Learning to Enjoy the Challenges set in front of us, 10/30

As Hurricane Sandy hits the East Coast and leaves many people without power, schools and businesses shut down, we in Michigan can’t really complain much about the little effects we notice.  One of which is the strong winds. 

 Last night I ran after work.  I had a lot of time this weekend to think about running and the pregnancy and how I needed to maybe change my attitude.  I found a great blog, by a runner named Jen who’s list of accomplishments include some incredible PR’s that kicked off about 5 months after the birth of her daughter.  Naturally, I was excited and as I read through her blog found her to be funny, quirky and personable, and mostly very likeable.  So I sent her a note with my email address attached asking her for some advice on what she did while she was pregnant.  To my surprise, she replied right away and I was surprised that she not only had not done really high mileage throughout her pregnancy, but also she said she took a month off after giving birth to get back at it.

 So this made me think.  All this time I’ve been pushing myself so hard to run a certain mileage, even as my body was starting to tell me that it doesn’t like to anymore.  To that, I told myself to “toughen up” and appreciate the fact that I could still do it and just “get through it”.  I told myself that gritting through the pain and uncomforts during this time would strengthen me mentally and physically so that I’d be in better shape after the baby is born.  I knew I’d never risk the baby’s health, never push myself “too hard”, but as long as I knew that she was safe, I could make myself as uncomfortable as I could. 

 Now, does that really sound like taking good care of myself?  But Kara Goucher did such and such!  Well, I’m not Kara Goucher.  I have a full time job from 8-5 and can’t just go out and run when my body feels like it the most.  I can’t get all the sleep that I feel like because I still have to get up at 6 am to get to work on time and I can’t take naps, etc.  So why do I feel like I have to hold myself to the same sort of “running pregnant” standard as her? 

 Well, I don’t.  So yesterday, I had on my calendar to run 8 miles.  On Sunday night I started getting out my running clothes to go for an 8 mile run in the morning, looked at the forecast, saw numbers in the 30’s, knew I couldn’t run during lunch hour (I had a lunch meeting) and I was getting all stressed out about it already and just said “Enough!”.  I decided right then that I was going to run after work and that I wasn’t going to run 8 miles, just 6.  And I’m going to taper all week because that’s what I’d be doing if I was racing a half marathon this Saturday.  I’m not racing a half marathon on Saturday, I’m just “running” one, so I had previously told myself that I didn’t need to taper.  Well, running for 13.1 miles with an added 13-14 pounds of weight on my tiny frame may not be the same intensity as “racing” 13.1 miles at my pre-pregnancy weight was, but its certainly no jog in the park either.  Its hard on my body…how hard?  Its hard to know, hard to explain, but I do notice that days after my longest runs lately I’m more tired, my muscles are more fatigued so I do believe that it’s a different level of effort required and I should reward my body for carrying out this task by giving it the rest it is so desperately craving right now!

 So all that said, I was actually looking forward to my 6 mile run last night instead of dreading it.  And from my first step, I actually felt less pain in my abdomen than I usually do.  I don’t know if its because my belly really seemed to balloon up, or pop out over the last few days and my maternity belt finally could be snug enough to give it ample support, or what the reason, but I enjoyed it.  Sure, as the miles went on, it did worsen and I still had the uncomfortable pressure on my bladder and everything else.  I talked myself through some tough points (like going up the several hills on the hilly course I chose) and then when I had just two miles to go, everything turned against me.  I had to run uphill, into wind that reached gusts of 35 miles an hour, all while feeling the horrible sensation that I really had to go to the bathroom.  And you know what, I laughed.  I looked at the shade of pink that was coloring the light colored houses as I approached them from the setting sun and marveled at the beautiful orange that seemed to color the sky and all the trees in front of me in a sort of gold.  I felt the wind fighting against my tiny body that was carrying an extra 13 or so pounds up hill, I felt the struggle, glanced at my watch briefly and saw my pace at that moment as 8:13 and just enjoyed it all.  Its funny to me that sometimes I whine over little things that “ruin” my workouts or races.  I constantly seek perfect weather, perfect courses for running PR’s and feel so frustrated when things don’t work out just perfectly.  Yet in some of the toughest, challenging moments, I’m somehow able to lightly laugh it off and enjoy those moments that question my sanity.  I felt this way the day that I did the 12 mile run in the pouring rain and I felt it last night.  It’s a sort of euphoric “live in and enjoy the moment” type of feeling that seems to come from out of nowhere and sneak up and surprise me at moments I’m feeling particularly weak and vulnerable. 

 Attribute it to whatever you want.  I’m religious so sometimes I may wonder if this is a message I’m supposed to see and take comfort in knowing that its all going to be alright.  The wind last night was chilling and strong, but when I focused my attention on beautiful sunset before me, I felt comforted and knew that I could run through the wind, albeit at a slower pace, and that was ok. 

 Yesterday was a day that started with some struggles.  I called my doctor for the second time during the pregnancy because I felt awful all morning and had lower back pain and abdominal cramps and it terrified me.  I ended the day feeling strong and comforted. 

 Runs like yesterday happen rarely in life, which is why its so important to reflect on them and find their meaning in your own life. 

 In this pregnancy, I can fight the wind that is surely coming on strong and can’t be avoided and “get through it with pain and toughness”, or I can relax, focus my gaze on what lies ahead in the horizon, adjust my expectations and enjoy the journey.

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