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Out of the Comfort and into the Cauldron

Logic tells me that the fate of my marriage was sealed over billions of small, seemingly inconsequential interactions that comprised the very essence of my decade long relationship. On the other hand motion, that maniacal minx, identifies October 25, 2015 as a cataclysmic moment in my narrative. Like an atomic bomb that was detonated in late October 2015 the story of my life now exists across two distinctly separate planes: life before and life after I asked for a divorce.  My previous life of an intact family with a loving mom, dad and baby girl exists only in memories that become fuzzier with each passing day while my present day self has continues to be rebuilt brick by brick.

In my previous life I was a runner who pushed herself to her limits during races, who embraced the hurt and who wasn’t afraid of failure. Time and time again I chased my goals of a sub 3:15 marathon, sub-1:30 half and a sub-20:00 5k (actually got the 5k! wooohoo). Some days I look back and my memories tell me that I was running away from my disintegrating marriage, thereby putting all of my energy into the run. While other days my memories recall moments where my family motivated me to push harder; their support at the finish line allowed me enough calm to focus and push into the unknown at a race.

The only part of the memory that remains clear was that my pre-divorced self wasn’t afraid to feel pain.  She embraced it, surrounded herself with it and used as her ally on the road. She was cunning and ruthless and approached races from a burn the boats and no race tomorrow mentality. She was full of energy and charisma. Let’s be honest now- she was a little bad ass, am I right?

She was there on April 16, 2015 when she bonked at a very cold and rainy Boston Marathon thereby missing her goal of a 3:15 by eight minutes and yet still found a way to smile at the finish.

She was there on October 18th, 2015 where everything clicked and she negative split the race of her life at the Baystate Half Marathon in a 1:32:30.

She was even there on October 25th, 2015 when she looked her husband in his piercing, saddened eyes and said, I think I want a divorce.

But on October 26th she was gone.
After I muttered those six simple words I quickly began to seek out comfort on the road. Running started to serve a new purpose in my life complete with enveloping myself in peace and calm on the road. Running hard workouts only happened if and when the mood struck me. I spent most of 2016 and early 2017 neither racing nor training, but simply enjoying the act of running. It was different. It was magical.  The pressure to perform was off and I could run how far or fast I wanted – or not at all. (Bahahaha- let’s be serious now- no way in hell I wasn’t going to run J)

I ran. Of course I ran. But my running became something different. I was different.  My burn the boats mentality was replaced with a finish in control and with a smile approach to racing. In 2016 I ran several half marathons with this approach and I’ll be honest- it was really enjoyable! In the summer of 2016 I ran the Ironhorse half in 1:42:11, Plymouth’s steamy Run to the Rock in 1:42:10, the Hogsback Half in 1:43:48, and at Baystate 2016 I pushed a little harder with a 1:35:34 finish. That summer I learned how running means so much more to me than robotically following a plan every day in preparation for one race day months away.

After I met Chris at the willow tree (after Boston 2017) we showered, hopped in the car and drove north to a week of long brutal day hikes up mountains in the misty rain while mildly begging for mercy rest and relaxation at Acadia National Park in Maine. There we walked the carriage paths during the day, napped in the afternoon, drank some beer and played some really bad games of pool at night. Pure perfection. Somewhere in between the hiking and relaxing we started to plot our attack on the Chicago Marathon. High off of Boston Marathon finish line fumes we got all riled up egging each other on about throwing down and seeing what we were made of at Chicago. So one day on vacation we sat down next to each other (like the good little running nerds we are) and spent several hours crafting our marathon training plans, week by week, workout by workout.

 

The goal was to set a PR at Chicago.

The intention was to have a damn good time trying!

The plan was to focus on one workout at a time and run one mile at a time.

 

As Christopher and I sat next to each other crafting our plans something inside me was beginning to stir: I was actually excited for the hurt ahead. This training cycle I refused to worry about race day or actually even think about the marathon until the week of the race. I focused on attacking (and enjoying) one run at a time, one day a time. I embraced the hurt. I leaned in to the pain.

Training runs this cycle consisted of some of the following memories…  breathing the fresh air on Wollaston beach during 5 am summer sunrises, sneaking in extra runs at the Jersey Shore beach trip with Chris (cause my fam thinks that running 2x a day is crazy… I swear it’s not mom!! Ok mayyyybe a little), running long from Weymouth Landing to Scituate Greenbush commuter rail during a 21 mile long run (then taking the train back) and lots of me grumbling at Chris over making our running routes too hilly. Oh well. Boys will be boys. Midweek I tackled speed work and tempo runs on my own and pushed harder to expose my limits. In late August I ran my best executed set of mile repeats at 6:40, 6:34, 6:31 and 6:21 paces. In early September I hauled ass on the road and was able to throw down a 2×20 minute tempo paces of 7:02 and 6:37 paces. I have covered over 2,021 running miles this year with over 1,250 of those miles devoted to this Sunday’s race.

After a year of reveling in the comfort of breathing easy I was mentally and emotionally ready to fail. It was time to push myself closer to cauldron knowing that I very well that I might get burned. But hey, I might not. I might just be strong enough to handle the heat, and maybe even be bolstered by it.

 

The crew and the boy after Surftown Half.

 

About a month ago I ran the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island. Well organized. By the beach. Cool temperatures. Pretty flat race* (*except for that WALL you climbed over at mile 10, and the one at mile 3, mile 7-9.. ok it was little rolling on the back end). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to gun for a PR. In shape and feeling good- I went for it.  I FELT AMAZING. I felt in control of my body and it flew- 7 min splits across the board with many splits under seven.

My inner monologue was abuzz as I coached myself through each step and each mile of the race.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

You got this. Can’t stop won’t stop.

Catch pink shirt. Catch her. Focus on her. You’re going down pink shirt.

Get to the next turn.

Get up the damn wall hill. Up. Up. Up. Now the next turn.

One mile at a time.

Catch blue shorts. I’m gonna getcha blue shorts. MuHAHAHAH

Breathe. Yes. You. Can. Yes. You. Can.

Can I do this? YES I CAN DO THIS. I AM doing this. YOU ARE DOING THIS KASS!!!

Surprise yourself. Let yourself surprise yourself.

TRY.

Put it all out there.

LET YOURSELF SURPRISE YOURSELF.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

 

 

I gave all the mental and physical energy I had to the Surftown Half. I didn’t PR but was pretty darn close. I finished with a 1:32:36 and maintain a 1:32:02 PR from Boston’s Run to Remember back in 2014. I’ll be honest in that yes, I wanted to PR and yes, I was slightly disappointed I didn’t.

But… I did go out there and for the first time since October 25th, 2015 I raced. At Surftown I unearthed the part of myself who thirsted to race and who wouldn’t feel fulfilled until she gave every last bit out there on the road. It felt really good to really see how far I could push out there. PR or no PR, I know I gave every last drop of energy and THAT is why I love racing.

After two years a piece of me feels like it has finally returned and homeostasis is starting to take place. I still struggle with how daunting it is to face this world (and all the bills) as a single mom; I struggle a lot and often and then a little more for good measure. Now I am settled in job that will develop into a career. I feel secure and deeply loved in my relationship that I hope will develop into a future. Equally as important I remind myself that I have a supportive network of family and friends who have never left my side during the tough times. Balance is slowly being restored to my life so I can focus on the important things like running ;).

After two long years I’m ready to let myself surprise myself. I’m ready to succeed. I’m ready to fail. I’m ready to try. Really- I’m ready to race.

In three days when I cross the Chicago Marathon starting line I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone and into marathon cauldron.

BRING IT ON CHICAGO.

I’M READY.

CAN’T STOP. WON’T STOP. NEVER STOP RUNNING.

The Lone Runner

 

I’M RUNNING A MARATHON IN A FEW DAYS!!

formats

We have what we have.

We love you Sydney.

 

 

I’ve had a particularly tough week.

 

If you caught me 2 or 3 weeks ago this post would have been super upbeat as I was riding the post-half marathon high after the Surftown Half in RI on September 10th. I had come in 7th place overall and managed super steady splits around 7 min pace with a final time of 1:32:35.  I was also able to race with my athletes and boyfriend, my second families. The race was tough but good. My athletes were passionate and determined. My boyfriend was supportive and loving- especially when he ran me in for the final mile. When our eyes met at mile 12 I gave him the evil stare of death and put my pointer finger up to my lips to inform him that we are in the Don’t you dare try to talk to me or else phase of the race and yet he still happily trotted right along side me. Yep, I love him. I love my athletes. And I sure as hell love running. Ahhhh, three weeks ago felt so damn good.

After the race was done and over the life’s nuances started bopping me on the head one day at a time. The challenging client and job related stress. Getting Lillian ready to start a new school and organize her birthday party stress.  Some divorce stress. The boyfriend working 2 out of the past 3 weekends stress… ugh. And then on Monday my first dog as an adult, Sydney, died at age 9. Sydney’s death broke me. I spent a lot of Monday and Tuesday just plain emotionally exhausted. The tough part is that therapists kinda have to be upbeat and cheerful- I’m pretty sure it’s part of our core business model.  But then Syd just stirred up so much within me that by Monday night I secretly wanted to take a day off from being a responsible adult.

I spun into a rough space for a solid 2 days. A space where the vast majority of my thoughts were a cascade of negativity…

 

I didn’t get to spend time with Syd for the past 2 years. I miss her. I remember when I picked her out and named her after Sydney Bristow on Alias- a strong female leader, naturally. She was my dog for so long and then she became Owen’s dog. What if I never have another dog? She used to sleep on my side of the bed. We went on so many walks together through Bare Cove Park during my pregnancy and now she’s gone forever. That part of my life is gone forever.

Chris has to work this weekend- again. Will I ever be able to just wake up with him and not have to drive 2-3 hours every weekend to see him. Being apart is so so hard. What if I can’t make it another two years? What if… what if…

Thumper (aka- evil upstairs neighbor who NEVER SLEEPS) woke me up again at 5 am. I’m going to live in this GD apartment forever and Thumper will be waking me up at 5 am every morning. I miss living in a house. This apartment infuriates me. How am I still here- at 33 years old now divorced and renting an apartment. It’s starting to feel like forever. Should I buy a place? Is that smarter than renting? But what about in this market? Can I handle a home on my own?  What if I live in the apartment for the rest of my life? What if I can’t hack it on my own as an adult? 

 

The thoughts steamrolled from there into senseless ramblings that were purely based in emotion and fueled by my deepest fears. Worries that I’ll never have another baby (even though I’m not even sure I want another baby). Worries about not making enough money. Worries about feeling alone and just being lonely from time to time. Worries about having a successful career. Worries about being able to be a good mom while being a single mom. Worries about not being able to handle the stress. I can’t explain it in any other way except that my mind wouldn’t stop churning out worries.

I very well know what these worries mean: I have anxiety. It’s no surprise and not necessarily a secret, however it’s something I don’t write about often here. I am well aware of my own history with anxiety and I typically manage it on my own very well. This time simply took me by surprise.

On Wednesday I dropped Lilly off at school and then headed out to Quincy’s Wollaston beach for a 8 mile run with a few tempo miles intermixed (it’s a workout I call over/unders. You run easy for 1 mile/tempo for 1 mile and repeat- perfect for taper). Sunny and a steamy 80 degrees I set an intention at the start of run to complete the run to the best of my ability with what my body, mind and the weather had in store for me today. I started to complain to myself about the spicy temps when I head my dad’s voice in my mind, “WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE.” My body may have been running along Wollaston beach but my mind was sitting in my childhood kitchen surrounded by my parents, brother and sister at dinner time.

 

***

I was the kid who was a pain in the butt at the dinner table. The kid who really just wanted to eat the Purdue chicken fingers made in fun shapes 7 nights a week.  I am only now beginning to wonder if I was really eating chicken. At first I was catered to; I mean, I was the baby of the family after all. My sister wasn’t picky and kindly ate whatever she was served. My brother often pushed food around on his plate but never actually complained about meals. I on the other hand was the pain in the tush at the table, the bane of mom’s existence who had no problem saying, “This is gross. Can I have something else??? Anything else??? Pleaseeee. I can’t eat this. It’s too [crunchy, cheesy, juicy, chewy… insert any adjective here that described delicious food that a punk child won’t eat].” While my mom would cater to my request, if my my dad was present he would hold his hands up to his mouth to create a megaphone-like effect and in a monotone voice firmly state, “WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE.” In other words, Princess-Kass: Eat the food on your plate or don’t eat at all. XOXO, Management.

***

 

WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE.

Oh Dad, you were right back then and you are so right even now.

I have what I have today. No more, no less. I may be able to create more for tomorrow, but today- this is what I have to work with. I kept running along Wollaston and let my dad’s words soften my stubborn negativity. I waved to the few other runners out there who were also sweating it out and kept on pushing forward. 7:27 for my first tempo. Not so great as I was aiming for 7:20-7:25. I have what I have… hmmm… I have quite a lot. An amazing daughter. A boyfriend who above all else is a good person though and through. A steady job. A loving family…

 

As I entered my second recovery mile I thought of a quote from Oprah I recently encountered, “If you look at what you have in life you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.” I’ve sat with that quote a lot lately and it bounced back and forth in my head for the easy 8:25 paced mile.

What DO I have? 


I have spent  A LOT of time over the past few days focusing on what I DON’T have. Dwelling on it, in fact. And yet I have given little attention to how full my life is. At that moment during my run I set an intention to spend the rest of the run thinking of things that I have in my life in an effort to show myself some compassion and get out of my own way.

What do I have?

I have a boyfriend who looks into my eyes, catches me off guard and suddenly dips me in his arms for a kiss in the kitchen. A boyfriend who will rub my feet even without me asking. A boyfriend who will run my pace over his so that we can spend more time together each weekend. A boyfriend who accepts me with all of my worries. A boyfriend who tells me he loves me time and time again.

I have a daughter who jumps off of the couch to say “how can I help mama!?!” when I spilled a cup of coffee on the couch earlier this week. I have a daughter who makes me so immensely proud of the woman she is becoming as she is warm, loving, kind and she even shares her desert with me– what kid does that???

I have a black cat who after 2.5 years is starting to warm up to me and even sleeps at the foot of my bed. 🙂

I may have an apartment, but I am making a home here. It is colorful, clean and full of love. Lillian and I eat dinner at the table every night, bake cookies together on weekend and just started reading the Harry Potter series together. It may be small and full of loud thumping noises, but it is our home.

I have a family who is far away but insanely supportive. They call often. They listen to me. They accept me. We love each other.

I have a second family of athletes who notice that something is up even if I don’t say so. They email. They check in. They are amazing. I have athletes who overnight me fresh made bagels when whey PR (thank you SM!!! yum!!). I have athletes who once were internet strangers but who are now my close friends and really my second family.

 

As I ran along the sun-kissed waters of Wollaston beach I reminded myself over and over again that I have an incredibly full life.  The combination of physically and emotionally decompressing helped kicked me into an upswing. Life isn’t nearly perfect. It’s true I’ve had really tough time adjusting to this divorce. I am learning that when I set my sights on the future and what it may hold I feel uneasy, overwhelmed and wave of fear takes over my body. I try to have faith and remind myself that everything will be ok, because it has always been ok. But mostly I try to focus on today, this moment right here that I’m in- at this moment I’m in sitting in my bed with Snowball resting at the foot and Lillian is soundly asleep in the other room- yes, I can handle today. I am in love with today.  Because today I have what I have. And honestly, I have quite a lot.

 

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

The Lone Runner

Lilly turning Sydney into a “bankie monter”

 

*The take away here is that my dad is the next Oprah. Heck, he may even be Oprah.

formats

Week in review: Tips to training in the summer sun.

                  LET’S EAT ALL THE PIE 🙂

 

Since I’ve already written my existential crisis post-of-the-month then I think it’s high time that I write about running on this running blog. After running a 3:25:XX at the 2017 Boston Marathon I set my eyes on racing the Chicago Marathon this coming fall. My hopes and dreams revolve around a marathon PR, which would mean a sub 3:16 (sub 7:28 pace per mile- holy jesus).

Post Boston recovery included lower mileage weeks and no speed work for April and May, but since June hit it’s been game on! Each week I have been running approximately 52-58 miles. Each week includes 3 hard effort workouts including:

  • an 8-9 mile tempo run of a warm up, then  2 x 12 min intervals sustained hard effort, then cooldown
  • 8-9 miles with 5-7 hill repeats to build strength
  • A 16 mile long run focused on building endurance /durability, practicing hydration/fueling and nailing pacing

I recently realized that after running consistently for 4 years I now don’t get nervous about running long, hill workouts or tempo runs. I have built up the mental confidence and physical durability to KNOW that I can head out there on the road and not have a problem. And that’s pretty darn cool! I want to be clear that IT STILL HURTS to run in 80+ degree temps when you feel like you are breathing air through a straw- I am human after all- but I feel like I have learned how to successfully train in challenging conditions. Here are the runs I did this week along with some tips/tricks on how I adjusted for the balmy New England weather…

 

Monday– 7 miles @ 8:15 pace HR zone 1 @ 141 = conversational pace (splits- 8:46, 8:27, 8:25, 8:19, 8:02, 8:06, 7:44)

*Tip: if it’s an easy day then RUN EASY. Watch your heart rate and don’t push at the end. Just run comfortably!

 

Lilly and I woke up early on Monday morning and drove from CT to Boston. I was able to move my 10 am appointment to 11 am and still squeeze in 7 morning miles- phew!

 

Tuesday– 10 miles of 7x hill repeats @ 8:18 pace. Body was TIRED so I took 3 miles to warm up very slowly. What a difference.

Tip: If the body says NO, then give it an extra mile to run slow/do a longer warm up and then GIVE IT A TRY. Don’t bail on a workout before you even try.

Tip: For hill repeats, MENTALLY CHUNK the workout to get through it. “Do 2 repeats then a water break… only 7 minutes of HARD work. I CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 7 MINUTES“.

Morning miles make me smile 🙂

 

Wednesday– 4.5 miles @ 9:27 pace (Recovery day, HR @ 131, miles were just to warm up legs); Strength train for 70 min.

Tip – Every run DOES NOT have to be faster than the previous one. Today’s run was just about getting out there, watching the sun rise and plodding along at whatever pace felt comfy. Didn’t look at watch. NO pressure on this one.

Two words: DRY. SHAMPOO. I got a run AND a lift in and didn’t have to redo my hair before work. BEST DAY EVER.

 

Thursday- 9.5 miles @ 8:03 pace overall- with 2×12 minutes of hard tempo intervals integrated (interval paces @ 7:04 and 6:57)

Tip: My ipod shuffle is on the fritz so I’ve been all about mantras to pull me through on the runs. Today’s mantras were “Can’t stop, Won’t stop.” and “You get what you give.” Yep, that means for 12 minutes straight I’m repeating the same statement over and over to myself. For the warm up and a cool down I look like a happy golden retriever, tongue out, wagging my tail happily all along Wollaston beach, but once that interval hits I’m out there hunting down that rabbit, focused and determined. You want to get faster? At some point it’s going to have to hurt! Welcome to tempos!

 

Friday- 5 miles @ 9:37 pace (HR @ 130)

Tip: The day after you run HARD, you should run EASY. Don’t think that you’re getting slower!! It’s what your body wants, so don’t question it.  Today I just kept on plodding along and singing my song… and it was allllll good. 😉

 

Not sure about where you live, but around central CT we got some CRAZY thunder and lightening storms on Friday night!! So crazy that lightening actually hit the neighbors house ACROSS THE STREET and obliterated his chimney!! Terrifying and awesome at the same time.

 

 

Saturday- LONG RUN 16 miles @ 8:09 pace (course went steadily downhill for 8 miles then all the way back uphill)

*Splits- 13 @ z1, 3 @ tempo/z2- 8:42, 8:35, 8:33, 8:14, 8:02, 8:04, 8:23, 8:02, 8:03, 8;28, 8:20, 8:20, 7:47, 7:59, 7:47, 713)

 

Tip- Today’s run was all about heart rate and hydration. I ran with one 10 oz handheld flask, which I refilled 2x on the run AND took in extra water at water fountains for an estimated total of 35-40 fluid oz (plus 2 GUs @ miles 5, 10). I believe I needed MORE fluid for this run due to the extreme temperature of 82 degrees, humidity @ 100% and dewpoint of 72, but I did feel good throughout the run and never bonked due to dehydration- I’m calling that a win! For HOT long runs I aim to sip water every .5-.75 miles to practice consistently hydrating throughout the run. I always plan long runs around water fountains and/or dunkin donuts to ensure access to extra fluids. All these fluids mean that I typically pee while out there; I used to be shy about this. Key words: used to be.  

Post-long run refuel: Since I didn’t have my recovery drink on-hand I focused on getting a mixture of carbs and protein in ASAP. Helllloooo toasted banana bread with peanut butter and a large glass of milk. Protein-carby galore!

 

 

Sunday– 5.8 miles @ 9:58 pace (HR @ 125) ;  same EASY EASY effort as Wednesday, but much hotter out and higher dewpoint. Focused on HR to keep it low and just plodded along happily.

I spent most of this morning sipping coffee & emailing athletes and telling them that they need to run earlier to beat the heat…. and then I went running at 8:15 am- whoopsies! Do as I say… not as I do. Sometimes.

 

Total miles – 58

All in all it’s been a great week of training. I may have had to go to bed a little earlier to be able to both run earlier and still function at work. I know I know, who needs to actually function at work? I suppose this is me trying.

On to the next week of runs that make you feel like your eye balls are melting while running —and yet in a strange way you enjoy the sufferfest- yay summer running.  🙂

 

As for today? I get to run in hilly CT and then drive back to Boston to be reunited with my mini-me!!

IT’S GOING TO BE A GOOD DAY!! <3

Never Stop Running,

Kass

Happy 4th of July!