Friday, November 20, 2015


People ask how I got into running marathons and the truth is I needed a Big Scary Goal to get me running at all again. I ran cross country and track in high school, but once I got to college, I ran only in fits and starts and basically ignored it for long stretches of time. (I wasn’t a college athlete, obviously). I wanted to run because I loved running, it kept me in shape, relieved anxiety, blah blah blah… all of the million reasons to run. But the truth is none of those reasons got me out of bed in the morning. Only a Big Goal that requires serious effort would.

And so I decided to run a marathon. That was serious enough to get me going and it worked. Ten years and twelve marathons later, the same principle holds true. I love running for a million reasons, but getting out the door is still not always easy. I need a push, and the push for me has always been Big, Scary, I-Might-Not-Make-It-Unless-I-Do-Everything-I-Can Goals.

Last week I talked about the fear of injury, and the obvious solution for my anxiety would be to chill out a bit on my times and goals. Enjoy running the Trials because I’m lucky enough to be there. Many people, mostly concerned friends and family, have mentioned this and I’ll grant that it’s a fair point. But… it’s not me.

The fun for me is in the pursuit of the goal, in the figuring out what I’m capable of, in having a great run/workout/daydream and imagining the possibilities. Running the Trials is huge, yes. The thrill of making it hasn’t worn off. But just running them, calling it in and enjoying a seriously high profile jog around LA doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. The dream of racing well at the Trials does. 

A while back I listened to the Run to the Top Podcast with Dr. Stan Beecham, author of Elite Minds. He talked about setting goals that you’re only 60% sure you’ll hit. You might not make it, but you’ll almost surely run faster than if you went after a goal you were 100% sure you’d hit. I found myself nodding along to so much of what he said:

“We need goals that scare us a little bit… goals that wake you up in the morning and push you out of bed.”

“It’s the possibility that I may not be able to pull this off—that’s what makes every day interesting.”

I make these ridiculously ambitious goals unintentionally. Unofficially they’ve been simmering in my system since the last race. Wouldn’t it be awesome if… I would love to run X… The first couple passes through my brain they seem a little nuts. Yeah right, Teal. But, like I said, they simmer, keep gently bubbling up, and they won’t go away. Pretty soon they seem less like daydreams and more like goals. And I’ve thought about them so damn much I can’t imagine aiming lower.

Sometimes, they’re hugely crazy ambitious, and I come up way short. I never even made it to this past spring’s marathon starting line.

Sometimes (yes, less often), they’re hugely crazy ambitious, and I somehow achieve them. Last fall I was scared to admit to many people I was going for 2:43; my PR was ten minutes slower and I had come off a disastrous performance that spring. But dammit, that 2:43 simmered all summer, so I went for it.

And so this season, like all the others, my goals are Scary Big/Maybe Impossible, but that’s my favorite kind of goal and the only one that works for me. In one feeble attempt to keep me grounded, I’m trying to be a little flexible about them as the season goes on, so I won’t share them here. I will say, at the very least, I’m aiming to run a big PR on what looks to be a fast course. I hope to enjoy my laps around LA, but I know I will enjoy them far more if I’ve put in the work and am chasing something big.

Despite all that, I know I can’t go for PRs in every race. (Every marathon, yes; every race leading up to the marathon, no.) Some races will be workouts, tempo efforts, fun ways to celebrate holidays. This weekend I’ll run the Philly Half, and I honestly can’t tell you what my goal time is. I’m using it to gage where I’m at and to squeeze in one long fall race before the winter grind begins. I’ll be aiming to crush my PR at the next half I do. But this weekend, I’ll just see what happens.

And then it will be back to dreaming big.

Race Schedule:

Jingle All The Way 5K – Dec. 6 {PR attempt, because… I mean, c’mon
Jacksonville Half-Marathon – Jan. 3 {PR attempt
US Olympic Marathon Trials – Feb. 13 {PR attempt, because… well, see above.

Dream bigger,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Paranoia, Paranoia, Injury’s Coming To Get Me...

This week I am finally in the groove. Real training. There have been a of couple signs over the last few weeks that things were returning to business as usual, but this week it’s undeniable. I am running like a normal, injury-free Teal. I love routines and I’m finally officially back in mine:

Back to track practice,

And shockingly, right on cue, back to paranoia.

Paranoia, paranoia...  
I’m a worrier, a major one. (I had never really considered how loving routines and worrying went together, but then I took the Believe Training Journal “Worrier or Warrior?” quiz. I knew I’d get worrier, but it was basically a joke how ridiculously well the traits fit me. And loving routine is one of them!)

After a few days of "I’m Back, Baby" Euphoria, the worries set in. What if I hurt myself? I know I’ve talked about those fears here already and I don’t want to belabor the point, but honestly… It’s. All. I. Can. Think. About.

More than any other race, I don’t want to sit out the Trials. This is what I’ve worked for over the last decade, what if I screw it up and can’t race?

I actually lost sleep over this last night, which is ludicrous for two reasons: 1. Actually getting the proper amount of sleep will help prevent injuries and 2. Staying up worrying about it won’t do anything. (Yes, of course I’m consciously aware of that fact, but it doesn’t help.)

I’m trying to do everything I can to stay healthy: eat right, sleep enough, do my core exercises, foam roll, etc. I’ve modeled my training plan after the one that got me successfully to the start and finish of CIM and I am trying to learn from mistakes in my training for Grandma’s. But sometimes injuries can be freak accidents. Or they can be bubbling under the surface without any sign until one day: BAM. It’s over. (My stress reaction was that way.)

I can’t not train. I can’t skip every workout for fear that it will be the one that sets me over the edge. But I'm also aware that I can’t do as much as I’d like. (Here’s a superpower I’d want: to be able to run AS MUCH AS I WANT and not get injured. Oh the joy! The freedom! The miles and miles and miles! I’d take the blisters, the exhaustion, the chafing, if I just stayed healthy…)

Alas, we’re not invincible, and a healthy fear of injury can keep us healthy. 

But still, I’m feeling a little too vincible these days. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful and to thank God for getting me this far and healthy again. I’m doing all I can... now to just stop worrying and go the fudge to sleep.

Dream big,

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Race (!!) Report: Southwest Center City 5K Run

Last week I visited Brother and his family in Philadelphia for Halloween festivities. Mostly, I wanted to see my adorable nephew’s costume, but Brother said there was a local 5K that morning and it might be fun to jump in.

It was a last minute decision; I hadn’t planned on racing for a few more weeks. But it was a low-key race with zero expectations. Brother warned me the course had lots of turns and wasn’t a PR course. I figured that was a good thing; the pressure was off. I’d wear Halloween colors—not my official GRC gear—and holiday socks to remind myself of that. Have fun and just do what I can.

The course. We did the bottom right loop once
(incorrectly) and the top left loop twice. 
But, the night before the race, our cousin told us about the prizes—top prize was a $500 Puma gift certificate. $500! That seemed way too generous for such a low-key race. Now I wanted to win.

As per always, people looked intimidating on the start line, but soon enough we were off and I was trailing a group of ten or so guys. I was in first for the women but had no idea where the other ladies were. Also, I was running too fast. Geez, relax, Teal.

The guys ahead—and everyone behind—missed an early turn. I had Brother, the local, beside me to realize the mistake. “Uhhh I think we missed a turn… Yeah, we’re definitely not on the course anymore.” As soon as he was sure, he started screaming directions to the guys ahead to get us back to the route. “Go left!! Turn here!! Take another left!” (Once again Brother was a huge help. When he’s not trying to beat me, he’s a stand up guy.)

It seemed everyone had followed us, so I was still leading the women. The course misstep had been jarring, but now we were on the out and backs I had run in the warm-up and I felt like I knew where we were going. My first mile split was right around where I thought it would be, and I just tried to keep it up. I didn’t know if there was a girl on my tail and I want that gift card, gosh darn it!

We did two loops of part of the course, and as we headed into the second loop, I was thankful it avoided the section we had messed up before. Mile 2 was super slow, but I didn’t beat myself up over it. Eh, my watch is probably wrong. Although I do run faster in workouts all by myself, maybe I should pick it up. Or maybe it’s all these turns. And suddenly, in classic Teal-runs-a-5K style, I realized with a shock I had only one mile left. Sheesh these things are short!

At the end of my second loop I caught up to the people finishing their first. I was dodging strollers, weaving around, and leaping onto the sidewalk. All the elements gave me another reason why it wouldn’t be a fast time and took any pressure off. Just relax, the time doesn’t matter. Just win.

Turn for home, stop the watch, catch my breath, look down. 18:48. WHAT?!

Here’s the first thing about that watch revelation: that’s technically a PR... Or it’s technically not, depending on your definition. It’s not, because I’ve run a faster pace for ten miles and the same pace for 13.1. It is, because my previous PR on an actual 5K course is 18:52. And it’s not because it turned out we didn’t run the actual 5K course…

And here’s the other thing the watch told me: it said I ran 2.98 miles. Right, right, right. So that’s why it’s so fast. I didn’t run far enough. But wait, didn’t we go farther by going off the course? All logic would say we did. And Garmins aren’t accurate on city streets with lots of turns.

Curiosity got the best of me and when I got home I mapped the route we ran online. It came out as over 3.2 miles, and my Garmin did skip a bunch of turns. So it really seems I ran at least a 5K. Not-really-a-PR-or-not, I know the time isn’t Olympic Trials worthy, but I’m happy with it none-the-less. I had fun, I enjoyed wearing my silly holiday socks, and I won that gift card. Not bad for a last minute Halloween race.

I spent the card in one fell swoop—the biggest shopping spree of my life by a landslide—and it was glorious. Now, to buy some more crazy socks for the next one…

Dream big,