Lessons to learn for running and life
Tere Zacher
12
February
2017

As I am waiting for my flight to go back home, I realize I have enough time to write about the lesson learned today. It doesn’t matter if we are looking for a lesson or not, when we need to learn something life will find a way to teach you. Now, we can resist it and choose to play victim of our circumstances (complain, don’t understand why things happen to us, not even seeing that something happen!) or we can realize that the circumstances we are facing are here for a better purpose.


I raced the Mercedes Benz Half Marathon today. I knew going in that I was sick and was probably not going to be my best race. Kevin and Kori got really sick last weekend and, since my immune system is generally on the low side, i caught it too. They recovered (as usual) in a couple of days. I never got “fully” sick (meaning I was not to the point of dying) so instead of listening to my body and take a couple of full days off (of running, of work, of life) I kept going thinking I would have plenty of time to rest when I arrived to Alabama. Again, I never felt fully sick and this is a huge mistake. If you are not at your 100% it means there’s something going on and we have to tend to it. This is how we get injured and how we get sicker (Is that a word?), by pushing because “it’s not that bad”.


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I arrived to Alabama on Thursday and the race was Sunday. So, my plan was to get in bed almost right away and sleep all Friday, run a little on Saturday and go to packet pick up and be super healthy and ready for Sunday… but, again, it seems like sometimes I tend to forget certain things. The first one being we are never in control of what happens to us. We can’t set a timeline to get out of our illness, injury or whatever situation we are facing. true, in paper everything sounds great, but reality is that sometimes things take a little longer that what we would like and that is okay. Long story short, I woke up on Friday feeling better but not great. Saturday I woke up with a fever and a bad headache, ears plugged, nose congested and my chest was not good. I took all the medicine I had (another mistake because medicine generally masks symptoms and makes us feel like we are better… “no pain! I am good”) and I decided I would play by ear and see how I felt waking up on Sunday (race day). Sunday I woke up without a headache but I knew I had a fever at night. So I decided to go and run with whatever I had. 


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Some buildings in downtown Birmingham, AL.


I have been learning to enjoy racing instead of focusing on results. Learning to be present, in the moment, instead of thinking about how I will feel at “x” mile or if I can keep the pace or doing math in my head to see what pace I need to keep in order to PR. I have been learning to race and forget about the clock and, up to today it has worked great (I will talk about this in a minute). Today was a little different. I tried to push my pace. I have been training strong to run sub 5:45’s and I have felt great, but I was not able to do it today. My lungs started to get tight and I know when that happens I have tone smart. I eased the pace and I knew in what position I was (fourth) so as long as no one would pass me I would see what I could do. Somehow the race felt hard. Could be the hills, the head wind, the 68F with 89% humidity, the illness or the combo of all of the above. But even there I started THINKING (worst mistake we can do) instead of being in the moment and just enjoying being able to run and race in a new place. When we think we separate ourselves from what we are doing. We start getting in our way and living either in the past or in the future, or questioning what is happening instead of enjoying it or doing something about it. I noticed I was thinking (noticing is the first step) but still I struggled to let my mind go and just BE.  So, I realized I finish the race (still in fourth place overall, first master; my time wasn’t even close to my PR but I will take it today -1:20.21)  and I couldn’t really retake it because I was not present. I was so focused on not being able to keep the pace, on not being able to feel good, on “being sick is an excuse, you are tougher than this”, on “being sick is in your mind, keep pushing” that I forgot to feel the moment. To experience the moment, and, more importantly, to be kind to myself. Would I ever talk to a friend who is racing under not great conditions like that? Heck no! So then Why was I being so hard on myself again? Haven’t I learned anything?


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On my way to Awards Ceremony with my new Skechers Performance Uniform (after my Perfect bar and Beet shot! That's why I am smiling)


Since apparently I forgot what I thought I knew, and because perhaps there’s someone reading this that ay go through the same, here is what I (re) learned today and what I will keep working on in order to be the best version of myself. Not the best runner, the best Tere there could be. 


1 WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL

Everything that happens to us, happens for a reason whether we want or can see it immediately or not. There is a perfect plan for each one of our lives so we need to learn to trust that whatever we are going through (even the bad things) are here for a good reason. Embrace them and that attitude will help to make them better and to learn something from them. We should make plans and trace goals, but we should do it with pencil because sometimes these plans change and that’s ok. Sometimes goals need to be reassessed and that’s ok. And, most importantly, there is not a real timeline we can have. Sometimes things take more time and sometimes less. Be open to it.


2 LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Every time I have not listened to my body my body comes back with something stronger that makes me listen. Generally it comes in a way of injury or a worst illness. You know your body better than anyone, if it’s telling you it doesn’t feel good, don’t try to play tough. It takes more strength to stop than to keep going. I have been really good about listening to my body when something is off while I run, and I have no problem taking three days off if needed because I don’t want to get re injured again. However, now that my body was screaming “I need to rest” I pushed and now I can only hope I don’t need to take a full week off for not listening.


3 SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE

Just like I mentioned in the last point: I have a tight right hamstring. I have learned when it’s okay to push and when it needs more rest. I was at the track the other day doing 20x400’s. By number 18 my hamstring felt slightly tighter than normal so I stopped. Old Tere would have pushed because of a “I only have two more” “don’t be weak” mentality. New Tere knows that 2 400’s less is better than 2 weeks less. I also took two days off after the track workout to let it calm and then I was back to business…. however, this week I didn’t take days off and as I am writing this my lungs hurt and I am wondering if instead of two days I will have to take a full week for not listening to my body.


4 NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS

This one is crucial. We are ALWAYS thinking and the goal should be to think only when we need to and to stop the stream of thoughts we have and we are not aware of. Pay attention to how you feel and go to your mind to see if you can identify with the thought that triggered that feeling. If you can start noticing your thoughts on every day activities, it’s more likely that you will be able to notice your thoughts when you run (train and race)


5 CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS

Sounds easy but it’s harder than it sounds. Once you notice your thoughts see what they are about. If they are not helping you (ruminating thoughts, negative thoughts, defeat thoughts, thoughts that are not even yours!) then stop them. Ideally you would change a negative thought for a positive one but, since it’s not that easy, something that has helped me it’s to categorize the thought instead of analyzing it or judging it. For example if I am thinking “there’s no way I can keep this pace” instead of being hard on myself or judging (“why am I having a negative thought right now?”) I just categorize it: “oh, I am having a defeating thought”. By doing it we take away the power of the thought and is more likely that it will go away. We are not paying attention to it, just noticing it; that helps to take power away from it.


6 TURN OFF YOUR THOUGHTS AND BE PRESENT

Feel. Notice how you feel with whatever it is that you are doing. If you are writing, feel the keyboard in your fingers. If you are running, feel your heartbeat, notice the air, notice the things around you. Change your focus from your head to your surroundings, take it all in. Be one with whatever you are doing.


7 BE KIND TO YOURSELF

The hardest one for me. But something that has helped me is, whenever I am in a situation that I notice I am hard on myself (“I shouldn't have eaten that crap” “I look fat” “look at my wrinkles” “I should have pushed more” “Come on Tere, 4th place? you couldn’t have toughed it up?”…) I think abut my daughter. Would I ever tell these things to her? How would I talk to her if she was in this circumstance? What would I say? How would I say it?. Truth is I would never speak to Kori like that. I would probably comfort her and would try to make her feel good when this is happening and eventually, in a loving and non judgmental way, I would encourage her to see what she could have done differently so she learns from this. So, If I can do this to her, How come I don’t do it to me all the time?. Learn to be kind to yourself. Learn to be nice to you. You are the only one who is with you ALL THE TIME for the rest of your life!


Thanks for reading. Follow me on Instagram (insightfulrunner) and twitter (@terezacher) for daily mental tune ups!

Awards Ceremony:

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