My Third Half Marathon & Some Positive Self-Talk

Aaaahhhhhh!

This morning I am running my third-ever half marathon. This one is the Ghost Town Half Marathon, which starts in Dilltown, PA and ends at Saylor Park in Homer City. Don’t you totally want to pack up everything and move to Dilltown right now?

Me either. Haha.

It’s not quite time to leave – I get really nervous about being late to the starting line, so even though the race doesn’t start till 8:30, I’m leaving before 7 so I know I have time to grab my race packet, pee a couple times, and warm up without feeling rushed. I’ve been late to one race before, and it was NOT fun! I ended up getting lost while driving there and when I arrived, all of the other runners had already started… They started taking down the cones while I was still running!!

That sucked, and from that day onward, I leave super ridiculously absurdly early for races so that I have plenty of time to get there and get acclimated.

I probably trained more diligently for this race than I’ve ever trained for any sort of race (Besides maybe Savage, and that is a hell of a lot of strength training), but I still only made it to 9 miles for my longest run leading up to this race. I tried to make 10 miles happen, but each time my legs just felt like lead/I ran out of time/it started storming/etc.

A lot of people would probably call those excuses, which they probably are. Haha. My biggest obstacle has been the legs-feeling-like-lead thing. I think that honestly might be more of a mental block than anything else, but it could also be because I am not the best when it comes to stretching and foam rolling (I always think of stretching/foam rolling as a pain in the ass, until I actually get a pain in my ass).

Also, excuse the language…. cussing gets me pumped up. Hehe.

I keep reminding myself that I’ve been really good with distance training (although not great with strength training) and pretty good with nutrition), and although I am really quite slow, I can conquer this race with enough mental strength. I know my legs can do it – they’ve done it before – and all of this hill work has really made my legs strong. This race actually has a net downhill grade, so it should actually feel easier than most of my long runs!

I mentioned that I am slow – right now I run between a 10 and 12 minute mile, depending on the distance and elevation. Long runs tend to veer more toward the 12 minute end, because I still haven’t quite figured out my perfect half marathon pace yet. 5Ks are no problem, and even 10Ks are no longer a big deal… but 13.1 is still a long ass way for me and pacing out that mofo is really difficult. I’m hoping I’ll come out of this with a solid time that I can improve on during training for my next race!!

It’s funny. I read something the other day in Runner’s Word that made me think about how myself and other runners perceive ourselves. We think that if we’re under a certain pace (say, a 9 minute mile) that we don’t deserve to use the word “runner” as a self-descriptor. The same article also mentioned that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow runners actually are – when they are training with a coach, a lot of runners will say, “I’m probably the slowest person you’ve ever trained”. Or when we’re running with friends, we apologize and assume we’re slowing them down.

Why do we do that?! It’s something that nearly all runners do (even the ones who run sub-7 miles or some other crazy time) – we doubt ourselves, minimize our ability, and constantly apologize for existing on the road/track/trail and assume we’re not worthy of the title. I am one of the worst offenders here!

So I propose that we do something radical and stop all the negative self-talk! It doesn’t matter if you are running a 7-minute mile or a 15-minute one, if you’re running 5Ks or half marathons or can only run a mile… if you’re out there sweating your tits off, getting stronger, pushing yourself, overcoming mental and physical obstacles… you are a RUNNER! 🙂

With all that said, I think it’s time to lace up and hit the trail… wish me luck!

I’ll probably post some pictures from before and after the race so you all can stare at my red, sweaty face and jelly legs for a while. You know you want to. 😉

 

Lauren 🙂

 

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I guess I’m pretty radical, huh?

Everyone deserves a home.

Everyone deserves basic nutritious food.

Everyone deserves care when they are sick.

None of these basic human needs should be barriers to individuals obtaining quality education in order to leave poverty.

And yet these are all radical statements.

Overwhelmingly, people die in the same socioeconomic bracket into which they were born. I am sure plenty of people have anecdotal evidence about themselves or a friend starting out poor and ending up earning a great living. Anecdotal evidence is nice for Sunday dinner. Anecdotal evidence is not data.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most people. The reality is that most folks who are born into poverty will also die in poverty.
How do we assist individuals in climbing into the next highest socioeconomic bracket while simultaneously helping them to end dependence on government-provided welfare?
The best long-term solution to this problem is education.
How do we help kids get the best possible education?
It can often begin at the workplace of the parents. Pay them enough so that they can keep the lights on, buy food, and help their kids focus on school. Pay them enough so that their kids don’t have to get two after-school jobs just so their families can eat. Pay them enough so that their children don’t have to do their homework in a homeless shelter. I see a meme circulating around which is dehumanizing and humiliating to older adults in the service industry: that the jobs they’re doing are meant for teenagers who want to earn a little extra gas money. This may be true. But the reality is that the majority of individuals working in minimum wage jobs are, in fact, adults. And not just adults: they’re 40+, well past the age that has been deemed acceptable for working a minimum-wage job. So it doesn’t matter who should be working the jobs. What matters is who is actually working them. 
Folks working at minimum-wage jobs have not “failed.” Being unable to attain higher levels of education is not failure. Working in a field that others deem “less than” is not failure. The true failure lies in the fact that these individuals are so devalued that they are not even paid enough to keep their lights on. Everyone, I repeat, everyone, deserves a home. With electricity, clean water, nutritious food and a bed to sleep in. Every last one of us. Maybe you think $15 is too high. Fine. I’m willing to bring it down to $10. At this point, I’m willing to compromise. I am by no means saying that folks who work at McDonald’s should be able to afford a huge home with a pool, ten televisions, jewel-encrusted toilet seats, fois gras for every meal, and a bearskin rug in every room. You know what I mean.
Certainly, there are people out there who simply chose not to continue their education. They have chosen to be complacent in the low-paying jobs they have, and that is fine. That is choice, the essence of America. But too many people didn’t have a choice when they entered the service industry. Those folks are the ones I’m concerned with here.
Yet another thing we can do is invest in schools in poor areas, which are still funded by property taxes and which, yes, bear the brunt of kids dropping out and perpetuating the generational cycle that is poverty. Incentivize teachers not only to remain in those areas, but provide them with more support than they are getting. Teachers in very poor schools often feel isolated and unsupported by colleagues, parents, and administrative staff. They are often in classrooms alone with children who have experienced astronomical educational deficits since the moment they stepped into kindergarten. These teachers are then expected to remedy every deficit that these children have accumulated as a result of non-investment in school systems. Having worked in low-income schools throughout my academic and professional career, I have seen this firsthand as part of a larger, national trend.
If more kids graduate high school, more kids go on to trade schools, small colleges, or universities. More kids graduating gives you a better skilled workforce. More skilled workers enables economic competition between businesses, fueling economic growth.
As a teacher, I’m convinced that making strides in education, especially in economically disadvantaged communities, can mean huge gains for the kids who are going to take over our economy someday.
See, capitalists? This can work in your favor too.
I don’t know why this is considered radical or controversial in some circles, but here we are. 🙂

Grand Plans: PA Summer Trail Adventures

It has been a minute since I’ve written anything at all on this blog! What a shame. I wish I could say that I’ll try to write more, but I know myself… and I can say with confidence that it’ll be another 6 months before I write again. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Probably. Or maybe it just gives me a standard to exceed.

I’ve been doing a lot of trail running recently. Forests have always been special to me, serving as sources of mind-clearing tranquility, as nature’s symphonic orchestras. You hear the trees whisper and you wonder if it’s a gust of wind or a rush of new rain. You know birds are calling, but their language is a mystery and you have to simply accept that you will never fully understand. That unnameable scent of spring and summer, which never fails to whisk me back to rural North Carolina, where I was born and returned to intermittently throughout my childhood and early teens. It smells like my great-grandmother’s backyard.

There’s an added bonus to running on trails: it is much kinder to your knees, hips, and ankles! The ground is more uneven, yes, but it is considerably softer, and the roots and rocks force you to carefully plan each step, resulting in gentler footfalls. It’s even more comfortable if the trail happens to be grassy. As a result, the balls of my feet have never felt better. I’m extremely lucky in that I have never had knee or IT (iliotibial) band issues, but my hips and forefeet get stiff and sore whenever I go the distance (generally five miles or more). This is great training for the 30K (18 miles) trail adventure race that I’ll be doing at the end of June! Trails are a blessing on a practical front in addition to their mental and emotional benefits!

To better solidify my trail goals for this summer, I want to compile a list of a few trails/parks that I want to run or hike (hopefully both!). I’ll do two posts – one for PA parks, and another for those outside PA but still within a few hours’ drive. My hope is that making this short list will help me hold myself accountable for actually visiting and exploring these trails and parks!

  1. Cook Forest State Park. This park, about two hours northeast of Pittsburgh, features 29 miles of trails of all difficulty levels. Hemlock pines here reach 150 feet and can be 400 years old! If you really want to get into the spirit of the forest, you can camp (according to the web site, it’s free), but there are also cabins and a bed-and-breakfast if you want to stay for a couple of nights without the hassle of carting around camping equipment. My plan would be to run the 4.1-mile Bridle Trail, which is used by horseback riders and hikers alike, and then hike the other, more difficult trails at a more leisurely pace. One can also rent canoes and choose between a 4-mile or 10-mile paddling adventure on a relatively easygoing river.
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One of the neat-looking cabins at Cook Forest State Park. I would probably live here year-round if possible!

2. Presque Isle State Park. This is located in Erie, PA, just a few hours north of Pittsburgh. Of course, its main attraction is that it’s located right on the shores of the famous Lake Erie – and judging from the pictures, people treat it like they’re visiting the sea itself! This park boasts 11 miles of trails, not including the 11 beaches that offer their own unique running experience to boot. Of course, boat rentals (and tours!) abound, which I love. Erie, although it’s second on the list, is probably my top pick for outdoor fun this summer.

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One of Erie’s magnificent beaches. I can see myself going on a sunset run, then enjoying a delicious dinner somewhere outdoors, where I can see the lake!

3. Colton Point State Park. Located in north central PA (about 4 hours north of us – zoinks), this park is found on the western rim of Pine Creek Gorge (known colloquially as the PA Grand Canyon!). Words can’t describe the majesty of this park, just from the pictures on the site: looming, rolling, verdant mountains, rushing waterfalls, and dramatic outcroppings of ancient rock make this a must-visit. Get this: the Pine Creek Trail is 62 miles long and begins at the bottom of the canyon! Turkey Path, on the other hand, begins on a mountainside and consists of a single steep descent to the Pine Creek River. Once there, you get a gorgeous waterfall to enjoy before the daunting journey back up! Of course, camping amenities are there for all – no cabins, though!

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I mean, just soak in those mountains.

4. Ohiopyle State Park. Probably the weirdest name for a park I’ve ever heard. Nonetheless, it looks and sounds simply amazing, and it’s close to home! Less than 2 hours from our front door, OSP boasts some spectacular whitewater rapids and waterfalls. 79 miles of trails, several spots for rock climbing (I’m terrified to do that because I’m afraid of heights unless I’m strapped in and going 90 miles an hour, but it’s still awesome), and YURTS. Yurts are cute little tents with canvas and wooden walls which you can rent out during spring and fall. I would visit this park simply to eat yogurt in a yurt. You bet your tits I would.

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Sample of some of the rapids at Ohiopyle. I remember being a kid and playing in rivers like this at my aunt and uncle’s home in Jersey. I will definitely need waterproof shoes for this park!

5. World’s End State Park. *whistles* What a name. I certainly hope it lives up to that name, and from what I can see, it certainly does. This park has some unique features that make it especially enticing: the 20 miles of exceptionally hilly and rocky trails (I’m a girl who loves a challenge), a swimming area formed by a dam, and the fact that the wildflower diversity is absolutely bonkers. It also looks like it’s right in between Scranton and Williamsport, where we have friends we could invite on our adventures!

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Just look at those lush green hills. I could wander through them all day. Which is kind of the idea. 

There you have it! That’s my list of must-do parks in PA this summer. I know it’s ambitious to think I’ll possibly get to all of them, but even two or three would be fantastic. If you’re reading this and have any suggestions, please feel free to speak up!

Till next time,

Lauren 🙂