Wednesday, February 29, 2012

run club fun club

Sunday mornings are extremely awesome.

I wake up early and run long every Saturday morning (with the ever-so-wonderful =PR= Distance Training group) while marathon training.  Because of this, you might think I would take the chance on Sunday to sleep in and ease into the day rather than rising early and getting myself out the door for more running.  But you would be wrong.

As a mother of three kids who all *regularly* rise before the rooster crows, "sleeping in" is a distant memory for me and my husband.  Whether or not we want to, we are waking up and starting our day very early each and every morning thanks to our little ones.  It's just the way it is around here.

So when Sunday morning rolls around and I have to get to Run Club by 8:30AM, it feels somewhat indulgent to me - like a big sweet treat to top off my week.  I look forward to it with a happy and very thankful heart.  I'm excited to go - to spend time with friends both new and old, to run together, to strengthen and stretch our bodies and to catch up.

We start out with about 20 minutes of Pilates mat exercises - waking up the connection to our bodies and the strength that resides within each one of us (physical, emotional and mental).  As we move through the exercises we are both humbled by the awareness of our imbalances and assured by our increasing strength.  Maybe we can do things we couldn't do last week, maybe we are more flexible or stronger than we were a month ago.  Or maybe not.  Moving our bodies through Pilates will open our hearts and our minds to what is there and it will bring healing and restore our strength.

It is so so good.

After our Pilates session we put our shoes on and layer up, get out on the trail and continue the movement outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  Many of us run, several do a walk/run combo and still others walk briskly.  We are all moving at a pace that works for us, and that is what is important.

Run Club is a celebration of movement.  It is a celebration of healing, of friendships and of strength.  I look forward to it every week.  If you live in the area, please come join us sometime!  No RSVP or experience necessary - just come dressed and ready to move!

** We have a new Facebook Page too - which is a great way to stay in touch and keep up to date on what we're up to each week. **

Monday, February 27, 2012

long run reflections and dreaming big

Last week was a big week for me.  I ran more miles in one week than I ever have (64!!) and also ran my final 22 mile run of this training cycle.  Peak Week is behind me and now I begin the transition into taper.  My race is less than 3 weeks away!

Saturday's long run was a bear.  The weather was insane.  For the first few miles we ran through an unexpected snow squall and battled high winds (about 30mph) through mile 8 at which point we turned and had the wind at our backs for a while.  The final 3 miles were once again fraught with the strongest wind conditions I have ever run in.  The goal was to maintain an average pace of somewhere between an 8:30-9:00 mile and to try to push it at the end if we had it in us.  I know I was pushing at race pace effort those last three miles, but against that crazy wind it doesn't really show exactly how hard I was working.  I ran with my buddy (and fellow Honey Badger) Chris and we finished strong despite the weather conditions.  Average pace was an 8:34 which factors in a long stop light and a watch snafu at miles 11 and 15.  It was an excellent run and I am proud of both of us for tackling it the way we did.

blissful - and tired - after my 22 miler
When I got home I thought about how this training cycle has been going, particularly with regards to my longer runs.  I've run three 20+ milers - a 20 miler on the treadmill on January 21st which I completed with an average pace of 8:31 per mile, a strong 22 miler on February 11th (average pace 8:29) and Saturday's 22 miler (average pace 8:34).  I've also run three 18 milers (average paces were 8:32, 8:29 and 8:38) and a few really strong 16 milers with race pace miles at the end of many of these runs.  This is when I need to tell myself to trust in my training.

I'm training for a 3:30 marathon finish (average pace 8:01) and the McMillan Calculator recommends that I run my long runs between an 8:30-9:30 pace, so I'm consistently hitting the faster end of this range.  These paces have not been a problem for me, and I'm recovering just fine.  This is NOT to say that it has been easy - I'm working harder than I ever have in all my life! - but in the moments when self doubt and negative thoughts creep in, in those instances where I think to myself oh my gosh a 3:30 is really really fast and that scares me to pieces - I have to take a step back and remember that I have done the work.  I have to remind myself that the reason I am attempting a 3:30 marathon is because I KNOW I CAN DO IT.  I know it deep down inside and I believe it with all of my heart.

Last training cycle I wanted to run a 3:40 so I could qualify for Boston.  I was training at paces for a 3:40 consistently and I crossed the finish line in 3:41:56, less than 2 minutes from my qualifying time.  My long runs were nailed nearly every single time at about a 9:00 average pace.  This time around I am working harder - running faster, logging more miles - and I have got to believe that it will pay off on race day.  When I compare my last (and only) 22 miler of my fall training cycle to the two 22 milers I did this cycle, it makes me smile:

I know that anything can happen on marathon day.  There are so many factors and that is just how it goes.  But I also know that I have never had a training cycle like this and that if I cross the finish line with a different outcome than I am hoping for, it will just make me feel even more determined to pick myself back up and try again.  I have not come this far to give up.

My goal is to finish with a time under 3:39:59 - I want that BQ and I want a PR.  But I KNOW that I am capable of more so I am DREAMING BIGGER than that.  I have worked for more.  I love the way Dorothy sets her goals, and I'm inspired to do so in the same way (please read her post today if you haven't already - so so good).  It totally scares me to do this, but here we go:

Marathon Goal: 3:39:59 - a PR and a BQ

Realistic Goal: 3:35

Dream Big Goal: 3:30

So, now I have less than 3 weeks until the big day.  The "hay is in the barn" as they say.  Before I transition into the official taper, I will run about 50 miles this week (including a 16 mile long run on Friday) and then from there it will be time to focus on reducing my mileage, staying stress-free and healthy, resting my legs and strengthening my mind and spirit as I prepare for race day.

I am SO excited.  It's almost GO TIME!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Privilege Bells

My kids are obsessed with certain things: iPad and iPhone games, computer time and television.  They would literally do just about anything for some time on those gadgets.  Some of the games they play engage their minds and encourage creative thinking or problem solving, others are completely the opposite of that.  Either way though, too much of it and they turn into zombies.  And when the zombies are forced to remove themselves from these gadgets they then turn into grouchy monsters.

Not fun.

My husband and I do our best to limit their time with these things, but up until recently that has been really hard for us.  The kids wake up very early in the morning - like 5:00AM early most days.  They are early risers and there is nothing we can do about it.  We've tried putting them to bed later at night for weeks (as it is they go to bed around 7:30/8:00PM, so we moved it to closer to 8:30 for a while) - it doesn't help.  They still wake up super early and then are extremely grumpy because they're operating on even less sleep than they're used to.  So we told them to play quietly or read in their rooms until 6:15AM.  That didn't work - they would play LOUDLY and wake everyone else up. Then we told them they could take themselves downstairs and watch TV or play on the iPad until we came down to make them breakfast and get the day going.  Well ... this was fine until we realized that it turned into hours of the TV and the iPad every morning.  It just wasn't working.

A few weeks ago out of sheer desperation to make some changes around here, I came up with a little system that so far has been working like magic around our house.  I call it "Privilege Bells."

Privilege Bells
I love crafts and have a lot of things stored in our basement for when we're inspired to do a project.  I went down to the basement and grabbed a few baby food jars and some bells I had leftover from a Christmas craft a couple of years ago.  I labeled the jars with masking tape - one for Will, one for Abby and one for me and Robert labeled "M&D."  Here are the rules and how it works:
  • The bells are each worth 25 minutes of iPad, iPhone, computer or TV time.
  • The kids have to earn 4 bells before they can "spend" any.
  • Bells are earned through specific good behaviors each day (brushing their teeth morning & night, staying in their rooms quietly until 6:15AM, eating their veggies and taking their plates to the sink, Abby has to do her homework, Will has to take care of his bathroom routine on his own - flush the toilet, close the lid and wash his hands!).
  • Bells can be taken away by M&D if certain bad behaviors happen (being unkind to others, yelling, losing temper, ignoring M&D)
  • They can save 15 bells and turn it in for cold hard cash - $5.00 of real money!

The jars and the rules are on display on a shelf in our kitchen so everyone can see them.  We have been doing this for a little over 2 weeks and my kids have not gotten us up before 6:15AM once since it started.  They are earning their bells consistently.  We have had to take bells away almost every single day, but not like crazy.  The system is encouraging more mindful behavior on everyone's part.  It is also teaching the kids about earning and saving (in case you are wondering, the most anyone has saved is 8 bells by Abby, but then she decided to start spending them!).  The kids think twice before they lose their cool or ignore me and Robert.  Robert and I are spending more quality time with them - it is making us better parents.  We are all in better moods and I can't help but think this system has a little something to do with that.

I'm sure this system won't last forever and ever, but my hope is that the lessons learned by all of us will carry through once the bells are old news.  I guess only time will tell on that one.

What about you ... are you a parent faced with similar challenges?  How do you control TV/video game time in your house?  In what ways do you encourage good behaviors and discipline bad behaviors in your family?

Friday, February 24, 2012

a thank you

One of the biggest reasons that I write this blog is because I truly love the community of people who read and write them.  I am inspired by all of you each and every day and I sincerely enjoy reading about your training, your goals and your accomplishments, as well how you balance it all while living the rest of your lives.  It is a wonderful group of people and I am SO grateful to be a part of it.

Every time one of you comments on my blog, it makes me so very happy.  I cherish what you have to say and am thankful that you took the time to share.  Your encouragement and support, your ideas and advice, your stories and experiences - I LOVE IT ALL.

I get frustrated with Blogger because the system makes it hard for me to reply to many of you.  Unless you have your profile set up to include your email address, I am out of luck in responding directly to you.  If I leave a comment in reply on my blog chances are you will never see it unless you revisit the post.  I'm thinking about switching over to Wordpress for this very reason, and I may get around to it one of these days.  But in the meantime, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of you here - so that you know how grateful I am and that the fact that you take the time to read what I have to say really means so much to me.

Thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Do you have a Blogger blog and experience the same frustrations with the commenting system?  Have you switched from Blogger to Wordpress and found it to be so much better?  I feel like so many people are doing that.

Peak Week

This has been an awesome week for running.  I start counting my mileage on Monday and so far I have already logged 36 miles.  It is Peak Week in my training cycle and I will be running more miles this week than I ever have in all my life.  With 22 scheduled for Saturday and 6 recovery miles on Sunday at run club, when all is said and run I will have completed 64 miles.  That is a lot for me.

This is going to be my 9th marathon.  For my first 6 marathons I maxed out at closer to 40 miles (and never had a great experience as a result of that and also training improperly on a lot of levels).  For marathons 7 and 8 I peaked around 50 miles and PR'd both times.  When I began this training cycle I thought about what I could do to improve my training and one area was more miles - if my body could handle it.  I am really happy to report that so far anyway, after more than 5 weeks at 50 or more miles, I am feeling strong and am remaining injury free.  My body is handling it.

I have never run more than once in a day.  Not ever.  This week I fit my miles in by running 10 miles on Monday morning and again on Tuesday morning with Team Honey Badger.  Wednesday night I ran on the track - a 3200 and a 1600 at race pace (juuuust under an 8:00 mile - it felt amazing) followed by 4x800 (each between 3:17-3:25, right where I wanted to be).  I love the track and I love my =PR= family on the track.  We laugh a lot and we work hard.  It is the best.

track happy
Usually I take Thursdays off because my legs are pretty tight and tired the next morning (as in I feel like the tin man from The Wizard of Oz) after working so hard at the track the night before.  The rest of the Honey Badgers don't care about that though and they always meet on Thursday mornings.  I tried to join them a few times but it was never good news for me - so I would take Thursday as a rest day and then run easy on my own on Friday.  But this week my legs felt okay so I decided to join them.  The track workout was challenging, but in a very different way.  Running race pace laps around the track is tough because it is more about self control and holding back - not about pushing your limits.  Those miles boosted my confidence and felt easy.  It was great practice.  The 800s were hard work but since there were only 4 of them my body just wasn't as taxed.  So yesterday morning I woke up before 5am for the third time this week and ran 8 miles with THB.

8 miles done with THB = bliss
The day started off perfectly and as the hours passed the weather only got better.  Temperatures hit 70 degrees and it was pretty much my ideal day weather-wise (if it were like this every day of the year, I honestly would not complain).  After I took the big kids to school I wanted to do one thing: RUN.  The thoughts consumed me: I could put Baby G in the stroller and run an easy pace with him.  It would probably be totally fine.  Only a few miles.  Who was I kidding though?  I knew that once I got out there I would feel so good and run too much, maybe push too hard.  My gut instinct told me it would not be a good decision to do it.  I've been building my mileage carefully and this week the increase is pretty hefty for me.  With all of my might, I resisted the urge to get out there and run - I decided to save all this energy for my 22 miler tomorrow.  I've been training too hard to let it all go down the drain because of a beautiful day!  Goodness though, it was hard.

For my next training cycle I will likely try to increase my mileage a little more once again.  In order to do that it's going to require a day or two of doubles.  I'm already running 6 days a week and I believe it is essential to have at least one rest day a week.  I'm happy to know that I'll be able to get double days on the schedule if I run early in the morning with THB and then later with the running stroller.  Weather in the summer/fall will be much more consistent for that.

Peak Week has been going well and I couldn't be happier with how I'm feeling.  Next week will be "Transition Week" (as my friend and coach Adam likes to call it - I think it is the perfect name for the week between peak and official taper) and my mileage will still be somewhat high yet nothing like this week.

I can't believe my race is in just 3 weeks!  The energy and excitement are building!!  Racing day is almost here - hooooray!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Team Honey Badger

At least once a week this training cycle I have woken myself up before 5:00AM to meet one or more of my running buddies for what has come to be my very favorite way to start the day.  We gather at our meeting spot at 5:30 prepared for running in the dark and the cold, sometimes the rain and the snow: headlamps, layers of cold weather running attire, reflective jackets and gear.

Jodi and Chris all a-glow
When people say there is strength in numbers, I think they must have had early morning running buddies in mind.  Just thinking about my team of running buddies makes me smile.  I know that with them, I can and I WILL get it done.  We SHOW UP for one another.  We believe in one another.

cheering our buddies into the finish of an awesome run
We don't care how cold it is.  We don't care how dark it is.  We don't care how early it is.  We don't care if it is raining or sleeting or snowing.  We don't care if one of us has to stop at the "Emerald Palace" (our pet name for the trusty port-o-potty on our route) or park ourselves behind a bush to take care of business (confession - this happens to me pretty much every. single. run) - we even bring extra toilet paper just in case.  We don't care if one of us has to add an extra mile or two - we will do it with them.  We don't care if one of us has to get back earlier than our usual 7:00AM finish time - we will change our route so they don't have to run alone.  We don't care if one of us has to slow down or speed up the pace.  We don't care because we are runners and because we are a team.  And because of this - because of our fierce dedication to our sport and to each other - we have given our team pretty much the perfect name:

We are Team Honey Badger.

Team Honey Badger (THB) is made up of the toughest, strongest, craziest, most hilarious, most dedicated runners I know.  And I am honored to be one of them.

THB - The Ladies (Amy, Dora, Jojo and me)
Already this week we've logged 20 miles together (10 on Monday, 10 on Tuesday).  As we run we laugh, we talk, we listen, we push, we pull.  We are all getting stronger and faster and more resilient, physically and mentally.  I can feel it from deep down inside and I can see it in my fellow HB's -- we are getting tougher this training cycle.  And this is happening because of Team Honey Badger.

When I feel like quitting or slowing down, I think of these guys.  I think of what they would do in my shoes - and I know they would fight.  And they would want me to fight.  So I do.

sometimes we even color coordinate
To say that I am thankful for these guys would be a drastic understatement.  I would not be enjoying my training as much as I am if it weren't for them.  I would not be logging so many miles if it weren't for them.  They take my love for the sport of running and make it technicolor.  Sharing my passion and love for running with them makes me so insanely happy.

I have to admit that I think our THB name is kind of ironic.  We say "honey badger don't care" about so many things - but the reason we don't care about all that stuff and what it all boils down to is that we DO care.  We care about one another and we care about what is important to one another.

Thank you so much Team Honey Badger for being you and for always being there for me.  I am so proud to call each one of you my friends.  You are amazing runners and what's more - you are all incredible people.  THB - You Rock.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Think I Can, I Know I Can

This past week was a recovery week during my training cycle.  My total mileage for the week hit 54.1.  On a recovery week.  This really amazes me since last cycle I didn't even peak that high.  I am doing things this time around - running more miles and faster paces - that I really wasn't sure my body or spirit were strong enough for in the beginning.  I told myself heading into it that I would do the best that I can do, and that I would listen to my body.  I think that at first "listening to my body" just meant to pull back when my body told me to.  If I was feeling extra tight or any pain that persisted, I would ease up on the pace and the mileage so as to avoid injury or burning out.  I have been paying careful attention to what my body tells me and so far, so good.

However, my perspective is changing.  I'm coming face-to-face with my dreams and realizing that listening to my body also means that when my body is telling me it CAN do something, I should do it.  My body is telling me that running 50+ miles is just fine.  It is telling me that I can push when I'm on the track once a week.  It is telling me that faster paces - paces that would have completely scared me months ago - are safe.  My body is telling me that yes this is hard, but I can do it.  Keep listening, keep respecting - and keep going.  Keep chasing that dream.  Go.

Yesterday my long run was 16 miles.  The first 10 were to be at an easy pace (somewhere between an 8:30-9:00 mile) and then the last 6 were to be at marathon race pace (an 8:00 mile).  I have been running my long runs consistently around an 8:30 pace, so I felt confident that the first 10 miles would not be a problem.  The 6 miles at race pace after that though, those would be tough.

I'm always a little nervous to turn up the speed and run at my race pace on a long run.  What if I can't do it?  What if it feels SO SO hard?  What if it makes me doubt myself?  What if I find out that I'm being unrealistic with my goals?  These thoughts skip through my head.  It scares me to go there, to go to that place of discomfort and to face those negative-thought demons.  But I know it is worth it.  It is an essential piece of smart training.  It's good for my body to move at that pace.  It's good for my mental strength and stamina.  I do it because I have to.

The first 10 miles were just what I hoped they would be.  I ran with my friend John.  We had never run together before so the conversation kept us going and we were comfortable and happy.  I saw my friend Karen out on the trail a few miles into the run.  Karen was out there running the longest run of her life - 11 miles (GO Karen!!) - in preparation for her first half marathon.  She is a dear friend and a neighbor of mine.  The kind of person you meet one time and just know you will be friends with for all of your life.  We "get" one another in the best of ways.  I find that often times the two of us will be talking and there is just so much unspoken understanding and comfort there between us.  I am blessed to call her my friend.  Anyway, I saw Karen the day before, on Friday as we were picking our kids (we both have three) up from school.  She told me that she was feeling really nervous about her upcoming long run and that her husband had told her not to be nervous about it because, after all, "it's just running."  I love the simplicity of this comment.  Of course, I know that for most of us it's never really "just running" - because we pour so much of ourselves into our training, and we give it so much more meaning and so much more weight than just putting one foot in front of the other - and this is one of the reasons I love the sport as much as I do.  BUT ... when all of that becomes overwhelming and we begin to doubt our capabilities and feel all up in our heads about it ... I think remembering that it is "just running" can be really helpful.  So I tried to remember that yesterday after I saw Karen.  She was smiling so big and shining so brightly out on that trail, and I took that energy with me as I passed her.  I carried it with me the rest of the way.  I just ran.

Miles 1-10: 8:40, 8:42, 8:24, 8:20, 8:38. 8:46, 8:34, 8:46, 8:28, 8:14.

After 10 miles it was time to turn up my speed and test out those race legs.  Time to switch gears.  John and I decided not to chat anymore.  We agreed it would be better for both of us to just turn inward and be silent.  To not waste our energy on chattering.  We picked it up and it felt so good.  But we were running way too fast and we both knew it.

Miles 11-12: 7:33, 7:39

The goal was to stay at an 8:00 pace for the last 6 miles of our run.  We looked at one another and laughed at ourselves.  What were we thinking?  We still had 4 miles to run at that pace which meant we needed to slow down.  Pacing properly can be a tricky thing.  It takes practice and self control.  We were right on target for the next two miles and I was pleased.

Miles 13-14: 8:02, 7:57

At this point, John started to get tired.  He was coming back from an injury and had run a 15 miler in the middle of the week and was starting to feel the effects of it all, so he slowed down and told me to go on ahead.  We would see one another at the end of our run.  I had two miles left to run on my own.  To hang onto my race pace.  And then I saw Karen again.  She was smiling.  She was running and she looked so proud and happy.  It made my heart soar to see my friend.

I imagined myself coming into the final two miles of my marathon on March 17th.  I scanned my body and asked it how it was doing.  My body said GO.  I looked inside my heart and asked myself a simple question.

Do you think you can do this, Jess?  Yes, I think I can.

Mile 15: 7:38

I think I can.  I think I can.

Mile 16: 7:31

I know I can.

Total Miles: 16
Total Time: 2:11:53
Average Pace: 8:14/miles

Friday, February 17, 2012

ZOOMA Annapolis: The Next Big Thing

My marathon is in exactly one month from today.  Training has been intense and amazing.  Right now I am in the thick of it - running more miles than I ever have in all of my life.  Practicing race pace, working on perfecting my fueling strategies, building endurance.  Honing my speed.  My focus has been primarily on preparing for this race and getting to the start line strong and injury-free, ready to conquer my goal of breaking 3:40 and qualifying for Boston.

Thoughts of what I will do after my marathon haven't really been top-of-mind for me exactly, but the Type A planner in me has to admit that they are there.  I feel pretty strongly that after I cross the finish line of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon it will be smart for me to take a step back from marathon training for a little while (until about mid June when I start training for my fall marathon).  The reasons are many: to give my body the break it needs to recover from the marathon, to give my family the break from all the weekend mornings of me gone for hours and hours, and to give my running a new focus - getting faster at shorter distances.

And I am really excited about my goal race for the late spring: The ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon on June 2nd.  I LOVE the 13.1 and seriously cannot wait to run a race with thousands of other women in a city I am crazy about.
What makes this even more exciting to me is that I have been selected to be an ambassador for this incredible race!  It will be my first time as a race ambassador and I could not be more thrilled or honored to do it.  As an ambassador, I will be leading weekly training runs for the next several months.  The runs will be a part of the lululemon run club runs I host at Reston Pilates every Sunday morning at 8:30AM.  We will begin each session with about 20 minutes of Pilates exercises and dynamic stretching and then get on the trail for our training run.  The ZOOMA event has both a half marathon and a 10k so I will be offering training support for both distances.  It is going to be a lot of fun!

We are looking for one more ambassador in northern Virginia, so if you live in the area and are interested please contact me and let me know!  You can email me at jessica.hofheimer@gmail.com.

Have you ever run the ZOOMA Annapolis race or any other ZOOMA races?  Have you ever been a race ambassador before?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

in my heart

At about Mile 14 in the Marine Corps Marathon, I found myself repeating the beginning of one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings over and over again.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
Thoughts of my husband and children consumed me and lifted me.  The sacrifices they made so I could train for and race the marathon.  The early mornings waking to find that I was out for a run.  The long Saturday mornings of Robert being a single dad while I was out running for 3+ hours week after week after week.   The Wednesday nights at the track - gone for dinner, gone for bath time, gone for bedtime.

I love running, but nothing in this life is more important to me or loved more by me than my family.

My husband, who supports me and believes in me and fights for my happiness, my sanity and my courage with every ounce of his being.  I am beyond grateful.
My children.  More beautiful, pure and sweet than my most daring and imaginative dreams could ever conjure up.  LOVE.
I run for my family.  I carry them with me.  I carry them in my heart.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Run Your Heart Out 5k

sister love
I'm pretty sure that yesterday was the coldest day of the year so far.  With temperatures in the 20s and major winds that made it feel like it was in the teens, it was clear that Old Man Winter decided to make an appearance around here and show us what he's made of.  Brrrrr.

Yesterday was the Run Your Heart Out 5k in Reston.  I signed up for it a while ago, knowing that I had a 22 miler to tackle the day before and that it would be falling on the last day of my highest mileage week ever.  So I really truly wasn't ever planning on racing it.  When I woke up yesterday morning and felt good, I considered it but quickly talked myself out of it.  It was freezing, icy in spots, crazy windy and hilly.  I really didn't want to risk getting injured over this race and wanted to just enjoy being there with my sisters and good friends.  Best decision ever.  It was SO much fun!

We arrived at the race about 20 minutes before the gun went off.  This race starts and finishes on the South Lakes High School track (our track) so we ran around the track for about 1.5 miles to warm up.  Only ... there really was no "warming up" about it.  We were still freezing cold!  I was all decked out in my pink and red but couldn't bring myself to take my black jacket off.  Oh well.  So much for being festive.  Meghan Ridgley won that prize - she was adorably Valentine-y in her amazing tutu.  And she won the race, too!   

tutu power!
The start of the race felt like one big party!  Maybe it was just me or it was because we were all so freaking cold, but I felt like everyone was smiling and laughing and just happy to be there.  The weather was so insane and the course was incredibly beautiful.  After running maybe a quarter of a lap around the track we headed into the woods and ran along the paved Reston paths I love so much.  It felt like we were running through a winter wonderland.  The forest was covered in a light dusting of snow and it was serene and just lovely.  These paths are hilly though, with lots of foot bridges that were definitely icy in parts.  I was wearing my Kinvaras and felt unsteady on this terrain in them.  I was SO glad I wasn't racing.  Jodi and Amy were wearing their trail shoes and on a downhill portion I lost them - I stopped to walk along the grass because I thought I was going to fall.  Not long after that though I met up with Jackie from Lululemon and was really excited to see her.  We ran the rest of the race together and chatted the whole way.  It was a really perfect recovery run and I loved every minute of it.  There was a smile across my face the entire way.  I still haven't even downloaded my Garmin from the race, or checked on my finish time online.  I was so not concerned with how fast I was moving at all, but I remember looking at my pace at one point and it was somewhere around a 9:30ish pace.  It was perfect.
at the finish
Once we crossed the finish line, the party continued for a little while and we chatted with new friends and old before we felt like we were going to freeze our faces off.  It was so much fun.  I wish all recovery runs could be such a blast!

I will definitely run this race again.  It was my idea of a great celebration of the sport I love with the people I love.  The only thing I would have changed about this race was the weather - I wish it had been just a *little* (ok, maybe a lot) warmer.  I will have to work on that for next year!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Courage Strength Grace - Running for Sherry

Yesterday morning I woke up around 3:00AM drenched in a cold sweat.  It was the second night in a row this happened to me.  I guess it's those lovely things we call hormones, but whatever the cause, I really really hate it.  I felt a dull headache creeping up on me and worried that I was getting dehydrated which would really not bode well for me considering I had a 22 mile run to tackle in a few hours.  I drank some water and took a couple ibuprofen and tried to get back to sleep.  Thankfully that worked and when I got out of bed at 5:30 I was feeling a lot better.

At 8:00 we hit the trails for our run.  The weather was colder than it's been in a long time.  It was raining and snowing off and on all morning, but thankfully temperatures were just above freezing so the trails were not icy.  Many of us were running in Sherry's honor and several of us were wearing the bibs for the virtual run.  It was really wonderful to be a part of this massive, collective movement for healing.

I almost always run by myself for my long runs.  Yesterday was different though - yesterday my buddy Chris and I ran together the entire way.  Having him to share those miles with made all the difference in the world.  We kept one another focused.  We distracted one another.  We talked.  We listened.  We sped one another up and we slowed one another down.  The first 14 miles were an out-and-back on the trail and the time ticked by peacefully as we ran in the snow and the rain.  We were both feeling good and strong.  We were running smart.

Mile 1: 8:39
Mile 2: 8:50
Mile 3: 8:51
Mile 4: 8:37
Mile 5: 8:34
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:39
Mile 8: 8:33
Mile 9: 8:37
Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:39
Mile 12: 8:35
Mile 13: 8:36
Mile 14: 8:28

We were hoping to run somewhere around an 8:30-8:45 average pace for this run, and were executing it perfectly up to this point.  We thought we would run the next four at about the same pace and then try to pick it up to race pace for the last 4 miles.  I'm really not sure what happened, but the next 4 miles were a little faster than we planned.  We were actually running into the wind which should have made it harder for us, but we were feeling good so we just went with it.  This run was an awesome example of negative splitting.

Mile 15: 8:20
Mile 16: 8:24
Mile 17: 8:10
Mile 18: 8:09

After Mile 18 it was time to hammer it home.  We wanted to shift into high gear and run home at race pace, but it was insanely difficult for both of us to catch our groove.  The wind turned and we were running right into it.  It was a tough 4 miles for both of us.  But we didn't give up.  We grew silent and ran through our pain, each aware of the other's fight.  Each determined to get through it and get home.

Mile 19: 8:20
Mile 20: 8:23
Mile 21: 8:09
Mile 22: 7:51

I thought about Sherry on and off throughout my run, but never so much as I did that last mile.  I repeated the words that were printed on my bib: COURAGE. STRENGTH. GRACE.  Over and over again in my head.  I felt anger and sadness and fear and I rose up to meet them, even through my exhaustion.  I imagined Sherry's courage, her strength and her grace and how I know she must have fought with every ounce of her being against the evil that came at her.  I wanted to fight against it, too - in whatever way I could.  My heart swelled and ached and a fire burned inside of me.  My run was a prayer.   I ran as hard as I could on those tired legs.  I stomped out the bad and kicked evil in the butt.

And it felt GOOD.

Total time - 3:06:33.  Average pace - 8:29.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

running for sherry

I haven't yet written a single word on my blog about Sherry Arnold.  The strange thing about that is that I have scarcely been able to take her and her family off of my mind ever since I learned of her disappearance a little over a month ago.  I'm not really sure why I haven't sat down to write about it, to put my thoughts and feelings into written words.  I've spoken about it with my husband many times.  My running buddies and I have discussed it on our early morning runs every week since it happened.  But for some reason every time I sit down to process it in writing, I've felt paralyzed and tongue-tied.  It makes me very sad.  It makes me angry.  It makes me feel scared.

For those of you who haven't heard her story, Sherry Arnold was a wife, a mother, a friend, a teacher and a runner.  She lived in a small town in Montana with her husband and two children.  Everything I have read about her (mostly on her cousin Beth's blog, Shut Up and Run) makes me feel very connected to her, as though I would have wanted to know her and call her my friend.  She was a good person with a big heart.  One Saturday morning in early January she set out for a run (at 6:30am) and never came home.  About a mile from her house she was abducted and murdered by two men.  The day of her disappearance, Beth posted about it and at the time they did not know where she was or what had happened to her.  The only evidence they found was one of her running shoes along her route.  It was confusing, terrifying, heartbreaking and so so so sad.

My running buddies and I have been meeting up this winter once or twice a week at 5:30am.  It is cold and dark at that hour.  We wear our reflective gear and our headlamps.  The gentle silence of the morning, the whisper of our footsteps and our breathing, the moonlit sky slowly painted a deep blue as the sun rises to greet us.  These runs are special - it is time with my friends and time with my thoughts - a wonderful way to begin a new day before heading home to start the chaos of the morning routine with three kids.  After learning of Sherry's disappearance I found that these runs became scary for me.  For the first week or two following the news, we would talk about it and I would feel a sense of fear and sadness that I could not seem to escape.  I felt anger well up inside of me, too.  I wanted to DO something about it - to find her, to help her family, to make it all better.  But of course, there wasn't anything I felt that I could actually DO to make a difference, to turn things around.

So I prayed about it.  And I ran.  I ran for Sherry, I ran for her family.  Every time I laced up my shoes I would think of her and my run would become a prayer.  A way for me to stand up to the evil that happened to her.  Beth encouraged us to not let what happened to Sherry prevent us from running.  My fear became determination.  I will not run in fear - I will run with a heart full of goodness and run strong for what I believe in.

This weekend - on Saturday, February 11th - Beth has organized a virtual run for Sherry.  All across the globe people are going to be running for Sherry.  There is a bib you can print out and wear on your run.  Any distance at all - just wear the bib and run with Sherry on your heart.

My running buddies and I have 22 miles on tap for Saturday, and we will be wearing the bibs too.  I love Beth's words: 

If you are “getting after it” by pinning on Sherry’s bib, you are part of a collective and massive movement for healing. You are part of an effort to expand goodness. You are sharing your despair, grief and anger with your community, which allows these feelings to resonate and to be validated. You are remembering Sherry by doing something she loved. You are the light edging out and defeating darkness.

Are you running for Sherry this weekend?  For more information and to print the bib, you can go to THIS LINK on Beth's blog.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

mom brain

Lots of random things are going through my head today.  I feel like post ideas pop into my brain constantly, but then sometimes when I actually sit down to write ... my brain is sort of all over the place.  Some people call it "mom brain" -- well whatever it is, I have it.  And I have had it for years.  It has evidenced itself in all sorts of great ways over the years.  Like the time I drove away with my cell phone on the roof of the car.  Thankfully it was still there miles later.  Or the time I drove away with my husband's set of keys on the roof of the car.  Never found those.  I almost drove away today with my white chocolate soy mocha on the roof of the car.  That would have made me very sad.  Are you noticing the trend?  I like to put things on the roof of my car.  Usually when we are getting into the car I am carrying a baby, buckling a big kid in his booster seat, holding my bag plus the kids' school bags, etc. so if I find I need an extra hand something will conveniently be placed on the roof of the car without me really noticing.

Most of my "mom brain" issues stem from just that - trying to multi-task and as a result doing some things sort of mindlessly.  I just am so focused on one or two things that the three or four other things I am doing simultaneously sort of either don't get done very well or maybe even not really at all.  It is a bad habit and definitely something I want - ok, NEED - to work on.

Lately my little one year old is making sure I work on it.  He is keeping me on my toes and forcing me to stay alert.  He is quick and he is daring.  It amazes me how this little guy can lighten my spirits and remind me to relax and be mellow with the same intensity and just as quickly as his actions remind me to be ever-alert and careful.  He is a busy, curious and determined little guy who wants to be a part of (or really the main attraction of) everything that is happening around him.

I cannot go shopping at Target or the grocery store with him because he will not sit in the cart (yes he has figured out how to climb out even when buckled in as tightly as possible) and he will not ride in the Ergo either.  The good thing about this is that every time I step into these stores I'm forced to focus on what I actually NEED to buy and get in and out as quickly as possible...so he is saving me from over spending (especially at Target).  I know his Dad is extra thankful for that one.

In the past week I have caught him climbing inside the fridge (you have seen pictures of this before!), figuring his way inside a cabinet where we keep pots, pans and the toaster:

Standing in the dishwasher as I try to empty it during the chaos of our morning routine:

Climbing into his toy box in the family room as I vaccuum:

And, most terrifying of all - trying to climb up the oven:

I think it's safe to say that Mister Gus is teaching his Mommy A LOT these days.

Monday, February 6, 2012

joining the club

On Saturday morning I ran 18 miles with the last 4 miles at race pace.  I started out slower, running the first 5 miles at right about a 9:00 mile.  Those miles were really wonderful as I shared them with my good friend Amy.  I've been doing most of my long runs solo this training cycle and it was just so nice to have Amy's company for the first part of my run.  She is working really hard and seeing great improvements in her speed, efficiency and endurance and I think we will be running more together as training progresses, which makes me super excited!!

The paces I'm training at this time around are for a 3:30 marathon finish (my BQ time is sub-3:40, so this should give me some wiggle room), which would be an 8:00/mile average on race day.  According to the McMillan Pace Calculator, my long runs should be done at a pace somewhere between an 8:31-9:31 mile.  I've tested the waters here and have been really happy that all of my long runs have been at the faster end of that range, usually right about an 8:30 average.  Sunday's run was no different.  I averaged an 8:32 pace and my last four miles were 8:16, 7:49, 8:01 and 7:50.

I finished strong.

The other day I read a post by Eric Eagan that really got me thinking.  He talks about his dream of qualifying for Boston and how we often make excuses for why our dreams don't matter or why we will never accomplish them.  He also talks about failure - and how not reaching our goals right away is not only okay, but good for us.   He calls it the "Failure Club" - and I love this idea.  Keep fighting, keep failing, pick yourself back up and go after it again.  This post really struck me to my core, because I know that a year ago I had the same kind of mindset when it came to my running - I was a bit shy about my running dreams and didn't let them thrive.

Not any more.  That is not the way I think these days.  I am okay with failing.  I will not give up on my dreams.  I will shout them from a mountain top for all the world to hear.

One a year ago my 5k PR was 25:22, which is an 8:10 average pace.  I remember running that race and thinking to myself WOW, that was fast. That was HARD.  Because it was.  I was absolutely SPENT - heavy breathing, nausea and legs that felt like they were made of jelly - when I crossed that finish line.  I gave it my all.

The fact that I am now training to run 26.2 miles at a pace even faster than that, and that I know I am capable of  it, just stuns me.  Every time I think of it, I cannot help but smile.

I know I haven't crossed the finish line of a marathon with a BQ time yet.  But I also know that it WILL happen.  Maybe on March 17th.  If I don't get it then though, you better believe I will pick myself up and try again.  I am not afraid to fail.

So, do not doubt the possibilities.  Do not rule anything out.  Do not stomp on your dreams because you think they sound silly (or because someone else does!).  As my friend Dorothy would say - no dream is too big!

BELIEVE in yourself.

If there is even the tiniest sliver of a dream shining inside of you, don't ignore it.  Don't dismiss it and put it off for another day.  Say it out loud.  Go after it.  Do NOT be afraid of failing.  Join the club!  

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Mr. Gus,
You are FULL of surprises.
case in point.
From the moment we found out you were on your way, your dad and I were STUNNED.

We already had two children,
but somehow we had no idea what to expect with YOU.
Your entry into this world, exactly one year ago today, was beautiful.
There was so much laughter and joy in that room.
It was exciting, yet totally peaceful.

How is it possible for one little person to change your life so drastically in an instant?
You filled a space that I did not know needed filling until you arrived.
When you were born, parts of me were awakened that I did not know could exist.
And my heart grew ten million times bigger than I ever thought possible.
brand new
And it still does.
You amaze me -- every. single. day.
In the beginning, I would just sit and stare at you
 as you slept in my arms so peacefully.
I just couldn't believe you were here.
Even one year later, sometimes I still can't believe it.
On the other hand, there is no way I could imagine what life would be like without you.

The first year of your life has been incredible.
I have loved every minute of it.
We all have.
 Mr. Gus, you took a bright world and made it VIBRANT.
You add laughter, celebration and joy to every single second of life.
Life is an adventure because of you.
Thank you for being you.
Happy First Birthday, Sweet Baby Boy.

I love you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

a poem for Nuun

If you've been reading my blog for even just a little while, you know that I am a big fan of Nuun.  I drink it all the time.  The sugar-free, electrolye-enhanced drink tabs are my secret to staying properly hydrated before, during and after my runs.

In addition to being an amazing and reliable product, the company itself is pretty darn cool - FUN, creative, passionate and all about the community of people who love being fit and active.

The other day I noticed on their Facebook page that they would be giving away an entire year's worth (12 4-packs!!) of Nuun to one lucky winner.  To enter the contest you just had to tell them how you planned to drink your Nuun in 2012.  They would choose a winner at random on January 31st.

How could I not enter this contest?  I keep a constant supply of Nuun in my house.  There is always a tube or two in my car.  I won't go to the gym without one in my bag.  Winning an entire year's worth would be sweet!!  I started writing out all the different ways I would drink it (at the track, in the cold, on a long run, etc) when I realized that my answer was feeling a little like the book "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss (a favorite read in our house).  And even though the winner would be chosen at random so there would be no extra points for creativity, I thought it would be fun to come up with my very own poem about all the different ways I would drink my Nuun in the year ahead.  My husband even got in on the action when he came home from work, and the two of us had a ton of fun collaborating on this little rhyme.  I wanted to share it here with you guys, too:

How do I plan to drink my Nuun?
Listen and I’ll tell you soon...

I’ll drink it this year as I drank it last
From a bottle or in a glass
Before the gym and after class
And when I cross the finish line (whether first or last)

I will drink it in the rain, and I will drink it on a plane.
I will drink it in the sand (i tend to drink it more than planned).
I will drink it here, I will drink it there
And I will drink it in my underwear
And when I’m heading out to eat
Or when I need a mid-day treat

I’ll like to drink it on the track
And at both ends of an out and back

I’ll drink it for recovery
2 tubes a week (and sometimes three)

I’ll drink it when I run on trails
I’ll drink it when it sleets and hails
I’ll drink it when it’s warm and sunny
I’ll drink it when it’s cold outside
And when my nose is runny

I’ll drink it when I need it most
And hopefully at Hood to Coast!

I’ll share Nuun with my running buddies
And sip some when I teach Pilates

Some days before the sun comes up
When the house is asleep (including the pup)
I’ll put Nuun in my coffee cup
And drink it warm to wake me up

And if I stay up way too late
And see a headache as my fate
There’s only one way to hydrate
A few swigs of Nuun and then I’m great!

Whether I’m pushing the jogging stroller
Or loosening up on my foam roller
After yoga or strength training
When I go to the track though it’s cold and raining
Through marathons (some half, some full)
In a summer tank or winter wool
I’ll have Nuun in my water bottle
So I can always train full throttle!

So tell me: do you love Nuun, too?  How do you plan to drink it in 2012?  Do you like writing rhymes like I do?

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