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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One Reason

I run for a lot of reasons.  To stay fit, to be a good example to my children, to let off steam and clear my head, to test my limits and grow stronger.  I run because I love the way it makes me feel.  It's a way for me to connect with the deepest parts of my soul, yet also completely let go and soar outside of myself.  The list goes on and on and on....

I run because I am a woman and a mother and I need something to pour myself into.  A bucket to fill up with ME, to create a well that I can dip into that is all my own, so that there is more of me to share with my children and my husband, my family and my friends.  Running is not just exercise, it is a GIFT.

I also run because of my mom and a very important lesson she taught me.  My mom started dating my father when she was 17 years old.  He was her first true love.  They were married right after she graduated college, then had four daughters and a life full of blessings.  For more than half of my mother's life she dedicated herself 110% to her children and to her marriage.  She lived for her family.  But my parents' marriage was pretty much always hanging on by a thread (and believe it or not, my sisters and I had no idea of this AT ALL).  After 35 years of marriage and four kids out of the house, my dad finally told my mom he was leaving her.   She was nearly 60 years old and had never even paid a phone bill on her own.  Her whole world turned upside down and suddenly she was all alone and scared and didn't know how to define herself anymore.  My mom is a strong and beautiful person and one of the most giving people I know.  She has taught me devotion and compassion and faith.  She has taught me to never give up and to always find the silver lining.  She is an amazing person and I am so proud of her, I admire her intensely and I love her so very much.  That happened 9 years ago and since then she has worked so hard to find happiness again, to redefine herself and to find new purpose.  She is truly amazing.

Seeing what happened to my mom taught me the importance of creating a balance between always being there for my family, friends and loved ones and knowing when to put myself first and stick up for me.  That is what running represents to me - it is something I do - a part of me that I have created, that I own, and it reminds me of the importance of my presence in this world.  It is why I leave my house before dawn and come home to my family before they eat breakfast.  I am devoted to running because it helps me stay devoted to my family.  It is my way of making myself stronger, cleansing myself from the inside out.  Running renews me spiritually, emotionally and physically.  After I run I feel that there is always more of me - more in my bucket - to share with the people I love most in this world.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Easy" days sometimes not so easy?

My run today is supposed to be 45 minutes of easy-paced running.  Yesterday's run was a hard effort (with nearly 8 miles at half marathon race pace plus a few warm up and cool down miles) and tomorrow is speed work on the track.  Going along with the hard/easy training plan, today's miles really need to be easy and simple so I can both recover from yesterday and prepare myself for tomorrow. 

Sometimes though I find it tough to muster up the energy and mo-jo for these easy, even paced runs.  I'm super-good at rallying myself for the more difficult efforts, the speed work and the long runs.  I'm thoughtful about the preparation and give myself pep talks in advance of the run.  But before easy runs I'm mostly only thinking about the logistics of where and when I will get the run done.  There's no extra zim in my thought process, no boost of energy to get me jazzed up about it.  I believe these easier days are important - they allow my muscles to recover and they help to build mileage.  Every run has a purpose and no run is a bad run in my book, but lately simple easy days are just not as exciting to me - it takes more effort to get pepped up for them.  It seems a bit funny that an "easy" day would be harder for me mentally in some respects.  Can you relate to this?

Today my 45 minute run will be done on the treadmill at the gym.  I'm bringing my i-pod and will rock out to some of my favorite tunes while I run around a 9:00 pace.  Music always helps me on a treadmill especially on an easy day.  To make this run extra special my plan is to have a unique focus mentally.  I'm going to spend the 45 minutes thinking about my upcoming race this Sunday.  To visualize myself powering through each mile, soaking up the experience and connecting to the strength within me.  Recognizing and respecting every aspect of the training that has gotten me to this point.  The sheer JOY I will feel when I cross that finish line so much faster and stronger than I ever have in this distance.  I think these easy days can be more about mental training, stamina and toughness.  Not having to worry about pushing my limits with speed or distance or killer hills, these runs are an opportunity to meditate and connect with a deeper sense of my self.  To bask in the glory of all my body is capable of.  To honor my hard work and prepare for the tough workouts ahead.

Are easy days harder for you in any way?  How do you approach these easier runs to get the most out of them?

**Oh and a side note: I am soo excited to report my niece Ellie is doing much better!  Her meningitis is viral and she is on the road to recovery.  We are all so very grateful!**

Monday, August 29, 2011

Plan B

This morning I had the best of intentions to get my run done early.  I laid my clothes out the night before and set my alarm for 4:45AM as usual.  But the baby was up a lot last night and I brought him into bed with me in the middle of the night (not an altogether unusual circumstance around here).  When my alarm started buzzing I quickly shut it off so as not to wake him, but the next thing I knew we were both waking up nearly an hour later.  So, scratch plans for hitting the track super early.  On to Plan B.

Plan B was to take everyone to the gym after Baby G's morning nap.  My big kids were excited to go there and play with their friends, so it was a win-win.  I put the baby down around 8:30AM and expected he would take about a 45 minute nap.  Nope - it was 2 HOURS long!  I used the time to play with my big kids and to get tons of stuff done - massive amounts of laundry, pay bills, vacuum the main level of the house, all sorts of fun stuff.  As time ticked on though I was definitely wondering if my run was going to get pushed by the wayside.  If I would feel too overwhelmed to pack everyone in the car and slog out so many minutes on a treadmill in the gym so close to lunchtime.  But I kept reminding myself how much it meant to me and that I would not regret making the effort to GET IT DONE.  As soon as Baby G woke up I nursed him and changed his diaper and we were on our way to the gym.  We made it!  My workout was fantastic.  15 minutes warm up at an easy 10:00 pace followed by 60 minutes at race pace.  I decided to try my half marathon race pace since I have the VA Beach Rock n Roll half coming up this weekend (yay!!).  I'm not totally certain of my pace for that race so I played with it a little.  I did the first 30 minutes at an 8:00 pace, the next 20 minutes at a 7:47 pace and the last 10 minutes at a 7:30 pace.  I felt strong and excited.  I wrapped up the run with 10 minutes at an easy pace and in all covered 10.5 miles in 85 minutes of running.  Not bad for a Monday!  That's the most I've run on a treadmill in a long time and also the most I've run on a weekday in a long time too.

I'm so excited about my race this weekend.  When I think about how hard I've been working over the past several months I get butterflies in my tummy knowing that the experience of this race is going to be such a sweet reward.  My current PR in the half marathon is 1:55:47, just under a 9:00 average pace.  There is no question in my mind or my heart that I am going to crush that.  I believe it with every inch of my being.  I can't wait to run my heart out on Sunday and see what I am made of!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ellie and the long run

This past week was maybe a little bit too eventful for me.  Crazy earthquake.  Awful dentist appointment revealing that I have three cavities.  Hurricane Irene.  These things were all nuts-o but thankfully in the grand scheme of things not really that awful at all, truly.

Today though I found out that my niece Ellie has spinal meningitis.  She had a headache yesterday that got worse and worse and by this morning she developed a fever and was in severe pain.  Her neck and back were stiff and hurting in addition to her headache.  My brother-in-law recognized the symptoms and suspected meningitis so they took her right to the hospital this morning.  After a spinal tap (not fun) it was determined that yes she does have meningitis.

Ellie is 14 years old.  She means more to me than I can possibly describe.  The moment she entered this world my heart grew ten million times bigger.  She is a beautiful, special and amazing young woman and I am so proud of her.
Beautiful Ellie holding babies Levi and Gus.
We are waiting now to see if her meningitis is viral or bacterial.  They are culturing her spinal fluid over the next 24 hours to see if any bacteria grow.  If it is viral she will be able to go home and ride it out.  If it is bacterial that is much more dangerous.  She is on antibiotics now just in case.  A close friend of mine is going to watch my kids so I can go see her tomorrow afternoon.  I can't wait.  I'm planning to put together a goody basket for her filled with magazines, nail polish, lip gloss...and other fun stuff.  I cannot wait to give her a huge hug.  Please pray that my sweet Ellie is all better soon.  Please pray for my sister and her family.  THANK YOU so so much.

~~~~

It feels very weird to jump from that to talking about my running, but it was a big running weekend for me this weekend so I do want to chronicle it.  Yesterday morning before Irene showed up I went out for my longest run in almost 2 years!!  I ran 20 miles yesterday!  It was an incredible run.  The weather was insanely humid (it was like running through soup!) but it didn't seem to bother me too much.  My last few long runs have all been negative splits but yesterday I aimed for even splits just to see how I felt.  It was a solid run and my average pace was 9:01 (last weekend's 18 miler was 9:02 average).  I think this is a great pace for me and I'm really excited about how good I've been feeling lately especially on these super long runs.  Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 9:40
Mile 2 - 9:24
Mile 3 - 8:44
Mile 4 - 8:46
Mile 5 - 9:07
Mile 6 - 8:22
Mile 7 - 9:15
Mile 8 - 9:19
Mile 9 - 9:11
Mile 10 - 9:10
Mile 11 - 8:54
Mile 12 - 9:03
Mile 13 - 9:07
Mile 14 - 8:59
Mile 15 - 8:59
Mile 16 - 8:49
Mile 17 - 9:11
Mile 18 - 8:49
Mile 19 - 8:49
Mile 20 - 8:45

Yay!  Today I did a 5 mile recovery run and that put me at 45 miles for the week.  It would have been closer to 50 miles this week except that Friday morning's run was a complete stomach disaster.  I NEED to be awake for a good hour before I head out the door to run, no question about it.  My stomach revolts otherwise.  Never again will I "sleep in" until 5:45 before a 6AM run.  That is dumb and just not how my body rolls.

Anyway it was a good week with running and I'm so thankful.  My half marathon is in one week from today.  I cannot wait I cannot wait I cannot wait.  I am so excited I can't stand it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

lifting my spirits

This morning started out kinda crappy.  I went to the dentist at 7AM for my 6 month check up.  Usually this is a pretty uneventful thing for me because I am seriously anal about my dental care.  I brush for 2 minutes twice a day (electric toothbrush with timer), I floss regularly and I rinse with Listerine regularly.  So I was taken aback when the dentist told me I have 3 cavities!  Apparently this is not uncommon for nursing mothers.  Our saliva has very protective qualities (rich in calcium and phosphates) but when pregnant and then when nursing these get leeched from our saliva, thus leaving our teeth more vulnerable to decay.  Who knew?  I am bummed...

Today is my first rest day in a week.  I know my body needs it but my mind could really use the sweat session.  It's a gray cloudy day and I have a bazillion things to get done (extra dose of duties on the preschool board, managing my small business Sugar Cone, applying for a little teaching job, taking care of my three children ... the list seriously does feel like it is never-ending).  It is one of those days that I know I will be hanging by a thread all day just to keep my head above water.

But I don't want to complain!  I can't stand the sound of my complaining as much as I can't stand the actual stress.  So I have to let the whiny me OUT THE DOOR.  See ya pissy Jess, I don't want to be ya. 

I want to focus on the big picture and all of the goodness that is abounding today.  My three kids and I are safe and healthy in our home full of blessings.  I WILL make this a good day.  It IS in my power to do that.  It just requires a change in perspective and the willingness to let things go.  I have to prioritize and be ok with getting done as much as I can.

Some happy things for me to focus on today:
  • My sister comes home from her vacation today!  I haven't seen her in a week and I cannot wait to HUG her.  I miss my sister and I love her and I'm so thankful we live one block away from one another.  We are running 5 easy miles together tomorrow morning and 20 miles on Saturday.  Lots of good quality time with her in the next couple of days.  Makes my heart happy.
  • My half marathon is in a little over a week and I am feeling super strong and excited about it!  I feel a really awesome PR coming....
  • We have zero commitments today which means I can stay in my comfy sweats all day.  I will get done what I can and this afternoon I plan on snuggling up with my three monkeys and taking a siesta.  "Rest day dressed" today means sweats, no makeup, no frills.  I love that.
me in my rest day sweats. don't i look cozy?

  • The stuff on my list today is all GOOD stuff!  I love being involved in our preschool and what I am doing is helping so so much.  That makes me feel good.  Sugar Cone is keeping me busy because we have lots of orders to fulfill and I ENJOY making the charts, so this is FUN.  The job I'm applying for is already in the bag - I just have to fill out the paperwork - which means I will be teaching more Pilates and helping people strengthen their bodies from the inside out.  How awesome is that?
  • This weekend some of the people I admire most (you know who you are!) are getting ready to run the Hood to Coast relay with nuun!  My heart is bursting with joy and excitement for each of them.  I cannot wait to hear all about their adventure!
Ok, I think I have sufficiently lifted my spirits.  No whining or complaining out of this mama today.   Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

7s

Do you have a number that has meaning to you?  I have a few.  One of the most prominent for me is the number 7.

My name has 7 letters in it.  My two oldest kids' names are 7 letters long.  My husband's birthday is the 7th, my daughter's birthday is the 7th and my older son's birthday is the 27th.  My parents' birthdays are the 7th and the 27th.  My baby's first name starts with the 7th letter in the alphabet.  None of these things were planned (I swear!), but the number 7 just seems to pop up in my life a lot and every time it does it is like a little hug from above.  A reminder that I am not alone and that I can trust in God's plan.  Call me cheesy, but that is just the way it is for me!  In case you are wondering, the other numbers that have important significance to me are 3, 44 and 11.  Whenever I see these numbers I cannot help but smile and feel a sense of peace.

So anyway this morning when I did my track workout of 7 miles all before 7am, I smiled.  Each of my four 1-mile repeats were in the 7s (7:42, 7:27, 7:23 and 7:14).  It was a great way to start my morning!

We're trying to get back into the swing of things around here now that we're back from vacation. It is a funny time, because in less than 2 weeks school will be starting and we'll have a whole new normal to get used to.  I feel like my head is spinning some days, and running helps keep me grounded.  The whole idea of "moving into stillness" really applies to me.

Since Monday I've clocked in 18 miles and tomorrow is my first rest day in a while.  Rest days can sometimes really make me feel CRAZY, but I will try to embrace it tomorrow.  I have 20 miles planned for Saturday (!!) and I want my body to feel ready to tackle that.  Hurricane Irene may have interesting plans for me on Saturday if the weather forecasts are any indication.  I'll do my best to think of it as a cleansing rain and not let my soggy shoes bring me down!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Beach Bliss and Long Run Negative Splits

Last week we were in Bethany Beach, DE with all four of my sisters and their families and my mom for our annual family beach vacation.  There are ten grandchildren ranging in age from 14 years to 6 months.  When we are ALL together, which basically happens once a year, it is complete chaos mixed with lots of love and laughter and always at least one or two episodes of drama.  We survive though, and come away from the trip with wonderful sun-kissed memories and look forward to doing it again the next year.
I'm grateful for my family.
Bethany Beach is the place where all of my very best childhood memories were created.  It is where I spent each and every summer from the time I was a baby until I was in my early twenties.  We had a little townhouse there, about a mile from the ocean.  My mom was a teacher and when school got out she would pile my three sisters and I into the car and drive us there.  We would stay the whole summer until it was time to head back to school.  My love for this place goes deep.  About 12 years ago my parents sold our townhouse so now we go one week a summer all together.  I love sharing this special place with my children and going back there as an adult is a truly wonderful experience for me.

I ran every day on my vacation, logging 42 miles in 6 days.  I got to run alone, with my sister Jodi who is also training for MCM, and with my sister Alissa who is just getting back into her running routine (we ran the Chicago Marathon together in 2004!).  It was awesome.  Every mile was run with a goofy grin on my face, I'm sure.  My heart was just flooded with happy memories and so much gratitude.  For my family and for my life.  There are too many blessings to count.
Me & Lissa...reunited!
The first run I went on was a 14 miler last Saturday.  My coach instructed us to run the first 8 slow and easy and then increase our pace for the last 6 miles - so we would be at marathon pace or faster by the run's end.  It was excellent.  I ran Mile 1 in 9:44 and Mile 14 in 7:45, and I felt like I could just keep going.  My average pace for that run was a 9:02 which is pretty consistent with how I've been running long lately.  The rest of my runs during the week were great, too - alternating easy days with some speed work (Monday was a modified tempo, Wednesday was 6x800s).  All in all, it was an excellent vacation and such a treat to run in a place I love so very much with two of my favorite people on the planet.
Me & Jojo on the Bethany boardwalk  

We got home on Friday night and yesterday I had an 18 mile run with my training group.  I wasn't feeling settled in at home at all and when I woke so early yesterday morning I felt a little out of sorts.  My sister Jodi is out of town for another week at the beach (this time with her husband's family in the Outer Banks, lucky duck!) so I really missed our early morning routine together.  It worked out though and I wound up having another amazing long run.  I ran the first 10 miles with Terri, a woman from the group who I have seen at the track a bunch.  We had great conversation and the miles passed quickly and steadily as a result.  I run a bit faster than Terri and she planned to do 16 miles instead of 18 so after the first 10 miles and we said goodbye and wished each other well.  My next 8 miles were increasingly faster and I finished really strong.  My average pace was a 9:05.  Here are the splits:

Mile 1: 9:59
Mile 2: 9:28
Mile 3: 9:39
Mile 4: 9:25
Mile 5: 9:27
Mile 6: 9:37
Mile 7: 10:03
Mile 8: 9:29
Mile 9: 9:46
Mile 10: 9:37
Mile 11: 8:30
Mile 12: 8:50
Mile 13: 8:43
Mile 14: 8:28
Mile 15: 8:22
Mile 16: 8:14
Mile 17: 8:08
Mile 18: 7:56

This is not how my coach instructed us to do the 18 miles.  She said to do it at one slow steady pace.  I get that, yet I broke the rules anyway and while I'm happy with my splits I'm also starting to think I need to adjust what "slow and steady" means for me these days because I am obviously getting faster and stronger (yay!) and I don't want to mess that up by being stupid about my long runs.  I seem to be making a habit out of the negative split thing with my long runs.  In general, I think this is a really good thing because I'm feeling really GREAT during my run, at the end of my run, and the day after my run. Please tell me what you think, though...I would really love to hear your thoughts about how you determine your long run pace especially as your fitness improves and what you think about negative splits on long runs (sometimes vs. always), etc. 

Thanks and it's good to be back!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

track, rest day dressed and my cute baby

This week in my marathon training we are stepping back, allowing our bodies a bit of a break before we start another few weeks of heavy mileage build-up and more challenging speed work sessions.  I'm trying to embrace the easier schedule, but I have to admit that it's hard for me.  Today is a rest day and while I know my body needs it, my mind is already going stir-crazy and it's only 8:00 in the morning.  I plan to go to my favorite yoga studio this evening, Beloved Yoga in Reston, for a Vinyasa/Ashtanga fusion class I really love.  It's a super-challenging class and always leaves me feeling both rested and invigorated so I think it will be ok to do on a "rest" day.  I can't wait.

Every morning this week from Monday-Wednesday I picked my sister Jodi up at 5:40 to head to the track.  Monday we ran for an hour and finished off the run with 6x100 strides.  Tuesday we just ran for an hour at an easy, conversational pace.  We're doing these little runs on the track because we can just be together and not worry at all about where we're going or if one of us is moving faster than the other.  It's safe, secure and serene...and I love my time with my sister at sunrise each day.  I love watching as the sky changes from total darkness to a beautiful pastel watercolor to a bright clear blue as the morning progresses.  It is such a treat.
pink puffy clouds at sunrise on the local high school track
Wednesday morning is speed work with our coach.  Yesterday we did 5x800.  I warmed up for one mile at an easy pace and then did the following 800s: 3:30, 3:20, 3:14, 3:17, 3:12 with one lap job between each and then another half mile cool down at the end.  My legs were tired at the beginning of each one and I believe I have more in me but was happy that my fifth set was my fastest.  This speed training is so good for my body and for my mind.  I can feel those fast-twitch muscle fibers rallying with each workout.

....and now what you've all been waiting for, the second edition of "Rest Day Dressed"

Rest Day Dressed
Today is my rest day but I'm not going to make any special efforts to be fancy with my attire because  I'm taking the kids to a birthday party at the pool so I'll be in my bathing suit most of the day.  Besides, the other day I had a meeting at the preschool so I had to get dressed in normal clothes that day and make myself somewhat presentable.  I felt cute and did not smell so I think it counts and will work for the purposes of my silly blog:

yay me! not smelly!

Guess where the tank tops are from?  Yep, Target.  I love them and they work with everything.  This time I layered two black ones and wore them with my brand new shorts from the sale rack at Anthropologie.  I love them.  They are sooooo crazy comfy and cute.  They have pears all over them.  I think when fall rolls around they will look super cute with tights (maroon, maybe?) and boots.  Maybe they will make another appearance on my blog in a few months.  Anyway my favorite thing about them is that I got them for half of their original price.  I'm also wearing black flats that might be my most comfortable non-running shoes.  They're the softest leather (made by Born) and I wear them all the time.  I've had them for a little over a year and they are still in great shape. 

Oh and my big chunky ring (I heart chunky rings) is also from Anthropologie maybe a year ago.  It's fun...
big chunky ring i love
So, that's that.

The last thing I want to share is that last week my baby boy turned 6 months old!  I cannot believe it.  A week ago I reported that he slept through the night and it was amazing.  Not so amazing though was that as a result I developed a clogged milk duct a few days later.  It hurt A  LOT but thank goodness after a few days I was able to resolve it before it got infected.  Ugh.  Gus decided sleeping through the night is actually not his thing anymore and has resumed waking up every few hours again.  Eventually we will work this out I'm sure.  It doesn't matter to me.  He's cute and I'm a sucker for those cuddles.

the G man is happy to be a 6 month old!

Now it's time for me to get everyone ready for the day ahead.  It's going to be jam-packed with pool-partying, diaper-changing, baby-giggling, sibling fight break-upping, house chore juggling fun.  Oh and packing - we are leaving for a week away at the beach tomorrow and I haven't started packing yet.  I have to focus on that.  Anyway, I think it's funny that my "rest days" involve very little rest...

Happy Thursday, everyone!
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beauty in the Breakdown

Fall apart.  Let go.  Break down.

I love how running is the perfect metaphor for life.

Whether on an emotional or a physical level, breaking down is a natural part of life and is a necessary, essential step in getting stronger.

In running: Work hard, train hard, push your body to its limits and beyond in that speed workout or long run.  Give it everything you've got.  Your muscle fibers break down and then they rebuild even stronger.  The pain and discomfort are necessary.  You won't get stronger unless you push those limits and let things break down.  On race day you will taste the sweet fruits of your labor and cross that finish line feeling proud, grateful and alive.

In life: Face the hard parts of life head on.  Allow yourself to feel the hurt when you suffer a loss, a tragedy or a disappointment.  Don't hide from it.  Feel it.  It hurts but you must endure.  You will learn from it and your heart will respond by making you stronger.  Making you appreciate life more, assuring you that you are not alone.  We have to let ourselves fall apart and find the strength to pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together again.

Running and life show us what we are made of when we let ourselves break down.  We dig deep for that inner strength and rise up with more than ever if we allow ourselves to just let go.  We have to believe there is beauty to be found in the break down.

I think running is a metaphor for life in lots of other ways too ... what about you?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Long Run Reflections

18 Miles.

Well, 18.26 miles actually.  I did it.  My longest run since having my baby 6 months ago and for sure the strongest long run of my life.  Ever.  I have never felt better on a long run and my spirits are still soaring from the experience.  I accomplished what I set out to do - a negative split, running the first half almost a minute per mile slower than the second half.  I want to train my legs, my body and my mind to be able to push and accelerate when things get rough.  It was perfect.  Looking at my splits reveals what I consider to be smart, strong training:

Mile 1: 9:24
Mile 2: 9:27
Mile 3: 9:38
Mile 4: 9:12
Mile 5: 9:20
Mile 6: 9:18
Mile 7: 9:26
Mile 8: 9:14
Mile 9: 9:32
Mile 10: 8:53
Mile 11: 8:42
Mile 12: 8:57
Mile 13: 8:49
Mile 14: 8:51
Mile 15: 8:45
Mile 16: 8:29
Mile 17: 8:33
Mile 18: 8:11

I ran for 2:45:02 and my average pace was 9:02/mile.  This run was also about practicing my nutrition and hydration.  My stomach is finicky and it has taken me a L O N G time to figure out the best fuel strategy before, during and after my long runs.  I eat a mostly vegan diet (occasionally I have fresh fish in the summer and occasionally I eat dairy but I always pay for that) so getting protein can be a struggle for me.  My meal the night before has to be plain and simple - Friday night it was pasta with a bit of fresh veggies and not too much of it.  I ate a banana in the morning about an hour before my run.  During my run I ate every 3 miles - at miles 3, 9 and 15 I ate one Power Gel Blast (raspberry flavor, yum).  At miles 6 and 12 I ate an Accel Gel (vanilla and chocolate respectively).  I drank water the whole time, keeping my hand held water bottle full, and also at mile 10 I had some sips of orange Gatorade at a water stop.  Stomach issues = ZERO.  Success!

When I finished this run, I felt like a million bucks and as though I could keep going.  I had a serious runner's high and just felt so happy that I was able to push like that while still having quite a lot of energy in my tank.  There are so many factors that can make or break a long run and yesterday everything went perfectly even with crazy heat and humidity.  I will NOT forget this run.  When I'm running my marathon in a little over two months from now, I will dig back to this 18 miler for encouragement.  For a reminder to believe in myself.

Three months ago I was struggling ... my lower back went out, my hips were "wonky," my pelvic floor was weak.  Every single run left me feeling exhausted and sore.  My body was not doing what I wanted it to do and it was so frustrating because I was working so hard, trying to do all the right things to get stronger.  Yesterday I ran more than 18 STRONG miles and today I did another 4 to recover (at a 10:30 pace).  I am not hobbling around.  I am not achy or sore.  My heart is filled with gratitude and I believe I am stronger now than I have ever been in all of my life.

This week I hit a new mileage high of 42 miles.  It is a steady climb.  One foot in front of the other, I am on my way ....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rest Day Dressed, SLEEP and Butterflies

My three things for Thursday:

Rest Day Dressed ~ It's looking like Thursday is my official Rest Day this training cycle, which also means that it is the only day of the week that I'm not donning sweaty running clothes or yoga pants all day.  I love clothes, accessories, jewelry, shoes (the running and non-running variety) - but let's face it on days that I run or workout I am living in clothes that I wear to do just that - SWEAT.  And mostly on those days I go all day before showering and then just change right into my jammies.  Let's just say that despite feeling awesome on those days, I don't usually look my best...
me most days, in my running clothes - smelly and sweaty
So come rest day, I embrace the opportunity to "put myself together" a little.   And I do mean just a little.  I follow some blogs that feature the sharing of non-running outfits and thought that I would share my own little ensemble just for kicks.   So here is me today - ready for a day full of carpooling to/from camp, taking my baby to the pediatrician for his 6 month check up (!), shuttling off to swim lessons and running errands to get supplies for my little business, Sugar Cone...The picture is blurry and at a horrible angle because my photographer is my 6 year old daughter.  I tried taking a full-body photo of myself and it was way worse than this, so until I can figure that one out Abby is my official picture-taker.

blurry me all dressed up


What I'm wearing: A Banana Republic skirt I have had for 3 years, two white "long & lean" ribbed tank tops from Target (I have a gazillion of these and pssssst they are currently on sale for $5 each!), my TOMS shoes which I love and a beaded necklace from Anthropologie (my favorite store on the planet).

Here is a better picture of the necklace.  Ooh you can also see that I am actually wearing a little blush, lip gloss and mascara... SO fancy!
ooo fancy lady
Now, you are probably thinking that I am a total weirdo for doing this.  I agree with you.  But, for some reason it makes me happy to see myself like this - and every Thursday for the past few weeks I have gotten comments from people I interact with (camp counselors, friends, my husband, even my kids) about how "dressed up" I am when I am not in my running clothes.  It is a cheap thrill.  So from now on I plan to post me "Rest Day Dressed" if not for your entertainment, then for mine.

Onto thing number 2, which is much more exciting to me:

SLEEP ~ My baby turned 6 months old this week.  He has never not ever slept through the night, until last night.  Add on the last few months of my pregnancy when I just wasn't so comfy and we are talking a good 9 months of yours truly not getting a full night of shut-eye.  Last night Baby Gus slept for 12 hours.  12!!!!!  I put him to bed at 7pm and he woke up at 7am.  People let me tell you I feel like a different person today.  Sleep is magical and I would really like to make this a regular thing.

And finally, here is my third "thing" worth mentioning...

Butterflies ~ I don't mean the pretty kind with wings that flit around the garden, I mean the kind that live in my tummy.   I'm feeling them a lot lately.  They tickle me from inside and bring a huge smile on my face but also make me feel a little weird.  Why?  Because every time I think about the upcoming races on my calendar and how I am going to run my heart out at each of them, I am an emotional girl.  I'm so so excited and also - I'm scared.  In my heart I know there is nothing to be afraid of, really, and that I need to respect and embrace every feeling I have about this.  I'm pouring myself into my running right now in a way that I never have before and I'm just so aware of how much it means to me.  I need to work through these feelings and remind myself every day of why I run, and that it is so not about any time on the clock.  It is about being the best me that I can be, feeding my soul and feeling alive.  These butterflies are a good thing....

Do you ever get "butterflies in your tummy" when you think about your upcoming races?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

VA Beach Rock n Roll Half: Redemption

The VA Beach Rock n Roll half marathon was my very first half two years ago. I love the distance - it may be my favorite race distance of all.  I was training for MCM at the time (imagine that!) and that race fit perfectly into my training plan.  The race is always on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, when we are usually visiting my in-laws who live just blocks away from the race start and finish.  Other than the heat and humidity, it is a great race.

Two years ago my goal was to finish in 2 hours or less. I ran a strong, confident race but I literally fell down - splat flat nearly, face-planted - at mile 10.  I'm sure it was a graceful fall (kidding).  Thankfully I wasn't seriously hurt (just scrapes on my hands and knees) and after picking myself up off the ground and checking out my cuts and deciding I was fine, I forged ahead.  I crossed that finish line that day in 2:00:32, missing my goal by less than a minute.  I was happy with my performance knowing that if I weren't such a KLUTZ I would have definitely accomplished my time goal (several months later I set a half marathon PR of 1:55:47).
me and Abby after the 2009 VA Beach Rock n' Roll Half
This year I'm running the race again - it is time for R E D E M P T I O N!  I plan to set not only a course PR but also believe I can set a new half marathon PR.  I know I can do it.  Once again I'm training for MCM and this race fits in great with my training plan.  Lately I find that I'm really focused on this half marathon, almost looking to it more than the full marathon which comes two months later.  This morning I did my first timed mile at the track in 6:39.  That time along with my recent 5Ks and other fitness indicators all predict a huge PR for me in both the half and full marathons.

I want it.

McMillan says I should be able to do the half in 1:46:29.  If I can do this, I think I will feel SO. VERY. READY to kick the marathon in the boo-tay with a 3:45.  This makes me incredibly excited and also gives me the jitters, but mostly it makes me excited.

What do you think about McMillan?  Have you found the paces and race time predictions to be pretty good indicators or guides for you when setting your goals and determining what paces you should do your runs at?  Please share!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

listening

I went for a peaceful 7 mile run this morning while my big kids were at camp. With sweet Baby Gus nestled in the stroller, I ran along to a wonderful soundtrack: the sounds of my baby snoring, beautiful birds chirping, my body working hard - footsteps tapping, air moving in and out of my lungs.  It got me thinking about the sheer act of listening and paying attention to what is going on around and inside of me.  About what it means to be aware and present in the moment, for myself and for others.


I want to be a good listener.

To listen to my heart:  There is always a voice within me that speaks from deep within.  Whether you call it gut feelings, God, or what have you, it is there and it needs to be heard.  Negative thoughts and self-doubt can creep in and make it harder to hear this voice sometimes. But if I let go of all of that, at the core of me there are some really good things happening inside.  My heart tells me to believe in myself and God is always there assuring me that I am not alone.

To listen to my body:  Especially when it comes to running - to staying injury free and stretching my limits, going to my edges and becoming a stronger person and a stronger/faster runner - I need to listen to my body.  Sometimes it tells me to hold back, that I am doing too much.  I listen and tone down the intensity or mileage, roll things out and do more yoga and strength training.  Other times it tells me I better believe in myself because I have it in me to do great things with this body of mine and I need to push myself and let things happen.

To listen to my children:  Although I try, I'm not sure I always do the best job listening to my children.  True, sometimes they completely confuse me and I think they are crazy (keeping up with their food preferences and aversions in particular is HARD for me ... it seems one day they are an avid fan of a food and then the next day they hate it, but they SWEAR I just have it all wrong), and I think mostly they all over the place but I also believe I need to take some of the responsibility for "getting it wrong" sometimes.  I want to get in the habit of being a good listener for my children, so that as they grow and mature as people they will know - without a shred of a doubt - that I am here for them and that I am paying attention.  I love them so much and it is important to me that they they feel they will be HEARD when they are talking to me.

To listen to others:  I want to be a good friend, a good sister, a good wife and a good teacher.  Part of this means listening, really listening, to the people I love and who I interact with.  Whether it is a student in my Pilates class, a running buddy, one of my close friends or sisters or my husband I want to be present and to be listening.  Sometimes I think I am too quick to talk when someone just needs to be heard.  Sometimes just listening is all a loved one needs to feel better.  I want to be more aware of that and attuned to what the ones I love need from me.

I WANT TO LISTEN.

Are you listening?  What are you hearing?

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Reflections

Wow ... July was quite a month.  I cannot believe how fast time is flying by these days.  My baby boy will be 6 months old tomorrow!!  How is that possible?
me and G going to the beach
During the month of July I hit some major milestones with my running.  My weekly mileage increased from 35 miles a week to 40 miles a week.  I ran my longest run since having my baby - 16.25 miles - in extreme heat and humidity, and felt strong.  I remained injury free (no back, pelvis or hip issues, etc - YAY).  This is all really awesome news for me and for my running.

This weekend we headed to Virginia Beach to visit my in-laws.  Virginia Beach is one of my very favorite places to run.  I love running along the ocean and through the state park.  With the dangerous heat I wanted to get out there early, by 5:30AM, and do as much of my run in the shady park as possible.  That was my plan until I woke up an hour later than I intended.  Wooops.  I didn't get out there until 6:30AM.  I was determined to not let it ruin my run though.  If I let it get under my skin I knew I would go out there with a grumpy attitude and just could not let that spoil my run.  Instead I put a smile on my face and told myself to LET IT GO and just roll with it.  Be smart and safe.  I decided to run along the boardwalk even though I knew it would get sunny.  Apparently, the park though shaded was filled with awful deer flies (not my idea of good company on a long run!) and still, thick air.  I opted for the sunnier boardwalk because there were tons of water fountains and lots of people and the air was moving with the ocean breeze.  It just felt safer and smarter. 

I want to be doing my long runs somewhere between a 9:07 - 10:07 pace.  This run though super hot and steamy, was pretty much done right where I wanted it be:

Total Mileage: 16.25
Total Time: 2:34:39

Average Pace: 9:30

Mile 1: 9:33
Mile 2: 9:21
Mile 3: 9:00
Mile 4: 8:47
Mile 5: 9:18
Mile 6: 9:34
Mile 7: 9:42
Mile 8: 9:10
Mile 9: 9:01

Mile 10: 9:28
Mile 11: 9:37
Mile 12: 9:42
Mile 13: 9:31
Mile 14: 10:54 (forgot to stop watch when I filled my water this time)
Mile 15: 9:52
Mile 16: 9:38
Last .25: 9:31


When I look at these splits I am overall happy with them, except that I feel like they are ranging too widely...some miles were way too fast at or under a 9:00 pace and others were much closer to a 10:00 pace.  I want to be a little more even overall and then be able to pick up my pace at the end and have those last miles be my faster ones.  I know I am capable of this, I just need to focus and execute that.  This coming weekend I have an 18 miler (!!) and my plan is to be even and steady the whole way, picking it up a bit at the end.

I am thankful for a wonderful July.  The month was full of ups and downs for me, but mostly ups.  My mileage is up, my spirits are up, and I am thankful and happy.  I'm enjoying summer with my family so so much.  My kids are swimming with joy and confidence (I am SO proud of them - it has taken a lot of courage and hard work on their part).  They are loving their nature camps.  They are healthy and happy.
me and my monkeys at the pool
My husband designed and built an awesome tree house in our backyard.  It is really incredible.  I am so thankful for the man I married - he is such a devoted father and that means more to me than I will ever be able to describe.  My heart may burst.
awesomest tree house ever
Here's to an amazing August ahead  ...  Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit!! ...  filled with more summer memories and lots of things to be grateful for.  LIFE. IS. SO. GOOD.

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