Thursday, September 29, 2011

dividing the time

Sometimes I feel like I have to divide myself up into little pieces for each of the people that I love.  A piece for Abby, for Will, for Gus and for Robert.  I don't want to give them just a part of me, though - I want to be able to offer my whole self to each of them individually and to also be fully present when we are together as a family.  I can get overwhelmed by this and frequently (on a daily basis, basically) I do.  We have a busy life and so many balls are in the air.  Running really helps me press an internal reset button - to clear my head and quiet my thoughts.  It puts all my "pieces" back together and allows me to focus on what is most important, to let go and simplify things.

At this moment in my life running is my medicine, my healing, my prayer, my lifeline.

Today was my rest day and while I know my muscles needed it, my mental and emotional state really could have used a good sweat.  I felt off-kilter and emotionally weird all day long.  I needed a run.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's run - my plan is to push the boys in the double stroller during the baby's morning nap.  I checked the weather and it will be a beautiful morning for a run.  I talked to Will about it and told him I want to try for 8 miles (another double stroller distance PR).  He said "Good for you, Mommy!" and made me feel proud.  He also told me he is excited to look for more grasshoppers and maybe a bunny or a turtle on our run.  I will get my "special time" with Will tomorrow, that's for sure.  In the afternoon I'm volunteering in Abby's art class without either of her brothers (Will will be at school and Gus will be with my sister).  I'm so thankful to be able to devote an hour of JUST ME to something for Abby tomorrow.  She is adorably excited and enthusiastic about the whole thing and to be honest, I can't wait and have been looking forward to it all week.  I called a sitter today and am looking to plan some date nights with Robert.  We need that so much.  Sometimes I think it's easy as parents for us to just get so caught up in taking care of our little people and giving them what they need that we forget to pay attention to ourselves and to one another.  Getting out of our routine and doing something - anything! - just the two of us is important beyond measure.

I know I talk a lot about the importance of making time for yourself, making the time to run, but it is also important to make the time for real, quality moments with your loved ones in the midst of the chaos of life.  Running helps me feel whole and restored so that I have the energy and focus to dedicate myself to my family and to other things that are important to me.  What about you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet: A Winner!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered my Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet giveaway.  I really hope that you will get one for yourself or a loved one - they are really wonderful!!

The lucky winner is: Amy B!  Amy, congratulations!  I will send you an email so you can get your bracelet.

Thanks again and have a great day, everyone!

a lesson

Last night I went to my second Bikram class.  When I took the class last week for the first time, I focused on making sure I was attempting the postures correctly and strived to stay in the class for all 90 minutes.  I left the class feeling good and strong - restored and relaxed both mentally and physically.  I think I operated mostly on the surface level of things last week though because yesterday was a very different experience for me.

Bikram is intense.  The way I felt when I was in there last night scared me yet comforted me at the same time.  The teacher guided - really instructed - us to stretch ourselves physically beyond our natural comfort zone ("bone to skin").  I listened and I went to my edges.  This in turn had me stretching my heart and my soul into corners of my self that I do not visit very often.  Areas emotionally and spiritually that are filled with cobwebs and heartache.  To be in that room in 108 degrees of sweltering heat, eyes wide open, muscles flexing, bones twisting - I was stretching and pushing and finally - letting go.  Exhaling.  Healing.  Tears mixing with sweat.  Getting rid of toxins on every level.  I felt so vulnerable at times, so scared.  What if it hurts?  What if I fall?

It is good to hurt because I will heal.  It is good to fall because I will get back up.
The teacher tells me to look in the mirror - to look myself straight in the eyes and to concentrate.  I do this every day, but this is different.  I am looking inward through the reflection in my eyes.  This is not comfortable for me.  I focus and I wobble and I balance.  That is me, my body.  Those are my tears.  I am a fighter.  I push myself to my limits frequently.  I am not good at letting go.  This is where I am presently, learning to let go.

I am a "Type A" personality, dubbed affectionately by my loved ones as "control freak."  I am a list maker, a schedule enforcer, a creature of habit and patterns.  I love the plans and schedules involved in training for a race.  The strategy required for a marathon excites me.  I'm not so good at letting go.  I recognize this and want to be better at it.

This morning I went to the track at 5:30 to do some speed work in the dark.  I was wearing my head lamp but did not look at my watch to check my pace.  I pushed myself on the straight-aways and rounded the corners at a relaxed pace for 5 miles.  Lap after lap after lap, I fell into a rhythm.  I found myself thinking a lot about balance: between pushing myself and letting go, between giving and taking.  What I realized is that there will be no healing, no growth, without balance.  I can push all I want but I will not get anywhere unless I learn to let go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

running and parenting

There is so much swirling through my head these days.  Most of which seems to be focused on parenting and running.  Two seemingly unrelated topics, yet in my life they are not unrelated at all.  Running and parenting go hand-in-hand for me.  I truly believe running makes me a better mother.  There are nights that I wonder if I would be an alcoholic if it were not for my marathon training.  I'm sort of joking about that statement, but not really.  My point is that between the hours of about 4:30-7:30 PM I am living inside a loony bin and it is hard for me to stay positive and clear-headed during those crazy hours.

The baby is tired and hungry - he can't express what he is feeling so he whines, cries and shrieks at times.  He can't decide if he is content or not, I have to entertain him and keep him busy so that I can get things done.  Baby toys just don't always cut it for this little guy.  I can entertain him with the tupperware cabinet and a wooden spoon for a few minutes while I try to get everyone's dinner made.  Then I might hold him on one hip while getting craft supplies out for Will so he can keep busy, too.  Will is almost 5 and when dinner time rolls around he becomes a 2 year old.  Hanging onto my leg while I cook, wanting to sit in my lap while he eats.  Abby is 6.  She is a smart, creative and busy child and is old enough now to wait for things - she does her best to be patient, but she is not quiet.  My house is a zoo, an insane asylum!!, during the "witching hour."  Sometimes I think I would love a glass of wine to help calm me down, help me get through these hours easier and with a more relaxed outlook.  But the truth is, I know it would take more than one glass of wine.  And it would fix nothing, and actually in the end make me feel worse.  I decide against it because I have to be up at 5:30AM the next morning to get my run in before Robert goes to work and I don't want to be hungover or have a fitful sleep. 

Yesterday morning I took my two boys out for a run.  I've been trying to take them a couple mornings a week after we drop Abby off at school.  The trail is a few steps from her school so we go right from there, which is nice.  Baby Gus falls asleep for his morning nap and Will and I enjoy one another's company.  Everybody wins.  The baby gets his nap, I get my exercise, Will and I have time together chatting and exploring nature on the trail.  These runs are quickly becoming some of my favorite runs of all.
Will found a grasshopper, "Hoppy"
I thought I would run 5 easy-paced miles yesterday, but once I got going it turned into a 7 mile run.  There were some very hilly patches along the trail and I was running into the wind on the way home, but every mile felt good.  I was enjoying myself so much.  It was a run of double stroller PRs for me: the longest I had ever gone and the fastest mile I have ever run while pushing two of my kids.  As I ran I thought a lot about my good friend Dorothy, also a mom of three and an amazing and incredibly inspiring runner (more than that though, she is a wonderful friend and I am truly blessed to have her in my life).  Dorothy has talked a lot on her blog about how "we don't HAVE to run, we GET to run."   She has tested her limits and accomplished things with her running and her life that she only dreamed possible.  She is inspiring me to do the same with my running and my life {thank you, Dorothy}.

Yesterday at the end of my longest ever double stroller run, I wanted to see how fast I could run a mile while pushing my two boys.  When I finished the run and saw the time on my watch read 7:49, I was so happy.  So proud.

Mile 1    9:29
Mile 2    9:02
Mile 3    8:32
Mile 4    8:56
Mile 5    9:34
Mile 6    8:52
Mile 7    7:49

Being a mom of three is hard.  Running is hard.  But the joy, the beauty, the blessings and the BLISS that come from being a mom and being a runner are worth every ounce of pain, every tear, every bit of work that they require.  To say that I am grateful to be a mother is an understatement.  To say I'm thankful to feel so passionate about something as good for me as running is, and that it is an activity I can make the time to do almost every day, is also an understatement.

I am so thankful to be a mother.  I am so thankful to be a mother who GETS to run.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

...and training resumes...

This morning I headed out for a 16 mile long run, the first attempt at anything in the double-digits since my marathon two weeks ago.  The weather wasn't bad for a morning run: drizzly, cloudy and not terribly hot or humid.  I had company for the run - my new friend Terri who is also training for MCM with the =PR= training group.  Our group is meeting on Saturdays for long runs but with my kids' sport schedules (Abby has soccer and Will has tee ball) I have to move my long runs to Sundays from here on out.  This week Terri needed to fit her miles in on Sunday too, so we were both happy to have company.  Terri is a mom of three like me and she is also preparing for two fall marathons (MCM and NYC).  We have only run together a couple of times and are still getting to know one another so our conversation really made the miles tick by.  I am truly grateful to have someone to share this journey with.

I felt good going into this run.  We averaged a 9:42 pace and ran an even split the whole way.  I wanted to execute the run this way since it was my first time "going long" in a while and I haven't been running much these past two weeks while I've been recovering.  My legs felt tight and a little heavy towards the end of the run, but I'm hoping this is just part of the recovery process.  My long runs prior to LVM were averaging about a 9:00 mile consistently but with negative splits (some of them I was finishing the last miles around and an 8:00 pace or even faster).  I didn't even try to do this today - today's run was about the long slow distance and reminding my body what training feels like, because I am getting back into the swing of things for a couple of weeks before it's taper time.  I also used this run to work on my long run nutrition and I'm happy to say that I had zero issues today.  I am so determined to not let my stomach ruin my race day like it did at LVM.

This week I plan to run about 40-45 miles (my long run will be 22 of those miles) and will be doing some speed work also.  I haven't done speed work in 3 weeks and am really looking forward to mixing up the pace and letting my legs move faster again.  It is funny how just a few weeks of recovery time can leave me wondering what I'm capable of again.  I feel like I need a confidence-boosting long run and some solid shorter runs/speed work sessions under my belt before I taper for MCM.  I want to feel GOOD and STRONG going into MCM. 

So, that is the goal right now.  Get back into a groove.  Have some workouts that remind me what I'm made of and what I'm capable of.  I want to get to that start line feeling confident and ready to give it all I've got.  Ready to set another PR in the Marathon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

take away: imbalance, strength & flexibility

The Lehigh Valley Marathon (LVM) was two weeks ago tomorrow.  I can't believe it has been only two weeks.  Honestly, it feels like ages ago.  Taking time off from my training and slowing down in order to recover has made my whole life feel like it is going in slow motion in many ways.  I know it was the right decision (without a doubt, no question) because now I am strong and ready to get back into the swing of things without any injuries.  This has been another case of "it wasn't easy, but it was worth it." I find it amazing how many ways that concept translates into life and running...

That race was such a learning experience for me.  I fought so hard to get through my stomach issues and then my legs cramping as a result of having to slow down so much.  I fought to stay positive and to focus on the fact that I was setting a huge PR though the race did not go at all as I had planned.  It was so NOT easy.  And it was so worth it.  No regrets.  I know I would have regrets about this race if I didn't do the right things to recover though, plain and simple.

me at the finish line, still fighting: so ready to be done
I spent the last two weeks on a roller coaster of sorts - lots of ups and lots of downs.  If it weren't for my twice-weekly strength training routines at the gym (think lunges, squats, planks, upper body and core work), yoga, Pilates (teaching it and doing it) walking and light runs I don't know how I would have gotten through it all.  I mean that on a physical level but also on emotional and mental levels, too.  I've learned a lot from this recovery period -- the benefits of taking time off from hard training go beyond just resting the muscles.

One of the things that I'm taking away from this is that slowing down helped me identify areas of imbalance in my body.  Namely, my glutes are weak and I need to give them a little extra TLC to get those puppies stronger.  The  LVM was a sickeningly hilly course and my glutes were firing in overdrive that day.  My glutes/hips felt so tight so I was using the foam roller and a racquet ball to get deep within the muscles to loosen them up.  I did it so much that I actually irritated the topmost layer of the muscles (no visible bruising, but tender to the touch!  It's ok, you can laugh at me - I don't mind.  I have been laughing at myself over that for the past day and a half!  Anyway, it's been good to have this time to focus on my strength and flexibility because I truly believe that it is essential in helping me feel GOOD in my body (whether running or not!) and of course I also believe it helps me be a stronger runner. 

So - now that I will be resuming my normal training regime I will be incorporating more strength/flexibility exercises into my routine.  Prior to the race I was doing strength training 2x a week and Pilates almost every day.  Now I am going to add specific glute-strengthening exercises and yoga to my repertoire.  I know I won't regret it.  In talking with Dr. Wong yesterday he suggested I do my core work and squats/lunges BEFORE my runs every day.  That way the muscles aren't wiped out from running when I go to do the exercises.  I think it should be fairly simple - it really doesn't take much time at all and I will already be dressed and ready for exercise.  As with everything else, it's just a matter of MAKING THE TIME for myself to do it and not giving myself any excuses not to.  The benefits of doing this so greatly outweigh the inconvenience of making the time to do it.

So, tell me .... what do you do to work on strength and flexibility and how do you fit it into your routine?  Have you identified specific areas of weakness or imbalance in your body?  What are you doing to fix that?

** Don't forget to enter my Endorphin Warrior training bracelet giveaway!  Contest ends Tuesday 9/27 at midnight.  Click HERE to enter! **

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bikram and 5 Miles

I love yoga.  Absolutely and completely love it.  I believe it restores me mentally, physically, emotionally.  It strengthens and stretches both my muscles and my confidence.  If I could figure out how to fit it in, I would practice yoga each and every day of my life.  Some day I believe I will be able to master that, but for now it is just something I manage to do every now and then maybe a couple of times a week at most.

Last night I tried my first Bikram yoga class.  I went to a wonderful studio close to home and met a good friend there.  The class was at 6pm so I rushed there as soon as Robert walked in the door. When I got to the studio the teacher explained that my goal for the class would be to stay in the room for all 90 minutes of the class.  Not to worry too much if I got light-headed or dizzy or if a posture was too much for me to handle - I could take a break and rest on my mat or leave the room if need be.  I went into it with an open mind and did my best to keep up.  The room was hot like a sauna (about 110 degrees).  The flow was intense.  The postures were challenging, some way more than others.  I lasted all 90 minutes and loved each and every minute of it.  The amount of sweat that soaked my skin was insanely wonderful and cleansing.  At the end of the class I felt completely relaxed yet also energized.  I felt totally spent yet somehow restored.  Cleansed from the inside out.  My super-tight post marathon muscles felt stretchy and loose.  It was purely excellent and I will be going back there again.

This morning I went for an easy paced 5 mile run on the track.  I met my training buddies there at 5:30AM.  They had speed work to do but I am not ready for that just yet so I warmed up with them and then while they did their workout I ran slow easy miles.  My, have I missed running around in circles before sunrise!  It was such a great way to start my day.  My legs felt heavy and tight but there was no pain.  When I got home I spent a few minutes on the foam roller and then had to begin the morning routine (breakfast for everyone, pack lunches, get ready for school, make beds...). 

I feel good about how things went today on the track and am looking forward to this weekend's long run.  My hope is that things will start to loosen and lighten up in my legs.  I'm so happy there is no pain (a huge relief!) but am looking forward to feeling like myself out on the track and trails again.  I just keep reminding myself that recovery takes time and as long as I am doing the right things and listening to my body I will be where I want to be soon.  Patience, patience, patience. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

paying attention pays off

It pays to listen to your body and rest when it is telling you to rest.  When I became a certified RRCA running coach we talked a bit about running injuries and injury prevention.  It will probably come as no surprise to you guys that over 90% of all running injuries are from overuse or pushing through pain we should not be ignoring. This means that nearly all running injuries are preventable if we pay attention and ease off when that is what our bodies are telling us to do.

As a Pilates teacher, I am always telling my students to bring awareness to their bodies.  To pay attention to how they are carrying themselves, which muscles they are using and tensing, how it feels to be in their bodies and to move.

As a runner, I make it my mission to carry this same self awareness with me when I am in motion.  How is my posture?  Are my shoulders tense?  Am I engaging my core?  Does anything feel wonky or tight?  How is my breathing?  I mentally scan my body to make sure all is in check and feeling good.  If something feels a little tweaky I make adjustments.  This is just the status-quo for me.

I waited 5 days to run after my marathon.  I ran 11 miles on Friday - they were very slow (a 10:30 pace on average) and peaceful.  My muscles were tight but not sore.  For 5 of those miles I pushed my boys in the double stroller and they kept me company along the way.  It was a recovery run and I felt good at the time.
best running buddies
 But later that night my left hamstring and adductors were not feeling right.  I was almost worried they could be strained.  I also noticed that my glutes on my left side were super tight.  Not painful, but wow - very tight.  So what did I do?  Ice.  Lots of it.  I also spent some time on my foam roller.

And I sat on a ball.  A little squishy but sort of hard green racquet ball.  I am telling you, this thing is the perfect tool for really getting into those glute muscles and the piriformis.  My guess was that the tightness up in my butt was causing the pain down in my hammie and adductors.  Because another thing I know about injuries is that the place you feel the pain is usually the victim, not the cause.  And because I didn't know if my muscles were just overused or actually strained I didn't want to vigorously roll those out in case there could be a tear or something.

I took Saturday as a rest day and then Sunday was *supposed* to be my long run day but I made the decision to go for a nice long walk instead.  I knew I needed to move my body but just wasn't sure if a run was a good idea yet, even at a slow pace.  I went to the gym yesterday morning and did a strength training routine and then yesterday afternoon I went to see the amazing Dr. Wong at United Wellness Center.  He has helped me through so much since having baby Gus - my sprained ligament in my back, my wonky hips, my confidence (I will never forget him telling me "you are not broken") -- all of it.  He is not just a chiropractor, he is a magical muscle worker and he knows athletes.  I have been checking in with him about once a month during my marathon training just to keep things in check.  My appointment for yesterday was already scheduled so it was perfect timing.  He put my mind at ease - there are no muscle tears or strains in my leg!!! - and told me I was doing all the right things.  He also said it is absolutely safe to be running an easy recovery pace right now.  This week I will be running but not pushing my pace or my distance just yet.  This weekend I should be able to do a long run of around 10-15 miles and then next week I should be recovered enough to resume my MCM training plan which involves a couple more speed work sessions, a few more long runs and then taper time...

I can't help but think to myself: What if I pushed through all that pain, and ran hard anyway?  Where would I be today if I had done that?  I know the answer -- I would be injured.  I would be depressed and mad at myself for not listening to my body.  We make choices as runners and we have to live with them.  I chose to run a marathon before my marathon!  I have no regrets.  I learned a lot.  I set a new PR.  But I am still setting my sights on a big PR at MCM at the end of October and if I intend to do that I have to be smart about it.

So, let's all do ourselves a favor and listen to our bodies today and every day.  If you just raced, hooooray!  Bask in the glory of your accomplishment, learn from your experience, rest and recover, go for a walk or take a yoga class to keep yourself active and busy - and THEN you can get back out there and strive for new goals.  If you notice something just isn't right in your body - do something about it.  Ice it, roll it, sit on a ball.  Whatever works for you!  Don't be an eager beaver and do too much too soon because more likely than not, you will pay for it. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

finding courage to rest

I refuse to let my bubble burst.  I refuse to give up.  Right now though, "not giving up" doesn't mean pushing myself to the limits on the track or increasing my mileage on the weekends.  What it means is easing off, having the courage to rest, and giving my body the time it needs to heal and recover from the marathon I ran last weekend.  It means listening to my body and believing in the power of rest and recovery.  Believing that now is the time for repair and healing so that I can come back stronger and ready to race MCM at the end of October.

It is not easy to take this time off, trust me.  It's making me feel emotional, scared and depressed.  I'm facing thoughts of self-doubt left and right.  Mental toughness is my training ground right now and I am knee deep in it, fighting scary negative-thought demons.

After racing my marathon last Sunday I felt really strong on Monday.  Sore in all the right places, happy with my new PR, armed with new ideas about how to perform better in my next race, etc.  I wanted so badly to get right back on board with my MCM training plan as soon as my muscle soreness went away.  But I really don't think I was being realistic about what it really means to fully recover.

I didn't run all week until yesterday morning.  I waited until my muscles didn't feel sore anymore, but they were tight and now today I'm sore again.  My left hamstring in particular really does not feel right.  I'm afraid I'll be on a fast track towards an injury if I push this and I just cannot have that happen to me.  I've worked too hard, been too smart, to have something like this happen to me now.

It's going to take a lot of courage.  A whole lot of faith.  And it may take a lot more time than I want it to.  But it is time for my body heal and recover.  I get that now.  This is a crucial part of my training - I believe that recovery is just as important to improving my running as speed workouts, long runs and hill work are.  I approach those aspects of my training with a lot of enthusiasm and planning.  What I'm realizing now is that I have to be more creative with my recovery time otherwise I will go crazy and fall into a depression.  I figure I have two choices: 1) ignore recovery and risk the very likely incidence of injury or 2) embrace recovery and be creative with it so I don't go crazy: find things I enjoy doing like biking, walking, yoga, pilates...to stay active and fit until I can resume my training again.  I'm going with option 2 here.  Hopefully I can be back to a more normal looking training schedule in just a couple of weeks but I don't think I should put pressure on myself.  I have to listen to and respect my body.  I've been asking a lot of it lately and if I want to feel ready on race day I'm going to have to give my body what it is asking of me.  REST.  It's a two-way street! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

lighten up

Taking care of three kids can be insane.  Especially at the beginning of the school year as we start our new routines with different drop off and pick up times, sports practices and games and other extra-curricular activities like Daisy troop and swim lessons.  Especially when I want to fit in time for **me** doing things that I enjoy and that are important to me outside of my role as a mom (running, teaching Pilates, growing my business).

And the thing is, I know this is only the beginning.  Just two of my kids are in school and on sports teams right now - the baby just goes with the flow and his schedule has to adapt to everybody else's (poor guy).  I don't trouble myself too much with thinking about how crazy it will be five years from now, but I am no fool and I understand that it will be *literally* a three ring circus with me as the ringmaster.  If I think about it too much I get completely overwhelmed not in a good way, so I just try to be in the moment and handle things as they are right now.

Amidst all the chaos though, there is SO much to smile about.  I need to lighten up.  It is up to me to decide how I look at it.  I get a lot done in a day and I'm serious about the schedule around here.  This morning I went to the gym at 6AM, was home by 7AM to get everyone breakfast, pack lunches and get ready for school.  We walked Abby to school around 9AM and then came home to get the baby settled down for his morning nap.  Once he was asleep I whizzed through the house taking care of chores (massive amounts of laundry, making beds, picking up toys all while talking to my sister on the phone about the Christmas gift exchange we're in charge of planning).  While I did this Will worked on a craft project with the leaves he collected on our morning walk to school (he plans to make a turkey out of them, it should be interesting).  I have a list a mile long of all the things I have/need/want to get done each day.  Usually only one or two things get checked off, and sometimes none of them get done at all and the list is longer in the afternoon than it was in the morning...but that's life.
Will with his leaves for his turkey project
I'm taking Will to school at 11:30 and will come home to have lunch with the baby before heading over to my business partner's house to work on some of the many orders we have right now for Sugar Cone.  Then I will come home for the baby's nap and hopefully get some more things done around the house before having to pick Will up from school and then Abby.  It would be nice if I could fit in some time to take a shower at that point because after school we'll have maybe 45 minutes before we have to head to the baseball field for Will's first tee ball practice and then at 7:30 tonight I have a Board meeting for the preschool.  All in a day's work.

When I step back and look at the pile of things that are making me crazy I realize that they are all mostly really important to me.  Sure, the laundry and the dishes and the vacuuming are annoying but I just don't feel good in a messy house so it's important to me to get them done. They fall lowest on the list of priorities but eventually they get done and I feel better for it.

So today this post is about reminding myself to lighten up and to enjoy the craziness of the moment.  To remember that the reason my plate is full is because I have filled it with things I love and I get to take care of the people I love the mostest ... and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Abby, Will and me making weird faces
I hope you have a great day today too.  There may be lots of chores and annoying tasks to tackle, but let's lighten up and we may find our load feels lighter, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

can't do just one

** Don't forget to enter my Endorphin Warrior training bracelet giveaway! **

Last week my running came to an abrupt and seriously major halt as I prepared at the last minute to run a marathon on Sunday after racing my fastest half marathon ever.  It was a crazy and emotional week for me.  I was doing an insanely quick "taper," my daughter started first grade at a new school, two of my kids caught a cold which I later came down with, we had record rain fall that led to school being canceled one day, and I was preparing to run 26.2 miles for the first time in well over a year.  It made me a little nutty!  But, I survived.

This week is filled with even more changes and less running.  My son started preschool yesterday and I am still recovering from my race on Sunday.  Seeing my little guy off to school had me feeling very OFF.  Yes, I was extremely proud of him for being such a big boy.  Yes, I am excited to have 4 hours every afternoon with just one child to take care of.  But I missed my buddy Will yesterday in a big way.  I put the baby in the running stroller after feeding him lunch and thought I would do an easy paced run to work the soreness out of my muscles and the lump that was sitting in my throat (from missing my buddy) out of the way.  After a few small steps though I decided it was too soon to run on these legs.  My quads were really sore from all those hills on Sunday and though it is nothing major I just wanted to give it a little more time.  So I went for a walk instead and it felt good.
he is seriously happy to start school!
I've decided that running a marathon while you're in the middle of marathon training is AWESOME.  I am so happy that I did it and I know I will do it again in the future.  I mean really, I'm working so hard to train for just ONE marathon!?  Yea, NO, that is just not going to cut it for me these days anymore.  The only problem I'm finding is that I'm really itching to run right now but because of last week's reduced mileage in preparation for the race and this week's reduced mileage due to recovery I just can't do it.  I need to respect the soreness and in a few days' time I will be back to my training regime again.  I have 22 miles on tap for this weekend.  I'm not sure how many miles I'll get done between now and then but I do know that I'm not going to push it and will take it easy so that next week I can get back into speed work and higher mileage.

Have you ever run more than one marathon in a season?  Have you used a marathon as a "training run" before?  Sunday's race wasn't part of my original training plan.  I'd love to hear how you prepare for and recover from mid-training marathons if you have ever done this before!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet: Review and Giveaway!

When I'm training and racing and pushing myself beyond my limits it helps me to think of motivating words or phrases that remind me to press on and stay focused.  Sometimes I repeat one word over and over in my head along with the rhythm of my footsteps.  I know that I am not alone in this - it is no secret that mantras are powerful resources for runners.  We pull from deep within ourselves to gather the strength to push through pain as we go farther and faster.

Before races I've been known to write on myself with a black permanent marker, a temporary tattoo of sorts, to remind myself of the strength that lies within me.  My favorite word to use is and always has been BELIEVE.  It is a really great word for me and I always love having it right on my wrist but every time I am running more than a few miles it rubs off before the race is over.  I sweat way too much for it to last.
my one word mantra
So, when I discovered the Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelets, I knew immediately that I had to have one.  There are many things that I loved about the bracelets and the company that makes them right off the bat, before I even had one of my own:

The design: They are simple and if you ask me, running jewelry just has to be simple if you are going to wear it at all.  They are neither masculine nor feminine and would work for anyone.

The materials: The band is made of natural leather - it is sweat proof, water proof and will not get smelly.  The metal tag is made of nickel so it will not rust or tarnish.  These bracelets are built to endure the sweatiest of lives.  They are made to last.

The message: Taken right from the Endorphin Warrior web site, this company is all about "celebrating the magnificence of running, endurance training, working out...and living strong."  I love that.  Could I possibly agree more with a company's mission?

I was so excited to order one as soon as possible.  Assuming right away that I would get a BELIEVE bracelet, I was surprised that when I saw all the other choices available I actually had a hard time deciding.  CONQUER really appeals to me.  So does PERSEVERE.  Oh and wait, what about FOCUS?!  That would be a great one for me, too.  I went with my original choice of BELIEVE, but I think it will be no time at all before I place an order for another.  And I am certain I will be getting these as gifts for friends, too...

My bracelet came just in time for my marathon yesterday.  If you read my story from this race (here), then you know it was a really challenging race for me but that I came out of it with a 25+ minute PR.  My bracelet played a role in getting me across that finish line yesterday and I am really excited to wear it for the tough work outs and races I have ahead of me.  I love it so much.  When the bracelet is on, I hardly feel it there.  It's lightweight and snaps on easily and securely.  I wore it for 4+ hours of majorly sweating and it never once bothered me or came off.  Then I showered in it.  And I slept in it.  It stayed put and looked as good as new through it all.
Awesome. Way better than marker. I love it.

Simple and secure snap closure
I am just thrilled to be hosting a giveaway for one of you to win a Warrior Training Bracelet of your own!  The entry rules are very simple and the winner will receive a bracelet with the word of their choosing in the size that fits them (sizing is really easy - I wrapped a string around my wrist and then measured it with a ruler. Nothing to it!).  If you think you would like one for yourself or for a friend, here is the scoop:

* You must be an official follower of my blog to win *

To enter, all you have to do is go to the Endorphin Warrior web site HERE and leave me a comment telling me which bracelet key word you would choose if you win.  It's as simple as that.

For EXTRA entries, you can do the following [please leave a separate comment for each entry]:

** Follow @EndorphnWarrior on twitter and tweet: I want to win the @EndorphnWarrior bracelet giveaway from @paceofme

** LIKE Endorphin Warrior on Facebook

** Follow Pace of Me on Twitter: @paceofme

The contest ends on 9/27!

a new PR and the power of positive thinking

I have a story to tell.  I'm not sure where to begin.  Do I start with 6 months ago when my baby was 4 weeks old and I ran my first mile postpartum?  Do I retell how I fought so hard to regain my strength and courage to get out there and run, despite my out of whack SI joint, awful hip and back pain, a tail bone that hurt in the middle of the night, my incredibly weak pelvic floor, etc?

It has not been easy, but it has been so worth it.

Since my third baby was born 7 months ago, I have set a new PR in every race I have run except for the first one which I ran when he was 10 weeks old (and I was not out there to race at all - just to cover 10 miles on my 35th birthday).   I am living proof that hard work, determination and belief in oneself makes a difference.  That the only limits to what we can achieve are those we place on ourselves.

Yesterday I ran a marathon and I set a new PR by just over 25 minutes.  I only signed up for it a week ago.  It wasn't on my training schedule to do it but I got the idea that maybe I could run a BQ time for the 2012 race before the deadline.  I was ready and I was sure I could do it.

So, with less than a week to go, the closest race I could find  (the Lehigh Valley Marathon in Allentown, PA) was a 4 hour drive away and registration was closed.  I emailed the race director and tweeted Bart Yasso (who created this race) and was amazed that within a few short hours I had a bib number and was going to be running this marathon.  I was so excited.  I was dreaming big.  Last week can only be described as insane for me.  I ran a race on Sunday (the VA Beach half marathon) and PR'd by more than 13 minutes.  I rested like CRAZY during the week only running a handful of miles.  My daughter started first grade, we had a wild amount of rainfall and then by Friday two of my three kids had a bad cold.  Guess who came down with the cold on Saturday?  Yep, ME.  I did my best not to worry about that though.

Saturday morning my husband Robert (a.k.a, the most amazing man in the world) and I drove the two big kids to my mom's house where they would stay for the weekend.  I filled several bottles with water and nuun and hydrated like it was nobody's business on the 4 hour car ride.  By day's end I drank more than 150 ounces of fluid.  I wanted to do an extra-good job with hydration because of my cold. 

even baby G is a fan of nuun (the bottle, anyway)!

The car ride was lovely and peaceful.  I slept when the baby slept and we made it to the expo before it closed at 5pm.  I was calm and felt incredibly ready for this race, despite a week of major emotional ups and downs.  Self doubt was washed away and I was feeling so grateful and excited.

This was a very small race with just over 900 marathoners.  There was also a marathon relay going on and a half marathon too.  The expo was teeny-tiny but the vibe was great.  This area of PA is so beautiful and picturesque.  The expo took place at the old Bethlehem Steel Stacks which have been converted into a place for the arts.  It was *oh so very cool* in my opinion, that they could take this huge steel mill and turn it into such a wonderful place for the community.  I loved it.

old steel stacks
We didn't stay at the expo too long because we had to get checked into our hotel and get to dinner before it got too late for me and baby Gus to eat.  But I have to tell you this - being away with my amazing husband and my cute baby was such a gift.  I couldn't believe this was all happening.  My husband is so supportive of my running and of me and I am so grateful to him for believing in me and for giving me this amazing experience.  As I type this, I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  I love that man so much.
handsome husband + cute baby = happy me
The hotel we stayed in was excellent, about 10 minutes from the race start.  There was even an Italian restaurant next door so after checking in we walked over there and had dinner.  I ordered a very plain pasta dish with steamed broccoli and spinach.  I tried to keep it as simple as I could and wanted to eat at least 12 hours before race start to avoid stomach issues.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and got the baby settled in for sleep.  This was maybe 7:30PM so for the next 2 hours I got my things together for race morning, we played cards and then got some sleep.  I had a pretty decent sleep despite pressure in my sinuses and a clogged nose due to my cold.  Gus woke up around 3:00AM and I nursed him back to sleep pretty easily.  My alarm woke me up at 4:45 and I began to get ready for the race.  Robert had gotten me a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts the night before and I put it in the fridge of my hotel room so I just microwaved it when I woke up.  All my stuff was all laid out from the night before so I didn't have to worry I was forgetting anything.

everything I need to be ready to race

Robert and Gus got ready too, I nursed the baby and we headed to the race start around 6:15AM.  I was feeling really strong, confident and ready to race - except for one thing.  My stomach didn't feel right.  I waited in line for the porta-potties for a long while and when it was my turn (5 minutes before the start!) I just couldn't seem to make my stomach feel better.  I knew going into this race that I would more than likely have to stop at some point to deal with my stomach.  But it was go time so I headed to the start and tried to put it out of my head.

ready at the start
When I crossed the start line I hit start on my Garmin, but about 3/4 of the way through the first mile I realized it had not started.  I didn't let it bother me and just clicked start at that point and knew my distance and time were going to be off a bit.  My pace was really the most important thing to me anyway so I didn't feel worried or too annoyed.

I was aiming for a sub-3:40.  My plan was to do the first half of the race in 8:35 and the second have in 8:00 miles.  I did the first two miles closer to an 8:00 pace but was right on track by mile 3 and felt incredibly strong and comfortable.  My stomach felt full but wasn't bothering me one bit.  I ate my gel at mile 5 and again at mile 11.  I drank water from my hand held consistently.

This course is SO beautiful!  They had to change the first 5 miles and the last 3 miles because of all the rainfall last week, but it was a gorgeous route.  Much of it was on a lovely tow path with the river on one side and a creek on the left.  Some of it we ran through the woods.  Some of it on paved bike trails.  It was very hilly - mostly rolling hills but a couple of quite massive doozies (especially mile 24).  It was the most beautiful marathon course I have ever run.

I was feeling so strong and steady and then, like a ton of bricks, my stomach could hold out no longer.  I knew I was in trouble and started looking for a spot to "pull over" along the trail so I could take care of my tummy troubles but there was literally no place to stop.  There were woods on my right (between the path and the river) but no openings in them for me to duck into.  I knew I was coming up on the end of mile 17 where there would be an "exchange station" as they called them.  There were 5 of these stations along the route and at each one there were about 4 porta-potties.  In my opinion, as someone who was suffering from stomach troubles, this was not sufficient!  These stations were where the relay runners changed up and they were extremely crowded with spectators and relay runners - many who were planning to use the bathroom.  When I approached this spot I saw Robert for the first (and only) time along the course.  I was so happy to see him but I was in trouble - I was now in "stomach emergency mode" and needed a bathroom NOW.  There was a huge line and I could not wait, so I ran behind the potties to take care of it.  It was awful.  I was so uncomfortable.  My stomach has never been so upset during a race.
approaching the potties, trying to smile
After I was done I felt a lot better and Robert gave me a big hug.  He said "You are doing awesome, babe!  Right on pace.  I'm so proud of you!" and I smiled and told him I was feeling so strong and that up until now I was having zero issues.  I had to go though!  I had a race to finish!!  I zipped back onto the trail and for the next two miles I was cruising along at my planned pace.  But just before Mile 20, it happened again.  And again, there was no place to stop.  I was so frustrated.  It was so bad that if I ran, I was sure I would have a serious accident (and later Robert told me he saw someone who actually did just that - she ran covered in her own excrement - I was not going to do that, sorry!).  So I slowed down and then found myself walking just to calm my stomach down.  From that point on it was a run/walk combo.  I kept scanning the trail to stop, but for the life of me there were no stopping points for someone with my problem.  When I came up on the next exchange at Mile 22.6 the lines for the bathrooms were so ridiculously long that I just did not want to wait there.  I was jogging at that point and figured I knew no matter what that I would PR and that I would finish though would not get a BQ time.

It was hard for me mentally at first.  I was mad that my legs and my heart felt so strong, I felt so fit, yet my stomach was so upset that I could not run this race the way I wanted to.  I ran the first 20 miles on track to finish the race under 3:40 (averaging an 8:23 mile).  The last 6.2 miles took me more than 90 minutes to complete.  BUT I NEVER GAVE UP.  I was determined to not let negative thoughts get the best of me and ruin this day.  I was going to PR!  By a lot!  Despite how awful these last several miles were!!  I began to reflect on how I had gotten to this point, how strong I am and to dream of all the possibilities that lay ahead of me.  Even though I was walking a lot,  I wasn't being defeated.  I was finishing this race faster than I had ever covered 26.2 miles before.  This was something to be proud of.

I was wearing a very special bracelet on my left wrist during this race.  It says one word on it: BELIEVE.  Throughout the race and especially in these final miles I glanced at it for reassurance and for the reminder of all that I am capable of and all the work I have done.  I looked at it and was reminded not only to BELIEVE in myself but also that there are many people in my life who BELIEVE in me.  I was doing this for me.  I was doing this for them.  I was also fighting to finish for anyone out there who ever doubted themselves or their capabilities because I want to show everyone that with BELIEF in oneself, we can accomplish things we would only dream of.  This bracelet is really special to me and I am going to do a post tomorrow all about it - and will be giving one away! - so if you like it please come back tomorrow to enter my giveaway.
enough said.
The last few miles were sheer survival.  I have never been so happy to see a finish line!  I crossed in 4:09:55 which is over 25 minutes faster than my previous PR of 4:35:09.  I am so proud and grateful.

I am also hopeful.  I know with 100% certainty that I'm capable of a much faster marathon and the one that I am training for, Marine Corps Marathon, is just 7 weeks away.  7 weeks!  I have a few more long runs to do and then taper time.  This time I will not be traveling so I can make sure I eat things that I am sure won't upset my stomach.  I have time to figure things out and to get myself completely race ready.  Although I rested a lot last week, it was hardly a taper!!
wearing my hard-earned finishers medal

Today I'm feeling good.  My legs are sore but in all the right places.  My feet feel fine.  I'm not hobbling or struggling in any way and I feel ready to get back into my training plan.  I'm taking a rest day today and will resume my normal training tomorrow.
day after the marathon = happy
So, that is the story of my shiny new marathon PR and the fight I put up to get it!  I truly believe that the stomach issues I was having could have ruined the day for me had I let them, and that my determination to think positive is what got me through those last 6 miles yesterday.  There is no question about it.

How do you deal with race day not going the way you planned?  What are your mental strategies for staying positive?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

changes and feeling grateful

This week has been a doozy for me.  It's been full of changes in our routine.  Changes that I welcome and that I'm happy about, but even still these changes have made me feel a bit out of whack as I try to get used to the new normal.  I know we will get into a groove and I'll feel balanced again, but it has been hard for me these last few days.  With our new school schedule, the later sunrise, tee ball and soccer practices/games for two kids and the baby falling into more predictable nap times, I'm having to switch everything up around here. 

No more early morning runs on the track - they have to be done on the treadmill now.  No more Saturday long runs with my training group - I will have to get them done on Sundays.  No more weight training in the middle of the morning - now I have to get to the gym by 6AM twice a week to fit them in. 

I have to adapt and fit things in when I can so everyone can get where they need to be when they need to be there.  I have to MAKE the time for myself.  It is not an option for me to let my personal priorities slip through the cracks.  Period.  That doesn't mean it's easy, though.

Despite feeling the stress of the balancing act, there have been a lot of wonderful highs this week.  I have a grateful heart and here are just a few of the reasons for that...

I am proud of my daughter.  Abby started at a new (big!) school on Tuesday and is having zero adjustment issues.  Yesterday she informed me that she feels like she's been there "for ten years" and that she "fits right in."  Seeing her confidence and knowing that not an ounce of it is feigned makes me happier than I can describe.  I am so proud of her because of who she is.  I'm so thankful that she articulates her thoughts and feelings so freely to me and her father.  This is going to be a great school year for my sweet Abby!
first day of first grade
Baby Gus is 7 months old: He is one busy guy - crawling, sitting up, eating solids three times a day, laughing, chatting, exploring and snuggling.  He brings me so much joy.  I seriously cannot believe how quickly the last 7 months have flown by.
yay for 7 months!
Good race photos: I got the pics from my race on Sunday.  Brightroom was charging a gazillion dollars for them, but a friend was able to get them for me with her fancy computer know-how so I have them free of charge.  I am so happy!  And grateful!  I usually hate my race photos, but I am really happy with these puppies:
post race happy

pushing to the finish

crossing the line with a new PR!

All week I have been thinking about that race.  I'm so thankful that I ran smart, steady and strong.

I can't wait for my marathon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Race Report: VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon

This weekend I raced the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon.  Overall it really was a great race for me and I'm extremely happy with how it all panned out.  While I didn't exactly race it as planned, the outcome was even better than I was aiming for and I learned a lot about myself.
i love seashells, i love this race medal!!
So, without further adieu here is my race report!

Race: VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Date: September 4, 2011
Location: Virginia Beach, VA

Weather: Hot and *very* H U M I D.  Even at 6:00AM the air was thick and clammy.  I was grateful for the cloud cover though - I am sure if the sun had been beating down on me I would have had a very different experience. When I ran this race two years ago it was very sunny and hot.

Course: The course starts at the VA Beach Convention Center up maybe 3/4 of a mile from the Ocean Front at 19th Street.  It heads toward the beach and then turns south along Atlantic Avenue all the way out to Camp Pendelton.  There are lots of spectators, bands and cheerleaders along the course, especially this portion and at the end.  Miles 3-10 are largely through Camp Pendelton which can be pretty boring and hot, with very few spectators other than the bands/cheerleaders and not much natural beauty to look at through this section.  We run over a bridge (up and then down hill) on the way out to the camp and then again on the way back.  These are pretty much the only hills.  The last 3.1 miles of the race get more exciting again as you near the oceanfront and then finish right on the VA Beach boardwalk (which I LOVE).

Logistics: This is the second time I have run this race (I ran it in 2009).  Both times, I took the free shuttle bus from 57th street without a hitch.  This is the stop furthest north and I recommend using it because hardly anyone else gets on this far north apparently.  Buses run from 4:30-6:00AM from various points along Atlantic Avenue.  I walked to the bus stop (with a flashlight) and hopped on at 5:30AM.  There was NO line.  It was so easy and I was at the start by 6:00AM with plenty of time to use the porta-potty and check my bag before the start. 
me at the start, happy and ready to race

I found the gear check to be super-easy and reliable.  I used to be funny about leaving my bag but I am over that now - it makes the start and finish of a race so much more stress-free for me, especially because I'm usually heading to races without my husband/family and I have nobody to hand off my things to before the race starts.  Picking up my bag at the end of the race was simple as can be.  

In general, I have to say that the Rock n Roll series does a great job with logistics for this race, as far as I can tell.  The expo was organized and easy (I even changed my corral with no problem), the transportation was simple and smooth and everything along the course from start to finish was excellent.  The wave start was smart and because I was in the right corral I had no problems shuffling around slower paced runners or feeling like I was in the way of faster folks.

So, let's talk about how the race went for me.

I was planning to start slower for the first three miles, go faster for the middle chunk and then really gut it out for the last 5K.  Well, it didn't exactly happen that way...

Miles 1-3: 
7:24, 7:46, 7:59
Ok...so I was NOT anticipating how incredibly anxious/excited/emotional I would feel when that gun went off.  I was cool as a cucumber until the race started, but that first mile was so crazy for me.  It was like my heart was trying to jump right out of me, I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  I knew I was running too fast, much faster than planned, but I couldn't worry about it.  For that first mile I had to calm my nerves down.  By the time the mile was over I had slowed down considerably (I looked at my watch maybe 1/2 mile in and saw a pace in the 6's, so to come in at 7:24 shows I really slowed down!).  I continued to try to calm my nerves and finally by the end of mile 3 I was at about an 8:00 pace.  At that point though I was hoping to pick it up to the 7:50s... I was feeling good so I decided to try to keep it there and see what happened.  At mile 3 I ate one Power Gel Blast (raspberry).  I was drinking water from my hand held water bottle throughout the race so I wouldn't have to worry about water stops.

Miles 4-10

7:44, 7:54, 7:57, 7:54, 7:52, 7:51, 7:49
I really wanted to try to maintain something close to a 7:50 pace for this stretch, and it was coming quite easily to me to do so which I was really pleased about.  I was wearing my iPod and around mile 4 I decided to turn it on.  This was after the hill and as we headed into Camp Pendelton.  I really debated whether or not to bring music, especially for a RnR race, but in the end decided to bring it just in case.  I was so glad I had the option to use it because this part of the race is mentally challenging since it's pretty desolate back through there.  I continued to drink my water and ate a chocolate Accel Gel (which I carried with me in my running skirt) at the halfway point.

Miles 11-13.1
7:34, 7:54, 7:13 and for the last .28, 8:08 pace
I kept telling myself that once I hit Mile 11 I would "switch gears" and push harder.  I picked it up for Mile 11 and then went over the hill during Mile 12 which I guess is why my pace was slower for that mile (the effort was the same!) and then I kicked it into higher gear for the last mile.  When I made that final turn onto the boardwalk and the finish line was in sight, I got really emotional.  I knew I was going to PR and that I was going to get my 1:44 and I was just so happy and excited.  It sounds silly, but my emotions REALLY got the better of me and then I got a stitch in my right side!  I pushed through it - it did slow me down but there was NO way I was going to let it stop me! - but I think my finish would have been stronger if I could have gotten those emotions under control.  My husband was just past mile 13 and he called my name and I saw him there and at that moment I was just flooded with all sorts of feelings.  I was so grateful to see him!

coming into the finish!!
Bottom line: I did what I came to do.

I finished the race with a (PR!) time of 1:43:02.  This is almost a 13 minute PR for me and is 17 minutes faster than I ran this exact course 2 years ago!  How could I not be completely stoked about that!?  I ran the race in almost even splits and crossed the finish line feeling strong and as though I could have physically kept on going.  This makes me think that I can certainly do even better in the half marathon distance and that all of my hard work is paying off.  My performance yesterday makes me feel proud, grateful and excited.

Here are the official stats:
691 out of 11,219 Finishers
29 out of 996 in my Division
146 out of 6,385 Women

Not too shabby!!

So...what did I learn about this race other than that PRs and achieving your goals is totally awesome?  A few important things:
  • Dreaming big is the only way I know to dream.  Period.
  • Having my husband at the finish line of a race is worth more to me than any finishers medal.  I could not be training for a marathon if it weren't for his love and support.  I'm sure that being married to a crazy runner isn't always easy for him, and I appreciate him more than I can possibly say.
his smile makes me smile
  • Emotions when racing are hard to control.  I have been working a LOT on not letting negative thoughts mess me up, but the uber-positive ones can be crazy too!  I need to figure out how to get a handle on this.  At times I felt so overcome with emotion (gratitude, happiness, excitement!) that I was really sort of helter-skelter if that even makes sense.  I felt like a loon!
  • My sister Megan is amazing!!  Megan had a tough race (you can read about her experience here) but she came out of it with her own lessons and is stronger because of it.  I am so proud of her for all that she is, and for all that she is accomplishing with her running.  I just know she is going to love every minute of her first 26.2 this fall!!
yay for running sisters!

I think that about sums it up at least for now.  After the race was over I went home and cuddled with my baby and then played on the beach with my family before hitting the road to drive home.  We have a big day tomorrow - my daughter starts first grade! - so today we got settled back in at home to get ready for the week ahead.  It's going to be a good week!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Race Goals & Strategy

This morning when I was out running along the Virginia Beach boardwalk I spotted a tall strong runner doing some fancy footwork kind of workout on the boardwalk.  As I approached him I turned my head and knew right away he was not the average runner - he was the one and only Ryan Hall!  I was so excited.  I've known he was running this race for a while but didn't expect to see him out in "the real world" like that.  As I ran passed him I seriously considered interrupting him to say hello and tell him how much I admired him, but I chickened out.  In retrospect I was just so annoyed with myself because I'm sure he would have been friendly and maybe even honored but I was too shy.  Besides, I didn't have my phone to take any pictures or a pen/paper to get an autograph and I was hoping too that I would see him at the race expo later today.  Fail...he was not there when I was.  I'm bummed I missed the opportunity but am still holding out hope that maybe just maybe I will see him again.  For my easy pre-race run tomorrow I will carry my phone just in case!  No more missed opportunities - no more chickening out!

As I get ready for the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon on Sunday, I have lots of things on my mind.  I'm looking forward to this race in a big way.  It is a huge stepping stone for me along the way to MCM and I have a lot of hopes for how it all pans out.  Here's the thing though - in my heart I know there is only one thing about this race that could truly disappoint me and that is if I don't do my best, if I give up on myself or let negativity take over.  The time on the clock does matter to me, but not nearly as much as believing in myself does.  Not nearly as much as the importance of giving it all I have. 

Returning to running after baby Gus was born (he is 7 months old today!) has been an incredible journey for me.  It has been full of ups and downs and bumps along the way.  From that first mile on the treadmill when he was 4 weeks old to the 20 miler I completed last weekend, EVERY SINGLE RUN has been an accomplishment for me.  EVERY SINGLE RUN has been a testament to my faith in myself and to my determination to dig deep and give it all I've got.  From where I stand, this race on Sunday is like a big reward for all the work I've been doing to get to the start line.  I have earned this race. 

So, let's talk goals and race strategy!

  • Believe in Myself: I said it before and I'll say it again, I intend to start and finish this race feeling confident in my abilities, believing in myself and giving it all I've got.  This race will be a failure in my book if I let negative thoughts and self-doubt take over.  The mental game is serious business and I am prepared to be one positive lady on Sunday.
  • Enjoy the Ride:  It is extremely important to me that I enjoy this race.  I didn't pay money to go out there and be a grump!  I am not to take myself too seriously on Sunday and while I will be pushing myself and gutting it out, I am going to remember to enjoy it and relish in all that my body is capable of.
  • Run the fastest half marathon I have ever run: Yep, I am aiming to set a new Personal Record on Sunday and a big one at that.  My current HM PR is 1:55:47. My time goal for this race is a 1:44.  Truth be told I will be happy with anything that is sub 1:50 but I'm dreaming big here and that is that.  I'm going for it.
How do I plan to accomplish this last goal?  Well, here is my strategy I have cooked up with the advice of my coach and also a little research.

Do you want to know what my strategy has been in the past?  RUN.  That's it.  I never really worried about pace, just sorta ran and my splits were usually all over the place but generally even-ish.  I don't think this worked too well for me so I am going to approach it differently on Sunday.

Miles 1-3: I am going to take it easy here, staying about 20 seconds slower than my goal pace.  This means that for those first three miles I will run around an 8:20 pace.  I really think this is do-able for me.

Miles 4-10: Here I am going to pick up my pace and hold it just under my goal pace, which will be right around 7:50ish.

Miles 11-13.1: The last 5k of the race I am going to see how I am feeling but plan to either hold steady  or pick it up, depending on what I've got in me.  I want to completely gut it out for that last mile and especially as the finish line approaches.

Well, that's it!  Stay tuned for the race report, I really really can't wait to tell you all about it.  Here's to a wonderful weekend for all and if you are racing I would love to hear about it!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

rest day thoughts

Yesterday my husband Robert and I celebrated 9 years of marriage.  9 years!!  I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by or how full of blessings they have been.  There is no one on earth I would rather share my life with.  This man of mine is a keeper and I am so grateful for his love, support, encouragement, creativity, intelligence, humor, sensitivity, appreciation, dedication, friendship, optimism, realism, strength, thoughtfulness, passion and SO. MUCH. MORE.  I'm more in love today than I was on the day we got married and I look forward to the many years we have ahead of us.
To celebrate, we went out to a fancy (for us) dinner last night followed by Ben & Jerry's.  It was all delicious, but I completely ate things I hardly ever eat (lobster curry for dinner, dairy ice cream for dessert) and I had a bad stomach ache afterward.  Ooops.  It was yummy though and we were celebrating so it is ok, right?  I eat a mostly vegan diet not only because I believe in it, but because it agrees with my stomach so much.  Sometimes I make exceptions though, like when we are celebrating 9 years of marriage.  I feel better today so it's all good.

Tonight we leave for Virginia Beach.  We're heading to my in-laws' house for one last taste of summer before school starts on Tuesday.  I'm so excited to get my toes in the sand and play on the beach one last time.  I'm also extremely excited about this trip because on Sunday I am RACING!  And I mean it, I am really going to lay it all out on the line and race my strongest half marathon ever.  I can't wait, you guys.  I'm working on a post all about my goals for this race and will share soon.  Let's just say that my current PR in the half is 1:55:47 and I am planning to knock a good chunk of time off of that, like more than 10 minutes if all goes as planned.  WOOT!

Today is a big day for my 6 year old.  We are heading to an open house at her new school, where she will start first grade next week.  I am so proud of her!!  It is a big school and she doesn't know many kids there but this morning while we were cuddling she was telling me how she knows she will make lots of new friends.  Her optimism is refreshing.  I know she is scared about this big new change, but she is being so positive about it and focusing on the good stuff and I could not be more proud of her.

Today is also my rest day, which means I am not totally stinky in my running clothes like I was yesterday (seriously, yesterday I went to the track at 6AM, sweat like a MONSTER, and did not shower or change my clothes until almost 4PM!  It was rather disgusting but it was just how things went).  Anyway I am "rest day dressed" today which means two things 1) I am comfy yet somewhat fashion-y and 2) you get to see what I am wearing because I am a also a complete cheeseball.

rest day dressed!
I love this dress.  Stripey, long and flowy and super comfortable.  I'm wearing one of my Target tank tops under it because I basically wear those every day.  You can't see them, but I'm also wearing my charcoal gray TOMS with this outfit.  Oh and I have my denim jacket just in case but not sure I will be needing that today. 

maybe a little too close of a close-up!
I also am wearing a necklace I love.  It has pretty pastel paper roses strung on it.  It makes me happy.  I'm wearing it in honor of Abby today because roses are her favorite flowers and we are celebrating her today as she is so brave and positive for her first grade open house.  It will probably come as no surprise to you by now that both the necklace and the dress were purchased from the Anthropologie sale room (the necklace maybe a year ago, the dress earlier this summer).  I need to buy stock in that store.

Ok so that's that!  Thank you so much for reading!  Please come back and read about my race goals and strategy for my half this weekend.  I hope to post it by tomorrow morning.  I'm so excited!

Happy Thursday to all!!

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