February and the Run That Nearly Made Me Quit

February has been quite a month! My Journey to Boston continues to become more exciting and intense, with some really difficult parts thrown in along the way!

I logged a total of 173 running miles in February, spread out over 21 runs. Those 173 training miles included three speed, 2 hill, and 2 pace setting runs. They also included two long –  20 and 22 – mile runs. On top of the running miles, February also had 4 cross-training work-outs which included yoga and incline treadmill walking, planks, crunches, squats, and free weights. Then, the other four days that rounded out the month of February were rest days. Ahh, four whole rest days!

You may think that since runners love running, that they love it everyday, and all the time. Not the case. A couple weeks ago, on Feb. 12th, I did my 20 miler. It was horrific. Like, literally, the worst run of my life. By mile 3 I wanted to quit, and yet I knew I still had 17 miles to go. Seventeen whole miles. My legs felt heavy. My knees hurt. My back hurt. I had zero energy. I hadn’t slept much the week prior. I was mentally and emotionally spent. Each step was absolutely draining. If it wasn’t for my mental determination, and knowing that others were counting on me, I never would have finished. And, even with that mental drive, my body literally stopped moving several times, no matter how much I willed it to keep going. So, I stretched. And, gave myself several pep talks. And, continued on. I am convinced, amongst other things, I was experiencing full lactic acid build up. If you’ve never experienced lactic acid build up, you can’t quite imagine it. The symptoms include a burning feeling in your muscles. Your legs feel like concrete blocks that are hardening more with each second. They ache and hurt like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You have cramps, and nausea, and weakness, and exhaustion. It’s very different than the soreness you experience for a couple days after a really intense workout. It’s actually your body’s way to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing. That is how I ran my last eight of twenty miles that day. By the end I was in tears. I told myself that I wasn’t a runner and that I never would be. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to ever run again. Like never. Ever. Ever. Ever.

There will be days2

Two days later, I ran again, because there are people counting on me, and because I was supposed to and I’m a rule follower. It was an 8 miler and it was warm and sunny and it felt good. And, I knew I was back.

Two weeks after my horrific 20 miler that nearly caused me to quit running for good, it was time for my 22 mile run. My mind started to mess with me. You can’t quite know what it feels like in the days before you are about to make your body run a near marathon until you’ve done it. The nerves. The questions. The doubts. The lack of sleep. The pressure. It all adds up, and builds, and builds. And, when you nearly quit on your previous long run, the doubts intensify. I tried to pull myself together. But, it took every emotional, mental, and physical ounce of strength I had to convince myself I could do it.

Thanks to the amazing support of Team Alyssa and those who have been encouraging me and praying for me along each step of the journey, I conquered my 22 mile run last Friday. It was only a decent run, but it was a life changing run at the same time. I spent each mile praying for a specific person or family or topic. And, when God brought someone to mind related to that family or topic, I briefly prayed for them as well, specific prayers, specific names and needs, and then went back to who that mile was focused on. I also took one mile to pray for my church and each staff member and their families by name. I took one mile to pray for our country, politicians, and the current candidates and their families. And, I focused my very last mile 22 to pray about cancer – those who are fighting, those who have lost loved ones, research, and everyone we know who’s been affected. I almost always pray over the course of my runs no matter how short or long, but this was the very first time I focused so specifically on names and needs and topics and outcomes and weaknesses, one mile at a time. And, it changed me. Along with the fact that I know many were praying for me over those hours, I know it was the reason I made it through that run after having wanted to quit.

Another huge February accomplishment is that my team met our goal and continues to raise funds to provide treatments that are saving the lives of patients today. LLS is making cures happen by providing patient support services, advocacy for lifesaving treatments and the most promising cancer research anywhere. And it’s all happening now. Not someday, today. I am so honored to be a small part of this!!

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With just 6 weeks and 6 days until race day, the countdown is certainly on! I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has supported me both financially and through prayer and encouragement.

March will be a very big month including a 24  mile run in less than 2 weeks and then a 20 mile run up in Boston with Team in Training!! Stay tuned for updates!

I should be doing what?!

Fartlek.  Every time I say the word, my kids laugh.  Okay, my husband does too. “Haha, fart, lick.” Yes, I live with 3 boys. I’m sure the first time I heard the word fartlek I did a double take and smirked too (at least in my head).

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Fartlek has “fart” in it because that is the Swedish word for speed. “Lek” means play, and so “speed-play” serves as a rough translation. It was developed by the national cross-country coach Gösta Holmér in response to the Sweden team’s poor performances against their Finnish rivals. Fartlek is not, however, a common word in Sweden either. But in running circles the world over, it is respected as a tried-and-tested training technique with proven benefits for speed endurance.

Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warm-up, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

A simple example of what a runner would do during a fartlek run, after a one mile/8-10 min. warm-up, is to sprint all out from one stop sign to the next, jog to the corner, give a medium effort for a couple of blocks, jog the distance of four parked cars, and then sprint to a stop sign, and so on, for a set total time or distance and then do a cool down one mile/8-10 min. run. Runners can use mailboxes, trashcans or telephone poles as their “starting” and “stopping” points for their different speeds. Another way to make it fun is to use a song you’re listening to. For example – sprinting during the chorus.

There are many benefits to Fartleks:

  • First, they are easily adjustable. You can add an endless variety of intervals to keep you motivated. It’s possible to change the overall distance of the run, the length and speed of the bursts, the method you use to measure each component, and the recovery times. If you feel sluggish, limit the number of sprints you do, and take more time to recover. If you feel great, run the sprints hard, and sprint again maybe when you don’t feel totally recovered.
  • Fartleks, just like other speed workouts prepare any runner for a race. Alternating speeds works both the aerobic and anaerobic training systems while simulating the ebb and flow nature of competitive running.
  • Fartleks also keep muscles, tendons, and nerves at top capacity.
  • Fartleks can be done anywhere. They don’t have to be measured on a track. They can be on roads, trails, or even hills.
  • And, something we all like to hear… because of the alternating intensity of the workout, fartleks allow you to burn more calories than if you were keeping a steady pace.

Personally, I just started including Fartleks in my training plan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have actually enjoyed them so far. Maybe it’s because I do them on my shortest run of the week :)?! Regardless, they have definitely added variety and I feel like I am getting a much harder workout than the short steady run I otherwise would be doing that day. Here is an example of a recent 5 mile fartlek run. I did a slow first mile to warm up, did miles 2, 3, and 4 ‘fartlek style’ and then did a steady last mile. I thought my 5th mile was a slower cool-down-pace until I looked at my splits. Turns out, after doing 3 miles of fartleks, running at a faster than usual cool-down-pace for me, that last mile came more naturally and felt easy.

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Have you Fartlek’d lately?


Making Exercise Part of Your Everyday Routine

There are two simple ways to ensure that exercise will become routine for you:

  1. View exercise as a non-negotiable required part of your day.

Just like sleeping, eating, showering, and brushing your teeth… exercise needs to be viewed as one of those things that has to happen for it to be a complete day. If people shower to clean the outside of their body and brush their teeth so they don’t rot, we need to be doing some sort of movement to keep the inside of our body from rotting and we need to view it as a necessity just like the other tasks. Our skin and hair need soap and water. And, our heart, lungs, and muscles need movement. If it’s not viewed as a necessity, excuses will be made, it will be put off and the end of the day will come before it happens. Schedule it in on your calendar if need be. Or, add it to your Wunderlist so you have a reminder and something to check off if that helps. However you do it, view it as a non-negotiable requirement.

2.   Make it fun by doing something you enjoy!

Pick an activity you like doing! Don’t commit to something for the next year that you won’t be able to stick to or that you despise. You may instead end up doing nothing. There are a million ways to move our bodies to get healthy. We all have opinions about what is fun. I happen to love running, but for others it’s a nightmare. So, don’t do it. Choose something else. The important thing is that you choose something! Pick an exercise that is fun or change up your regular routine when you’re bored to make it fun. Here’s my example: Today I brought two pacesetters and bodyguards 🙂 with me to the trail for a training run! Following behind them as they chatted away made my run different and fun!

Mary and Jake

Thank you for your encouragement and support which has made My Journey to Boston so far so fun! What is your new, fun routine going to look like to ensure you are living your healthiest life so that you can enjoy your family and serve others for a very long time?!

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte