Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 15, 2010

Weekly Recap & Lessons Learned

Goal Mileage for the week: 19

Actual Total Mileage for the week: 16 (I missed a short run on Thursday after having my chiropractor do some work on my hip)

Thoughts on the week: Overall I felt really good this week. I was surprised that I still didn’t mind getting up early to get my morning runs during the week in. I’m really enjoying having those minutes to myself before the whirlwind of the day kicks in. I’m usually spending half the run fantasizing about going back to bed when I get home, but I don’t like washing sheets and there would copious amounts of daily sheet-washing involved if I were to crawl back into bed in my sweaty nastiness. So I usually just have breakfast and then fall asleep on the couch.

I thought my Saturday run of 8 miles was going to be a disaster this week…I hadn’t been feeling well and I fully expected to irreversibly crash somewhere around the four mile mark, but I didn’t and I was really proud of myself for finishing the run well even though I didn’t feel so hot. Eight miles was an important mental accomplishment for me, so I’m taking a lot of pride in my run yesterday. Even training for the half marathon I did this past spring, I would always get to the 8 mile mark and feel like that was my limit…that I couldn’t actually complete 8 miles without walking a good portion of it. It felt good yesterday to accomplish that goal and put the mental block to rest. Plus, 8 miles is essentially a third of a marathon! Surely I can run that far just two more times by November!

Right?

So…

Lessons Learned for the Week:

1. I began learning more about Quantum Neurology, which is the kind of treatments I’m receiving from Dr. Keene, the Natural Health Solutions chiropractor I’m working with throughout my training. It is completely and utterly fascinating. Rather than popping bones and cracking spines like a typical chiropractor, Dr. Keene works with nerves instead. It’s remarkable the way this technique works…you can read more about it if you click here. It’s wild, but I’m anxious to see how it helps me as I put my body through this. I’ll keep you posted.

2. I am not a fan of PowerBar’s new energy gel chews, or whatever they call them. Maybe they’re great for some people, but I nearly choked to death trying to eat some during my run Saturday. This is why it’s important to try these things way in advance of your actual race. No one wants to be the person that’s sprinting not for the finish line, but for the porta-potties.

3. I think my favorite energy supplements so far are Honey Stinger Organic Fruit Chews.

4. My next experiment is with fueling electrolyte drinks other than gatorade. This is the one I’m going to try next. It’s supposed to be a more usable sugar instead of the syrupy stuff that’s in Gatorade. We’ll see how it goes…

5. The next book I’m planning to read is Zen and the Art of Running. It was recommended to me by a friend and it looks like another good resource for the seemingly endless techniques to keep one’s mind busy while they’re covering the crazy mileages that are coming.

Well, I cheated a little…a few of those aren’t really things I’ve learned…they’re things I’m hoping to learn, but that’s okay. Maybe they’ll give you some resources to check out. It’s my blog, so I get to make the rules, right?

What did you learn while running or exercising this week?

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 12, 2010

The All-Important Emergency Playlist

I keep an emergency playlist of songs that I only bring out when I feel like I’m about to tank. The first song on that list is Whitney’s version of the Star Spangled Banner from Super Bowl XXV. It gets me every time. It’s inspirational and powerful and amazing. It blows my mind every single time I hear it and there is no way on earth that I can quit when I have that kind of inspiration.

Do you have an emergency playlist? What’s on it?

Check back and I’ll give you some more titles from my go-to list of songs…

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 8, 2010

Lessons Learned: Week One

  • I like running early in the morning way more than I thought I would. I love having it out of the way for the day and I’ve found it much easier to wake up early than I thought I would.
  • Once you stop eating “bad” foods (friend, salty, overly processed stuff) it will make you SICK if you try to eat it again. Bad sick. Really bad sick complete with nightmares. BAD SICK, people. Consider this a word to the wise.
  • Carbs are my friend. All carbs are certainly not created equal, but food is fuel and there are a lot of lessons to be learned along the way for me in regards to that.
  • There is no right or wrong answer to what/when and how much I should eat before/during/after I run. I like definitives, but there is no official rule for this. It takes trial and error. I don’t like to err…especially when I’m out in the middle of nowhere with several miles to the nearest anything, but this is part of the process, so I have to be patient and learn as I go.
  • Dri Fit technology is perhaps the most fabulous invention…EVER. Thank you, Nike.
  • The phrase “…but it doesn’t matter.” is going to get me through a lot of miles.
  • So is the phrase “This is where the work is.” The last mile of my long run was challenging for me this week and about halfway through I realized that it was because THAT’S the “long” part. Duh. I ran six miles last week, so the seventh mile this week is supposed to be harder. That is where the work is. The hard part isn’t the six miles I’ve run before, it’s the  one mile I haven’t. I will not give up on the part that is accomplishing the most.
Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 7, 2010

Pep Talk

I could hear them long before I felt them go whizzing past me…a whole gaggle of long-legged, loping high school students laughing it up as they headed out this morning. As they ran past me, all arms and legs and acne, I could hear their jokes and I could feel the almost palpable herd mentality that prevails among large groups of teenagers. In a blink they were all out past me, drawing attention from other runners coming the opposite direction–catcalls and cheers and encouragements being thrown at them from adults who immediately were 16 again in their own minds. And then I saw him…the short kid in the back of the pack having trouble keeping up.  I watched him–this apparent outsider–trying to keep up, trying to fit in, with his shirt off like the “cool” kids showing his childish-looking chest; barely hanging on to the tail end of the group and falling behind with every stride. Eventually, and I could almost see the defeat in his posture, he stopped to walk. I kept my pace, which is slow, and figured sooner or later I might pass him. The first time I did, I think it hurt his pride, but I kept my mouth shut–I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or get involved. Who is this kid? He doesn’t want to hear anything from me. Pretty soon he went tearing past me, making a valiant effort to keep up with the gang who was, by this point, completely out of sight. My heart was breaking for this guy…it was clearly a high school cross country team and he was clearly the runt. It wasn’t long before he was walking again. He was putting on an Academy Award worthy limping performance and every so often he would make a go at running again, but would soon give up and start the limping routine again. The next time I caught up with him, I started talking. I couldn’t help it. I asked him what school they were from and what year he was. He started jogging again and even pushing my pace some. He said his knee really hurt and that they were from a local high school. He was a sophomore. He told me they were running four miles. Cross Country tryouts were this coming week. I could tell he was apprehensive and maybe even scared.  Then I couldn’t help it…I started into my pep talk. I tried to resist. I tried to keep it light. But I’ve learned so much about myself through running over the last year that I just couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. I told him that running is mental and the sooner he realized that the better he’d be. I told him that he shouldn’t give up just because he’s not as fast as the other guys. I told him that everything that makes you a successful runner happens between your ears. I told him that even though I don’t look like a runner, I’m going to run a marathon in a few months and it’s purely because I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. I poured out my heart to this kid. And do you know what he did?

He quit.

The minute he saw one of his wanna-be teammates coming the other direction, he quit. He turned right around just before the two mile mark. Told the guy his knee hurt and headed back for the end of the trail. He yelled over his shoulder, “Good luck at the marathon!” and he was gone. He just quit.

I spent the next mile thinking of all the things I’d like to say to him…things about not giving up and finishing what you start even if you’re not as fast as the other guys and even if you don’t make the team working hard this year so that you can make it next year. I thought of all the mental games I play that I could have taught him so that he wasn’t such a quitter. I thought of how he was probably willing to sit in front of some TV somewhere trying and trying and trying to beat some ridiculous video game, but wasn’t willing to push through another tenth of a mile to get to the two mile mark before he turned back. I was really ticked at him.

And then I noticed how tired I was getting. And how my form was suffering because of all the energy I was spending being mad at some fifteen year old who will probably never give me another thought. So I used my mantra, “…but it doesn’t matter.” and continued along my run. I tried to think nice thoughts about my new friend, reminding myself that our culture doesn’t encourage kids to finish what they start. Our culture encourages them to do whatever’s easiest. Whatever’s fastest. Whatever’s most popular. Being the lone horse bringing up the rear of that group of experienced runners was probably the worst thing he could think of. It would be better to have a lame excuse to quit than to be last. And so I feel badly for him. I wonder if he’ll stick with it and learn to run. Learn the joy of getting out in the morning before the sun comes up. Learn the joy of finishing something you never thought you could. I hope he will. I hope he’ll meet someone else that will encourage him to do all those things. Maybe I planted a seed that he won’t forget. I know I won’t forget him.

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 4, 2010

Running in North Georgia: Hills and Humidity

If you’ve ever been outside in Georgia in August, “hills and humidity” just about sums it up. This morning was a four mile run and boy was it hot and humid. Being out before the sun comes up helps, but the air is still so thick it’s hard to breathe. I felt good about this morning, though…even though I stopped to walk a few steps on a couple of the hills, I felt good about the course and knowing I had something to work towards. If I can run four or five miles in that hilly neighborhood in this heat without having to stop to walk, I shouldn’t have any trouble conquering any hills that New York City would like to throw at me.

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | August 3, 2010

Official Training Start & A Note to the Couch to 5K Folks…

Well, I’m officially off and running. My first official three mile training run was yesterday morning and I was surprised to find that I wasn’t as unhappy about waking up before the sun to get my run in as I thought I would be. It was nice to get out, get it done and have it over for the day. What I’m finding a challenge is figuring out places to run. We live pretty far out from civilization and it’s too dark first thing in the morning to run on the mountain roads around here…my goal is to get through this training without being injured, after all, and being hit by a car would certainly deter those goals. So yesterday I ran in a neighborhood just down the street from ours. It’s much larger and a little less hilly, although that’s not saying much. It was a good run. It was really nice to be out before the rest of the world was awake…I love the smell of the air early in the morning. Unfortunately I usually love the feel of my sheets more, so I’m anxious to see if this new habit can make a morning person out of me yet. Getting in three miles wasn’t too much of a challenge in that subdivision, but adding on more and more mileage is going to be challenging…I’m either going to have to get more tolerant of running in circles or I’m going to have to find another option. We’ll see.

And just a word to those of you who have told me that you’re beginning Couch to 5K programs…I am so excited for you. You have no idea the adventure you’re beginning. I began seriously working out for about a year before I ever started running and while I enjoyed it, I was always still looking for a challenge and a goal…something to keep me motivated each day. Running has given me that and I love it. You may never get past running 5Ks and that’s okay, but I encourage you to continue setting goals for yourself. Maybe it’s to decrease your time in an actual 5K race. Maybe it’s to have the guts to even sign up for one at all! Maybe it’s just to see if you can go 3 miles at least 3 times a week. Whatever it is, no matter how small, set some benchmarks for yourself because there is nothing–and I mean NOTHING–better than accomplishing something you never, in your wildest dreams, thought you could accomplish. I still can’t believe I hear the words “just five miles” come out of my mouth from time to time…as in “I’m JUST going to run 5 miles this morning”. I can remember sitting at my computer one day reading about a 5K online and thinking “there is no way on earth I could ever actually run three whole miles.”  I’m telling you that you can do it. No matter what your current abilities, if you just follow the plan, you can do it. You will do it. And you’re going to feel amazing when it happens. So keep up the good work! And please keep me posted on how you’re doing…you have no idea how much I am inspired by reading about your accomplishments…I think about each one of you as I’m running and your stories keep me going just a few more miles.

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | July 31, 2010

…But It Doesn’t Matter

Even though my “official” training date isn’t until Monday, I tried to get in some good mileage this week. I ran two days of 5Ks in the mountains where my family was vacationing and even though I enjoyed the cooler weather, the hills were brutal. Today for my long run, I went out for 6 miles. For my training, I’m using a book called The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer which I LOVE. Apparently the authors taught a marathon course at the University of Iowa and they based this book around the success they had with that program. I love it because it focuses as much attention on the mental aspects of training as it does on the physical aspects. When I trained for a half marathon, it was never my body that gave me trouble…always my mind. Every long run seemed like an endless parade of bad thoughts and feelings and it made it nearly impossible to get any enjoyment whatsoever out of the training and even, ultimately, the race itself. I’m determined not to have the same roadblocks with this course of training and I think the authors of this book are just the guys (and girl) to get me there.

This week, the focus of the mental aspect of training was the phrase “…but it doesn’t matter.” When I first started reading, I couldn’t understand how a seemingly negative phrase like that was going to be helpful in turing the bad thoughts into good thoughts. And by nature, I’m very skeptical of mantras and mind games. The idea behind this phrase is that anytime a negative thought starts making its way into your mind, you allow yourself to have the thought and then follow it with “…but it doesn’t matter.” For instance, some of my favorites today were “My new shoes aren’t really comfortable yet and they’re making my feet sore…but it doesn’t matter”, “I forgot to bring the right gear, so I’m having to run without my watch…but it doesn’t matter,” “I’m getting a nasty side cramp…but it doesn’t matter,” “I’m really starting to get tired and it’s starting to really heat up out here…but it doesn’t matter”.

You can see how nearly any circumstance can be overcome with the idea that “it doesn’t matter” in order to turn the focus to the positive. I was very skeptical of how this would work, but I was so thrilled with the results! Instead of trying to push down the negativity, I gave myself the permission to have the bad thought and then met it with the truth of how little it mattered during those 6 miles. I find as I run that eventually my mind gets to a pretty primal state as I begin getting tired–it becomes harder to concentrate on “real” thoughts and everything becomes about the rhythm of my feet and my breathing and just the experience of getting across the “finish line” of the run. It’s during those times that  I tend to let the negativity get the best of me…I end up hearing those thoughts repeating over and over in my head and I don’t have the mental fortitude to block them out anymore. Today’s “…but it doesn’t matter” gave me an instant response to those negative thoughts without having to use any mental strength to try to push them away.

My favorite quote from the book about applying this principal to our daily lives was:

“The general idea here is  that if we can develop a view of ourselves that includes the idea that we routinely overcome WHATEVER obstacles we face, we will, in fact, overcome most if not all of them.”

So today was a good run and a GREAT lesson. Try the “…but it doesn’t matter” technique the next time you’re facing a challenge and see how it works for you. Next stop? My “official” marathon training start date! Monday, August, 1st. I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store for me!!

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | July 2, 2010

Well, it’s been a while…

….and I mean a WHILE since I’ve posted. It’s also (shhh…confession time!) been a WHILE since I’ve faithfully run more than an occasional half-hearted three miles or so. The end of the school year into the summer has been a challenge…I’ve struggled with finding my routine. My family spent a couple of weeks on vacation, then my husband has been out of town for a full week (which made finding time to run nearly impossible since I’ve got two small kids) and next week I’ll be having some surgery on my eyes (more about that later) that will also mess with my routine. To be fair, it isn’t that I haven’t run at all…while I was on vacation in Florida, I took several good early morning runs around the town where my in-laws live.  And I’ve been able to sneak in a couple of Saturday “long” runs with my running buddy, Valerie. But I certainly haven’t been “training” and most of the runs have been somewhat painful and ugly.

So this morning, I took off to begin the process of ramping up to my official marathon training plan. Things are still going to be a little complicated for the next month or so until school starts back and routine takes over, but I’ll be getting much more regular about running as well as back to visiting my friends at Natural Heath Solutions for their support. This morning I ran a little over four miles and it was really great. I don’t say that much about running…remember my little secret, but today was one of those rare days where the pieces come together and I actually enjoyed myself.

I was telling my husband last night that one of my goals in training for this marathon is to find that elusive place where I can “check out” from the world and separate myself from everything around me; getting lost in the rhythm of my footfalls and my thoughts. For someone who is, like most mothers, constantly concerned with details, the bliss of escaping from all of the bits and pieces of my life, even for an hour is sometimes life-saving. I’m not sure why I feel like I have to push my body beyond so far instead of just meditating quietly in a room while listening to the ocean on a new age nature-sounds CD…I have a feeling that’s a question I’ll be asking a lot of myself over the next few months. Some of my runs are horrible because I can’t get out of the head space of how miserable I am, but then there are runs like today where I feel like I’m able to relax and be “in the moment” (an overused cliche’….sorry) instead of worrying about how much farther I have to go or what I have to do when I’m finished. As I said, these runs are elusive, but I hope to learn more and more about the discipline of meditation as I practice the discipline of running.

This Saturday…the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10K. It’s sure to be hot. It’s sure to be muggy. It’s sure to be a long 6 miles, but it’s also sure to be a whole lot of fun. Can’t wait to join 50,000 of my fellow Americans to celebrate Independence Day on the humid streets of Atlanta!

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | May 18, 2010

My Journey Into Alternative Medicine: Part One

I’ve never really been the kind to depend on medicine when I don’t feel well. I typically don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like the dried out feeling I get from cold medicine or the loopy feeling I get from allergy medicine. I would occasionally take a couple of Advil if I really had a bad headache, but that was the extent of my use of pharmaceuticals. I just always felt a little uneasy about what ELSE that cold medicine might be doing to me besides drying out my sinuses. Once my older son was born, my concerns were pushed even more to the forefront of my mind as I struggled with his feedings. He was a lousy eater…it took him forever to drink a bottle. Forever! I mentioned it to my pediatrician and she sent us to an occupational therapist to have him checked out. They told us he had a “poor suck” and advised us to bring him for regular therapy as well as put rice cereal in his bottle. Not knowing any better, I did what the doctors told me to do. Within a few weeks his feedings became disastrous. He was screaming inconsolably during and after every feeding and sometimes refusing to eat altogether. He developed a horrible case of eczema. Unfortunately I didn’t put two and two together that the problem was the rice (what I came to believe later), so I took him back to the pediatrician. She immediately put him on a prescription cream for the eczema (that was later blacklisted for being fatal in rats and taken off the market) and an acid reflux medicine. I wasn’t keen on either of those ideas, but again–I was a brand new Mom and I thought you were supposed to trust your pediatrician. The acid reflux medicine didn’t change a thing, so they tried him on a different one. It didn’t help. So they sent us to a gastroenterologist. I watched that man strap my screaming baby to a board and explore his throat with a lighted scope. And that was all I could take. After that doctor found nothing wrong, my husband and I realized (through the journals we had been keeping) that the problem seemed related to the rice. We took it out of his bottle and the problem was solved. We immediately dumped our pediatrician and started fresh.

Unfortunately I had to go through all of that (and worse, my baby had to go through all of that) for me to realize that I need to trust my gut as a mother. As soon as the prescription pad came out in my pediatrician’s office, I started to get nervous and it turned out that I was right. Every medical treatment we put him on and every doctor we saw made things worse not better. I learned through that whole ordeal that my instincts are valid both relating to my children and also to myself. This was an incredibly valuable lesson to learn, I just wish that my son hadn’t been caught in the middle of it.

I write about all of that because it was really the beginning of my turn to alternative forms of medicine. It would be a while before I went full force into learning about and participating in everything from chiropractics to hemeopathy, but those experiences with my son laid the groundwork for a massive shift in thinking in our family.

Next time: a backache, a chiropractor, a wacky google search and an angel. Stay tuned!!

Posted by: leighannmcilvain | April 30, 2010

The Secret’s Out…Why I Run

Today I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  It’s not an easy thing to admit when you’re writing a blog about running. Or training for a marathon. But it’s the truth and I feel like, if anyone’s out there reading, they deserve to know the truth. Full disclosure here, people…

I hate running.

Did you see that coming? I keep thinking one day that I’m going to get out there with my shoes and my ipod and it’s all going to click and I’m going to love the feeling of the wind in my hair and the clarity of thought and the amazing, lean legs that come with packing on the mileage. That’s what it looks like in the Nike ads. But so far I still have the same stocky legs that I earned through a youth of dancing, most of my clearest thoughts are about quitting and as for my ipod…well, it’s needing some new material.

So yeah…the Nike ad? Hasn’t happened for me yet. Every single time I tie on my shoes it’s an inner struggle of talking myself into the run. Every. Single. Time.

But I’m still holding out hope that someday I’m going to fall in love with it. I figure anything worth really loving for a lifetime takes time to nurture and grow. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m dripping sweat, irritated with my music, roasting in the sun or drenched in the rain, trying to talk myself into just one more mile and beating down the defeatist  voice in my head that says I can’t do it.

Here’s what I DO love, though. I love when I cross the finish line, whether in a real race, or the imaginary finish line of a run on a road. I love that feeling of walking around to get my heart rate under control after I’ve sprinted “horse to the barn” style at the end of my run. I love the feeling of unlacing my shoes and letting my toes wiggle around in the freedom of my flip-flops after being confined in my shoes for seven miles. I love looking at my watch and seeing that I went a little farther a little faster than I had before. I love pulling out my ponytail holder and feeling that first blast of hot water from the shower soothe my tired muscles. I love that, for those 45 minutes or two hours, that time was just mine. No one needed anything from me, no one can take anything from me. No one is waiting on me or depending on me. For those miles, it’s my time. I love the feeling of knowing that I talked the bad inner dialogue down that day and finished what I started…that those negative voices in my head don’t define me and that I’m capable of more than I’ve ever given myself credit for.

So that’s why I keep running. And hoping that the love will continue to creep in one finish line at a time.

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