An Athlete’s Form of Therapy

I’m currently in Oklahoma (as most of you know), celebrating the Christmas and New Year festivities with my husband’s family, and enjoying the break from the daily humdrum of life. I wrote last week about holiday reflections and making the most of seasonal holidays to appreciate the brief moments we get to spend with family and loved ones.

This concept was really driven home however when I met a wonderful group of women last weekend, who let me join them on their long twenty mile run. I had established contact with this group before we even arrived in Oklahoma, but during the days preceding our meeting I was informed via email that one of the women from this close-knit group had most recently suffered a terrible loss.

  

From left to right: Rae Ann, Tonya, Me, Geni, Kyong

 This particular member, whom I had the privilege of meeting and running with, lost her sixteen year old son in a terrible car wreck on December 16th. Her friends had emailed to tell me what had happened so that I would at least be aware of the situation when I met them all for the first time.

I can’t tell you how heavy my heart felt when I read the news; I hadn’t even met Tonya but my heart ached for her. I thought about my own daughters and tried to imagine spending a Christmas without them; I couldn’t do it. And then I asked myself how this woman Tonya, whom I had not yet met, could bring herself to run twenty miles just one week after her son’s death and just one day after his funeral.

It took just a short time in her company, and that of her friends, to find the answer to my question. As I ran with one of the women, whose name was Geni, she shared with me some details about the kind of woman Tonya is. She described a woman with a huge amount of faith, strength, kindness, and humility.

At Tonya’s home, after the funeral, Geni said she hugged her friend and expressed her condolences, and was shocked (for a brief moment), when Tonya enquired after Geni’s ill father. Geni explained that it shouldn’t have surprised her at all that Tonya would show genuine concern for someone else in the midst of her own suffering. “That’s just the kind of person Tonya is,” said Geni.

As we ran past St Gregory’s cathedral, a beautiful historical landmark in Shawnee, Geni quickly turned the group around when we were almost at Airport Road, the road on which Tonya’s son had crashed his car and died. Tonya quietly nodded her head in agreement, then suggested an alternative route.

We continued to run and talk, and for a couple of miles I listened to Geni and Tonya share stories about Tonya’s son Taylor, and the fun and cheerful boy that he was. I kept quiet, but all the while I was silently amazed at Tonya’s ability to keep herself together, and even smile and laugh as memories were exchanged.

I remembered at that point the words one of Tonya’s friends had said in her email to me. Tonya’s close friend Meredith had emailed to tell me that despite the tragic circumstances, Tonya still planned to join us on the long run. “An athlete’s form of therapy,” is how she described Tonya’s reasoning for continuing to run.

I’m not sure many people would understand this way of thinking, but Tonya’s circle of running friends certainly understood it, and as I ran with them all I completely understood it too. Running is a gift for those of us who enjoy it, providing therapy in so many ways. It provides relief on stressful days, joy when a little bit of cheer is needed to brighten the day, and on occasion, it also helps to provide healing for an ailing mind or body.

Last weekend, while running with Tonya and her friends, I witnessed the healing power of running in its entirety. I had the privilege of meeting a group of women whose friendship has been sealed by a mutual love of running, and I saw how they all rallied together, using running as a medicinal healer to help soothe the wounds of a grieving heart.

Meredith hit the nail on the head when she said that running is an athlete’s form of therapy! But when you combine that with the support of close friends who understand the running pysche, the healing effect is multiplied.

I’m so grateful that I am a runner, and I am so grateful that some of my closest friends are also runners. I’m also grateful that I met Tonya and her friends; these women (and guys) inspired me to no end, and showed me what a powerful thing it is when you combine running, friendship, and courage!



I was fortunate to get one more long run in with this great group!
From left to right/back row: Geni, Brandon, Chad
From left to right/front row: Meredith, Rita, Me, Kyong, Tonya


My thoughts and prayers go out to Tonya and her family, as they continue to grieve for Taylor and attempt to start a new year without him.

Holiday Reflections – Taking a Break from Life and Running

I have a confession to make ladies – I was reluctant to come to Oklahoma this Christmas! Not because it meant spending time with my in-laws, but because I had fallen into a cycle of ” busy-ness,” with a daily ” to-do” list that my A-Type personality demanded I try and conquer every day (Carey Clark-Hicks pointed out my A-Type personality trait at the Tinsel Trot 10k, when I, and a few of my WOOT companions, weasled our way up towards the front of the start line to ensure a good racing position).

During the days and weeks leading up to our trip, I tried hard to keep a positive attitude, but I found myself often making snippy remarks to those I’m close to; remarks that implied how much of an inconvenience the timing of our trip was, or remarks about how horribly cold it is in Oklahoma, or dare I say it, even remarks about how our trip was going to interfere with and set me back in my marathon training!

Considering how negative my mindset was the morning we left for the airport, I was not prepared for the pleasant turn of events that lay ahead. One thing about taking a vacation is that you can no longer control the life that you momentarily leave behind. Ordinarily I would consider that a bad thing, just as I did prior to leaving for Oklahoma, but surprisingly it’s turned out to be a good thing.

Waking up each morning with no agenda, except to spend time with my family, has forced me to stop and reflect on the things that matter most in life. It’s not too often that I take the time to indulge in a little ” down” time and enjoy being with my family. Yes, we’re together most days, and we talk and do and share things together, but I’m not sure we always appreciate being together.

I haven’t completely put everything aside on this trip; I’ve managed to get a few runs in, and obviously I’m tapping away on the keyboard right now, like I would back home, but for the most part I’m allowing myself the opportunity to filter out the toxic remnants of my busy lifestyle and replace them instead with the creation of new family memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.

With Christmas on the back side of us now, and a new year waiting to greet us, I hope this post will encourage you to slow the pace down a little too, and enjoy the brief time spent at home or abroad with loved ones. It took a trip to Oklahoma for me to regroup my thoughts and realize that the world won’t come to an end if I don’t accomplish all my tasks, and that school holidays are actually a time that should be embraced with an attitude of joy and gratefulness.

I also now realize that my sometimes compulsive behavior, which drives me to work hard and stay busy, is a trait that needs to be kept in check if I want my family life to be healthy. If I strive hard to maintain a healthy mind and body, then it follows that I should try to do the same when it comes to my family.

With that in mind, I want to remember this holiday when all of next year’s holidays roll around; I want to remember so that I can fill my mind with all the reasons why life needs to be put on hold every once in a while. If it weren’t for these brief holiday interludes, it would be so easy to fall into a rut and start taking the time we spend with our children and spouses for granted.

So on that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas from myself and my family here in Oklahoma! And to those of you who have your children, spouses, and other family members home with you for the holiday season, I wish you all a time of great peace and happiness together.


Enjoying watching the girls decorate the tree with their grandma



Running through those winter blues

I ran for the first time last week in a long-sleeved top, and it symbolized for me what I most despise: the stinging cold of winter! I’ve since been able to revert back to tshirts, but I know I have to face the inevitable and accept that it’s only a matter of days now before I am going to have to break out my cold-weather running gear.

Not only do I hate cold weather (if there were such a thing as a “cold weather allergy” I’m sure I’d be diagnosed with it), but I also don’t care too much for the negative pyschological effect that sometimes accompanies it. In other words, I don’t like that I lose my motivation to get up and run when it’s wet, cold and dark outside!

Winter, for me, brings with it a “slow” switch that seems to turn on inside of me and bring everything to a grinding halt, my enthusiasm and metabolism, included! I not only gain a few extra pounds, which makes me feel slow and heavy, but I also find that my slow and heavy self no longer finds it easy to get out of bed in the mornings.

I remember training for both a marathon and an ultramarathon during the winter months last year, and feeling depressed at times because I had committed to the training but had no desire to run on those wet and windy days. Winter hasn’t even really begun here in Okinawa and yet I have already started experiencing those winter-time blues. I know however, that despite the physical and mental discomfort that will continue to plague me during the cold months ahead, I will somehow manage to  get up most mornings and run.

For those of you who also have trouble staying motivated during the winter, here’s a few things that I do to help me get moving each day:

  • Buddy-Up: planning your weekly runs with a friend (singular) makes you accountable to someone and forces you to keep your running date. Notice how I said “friend (singular),” that was intentional. If you make plans to meet with just one friend, chances are you won’t want to leave her hanging in the dark if you’ve agreed to meet early in the morning. If you plan to run with a group of friends however, it’s much easier to skip out on the run because you can easily justify your absence by telling yourself that you won’t really be missed.
Be careful who you buddy up with though – she might drag you up and over LOTS of hills!

  • Hit the treadmill: It’s a last resort I know, but when there’s a heavy downpour with no sign of it letting up, the next best thing is the treadmill. I find running on a treadmill terribly boring, but if I absolutely have to run on a treadmill I will almost always opt to do some type of speedwork. Doing an interval workout on the treadmill can actually be both fun and challenging. You can do a tempo run for example: do a slow couple of warm-up miles, then increase the speed and run at race pace for three miles, then cool down with a slow mile; or try doing 4 x 1 mile repeats with 4 minutes recovery between each mile, and a warm-up and a cool-down mile at the beginning and end. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the time passes.

  • Be Flexible: If it’s at all possible, try to be flexible and have an “open window” of time in which you are able to fit in your runs. There are mornings I wake up and I simply feel too cold to get out of bed, or it’s raining hard and the thought of getting all my miles in under a steady shower of rain drops just doesn’t appeal. On those days, I allow myself to go back to sleep for a while and I settle for a later-morning run, either outside if the rain has stopped, or on the treadmill at Risner. And if I have other obligations during the day, then I might shut down that window of time and reopen it later in the afternoon, for example while my youngest is in karate class and I have a free hour while I’m waiting for her. Granted, I’d much rather run in the morning but sometimes an afternoon or evening run might be my only option.

  • Cross-Train: If you’re not training for a race but merely running through the winter to maintain your weight and fitness, cross-training is a great way to break the monotony and kick-start your will to exercise. Now is the time to start mixing up your running routine by cutting back your run days and doing other forms of exercise that you find enjoyable – spin classes, for example, or yoga, or how about some zumba to spice things up a little! Or how about starting a boot camp that focuses on resistance training; runners tend to neglect doing any form of strength work and yet for females, resistance training is paramount to maintaining good bone density and preventing osteoporosis as we get older.

  • Reverse the Situation: I often resort to a bit of reverse psychology whenever I’m tempted to pass on my run and take a day off; I do this by reminding myself what I will feel like later on in the day if I don’t run. I know this sounds like a cliche, but I often feel like I really was “born to run.” From as far back as I can remember, I loved more than anything the invigorating feeling I experienced whenever I ran, and which I still experience today. So even though there are days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed and running, I know that the feeling I’ll experience later in the day from having not run, will be far worse than the discomfort and lack of motivation that temporarily hits me first thing in the morning. And I also know that my family appreciates (and likes) me much more when I get out and run – that helps to motivate me too!
Marivel posted about these tshirts a few days ago – so true what it says! I think my husband would order one of these for me if he knew about them. Heck, I may as well order one myself! They’re available, by the way, at runningskirts.com.

One more thing I want to say – when a new training cycle begins and I start ramping up the mileage, there are days when I feel as if I literally can’t get up and run. If you find that your training starts to get a little intense and your body starts to pull back the reins and slow you down, it could be that your body is trying to tell you that you actually do need a day off. This is a classic sign of overtraining and you’d be wise to try and discern if the sluggishness you’re feeling is more than just general fatigue. I’ll talk more about overtraining in a future post, but for now, the best advice I can offer is to use common sense and be kind to your body (now if I could just learn to take my own advice……). 

FYI: It’s already gotten much colder since I wrote this last week!!!

    Destination Races

    By Anna Boom

    Have you considered traveling to your next race? There are many, many, many lovely running races all over the world for you to try.


    A few of us WOOTers have done exactly this. The first destination race was just a, hey let me run this by you idea, by Kathleen Lennard. And the first destination race she chose for us to do together? Sunrise to Sunset or S2S Trail Ultra/Marathon. In. Mongolia. Yes, a place I had never desired to travel to, popped up on my radar for the excitement of the unknown. I began to wonder, could I do it? Could I run 100Km (the ultra distance), could I get to Mongolia and did I want to run there?

    The answer was a quadruple yes!

    As a wife and mother of two little ones, who were 3 and 5 at the time, I knew I would be traveling there alone. There was no way this was going to be the summer Disney family vaca in California. I asked my hubby what he thought of me running in Mongolia with some of my friends. Hunh? Why Mongolia and then, No. He was nervous about me going there and then when he found out it was an ultra trail run, a quadruple NO. His image was of me running lost in unknown place, not able to ever find my way home. It makes sense in that I didn’t know the language, anything yet about the culture, didn’t know anyone that had traveled there before. And where exactly is Mongolia again?

    After a few days of gentle persuasion and discussion, I was given the go-ahead. Yay! I think. I emailed my friends and found out, they too, were all in. Here is where I reference a quote to emphasize the value of friendship: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis

    Our plans set quickly in motion with 7 of us women (Kathleen bringing her two teenage daughters) traveling to Mongolia to run a trail ultra or marathon. Two of us signed up for the 100Km Ultra distance and started running early Saturday and Sunday mornings. I mean early too; Andrea and I were out at 0415 some mornings and would be out all morning. We do this now too when training for our next marathon or ultra. We will wake up and meet before WOOT on Saturday morning, get some mileage, run with our lovely running friends and get all that happy energy, then finish with more mileage. Great way to get our long run in.


    With our training done, we all traveled over and met in Ulan Bataar with the race coordinator. The great part of some of the more exotic destination races, is that everything is done for you, for the most part. Once we arrived, the S2S folks took care of us. They told us to be at the hotel lobby and shuttled us to the airport, where we flew over the beautiful, desolate lands of Mongolia. Not a tree in sight the entire way. Then we grabbed our bags and got into vans, the type that are set up for four-wheeling over paths that have been driven many years but are not paved or even maintained. Those inclined to motion sickness did not fare well, especially after the prop flight we just took. It was a grueling 4 hour ride to the camp, located in a National park, on the banks of Hovsgol Lake.

    After arriving at camp, we were kindly greeted by the other race coordinators and assigned our sleeping tent, called a yurt. All racers and their crews stayed in this same camp together before, during and after the race. It was like summer camp for adults and was a blast. People came from all over the world to run this race and we all had that in common. We spent our time chatting, learning about the other amazing people there and relaxing. The camp also offered other activities such as ride Mongolian horses, go mountain bike riding, or hike and run the trails.

    The race was gorgeous and we all did great, but the best part was spending time with my girlfriends again, much like the slumber parties I loved as a girl. Remember your first slumber party, when you thought the girlfriends around you would always be your best friends? We spent more than one night, giggling about boys we thought were cute (Jason Statham!) and enjoying time together.

    Second best was seeing a whole new place, and learning about the Mongolian culture.

    Mongolia Campsite

    Since then, we have also traveled to New Zealand together and then to Portland, Oregon.

    One of the bonuses of traveling overseas is you sometimes meet some great runners; we met Barefoot Ted in New Zealand (read the book Born To Run if you’ve never heard of him)
    Happy to be reunited with our fellow WOOTER Amy Hester – in Portland

    Where is our next journey? Any suggestions?

    I have to agree with Anna; traveling and running in other countries with great girlfriends is a wonderful experience! Granted, it’s not possible for everyone, especially those with children, but if you can make it happen, it’s a fantastic way to reward yourself for all of the hard work you do as a runner, a mother, and a wife. (Jannine Myers)


    The 2011 WOOT Christmas Gift Guide

    Post by Jannine Myers

    If you google ” Holiday Gift Guide For Runners,” you will inevitably find several websites that have published a list of gift recommendations for runners. I love checking out lists such as these, not because I want to get online and start buying everything that’s listed, but because every now and again I come across a clothing or accessory item that might actually become one of my favorites.

    With that in mind, I decided to enlist the help of some fellow WOOT gals and compile a list of running essentials and favorites that might help you find that “special” item too. But first, here’s a little piece of advice – if you do happen to see something you like, I suggest that you do one of two things: a) leave your laptop screen open on the page of the item you like, and then position your laptop where it might “accidentally” be viewed  or b) write down the name and details of the item with a memo that says, “Add to Wishlist,” and then leave the note lying around where a certain significant other might just stumble upon it. I’m just saying…….

    Getting back to the list, here is our 2011 WOOT Christmas Gift Guide:

    1. Running skirts are of course a running girl’s best friend, especially if you’re a WOOT girl. In the summer months you’ve seen us sporting skirts from Runningskirts, SportSkirts, and Nike. With the colder months approaching, there’s no reason why we still can’t get out there in skirts – here are a few great running skirts with longer capri and even ankle length tights underneath:

    Nike Womens On The Go Skirt – $65

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageWRA-NWOGS.html

    Under Armour Womens Skapri – $65

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageWRA-UAWMSK.html

    RunningSkirts Subzero skirts – $88

    http://store.runningskirts.com/heartstooth-subzero-skirt

    Runningskirts Capri Skirts – $72

    http://store.runningskirts.com/preppy-plaid-capri-skirt

    2. Hats – we ALL love our hats, well most of us anyway. Here’s a couple you might like: the first one is a favorite of one of our original WOOT members, Tiffany Powell – the Lululemon Womens Speedy Run Hat – $32. See the little zip pocket on the side? It’s just large enough to tuck your car key or door key into – so convenient!

     

    http://shop.lululemon.com/products/clothes-accessories/women-headbands-and-hats/Womens-Speedy-Run-Hat-78913?cc=4157&skuId=3431103&catId=women-headbands-and-hats

    The second hat is from Bondiband; all of their hats and headbands are made from a special wicking fabric that absorbs sweat and keeps you dry.
    Bondi Wicking Ponytail Hats – $20

    http://www.bondiband.com/products/26.2-Wicking-Ponytail-Hat-%28White-Ink%29.html

    3. Now that it’s starting to get cooler, it’s time to lose the larger hydration packs and multiple-bottle fuel belts, and slim down to the smaller handheld single bottles. Anna Boom and Karla Armes both like the Amphipod Hydraform Handheld 20oz. bottle ($17.95); it comes with a handy storage pouch that can hold a key, ID, and a gel packet.

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-AHHPB.html

    4. While out running with a good friend recently, I was feeling a little chilled and my friend was kind enough to give up his arm sleeves so I could get warm. Since I already own several pairs of arm sleeves, I had an expectation of what the borrowed pair would feel like, but I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly warm and comfortable these particular ones felt (these will be going on my wishlist for sure – thank you Mark Busam): Mizuno Breath Thermal Arm Sleeves (and Gloves) – $23.95

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-MBTAG.html

    5. I’m pretty sure you’re all moving on now from the compression sock and calf sleeve craze, but let me throw out one final pitch: Zensah Calf Sleeves ($40 pair) feel absolutely wonderful after a long run or a half or full marathon; I wear them for recovery all the time and they are super comfortable, not to mention cute. They also come in various colors, including pink, red, orange, and bright yellow. Oh, and they were also voted “Runners World Best Gear.”

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-ZENLS.html#

    6. Winter thermal and wool apparel doesn’t seem necessary here in Okinawa, but some of us (ahem, girls like me), feel the cold more than others and really do need to layer up in warmer running clothes. Josaline Curry recommends Nike’s range of cold weather gear: here’s a couple of their items:

    Nike Element Thermal Pant ($65) – these are a relaxed fit made from a thicker fabric to really protect you from the cold.

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageWRA-NWETP.html

    Nike Wool Dri-FIT Half Zip ($80) – made from a blend of wool and moisture-wicking Dry-FIT fabric, to keep you both warm and dry.

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageWRA-NWWDFZ.html#

    7. If my feet are cold, the rest of my body feels cold! I was introduced to the Balega range of socks last winter and love them! Made from Merino Wool ($12), they are warm and comfortable:
    Balega Merino Enduro Quarter Socks

    http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-BMES.html

    8. And last but not least, our very own WOOT TShirts and Tote Bags. Bet you didn’t notice this before, but our WOOT models share the same pose (think they might be related??)

    Not being biased (okay, maybe just a little) – but every female in my family (that would be three), owns one of these super cute tshirts. At only $15 each, you could easily add one to your wardrobe too :)

    As for the Tote Bags below, they are also a must-have ($15). Okay, not necessarily a “must-have,” but they are cute aren’t they!

    There’s no link for the WOOT TShirts and Tote Bags, but come to our WOOT run and Christmas Gift Exchange this weekend, and you can buy or order these from Anna and I :)

    Happy shopping girls! And don’t forget to use the WOOT discount codes if you make purchases from Runningskirts.com and Runningwarehouse.com.