stone archA few weeks ago I was stalling while heading out for a long run — long, on my new, start-again-at-zero novice training plan, being four miles. Four miles too many on a hot Saturday at the lake.

I have a habit of stalling long runs. I take forever to get dressed, time my eating just so, charge my watch, complain, check the weather . . .  I stall so much it makes me wonder if I’m just over this whole running thing.

But I went, because I’m training for races, because I’m a member of the American Heart Association’s charity team for this year’s Twin Cities Marathon, because I know, deep down, that the mile 1 “I hate this” becomes mile 4’s “I got this.”

Last December, feeling sick and symptomatic, feeling sad that I was told never to run marathons again, mourning that part of my identity — or more accurately, mourning the sense of invincibility I once felt — angry at limits, and generally unhappy and certainly not myself, I turned again to running. With a with a few clicks of the mouse, I registered myself for nine races: the Monster Series for 2013 (Polar Dash 10K, Get Lucky 7K, Minneapolis Duathlon, Women Rock 10K, Monster Dash 10 mile), the Fargo Marathon Relay, the Fergus Falls Half Marathon Relay, the Young Adult Heart Foundation 5K, the Twin Cities 10 Mile as part of the Run with Heart Team.

If I can’t run far, I figured, I’d just run a lot. I knew if I just made myself do it, I hate this — being sick, being chronic, being vulnerable — would once again become I got this.

Polar Dash Jen and ScottThe Polar Dash was cold, and hard, and it hurt — not normal running hurt, chest pain call-my-doctor hurt that knocked me flat on my back with exhaustion and symptoms for days. The Get Lucky race was seven days after my most recent hospitalization. I ran with a friend, we went slow, it hurt some, but it was a definite improvement.

wild geese editedThe Fargo relay was warm, farther than I’d run in months, but mercifully flat, with just a little pain. The Fergus relay was harder, hillier, and farther, with more pain than I expected. It felt like a setback. So by July, I found myself stalling and wondering aloud to my husband: “Maybe I’m just done with this.”

But then it was August. Time for the Young Adult Heart Foundation 5K, an extremely challenging trail race — a twist that I wasn’t anticipating. It was hot. It was hilly. And I totally killed it, logging my best 5K time in more than year, uphill, on the grass and mud, and in the heat.

No pain. All gain. I got this.

Jen and Hearts 5KToday was the Minneapolis Duathlon, race number three in my Monster Series, comprised of two 5K runs buttressing a 16-mile bike ride. It was my first bike race and first duathlon, and I was nervous about doing everything right — my gear, racking my bike, transition, following all the no-drafting rules. The website made it sound all so serious.

before selfieMe at 6 a.m. I put the jersey on for the photo
but it was way too hot for sleeves!

It was 80 degrees when I left my house at 5:30 a.m., and by 7:30, waiting for my wave to start, I was sweating rivers just standing there. I checked my weather app for my heart-safety formula: temperature + humidity not to exceed 160. It was 78 plus 76%; just under the wire.

stone arch runnersI ran it. Well, fast, and without pain. I nearly cried at the beauty of the course. I laughed when I looked at my watch and I was running less than a 9 minute mile. I smiled at everyone I saw and turned in my best 5K time since January 2012, two hospitalizations ago.

I actually got this.

weisman from bikeI took this while riding. I think this is the kind
of thing a serious biker would frown upon.

I survived the transition, did not annoy any serious bikers, stayed to the right, and made it up every hill. I didn’t bike fast, but I didn’t care. The wind was in my face to cool me and on my back to push me. It was genuinely fun and I smiled at everyone I saw. Because I got this.

after2And when we got to the transition and learned they’d canceled the last 5K due to heat and humidity, I didn’t mind at all. I came, I ran, I biked, I got my medal.

I knew I could have run that last three miles, if I had to. Because I got this — me, myself, my life. Exactly as it is. And this is enough.

with the boys

tough quote