Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Running Towards Authenticity: It's About To Get Real

I promise this post is about running - but it is mostly a rant about real life. It is not intended to be offensive, but a candid look at my own life.

I always have a lot of anxiety when the end of summer rolls around (remember: teacher/summer off/etc.) I'm talking actual anxiety attacks here. Tears. Tantrums. Doom and gloom. It has less to do with the fact that summer ends and much more to do with feeling like I am breaking up with my authentic self. I get to live an authentic life for a 10 week window every summer. When I have to put my selfish pursuits aside for the sake of a grown-up existence, I freak out.

I can't breathe & I'm going to vomit

I have always been introverted - preferring to work on my own, because I am an efficient and committed self-starter and I have control issues. Without the distraction of others or rules imposed by others, I can accomplish a tremendous amount. Because of that, the summer is a really productive and exciting time for me. I work as much during those ten weeks as I do during the school year, but I work on things that are mine - entirely selfish and fulfilling. My rules. My pursuits. My rap cd blaring in the background. 

Otherwise - I follow the rules that society puts in front of me. I jump through the hoops. I collect my gold stars for a job well done. I say please and thank you and pay my bills on time; however, I do it all with a skeptical eye and more than a little reluctance. I do not trust the systems that adults are forced to function within; professional beaurocracy, social hierarchies, rules for the sake of rules all make me want to die a little bit. I have a visceral reaction to the thought of abiding by a system's rules that are:
a. unnecessary  
b. inefficient  
c. corrupt  
d. demeaning
e. stagnating

I'm not trying to paint myself as a rebellious brat. I am a grown-up with a grown-up life that I have to maintain - a life that I am mostly proud of - but the 15 year old version of myself gives me the finger every time I disingenuously say "Yes, sir" to the Man, every time I trade my time for money, every time I neglect my wants and needs for something else. I think of the young version of myself and what I thought life would look like; the girl that got voted "Wildest Imagination" in school did not expect life to be so regimented and tame. I thought I would grow up to write and illustrate children's books and live happily ever after. That is still on the table. That is authentic. 

Do not marginalize your life.  

I have found some ways to navigate adulthood. I don't want to say that I bend the rules, but I do set up my own framework in all situations to make life manageable. Basically, I avoid doing a lot of things I don't want to do. I try to remember I never have to do anything. Here are a few examples that I get a fair amount of criticism for: I'm not married yet, because I don't want to be. I don't have kids yet, because a crying baby will make my ovaries shrivel. I don't engage in small talk, because it's the foundation of gossip and inefficiency. I don't eat meat, because meat had a mom. Etc. If there isn't a severe consequence and I can avoid doing something I don't want to do or some that conflicts with my values, you better believe I'll be avoiding it.

The visceral reaction I mentioned above rears its head EVERY. SINGLE. TIME I do something that conflicts with my "authentic self" or threatens my independence. Every soul-sucking time. The real version of Michelle is kinda moody, high-strung, creative, ambitious, impatient, funny and into rock & roll. She lives permanently in my mind and interjects when she can, but the Michelle that is present is the watered down version that passes for a grown-up. She is the one that puts on professional clothes, signs emails with "regards" and listens intently while someone else dictates her life. *Real Michelle shakes her head at the Drone Michelle and tells a dirty joke.* I sincerely feel like I have multiple personality disorder. 

I think it is extremely important to listen to those voices, to those feelings in your "gut," and to act on them. Or be miserable. Or numb. In that regard, running has been my savior. Running is the only time when I can be 100% authentic. In control. Honest in my dialogue. When I have to return to the world of the working, running is the sanity that gets me through it all and keeps me connected to WHO I REALLY AM.

That said - my point in all of this - I am making a commitment to myself to work on my authenticity. Running will help me get there, but it is going to require some bold moves. Stagnation is not in the cards, my friends.

One of my favorite quotes is: This ain't no side hustle. My life is no side hustle. This is it and it is what I make of it. 
Be and do what you love.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Training Revision: Ten 'Til Taper

I have made an interesting choice with my training. I'm changing it entirely. And I'm changing it near the peak of my training. *GASP* My goal race, The Lakefront Marathon, is on October 6th.

When training for my last two marathons, I have followed hybrids of traditional plans that gradually increase mileage and goal paces until peaking a few weeks out - taper - race. You know the drill. It might be completely ill-advised, but I'm doing something completely different this time. Why? Because balls to the wall.

The "plan" that I have decided to follow is of my own invention. Don't go and try to patent it, because it isn't tested and it is MINE. ;) I'm basing it on a daily mileage of TEN MILES - hence the name, "Ten 'Til Taper." I will do exactly that - I will run ten miles every day until taper while abiding by the following rules:

1. Long runs will still happen as scheduled. The day before or after a long run (not both) will be enough to equal 20+ miles for the two days. Example: Sunday long run = 16 miles. Monday run = four miles. Total = 20 miles/2 days = 10 miles/day. Got it? If you go over the 10 mile daily average, that's fine - but no less.

2. Speed work and hills must be built into the 10 miles for any given day as planned. The speed work can be done on a track, but the remaining distance must be done after the workout.

3. Easy days must be run easily. 1:30 min below race pace for a total of 10 miles.

4. Once a week, the workout can be divided into two separate runs. Example: 6 miles in the morning, 4 miles in the evening. This can be done on speed work days.

5. Cross training does not count toward mileage and should be done as scheduled in addition to daily mileage of 10 mile average. 

That is it. 70+ miles. No excuses. Speed, hills, distance included. Either this will be a genius way to end my cycle or it will fail miserably and I will feel it come race day. I'm excited to try it out, because it eliminates the question, "What is my workout today?" 

Oh - that's right - it's TEN 'TIL TAPER!  

What's the rationale behind all this? The fact of the matter is that I have some specific goals tied to the race in October. While traditional plans have been fine in the past, I need something that is going to put my training over the top. By maintaining higher mileage for the last few weeks of training before taper, I hope to develop some muscle memory and strength. I'm looking to PR in the marathon; you can't achieve new goals doing the same thing over and over. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lace & Race - One Year "Blogiversary" and Giveaway!

Today is Lace & Race's One Year Blogiversary! YAY! I guess that means we have to PARTY!

One year ago - I started this blog with the intention of keeping me accountable with my training after the "slow champ" incident. If you're not familiar, you can get caught up with the Slow Champ story in this post, "In Search of an Impressive Run." 

So - why "Lace & Race" as a name? There's the obvious connection to running - lace up your shoes and get racing, fool! But the name kinda has a double-meaning for me. I've always toed the line between being a girly-girl and a tom-boy. Lace represents the girl in me that likes vintage skirts and rom-coms; Race is the competitive tom-boy instinct that I can't suppress. Hence Lace AND Race because I don't want to choose sides. 

And what about that saying, "You ain't no punk?" Think of it as my version of Nike's "Just do it!" The saying came to me during a particularly challenging half marathon. I was bonking at the bottom of a hill. I looked up at this daunting beast in front of me and thought those words, "You ain't no punk!" And the hill is history. I live my life by that slogan - grab all things by the horns and move forward with purpose. (Fun fact: Kanye West also likes a version of this slogan: "If you ain't no punk holla we want pre-nup!"

The year has been exciting to say the least! If I think back to this time last year, things are so different and a lot of that is because of Lace & Race. 

The biggest difference is in the people that I have met along the way. Between Twitter, Instagram, blog followers and Facebook - I have "met" so many incredible people. It's funny, because I talk to a lot of you more than I talk to my real-life friends and better yet - some of my internet friends are now REAL LIFE FRIENDS! That's so great - it's like if your childhood imaginary friends were suddenly real people. I guess that just shows the strength of the runner, fitness and wellness community. We all have so much in common that we connect in major ways - like we've been living parallel lives, so we already "know" each other pretty well. And - we understand the high level of "crazy" that this runner's life demands.

The support I have received from many of you has been invaluable. I love that I can come to my blog followers and internet friends for advice, for a good rant and especially a laugh. You've also helped me with my training and accountability. I always know I'm going to have to report my performance results to an internet audience - so you guys keep me motivated. Plus - so many of you are inspirational and extremely talented. I have sincerely learned so much from you guys. I'll stop gushing now, but you're pretty neat.

The first year of Lace & Race has been AWESOME. 
I look forward to what the next year has in store!

Here are some bloggy highlights from the last year...and a major giveaway at the bottom!

TOP 5 MOST-READ (Non-Giveaway) POSTS:
1. Runner's Savings Account $$$
2. Running Alone: Stranger Danger
3. This Marathon Will Cost You Five Pounds 
4. GI Distress: The Joys of Runners' Trots
5. 'Twas the Night Before the Marathon

1. Ran and BQ'd at my first marathon! (3:18:35)
2. Finished 2013 Boston Marathon (3:21:26)
3. The Journal Times wrote THIS wonderful article
4. Joined founding group of OlallieMKE
5. Became member of Oiselle Volee Team
1. Sun* - Eat. Host. Run. Style.
2. Sheila* - sheilawordell/roadrunner
3. Kat* - The Fit Girl's Kitchen
4. Laura* - Backstage Balance
5. Nicole* - More Beets, Please!
6. Cori - OliveToRun
7. Jen - Jen's Best Life
8. Lindsey/Glenn - Out For A Run
9. Kristy - Pittsburgh Runner
10. Lauren - Breathe Deeply and Smile
11. Kristin - Mrs. Miller's Miles 
12. Ashley - Running Bun

*denotes "net friend" turned "real life human friend"

*Disclosure: I was not compensated by any of the companies that have agreed to participate in my Blogiversary Giveaway. Products were donated. Opinions are my own.*

Enough chit-chat! Let's get to the good stuff - the FREE STUFF! I have a pretty great giveaway for you all - filled with products that I personally use and love. It is a winner-takes-all situation, so if the single winner is you, you will get all of the following items as described! Some will come directly from me, some from the generous companies that have offered to participate - so please read carefully. Continental US entries for shipping purposes please! Enter through the Rafflecopter Giveaway below.

1. ONE Sparkly Soul Headband in winner's color of choice

Sparkly Soul headbands are great! Firstly, they're cute - but also functional. These no-slip headbands were designed by athletes for athletes! *Headband will ship from Sparkly Soul.*

2. Bearded Brothers Energy Bars - Variety 4-Pack 
Bearded Brothers is one of my favorite up and coming "real food" companies. The Bros make yummy, organic, vegan, mostly raw energy bars - and they try to do it in the most sustainable way possible. I really respect their business and it helps that the bars are fantastic. In their words, they are made "with love and joy." I love the packaging, too. *Bars will ship from Lace & Race*

3. Health Warrior Chia Bars - One box in winner's flavor of choice

Health Warrior Chia Bars are another favorite energy bar of mine! The texture is incredible, if you're a texture eater. I am a huge fan of chia seeds in general - they pack a lot of punch in those little seeds. Health Warrior has several flavors to choose from, but my personal favorite is Coconut. I'm getting hungry thinking about it! *Chia Bars ship from Health Warrior*
4. Lace & Race Coffee Mug 

The winner will get one of the coveted Lace & Race coffee mugs - featuring my slogan "You ain't no punk! Go run!" I hope it will serve as a motivator every day while you sip your morning joe. *Mug ships from Lace & Race*
5. PaperMichelle Stationery  - THREE cards of winner's choosing

Last but not least, the winner will receive three cards of their choosing from my stationery shop, PaperMichelle. I know this is not running related, but I'd love to bring my two worlds together a little bit. I actually do having running cards! But come on - who doesn't like punny greeting cards? *Stationery ships from Lace & Race*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Race Recap & Training Update

On Saturday, I ran the Milwaukee Irish Fest 5K with some of my Olallie friends! We ran as a team. Going into the race, I wasn't sure how to approach it. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been having some issues with my knee and my right foot. Part of me wanted to take it easy and just enjoy the event with friends while also giving my body a break. The other part of me knows that I am too competitive to let that happen.

Fast Olallie and Oiselle girls before the race.
I lined up near the front - but I left plenty of room to keep an eye on the girls that lined up closer to the start. I assumed they'd be my competition. Whenever I run a race, I use this strategy - line up slightly behind my anticipated pace and scope out the competition - basing my opinions entirely on physique, gear and pre-race demeanor. (SCIENCE!) There were only a couple girls in front of me to check out anyway. 

The start of this race was - umm - really weird, because some random lady in the crowd started shouting the start sequence. Literally "ON YOUR MARK. GET SET. GO!" Everyone was confused. I thought it was a joke until the crowd started moving. 

Let me stop for a moment here to say I generally don't enjoy 5Ks. I would rather run a marathon any day over a 5K. I can't even really say what I dislike about them, but it probably has a lot to do with guaranteed pain for 3.1 miles worth of time. I give people a lot of credit when they run 5Ks as their preferred race distance, because a 5K is no joke if you actually race it. All of these might actually happen during a raced 5K:

My race wasn't puke or faint worthy (or death - sheesh.) The fact that I didn't really feel like puking or fainting tells me that I probably could've pushed it a little bit more - but remember - bum foot and knee demand restraint. I do a "smile test" during races of all distances, if I can still smile I am not suffering (which is good in a marathon) but I should also consider going faster. So - I did the smile test and settled in around 6:22 min/mile pace. 

I passed the girls that were in front of me - and no girls found their way back to the front of the pack. I am always expecting some girl to take it really easy and save a sizable energy reserve for a killer finish - she typically comes blazing past me in the last half mile when I am ready to trip on an imaginary crack and call it a day. This happens in every race - without fail - until Saturday. My finishing time was 19:44 - good for a *1st Place Female Overall finish. Olallie girls, you understand the asterisk.

Olallie girls collapse after a fast and hot race.
We all ended up doing pretty well - and most importantly - we had fun! If you want to see a really flattering picture of me running this race, click here. In that exact moment, I spotted the photographer and thought "Oh crap. He caught me making a face. Not a pretty face. Damn it!" All that intensity in my face is going to leave a mark and a trail of ugly race photos on the internet. 

So - that brings me to the rest of my marathon training. I have to be honest. This last week sucked for training. I took off four days entirely and the running I did get in was not great. But - I have to keep reminding myself that is all in an effort to give my knee and foot a break. The 5K did nothing for my ankle and heel; I woke up on Sunday with a swollen ankle and a nasty limp. It was so bad that I opted out of doing the Dirty Girl 5K, because obstacles with a swollen ankle sounds like a terrible idea. I was bummed.

I also missed the 20 miler that my schedule called for this past weekend. I am willing to make a lot of sacrifices, but long runs and speed work cannot be skipped during marathon training - not when there are goals on the line anyway. I ran my 20 miler today instead. It really wasn't that bad - definitely a little sore once I got home, but the run itself was fine. I ran 7:30 to 8:00 pace the whole time - averaging 7:48. I did give myself three 3 minute water/fuel stops - because I was not interested in pushing my luck today. The worst thing about the whole run: a blister from new shoes and some chafing from thighs that won't cut me a break. Such is life. All that matters is that those miles are in the books!!

How is your fall race training going??

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Over-Training - Gimme a Break!

Hi friends! I'm back from my little "recharging" trip to the woods. I needed to get away for a few days - to shut off the electronics, spend time outside and let everything slow down, quiet down for just a little while. And - wow - Wisconsin is so incredibly beautiful.

Wisconsin River, Spring Green
My body ended up needing a little bit of a rest too, so this trip was perfectly timed. On Saturday morning, I went out for a 17 mile long run - and everything went fine. But on Sunday, my left knee felt locked and my right heel felt bruised. I have no idea why either body part was mad at me - I didn't do anything out of the ordinary on my long run. 

I think two years of constant marathon training has caught up with me. 

With that in mind - I did something I haven't done in a really long time and something that makes me extremely uncomfortable: I didn't run at all during the last four days. Zero miles.

I hate that I am currently experiencing some amount of runner shame as I admit that I didn't log the miles my schedule called for. I did the opposite - I kicked my feet up (because they hurt,) read books, ate trail mix, had a beer or two and tried to keep my mind off of the fact that I wasn't running. Whenever I did think about it, I beat myself up pretty badly - but I had to keep reminding myself that I have also BEATEN MYSELF UP pretty badly by running continuously for a few years.

Over-training is a real thing. More isn't always better, especially if you don't give yourself the proper time to rest and recover. I try to pay attention to my body's needs, but the simple fact of the matter is that training is hard. Sometimes, our bodies are just like:

"HEY YOU - can you give me a break here??"

So - I did exactly that: I gave me a break. A couple days off won't derail all of the work I've put in; it will probably improve my training, because I won't risk a more serious, long-term injury. 

Don't let the imagined guilt of missing a workout stop you from taking care of yourself. You won't get off track with your training because YOU are a dedicated and competitive runner with really big and totally achievable goals - as long as you're not hurt. ;) Plus, sometimes kicking your feet up and taking in the view heals your soul a little bit. That is pretty important. 

Discuss: How do you decide when your body needs a little bit of a break from training? Do you feel guilty about taking that break?

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Run For Oiselle!

Last week, I was able to make a really exciting announcement (after a couple torturous days of waiting and nail biting:)

I run for Oiselle

That's right - this girl right here is an official part of the Oiselle Volée Team! WHOOP WHOOP! Insert a happy dance and a virtual high-five.

Within the running world, Oiselle is truly an institution; however, I know some non-runners might be asking: What is Oiselle? Let me explain. 

Oiselle is a brand of premium women's running apparel that is revered and longed for by fast ladies everywhere. "A women's running apparel brand" doesn't do justice to exactly what Oiselle is though. As a brand, they are passionate about the sport of running and the women that live their lives/achieve their goals in Oiselle gear. Their products are meant to be functional and fashionable - designed for real athletes' needs with high quality fabrics, vibrant colors and fashion-forward designs that won't hinder competitive running. Shop here.

Being a part of the Oiselle Volée Team means so much more than representing a women's running brand. This team is a carefully curated "flock" of women that believe running is a lifestyle, a philosophy and a necessity. In Oiselle's own words:

Oiselle is all about helping women run free and fast! Currently we have 150 women from across the country who represent our brand as they train and race toward their running goals. Above all, we seek teammates who - like us - see running not just as a sport, but as a life philosophy. And who are excited about bringing this energy to their own community.  
A sisterhood of strength. 

I am so excited for the first time I get to race in my Oiselle singlet - knowing that it represents my own achievements as well as my place in a sisterhood of strength. I look forward to the camaraderie and support as we race our way through the upcoming year. Birds of a feather! Meet the the rest of the Oiselle Volée Team here, with introduction from Oiselle CEO + Founder, Sally Bergesen!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spandits! - A Review & A Giveaway

*All opinions are my own. I was given Spandits! products as part of a contest, as well as part of a review and giveaway agreement.* 

Earlier in the summer, I entered a Twitter competition to name a new fabric pattern for Spandits! - the "seriously fun, but never too bold" active apparel line out of Maine. Spandits liked the name I suggested, which means I won some gear in that pattern to test, review and giveaway! Here I am sporting "Aurora Borealis" in all of its colorful glory! So flashy!
Spandits Arm Sleeves ($25) and Headband ($8)
I don't know about you guys, but I get really bored with a lot of the spandex active apparel out there. I usually just default to black because its easy, but why not add some fun to your workout gear? I have mentioned it in the past - but I truly believe that what you wear affects your performance, because it affects how you feel about yourself. If you feel that you look colorful and fun, you are more likely to feel confident and push it to that next level.

Both stayed in place while test running them! Important! 
I tested out both products so I could give you all a fair review: thumbs up! I tend to have problems with headbands sliding off (I think my head is small???) but this one stayed in place the whole time. The arm sleeves also stayed up while I was running. The best part: I got several compliments on them in the short time I was out testing them.

Spandits has several patterns available if Aurora Borealis isn't your style. You can apply the patterns to headbands, sleeves, skull caps, tights, etc. If you want to accessorize in any way - they probably have an option for you. My favorite is the arm sleeves. I have always raced in sleeves for functional reasons, but I do think other runners see you in them are like, "Ohhh, she must be serious!" Sleeves make it easy for spectators to find you in races too - because they stand out so much, especially when they are in a "seriously fun, but never too bold" pattern! 

In other exciting Spandits news, they are looking to start an Ambassador program! If you're a Spandits super-fan, you can find more info about participating in the program here. How fun - a discount while representing a great brand!

Thanks to Spandits! and everyone that entered! Our winner is:
(Visit her blog! You won't regret it.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Running to Find God

I have never been a particularly religious person - I'm not even sure faithful is the word I would use to describe how I feel about God and life; I would say that I am spiritual. Please be aware that I am not intending to judge anyone or their belief systems. This is fairly difficult for me to write about - but I feel like it is important to share. Maybe some of you can relate.

As a very serious young girl with a need for logic and reasoning - I had an exceptionally hard time accepting the rules of my church. I could never make sense of what I was supposed to take away from my time spent there - should I be afraid of God? Should I be ashamed of my mistakes? I could not get behind an institution that seemed to make so many judgments - and most importantly - I did not personally feel a love from the church or its rules. I didn't leave feeling like a better person or like I knew myself or God any better. It actually made me feel a lot of confusion and anger towards organized religion.

The fact that I stopped going to a church does not mean that I don't believe in God. I would argue that I have an extremely strong connection to God - and everything that falls under the umbrella of "life." The only rule I live by is to be honest, fair and kind to all things. Good choices will follow.

I seek out time with God in nature rather than within the walls of a church. This is where running comes in. Running is my church. It has become my time to reflect, to meditate on my life - to seek out that "zen" moment where everything is a bit hazy accept my thoughts, my footfalls on a path and the rhythm of my breathing - a harmonized connection of mind, body and nature. It is healing and necessary for me.

Photo Credit
I remember the first time that my beliefs about God felt validated. The sun was setting as I ran down an abandoned county road in my hometown. I was struggling through a long run;  I was in pain, my breathing was heavy and so were my feet - but off in the distance I heard a "whooshing" sound - a breeze rustling the fall leaves. They kind of danced in front of that orange and pink sky, and in that exact moment - I became so overwhelmed by the peacefulness and beauty of it all that I started to cry. I felt sad that no one was there to experience it with me, but so grateful that I was able to recognize the moment at all. "God is in the trees" was all that went through my mind and that is a phrase that hasn't left me since.

God is in the trees.

That day, I felt a connection with nature and God and life that I am always trying to replicate - and I am often able to do so while running. I have found that as long as I am paying attention to the details in my surroundings, I'm able to have a similarly overwhelming experience - where I can find myself in absolute amazement at both the simplicity and complexity of life. Running allows me to experience MORE of those moments. You just see MORE. You cover MORE ground. I always think about the beautiful details that I'm passing when I'm in a car - how much did I NOT experience because I'm passing it by for the sake of modern efficiency? Running forces us to take our time, to use our senses and to participate in a natural world that we are not separate from but we are an integral part of. When my life feels chaotic, my solution is to put on my running shoes and head to the woods.
To the woods.

When I've had this conversation before, people have written it off as a runner's high. Crazy talk. So what? I don't think it matters if its a runner's high as long as I have a time to feel a part of something much greater than myself - as long as I am able to appreciate the beauty and structure of life - as long as it helps me to lead a healthy, happy and thoughtful experience. And let's not forget: just the ability to run - to push our bodies through this rigorous activity - is an incredible gift and a testament to our amazing design.

What about you? Do you feel a greater connection to yourself, to life, to God when you are running?