Des News: Do You Need a Break?

My daughter and I taking a break.

Relationships are living, breathing things.  We grow and change.  We are not the same people today that we were last year.  Like you need a blog to tell you that.  So why is it so hard to accept that our relationship to running, or any workout really, is also dynamic?  I once told a friend that I was cutting back on marathons.  The love just wasn’t there anymore.  Her reaction was as if I’d told her I was allergic to chocolate.  She kept assuring me I would bounce back.  This was only temporary.  I would be okay.  Her advice was to sign up for more races until I found the love again.  Well intended, but seriously misguided.  I wasn’t complaining.  I wasn’t lamenting the loss of my glory years.  I wasn’t even quitting running.  I just didn’t want to race.  There was nothing deep and spiritual to read into this shift.  I just didn’t wanna and that’s okay.  I mean, I used to love those Brach’s circus peanuts and Kool-Aid.  Give me those now and I’d literally gag.

This week’s Des. News column is intended to help you know if you’re in a running funk- if you need to take a step back or take a break.   I also list a few things that help me transition into that break while maintaining my sanity.

Click on the link below to read the full column.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865686247/Knowing-when-to-take-a-break-from-running.html

Deseret News: Reasons to Run When You Travel

Posing in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin after a marathon.

There was a time when I would have scoffed at the idea of working out during vacation.  I mean, vacations are for sleeping in and lounging around, right?  Sometimes.  But sometimes getting in a run before a busy day of touring is the best way to start the day.  I’ve come to love running when I travel so much that part of my vacation prep is searching out running routes.  Click the link below to read this week’s Deseret News column for a list of reasons why you should considering adding in a run or two during your next vacation.

 

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865684934/Reasons-to-run-when-you-travel.html

We Arrived Alive!

Shelly and I at the end of our last organized century ride. Despite the our laughter, this really wasn’t fun at all. Don’t let the picture fool you. I was probably crying just moments before this was taken.

I’m still on summer break, and I promise new articles coming soon.  In the meantime, here’s a little update on my summer adventures.  Some of you know last year my friend Shelly and I were in a bad bike crash.  A piece of wood took us down and we sported the latest and greatest in slings and casts for the rest of the summer.  Another nifty souvenir from that fall was a newfound fear of cycling.  “Fear” isn’t a strong enough word.  Let’s try “terror.”  We’ve ridden a few times since that fall, mostly on a paved path designated for bikes and pedestrians only.  In other words, no traffic.  Our longest ride was around 40 miles, but it wasn’t about mileage.  Those rides were about conquering our fears.  Well, guess what.  We didn’t.  That’s right.  We didn’t.  We are still scared.  Terrified, even.

Wait.  Isn’t this story supposed to be about getting back in the saddle (pardon the pun), conquering our fears and coming out the other side better for it?  Yeah, real life doesn’t follow a script.

Last Saturday Shelly and I and our other cycling friend Lisa drove to Idaho to ride in our first organized ride since the crash.  We rode the Goldilocks Century in Nampa, Idaho.  We chose it for it’s fairly flat course, beautiful scenery, good support, and really good sandwiches.  Because of near 105 degree temps (but mostly because I’m scared) we opted out of the usual 100-mile distance we usually do and chose to ride the 80-mile route.

I was literally shaking when we started.  It didn’t help that as we waited at the start line, we heard two cars skid and collide in the intersection just feet away.  Twenty-five miles in we were met with a steep downhill, 12% grade, with a right turn at the bottom.  I’d rather climb than descend and I said more prayers on the way down that hill than I’ve said in a year.  The nerves dissipated a bit after the halfway mark, but I don’t think there was ever a moment I felt 100% comfortable.  In fact, I doubt I ever will again.

Me, Lisa, and Shelly at the end of this year’s 80-mile adventure. All bones, ligaments and tendons in tact. And smiles, too!

So what’s the point of this cheerful update?  I was scared, but I rode anyway.  Doing things that truly frighten us is the very definition of courage and I’m owning it today.  We were all scared at one point or another, but our seats didn’t leave the saddle until we crossed the finish line.

What’s next?  I don’t know.  Will I do another organized ride?  If you’d asked me Saturday, my answer was a definite, “No!”  Ask me today, I’m not sure.  But what I am sure of is that we have guts.  It’s days like Saturday that I will tuck into my back pocket and pull out as a reminder every time I’m faced with something that shakes me to my core.  We really can do hard things.

Laundry and Sadness

 

The Cowart at the Copenhagen 5K finish.

Sorry for the recent radio silence.  My family and I took a long overdue vacation to the Baltic capitals this month.  We’re all struggling with the last vestiges of jet lag and post-vacation blues.  As my daughter Ali said when our plane landed in the U.S., “There’s nothing to look forward to now except laundry and sadness.”  At least she had a good time, right?  I’ll write more about our travels including the first 5K we’ve done as an entire family.  There were highs and lows and grand epiphanies, and that was just in the first mile.  But right now, a nap.

Deseret News: Running- The Best Gift My Kids Ever Gave Me

 

I started running because I needed time alone.  I wasn’t necessarily running away from my kids, but I was looking for a brief respite in the midst of diapers, tantrums, and feedings.  Which makes it all the more interesting that when asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year, my answer was that I wanted my daughters to run a 5K with me while we were on vacation.  Running has, no doubt, made me a better mom in so many ways.  It’s easy to lose ourselves when we take care of others in any capacity.  Life’s demands are endless.  All the more reason to make my running a daily priority.  There are responsibilities I have to fulfill.  I’m a mom first.  But there are responsibilities that are optional.  I don’t HAVE to do laundry at this second.  It will still be waiting for me after my 10-miler.  I’ve tested this theory and it is true.  The world won’t stop turning if I step out for an hour and bathe in the sunshine while I get my sweat on.  Whether you’re a mom, a dad, a grandparent, a friend, or a care-giver in any capacity, take the time to take care of you.  Life is a gift, not an obligation.  Take care of your health so you are better able to care for those around you.  And to all those moms, moms-to-be, and stand-in moms, Happy Mother’s Day.  And Happy Running.

Click on the link below to read more about the best gift my kids ever gave me.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865679441/Why-running-Is-the-best-gift-my-kids-have-given-me.html

From the Archives- “Dear New Girl in Class”

Most people assume that January is the busiest month at the gym.  It’s true there’s a surge in new memberships, but it’s actually springtime that my group fitness class numbers see a significant increase.  I have a few theories about why, but I think the main reason there’s a gap is it can be intimidating to take a new fitness class, especially if you perceive yourself to be out of shape or uncoordinated.  I get it.  In fact, my first strength training class happened when I was training to be the instructor.  This column from 2012 is addressed to others like me who are afraid they can’t keep up, will look foolish, or fail in a group class setting.  I do my best to make everyone feel comfortable and capable, but getting people through the door the first time is the biggest challenge of all.  Maybe, just maybe, I can assuage some of those fear in this piece.  Read on.

 

Dear new girl in the back row in class today,

I noticed you. I know you were hoping to blend into the background. I know you picked today to try my strength training class because it was so crowded you figured I wouldn’t see you, but I did. Actually, I’ve been watching you for the last week as you passed by the window, checking out what was going on in the group exercise room from the corner of your eye. I could tell you were curious. I could also tell you were unsure.

You’re unsure if you belong at the gym. A stranger in a strange land. The equipment is unfamiliar. The trainer lingo a foreign language. You had no idea there were so many ways to squat. On your right there’s a guy in the corner doing pull-ups with an oversized chain draped around his neck. Yes, a chain. On your left is Jillian Michaels flicking ropes like they were licorice. (Actually, this woman makes Jillian look out of shape.)

You’re unsure if you are physically capable of what everyone else is making look so effortless. Why are you the only one breathing heavy? Why are you the only one whose face is beat red and slick with sweat? How is it possible to run with full makeup looking beautiful in Lululemon tops worthy of wearing out in everyday public life? You’re feeling self conscious about your shape and your state of physical well-being. You feel as if every eye in the gym is on you wondering the same thing. You imagine you hear the whisperings. “What is she doing here?” “What does she think she can actually do?” “Thank goodness that’s not me.”

Continue reading “From the Archives- “Dear New Girl in Class””

Monday Memory- Kathrine Switzer

Me with Kathrine Switer at the 2011 Boston Marathon Expo. What an honor to speak with one of my role models, not just in running but in life.

 

Fifty years ago Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.  Bobbi Gibb had run it before, but rebel style.  Switzer had an official bib.  Her run famously included a “run-in” with race director Jock Semple.  If you haven’t read her book Marathon Woman, get a copy now, find a comfy chair and prepare to be amazed in the truest sense.  Kathrine’s belief in herself and other women have made so many of my own dreams a reality.  It’s not just her physical accomplishments, but her dedication to helping all women around the globe open doors to their own success that inspire me in my own little sphere of influence.  At the young age of 70, she is running the Boston Marathon today to commemorate that historic run in 1967.  I can only hope to continue to follow in her footsteps.

Thank you, Kathrine, for all you have done and continue to do.

From the Archives: Thank You Letter to the Boston Marathon

Boston 2011

 

It’s April, and in two short weeks more than 30,000 runners will make their way from Hopkinton to Boston.  I won’t be one of them this year, but this race hasn’t been far from my mind.  I wasn’t writing about running after I finished my first Boston, but I was after my second.  So this week’s post comes from my 2011 write-up for the Deseret News about the experience.  The race is special in a way no other race will ever be.  Even if you never set foot in the Athlete’s Village, the experience is worth the trouble because it’s not just about the runners.  It’s about the spectators, volunteers, at-home cheerleaders, and the work behind the bib.  Enjoy.

 

Dear Boston Marathon,
I was taught at a very young age that I should always send a thank-you note to anyone who has given me a gift. In keeping with this lesson in etiquette, I just want to thank you for the wonderful weekend you provided for my family and I.

First, I want to thank you for playing hard-to-get. They say that the chase is the most exciting part of the hunt, and you sure proved them right. I’ve made it a personal goal to chase you at every marathon I’ve run. You certainly don’t make it easy. In fact, in recent weeks you’ve become even more elusive, but I like that. You seem to know that we runners like a good challenge. Tell me I can’t, and you can bet that I will. Your constant nagging in the back of my brain has given my weekends structure. Who am I kidding? It’s given my entire year structure. I have calendars with long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats and speed work all laid out in a carefully formulated plan just so I can earn an invitation to your party.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Thank You Letter to the Boston Marathon”

From the Archives- All the Little Things

This column from 2012 is similar to what I wrote last week for Des News.  It’s good to have big plans, but the best way to make them happen is by taking small steps.  My 4-year-old whom I talk about in this story is now almost 10.  She has mastered the art of shoe-tying, but while her goals change, her frustrations remain.  Frankly, I’m the same.  I have to remind myself that progress is progress, whether it comes quickly or slowly.  Here’s to another day of inching forward.

Our Ali-bug.

 

The Cowarts have set a lofty goal this month. We are teaching our four-year-old how to tie her shoes.

This is a big deal. My goal as a parent is to raise children who need me less and less each day. Such an endeavor can be, and most often is, painful for both parent and child.

My pain stems from the need to feel needed, and while I rejoice with each milestone met- potty-training, cutting your own pancakes, putting on underwear not backwards- there is a pang in my heart knowing that eventually my children’s independence will march them right out the front door for good.

The children’s pain has a different root. Every milestone for them is a mountain of challenges. Hand-eye coordination, patience, and the ability to follow directions are qualities found lacking in our household, yet these are the very same qualities necessary when learning how to walk, feed, dress, and yes, tie one’s shoes.

Our daughter began her shoe journey with excitement. She has decided to do a one-mile kids’ race in April. She has learned from her mother, and rightly so, that such an undertaking requires new running shoes with real laces. Laces which require tying.

She was going to learn a skill that her big sister has mastered! This, obviously, is a skill that separates the kids from the babies. Eager to graduate from that category, she sat down with her sneakers and hefty set of expectations.

All that disappeared not two minutes later when the little girl we call “Bug” hadn’t mastered this feat with 100% perfection. After twice failing to make perfect bunny ears, she threw the shoes on the ground and commenced whining.

Have I mentioned that patience is a virtue we have little of in our house?

Continue reading “From the Archives- All the Little Things”

Pennies in the Bucket

Life is made of a series of small decisions.  There’s a lot to celebrate in that statement.  Change can be difficult and overwhelming when we focus on the big picture.  But when we break up our goals into smaller steps, suddenly that giant elephant on your plate is devoured (or chips, or cookies- insert preferred snack food here).  The point is if we want change to happen, we have to make it happen.  It doesn’t have to happen in a day.  In fact, slower change is typically more permanent change.  Our family has a “Fun Bucket”.  In this bucket is where we collect our loose coins.  Before a big vacation we typically take it to the bank to cash it in for bills.  It’s amazing to me how much we accumulate throughout the year.  It’s not unusual to save in the hundreds.  The best part it we don’t even notice the impact.  Tell me to put $100 aside, I feel that.  Tell me to put $1 a day aside for 100 days, I barely notice that dollar missing from my wallet.

Click on the link below to read about some of the pennies I’m putting in my bucket now.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674327/Small-changes-make-a-big-difference.html?clear_cache=1