When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I was given a school assignment in which we had to choose three words to describe ourselves. Apparently I found this task a bit difficult, because I remember asking my dad for help. And after asking him for a word, he simply replied, “You are relentless. You never give up.” I thought for a second and asked “Is that a good thing?” He looked up at me and said “Yes. It is a very good thing.” This simple conversation came to mind when I was running the Capital City River Run Half Marathon last weekend. I’ve always been a runner, but I didn’t get into long distance running until a few years ago. After my first race, I was hooked. And I started to plan my fall season around the training plan for whichever races I wanted to run that year.
But this year, my training cycle wasn’t quite as invigorating and exciting. To be honest, it was a bit brutal. I’ve been battling the same stomach issues I started having before our wedding, which has made training less than enjoyable. Instead of feeling strong and confident each week as I added an extra mile onto my Saturday long run, I was left feeling weak and run down. Dealing with stomach pain and nausea while you are running 9,10, 11 miles is no easy task. Running has always been something I loved. Something that I considered to be part of me. But suddenly my health issues were sucking the fun out of running, because at the end of each long run I just felt sick and weak. However, just as my dad told me years ago, I never gave up. I completed those training runs week after week, no matter how sick I felt. And when race day came, rather than telling myself to just relax and enjoy the race, I decided I wanted to achieve a PR. (#typicalColleen) Looking back, I realize this was stupid. I ran the first 10 miles hard. And for the most part I enjoyed it. The scenery on the Lansing river trail was beautiful, and I loved the chance to run on MSU’s campus. But at about mile 10 1/2, my mind and my body kind of gave up. I hit that dreaded “wall” that runners always talk about, and it was far from fun. But instead of pushing through, I gave myself a break. I walked, I jogged and I stopped caring about how fast I ran. I gave up the idea of a PR and just focused on finishing the race in one piece. Those last 3 miles were rough, but I crossed that finish line, practically crying tears of joy. And the funniest thing about it? I achieved that PR that I gave up on at mile 10. Running has taught me a lot of things over the years. It has taught me to love my body. Not for the way it looks, but for what it can do. It has taught me to appreciate the stillness and beauty of the world during all of my 5am runs. And during this race, it taught me that it’s ok to give myself a break. Because sometimes, when you stop being so hard on yourself, you can achieve great things.
Well, I did it! Last Sunday I finished the Detroit Half Marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes and pretty much loved every second of it. To be honest, my last couple of long training runs were pretty rough so going into the race I only had one goal: to finish in one piece. But the excitement of the crowd and the awesome course kept me feeling great for all 13.1 miles. The race starts in Downtown Detroit at 7am. It was about 45 degrees and windy and my hands and feet were numb for a good 2 miles into the race. I just kept thinking “My mom is going to be furious that I didn’t wear gloves”. (I told her this later and she totally was.) Around mile 2, I finally started to warm up and we made our way to the Ambassador Bridge. It was amazing to be crossing the bridge as the sun rose over Detroit and Windsor. I met a woman on the course who had run this race a number of times before. We chatted a bit and she helped me pace myself for the first 6 miles. We ran a lot slower than I was used to, but apparently this was a good thing because it kept my stamina up throughout the entire race and I actually finished 10 minutes faster than my goal time. I didn’t realize that through all my training I was just running way too fast. Who woulda thought? Once we approached mile 7 we entered the Windsor Tunnel. I had heard that this is one of the rougher parts of the course because not only does the tunnel go uphill for a bit, but it is also really hot and stuffy. It was ridiculously hot in the tunnel, but I kept telling myself that after a mile I would be greeted by a burst of 50 degree air. God bless Michigan weather. As we ran out of the tunnel we approached Cobo Center and I knew Eric would be somewhere in the crowd. Sure enough I found my race buddy, and he snapped a few “action shots.”
Next up was a stroll through Corktown and Mexicantown but I was still feeling really good. I took a few Clif Shot Blocks at Mile 9 and 11 and water at every water station. I usually stop and walk a little at the water stations, but for this race I didn’t want to lose any momentum….which resulted in me attempting to drink tiny cups of water while running. Let’s just say most of it ended up splashed on my shirt. No wonder I came down with a massive head cold the day after race. Before I knew it we were entering Downtown again and I was passing the 12 mile marker. At this point my legs were getting a little tired but I was so excited that I was about to complete my first half marathon. I caught a glimpse of my parents at mile 13 and sprinted to the finish line. When I crossed the finish line I was so happy and a little dilerious. I collected my finisher metal and found my family to celebrate.
Before the race I told Eric I just wanted to run a half marathon once and would probably never do it again. He knew better though and said I would most likely get hooked and want to do another one. As usual, Eric was right and I can’t wait to pick out my next half marathon.
I spent the rest of the day nursing my aching muscles by laying on the couch and eating candy. A girl’s gotta refuel somehow, my friends. I’ve taken a full week off from running, (which may be the longest break I’ve taken in 5 years) but now I’m rested up and ready for the next race on my schedule- The Turkey Trot! I cannot wait to run through Downtown Detroit again with my cousins while wearing our “Thanksgiving best.” My aunt, uncle, dad and Eric will be walking the mashed potato mile, so it will truly be a family affair. Food, running and family? It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!
When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind. So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling. In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon. I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 tsp sugar
In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter