The (un) Reality of the Blog World

Pandora Viltis:

Mike of the blog Running Around the Bend wrote an excellent post on the questionable reliability of some Healthy Living blogging. He covers so much of what I think, and does it better than I could, so please give it a read.

Originally posted on Running Around the Bend:


Image Source

These last few days I have vented some of the frustrations I had with the blog world that led me to take a two week hiatus (sounds like nothing now, but in my head it was significant) a few months back … but as I have done the posts I have realized through my writing and the great comments that it was all about much more. My thoughts on ‘blogs as inefficient’ in particular turned into something that gets at the difficulty of being ‘present’ in the face of technology. And the comments in my ‘Schadenfreude’ post pointed to something else … that sometimes the blog world isn’t exactly the most honest or healthy place.

Telling it Like It Isn’t

A couple of weeks ago Hollie had one of the best picture/comment combos I have seen recently – she was out and saw tiny utensils and asked “why…

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Who Exactly is this Father’s Day Gift for?

My amazing husband, as I have mentioned ad nauseam, is a talented swimmer. He is among the fastest English Channel swimmers and has won national level medals in Masters swimming events. Although he’s not currently training for an event, he swims around five times a week. He also does yoga more often (and better) than I do. The kind of preparation, training and dedication for distance swimming exceeds that of marathon running, IMHO, and is probably closer in line to ultra-running. Luckily for me, all his years of swimming and training means he really does understand my obsession with running.

He’s also highly supportive of my racing and can usually be found running from point to point to snap pictures of me. His aerobic system rivals the heck out of mine (maybe I should incorporate swimming into my cross-training? Nahhhhhhh), so he does pretty well at running for a guy who never runs. For instance, in January he ran a 54 minute 10k on zero training.

He’s been running in his New Balance Minimus shoes that are great to bring when traveling, but not the best for running more than short distances in. Plus the shoes are looking pretty worn. He’s been talking about trying out some Newton Running shoes because I rave about mine so much. He’s also considering running in the local July 4th 4-miler, which had over 3,200 finishers last year. (PS, Deena Kastor is coming to town this week to do a speech and speed workout in preparation for this event. I’m not going to be able to do the speed workout since I have a half marathon next Sunday, but I do plan to go watch Kastor run and speak).

20140615-120118-43278236.jpgSo yesterday I went to our new local running store and bought him a pair of Newton’s version of “entry” shoe, which has less pronounced lugs on the forefoot. The colors of the men’s shoe in the Newton Energy are much less eye-popping than the women’s. My husband is afraid of any clothing not blue, gray or green, so this is a good thing.

Um, I also might’ve bought myself a pair of Newton Gravity shoes because the shop owner twisted my arm (ok, it took next to no convincing) into trying them on and letting me run on their treadmill in them. I have a running shoe problem. The Gravitys are fantastic, though.

My husband seemed genuinely pleased by his gift. I’m not necessarily foreseeing him taking up running on a regular basis, especially as it’s not his favorite thing to do. Is it ok it annoys me a bit that he runs so fast for a non-runner?

I just hope he doesn’t get me swim goggles or something for Christmas. There is such thing as too much together time. ;)

The Timing of Fall Qualifying Races & the Boston Marathon

/author/dancingmyself/20140613_114541_42341908.jpgI surely have a screw loose in my head because I am considering running the Boston Marathon with a charity in 2015.

While I fully plan to make my second BQ attempt at the Baystate Marathon in October, there is a pretty good chance that the 2015 Boston Marathon will already be full before I even run my race. Which would mean putting off my entry until 2016.

Now that I’ve got two marathons under my belt and have run up Heartbreak Hill twice, I have to admit I’m feeling kind of old for this shit. I love training and actually enjoyed my high mileage weeks, but I don’t honestly know how kind it would be to put myself through multitudes of marathons as I approach the second half of my 40s.

Surprisingly, I’ve felt harder hit by the effects of three races in a weekend than I did by either marathon, although I won’t discount cumulative fatigue. Since March 2, I’ve run two marathons, two half marathons, two 10ks and two 5ks. I PR’d in 5 of those, even if they were rather ugly PRs.

/author/dancingmyself/20140613_120227_43347441.jpgOn my schedule, I have two half marathons and one 4-miler coming up between June 23 & July 13. I think I’m going to hold off on more races until my marathon after that. I want to give myself the best shot at running a 3:55 or better marathon in October.

My personal trainer Mike has plans to get me stronger and faster than ever, and I think it’ll be easier to get effective crosstraining if I’m not constantly racing and having to revise workouts to accommodate that. For instance, this week instead of doing agility training, we did dynamic stretching because my hip is kind of wrecked from the elevation changes in the Newton hills. My chiropractor said I jammed my thigh bone up into my hip in the descents. Not cool. I’m guessing weaker glutes are to blame, and to work on those optimally, I need to not be banging them up more as I strengthen them.

Back to the title of this post: once upon a time, the Baystate Marathon was at a prime time to qualify for the following spring Boston Marathon. But then the BAA moved the registration window to September.

I found this on the front page of the Baystate Marathon’s website:

Can I run the 2015 Boston Marathon if I qualify at the 2014 Baystate?

There is no easy answer to that question. Before 2010 the answer was always yes. In 2010 you may recall the BAA had serious problems with their registration system. In reaction (in our opinion over-reaction) they shifted the opening of registration to September. So now it depends on how quickly they sell out. This past year was well over subscribed and sold out before Baystate. In 2012 it closed two days before Baystate.

We have lobbied (and so have many inside the BAA) for registration to be pushed back until after the fall marathons. So far we have not been successful. But we continue to hope the BAA will make the adjustment, not just for Baystate, but for Philly, Chicago, Marine Corp, New York and all the other great fall marathons. You can help to [sic] asking the BAA to move the opening of registration until after Thanksgiving.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice for all of us running Philly, Chicago, New York and MCM if this timeframe could be changed?

I plan to look into who to contact at BAA to put in my two cents.

Meanwhile, I’ve started looking into charities to run for. I think the easiest option for me would be to run for MS because both my father-in-law and sister-in-law had/have the disease and our family already donates to the cause, so why not donate it through me raising awareness. The other possible charity is the New England Aquarium, which is near and dear to my childlike heart. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a marine biologist until I realized I didn’t really like biology class. But I still love sea creatures, especially turtles, sharks and seals. Hmm, maybe that’s why I put up with my swimming husband smelling like whatever he just swam in. Which is not always a good thing (Lee River in Cork, Ireland, I am talking to you. Ew.).

A part of me feels a little like I am giving up on an actual qualifying time, which given how my training went, should not be an issue if I can manage to not have GI problems. However, as anyone who’s run a distance race knows, it is a big IF as things happen and races don’t usually go perfectly despite a zillion contingency plans. This post is just what’s going through my head right now as I nurse my hip back to health and I try to not use running as a torture device on my body and mind.

Therefore, someone please remind me that I am trying to be sane about my racing because I keep eyeing a 10k for tomorrow morning in my usual running route. Bad idea. Even as I write this post, I am sitting on a heating pad and trying to buck myself up for a 60 minute run knowing that my last three runs have been uncomfortable and slow. But, sure, a race in the morning sounds like a swell idea.

Quick Heartbreak Hill Update

20140609-124855-46135190.jpgI have so much I want to say about my weekend in Newton, Mass, but I’m a little overwhelmed? Ambivalent? I’m sorting through my feelings, and the first thing that comes to mind is the advice from Dave McGillivray, race director for this event and the Boston Marathon, who said in the course strategy seminar that to be disappointed in your results is being selfish towards those who are unable to do this sort of event.

The short story is that it was an incredible experience and I highly recommend the whole event. The courses were great and some of the harder ones I’ve done in my brief running career. My right hip/groin area is paying for it. I’ve been having niggles there for a little while, and the up and downhills seem to have aggravated it. It was tough getting up to walk after driving home, but today it feels somewhat better. I’m pretty worried about it, though; I have another half marathon on my schedule in less than 2 weeks. My whole right leg feels sort of twitchy, all the way down to my ankle.

My favorite moment was running past Newton-Wellesley hospital where I was born. I might’ve gotten choked up there. All I could think was: “I’m back” and “This is mine now.”

No PRs, which I didn’t expect. My performance was solidly in the middle of my best and worst times. I think I might’ve been able to PR in the 5k if that had been my only race for the weekend, but I had to rein (or rather yank) it all in the last mile, which was uphill, because I remembered that I had another, hillier, race in just around 30 minutes and the half marathon the next morning.


The Hills of Newton

Heartbreak Hill was tough, especially given our course for the half mimicked the elevation profile of the Boston Marathon with us running primarily downhill the first half and up the second. But the first hill right after the famous fire station was the hardest hill in my opinion. Maybe I felt more confident on Heartbreak because I’d run it during the 10k. One thing different than the Boston Marathon was knowing the finish line was only a half mile away from the top of the hill. You’ve still got a ways to go during the marathon.

My overall Hat Trick standing put me in 15th place out of 80 (or so. I think some people dropped trying the Hat Trick because of the course difficulty and/or the heat and did fewer of the races.) in my age group. In each race, I was in the top 19-22% in my age group. I was triumphant as hell crossing the finish line of the half knowing I’d made it through with my hip being in pain. Even though my time was mediocre, I fucking did it. My last .2 was in the 7:45/mile range, which — given that my right leg was not its best — made me happy. I’m pretty sure there will be a goofy picture or two of me in that last half mile. I was grinning like a doofus and throwing my arms in the air.

I also just found out I won the silent auction for some shirts signed by Katherine Switzer, who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (and nearly got thrown out for doing it. Click here to read about this inspirational woman.) The money goes to the Boston Children’s Hospital, which is where a family friend’s daughter received a heart transplant.

22.5 miles in the bag.

A Sense of Doom

Hello from Boston. It’s been a strange sort of day. I had my semi-regular pre-race “why’d I sign up for this thing?” anxiety attack. Not a full blown attack, just the kind where I feel this impending doom of nothing less than my fear of mortality. No biggie. I know the reaction is all out of proportion — it’s something I’m working on related to my PTSD. It sucks when I’m driving alone and stupid me has been listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which doesn’t help matters. I swear I’m not a drama queen.


HHHalf Expo. That’s it, folks.

I made it to Boston College, collected my Hat Trick bib and race shirts, and then checked into my dorm room. The expo was a bit of a bummer. I’m not sure why I expected it to be bigger. Not that I need more running stuff. Not for the first time, I realized I am a knucklehead. I signed up for a shakeout run with Bart Yasso that I thought was tonight at 6pm around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Well, turns out I signed up for a pre-Boston Marathon shakeout run that was the Friday before that race. So, yah. I stood up Bart Yasso.


My bumper has a boo boo :(

After this discovery, I realized I’d have time to go to the Heartbreak Hill Running Store before dinner. When I went back to my car, this guy runs up to me to let me know some woman smashed into my bumper and then took off. He got her license plate and was going to leave me a note. This Good Samaritan tried to chase after her when he realized she was making a run for it. He also gave me his phone number if I needed to contact him for a police report. I believe he was with the Runner’s World team, and I’m so grateful he stuck his neck out to help me.

While I was on the phone with my husband trying to sort out what the hell to do, the woman actually came back. I’m not sure what prompted it, but I suspect that there was a witness may have had something to do with it. I got her info and I hope it can be sorted out with her paying for the damage.

I made it to the running store and bought myself a super cute tank top. Then I went off to have dinner in Newton Centre at a place called 51 Lincoln. They had popcorn with sriracha sauce, some to-die-for polenta fries and a delicious peach shortcake with blueberry ice cream. I also had some rigatoni Bolognese but it was just ok. My husband makes the best one ever, so I’m spoiled. I’m officially stuffed.


Now I’m back in my dorm room, which happens to be larger and nicer than my son’s at Northeastern. It’s also lacking the pungent smell of the male dormitories. I’ll probably watch some movie on my iPad and turn in early. The 5k starts at 7:15, and I’ll want to be up plenty early for my race morning rituals. I’m not looking for any PRs this weekend, just a chance to enjoy running. So hopefully the sense of doom will not plague me tonight. I dream of a day when I can get to a starting line and feel relaxed. Logically, I know everything is going to be fine. It’d just be a lot more fun to not have to swim through the ick of anxiety to get there. 20140606-204635-74795037.jpg 20140606-204634-74794059.jpg

Happy National Running Day!


I tried to convince my son to take a run with me today to celebrate, but the only thing he would commit to was a run to the grocery store. Sigh.

Yesterday I had a session with my personal trainer. I’m going to start calling him Mike because that’s his name and typing “personal trainer” every time is annoying.

Anyway, Mike’s oldest son came to with his dad to work because he’s training to become a personal trainer as well. He’s 23 and presumably just out of college. He reminded me so much of my son with his general “I can’t believe I got out of bed at 4 a.m. for this” aura. He was so tired. Of course, it was 11:00 a.m. and I told him my kid was still in bed. I had to restrain myself from poking fun at the boy because he is not my child and I probably would horrify him since he doesn’t know me. It was a major sacrifice on my part.

Apparently me prancing around like a Monty Python extra was not entertaining enough for Mike’s son because about halfway through, he slumped in a corner of the gym and began texting.

Unless he was posting videos of me on YouTube with rude commentary. Is it weird I half hope he was?

A Few Blog Changes

“Performing at the highest level is not about talent, ability, size, speed, facilities, equipment, weather conditions, or even effort. It’s about being free. Free from expectations of self and others, free from criticism, free from fear, and free from “should” and “have to.”

Excerpt From: Beecham, Stan. “Elite Minds.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

For those not reading my posts in a reader, hopefully you’ve noticed that my blog is undergoing some cosmetic changes. I felt like it was time to move past the Pandora’s Box theme and more into running. I’m still going to talk about my ACoN experience because it is an intrinsic part of me and how I grow and change, but thankfully my life has grown larger than my struggles with my narcissistic mother.

I’m nearly done with the book Elite Minds and I thought the quote above summed up where I want to be pretty nicely. I’ve always consciously viewed running as an internal quest for being my best, as competing with myself to achieve that best. However, unconsciously I play the comparison game and it does a lot of harm. The upside is being aware when I get that ugly feeling and being able to acknowledge it rather than stuff it down as “bad”.

I want to post a bit more frequently, although I am debating precisely what to post. I don’t want to come off as presenting myself as any kind of expert on, well, anything. I’d like this blog to be a bit of encouragement for those embarking on their own journey of self-discovery, whether dealing with PTSD from a tough childhood, attempting to get in shape after neglecting your body for decades, living sober or trying to grow older gracefully (anyone who is an expert on the latter, please contact me immediately because I feel like I’m staring into a great big black hole on this one). I hesitate to say I want to inspire people because I give a solid side-eye to people who declare themselves inspirational. How about if I say I don’t want to discourage anyone? That I would like it if I made one person feel less alone?

Or if I make you feel better about yourself because I kind of suck? Yah, I’m ok with that.

All Kinds of Awkward

I don’t know where the week has gone. I feel like every day is a blur of running, being irritated with my son and doing something pertaining to making dinner. Except I can’t remember doing much cooking.

I’m trying to motivate myself out of bed this morning because it’s gorgeous outside and I have a 50 minute run on my schedule and I’d like to go to yoga afterwards. Coffee has only been marginally successful at waking me up.

This is one of the things my trainer made me do. After, he said it would do nothing for me and it was purely for his entertainment.

I’m going to blame my personal trainer who gave me some agility exercises to perform on Tuesday. Most of them made me feel like a major clod. I managed to amuse the hell out of some daycare kids at the YMCA. Luckily I don’t embarrass easily over stuff like that. I mean, what do I care if people point at my clumsiness? I’m glad I can give them a good giggle.

However, whatever those agility exercises were supposed to do, my calves have been crampy and sore the last couple days. It probably didn’t help that I did an 11 mile tempo run (4 miles at tempo pace of 7:40) yesterday. This morning my calves are all “hell, no”. This is what I get for wanting to improve my range of motion and get lighter on my feet?

Why the Boston Marathon?

Pretty much everyone who knows even a little about running and racing knows that the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races. I read somewhere that fewer than 10 percent of runners ever qualify for the race.

This by itself is almost enough for me to put myself through the training to qualify and eventually run this race, but it isn’t the main reason.

Running has been an incredibly healing act for me. It’s not a secret I didn’t have the greatest parents and that I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood trying to untangle myself from the devastation. I made a ton of mistakes, including using alcohol to cope. I also have to be mindful that I don’t use my love of running to do further harm to myself. I’m prone to literally beating the crap out of myself, whether with drink or eating disorders or  self-mutilation (at one particularly dark time, I tried to break my arm and another my leg. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful). I’m sort of shocked that I found a decent husband and stable relationship with him. My marriage also is one of the biggest factors in me being able to fight for my self-worth.

Most of my bad behaviors were ways of diverting myself from the real underlying pain. By the time I got to therapy for the first time in my early 20s, it was already my default to self-destruct rather than feel anything. Somehow, I’ve managed to have at least some small instinct of self-preservation that drives me to seek help and wants to get better.

And I am better. Much better. But as my previous post showed, there are lingering effects that come out when I try to achieve something significant, even if it’s only significant to me. When the achievement is on the line, and not just a training run that no one sees except me, I hear my mother’s voice telling me I shouldn’t even be trying. Except it sounds like my own voice.

I learned at an early age that doing too well in anything would result in some sort of punishment, usually the withholding of affection or sometimes something more devious. I wasn’t always able to put together one over-the-top punishment and my mother’s resentment of me achieving things she could not. I just knew that my mother was one rage from killing me and I never knew what thing I might do would set it off. Being invisible was the best course of action.

Boston+Marathon+signageSo, not only do I start to doubt my ability in things, I also feel like I am not allowed to benefit from my abilities. I’m simultaneously afraid of failing and succeeding. It’s a nasty double-edged sword that I tend to fall on.

But I really want to stop.

The responses to my last post helped me greatly and warmed my heart. It also reminded me that despite how my parents discouraged going to outsiders when we were in need of help, I don’t have to be an island. So, I decided to mention briefly to my running coach a little more about why I struggle in races. She responded kindly and also is sending me a DVD by a sports psychologist that helps athletes with their mental struggles.

She also suggested a book by the same psychologist, Stan Beecham, called Elite Minds. I started reading it, and it’s a terrific book. I think it’s actually already working, as I thought about it today during my 13.1 mile training run. I was struggling with the pace, but I reflected back on what I’d read, and it helped me through. I want to do a more detailed review of the book in another post once I finish. The author had me at the disclaimer when he said that the book was not for me if I was looking to be happy. But if I was looking to be the best version of me, then this might be the right book to help me. This book might be for athletes, but everything I’ve read so far applies to children of narcissists. Beecham advocates truth, both good and bad, and encourages people to confront the false truths about ourselves. Beecham also quotes Scott Peck, which many ACoNs will recognize from his book on narcissism, People of the Lie.

I’m running the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Hat Trick in less than 2 weeks. I’m approaching these three races as a learning opportunity in several ways:

1) The 5k race is an hour before the 10k, so I get to test out doing a longer warm up run before a race.

2) Both the 10k and the half marathon are on the infamous Boston Marathon Newton hills. I’m excited to arm myself for my future Boston race with experience of running these hills.

3) I’m participating in a shakeout run with Bart Yasso on Friday evening. Totally running-geeked out about this.

4) They are offering several seminars on running. In particular, Shalane Flanigan is talking about how women’s running is different, and there will be a seminar on course strategy for the half marathon.

5) I’ll find out how my body deals with 3 races in two days. I have to admit, this sounded much more daunting when I signed up and before I ran two marathons.

6) iPods and earphones are discouraged, so I’ll be running sans an audiobook. I’ve been thinking about trying this in races anyway since I tend to not remember anything I’ve listened to when racing.

7) I won’t be running for time. I plan to enjoy the hell out of myself while running part of the Boston Marathon course. No pressure, just practice.

The weekend will be about preparing me to run better, be a part of the running community and help me get that elusive BQ.

But why is Boston so damn important to me?

Well, I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, home of the Heartbreak Hill. I want to be reborn, goddamn it. I am going to crest those hills and cross the Boston Marathon finish line triumphant. The act of running is my journey to taking my life back.