Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Critic...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

But, Mr. Roosevelt, what would you say if the critic and the man in the arena were one and the same?

Hi, my name is Stacey, and I am my own worst critic. I beat myself up and belittle myself. I compare myself to others, even though they probably don’t even notice. I project my own insecurities, and cast a shadow of doubt on myself.

Last week, I realized just how bad things have become when I missed my morning workout. Rather than thinking, “OK, I woke up with stomach cramps and could not physically have run. I will try again later.” I thought, “What a failure. You were supposed to run 5 miles. Stop making excuses.” It ate at me all day. That day, it all ended fine because I did make it out, and had a great run. But the whole story repeats itself over and over. I still look at my weekend run as a failure, even though I got my miles in, because I couldn’t get it all Saturday, and then couldn’t get the full 12 Sunday. I slept this morning instead of strength training, and even though I can do it tonight, I’m sitting at work berating myself for not just getting up and getting it done.

I attack myself when runs are hard, blame myself when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, give in when I can’t move a weight I wanted. I see Tweeters complain about how a slow run for them was an 8 minute pace and mentally respond with disgust and disbelief because my averages are in the 10-11 minute range depending on distance. My stepsister decided to start running after I did, and I agonize over every result, wondering why she’s faster, why she’s better.

I’m sure most of us have seen The Oatmeal’s fantastic “Blerch” comic. I’m pretty sure I have the Blerch and the Jerk following me. One tells me to give in, to be lazy, to eat that cheat food, and the other one berates me endlessly after I listen to the first.

The Jerk isn’t always a bad thing, but it IS a bad thing when he gets out of control. The Jerk can come in handy sometimes… a mean little Critic following me around, punching the Blerch in the face is a good thing.

But the Critic, the Jerk, has become too strong recently. No one else is comparing my results. In fact, most people are super supportive, even when results aren’t that impressive. Only I use that comparison to beat myself up. My competition should only be against myself. And, truly, failures walk hand-in-hand with triumph. If I have never failed, how could I feel as great of joy when I succeed? “who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”

It is hard to accept, hard to learn, that coming up short, whether it’s an aborted long run, a run that wasn’t as fast as you hoped, a weight that simply won’t move, coming up short is part of the battle. It is what makes the eventual victory so sweet. The failures and struggles give power to the victory, to the success, to the PR. 

Maybe this is the mantra, the way to silence the Critic, the Jerk, to remind him over and over that there is no effort without error and shortcoming. If it were all easy, if there weren’t delays and failures, errors and shortcomings, there would be no victory, and no reason to keep going.

“who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Dare. Dare greatly. Take on those challenges. Silence the Critic by setting goals for yourself, not for others. If I compare myself to others and then decide it isn’t worth it because I feel I’ll come up short, if I take one perceived failure and decide it’s not worth fighting for success, if I refuse to dare - then I belong with those cold and timid souls. If I do not dare, I do not deserve victory, and I do not deserve to call it defeat. When that voice, that Jerk, that Critic, pops up in your head, remind him that you are daring. That you may have failed today, yesterday, and the day before, but you are striving, you are daring greatly, and you’d rather have the face marred by dust and sweat and blood than sit aside and believe in critics.

Workout of the Day: will be 4 rounds: 20 kettlebell swings (35lbs), 10 shoulder presses - each arm (20 lbs), 10 lunges (40 lbs)

Song of the Day: "Pompeii" - Bastille

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Running in the CamelBak Marathoner Vest

Let's stick to a theme here... when I review stuff, I've run in it. Not just shoes. So "Running in" means it's a review..

I hate, hate, hate carrying stuff while running, and I hate the very idea of water/fuel belts. I've previously run with a handheld bottle. I actually threw it away in the middle of one Half Marathon, and ended up replacing it because it was only $10. But, with some very long runs in my future, I needed a means of carrying fuel and hydration. Very shortly into my search, the CamelBak Marathoner Vest caught my eye...  along came Christmas money, and I ordered it!

I received the vest during a bit of taper week, so it took a while before I finally got to try it. Here, I tried it on the night I got it...

Front View
Side View (almost flattering, isn't it?)

My immediate impression was that the vest was comfortable. I was very impressed by the number of adjustment points. There are two adjustable buckles across the chest, the top is fabric, the bottom is elastic. There are adjustable buckles at the sides, which zig-zag between 3 points of contact. The straps are actually attached by velcro, so you can elongate or shorten at the shoulder. 

The vest has several reflective strips, which is wonderful (visibility is SO important). There are two large pouches on the front, one on each side. These could easily hold fuel, an extra water bottle, gloves, a neck gaiter, etc. Above these are mesh storage, covered by a small overlap, which is great for something like your keys or cell phone. The tube comes over your shoulder, under two straps, and then has two available clips. The front also features and integrated safety whistle. 

On the back, you have some additional reflectivity, a zippered flap that allows access to the reservoir, and a mesh and elastic pouch that is perfect for storing an extra layer. 

Just messing with it that night, I was very impressed by how easy it is to adjust each strap. Even with gloves on, it is easy to either grab the extra strap and pull, or lift up on the buckle to let a little out. I was, and remain, confused by the whistle. It doesn't seem to come off, despite having an elastic strap. But if it remains where it's attached, I physically can't bend my head down to use it if needed. Maybe I'm missing something, but I probably will go ahead and snap the plastic soon, just so I can use the whistle if I ever need... hopefully I never do need it, but I'm glad it's there!

Front View
Back View
I can't figure out this whistle...
Ok, so, finally it was time to USE the vest! I had a 12 miler on my schedule and I was ready to go. I purchased the CamelBak Elixer in Berry, and premixed it in a different container, then poured the mix, plus additional water until the reservoir was full. When I first lifted the full vest, I was a bit concerned about the weight, but the wide shoulder straps do a great job distributing the weight. Even with a full vest, three Island Boost packets, and my phone, the vest felt pleasantly light. 

Take the time to mess with the straps. One thing I learned very quickly.. leave everything just a bit looser than you think you'll want. I started out with everything pulled snug, and quickly realized it was too restrictive to breathe properly. I loosened everything just a touch and it was perfect. Unfortunately, my first outing with the Marathoner Vest was short-lived. I only got about 3.65 miles in. Why?  Well... at mile 1.5, I realized my tube was frozen. At mile 2.5, I was thirsty, so actually stopped, removed the vest, and tried to tuck the tube inside so my body heat would thaw it. At mile 3.65, I gave up and called the husband to pick me up. Then I called REI in the hopes they would have the insulated tube.  (They did.)

In the picture above, you can actually see the insulated tube is attached. I went back out today, and the insulated tube worked well... no more freezing. I am both annoyed and OK with this. I understand the extra cost involved if CamelBak just gave the insulated tube with the Vest, but it is frustrating to buy a $100 hydration pack, and then need to spend another $20 for a new tube. Not to mention, I have no idea what I'm going to do with the old tube. Store it in case the insulated one breaks? Except, if the insulated one breaks during Michigan winter, the old one would do me no good.

Frustration aside, I was very pleased with the vest. I found it easiest to leave the tube outside of the upper clip, and just use the lower clip, but I had no problems clipping it in or out... all very easy to do while running. Again, it is very easy to adjust the straps while running, so don't ignore them; play with them and get things set right. I love the side straps, which allow for a personal, snug fit.  It is weird initially to hear the water sloshing around behind you, but I surprisingly didn't feel it. In fact, after a while, I barely felt the vest, which is great.

My biggest frustration with the vest is that everything seemed, well, long.  I am about 5'6", 140 lbs. and everything was long. The straps were long enough that I occasionally hit them on the arm swing, the hose was a bit long, so I had to sort of curl it toward me.  The length of the actual vest was fine though, so I guess I can't really complain.   You do feel a bit warm on the back, but this time of year, I'm not complaining!

Overall, I do recommend the Marathoner Vest. I wish it was a bit more affordable. Maybe $100 including the insulated tube.  If you're running anywhere it's regularly below freezing, just bite the bullet and buy the insulate tube. Don't worry that the package says it will keep your drink cold, it will work to prevent freezing. Save yourself the frustration, and get it all at once. Ultimately, if you're going for long runs or hikes, want hands-free hydration and plenty of storage, it is a good investment.

Highs and Lows...

Highs and lows. Ups and downs. All in one week. Maybe that's the story of marathon training?

Monday, I had a decent morning workout, but Tuesday was miserable. I went to bed Monday night and woke up Tuesday morning with what seemed to be mild food poisoning.  Stomach cramps, dizziness, the works. I dragged myself to work, focused on drinking a ton of water, and mentally beat myself up for having not run in the morning. (I am 100% my own worst critic, and extremely hard on myself).  But! When I came home, I felt decent enough to try for the plan-mandated 5 miler. And rocked it!  Felt good, went fast.

Wednesday morning was another good crosstraining day.  My workouts were...  Monday - 3 rounds of: 10 front squats at 40lbs, 5 (each leg) lunges at 40lbs, 10 wipers, 30 seconds (each side) side planks. Wednesday - 4 rounds of: 10 (each leg) single-leg deadlifts at 40 lbs., 10 tricep dips, 5 (each leg) modified bridge (one leg propped up, one held perpendicular to body), 5 regular bridges.

Thursday it was HARD to wake up. I've been trying to get up at 5 am every day so I have time to eat/coffee/restroom, run, and take care of things around the house. I was exhausted. Exhausted. But I got my run in, and somehow stayed awake for work.

Friday, I slept in. Woot.  And then the trouble started...

Saturday, I was geared up and ready for my 12 mile run. I was perhaps a touch overdressed, but you can unzip. I probably should've done my TrailRocs instead of my RoadX-Tremes, but again, even that could be overcome. The problem? I'm a salty sweater, the effort of running in the snow + being overdressed had me sweating away...  and my brand-new CameBak vest? (review coming later today)  Well, the tube froze. Froze solid. Two miles into the run. No hope of getting anything to drink. At this point, I'd done 3.6 miles, about 1 mile into the wind, and mentally, I just lost. I called the husband to pick me up and vowed pick up the insulated CamelBak tube and to try again Sunday.

Sunday... Sunday was windy. 18mph sustained with 30 mph wind gusts. Ugh! Additionally, people in Michigan seem to think that they have no responsibility to shovel their sidewalks. Not terrible when it's first snowing, awful after it's been stomped down and then frozen into little, wild ridges.  Shovel your sidewalks people!!! And if you live on a corner, sorry, you get to shovel both sidewalks. Ugh.

So I started strong, didn't even mind the first mile into the wind. I made it through several windblown, snowy sections of sidewalk (might as well be running in sand), and then at about 4.15 miles in, I turned into the wind. The crazy, gusty wind. Wind that leaves you making a running motion, but standing still. I started walking 1 minute for every 15 I ran, but there was just no way to properly recoup the effort of running into 30mph winds through windblown snowdrifts.  I made it 9 miles, but at that point, my toes were VERY painfully losing feeling. Not sure if they were numb, or smushed by the fact that I had on light cushion socks instead of ultrathin, but I may as well have had little blocks of fire attached to my feet. I was close to home and I gave in.

While I'm discouraged that I didn't get an actual 12 miler in, I'm refusing to look at it as a failure. My weekend total was 12.65. I ran a 5k and then got in 9 miles the next day! I woke up with a migraine today, but still managed to recover and run 9 miles. Oh yeah, and the weather conditions were rotten, energy-sucking ickiness. Besides, I am training for a marathon, not a sprint. Not every day, weekend, or week will be perfect. Not every run will go well, and sometimes there is a string of ick. It's a big race, and I need to look at the big picture. Overall, I got my miles. In challenging conditions. Take this one as a draw, a tie, and move forward.

Workout of the Day: 9 mile run

Song of the Day: "The Man" - Aloe Blacc   "Somewhere I heard that life is a test; I been through the worst but still I give my best".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

An Off Week..

I wish I had a more exciting update for you this week...  I finished my 10 miler last Saturday, and later that afternoon, my face started leaking. Runny nose, watery eyes. I shrugged it off, as I get a cold like that almost every winter. It usually lasts two days and it's gone. Well... this time, the face leaking lasted about 2.5 days, and the cold has lingered. Thankfully not *too* bad, but draining. Combine that with the polar vortex, and, well, I missed my Tuesday run!

I couldn't bring myself to get up at 5a.m. at all this week, and when I'd get home, I had just enough left to cook dinner, and then I was pooped!

The good news is that this week called for 5, 3, 5k. Woo! Like a little mini-taper in the middle of training, and it couldn't have come at a better time! I made it through my 3 miler on Thursday with very little difficulty. Yesterday's 5k was pretty miserable. It was 40 and raining, which wasn't awful, but with all the snow still on the ground, the rain flooded the sidewalks. I wasn't running so much as I was fording icy cold rivers. My big toe was white when I got back!

So, my mini-taper became a bit bigger than planned, but I'm not worrying. I figure if I need the rest, it's better to be rested instead of pushing it. I'd rather be a teeny bit behind than injure myself. Agree, disagree?

Looking forward, I've got a 5, a 4, and a 12-mile long run... I'm very excited for Saturday's long run... I ordered a CamelBack Marathoner vest, and it finally arrived!! I can't wait to try it, and OF COURSE I'll be reviewing it for you!
Oh yeah, I make this look good...

I also designed some super-fun thank you notes to send to everyone who donates to my Michael J. Fox Foundation fundraiser, and ordered several TeamFox wristbands to send with them!  I'm very grateful to everyone who has donated so far, and hopefully they'll wear their wristbands proudly, knowing they're helping fight Parkinson's Disease!

What's on your schedule for the week? What are you training for? How are you coping with this crazy weather?

Workout of the Day: 12 oz. bicep curls - It's a rest day! Football and Woodchuck Hard Cider!

Song of the Day: "Steal My Show" - TobyMac