I Am Not Crying, Yet – Injury Woes

I spent a good portion of the morning at the doctors office having xrays done of my right knee. Not quite a year after originally writing this post I am once again struggling with a knee injury. Once again I am worried that my fall goal will not happen but once again I am reminded that it isn’t time to cry yet.

Written by Ann Brennan

 

It has been a week and I am cranky.  Actually I am using cranky as a way to keep from crying because crying is the first step to giving up, giving in and admitting that this Ironman is not going to happen and I am not ready to do that.

 

It has been a week since I woke up with a small niggle in my right knee that gradually, over a couple of hours became a full blown, cannot-deny-it injury.  With the Ironman only nine weeks away I went straight to a doctor and received what sounded like great news.  If I rest it for seven to ten days I should be fine.  It should get better quickly and I shouldn’t lose much fitness in that period of time.  Plus, resting meant no running but I could still ride and swim.

 

Except, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t ride because bending and unbending the knee was beyond painful.  On a scale of 1-10 it was a ten and worse yet, the knee just would not unbend enough to move the pedals.  Swimming seemed like an option though.  But after two days of swimming I came to realize that even that was making it worse, not better.

 

I am trying to take comfort in the fact that it IS getting better.  For the past two nights I have actually been able to sleep without waking up every time I move.  The mornings have gotten a little easier and I even made it through the grocery store yesterday.  Any other time these would be great signs.

 

But not when I am in the middle of Ironman training.  Yesterday I had a 17-mile run on the books.  Seventeen miles.  And walking through the grocery store was an accomplishment.  How in the world am I going to go from being happy that I could actually walk through the grocery store to covering the kind of distance I need to cover?

 

So, I am not crying yet.  But I am heartbroken and scared.  My husband told me yesterday that I need to be patient.  It is advice I have offered others dozens of times. But I don’t have time to be patient.  I don’t have time to wait this out.  My Ironman is eight weeks away and I am scared.

 

I have put so much into this Ironman.  I have worked so hard and come so far in my training and now I am waiting, waiting for some sign that the doctor really is right.  That I really will get better.

 

I am one to preach that endurance sport is 90 percent mental.  And I do believe that.  But that scares me as well because this injury, at this time, is taking a mental toll.  This injury is knocking me down a few pegs and leaving me with doubts just when I was beginning to feel like I “had this Ironman thing.”

 

So, I am not crying.  I am waiting.  I am holding back the tears and I am waiting.

How To Start A Workout Program

 

Written by Ann Brennan

This article was originally published in July of 2012.

 

Yesterday I told someone that I was training for Ironman and their response, as they looked me up and down was, “Really? You don’t look like an Ironman.”

 

My husband was horrified.  How could someone say something like that? But the truth is, she was right. I don’t look like an Ironman.  I am barely five feet tall with super short legs and wide hips. I look like a mom.

 

But I am training.  I am working towards a goal and in eleven months I will be an Ironman.  I still won’t look like an Ironman but I will have the t-shirt to prove it.

 

When I first started Ann’s Running Commentary, my goal was to create a place where the average person could find inspiration to get out there and get active. In the past couple of months I have spent a lot of time talking about my journey to Ironman and I will keep doing that but my goal for ARC remains the same – to inspire and motivate the average Joe to get out there.

 

I have been running for a long time, this Ironman gig is just another step in my journey but how do you start a workout program? How do you, as one of my twitter followers wrote yesterday, “stay fit enough to remain upright?”

 

I am no expert but years of experience, years that started with being overweight and finding my way to running, travelled through the world of three pregnancies and three trips back to my pre-pregnancy weight, have given me a little insight into the three keys to staying upright, getting out there and getting it done.

 

  1. Have a goal -  Yes, a weight goal is great but it is often unrealistic.  We really have no idea what our bodies are going to do when we start working out so the key to a good goal, at least for me is to have an event I really want to do.  My first goal was to run a local 5k.  My favorite goal I have seen someone else set was a mom who really wanted to support her son in his fight against Aids so she aimed, with no time in the saddle, to ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the Fight to End Aids.  Not only did she support her son but she discovered that she is a hell of a cyclist. Make your goal something you will enjoy.  Google the cities you want to see and see if there is an event there you could incorporate into your plan.  Think about all those things you have said, “I wish I could,” about and make that your goal.
  2. Have fun – This might mean that your original goal goes out the window.  If you set a goal and find, “Holy crap, I hate cycling,” pick a different goal.  This is your life.  Enjoy it.  If you enjoy it you will continue to do it.  It shouldn’t be a chore. If you don’t want to give up on your goal, pick a different way of getting to that goal.  Just because you are going to run a 5k, doesn’t mean every workout has to be about running. Maybe today’s workout is a day spent at the batting cage, tomorrow’s is a run in the city with friends and the next day is a ride along the beach.  Just have fun. You make the rules.
  3. Make friends – Okay some people call these people running partners or fitness buddies but a good fitness buddy or running partner becomes your friend, your confidant, the person you can tell anything, including the dreaded, “I have the trots and might just have to poop in the woods.” Having a friend makes it so much easier to get out there and stay upright.  Having a friend makes the workout something you look forward to, something you don’t want to go a day without.

 

Staying fit is not easy.  If it were, we would not have the obesity crisis that we do today.  But it does not have to be overwhelming. It does not have to be a job.  The trick is to make your workout routine something you look forward to. By having something fun to look forward to (a great race, a big event, a high school reunion), by having fun each and every time you head out the door and finding friends along the way, you can almost guarantee success.

 

Good luck, have fun, and get out there.

Racing vs. Running – I Was Shoved

Written by Ann Brennan

Originally published in June 2011, republished because it was on my mind during a run today. I often need reminders of just what it takes to meet the goals I have set for myself.

On Friday afternoon, Coach Jeff emailed me and asked if we could talk about Sunday’s 10k. I rolled my eyes, hung my head, and thought two things, “What could he possibly have to say about this race.” Jeff and Blaise (my fast husband) confer by phone before races. They talk splits and strategy.

But Jeff seldom asks me to talk. He is the ultimate “man of few words.” So, when he asks to talk, there must be a reason.

Unfortunately, because Jeff is a man of so few words he always gets straight to the point and on Friday the point was a little unpleasant.

“Ann,” he said with only the slightest pause, “you are the great underachiever.”

He went on to say that he does not think I try in races, that I am afraid of failing so I don’t give it my all, that I am capable of more than I give.

I wanted to argue with him, but I couldn’t. I knew he was right. I have written here about the mental games I have played with myself for various reasons over the past couple of years but when it comes down to it, Jeff is right.

While I tell people that they probably can run faster than they believe is possible, I do not practice what I preach. I have stopped racing as fast as I know that I can.

Three years ago I was racing. In every race I was giving it my all and I discovered that I really could run faster than I had given myself credit for. That year I set PRs in every race I ran. Then injury and illness struck over and over again and I began to revert back to my old way of thinking. I stopped trying.

So, on Friday afternoon as I sat on the front porch listening to Jeff call me the great underachiever I could not argue. I knew he was right.

“I want you to race. Push yourself on Sunday,” he told me, “I want you to run a 9 minute pace.”

Calculating that out, it meant I had to run the race in 55:55.

Just minutes before I called Jeff I had been content with the idea that I would come in in under an hour. I would have been happy with that. Instead, I was now looking at knocking over 4 minutes off that time and I was looking at doing it the morning after my in-laws 50th Wedding Anniversary party. But I didn’t argue. I couldn’t argue, because this was (excuse my language here but it is the only term I can think of at the moment) “shit or get off the pot” time.

Suddenly that is exactly what it felt like. Here I am working with not one but two coaches. With Jeff coaching my running, swimming and biking and Dan at helping me with my strength, mobility and flexibility it does seem like the time to either race or give up on it all together.

So, I raced. Using the dynamic warm up I had just learned last week with Dan, the plan that Jeff had laid out for me Friday afternoon and my husband who was prepared to help me push through the last mile, I raced my 10k.

I should say I did not race gracefully. I did not race smart. But I raced. I took off too fast and suffered for it later in the race, but I raced the entire time. I didn’t slack off. I stayed focused and I raced.

The truth is that Jeff had pissed me off a little bit and that 55:55 no longer seemed like a challenge. Instead it seemed like an insult. Of course I could run 55:55. Of course I could run better than a 9 minute pace.

I had been fine with the idea of running a 60 minute 10k before Jeff called me the great underachiever but that 55:55 lit a fire and there was no way I was going to be satisfied with that time now.

So, Sunday morning as I raced the Dawson’s Father’s Day 10k, I pushed and I ran. I gave it my all, coming across the finish line two minutes faster than Jeff had suggested, in 53:54.

Looking back on that phone call I have a couple of questions. First I wonder how Jeff felt before the words left his mouth. I am not the easiest person to talk to. Truth be told, I am pretty controlling. I like to be in charge and seldom give up control easily. And while I am guessing it is difficult to approach anybody with a statement like “you are the great underachiever,” I would think it might be even harder to approach me.

Second, I wonder whether he knew. Did he know that I needed to be pushed and underestimated? Did he know that I needed to be shoved rather than guided?

How Do You Eat an Elephant? – Motivation To Move Forward

Written by Ann Brennan

I wrote this post back in July of 2012 because I was struggling with the motivation to move forward in my Ironman training. It was a personal post but over the past year it has been viewed by thousands of runners and triathletes and I have received dozens of emails telling me that this has become their motivation, their mantra. As I begin my journey to becoming a Boston Qualifying Marathoner, I have come back to it, to remind me that I can do this, one bite at a time.

I don’t wanna.  I am tired and I just want to go back to sleep.  I am tired and I just want to sit on the couch with my book. I am just too tired.  Oh and did I mention hungry? I am so hungry. Twenty-four hours a day I am hungry, starving really.

 

So to sum it up…I am tired and hungry and I don’t wanna go run/bike/swim/lift. Besides, there is laundry to do, kids to feed, a house to clean and letters to write to my son, not to mention work.  Don’t you think I should just skip this workout?

 

This has been my train of thought every morning for the past two weeks.  With twelve weeks to go to my first Ironman, Coach Jeff has begun to ramp up the mileage.  Suddenly I find myself with two workouts a day several times a week.  When I am not working out I am either sleeping or eating when I should be taking care of work or home obligations.  Ironman training is not easy.  But I guess I didn’t expect it would be.

 

So, how have I managed to get out each day?  How have I dragged my sorry butt out of bed, plopped it on a bike and gotten on my way? How have I pushed through workouts I have had no desire to do?

 

Well it certainly has not been because of my physical prowess.  That much I am sure of.  For the most part it has been through a series of mental tricks.

 

Before Blaise left for Beast Barracks at West Point this summer he asked an older cadet for his best tips on getting through the six weeks.  His friend told him, you get through it the same way you eat an elephant – one bite at a time.

 

That’s the approach I have been taking to Ironman training.  I don’t have 10 workouts this week. I don’t even have two workouts tomorrow morning. I have one workout tomorrow morning and all I have to do is get through that one.

 

Yes, I know that there is another one waiting for me when I get home from that one but all I am worried about when I start out each day is that one bite – the first workout.  Then I can think about the next bite.

 

In the past the first bite has been getting out of bed.  But this summer getting out of bed has been the easy part.  Although I am not a morning person and hate the idea of getting out of my comfy bed, I am able to pull myself out each morning by reminding myself of my West Point son and the fact that he has no choice.  He hears the calls of his commanding officer and he has to get up no matter how tired he is.  So who am I to lie there basking in the comfort of a bed when there is work to be done?

 

But still, the minute my feet hit the floor I begin the whining.  I start in on the “I don’t wannas.”  And I have to remember to concentrate on that one bite, that one workout and sometimes just that one set.

 

This week there have been swim workouts that I literally got through by promising myself that all I had to do was that one 800 yard warm up, then I could go home.  Then changing it to the next set and the next set.

 

Ironman training is hard but the next workout isn’t.  If I can get through that one workout, take that single bite, I can get to the next one and by the time I get to October 20th, that elephant will be all gone.

I Am Not Afraid

I am reposting this story today after reading about the teacher in Montana who disappeared on a trail run almost one year ago this week. I am reposting it because I want runners, not just women, to understand that we are not powerless. Yes, running alone can be dangerous and bad things can happen if we drop our guard when out on the trails, but that doesn’t mean we should give up something that brings us such joy. So, I am posting this and asking you to read it, pass it on and keep on running. But I would be irresponsible if I didn’t tell you to take precautions. Let people know where you are going to be. Pick paths that are less secluded. And most importantly trust your gut. If you head down a path and get that little nagging in your belly that says, “Turn around,” do it. There will be other runs and maybe you will feel a little silly for a little while but it is better to feel silly now than to berate yourself later with, “I knew I should haven’t been there. I had a feeling that that was the wrong path today.” Be careful out there but don’t give up the joy. Don’t let anybody take your run from you.

I am a trail runner.  Before I even knew there was a name for it, I was a trail runner.  The first time I can remember running on a trail I was eight years old.  My family had moved out of the city into a trailer park in the country.  Other kids would roller skate or ride their bikes around the circle of trailers that was our neighborhood.  But not me.  Circles were not for me.  The minute I saw the trail leading between two trailers into the woods and heard that it lead to an abandoned railroad track and had trails leading off of it into the woods I abandoned my bike and headed into the woods.  I remember the other kids warning me about the Maco Ghost and the hermit who lived in the woods.  But I wasn’t scared.  Somehow I knew I belonged there, running on those trails.  I went every chance I was given.  I tried to talk my friends into joining me.  I found new trails with every run.  Some were clear others were not.  I would come home pouring sweat, legs covered in blood from the blackberry brambles but I didn’t care.  I had found a home.  A place I belonged.

Today, thirty two years later, I still love the trails.  I can’t resist them.  I hunt them out.  I am a trail runner even though the warnings are still there.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“Don’t you worry about being attacked?”

“Didn’t you see the sign about copperheads?”

“What if you fall and break a leg?”

I laugh and explain that no, I am not afraid.  I have a better chance of wrecking my car on the way to the trail than being hurt on them.

As I have gotten older I have learned to take more precautions. I always carry a cell phone.  I go at times when I know a trail is going to be most populated and I let my husband know where I am going to be.  But I am not scared.

In a strange way I think this fearlessness was a gift from my mother.  Way back then, when I first became a trail runner I was scared.  Not of the hermit who lived in the woods or the ghost we all claimed to have seen but of my mother.  I was scared every moment of every day, until the day I found those trails.  On those trails I found a peace I had never known.  I ran into those woods to escape a life of fear.  I was running away but I was also running to something.  I was running to the athlete I would become.  I was running to the beauty life has to offer.  I was running to a world of comfort I didn’t have at home.

I run on the trails now for different reasons.  I run to let go of the stress of parenthood or to feel my body responding to the ups and downs of the ground.  I run to feel my heart beating faster and the burn in my legs.  Often, I run just to see what is down a particular trail.  Will there be a stream, or a railroad track or a dilapidated house beside a manmade pond?  But I never run without a sense of gratitude for the trail and where it has lead me or the gifts of peace it has given me.  I am a trail runner and I am not afraid.  I am a trail runner and I always will be.

Previously published in Trail Runner Magazine’s eNewsletter, Inside Dirt May 2009

The Truth About Weight Loss

When I first starting running marathons I gave people a whole plethora of answers as to why I was doing it, but the truth was I thought marathoning would make me look like Jennifer Anniston. Apparently that is not the case. Today I share what I have learned about weight loss and managing your weight even as a runner.

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The Importance of Form

When I first started running I thought it was all about putting one foot in front of the other and even though I read a lot about the sport, there were some things I thought were just for the more advanced athlete. Form was one of those subjects. Now I wonder how much better my running would have been, how much fewer injuries I might have had, if I had focused on form in the very beginning. Coach Jeff Kline from PRSFit has created this series of videos for his upcoming PRSFit Pro Program but has agreed to share a handful of them with me and my readers. I love today’s video, an introduction of sorts to the importance of form. I use a lot of these tips when running but “light, fast feet” has become an absolutely mainstay for each and every run.

PRS FIT Pro :: The importance of running form from PRS FIT :: Endurance Coaching on Vimeo.

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One More Reason to Workout Even When You Don’t Want To


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Leading Our Families to Fitness

There is an interesting thing that happens when fitness becomes a priority in our lives. We suddenly want to share this new discovery with everybody. Unfortunately, not everyone will be willing to take the leap into fitness and we will may find ourselves pushing. Fortunately, there is something else that happens when we find fitness. A little known benefit. We become leaders. We, as runners, without even trying, lead our families and friends towards a life of fitness.


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Best Day of the Year

When 2012 started I had one goal. Cross the finish line of the Beach to Battleship Ironman Triathlon. I had dreamed for years about completing an Ironman but after a DNF in 2004 I was scared. Actually, saying I was scared is an understatement. Throughout the year I kept trying to get the fear under control, moving forward and hoping that I could actually make it through the day.

A few days before the race, I wrote a post about visualizing the race. I went step by step through what I hoped my day would be, but even so I kept coming back to the fear. And then race day arrived and the fear was gone. I don’t mean pushed down so I could ignore it, but completely gone.

In its place was a peace I cannot begin to describe. I was right inside my visualization. Everything I had planned, everything I had wished for happened. You could almost lie the visualization post and the race report on top of each other, one being so close to the other. Every photo from that day shows me with the biggest smile. From beginning to end I was having the day of my life.

But the best moment, was that moment as I was coming out of the run transition when I looked up at my husband and yelled “Best Day Ever.” That was the moment that I knew it was true. That was the moment I knew I was living up to the plan and enjoying every minute of the day.

This video, at about 4 seconds, shows that exact moment. Yep, that’s me shouting “Best Day Ever.”


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There is only one first time. Beach to Battleship was my first Ironman and I wanted it to be a day to remember. It was. In every way, it was a perfect day.