Being okay with where you are in your journey

It’s no secret that running has been a struggle for me recently. This weekend I ran my worst half marathon ever. My times have gradually been increasing over the past 18 months or so and I often find that my heart just isn’t in it.

Rock the Parkway on Saturday is one of the easiest half marathon courses in the area and the weather was near-perfect, yet I struggled with every stride. I started out feeling very sore and my glutes, hamstrings were on fire in the first mile. I’ve been working hard at strength training with my personal trainer over the past 3 weeks and I could feel the burn. (On a positive note, I think I’m seeing some baby arm muscles poking through.)

At mile 5 I knew that I needed to pick up the pace and I literally couldn’t do it. At mile 8 I wanted so badly to be done. At mile 10 I got a thoughtful text from my mom and cried. At mile 11 I texted her back and told her I was in a lot of pain and was feeling devastated about my projected finish time. At the finish I took a photo with my medal and put a fake smile on my face.

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I should have felt proud for completing my 15th half marathon. I should have been thankful that my body allowed me to travel 13.1 miles that morning. Instead, all I could think was that I ran the same race 28 minutes faster just a couple years ago.

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I’ve been having a hard time letting go of the past. I need to forget my past PRs and race times and focus on the now. I so badly need to let go of where I could be, and be okay with where I am and concentrate on where I can go from here.

After the race I walked to my car where I cried and felt sorry for myself. That is, until my mom sent me some words of encouragement and recommended that I take a step back from my worn running and consider how I can help other runners. Helping others is always more rewarding, right? I talked about this later in the day with my friend, Val, as we spent some time riding through pastures on the side-by-side and enjoying a few beers. It was good for the soul. My heart was happy when I left. I now have some ideas of what my running future looks like, so stay tuned for more info!

On Tuesday, I travel to my alma mater to speak to graduating Communication Arts seniors and give the keynote address for their banquet. I’ll be sharing my “Life Lessons Learned Through Running,” and will post my speech for all of you next week!

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Getting my mind right

I’m aboard the struggle bus and I’m desperately trying to get off!
We’ve passed my stop! GET ME OFF OF HERE!

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Every run is a struggle. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s 3 miles or 12, inside or out, morning or evening… my legs are heavy, my breathing labored and my heart feels like it’s in a thousand little pieces. I used to love running. I used to look forward to it. I used to run at a much faster pace without feeling like I was going to drop dead. Didn’t I? Those memories seem so distant that I don’t remember.

I went into this training cycle thinking that I would have to let go of past marathon experiences, past paces and times, and focus on the present. Focus on finishing.

Even that seems nearly impossible after this weekend’s terrible 12-miler. I cried at mile 4 and thought, “How will I ever complete another marathon?”

In addition to the running, I’m struggling with keeping my eating in check and losing weight. All of these things go hand-in-hand.

I’ve started incorporating more weight training into my schedule, in hopes that it would make me a stronger runner, tone up a bit and keep me injury free for Grandma’s Marathon in June. I am not totally sure what all I should be doing and have relied on Pinterest workouts  to get me through. This week, however, I had my first workout with a trainer. It was a test run. I officially start next week. I’m hoping that she can help me accomplish my goals and help me be more accountable. She’s a marathon runner too, so she gets me.

All of this comes down to my own mindset. Why am I such a Negative Nancy lately? Or Defeated DeEtta?

Today that changes. I’ve been following the T-Rex Runner’s blog and she’s been killing her races after coming back from injury. She’s also been focusing on the mindset piece and finding her mantra during each race. I’ve started listening to running podcasts on the way home just to get myself motivated to put my shoes on and get outside. The podcasts are working and I’m going to try out a new mantra on tonight’s run outside (because it’s beautiful)!

Stay tuned. My bus stop is near. Changes are coming.

 

 

Taking High Blood Pressure Seriously

Through my job with the American Heart Association, I meet new survivors of heart disease and stroke each week. They all have their own stories of heartbreak, overcoming the odds and making lifestyle changes.

One of the things that continues to shock me the most are the number of those who appear seemingly healthy but have survived life-changing heart events. They eat a healthy diet, are young, active and often times, they are women. Did you know 1 in 3 women DIE of heart disease? ONE IN THREE makes heart disease the leading cause of death among Americans, killing more than all forms of cancer COMBINED. Learn more.

Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable. One of the things we can all do is track our blood pressure. I recently had a friend, Kelly, who went in for her annual health check-up and discovered she had high blood pressure. She gave me permission to share her story with you.

Kelly took all the right steps. She monitored her BP for several days, reduced her sodium intake, listened to her doctor when she was directed not to run or do strenuous activity and she started taking BP medication as directed. Kelly is a young, healthy, heart advocate. Heart disease is also a part of her family history, as she lost her dad at a young age from a sudden heart attack.

Why is high blood pressure so serious?  Uncontrolled high BP leads to plaque build up and can lead to heart attack, heart failure or stroke. High BP isn’t something to mess around with.

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High BP runs in my own family and since I’ve started working for the American Heart Association, I’ve become slightly obsessed with checking my BP.

Do you know your blood pressure? If you don’t, invest in a blood pressure cuff, go to your local Walgreens, or to your doctor’s office. Then, track your blood pressure here

2017 Marathon Training Begins

I went on hiatus from blogging, but I’m back! A lot has happened since I last posted.

In August, I moved back to Kansas and in October, Jared and I were married! We had the perfect day, surrounded by friends and family.

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Rocking my running shoes!

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Now that we’re settled, I’ve begun setting my goals for 2017. On New Year’s Eve, I signed up for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN. I didn’t run a marathon in 2016 at all and I was feeling pretty down about it, even though I ran 6 half marathons.

So, last week the marathon training started up again. I’ve been running minimal miles since last fall, so I feel ready to start building up those miles. I’ve been hitting the treadmill a lot over the winter and doing interval training and speedwork. I’d really like to work on my pace (I’ve slooooooowed down so much!) but have no time goals for Grandma’s at this time. My goal: FINISH.

It feels good to be back writing again. Stay tuned for some guest blogs, running gear reviews, and some other random thoughts. . .

Injured

As a runner, being sidelined by injury isn’t fun, but if you run long enough, it will happen at some point. Some people are more prone to injury than others, but I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve experienced IT Band issues, plantar fasciitis and a few aches and pains along the way, but nothing too serious.

At the end of my last race, I was experiencing a tight hamstring which quickly turned into a tight calf and excruciating pain in my Achilles tendon. At first I tried to run through the pain (we’ve all been there). As it got worse, I could no longer run. I took two weeks off before resorting to a chiropractor. The chiro gave me stretches and tried the Graston Technique to loosen my calf muscles.

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With no results, (other than finding out I bruise like a peach) I finally visited with my primary care physician. That’s when I got the news: micro tears in my Achilles tendon and no running for three weeks. That doesn’t seem so bad, and it could certainly be worse, but I immediately asked about what I COULD do during this time.  I planned on marathon training right now. What could I do to burn calories and clear my mind?

The doctor told me I could bike and swim in the meantime. I don’t have access to a pool, so I was down to biking. I assumed I could continue the Bikini Body Guide workouts I got from a friend and I have been doing for some time now as well.

On Saturday, I went on a 20-mile bike ride on an old rail trail. It’s just what I needed. It give me my alone time, gave me a place to listen to nature and the sounds of my own heavy breathing, all while sweating like crazy.

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It’s now been 8 weeks since my last long-ish run and it’s been 6 days without running. Last night I did a combo of the bike, rowing machine, and StairMaster. One of those things has my leg hurting today. I’m looking forward a walk with a friend tonight at my running club meet-up but I’m going to miss the run.

So, for those of you who have experienced injury, what did you do while you were sidelined to keep your endurance up? Please help!

Race Recap: Running with the Cows 2016

Running with the Cows is different than most half marathons/races. It takes place in the small community of Bucyrys, Kansas (pop 2,000) just 30 miles outside of Kansas City. It starts and finishes at Queen of the Holy Rosary and is a major fundraiser for their Catholic School. The race directors invite priests and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas to run the race for free and seminarians can use the race to help them pay their non-educational expenses.

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The course is known for it’s rolling hills and out-and-back style. There were a good amount of water stops along the way that seemed to be well supported.

The weather has always been pretty good (at least the past 3 years that I’ve ran it) and this year was no different. In fact, of the three halves I did this spring, this weather was by far the best and you couldn’t ask for better running weather. It was sunny and cool (40’s maybe?). I ended up keeping my pull-over on for the whole race. There was a small portion before the turn around that was up hill and against the wind but I was just looking forward to the turn around!

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My friend Tiffany and I stayed together for the first half. It was just before the turn around that she began to pull away. I tried to keep up, but I just couldn’t.

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My times lately have been the worst so, my goal was to finish better than the other two in the series. Therefore, I was shooting for anything under 2:05 (Rock the Parkway).

At mile 10 my legs felt like I had bricks as feet and my stomach began to get upset. I was still ahead of the 2:00 pace group, so I pushed forward. By this time, Tiffany was out of sight. It was so awesome to see my parents again at this point. I was able to see them in a few different places along the route. They motivate me and make me smile with their cowbells and hilarious signs.

At mile 11 I heard a group coming up behind me chatting. My heart sunk a little. Without looking, I knew it had to be the 2 hour pace group. For a few strides they began to pass me but I just couldn’t let it happen. For the rest of the race I was focused on staying ahead of the group.

The last straight away of the course lasts FOR-EVER and EVER. I was ready to be done. There were some runners that had finished and come back to cheer on friends. They were awesome support towards the end of the race and it wasn’t long that I could hear the finish line announcer and the crowd. I pushed my legs as fast as they’d go, hoping I wouldn’t fall over. I felt like I was going super fast, but in reality, I wasn’t at all. My mom, dad and sister met me at the finish with hugs and water.

I finished in 1:59- a whole 6 minutes faster than Rock the Parkway this year and 8 minutes faster than the Garmin Marathon. Success! My runs have been slow, but I hope to continue to improve and get back to those 1:52 races!

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Along with running in a rural area- “with the cows,” this race has the best post-race food of any race I’ve been a part of. Folks, this is a church potluck on steroids! You won’t go hungry with a selection of pizza, cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos, lasagna, cheese & crackers, sub sandwiches, tortilla chips & cheese/salsa, veggies & hummus, cookies, pies and MORE. Every time I turned around, there was something else!

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This was my third year completing the Heartland 39.3 Series, so I got a Nike track jacket! Woot!

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I got a tummy full of crackers (I couldn’t stomach much else) and a massage and then we headed off for wedding invitation shopping and maid of honor dress shopping with my sis.

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I enjoyed the Series this year and so appreciated my family coming to not one, but two of the races! Having support at a race makes it more enjoyable and I tend to run better when they are there. It was also awesome to run into so many friends I that I run with!

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I don’t know what’s next on my race schedule but right now I’m enjoying group runs and some time running alone. I’ve started working out twice a week with co-workers doing a lot of plyometrics and body weight lifting, which has been good for my muscles and my soul. I can feel the soreness after each workout- a constant reminder of the hard work I put in the progress I have yet to make.

Race Recap: Garmin Marathon 2016

The Garmin Marathon is the race I’ve ran more times than any other. I’ve completed the full twice and the half twice. This year, the race had a new route. After last year’s soggy, slick trail portion, I was looking forward to the new scenery.

This race route has always been full of rolling hills, and this year was no different. I HATE hills, but I actually found myself a lot more comfortable than I was the weekend before running Rock the Parkway on flat terrain.

I decided to run with my friends who I’ve trained with during the week. The first several miles were full of chatter and enjoyment.

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At mile three my stomach began to cramp. I grew quite and decided to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and gut it out. As the pain grew worse, I began to think about what could possibly have caused it in the first place. Dehydration. I had hardly drank anything the day before because of a busy/stressful work event the day prior. When I did, take in fluids, my drink of choice (after work) was Bud Light Lime. I was so tired the day before that I forgot to get some yogurt or supplies for my pre-race protein shake, so I had to swing by the gas station for a Nutrigrain bar on my way to the race. So, my lack of planning caught up to me.

At mile 10 or 11 my legs were feeling pretty good and my stomach pain was worse. I so badly wanted to be done, so I picked up the pace a bit. I finished 2 minutes slower than Rock the Parkway but I think a combination of hills and stomach cramps contributed to the extra time. My goal is to run Running with the Cows faster than Rock the Parkway. RWTC is my current half PR. While I won’t come remotely close to a 1:52 finish this year- I’d like to hit 2:03.

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After the race I walked back to my car to sit and take in some fluids. Once I started feeling better I changed into dry clothes, hopped on my bike and started riding the route backwards to look for my friends running the full marathon. I loved cheering them on and taking photos. Being a spectator is almost as much fun as running the race!

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Troy and Tiffany rocked it. Troy has been running a marathon each month this year and Tiffany completed her very first marathon! At mile 25 ran up a steep hill. Note to the race director- that was CRUEL! But they made it and I was so impressed.

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The Garmin marathon was well organized, well planned and well supported. I LOVED seeing people outside their homes cheering on runners. It’s awesome to see people cheering on their family and friends but there’s something about seeing people come outside their homes and cheer for people they don’t know. They could be annoyed that there’s a ruckus early in the morning, or that traffic around their house is backed up, but instead they are positive and some even brought treats- like candy and beer. That kind of encouragement makes a difference on race day!

Over the past week I can’t help but think about how badly I want to train for another full. I’ve been so burnt out on running but something about standing at the finish line and seeing the runners grit their teeth and push through the pain reminded me how much I truly love running marathons.

The Kansas City Marathon is coming up in October and I’ve never ran the marathon even though I live there. I haven’t even checked off Missouri from my list! Naturally, it seems like a good idea, but it’s the weekend before my wedding. The thought of training and wedding planning stresses me out a little but part of me thinks I can do it…. I’m still on the fence but will keep you posted!