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May 2008

Open Mic Friday: Meet Our Very Own Amy

Open_mic_fridayOpen Mic Friday is intended to introduce runners to us so we get to know them better.  Amy is already a friend to so many of us.   And while we know and admire Amy for her insights, humor, and warmth, it's about time that we threw her some questions to learn a little more about her.   

Editorial comment from the interviewer: to know Amy PLUS to work, run, and generally be around her is a pleasure.  We're all better off knowing her in any way we can.

By the way, be sure to wish Amy the best in her race tomorrow--one of her favorites: the Dam to Dam 20k.

Readers, you're in for a treat with today's interview.

We all know you as a runner today.  So how did you get started running?

Which time?  :}   I tried to start running at least 10 times in my life.  When I was a young teenager, I knew I wanted to be a runner.  So many times as a kid, I would try to go for a run and then remember it felt awful and give up again.   Through college, I tried a few more times and then resorted to walking for many years.   Finally, when I was 25, after being frustrated with 15 pound weight gain as I settled into my career, I decided that I was just going to do it.   I started out trying to run to the next telephone pole with each run.  It took me 2 weeks to successfully run my first mile.   My goal was to run 4 miles without stopping - and when I finally reached it a few months later I was hooked for life! 

Tell us about your most challenging moment in running?

Running is always challenging for me.  I am a not a natural born athlete or runner so it takes work for me to keep running.   It is challenging to sign up for a race and know I may be last.   It is challenging to fit my training into the rest of my schedule.   Balance is my everyday most challenging part of running.

Do you have a favorite distance?

My favorite general run distance is still four miles.  I think most of it is mental because it was my original goal when I started running.  But there is also something that "hits the mark" physically for me.  It is just long enough for me to feel any stress or tightness work itself out of my upper back and shoulders but not so long that I can't fit it in.

For a racing distance, the half marathon is my favorite.  As you know, I think everyone should do a half marathon at least once.  It gives me a good sense of accomplishment and I can (more) easily fit the training into my schedule.

What's your greatest running accomplishment?

I have so many that I am really proud!   From early in my running life, I am proud to say I finished a marathon—but would still like to do it again and more comfortably.   As I progressed through my running career, the distances weren't great, but the challenges became larger due to family and career.  I am proud that I ran through the majority of time during both pregnancies.   And a key highlight was pushing myself to run and finish my favorite race, Dam to Img_0174Dam a 20K, just 7 weeks after having my first child.    And then, even further into my career, it was bravely choosing to wear a swimsuit in public and do triathlons.

What are your current running goals?

This year my main goal is to stay healthy.   No injuries!   I want to end the year as a stronger runner.  I am still holding out for the ability to do just one pull up!  I hope to try a few races I haven't had a chance to do as well as continue to meet more and more new runners.   And if my family schedule can juggle it, I am sneaking in my favorite races again this year.   

Any quirky running traits?

Oh yes!   I always have a phone with me while running.   About half the time I also have a camera or stop and take pictures.   Last year alone I took about 100 pictures of sunsets while running.    

For races, I always paint my nails bright red (diverts eyes from big hips and tummy), and wear a necklace that has a charm of my little boy and girl.  I have worn it since my first race after my first child.  I really believe it gives me a small portion of their never ending energy.  It also reminds me that I run to be a stronger mom and set a good example.

You must have some non-running interests?

Img_0117There is life outside of running? Really?  In those rare moments, I enjoy spending time with my kids, my husband and family.  My kids keep me busy - we love to go on short "field trips" around the town.  Both have wonderful imaginations and they talk me into all kinds of games, crafts and adventures.  I also love to read (although it is too addictive for me to do too often), work in the garden, and bake.   

Do you have a running hero?

Every runner I meet becomes my running hero.  So at this point, I have thousands.   Every runner has a story, every runner has a challenge they are trying to overcome.  I have yet to walk away uninspired after meeting a runner, reading a blog, or exchanging a note with another runner.   I feel fortunate to have the chance to connect with heros everyday.

How about your most embarrassing running moment?

Again, so many.   On a regular basis, it is when I get race photos back and think to myself , "Goodness, eeck!, what a train wreck of a runner."    I always feel like someone off the cover of Runner's World, but usually look like something the cat dragged in.

Specifically, one of the most embarrassing moments was in my second race.  Many years ago, I was running in the Toledo marathon and had decided to run half the course to try out the half marathon distance.   There were only a few hundred runners and when the gun went off, within 2 minutes, I was running by myself.  Everyone else was blocks and blocks ahead of me.   Not only was I last, I couldn't even see the field.   It was a nightmare come true.

A few years later, I had a similar experience at the Drake Relays half marathon.  At mile 5, feeling crappy and disgusted at being dead last, I stopped and sat down on the curb, and had a little pity party for myself.  I am in full blown discussion (out loud with hand gestures) with myself when the homeowner comes out to find out what is wrong.   Yeah - I looked like a complete crazy person.  I found a little shred of pride and got up and walked away.

What going on in your life outside of running?

Tucker's (my son) foot has healed and he is back in shoes, so we are making plans to run aImg_0197  5K together this summer.   He has wanted to try one for over a year, but his foot problems have made it difficult.   We are going to start training and see how he does - my fingers are crossed.  At a minimum, I am looking forward to our walks at night again now that he is off crutches and the boot.

I am up to my elbows in garden dirt trying to finish all my "to-do's" of Year 3 of my 10 Year landscaping plan.   

After 5 years of restoration and renovation in our house, I am also starting to decorate.   We live in a log home and I haven't figured out all the tricks to decorate something so brown.  Really brown.  Lots and lots of wood to work around.

And it's summer!  We are spending more time outside having picnics, campfires, and running around doing silly summer stuff.   We can't wait for it to be warm enough to hit the pool.   And, we just added a 200 foot zipline at our house so we are having a blast zipping through the woods.  (Yes, I have an amazing husband who accomodates all my crazy ideas!)

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

I would coach kids, young boys and girls, to run 5K, 10K and 1/2 and full marathons.  Knowing my challenges of trying to learn to run as a child, I can now see that if someone had been available to give me a few tips or push in in the right direction, I may have found the joy of running much sooner in my life.   School and community sports teach many great sports and activities, but there are none in our area that teach the lessons of running.   There are so many good life lessons kids can learn from setting and achieving running goals.

And a second dream is to have the chance to grant the wishes and dreams of other runners.   Can you imagine how much fun that would be?!?!

What's the best runniImg_0237_2ng advice you've ever been given?

  "The first mile sucks.   Just keep going - it gets better."   Seriously, this was a turning point in my running.  If someone had shared this nugget with me years before, I would have seen the value of continuing to run and build up past the first mile.

"It takes about three weeks before it really gets easier."   Everytime I need to "restart" my running I keep this rule in mind to remind me that consistency is key to finding my groove.

Best running advice you'd like to share?

Run your own run.  Run your own race.   

It took me many years to be comfortable with my running.   For the first few years, I used the phrase in my training and racing of, "I should be..."  and fill in the blank with "faster", "running more", "running more races", "thinner".   I really believed that I wasn't a real runner because of my slow pace and non-athletic form.   As much as I enjoyed running, there was always some tension and stress I felt because of the pressure I put on myself.   

In the end, the only running that matters is the running that makes you feel good.   It really doesn't matter how fast or slow you run or if you run certain distances or races.   What matters is that you run like you want to.   Set goals that make sense for you.  Set goals that get you excited.

And, one last piece of advice.   Don't stop.  And if you do—start again and remember it takes a few good runs to remind you why you liked it so much before.

Take It And Run Thursday: Running In The Heat

Take_it_and_run_thursday_2 Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday!

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is ....Running In The Heat.

The spring temperatures are slowly rising and summer is just a few weeks away!  Does everyone remember last summer?   The never ending heat and humidity.   Do you remember how tired we were of the heat?  If you don't, dig back through your old posts and bring back those memories of heat, humidity, wind and then more heat and humidity.   And then share your tips, old posts, lessons learned.  We can't wait to hear how you plan for runs, stay hydrated and stay cool.

Just post your name and the title/topic of your post in the first spot and the link to your post in the second spot.    

Next Week's Theme is ... Best of the Best...  You know the saying, "Time flies when you are having fun."?  Well, time flew by at the speed of light this last year.  We can't believe it but today marks the one year anniversary that Tom and I started our blog which was our first baby step to creating Runners' Lounge.   And now some 325 posts and thousands of visitors later, we are excited to say that we still love running, blogging, and supporting the running community.   In honor of this milestone, we are asking you to bring your "best of your best" post or story from the last year to TIART.  And if you are too modest, shy or humble to pick one of your best, then bring a friends and share a link to their post.

Click here for a link to all the great posts on Running In the Heat.

Running in the heat—it’s all about adaptation

As runners, we puzzle non-runners.  They wonder, “Why do they run?”  Or “That looks painful.” Or “Yuck, they’re all sweaty and hot.”

Yup, that’s us.

Bank_temp_sign_2 Non-runners might never know the answers to some of these questions, but the matter of sweaty and hot isn’t too much of a mystery.  The secret: runners acclimate to the heat and over time, it’s not as miserable as it looks.

Adapting to the heat is a bargain because it produces predictable results in a relatively short time.  Most runners can adapt to heat after exposure to hot, humid continuous temps through moderate running in 7 – 14 days.  It takes a lot longer to see the effects of speed training, strength training and increased mileage.

The two keys to adapting to heat are blood and sweat.  When our bodies re-learn to perspire efficiently, we increase the ability to regulate the core temperature around the vital organs (the blood) and gain more external comfort on the skin (the sweat) as well. 

One of the chief adaptations the body makes to heat is increasing our blood volume.   When we’re not heated from intense activity, there is plenty of blood to regulate internal temps and to cool the skin.  But when we heat up, we call upon the vascular system to work harder to circulate more blood to produce sweat to cool the skin, to maintain the core temps, and to flow to muscles.

What happens in acclimating to heat?  Our bodies get smarter and kick off the cooling process sooner, signaling us to start sweating sooner and distributing the sweat more abundantly before we overheat. What a deal!

Some of my best runs have been in high temperatures.  Sure I’m a glistening ball of sweat careening down the street, but when my body has adapted, it’s not nearly the awful scene it appears to others. 

Temp sign on Flickr by Satsuma

Tips For Running In The Heat

As compared to yesterday, today was a gorgeous, perfect day.  About 80 degrees and little humidity.  It was picture perfect for hanging out with the family and getting in a few miles too!   And through my miles today, I started thinking back to how I adjust to running in the summer.   Here are a few reminders I have tacked up for myself:

1.  Reminder: You don't know everything.   And/Or, (I) have forgotten it over the longest, coldest winter in history.  With the winter we had, I told myself that summer would be a welcome relief and to not cry and whine about the hot weather.  Just get out there.  But hot weather running brings challenges of its own.  I always need a quick tutorial at the beginning of each season.  Here are a few articles that were good reminders of tips to keep in mind.

2.  Take time to acclimate.  I read a tip on a WeHealth article that suggests,  It takes a full two weeks of heat and humidity to “get used to it.” The body has been shown to take 8 to 10 increments of 30 to 45 minutes in the heat to acclimatize."   With that in mind this weekend, I spent a good 30 minutes both days laying in the hammock or lounge chair sipping a beer.  Looks like I still have 6-8 more sessions left before I am fully acclimated.  I kinda' hope to have them in before this weekends race.  I don't know - it may take way more than 10.  It's hell - but you know - I like this type of cross training.

3.  Plan and replan my running.  It is lighter longer, and it is hotter sooner.  Between that and my kids schedule changes for summer, it is time to rethink my training plans for the summer months to find a way to add in my runs at the time of day that makes sense and is comfortable to me.   I have been relying on fitting it runs on the way home from work.  Very soon, that will be one of the hotter times of the day.

4.  Adjust my intensity to fit the conditions.  I seem to do this naturally.  But I do like having this chart handy to remind me what it is really like out there.   

Chart05

I also really like Dr. Prihut's heat index calculator.

4.  Get smart about clothes.   The last few days of 80 degree weather reminded me quickly that there is a reason "performance fabrics" are popular.  They keep you cool, which keeps you running well.  I was also reminded that in the summer, there is no second wear without wash potential and I never seem to have enough of my favorite running clothes ready to go. I now have a great reason to go shopping for some new summer running clothes.  As for reminders/charts, I do like Jeff Galloway's "what to wear" chart for the different temperatures.   

5.  Drink, drink, drink.   This winter, I could easily do 45-60 minutes of running without worrying about having water stashed on the course.  This weekend, I was reminded that my tolerance with no water stops was down to about 20 minutes and those weeny little water bottles were definitely not going to do it.

6.  Protect my skin and my eyes.  My farmer tan is in full bloom already.  It is amazing how I continue to underestimate the power of the sun each year.  After just a few days of nice weather, I can feel how dry my skin is where it has been exposed.  And my eyes too!  I can't decide if I am more concerned about my vision or the large squinting lines that seem to have permanently taken residence on my forehead.

All in all, I am really excited about summer.  It is great to be able to hang out at night at the campfire and be able to do so much more outside.    And heck, with our seasons, we really only have about 90-100 days of the really hot stuff.  About the time I can't stand it I will be complaining the next week about the snow and ice.  

 

Good Things About Running In Hell Heat (again)

It was like Mother Nature fired a warning shot yesterday.   Our first day of clothes-soaking humidity.   Crazy weather.  Saturday, my kids and I froze at the zoo, even with jackets and pants.  Sunday, we are stripping it all off for 86 degrees with the same measure of humidity.

I battled the heat, humidity and wind from the seat of bike.   I did about an hour at a good clip and felt so good I added in a tiny little run.  It was nice!  It made summer feel like it never left.

I do love summer, I do.  But, the heat, the humidity, the wind.  sigh.   It is as annoying as I remember it from last year.  It made me start asking the question - what is it good for anyway?  What purpose does humidity serve?

And then I remembered I had answered that question last year with my rivoting list "10 good things about Hell Heat."  As you ease back into the summer weather in the midwest and north, here are a few good things running in the heat does for us:

Hot

10.   Hot weather brings out compassion in others.  In this heat, I turn to a red faced, huffing/puffing monster of a runner.   I find that my state of almost dying brings out the best in fellow runners, bikers and walkers.   I had three people stop me and ask me if I was ok.   (Yes mom - I was fine!)

9.  People revere me as a tough athlete.   In the winter, no one asks what I ran or even glances my way.  In the summer, my sweat and pained expressions make them jump to "boy, how far did you go".  I never have the heart to tell them that is my normal expression, I haven't even started yet.

8.  It is a free body cleansing.  All the unnatural impurities that I counted as food this week have been flushed from my body by an outpouring of sweat.    The cookies, the beer, the cheetos, the Red70 and other coloring/sugar from kool aid.....all gone.   No need to go to a sauna, hot house or have a body wrap.  My body is as good as new.

Humidity 7.  My pain threshhold expanded.   Four words -- sweat-in-the-eyes.   Ouch!   If I can stand that, I can make it a few more miles.   Yes, I am stronger.

6.  Time by myself.  When I get home, I get to sit by myself without anyone hanging on me - my kids hate it when I am sweaty.   As gross as I feel, I enjoy my few minutes in my chair (granted it isn't a nice one) all by myself.

5.  Removal of mysterious stains.  Standing at the sink to get more water, the sweat removed the mysterious stain that has been on the counter for weeks.  409, Clorox with bleach, Windex...nothing has removed it - but I can.  Yep, that's gross - but welcome to my life of little accomplishments.

4.  I get my buck out of my laundry detergent.  I am a very cheap person, so "value" of my dollar is always forefront in my mind.  I know that for this round of laundry, I will get my money's worth from my laundry detergent.  No slacking allowed on the job for this load. 

3.  I accomplished more than before.  In hot weather, wind or other nasty conditions, IHills  earn extra credit for my workout.  I just feel like I accomplished something more than my running log will record.   

2.  Gatorade actually tastes good.  A good run on a hot day makes gatorade taste like the most wonderful thing on the face of the earth.  And also water.  It's about the only time I think "yum" when I drink water.

1.  Cookies and beer.   And of course, if I did this bike and run in these miserable conditions, I earn an extra dose of one of my favorite guilt free pleasures.   And boy, do they taste ssswwweeeeettt!

There.  I did it.  I found 10 nice things about this weather. 

Photo of temperature by billybackybear

Photo of humidity by <vincent />

Photo of hills by Allmightymo

Open Mic Friday: Meet Ericka Umbarger

Open_mic_friday_2 This week’s guest is Ericka Umbarger.  A marathoner and ultra-marathoner, Ericka has accomplished some amazing feats, including a 50 mile run just two months ago.  She loves running—and by the way, she also happens to have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

Ericka caught the attention of many loungers for her story about developing as a runner while battling JRA.   Entitled  Because I know what it's like to not be able to . . . , Ericka's story was awarded the Runners' Lounge ExtraOrdinary Running award for May.


Welcome to Runners' Lounge, Ericka!

What is your fondest running memory?

My fondest running memory so far has been crossing the finish line at my first 50-mile ultra-Erikka_1 marathon on March 22, 2008, the Bel Monte Endurance Run in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Four of my running buddies had come to crew for me and cheer me on at the various aid-stations.  My friend Angela, who had never run trails before in her life, helped pace me from mile 37 to the end, which consisted of several climbs up rocky mountains.  If it weren't for her, I would not have finished in 12:27:57, only about two minutes shy of the official cut-off time of 12:30:00.  My mom, sister, brother-in-law and four nieces and nephews surprised me by showing up and cheering for me at the finish line (I was afraid I would not finish so I had not asked them to come).  I was hungry, tired, sore and had almost quit around mile 27 but kept pushing through the intense pain and fatigue.  I actually cried for the first time ever after a race because I could not believe I had actually finished and because I was so exhausted both physically and mentally.

Do you have a mantra or thought that gets you through the rough patches?

David Horton, a legend in local distance running, did a pre-race briefing for newbie ultra-marathoners before the Holiday Lake 50k in February 2008 (my second ultra).  He said that at some point during any ultra, you will hurt and you will want to quit but that the moment will pass.  So when I start hurting, I always think that "This too shall pass" and repeat that to myself in cadence with my running.  After a while, I forget about the pain.  In my last ultra, the Promise Land 50k in April 50k, I was whining while going up a very steep 2-mile climb up a mountain to the next aid station and one of my running buddies said, "You can't train for tough . . . you just gotta be."  That comment shut me up pretty fast!  It reminded me that you can only train your body so much and the rest of it, the desire and the passion, is purely mental.

How has your running inspired others?

I took my mom and sister with me to Nashville the first time I did a half-marathon so they Erikka_2 could enjoy a vacation.  My sister got caught up in the excitement of the race and said she wanted to do the half-marathon the following year, so she and I went back a year later in April 2006 and did it together.   Her husband started running as well and they have done several half-marathons together, as well as one marathon in November 2007.  My sister, a cancer survivor, lost about 80 pounds along the way and encouraged her children to participate in more physical activities.  After a couple years of "gentle prodding" (read: constant nagging!) from my sister and me, my mom gave up cigarettes after 30 years of smoking and began running too. 

In March 2008, my mom and 8-year old niece ran their first half-marathon, and my sister, brother-in-law and I ran it with them.  All five of us crossed the finish line together holding hands, which will always be a special moment for me.  In addition, my sister started a "Marathon Club" at the elementary school where she teaches.  Over the course of one semester, the kids had to run a total of 26.2 miles and they would reward the kids after every major mile stone reached (i.e. 5k total distance, 10k total distance etc).  They even got enough funding and support for the program to enter the kids in a 5k race and all the children's parents drove 45 minutes to watch the race.  I hope these children stay active and that their passion for running rubs off on their families and friends as well!

What have you learned about yourself as a runner?

I actually struggled in trying to answer to this question.  I don't think it's about what I have learned about myself as a runner, but rather what running has taught me and given me as a person.  Growing up with arthritis, I always defined myself first as a person with arthritis and I don't think I let people see past that label, so by default that is how other people saw me.  My running has given me incredible confidence and allowed me to see that I have other talents and skills and I'm not just a person with arthritis.  Dealing with my arthritis has also made me very strong-willed, so I can push through tough times while running because I've experienced worse pain in the past.

Any favorite taboo foods?

The reason I love ultra-marathons is because you are encouraged to eat all the foods that normally you ban from your diet while training! Since you are racing for so long and exerting so much energy, you have to continuously consume calories throughout the whole race.  At every aid-station, usually spaced out every 3-5 miles in an ultra, I grab everything I can eat, including pizza rolled in salt, boiled potatoes rolled in salt, pretzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, M & Ms, jelly beans, chips, soup, and chocolate.  The last ultra I did even had ice cream at one of the aid stations.  My absolute favorite thing to have during an ultra is Mt. Dew (aka Rocket Fuel!!). I don't drink soda on a regular basis so when I hit an aid station, I always chug a few cups and it gives me instant energy.  Also during marathons and in between aid stations in ultras, I swear by Jelly Belly Sports Beans for a quick pick me up!

What’s the nature of your professional work ?

I am a Lead Vocational Counselor at The Choice Group, so I work with individuals with Erikka_3 disabilities to help them find gainful employment in the community and assist with any accommodations they need to be successful on the jobsite.  I also provide Independent Living Skills and Life Skills Training in clients' homes to help them become more independent in their environment in completing their Activities of Daily Living and improve interpersonal and social skills.  My favorite clients to work with are the ones with Rheumatoid Arthritis because I can understand their limitations and help them find jobs that are best suited to their skills and abilities.   

What advice do you have for other runners dealing with the pain of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Before deciding to try any exercise regimen, I would strongly advise getting a complete physical and discussing your goals with your doctor.  Running may not be the best exercise for individuals with JRA who suffer from affected more in the weight-bearing joints, such as in the feet, knees, and hips, but there are other lower-impact options such as cycling and swimming.  Make sure you take all your medications correctly, get plenty of sleep, and let your doctors know if you have pain. 

Most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  There have been many times when I am planning on doing a long run one morning and wake up to a lot of inflammation and pain and will decide to cross-train instead of push my body. 

What are you other interests when you’re not running?

A lot of my activities revolve around fitness and outdoors.  I love hiking in the mountains and taking my dog to the river or park to play with her frisbee.  I love to travel, both domestically and abroad, and use my marathons as a way to explore different parts of the country.  I am an avid reader, sports lover, and roller coaster junkie.

Take It and Run Thursday: Cross Training

Take_it_and_run_thursday_2 Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday!

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is .... Cross Training.

Runners can't live on running alone and in fact, do better if there is some kind of cross training in their training plans.  A few weeks ago when we had Backwards TIART, many of you talked about cross training.  What is working?  What doesn't work?  What is the good balance of running and cross training?   Share your own lessons learned as well as links to good books, websites, training plans and other resources.

Just post your name and the title/topic of your post in the first spot and the link to your post in the second spot.    

Next Week's Theme is ... Running in the Heat.   The spring temperatures are slowly rising and summer is just a few weeks away!  Does everyone remember last summer?   The never ending heat and humidity.   Do you remember how tired we were of the heat?  If you don't, dig back through your old posts and bring back those memories of heat, humidity, wind and then more heat and humidity.   And then share your tips, old posts, lessons learned.  We can't wait to hear how you plan for runs, stay hydrated and stay cool.   

Click here for great posts on Cross Training.

The Featured ExtraOrdinary Runner Award for May

Who doesn't like being inspired by a running story? 

That's why sharing others' experiences is a pleasure in the monthly Extraordinary Running Stories.

Ericka_2 We're pleased to announce the Featured Running Story for May and the winner of a FREE pair of shoes from Onlineshoes.com is Ericka for her story Because I know what it's like to not be able to...    

Imagine running every step with chronic pain.  As Ericka describes it,

Within a matter of weeks, I had gone from a hyper, very active child who participated in basketball, running, gymnastics, volleyball, and softball, to one who could barely get out of bed and walk the halls of school.  Only 13, my body easily felt like that of an 80-year old.

We’re sure you’ll find the rest of her story is inspiring and moving,

Betsy Sharing thoughts about running, particularly from those challenging moments, can be an inspirational gift to other runners.  Betsy puts into words her experience from the final stages of a marathon in The Last 6.2

That last mile was the longest mile I have ever run. For the entire race, I'd been surrounded by people, but in that last mile, things were quiet. There were no spectators or volunteers anywhere near by. Only a few runners were close to me, and I could see all of them struggling. . .In that final mile, I pulled out every trick I knew to keep going. . . I focused on objects a bit ahead of me and imagined myself pulling on them, moving myself further along.

Inthefastlane One of our other favorite stories is not about racing but about the relief that a running routine brings to day-to-day life.

If you’ve never had a stressful day, then you can skip this next story.  Otherwise, it’s written for all of us, and you'll appreciate the rest in Chaos TheoryIn the Fast Lane writes...

I am trying to remain calm, but my heart is starting to race with anxiety. The chaos in my kitchen is a wonderful part of having a family. It is a blessing, but for me, the chaos sometimes hurts… It is an anxiety caused by the richness of my life and as such, I learn to revel in the chaos and sometimes join in and encourage it to continue.

The chaos, however, is not something that I can keep as part of me…but yet I crave silence. I crave peace. And so, I must find those times to recharge: my morning run, alone, quiet except for the sounds of my footfall…

Remember, great moments in running happen every day among the most ordinary of runners.  Everyone is invited to share your extraordinary running story at at Runners' Lounge,  where we  celebrate their running accomplishments, friends and inspiration.

"Hi, My Name is Amy and I am..."

I_am_a_runner_mug "...a Runner."   "I am not a walker." "I am not a biker."  ....

In the early years, when I would be out cross training doing my biking, swimming, walking, or strength training, I would keep my "running face" on so when anyone passed me they would definitely know that I was just a runner out there doing the right thing.   Because that it how I saw cross training - a type of evil to be endured.  It was the activity on my "off days" that bridged the gap between runs.   In fact, I could see it on the faces of the other runners who passed me and were in one of these awful activities too.  We always exchanged the knowing head nod to each other with the "I am so sorry for you" look in our eyes.   

But then I found the triathlon.   I was out on a run celebrating the fact I had turned in my last paper for my MBA and my mind wondered to "well, what now?"   I had already did the marathon thing (and you know how well that went) so I decided I needed to try something different.   So I took on the Olympic distance triathlon - a 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.2 mile run.   

And when I crossed the finish line a few months later do you know what I learned?  I found out that I could run a faster 10K off of a 1 mile swim and 25 mile bike than I could before I started the training doing running alone.  I learned all my run times in training and later on in the 11 tri's I have done since then are generally faster.    In fact, when I get in my groove during my triathlon training period each year, my running improves.   

It makes perfect sense.   The biking builds a different set of leg muscles, the swimming helps build upper body and core strength.   And even though I am training more, I am not pounding on my legs which helps me recover faster.   And mentally, I begin to crave runs while on the bike or swimming.   

So now, I purposely schedule a triathlon in late summer each year to make sure I crossSpirit_never_stops_running  train.  Because without a goal, my running would take over my calendar.  It's usually a sprint triathlon (1/3 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) which means it isn't distracting from my other running goals, but instead nicely compliments whatever I have going on.  I find I can still train for a 1/2 marathon in the fall with my normal 3 day running schedule and then I add a bike ride of 20-30 miles once a week and a 10-15 mile bike ride/1-3 mile run on my off days.  And, just like magic, cross training happens!

I find that I really don't have "off" days or "cross training" days anymore.  I have days I don't run, but now those days are filled with activities that I enjoy and help my running. 

And one last thought...I have recently relearned the power and simplicity of walking.   As a runner, it is sometimes the last activity I would think of on my cross training list but it can be done anywhere, at any time, and still gives you benefits of raising your heartrate and working your muscles.   

Photo of mug on Flickr by powerbooktrance

Photo of sign on Flickr by jhsinger

Cross Training: What Have I Been Waiting For?

For years I was a running purist.  No serious form of cross training for me. 

Cross_training Cross training was for those who needed or wanted a break from running.
  I believed I could outsmart getting injured with proper rest and stretching.  Strength training?  Ha!  I believed there’s nothing you get out of lunges or squats that a medium long run couldn’t give me.  And duh, you don't look like a runner when you're cross training.

I carried in my mind a litany of reasons to avoid cross training.

  • Too busy…
  • Don’t have the right equipment—weights, a proper bike, a pool…
  • Don’t want to bulk up…
  • I’m not injured…
  • Didn’t cross train in the past and had success…
  • Didn’t want to convert to a biking enthusiast…
  • No other form of exercise is as well rounded as running…

In my most honest moment, I didn’t fully know what cross training is.

In my smuggest moments, I thought cross training was for lightweight runners.

In my darkest moments, I was brainwashed and drinking from the no-cross-training-for-me kool aid.  If there was a fanatical compound for running purists, where cross training was forbidden, I’d have moved in. 

Besides, I’d rather be running!

Well after doing a 180 turn on cross training, I’m experiencing a new level of running success and enjoyment.  What's in it for me?  Well let's just say:

  • Less soreness
  • Better bounce back from demanding runs
  • Increased flexibility
  • Better running form and efficiency
  • Better performance
  • More running enjoyment

The good news is anyone can begin cross training RIGHT NOW!   If you’re not sure how to get started, my favorite book is Matt Fitzgerald’s Runners’ World Guide to Cross Training.  The book will have you on board and signed up quicker than Amy can whip up a batch of cookies.  In it he explains the irrefutable advantages of cross training using a wide variety of cross training options.  He even covers how to include X-T in 10k, half marathon, and marathon training. 

Today, I’ve come to believe that cross training is one of the Big Three Most Overlooked Keys to Running (the other two being nutrition and rest).

Some of my running friends tell me they wish they’d started running earlier.  Any regret I have is not embracing cross training sooner.  I’m still working to add more cross training to my routine.  It’s not an overnight process.  But with every new type of exercise I embrace, my running feels enhanced.

This week’s Take It And Run Thursday focuses on cross training.  Hope you're planning to share your lessons on cross training.

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