RACE REPORT: 2013 Big Sur International Marathon

I have been counting down the days until the Big Sur Marathon ever since the very minute that I signed up for this race. I had a countdown app downloaded on my iPhone just to keep track and even had a written countdown on my dry erase board at work.

I officially began training at the end of January/beginning of February and was worried that I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Big Sur Marathon marked my first full marathon ever and I had only recently ran my first half marathon in October of 2012 at the Runner’s World Half Marathon.

A week ago, I ran my second half marathon at Rutgers University and set a personal record with a time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. As ecstatic as I was, I still had to remind myself that the race that really mattered has yet to come.

My training had many ups and downs as I was continuously getting sick due to the inconsistent weather, making poor food choices, and wearing improper winter apparel. Fortunately, my body pulled itself together in my final few weeks before the race.

Once I got on the plane to Monterey at 6AM on Friday morning, I was finally accepting the reality that I was about to run 26.2 miles. The longest distance that I ran for my long runs was a mere 15 miles, and that only happened once. Naturally, I was freaking out about the fact that I was shy of 11 miles. Regardless, I kept reminding myself that there wasn’t really much else I could do at this point and that I just had to go with how my body felt on race day.

Big Sur Marathon weekend was primarily a working weekend for me, so it was difficult to get into the mindset that I was actually racing. It ended up being a good thing because I occupied my mind with work instead of pre-race jitters. I didn’t have time to be nervous. On Saturday morning, we had an 8AM shakeout run with the Runner’s World Challengers. I didn’t participate because I was making sure that everything was prepared for when the Challengers returned. Once everyone got back, I had my own private shakeout run by myself which is what I’m used to anyways because I run by myself all the time. At this point, I was really getting in the mindset that race day was tomorrow.

Later on Saturday afternoon, we held a Strategy Session where the Runner’s World Editors gave race tips, advice, etc. This was the first time that I actually had to pay close attention since it actually applied to me. Our editors couldn’t have given better advice. From Jen, I adopted the phrase “Run relaxed” and from Amby, “Every mile is a gift”. I took these words with me to the start line.

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On Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep (no surprise there) My eyes finally shut around 12AM and I woke up on Sunday morning at 3:15AM. All of the emotions that I was unable to feel prior to this day were finally catching up to me. As we boarded the bus, I felt the crumbling sensation in the pit of my stomach. It was hard to breathe. I looked out the window and tried to distinguish the oceanic views that were hidden in the darkness. The drive took approximately 45 minutes (How I wish it was that short of a time to run)

Lining up at the start, all of the Runner’s World girls came together and we anxiously waited until the race announcer gave us the ‘go ahead’. I kept looking at my watch every 30 seconds and once it was race time, the nervous feeling in my stomach disappeared and I was just happy.

As I started my first few miles, everyone was passing me. I couldn’t have gone any slower. I kept telling myself, “Stay slow”.

I made a friend in the beginning of the race and stayed with her for the first 7 or 8 miles. It was nice to have someone there for me to keep myself grounded. We were going at conversation pace and that’s exactly what I needed. At mile 9, we parted ways and I picked up my pace as I was finally getting into race mentality. I knew that Hurricane Point was coming up, but I didn’t want to psych myself out. I just absorbed the scenery and kept myself calm.

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Once I passed Hurricane Point, I realized that I was already halfway done. I heard the piano player at the 13-mile mark and I couldn’t believe I was already there. My legs felt great, my body was relaxed, and my mentality was still positive. Up until mile 20, I felt like I was on top of the world. Nothing could stop me and I only had 6 miles left. It wasn’t until miles 22 through 26 that my legs finally started giving out. The rolling hills in the Highlands put my legs to shame and I had a persistent burning sensation in my quads for the remainder of the race. Once I saw the mile 26-marker, I had to channel every remaining bit of energy I had left to finish this race without walking. As I heard the distant sounds of people cheering and saw the finish line flags, I forced myself to open my stride. I just wanted to be done. I broke down in tears just seconds before I crossed the finish line and I couldn’t hold them back. My co-worker congratulated and comforted me, but I couldn’t speak. I just cried.

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The race volunteers gave me my medal and in that very moment, my whole life changed. I took one look at it and realized what I had just accomplished. It was quite possibly the greatest moment of my entire life.

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(EXTREMELY proud to say that I stayed true to withhold drinking alcohol for SIX WEEKS. Here I am enjoying my post-race beer. Quite possibly the most satisfying beer I’ve ever had)

I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. It was a humbling experience that provided me with a new respect for running. I am honored to say that I am a runner. I am honored to say that I am a marathoner. I feel invincible, confident, strong, empowered, brave.

I am eternally grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience a race filled with such beauty and such struggle. As cliche as it may sound, running truly is a metaphor for life. The mantra that kept me going during the marathon and will continue to keep me going is, “Never give up”

Life gets hard. Bad things happen. There is pain. In the words of Haruki Murakami (author of “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”) Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

In conclusion to this very LONG race report, I’d like to thank the people that made this marathon happen for me. They were my support, my team, my family. Thank you to my co-workers at Runner’s World. I couldn’t have done this without them.

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Official Finish Time – 4:07:58

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RACE REPORT: 2013 Rutgers Unite Half Marathon

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I’d like to start by saying that this is extremely exciting for me to document, as it is my FIRST official race report of 2013. Technically, this is my first race report ever being that I’ve never written a race report before. Nonetheless, I hope that I can keep this tradition going.

Okay, so I guess I lied about my last long run being the 8-miler I did two Saturdays ago. I actually did an 8-miler 3 days later…and then I ran the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon yesterday. Sorry guys!

Anyways…yesterday was exactly what I needed to boost my confidence and really get myself psyched for the Big Sur Marathon which I will be running in exactly 5 days. Yikes.

This past weekend, my main focus was to stay calm and keep my nerves at bay before my race on Sunday. All weekend, I stayed home and just spent time with my family. I kept reminding myself that this was just a warm-up race, to not take it seriously, and to just have fun. I kept the mentality that this race would be just like any other long run I’ve done in my training.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, it finally hit me that I was running a race. I got out of bed at 6:45AM (much later than I anticipated) and rushed to get ready. I scarfed down my breakfast which consisted of a bowl of oatmeal, two waffles, and a small cup of coffee. I kept looking at the time in fear that my stomach wouldn’t properly digest all of this food and I’d vomit all over the course. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

I rushed my family out the front door by 7:20AM. Race time was at 8AM and I was starting to freak out. As we approached the exit lane for Busch Campus, we saw that a policeman was already barricading it with orange cones. My heart sank. I have never missed the start of a race before.

Panic overcame me and I urged my Dad to find another way in. He took an illegal U-turn.

He dropped me in front at the Football stadium, a bit of a hike away from the start line, and my sister came with me to carry my Nike drawstring bag. In fear that I’d miss the gun going off, I fled and told my sister to just meet me by the chute.

I anxiously checked my watch every 30 seconds as I looked around for my family. I had signed up for this race on my own, by myself, so it was just me alone standing in the chutes. It was 7:55AM and I got a call from my sister. Her and my parents made it to the starting line and I couldn’t be more relieved. The race announcer began the countdown and a rush of nerves overcome me. I took a deep breath and “Bang”…race time.

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At first, I kept debating whether or not to run with music. For races, I have never ran while listening to music, but for my long runs, I can’t go without it. To keep my mentality that this was just a regular long run, I stuck my earbuds in my ears, turned up the music and let my legs go.

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(#Prayforboston)

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(Me being cheesy, of course)

I started out really easy. My first mile was only a few seconds under 10-minutes. I gradually picked up the pace over the course of the next 2 miles. I let people pass me and minded my own business. As I got into my groove, I continued to pick up the pace. I was in my own world. It wasn’t until around mile 8 or 9 that I really started to kick into competitive mode. I watched as the runners who frantically sped past me in the beginning miles begin to to fall back and slow down. Once I hit mile 10, my legs started going. I kicked into 5-K mode and picked off every runner that was in my sight. My familiarity with the course brought little to no surprises as to where this course would end. As I neared the last straight away on College Avenue, where I spent so many of my college days, I was in an all-out sprint and finished stronger than I ever have in any other race. I knew I had so much left in the tank and I felt good about that. I saw my family waiting for me at the end of the finish line and I was overcome with smiles.

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(Crossing the line with peace signs)

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This race meant a lot to me for many reasons. I ran for Boston. I ran as an alumni. I ran to prepare for Big Sur. I ran because it’s what I love to do. I ran because it brings me joy. I ran for my family.

It’s hard for people to understand why people put themselves through hours of training for long distance races such as these. It’s personal. Everyone has their own reasons, but at the same time, these reasons also bring runners together to form a community. Runners understand each other on a deeper level because of these reasons.

I couldn’t be more satisfied with my performance yesterday. I’m confident in my training and I’m ready for Big Sur. I received my official iGift for Big Sur Marathon today. Reality is sinking in day by day. I can only hope that my first marathon goes as well as I’ve trained for it

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(Reality sinking in)

To conclude this race report, my official time for the 2013 Rutgers Unite Half Marathon was 1:46:53. Oh and did I mention I set a PR by 2 whole minutes? Yes, I indeed did!

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2013 Rutgers Unite Half Marathon
Official Finish – 1:46:53
Chip Time Finish – 1:45:49.5
Overall: 539/3976
Women: 120/2029
Age Group 20-24: 19/340

Mind over Matter

To say, “It’s been a long week” would be the understatement of the century. However, I can’t phrase it in any other way than to say that exact sentence. So, I’ll leave it at that.

Mondays are already a tough pill to swallow, but what had happened on this particular Monday in Boston was the toughest.

This week has been off-balance, uneasy, unsettling. Today couldn’t have come any slower.

I’m a very resilient person. I’m quick to recover and the ease at which I can completely repress memories always amazes me. I’ve gotten so good at it that I often get confused as to whether something actually happened or not. Ironically, I have a fantastic memory (in regards to the things I actually want to remember) I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not though.

Remembering the past is detrimental to who we become in the future. I’m not saying that you’re supposed to dwell on the past, but to at least be aware and acknowledge what happened and hopefully pick up the pieces and begin to recover. This is how we create history. This is how we learn. This is how we grow.

For me, I could say I was directly affected by the events that occurred on Marathon Monday. My co-workers whom I work with day in and day out were there that day. My co-workers who were there were far more affected than I was. For them, it’s not going to be so easy to just acknowledge what happened and pick up the pieces and recover. For them, it could take weeks, months, years. It’s easy to erase a memory that is not your own. It’s easy to dismiss a tragic event that occurred in history because you weren’t there to watch it happen. It’s hard to forget when you were a witness.

My 1st of 2 back-to-back races is in 2 days. I’ll be running the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon and of course I’m excited, but I feel guilty being excited when there is still so much grief. It feels selfish to be happy right now when other people have been robbed of that emotion this week.

I hope and pray for the best when I run on Sunday. I hope and pray for happiness for those who are still suffering.

2 days and still counting…

#PrayForBoston

All day, I have been thinking of the words to describe how I feel about what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon.

There are not enough words. There is no particular word. There are just emotions. Hundreds of emotions that are flowing through my veins.

I’ve never experienced a nationwide tragedy such as this that hit so close to home. Whenever I have seen acts of terrorism or violence on the news, I am saddened and I can feel for the victims, but never has it sunk so deep within my skin. I feel the pain in my bones.

The day that I got my job at Runner’s World Magazine was, hands down, one of the greatest days of my life. It was a milestone for me. I earned a position at my all-time favorite magazine. I earned it.

For most people, the Boston Marathon should have been a similar experience. This year, the 2013 Boston Marathon was one of the most tragic events in Running History. Two Explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, depriving approximately 6,000 of their chance to earn such a prestigious accomplishment. To a dream that many have been chasing for years.

Yesterday at work, I was blissfully unaware of the horror to come after many crossed the finish line. I was sitting in my boss’ office watching the end of the Women’s Marathon, cheering on American Marathoners, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, around 10AM. I felt the positive energy radiating from the computer screen. I wanted to be there. I felt like I was.

At 2:50PM, my world, along with thousands of others’, was turned upside down.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe that someone would cause such chaos on a day that is so significant to millions of Americans.

It may never be understood as to why there are people in the world who just want to cause destruction. What must be understood, is that there needs to be a change. We, as a human race, need to strive to keep love and peace and hope alive even when it seems that all is lost.

In November of 2012, New York City was faced with Natural Disaster, Hurricane Sandy, which affected millions of lives and inevitably led to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon. This year, Boston was faced with a man-made disaster at the Boston Marathon.

As a Runner and an American, I have been deeply impacted by the tragedy of these events. My co-workers, my running community, my family at Runner’s World have been directly affected by what has happened and I’ve never had a deeper motivation to run on behalf of everyone else who was affected.

I had always thought that I was running for myself. For my health, for my pride, for my sanity. Now, I run for the hurt. The lost. The suffering.

When I run the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in 5 days and then the Big Sur Marathon in 12 days, I promise that my heart will be with every runner, every family, every American who was affected.

#PrayForBoston

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Below is a link to stream live coverage through CBS:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/live-video/

No More Long Runs

First off, HAPPY MARATHON MONDAY! Today is the Boston Marathon and I’m sad to say that I’m not there to witness it, but fortunately, I’m able to stream Live Coverage

So, I ran my last long run of my Half Marathon/Marathon training this past Saturday. That’s it. No more long run Saturdays. Where did the time go?

At this point, I realize that there’s not much else I can do except think positive thoughts and cross my fingers in hopes that I don’t pass out at mile 20 (since I never even reached that distance in my training)

At least, my last one was successful. My legs felt strong and I felt fast. I’m not too sure if that’s a good thing or not, but at least my body isn’t in pain. A nice 8 miles kept my spirits high.

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It just all seems so surreal. Maybe I’m in denial that these races are actually happening, but I feel no sense of excitement or nervousness. I’m not anxious. I’m not ecstatic. I’m not over-filled with joy. I thought at this point, I would at least have sweaty palms. But instead, I’m simply acknowledging the fact that my training has come to an end and I just have to hope for the best.

The one thing that I can attest to is the lack of sleep I’ve been getting, which could be the one sure sign that I actually have emotions.

Every day last week, I slept no earlier than 2:30AM. I remain blissfully unaware as to what’s actually bothering me, especially since I can’t single out one lingering thought that’s even slightly related to my races. I’ve just been laying in bed, tossing and turning, my eyes refusing to shut. Every few minutes, I sit up and look around my pitch black room, then return to my original position.

I purchased a new book for the first time in a very long time. To be honest, I don’t read often and I’m not one to finish books all the way. I always reach the home stretch, just before you find out the good stuff, but then I just stop. Hopefully I finish this one. I figure it will take my mind off of whatever is hiding in my subconscious.

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(If you can’t read upside down, it’s “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk. This was probably not the most uplifting choice of books, but I read the first chapter and was intrigued)

Anyways, I’ll be taking it easy this week. I’ll get in some light running, but mostly relaxing, reading, and foam rolling.

It sounds like it’s going to be a good week.

The Depth of a Hashtag

In continuation to my post about the beautiful weather that New York City had on Tuesday, I’d like to include more details on some recent observations I have made.

On Tuesday night, as I was walking with my sister down 3rd Avenue from the 86th Street entrance of Central Park, I noticed that we were both mindlessly documenting the amazing run we just had. Both she and I were uploading post-run photos onto Instagram and Twitter, then waiting and watching as the wave of “likes” came rushing in. We even asked each other our opinions before posting.

At first, I didn’t comment on the fact that we were doing this. I didn’t think twice about it. It was just a normal thing to do. Not until hours later when I kept checking back on my photos and status updates, did I realize how involved I was with social media.

In all honesty, I’m the type of person who is in denial of a current fad. I subtly refuse to give into the popular websites (aside from Facebook). I can shamelessly admit that only recently have I truly gained a greater understanding towards the impact of hashtags. I never fully grasped the concept of a hashtag. I thought that Twitter was so silly at first. I often said to myself, “Why do we need another website to update your status when you can just do that on Facebook?” I have repeatedly created and deleted my Twitter account approximately 3 or 4 times because I didn’t see the purpose of it. I can finally say that I have the hang of it now (for the most part).

Originally, I didn’t even know that Instagram was a form of social media. I just thought that it was an application to help make my pictures look pretty due to the lack of strong camera quality that my poor, little iPhone 3 had to offer. I never labeled my photos, followed anyone, or used hashtags to connect myself to other Instagram users. I just wanted my pictures to look less crappy and also make myself feel slightly artsy (I’m totally not)

Only recently have I signed up for Pinterest, and even with that, I haven’t had a chance to look through it because I’m too lazy to filter my interests.

Then comes SnapChat, which I got quickly bored with. Why did I need to individually send people pictures of the random day-to-do activities I’m partaking in? I can just send a mass photo-upload to Facebook or Twitter.

We are so consumed in these various social media sites that it takes up hours and hours of our day just to upload photos and statuses, look through our news feed, like, comment, and do all the other things that these sites have to offer. I have even noticed lately that I come home to my apartment to go on my computer even more after I have already been on the computer all day at work.

I catch myself purposely interrupting my life just to post about my life. Why do people even care? Why do we need to know so much about people’s whereabouts? It’s information overload. With a simple click on Google’s search engine, we are yielded with an overabundance of information on just about anything from potatoes to who Adam Levine is currently dating. It’s very overwhelming.

I recently caught up on Season 7 of “How I Met Your Mother”, which is my favorite show and I will often reference scenes from episodes. In one episode on Season 7, there was scene where the characters were sitting together at a bar, not even speaking to each other. They were just looking at their phones. Then, it flashed back to about 6 or 7 years ago, before the introduction to smart phones and the massive spike in social media websites. In the flashback scene, they were sitting together at the bar, laughing, talking, and having a good time with just each other’s mere presence.

How did hanging out with friends become so impersonal? I saw a Facebook status update of a friend who somehow had an entire conversation with her boyfriend only using “Meme“, which for those of you who don’t know, are random pictures with a statement that’s usually humorous and relates to a certain cultural stereotype- see below for example)

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We have the ability to constantly communicate with someone without using a single spoken word. It’s mad! I’m not cynical nor am I opposed to social media. Clearly, I am an active social media user. At this very moment, I am using WordPress to document these current thoughts going through my head. It’s just a shame that we have become desensitized to getting to know a person organically.

Where do we even go from here?

I fear for the future and wonder about the ripple effects of this glitch in verbal communication. I guess for now all I can say is Happy Posting!

Going out without going all out

I did it.

I survived my first week of April without consuming a drop of alcohol.

To preface this entry to those who are new to reading my blog, I am NOT an alcoholic. I repeat, I am NOT an alcoholic.

To get some of you up to speed, I recently hit my point of absolute misery when it came to drinking with friends on the weekends. Going out until 3AM in New York City while you are in training mode for a Half-Marathon and Marathon do not mesh well at all. I learned this the hard way, therefore recently vowed to give up drinking any type of alcohol for the entire month of April in lieu of my Spring races

I must say, it’s actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. However, here are the down sides:

  • Going out to a club and/or bar in New York City while you are sober and everyone else around you is intoxicated is pretty weird. You notice how stupid everyone actually looks as opposed to everything being funny. It’s definitely not as funny when you’re sober…
  • Regardless of whether you drink or not, certain places still require a cover charge to get in. So even though you’re not buying drinks, you still have to pay to go to a place that is dimly lit with random spurts of blinding strobe lights and ear deafening music blasting , all while watching people act like morons
  • If you’re tired and not having fun, it’s better to just go home instead of being out and forcing yourself to stay awake when you don’t need to be

Regardless, I felt really good about myself at the fact that I didn’t succumb to peer pressure.

On a more positive note, here are the up sides to not drinking

  • You really do spend less money when you don’t have to buy alcohol
  • You wake up in the morning remembering EVERYTHING
  • You save yourself empty calories and extra pounds
  • You’re not extremely susceptible to getting sick

There are definitely more up sides than that, but I chose to shed light on the obvious ones.

I had a great weekend despite my lack of alcohol consumption which ultimately proves that you don’t need to drink to have a good time.

I was able to get a (slightly) long run on Saturday afternoon in long-awaited, beautiful Spring-ish weather. I only was able to get in 10 miles in 1 hour and 27 minutes, but it still felt great.

I went back home to New Jersey for the second weekend in a row. I got to hang out with friends from home and spend time with family for my Mom’s birthday, which is always a good time in my book.

Moral of the story: Drinking is not all it’s cracked up to be. If anything, it’s less.

Back on my feet

Surely, it was only a matter of time before I started running again. And yesterday was when that time came. All day yesterday, I had a battle going on inside my mind about when I should finally get my legs moving again. It was the fear holding me back. My lungs felt strong again. My cough was dying down. I could breathe through my nose. But the fear of sickness rushing back terrified me. I couldn’t stand another day of stagnancy though. The more I started at my calendar, the more it taunted me, showing the few days that I had left to train.

Once I got back to my apartment after work, I sat for a few minutes, contemplated the consequences of running too soon, changed into my gym clothes, and sprinted out the door. Just knowing that I was going to run again made my heart flutter. I repeated to myself, “Take it easy, take it easy, take it easy” I didn’t want to push myself too hard after just recovering from being sick.

I got in an easy 3 miles in 29 minutes yesterday. I didn’t care about the time. It just felt good to get back in the game again.

Today, I ran again. It was not in my original plans. I was going to take today as a cross-training day where I would just go to Zumba to get some form of cardio in. My eagerness overcame me. Just knowing that I was well enough to exercise again made me excited to get out the door and move.

I got in another 3 miles today in 28 minutes. It felt amazing. I felt invincible. Suddenly, the misery and pain that I had experienced from being sick completely left my mind. My mindset had completely shifted back to training mode.

As I continue my countdown to my Spring races, I realize that I am now officially 17 days away from the Rutgers Half Marathon and 24 days away from Big Sur Marathon.

I don’t know how time went by so fast, but I’m starting to get the butterflies finally. These races are coming and they’re coming soon.

A Week Without Running

“I constantly remind myself that resting takes confidence. Anyone can train like a mad man but to embrace rest and to allow all the hard training to come out takes mental strength” – Ryan Hall

I received this quote in my e-mail today from the Runner’s World Quote of the Day e-newsletter that I am subscribed to. Similar to the way some people apply daily horoscopes to the actual events occurring in their lives, I apply these quotes to specific difficulties or conflicts that I am facing.

Right now, I am currently struggling with the urge to run. I haven’t ran a single mile since last Wednesday, March 27th and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy.

I’ve been sick for these past few days and I’ve been trying to allow my body to heal itself before I get my legs moving again. It’s frustrating though, as I’m getting closer and closer to my two big back-to-back races at the end of this month. The real price that I’m paying is a mental toll more so than physical.

Without running, the balance that I need in my life has been thrown off and it’s affecting my entire mental state. Like a drug, my body is negatively responding to this withdrawal from running.

I haven’t felt fulfilled lately and the thoughts that are racing in my head have been trapped up there for a week now.

It’s interesting to see the affects that this has on me because in retrospect, a majority of people have their vice. Whether it be eating, or exercise, or video games, or alcohol, everyone needs an outlet. It appears in some form, and for me, it’s running