Run hard when it’s hard to run.

I was running last night, and did 6 miles. That’s an average run for me these days – 6-8 miles. It wasn’t always that way, don’t get me wrong, but it is what it is, and don’t think for one second that you couldn’t get to that point, too. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss right now. I’m hear to discuss the magic of 3 – 3 miles that is.

I’ve thought about it before – even before I started running long distances. When i was in the early stages of running, I found that getting to 3 miles was extremely difficult. However, one day, I crossed the 3 mile threshold and something changed – training became easier. Ramping up my mileage was suddenly no longer a daunting task, and running was no longer painful – it became fun, exhilirating and even made me happy.

But not for the first 3 miles. For some reason, on every run, the first 3 miles are ALWAYS the hardest. It goes a little something like this:

Mile 1: Awww yeah! I’m gonna rock this run!! Feels like i’m walking on air!

Mile 1.5: Gee, my shins and ankles kinda hurt. And I feel tired. Should I stop?

Mile 2: WTF is wrong with me? Why am I doing this again? My legs feel like lead, and I can’t think of anything other than the pain of every step.

Mile 2.5: GOOD GOD, I’m torturing myself. What for? I hate running!! I’m gonna stop…I can’t take it anymore!!!

Then, just when i’m about to give in, suddenly there’s….

Mile 3: Hello world! I love this life and can go for miles! What’s pain again? Let the real run begin! And the rest is smooth sailing.

Last night, this hit me extra hard. I haven’t done much running since the Broad Street Run a week and a half ago, so this was my big return to running. Those first 3 miles were almost unbearable. I thought about giving up more than a few times. But I knew that if I kept going, I’d get through it, and come out stronger on the other side.

And so I did. But I realized something else as well. I’ve learned so much from running – it’s been a mirror for what’s going on in the rest of my life, and has taught me how to deal with and get through some dark and difficult days. Last night, I learned that there are situations in my life that I’m almost through – that I keep getting close to out-running – yet I just can’t seem to cross the threshold, and I wind up surrendering to the pain. Each time, I do get a little closer though. Even so, I wind up beating myself up over it – because I gave in – again.  But then I remember back to before I reached that 3 mile mark for the first time – I did not know I’d be ok on the other side, and the fear of the unknown was what made it so difficult to keep going. Now that I know, I can handle the pain, and run through it. Not knowing what’s on the other side is my biggest fear. It took time to build up the strengh to run through those first 3 miles. I gave up many times. But eventually, after trying over and over and over and over, I finally did it. And there’s no turning back now.

What I’m learning is that It’s ok if you don’t cross the 3 mile mark right away. It’s ok if you give in to the pain. Just as long as you get back out there, and try to out-run it again. Eventually, whether you believe it or not, you’ll cross over. And it will be great.

Best Vanilla Cake Balls Ever?

Last week, i made the Best Vanilla Cake Ever, and proceeded to ice it with a delicious buttercream. Then, i covered it in an air-tight container, and put it in the fridge, hoping that the perfect use for it would arise sometime during the week. Well, it did, even though it was not quite what i had initially envisioned. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. The best vanilla cake ever has become:

The Best Vanilla Cake Balls Ever!

simply the best.

My next step will be to cover them with chocolate, and turn them into Pixie Cakes! I was totally going to do that today, but I ran the Broad Street Run this morning, and afterwards I was so beat, I passed out on the couch.

it was definitely worth it.

Anyway, I promise in my next post there will be Pixie Cakes, complete with decorative adornments. Until then, may the wind be at your back, and the oven be ever full.

Half Time.

After months of training, I did it – this past Sunday, I ran my first half marathon. Being that it was my very first time running 13.1 miles (the most I’d run up to that point was 10), I was nervous. My goal was to finish, running the whole time. I wasn’t too concerned with time. I just wanted to be able to say “I ran a half marathon” and have it be true. And so it is.

and i have the medal to prove it.

There are three things this experience has taught me:

1. It’s all about pacing yourself. I have a tendency to be a tad competitive, however in order to run a distance such as this, I realized I’m gonna have to let that go. People are always going to pass you. You are always going to pass people. Your goal and their goal are not the same goal. Focus on your goal, and don’t allow yourself to feel inferior because someone appears to be faster than you. You have no idea where they came from or where they’re going. Let them do their thing while you give your full attention to yours.

2. You can’t be great overnight. If I really think about it, I guess you could say I’ve actually been training since 2008, which was when I started running on a regular basis. Last year, I really picked up the pace though (literally) and when Jan 1st 2012 came around, I believed in my running (and training) ability enough that I decided a half marathon would be a New Year’s Resolution. I worked my butt off, folks. When I crossed that finish line, I cried. I’m not ashamed. Getting to that point took hours of hard work, intense training, and proper preparation. It takes all three of these in perfect harmony to run a marathon: and that principle can be applied to anything you really wish to achieve for yourself. You can do whatever you put your mind to, you just have to be willing to put in the work.

3. I will survive. As I was running along the Atlantic Ocean (yes, this marathon was at the beach!), “I Will Survive” came on my ipod. I did not have a pre-programmed “race playlist” – I like to let my ipod surprise me. Well, as the song played, and I ran and ran, I realized that no matter what happens, I really will survive. If I’m strong enough to run non-stop for 13.1 miles, I’m strong enough to stand on my own and do what’s best for me in other areas of my life; even if at first I’m afraid, and I’m petrified. I’ll hold my head up high. 🙂

I guess what I’m getting at here is that running a half marathon has changed my life. It taught me lessons I really needed to learn, such as patience, pacing, and doing what’s best for ME. I have had a recurring dream my whole life that tornadoes were chasing me; I refuse to ever dream that dream again.

I’ve finally decided my future lies beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

I just felt like running.

I’d like to take a break from talking about baking for a post, and instead focus on my second favorite thing to do: running.

Today I ran my 4th “official” race. It was a 5 mile run, at the Philadelphia Art Museum. It was cold. But man, it was worth it. It’s always worth it. There’s nothing quite like the energy of a race, particularly a big one. Hundreds of people, just waiting to start running, all doing it for their own personal reasons – health, a cause, an escape – and all at their own pace. The air is electric at a race – regardless of your personal reasons, the goal is the same: to cross the finish line. We’re all connected by our desire to finish. Yes, it can be competitive – but it’s never angry or hostile. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Everyone wants to see everyone else finish. We’re all in this together – a large mass of continuous movement, floating through the atmosphere to our destination. Everyone is smiling at each other, everyone respects each other. It’s a beautiful thing, and if you haven’t ever participated in a race, I highly recommend it.

from a 5k last fall. I won my age group!!

But what I’ve really been thinking a lot about lately, is how I got here. Four years ago (the summer of 2008), I started to get more into running. I ran a couple miles a day, and realized I actually liked it. 10 years ago, I was very into fitness, but really only running a mile at the gym to warm up for the rest of my workout. 18 years ago, we had to run the mile in 11th grade gym class, and I cheated. I cheated running 1 mile. That’s right folks, I was a lazy teenager. Thanks to the good genes of my slender parents, I remained relatively so as well, but I was by no means in good shape. We had to run 4 times around the football field to complete the mile. I had this grand scheme that I shared with my friend: “hey, if I run slow enough, I can let the faster runners catch up to me on my third loop, and it will look like I ran all 4.” It worked. Shame on me.

a welcome sign at 17 years old.

Flash forward to last weekend. I went out for a Saturday afternoon run, and 1 hour and 38 minutes later, I had run 9 miles. Not only had I run 9 miles, but I felt GREAT. Honestly, I felt like I was walking. I  had to check about 5 miles in to make sure I was actually still running because it felt so…natural.

it all starts with a dream and a desire.

Now, I will never be the fastest runner; that’s OK. I may never run a full marathon; that’s OK too. (I am running my first half next month though – so stoked!). The point is that a person who cheated running 1 mile is fully capable of running 9. You can always change yourself, you just have to want to. A very wise man once said, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”  So put on your sneakers, and do it. 🙂