Sunday, January 29, 2012


People are motivated to run (and keep running) for a variety of reasons. Even though I am currently training with a goal in mind, each days motivation can be slightly different for me. Often, running is an outlet. It is often a time where I spend a lot of the best time in prayer and in thought. It is also a time where I do not have to think at all and can be completely silent. It is amazing where my mind goes.
On Friday morning, my grandfather, Anthony (Tony) Baal passed away. Although I knew he was declining rapidly, it happened much more quickly than I expected. He was an awesome grandfather who lived a life of service to his family and his country.
Many tears were shed at the fact that he is gone from this world forever. I spent a good portion of the day between my visits on the phone with various family members. At the end of the day, I was still in a funk (who wouldn’t be?), so I decided to go on a run. For some reason (probably because it was cold and dark and I was running alone), I decided to treadmill it up.
I went to the gym for a five mile run. When I got back to the locker room, it struck me that my grandfather is gone, but what had I thought about for the last 50 minutes? To be honest, I had thought about nothing at all, which is exactly what I needed to do. I was more at peace after that run.
Today, I went for another long run alone and outside. My mind went somewhere completely different. Memories of my grandfather came back to me (these often go hand in hand with memories of my grandma, who passed away last year). He preferred to be called Grumpa instead of Grandpa and for a period of time, that was all I remember him responding to.  He is the only person (apart from my grandma) who has gotten away with calling me Becky.
Grumpa owned a choose and cut Christmas tree farm. During the summers, we would go out and help plant trees and place fertilizer. In the winter, we would head up to the property on the weekends and help sell trees. He always smelled like dirt, not in a bad way, but in a way that was unique. His cheeks were always rosey. Grumpa had a very unique walk as a result of two knee replacements and years of damage to them. When he chose to talk about his time in the military during World War II, you knew you had better listen because he always had a great story to tell and you were not sure when or if he would talk about it again.
Grumpa used to get stuck on the couch at the end of the day. At least, he would pretend he was stuck so he could challenge two of the grand kids to pull him up to standing. I don’t think we ever succeeded. Grumpa always had a fire going in his pot bellied stove during the winter and during the summer, he would set up the hammock in the front yard.
Grumpa loved to speak German whenever he had the chance and loved to roll his R’s. The older he got, the more stubborn he became. I remember visiting one time with the whole family, and noticing he had taken his hearing aids out. When I asked about this, he informed me that he sometimes preferred to take his ears out and just watch. He was the best patient (so he said) and would always talk about the beautiful nurses he met.
I remember hearing stories of the trips to the mountains Grumpa would take with my mom and aunts and uncle and hearing about his love of the outdoors. I never did get to go on one of those trips, but I do think of him often when I look at the mountains.
Again, it is amazing where my mind goes when running. I did not get to say good-bye but these memories are worth having and worth being reminded of. Grumpa Baal, may you rest in peace.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shorts… in January

Today in Denver the weather was an amazingly sunny 60 degrees. Because of work schedules, I have been unable to take advantage of other good weather days this week. When I saw the forecast last night, I decided to “attempt” to run before a memorial service for a friend this morning, but in all honesty, knew I could not resist running in the afternoon.
Running in shorts is incredible. During the winter months, it feels like getting ready takes forever with checking the forecast, figuring out the layers, figuring out the order of the layers, and then finally getting dressed. It is also so easy to forget what my legs actually look like. Needless to say, today, I dressed in under three minutes for my 12 mile run after choosing a pair of shorts and a short sleeved tech shirt.
It is amazing how a pair of shorts and a little warm weather with sunshine can make a twelve mile run alone seem so glorious! I know that tomorrow will likely be back to the layers (I do think we are forecasted for a snow dusting), but for today, I will revel in the remembrance of what my legs look like and will continue to long for and appreciate the all too timely arrival of spring!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ordinary

So, it has been a while since I last posted. I have been trying to think about what to write about as life in my running world has been pretty uneventful. Ben is still injured and we had to withdraw from a marathon this weekend for many reasons, including the injury (turns out, it is good we are in town this weekend as there is a memorial service for a friend of ours tomorrow!). I continue to train for the next race (half marathon in April, full in May). We have been looking at 50 milers and trying to make a decision about which one to do. Apart from that, there is not a whole lot new going on.
As I was thinking about this last night during my dark run home from meeting a friend to do a few miles with her, I could not help but think about how much beauty is in the ordinary of every day running. It can be easy to get bored when working towards a goal that seems so far off, but it is in these silent moments that I am reminded me that there is nothing wrong with ordinary!  The fact that I get to put on running shoes and just go is amazing and extraordinary. The exhilaration after most runs (we all have our bad days!) is simply incredible. It is in the ordinary that we see results and are reminded of why we run. It can be so easy to focus on goals that we forget the days where we try to slow down and consistently being faster than normal. There is nothing ordinary in getting home from a run with the dog and seeing him almost instantly go to sleep. It is extraordinary to continue to see friends motivated to run, even when life gets tough.
It is in the ordinary, simple, nothing huge runs that makes us stronger as runners and as people. So, even though running might seem boring or ordinary, I will keep on going and will continue to find joy in the little things and in the time of growth.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Speed work

Speed work
I was a distance runner and water polo player in high school. Let me clarify, I loved racing the two mile in track. One year in high school, one of my track coaches (who clearly did not know me very well), decided I should be a sprinter, or at least run mid-distance.  I will never forget the time I got back from a training run and he looked at me and said something like “How was the run? Ready for 800 mile repeats? Good!” and sent me off to do what felt like an endless number of reps after I had already completed my workout. It became so bad that I started to strategically place my bag outside of the track fence so that I could return from my run, grab my bag, and wait for my ride in the parking lot. I was always hiding from him! He suggested once that I run the 800m at a race and I cannot remember my exact reaction, but I made it very clear that it was not happening.
When Ben started to run with me, we would occasionally do fartleks. My favorite runs have always been long distance runs. To this day, I need a good several miles to warm up (sometimes 10-12) and then I settle into a groove. Weird, I know. A few training cycles ago, we decided to modify our training plan and use an adapted Hansons-Brooks plan, which, go figure, does include speed work. We decided to do our first speed workout at one of the local tracks. Oh, how inadequate I felt running with Ben (and unhappy my legs were!)! We continued to do speed work and somehow was getting faster and stronger (we also added plyometrics about this time). After several of these dreaded yet successful work outs, including one in which I had some of the most dreadful shin splints I have ever experienced, I ended up injured and side lined for what felt like a very long time!
I never have been able to figure out what exactly caused my injury and have wondered if something I did that night may have at least contributed to my injury. Needless to say, there has been a fear associated with doing speed work specifically. Since coming back from my injury, I have started to notice a general increased speed in the majority of my runs.
This week we started another training cycle and again are using an adapted and slightly different version of the same plan. And yes, it does still include speed work. Ben is still injured, which of course, means speed work on my own for now… which also means I have to push myself. Well, tonight was the first night of speed work, so I looked up my 10k race pace and decided to try to go a little faster than that for my intervals. I debated about using a treadmill or just going outside and opted to run at a park that has 1.5 mile loops.
The run started out a little rough, with some guy mumbling as I ran past (this of course, increased my warm up pace) but turned into an awesome run. I cannot remember the last time four miles went by that fast. I know I have a lot of work to do in terms of speed, but I had such a fun time tonight and even had to slow myself on a couple of the intervals to stay within range. Awesome!
Well, speed work and I might slowly be becoming friends. I am excited to see how this might pay off in the long run and look forward to the next speed workout with less fear (although some still exists) and more excitement. I guess training ones weak areas might not be such a bad thing after all.