Wednesday, November 30, 2011

tis the season

It is the last day of November and I am still trying to wrap my brain around that.

I love this time of year, I really truly do.  From Thanksgiving through New Years Day I enjoy all the traditions and the special time with my family.  There is a magic in the air.

I have to admit though, it is always an emotional roller coaster for me.  The gratitude overflows but also, there is just so much STUFF everywhere I turn.  So much to buy, so much that I want for my family and loved ones and admittedly, for myself ...  so much so much SO MUCH.

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and all the emails flooding into my inbox about free shipping on this or 25% off of that make me feel excited and they also make me feel sick.

I want to teach my children to be thankful for all that we have and to be generous and kind and thoughtful of others.  Especially those in need.

It can be a hard lesson to get to sink in with 5 and 6 year old children.  We aren't quite at the point where volunteering at a soup kitchen is a great family activity just yet, but I look forward to the times we will do those kinds of things as a family.

A couple of years ago I took a cardboard box and named it "The Giving Box."  The kids and I decorated it and the idea behind it is that every day during the month of December each member of our family will put something in it to give to a family in need.  That includes Mommy and Daddy, too.

Each one of us puts toys, clothing, gadgets, housewares, etc in it, every day.  Things our family no longer needs or uses any more.  Things other families will enjoy, need and be grateful for.  When the box fills up, I transfer the items to large plastic bags and then we continue to fill the box.  By the end of the month I have a few plastic bags full and it is all ready to be donated to charity. 

What do you do to give back during this season?  How do you teach your children these valuable lessons? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

21 pieces

A little less than 2 years ago I attended a two day class to become a Certified Running Coach through the RRCA.  The class was in Newport News, VA so we traveled to my in-laws' house in VA Beach for the weekend.  It worked out great - while Robert and the kids had a fun weekend at the beach with family, I immersed myself in something I loved -- guilt-free and not worried at all about how my husband and children were faring in my absence.

I remember feeling so at home in that classroom.  Everyone in there, teachers and students alike, was just as interested in and obsessed with the sport of running as I was.  It made me excited knowing that I could ask questions or share my experiences and everyone in the room would know where I was coming from.  It was run-geek heaven.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with the title of this post, you ask?  Well, one of the other students in my class was Tonia who writes the insightful, entertaining, inspiring and informative blog Racing with Babes and Tonia recently tagged me to share 21 random facts about myself.  So, here goes ...

1.) I love being by the ocean. My idea of a perfect beach day is one where it is cloudy and slightly cool - not too sunny or hot.  Being at the beach is one of my very favorite places to be and I believe with all of my heart that Robert and I will figure out a way to live by the ocean some day.  Not sure when or which beach even, but it will happen.

2.) I have a tattoo on the inside of my right ankle.  It is of the "Man in the Maze," which is one of the symbols of the Tohono O'odham (also known as Papago) Native American tribe in southwest Arizona.   I got this tattoo when I was 19 years old and it was a very carefully thought-out decision for me, though pretty uncharacteristic for me at the time.  The tattoo is a labyrinth symbolizing the journey of life and I really do love it.  I've gone through times in my life (like when I was just beginning my career) when I almost regretted the decision to permanently ink myself.  Now though, as a mom of three and a 35 year old woman, I own it and am proud of it.

3.)  I began my college education studying Architecture, but after one year decided it wasn't for me.  I was (and still am) in love with the artistic elements and am in awe of the engineering of it all but knew it wasn't the right career for me.  I wanted something with more creative freedom.  So what did I do next?  I studied English Literature.  Why?  Because I had no idea what I wanted to "be" or "do" when I grew up, and I figured a degree in English Lit would at least not be limiting.

4.) I wound up in business-to-business sales.  I worked for Tiffany & Co. for several years.  It was a dream job.  I worked from home.  I loved the company, the people I worked with and for and the flexibility.  It was a hard job to leave, but when my second child was about 5 months old I made the decision to stay home with my kids.  I never thought this would be a difficult choice for me, but it was.  It was also absolutely without a doubt the right choice for me and for my family.  Now I am building a new career for myself, one that is rooted in my passions and creativity.

5.) I believe that all the BEST things in life are hard-earned.  There truly are tons of simple pleasures and wonderful gifts in life, but  in my personal experience I've found that the most wonderful things are attained through hard work, maybe even pain and suffering, patience and endurance.

6.) I like to organize things.  A lot.  Maybe even too much.  Having three kids under the age of 6 has taught me to relax a little about this tendency because it is complete chaos in my house with toys all over the place.  I do my best to strike a balance between letting things go and having it all "just so."

7.) I love crossword puzzles and used to do them each and every morning.  Now with three young children I don't always find the time to do them every morning and I miss it.  I want to make time for them again.  I love using my brain in that way.

8.) My mom was 17 years old when she met my dad and fell in love with him.  They were married just a few years later, right after my mother graduated from college.  Over the weekend of their 35th wedding anniversary, my three sisters and I found out that they would be getting a divorce.  It was one month before my own wedding day, almost 10 years ago.  It broke my heart and though I know that both of my parents have moved on and made new lives for themselves, it still makes me sad that things happened the way that they did. 

9.)  I love children's books and reading with my kids is absolutely one of my very favorite things about being a parent.  Some authors I adore are Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Arnold Lobel, Cynthia Rylant ... really there are too many to list!

10.)  I love Broadway musicals.  I remember seeing "Cats" for the first time when I was a young girl.  I was captivated and spent many years dreaming of being a Broadway star when I grew up.  I remember listening to the soundtrack from "A Chorus Line" on my Walkman while riding the bus to and from school.  This wasn't exactly what everyone else was listening to, I don't think.

11.)  I believe in having no regrets in life, but there are two things I wish I had done when I was younger that I didn't do.  I wish I had studied abroad for a semester in college and I wish I had lived in New York City for a couple of years after graduating.

12.) When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters and theme park rides.  I could handle the loop-de-loops and the high drops with no problem.  Ever since having children though, I can't handle even swinging on the swing at the playground.  My stomach does flips, my eyesight gets dizzy, I feel nauseous.  I'm not sure if it has anything to do with having kids or if it's just part of getting older, but this mama cannot hold it together on the playground.  I can't even think about a theme park - this makes me sad.

13.)  I love to needlepoint.  I'm not much of a sewer and don't know how to knit (yet) but I can spend hours and hours and hours stitching needlepoint.  I've made a few belts, several Christmas ornaments and a Christmas stocking.  It is time consuming but I love it.

14.)  Naps are not overrated.  I would nap every single day if given the chance.

15.)  My mom bakes the best apple pies and also makes killer margaritas and pina coladas.

16.)  I had severe asthma as a child. I remember going to the emergency room frequently and also one 2 week stay at the hospital when I was in the 2nd grade. By the time I was about 12 years old I outgrew my asthma - thank goodness!  Now my two older children both have bad asthma and take medication for it 10 months out of the year.  I pray they will outgrow it like I did.  We go to a really great pediatric pulmonologist for their asthma and the medicine has changed our lives, but I am curious about alternative therapies like acupuncture.  I'm starting to research it now because I am really weirded out by all the inhaled steroids that are going into their little, growing bodies.  I also believe acupuncture and other alternative remedies are really incredible, I just wish my insurance would pay for them!!!

17.)  My 5 year old son Will has several life-threatening food allergies. He is very allergic to dairy, egg, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, mustard, sesame and garlic. It was really hard to get used to and we have had a few scares over the years, but we have it all under control now and he is really amazing!  I am so proud of my little boy.

18.)  I really think 21 things is a lot to come up with.  Agggh!

19.)  A few things that would be on my "bucket list" if I ever take the time to make one: Travel to as many places in the world as possible including but not limited to Australia, Italy, Africa and islands off of the African coast, the Patagonia, Nepal, India, Bali, British Columbia.  I want to bring my children to other parts of the world and see it through their eyes too.  I want to run the Hood to Coast relay.  I want to run an ultra marathon.  I want to do a triathlon.  I want to run a marathon in another country.  I want to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and build someone a house.  I want to take improv comedy classes as an adult.  I want to go to a live taping of Saturday Night Live in NYC (I think a weekend in NYC away with my husband to do this would be *the best*).  I want to learn to speak another language.  I want to go whitewater rafting.  I want to hike and camp in the Grand Canyon.  I want to live at the beach.  I want to ride in a hot air balloon.

20.)  I grew up in the DC area and when I was 15 we moved to Nashville, TN.  I was NOT happy when my parents told me we were moving.  I imagined the worst.  It turns out, this move was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I am so very grateful for the 7 years of my life that were spent in Tennessee.  I will always hold the people, places and memories made during those years very close to my heart.  I can't wait to get back there again some day.

21.)  For as long as I can remember, I have had the need to indulge in my creative side.  Just like with running, I am a much happier and balanced person when I am engaging in creative pursuits.  I love to draw, paint, play with paper crafts, glue and glitter ... any supplies will do.  I started a card company with two of my close friends, Marguerite and Stephanie, about 10 years ago.  We became an LLC and our company was called "I Wish I May."  I did all the drawings and graphics for the cards.  It was exciting and fun for the three of us.  We were in a couple of retail stores and had big dreams.  But then, tragically, my friend Stephanie discovered she had breast cancer.  She was also pregnant at the time.  She wanted to continue on with the company and we did, but eventually it just got to be too much.  When we stopped the cards, Steph and Marguerite both encouraged me to continue it on my own, but I was working full time and hoping to start a family and just didn't want to do it without them.  A few years later, Steph passed away.  Her death affected me in a lot of ways, one of which was that it reminded me of how fragile life is, how quickly it can go by.  Steph lived her life in a way that I admired whole-heartedly.  She reminded me that I needed to follow my heart and pursue my dreams, even if I wasn't totally confident in myself.  Not long after that I found myself making the ice cream cone growth chart I had always dreamed of making for my kids and before I knew it, a new creative business was born.  You can read more about it here: http://www.sugarconecompany.blogspot.com/.

Ok -- that's all for now!  I really can't think of anything else about me.

What are some random things about you?  Please share -- either with a comment here or by posting your own list of 21 things!!

Rock My {Running} World: Meet Megan

Megan is a MARATHONER!! MCM - 2011
This next runner is living proof that if you decide to do something and are committed to it, you will find that you are capable of much more than you ever would have dreamed.  Megan's journey as a runner is very inspiring - she works hard and trains smart and listens to her heart, always.  Her dedication and perseverance are truly admirable and I am so very proud to call her my SISTER ~ in running and in life.  I am truly excited for all that is in store for Megan as she continues on with her running and pursues her dreams!

Name:  Megan Godek

Age:  29

Location:  Centreville, VA

What do you do in “real” life?  I am a school based technology specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools.

How long have you been running?  I have been running consistently for about 3 years.

Why did you start running?  I started running because I was working with the Girls On the Run program at the school I was currently teaching at.  I thought I would just be a walk/runner, but then I realized that I could push myself farther and farther each day!

Personal Records:
Marathon:  4:43:12
Half Marathon:  2:07:03
10 miler:  1:39:28
10k:  58:39
5k:  30:05

What is your proudest running moment:  Knowing that I worked through an incredibly difficult last month (while working through personal issues) before my first marathon and was still able to finish strong and realize that I am stronger than I ever knew. 

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:
Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.  I think this really goes with how I was feeling before MCM.  I felt very broken after splitting up with my boyfriend of 1.5 years, but I took my strength and anger and turned it into positive motivation to prove to myself that I could do more than I ever imagined.

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?:
Running is the best way to a clear mind.  I love this because when I am stressed or thinking about something too much a run puts it all into perspective.  No matter my mood before the run, I always feel stronger and happier after I have some alone time with my feet.

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury? I do cross training (walking, biking, and ellipical) and sometimes Pilates.  I have to continue to focus on strengthening my quads because I have issues with my knees.

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs: I listen to anything that you would make you want to jump up and dance, lots of top 40 stuff.  It gives me energy to push myself farther because I am having fun.
Megan and her besties having fun at VB Shamrock Half
What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?  My next race is the Hot Chocolate 15k in December, but I just want to run that for the fondue, hahaha!  My next goal race is National Half Marathon in March. I want to break 2 hours!! 

What are your long term running goals?  My long term goals are to be able to run years from now and continue to stay strong and healthy. 

What advice do you have for other runners out there?  Just keep working.  I started by listening to my ipod and running a song, walking a song, then running two songs, walking 1, then running 3, walking 1 ... eventually I just kept running.  You will have set backs, but remind yourself that they will make you stronger.  It isn't about how far or how long you run.  A mile is a mile and a minute is a minute ... it will always be a mile or a minute that you were doing more than someone else!

Who rocks your running world?  Tell us about someone who inspires you to be a better runner.  The people who rock my running world are all of the students and faculty that are involved in Girls on the Run programs across the nation.  They were what inspired me to start running and work harder every day.
Me and Megan holding the signs our family made for us, VB RnR Half, 2009

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I'm happy to report that the last 5 days have been everything I wished they would be, and more.  It's amazing what a few days of vacation, time spent away with my family, can do to rejuvenate the spirit.  Not to mention the fact that I was able to run each and every day that I was gone, plus again at home this morning, for 33 miles in all.

I feel absolutely grateful, refreshed and whole.  SO much better than I did not even one week ago.

On Wednedsday morning I wrote about how I needed structure back in my running life.  How I was feeling as though I had slipped into a pretty major funk and needed to press the "reset" button on my running.  I felt confident that being in Virginia Beach for a few days on vacation with my family was just the place I needed to be to gather myself back together. 

It is hands-down one of my very favorite places to run and I was so truly happy to be there...

~ Wednesday's Run ~
When I stepped outside for my run on Wednesday afternoon though, the first day of my vacation, I was met with a dark and ominous sky.  It looked like a big thunderstorm was getting ready to roll through.  I've been looking forward to this run all day.  Please don't tell me it's going to thunderstorm right now.  For a moment I considered just staying home and postponing my run until the next day.  But something inside me - that strong desire to get out of my funk - told me I needed to at least give it a shot.  I figured the worst that could happen would be that the weather turned horrible and I would have to cut my run short.  A short run is better than no run.  So out the door I went.

About a half mile into my run, sure enough it started to rain.  But you know something - that rain was exactly what I needed.  It was beautiful.

As I ran in the rain, I imagined that the water was washing through me, cleansing me of all the negative thoughts and feelings of self doubt that had been creeping in lately.  With each step, my faith in myself was renewed.  My heavy heart was lightening.  Fears that I was losing my fitness, that all the hard work I put in over the last several months was disappearing, that all my successes had been some sort of fluke or mirage -- all of these fears began to wash away with the rain. 

Gratitude and hope took their place.

I thought about how I could have let the dark clouds scare me away that day.  I could have let just even the possibility of stormy weather prevent me from doing what I so desperately believed I needed.  But I didn't, and it was one of the most beautiful runs I have ever gone on.  As I ran along the oceanfront I could hear the waves crashing, the rain falling, my breath moving in and out, my feet rhythmically pushing me forward.  I felt like I was in my own secret world on that run.  And when the rain stopped I looked to my left and saw the most beautiful double rainbow stretching across the sky and into the sea.

Wednesday's run reminded me of why it is so important to push through our fears in life.  To not let the "what ifs" stop us from following our hearts and going after what we need and want in life.  It reminded me of what I am fighting for:  Joy.  Happiness.  Feeling ALIVE.

~ Thursday's Run ~
Thanksgiving Day.  I can think of no better way to begin my morning on Thanksgiving Day than to go out for a run.  I ran along the ocean again, the exact same route as the day before.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining, the wind was blowing.  I am certain that the smile did not leave my face through all 6 miles of my run.

So very much to be thankful for.  Health, happiness, love, family, home, freedom, laughter.  The list goes on and on and on.  So much to celebrate!

Virginia Beach on Thanksgiving Day
~ Friday's Run ~
On Friday morning I decided that I would change my routine up a bit and run on my very favorite trails in First Landing State Park (it used to be called Seashore State Park up until I think about 15 years ago).  This park is so beautiful and the trails are perfect for runners.  This is also the very best time of year to run through there - in the summer it gets pretty buggy and in the spring I have encountered some pretty large snakes - so I was really happy to log some miles through there on Friday.

my favorite running trails in Virginia Beach
I did a lot of reminiscing on Friday's run.  I thought about all the memories I've made in that park over the years.  I remembered when Robert first brought me to his parents' house to meet them for the first time.  It was November of 1999, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving.  We went for a hike through the park one afternoon, just the two of us.  I will never forget that day.  We'd only been dating for two months but we both knew deep down that we would be together forever.  I remembered running through the park the following summer, after we'd been dating not quite a year, and imagining our wedding day, imagining what kind of life we would build together.  I know my dreams were big and beautiful back then, but I also know that the *real life* and all that has ensued since then has been much bigger and much more beautiful than even I could have imagined.

Friday's run was about being grateful for the life I have been given.

~ Saturday's Run ~
Saturday I decided to run a bit farther than I had the other days.  I returned to the ocean once again and ran all the way to the end of the boardwalk and back, totaling 9 glorious miles.  I wanted to soak it all in.  I'm not sure when we will travel back to Virginia Beach again but it will most likely not be until spring or even summer.  This means that for the next several months I will not be running with ocean views!  I savored every moment of that run and watched as the sun sparkled across the ocean.  Took in the salt air and the warm ocean breezes.  I love the sea.  There is no doubt in my mind that one day I will live close to the ocean, maybe even in Virginia Beach.  I have absolutely no idea why I am so sure of this fact or how it will all happen, but deep down in my heart of hearts I just know it is meant to be.

~ Sunday's Run ~
Today I am home.  I started the morning with a run back on my good old stand-by, the W&OD Trail, with my sister Jodi.  We hadn't seen one another in almost a week and all that mattered today was being together.  The miles ticked by as we caught up on the past few days, what is new with our families and the thoughts that are swirling in our heads.  One more week until our next training cycle begins -- I know we're ready and both so thankful to be heading into this new season together with strong legs and rejuvenated spirits.

The week ahead will be structured but relaxed - I have plans to run almost every day but no set mileage to stick to and my pace will remain easy for every run.  My training for National Marathon (still working on calling it RnR USA, I will get there!) gets kicked off this coming weekend with my first ever 15k race - I'll be "running for chocolate" downtown on Saturday.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

i've reached my limit

After a long, late night of road tripping to my in-laws' house in VA Beach and an early morning start today (4:30AM, courtesy of Sweet Baby Gus), I am really really tired as I write this. 

I've been feeling seriously off these past few days, and it is time to press the RESET button.  I need to clear my head, open my heart and go for a run.  I need to get out of this funk.

Here's the thing: over the last 3 weeks I have run 3 times.  A strong 8 miler, a fun 17.5 miles in Richmond and then a new 5K PR on Saturday.  That's it.  Don't get me wrong, I haven't exactly been idle - I've been keeping up with my strength training routine at the gym twice a week, doing Pilates and chasing after my baby who is getting very difficult to keep up with ... hardly sitting around.  But I haven't been running.

see this guy? he is a monkey. allllways getting into stuff!
After MCM, I realized it was time to take my recovery very seriously.  My new marathon training cycle starts up on December 4th and I want to enter into it feeling strong, fresh and ready to tackle the task at hand.  I have big goals for my spring marathon and I don't want to hinder my ability to accomplish them by doing too much in between.  So I told myself that these weeks between training cycles would be laid back...

Three weeks of "laid back" is enough for me.  It's my limit.  I'm done with the whole "no planned runs" thing.  I can't take it anymore.

With that said, it doesn't mean I'm going to start my training plan a couple weeks early.  Or that I will stop my other cross training activities (nope, those will remain. Always). It just means that this Type A person is actually much more laid back and relaxed about life when she has structure.  I have been feeling on edge, grumpy, moody, "off" - whatever you want to call it - for too many days now.  It is time to give some structure to my running routine or else surely I will go insane.  Self doubt is trying to creep in and I just don't have room for that.

And as luck would have it, I am now spending the next 4 days in one of my very favorite places to run during my very favorite time of year to run.  And when I'm not running I will be surrounded by the people I love the most in this world.  I think this is the perfect time to press RESET.

What do you do in between marathon training cycles?  Do you structure your recovery time with runs, cross training and other activities?  While giving your body the necessary break from training, how do you keep from going crazy and doubting your fitness?  Or...is it just me?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rock My Running World: Meet Meghan

I could talk to you for hours on end about how inspiring this next runner is.  Meghan manages my favorite running store (=PR= at the Reston Town Center) and there could not be a better person for that job.  She is passionate about running.  She sincerely enjoys talking with people who run - whether they are just getting started or are seasoned racers.  She is open, honest and real - always more than happy to offer helpful advice and tips on anything from gear to nutrition to apparel.  

For years I had been shopping in that store and talking with Meghan, yet I had no idea what an accomplished runner she was.  It wasn't until one day when I was reading my Runner's World magazine and came across an article in which she was quoted that it finally occurred to me.  The article mentioned that Meghan had won the Shamrock Marathon in VA Beach in 2010, a race I had run that year also (and she finished nearly 2 hours sooner than I did!).  I just had to smile when I read that - I was instantly even more amazed by this person I had already grown to admire!  Meghan is also a mother and knows what it's like to make the time to train while balancing the responsibilities and joys of having a family.  She works harder than hard.  She is humble and gracious.  But as amazing as her running records are, I think it is her "attitude of gratitude" and the way she carries herself in life that inspire me the most.  

I am truly honored to introduce you to Meghan!

Name:  Meghan Ridgley

Age:  32

Location:  Ashburn VA 

What do you do in “real” life?  Manage the Potomac River Running in Reston Town Center 

How long have you been running?
17 years

Why did you start running?  To try high school cross country.  Loved it and everything else fell into place from there.

How many marathons have you run? 

Personal Records:
Marathon:  2:46:38
Half Marathon:  1:20:58ish ;)
10 Miler:  I haven't done one believe it or not.  Did Army the year it was 11.3 miles!
10K:  35:30
8K:  28:35ish
5K:  17:36

What are your proudest running moments:  Qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials during my first marathon, Philly 2003 ~ 2:46:52 ~ 3rd female.

Running the Shamrock Marathon in 2008, six months after Miranda was born via c-section. It was my slowest marathon to date but so awesome because I ran freaking 26.2 miles (those were my words after the race!) after having a baby 6 months prior.  Came back to win the Shamrock in 2010.

It goes back to wanting and believing.  I wanted to get back in shape and lose the baby weight so bad that the moment I told myself I would, nothing would stop me.

Even slower then planned or not good races can be major accomplishments! 

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:
A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphins give you the power to make better decisions, helps your be at peace with yourself, and offset stress.  This is so true because when I don't do a run or have plans for one, I can't think straight, I get frustrated, and actually feel sad.  When I get a run in I just feel so pumped and powerful afterward that I can handle most things that come my way each day. 

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?  You have to want it 100% and believe in it 100% for it to happen.  It really is mind body and soul.  No one can take that desire away from you and it's what you feed on when it gets hard.

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury?  Now I take Pilates at Reston Pilates.  Such an awesome experience each time.  I learn so much about my body each session.  This is what is going to help me reach my ultimate goal that I once thought was slipping away.  I feel so strong and know it will keep me tough in the later miles in the marathon.

I also see my Chiropractor once a week to help keep my feet and legs healthy.  Recover properly by eating right and taking my easy days easy.  That is key.  Running easy or taking days off when you are supposed to.

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs:  I don't run with music but I do like any music I can visualize me doing a workout or racing to.  That can be Enya to Eminem, anything really. 

What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?  My next big race is a fall marathon in 2012, Twin Cities probably.  It is my favorite by far!!  I of course want to run a great PR.  I would like to go 2:42-2:43.

What are your long term running goals?  Long term is to qualify for the Marathon Trials again in 2016.  Run an awesome race there and retire from the marathon. ;)  I would like to see how close to sub 2:40 I can get.

What advice do you have for other runners out there?  Always love it.  Remember you GET to get up and go run.  It is such a blessing that should never be taken for granted.

Who rocks your running world?  Tell us a little about someone who inspires you to be a better runner.  My family.  My Husband and Daughter help me out so much and are always cheering for me. I want to do well for them.  I love seeing them at the end of just about every race, marathon or shorter.  I think about them being there during my race all the time.

Customers and folks I get to interact with on daily basis who run.  Just seeing how excited they get about a run or race keeps me pumped in my running.  It reminds me to keep having fun and never give up.

Monday, November 21, 2011

5K Thoughts and How I Won a Turkey

I think 5Ks are HARD.  There is no race distance that I don’t love (that is the honest truth - I love races!), but I find that the 5K is the most challenging distance for me.  Yes, I know it is one of the shortest race distances out there, but if I am going to race it and try to do the very best that I can, it is incredibly tough for me.  Physically I am pushing myself nearly as hard as I can, mentally I am battling internally with whether or not I am going too fast or not fast enough and praying that it will be over soon.  The burn and the pain doesn’t happen so much in my legs, but in my chest.  Controlling my breathing is an added challenge.

As difficult and uncomfortable as I find the 5K to be though, I think they are very good for me - for my overall running and for my mental game.  When running a 5K I’m outside my comfort zone physically and mentally from the time the gun goes off until I cross that finish line.  I have to work on my speed, my form, my focus and control myself the entire way.

Here are a few lessons I have learned about how I can run my best 5K race.  These may not apply to everyone, but I find they work for me and give me my best results:
  • Warm Up.  My legs need some time to move before I ask them to race and give me everything they’ve got.  If I don’t warm up before a 5K then it usually takes a mile or even two miles into the race before I feel like I’ve got my turnover where I want it to be and by then the race is practically over!  I think warming up for 1-3 miles beforehand and finishing it off with a few strides (30 seconds of harder running) would be ideal.  That way my legs will be ready, my mind will be ready.
  • Go out FAST, but not TOO FAST.  This is really a struggle for me.  When racing other distances I try to start a lot slower and then pick up my pace as I go, usually saving my blasts of energy until the second half or the very end of the race.  With a 5K though, if I go out too slow I will not have any hope of making up the time - the race is just too short.  So when I race a 5K I go into it knowing that I am going to basically be uncomfortable the whole time and I want to run a fast pace that I feel I can maintain until I cross that finish line.  Ideally I have it in me to gun it towards the end of the race, if I pace myself correctly.
  • Run FAST, yet RELAXED.  The best way I’ve found to harness this skill is through practicing it in my training - on the track and on the treadmill.  Form is always important in running but when I’m running fastest I notice it’s easy for me to lose control and self awareness.  There is no question - I have got to stay focused on my form and check in with my body - make sure I am not tensing my face muscles, my shoulders, my hands.  Know how I am carrying myself while I push myself.  It I am relaxed and focused, I am most efficient.
Here are a links to some great articles I have read about race pace strategies in the 5K:

So ... with all that said regarding my thoughts on the 5K, now I will tell you about the one I ran this weekend and how I won a 20 pound turkey.

All week long last week I was debating whether or not I would participate in a local 5K this weekend, the Herndon Turkey Trot.  I ran it two years ago with my sister and it was BRUTAL. In addition to all the things that I think are super tough about 5Ks, this race in particular is not my favorite.  The course is hilly and the terrain is tough - over half the race is on a grassy and hilly golf course.  What's worse is that it has a 4:00PM start time, and I am definitely a morning runner.  I have trouble knowing when/what to eat before an afternoon/evening race, and I usually get side stitches and feel off when I run later in the day.  There was an option to sign up an hour before the start so I decided I would just wait to see how I felt on Saturday before committing to it.  If I decided not to do it, no problemo.

I woke up on Saturday morning with a headache.  The baby was up and ready to party before 5:30AM.  Not long after that, my other two kids were awake and demanding for me to make them breakfast.  Not exactly my favorite way to start my day, racing or not!  I drank lots of water and Nuun and took some ibuprofen for my head and tried to just let it all go.  There was no pressure and if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be.  A few hours later my headache was gone, but I was still feeling groggy and just “off.”  I was really sleepy and still felt dehydrated, yet somehow I found myself at the race site later that afternoon getting a race bib.  I decided I would just go anyway and enjoy the experience of being a part of a race.  My current PR in the 5K was a 23:08 and I wasn’t certain I could top that on Saturday but I did feel confident that even feeling the way I was I could surely get a course PR - when I ran this race for the first time two years ago I ran it in 27:34.

About 15 minutes before the start I did my usual pre-run dynamic stretching and then warmed up with about 5 minutes of light jogging.  I would have liked to run (a lot) more for my warm up but  I just didn't have the time on Saturday.  Robert and the kids came to the race with me and I was so happy to get to spend time with my family before I ran.  Small races like this are so great in that way - I really feel like it is something for the whole family to enjoy.  My kids got to see my running a race up close and personal - and they got all their crazy energy out by running on the golf course while I ran.

When the race started I found myself feeling off from the get-go, unsure of my pace and just trying to get a hold of an even effort.  The course begins with a big U-turn and it was a little confusing for everyone.  Most of that first mile was along a road and paved trail before we came to a grassy golf course.   After the U-turn things started to feel smoother and I was getting into my groove.  I thought my pace was something I could maintain for another 2.1 miles.  When I my watched beeped after the first mile though I was surprised at how fast it was.

Mile 1 - 6:42.  This is the fastest mile I have ever run in a race and the first time I ever ran a mile that began with a 6 in a race.

Mile 2 basically sucked for me.  It was very hilly and grassy and there were a LOT of turns.  I could feel my pace slowing - a lot - though I still felt like my effort was the same.  At this point, the cold air in my chest started getting to me and I was feeling frustrated with the course.  I quickly tired of the grassy, twisty and hilly terrain and wanted to be off that golf course.  I was getting a bit grumpy.

Mile 2 - 7:33.

The third mile was more of a mental battle for me.  I stopped looking at my watch and just plowed ahead, telling myself not to give up.  Ignoring the fact that I had serious postnasal drip, watery eyes and my shorts were cold and wet.  the route continued the loop on the golf course until just before the third mile marker.  I was relieved when we got back onto a paved path.  I passed a few people towards the end of this mile and felt really good about that.  There was a young girl ahead of me and I put all of my focus into catching up with her.  When I passed her before that mile ended, I was thrilled.  My family was on the golf course cheering their hearts out for me.  I could hear Abby yelling “DO YOUR BEST, MOMMY!” and Will screaming out “MOMMY! MOMMY! GOOOO MOMMY!” 
Abby cheering for Mommy
I will never forget that feeling.  That feeling of having my children right there in that moment - supporting me and encouraging me to be my very best.  They don’t really understand what my running means to me or why I do it, but some day I think they will.  Some day they will know that I do it as much for them as I do it for myself.  I am so proud and thankful to be their mother.

Mile 3 - 7:22.

The last bit of the race was, if you can believe it, back on the grass again.  I gave it all I had and picked up my pace to a 7:11 for the last .1 of the race.  I crossed the finish line with a time of 22:34, averaging a 7:17 pace per mile.  This was exactly a 5 minute course PR for me and more than 30 seconds faster than my old 5K PR!

I was so happy when this race was over.  I found Robert right away and he told me he thought there was a chance I placed in my age group.  He said there weren’t that many women ahead of me and that the ones who were all looked really young.  The age group was women 30-39 though and I just sort of doubted that all of the women who beat me were under 30 years old.  But we went back to the community center where the post-race festivities were and looked at the results board.  Sure enough - yours truly actually came in first place in my age group!

The prize was a 20 pound frozen turkey.  I don’t even eat meat - I have been a vegetarian for years and try to eat vegan as much as I can.  But I really wanted that turkey for my family (they all eat meat)!  So we stayed for the awards ceremony and I got that turkey. 

I was proud.  My kids were proud.  My husband was proud.  We all had lots of laughs about “Mommy’s prize turkey” and I am still giggly about it just thinking about it.  I have won my age group twice in my life.  My first prize was a lava lamp.  This time, a turkey.  Seriously, I will add to the list of why I love local 5Ks - the prizes are creative and fun! 
me and my turkey!
I left the race feeling happy about my results and also very confident that I do have a better 5K time in me.  I think the next 5K race I do I will be sure to warm up better, pick a race that starts in the morning, and one that runs along a road.  I should be able to shave more time off my new PR that way.  There is always room for improvement!! 

So, tell me, what do you think about the 5K?  Are they hard for you too, or do you prefer shorter/faster races to the longer/slower distances?  Have you ever won a fun prize in a race?  Tell me about it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

11 years ago today...

On November 19, 2000 I ran my very first marathon in Philadelphia, PA.  Exactly 11 years ago today.

I asked my father to run the first and the last miles of the race with me...

For all the miles in between, my dear friend Kathleen and I ran together.  What I remember most about that day was all the love that surrounded me and how overwhelmed I felt by the whole experience.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Our families were there to support us (all wearing shirts they had made that said "Go Jessica!" and "Go Kathleen!" and they had also made us singlets to wear on top of our running clothes).

I remember my first marathon as though it were yesterday.  We trained so well for that race and felt so confident going into it.  But around Mile 14, Kathleen's IT Band became excruciatingly painful for her and we were slowed down to a walk.  We walked the last 12+ miles of that race and finished in 5:21:20, more than an hour slower than we had expected.  It got really cold.  But we did not give up, and we were not defeated.  It was one of the most special days of my life.

Crossing that finish line was only the beginning for me.  I am so thankful that now, 11 years later, I am still running.  I am still chasing my dreams.  I am still not a quitter.

Do you remember your first marathon?  When was it and what was it like?  Did you finish in the time you expected you would, or did thing go differently than you expected?  I love to hear marathon stories and nothing is quite like that first one.  Please share!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rock My {Running} World: Meet Terri

Do you want to know one of the very best ways to make new friends in the world of running?  I'll tell you ~ join a marathon training group (if you are local I highly recommend any of the programs offered by =PR=) and meet everyone at the track at 5:00AM once a week to do speed work.  Don't be shy - these people will "get" you in ways you never imagined, right from the start.  

This is how my friendship with the next runner who rocks my running world began.  Terri is one of the most inspiring female athletes I have ever had the privilege to know.  She is gracious and determined.  Running is an individual sport and our goals and accomplishments are personal to each one of us, but when you are running with Terri she makes you feel like you are a part of a team.  She encourages and supports everyone and sincerely gets as much joy out of helping others as she does out of running her own race.  I could not be more thankful to have Terri in my life as a friend and running buddy and I look forward to the many more miles we will share together in this road called life.  I am honored to introduce all of you to this very special person who truly rocks my running world!

Name: Terri Marlin


Location: Herndon, Virginia

What do you do in “real” life? I am a mom of 3 (ages 16, 10 and 7). I work full time as the Potomac Valley Swimming Administrator (the local USA Swimming Association), part time as office staff at Chantilly Academy Gymnastics gym and I am meet manager for several swim meets each year.

How long have you been running?  I have run off and on for years, mostly as cross training for swimming. But I started running regularly about 2 ½ years ago.  When I was little my dad was an ultra-marathoner and running a marathon was a goal that I have had since High School.  Growing up I swam year round and ultimately swam for West Virginia University. In the first two year of graduating from college I worked as a Personal Trainer, got married and started a family.  While I continued to work-out off and on, having two more children and working multiple part time jobs at one time, the amount of time I had to dedicate to working out decreased.  When the kids were little it was hard to get out for runs on the weekend since my husband was often working on the weekends.  But once they were old enough to stay home by themselves I was able to go on longer runs!

Why did you start running?  I started running regularly in May 2009 to give myself some “me” time. I was so busy with work and my kids that I never had time for myself.  I was also in desperate need of something positive to do.  I enjoyed my work, but at the time I was also the Registrar for the Potomac Marlin Swim Team (which my husband owns) and coaching a group three mornings a week from 4:45 to 6:15am, so I was busy, busy, busy and felt myself slipping into a depressed state.  Running was a great release, gave me a sense of purpose and really helped make me feel better.  Probably because of my competitive nature, I soon decided I needed a goal so in October I registered for my first race, and not just any race! I registered for The Disney Marathon in January. W hen I finished I was so proud of myself for finally obtaining my goal of running a Marathon!  But I immediately looked at my brother (who ran with me) and said, “but we didn’t do it all, we didn’t do the “Goofy” (half marathon on Saturday and full on Sunday).  We will have to come back and do the whole thing!”  So this January my brother and I are going back to Disney to do the Goofy!  Since that first marathons, I have run 3 others including the 2011 Marine Corp Marathon, 6 half marathons, a 10 miler and a 10K and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Personal Records:

Marathon: 4:24.09

Half Marathon: 2:04.02

10 Miler: 1:31.33

What is your proudest running moment?  My proudest moment would be crossing the starting line in my first marathon.  I am sure for most people it would be crossing the finish line.  But just starting my first marathon was so exciting and emotional.  I had no doubt that I would finish!  But getting to the starting line was such an accomplishment, to know everything I had done to get there; all of the training, the early mornings, the runs in the cold, traveling to Orlando, all of it! 

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:
Do one thing a day that scares you.  I like this one because I think it is important that we to learn to live outside our comfort zone.  If we always do what is comfortable, we will never grow as a person or an athlete.  Stepping up and doing something uncomfortable or that scares us, teaches us to dream, reach our goals and grow!

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?:  
I’m healthy, I’m STRONG.  I am not sure why this works, but I find when I am really tired and start to hurt all over, by reminding myself that I am healthy and strong I feel better and can power through.

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, lifting, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury? I have a fairly extensive history of general strength training but wish I did more strengthening now for my running.  I have done Bikram Yoga and loved it, it gave me a sense of peace and strength and was great for flexiblity.  I need to make the time to do more.  I am also looking forward to trying Pilates. 

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs: I don’t have a particular favorite song.  I have a country music mix that I always listen to, it just keeps me going.


What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race? I am excited to do the “Goofy” in January. It is part of the Disney Marathon weekend.  It consists of the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday.  Really my goal is just to finish both races and have a great time running.  But I know I am competitive enough, that I will want to at least be close to my best times!

What are your long term running goals? I plan on running the NYC Marathon next November.  I made it in through the lottery this year, but had to defer until next year.  My long term goals are to stay healthy and be able to continue to run for a long time.  I also plan on trying a triathlon in the spring/summer of 2012.  With my strong swimming background and all of my running, I figure I just have to start biking, which seems to be the easiest part.  I volunteered at Ironman Louisville in August, which was one of the most amazing experiences, not sure if I will ever do a full Ironman, but I can definitely see doing a half Ironman sometime in the near future.

Who rocks your running world?  I don’t have a specific running hero.  I started training with a running group this past summer and really enjoyed getting to know other runners with similar goals. But everyone “out there” running rocks my running world!  Regardless of age, fitness level or goals, just running or walking to better yourself is an accomplishment and I totally respect and feel admiration for every runner!

Terri and a bunch of our =PR= crew after a long run!

What advice do you have for other runners out there? Start small and do whatever you can.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else!  Whether you can run 20 miles or 2 miles, at least you are out there doing something active.  Just put one foot in front of another and keep moving!  You can do anything you set your mind to!  Best Wishes!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

pilates on display

Have I told you how excited, honored and happy I am to be an ambassador for lululemon?  I think I did, but I will say it again: I am really jazzed about it.

One of my responsibilities as an ambassador for this amazing company is to occasionally do a "window demo" at the store.  Basically what this means is that for a few set hours they will clear the storefront window of all mannequins/displays and replace them with the real thing.  In other words, no mannequins standing still dressed all cute in lululemon clothes and instead ~ yours truly.  In action.  Doing what I know and love and hopefully inspiring others to give it a go, too.

This is brand new territory for me.  I am jumping outside of my comfort zone in all sorts of crazy ways these days (*do one thing a day that scares you*) and putting myself on display for two hours in a big glass window certainly qualifies as such.  But you know what?  It was - of course - totally awesome and well worth getting over my fears for.

I brought Jodi with me (of course!) and after teaching one of the store employees for a bit, she and I took turns teaching one another a variety of Pilates exercises. We showed one another modifications and variations and worked one another out pretty hard - we were feeling it by the end of the two hours!

We had an audience staring at us from the other side of the window a few times which was a little strange at first, but eventually we got used to the attention and it was no big deal.  All in all, it was a really great night and I''m left feeling happily sore.  My core got an excellent workout and my cheeks are sore from smiling so much.  It was tons of fun.

This is why we have to do these scary things.  When we face something we find scary, we cannot lose.  At the very least we will learn something valuable about ourselves.  And at best, well, the sky's the limit if you ask me.  Who knows what can come out of putting yourself out there, going outside your comfort zone?  You may just find yourself in a storefront window doing something you love, with someone you love and inspiring others to take better care of their bodies.  You will most likely discover something new about yourself.  You may just decide it wasn't so scary after all.  And then you'll want to do it again.

part of my story: running and self love

I began keeping a journal when I was in the 8th grade and I wrote in it nearly every day through my college years.  I still have these books and when I read them I am reminded of the young girl I used to be.  It is a fascinating thing to witness the emotions and thoughts of the me from over half my life ago.  While sometimes it can be sad and painful for me to read, it can also be hilarious and heartwarming.  I'm so glad that I kept these journals and that I saved them - that I was so honest and open with myself in them - because I know that it was helpful to me to work through things at the time and now it is my hope that as my children mature I will be able to remember at least a smidge of what it felt like to be a teenager.  I want to be there for them in any way that I can be.

As a 13 year old girl I was mostly focused on writing about what was happening at school - who was "going with" who and other kinds of pre-teen gossip - and sharing the latest and greatest news about my soccer team and how awesome we were.  I was confident, goofy and happy.

Once I started high school, though, so many of my insecurities and self-criticisms started developing.  Most of this criticism was with regards to my self image and my weight.  How I measured up to my peers purely from a superficial standpoint.  I wrote about all of it and poured my heart into these books.  If you saw me from the outside you probably would not have ever guessed that on the inside I was so cruel to myself, that I did not love myself.  I was an athletic, active, and happy teenager as far as anyone could tell: involved in sports year-round, a good student and very social.  I had amazing friends and got along with everyone at school and I had a boyfriend, Seth, who was also my best friend and who I dated very seriously.  From the outside, you would think I had it all and that I would be extremely self confident.

But I wasn't.

I remember at 16 years old, during the winter of my Junior year of high school, I had this idea that I would "stop snacking" so I could lose a few pounds.  I did not have any intention of letting this get out of control.  But it got very out of control.  The next thing I knew, everyone was concerned about me.  My family, my friends, my boyfriend - everyone was making comments about how I didn't eat enough, how skinny I was. My journal entries from this time are astonishing - I truly honestly did not understand why people were freaking out.  I thought I was fine.  I remember going away on vacation with my family that Spring Break, and my mother encouraging me, begging me, to eat some pretzels on the airplane.  I did not want to eat them.  She was scared and upset and told me that if I did not start eating she was going to have to take me to the hospital when we got home.  She needed me to see how I was hurting myself.  How serious this was.

smiling, but hurting. wasting away.
me with my beautiful sister, Alissa
I still couldn't see it.  But when we returned from this trip she put me on a scale and stood me in front of a full length mirror.  My mother was crying and gripping my bony shoulders.  And that was when I saw it.  When I saw my mother's face - filled with fear and sadness - and looked into my own tear-filled eyes, I understood.  It was one of the saddest moments of my life.  I could not believe how much pain I was causing my mother, and how much I must have been hurting everyone I loved by doing this to myself.  I ached to make it all better, to stop hurting the ones that I loved.  But even still, I did not recognize that I was punishing myself.  That I was not loving myself.

That took some time.  A lot of time.

I went to therapy, I went to a nutritionist.  I reached a healthy weight again but struggled every day to feel good about myself and about my body.  My college years were the darkest time in my life, for a lot of reasons.  I feel like I walked around with a big heavy weight in my heart.  I was incredibly depressed and developed some pretty awful, self-loathing habits like smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, sleeping all day, eating horribly.  My weight fluctuated a lot during those years.  I just had no idea how to take care of myself.

My journal entries from this time reveal how much I struggled to find inner peace and happiness.  I began to pray a lot and to write about how I wanted to break free from the trappings of my physical body.  I was finally aware that I needed to learn to love myself, and I wanted, SO MUCH, to figure that out.  It was not only about self acceptance, but about self love.  I had spent so much time criticizing my body and defining myself by how much I weighed or how I fit into my clothes.  It was time for me to shed that way of thinking and to begin to love myself for who I was on the inside.  It was time to begin to believe in myself.

And this is when I started training for my first marathon.  I was 23 years old.  I was one of those people who had no idea how many miles a marathon even was, yet I wanted to do it with every ounce of my being.  I researched and researched (and yes quickly learned that a marathon is 26.2 miles!) and I put a training plan together for myself.  It was not about losing weight or about wearing a certain size of clothing.  It was about doing something so incredibly hard because I needed to believe that I could.  It was about taking care of myself from the inside out.  Running took me to a place deep within myself and introduced me to parts of my spirit that I did not know were there.  I remember thinking to myself that every time I went out for a run by myself, I was getting to know the real me.  I began to respect, love, believe in and feel proud of the person that I am.

Running saved me from depression and it taught me how to truly love myself from the inside out.

I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rock My {Running} World: Meet Jessica

Do you want to meet a runner who is dedicated, smart and inspiring?  Someone who has been patient and persistent with her training and has seen it pay off?  Well, Jessica is a rock star runner and I am so excited to introduce you to her.  Read on to learn all about her and then give her a shout out to wish her luck this weekend (though she doesn't need it) as she gets ready for her first ultra distance race - the JFK 50 Miler!  Jessica is going to have an amazing race this weekend.  I just know it.

Strong + Happy + Determined = Jessica on the Run!

Name: Jessica Karazsia

Age: 36 

Location: Alexandria, VA 

Blog: http://zero2fifty.blogspot.com/ 

Twitter: @irun26at8 

What do you do in “real” life?
I am the head of Membership at a professional association in Old Town Alexandria. For the first 10 years of my career, I was a Marketing Manager in the Media and Finance industries. Three years ago, I decided to take a leap into the non-profit/association world. It was a great choice and brought me to the DC area which I love.

How long have you been running?
I consider when I purchased my first pair of real running shoes my start. That was about 11 years ago. I ran a few races here and there, but nothing serious until about 6 years ago when I decided to start training for my first marathon – Chicago 2005.

Why did you start running?
I have always loved to work out. I was a competitive tennis player in high school and my coaches always stressed the importance of cross-training and conditioning. I love the game of tennis, but I always loved the conditioning too. Then I went to college. I stopped playing tennis and moving basically.  (That is a lie, I actually moved very quickly to the keg, cafeteria line and self-serve ice cream bar in the dorm.) I successfully put on the Freshman 15 or really more like 20. I think I topped at 150 by the time I was 19 years old. The summer after my freshman year, I lost most of the weight, but maintained my fighting weight of 130-135 throughout my college career by sporadically working out and eating/drinking a lot of comfort food. Even though I was chubby, and my self-body image was pretty low, those years were sooooo fun.  After college, it was much easier to control what I ate and drank and I pretty effortlessly dropped 10 pounds and could maintain 120 -125 without too much struggle. I was able to maintain a fitness routine which consisted of a little running, the dreaded Stairmaster, bike and some weights. Then around age 25, when I moved to Cleveland, OH I started running a little more and began thinking about running a marathon before I turned 30. 

How many marathons have you run? 6

Personal Records:
Marathon: 3:39:45 (MCM 2010)
Half Marathon: 1:41:48 (VA Beach 2011)
10 Miler: 1:14:35 (GW Parkway Classic 2011)
10K: 45:49 (Jingle all The Way 2010)
5K: 22:02 (Crystal City 5K 2011) 

What is your proudest running moment?:
Hands down, my proudest running moment was when I crossed the finish line at MCM 2010. My goal for that race was to run a sub-4 marathon. I ran 3:39:45 and qualified for Boston. I was floating for weeks. 

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:
Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks. Failure is inevitable, but it is how you deal with it that is important. You ALWAYS have two choices, let it break you or get up and keep fighting. I choose to keep fighting. Through words and actions, I have had people tell me I am not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough and although it hurts, I chose not to believe them and keep moving forward. 

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?:
My mantra changes depending on my state of mind. The word CONQUER gives me strength and motivation. Just one foot in front of the other is something I say to myself on almost every run. Running is hard. Period. There are times during a run when I want to stop. I know that if I just keep moving forward, it will eventually get better. 

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, lifting, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury?  I am a strong believer in cross-training. Running exposes all of your weaknesses – physically and mentally. Although I would love to do more yoga, my cross-training now consists of a lot of weights (high reps/low weight) and core work. I will also ride a bike at the gym a couple times a week. I think it is really important to strengthen the muscles around the main running muscles. 

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs:
I used to never leave the house without my iPod. Over the past year, I have really been trying to run with it less. I currently run with music for about 50% of my runs. I song that always seems to creep on my playlist is: REM's Circus Envy. 

What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?
I have been training since August 1 for the JFK 50 Miler which takes place on November 19. Phew! It has been quite an experience, to say the least. I went in with the mindset, if I am going to do this, I am going to jump in with both feet and give 100%. I just don’t want to be at mile 37 wishing I had trained harder/smarter. I feel really confident in my training, but it was tough! I hope to finish in less than 10 hours. Then, the next biggie will be Boston Marathon. I am so excited to start training for that race. I will be training with the Capital Area Runners and George Buckheit. My goal is 3:30 – aggressive but I think it is possible!
Jessica rocks it at the finish of the VA Beach RnR Half Marathon, 2011
What are your long term running goals?
My goal all along has always been to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I did not think I would have that opportunity for several years down the road, but it will be here soon enough! I always tease people and say after the race in April, my hobby will be watching TV and eating Bon Bons. I don’t see that happening though. Ha. OF COURSE, I want to continue to run, but see my running transforming into not just being about ME and MY GOALS. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of PRs in these legs but I would love to get more involved in the running community, helping others achieve their goals, fundraising, etc. I look forward to seeing where it takes me. 

What advice do you have for other runners out there?
Start slow. So many people jump on the marathon bandwagon, fall in love with running and then just keep getting chronically injured. There is no easy way to get faster or to run longer other than just slowly progressing. I was running a good 3-4 years before I started running marathons, then I ran my first at 4:35:21. It took me 5+ years before I qualified for Boston. I have not had any serious running injuries because I take it slow. I just think it is crazy for people to expect to go out there and on the first try qualify for Boston or even break 4 hours. Sure, people do it and it is amazing but each of our bodies are different. We have to listen to them. 

Who rocks your (running) world?
There are many “famous” people who inspire me with their running wisdom – Ryan and Sara Hall, Deena Kastor, Lance Armstrong, Bart Yasso, and Dean Karnazes to name a few. But, the one person who inspires me to run the most isn’t famous and isn’t even a runner. That would be my mom. She is my biggest cheerleader. She always attends my big races. Most of the time traveling cross country. She has mastered being a spectator, believes in me and everything I do. Her strength, power and wisdom encourage me to get out there every day. She has seen me through my lowest points (in racing and in life) and has celebrated the highest with me.

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