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Leeward Counseling

 

I have a hard time going from Sunday to Monday.

You think I’m kidding. Sadly I’m not. I absolutely love my job as an mental health therapist but there is something magical about making my own schedule on Sundays. The waking up when I want to, running as long (or short) as I feel and napping in my bathrobe for however long my heart desires. Ahhh, Sundays are just plain perfection. But Mondays? Well first there’s the sounding of the alarm, the packing of the lunches, the wearing of the heels and lipstick, the doing of the hair and the being someone on time. Not to mention the work part. Monday’s make me feel like an adult who has to pay bills and be responsible. Yuck. So yea, I have a a hard time going from Sunday’s to Mondays.

The tricky bit is that life is full of transitions that are a lot harder than those experienced within one circadian rhythm.

Marriage.

Pregnancy.

Childbirth.

Divorce.

The raising of said child.

Relationships

Developing a career.

Paying for the child’s college.

The list goes on.

Finding yourself. Pursing your passions. These feats are full of life transitions and I’m in the midst of a huge one. About a month and a half ago I left my clinician job at The Door is Open Counseling to work full time at a burgeoning counseling center called Leeward Counseling. The lead clinician, owner and operator Courtney Culnane is inspirational as she has true vision of creating a warm, welcoming environment for staff and clients alike. Courtney is working around my schedule with Lillian AND my running schedule so much so that I don’t start till noon two days a week so I can run longer and I am able to be done by 4:45 on the weeks I have my mini-me at home. The trade off is that on the weeks I don’t have Lillian I work till 8 pm Monday through Thursdays and I work every other Saturday. I am honored to be part of this team and have officially hit the ground running.

What does this transition to Leeward mean to me and my life? It means that right now my focus is very much dedicated to building my career towards a financially stable life for Lilly and me. At my last company I was working about 3/4 time averaging seeing 20-22 clients a week and now I’m working towards seeing about 35 clients a week. It’s a lot more and it’s a huge change for me to be out of my home 5-6 days a week. But I love what I do and it rarely feels like work when I’m there.

I am utterly determined to own my own home. I yearn to have four walls that I can call my own and create a little nest for Lillian and myself and hopefully a puppy baby at some point. We don’t need much, but I need this. I need to do this own my own. Heck, I am doing this on my own.

I’m juggling a lot these days: Lillian, Leeward, run coaching, my own running, my online sports psychology post-graduate certificate program (two classes down! four to go!!) and I manage to squeeze in a date here and there to keep things spicy. Most days I’m up at 5 am or earlier and most nights I’m passed out before 9 pm. There have definitely been nights that I put Lilly down at 8:15 pm and head straight to bed. It’s true I really do love sleep but I also feel like I’m working hard to set up an amazing life for Lillian and myself. At least I hope so. I’ll get there, I know I will. I have to. Every time a client cancels, Lillian gets sick and I have to take a day off  or I have a really bad date (silly but true) I force myself to say, “You’ll figure it out. You always do. Keep pushing forwards.” It’s hard doing this alone.

Meet Gertie. She comes to work with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays and makes me and my clients happy… plus her mom and dad are happy cause they don’t have to pay for a dog walker. See, everyone wins 🙂

It’s a lot. Too much? Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll find out I’m sure. I guess that’s how transitions work- we go through them and slowly decide if it’s working for us or not. Then we work to refine our decisions towards a happier life. I’ve definitely had some ups and downs over the past few months and I’ve made some big decisions about my running and life that I think will help set me up for a solid fall:

*I’m not going to run a fall marathon. (sadness I know) I need to focus on building my strength and speed at shorter distances. So I decided to….

* Go to A Healthy Balance in Quincy/Hanover  2 times a week to stay on top of my personal training. I have tried to go to the gym on my own annnnnnnd- I just don’t. I’m lazy. I’m not inspired. I cut corners. But not at A Healthy Balance. At AHB Alicia, a certified personal trainer creates custom, individualized training plans. Every day I show up is different. The best part is that I’m getting personal training, but it’s at a lower cost. Instead of paying $60 or more for an hour of personal training there are always 6-7 other athletes in the gym (doing their own individual routines made for them by Alicia) so we are essentially splitting the fee (wahoo).

*Run a few fall half marathons: Ipswich Half in early Nov. and Frosty Half Marathon in December. My goal for these: feel strong and have fun!! Life has been all over the place and so has my running. I’ve been getting in the miles over the past few months, but have only just started integrating speedwork and tempos back into the mix. I want to feel pep and strength in my steps and that will come from speedwork during the week and I am planning to incorporate some trails on the weekends.

*Focus my energy on gaining my sports psychology certificate. I have already completed two out of six courses for the certificate. In Performance Enhancement I learned a lot a lot about the roles of goal setting, self-talk/confidence, motivation, focus, imagery and team cohesion play in athletic performance. My next course (Performance Enhancement B) started last week and during the course I will create my own binder of activities to bring with me to sport teams, athletes and runners alike who want to enhance their mental approach to their sport. Down the line I want to work closely with runners, athletes and local teams to supplement my clinical job and that begins with this certificate. As tired as I get at night or as sick as I get of working on the weekends- this is my passion and very much so my livelihood. I am determined to pour my heart and soul into my work. The fall marathon can be put on hold- well, this time around anyhow. 🙂

*And of course focus on building my new career at Leeward. I feel fully present, committed and passionate about working with this company. I have already met so many amazing families and new clients across the South Shore I am utterly thrilled to be a part of this company and the work they are doing within our community..

The time for vacations, buying my own home and heck, buying a puppy will come. I absolutely want these things, especially the puppy. I want to be able to have four walls to call my own and paint Lillian’s room with her. I want to be able to have my very own puppy to run free with on the trails or take Lillian on a vacation. But honestly, I’m not really there yet in life. I have to swallow my pride a little while saying it, but I’m not. Not yet at least. I know where I want to be, but I’m also happy with the life I’m living. Don’t get me wrong- boys are boneheads most days, work definitely gets stressful, sometimes I eat too many peanut butter cups/trailmix/all the ice cream and I feel gross for several days. Yup, I have those moments a lot too– but I know that when I close my eyes and it’s just me and my thoughts, that I’m doing ok. I’m on the path I want to be on and I’m going to be alright.

The past year hasn’t been easy, but I know it’s worth it.

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Kass

*Ok, so I’m also excited for Boston Bound next spring :)*

 

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Sugarloaf Marathon 2018: Part 2

Published on May 31, 2018, by in Race Recaps.

 

It’s not supposed to be raining this hard. I have to pee again. Why is it raining so hard?? Should I change into my long sleeve? Do you think it’s going to keep raining?? Ok I don’t have to go, but I need to go- just in case… even if it’s a dribble. I can’t have that dribble on my conscience all marathon. I wish I could just pee while running…

How do you have more in you?? We’ve gone twice and I’m empty. Maybe I could manage a drop like a leaky faucet but at this point but that’s it. Empty. Nada. Nothin’.

 

Pre-race nervous smiles.

 

For a moment my pre-race butterflies subsided as I was dumbfounded that she was actually responding to my soliloquy. I have shared my last three marathon starting lines with my friend and athlete, Lisa Grafton and I am insanely lucky to have her in my life. She’s more than a friend: she’s family. Lisa and I huddled together in our Chicago shirts (not planned) at the start while staring up at the sky willing the steady rain to lighten up.

There’s no doubt about it: I was nervous. I respect the marathon distance enough to know that anything can happen on race day. I didn’t even have a goal in mind. How was I nervous? Because my body has felt like a wreck all training cycle, my weight is a little higher than it typically is for race day, my stomach has been a mess on every single long run I’ve done this training cycle and because – it’s a GD marathon.

We left the dry safety of the tree branch and moved to the starting line. It was a muggy 50 degrees and the rain was starting to lighten up.

I reframed my worries into something more positive: I’m giving myself permission to detach from all of the other stressors that are out of my control. Focus on the task at hand: running a point to point marathon. It’s the only thing I have to do, my sole responsibility. One mile at a time. Focus on that one singular task. All I have to do is my weekly long run. Smile. Have fun. Somewhere inside of you decided this is fun. (gulp)

The gun went off promptly at 7 am and we were off.

 

Miles 1-5: 

(Planned: 7:50-8,  Actual splits: 7:42, 7:48, 7:52, 7:55, 8:00)

The first few miles of Sugarloaf are nice and flat, perfect for settling into a pace. At about mile 3 the flat terrain turns into a very gradual uphill grade. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s there and your splits and breath will feel it.

It was a muggy 50 degrees at the start. I felt the humidity with each breath;  7:50’s should have felt manageable but the effort felt much much harder. Right off the bat I started to doubt whether or not I’d be able to hold the pace. My breaths were shallow and my thoughts were panicky.

Panic does not help you run a marathon. I knew this and I reminded myself of it. Doubt can’t help you. Panic will make it worse. You’re in this now- 24 more miles till you can stop running so figure it the F out Kass… you’ve done this before. It’s just a long run and you always feel like ass in the beginning of your long runs. Slow it down and allow your body to settle in. 

 

Settle in I did.

 

Miles 6-10

(Planned: Aim for 8’s on slight incline, hold it to 8:30 on nasty hill; Actual splits: 7:54, 7:53, 7:57, 8:34, 8:08)

Miles 6-10 of the course brought forth a few punchy hills (short but steep) and then one nasty, steep hills from mile 8-10. As I ran the punchy hills the humidity started to drop. The air felt a little crisper and my legs started to open up. I kept the pace manageable on the hills and reminded myself that miles 11-20 were all downhill. Stay comfortable, manageable. Run the mile you’re in. 

I knew what was coming around mile 8: one NASTY, steep hill that “just goes on forever” as Lisa lovingly described. I approached the hill with excitement because this is it- just up and over the hill and it’s mostly downhill from there to the finish. I put my head down focused all my energy on getting up and over the massive beast in front of me- ok most of my energy, some was dedicated to trying to memorize the lyrics to Shoop by S&P as it played through my earbuds. I was in a beautiful space of feeling focused on the task at hand while also allowing myself to be distracted from the pain.  My thoughts were centered around maintaining my effort and keeping the average lap pace at 8:30 or faster (which I did, but then I dropped at GU- doh- and lost a few seconds picking it up)

 

Miles 11-18 

(Planned: 7:45-7:50, no faster than 7:40, Actual: 7:37, 7:39, 7:48, 7:50, 7:44, 7:32, 7:42, 7:46)

Up and over the nasty hill we all went and the other side was a glorious downhill for miles. The part of the marathon is relatively uneventful. Even though I felt great I kept my pace in check as we descended into the Sugarloaf valley and allowed my mind to wander.  sang more song lyrics to myself and just relaxed my mind. Downhill makes me happy. 🙂

 

Mystery dude and his wife who ran a 3:42 post-race 🙂 Great job lady!!

 

It became clear that many of the spectators on the sidelines were traveling from point to point to watch their runner. I didn’t have any spectators but that didn’t mean I couldn’t recruit some of these spectators to cheer for me too!! I kept noticing one dude in an orange Boston marathon jacket and a red hat. Standing alone he cheered on the crowds and seemed genuinely excited to be there. The third time I passed him I shouted out, “I’m not sure who you’re here for, but you’re now cheering for me too! Ok?!” He nodded and cheered and I have to say that mystery dude came through!! Throughout the entire marathon I saw him about 5-6 times. He honked at me as each time he passed by in his car, he high-fived me as I passed him late in the race and his energy was simply off the charts. Thank you mystery dude!!

Around mile 17 I crossed a split mat and later learned that at that point in the race I was runner 158 out of 588.

 

 

Miles 19-26.2

(Planned: sub 7:40 and give it hell; Actual splits: 7:37, 7:44, 7:42, 7:42, 7:43, 7:37, 7:34, 7:39)

Discomfort is part of a marathon and I’m learning to welcome it. It doesn’t mean I’m weak or that I’m going to have to stop and walk. It’s just the body wining like a toddler an I’m pretty sure I have mastered blocking out that noise 😉 so I figure why can’t I block out discomfort too? Well, I have and I did.

I can tell you that by mile 19 I was very uncomfortable. My legs and body recognized that it had already ran 19 miles and I was starting to feel the wear and tear. But I refused to lose focus. At mile 19 I had 7.2 miles left- the same exact distance as my go-to loop from the YMCA out to Houghs Neck and back. I just have to run to Hough’s Necks and back. That’s it. I do that ALL THE TIME. I started to visualize my go-to loop as I know exactly where the 1, 2, 3 mile (etc) points are. At one mile I’ll be at the gas station on Sea street. Two miles is the Boston overlook. My body may have been in Maine, but my mind was in it’s happy, safe space on Sea Street in Quincy. I ignored the previous 19 miles and convinced myself, You are just starting your run. You are fresh on your feet and ready to get to Nut Island and back.

My mind was a barrage of positive mantras and visualizations through Sugarloaf’s final miles and rolling hills. Yep, the final 6 miles of the course are small, but dreadfully annoying rolling hills. I knew they were coming. I also knew what was on the other side: downhills and ultimately a finish line. Any negative thought was immediately turned into a positive, a motivator and a reason to push. My body was cooperating on this long run: no hamstring issues, no GI distress, all fire inside me.

I passed the mile 23 water station and screamed out jokingly “5k to go bitchessssssssss.” The volunteers laughed at me as I smiled like a golden retriever chasing a ball. That’s it, just a 5k to go! My mind now ignored the previous 23 miles and I told my body to reset: now you’re just starting a 5k. Twenty four minutes or less of running. Twelve laps around a track. Count it down. One mile at a time. I leaned in as much as I could and pushed. I was passing people who were clearly struggling and in pain. Those poor souls are running a marathon, but you just started a 5k. You are fresh. You are energized and you only have 24 more minutes to run. You have trained for this. You are in control.  The final miles ticked off were a 7:37, 7:34, 7:39. I wanted 7:20s but I gave it everything I had left.

At mile 26 I ran by mystery dude who cheered for me as if he had known me for years (thank you MD!) and told myself that I had ONE LAP LEFT. Well… it was more like 1.75 laps on a track left as my watch read 26.4 miles, but that’s ok. I crossed the finish line in 3:25:46.  

 

 

Minutes after finishing I collapsed onto the grass foaming at the mouth and heard my name being called. Apparently I won an award. I came to realize that I won my age group for women age 30-34! Crazytown. I passed 41 people from mile 17 to the finish and ultimately finished at 117 out of 558 marathoners. Well that’s pretty darn cool. I was still reeling from running the marathon and tried to climb on top of the boxes and the race director handed me this awesome (and very large) prize. Naturally it slipped out of my hands and I nearly decapitated the girl who came in second- doh! It meeeeeee and my chaotic glory. Haha. Oh well.

 

 

What a day! What a race! I did it. I BQ’ed. I ran my heart out. It wasn’t until the drive home to Boston alone that  I realized that I ran the entire marathon and didn’t think of him. I let go. I wasn’t sad, lost or empty. I was focused, determined, proud. I was my best self out there doing what I was meant to do. I felt calm and so at peace.

I feel it inside and out- I was born to run.

 

CONGRATS LISA and so much love to her awesome fam 🙂

Note: Lisa ran INCREDIBLY WELL and managed a 3:57, crushing her old Sugarloaf time of 4:12 from 2015!! WAHOO!! Proud of you Lisa. <3

Can’t stop, won’t stop, NEVER STOP Running,

Kass

 

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Sugarloaf Marathon 2018: Part 1

 

“What do you get out of holding on to him?” … Kacey asked me back in January. I sat there in tears in her office reminiscing about my previous life and the relationship that once felt like a fairy tale. The sticky silence filled the space between us as my mind hastily searched for an answer that could support my downright refusal to move on. But nothing came to me. Tears streamed down my face, my jaw dropped open as if preparing to speak, but all I could muster was a blank stare in her direction. “How is this helping you move forward? Move on?” she askedTo her credit these were all questions I would be asking a client in my own session… questions that I had been avoiding asking myself.

“I feel broken.”  These three words had been playing on repeat in my mind since late October.  Love. Acceptance. Laughter. Trust. Gone. I erupted, “I’m just not the same as I used to be. I want the old me. I want my old life- the one where we danced in the kitchen and made love on the living room floor. The life where I actually believed in love. Not this nightmare where he’s out there falling in love with another mere weeks after we broke up. Is love complete bullshit? What the f*ck was I feeling for the past year and a half?”  I sat there in front of Kacey confused, hurt and angry. Very very angry. My whole world felt like it was flipped upside down and aggressively shaken like a pre-teen emptying a piggy bank enroute to the arcade. What once was full is now empty. What once was whole is now broken.

I could feel the walls around my heart being built. The concrete foundation was poured the day I quietly accepted that I can’t trust any man to be there for my daughter and myself. Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever.  These thoughts feel cold and distant. These thoughts are completely unlike my hopeful, warm-natured self, yet they feel so necessary right now.

Am I irrevocably broken?

***

Training

Training for the Sugarloaf Marathon 2018 started weeks after I ran the 2017 Chicago Marathon (3:24:04) and days after the dissolution of my previous relationship last October. I have only ever ran large marathons (NYC, Chicago and Boston) and wanted to experience something completely different. Sugarloaf presented as a fast course in late spring with Maine’s beautiful mountain scenery and quiet spectatorless streets. Quiet streets. I longed for quiet streets. I needed to experience my strength, if only to just remind myself that it exists. Just me and the road. Yes, Sugarloaf would be my spring marathon.

Unfortunately training this cycle was a complete mess. After the break up I stopped strength training and went full force into running. Why? Cause running felt good. Just that simple. In November, December and January I ran a lot and I ran hard. I still remember a 16 mile training run I completed at a 7:16 pace, a far cry from my typical long run pace of 7:50-8 min/mi. I was being reckless and I knew it. But damn did it feel good. I signed myself up for PT and put all speed work on the back burner. In fact, instead of running 65-70 miles and 7 days a week (as I had been) I backed way off. In February I ran about 5 days a week and 35-40 miles. By March I was confidently up to 6 days a week and 50-55 miles and by April/early May I was able to manage 6-7 days of  60-70 mpw.  This is me compromising. :-D. I also committed to PT 2x a week with Sarah (who is a runner and boss at her job) at Professional Physical Therapy in Quincy, MA. She helps me stretch, strengthen and I even trusted her enough to let her do some dry needling! Overall I believe PT helped tremendously and played a significant role in me being able to race on Sunday.

I shifted my focus away from speedwork and towards safely building back my endurance of doing 70 miles a week. A typical week in April/early May looked like this:

M/W/F   5 miles EASY @ 9-930 pace

T /Th/Sat  10-12 miles  @ endurance pace around 8-8:20

Sunday – 20-22 mile long run with splits descending from 8:30 down to 7:00; avg 7:45-7:50

*Long runs were devoted to hill training. I sought out all the hills in Braintree/Weymouth that I could in order to  physically and mentally prepare for the nasty hills Sugarloaf had to offer between miles 5-10 of the course.

I spent many of my training miles practicing the art of being in the moment and most importantly letting go. My body may not have been cooperating this winter and spring so I shifted focus to my mind. The mind is the unseen game-changer of any marathoner’s journey. If I couldn’t physically train the way I wanted to, then I would utilize this training cycle to develop my mental strength and stamina.

In early winter my mind was stuck in a repetitive cycle of questions. Questions that related to my anxiety, my stubborn body, my past relationship and even my unknown future. Questions that often started with “why.” I found myself engaging in a tug-of-war to pull away from these negative distractions and simply run. While running I practiced allowing the thoughts to enter my mind and dissolve into the thin air around me. Once on a run I actually visualized myself running by my worries (who were sitting on a bench watching the Wollaston waves, obvi). I was taking control. Well actually I was beginning to let go and finally starting to feel at peace.

I barely thought about the marathon until the final taper week. The entire training cycle wasn’t about setting a PR or conquering Sugarloaf hills. Running was devoted to fully accepting my new reality, to letting go of doubt/fear/emotions, to letting go of him, to healing and to rediscovering the art of being in the moment. Some runs were effortless where happiness seeped out of my pores with every step, while others left me feeling suffocated by tears and shallow breaths.  Onwards, I said to myself.  Keep pushing forward. 

***

Race plan

“I always create a race pace bracelet that gives me goal paces for every mile based on the elevation profile and my goal time. One race I finished withing 10 seconds of my goal time. What’s your plan for Sunday?” revealed Sarah N (badass marathoner x17) while running together a few days pre-marathon.

“Ummmm I don’t really have one..  Sub 3:35? Sub 3:30? Maybe sub 3:25? I just want to get out there and run… see how I feel and go from there.” 

I went into this race with a very different mindset than previous marathons. Typically I have a specific goal in mind and have completed training runs with a few miles at marathon pace. But not this time. The day before Sugarloaf I sat down around 4 pm and looked at the course elevation profile, assessed the predicted weather conditions, read a few blog race reports of Sugarloaf and then crafted a very loose plan. Based on my training runs and marathon history 7:50-8 has become my go-to pace, the pace where I feel mentally very comfortable and dialed in.

My vague goal was to run a sub 3:30 with a more specific plan to run 7:50-8 min pace for the first 7 miles, hit the nasty hills at mile 8/9 comfortably and pull back to 8:30, run  miles 11-20 @ 7:50-8 and then attack the final 10k. My athlete and friend Lisa (who was also running) laughed at me for my relaxed approach to the marathon, especially as I had crafted her goals and race plan weeks earlier. But honestly, the goal of this marathon had little to do with the time on the clock.

…well, that’s what I told myself at the time.

To be continued…