Friday, April 29, 2011

Back in it

My relationship with running has been a little weird this past week. The tapering (backing off on mileage) has been an interesting mental game. I am only running 8 miles where I once did 20, only 6 where I once did 10, only 3 where I once did 5. It's not that I'm obsessed with distance, but it is a weird mental game to have increasing mileage be the goal for 16 weeks and then all of a sudden, when the strong mentality really counts, to start feeling like 8 miles is long, like 3 is enough. I have to do 26.2 miles in a week and my brain is not in that mode right now. I think the 12 miles that seemed super long at the farm might have been part of the problem. After all, 12 is less than half, but it was one of the hardest runs that I've had mentally when I had expected it to be almost easy.

Well, I did my final long run of this training yesterday, 8 miles. I found a new path in my town a few weeks ago, so after a little investigation, I mapped a new run in a neighborhood I have never had access to before, because the roads were too busy and not sidewalked (except the one path I just found). It was fun to explore something so close to home, yet so new. About 5 miles in, I decided that I felt really good, so I was going to pick up the pace a bit. It ended up being my fastest 8 mile run by a few minutes with my fastest mile times since I got my watch that keeps track of pace. It was fun to feel like I was in the zone again after a funky week. It felt awesome to be able to go faster and not need to slow back down. And I think I do have to credit the tapering for the ability to feel so fresh. I'm hoping that the next 8 days of very little running continue to refresh these legs so that I feel that good during the marathon, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Convoy of Hope in Japan

Here is a video from Convoy of Hope, one of Feed My Starving Children's partners who is working in Japan. The video shows some interesting and sad pictures from Japan, and shows some of our food arriving.

Pictures Remind Me of My Motivation

These are some of my favorite pictures from the Feed My Starving Children website.

Sometimes my job at FMSC is tiring or starts to feel like just another job. It's pictures like these that remind me that what I do is just a step somewhere in the middle of a large process, and the process ends with children who ordinarily wouldn't have any food being able to eat today...and tomorrow...and the next day...

The last picture always reminds me of a child I worked with in Bolivia. The two little girls look so similar, and it is a good reminder that the kids we feed come from all walks of life, but it is not their fault that they don't get the proper nutrition.

These kids are the reason I do what I do, and they are the reason for all this blogging. If you have .24 you would like to donate so that a child like these can eat for a day (or you can donate more, of course), click on my ChipIn on the right or go back to my first post in this series.

The Emerald Wizard

The Emerald Wizard is my new watch. Yes, I named it. No, I don't normally name things that aren't alive. But this one gets a name. And it is incredible.

My new watch is a Garmin Forerunner 405. It knows the time and date and the length of time I have been running, like any running watch. It also knows my pace, my average pace, it tells me how many calories I have burned (I think that is a guess, because I don't know how it would know that), my heartrate, my elevation, my pace, it can track a course and get me back to my starting point, it can tell me exactly how far I've gone (that is my favorite feature), and it keeps track of all the miles I have ever run with it. It also works for biking and other activities. It automatically speaks with my computer and inputs today's data when it is within a meter of the computer and I have the flash drive in my computer. Then it moves today's data to storage and clears the screen for the next time I want to use it. It has a touch screen of sorts and various displays so I can see the information that I want to see when I am running.

It does even more than this, but I can't remember everything and I figure you probably skimmed over the last paragraph anyway. This was a gift, and it was one of the best gifts ever. I am so thankful to have it, and it has already changed some of the ways I mentally categorized running. I love it, love it, love it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oops! I forgot to train on hills!

In the beginning of my training, I moved the week around so that when following the schedule I have my long runs on Thursday instead of Saturday. This has worked out well for me because I have had class on Thursday nights, which has meant that I have not had to work on a Thursday this whole semester. Since my work days are not your normal 9-5, and I am usually on my feet running around like a maniac for hours on end at work, I either count work days as a rest day or a cross training day. Sometimes I have been able to squeeze a run in before or after an event day, but I typically only need to once or maybe twice in a work weekend.

This past Thursday I didn't have class, so my mom and I went to my Grandpa's farm. I have gone running there numerous times in the past. However, on my past runs there, I was usually training for a half marathon rather than a full marathon. This meant that those runs were shorter, even though at the time, they may have been the longest I'd ever run. I remember they seemed long at the time.

So this week's long run of 12 miles was done at the farm on dirt and gravel roads that wind between fields and woods. It is a beautiful area. The run felt super long, which I blame on being in a different place than usual and never having run so long in this area, even though compared to my 20 miles last week, it was only a medium run. I also tend to think of the area as fairly flat, but it isn't. There are some pretty massive dips and climbs, put there by the old strip mines for coal. There were four places where all I could see was a wall of road looming up above me, which was preceded by a steep downhill. On one downhill, my shoes were sliding on the gravel and I was sure I was going to slip and fall on my rear end. Is this where "bite the dust" comes from? The uphills weren't as awful as they looked, but I was definitely aware that I have not had hills in my training runs thus far. I live in flat Chicagoland. Aside from the trash dumps, which I cannot and would not run on, I know of only one rise substantial enough to be called a hill within a 10 mile radius. If I ran there, I would be running in circles barely bigger than my basement circle. Ok, a little bigger than that, but still. The hills near the farm, though, have shown me that maybe a loop around and around this hill would be worth it so I at least know how to run hills.

The big question in my mind now is: Are there hills on my marathon loop? There shouldn't be too many and they shouldn't be too huge if they do exist, but I am a little nervous to find out!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

20 miles, reaching goals, changing me

SUPERFICIAL UPDATE: I finished my biggest week of training successfully! It was a great week. I was able to get in all of my runs, I had a fantastic 10 miler, and the 20 mile run was much better than I anticipated. I spent it mostly listening to my special long run playlist full of my favorite tunes. I also spent the time thinking about life, which I often do while running, which is one of the reasons why I like running.

A LITTLE BIT DEEPER UPDATE: I realized during my 20 mile run that only a year ago I was just beginning my masters program, felt torn between two worlds with culture shock and the adjustment back into the United States, and wasn't running or exercising much at all. A year ago I still felt new in my job and felt like I had FOREVER left to go in meeting my next goal of getting a teaching certificate...which was frustrating because I felt like I was trapped until I completed it.

Now I am almost done with my masters/teaching certificate. I have two more classes over the summer, then student teaching, then I am "free". (I don't necessarily feel so trapped anymore, but it will be nice not to be in school anymore). I have gone from being unsure if I am a runner, unsure if I can be worthy of that name anymore, unsure if I can handle running at feeling like a runner and living like a runner. I don't even know what definition I place behind that word anymore, but today I would say that I am a runner, and I am proud of that again.

However, these accomplishments over the last year, none of which have a tangible end yet, are signs of a deeper change as well. I'm not married, I don't have kids, I don't have a full time job, and I have spent my adult life doing things that I feel passionate about and led to do. I have done a lot of experiencing, but I never felt like I had done a lot of "growing up." While I still haven't taken on those large responsibilities of raising a family, (although I have taken on the large responsibility of student loans ;-), I do feel like I have come into my own a little bit more this past year and a half. I'm starting to feel like I have a better understanding of what I am capable of, and I feel like I fit into my own skin a little bit better. I don't know quite how to describe it, but as I ran 20 miles on Thursday, striving to accomplish something I've never done before, nor never thought I could do, I realized that I am stronger than I knew.

I also realized that this potential lies in everyone. While I do believe that most anyone COULD run or walk a marathon, that's not exactly what I am talking about. I mean that you have the potential to be things you only dreamed about, to do things you wanted to but never thought you could. You have this potential. So what stops us? While I do see so many people who dream their dreams, work super hard to accomplish them, and then enjoy that success, the reality is that I also encounter many people who don't believe that THEY could ever do this.

"That's good for you, but I could never do that," I have heard said.

No? Do you mean that you could never run a marathon, or you could never dream something, work really hard, make the mental switch somewhere along the way, and realize that you in fact had that potential the whole time?

I spoke to a man today who had been trying to lose weight for years, and now he needs to because he is super close to being diagnosed with diabetes. He is opting not to have stomach surgery, because he is going to try some more to do it the natural way, even though he has failed day after day in this goal.

And you know what? With my entire being I believe that he can do it. It isn't an impossible goal. The fact that he has failed to lose weight in the past does NOT mean that he cannot lose weight in the future. Meeting his goal will require committment and perseverance and a mental switch. There is a switch that takes place, when, after eating healthier foods for a period of time, greasy or fattening foods start sounding less and less appetizing. There is a switch that happens when you stop having that soda/chocolate/snack/etc every day, you stop needing it every day, and then you even stop wanting it every day. There is a switch that happens after you start a training schedule and every day you have to make the difficult choice to do today's task to the day when you just know that on these days you do this exercise, and you can do it and your body feels better when you do it and you actually end up liking it.

That switch does happen. But it takes time and you must make a lot of little choices toward your goal before that switch happens. (You have to continue making the little choices after the switch, too, but there is a different motivation behind them.)

Meeting a goal is not about one giant leap, one life-changing moment in time, getting to that impossible-to-reach light at the end of the tunnel.

Meeting goals is about the sum of many tiny choices. Goals are accomplished by making one small change, and then another, and then another, until that change becomes a habit, a lifestyle. The change becomes a little bit easier, a lit less daunting.

So yes, I ran 20 miles on Thursday. And yes, I asked myself if I had it in me to add 6.2 more miles onto that in three weeks at the marathon. (Yes, I do have it in me.) Yes, I have completed the longest long run of my training, and now I begin to taper back on mileage as I wait for the marathon.

But this run and this training have been about so much more than the race itself. My end goal of running a marathon, a lifelong dream, has kind of paled as I realized what a blessing the journey has been. I have rediscovered myself as a runner. I have reinvented myself as a person who actually can set goals, commit to them, work hard, and reach them. I have seen myself slowly turning into an adult. And I have realized that within me I house a whole bunch of potential to accomplish any dream I decide to pursue. I will not write things off as impossible anymore.

And THAT journey has been worth it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Biggest Week of the Training

Well, mileage-wise, this is the biggest week because it will be the week of my training with the most miles. I am supposed to do 5, 10, 5, then 20 miles. The day after I run 20 miles I am supposed to sit in a car for hours on my way to a work event. I'm not sure how much my legs are going to like that. Last week, the day after I ran 18 miles, I sat on a plane for hours and my legs were super unhappy. Once I got moving, though, they stretched out and calmed down a little :-)

After this week, I start pulling back and resting up for the big race. That seems a little scary as I think about how close it is getting. In some ways I am overwhelmed by the commitment of the training, but mostly I am amazed at how perfectly it fit into this semester and I am eager to continue running and training after this...although I am not sure if it will be another marathon, a half marathon, etc. I don't expect to have the time to dedicate to any marathon training this next fall as I will be student teaching, but it is possible that I will surprise myself in the fall or that the spring will once again lend itself to more serious training.

Where will your box turn hunger into hope?

This was an email recently sent out by Feed My Starving Children. In trying to get it linked here, I lost the formatting and pretty designs. However, here is a link to the brochure that is similar...

Where will your box turn hunger into hope?

Dear Friend of FMSC,

MannaPack™ meals from Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) do a lot more than keep children alive in harsh living conditions. In 67 countries, our food powerfully enables people to get ahead. It’s a hand up, not a hand out.

•Hundreds of mission schools depend on our food to nourish students so they can concentrate on getting a solid education for a brighter future.
•Thousands of orphanages count on our food to create loving, stable homes for a new generation of leaders.
•Christian and humanitarian agencies supply FMSC food to communities so families can pool limited dollars for income-producing businesses and eventually purchase their own food.
And something else is quietly happening.

When FMSC can’t meet a need, we introduce others who can—agencies that pitch in with clean water wells, agriculture, and micro-enterprises. Together, we’re building self-sufficient communities.

FMSC food gives people purpose and strength. And with God’s love packed along in the boxes you send, strong people can accomplish anything.

If you volunteered with us, it’s likely that you packed a full box of 216 meals. Will you provide a gift to cover the cost of those meals and give a community a hand up today?

Please prayerfully consider how you can help turn hunger into hope.
•Text "Manna" to 50555 - You can donate $10—enough to provide 48 meals—immediately via text message. (Msg & Data Rates May Apply. Full terms:
•Give a one-time gift - Contribute online via your credit card.
•Commit to monthly support - Become a Monthly Manna donor via your credit card or bank account.
We’re One of “10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions”
“…more than 95% of FMSC’s total revenue comes from private contributions, which makes the efficiency of their fundraising all the more impressive.” Charity Navigator website

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Earthquake Survivors Speak in Fort Lauderdale

The ends of events are always a bit crazy, but I love the chaos. 100 to 500 people move around carrying things. Some know where they are going, most don't. I usually stand in the middle of the chaos pointing people to different places around the room where they should deposit their ingredients, dishes, supplies, trash, etc. Then I start shoving things back into the cabinets which somehow manage to hold a room full of stuff.

That is exactly what I was doing when two people came up to me on Saturday. The woman spoke to me while the man hung back a little, waiting and smiling. She said they were survivors of the earthquake in Haiti and they would like to share a few words with the group. I asked them their names and got a general idea of what they wanted to say, and then I interrupted Joel, who was closing the event. When they began speaking, it was mesmerizing. The woman spoke first, then her husband Gary. He was blind, and he had a real gift with words.

They thanked the volunteers for the work that they had done. Then they spoke about the earthquake, what it felt like, what they saw. They told us a little bit about the conditions in Haiti. "These people have nothing," Gary said. "It may seem like you don't have very much here, but every day you wake up and you at least have a cup of water. The people of Haiti don't even have that." They were so grateful to be there, having heard about the event through a person they'd met only the day before. They were grateful to be able to serve, especially to make meals headed towards Haiti. They were grateful to be alive and to be together.

They reminded me that although I don't have a lot of money compared to people in the United States, I am so rich. I am blessed to have my family, to have friends, to be able to serve, and to have abundant food and clean water.

I am so very blessed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

15 mile bike ride in the Everglades

Today we had a day off after our event, but we don't fly out until tomorrow. In other words, we had a whole day to explore Southern Florida. And explore we did! We drove out to Everglades National Park and took a bicycle tour of a 15 mile loop. I have never seen so many alligators. There were hundreds, and this was apparently a small number of alligators! The Everglades are very dry right now, but we still saw amazing plant life and bird life and had a great time riding bikes. We drove home taking the scenic route through Miami, Miami Beach, Hollywood (Florida), and Fort Lauderdale. Then we went to the gym and I had a great 5 mile run on the treadmill. I don't often use treadmills, and I don't often LIKE using treadmills, either. Today was good. It wasn't super fast, but I enjoy increasing the speed little by little on treadmills. That is something I don't do while street running. I usually just run to the beat of my music when I run outside. Today, though, the pace was controlled and got faster and faster. Tomorrow I will try to get out to run as soon as I get home from Florida. I'll be coming home sunburned, but hopefully not too sore!