Mental Marathon Training: (One of the Many Reasons) Why I'm a Head Case...

FACT:  Most normal people think distance runners are utter whack-jobs.  I can't even tell you how many times I've been told what a nut-case I am for running the mileage that I do.  Some of my favorites:
  • Was someone chasing you? {'s how I KNOW I'll outrun your ass when the Zombie Apocalypse happens...because it will, you know.}
  • Don't you know how bad running is for your knees??  {Don't you know how bad sitting on the couch is for your WHOLE FREAKIN' BODY??  Apparently not.}
And my all-time favorite:
  • You RAN xx miles?!? I don't even like to DRIVE that far! {Shocking.  Based on your svelt stature, I never would have guessed.} 
Non-runners are HILARIOUS.

So anyways...I might be willing to concede that those of us who willingly choose to sacrifice the comfort of our pre-dawn beds to pound out mileage before the sun decides to show it's beastly head are just a little touched.  And by touched, I mean bat-shit crazy.  Agreed.  However, marathon training throws a whole new level of whackiness onto the crazy-parade. 

I'm not one of those runners that ever, ever says, pre- or mid-run "WOW! I LOVE RUNNING!!" I actually can't stand getting up at the ass-crack of dawn. I'm not really a fan of pain in any form, and sweating is gross.  But what I do L O V E is the sense of accomplishment that I get when I'm done with a run.  I mean, like, in the car on the way home after.  Not immediately after.  I want to puke in a bush immediately after most runs.  So I have this constant battle when I'm preparing for a race...on top of the physical challenge of running 1.7 gazillion miles in a week, training is mentally hard.

I go through these mental cycles...for weeks at a time I'm hopped up like a toddler on pixy stix - I (mostly) look forward to my next run, I read every running related anything that lands in my inbox, I google things like hydration and vo2 max (which is WAY over my feeble little brain's capacity), and I truly don't hate my runs.  I feel a great sense of accomplishment after a run's completion, and during these "good" weeks, I feel like my workouts are really solid.  Training is GREAT!  Running is THE BEST!  I am an ATHLETE!!  Yea me. 

And then I have weeks like the past two weeks.  I.  Hate.  Every.  Run.  Long run...short run...intervals...HATEFUL.  I'm annoyed, I don't want to train anymore ever again, I wonder why the hell I signed up for another stupid marathon...blah...blah...blah. 

I haven't yet figured out the trigger to the "bad" weeks, but I can assure you that they're bad.  I can justify completely bagging a run for the silliest of reasons (I CAN'T possibly run 4 miles by myself!  It might rain in the next county.  I don't have a single clean pair of shorts...I can go on for days).  And when I do manage to actually get my clean shorts on and head out the door during a bad week, the runs suck.  One mile in and I'm certain that I can't finish that day's mileage.  Everything hurts, it's hotter than hell, I'm not properly hydrated, mercury is in retrograde, my calf might be broken and I just don't wanna.  Gutting it out through a bad training week is just shy of shoving bamboo sticks under my fingernails in the realm of torture.  And I choose to do this.  

So yea...runners are nuts.  On top of self-induced physical abuse, we're mentally abusive TO OUR OWN SELVES. And this good week/bad week stuff?  'Tis but a toe in the pond of distance runner crazy. 

Runners:  How do you get through a bad training week?
Non-runners:  Does it frighten you that you're zombie bait?


Medically speaking, is it possible to actually break one's abs? Just reason...

What could possibly pull me out of a 4-year blogging-hiatus? I mean, I wasn't even a real blogger to begin with. 4 blog posts doesn't really count. So, like, what has suddenly caused me to have actual thoughts that I must express through written word? I'm back to WARN OTHERS...I have experienced something so terrifying that I feel it is my civic duty to send off warning flares and announce through bullhorn the perils of a certain activity. What on earth could be so brutal, you ask?? Grab a drink - this might take some time...

Super-important backstory: During my non-blogger blogging hiatus, I've taken up running. Distance running, actually. Not full-bore crazy-talk ultras (you ultra peeps are NUTS), but I've ran my way through a marathon or two. be exact. Half-marathons? Yea...I've done some of those, too. Here's the thing about all that running. When you're a mid-packer-at-best like moi, it takes a REALLY. LONG. TIME. to run that far. So my concept of "exercise time" is totally whacked. Like, demented. I vaguely remember a point in my life where doing any sort of physical fitness activity for more than say, 15 minutes, seemed like a LOT of exercise. Now I actually choose to participate in, and pay hard-earned money for, events where I run for HOURS. Like...almost 5 hours. As a matter of fact, I no longer even lace up a pair of running shoes for much less than a 30-minute run...I'm just getting warmed up at the 30-minute mark, for Pete's sake!

I came back to running in January of 2010 - and went from my first 5k in February to my first full marathon in December of the same year. I skipped right over the half-marathon thing...those who love me might say I'm a little obsessive...perhaps I become fixated (see previous 4-year-old blog posts)...whatever the case, I got hooked and have been covering large distances on my feet ever since.

My first marathon was a debacle. From my half-assed training attempt to the race-day logistics, it was not one's ideal marathon experience. My goal was simply to finish. I had hopes of coming across the finish line in less than 5 hours, but I was perfectly happy with my 5:15 finish time. And, during this training I made some of the very, very best friends a girl could ask for. Amber Bell. Kelly Hildenbrand. I *heart* you both.

I decided that my first marathon was lacking the big race for my second marathon I ran ING Miami with 25,000+ of my closest friends in January 2013. I got quite a bit more serious about training and found some fellow pain-junkies to keep me accountable (shout out to Rich and Dean, my marathon-training-brothers-from-another-mother). I set a totally reachable goal of "anything south of 5 hours." I was really hoping for something in the 4:30 range, but I didn't want to disappoint myself - so I was pleased as punch with my 4:49 finish time (yea, that's a 25 minute PR, thankyouvermuch). I was saying, my concept of 15 minutes worth of exercise is a little out there. I mean SERIOUSLY. How much damage could I possibly do in 15 minutes?


HILARIOUS. I'm LOLing all over the place.

End backstory.

I'm training for Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. on October 27th and I'm super-stoked. This will be my third full-marathon, and the ENTIRE event from packet pick-up to water-stops to finishers medals is handled by ACTIVE. DUTY. MARINES. Pretty amazing. Like, one of the best marathon experiences in the world, according to lots of people who have completed many more than 2 marathons in their day. I'm probably not Boston Marathon material at this point in my life because I would rather sit on my couch with my husband and my dog and eat chocolate ice cream than put in the crazy training necessary for my slow-ass to get up to BAA standards. So Marine Corps Marathon is kinda my holy grail race. And I've decided that if I'm going to spend the money to do this destination race, and give another 4 months of my life to marathon training, I'm going to make this for reals, yo. Sub 4:30 is my goal GOING TO HAPPEN. Fact.

So for this go-round, in addition to my training accountability buddies, I decided I needed a coach. Someone who would put together a custom-tailored plan to help me kick some 4:30 ass. Someone who would shame me into every run because I do NOT want to report back that I decided to drink a bottle of wine instead of run 7 miles. Oh...and that whole "paying someone to hold you accountable" thing helps too. Just saying.

I spent the first 4 weeks zipping through most of my running workouts, and was actually feeling like I've accomplished something...feeling stronger...good stuff. Also during those first 4 weeks??? I was blissfully unaware. You might even say naive and trusting.

Enter week 5...time to work on Core Strength. To unapologetically steal borrow from someone on Facebook, I firmly believe that core strength is defined as the ability to hold yourself upright in the buffet line after a hard race or run. I am, apparently, wrong. So coach sent me two YouTube videos - Ab Ripper Part 1 and Ab Ripper Part 2, from the P90X craziness - and the plan said to do them both twice a week on my rest days. I approached with caution because I do nothing...NOTHING...but run. I started by watching the videos. The first one was just shy of 8 minute and the second was just over 4 minutes. 11 different exercises, 25 reps (sets? reps? whatever...) and the people on the video were just plowing right through. So I ask bad can 15 minutes of exercise POSSIBLY BE? I run MARATHONS, hello.

Here's the scary part. I made it through the workout mostly unscathed. It wasn't even that hard. I woke up the next morning and plowed through a 5 mile run before the sun even came up. No prob! Ab ripper? I can totally do that whole workout. What's the big deal??

Let me tell you the BIG HAIRY DEAL: I almost died. No seriously. The pain set in roughly 12 hours post-workout. By day two, I was wishing for death. On DAY FOUR post workout-from-hell I couldn't even stand up straight. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm a total wimp. You're thinking I'm being dramatic. Perhaps a little diva-esque, even. YOU'RE WRONG. Heed my warning, people! Listen to me when I tell you: P90X Ab Ripper is the work of the devil. If you want to do workouts designed by Satan himself, that's your prerogative. Go right ahead. Taking your whining elsewhere when you can't even lay down without sniveling and whimpering.


I, on the other hand, get to do it again tomorrow - 'cause I am SO not telling Coach that I can't do it again...he might come up with something even WORSE to torture me with. So if you see me walkin' by...and the tears are in my's certainly due to Ab Ripper. Stay tuned for more adventures in marathon training...101 days 'till we toe the line. HoooRAAAHHHH!!


Life AC

In anticipation of the big event that shall go unspoken so as not to jinx it, my household came to terms with the fact that we needed to find a new home for both of our furry feline demon beasts. Jim came to terms with this far easier than Payton and myself, but we came around. I decided, after cleaning kitty poopies off of my couch for the 900th time that I was pretty much done. Payton was told that she could have kitties or a pool - but not both - so, being the incredibly intelligent and rational 6 year old that she is, she decided that the pool was the way to go. Jim and I may go to Hell for asking a child to choose between her pet and a swimming pool, but you can just add that to the list of things that will send us to the Inferno (speeding, drinking, claiming family and friends dinners as business expenses and, oh yea, living in sin). So sue us.

Much debate ensued over when and where the demons were going to go. One day last week, I came home to poop on the couch and puke on the floor, and I immediately insisted that the bastards go straight to the shelter. Surprisingly enough, Jim saved them from this fate - he came up with the *brilliant* idea of posting "Free To A Good Home" fliers at our yard sale. For 5 hours on Saturday morning I baked my butt off in the lovely heatwave that we're having IN OCTOBER and I got not one taker for the cats. I got rid of half of our worldly possessions, but couldn't even give the cats away. So I went back at it Sunday morning - the old furniture and junk was drug back out to the driveway and the cat fliers were remerchandised. At 11:30 Sunday morning, a gift from God arrived at my house in the form of a rusted-out old Honda full of the cutest little white-trash family that you've ever seen. Mommy, daddy and two adorably disheveled little girls piled out. They dug through our old CDs (Ace of Base, anyone?), picked through our used and abused kid toys, and stopped dead in their tracks at the cat fliers.

Being the eternal saleswoman, I went in for the kill. *Insert sad, awful story about how we can't take the dear, sweet creatures with us when we go. You can have the cats, carriers, food AND litter - it's all yours for the low, low, bargain-basement price of FREE!* They bit...hook, line and sinker. It took 25 minutes and the assistance of my dear friend Mary Fox to get the buggers boxed up in their cat carriers. Have you ever tried to wrestle a 30 pound, black he-demon with full claws into a way-too-small cat carrier? I have. I fought the cat, and I won. So out the door went Emma Sue and M.J. And the Mrs. and her two little girls had the biggest smiles painted on their faces ever.

So it's been three days since the big orange and the fat black cat have left our lives. How are we holding up, you ask? Well let me just tell you...

Life AC (after cats) is blissful. The funky, musty smell that had invaded our house roughly three weeks ago? Located and destroyed. It was the cat's wet food. How gross is that? Can I tell you how nice it is to walk into the laundry room and NOT get a face full of nasty wet cat food smell or a foot full of cat litter stuck on like tiny little stabby pebbles? I'll never have to buy cat litter again. I'll never have to stand in the pet aisle at Publix and debate the merits of the seafood multipack vs the poultry multipack of gross wet cat food that made me throw up in my mouth just a little bit every morning. I cleaned all of the cat-related coupons out of my coupon holder. I'll never have to scoop poop out of a box again. I'll never have to wonder if there is kitty poopies waiting for me in my bed or on my couch. It's really quite wonderful. Payton had a brief moment, brought on by sheer exhaustion, but when we reminded her that there's a swimming pool in her very near future, she got over it. Deuce the big goofy yellow lab is adjusting in the same manner that he adjusts to everything. As the happiest creature on the planet, not much phases him. He has a new cow toy that's become his latest obsession, so he could care less that he doesn't have cats to chew on.

The only issue that I'm having is that every time I hear a car door or a knock at the front door, I'm paralyzed with fear and all I can hear is that awful song from my childhood that went: "The cat came back...we thought he was a goner, but the cat came back!" We can not possibly move out fast enough. I don't think I'll ever own another cat ever, ever again.


OCD is a dish best enjoyed alone...

I consider myself a fairly normal person, most days. I enjoy life and try not to sweat the small stuff. But under the surface lies a control freak with some serious OCD that, every now and again, rears her ugly head. I don't know when the OCD will strike, but it's always lurking, just waiting for something totally ridiculous and trivial to obsess over.

Today began with normal Lauren - I got up, enjoyed a healthy breakfast of yogurt and granola with fresh strawberries (delicious AND nutritious) and then got ready to join my friend and her girls at the beach. Off to the beach we went for a short but lovely bit of sand and sun. Being that it's September in Florida, the temperature by 1pm actually rivaled Hell, so 2 hours was the absolute limit.

I thought to myself, "Great - I can catch a quick shower and then head to the Publix to take care of some grocery shopping - and still get something accomplished! Perfect!" Ha Ha! What's that big pink elephant doing in the corner? Oh, that? That's just my OCD.

I arrived home to an empty house. Jim was off at his 18th fantasy football draft this year or something, so it was just me, the dog and my OCD. I thought, "I'll just put these few dishes in the dishwasher before I hop in the shower." Then, "Oh - I'll just scrub the inside of the microwave really quick. You know, with bleach." Which turned into "Look - the crumbs from the dishwasher are on the kitchen floor, I'll just sweep, and while I'm at it, mop the entire house."

NOTE: Never, ever put white and black checker-board tiles in your kitchen. Or anywhere for that matter. Sure they're cute and kitschy, but do you know that they're NEVER CLEAN?? Not even for 10 minutes. If it doesn't show up on the black tiles, it damn sure will show up on the white tiles. Trust me on this. It might just save your sanity.

But I digress. The icing on this pretty little OCD cake was me on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor, still in my bathing suit from the beach, mind you, scrubbing the grout with hydrogen peroxide (it cleans AND sanitizes!) and an old Cinderella Spin-Pro toothbrush. I should point out that I haven't scrubbed the grout in about a month, so it really, REALLY needed it. Or so I told myself. It's totally normal to scrub your grout like, every 30 days, right?? Right?!?

Now you'll have to excuse me - I can actually hear the dirt and germs on the bathroom floor begging to be eviscerated.


Betty Crocker, Eat Your Heart Out

So I decided this year that we weren’t going to spend $60 dollars on a birthday cake for Payton. Let's be serious - it's just a frosted sugar-bomb that everyone stands around to sing, and then it's devoured and everyone's hard pressed to remember which over-commercialized character was actually on the stupid thing. It's flour, sugar, fat and red dye #2 – in retrospect $60 is a little ridiculous, no?

I decided to make cup cakes - and decorate them myself.

2 boxes of cake mix at the Target: $1.94
6 cans of frosting at the Target: $8.34
4 boxes of ice cream cones: $7.52
Total $17.80

I saved over $40, and these are cutest darn ice-cream-cone-cupcakes ever! I need a cooking show.



I decided this week that I was going to start blogging. Now, this wasn't totally an out-of-left-field, hey I'm bored, ooh something shiny! type of a decision. Not totally. I actually have contemplated blogging a few differnt times in the past. Like the time that I was en route to a client's "corporate headquarters" and was held up for 20 minutes due to the cows that wouldn't get out of the middle of the road. Que the music from Deliverance, my friends. Or the time that all of our friends took the kids on a Disney Cruise together. Mickey didn't see that insanity coming...and the poor mouse didn't stand a chance. There have been several times in my life that I've thought I really should be documenting this.

So why this week? Thanks to the wonderfulness that is Facebook (where else can you spend hours upon hours stalking people that you haven't talked to in years, and didn't really know that well even when you did see them on a regular basis? that just me?) I came across the blog of a long-lost friend from High School, and it's riot! I'm talking serious high comedy. And the best part is that it's just her life. On the internet, for all to see. So I decided that I was going to give it shot.

I held a little contest on Facebook and asked my friends for blog name suggestions...grand prize was an ice cream cone cupcake baked by yours truly. That didn't go so well. The whole string of ideas quickly deteriorated into ways that my nickname could be paired with funny dirty words. I love my friends. So "North of Paradise" it is. I'm sure at some point in the near future, when I'm at a loss for blogging topics I'll dive into the deeper meaning there, but not today. Then I headed over to and figured out how to navigate this place.

Now, there's things I'm not happy with. First, I want a fun template. Something pink or shiny or with a palm tree. But I can't find one yet, and every time I try to look I get totally annoyed and overwhelmed and then I go eat a cupcake. Second, we need a new computer something fierce. I'm currently working from Jim's computer, which is actually older than my laptop, but slightly more stable. My laptop started leaking acid from the battery area not long like I computer is a necessity. So it dawned on me last night, while lying in bed, reviewing in my brain the 8 million blog templates I had just looked through, that I was stalling. I could NOT decided on a topic to write about. This has caused serious grief in my life for days. I've got blog topic ideas for the next 2 years, but none of them seemed "first-blog-attempt-worthy." We're talking full-on writer's block that I just can't seem to work through. So here it is. My first blog is about my inablity to actually create a first blog.

It will get better here, I promise. I am interesting and witty and fun...just you wait and see. Here's 25 random things that are kind of funny:

1. I envy children in pre-school because they get to take naps everyday. The value of a good nap is truly under-rated in American society.
2. I have a pretty cool life. I have a family that loves me, the greatest friends ever and high hopes for my future.
3. I am truly blessed to have a boyfriend who truly appreciates me and understands the wonderfulness that is Lauren.
4. My boyfriend's daugther is the cutest, smartest and most amazing little person ever - I'm blessed to have the privledge of being in her life.
5. I truly dislike cats, but have 2. Glutton for punishment much?
6. When it is anything less than 70 outside, it's certifiably, I need a jacket. I am a cold weather pansy.
7. I have a 3 year plan.
8. I think text messaging is over rated. Pick up the phone, please. Unless I don't want to talk to you. Then, please text.
9. While it's been a rough week, I still love my job and really enjoying being at work every day.
10. On the other hand, getting up to go to work is still my least favorite thing to do all day. I am NOT a morning person.
11. I hate doing laundry. I am also not a huge fan of cleaning in general. I do, however, hate a dirty house. Quite the conundrum.
12. I am a raving bitch when I'm hungry.
13. My dog is the coolest dog on the planet and you should be jealous. My dog is way cooler than your dog. It's not even a contest. My dog is so cool he even has his own Dogbook.
14. I have an aversion to eggs because in my mind I connect them with baby chickens. Every bite makes me a little bit more squeamish.
15. I question, occasionally, how I made it through college alive.
16. I have a fear of heights. Not the healthy, keep you safe type of fear...the type of fear that makes me stay as far away from the edge of balconies as is humanly possible. The type of fear that makes driving over the Sunshine Skyway in Tampa a white-knuckle experience. The type of fear that prohibits me from "enjoying the view" from the top of a mountain, building or anything higher than a speedbump.
17. I start thinking about dinner at roughly 2pm every day. By dinner time, I still have no clue what I want to actually eat and drive Jim insane on a daily basis by answering "What do you want for dinner?" with "Something yummy."
18. I have the attention span of a 4-year-old hopped up on Pixy Stix. Concentrating on just about anything for more than, say, 48 seconds is a true challenge.
19. I think Wal-Mart is the evil empire. I avoid it at all costs. Here's why: I go in there with a list of SPECIFIC ITEMS I need to purchase. I head down the aisle, and before I know it I'm like "Oh...something shiny!" 45 minutes later I snap out of my stupor while I'm standing in the camping goods section looking at fishing lures and I realize that my cart is full of crap that I don't need and I still haven't gotten ANYTHING on my damn list.
20. Reading celebrity gossip on the Internet is one of my dirty pleasures.
21. I am perfectly happy sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and my dog, watching a CSI/Law & Order marathon on any given Friday night.
22. While I can watch said shows for hours on end, I have a total inability to watch more than 20 minutes of a movie. I pass out almost before the opening credits are over. Needless to say, Jim and I have only ever gone to see 2 movies in the theater in our almost 5 years together.
23. I love the beach yet can't seem to find enough hours in the day to actually go there. And I only live 25 minutes away. I need to re-address my priorities.
24. I miss my family and wish they didn't live so far away - although I won't even entertain the idea of moving back to the Arctic North.
25. I am a total control-freak. I need to do everything myself because I do it better than everyone else. If I can actually get to the point where I attempt to delegate a task, I drive the delegatee nuts because I tell them how to do every step of the task. I should just do things myself. It will make life easier for everyone else. Is delegatee actually a word?

Stay tuned for better content. Let's all hope, anyways.