Friday, December 30, 2011

a pretty good year

Well.  That's an understatement.

2011 was an incredible year for me.  I hardly know where to start and am amazed just thinking about all that happened over the course of the past year.

At the beginning of 2011, I was very pregnant - due with sweet baby Gus at the end of the month.  It is really hard for me to imagine that we did not even know that he was a boy, because now of course I can't even fathom our life without him being exactly who he is.

I remember those last weeks of my pregnancy - feeling so big, so tired and so ready to meet my little baby and welcome him into our family.  I remember not wanting to rush it even though I felt so ready, because to be pregnant was such a gift and I knew it would be the very last time I would ever experience the blessing of carrying and growing a sweet little life inside my body.
a miracle waiting to be born

My due date was January 28th, and the day came and went without baby's arrival.  I kept my spirits about me.  My running had turned into more of a waddle, but I still got myself on my treadmill for speedy walks almost every day.  It wasn't easy, but it really, really helped me.

still moving at 40+ weeks
 And then, on February 2nd, my family was complete when sweet Baby Gus entered this world.

i cry happy tears whenever i look at this picture
From the moment he was born, my whole life changed.  Don't get me wrong, things were good - wonderful even - before he was born.  But after he was born everything in life became more vivid, more colorful.  More ALIVE.  I am thankful beyond words.  Speechless.

Life as a family of five can best be described as an adventure.  There really truly is never a single dull moment.  It is a busy life, but the blessings do not go unnoticed.  Simple things happen every day that keep me going.  Keep me wanting to slow time down.  Like the moment my son Will met his baby brother.  Will was 4 1/2 when Gus was born.  The entire time I was pregnant, any time we would talk about the baby Will would call it "the stinky baby" and he wanted to hear nothing about it.  But when Will came to meet Gus at the hospital, he was mesmerized instantly.  He wanted to inspect every inch of his baby brother and he whispered softly into my ear "Mommy, I'm really into babies now" and from that moment he has adored him whole heartedly.  I frequently hear him say to Gus "Well Hellloooo there,  my best friend!" and every time I hear it, my heart melts.  Abby is equally enamored with him and is claiming that she is going to teach him everything he ever needs to know.  She cares for him so deeply and is so sensitive to him, it is incredible to witness.

my three miracles.
And over the course of the last year, as I have gotten used to being the mother of three children, juggling responsibilities of being their mom with managing our home and my work and just life in general, I have also been running.  And running has kept things in balance for me - an internal balance physically, emotionally and mentally that is all my own that carries forth to making life balanced for everyone in my family.

Because a happy healthy mom makes a happy healthy home.  And running keeps me in touch with who I am and what is important to me.  It helps me see everything more clearly.

So I have been dedicated to making the time for my running, as hard as it has been at times.  I went for my first run of 2011 on February 27th.  Since then, I have run 1,062 miles this year.  Every single race I ran (except for the first one, which was a 10 miler on my 35th birthday, less than 10 weeks after my baby was born) was a new PR.  I ran several 5ks, a 10k, a 15k, two 10 milers, a half marathon and 2 full  marathons.  All while nursing my baby (he has never had a drop of formula) and balancing the responsibilities of being a mom of three.  I look back at all of this and am simply and truly so amazed and grateful.
VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon
I'm thankful that I didn't ever give up, even though there were so many moments when I thought about it.  I remember early mornings last winter, pumping before heading out for a 3, 4 or 5 mile run.  I was uncomfortable and every step took so much strength - physically, yes (running was SO hard again!) but more so, emotionally.  Every single run was like a marathon in those first few months after having my baby.  I didn't give up when faced with a back injury, a weakened pelvic floor, muscles so tight and achy I couldn't believe it.  I refused to feel broken.  I kept on going, moving forward.  And it was worth it.
fighting to the finish
2011 taught me that good things are always worth fighting for.  That daring to dream is a necessity.  Because at the beginning of this year I never would have thought this is where I would be today.  And I would not have gotten here if I had given up, plain and simple.

I cannot wait for the year ahead and am so very grateful for this precious life I have been given.

Right now I make a promise to myself - I will live each day to its fullest.  I will never give up on the people and things that I believe in, and I believe in me.

Was 2011 a good year for you?  Are you dreaming about the year ahead?

a great start

There is something about getting outside for a run in the winter on a morning before the sun is awake, before the temperature reaches 30 degrees ...

Something about running along one of my favorite trails with two of my favorite running buddies, watching the sun rise and being witness to the quiet sounds nature makes as the day begins ...

three runners at sunrise
There's something about getting 10 miles in the books before most people have even gotten themselves out of bed ...

Something about it that makes me feel so very dedicated.  So very hard core.  So very happy.  So very much a "real" runner.

I have watched the sun rise while on a run every morning this week, save one.  Is it easy for me to get myself out of my warm cozy bed each morning?  The answer to this is an emphatic NO.  But is it worth it?  ABSO-POSITIVELY-LUTELY.

There is no question that this is my favorite way to log my miles - first thing in the morning, before the day gets under way.  I love walking up to my front door, sweaty and invigorated, to see this smiling face:

hi momma! how was your run?
I love being greeted by my family - a husband and three children who bring so much joy, love and happiness into my world - as I walk in the door.  They always ask me how my run was and tell me of the fun things they have been up to while I was out (Abby even writes me notes while I'm gone, for me to read when I get home.  So sweet, I cherish them).  They report to me what time they woke up, what they each had for breakfast.  And then we plan our day.

Today, it was a trip to the National Zoo with two of my sisters and their families.  Some snap shots from our outing:

Jojo and Baby Levi

by the cows

Gus loved his first visit to the ZOO!

me and baby g

Will and Miles watch the giant turtles
Not all our days are quite this exciting.  Yesterday after my track workout we spent the entire day de-cluttering and organizing our basement.  This was actually thrilling for me, but I don't really think it compares to a day at the zoo in my kids' eyes.  But there is one thing I can say about a day that starts with a sunrise run - it is always a great way to start the day.

What about you -- do you love to run in the morning, too?  What is your favorite time of day to run?

Thursday, December 29, 2011


This week has been good, but a little bit weird.  And way too fast.

I've been so blessed to have all three of my sisters and their families under one roof.  Two of my sisters live far away - one in NY and the other in NC - so this happens maybe twice a year, if we are lucky.  It was completely wonderful and completely chaotic all at the same time.  There are 10 grandchildren in my family, the oldest being 14 years old and the youngest are 11 months old (two baby boys, just 9 days apart!).  Everyone is unique and fun and sweet and just absolutely wonderful and I am so blessed to be a part of this family.

The time went by too quickly and now I feel sad because one of my sisters already left and the other is still here but she and her family all came down with the nasty stomach virus we had on Christmas Day ... so we didn't exactly get to spend quality time together today.  It really is a major bummer and I'm sad about it.  I hope tomorrow they feel better so we can spend a little more time together before they have to head home.

My running has been really nice this week.  On Monday I went for a solo run on my favorite paths right in my back yard.  7 beautiful, hilly miles.  I did the same run on Tuesday with my buddy Chris.  A wonderful way to start the day.

a sunrise hill, right in my back yard

I took yesterday as a rest day and this morning Jodi and I went to the track before sunrise for our weekly workout.  It was cold and dark when we got there, but we got the work done and were invigorated by the time we got back in the car.  Oh so worth it.

My husband is taking this whole week off from work, and I am so grateful for that.  We are enjoying being together just hanging around the house, playing outside, visiting with family.  Taking the time to be grateful for one another and for all of the blessings in our life.  There are so many.

I'm finding myself reflecting a lot on all that we were blessed with in 2011, and I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it.  The other night Robert put on a slideshow of all our 2011 pictures and I just stared at it and noticed tears were trickling down my cheeks.  I wasn't sad, really, just so grateful and amazed.  Grateful for a beautiful family, for our health and for all the love and laughter that happens here.  Amazed at how my children have changed soooo much in just 12 little months.  I'm so proud of them for the people they are becoming - so very very very proud - and I also just want to slow time down because it is going too fast for me.  I don't want to miss a thing. I want to bottle it all up and hang on tight to it, to all of these precious moments to the giggles and the sounds, the hugs and the snuggles.

I want to use these next few days, the last of a really truly incredible year, to reflect and be thankful.  And then I want to move forward and greet the new year ahead with open arms and a big happy heart.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Winner!!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Will, Gus and Abby all dressed in their new Christmas jammies!
We had a really special holiday at my house, despite the fact that Santa brought us a stomach virus on Christmas morning (!), leaving me and my husband feeling the worst and poor Baby Gus still very much not himself (he is cutting two teeth at the same time, poor baby).  I hope he is better soon.  It breaks my heart to see him feeling so sick!

Aaaaanyway, enough about that.  Now, to announce the winner of the lululemon satin pirouette headband!  I used random.org to select the winner, and the lucky winner is Christine.

Congratulations, Christine!  Please email me at jessica.hofheimer@gmail.com so I can get you your prize.

I hope everyone is enjoying this last week of 2011.  What an incredible year!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

my friday

Today marked the beginning of my daughter's winter break from First Grade.

Let me tell you something about Abby.  She is 6 going on 16.  Sweeter than words can describe, yet is it possible that she is hormonal?  She is stubborn, she is fickle, she is hilarious, she is thoughtful, she is goofy, she is serious, she is laughter, she is, well  .... she is moody, let's say.

Lately she has been prone to some pretty unpleasant episodes of anger.  I've noticed that it generally seems to happen when things don't go her way, or don't go the way she is expecting them to.  I get that, but her reactions are out of control sometimes and it is a lot to handle.

So, last night before I went to bed I wrote her a note and placed it on her nightstand.  She is an avid reader and loves when I write her letters, so my hope was that this would start her day off on a happy note, and help set the expectations for the day ahead.  This is what the note said:

Good Morning, Abby!  Today is going to be a great day!  I am so happy that you do not have to go to school today so that we can have lots of time together!  We are going to have so much fun.  Some of the things we are going to do today are: 
- find Oscar (our elf)
- open advent calendars
- go to the gym (she has been begging me to do this with her!)
- make cookies
- paint
- go shopping
- laugh
- play
- hug
- read books
I am sure we will find lots of other things to do, too!  Let's make it a happy day, no matter what.  I love you!  Love, Mommy

Abby came into my room early this morning, so excited about the note I left for her.  She LOVES lists (like mother, like daughter ... what can I say?) and was thrilled I had made one for us.  She asked if we had to do it all in this specific order to which I replied no, of course not - we could mix things up or even do different things, these were just some of my ideas.

She loved it and was in a wonderful mood!  For about 30 minutes.

Until I ruined her breakfast by not cutting ALL of the crust off her toast.  Let me explain - I did cut off the crust but there was a smidgen still left on the edge of the bread in one little part and this little detail was unacceptable to her.  So she went from being pleasant adorable Abby to monster child in three seconds flat over crust on her toast.

God help me.

I survived it though and held my ground.  She eventually realized that I was not going to "fix" her toast nor was I going to make her a different breakfast and she ate her food.  And then was happy.

The next step was the gym and my goodness, was I happy to get there.  I ran 8 miles easy on the treadmill.  It was just what I needed.

The rest of the day has gone well - we have actually done all the things on our list and everyone is happy at the moment!  Tonight we celebrate the 4th night of Hanukkah and my sister and her family are coming over to help us make pierogis for tomorrow night's Christmas Eve dinner.  I haven't talked about this on my blog yet, but my husband Robert is Jewish and I was raised Catholic so you can imagine, December is an extra busy month of celebration and gratitude for our family!  I love all the traditions and am so thankful for the miracles God has blessed us with in this life.

Tomorrow will be my longest run so far this training cycle -- 16 miles.  I am really looking forward to it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

track talk

Wednesday is quickly becoming my very favorite night of the week.  It's my time to run around in circles under the lights on the local high school track.  Time to work on my speed, to push myself, to practice self control.  To see what I'm made of.  To discover what I'm capable of.

Last night did not disappoint.  It was a warm (for December) and rainy day all day yesterday, but by the time 6:30pm rolled around the rain had subsided and the weather was pure perfection.  I wore shorts, a tank and a jacket but after one easy-paced mile warm up, the jacket was already too much for me.

I was comfortable in my summer running clothes in the middle of December.  Old Man Winter is not taking his job too seriously in the DC area this week!  I am not complaining - 55 degrees is lovely.  It's just a little strange.  Winter can be a very fickle season around here, so layers are always necessary.

Anyway, last night's workout was to do 8x800 at T pace with 2:00-3:00 minutes rest between each repeat.  For those of you who don't know the lingo just yet, and 800 is a half mile, or two laps around the track.  T pace is around 10k pace, or about 85% effort - a pace you can manage for one hour.  Last week I ran too fast, so this week I was concentrating on running the right pace and staying consistent for all 8 of my half mile repeats.

I warmed up for 1 mile at a comfortable pace and then did some dynamic stretching before starting my speed work.  Dynamic stretching is a great way to loosen your muscles before you run.  It is part of my routine before each and every one of my runs - whether speed work, an easy run or a long run.  I do not do isolated static stretching until after my run.  Why?  Well, imagine your muscles are silly putty.  Before you play with it it is stiff, right?  If you just try to stretch it out the first time you pick it up, it will likely snap or fight you on pulling it in two different directions.  Yikes.  If you knead it and massage it actively before you try to move it, it will cooperate much better for you.  So dynamic stretching loosens things up in a gentler way and gets your muscles stretched and ready to perform for you.  When I am done with my run my muscles are nice and limber and will stretch much better for me in static stretching at that point.

Coach Brian from the =PR= Distance Training Program has put together a really great and very thorough video in which he demonstrates and explains dynamic stretching.  My regular routine does not include all of the stretches he shares here, but rather just 3-4 of them that target my hips, quads and glutes especially.  If you are interested in learning more, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzXhdteXF24

Ok, so back to my speed work.  After my warm up and dynamic stretching it was time for the WORK.  My goal was to run at a pace that I could handle for all 8 of the repeats.  I was wearing my watch, but really focused on listening to my body.  Coach Adam was there to help me stay consistent, not only with my pace but also with my recovery time between each set.  I have a tendency to not take enough time between reps for some reason, so it was really nice to have him there to remind me of this.

My sets went as follows: 3:30, 3:27, 3:32, 3:25, 3:25, 3:24: 3:25, 3:21.

I am really enjoying looking at this data.  I love that my last repeat was my fastest, that I finished feeling strong and as though I could have kept going, and that my legs also felt blissfully tired when i was done.  This was an awesome workout and a great confidence booster for me.

When I was finished, I found myself thinking about how I could maybe look at this data as an indicator of my fitness for my projected marathon time.  If I think of these 800s as sort of similar (but, ok, not really at all) to the famous Yasso 800s (which I know there is a lot of debate about, but I have never attempted that before so this is the closest I have ever come to trying), then this could be kind of cool.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Yasso 800s, the idea is that you run 10 sets of 800s and take the average time it takes you (in this case I ran only 8 sets and my average time was 3:26) and then translate that to hours instead of minutes to get your marathon time.  You're supposed to do this about 2 weeks before your goal race, and since my race is almost 3 months away I know this is not really applicable to me right now.  BUT ... it is still kinda fun for me to think about anyway.  Since it took me 3 minutes 26 seconds average to do my 800s, then if I were doing the Yasso 800s and was fully trained for my marathon, it would mean I should be capable of a marathon time of 3 hours and 26 minutes.  I will not hang my hat on this and I will not use it as the end-all be-all indicator AT ALL, but it is a fun piece of data to look at and let's face it, it makes me smile because my goal is a sub-3:40 and I really really believe I am capable of that.  This workout was just another piece of data that makes me feel confident  that I will conquer my goal in March.  When I talked to the very wise Coach Adam about my thinking, he kindly smiled and nodded his head (I think he thinks I am insane, in a good way) he told me I should feel good about my workout last night, keep training smart and leave it at that.  I really like him.

Anyway, so after I finished my 800s, I ran an easy-paced mile to cool down and then stretched a bit before heading home to have dinner and a date with my foam roller.   6 miles total last night and today is a rest day and I'm feeling good.  My legs are not tired or sore like they were last week, so I know I ran the right pace last night and will head into my 16 miler this weekend on much stronger legs than I did last week.  Mission accomplished!

Do you love the track like I do?  Have ever done Yasso 800s and if so, what do you think of them?  What is your favorite workout to do on the track?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roll With It

Every day during marathon training, I have to MAKE the time for a date with my foam roller.  A good 15-20 minutes with this guy every day makes a huge difference in my body.

When the mileage increases and the speed workouts are in full swing, my muscles get tight and beg for some massage.  I think that the colder weather also contributes to tighter muscles (I don't know about you, but I feel my muscles naturally tense up the minute I step outside in the cold weather), and I need to give them some tender loving care to keep things loose and limber.  Since I can't afford a regular rub down, it is up to me to take care of treating my muscles to some myofascial release.

I strongly believe that this should be a part of every runner's training regimen.  It makes a big difference.

I keep my "torture devises" (as I am sometimes known to lovingly call them), right in my family room in a basket.  Every night after dinner while my husband and I are relaxing by the fire watching TV, I spend some time rolling out my muscles on the foam or rumble roller or massaging them with the "Tiger Tail" stick (http://www.tigertailusa.com).  If I have a particularly tight and stubborn spot I may also take out a tennis ball and use that to target the area.

my torture devises
What are these things, you ask?  And why would I torture myself this way?

The foam roller is a large cylindrical piece of high density foam.  When you "roll" your muscles across the foam it serves to loosen your muscles and break up adhesions that have formed in the fascia.  (Wikipedia describes fascia as "a layer of connective tissues that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding those structures together in much the same manner as plastic wrap can be used to hold the contents of sandwiches together."  I love this analogy.).  When we have tight muscles, the fascia becomes less like plastic wrap (which is soft and conforms to the contents it is holding) and more like a hard rubbery material.  So we need to massage it out to loosen things up and have it relaxed and pliable again.  The foam roller is perfect for this.  The rolling action pumps blood out of and then back into the area and sort of kneads the muscle (like a giant rolling pin) loosening things up.  A Tiger Tail is a stick with a layer of foam (similar to the foam on the foam roller) that spins on the stick that can be pressed and rolled over a muscle - it facilitates the same results as the large foam roller, but I find it is more helpful for smaller areas like the bottom of the feet, the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.

I make the time to roll out my hamstrings, calves, quads, IT bands, bottoms of my feet, glutes and hips every night.  I roll over each muscle group about 5-10 times, depending on the tightness.  If I have an area that is especially tight I will spend more time there, sometimes using my rumble roller (which has tire tread-like things on it) or the tennis ball on those spots.

It can hurt and doesn't always feel so good in the moment.  But like a good run, I never regret making the time to roll out my muscles and always feel better when I am done.

Coach Caitlyn (who leads the =PR= Distance Training Program) recently introduced me to a WONDERFUL web site called Athletes Training Athletes (you can find it HERE) that I simply cannot get enough of.  The site was created by Leigh Boyle, who is a physical therapist and triathlete from New Hampshire.  Leigh created this site as a "one stop resource" for endurance athletes to find all the information they need to help them work through or prevent overuse injuries.  If you are like me, you will love this site and find yourself reading it all the time.  Leigh has provided SO MUCH incredible information all in one spot, including excellent videos of foam rolling techniques for each muscle group area and kinesio-taping advice as well.  If you are an endurance athlete, you will want to bookmark this site in your web browser as I have.  It is amazing.

So ... tell me, do you have a regular date with your foam roller?  How do you make the time for this important aspect of your training regime?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

summaries and conclusions

So, I haven't posted in a few days (been a little distracted by holiday preparations and having kiddos home from school already) and now I'm finding myself wanting to say sooo much, but feeling very disorganized with my thoughts and not really sure what to hone in on.

In summarizing my last few runs, I have come to some conclusions ....

Last week on Wednesday night I did a track workout of 9x400 at a too fast (for me) pace.  Clocking in each repeat averaging a 5:50/mile pace for over 2 miles, I knew even in the moment that this was not the smartest decision.  But I didn't slow down.  I think the reason was that I was feeling good and I wanted to prove something to myself.  It boosted my confidence to feel as good as I did at that pace.  But I paid for it.  Two days later I found myself with delayed onset muscle soreness.

Live and learn.

Thursday was a scheduled rest day.  Friday I ran 6 miles "easy" while pushing both boys in the double stroller.  There is nothing easy about that, I know, but I ran a 10-minute mile pace the whole way and felt relaxed and grateful to be running outside with my kids rather than on a treadmill indoors.

When I woke up on Saturday morning my legs were still sore and I had a long run to do.  I was meeting one of my very best friends, Bethany, for 14 miles.  Bethany and I have known each other our ENTIRE lives.  We grew up together and do not know what life is like without each other, though we have lived far apart from one another for most of our lives.  Bethany is currently living in Key West but her parents live in the DC area, so she was here for the weekend and we were so excited to run together.  She is training for her second marathon (Disney) and is targeting a 3:30 finish.  This will be her second marathon ever.  She ran her first marathon last year and finished in 3:40, qualifying for Boston -- amazing amazing AMAZING.  I do not know many people who BQ in their first ever marathon.  But Bethany did.


Anyway, I was sooo excited to run with one of my very favorite people on the planet, who I hardly ever get to see.  Two hours alone with a dear friend, with no interruptions, doing something you share a passion for ... that is pretty much my idea of a perfect morning.

Friends for LIFE ... still as youthful as ever 

The miles ticked by and we were both surprised by how far we had gone each time we looked at our watches.  We were running a little slower than I think both of us were expecting going into the run, but with my muscle soreness and Bethany recovering from shin splints, we were both ok with it.  We were having a really beautiful run together and pace just didn't really matter at all.  By the end of 14 miles we averaged a 9:13 pace/mile and were both smiling ear-to-ear when we finished.

I am so thankful for that run, and the miles we shared.  I cannot wait to do it again.

Sunday was run club!  We had 21 people this week, plus me and Jodi (this makes me sooo happy).  It was a beautiful morning for a recovery run.  I was so excited to finally get to meet Jessica Karazcia in person (she writes the blog Zero to Fifty).  Jessica really inspires me.  She has worked so hard and seen it pay off in so many ways.  We got to run 4.44 miles together on Sunday - chatting and smiling the whole way.  Once again, the miles ticked by and my muscle soreness didn't bother me too much.
Jess & Jess
My total mileage for last week was 39.75 miles, including some serious speed work on Wednesday.  It was no wonder that my legs were tired.  This mileage isn't huge for me in the grand scheme of things, I plan to peak close to 65 during this training cycle, but it was a lot for my second week of training after taking most of the month of November off.  I was a bit too eager to get going and my muscles were talking to me.

Yesterday I was planning to run for an hour, but instead I went to see Dr. Wong just to have things checked out as I dive into this next training cycle.  When I was training for MCM I saw him once a month, no matter what.  It worked for me and I plan to do that again this time around.  Thank goodness my muscle soreness is just that - soreness - no injury, no strains or pulls or anything.  I am lucky.

Today I hopped on the treadmill for 4 easy paced miles and tomorrow I'm heading back to the track.  My workout tomorrow night is 8x800.  I am going to run them at the right pace, which will NOT be a sub-6:00 mile even if I feel good at that speed.  I have a 16 miler around the corner this weekend and I want to feel ready for it.

Marathon training requires self control and targeting the right paces, not just the fast paces.  I need to remember this, especially when I'm on the track.  I get really excited out there and lose site of the big picture.  I don't want to make this mistake again.  I need to be smarter than that.

Can anyone else out there relate to this?  Do you ever run faster than you should for a specific workout?  How do you determine what the right pace is for you?  I use race times and McMillan to figure it out.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Headband Reviews & A Giveaway!

As I mentioned the other day, I am *somewhat* of a picky person.  It can take me a while to find something that I like and when I do, I become a loyal and dedicated fan of it.  I'm sure many of you can relate.

I feel like I have tried every headband on the market.  Most of them have been complete failures for me, sliding back and falling out of my hair whether I'm running or not.  I became so frustrated with them that I actually gave up on headbands altogether until just a few months ago.

Then, this summer my friend Dorothy at Mile Posts did a review and giveaway of the Sparkly Soul headbands.  Dorothy happens to be a close friend of mine and I can vouch for the fact that she is equally as picky as I am, so when she told me that the Sparkly Soul headbands were awesome and that they would not slip out, I immediately ordered one for myself.

She was right.

Now I have several colors and have given them out as gifts to many people, including my sister Jodi.

Jodi and I at Army Ten Miler, sparkling with purple
My search for a headband that works for me ended there, and I didn't really feel the need to try any new ones.

But then, the other day I was at lululemon and was introduced to a new headband that I was told I just **had** to try.  Everyone who works there swears by it.  And I trust these girls.  They have always given me honest advice and opinions about their products, steering me towards things that are designed for the kind of activities I do and cautioning me against things that are not made to perform at their best for what my purpose is.  So, when they told me that the Skinny Satin Pirouette Headband would not disappoint, I decided I would buy one and see for myself.

See that grippy stuff and the adjustable section?  Magic.  
This headband is really cute and simple.  It can be worn whether I'm running or not, so I figured that for the $12.00 it cost me, if it didn't hold up to my running then it would at least be a cute accessory to add to my wardrobe.

But it did hold up to my running.  It is designed to do just that.  I am of the opinion that accessories like this work for some and not for others, when lululemon made this headband they designed it with that specifically in mind.  All the way around on the inside edge it has magic grippy stuff (I am sure there is a more professional way to say that, but whatever) so the headband stays put during the most rigorous and sweatiest of activities.  In addition, the headband is completely adjustable, so if you have a wide head or a long head or a teeny head, you can make it the right size for you.  Genius.

silky, satin and staying put
I'm brimming with joy over the simple fact that I now have several headbands that stay in my hair when I'm running (it's the little things...).

I'm so excited about it in fact, that I've decided I want to give a Skinny Satin Pirouette headband to one of you!  Lululemon has not asked me to do this and I am not getting compensated for it in any way.  They also are not giving me a free headband to give away, I will be purchasing it at full price for this purpose.  I just want to be clear that I love the headband and I'm doing this because I want to do it.

So, that's that.

All you have to do to enter is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment letting me know that you follow it!

For bonus entries, do the following and leave a separate comment for each, please:
  • Follow me on Twitter at @paceofme
  • Be a fan of my {new} Facebook page
  • Leave a comment sharing with me one of your very favorite never-fails-you running accessories
I'm going to accept entries through Monday, December 26th and will announce the winner on Tuesday, December 27th.

Also, right now Sparkly Soul is offering a 20% discount on orders placed before December 25th.  Just enter the coupon code HOLIDAY at checkout when you place your order!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

~ Picky Bars ~

One might venture to call me a picky eater.  I eat a mostly vegan diet and I have a sensitive stomach.  There are certain things that my body just won't tolerate most days of the week (dairy and gluten, in particular).  When I'm getting ready for a run I have to be especially careful to avoid those foods otherwise my stomach will go into over-active mode and that just isn't fun to have to deal with.  And when I'm done with a hard workout and need to eat something soon after to begin my recovery, I can be finicky and have very little appetite for a while.  Figuring out what works for me has been a long and ongoing process.

A few months ago I started hearing about a new bar out there that was made with picky eaters (who are also athletes) in mind.  People with food allergies and sensitivities.  People who need to be careful and mindful about what they put in their bodies, whether they are getting ready for a workout, taking a rest day or recovering from a hard effort on the track.  Picky people who are not only picky about what is (or isn't) in their food, but who also like yummy things and want their food to taste good.

People like me.

I had to know what they were all about.  So I placed an order to see for myself. 

I am SO glad that I did.

Picky Bars (http://www.pickybars.com/) are the perfect snack for me. They taste great.  They are packed with nutritional yummy goodness.  They are all completely dairy and gluten free.  I have tried all three flavors and my stomach has not been upset from them once. 

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite flavor because I love them all, though the "Nutless Wonder" may win out because it is free of both peanuts and tree nuts (foods my 5 year old son Will is very allergic to).  Before letting Will have a taste of my new "Mommy Bar" as he calls it, I emailed the company to inquire about their manufacturing process and see what efforts were taken to avoid cross contamination.  I was so grateful and amazed with the response I received.  Lauren Fleshman (who is one of the creators of Picky Bars and who also happens to be an incredible professional runner who I really really admire) replied to my email with a very thorough, thoughtful and honest response.  They are extremely careful to avoid cross contamination but of course cannot guarantee it won't happen (they are human), which was honestly what I expected her to say.  But Lauren took the time to go into a lot of detail for me so that I would feel very well informed about how the bars are made (right in their home kitchen) and I could make my decision about whether or not it would be safe to let Will have a taste of the Nutless Wonder.  I'm pretty certain the chances of him having an allergic reaction are pretty slim based on everything Lauren told me about how cautious they are.  I did let him try it and he does like it, but it is not something I will give to him regularly because I'm just really conservative about this kind of thing and feel it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to my son's food allergies.

I enjoyed my first order of Picky Bars so much, that I placed a second order.  When more than a week went by without receiving my package I looked into it and realized that PayPal had somehow messed up the shipping information in my account and sent my order to an address I lived at more than three years ago.  I was so. very. bummed.  I knew it wasn't the fault of Picky Bars, but I emailed them to let them know what happened and to see if they had any suggestions or ideas about how I might be able to get my order to arrive at my house.  I was so surprised to get another email from Lauren, this time giving me her cell phone number and asking me to give her a call ASAP so we could "get to the bottom of it."  She was apparently at the airport and that moment would be a really good time to chat.

Ummmmm .... really?  Call Lauren Fleshman on the phone, like now?  Right this minute?  Ok.  I can do that.

I tried not to be a dork, but that was pretty much impossible. 

We talked about my order and got right to the bottom of it immediately (my old address is now completely deleted from that account, which it should have been anyway), and Lauren insisted they would send me my order again - this time making sure it would be delivered to my current address.  Then we talked about the food allergy thing and then I may have gushed a little (or a lot) about how inspiring I think she is, for her running but also for her companies (her other company is called Believe I Am (http://believeiam.com/) -- you must check it out if you haven't already!).  She was modest and sweet and cool and professional about it all.  Of course.

And then after we got off the phone, I decided I wanted to be a member of the Picky Club (which basically means I want to order Picky Bars regularly and have them sent to me every month).  The bars and the customer service have all just won me over.

I am stoked about what came in the mail today ...
it's official!
And, of course my tee-shirt:

the back says "picky eater."  yepp, that's me.

As a member of the Picky Club I will get a delivery of 18 bars each month (should be enough), will get to try out new sample flavors, have this awesome tee shirt and who knows what else they will come up with.

Being a picky eater has never been so much fun.

Have you tried them?  If not, you should!!

rest day thoughts

Today is a rest day!  I ran 16 miles over the weekend and haven't taken a break from running since last Friday, so rest I will.  My legs feel good and honestly I would love a run, but I know the importance of rest days and am going to commit to at least one day of no running each and every week during this training cycle.

My running this week has been extra fun because I've been mixing it up with my shoes.  Here is my week so far, in review...

Monday I wore my new Kinvaras on the treadmill at the gym for a bit of speedwork.  I ran a 1 mile warm up and then hung onto a 7:03 pace for 20 minutes, followed by a little less than a mile to cool down.  I loved wearing my Kinvaras on the treadmill.  Total miles Monday: 4.5.

Tuesday I did a 50 minute run on the treadmill at home.  I started with 20 minutes at a comfortable pace (around an 8:40 mile), wearing my Asics Cumulus.  Then I paused the treadmill and hopped off to switch shoes so I could run for 10 minutes in the New Balance 1400 and see how they felt.

i love the way they look, i love the way they feel
It was FUN to wear these shoes!  I had to increase the speed on the treadmill while wearing them, you just can't put these shoes on without running faster.  I feel like I can fly when they're on my feet.  I am definitely in love with these shoes.  Though they felt great and I wanted to continue to wear them for the rest of my run, I stopped the treadmill after 10 minutes and took them off to switch back to my Cumulus for the remainder of my run (another 20 minutes).  These shoes have NO heel drop and very little cushioning.  My feet are used to being in shoes with a lot more padding and a heel drop, so if I want to wear the 1400 I need to ease my way into wearing them.  Otherwise there is no question that I will wind up with an injury and a whole bunch of regret.  I totally understand why people do too much too soon in more minimal shoes -- they feel great on your feet, you feel so fast running in them - you feel invincible.  But guess what?  We are human.  And we will get injured if we are not smart.  It is science.  So, I am being careful and will be patient, gradually progressing to wearing them for more than a mile or two.  Total miles on Tuesday: 5.8.

Wednesday is track day!  During this training cycle I will be meeting the =PR= Distance Training group at the track every Wednesday night at 6:30PM.  Coach Brian Cunningham knows his stuff and provides wonderful advice, information and encouragement in a very professional yet laid back way.  I totally dig his coaching style.

Coach Brian giving us the rules of the track and the details of our workout
We had a much larger group this week because many people were {sane} last week and did last week's track workout on the treadmill instead of meeting us in the freezing temperatures and pouring rain.  My good buddies were there though, and it was very exciting to all be together last night.

Paul, Megan and me ready to run around in circles
I decided to wear my Kinvaras on the track again last night.  Very good decision.  I am so happy in these shoes and the track is a great place to wear them!  These shoes have a heel drop, but it is much less than my Cumulus.  And they are way lighter and have less cushioning than the Cumulus.  I am going to work into wearing these more and more as each week progresses.
i love you
Last night's prescribed workout was "8-10 x 400 at "T" pace, with a 2:00-3:00 "PE shuffle" in between each repeat.  Then cool down for with a few laps at an easy pace."  Did you catch that?  No?  Me neither at first.  So I will translate for you:

8-10 x 400 = A 400 is 1 lap around the track, also known as 1/4 mile.  Do this 8-10 times.
"T" pace = lactic acid threshold pace ... this should be a pace you can manage for about an hour.  About 85-90% effort.  You do not want to go "all out" and give it everything you've got, or your pace will inevitably slow and you will also be working the wrong system for the purposes of this workout.  Generally a good rule of thumb here would be about 10-15 seconds slower than your 10k pace.  The reason for this?  This workout is designed to train our muscles to become efficient at running at that lactic acid threshold, so we will be able to maintain our marathon pace for the long haul come race day. 
2:00-3:00 "PE Shuffle" = after every 400 at T pace, we jog ever so slowly (almost a shuffle) for a few minutes before doing another lap hard.

I am not really sure what my 10k pace is, and am still trying to figure out what my T pace should be.  I ran by feel for the first several repeats and each time I looked at my watch I was coming in consistently at a 5:45-5:50 pace per mile average.  This was too fast for this workout and even though I was feeling awesome and strong, I tried to slow it down to closer to a 6:40 pace for the last two repeats, which honestly was still probably too fast for this workout.  I talked with our other coach, Adam Lesser (who I think is completely awesome by the way), about it during my cool down and he had lots of advice for me.  I am going to work on hitting the right paces for all of my workouts.  I will race a 10k or half marathon in the next month or so and that will give me a better idea of where I should be targeting.  All in all including my warm up and cool down, last night I ran a total of 5 miles.

all of us smooshed into one photo
This afternoon I am heading over to lululemon to meet the other ambassadors and hang out with the lovely team of awesome people who work there!  Baby Gus is coming too and we are both very excited.  It seems like a great way to spend my rest day.  And this afternoon I have my daughter's Daisy Troop meeting and then Robert is going out with friends after work so I will be holding down the fort on my own tonight.

It's all about balance and rest is a major part of that!  I'm looking forward to the day and to recharging my batteries for more running in the next few days.

When do you take your rest days?  Do you greet them with a smile, or do you sort of dread them?

Monday, December 12, 2011

shoe love

Here is the story of my shoes.  It is a very boring story until now (and you may actually argue my story is still boring, but I personally think things are getting quite exciting around here).

When I started running back in the year 2000, I found myself in the Asics Gel Cumulus, a neutral shoe with cushioning.  I wore the same shoes for close to 9 years.  I would try other shoes on every now and then, but just kept going back to the Cumulus because it felt good and I had no problems with injury or anything.

Then, about three years ago, I made a very silly (because it was mindless) decision and switched to the Asics Gel Nimbus.  This is also a neutral shoe but with a lot more cushioning.  I think I wanted a change, and this felt like a safe one?  Or I switched to it because my sister was wearing it and it cost more money and I thought it must be a "better" shoe if it is more expensive?  I honestly have no idea why I switched, but I did.   I shudder at the thought of it now ... what a dummy.

Anyway, thankfully the Nimbus worked just fine for me and I had no problems wearing it.  Until this past training cycle.

I started to develop this weird little bump, almost like a cyst, on the front of my ankle.  I only noticed it when I put on the Nimbus - I seriously would not even feel it if I was wearing any other shoes or if I was barefoot.  I noticed it in early September and bought a new pair of Nimbus a few weeks later, thinking maybe it was just because it was time to get new shoes, that pair had enough miles on them.  But no such luck, my "bump" (I don't know what else to call it) was still bugged by the shoe.  It was totally tolerable, more of an annoyance than anything, but it irritated me and I knew that after MCM I would be shoe shopping.  It was time to say goodbye to the Nimbus and find a new shoe.

And then I started thinking through it more and realized I didn't want just one new shoe.  I wanted a new shoe that would be good for longer training runs and I also wanted another, lighter shoe for my tempo runs and track workouts.  I've been intrigued by all the lighter, lower heel drop shoes out there and feel ready to give them a try.  Ready to start easing my way into a more minimal shoe, carefully and patiently.

So a couple of weeks ago I met with Meghan Ridgley at =PR= and she spent some time with me talking SHOES.  I ran on the treadmill in the store and we determined that a neutral shoe was still the way to go for me, but that I did not need quite the amount of cushioning that the Nimbus has (surprise, surprise).  I tried on several shoes from various brands and in the end guess what I wound up with?

Brace yourself, this is a shocker ....

The Cumulus!

My feet are so happy in this shoe.  I really think we were made for one another.  And though I do not buy shoes based on the colors, I was truly happy when I saw all the pink on the newest model.  I love them.  And also, it is very nice that the bump on my ankle is not bothered at all when I wear this shoe. I can tell it has less cushion than the Nimbus - it feels lighter on my feet and very comfortable.  It will be my shoe for all of my longer training runs (for now).  Decision made.

So .... for the lighter shoe.  I tried so many shoes on and found myself torn between two shoes I really love:  the Saucony Kinvara and the New Balance 1400.  I brought both pairs home with me.

Today I did my tempo run on the treadmill in the Kinvaras.  You guys, I have a CRUSH on these shoes ...

That is the best way for me to describe my current relationship with this shoe - a CRUSH.  I want to be in this shoe all the time, but I know if I do too much with it too soon, I will regret it and get hurt.  I want this relationship to last - and I even have thoughts of the romance becoming long term and think eventually it could replace the Cumulus.  I want to run a marathon in this shoe some day.  But I know I have to be careful because the lower heel drop and less cushioning is new for my body and I need to ease into it to avoid injury.  I am going to do this right though.  I love this shoe.

And the New Balance 1400?  Well, that shoe just makes me happy.  They are more of a "fling" than a crush.  I won't ever have any intention taking this relationship much further than the track or a few fast miles.  When they are on my feet I feel fun, I feel light and I feel free.  I haven't taken them out of the box yet, but plan to give them a spin tomorrow.  I have 5 easy miles planned on the treadmill and am going to wear them for just 1 mile of the run.  I really REALLY need to be careful in these - they have basically no heel drop and practically no cushioning.  They will cause me a lot of trouble if I do too much too soon in them.

Okay, so my shoe story is riveting, right!?  That is all I have for now.  I'm excited to be trying new shoes and to be mixing it up a bit.  Tell me what you have on your feet!  Do you wear the same shoe for all of your runs and workouts?  Have you tried out shoes with less cushioning and lower heel drops?  I would love to hear about it!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

what a weekend!

Balancing the craziness of this time of year while kicking off a new marathon training cycle is not easy.  Last week was the first official week of my training and I struggled to get my miles in.  I felt overwhelmed with commitments - volunteering, working, parenting, training ... it was all piling up.  To top it off I wasn't getting very much sleep.  AT. ALL.  It seems all three of my kids forgot how to sleep through the night, for several days in a row.  And by the end of the week I was completely wiped out. 

I wanted to run 6 easy paced miles on Friday but decided to take the day off from running.  I was just too tired to run.  For a moment I cringed at the thought of skipping a planned run, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision.  I had a busy weekend ahead and wanted to feel ready for it. 

Saturday morning I had a scheduled long run of 12 miles.  It was cold and sunny out - a beautiful morning for a run.  Jodi and I decided to run together (for the first time in a long time) and it was just what the two of us needed.  We hit the trail by about 7:30AM.  It was so wonderful to be running with my sister like this again.  Our training group is meeting at 8:30AM every Saturday, but yesterday we had to get started a little earlier because we had a workshop we were going to that started at noon and if we wanted to get the run in and have time to go home and shower and eat lunch etc before going out again - we had to hit the trail earlier.  When I asked Jodi if she wanted to run with me, at first she was concerned because she didn't want to slow me down (her words).  We both know how important it is to listen to our own bodies, especially when training for a race like this. But we LOVE running together and we were both in need of some sister time.  So, we decided we would try to hang around a 9:00 mile - a little faster than she normally runs her long runs at and a little slower than I normally do.  It was perfect.
shadows on the trail
We ran three miles east, then turned around and ran three miles west, back to our starting point...

Mile 1 - 8:59
Mile 2 - 8:43
Mile 3 - 8:46
Mile 4 - 8:57
Mile 5 - 9:03
Mile 6 - 9:00

When we arrived back at the start (halfway through our run) we each ate a gel and were psyched to catch a few of our favorite running buddies who were getting ready to start their runs.  It was especially awesome to see our good friend Paul and our sister Megan!  The four of us ran together for a mile or so and then we paired off to finish out our runs.  I loved sharing these miles with four of my favorite people ever!
Mile 7 - 9:15
Mile 8 - 9:00
Mile 9 - 8:51
Mile 10  - 8:41 

Around the 10th mile, our conversation slowed and we were running in silence.  I so love when this happens on a sister run.  So much is understood, yet unspoken.  We listened to the rhythm of our footsteps, the sound of our breathing and entered into a zone.  This is why I love running.  I love being in this moment.

I felt myself letting go of my stresses, my worries and my fears.  All that anxiety and muck that was building up inside of me all week - I shed all of it and left it out there on the trail.  I moved forward.  My sister actually said out loud "you go Jess, go do what you need to do."  She knows me so well.

Mile 11  - 8:34
Mile 12 - 8:31

Does it get better than this?  Two sisters on a trail, supporting and encouraging one another, believing in one another.  Listening to ourselves and listening to one another.  Finishing strong.  Finishing HAPPY.

sisters on a mission
After our run we zipped back home.  I had to give my husband a break from taking care of three kids all morning because in a little over an hour I would be heading out again for another 4 hours.

I married a really really really really really wonderful man. 

From 12-4:00PM yesterday Jodi and I attended a Chi Running workshop.  It was awesome!  I've heard all of this before (and you probably have, too) - all the talk about proper form and landing on your midfoot and engaging your core, etc - I've read it and applied it and learned it.  But this workshop was really helpful!  I think it deserves a post all it's own so I won't go into it too much here, but suffice it to say that it was worth my while and I'm excited by all that I learned.

Yesterday was a GOOD day.

Today was equally as good!  Today was the second run club!  We met at the sudio at 8:30AM and I was seriously amazed that we had 16 people show up today!!!  I was (and actually as I write this, still am) giddy with excitement over it.

Today we had Jodi teach the mat class while I assisted.  It rocked.
pilates before running = excellent
Then we split up into our three groups again - walkers, run/walkers and runners.  Everyone had someone to keep them company.  The energy was amazing.  We went to the trail and moved for 20 minutes east and then turned around for 20 minutes back.  At the end of the run everyone was all smiles and sweat!!  We did a little post-run stretching...

And then everyone was very sweet to agree to take a group photo for me!

i love run club!!
It was such a great group of people.  Thanks to everyone who came - I hope you will come back again!  I'm really looking forward to all the wonderful times we have ahead of us.  

I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this! -- when I picked up Jodi this morning to head to run club, she hopped in the car and we realized we were both wearing the same shirt with black pants.  Totally unplanned, but so like us to do something like this.  Before we headed home a new friend, who I feel like I have known forever, Jerrell (read her blog HERE, she is awesome!) snapped a photo of us in our matchy matchness:
yepp, that happens sometimes

I'm feeling thankful for so much right now.  For my amazing husband and children.  For my incredible sister who I know I am so blessed to have right down the street from me.  For the sport of running and the wonderful community of people who make it all the more enjoyable.  

Life is a journey and running is a huge part of that for me.  Sometimes we go our own pace, our own direction, but we are never ever, EVER, alone.

Here's to the week ahead!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

a stitch

I come from a long line of women who love to sew.

My grandmother Tess was a talented seamstress.  Her specialty was wedding gowns.  I remember her teaching me and my younger sister how to cross stitch and knit.  She was always giving us projects to do.  My grandparents' house in New Jersey was a tiny little Capecod, but she had a whole room devoted to her sewing projects.  It was filled with her creations, floor to ceiling. I remember the dresses, the dolls and doll clothing the most.  A collection of threads and buttons and yarns.  It was dreamy to my young eyes.

My mother also sews.  She made my sisters and I our Halloween costumes every year.  She was a kindergarten teacher and for her students every year she would sew them each a dinosaur stuffed animal.  In the final days of my first pregnancy, a few days after my due date, my mother came over to my house and we sat at a table and sewed burp cloths together to help keep my mind off the fact that I was SO pregnant.  When Robert and I bought our first home, it was my mother who sewed curtains and pillows for us, helping us make our house a home.

My sisters are also very crafty with needle and thread or yarn.  My oldest sister Kamie taught me how to needlepoint and she also hand paints the canvases that I stitch now.  My older sister Jodi is an amazing knitter and crocheter.  She always working on something that she will give to someone she loves.  My younger sister Alissa is so talented with her knitting and sewing as well.  Alissa is constantly creating amazing things!  She made Abby an adorable doll, Will a dinosaur stuffed animal and Christmas stockings for me and Robert.  She also made us all awesome hats and made little booties for baby Gus when he was born.  All of these items are made with such love, and they will be cherished forever and ever along with the memories they hold.
wearing a scarf Jodi made for me

felted wool stockings Alissa made for me & Robert
Sewing relaxes me.  It is a hobby I wish I made more time for.  These days my favorite way to sew is to do needlepoint projects.  I can sit and do them just about anywhere.  Keeping my hands busy helps my mind mellow out.  It is therapeutic and soothing to sit on the couch by the fire and do needlework.

I have made several projects over the years including this very special Christmas stocking for my daughter.  It took me about 9 months to complete.

I've needlepointed belts for my husband and father-in-law.  I want to make one for Will next.

My favorite things I have stitched are the canvases that my sister Kamie paints for me.  Kamie has her own business called Dizzy Daisy Designs.  She is an amazing artist and I am so proud of her!  You should visit her blog HERE to get a glimpse of her latest artwork (my favorites right now are her watercolours) and her company web site HERE to see all that she has to offer.  It is really truly incredible.

Here are some pictures of the ornaments I have stitched.  Most of them were painted by my sister.  I try to make one a year for my kids, so some day they will have them to hang on their own trees.

a Santa for Will

an angel baby for my sweet Abby

Abby loves bunnies....

Will loves robots...

Abby and Will together

my beach baby

my first ever needlepoint project
for Will of course!

this makes me think of my mother

of course, for Abby

race car for Will, when he was 2 he looooved them

our sweet angel dog, Riley

a mermaid for Abby
I am working on finishing up this one ...

Abby loves pandas

And cannot wait to get started on this one ...

this one is for ME!
And I am so excited because Kamie recently painted a stocking for me to sew for Will!  It is so incredibly special - filled with her creative drawings of his favorite things (Star Wars, dragons, sports, robots, cars, etc).  It will take me a long time to do, but my goal is to have it hanging by the fireplace next Christmas.  And then, of course, I have to get started on ornaments and a stocking for Mr. Gus!

Do you have hobbies besides running?

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