Saturday, March 31, 2012

when things get overwhelming

I sent my sister a text yesterday morning with this picture of me ...

oh boy
I was feeling stressed.  Overwhelmed.  And it was making me feel blue.  Can you tell?

My to-do list had piled up on me, filled with everything from mundane (but let's face it, necessary) tasks like laundry (I call it the "Hofheimer Fluff n' Fold" -- aaaalways doing laundry around here) and dishes, to paying bills to work projects and MORE.  Finding the time and space to focus and recharge just felt impossible to me.  There was so much to do that I felt paralyzed and it was depressing me.  All I really WANTED to do was curl up in a ball and take a nap.  But that wasn't happening.

Two of my kids were sick earlier this week and as a result I've had a longer-than-normal string of sleepless nights.  It was catching up to me and affecting me in more ways than one.  I was tired.

Jodi responded to my text and told me that the only thing I really have to do is BREATHE.  She assured me it will all be okay.  It's not so bad, after all.  She is the best.  Truly.

So I did what she said.  I took a few deep breaths and I closed my eyes and sat in the parked car for a few minutes.  I tried to silence the busy and negative voice in my head that told me I had to go go go - I reminded myself that none of the things on my list are earth shattering.  It will all get done.  I do not need to worry.  One thing at a time.  One step at a time.

All that really matters, all the things that I hold most dear in my heart and in my life -- my children, my husband, my family and my friends -- all those things are doing just fine.  We are all healthy and happy and safe.  I don't need to get caught up in the details.  Sometimes the little details that nag at me, they can take me elsewhere.  Out of the present moment.  They cause me to lose sight of the bigger picture, of what's most important.  I do not function well when this happens.  I'm sort of a mess when I step outside of the moment.  It's not pretty.  It's not fun to be me or to be around me.  I try every day to remind myself of this - to stay in the moment and not dwell on what was or what could be - because I am a much happier, much more relaxed, much more open person when I live my life that way.

My sister lives one street away from me.  After getting us each a coffee (because caffeine is my friend on days like that), I drove to her house with baby Gus and we visited for a little while.  It wasn't long before she had me laughing and enjoying the moment.  Time with my sister is healing for me.  Pretty much always.

laughter - Jodi took this picture yesterday after maybe 40 minutes of us being together
After a little while there it was time to go home for Baby G's afternoon nap.  I knew I would have about 1 hour of kid-less time for the day and that this would be my one chance to get things done without also keeping an eye on one, two or three little ones.  During the baby's morning nap I have Mr. Will around and we usually play together just the two of us - I want to be present for him, not distracted by chores.  So in the afternoon when both big kids are at school and the baby sleeps I try to take advantage of that time and get things done.

But yesterday, I made a different choice.  Though my list was so long and overwhelming, I found myself instead holding my baby after he fell asleep in my arms.  I just wanted to stare at him.  His beautiful little body.  His peaceful, relaxed face.  I snuggled up next to his head and felt the warmth of his skin and the softness of his breath.  What a miracle.  This is all that matters.  I cherish these quiet moments with my children.  They reign me in and remind me to appreciate all of life's blessings.

When Baby Gus is awake he is exploring the world with full force, curious and excited about every single thing around him.  He is moving so fast and growing so quickly.  I don't want to miss a thing.

My list is still long and it will never disappear.  There is always more laundry to fold, more bills to pay, more phone calls to make.  It's a great feeling to cross something off my list (I *love* that feeling), but I know that the minute I do, there will be more to add.  I can't let this bring me down, or cause me to lose sight of all the wonderful things that are happening each and every day.  I do not want to take these things for granted.

This morning I woke up for a 12 mile run (it was awesome).  I came downstairs early to get ready, while everyone else was still asleep in their beds.  On the kitchen counter there was a note for me, from my husband.  I was confused.  Why did Robert leave me a note?   Am I missing something?  I opened it up and this is what I found:

Who thinks of this!?  My husband, that's who.  The man I love for more reasons than I can tell you.

We have been married for 500 weeks today.  500 glorious, adventurous, sometimes crazy but never dull, weeks.  500!  That's 3,500 days.  In that time we have grown as individuals and we have become a family.  Our life is way more wonderful than I ever dreamed it would be or could be.

There are so many blessings right under my nose.  So many things to celebrate each and every day.  Without Robert bringing this to my attention, I am sure that this little milestone would have gone unnoticed by me.  It makes me wonder - what else am I missing that I could be celebrating today and every day?   Probably so many things.  This is why I want to be present and aware, so that I do not miss even the simplest of joys in life.  So that when I am feeling down, I will be able to pick myself up and remember to breathe and be thankful.  So I can teach my children this as well.  I want them to be happy.  To know they are loved.  To know that they matter.

Today, I am truly grateful.  The smile that Robert's note put on my face this morning has literally not moved from my face.  My cheeks are hurting a little.

Today, I'm making a promise to myself and to my family - I will be mindful and aware of all the goodness that abounds in my life on this beautiful day.  I will get done what I can, but I won't take myself too seriously.  I won't let the pile of tasks overtake the simple pleasures.

And if I find that it gets to be too much, I will take a second to BREATHE.  And maybe call my sister.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review ~ Train Like a Mother

I am a voracious reader - always in the middle of at least two (or three) books, several magazines and of course, blogs.  I soak up knowledge and opinions eagerly.  A good book allows me to escape into a fantasy world or to learn about something completely new to me.  Reading opens my eyes and my heart and helps me see things in a whole new way.  It feeds my curiosities, it comforts my spirit.  I love love LOVE to read.

I also love to run - training for and racing everything from the 5k to the marathon with every bit of enthusiasm and passion I've got in me.  I'm always striving to be better and stronger.  Many (but certainly not anywhere close to ALL) of the reading I do has to do with running.  I want to learn about racing strategies, nutrition, hydration, shoes, gear, speed workouts and all the science and research being done out there.  I want to know about and be inspired by other people in this amazing sport - "everyday" athletes who are just beginning their journey runners on up through the elite sprinters, marathoners and ultra runners.  Running is a huge part of my life.  It is a big part of who I am.

I am more than that, though.  I'm a creative, crafty spirit who somehow mustered up the courage to start my own business (Sugar Cone) that allows me to indulge in this side of myself.  I am a sister and a friend - time with my soulmates makes me oh so very happy.  I am a Pilates teacher and a running coach and I receive a great sense of joy and satisfaction from helping others believe in themselves and accomplish their goals.  Above all of these things that make me who I am though, I am a wife and I am a mother.  My family comes first, ALWAYS.  Part of why I make the time to indulge in my passions and career is because doing these things helps me to be my happiest, most patient and most giving self.  And I want to be my best self for my children and for my husband.

If you are a mother, and especially if you are a mother who runs, you get this.  You know you are never "just a mom" but that being a mom is your most important job.  Your greatest pride and your truest love.

Until a couple of years ago, I didn't really know any other moms who shared my passion for running.  Moms who tried to balance their running with their careers and their mommy-ing and their wife-ing and all the other responsibilities that come along with it.  But then an amazing book was published - Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.  When this book was published, I rushed to the store to get it and then soaked up every single word.  It was like a magical moment for me.  All of a sudden I realized I was not alone - there were mothers all across the world who were just like me!  All of a sudden I felt like a part of something bigger than me, a member of "the tribe."  Dimity and Sarah created an awesome blog (http://www.anothermotherrunner.com) and Facebook page - places where literally thousands of mother runners could connect and talk about every issue under the sun.  When I was running pregnant - I would go there to ask questions and get support.  And especially after I had my third baby - I was on the Facebook page almost every day, getting support and advice from women who had been in my shoes. Women who knew what it felt like to be a postpartum hormonal mess with pelvic floor issues and big huge marathon dreams.  It comforted me in so many ways, I can't tell you.  I am truly thankful to Dimity and Sarah for connecting us all, for uniting us.

So when I found out that they were publishing a new book - Train Like a Mother - I was ecstatic.  And when I learned that I would be so incredibly honored as to receive an advance copy to review - my jaw seriously dropped to the floor.  And when the book came and I held it in my hands for the very first time, I beamed.  I could not wait to dive in.  I have been reading the book over the course of the past week and have not wanted to put it down.  It is GOOD.  More than good.  It is awesome.

Train Like a Mother is chock-full of tips and candid advice on everything from stroller running to cross training to racing to recovering to injury prevention - and more.  It provides great insight into what it's like to balance training and racing with parenting and working.

As I turned every page I found myself nodding up and down in agreement, thankful to have my feelings and experiences validated by so many other moms out there who run.  I laughed out loud (they are seriously funny).  I cried (in a good way).

The book has training plans that are very well designed and incredibly easy to understand.  There is something for every mother runner -- plans for a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon and a marathon -- whether you are a beginner looking to complete the distance for the first time or you are a more experienced runner looking for a more aggressive plan.

This book is a great resource for any mother who runs or wants to run and I **highly** recommend it.

Even though I have already read it cover-to-cover, I know I will be revisiting the book many times over.  I am following the "Own It" (more aggressive) training plan for the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon I will be running on June 2nd.  My goal for that race is to set a new PR and I know this plan will help me accomplish that.

Are you as excited about the new book as I am?  Have you rushed to the store to buy it yet?  If not, go get it!  You will love it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rock My {Running} World ~ Meet Coach Adam

A good coach is someone who believes in you and encourages you to follow your dreams, no matter how big they may be or how long it may take you to get there.  A good coach is someone who not only pushes you to be your best, but who also advises you to listen to your body and to honor the rest and recovery that is essential before and after hard efforts.  A good coach is someone who has been there - who knows what it feels like to have a bad day, or a bad week or even a bad year.  A good coach listens to you and really hears you - and sincerely wants to help you.  A good coach celebrates your victories as though they were his own, and then inspires you to work even harder to surpass your personal best.  And when you fall short of your goal, he will help pick you up and will remind you that it will make you stronger, so that you have the confidence to keep going and never give up.

Part of the reason I joined the =PR= Distance Training Program in Reston last year was because I wanted to know what it felt like to be coached as a runner.  As a coach myself, I felt this was an important perspective to have.  I also had big dreams and huge goals that I wanted to accomplish, and I hoped that the coaching staff at =PR= would help me work towards achieving them.  That they would believe in me and push me.  I could not have been happier with my experience.  After two seasons with this group of stellar coaches, I have improved my marathon PR by more than an hour (from a 4:35:09 to a 3:34:46) and also set new personal records in every other distance.  I have had a ton of fun being a part of this group.  I've learned so much about myself as a runner and as a person and have made wonderful new friends along the way.  And you better bet I have already signed up for the next session!!

The coaches at =PR= are top notch.  I am truly honored and grateful to introduce you to one of the very best - my friend and coach, Adam Lesser.  He rocks my running world!!

Adam - looking strong at the Finish!
Name: Adam Lesser

Age: 32

Location: Fairfax, VA

Blog: lesserismore.blogspot.com

Twitter: @ajlesser

What do you do in “real” life?
Telecom/IT Consultant 

How long have you been running? 18+ years

Why did you start running? I started running because I thought running would be a good way to stay in shape during/between soccer seasons.  After discovering that I was better at running than soccer, I ran all three seasons throughout high school (cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track), primarily as a sprinter, running everything from 55m to 400m.  Since then, running has been a part of what I do.

Personal Records:

Marathon: 3:20:16

Half Marathon: 1:29:34

10 Miler: 1:07:10
10K: 40:19

5K: 19:05

What is your proudest running moment: Completing my first marathon.  I approached my training in such the wrong way and fought through nagging knee pain until it got to the point where I couldn’t run anymore.  I had run 18 miles once about 5 weeks out from the race.  After seeing a doctor and giving me advice, I cross trained, but never ran a step for 5 weeks until race day.  Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I still lined up, made the typical rookie mistake of running the first half too fast, only to hit the wall at mile 20 and spend the next 6 miles doing the marathon shuffle of walk, run, cramp, stretch, repeat.  But like any runner, my determination to finish carried me through and I’ve never looked back since.

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:

A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphins gives you the power to make better decisions, helps you be at peace with yourself, and offsets stress.  There is something about the feeling after you’ve finished a workout that gives you greater clarity on everything surrounding you.  I find that I think faster, am able to manage life better, and am always in a better mood following a workout.

Do you have any favorite running mantras?
  The mantra that stuck with me most during my most recent marathon buildup was No excuses.  Simply put - I wanted to be able to say that I had no excuses for my lack of preparation leading up to this race.  If I don’t have the race I want, I have no excuses, because I prepared myself as best I could.  I executed every workout as planned, hit my paces, and did all the little things to ensure a good race.  At the end of that, that means that I just have to execute on race day based on my abilities and the conditions of the day and the rest will fall into place.  Great races don’t just appear out of thin air – you have to work hard to achieve your goal if you want to see it become reality. 

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury?  
I have been a huge advocate for general strength and mobility exercises, which incorporate many of the principles from yoga, Pilates, and the common core training exercises most are familiar with.  These include dynamic flexibility work, planks, lunges, and squats to develop a strong and balanced foundation to handle the different stresses of running.  I also try to add cycling as a low impact, aerobic workout to help flush the legs after long runs.  Building a strong foundation allows you to focus on being a runner when running, instead of aches and pains that can crop up from weaknesses and imbalances that can easily develop without it. 

What is your favorite pre-race meal?  
Strange as it may sound – 2 cups unsweetened apple sauce, 1 sliced up banana, 1 scoop protein powder.  Goes down easy and doesn’t sit heavy in the stomach by the time you are ready to race.  I usually have this 2-3 hours before the race and then top off with a gel about 15 minutes before the race starts.

What is your favorite workout to do at the track and why?
  Although I don’t do it frequently because of the more long distance focus of my workouts, I always enjoy running 400s.  In reality though, any track workout brings me back to my high school days of being a sprinter.  We typically ran repeats of anything from 100m to 800m in those days, but I always enjoyed 400s the most.

What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?
  My next race is the Ukrop’s Monument Ave 10k – a race I’ve run for the past 4-5 years.  Because of the timing of the race (typically only a few weeks after a Spring marathon I run), my goals are usually limited to how my legs feel on race day at about the Mile 1 marker of the race.  By then, you can usually tell how much residual fatigue is still in your legs.  This year I have a little more recovery time, so I’d like to be able to break 40 minutes if all goes well.

What are your long term running goals?  I’d like to continue chipping away at my PRs.  Though I’ve been running for a relatively long time, I have a lot of ground to make up to become the runner I know I am capable of being.  I still feel like I have a lot of room for improvement, so I’d like to continue racing for time.  As I become a smarter runner and improve my approach, I know I can do better.  The drive of continual improvement is what motivates my long term running goals.

What advice do you have for other runners out there?  Consistency is the most important aspect to becoming a better runner.  Consistency means being able to put together training over a long period time, not just for the race you are training for, but also looking at running from a macro or long-term perspective.   Far too often we get wrapped up in the details of our training – what pace was the last mile, how many miles do I need to run this week, etc.  Looking at things from the macro perspective in the context of building consistency allows runners to see their own successes and realistically plan for becoming a better runner in the long term.  Getting caught in the weeds of short term thinking is what can make running seem like a chore, to create stress when we miss a workout goal, or get anxious when things don’t feel as they should.  And this type of reaction is what turns us away from being consistent with our training, whether on a day to day basis or longer.  The goal is to have fun running so it never seems like a chore, but to also build fitness over the long term in the process.

Jodi & me with Coach Adam!
Who rocks YOUR running world? - Tell us a little about someone who inspires you to be a better runner.  I constantly am inspired by all the dedicated runners that make up the various running programs at the =PR= Reston store.  Over these past few seasons of serving as a coach for the Distance Training Program and running together with the constantly growing group, we’ve all become such close friends, offering encouragement to one another week in and week out.  This is the same dedicated group that shows up to the track in the middle of winter when it is dark, cold, dumping rain, and windy and doesn’t think twice about coming, because they all know each other will be there, no questions asked.  If I ever need motivation or inspiration, I think about all the great runners that make up our program.  I feel honored to be a part of such a great group of people.

Friday, March 23, 2012

it's time - nuun htc relay 2012

Earlier this week nuun announced that they will be accepting applications for their 2012 Hood to Coast relay teams.

My heart LEAPED.

I have been waiting for this moment ever since last summer.

It wasn't in the cards for me to apply last year - but all year long I have been hoping and wishing that nuun would decide to do it again in 2012, so that I could have the chance to apply.

The chance to RUN MY HEART OUT for a company that I think is so incredible, for a product that I believe in and that has helped me to go beyond my dreams with my running.  The chance to run with and for a group of women who inspire me each and every single day through their running and their writing.  For the chance to represent moms who aren't afraid to follow their hearts and make big dreams come true for themselves.

I am so excited.  So excited just to even apply!  It really matters to me.  A lot.

So now it is time - time to put my application together and show nuun why it would be a good idea to pick me to be on their team.  I have to be creative.  I have to somehow convey to them how badly I want it, how truly I would run my heart out for them, how tremendously I would appreciate it, how proud I would be to do it, how much fun I would make it ....

Applications are due on April 9th.  It is almost all I can think about. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rock, Roll & Recover

As soon as I crossed the Finish Line after running my fastest marathon on Saturday, the recovery process began.  I know it might sound crazy - was I really thinking about recovery so soon after a race like that? - but it's true, I was.

yay me!  time to recover.
Because the big picture matters to me.  Because I have done it wrong more times than I have done it right.  And I have learned that it makes a difference.  Nine marathons and countless other races have taught me that what you do in the hours, days and weeks following the marathon is crucially important to how your body and mind will feel down the road.  I wanted to do it right so that I can be running strong again soon.  A rest day here and there is good and mentally I can take it, but if I don't recover right then I risk being injured and feeling fatigued and flat - enduring much too long without my running - and I can tell you that sounds miserable to me.

Running is my life line - it is my antidepressant and anecdote to feeling happy and strong.  So, as soon as I crossed the Finish Line on Saturday - feeling very happy with my accomplishment and yes, tired - I knew I needed to be smart and make the right choices about how to recover.

Recovery looks a little different for me after every race.  But there are a few things I know I need to do right away that do not change at all.  I go through the steps and listen to my body along the way, making sure to honor what my body is telling me and trying to keep the big picture in mind.

So far, this is what my recovery has looked like after Rock n' Roll USA:

The first few hours (also known as doing the complete opposite of what I feel like doing!):
  • I crossed the Finish Line and kept moving, despite just wanting to sit down.  I knew if I sat my legs would likely cramp up and get cranky.  So I got my medal and drank some water as I walked around the finish area waiting for my buddy Chris to come across.  As soon as he finished and got his water and medal, we walked over to where there was more food and hydration.
  • Even though my stomach was still unhappy and the last thing I felt like doing was eating or drinking anything of substance, I grabbed a container of the TruMoo chocolate milk they were handing out and drank as much of it as I could.  Dairy is not my friend, but I drank about half the carton anyway.  Usually after my long runs I get myself a soy white mocha latte, but they didn't have this at the finish line on Saturday (the horror!).  Chocolate milk and yummy sweet lattes serve the same purpose, though - a great combination of carbs and protein plus sugar to deliver the good stuff to your muscles faster. 
at the finish line!
  • Once we made it through the finish area, we headed straight for gear check so we could get our bags.  In my bag I had a few Picky Bars and some nuun.  I immediately ate 2 Picky Bars (though again, I was NOT hungry) and drank a bottle of nuun.  Picky Bars are the perfect thing for my finicky stomach - dairy free, gluten free and comprised of all natural ingredients with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio.  They are just what tired, glycogen-depleted muscles need after a hard workout.  They are also really light and easy for me to get down.  Nuun is also just what I needed to replenish all the electrolytes and fluids I lost while racing.  And it tastes great to me, so that was not a problem to get down.  I continued to drink nuun and water throughout the rest of the day in order to fully hydrate my body, prevent muscle cramps and flush out the build up lactic acid.
i heart nuun
  • After finding my amazing family, changing into dry clothes (which my husband had for me), and celebrating with my sister and other running buddies, it was time to go home.  On the way home we stopped at Chipotle to get my post race meal.  I really really really did not want to eat.  But I knew I had to.  I got my standard veggie burrito loaded with black beans, cheese and rice.  As a vegetarian this is the perfect recovery meal for me - again chock full of carbs and protein.  When we got home I quickly rinsed off in the shower and then ate half of my burrito.  Those things are huge and I couldn't stomach more than that but I was sure this was good enough for starting the recovery process.
  • Then it was time for torture.  I got in an ice bath.  It was so so so cold, you guys.  I literally screamed as I got in and maybe said some not-so-nice things to Robert who was encouraging me to suck it up and get in.  Once I was in the water and he dumped the massive amounts of freezing cold ice cubes into the tub, he handed me some peanut butter cups to snack on.  He is the best -- I am always in the mood for those.  I set the timer on my phone (20 minutes) and then called my sister Megan so I would be distracted while in the tub.  Ice baths are miserable but I believe in them after a hard race.  The cold sends healing blood to your muscles and helps speed up recovery.  I figured I endured more than three and half hours of pushing myself in a race, what's 20 more minutes of discomfort?  It would be worth it.  Afterwards, I hopped into a nice warm shower and felt so much better.  When I got dressed I put on my compression socks and wore them for the rest of the day and even slept in them that night.
  •  Then later that evening I hopped on my foam roller.  I was amazed at how good I was feeling at this point.  I rolled out my IT bands, hamstrings and quads and then used my Tiger Tail stick on my calves, feet and shins.
The day after the race:
  • I woke up the next morning and was feeling great - no worse than I do after a long run.  This surprised me!  I went to run club and ran 6 miles at an easy and comfortable pace.  It's important to move your body the day after the race as it helps flush out the lactic acid build up.  If you're not up to running, then walk or go for an easy bike ride.  No matter how bad you are feeling, try to move. And no matter how good you are feeling, do not push yourself.  Even if your muscles are feeling great they are still tired and will fatigue easily if you do too much too soon.
  • I continued to hydrate with water and nuun, eat healthy foods, wear my compression socks (a clean pair!), rest as much as a mom of three can, and used the foam roller and stick.
The week after the race:
  • So far this week, I have not run at all despite feeling amazing and really itching to get out there.  The only place I have had muscle soreness has been in my lower legs - mainly my calves.  This was to be expected since I wore my more minimal shoes in the race (Kinvara 2).  I am amazed that with all those hills my quads and hamstrings feel so good!  That has been a pleasant surprise.  This week I have been very diligent about foam rolling and using the stick, and tonight I am treating myself to a sports massage!
  • Tomorrow I plan to run for the first time - maybe 4-6 miles at an easy pace.  This weekend I hope to run a long run of 8-10 miles, again at an easy pace.  I will treat it a bit like a reverse taper and keep speed work and tempo runs out of the picture for the remainder of this week and next week, too.
What's Next??
I'm really excited about my running plans for the spring.  In about 5 weeks I have the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler and I am hoping to set a new PR at that race.  If I recover right, I know I can do it!  I also have a 5K race in May and a then the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon in June -- so I am going to use these next few months to enjoy running, to have a break from the stress of marathon training and race shorter distances.  I plan to start marathon training again in mid June, so these next few months are about recovering, working on my speed and just loving the run.
What does recovery look like for you?  I've spent a lot of time figuring out what works (and what doesn't work) for me.  I would love to hear your tips and tricks!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rock n Roll USA Marathon: Race Recap

I don't really know how to tell this story without making it a long one.  It was a big day for me and I want to remember as much of it as I can.

First I will tell you that as race day approached, I started to feel like a giant MESS.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I was physically and mentally ready to tackle the marathon.  I had thought through so many details - what clothes to wear, what shoes and socks to wear, what gear to bring.  I had studied the course map and talked to friends and coaches about my pacing strategy and my goals.  I was sure that I made the right decisions and I was ready to execute it all.

But then, two days before the race, I began second guessing myself on just about every. single. thing.

Some of this can be attributed to normal pre-race jitters.  I've now run 9 marathons and before every single one I became somewhat neurotic as the day approached.  But this was different.  I had more at stake - I'd trained so hard for this race and my family had sacrificed so much.  There was added pressure (put on by yours truly, of course, and nobody else) and I wanted the day to go well.  I didn't want a seemingly simple decision like what shoes to wear or what color shirt to wear to mess everything up.  Every little detail mattered and carried so much weight all of a sudden.  I wanted to be absolutely sure of my choices.

Thursday morning I woke up and felt completely off, both physically and emotionally.  I don't want to go into too much detail here - but I will tell you that this "off" feeling was without a doubt related to my hormones.  I'm still a nursing mom and my body is adjusting and trying to settle into its hormonal cycle.  This cycle hasn't been very predictable as a result, and it has left me feeling really off kilter.

But by Friday night I threw my hands up in the air.  I had to let go of the anxiety and execute the race as best I could on Saturday.  Robert gave me a hug and assured me that I was going to do great - that I made the right decisions about shoes and gear, etc and that no matter what I was going to run strong.  That's all there was to it.  Move on and move forward.

Then at 1:00 in the morning I woke up and my bed was completely drenched in sweat.  I don't mean a little bit wet.  I have had night sweats before, but nothing like this.  I was soaked to the bone from head to toe and my sheets were sopping wet.  I changed my pajamas and pulled the covers over the wet sheets and tried to get back to sleep.  At 3:00 I woke again - one of my headaches was coming on.  I am prone to migraines and they are very closely related to my hormonal cycle (I just have to say, sometimes I think being a woman is really the pits!!).  I decided at that point that I would get up for the day.  I took two ibuprofen (figuring it would be basically worn off by race start and not impact my tummy too much, it was still 5 hours before the race would start) and hopped in a hot shower to try to relax and stop the headache from taking over.  While I was in the shower I fought back tears -- maybe this just isn't my day.  I worried that all the sweating I did through the night would dehydrate me once I started running in the heat and the sun.  I worried that my headache wouldn't go away, or if it did go away that it would come back.  I worried that I would have terrible cramps while I ran.  I worried.

Robert came into the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower.  "Are you OK?" he asked.  He was holding the baby, who had woken up while I showered.  I explained the sweating and I told him about the headache and that I just wasn't sure what I was going to do about my race.  But that I knew I had to do my best.  I couldn't not try.

I went downstairs and made my coffee and had my breakfast.  It was about 4:30 at that point and my ride was coming to get me at 5:15.  I got ready for the race and tried to relax.  I was starting to feel better.  Robert texted me (from upstairs) and told me the baby was fussy - and could I try to feed him one more time before I left.  I went upstairs and cuddled with my baby and fed him.  I had tears in my eyes as I cradled him in my arms.

I am a mother and a wife before I am anything else.  I love my family.  I am so thankful to be married to the most supportive and caring man I have ever known.  So grateful he is the father to our three beautiful children.  So grateful to be their mother.  So grateful.  Nothing else really matters...

My body drives me crazy sometimes.  But look what it can do - it can nurture and grow human beings and then bring them into this world.  It can feed and nourish them when they are babies.  And it can train for and run marathons.  I have spent so much time in this life complaining about my body - criticizing my cellulite, my love handles, my muffin top.  I have griped and moaned about my hormones - and all the annoying symptoms that come along with them.  I have literally SCREAMED about how awful my headaches are.  And my allergies! - don't get me started on those.  And my stomach issues! - oh goodness, my stomach issues.  I have complained so much about my body.  But I want to stop doing that - because LOOK.  Look what it can do!  I should be so grateful.  And truly, I am.

After I nursed baby Gus, I brought him back to Robert.  He was still awake and it was after 5:00AM.  My ride would be here soon.  It was time for me to go.

My ride - my good friend Paul was driving me, my sister Jodi and my buddy Chris right to RFK where the race would start and finish.  We had an awesome car ride in.  No traffic -- no issues at all.  The four of us were excited, yet calm.  I was feeling a lot better once we were all in the car together.  I told myself the best you can do is the best you can do and I repeated the following quote (by Goethe) over and over in my head as we rode into the city:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

I decided I would be brave today.  I would not let anything stop me from doing my very best.

We arrived at the race start around 6:00AM, with plenty of time to get settled and ready before the race started at 8:00.  It was still dark out and we were there before there were any crowds.  Parking was as simple as simple can be.  We made our way over to the Brooks VIP porta-potties because we all had special passes to use them thanks to my sister.  I was so excited to see Melody from Will Run for Margaritas there.  She is such a sweet person and we got to talk for a while.  Seeing her helped me feel more at ease - she told me she knew I was going to do great and that she had been thinking about me all week.  This just made me feel so good and so thankful for her and for all of you who read my blog.  I don't think I can say it enough -- thank you.  For all of your support.  For all of your encouragement.

Me and Melody!  Looking oh so dapper, aren't we?
After we visited there for a while we decided to make our way over to the Armory where we would meet up with our other friends and check our bags.  Gear check pretty much rocks at this race, in my opinion.  The Armory is an old icky building, but it is perfect for pre-race stretching and chilling and for gear check.  They had a very well organized system and it was incredibly easy to drop our bags off there and pick them up from the very same spot after the race.  We dropped our gear off around 7:20 and then hung out for a bit.

sister hug before heading to the start
me and Chris, getting ready to go
We had to go to the bathroom one more time before the start, so we made our way back to the Brooks trailers.  I was so happy to have that pass at this point!  All the "regular" POJ lines were insanely long and barely moving.  We even had to wait a little bit at Brooks, but it was nothing compared to the regular lines and the bathrooms were SO much nicer.  The toilets flush!  And you can wash your hands!  Enough said.

As Chris and I headed towards our corral I started taking off my throw-away layers.  I had on a grungy pair of old fleece pants with paint stains on them and I had cut slits in the cuffs so they would come off easily over my shoes.  I was also wearing an old race tee-shirt and a sweatshirt I got at Target years ago that was very flash-dancy and cheap.  I had not worn these tops in years.  The pants I had worn, but honestly shouldn't have.  It was time to say goodbye to those - they had outlived their prime.

We got to our corral at the perfect time with about 5-10 minutes to spare.  I did my dynamic stretching routine and then we jumped into the corral.  I was feeling excited and nervous, yet completely at ease.

I was going to do this, one mile at a time.

When the gun went off we started inching our way up to the start line.  This race starts in waves, so it was a very smooth start.  I really think the RnR series does a great job with this.  This was my third RnR race to date and I have always been impressed with the way they handle these sorts of logistics.  (They charge us an arm and a leg for stupid stuff like picking up friends' packets and tracking via text messaging, but the race start logistics are something they know how to do right and that counts for something.) 

Once our wave's gun went off (about 2-3 minutes after the first wave), the race had begun.  I thought I hit start on my Garmin but about a minute or so into the race I realized that it wasn't going.  I must have just not pressed the button hard enough!  I didn't let this get to me because all I really cared about was managing my pace, so I just pressed start again - this time making sure it clicked on.

Chris and I were running together, and we were both so thankful to have one another.  A year ago, he never would have imagined that he would be running a race of any distance, much less a MARATHON!  His journey as a runner has been so inspiring.  When we first ran together last summer, he was fighting to hold a 10:00 pace for more than a few miles.  He lost 20 pounds and dedicated himself to getting stronger and healthier.  He is an amazing dad and husband to his awesome family, and I am thankful to call him my friend.  It was really wonderful to have him by my side yesterday.  To get to be a part of his first marathon.  I am ridiculously proud of him.

Go Chris!  You rock.
I knew the course was going to be tough.  There are a LOT of hills early on and then again later in the race towards the end.  It was a hot day (temps rising into the mid-70s) and quite sunny.  We had to be careful not to overheat.  The second half of the course would be run through Southeast DC and along the Anacostia River ... not exactly the most scenic or spectator-friendly parts of the city.  My good friend and coach, Adam, had cautioned me about this course many times.  He told me not to go out too fast, and to be very careful on those early hills.  I heard his voice in my head through much of the first half of the race.

Even still, we started off faster than we meant to (you have heard that one before, I'm sure!).  My intention was to run the first two miles around 8:15s, but they were faster.  But the fact was that I felt like I was jogging.  I was holding so much back that it felt silly.  Like I was running in slow motion.

I knew this was a good sign.  This was exactly how I wanted to feel at the beginning of a marathon.  When I glanced at my watch and realized I was running as fast as I was, I was shocked.  But since I felt like I was holding back so much, I decided not to let it bother me.  I was going to be smart and listen to my body.  This was not about putting time in the bank, it was about being careful and strategic and saving my energy for later, when I would really need it.

Miles 1-4:
8:01, 8:01, 7:51, 8:11

The big climbs started at Mile 5.  I remembered what Adam said, so I kept my effort the same and told Chris that we would need to take it very easy on these hills.  We would want to run faster and fight up the hills, but we couldn't.  No fighting.  They had to feel easy.  We would make up the time lost later.  It was imperative that we save our energy and not spend it all on the hills early on.

Mile 5-10:
8:35, 8:05, 8:16, 8:06, 8:00, 7:46

I was feeling really good at this point.  I was consistently drinking my water and had refilled my bottle once already (one of Chris's friends was on the course around Mile 6 and tossed us a water bottle as we ran by!  It was seriously awesome).  I was sticking to my nutrition plan and ate my Accel gels at Miles 5 and 10.  My stomach started to feel a little crampy and as though I might have to make a pit stop somewhere after Mile 10, but it was nothing serious.  I just took note of it and carried on.  My husband Robert and Chris's wife Lisa were cheering for us at Mile 11.  We were SO happy to see our cheering squad!  They handed us fresh hand held water bottles and screamed their heads off for us.  It was so awesome and made me feel so incredibly proud and grateful.  I felt like we were on "cruise control" at this point and had settled into race pace now.  It was a comfortable pace and I was happy.  My anxiety melted away.  We saw our families again at Mile 14 and I was thrilled.  Still feeling strong.

Miles 11-17:
7:56, 8:11, 8:06, 8:01, 7:47, 8:10, 8:12

It was some time during the 17th mile that I started to feel Chris slowing a little.  I checked in with him and he said that he was good and that I should go on ahead.  I wasn't sure how I felt about this, so I asked him again.  And again he said it - I'm good. You go on ahead.  I knew he meant it.  So I kept going.

Not long after that my stomach completely cramped up.  Oh my goodness, I needed a bathroom and I needed it fast.  It was an emergency.  As I approached the 17th mile marker I saw volunteers.  They told me that as soon as I turned the corner I would see a water station and the porta-potties.  Thank you God.  Thank you - that is just what I needed, when I needed it.  I bolted for the bathroom.  I was so grateful there was no line.  I tried to make it quick, but when I pulled my shorts up, all of my gels busted out of my pockets all over the floor - ugh.  I grabbed them and dashed back onto the course as fast as I could.  I knew I lost some time while I was in there, so I did my best to get right back into my pace and keep going.  My stomach felt so much better having stopped - there is no way I could have kept going without that stop - so I decided that rather than be upset, I would be thankful.  (When I ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon in September I had the same thing happen to me at exactly the same point, only that race did not have adequate bathrooms for runners so I was forced to walk and my whole race was ruined.  It was awful).

Mile 18:

I was hoping to see Robert again somewhere between miles 18 and 19, but when I got to that point they weren't there.  I knew I would be on my own from here on out, until the Finish.  I was entering into the toughest part of the course now and no longer had my running buddy or my family to support me.

It was time for my fight.  Time to start racing.

Miles 19-20:
8:03, 7:55

At Mile 20 I usually eat another gel (I eat one every 5 miles of the marathon).  But my stomach was cramping again and I was afraid to eat it because I knew it would stimulate my stomach too much.  On the other hand, I was afraid about what would happen if I didn't eat it.  As Mile 20 came to a close I saw a porta-potty up ahead.  I decided to eat at that point, and then I sprinted to the bathroom.  It was another emergency and I was so thankful there was a bathroom right when I needed it.

This time, I was the first person to use this bathroom and the toilet paper was completely packaged up still.  I ripped open the packaging and could not, for the life of me, find the start of the toilet paper to pull some off for myself!  I was scraping at it frantically trying to find the start.  It was taking too long and making me crazy, so finally I just scooped up a bunch of the shreds of toilet paper I created and used that.  I wanted to get back out there and keep running, I was frustrated with how much time I was losing.  As soon as I exited the bathroom my stomach felt much better and I ran as fast as I could to try to get back on pace.

Mile 21:

I figured I had a choice.  Either be negative and upset about my stomach issues and the delays they caused, or be thankful that I was able to resolve them and move on.  This would be the deciding factor of my marathon.  I could let it break me - mentally fall apart and give up.  Decide to try again another day.  Or I could choose to see the bright side and keep fighting.

It was at that point that I became more determined than ever.  Determined to enjoy myself.  To celebrate the fact that I was doing what I loved to do, whatever the outcome may be.  Determined to be in control of my body.  If my stomach lurched again, I would deal with it.  I already had, twice, after all.  Determined to keep my spirits up and not let the time I lost bother me or worry me.  I was not going to entertain thoughts of negativity.  There was no room for that.

I felt unstoppable.

Miles 22-26:
8:02, 7:49, 8:17, 8:08, 7:32

Mile 26 ended on a steep hill, and the last .2 was no different (of course!).  There was more of an ascent and then a turn towards the Finish Line.  I ran that last stretch at a 7:43 pace.  As I crested the hill to turn towards the Finish, I saw my family.  I put my arms in the air and tears streamed down my face.  I could see all of them cheering for me - their big smiles.  They were proud of me.  I thought my heart might burst out of my chest, I felt so happy and thankful.  Even just thinking about it now I get a lump in my throat.

post race hugs from the man I love
I did not let the marathon break me.  Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally.  I kept my head held high and I conquered the troubles that came my way.  I chose to fight.  To love what I was doing.  To believe.  And to dream.

And it was a dream worth fighting for.  A dream worth chasing.  Every step of the way.

I ran my first marathon in 5:21:20 when I was 24 years old.  Yesterday I finished in 3:34:46 and was 4th out of 190 women in my age group.  I will be 36 in a few weeks.  My dreams do not stop here.

After I crossed the Finish Line and got my medal, I stayed there to wait for Chris.  I wanted to see him finish and cheer him in.  He came across in 3:47.  An incredible first marathon.  Absolutely incredible.  My sister Jodi ran a strong race also, finishing in 3:57.  She amazes me, always.

so strong, so beautiful.  my sister.
I saw a spectator sign at a marathon a few years ago and it stuck with me.  It said May the JOURNEY by your JOY.  I love this.  Each marathon is a unique experience.  An opportunity to test your limits and dig deep within your heart.  A chance to grow as a person.  We face obstacles that sometimes we cannot prepare ourselves for.  The time on the clock should not have so much power over us that if it does not say what we want it to say, we don't appreciate the journey.

I am really happy that I qualified for Boston on Saturday and that I improved my marathon PR by 8 minutes.  But more than that, I am thankful for the journey.  For the fact that I didn't give up when things got rough.  I'm thankful for the sport of running and that there are many more marathons and other races ahead of me.  Some will be faster and many will be slower.  It is about the journey, not the destination.  I do not want to ever lose sight of this along the way.

Congratulations to all of you who raced this weekend!  Whether you ran your fastest time or your slowest, whether it was a 5K or a marathon, you should be proud.  You should be proud because you are a runner.  Because it takes guts and courage to make it to that Start Line.  And if you didn't have the outcome you were hoping for, don't give up.  Know it is all a part of the journey.  See the big picture.  Pick yourself up, learn from it, and move forward.  It is worth it.

May the JOURNEY be your JOY.

holding my baby after the race. one happy mama.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I am a Boston Qualifier

I did the best I could yesterday and I ran a smart, strong race.

Stomach cramps started early on.
But not until Mile 18 did I make my first pit stop.
Then again at Mile 21.

It was hot and it was hilly.  Parts of the course were miserable.

I kept going though and I never gave up.

My slowest mile was done in 8:35.
My last mile was my fastest in 7:32.

Official Time: 3:34:46

I am a Boston Qualifier!!

Coming up the hill at the end of Mile 26. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Hendry Young.
Thank you to everyone for all of your support and encouragement!

Full recap coming soon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm Ready to Rock - Marathon Prep

Tomorrow is RACING DAY!

I'm so excited I can't stand it.  This week went really well.  Team Honey Badger met for an easy paced 5 miles early Tuesday morning.  Our wonderful running group from the =PR= Distance Training program met at the track on Wednesday night for a light workout (totaling 3.25 miles - two at race pace) followed by a wonderful carb-loading extravaganza at our favorite local pizza joint.  It was awesome - so much great energy in the air!

the gang's all here
Yesterday we went to the expo.  It was a quick trip, though traffic was a nightmare - such is the life in DC.  We got our race packets, switched corrals (very easy to do!) and made one lap around the room to check out what was there (same stuff as always).  I am so glad I have that out of the way!

This morning I met Jodi and Dora for a very quick shake-out run. We met at Starbucks and ran two laps (probably about a half mile) around the parking lot before getting ourselves some yummy coffee.  The purpose of the run was just to loosen up - mostly to relax our minds and calm our nerves than anything else.  It was lovely.  I think we are ready!

Last night I laid everything out for race day.  It is going to be HOT and SUNNY tomorrow, nothing like the weather we have trained in this cycle.  Temperatures will be in the mid-50s at the start and will climb to a high of 75 tomorrow. 

I am planning for the weather.  Here is my race outfit plan:

The Outfit:
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • A light colored tank (originally I was planning on black, but since it will be sunny I'm going for a lighter color)
  • Shorts
  • A light pair of socks so my feet don't get hot
  • Endorphon Warrior "BELIEVE"bracelet
  • Road ID
The Shoes:

I am wearing my Saucony Kinvara 2s for this race.  I love these shoes and wore them throughout many of my runs this training season.  Mostly for track workouts and long tempo runs (usually anywhere from 20-30 miles a week), these are my "fast shoes."  I wore them for a few longer runs towards the end of my training cycle and over the last few weeks I went back-and-forth between whether to wear these or my Triumphs.  I decided on the Kinvaras because what it comes down to is I feel so good in them.  They are my racing shoes, my fast shoes.  I am excited to wear them tomorrow!

I have also laid out everything else that I am bringing with me tomorrow.  This is something I always do before a marathon, just to be sure I am not forgetting anything.

The Race Bag:
  • Hand held water bottle (I carry my water when I run and race)
  • Gels - I plan to eat one every 5 miles, but I packed a few extra just in case (you never know if you will lose one or if you will have a running buddy who needs one!)
  • Sunscreen!
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Body Glide
  • Picky Bars (I will eat one about an hour before race start, and have another one for after the race to)
  • Extra water bottle
  • A tube of nuun
  • Arnica gel - for any sore muscles before or after
  • An extra bag, for wet clothes after the race
  • A small towel
  • Tissues in case the potties are out of T.P before the race
My husband and our two sons are coming to spectate the race  - I am so thankful for this!  Robert is going to try to see me at miles 11, 14 and 18.5 and then be at the Finish.  He will have an extra hand-held water bottle for me and gels just in case.  He will also have a dry set of clothes for me to put on after the race.

I think I'm in good shape and that I've covered all my bases.  Today I will do as much resting and relaxing as a mom of three can possibly do.  I'm going to hydrate like crazy all day (which for me is 100+ ounces of nuun and water), eat an early and light pasta dinner this evening and try to get to bed nice and early.

Are you running the RnR USA races tomorrow?  What's your outfit plan for the race?  What will you pack in your race bag?  Are you feeling ready!?

GOOD LUCK to everyone racing in DC or elsewhere this weekend!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

looking back

This morning I dug back into the archives of my blog, and pulled up the posts from exactly one year ago.  As I read through them, tears literally filled my eyes.  Tears of gratitude, tears of amazement, tears of joy.

I have come a long way.  No matter what the outcome is of my race on Saturday, I have a lot to be proud of, and so much to be thankful for.

This week one year ago, I was 6 weeks postpartum and every attempt to run was a fight.  Every run left me feeling achy and wiped out.  My SI joint was out of whack, my hips and my tailbone hurt day and night.  I was tired.  My core muscles were stretched out and weakened.  I was scared, yet determined.  I believed that as long as I was smart and listened to my body, as long as I took my time and was patient with myself, I would be able to run pain-free and happily again.   It was not easy.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from these posts:

I am going to go back to the basics, start from square one, with my training.  I am going to be POSITIVE and believe in myself and be patient on this journey.  This experience will make me stronger in more ways than one.  I am going to reclaim my body - my strength - my fitness.

In my experience the best, most wonderful things in life don't ever seem to come without hard work.  A little (ok sometimes a lot) of pain.  Sacrifice.  So I will hold my head up high, not give up - not ever - and I will believe in myself.  I will trust that there is a reason for the struggle and that it will all be worth it.

I am not a quitter and I am not alone.  I will give this the good fight and be stronger because of it!!!  I WILL NEVER QUIT. 

Here is something that I know for sure.  Becoming a runner is HARD.  Whether you are just getting started or are getting back into it after pregnancy, an injury or time off for whatever reason.  It is hard.  But if we do not give up, if we believe in ourselves and if we are patient, if we listen to our bodies and keep at it, WONDERFUL things can happen.  We will awaken amazing things within us.  We will discover so much about ourselves and what we are capable of.  It will be more than we ever would have dared to dream.

Do not give up on your dreams, in running or in life.  Do not put a limit on what your potential is.  Take it one day at a time, and be open to all of the possibilities.  Have the courage to keep going, and know that you are not alone.  Watch your story unfold.

If you are interested in reading some of these archives, go back to March of 2011.  Here are a few links to some of my favorite posts:

A Plan
Go Girl

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

on courage

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
-Mark Twain

On Saturday I will toe the line for what will be my 9th marathon.  Running marathons isn't something new to me.  But RACING the marathon ... well, that is a whole different story.

I used to think that people who were courageous were fearless.  That they could do things that terrified me without batting an eye.  They stood up to scary things and bouldered right through them, unafraid.

I was wrong.

I don't think that way anymore, now that I have found my own courage.  People who are courageous are very aware of their fears, but they stand up to them anyway.  That is what being BRAVE is all about.

For me, I've discovered that I am my most courageous self when I TRUST in God.  I'm not really a very religious person to be honest.  But my life's journey has always been woven with a strong thread of faith in something bigger than me.  When I was young, I went to Catholic school.  In college, I studied Eastern religions and Native American cultures and they truly spoke to me and I found them beautiful.  I married a Jewish man whose faith and heritage I admire tremendously.  There have been times of great spiritual turmoil in my heart ... but always, when it came down to it, I have never felt alone or deserted.  I continued to pray, and continued to see signs that God was looking out for me.  I read something somewhere that really spoke to me - something about how different religions are like different doors to the same house.  I love that.  I am of the opinion that God is all around.  Some people feel his presence most when they are in a church learning about Jesus.  Others find it in a temple in India or maybe a mosque in east Africa.  And others feel him most at the top of a mountain, when they are one with nature.  There are so many ways that God reveals himself to us.

Running is my sanctuary.  It is the place where my heart opens up the most and I am able to feel and see and hear God's message the clearest.  Forgiveness, healing, hope and gratitude all happen for me on the best of my runs.  And when I am truly testing my limits - truly pushing myself and facing my biggest fears - I find that in order to keep on going I have to LET GO and TRUST in God.  I hear his voice in my head, telling me to be courageous. Telling me to trust in him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song.
~ Pslam 28:7

This Saturday I am going to RACE my fastest marathon.  I am going to try to run an average pace of an 8:00 mile for 26.2 miles.  This pace is fast for me - though it is the pace my body is trained for.  In my heart, I know that I can do it.  I know that I can do it not only because I trained for it, but because I will trust in God and I will be courageous.  

I will give thanks to him in song.  And my run will be my song.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

a tribute

When I head to the trails or hit the track each and every week, I am literally surrounded by amazing people who love to run.

People who have become some of my closest friends, through the sport of running.  We all have different paces and different goals that are unique to us as individuals, but we stand united in our support and encouragement of one another.  We all believe in one another and we fight for one another.

Many of us have been working hard all winter long in preparation for this Saturday's races (the half and the full).  I have watched as each one of us strives to get stronger, to battle our weaknesses and self doubt, to overcome obstacles that life has thrown our way.  It has been an incredible journey and a beautiful thing to be a part of.

So, this post is a tribute to each of my amazing friends who are running this weekend.  I respect and admire every single one of you with all of my heart and I know you are going to rock it this weekend.

You are incredible.  You entered into this training cycle only to discover very early on that you had two healing stress fractures in your shins.  It was tough, but YOU were tougher.  And you were smart.  You listened to your body and honored the necessary recovery. You are made of COURAGE, my friend.  I know you are going to execute your race beautifully on Saturday.  That you will bring your intense sense of self with you as you run, and that your strong spirit and courage will carry you through the toughest moments on Saturday.  You will TRIUMPH.  I just know it.

You just don't stop amazing me.  Your dedication inspires me every day.  Whether it is in your training, your work or your relationships you are in 110% and I love that about you.  I know you are going to blow this race out of the water.  You will rise above any physical pain and run in the moment, just as you always do.  I am going to think of you as I run my race, and remember that pain is only temporary.  You have taught me that - to just get through the rough spots and ride it out - because I will be on the other side of it soon.  Stronger and happier for having endured it.

Aaah, sister.  You are amazing!  When I think of all you have overcome and accomplished in the past year, I am in awe of you.  I love you more than words can say.  You are one of the most intuitive people I know, and this trait carries through in your running.  You will enjoy every step of the race on Saturday, listening to your body and pushing your limits - discovering all that you are capable of. You will remember to BREATHE and BELIEVE, and you will remind everyone else out there to do the same through your generous and loving spirit.  I love you.

From the first time I ran with you less than a year ago when you were fighting to run a 10 minute pace for a handful of miles, to our last 22 miler with sub-8:00 miles at the finish -- you have inspired me and encouraged me to dream and believe every step of the way.  I am so incredibly psyched for your first marathon!  Your passion and love for the sport of running is infectious.  I'm grateful and honored to run with you by my side (or maybe a little in front of me!) on Saturday.  You are an awesome guy and an incredible running buddy.  I'm so proud of how far you have come in such a short time.  Go get it.

If ever there is someone I want on my team, it is you Chuck.  You somehow always make all the hard runs and grueling workouts we do FUN.  Always reminding us of our love for the sport and why we do what we do, you are refreshing to be with.  You make us feel like a team, like we all matter.  This is a powerful thing. You sincerely enjoy and take pride in the accomplishments of others and I hope you know we all feel the same about you.  You've worked incredibly hard this training season and I just know you are going to bring it on race day.

Watching you grow as a runner has been so wonderful.  Seeing you out on the trails always makes me happy and turns my mood around when I am in a tough patch.  Your loyalty to the people and things that you care about truly inspires me on so many levels.  I love how you always make your way through obstacles - never giving up.  You make it work because you are not a quitter.  You are going to have an amazing race on Saturday -- I just know it!!

John & Scott.
It has been so much fun getting to know you guys and watching you as runners this season.  You drive one another to do your best and (though it is a little insane at times!) I think it's going to be a good thing for both of you on race day.  You're both so strong and speedy and I know you will rock the race on Saturday.  There will be good reason to celebrate at that finish line -- for both of you.

Sister, you have worked so hard and it is paying off!!  I have always admired your strong will and determination.  The fact that when you get knocked down, you just pick yourself right back up.  You are going to get that sub-2 half on Saturday.  It is going to be your day!  NOTHING is going to stop you!!!  I am so proud of you -- and I believe in you with all of my heart.

There is not a single doubt in my head that you are going to dominate your race on Saturday.  All season long I've watched you persevere and keep on fighting - I've loved the look in your eyes after every successful long run and PR you have completed over these past few months.  You have not only become a stronger runner, but you have also begun to believe in yourself as a runner on a whole new level.  It is so inspiring and so much fun to witness!  I can't wait to hear about your race on Saturday!

I am always amazed at how you juggle so many priorities in life.  As a mother, a wife, an employee and a friend (to many) you somehow manage to give everyTHING and everyONE your all. And you do so with grace, gratitude, focus and SO. MUCH. HEART.  It makes me so happy to see you out on the trails, carving time for yourself and doing something that you love.  I know that great things are in store for you on Saturday and I cannot wait to see you smash your goals.

I am ridiculously proud of and thankful for each one of you.  Your friendships - in running and in life - mean so much to me.  I do not know a more dedicated, fun, passionate or hard working group of runners.  Saturday will be our day.  Let's go get it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

race week - monday!

Oh my goodness, everyone -- It's RACE WEEK!

After months of training for and dreaming about the Rock n' Roll USA Marathon, it is finally so close that I can taste it.  My heart is full of excitement, anticipation, nervous energy, gratitude and hope.

I'm feeling good.

I've done all the work.  I've trained hard and I've trained smart - nailing my paces, sharpening my mental game, figuring out what works and what doesn't work for me to perform at my best.  I've gutted it out through powerful winds, freezing rain and even 20 miles on a treadmill.  I've put in the time and the miles each and every week, at the track, on the trails and in the gym.

Now is the time to rest up, so I can make all this hard work COUNT on race day.

What do I mean by that?  Well, every phase of a training cycle is important, and the taper is no exception to that.  It's SCIENCE.  In order to make all that hard work we put into our training count on race day, we must honor the taper and take it seriously - as seriously as we would our peak mileage week, our toughest track workout or our longest run.  Our muscles need to rest and recover - we don't want to feel any soreness on race day (we will be feeling plenty of that once we cross the finish line!).  Our glycogen stores need to be replenished and full so that we head into the race with energy reserves because we will need to use them - they will deplete quickly.  Hydration this week is key - we do not want to risk starting the race feeling dehydrated and chugging water right before the race will do us no good.  We need to REST and make sure we are sleeping enough all week (the night before the race will likely not be the best night's sleep of our lives since we will be nervous and excited.  Not only that but take the time to RELAX each day - to calm our minds as well as our bodies. 

Calming my mind is perhaps the trickiest component for me during the taper period, as I feel so nervous and excited every single time I think about my race (which is, um, pretty much all the time these days!).  The goal of a sub-3:40 and my first BQ has been at the forefront of my thinking throughout this training cycle but now as the race is only days away I'm realizing it is time for me to LET GO.  It is time for me to relax my thinking and trust in my body's ability to get the job done on race day.  I have been re-reading a wonderful book (I last read it 12 years ago when I was training for my first marathon).  It is called Running Within and is written by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott.  It is one of my very favorite running books and I highly recommend it to runners of all levels.

This past week I have been focusing on the sections in the book that explore effective ways to relax your mind and body while racing.  One of the pieces of advice that really speaks to me is to detach yourself from the outcome on race day.  When I first read this a light bulb went on in my head.  It was like the words just jumped out at me.  It's a little ironic that I've been so focused on my goal all season long but that come race day in order for me to perform at my best I will have to let go of this focus.  If the race is going well and I start thinking about accomplishing my goal I could get too excited - I may pick up my pace too soon or get emotional and mess up my rhythm or my form.  If I fall off my pace and it becomes apparent that I will not hit my goal, that could ruin my experience and make me feel completely miserable.  I REFUSE to let that happen.  So this week I am working on relaxing my mind, taking time to visualize myself on race day doing what I love best.  Setting my body free to do what it is trained to do.  Being in the moment and letting things happen.  Trusting in my training, trusting in my body and believing in myself.

I am embracing the purpose of my taper this week.  Butterflies are zipping and zooming around in my tummy and I can hardly think of anything other than Saturday morning, but I will take the time this week to relax my mind, rest my body, fuel and hydrate properly.  Race day is almost here!!

happy after my last long run before race day!

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