Wednesday, July 27, 2011

what it means

I have never worked harder as an athlete in all of my life.  At 35 years of age, I think this is saying a lot.  I was an avid soccer player growing up, fiercely dedicated to the sport and to my teammates.  I wanted to be the best I could be and worked hard to achieve that.  It was incredibly important to me that I not let my teammates down and that during the years as team captain I was a solid leader and a good example.  I went to soccer camps all summer long and ran during the off seasons to keep in shape.  Although I was keeping myself in shape, however, it somehow was still never really about me.  I didn't see it that way, anyway.  It was always about the team and my love for the sport.

Once I entered the real world and began working all day five days a week it became harder for me to find ways to stay in shape.  Being a "gym rat" just wasn't for me.  Still isn't.  I played soccer on a co-ed indoor team for a few years but that was just one night a week, no practices.  It was fun but not nearly enough to fuel my appetite for exercise or fitness.  Once I found running and more specifically training and racing, I was hooked.  After becoming a mother my soccer fell by the wayside (our games were always late at night and it just didn't work for me anymore).  Running fit in where and when I wanted it to because it was just up to me to make the time for it.

Now as a mother of three who exclusively nurses my almost 6 month old baby, I recognize in myself the same fire of dedication and determination that was within me as a 16 year old high school soccer player.  Only this time, it IS for me and I know it.  And my "team" is my family: I am (one of) their captain(s).  I am taking care of myself and being the best me I can be by staying dedicated to my running and making it work for me and for my family.  Yes, this has meant nursing my baby at 4:30AM and heading out the door by 5:30AM on weekdays so that I can be home by 7:00AM before my husband goes to work.  It means doing the same on my Saturday mornings so I can beat the heat.  My friends who don't run truly think I am crazy.  Today a friend at the gym actually called me an animal.  Is that a compliment?  I don't know and I don't care because the fact is that by now I know myself well enough to know that what others think of me doesn't really matter so much and that I need to do what I need to do.  And right now, that means that I need to RUN.

Garmin Grumbles

I bought my first Garmin watch a little less than a year ago.  After lots of research and talking to my runner friends and fellow coaches I decided to go with the Forerunner 110.  It was the most affordable option for me I loved everything about it.  The watch is simple and does exactly what I want it to do - basically telling me how far and how fast I am going.  I could not have been happier when I got it.

From the first time I used it though, I sensed something was wrong ... was my watch a lemon?  The connector cable was a pain and always took lots of wiggling and reattaching before the watch would begin charging or communicating with my computer.  Sometimes it was more temperamental than others.  And don't even get me started on how off it is with paces (I am walking a 5:00 minute mile?  Running a 25:00 mile?) Oh and let's talk about how long it takes to find satellites sometimes -- F O R E V E R.  But shortly after I got it I found out I was pregnant and I didn't use it to much for my pregnant runs - I didn't want to worry myself with distance or pace during pregnancy so I opted to use my Timex watch instead for those runs. 

Since returning to running after pregnancy over these last few months though, the watch has given me a lot of trouble.  On Sunday's long run I was about ready to throw the thing out.  It repeatedly (and I mean like every 30 seconds) beeped at me with the words "Lap Error" flashing over and over again for 11 miles of a 14 mile run.  It calculated my pace at anywhere from a 35:00 - 44:00 minute per mile pace.  Um, this was a slow easy pace but not THAT slow!  I ran by feel though and just tried my best not to let the beeping get to me.  Or the fact that this piece of technology I was so excited to own was simply not working the way it was supposed to.

After reading Melody's post the other day though, I was finally motivated to just call Garmin and do something about it.  The customer service rep I talked to was great.  He walked me through a software update for my watch and also is sending me a new connector cable at no charge.  He also extended my warranty for another three months and told me that if, with these fixes, my watch is still not working right I can ship it to them and they will send me a new one free of charge.  I am happy with their customer service.

Today I wore my watch on the track and it was acting wack-o again even with the software update.  Maybe once the new cable comes that will help things...I can only hope!  I'm grateful that if it doesn't improve though they will send me a new one, hopefully not a lemon!

So tell me, what Garmin do you have, if you have one?  Do you have the 110?  If so, what do you think?

Monday, July 25, 2011


It's funny how we get through things sometimes.  We know that things could be worse and that the worst of it will be over soon, so we just plow on through.  We will be on the other side of it all soon.

Last week was a doozy for me and running helped me get through it.  Life was chaotic and circumstances were out of my control yet I was able to get myself out there on the track and the trails to run and to forget about the muck.  Running allowed me to not only operate in "survival mode" but also to somehow keep a clear head and a smiling heart during the less-than-easy moments.  Thankfully now that I'm through it I can look back on it and see that it was not so bad after all - I can even laugh about it a bit - and realize things could definitely have been worse.

Two and a half days of feeling like someone was punching me in the stomach repeatedly followed by back-to-back puke sessions for my two big kids who each became victim to the virus (someone please tell me why stomach viruses strike in the middle of the night, when our children are sleeping...hence massive amounts of disgusting messes combined with heart-wrenching moments with our sweet, sick, pathetic children?!?).  It was gross and sad and lasted another FOUR days.  Did I mention that this was during the biggest heat wave EVER in the Washington DC area and that over the weekend our air conditioner BROKE?  Yep, it was a blast.  But you know what?  We got through it and are no worse for the wear.  Actually I would venture to say that my marriage is stronger because of what we just endured - somehow late in the middle of the nights up with sick kids and the extreme heat we were able to laugh about the situation even during the toughest of moments.

I am so thankful to have a husband who is a true partner in this life - who takes the bad with the good and is always by my side.  Who supports my running, my therapy.  Yesterday morning I was not even scheduled to run and he told me I should get out there for a few "recovery miles" - I'm not sure if I was recovering from the long run Saturday, or the chaos of our life over the prior week, but it was a wonderful run and I was so thankful for it.

Today everyone is healthy again.  Our AC is fixed and didn't need to be replaced.  It is raining outside - finally - and I could not be happier about that.  This morning I did a 7.4 mile progression run at the track at sunrise with my sister and it was amazing.  I survived a really rough week last week.  Running carried me through and gave me the energy to take it all on and be there for my family.

Here's to survival.  Here's to a new week and to always looking for the bright side.  Has running ever helped you through unbelievably crazy weeks? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

track talk

This morning the air was steamy and thick.  The track was wet and the football field was soggy and stinky...not sure what that was about.  Despite the heaviness of the morning and the fact that my stomach just did not feel right, I showed up and gave it the best I could today.

4 sets of 800s with 400 jog recoveries in between.  The first 400 was to be "moderately hard" the second 400 was to be "hard."  I covered 4 miles total including two laps of warm up and recovery each as bookends.
We are heading into some serious heat these next few days, with the heat index predicted to reach 116.  That is crazy...it will mean running indoors or very early.  At 5:30 this morning the humidity was insane.  There were even beads of sweat on my shins after a couple of laps.  

A few things I want to mention/discuss as I am reflecting on today's track workout:

(1) I smell really bad.  I swear I put on deodorant before I hit the track, but it is apparently not strong enough to combat the stench of my beastly sweat-monsterness on days like this.  What do you do to keep yourself from smelling like a swamp when you run?

(2) Something needs to be done about my hair post-workout.  It is long enough now to go totally bonkers after a good sweat.  How do you control your hair!?

Yikes! Bad hair and smelliness.

(3) I wore my Nike Frees to the track for the first time today.  Double thumbs up.  I love them and will continue to wear them for track workouts.  Do you wear a lighter shoe during any of your workouts?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

mileage ups

What a week.  Last week I clocked in my highest weekly mileage since baby Gus was born: 40 miles!  And it was a taper week in my training schedule to boot.  The long run on Sunday was "just" 12 miles and it was close to a perfect run.  I ran alongside my amazing sister Jodi and also had the company of my buddy Justin and my friend Ellen.  Justin and I hadn't run together since last summer when he was training for MCM.  He commented on how much faster I was on Sunday and that he wasn't expecting me to push him so much - guess he forgot that the last time we ran together I was 20 weeks pregnant!?!?  Growing a human and carrying around all that extra weight and fluid will slow you up a bit.  We had a great run and averaged a 9:17 pace with our fastest mile being the very last mile - which is exactly where I want to be.

Sunday night I woke in the middle of the night with a VERY upset stomach.  I was up for three hours dealing with major stomach pains and had to ask my husband to stay home from work yesterday I just felt so awful.  I'm not sure if it was a virus or something I ate, but it was bad news.  Yesterday I spent the whole day in bed, taking the term "rest day" to a whole new level.

This morning my mom took the two big kids out for an adventure so it was just me and baby G.  Despite the crazy heat and humidity I decided to take the baby out for a little run.  We covered 5 sweaty miles on my favorite trail.  The baby slept the whole way.
cute sleeping baby, pretty trail

When we got home he was happy and ready to play.  I can't believe how lucky I am to have him as a running buddy.
great nap = happy baby!
Tomorrow's track workout is all set for 5:30AM. I can't wait.  This weekend will be my longest run since having the baby: 16 miles.  The first 12 miles are to be slow (between a 9:07 - 10:07 pace) and the last 4 miles are to be at marathon goal pace (currently 8:37).  I'm excited to see how it feels!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

salads and strides

I am serious about my salads.  Today when I was on the treadmill at the gym I was actually dreaming about the salad I would make for lunch today.  It was a hard workout (6 miles total -- 4.5 mile progression run followed by 6 x 60 second strides with 60 seconds recovery jog between each) and I needed some motivation to get me through it, plus I knew I would need to replenish my energy with a yummy nutritious meal.  My salad did not disappoint!

Since I eat a vegan diet almost all the time so that means no dairy, egg, fish or meat in my salad.  My daughter is in camp this week so I lunched with my my buddy Will while the baby slept.  Will has lots of severe food allergies (egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, garlic, sesame, mustard, shellfish) so he and I eat very similarly.  I like to make our lunches together with lots of the same ingredients but he does not like salad and he loves meat so this is what I did:

Step One: Gather ingredients for amazingly awesome vegan power salad, which basically involves grabbing whatever looks yummy in my fridge.  Today this is delicious greens, persian cucumber, baby carrots, a roasted beet (which I roasted in the oven last night along with three others to be used throughout the week), sunflower seeds, cooked quinoa (great way to sneak in protein - this is leftover from my dinner last night), avocado, sugarsnap peas, pink lady apple. Fig infused balsamic vinegar and lemon oil to drizzle.

Step Two: Slice and chop everything up and sprinkle it all on top of the greens, saving half the avocado, half the apple and half the cucumber for Mr. Will's lunch.
Step Three:  Drizzle yummy fig vinegar and lemon oil on top of salad.  It is ready to eat!!

Step Four:  Put Will's ingredients on his plate and add two organic Applegate Farms turkey rolls and some blueberries for him.
Step Five: Eat my delicious salad with my amazing son!  Watch as he creates his meal into a satisfying masterpiece...
smashing avocado onto his turkey roll
place apple and cucs in the turkey and roll it all up...
This is a variation on how we eat lunch in my house every day.   Simple, fresh and oh so good!!!

Now, about those strides...today is the first time I ever did a workout like this and I loved it!  Strides are basically 30-60 second hard efforts at the end of your run.  My coach says they are a great way to work on picking up speed at the end of a run and are also an opportunity to really concentrate on form and controlled effort.  Because of the way my life is right now I had to do this at the gym today.  I think it would be better done outside (but I kind of always think that!) but am grateful to have a gym membership for days like this!  I did 6 x 60 second strides with one minute jog recovery between each one after a 4.5 mile run (for 6 miles total including recovery).  It was awesome.  My legs feel it now and I sweat like a beast.  I am really loving mixing up my weekly runs with fun workouts like this.

So, how about you?  What kind of speed work do you enjoy the most?  Have you ever done strides before?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

confidence boosting long run

Today's long run was 14 miles.  Last week I misread the workout and did 12 "LSD" (long, slow distance) miles all at a slow pace when I should have done the last 4 miles at my marathon pace.  Since I screwed that up I decided I would do the last four miles of today's long run at MP.

McMillan Running Calculator advises that for my long slow runs I should be doing them between a 9:07-10:07 pace.  I held strong there (despite wanting to go faster!) and then for the last 4 miles I aimed for an 8:37 pace (for my goal of a 3:45 marathon).

Mile 1: 10:04
Mile 2: 9:42
Mile 3: 9:43
Mile 4: 9:41
Mile 5: 9:46
Mile 6: 9:28
Mile 7: 9:50
Mile 8: 9:32
Mile 9: 9:40
Mile 10: 9:27
Mile 11: 8:35
Mile 12: 8:34
Mile 13: 8:24
Mile 14: 8:41

Folks, it was not just a good run today.  It was a GREAT RUN.  I believe that there is something to learn from every run and that no run can really be a "bad" run if you look at it that way.  Some runs we learn we are made of more than we thought we were.  Some runs teach us what fuel or hydration is or isn't working for us.  No matter what, there is always something to learn.  Today, I was strong and steady.  Those last 4 miles at marathon pace were not a stretch for me.  Today's run was a confidence boosting run.  The fact that my legs, my posture, my muscles and joints, my heart and my lungs all felt completely solid and in synch was purely awesome.  I learned that I can kick it up a notch after 10 miles of running and dig deeper for more.  I will think of this run when I am running the marathon - I will remember that I am capable of this.  Plus, I got to run with my sister Jodi for the first time in almost two weeks which was a superawesome treat!
Me and Jodi heading out for 14 miles.
My mileage for the week rounded out at 40.  And what happy, glorious strong miles they were!  

3:45 marathon - I am coming to get you!!!

What was your long run this weekend?  What did you learn from it?

Friday, July 8, 2011

owning my dream

Have I mentioned that my whole family - all 5 of us - are sharing one bedroom here at my in-laws' house?  There is a king size bed, a portable crib and two twin beds in the room and we are all smooshed together.  It's actually really nice.  When I woke up this morning the baby was in bed with us already (he is still not sleeping through the night) and soon after that the two big kids hopped in... so all five of us were cuddled up in one bed before 6AM.  I thought about not running since we were all so snuggly, but I knew that in a few hours from now I would wish I had motivated myself to get out there at least for a couple of miles.  So I fed the baby and then put on my running clothes to head out the door.  I am so glad that I did.

I'm going to miss running at the beach.  Today's 5 miles were a luxury - one last leisurely run along the shore before we head home tomorrow and get back to reality.  The morning clouds slowly dispersed as the sun continued to rise up over the ocean, reflecting a light so soft and warm and welcoming.  I love  the ocean in the morning.  The sea is calm and quiet at the start of these hot and humid summer days.  The sound of the waves, the sound of my footsteps, the sound of my breathing...a perfect way to start my day.

I ran an easy pace of just under a 10:00 mile for the first four miles.  I wanted to try out my marathon pace for my last mile and see what it felt like, knowing that it should feel pretty easy on a run like this.  My coach is having us do some marathon pace miles at the tail end of some of our long runs this training cycle and I guess I was looking at this short easy run as a mini test-drive of that since this is not something I have ever done before.  I glided through it and felt strong and confident and happy.  As it should be on a run like this. 

So, about that whole "marathon pace" thing... 

I'm dreaming of and planning on a big PR in the marathon this fall.  I believe with every ounce of my being that I am going to crush my 4:35 PR in a serious way.  Based on the McMillan Running Calculator and my recent race times combined with the fact that I am going to work harder and train smarter than I ever have in my life, I know that I am capable of a 3:45 marathon, or an 8:37 pace, this fall and I believe I will do it.  I've been really hesitant to share this goal/dream with you, but yesterday when I read my dear friend Dorothy's inspiring post and earlier this week when I read my amazing friend Tonia's incredible post I realized I was being foolish.  I need to put this out there and not be afraid of what others might say or think.  To own it and stand up for myself and for my dreams.  I stand up for everything else I believe in, so why not stand up for my own dreams and goals?!  I'm not going to teeter on this anymore, I am going to go after it with all of my heart and share my journey with you here.

And it doesn't stop there...because after I get that 3:45 I am dreaming even bigger...and I'm going after a 3:40 so I can get myself to a little place called Boston.  IT. WILL. HAPPEN.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

three things : endless summer, please

1. I have run nearly every day on my vacation this past week.  This has included a 12 mile long run, a hill workout and speed work on the boardwalk (5 x 800 at sub 7:00 pace with 2-3 minutes recovery between reps) as well as a few 3-7 mile runs at an easy pace.  I've taken one rest day and while I know I probably should take more I just can't resist running when there are so many extra hands around to help with my three monkeys.  It has meant guilt-free running and total running bliss for me.  So on my easy days I am really taking it easy and not pushing the pace no matter how good I feel, just to be on the safe side.  I'm in running heaven here at the beach and I'm soaking it all up because in just a couple of days it is back to reality...no more ocean breezes or runs along the shore for a while.

2. My kids are beach bums and I love it.  They have been busy riding waves, building sand castles, catching fish, eating way too many frozen treats, making secret clubs on the deck with their cousins, reading good books with their grandparents and just in general doing what they do best: being kids.  It is pure joy to watch them be carefree and happy at the beach.

3. Summer is all about simple pleasures, not the least of which is snuggling up with my baby boy and napping in the hammock together.  He is the best.

We are already into July and I do not want summer to end.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

fountain of youth

"The trick is to die young, as late as possible."
- Ashley Montagu

I know that the time will pass, no matter how I choose to spend it.  I want to live my life passionately, not take myself too seriously yet use my brain to be self-aware and present.  To take care of my body so that when I am older I will be an active participant in this thing called my life.  Aging is inevitable, but are there things I can do now to stay young?

When my children are all out of the house I will be in my mid-50s.  I imagine myself a vibrant, energetic, open-minded and joyful person - then and beyond.  Still a work in progress, still striving to improve myself and still looking for adventure.  In my 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s...I hope to be able to stand at the starting line of a race and test my limits, enjoy feeling alive and celebrate all of life's blessings.  I want to be the youngest old lady you will ever meet.

The choices we make today, the habits we create for ourselves ... they matter.  Running has become an outlet for me and a way in which I strengthen my body, my mind and my spirit.  I believe it is a key ingredient in my personal recipe of what it will take for me to live a youthful, long life. Running is my movement, it keeps things within me fluid.  Without it I fear I shall go stiff and harden (both inside and out) ... be grumpy and stagnant.  I can't worry about the future for I don't know what lies ahead.  I can only live in this moment and live it to its fullest.  But I believe that when my life includes regular running I am doing something good for myself, somehow tapping into the fountain of youth ... somehow increasing my chances of dying young as many years from now as humanly possible.

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