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Saturday, July 31, 2010

choices

Every day, all day long, I'm reminding my kids about the choices they make and telling them to think about the consequences of their actions before they decide to do things that they know will have unfavorable results.  Like hitting each other, losing their tempers, not telling the truth, making giant messes without cleaning them up, or just in general doing things they know they are not supposed to do because they will get in trouble, hurt someone's feelings, make me a monster-grouchy mom, or whatever.  I remind them that they are in control of their own choices and decisions - and that it is completely up to them.  It's my hope this will sink in eventually and that they will learn to think before they act.  That they will grow to be happy people who take responsibility for the way they choose to live their lives and that they will think of others and how what they do impacts the rest of the world around them.

I've been thinking about this a lot because lately I don't feel like I've been making the best choices for myself.  This week was hard for me.  I was a lot less active than I've been in months, and it's been depressing.  I know it's because I'm pregnant and I'm just not feeling great - I feel huge and hormonal and tired and nauseous, but it is also more than that.  I don't want to fall back on my pregnancy as an excuse for not taking good care of myself.  All week I feel like I was eating things that I know don't make me feel good (dairy, things high in sugar....sure they taste yummy, but always after I eat them I feel sick or depressed).  I am going to be pregnant for the next 6 months and I'm going to most likely gain a total of 40+ pounds by the time this baby is born.  And this is not in my control - no matter what choices I make, this will happen.  But I'll gain even more weight than that and be sad and depressed if I make choices like being lazy or eating too much of the kind of foods that make me feel bad. I am sure of that.

I need to take my own advice and make choices that will result in me feeling good about myself and the way I am caring for my body and my growing baby.  One step at a time, one choice at a time...and in my heart I believe that if I do that, I will feel a lot better as these pounds pile on.  I won't have this creeping feeling that maybe there is extra weight from my bad choices and I will be assured that it is just what my body needs to do to make a healthy baby.  I think I can feel good about that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

being ok with it

I should have known that last night's run was going to be tough...and looking back I think I DID know, but that I was in serious denial because I didn't want to face it.  I hadn't run since my 13 miler on Sunday.  Monday was a scheduled rest day and that afternoon/evening I came down with a migraine (an unfortunate common pregnancy occurrence for me), so Tuesday I was in a fog and just took the day off again.

After two days off from running and any real exercise, I was REALLY looking forward to my Wednesday night track run.  All day long though I just felt "off" and as though something simply was not right with me.  I did too much and started feeling exhausted from regular daily tasks like carrying the laundry up and down two flights of stairs and cleaning up after my kids' messes.  Around 2pm I needed a nap but never took one and really never even slowed down.  When my niece Ellie came over to watch the kids so I could head to the track I was feeling ready for bed....but since that was not an option I decided to go to the track and do what I could.  I thought if I just walked that would be better than nothing.  It turned out that walking was even hard for me last night though!

The workout started at 6:30pm.  It was still sunny and it was 95 degrees.  We usually do a 20 minute trail run to warm up before we hit the track, but I wasn't even up for that.  I decided to do my warm-up around the track instead.  It just made me feel better to be right there.  I ran for about 17 minutes and walked the last three.  After that we were supposed to run 3-5 miles around the track and I made it about a half lap before I decided I would walk instead.  I think when all was said and done I did about 3 miles total and walked more than half of it.  It was depressing at first.  I'm at the point in my pregnancy where I officially feel (and look) like I'm carrying a baby around in my belly and I can feel my heart working harder to pump all that extra blood through my veins.  Sure, I was proud of myself for being out there, for giving it a shot, but I was also battling my inner demons - negative thoughts and fears about this being "it" for me.

As I was walking around the track last night, being lapped by all the zooming non-pregnant runners training for their next PR, my thoughts and emotions were a roller coaster.  I felt happy to be out there, sad I wasn't moving faster, elated to be around people who shared my passion for the sport, depressed that they were so much faster than I was...and up and down and up and down.  What I finally honed in on though and decided to focus on was one simple thing: I love running.  I love the freedom, the strength, the peace and the beauty that I connect with when I am doing it.  Since becoming a runner I have always said that I want to still be running when I'm in my 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s...I understand that I will be getting slower as I age and that I will have to be ok with that if I am going to stick with it and continue to love the sport.  Running pregnant is a good lesson for me...it is teaching me so much about the real reasons why I love this sport, why it makes me happy and why I feel I cannot live without it.

I'm not going to let last night's run or the fact that this week my mileage is the lowest it's been in months get to me.  Today is another rest day.  It's what my body, and my baby, need.  I have always said that I will take each day as it comes and do what feels right.  What I'm realizing now though is that I also need to be OK with whatever that is - a rest, a walk, or a run at whatever pace feels right - and remember that each day is a gift and to make the most of it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

reflections on my long run

I woke up yesterday morning around 5:30 to get ready for my long run.  It was hot (around 80 degrees) and muggy even at sunrise.  My sister Jodi picked me up around 6:45 and we headed to the meet-up spot for our local running club's long run of 14 miles.  I love running with the club for lots of reasons: great people, beautiful routes (usually pretty well marked), and lots of water and gatorade provided along the way.  I love seeing folks at the water stops and how we all check in with, encourage and support one another every weekend. 

Well, it was a HOT day for a run and it only got worse as the time went on and we found ourselves running along super-sunny and hilly stretches.  In retrospect, I really wish we had started a good hour (or more) earlier so we could have beaten some of the heat.  We will definitely do that next weekend.  We planned to run 14 miles today but about halfway through I found myself reevaluating and wondering if that would be such a good idea.  I was having mild stomach cramps - I believed of the intestinal variety - around mile 7 but it worried me because I just couldn't be certain that's what it was and that it wasn't a pregnancy thing going on.  So I slowed it way down and even walked a little bit until I felt right.  I wore my HR monitor and tried to keep it around 140 as best I could (which was hard on the sunny hills and required walking at times).  Around mile 8.5 I felt really good again and my stomach wasn't bothering me so I decided I would stick with the whole run.  Then  maybe a mile later Jodi started feeling bad - she hadn't hydrated well enough the day before and was feeling it: the chills, swollen fingers, and some shakiness.  Plus her hips were tight.  So we walked for a long while with some spurts of running and it did not bother me one bit.  It was nice to have time to catch up with my sister and just BE together - moving - at whatever pace felt right to us.  When all was said and done we completed just about 13 miles total.  I felt really good the rest of the day and am in great shape today (no soreness or fatigue, yay!).  This makes me think I ran smart, but of course I always like to learn from my experiences and think about how I may have done things differently...


Yesterday's experience really got me thinking about heart rate training.  It is not something I have ever really concerned myself with too much, usually I just stick with perceived exertion to check in with myself.  Since being pregnant though, I am wondering if it is really important to know my HR and keep it in a specific zone to protect myself and the baby.  I have read lots of things online but was left feeling a bit confused...some people believe it should stay really low (around 130 or below) and others think going up to 150 should be fine.  Then I asked my doctor and he is pretty laid back about it and thinks as long as I am listening to my body and feeling ok, both the baby and I will be fine.  I would love to know your opinions on it...especially if you have experience running while pregnant.  Do you use a HR monitor and if so, where do you try to keep your heart rate on longer/slower runs?


Thanks and I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Happy Monday!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

long run wisdom

Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last
Just kickin' down the cobbles-tones, lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head when you're out for a run, and sing it the whole way, over and over again?  Well, it happens to me all the time (I usually only use my ipod on treadmill runs, unless I am really needing some extra motivation).  Anyway, lately the above Simon & Garfunkel lyrics have been stuck in my head on my long runs, and it makes me really happy because they are a great reminder of how I should be running (SLOWLY) and how I should be feeling (GROOVY).


Last weekend's long run was 12 beautiful, hilly miles on the paths in my hometown.  Since taking my RRCA Running Coach certification course this spring and applying what I learned to my own running (and PR'ing in every race I ran as a result), I am a now a very firm believer in running SLOW on all my long runs, and really on all training runs other than those designed to be speed work.  I agree that at first glance it seems so counterintuitive...if you are trying to improve your time and run a faster race, then why train at a slower pace?  Well, it actually makes perfect sense and I will explain why in a nutshell.


Training for a marathon (or any distance over a 5k, really) requires building ENDURANCE and the STAMIINA to cover the distance.  Running at a slower pace (an easy 75-80% effort) allows your cardiovascular system to adapt (which will happen relatively quickly) to the increased work load and trains your heart to work aerobically at a comfortable level over a long period of time.  Other adaptations need to occur as well though: your muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments will all become stronger over time if you are training properly.  Building muscular and connective tissue strength happens at a slower rate than building cardiovascular strength, which is why a lot of runners get injured when the mileage on their long run gets up there: they wrongly think they have the stamina to push faster while increasing the distance, so an injury (usually to the connective tissues) results.  Bummer.  The good news though is that we can avoid this pretty easily - we just need to remember to slow down and enjoy the ride on those long runs - this is not the time to race! - even if we are feeling like we have it in us to push, don't.  If we follow this golden rule of running slow when we run long, we will have amazing strength and endurance come race day (and we will feel much better after the race, too).





When I explain this to most of my running buddies, their first reaction is "Awesome!  I can run slower," but in practice it is much harder for them - psychologically.  Last weekend I had to remind my buddies to slow down many times.  I felt like a broken record, but I didn't care.  I want them to "get it" - to see the results of training this way - but I can't do it for them.  I can only remind them, do it for myself and hope they will catch on.  Running pregnant is helping me with this on a whole new level because really all it is about for me right now is running at a slow comfortable pace and feeling good while doing it.

So this weekend if you are heading out for a long run, I encourage you to remember the wisdom of Simon & Garfunkel and apply it to your running.  Soak it up!  Have fun, enjoy the beauty of the world that surrounds you and feel how strong you are becoming.

Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a little background

I feel like it might be a good idea to tell my "running story."  The story of how I fell in love with running, broke up with it for a while (wasn't really seeing other people, just "hooking up" every once in a while) and then, finally, we got back together and I made a lifetime commitment and have never looked back.

I will go aaaaalll the way back to the beginning and tell you that when I was a kid I was severely asthmatic and about as big as a string bean until I was 12 years old.  Needless to say, I was not athletic nor terribly well coordinated back then.  When I was 12 though I started to outgrow my asthma and tried soccer.  Soccer and I were meant for each other from the minute I stepped out onto the field.  I took off in that sport and loved every minute of it.  I was good, not a star, but better than average.  Good enough to play center midfield and run all 90 minutes of the game all seasons of the year.  I didn't love the running my coaches made me do as part of my training, but I did it because of what it did for my soccer.  I remember being timed for the mile and going all out in just under 8 minutes...a measly performance compared to my offensive teammates who were sprinters.  I realize now I must have had more slow-twitch muscle fibers than my sprinter friends...I am built for endurance maybe, but at the time I just didn't like running because I wasn't as fast as I wanted to be (I'm just a **little** (can you detect the sarcasm?) competitive). Anyway, so soccer was my sport of choice and I enjoyed running to stay in shape for it, but running "just to run," as I thought of it, simply did not appeal or make much sense to me.

From an athletic and all-around "caring for my body and soul" standpoint, college was a wash for me.  There were a lot of things happening in my life during those 4 years that led to my description of my college years as the darkest years of my life (more details of which I will share at another time) but needless to say I was not running or playing soccer or really doing anything at all that was good for myself during those 4 years and even the year after I graduated.  I came out of college very out of shape and disconnected from myself.  I was smoking cigarettes and drinking too much coffee, diet coke and beer (definitely not water!) and not sleeping much.  Thank goodness for my youth back then because I think it really carried me through those years!

During all that turmoil and depression though, there was always a voice deep within me that wanted and believed I could change.  I wanted to quit smoking and decided that if I quit the bad habit I should replace it with a healthy one.  A friend from high school mentioned she was training for a marathon and  I was curious.  Could this be something I could do?  I was immediately intrigued by the marathon and read as much as I could about it.  I wanted to do it and believed that I could.  One of the books I bought was called How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon by Gordon Bakoulis Bloch.  I read it cover-to-cover so intensely and became gripped by a conviction that I was going to train for and run a marathon and I was going to quit smoking so I could do it.  Thankfully, it was really easy for me to quit smoking (and other bad habits!) once I started running.  I just did it cold-turkey and with no issues.  My first training run was brutal.  It was April and I was in south Florida with my family and went out for a 20 minute run.  I was DYING.  It was hot and humid and I was SO.OUT.OF. SHAPE.  My parents and sisters really wanted to support me but I know they all just felt so badly for me and thought I was crazy.  But I did it.  Each week I kept at it and within a few weeks my long run was up to about 10 miles and I couldn't believe it.  My transformation really inspired my friend Kathleen and she decided to train with me at that point, which was wonderful.  The two of us would meet in DC before the sun came up so we could log 9 miles before work on a Wednesday and we would do our long runs together on the weekends.  It was so fun to have someone to share this adventure with.  She became a soulmate of mine and I am forever grateful for our friendship.  After about 6 months of training we were ready to run our first marathon, Philadelphia, in November of 2000.  It was a cold, gray, and windy day.  Kathleen and I were running strong (about 8:30 miles) until about mile 14 when her IT Band started screaming at her so from that point on we walked...12 long cold miles!  We finished in a little over 5 hours.  It was SO hard...but I loved it and I knew I would do it again....and again...and again....I was hooked.

I ran three more marathons in the next couple of years, always making wonderful friends through the training process and learning more and more about myself each time.  I never set time-based goals for myself...always just wanted to make it to the start line and enjoy the ride from there.  Each one of my marathon experiences was unique and wonderful.  In 2004 I became pregnant with my daughter Abby and my running stopped due to complications early on with my pregnancy.  My baby and I were both fine it turned out but I was freaked by the running so just didn't do it.  I ran a 10 mile race a few months after she was born but didn't really train for it at all.  My kids are just 16 1/2 months apart so running basically wasn't happening for me.  It wasn't until we moved to Reston, when my son Will was around 2 years old, that I started to realize something big was really missing from my life - and that was running and all that it does for my body, mind and spirit.

5 years and 2 kids since my last marathon I decided it was time for me to train for another marathon.  I put a training program together for myself and once again with lots of dedication began running and working towards my goal of running Marine Corps Marathon in the fall of 2009.  My goal was to get to the start line healthy and finish strong, which I did.  What I realized during my training for MCM was that I was a lot stronger than I thought (in body, mind and spirit) and that running was bringing me so much joy and peace - more than ever before.  I know that for as long as my body will let me, I will be running.

Now the running adventure continues as I experience what it feels like to be growing a baby in my belly while hitting the track and the trails!  So far it has been really wonderful (with the exception of days when I am sooo sick!) and the experience is making me appreciate my body and all it is capable of on a totally new level of WOW.   I wake up and "check in" with myself each day and see what I am up for.  Sunday it was 12 glorious miles on the trails, Monday a 2 mile walk on the treadmill, yesterday 4 speedy miles and today - a rest day.  We will see what tomorrow brings but I am happy knowing that, no matter what, running is a part of me and always will be no matter how fast, far or often I am able to do it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the real prize

So last week I saw that the amazing ladies from Run Like a Mother were running a little contest on Facebook.  I don't usually enter these things but this one sparked my interest because 1) the prize was fun - a tee and card set from Remanents, 2) Kara Goucher was involved and I LOVE HER and 3) they were looking for fun/inspiring running slogans/mantras that would be fun for a tee.  The company recently worked with Kara Goucher to create a running tee that says "Run with a heart of bold." I love that.  So, just for kicks I submitted a few of my mantras, one of which is "Just Breathe. Just Believe."  I found out yesterday that I was one of two winners!!  I am so excited to pick out my tee shirt and my card set.  I love stationary like crazy.  The news yesterday made my day - it is fun to win stuff!

Even better is that this mantra means a lot to me...when I ran MCM this past fall my sister Jodi had me write "Just Breathe" on the back of one of her legs and "Just Believe" on the back of her other leg.  She was a few steps ahead of me most of the way and these words became forever engrained in my head with each step.  My sister is an incredible woman...strong, beautiful and inspiring and always bringing me back to the simple things that matter most.  She is my soul sister and my "sole" sister...I love her more than words can possibly describe.  At times when I run and race without her these words are running through my head and I am with her in spirit...she is carrying me through every step of the way and always making me stronger.  The more I think about winning this contest, I am realizing I will be making my prize choices with her in mind rather than myself...a small way of saying "thank you" for all that she does for me and how much she means to me.  Showing her gratitude gives me an even better feeling than winning the contest in the first place!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

oh baby baby

Yep...that's right.  I am having another baby!  Now that I'm through the 1st trimester (a little over 12 weeks along) I'm so excited to share my news with everyone and to talk about my experiences with this pregnancy and especially with running while pregnant.
Needless to say, my life has changed forever...and it is truly a miracle and absolutely joyful and amazing in every way.  Oh, and, a terrific SURPRISE.

This post might be long-winded but I'm going to press the "rewind button" on my life and tell you all about it.

First of all, for a loooong time I wanted a third child so badly I could hardly think of anything else.  I mean, I was sort of obsessed, and after a miscarriage two years ago and lots of self-exploration and somewhat painful (at the time) realizations I came to accept and eventually truly embrace the fact that my beautiful family was meant to be a family of 4 and not 5.  I completely LET GO and moved on.  I poured myself into the things I truly love and am passionate about: my family, running, yoga and Pilates, and starting my own business while indulging my creative side (I will tell you more about later).  I found more happiness than I ever thought possible.  Until now.

Mother's Day weekend I raced my best half marathon ever (in 1:55:47), shaving 5 whole minutes off my previous PR (finally going under 2 hours!) and I felt amazing.  That same weekend is when I got pregnant (I love that it happened on Mother's Day weekend!).  A few weekends later I was getting my Pilates teacher certification and on a whim decided to race a local 5K.  It was gusty considering how exhausted I was from my training that weekend but I felt I really just needed to get out there and RUN so I did the race.  I was feeling off...nausea and so tired...but chalked it up to my awful seasonal allergies and lack of sleep.  Amazingly, despite how I was feeling, I PR'd again and raced it a minute faster than the 5K I did a few weeks earlier (25:22).  This was exciting for me and I set the goal for my next 5K to be under 25 minutes.  I was running stronger and faster than ever in my life and ready to begin training for my 7th marathon, MCM, and felt a worthy, challenging but achievable goal would be to do it in about 4 hours.

I signed up for our local running club's Marathon Training Program (MTP) which included weekly long runs and a weekly speed workouts at the track from June through October.  I could not wait.  I was beyond excited to meet my coach, "Coach Cindy," and all the other runners on the track and trails.  I was SURE I would PR in the marathon this fall was filled with excitement and enthusiasm over it.  I also  couldn't wait to have a coach and to learn from her, both to benefit my own running as well as to help me guide others as I begin my journey as a running coach.

Well, a few days before the training program started and just a week after my best 5K time, I found out I was pregnant.  I couldn't believe it!  I understood right away that the marathon would have to wait until 2011, but I headed to the first MTP track workout and had a long talk with Coach Cindy about running pregnant and got wonderful advice and support from her.  I love this woman!  She is amazing and inspiring.  She not only coaches runners and triathletes but is a kick-butt athlete herself and also a yoga teacher.  AND she ran until she was 7 months pregnant with her son (about 20 years ago) and has experience guiding female runners during pregnancy...so let's just say I am lucky to have her around.  

Over the past couple of months I have been joining the group for the Wednesday night track workouts and the weekend long runs.  I don't speed train at the track or push too hard on the long runs, but I am THERE and I am running and I am feeling good and it shows...I am always smiling ear to ear.  Sure, I have missed some runs or shortened them PLENTY of times.  I haven't been feeling great, or even ok, every day.  Some mornings I wake up and the room is spinning and I am soo sick.  Other mornings I wake up ready to conquer the world.  I take advantage of those days and am grateful there are more of those than the not-so-great days at this point.  Yesterday I ran 12 miles and felt like I could keep going and going...that was fun.  One day last week I was fighting to complete 3 miles.  Each day is a gift and an adventure.  I am learning to really listen to my body and to remember what is most important and to embrace the TRUEST reasons of why I run and why I love to do so.  It is not just about racing and getting faster...it is about nurturing and caring for my body and spirit and in turn the ones in my life who I love the most...especially the little ones.

So...now I am a little over 12 weeks pregnant, due January 28, with my third child.  I am blessed.  I am happy.  I am running.

I'm also excited that my "secret" is out and that I can finally write about it here and share my journey with you.  Thank you so much for reading!!


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