Thursday, August 30, 2012

My 23 KM Journey

I just want to take a moment to start this week’s blog with HUGE congratulations to my marathon coach, Mike Herzog, who since I last wrote, completed an Ironman competition which involves swimming 2.4 miles; biking 112 miles; and then running a full marathon (26.2 miles).  Not only did he complete it, but he did it in the amazing time of 10 hours and 27 minutes, which to me is the very definition of endurance and iron will and is incredible inspiration leading into my final 6 weeks of training.  Congratulations Mike!!!!

I read this great quote yesterday: “A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence”.

A great segue into the step-forward/step-back journey I’ve been on the past few weeks.  When I last blogged about my training progress, I told you about how my 8-year old told me to get a grip and run the 19 kms that I was supposed to be doing on my long runs (but couldn’t seem to conquer).  I pulled out my best bravado in that post and said I would rise to Mini-Me’s challenge...but here’s the honest truth of the matter: I didn’t.  That Tuesday (Tuesdays are now my long-run days) came, I put my shoes on, headed out the door, and about 9 kms into the run decided it was too crazy hot to run 19 kms.  I didn’t even try to apply the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; I didn’t try to conjure up any inspiring Oprahisms or recite a Maya Angelou poem in my head; I didn’t attempt to go to my happy place or call for ‘Serenity Now!’.  I just gave up.

Feeling guilty about my weakness, I started to sweat (pun intended) about how I was going to find the endurance to run 42 kms when I couldn’t even get to 19.  Then I did some gardening, cleaned the house, emailed some people, Facebooked a bit, sent some LinkedIn invites, took the dog out, folded some laundry, called my mom and dad...(Do you see where I’m going with this?  Feeling bad + Avoidance +Doing Everything But Training = More Feeling Bad).  It’s not pretty, but I’m telling it like it is.

Fast forward a week and 2 things happen that change everything.  First, Coach Mike sends me one of his famous emails with “Checking In” in the subject line (i.e., Subject: You Can’t Hide...I WILL Find Out Whether or Not You are Sticking to the Plan!).   I joke, but in fact when I confessed that I still had not done the 19 kms, he responded with supportive and critical advice on fuelling and hydrating during my long runs.  For other rookie runners out there, I just want to tell you that this was THE most pivotal information I have received throughout this whole experience.  Being properly fueled and hydrated during my long runs has increased my energy and endurance exponentially.  Later that same week, at the Palko family reunion, my cousin Steve (who you will recall is the AWESOME soul that is coming from Michigan to run the marathon); his wife Tara (also an avid runner and great supporter) and my brother’s girlfriend, Taryn (another amazing runner/person), talked shop with me for over an hour sharing their advice on how they fuel during long runs and inspiring me to get out there and give the 19 kms another try.

So, inspired by the amazing support of family and friends, that Tuesday, I did it.  I ran 19 kms non-stop.  My proudest training moment yet!!!

The next long run distance to conquer was 23 kms.  This time, I was determined to do it on my first try.   The big challenge was that we were going on vacation for a week and I didn`t want to lose the momentum I had built up. Truth time again: I wouldn’t exactly say that I stuck to a healthy protein and veggie diet while away; I, um, probably wouldn’t say that I chose exercising over napping; and I would say that relaxing on the beach was usually code for enjoying a glass (or two) of my favourite white, not exactly a prescription for advancing my training goals.

While I was away, my favourite coach “Checked In” with a stark reminder that I was 7 weeks away from the marathon.  Reality set in, the wine bottle was re-corked, and I made the commitment to myself that the next 7 weeks would, above all else (save for the health and well-being of my family), be about the running.  With a strategy in place for how the next 7 weeks will play out, a re-commitment to not wavering from the program, and with more determination than I’ve ever had, on Tuesday I laced up the old shoes and ran 23 kms non-stop.  No question, the highlight of my run was when my husband biked out to meet me at 12 kms with a fresh, cold bottle of Gatorade and a new pack of “Chomps” (my fuel).  With my route taking me back past my house at kilometre 20, Eric left me another fresh-from-the-fridge bottle of Gatorade at the end of the awesome!!

I guess my point is that this is truly a story of comedy and tragedy...defeat and victory: cutting through stone with nothing but persistence.  That’s what makes it so exciting.  What makes it even more exciting is sharing these moments with all of you...the incredible Run Strong supporters!  Knowing that people are engaging in this journey right along with me keeps my legs moving, so thanks, thanks for running with me!

(P.S.  To end today’s blog, I thought I would share with you my “must-haves” on every run.  These pieces, which may look commonplace and perhaps un-noteworthy, are my comfort and have been by my side through now at least 100 training runs):

My well-worn Notre Dame hat.  I wear this on every run because it represents "Our Lady"; in honour of all mothers; 
and to keep my whole family close in thought while running: my brother who is also running this marathon and has 
been one of my biggest supporters is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

My peace necklace.  I almost never take this off.  It was a gift from my husband, Eric, so 
I wear it both as a symbol of what I am striving for and to always keep my family close to me. 

My bracelets.  One says 'Faith.  Hope. Love.'
The other says, 'Laugh.  Love.  Live'
When I look down, they are my reminders of what is important 
and to take on even difficult challenges joyfully.

You can't see it in this picture (purposely), but at the base of my thumb, I have written the initials of 
someone we have been very close to that has been deeply affected by violence and abuse.  I 
write their initials on my hand before each of my long runs to remind me what this is really all about.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!!