Tuesday, January 31, 2012

captured on camera

Being an ambassador for lululemon is an honor and a privilege.  I am so grateful to represent this company for many reasons.  The apparel and accessories are made with excellent care using the highest quality fabrics and materials.   Beyond that though, I am inspired by their message and I try to embody it in the way that I live my daily life.  I am so thankful and proud to be a part of the lululemon community and it has been tons of fun to work with them over the last few months.

answer : YES!
Whether it's leading run club, visiting the store to check out the latest new products, spreading the word about this wonderful company and all that it offers, meeting and being inspired by other local ambassadors or training and racing in my favorite gear -- I am loving every minute of it.

And it doesn't stop there.  A couple of months ago I had a photo shoot with the amazingly talented photographer Jonathan Thorpe.  The purpose of this shoot was to take pictures of me doing what I love (running on a trail) in the clothing that I love, just like I do all the time.  The picture would then be blown up to larger-than-life size and hung on the walls of the Tysons Corner store.   Because the walls of lululemon stores are not covered in touched-up pictures of fashion models.  They are instead decorated with un-edited pictures of real people in your community.  Pictures of real people doing what they love.  Real people who are truly passionate about their sport.  I happen to think this is truly awesome.

Will somebody pinch me, please!?

I seriously even still cannot believe this.  The photo shoot was tons of fun.  We went to one of my favorite spots - the beautiful Burke Lake Park in Fairfax, VA.  It was a frigid day - sooo cold - so I wore my black running tights with reflective sparkles, the Swiftly Tech long sleeve shirt in Paris Pink and layered my favorite Cool Racerback tank underneath that.  This is basically my running "uniform" this winter - I wear a version of this for nearly every single winter run.

It was tricky to be photographed running - I ran up and down a small hill over 100 times, no joke.  I am not used to this kind of thing and am sure I was not the easiest athlete to work with.  But Jonathan is insanely talented, extremely nice, patient on a saintly level, as professional as they come and totally fun.  He helped me relax about it and did his thing.  Aside from some shots where I was appalled at my heel striking and a little weirded out by my facial expressions, I am really really happy with the way the pictures turned out.

The other day I was in the store and as soon as I walked in I saw it - the giant picture of me running - hanging on the walls.  I swear to you I will never get tired of seeing it.  I will giggle every time I see it.  It makes me happy.

there I am!
It makes me happy because I hope that when people see it as they are shopping, they will see a woman (a 35 year old marathoning mom of three!) who lives in their community who is running and striving and dreaming and believing.  I hope they will look at it and that it will spark something inside of them.  That they will know that they are capable of whatever they set their minds to.  That it is worth it to take chances and follow their dreams.

I hope it will remind people of how good it feels to do what you love.  And that it is worth it to make the time for activities that build your strength, nurture your spirit, test your limits and help you grow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


It's funny how your perspective of what constitutes "a lot of miles" completely changes as you get deeper into a training cycle.  When you first start your training plan and your long run is 5 miles long, to think that at some point 5 miles will be easy is very hard (maybe impossible) to imagine.  And then when you are in the thick of the highest mileage weeks and running 5 miles is an "easy" run, you just have to think of that and smile.  You realize how far you have come.  You remember and respect how hard that 5 miles once was, but you understand you are stronger and you feel proud of yourself for doing what it took to get there.

I ran 55 miles last week - the most I have ever run in a week, in all my life!  This week I'm cutting back and hitting 48.  The fact that 48 miles = cutting back these days, really tells me how much things have changed.  My long run today was "just" 14 miles - a nice break when you think about the fact that I ran 20 miles on a treadmill last Saturday.  I mean, really.

One year ago today was my due date - I was about to give birth to baby #3 (he was late by 5 days) and one mile seemed like a huge journey to me.  One mile was a huge journey for me.

Me & My BIG Belly ~ Due Date: 1/28/11
(Don't I look happy in that picture?  I have had three babies and two of them were born after their due dates.  I prefer when they are early, but of course they are always worth the wait!!!)

Today I ran 14 "easy" miles, and as I ran I thought about where I was exactly one year ago, and how I would never have been able to imagine the life I am living today.  I remembered how I was feeling back then, filled with wonder and - I'll be honest - FEAR, about how I was going to balance it all after the baby came.  I really had no idea how I was going to handle a new baby plus two young children plus my business, plus my teaching, plus all my responsibilities at home, plus my position on the board of the preschool (handling a major renovation project), plus making the time for my running and whatever else I wasn't thinking of.  I was EXCITED beyond words --  but I was also totally freaked out.

Amidst all of the anxiety about the unknown though, there was a very strong sense of peace inside of me.  A confidence and a love that was steadfast and strong.  I would take it one step at a time, one day at a time.  In my heart, I just knew it would all be okay.

What I didn't know was that it would be THIS GREAT.

I could not have imagined him.
As I ran today, I smiled (I'm pretty sure the entire way).  Gratitude washed over me.  It has been an amazing year.  It has not been easy.  But it has been worth every sleepless night.  Worth every moment of chaos and confusion.  Every instance when I felt like giving up or giving in - but didn't.  Every step I have taken.

I have some anxiety and some fear about the race I am training for and the goal I am going after.  My running is in a place that I have never been to before.  Running 48 miles as a recovery week is insane to me.  That's a lot of miles!  Running an 8:27/mile average pace for a 14 mile long run is insane to me.  That's really fast!  But it is where I am and where I am meant to be.  I need to trust in that and go with it.  I need to listen to my heart, to that voice inside of me that assures me that I am strong enough for this.

My splits from today's long run ~
Mile 1 - 8:50
Mile 2 - 8:54
Mile 3 - 8:57
Mile 4 - 8:29
Mile 5 - 8:21
Mile 6 - 8:16
Mile 7 - 8:30
Mile 8 - 8:11
Mile 9 - 8:32
Mile 10 - 8:27
Mile 11 - 8:24
Mile 12 - 8:03
Mile 13 - 8:13
Mile 14 - 8:06

It is all going to be okay.  Maybe even more than okay.  Maybe GREAT.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Earlier this week I was tagged in the fun "11 Things" game by two really wonderful bloggers - Tonia at Racing With Babes and Terzah at BQ by 40.  Since I was tagged by two people I am going to do my best to answer both of their questions, but only post 11 random facts about me and only ask 11 new questions of 11 new people. 

Here are the rules:
1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in their post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blog and tell them you've tagged them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people. 

11 Random Things About Me:
(1) I had severe asthma as a child.  It developed when I was around 5 years old and lasted through puberty.  I wasn't really able to play sports as a young child.  I took steroids regularly and was in the hospital once for 2 weeks straight when I was in the second grade.  I hated it.  Now two out of my three kids are asthmatic.  They are both on inhaled steroids 9 months out of the year.  I am really hoping they outgrow it like I did.  As an adult I have zero asthma symptoms.  Thank goodness.

(2) I am a passionate person.  I have a "fire in my belly" as my dad used to say.  Maybe it is the Italian blood in me.  I am passionate/obsessive about the people and things that I love.  That is just the way that I roll.

(3) I rode on a camel in the Sahara desert when we were in Morocco in 2001.  The desert was beautiful, especially sunrise.  The camel was grumpy and dirty.  I would really like to go back to Morocco some day.  I would not like to ride on a camel again though.  Once was enough.

(4) I love to travel and dream of seeing as much of the world as I can.  I want to do this with my husband, with my children, with my sisters and with my dear friends.  I also want to do some of it alone.

(5)  I love yoga as much as I love running.  Before I found out I was pregnant with Baby Gus, I was signed up for a vinyasa yoga teacher training program.  I found out I was pregnant in May and the course ran from September-June.  I decided not postpone my teacher training until Gus is older.  It was a hard decision but I believe without a doubt that it was the right one.  Some day I look forward to following this part of my path.

(6) For a long time I thought I wanted to be an architect.  I majored in architecture for my first of college and changed my mind about it as a career.  My love for buildings and art is what drew me to the discipline, but I found that so much of it also focused around engineering (duh) and this turned me off from it.

(7) I love to draw, paint, glue, glitter, cut, stitch ... give me some art supplies and I will have fun with them!  Crafting with my kids is serious fun.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit around the table with them, each of us working on some fun creation encouraging and inspiring one another.  I hope my kids always nurture this side of their spirits.

(8) My nails are painted purple right now.  I love nail polish and don't care if I am 35 and wear the same nail polish as my 14 year old niece.  The other day I wore neon orange on my nails.  It made me happy.

(9) I met Mother Theresa when I was in grade school.  She was tiny, but her spirit was encapsulating.  I remember her warm smile and sparkling eyes.  I don't remember much else about the experience other than what it felt like to look down at her and have her smile shine up at me.

(10) I believe in angels.  I always have.  When I was in college my very dear friend Seth passed away suddenly and tragically.  It was without a doubt the most pain I have ever experienced.  He was my first love and my best friend.  I feel his presence in my life almost every day since though, and I am greatly comforted by that.

(11) I want to take an improv comedy class.  It would totally be outside of my comfort zone, but I think it would be fun and good for me.  I am going to do it. One of these days.

Answers to Tonia's questions:
1. Birthdays. Love them or hate them. Why?  LOVE.  With a passion.  Birthdays are the best.  I love celebrating mine, but I REALLY love celebrating my kids' birthdays.  I go crazy.  My littlest buddy Gus turns 1 next week and I seriously cannot wait. 

2. Get your purse/gym bag: What are the first five things you pull out?  So, my "purse" these days is a diaper bag/gym bag also.  First five things: tube of nuun, diaper, pacifier, ponytail holder and lip balm.  Exciting! 

3. What is the one meal you can make better than anyone else? I am not a good cook.  It's true.  I think my best meal would be brown coconut rice with steamed broccoli.  Woooo!  My husband is the creative chef in the family.  I am however, the baker.  According to my husband I make the best vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on the planet.  I may have to agree.  They are yummy.

4. You get one wish. No restrictions. What is it? Plain and simple - peace and happiness the world over.  No more wars or fights or hurting others.  It makes me sick.

5. Cake or Pie? CAKE, all the way.  Though I do really love my mom's apple pie.

6. What's your secret talent? Not sure I have one - I don't keep secrets well!  BUT one weird thing I can do is blow bubbles with my saliva.  Gross.

7. Early bird or night owl?  Lately, BOTH.  I prefer to just be a morning person, but these days I am having a hard time going to bed early.

8. Biggest pet peeve? I have a lot of pet peeves!  I hate the sound of people biting their nails, especially while they are talking to you.  Eeew.  Also, I can't stand when people are late for stuff without letting you know they are running late.

9. What's your favorite weird food combination? (i.e. ice cream and pickles)  Hmmm....I don't know if I like "weird" food combos.  I am a pretty picky and simple eater, so those kinds of things usually gross me out.

10. Which would you choose? No social media for a year or no working out for a month? Why?  This is easy - no social media for a year.  I would for sure survive that and would maybe even benefit from it.  A month without any exercise though -- THAT would be torture.

11. What are you sending me for my birthday?  Hmmm ... I'm thinking something that will involve cupcakes.  Or organizing.

Answers to Terzah's questions:
1. Which U.S. state do you most want to visit and what would you do there? I want to get myself to Oregon!  I have never been and I love the Pacific Northwest.  Everything about Eugene and Portland sounds dreamy to me.  I would go running, hiking, biking, festival-ing, listen to good music, farmers market-ing, look at local art, go to the mountains and the beaches and the cities.  I would want to go and pretend I lived there.

2. If you are a parent, what's the most important piece of advice you have for those of us who are also parents (and I want to know this even if your kids are still young)? If you don't have kids, what's the best thing your parents ever did for you, even if it was unpleasant at the time?
You know your children better than anyone - listen to your gut and follow your heart.  Trust yourself.

3. Name your favorite sport (running, tris, cycling etc.). If you couldn't do it, what would be your next choice and why?
RUNNING!!  If I couldn't do it, I would probably try biking.  And do more more more yoga.  I would choose those because I can push myself, sweat, do it alone or with others.

4. If you could pick a totem animal, what would it be and why? 
Fun question!  I would pick a butterfly.  Butterflies remind me of the precious and fragile beauty of life, the need to embrace change and trust in the transformations God has in store for us.

5. What's the scariest thing you ever did?
  I try to face a little bit of my fear almost every day.  I don't really have a huge giant scary thing that stands out above the rest - maybe when I moved to a new city by myself?  Or when I quit job I hated without having another job line up yet?  Or when I chopped 10 inches of my hair a few years ago?  All those things scared me, but wound up being such wonderful decisions.
6. If you still live in your hometown, are you glad you stayed? If you don't still live in your hometown, would you like to go back and live there? 
I left my hometown for a long time - we moved from Reston when I was 9 years old - and I am glad that I'm back now.  There are lots of places in this world I think I would like to live but bottom line is that I love to be close to family.

7. Are you a fan of motivational posters?
Not really.  I love them on Pinterest and Facebook, but not to hang around my house.

8. Do you do well on standardized tests?
  NO.  I had to take the SATs three times before I got a score that was indicative of my intelligence. I excelled in school but scored low on the tests the first couple times.  I just got nervous I guess.

9. Which countries/regions did your ancestors come from? Do you strongly identify with any of those places? 
Italy, Poland, Canada and Czechoslovakia.  I feel an attachment/identify with all of them in some way.

10. Which do you like best: baseball or football? 
Football.  But I would put basketball above both of these.

11. Name your favorite movie of all time.
For real?  This is almost impossible to answer!  I love movies and books.  One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption.

And now, for my 11 questions:
1. Do you collect anything?  If so, what and why?
2. A friend is visiting your town for the first time. Where would you take him/her and why?
3. Lucky number?  Is there a reason behind it?
4. What is your favorite inspirational quote?
5. Were you a tomboy as a kid?
6. What is your best childhood memory?
7. What is the best advice your parents ever gave to you?
8. What is your dream job and why?
9. What is your go-to joke?
10. I love trivia - what is your favorite random fact?
11. Where is the farthest place you have ever traveled to?  Would you go back?

And now, for the people I am tagging ~~

Thursday, January 26, 2012

fast running & slow cooking

During this marathon training cycle I'm heading to the local high school track every Wednesday night at 6:30PM to get my speed work done with the =PR= Distance Training Program.  Coach Brian Cunningham and his wife Shelly offer amazing support, guidance, encouragement and advice.  The other runners who show up every week are inspiring and hard working.  The track is not for pansies, especially in the winter months.  People who show up are dedicated and ready to work.  The workouts are hard and I always enter into them feeling a little scared yet very excited to give it my best and see what I'm capable of.  I look forward to my weekly track workouts in a way that is difficult for me to describe.  It is incredible.
these people ROCK
Last night we repeated a workout we did about a month ago - 8x800 with a few warm up and cool down miles on either end.  800s are tough - half a mile at 5k pace - with 3:00 of rest/recovery between each for a total of 8 sets (or 4 miles).  It is a great test of speed and endurance as well as mental stamina.  It is not easy.

On December 21st I nailed this workout with the following times:
3:30, 3:27, 3:32, 3:25, 3:25, 3:24: 3:25, 3:21

I remember thinking to myself that this seemed fast for me.  Faster than a 7:00 mile.  But I felt good and this was encouraging.

Last night I attempted this workout again, with the same level of effort.  I am beyond excited to see that I am improving - gaining speed, strength and endurance as well as confidence.  I'm learning to run faster and to control my speed so that I can stay consistent:
3:14, 3:13, 3:07, 3:11, 3:09, 3:11, 3:10, 3:10

In just one month's time I have shaved what I think to be a considerable amount of time off of my 800s for this workout.  My hard work is paying off.

Running in the evenings is hard for me on a lot of levels.  I used to have a tough time figuring out what and when to eat before going to the track (I seem to have this figured out now - a Picky Bar around 4:30PM is proving to be the perfect pre-track snack for me - Amen to that!).  It is logistically challenging for my family.  My husband comes home from work earlier than usual so I can get to the track on time.  I feed the kids dinner, pump a bottle for the baby and then head out the door right before they go upstairs for their bedtime routine, leaving my husband to fly solo with three kids while I'm gone.  I usually don't return home until around 8:00PM, so my husband and I eat dinner pretty late.  Since he is busy getting all the kids ready for bed he really can't also cook dinner while I'm gone - so we had to come up with a healthy, easy meal to have on track nights.

We found the **perfect** solution - Jamaican Bean Stew with brown coconut rice.  For the past three or four weeks, we have had this meal every Wednesday night.  I am not getting bored of it.  My kids (all three - even the baby!) love it.  It is a wonderful vegan recovery meal - loaded with healthy proteins, carbs and fats.  And it could honestly not be easier to make.

On Tuesday night we chop up the vegetables and put all the ingredients into our slow cooker.  On Wednesday morning we turn the slow cooker on low heat and leave it like that all day long.  Around 5:00PM I make the coconut rice.  It cooks for 45 minutes, so is usually ready by the time the kids are having dinner.  My husband doesn't have to do anything to prepare dinner while I'm gone and when I get home I have a hot, delicious and healthy meal waiting for me.

If you are looking for an easy, good-for-you and totally yummy meal to make for yourself and your family (whether or not you are a vegetarian or vegan) this is a great recipe!  I'm not a food blogger (FAR from it!) but am just really excited about this meal and wanted to share it with you here.  Brown coconut rice is pretty much a staple around my house - I eat it a few times a week with this stew, green veggies, stir fry ... I even sprinkle it in my salads sometimes.  I seriously love it.

ingredients for coconut rice
Coconut Rice
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 14oz. can light coconut milk
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp. honey (I usually don't even measure this - just drizzle for a few seconds)
Salt (I just sprinkle a bit in there. I'm not one to usually add salt to my food, so I keep it light)

Combine all the ingredients in a pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Jamaican Red Bean Stew
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves shallots (or garlic)
2 cups chopped baby carrots
3 scallions, chopped
1 sweet potato, diced
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp dried curry
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground allspice
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 16oz. cans dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth

chopped and ready to go
Put all the ingredients in your crock pot.  If you are prepping this the night before like we do, you can just put the whole crock pot in the fridge overnight and then turn it on the next morning.

this will be ready whenever you are!
When you're ready, turn the heat on low and cook for 6-8 hours.

I like to put a little bit of vegan sour cream on top of mine, too. You can buy this at most grocery stores and I am telling you it is good!
this stuff is good!
That's it.  A totally yummy and extremely easy meal!

Wednesday nights are all about fast running and slow cooking for me these days!  Nothing is better after a tough track workout in the cold than a warm healthy comforting meal like this.

What are your favorite recovery meals?  Do you eat vegan or vegetarian?  What about the slow cooker - are you a fan?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pancake Butt

Yep, you read that right.  Pancake Butt.  For the record, this is a nickname I gave to myself, not one I am hoping others will latch onto.  So why write a blog post about it, then?  Putting it out there for all of the internet world to read?  Well, because I'm hoping that maybe it will shed some light for you on the way that you are holding your own body.  Maybe you will have an "aha" moment the way that I did.

Let me tell you a little about my Pancake Butt.

For as long as I can remember, I have been frustrated with my flat flimsy back side.  I would watch J. Lo and Beyonce shake their booties and be totally envious.  I would literally think to myself - I want a butt!  We all know what it's like to be perpetually on the hunt for "good butt jeans" hoping to find a pair that accentuates the positive back there (while eliminating the negative, of course), but for me there really was no pair of jeans that could do the job.  I needed to make my own good butt!  I needed to build some muscles back there.  In order to do that though I would have to take a closer look at why I didn't have much of a butt in the first place, and the answer to that question lies in my poor postural habits.

We all have areas of imbalance and weakness and for me this resides in the good ole' glute muscles.  Mine just aren't that strong, but it isn't their fault.  Part of this is genetics, sure, but a much bigger part of the problem is the way I have habitually stood and carried my body for years and years and years.  I have had a tendency to exaggerate a posterior tilt of my pelvis, tucking those gluteal muscles under and as a result putting strain on my lower back and not allowing my glute muscles to fully develop or do any of the work.  It's not pretty ...

Pancake Butt.
Do you see how horribly out of alignment this is?  Just looking at this makes me cringe.  My butt is flat as a pancake because my tailbone is tucked under as my pelvis tilts too far to the posterior.  This is how I used to stand pretty much all the time.  I never really paid much attention to the fact that my pelvis wasn't neutral (had no idea) - until lower back pain and SI joint issues started to develop.  That was not fun, let me tell you.

Then I found Pilates and it changed my life.  The exercises themselves are incredibly helpful and have taught me to be more self-aware and to move more mindfully no matter what I am doing - whether it be standing in line at the grocery store, emptying the dishwasher, running a marathon or putting my baby down for a nap in his crib.

The way we hold our bodies matters.  It makes a difference.  Trust me.  Take it from someone who used to call herself Pancake Butt, okay?

With a little focus and self awareness and a tilt of the pelvis to neutral, my Pancake Butt disappears:

Hello there, Butt!  Nice to see you!
I still have a lot of work to do to develop my glute muscles to their full potential.  Right now I have a set of exercises I am doing every day to strengthen them and increase flexibility in my hamstrings.  My goal is to turn my Pancake Butt into a Power Butt - so I can be a stronger runner, protect my lower back from any future issues and, admittedly, fill out those jeans just a little more.

Tell me ... How are you holding your body right now, as you read this?  Are your shoulders tense?  Is your tailbone tucked?  Is your pelvis tilting one way or the other?  Do you know where your imbalances are (we ALL have them!)?  What are you doing to correct them?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

making the best of it: 20 miles on the treadmill

With three kids and cold temperatures, many days the treadmill is my only option during the winter months.  Because of this, I've come to accept the fact that I really can't afford to hate running indoors if I intend to keep up with my training at this time of year.  But I don't love it and I certainly don't prefer it to outdoor running, any day of the week.  I see the treadmill as a necessary evil and try to remember to be grateful for it, because any run is better than no run after all.

Usually when I get on the treadmill for more than just a few miles, I have to make it interesting and challenging - I mix my workout up with a tempo or creative speed intervals - in order to keep myself from getting insanely bored.  I push my speed.  I rarely push my distance.  Prior to yesterday, the most miles I had ever run on the treadmill was 10.  And I thought that was a lot (I still do).

I am not afraid of Old Man Winter.  I will run in freezing temperatures.  I will run in the rain.  In the dark.  I will run in the snow.  I actually really love winter running - layering up and breathing in the crisp cold air is invigorating and refreshing.  It makes me feel *hard core* - like I conquered so much more than just the miles, when I brave the elements and get it done in those conditions.  We all have that place where we draw the line though, and for me that line is drawn with one simple word: ICE.  When the trails are icy, I don't need to risk falling and hurting myself.  It's just not worth it.

Yesterday morning my line had to be drawn.  When I awoke to snow, freezing rain and ice I had to make a decision.  It wasn't an easy one for me, even with the ice on the ground.  But my gut told me I should run indoors, so I listened.

Even though I have a treadmill in my basement, I decided to go to the gym to get my long run done.  It would be easier on my family that way - Mommy would be out for her run just like every other Saturday morning.  The main roads were perfectly safe to drive on so I packed up all my things and drove to the gym.

I couldn't really believe I was about to do this.  But I also couldn't bear the thought of not doing it, either.  It had to be done.

So I went to the locker room and took off all my warm cozy layers.  I had 2 full water bottles, 4 gels (I planned to eat three but brought an extra, just in case - and I am so glad that I did), a small towel, my iPod and a couple of magazines.  I found a treadmill in the back and made myself at home there.

the necessities
My plan for tackling the run?  Try to run it as close to how I would run it if I were outside.  Which meant at a comfortable pace, averaging somewhere around an 8:30 - 9:00 mile.  When I run outside I drink water throughout (and at least at every mile) and eat a gel every 5 miles.  The gym treadmill doesn't let you run more than an hour at a time, so my plan was to run 5 miles, stop the treadmill to eat and refill my water (if necessary) and then tackle the next 5 miles.  This strategy worked really well for me because I just told myself mentally that I only needed to run 5 miles at a time.  In some weird way I was able to refresh myself mentally and physically after every 5 miles I ran.

I started out slower - running a 9:13 pace for the first mile and then notched it up to an 8:34 mile.  I hung onto that until Mile 5 when I stopped to eat my first gel.  I had some side stitches and felt like my breathing was funky during parts of the first segment.  Mentally, this first 5 miles was definitely the toughest for me.  I kept thinking Oh. My. God. I have to do this for a really really long time.  For REAL?  Time is moving soooo slooooowly.  Am I crazy?  Yes I am crazy.  But I already knew that.  Nearly of my friends and my sister were doing the run outside despite the weather and I kept thinking about them.  Sort of wondering if I was taking the "easy way out" by running on the treadmill.  I battled my mental and emotional demons in this first 5 miles though and quickly decided Hell NO! this was not the "easy way out" - there is no easy way out of 20 miles other than to just not do it!  This run was a beast and I was going to tame it.  Time for the first 5 miles: 43:27.

The next 5 miles were really really uneventful, guys.  Can you imagine?!  After having my gel and refilling my water I just ran, like a hamster on a wheel, for 5 more miles at an 8:34 pace - finishing it in 42:38.

I was halfway done!  Yayyy!

I grabbed another gel, toweled off and refilled both my water bottles.  I was sweating like crazy and drinking way more than usual because it was so warm in the gym.  My body isn't used to training in that heat these days, so it was really an adjustment for me.

As I stepped back on the treadmill for the third segment I was entering into new territory - the "I'm running more miles on a treadmill than I ever have in my life" territory.  My endorphins were kicking in now and I was listening to some great music on my iPod.  I really enjoy my music and pretty much only listen to it when I'm on the treadmill and occasionally on long runs so I can easily get lost in songs I love.  Music was my saving grace yesterday.  I hung onto the 8:34 pace and time just ticked away. Total time for the third set of 5 miles: 42:34.

I was rocking it and feeling good.  15 miles - DONE.

When I stepped off the treadmill at this point, I had a renewed determination to be finished with this run.  I ate my last gel and reached for my water - it was time to refill again.  I had already had 6 water bottles full at this point, which astounded me.  This was way more water than I normally have on a run.  But my body needed it.  I was thirsty.  I ate my gel and refilled my water and hopped back on the treadmill.

I upped the pace and ran the next 2.5 miles at an 8:13 pace, thinking I would gradually increase over the last 5 miles to wind up closer to my race pace (8:00) at the end.  But I paused the treadmill after those 2.5 miles because I just didn't feel right.  The pace was harder for me to hold than it should have been.  My skin was caked in salt.  Something was just -- weird.  This is when I reached for my extra gel I brought along.  I was sweating way more than I had in a long time because of the warmer temperature in the gym and as a result I was probably losing a lot more electrolytes than normal.  So I ate my extra gel and then slowed my pace down for the last 2.5 miles, back to the comfortable 8:34 pace I had held for most of my run.  Last 5 mile segment: 41:51.

Total time for 20 miles on the treadmill: 2:50:20.  Average pace overall: 8:31 per mile.

The way I felt when I was finished?  Relieved.  Happy.  Proud.  Tired.

And definitely crazy.

I felt like giving everyone in the gym high fives, and wanted to rejoice with all of them.  But it turns out they were completely oblivious to what I had just accomplished.  Oh well.

I immediately went to the stretching area and foam rolled and stretched a bit before putting on some dry clothes to head home.  When I got to the locker room Robert called me and said he would place an order for Chipotle burritos for us - my favorite thing to eat after a long run.  Have I ever told you how awesome my husband is?  Well, he is really really really great.  For lots of reasons.  And this is definitely one of them.

I felt a little weird still so when I got to the car I drank some Nuun (which, by the way, I wish I had had with me on this run.  I normally get by with just water and gels but in this extra sweaty circumstance I think Nuun would have given me the perfect boost that I needed.  Lesson learned.).  Then I drove straight to Chipotle to pick up my recovery meal.

a vegetarian's recovery meal heaven
For optimal recovery after a long run or extra hard workout, it's important to get protein and carbohydrates back into your muscles quickly (ideally within 2 hours).  A loaded burrito is a perfect choice for a vegetarian like me -- beans, rice, cheese, tortilla -- lots of protein, fat and carbs.  Usually it takes me a while to feel hungry after a long run like that, but yesterday I was ravenous almost immediately so as soon as I got home I sat down to eat.  Before even showering.  Gross, I know.  But it had to be done.  That was probably the best burrito I have ever eaten.

Did I love running on the treadmill for close to three hours?  No, not exactly.  Am I ridiculously happy that I got it done, that I didn't let the ice prevent me from getting my miles in?  YES.  I would do it again if I had to, though I hope I don't have to any time soon.

What was your long run like this weekend?  Did you have to bring it indoors like I did?  What strategies do you have for running long on the treadmill?

Friday, January 20, 2012

the week in review

This has been a really great week.  I've logged 30 miles so far, all quality runs that served their designated purpose.  After my 20 mile long run tomorrow and my recovery run on Sunday, I will have logged more miles this week (around 55) than I ever have in one week! 

I will peak somewhere around 60-65 miles this training cycle.  That fact both excites me and makes me nervous.  It's unknown territory for this body of mine.  So far, I'm thankful that I feel good and strong, that my legs are fresh and responding to the work I am asking of them.  If at any point that changes, well, then I will adapt because the point is not to run as many miles as I can but rather to train smart and show up on race day injury-free, strong and confident - ready to go after it.

Monday I went to the gym for a tempo run.  It was the first tempo I have done in a couple of months.  I warmed up with two easy paced miles and then did four tempo miles at a 7:30 pace.  The first mile at tempo felt really hard, but then I got into a groove and I felt strong and steady and actually increased the pace to closer to a 7:20 for the last two miles of it.  I cooled down with two more easy paced miles.  The total mileage for that run was 8.  After the run I did my strength training circuit and called it a day.  It was a great workout.  Tempos are HARD for me, but they boost my confidence and I am always so happy when they are done!!

happy to have that one done!
Tuesday morning I woke up early and met my running buddies for another 8 mile run.  It was a beautiful morning - I actually find 40 degrees to be comfortably warmish these days!  We had a light drizzle that was refreshing and ran a steady pace for all 8 miles, talking and laughing.  The time flew by and before I knew it we were done and the sun was just beginning to rise.  I am growing very fond of early morning runs with my buddies.

Wednesday was track night and cold winter weather had returned.  It was FREEZING, but once I got moving I felt ok and even took my gloves off.

2 mile warm up: 8:21, 8:19 (a little faster than I usually move for a warmup, but I was freezing!)

Then we began the WORK.  I did the following intervals with 3:00 rest in between each one:
1x1600 (mile) - 6:37
2x800 (half mile): 3:19, 3:19
4x400 (quarter mile) - 1:38, 1:37, 1:38, 1:33

I ran another easy-paced 2 miles to cool down and logged 7 miles for the night.

I felt really good about this workout.  It was tough - but I hit all the paces I was going for and that was key to keeping me strong to finish my last one at my fastest pace.  I've learned not to run as fast as I can on the track - I used to go out there and burn my candle at both ends until I just couldn't go anymore.  Those days are long gone and guess what - I am actually running (much) faster now and feeling a lot stronger.  To figure out my paces, I am using the McMillan Pace Calculator and listening to my body.  It takes practice to learn how to run fast, with control.  I am working on it!

Thursday is usually my rest day, but this week my running buddies were meeting at 5:30am again and I didn't want to miss out on the fun.  So less than 12 hours after finishing that killer track workout, I found myself running under the moon and the stars again.  My legs were feeling the workout, but we took it very easy and ran a beautiful 7 miles before sunrise. 
seriously awesome running buddies. and they GLOW!
Today is my rest day and let me tell you, I welcomed it with open arms!  I haven't run since my earlybird run yesterday, so by the time I hit the trail (or treadmill, eeek, depending on the weather tomorrow) I will have had a full 48 hours of rest.  This is awesome.  Since I ran so early yesterday morning it is giving my body extra time to recover from the tough workouts earlier in the week.  I think I like this plan...

I have 20 miles to run tomorrow morning and the forecast is calling for freezing rain and a high of 35 degrees by 9am.  The rain is going to continue all day and the high for the day will only reach 41.  I am not going to be a dummy tomorrow.  The cold and the rain don't scare me, but the ice certainly does.  I don't want to go out there and slip and fall and hurt myself.  So right now it is a toss-up: brave the elements outside or run inside on the treadmill.  No matter what, I am getting the 20 miles DONE.  It should be interesting!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chi Running Workshop

In early December I attended my first Chi Running workshop taught by the wonderfully refreshing and very knowledgeable Myriam Kane.  I've been wanting to write a post about this experience for a while now, but every time I sit down to do it I feel like I can't possibly do it justice.  I learned so much and enjoyed it immensely.

I first heard about Chi Running a couple of years ago, when I saw it mentioned in Runner's World.  I'll be honest and tell you that I thought it sounded kind of "gimmicky" at the time.  I kept hearing about it though - I read articles and blog posts about it and I listened to people share about it in my RRCA certification course - so finally I decided to buy the book (written by Danny Dreyer) and check it out for myself.  Right from the first page I read, it made sense to me.

The principles of Chi Running go hand in hand with those of Pilates (and you all know how I feel about Pilates!) - postural alignment and a strong core combine together to promote efficient, relaxed and pain-free movement.  I loved reading the book, but I always learn better when I can see it in action and having a teacher to answer my questions and address my personal concerns makes it sink in ten million times more.  For me, where the book was good - the workshop was excellent.

In addition to being a Chi Running coach, Myriam has a great background as a Pilates instructor, a runner and a nature lover.  I seriously cannot say enough good things about this woman.  Her professionalism, her enthusiasm, her depth of knowledge, her compassion and her positive attitude all add up to making me think she is perhaps one of the coolest ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet.  I cannot think of a better person to teach this workshop.

Myriam packed an incredible amount of information into the four hour session.  We covered a tremendous array of topics all related to running efficiently, relaxed, pain-free and strong.  There was so much information that resonated with me or made me think - light bulbs were going off in my head with nearly everything Myriam said!  I was in my element and just wanted to be a sponge, soaking up every word, every insight and tip.  I couldn't possibly apply every single lesson I learned after just one workshop, but I did come away from it with a few key takeaways and things that I am focusing on for myself.  I think even making just a few small changes and increasing my awareness is helping me to improve my running already.

Here are some of the things I learned that I am applying to my running now.  I think everyone who attended this workshop is probably focusing on different things at the moment, depending on their specific areas of weakness at the present time.  There were some things we talked about that I am already doing a lot of (myofascial release techniques and exercises to strengthen the core and increase flexibility, for example).  The below areas are what I am really focusing on, for now:

* Steps Per Minute: Research has shown that the most efficient runners take 180 steps per minute, no matter how fast they are moving.  I have tried counting my steps before and always come in closer to 165-170.  Myriam brought a metronome to our workshop and I was able to practice running at closer to 180 steps.  I enjoy listening to the beat in my head - for some reason it is relaxing for me.  It frees me to turn my brain off and I get into a nice rhythm. 

* Forward Lean: Leaning ever so slightly forward, with a strong and engaged core, proud and  relaxed shoulders, allows gravity to work for me.  If I keep my feet behind me at all times (shortening my stride out front, but lengthening it behind me like a wheel) and lean forward I will move much more efficiently.  My core and gravity will do the work for me - my legs will be along for the ride!

* Scanning My Body: Self awareness is extremely important while running (and always!).  During my run I make an effort to check in with myself periodically and notice if I am holding tension anywhere and see if I can release it.  I have a tendency to hold this in my shoulders when I run.  The simple act of bringing awareness to how I am carrying myself opens me up to letting go of it.  Then I am able to move so much more freely.

* Using My Arms:  Where my arms go, my legs will follow.  I want to focus on moving my arms forward (not pulling them back - always moving forward) from my shoulder to elbow as I move.  I relax my hands and my shoulders and keep my arms aligned properly (not crossing them over my body!) and I will be setting myself up for a much more efficient and free movement.

* Gradual Progression:  Changes are not going to happen overnight!  Becoming more self aware and strengthening your body is a gradual process.  It takes time and effort.  I love how Myriam talks about intentional movement - we have to be aware and accountable to how we carry our bodies, whether we are standing in line at the grocery store or running our fastest race.  Part of caring for our bodies is being aware of how we use them.  It takes conscious practice - daily - for all of us.

I really loved the Chi Running workshop and am so happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in it.  I truly think anyone can benefit from a session like this - whether you are new to running or are a seasoned racer.  There seems to always be room for improvement and increased awareness.  I think Chi Running offers workshops throughout the country, so if you are interested I encourage you to check out their web site and see if you can find one near you!

Have you ever read the Chi Running book or attended a workshop?  Did you find it helpful?  Have any questions for me about my experience?  I will do my best to answer!

Monday, January 16, 2012

hydration happiness

As runners, we all have our preferences for what works for us.  We test things out and we decide whether they work or whether they are simply not made for us.  Sometimes it takes a very long time to find the perfect thing, weeks or even years in some cases.  (It took years for me to find the right hand held water bottle - I do not want to know how much money I have spent on water bottles, thankyouverymuch).  And sometimes it is love at first use (oh if it were only that way every time!).  But usually once we find what works, we stick with it because we know we can count on it.

From what we put on our feet, to what we wear on our bodies, to what we eat before we hit the trails, to what we consume while we're running, to the best thing to eat and drink for recovery after our workout, to how we carry all that stuff that we need to bring with us while we're running - there are so many options out there and it is quite a journey to figure out the best combination of choices for us as individuals.  It can be overwhelming to think of it all.

But what we put on and what we put in our bodies is important - it all adds up to helping us perform our best and feel our best whether we are out there for an easy run, a long run, a speed workout or a race.

Perhaps the most important and the trickiest element to get figured out is the right nutrition and hydration scenario for our bodies.  We are all different and have unique preferences but there is one inarguable fact - we must stay hydrated in order to perform at our best.  This is true whether we are running or taking a rest day.  Dehydration feels like crap.  If we are under hydrated our bodies will let us know - we will feel tired, our pee will be dark, we may get a headache (always happens to me), we will be grumpy, we will feel thirsty.  It sucks.  In order to avoid dehydration we need to make drinking fluids a priority throughout the day.

I tried EVERY sports drink on the market before my last marathon training cycle.  I am not lying when I tell you that my stomach could not tolerate a single one of them.  The high amounts of sugar always messed my stomach up and left me feeling so sick and SO. incredibly. frustrated.  I knew I was capable of a better performance, but kept stumbling when trying to figure out how to hydrate and fuel properly.  What's more is I would drink water all day the day before my long run or my big race, but still somehow go into it feeling dehydrated.  As a nursing mother this time around I knew I would have to get this problem figured out if I had any hope of training and running my best.

So, this past summer when I was introduced to Nuun - sugar free electrolyte tablets that dissolve in water and taste good - I knew I had to try them out.
my Nuun stash
I was not disappointed.  Nuun was my fairy godmother of hydration.  It completely changed my approach to hydration.  From the first time I tried it, I was hooked.  I love the way that it tastes and because of that I became MUCH better about being sure to drink enough liquids throughout the day, whether I am running or not.  I have made it a habit (one might call it an addiction?) to drink a certain amount of Nuun every single day and more than that on days leading up to my long run or my big race.

Because of Nuun I am never - and I do mean NEVER - worried about being dehydrated.

hydrated = happy
In order to keep myself accountable to my hydration needs, I fill up my water bottles in the morning and make sure to drink them by the end of the day.  As a busy mom of three I know that if I don't do this, I may not remember to keep drinking throughout the day.  So this is just the system I came up with to keep myself in check.  I have two 24 oz. Nalgene bottles that I love to use.  One tablet of Nuun dissolves in 16 oz. of water (it takes about 2 minutes) - so I drop one and a half tablets into each of my Nalgenes when I prepare them.

On days before my long run or big race, I will drink both bottles and refill them each once for a total of 88 ounces of Nuun in a day.  I also drink water so I know I am getting well over 100 ounces of fluid on those days.  This seems to be plenty for me because when I do it I never feel dehydrated.  I have heard that we should drink half of our body weight in ounces (so if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces of water) in order to make sure we're properly hydrated.  I think this is just a general guideline though and that it is different for everyone - we all have unique hydration needs and need to listen to our bodies.  My body feels really great with closer to 100 ounces in a day so that is what I try to aim for especially before a tough, long workout.  Nuun has actually written up tons of awesome information on the importance of hydration on their web site - you should check it out HERE.

I'm so grateful to have discovered Nuun, a product I know I can count on to help keep me hydrated.

Have you tried it?  What are your favorite flavors?  It would be hard for me to pick just one - I am partial to Grape, Strawberry Lemonade, Tri-Berry and Tangerine Ginger.  But I also really like Banana and Citrus Fruit, too.  Have you ever mixed the flavors?  What are your favorite combos?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

taking a closer look

I entered into my last training cycle ready to make a lot of changes to the way I prepared for the marathon.  I added speed work once a week, daily foam rolling, dynamic stretching, strength training sessions, Pilates, slower paced long runs, race pace mileage workouts, monthly chiropractic care visits (to keep things in check) and peaked at a higher weekly mileage than I ever had before (50 miles).

All of these elements contributed to a majorly successful racing season for me.  I PR'd in every race I ran from the 5k to the marathon.  My marathon best went from a 4:35:09 to a 3:41:56 over the course of my training, all before my third baby turned one year old.

It was amazing.

In some ways, the improvements I saw in my running over the last year all feel like some sort of illusion to me.  I am still stunned when I look at the paces on my watch as I run around the track.  When I see that I'm holding an "easy" pace of an 8:30 mile over the course of 18 miles - and I feel so comfortable and truly content at that pace - I'm serious when I tell you that in that moment I am truly astounded.  There are times when I think to myself that this can't really be happening.  That I will wake up from this dream somehow.

But I know it is real.  I know because I'm the one doing the work.  It's not "happening to me" -  I'm making it happen.  I'm the one logging the miles.  Hitting my paces.  Toughing it out when I feel like giving up (this happens regularly).  Waking up before dawn to run before the day gets going.  Running on the track in the freezing cold and pouring rain at night.  No, there is no illusion about it.  It's real.  I'm living it.

I was happy and excited and grateful when I crossed the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon in October.  I had worked so hard and was very proud of my new PR.

But it was bittersweet.

I missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by less than 2 minutes.

coming into the finish at MCM, 2011
Ever since that moment, I have been dreaming and scheming about my next attempt.  I feel a strong determination from deep down inside my soul.  I'm willing to do whatever I can to cross that finish line at the Rock n Roll USA Marathon on March 17th with a BQ time in my pocket.

I've put a lot of thought into how to best chase this dream down.  Anything can happen on race day, and I know that - trust me.  But I want to arrive at the Start Line of my next 26.2 feeling stronger than I ever have before.  In order to do that I had to look closely at my training and identify where I could make changes to enhance the likelihood of running my fastest marathon.

This training cycle there are two specific areas I'm honing in on to seek improvement:

More Miles ~ I've mapped out a training schedule that has me peaking somewhere between 60-65 miles this time around.  Last cycle my highest weekly mileage was 50.  I reached 51 this week and am feeling great.  As long as my body continues to respond well to the increase, I will keep it up.  If I start to feel fatigue set in or injury knock on my door, I will pull back.  This is brand new territory for me so I am taking it one day, one week at a time as I increase.  But I believe that if my body can handle running higher mileage this time around, it will help me. 

Purpose ~  Every run has a purpose and I intend to honor that purpose each and every time I lace up my shoes.  Long runs will be done at a slower pace (8:30-9:30/mile average) for the most part - with some marathon race pace miles (8:00/mile) incorporated as my training progresses.  Speed will be saved for speed work - tempo pace saved for tempo runs.  Recovery runs will be slow.  Easy runs will truly be easy, even if I feel like a million bucks and want to run faster.  I am going to run my slow runs slow and my fast runs fast.  

Yesterday I ran 18 miles again.  It was tough - so tough.  I wasn't terribly jazzed about the cold and the wind, but I held a strong and steady pace and came out of it feeling good.  Feeling like I had conquered a beast!  I averaged an 8:38 mile, which was right where I wanted to be.  My slowest mile was an 8:51 and my fastest an 8:20.

The hardest thing about the run yesterday was being alone.  I usually really enjoy the time to myself, but yesterday was different.  I wanted my buddies by my side and I missed them.  A lot.

together and happy
We celebrate one another, respect one another, encourage one another - on the run and in our lives.  We are always there for one another, even if we're not side by side on the trail.  I was so glad that some of us were able to get together today for our recovery run at Run Club.  Recovery runs are the best - no pressure, no major mileage.  The recovery run has a purpose and that purpose is to promote healing.  What better way to do that than with good friends?  Today's run with friends made up for the loneliness I felt yesterday.

This was a good week.  I'm excited that I ran more miles than I ever have in a week and that my legs don't feel like they're going to fall off.  I'm happy I kept each run true to its purpose.  I'm grateful that so many of the miles were shared with dear friends.  With each passing week I'm getting closer and closer to my goal and learning so much about myself and about my training in the process.  Just about 2 more months to go....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Returning to Running After Pregnancy

As my little baby boy approaches his first birthday (he turns one on February 2nd!), I find myself thinking a lot about this past year and what my return to running has been like since adding this little fella to our family.

I ran throughout much of my pregnancy.  I wasn't fast.  I didn't go far.  I walked.  A LOT.  But I kept on moving, week after week, even on days when I really didn't want to (but not always on those days, I rested a whole lot, too).  I didn't track my mileage or worry about my paces.  Running was about honoring and celebrating my body for all it could do, not about how far or how fast I could go.  It was about taking care of my own body, mind and spirit as well as nurturing the little soul that was growing inside of me.  It was not time for pushing my limits or seeing what I was made of.  There would be plenty of time for that later.

But I dreamed about my return to running frequently while I was pregnant.  And I looked forward to training for and running races again.  I wondered what it would be like to run again after my baby was born.  How long would it take me to build back my fitness?  Would it hurt?  Would I ever be able to run as fast or as far as I had before getting pregnant?  How would I juggle all three of my children, and my fitness and my business and all of my responsibilities at home?  What would my life look like?  There were so many questions, but one thing that I was certain of was that I would figure it out, because I had to, because it was my choice to.  Because it just mattered.  Running would remain a part of my life because it was a part of me.  And I decided that it truly didn't matter how far or how fast I could run, as long as I could run.

In reflecting on how I was able to get back into running, and what worked for me over the course of the past year, I have come up with the following tips to share.  If you are pregnant now or if you recently had a baby and are beginning to run again, I hope you will find this helpful.

Dream about your goals.  In the midst of all the unknowns about what life will be like after the baby arrives, it can be motivating and exciting to have a goal to look forward to.  I picked a race that would happen on my 35th birthday, when my baby was just under 10 weeks old.  My goal was not to race it - but to be able to run all 10 miles at a comfortable pace (whatever that pace was, I didn't care.  I just wanted to run).  I also knew that I wanted to run a marathon during my baby's first year, and I dreamed about that a lot.  The idea of it scared me on many levels, too.  I didn't make training plans or map everything out while I was pregnant (no way!), but I dreamed about it and thought a lot about what kinds of things would need to be in place in my life in order for me to accomplish them.   Once Gus was born and I was running again, having these goals to work towards was very motivating to me. 

Be patient.  Relax.  Don't get caught up in the wonders and worries of how you are going to manage all the changes that are happening in your life.  Trust that your body will heal.  Believe in yourself.  When my doctor gave me the green light to run again (at 4 weeks postpartum) I got on my treadmill to run one mile.  It hurt.  It was insanely difficult.  It was much slower than I thought it would be.  Every single run felt like a marathon and my body took a while to recover after every run.  But I knew that I had to be patient.  That each week I would go a little farther, get a little stronger - as long as I didn't give up.  It takes time to heal and to regain your strength, but it WILL happen.  Trust in that and be patient.
out for a run with baby
Be inspired by others, but do not compare yourself to others.  Everyone is different.  I have friends both in real life and in the blogging world who were able to run farther and faster than I was, way sooner than I was.  Sometimes their accomplishments motivated me, and other times they deflated me.  I quickly realized that I needed to focus on my own journey and listen to my own body.  Just because someone you know was able to run a marathon 3 months after giving birth, doesn't mean you should hold yourself to the same expectations.  And on the flip side, if you hear from someone that they were never able to run again after having their baby, it doesn't mean that you are doomed to suffer the same fate!  Let others' stories inspire you - don't let them discourage you by comparing yourself to them.  You are your own person, on your own path.

Do Pilates.  Pregnancy will stretch out and weaken your core muscles - and I don't just mean your abdominal muscles - your hips, glutes, back and hamstrings are all a part of your core as well.  We have to move our bodies intentionally and really be aware of how we are holding ourselves.  It takes conscious thought.  Check in with your posture throughout the day.  Are you engaging your abs?  Is your pelvis tilting one way or the other?  Are you tucking your butt under or sticking your belly out?  Are your shoulders tensed?  Make the time for strength and flexibility exercises.  Pilates is excellent because you can do it right in the comfort of your own home.  Just 10 minutes a day will make a difference.  Bring awareness to your posture - when you are standing in line at the grocery store, putting your baby in his crib, giving the kids a bath.  When you are running.  Engage your core.  Use it!  It makes a huge difference.  Trust me.
rolling like a ball
Ease into it.  When I first started running again, I didn't worry about how many miles I was running or how fast I was moving.  In preparation for my first postpartum race, I trained by minutes instead of miles.  For some reason that took some of the pressure off.  I wasn't worried about being able to run a certain amount of miles, I just wanted to last a little longer each time.  As running became easier and my fitness and strength improved I switched to tracking miles again, but in those first few months going by minutes really worked for me.

Have a support system.  Share your dreams - and your fears - with those who love you.  Be an open book with the people in your life who believe in you and who will encourage you when you're feeling down and celebrate with you when you accomplish something.  Every run is an accomplishment, in those first few months especially.  I remember coming home from a particularly hard 40 minute run one day, in tears.  I was proud because I had done what I set out to do, but I was also so humbled and scared by how difficult it was.  My husband, who had been trapped in the house in the middle of winter with all three of our kids while I was out, just wrapped his arms around me and told me he was proud of me.  I needed that so much.  He was there for me (and still is) whether I needed a high five or a shoulder to cry on.  My sisters, my running buddies, my close friends - all have been there for me and have believed in me when I needed it the most.  You have your people, too.  Let them carry you sometimes, as I know you will carry them when they need it, too.  That is what we do for the people we love.
i love you, sister
Don't give up.  You will want to at times.  Many times.  You will get discouraged.  You will probably (most definitely) have setbacks, but you will overcome them.  You are stronger than your greatest fears.  You are stronger than your self doubt.  You will never regret not giving up.

Running after pregnancy is not easy, but it has been without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It has been so much fun to run and race as a mommy of three.  I believe that having each of my children has made me a stronger, more passionate person and in turn motherhood has made me a stronger, more passionate runner.
the power of three

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


If we all did the things we are capable of doing,
we would literally astound ourselves.
- Thomas Edison

Over the course of the last several months, I have been literally astounded by all that my body is capable of.  As I pushed through the self doubt, listened to my body and followed my heart, my strength and my courage grew.  I began to dream.  I got faster.  Paces which used to be super fast for me, became my comfort zone.

One year ago if you had told me that I would be training to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a sub-3:40 marathon time, and that it would be well within my reach, I am certain that I would not have believed you.

Not even for a second.  

I was a 4:35 marathoner who believed that I had a 4:00 marathon in me, and I was also 9 months pregnant with my third baby one year ago.  My hopes and dreams then, as far as running goes, were to regain my fitness, figure out how to balance it all with three young children, and strive for a 4:00 marathon finish.

It was the essence of my belief in myself though, the conviction that I had more in me - that I could push past my limits, that I could realize the truth of my full potential, that I was responsible for defining myself as a runner - that kept me moving forward, and still does.  My belief and passion have woken me up to all that I am capable of.  I have learned to never give up, to trust that there is always room for growth and for improvement.

Whether it's in my running, or in any aspect of my life and my character - I want to be the best ME that I can be.  I want to know what I am capable of.

I want to continue to be astounded.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

long run reflections

Today I ran 18 miles.  And I ran them exactly how I hoped I would.

I nailed my goal pace of staying comfortable, somewhere between 8:30-9:30 per mile, until the last three miles when I kicked it up to my targeted marathon race pace of around an 8:00 mile.

Mile 1 - 9:52
Mile 2 - 8:42
Mile 3 - 8:20
Mile 4 - 8:27
Mile 5 - 8:39
Mile 6 - 8:43
Mile 7 - 8:11
Mile 8 - 8:19
Mile 9 - 8:44
Mile 10 - 8:36
Mile 11 - 8:27
Mile 12 - 8:34
Mile 13 - 8:17
Mile 14 - 8:25
Mile 15 - 8:32
Mile 16 - 8:04
Mile 17 -7:53
Mile 18 - 7:47

It's no secret that I'm on a mission to qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I missed my 3:40:00 qualifying time by less than two minutes at MCM this fall (finishing in 3:41:56).  I was very happy with my new marathon PR when I crossed that Finish Line, but it left me extremely hungry for that BQ time.  Not gonna lie.

I believe, with every ounce of my spirit, that I will GET. IT. DONE. at the Rock n Roll USA Marathon on March 17, 2012.

I'm training smart.  I'm building my mileage.  I'm nailing my paces.  I'm determined and I'm dedicated.

Today's long run proved to me that I'm totally and absolutely capable of doing what I'm setting out to do.  The pace was comfortable the whole way.  And when I kicked it up a notch to my race pace for the last three miles, I wasn't dying.  I was strong.  And I felt stronger and stronger with each mile until I reached the finish of my run, blissed out and exhilarated.  Proud and happy.

Today I overcame stomach issues (a pit stop in the woods at Mile 15 was less than fun).  I conquered self doubt (negative thoughts arise in almost every run, I let them go on their merry way).  I stayed the course and I persevered.  And I will continue to do that until I cross the Finish Line of my next 26.2 on March 17th.  I will not give up.

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