Good Things Take Time; Never Give Up!

On a daily basis, the two things I consistently do are play the piano and run for my 365-one-mile-per-day challenge. Every so often, I have a breakthrough or two that keeps me motivated. Today was one of those days!

Breakthrough No. 1: Push yourself slightly more than normal

On 23 June 2018, I challenged myself to run two miles every day for 30 days, as opposed to one mile per day. Everything was going well until the July 4th 5k race. I felt great during the race; however, the next day, my legs felt like lead weights with every step especially when I ran. I started dreading my daily runs because I hurt so much and they were taking much longer because I was sore. Even after the soreness went away, I still didn’t want to run which was making my daily runs seem like a chore.

I knew something had to change. Today, I decided to stop complaining and increased the speed on the treadmill which put me in the 9-minute per mile range. Before I knew it, the run was over. I actually felt better running faster. Surprise! Surprise!

Push yourself just a little more than normal. You might be surprised by the outcome. 

Breakthrough No. 2: Never give up! Keep trying!

For the last six weeks, I have been trying to learn Mozart’s Sonata K545. This is my first Sonata so it is most definitely a challenge. There is a section in the piece that my brain and fingers have not been able to master. I tried for weeks to figure it out and get the timing right throughout the piece to no avail.

Today, I finally managed to play through the challenging section and significantly improved the timing. It was as if my mind finally clicked.

Never give up on a goal. Keep on trying even if your progress seems minimal at first. 

I wish you all the best with your goals and dreams!

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Be Willing to End One Journey so You Can Start Another

On 12 December 1998, fueled by bananas and Mountain Dew, I won the Arcata to Willow Creek 40-mile ultra-marathon in 5 hours and 58 minutes. It was the only race in my life that I have won. The race was the culmination of eleven years of training—one solid year of training in 1998 which included a half marathon and marathon, six years of training with the Arcata, CA Six Rivers Running Club, four years of high school cross country and two years of track and field (I was never a big fan of running in circles).

When I crossed the Arcata to Willow Creek finish line, I was emotionally and physically spent. Tears of exhaustion, amazement and joy flowed down my cheeks. Years of effort had gone into that one race. After I recovered from an agonizing week of soreness, I wondered what my next running adventure would be.

What else could I strive for? At the time, I didn’t have access to the internet. I used a word processor so I couldn’t access the internet to research races or other grandiose possibilities. I didn’t know about Ironman triathlons, 100 milers, or 365-day running streaks. Even if I had known about these events, I was a penniless Humboldt State University graduate with no money for race fees.

In the years that followed, I competed in a few smaller races, and ran while in the Army, but I did not pursue any wild goals. Without anyone to say or encourage me to do otherwise, I concluded that I had reached the pinnacle of my running career. The Arcata to Willow Creek race was my Mt. Everest. Picture Forrest Gump after three years of running. One day, he stops, turns around and says that he is going home. That was me! The journey was over.


Twenty Year Comeback?

Prior to New Year’s Eve of 2016, I considered making a come back. Why don’t I run that same race in 2018 twenty years later? Surely, my forty-year-old-something-self can outrun my twenty-year-old-self. I had a bad habit of comparing my older self to my younger, more adventurous self. Never fear… Mind over matter!! I could do this! I will do this!

I have always been challenge-oriented and love goal-setting so I wrote out my goal cards and started cross-training (running, biking, swimming) to get back in shape knowing that it would take at least two years to get my older, mom-body back in shape.

I signed up for my first triathlon (Monticelloman), chose a triathlon plan from the Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-week Training Guide, and began training. Five months later, in May 2017, I became a triathlete. Check! Next on the list… run a half-marathon, marathon in 2017, repeat the same races in 2018, and then run the Arcata to Willow creek ultra-marathon in 2018.

As my mileage increased throughout the summer of 2017, the strangest thing happened. I had this nagging feeling that I didn’t want to run long distances anymore yet I stubbornly refused to give up. As I continued to train harder, my body told me that I was doing too much. My hips and knees began hurting and I was getting sick more often. After a particularly fast 16 mile run during which I felt amazing (I was on a runner’s high the whole time), I knew I had overdone it. I hurt. I was on the verge of a serious injury. I reluctantly stopped training for a few weeks to recover.

The full marathon I planned to run in December 2017 was out of the question, so I downgraded my race entry to the half marathon. If I couldn’t do the full marathon, surely, I could do the half marathon even if I had to walk. It was 23 degrees the day of the half marathon. It was brutally cold, my heart was not there and I was miserable. Running long distances didn’t make me happy anymore. I knew that I had to adjust my goals and pursue another journey. A few weeks later, I scratched the ultra-marathon off my bucket list and started a more manageable yet equally challenging journey. In November 2017, I began my 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge! I am so happy that I adjusted my goal.

Almost six months later, I am still running every day and appreciate running more than ever for what it does for me. It keeps me healthy, helps me keep stress at manageable levels, and gives me a sense of accomplishment every day.

What My Journey Taught Me

Below are some realizations from this experience:

  1. Do not compare your current, wiser self to your younger self. If you can’t run 40 miles, try something different like a 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge. If you aren’t a runner, consider other challenges you can undertake that will give you a sense of accomplishment.
  2. There is no shame in adjusting your goals. If you have to adjust your goal, you are not a quitter. Consider the reason you are making the adjustment, decide on a new plan as soon as you can, and don’t look back. Go for it!
  3. Do you really want to relive a previous journey? Why not focus on a new adventure?
  4. Enjoy the journey! When I was training for my triathlon, I really enjoyed my training workouts. I loved how energetic I felt. I was thrilled to loose seven pounds while training and I felt a sense of accomplishment everyday because the workouts were challenging. I got more out of the journey than I did the race.

What have your life’s journey’s taught you? I would love to know!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~ Lao Tzu

Step by Step; Word by Word

Every year, I choose a New Year’s challenge—one that is slightly out of reach so that it is in fact “a challenge”.

In December 2017, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook aware that the New Year was quickly approaching. I had not yet chosen my challenge. Facebook knows me oh so well! A sponsored ad extolling the benefits of a 365-day running-runner-long-distance-fitness-40751.jpegrunning streak appeared. I was intrigued. This would certainly be a challenge! Almost on a whim, I decided to go for it. A 2018 calendar I received as a gift became my running log, I picked a date during my Christmas vacation so I could ease into it while I was home, and began. Just like that… starting was easy. One foot in front of the other.

I am now 48 days into my running streak and have logged 132 miles. Some days, I run the bare minimum (one mile before midnight); however, on the weekend, I aim for three to six miles. On one particularly ambitious week, I ran 3 miles every day. You would be amazed how quickly the miles add up! In all honesty, I’ve had my fair share of aches and pains. After a long day at work, particularly in the first few weeks, I complained profusely as I headed to the treadmill asking myself why I was doing this stupid challenge, but it really hasn’t been that hard. I have more good days than bad. Surprisingly, the days I don’t want to run usually end up being my best runs.

A running streak is so much like writing. It is surprisingly easy to get started. You don’t need much for this challenge. Make sure you have some good running shoes, lightweight pants, shirt/sweater and off you go. I have even run in pajama pants before! Show up and run. One foot in front of the other… ready, set, go before you change your mind. With writing, you need even less to get started so now you have even fewer excuses. Open your journal, turn on your computer, get a pen or pencil, paper, tissue paper, napkins (channel your inner J.K Rowling), and write.

One day, I asked myself… If I could get this far in my running streak, why couldn’t I write every day? What was holding me back? The problem was that I didn’t have a challenge. I didn’t have a daily achievable goal (e.g. one mile). So, I came up with a really simple writing goal.

Write 50 words about anything every day before midnight.

Let’s put this into perspective. Fifty words equal 4 lines or so of text. It isn’t even a full paragraph. You could type, write or use speech-to-text recognition software in one third the time it would take to run half a mile. I placed the bar low on purpose. Set yourself up for success! Think about it… If you start with 500 to 1,000 words, you may not achieve your goals if you are not used to writing on a daily basis. Imagine choosing 10 miles as your minimum daily running goal!  You probably won’t reach your 365th day.

When I started the 50-word challenge, I stared at my journal longer than I care to admit. I had no idea what to write, I was too tired, I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I’m therefore exhausted, that book looks interesting (I read voraciously to avoid writing. In one week, I read four books!) and, OMG, I still have to run!! I couldn’t possibly write 50 words. This challenge is worse than my running streak! Really? Talk about dramatic! It is not! I had to tell myself over and over again… stop making excuses and write! You will have to be hard on yourself!

If you can’t think of anything to write, describe how much you love your pet, how was your day, create a how-to guide about a website you use regularly (these are easy and straightforward), start a story, or describe your living room. Or, like I did one day, write, “I am a writer. I am a writer” over and over again until you have your 50 words. It really doesn’t matter what the topic is. The whole point is to commit to a daily writing goal and follow through with it. You don’t even have to show anyone what you wrote although that does help to hold you accountable.

The first thirty days

The first thirty days of my running streak took an eternity! I came up with excuse after excuse—my ankle ached, I didn’t want to run, I was too tired from working all day, it is 16 degrees in the garage, I am absolutely, positively sick of running in cold, icy weather, 930pm, 1030pm, and even 1100pm runs were not at all appealing—but I never gave up on my challenge. I always ran. Even it was just a mile. Before I knew it, I was at 5, 10, 15, 28, and then 30 days. Even I was surprised! I have never run for 30 days straight. Ever.

Shortly after reaching the 30-day mark, I was in the groove. Running was part of my day. I rarely complained. I got ready, laced up my running shoes and off I went even if it was 11pm at night. I have completed many 11pm runs. They are growing on me now that I listen to audiobooks about writing. All of a sudden, the miles and days went by so quickly.

I am convinced that writing is the same way. We just have to start!! Before you know it, you will be further along with your writing goals than ever before.

I challenge you to start with 50 words today… step by step; word by word.