesterday afternoon for work travel for a few days. Work travel for him is going to likely become more of our “new normal,” along with many other changes to our routine this fall (new school schedules – 3 kids 3 schools 3 commutes, new sports schedules – 3 kids, 3 teams … 3 practices for one, 3 practices and a game for another, 2 practices for another just between M-Th). I am not begrudging any of it, really, because it is all for very good reasons and the adjustments while hard are not impossible. I think I am just ready for a routine and rhythm and am struggling to figure out a way to establish that. This morning I was on facebook (probably not the best way to start my day, I admit!) because I was curious about Jacki Carr’s book club book choice this month. It’s called Atomic Habits (James Clear) and is apparently all about how we can create better systems for ourselves to help us achieve our goals. That it’s not that we are lazy or unmotivated – oftentimes it’s more a matter of having a bad system/structure for our daily doings. The thing is, one of the habits I want to cultivate more of in my life is reading books. Yet I am basically failing miserably at that. Sitting down to read sounds/feels like such an indulgent luxury for me right now, and when I do carve out the time for it, I feel like I should be doing something else and have a hard time focusing or allowing myself to just dive in. So I have stacks of partly-started or near-finished books on my nightstand and in various areas of my house … the thought of ordering another one just makes my stomach hurt. I thought maybe I would do the audiobook instead, and listen to it while I run on easy days? But for a book like that I think it would probably be more helpful to actually READ because I imagine I would want to highlight/underline stuff. But maybe not.

My morning routine is sacred typically but I’ve lost my roots with it lately and feel frazzled. This morning Gus was up just before 5am, Abby was up shortly after, the dog needed to go out … and now it’s almost 6:30 and she is already on the bus, Gus is dressed and ready for school (despite my efforts to get him back to sleep) and is practicing his scooter tricks in the garage at the moment…seriously I do not know where he gets the energy but it does probably mean he will be tanking hard by the time dinner rolls around (and at that time I will be taking him with me to Will’s soccer practice which goes from 7-8:30pm… so it will be a long day). I just heard Will’s alarm go off, so he will be down here soon.

I think that’s the thing right now – the morning is chaotic and by the time everyone gets off to school I am here with a long to do list, chores, work and wanting to fit a run in too. I have to get everything done by 2pm because that’s when my carpool driving kicks off. I am home from that today around 4pm (yes, 2 hours in the car driving all over Raleigh!) and then take Abby to cheer at just after 5pm, and we leave for Will’s soccer at 6:30pm. I have to figure out dinner for everyone too. Gah. It’s a lot and I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it all and figuring out how to feel both relaxed and at peace AND productive and able to get everything, or at least enough, done. It used to be that my morning sunrise miles kind of set the tone for the rest of the day, and as crazy as the day would get later I would feel this sense of inner peace and calm because I had carved that out and gotten it done. Now I can’t usually leave for my run until 9ish, and often later than that and I am feeling anxious about getting the run done in time so I can accomplish my responsibilities with work and family things I have to do before 2pm. But it is a priority and I know I am probably blowing a lot of this out of proportion. I need to break it down and then I feel better.

Anyways, it is what it is and I will figure it out! I think step one right now is accepting that this is how it is and embracing it. Looking at the blocks of time that I do have and making a plan and sticking to it. Identifying the roadblocks, the things that suck my energy and willpower and make me feel less than capable…so I can anticipate them and give myself some tools for thinking beyond them. Maybe I will get that book after all lol.

Have you read Atomic Habits? How do you structure your morning routine? Do you have teenage kids? This is harder than I expected it would be both logistically and emotionally, but I know that it’s not impossible!

If you’ve read this far, thank you! It feels good to journal here and just get things out 🙂 Have a great day!

XO Jess

Wake up and write

Two months from today I will run my 21st marathon. That’s the plan. It’s what I’ve been working for all summer, kind of all year, from a running perspective.

Things are different this fall. I have a high schooler, for one. She wakes up at 5:15 and we are walking to the bus stop together by 6. I decided to trade in the pre-dawn running routine I’ve been at for the last several years so I can instead be home for her. She doesn’t really want to talk much that early in the morning, but says it’s nice to have my company. I enjoy it too. I get home from the bus stop at about 6:20 to a quiet house. My middle schooler will be up soon, so this quiet time in the kitchen alone is here just for me to fill however feels right. So … I thought … maybe I should try writing now?

When I went to Bird Camp a few weeks ago, Lauren Fleshman mentioned something about what she calls “wild writing” – I think the idea is we write uncensored for a set aside period of time and don’t criticize it or try to polish it or make it “just so” … and then maybe something will come of it that will feel right and help us process or get more clear. Honestly I think part of what holds me back from practicing writing is feeling like I am not good at it and nobody will want to read it, and also not having the time to do it. Once Will is up and down here and needs me, Gus is up shortly after that and then the day gets busy. So maybe this early morning time is the best option for me. It’s quiet. I’m alone. So anyway here I am.

So two months from today I will run my next marathon. Training has been going well. I am feeling strong, feeling capable. The last few weeks my mileage has been around the 60 mile/week range and my long run has been 16-17ish miles long. I am getting into the gritty endurance building work. It’s hard, and satisfying. I know I am lucky to be able to work like this, and to feel progress especially considering the road I have taken to get here. About 8 years ago, I started really seeing progress with my running. Those were weird and exciting days but also dangerous – every race was a new PR and I was losing minutes as well as inches and pounds at a pretty astonishing rate. It was reckless, and ultimately resulted in me fraying at the seams, my body waving a white flag. Thankfully I woke up to my destructive behavior before things got too bad – I worked with both a nutritionist and a therapist to repair my body and heal thinking and behavior patterns/habits that hurt me and the people who loved me.

Now I am running strong again, and making very different choices around my running and my life. I don’t know if I will ever run as fast as I did when I was unhealthy. I used to think that was the goal, that if I could do that I would be able to prove to myself and anyone else who can relate or who is stuck thinking they need to be extreme to succeed in this sport, that it’s possible to come back from overtraining and under eating and run your fastest – even in your 40s – without returning to such extremes. I still want to strive for that if I am being honest, but the numbers aren’t necessarily going to tell the whole story and I know that. I think this training cycle is showing me it is possible for the numbers to reflect it though, eventually – I am running strong and not having any GI issues while running, which is H U G E L Y different from my running during those years when I was 25 pounds lighter than I am now! My marathon pace right now is somewhere around 7:45ish, even in the heat I am capable of that right now so with ~7ish weeks more of hard training to go (taking 2 for taper, I am guessing?) plus the weather cooling I think that’s realistic and perhaps conservative for an ideal day. I think my pace for my PR marathon was something like 7:20…so surely I have more work to do to change the numbers, if that were the goal, but I believe if I can stay healthy, do the work and be patient … IT IS POSSIBLE. No matter what though, I am enjoying the heck out of the journey even with the road bumps. I feel present and happy and healthy for it and that is not something I could say with honesty several years ago. And THAT is the stuff that REALLY matters. The biggest point to make with this, for myself and anyone else, is that we can return to running well and doing hard honest training without being reckless or harming our bodies or mental health!

Alrighty, time’s up. I feel like I ripped off the writing band aid. Will try again tomorrow.

Happy Monday!