www.paceofme.com

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Making the most of the off season - a talk with Dr. Aleck Wong

'Tis the season! This phrase is heard ringing throughout our lives day-in and day-out this time of year. And while everyone is bustling about with the busy-ness of juggling life and preparing for the holidays, runners and endurance athletes are also typically finding themselves in the midst of another kind of season - the off season. I think of it more as a "reboot season" - unplugging for a bit and starting back up again after sufficient rest. It's a crucial time for a runner, truly. A rich opportunity to let go of the rigors of training and racing in order to reap the benefits of and learn from the prior cycle or to address issues that have lingered from it. It's a time to recharge our batteries on all levels - physical, mental and emotional.

This season can be welcomed and embraced by any level of runner, but it also oftentimes leaves us feeling a little bit lost and anxious to get back to the rhythms of training and racing. I have been wondering lately - what is the BEST way to approach this in-between time, to prime our bodies and minds for goals we have ahead of us?

How do we make the most of our time off from training? As a coach and an athlete myself, I have a lot of ideas and opinions about this. But I wanted to ask someone whose expertise and opinions I have always valued, to get a little more insight into it and to pass that wisdom along to you.

Last week I had the privilege of spending an hour on the phone with one of my very favorite people, Dr. Aleck Wong. I imagine many of you reading this are familiar with Dr. Wong, and the amazing service he provides to athletes of all levels in northern Virginia. If not, I will tell you quite simply - he is the best. And this isn't just my personal opinion - he has been named the Best Sports Medicine Doctor of the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by Competitor Magazine. For many years Dr. Wong worked with me personally as I trained and raced my way from a 4:35 marathon to a 3:11, beginning just a few weeks after having my third child. His care goes well beyond working with muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones, though. He treats the WHOLE person and always looks beyond the site of pain or discomfort to understand and to heal. To help someone be and feel his or her very best. This has always for me gone beyond my running. Over the years, Dr. Wong became a very dear friend to me, helping me through some pretty rough patches and celebrating my accomplishments with me. I am a better person, and a better athlete, because of his care.


Dr. Wong and I talked all things off season, and discussed what it really means to unplug as an athlete and why it's so important for us to do so for overall health and performance down the road. Whether you are someone who is coming out of your fall season having completely rocked it with PRs in every distance and no injuries, illnesses or niggles or you had a tough cycle and are feeling lingering soreness or fatigue, using this break in training to reflect and get really honest with yourself is going to make a big difference for you. I have broken down his advice and our conversation into some manageable pieces, hopefully making it a more simple and less daunting (and maybe even exciting!) endeavor for all:

REFLECT AND ASSESS: Taking the time to really look at your prior training cycle is going to help you understand a lot about yourself - and your running. Getting really honest about the details hidden in the WHOLE picture will help explain why things went they way they did with your training and racing last season, and can also be red flags for you. Look for patterns in your life and be real with yourself about how they may be impacting your overall health (this includes mood!) and performance. Stress manifests itself in our lives in many ways and we will see its impacts sometimes subtly at first, treating it more as a "nuisance" rather than as a warning sign or a call for change from our bodies. Fighting a nagging cold, interrupted sleep, a niggling lingering pain, a higher (or much lower!) resting heart rate ... these are just a few examples of such warning signs.

Look at your training log for patterns in your runs and then also think about what was going on in your life outside of training. Pay attention to the parallels because I guarantee you there will be some. Be curious and dig around if it's not jumping right out at you. Some ideas? You can go see a professional for some additional insight (a chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist are all helpful), have a physical if you are due for one, get your blood tested with to make sure crucial biomarkers (vitamin D, iron levels, cortisol, and more) are all within healthy ranges.

SWITCH GEARS: The off season does not mean that we stop running or exercising altogether and become couch potatoes. It does however mean that it's time to switch gears and turn the volume down on our stress levels. Exercise can be stress relief BUT at certain intensities our bodies interpret it as STRESS itself (even if mentally and/or emotionally we don't see it that way) which will impact hormone and overall energy levels and leave us wondering why we aren't sleeping well or are gaining weight or feeling extra tired, etc. Turning the volume down means taking it easy on the body and sometimes we need help with understanding what that means. This would be a good time to do some Pilates (check out Pilates Anytime classes/workshops taught by Myriam Kane. They are amazing! Use code MYRIAM for 30 days free!), go for a swim, take a yoga class, try TRX, go for a walk with a good friend or loved one who you don't usually get to exercise with, or even run with someone who hasn't typically been at the same fitness level as you so you can spend time together. Use this downtime as a chance to nourish your life and your relationships. Sleep in and get your exercise done later on in the day so you can spend your mornings with your family if that's not the typical status quo for you.

EXPERIMENT: Trying out some new ways of doing things helps us learn, grow and improve, discover new passions and interests, meet new people, and open our eyes and minds to areas of our lives that need some tending to. Making changes and experimenting in the midst or at the height of a training cycle isn't ideal for most of us though, so this is an opportune time to do so. Been curious about the MAF training method? Want to know if measuring your heart rate variability can be a useful tool in informing your training? Wonder if different types of fueling are better for your body than others? What about giving form drills a try (or reincorporating them back into your routine) or seeing what Chi Running is all about? Now is a great time to look into these things and test them out for yourself. Be the scientist of your life and have fun with it!

TRUST: For a lot of us, taking a step back and slowing things down (whether we are feeling awesome or our bodies have been insisting on it for a while) can be a little scary. The idea of losing fitness and having to "come back" after a break ensues a feeling of panic in a lot of us. We are going to lose some fitness during the off season if we do it right! But there is so much to be gained - better health, more awareness and knowledge, increased connection with loved ones - that when it it's time to get back to training we will be primed for good things ahead.

Bottom line: If we take a break and give our bodies what they need, they will thank us by giving us what we ask of them later.

How do you feel about the off season? Do you have any advice to add, or stories to share about your own experiences during the off season? What do you find has worked best for you? Do you have any questions for me or for Dr. Wong?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Know Better, Do Better: Using Inside Tracker for Healing & Performance

For a very long time, I knew that something was off with my health and with my training. I didn't know what though, and I certainly didn't know what to do about it. There were times I thought I knew, and I would work to fix it, but then I would realize that I still didn't feel very good, and that I had no idea if I was on the right path. I would wonder if it was all in my head, if I was helping myself or maybe even making myself worse with all my efforts.

I felt sluggish. Tired. Heavy. Uninspired. BLUE.

My running, which had always been a source of light and strength in my life, was feeling subdued, flat and heavy-hearted.

At one point I finally went to see my primary care doctor about how I was feeling and she ran some blood tests. A few days later she called me back and casually told me that my ferritin was "on the low end of normal." She said they like to see it between a 7 and a 130, and that since mine was a 14 she thought I should consider taking an over-the-counter iron supplement and eating more iron-rich foods, such as red meat, to up my number.

Ferritin is our body's way of storing iron in the blood. Without sufficient iron stores, we will begin to feel very fatigued and lack the desire to do things we typically love and have energy for ... such as running, in my case. As an endurance athlete, it's especially important to have adequate amounts of ferritin stored in our blood because we are constantly using it up while training and racing. A healthy ferritin number for a marathoner or triathlete is not going to be the same as it would be for someone who is sedentary or even just exercising for fitness.

Bottom line - what is normal for an average person is definitely not normal for an endurance athlete. And really to dig further, what is optimal for one endurance athlete might not be optimal for the next.

After getting this news from my doctor, I decided to make some changes to my diet (specifically - adding in meats after years of eating a vegetarian diet), take a food-based iron supplement (because I had read this would be gentler on my GI system, and I already had a sensitive system) and reduce my training load in both volume and intensity. I slowly began to feel better - and I mean SLOWLY - but it started getting me thinking about what else could possibly be going on in my body that needed to be addressed.

How can I truly know what to work on if I don't understand more deeply what is happening inside? Is it really even only ONE thing? Rarely that's the case, in my experience.

I was tired of guessing.

This is when I discovered InsideTracker. More than a blood test, InsideTracker provides valuable insight into health and performance by analyzing specific biomarkers for the endurance athlete and advising on how to make improvements - through diet and lifestyle changes - where necessary. In May, I took the Ultimate Test so I would have an idea of what I was starting with. My ferritin number had (happily) increased from a 14 to a 29 (it more than doubled!), which was very good news because it was trending in the right direction with the changes I had already made to my diet and training load. I can't remember where I had heard this, but I read somewhere that increasing your ferritin is like trying to fill a swimming pool with a garden hose. It takes a VERY long time. I was on the right path though and this reassurance really made me happy. Still, even though I was feeling BETTER I wasn't feeling GREAT, of course ...  and I knew that I had more work to do. There were some other biomarkers tested that really confused and also concerned me - my liver enzymes and blood glucose were both higher than optimal and I wasn't really sure what that meant. I had been experiencing gut distress, and had food allergies develop out of the blue a couple of years ago during Boston training and wondered if it was possible (or really, likely to be PROBABLE) that all of this was somehow connected.

As an avid listener of Endurance Planet, I had wondered for a while if investing in the help of Tawnee Prazak would be a good idea for me. Tawnee spoke so openly about her own experiences of pushing herself too hard in sport and in life, developing an autoimmune condition, and healing her body and mind from the inside out. I love listening to her share her experiences and expertise and am always fascinated by the really incredible, super-smart people she interviews on the show. I find that each episode teaches me something and inspires me because they are honest and insightful conversations amongst pioneers who prioritize optimal health (via natural, holistic methods) AND strive for peak performance in endurance sports. This show made me realize that I wasn't alone in what I was experiencing, and that there were things I could do to heal and strengthen not just my running, but my whole life.

If I did the right things, and was patient, I could restore my health and also be a great athlete and enjoy my sport again so much. So I reached out to Tawnee after that first InsideTracker blood test, and asked for her help.

An additional feature I love about InsideTracker is that the site allows me to send all of my blood work results to anyone I want to. I had already sent them to both my husband and to my running coach to review. So once I hired Tawnee I added her to my list so she could review my results directly also. She analyzed them and also had me complete a very thorough questionnaire as well as record my diet and exercise for a while (through MyFitnessPal) so she could see my nutrition intake and energy expenditure habits. Right from the get-go, Tawnee identified that my gut was under some pretty serious distress. She told me that in order for my body to heal, I had to make changes - some significant and some pretty minor - to my dietary habits and my training load and also my lifestyle (ie, stress management and reduction). She suspected that since my gut was not functioning well, it was likely that I really wasn't adequately absorbing the nutrients from my healthy diet! In order to heal my gut and build a strong, robust system that could both absorb the nutrients I needed and protect me from harmful irritants, Tawnee had me start with a supplemental regimen that involved probiotics, multi vitamins, gut-healing remedies like home made bone broth and glutamine. She also had me stop taking many of the vitamins and minerals I had self-subscribed, including iron. Because my gut was all whacked out, and iron supplements are not gentle on the stomach, it really wasn't serving me any good. She also recommended that I reduce stress on my system by taking things down a notch (or ten, lol) with my training (no racing, no majorly hard workouts) and finding ways to relax and de-stress that were more gentle on my body. This was hard for me to adjust to at first, I have to admit. I am a go-go-go person and like to be ALL IN when I do pretty much anything, very good at extremes and at pushing through discomfort. But what I needed to find now was balance, and moderation. Calm. Healing. Peaceful. So I have been working on this for the last few months, one day at a time.

As with everything in life, I am a work in progress. I had hour-long monthly calls with Tawnee between July through October, each time assessing how things were going and coming up with a new plan of action. In September, I took a follow up InsideTracker test which revealed some really amazing changes. The greatest thing we saw was that my ferritin was up to 102! I was amazed by this, that in 4 months I had more than tripled my ferritin. This was fantastic evidence that my gut was healing and that my body was now absorbing nutrients. How cool is that?

We also noticed though some things that made Tawnee think twice. My liver enzymes had improved, but were still slightly elevated. And while my cortisol was normal in both tests, it was definitely on the lower end. Tawnee wanted to look deeper into what was happening with my hormones so she had me take a DUTCH test, which measures your hormones throughout the day with urine samples. This test gave us insight into how my adrenals are functioning, and revealed that they are TIRED. I thought low cortisol was this really great amazing thing, and I was surprised because this last year was one of the most stressful years of my life so I imagined my cortisol would be really high ...  but it turns out that my adrenal glands are just tired of producing hormones to handle stress because they have been in overdrive for the last few years. So now they aren't making enough of it when they are called upon to handle stress. And while we don't want HIGH cortisol we also don't want LOW cortisol. We need the right amount of it, to have a healthy response to stress. So now that I know this is what is ACTUALLY going on, I am really truly assured that I am on the right path.

I've been getting messages and notes from some of you, asking me about how I figured all of this out and how I was able to get my ferritin to reach an optimal level. This is a problem so many of us are faced with in endurance sports, to one degree or another and at one time or another. I got to the place I did because I really just didn't know what I was doing wrong, or what I was in danger of experiencing. I of course never intended to deplete my iron, or to mess up my gut, or to cause so much stress to myself mentally and emotionally and to my body. And in my attempts to heal - I tried to eat better but my gut couldn't handle that. I just didn't know... how can you help yourself if you don't really know what you need?

In my experience, the first step to healing is awareness. Recognition. Knowledge. You have to recognize that something isn't right, or at least be open to the fact that it could be better. The next step is to dig deeper, to uncover the root of it. This is where InsideTracker can be very helpful. And maybe that's enough for you and you can use the amazing advice and guidance they give you and start fixing things on your own, which is what I think works great for most of us. But in my case, I needed to go further because I knew it was more than I could handle on my own and I was so wiped out from feeling like I was hitting brick walls.

So I hired someone to help me, and you may want to do that too. (Tawnee is amazing).

On another note, I know this is sort of a jumbled post and I hope it hasn't been too hard to read. I have been having a hard time making my blog writing a priority these days - so I decided this week that I am going to sit for 30 minutes every day and write sort of stream of conscious. Just share. My hope is that with practice I will get better at it and make more sense to you guys! :)

Anyway, I am sharing this because I hope it will shed some light for some of you on how good it can be to empower yourself with some knowledge (even if it's difficult to accept sometimes), to make the RIGHT changes for you and your body, for your life. It is a long road and you are not alone...and there are really some great companies, and wonderful people out there who will understand you, support you and believe in you.

If you are interested in getting your blood tested with Inside Tracker, you can use the code PACEOFME for a 10% discount on any of their tests. I assure you it is worth it.

You can learn more about InsideTracker from their website and on their social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

**I was not paid for this review. InsideTracker covered the cost of my blood work and testing. All thoughts and opinions are authentically my own.**

Sunday, September 25, 2016

my story with overtraining

Nobody sets out to overdo it. Part of becoming the best you can be at anything involves testing your limits. Going farther or pushing harder than you imagined you were capable of. It's necessary for growth. Most runners know this intimately, and I am no exception. I was running at a level I didn't know possible for a long time, in a two and a half year period taking my personal best time in the marathon from a 4:35 to a 3:11. All along the way as I pushed myself, I would also check in regularly - thinking I was being careful and smart and in tune with my body. I took recovery seriously, had regular appointments with my chiropractor to keep things in check, was dedicated to my Pilates practice, strength training routine and daily foam rolling sessions. I had an annual physical with my doctor, monitoring my health through check ups and blood tests. My weight decreased significantly during this time, but there were no red flags. No injuries. No disruptions to my menstrual cycle. No issues with my standard blood work, blood pressure or heart rate. I developed food sensitivities and allergies (I even have an Epi pen now for wheat, shell fish and peanut allergies), but in my mind that wasn't necessarily connected to my running. I had always been plagued with GI distress related to my running, for as long as I can remember, and it didn't seem to matter what I ate or how I fueled when I raced, so I sort of just accepted it as being a part of my story. So many other runners deal with it, too, which somehow justified my own issues to me.

I thought I was fine. I was racing faster and running farther than ever! How could anything be wrong? I wasn't worried. Despite the concerns from family members and the dearest of friends, and despite the fact that deep down I was really suffering underneath it all.

Looking back, it sounds so foolish to me now - but I have learned to give myself some compassion and to find grace and forgiveness for that past self. It hasn't been easy, I will be honest with you. It has at times been excruciating. But awareness, while it is hard and can be so incredibly painful to wake up to, is also a blessing and a gift. One that empowers us to make changes and to live our lives differently moving forward.

Ultimately I am grateful for my journey. I have worked very hard over the last couple of years to heal and to rebuild strength from the inside out. It has been a lot more difficult than achieving any PR ever was or will be. That comparison is laughable to me! My hope now is that by sharing my experience, maybe I can help someone out there avoid causing themselves, and their loved ones, the same kind of pain and suffering. Or if you are already in the throes of it or know someone who is, I want to extend my heart and let you know that you're not alone. That you CAN turn it around.

It's better to be late than too late.
I am living proof.

I want to tell you that I am going to share this from the perspective of my running, because that's what this blog is about, but I also feel it's important to point out that nothing is ever one-dimensional. Health is not just about blood work or heart rate or what is happening with the physical body. During the last several years my heart and spirit and mind - my relationships with the people that matter most to me as well as my relationship with myself - have undergone major transformations - to hell and back! - just as my body has.

You are not healthy just because you are fit. In fact, I am a firm believer now that some of the most fit people out there are actually the least healthy.

About two years ago I started to wake up. It was a slow, gradual undoing. I was working with a new coach and excited to have his expertise to guide me and help me reach my potential in running. I wanted to take a season away from the marathon and focus on shorter distances for a while. The goal was a half marathon in the spring. All winter though, I was training at an incredibly high level still. Putting in 80 miles a week at times and long runs up to 18 miles - for a half marathon. The race came and I didn't feel like running it. It was cold and raining, I know that was part of it. But the truth is that those conditions are usually ideal for me. I just didn't have it in me. Something was off. I ran that race 7 minutes slower than I had on the same course a year prior. And I didn't care.

I talked to my coach about how I was feeling. He didn't seem concerned with overtraining at all. I went to my doctor and told her I was feeling depressed and heavy, and that I was having a hard time motivating myself to do things that I normally loved. She ran some blood work and called me back a few days later, telling me that my ferritin was "on the low end of normal" at a 14. Ferritin is the body's iron stores. I had never heard of it before, but when I looked it up I saw that "normal" was this massive range of numbers from something like 7 all the way up to 130. I remember thinking that was nuts - how could a 14 be normal-ish if a 130 is also healthy!? After more than 20 years of eating primarily a vegetarian diet, and a good two years of just not eating enough at all, I started to try to eat meat again to get more iron in my diet. I also went to see an acupuncturist regularly for a while (at first a few times a week, and gradually over time my visits became more spread out as I got better) and he helped me tremendously. After a few months I was feeling so much stronger, had put on about 10 pounds, and began training for my first New York City Marathon. I was also going to be running the Chicago Marathon with my Saucony cadet as a 26 Strong coach.

My training for NYCM was solid from a numbers standpoint. I was hitting the paces and mileage with ease and wasn't experiencing fatigue like I had in the winter. There were no signs of injury or anything. Chicago was a few weeks before New York and my cadet and I were on our feet for 6 hours that day. I was surprised by how well my body recovered from that race, but I went into NYC with some apathy that really wasn't normal for me. It was then that I decided I was never going to do marathons so close together again - even if one of them was "for fun."

My coach had me running New York fast from the get-go. I was on target for a 3:05 for the first 20 miles of the race. My family was there cheering for me, it was a beautiful day and the course was electric and alive with amazing energy. I was happy and felt strong through the halfway point. Somewhere around mile 18 though, I started thinking about my plan to race the last 10k, and knowing that it was going to hurt. There was no negotiating in my head though - I knew that I didn't want to do that. When I saw my family at Mile 20, I literally stopped to hug them. It was a moment that felt frozen in time for me. Pivotal. From that point on, I knew it was time to slow down. For the rest of my marathon, and for a long while after that.

I didn't know when I would want to race hard again, or if I ever would.

My passion for marathons and for running long distances was being threatened, and my health was too. I had had enough.

A few weeks after we returned from New York, my husband started his new job in North Carolina and moved down here into an apartment. He would be living in Raleigh 5 days a week while the kids and I stayed back at home in Virginia. The holidays were approaching and our lives were changing in a really major way. I emailed my coach and told him I was going to coach myself for a while. With our move, and me being a single, working mom of three during the week, I just needed to take the pressure off. Reduce stress. I had already signed up for Boston and wanted to be healthy and happy for that race. THAT was my goal.

Robert came with me to Boston and we celebrated the weekend with wonderful friends. I ran the race with no watch and enjoyed each and every step with no stress, finishing in 4:09 - almost an hour slower than I had run it two years prior. This was a huge achievement for me - running the Boston Marathon with no pit stops for GI issues, smiling and high-five'ing kids along the way, stopping to hug my husband, and crossing the finish line holding hands with a dear friend I had serendipitously caught up with in the final miles of the race. It was fantastic and my heart was happy.

That weekend I started to think that maybe I was ready to train to race again. We had a contract on a house in NC and would be moving and beginning to build our new life here soon. I felt good and hopeful and I felt healthy and happy.

But I knew that I would need to ask for help. That doing this alone was not for me anymore.

Robert and I sat down with coach James McKirdy for a couple of hours in Boston and I told him my story. He listened intently and I had this feeling that he understood me and that he would be a good fit for me as a coach. He seemed to have the perfect combination of an incredible depth of knowledge as well as a very caring spirit - I felt assured that he would put my health first. Having my husband there was extremely important to both of us.

After Boston, I spoke with Jonathan at Inside Tracker. James thought it would be a good idea to get my blood tested before embarking on the next phase of my running journey. In early May I had all of my bio markers tested with the Ultimate Test. I was most curious about my ferritin because going into it, it was the only area I was aware of that had been low when I wasn't feeling good. I was so happy to learn that my ferritin had more than doubled since my doctor tested it and had gone from a 14 to a 29! I knew it was still low, but it was progress. Slow progress is true progress in my mind, and this was a good starting point. I began to train with James, gradually adding back in mileage and eventually some light speed work - which I had not done in about 9 months. It felt good.

My passion and joyful spirit in running was returning to me, but I was skeptical because I had been here before and didn't want to do too much too soon and wind up right back where I was, or worse. I decided at this point that I wanted to invest in getting help from a nutritional and holistic standpoint. Being an avid Endurance Planet listener, I reached out to Tawnee Prazak to see if she could help me. Tawnee is an incredibly smart and awesome woman who has been very open about her own journey and experiences with overtraining, disordered body image and eating patterns. I pretty much adore her and before even talking with her I knew that she would be someone who would "get" me.

Working with Tawnee has taken me in a whole new direction, and has breathed a new life into not only my running, but truthfully my whole understanding of how to take care of myself - body, mind and spirit. I will write a separate post soon to share all of the details of the work we have done together thus far. Essentially it has involved a whole lot of waking up to unhealthy patterns and behaviors - letting go of certain ways of thinking and doing, and embracing and trusting totally new ways of nourishing and moving my body.

In the last three months of working with Tawnee and with James I have decided, with their advice and incredible support, that it is NOT time for me to race just yet. This was a hard decision at first, but I know that there is still more healing to be done and strength to be built. I want to race Boston this coming spring and to be healthier than ever when I toe that line. And I want to love running for the rest of my life.

So I am going to be patient and stay my course. 

Last week I had my blood tested again with Inside Tracker. I was astounded to learn that my ferritin is now a 102! In the last four+ months, with a lot of hard work and at times making very tough choices, I have taken my ferritin to an optimal level - from a 29 all the way to a 102. I feel better and stronger than I have in such a long, long time. As James says, "you can't track what you don't test," and having this knowledge to know the areas I need to work on has been so very valuable.

Because of the path that I've chosen and the work that I am doing, I believe that my best running is ahead of me, and that it will come from my healthiest, happiest, strongest and most honest self. I've evolved and expanded my definition of what it means to be my best self as a runner and beyond.

There are a lot of details that I am looking forward to sharing with you now that I am writing again. I want to write a post all about Inside Tracker, how it has helped me and how I think it can help you too. I want to share with you the ins and outs of what Tawnee has been helping me with, and how much I have been learning about gut health and stress and nourishment. I want to talk openly and bravely about body image issues and disordered eating behaviors and how that can really mess with our health, while also making us think that we are running better than ever ... a dangerous combination. I hope to be sharing this all with you later this coming week, and just wanted today to get this ball rolling...

Thank you all for reading, and for following along on my journey here. This community is so incredible and I am as grateful for all of the people that make it what it is as I am for the sport that we all love so much.

**if you would like to try Inside Tracker, you can purchase any test now through the end of the month for 15% off using the following link: https://www.insidetracker.com/qr/onboarding/PACEOFME**

Friday, September 16, 2016

plantar fasciitis

A little over a month ago I had an amazing run. It was one of those perfect mornings where everything clicked - a rarity for me in the thick of this Carolina summer. My friends and I ran 10 miles and did a bunch of 1:00 pick ups (with 2:00 recovery jogs between each), feeling strong and alive and finally sensing a glimmer of how the hard work we'd been putting in all summer might actually be making us fitter, despite the sticky humidity and blazing heat we face each day.

When I got home I remember just floating on that run for quite a while. I was busy with the kids getting them ready for their first trip to summer camp, my home a bit more of a hustle and bustle than usual. I noticed what I would describe as a little bit of tightness in the arch of my left foot later that afternoon. It wasn't totally unfamiliar and it wasn't all that painful, but it was there. The next morning it was gone and I had another fantastic run.

The following week we traveled to the Pacific NW for a family wedding and a marvelous adventure in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I ran and hiked all week and reveled in the amazing temperatures, the cool clean air, the gorgeous sceneries. My foot didn't bug me one bit and I felt better than I had in a while, which I attributed to the fact that we were on vacation and the weather was a million times better out there.

me and Gus at Deception Pass, San Juan Islands
Another week later I was back in North Carolina. I went for a sunrise easy paced long run with my friends on a Friday morning and noticed that my foot was feeling tight again maybe 2 or 3 miles into the run. I hoped it would loosen up as we went.

It didn't.

I took the next day off and rested it - as best you can rest a foot as a mom of three on a busy Saturday. The following day I went out for a solo run to test it out. I ran for about an hour. A miserable hour. Longer than I should have. Once again I hoped it would loosen up.

Once again, it didn't.

Later that afternoon and all through the next day, it was tight and painful. No swelling, no discoloration, but tight as all get out. I knew something wasn't right and wanted to rest it and have it checked out.

I sought out the advice of my trusty chiropractor and dear friend from Virginia, Dr. Aleck Wong. He said it sounded like classic plantar fasciitis and recommended some intrinsic foot exercises, heat in the morning and ice towards the end of the day. He also suggested finding someone here to do active release therapy (ART). So that week I saw someone three times. She did ART and some slight chiropractic adjustments. After a week of that in addition to rest and at home therapies, I tested my foot with a 30 minute run because it felt so much better. But when I ran - it didn't feel better.

That week I saw a physical therapist who evaluated me and confirmed plantar fasciitis. He did some manual therapy and soft tissue work that included more ART and Graston, as well as dry needling to the calves and the foot.

dry needling
Another week went by with no running and I tested it with a 20 minute run. I felt strong and fit, and so happy to be out there doing what I love! But my foot still hurt.

So I rested again. I went to see a different chiropractor and got a massage. I went back to physical therapy two more times. My PT watched me run, looked at my old shoes, recommended arch support inserts and trying new shoes (I bought the inserts and went to the local running store and got evaluated and fitted for new shoes), showed me more exercises to do, did more therapies on me including cupping (something I had never experienced before) and sent me on my way with tape on my foot.

I joined the Y and began biking and taking some yoga and Pilates classes.

It still, honestly, wasn't better.

So yesterday - after nearly 4 weeks of no running (with the exception of the 30 and 20 minute runs I tested it on), 8 appointments with 4 different practitioners for therapies including ART, Graston, massage, manual therapy, chiropractic adjustments, dry needling and cupping, regular epsom salt baths, stretching, heating, icing, rolling and pretty much trying everything I could think of doing, including NOTHING - I went to see a podiatrist.

And guess what he said?

I have plantar fasciitis.

He did x-rays and examined my foot. Nothing is broken or torn in half, he assures me. He said my calves are "beyond tight" and told me that loosening them up is really the key to finding my way out of this completely frustrating mess. So now I have homework to do for the next two weeks: stretch my calves 3-4 times every day for 5 minutes at a time, wear a night splint that keeps my foot in dorsi flexion to lengthen out the muscles in my calf and foot, stay off of it as much as possible and don't do any exercise that puts stress on the lower leg (including biking, the elliptical, and yoga), take NSAIDS to reduce inflammation (Advil, Aleve). He also fitted me for custom orthotics which I was wary about, but since my insurance covers them fully I will give it a shot. I will do my homework and come back in 2 weeks hopefully feeling a lot better.

Throughout this whole ordeal I have had regular conversations with my coach who has dealt with this injury personally. It took him 4 and a half months to get through it. He could not be more supportive or encouraging and is going to give me swim workouts to do while my foot heals. Reminding me how important it is to keep things in perspective and have a positive attitude, it has been great to have him in my corner.

I know that there is a lot to learn here, and a lot to be grateful for. My current goals with running and health actually had me deciding a couple of months ago that I would NOT be racing anything this season in order to strengthen my gut and give my body a break from the stresses and rigors of hard training while my family and I settle into our new home and life here.

Maybe this setback is in a way protecting me from myself, ensuring that I DO indeed take things easy for these next few months. Thinking of it that way really helps me, actually. It's a silver lining, a light amidst the murkiness of this situation. I have always been one to believe that things happen for a reason, that even when we feel like we are stuck - we are actually right where we are meant to be. I am being tested right now and it is hard. But I will hold onto my faith. It could be far worse than it is and there are lessons and bright spots here to embrace.

Earlier this week I signed up for what will be my 20th marathon and 4th Boston Marathon. I have goals in my heart for that training cycle and race, and want to arrive at that starting line so jazzed and excited about it! And healthy! I think taking these next few months to really heal and build strength and balance in my body and in my life is essential. I know it is. So I will do what it takes to heal, and I will hold my head up and heart open to the lessons to be learned. To the beauties in the breakdown, so to speak.

Have you ever dealt with plantar fasciitis before? Are you grappling with it now? I would love to hear your experiences with how you were able to overcome it and what you learned about your body and your heart through the comeback journey.

Friday, September 9, 2016

the re start

it's been over a year since i last sat down to write here. to regularly spill and share and process in a public space.

there were a couple of starts and stops. but the fact was, i needed a break.

not from writing, but from writing here. i have fallen into a wonderful daily practice of morning journaling and reflection with good old fashioned pen or pencil and paper. it feeds my soul and grounds me, much like running does. it's a ritual i will continue, even as endeavor to share here again.

i have also taken a break from hard training and racing for nearly the last year. i ran the new york city marathon in the fall of 2015, and then stepped back. the race was a pivotal and defining moment for me - one in which i realized i had pushed too hard for too long. i gave myself some grace and walked into a new space in my running and in my life. a space for healing and preparing for new beginnings. i am really looking forward to sharing the ins and outs of all this with you!

my husband took a job in north carolina last november, a few weeks after the nycm and just before thanksgiving. it was a leap of faith, one we took together bravely as a couple and as a family. the year was hard, yet also one of the very most strengthening and healing of my entire life. it was many months of shaky ground and uncertainty while my husband lived in raleigh 5 days a week and the kids and i stayed in virginia until we were able to sell our home, find a new one and begin our life anew. feeling like we were holding our breath and so ready to find ourselves settled and sure and in a routine again, time was moving so slowly yet too quickly all at once. i was squirmy and anxious to get started and find a rhythm, yet i also was hanging onto many aspects of my life and dear loved ones in virginia and was having a hard time saying 'see you later' to them. resisting change is natural, i know. letting go and moving forward is never easy, even when your heart beckons to you that this is indeed so so good and right.

and now we are here, and have been here for 3 months. all that has transpired and transformed in our life, the unfoldings and the beginnings of so many good things ... it has overwhelmed my heart and just filled me up with so much gratitude. i am learning that there is so much goodness in times of transition. learning to let go and to trust my path, learning who and what matters the very most. as hard as it has been and will continue to be, each day i begin with a thankful spirit.

so this is the first post of my re start. another piece falling into its place as i settle into my groove. i feel ready to bravely share here again. and i thank all of you who are reading. for being a part of this space with me. i'm excited to share my running and life journey with you. things will be and feel different around here as i work to shape this into a truly representative and authentic platform. i have learned and am continuing to learn so much and will be open about it all. i look forward to connecting with you and sincerely hope that my experiences, musings and reflections will be a source of light and inspiration for you on your own paths and that we can all share in this journey together!

be back soon. i promise.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Giveaway - $200 Cash + Relay Starter Kit!

In my last post I shared with you guys my wonderful experience running the American Odyssey Relay with Team Bloggin' & Joggin, an incredible group of women who are all DIY bloggers. It really was a fantastic experience and one I will never forget! I am so thankful to have been a part of it and cannot wait to do it again next year.
As a way to motivate our readers and give back to the running community, the 12 of us are so excited to be hosting the most amazing giveaway today - the prize is $200 cold hard cash AND an awesome "Relay Starter Kit" filled with some super-cool stuff that's perfect for a relay weekend!

Here is a list of all the items included in the starter kit:

  • Safety yellow running vest
  • Safety running lights (including a lighted arm band)
  • Safety amber light
  • Health Warrior chia bars
  • Milestone Pod that fits on your shoe to track your miles
  • Muscle cream
  • First aid kit
  • Generic Pepto-Bismol
  • Vaseline
  • Car window markers

To enter the giveaway, follow the prompts in the below link. The giveaway is open to continental US residents only, and will be open for one week. Best of luck!



Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

beyond running

Once again life has been busy - it never really stops I guess, always whirling and swirling with all sorts of life and adventure! And lots of running, of course.

Four weekends ago Abby and I went to cheer on my sister and some friends at the North Face Endurance Challenge race series. Jodi ran the 50k and set an awesome PR, finishing in under 7 hours with a big smile on her face. Abby and I had a great time spectating and cheering in my sister.


Three weekends ago Abby and I did a local 5k together with the Girls Running Club I helped coached at her school. All of the girls did amazing, including my sweet Abby who ran her heart out and finished in her fastest time ever! I loved sharing this experience with her and could not be more proud of her. Running doesn't come easily to her, and she gave it everything she had. We laughed and chatted the whole way! I will always cherish times like this with my daughter.


Two weeks ago I ran the GW Classic 10 Miler. It was a strong and happy race for me. I finished right around where I expected I would (1:09 and change), ran steady and strong with no stomach issues. I set a course PR but was well off of my fastest time (a good 4 minutes) for that distance. This winter and spring were not about pushing myself for fitness gains, but rather about finding a healthier running/life balance and giving my body, mind and emotions a break from hard training. I loved being at this race and was happy with how it went. Placing 3rd in my age group was unexpected and a nice icing on the cake of a happy race. This race is one of my very favorites in the DC area! I was honestly just so grateful to show up to a start line and feel excited to run, regardless of what the time on the clock was. For the last several years I have been gunning for faster times at basically every race I signed up for, so this has been a great change of pace for me these last several months. It has been just what I needed, to feel like me again, to reset things for a healthier balance, and to help make me stronger moving forward in running and, more importantly, in life.


After the 10 miler I spent a week doing a lot less running, with much lower intensity and mileage. Coach Hadley called it a "regeneration week," really pulling back on things before I begin working towards my fall marathon and racing goals. I ran the American Odyssey Relay at the tail end of that week and it was truly the perfect thing for me, at the perfect time!

My team, "Bloggin' & Joggin'" was comprised of a bunch of female DIY bloggers from all over the country. Our team captain Cassie, who I met a few years ago when I was looking to have some furniture refinished for my home, asked me to be on this team a few months ago. I hadn't seen Cassie in years but I just adore her, and I was excited to meet more women like herself and share this relay adventure with them. Our team was sponsored by a slew of incredible companies who went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. This truly blew me away, and I really don't know how to properly thank them all for all they did for us!


The American Odyssey Relay itself is an amazing event. The race course is 200 miles from the historic battlefields of Gettysburg, PA all the way to the waterfront of Washington, DC. I was runner #1 in van 1, and it was a lot of fun to kick off the race - an experience I had never had before! It was a lot of fun!
I loved every second of this experience. My runs were GORGEOUS - the sceneries at sunrise and sunset were truly peaceful and breathtaking. I ran the first two nice and easy right around a 7:30 pace. My last run was nearly 9 miles in the dark along the C&O Canal towpath - it was a bit spooky for
sure, and I ran it slower (around an 8:15 average pace) but I made the most of it and was happy to have made a friend for the last few miles. Talking with her made the dark less scary!


My favorite thing about this relay race though wasn't my running at all ... but was actually watching my teammates run, and being a part of something so much bigger than myself. These women are all just amazing and strong and beautiful - and so much fun! It was refreshing to me to be with them, and it reminded me of the simplest and purest joys of the sport and how women can truly lift one another up and have so much fun together doing it! I am so thankful that I had this opportunity, and really look forward to doing it with them again next year.


Later this week the 12 of us are hosting an awesome giveaway - we are actually giving away $200 and a super fun "relay starter kit" for one lucky winner! I am going to post it here on Friday and you can enter. It's pretty awesome, so check back here later this week for details on how to enter.


The morning after I returned home from my relay, my family and I volunteered for and manned the water stop at our elementary school's 5k! It was tons of fun to do this with my family.


I have been continually reminded lately of all the things that I love about running that actually have nothing at all to do with my own personal running or pursuits related to the sport ... and what makes this even more beautiful to me is that it refreshes and rejuvenates my spirit in ways within me but also so far beyond myself. I know now that my passion for the sport has got to be fueled by more than just a fire within me to be my best, and that my definition of my best self as a runner and as a person, goes well beyond my own times or distances or accomplishments ... it transcends me in ways I never imagined before and I am so grateful to be realizing this now.

I do have dreams and goals on a personal level - to break 3 hours in the marathon, to race ultra distances, to be a competitive masters runner - but they will not have meaning to me if they are not shared with my family and with the running community. I'm really looking forward to training for my fall races with all of this in my heart. Without a doubt, I am seeing and experiencing running in a whole new way now.

Follow Me on Twitter! Be Our Fan! Instagram