Sunday, April 29, 2012

Number 3

Yesterday morning I RACED a 10K.  I registered for this race at the last minute earlier this week, hoping to test my fitness at 6.2 miles and set a new PR in the distance.  I didn't know too much about this race other than one article I had read about last year's inaugural event.  There was one sentence in the article that made me pause before I registered:

There were no killer hills and quite a few medium long down hills but lots of turning and up hills can take a bite out of a runner’s pace.

I think I read that sentence four times before deciding that they said "no killer hills" and that should probably mean I won' be slowed down too much by them.  I would power through those hills.  This makes me laugh now.

I signed up and went to pick up my race bib on Thursday afternoon.  The volunteers working packet pick up could not have been nicer.  We were chatting and one of them told me she had just run the course earlier that day and that it was "beautiful but really challenging."

It turns out she wasn't kidding.  It was HARD.

The Fairfax CASA Run for the Children 10K is a really awesome race.  It was perfectly organized.  Plenty of parking.  Ample porta potties.  Lots of water and food and entertainment.  A really fun vibe from start to finish.  Amazing raffle and prizes.  These guys know how to put on a race.

The course is truly beautiful.  It starts and finishes at the Courthouse complex right off Main Street in Fairfax City.  Most of the route is through pretty neighborhood streets.  It is hilly though.  I have to disagree with the article I read - I think there was a "killer hill" right about around Mile 4.  But even despite the course being riddled with hills and lots of turns all throughout -- I still loved it.  And I still PR'd.

When I got to the Start I was ready to aim for 7:00 miles and hoped to come across the finish line somewhere around 43 minutes.  I wasn't going to worry about the hills - I would just deal with them when I had to.  I wanted to do my best and I wasn't going to let anything stop me.

When the race began we ran straight down a hill and then around a turn into the neighborhoods.  For the first half mile I was running in the "lead pack" which was a totally new experience for me.  There were probably about 3 women (including me) and 6 men behind a motorcycle - it was surreal!  I had a hard time wiping the smile off my face because I thought it was so funny - was this really happening to me?  I never pictured myself at the front of a race like that (hey, even if it is a local 10K - it was cool!).

I ran the first mile in 6:36 and knew that was a little fast for me, but I didn't care.  I chalked it up to the downhill at the beginning combined with race day excitement and the fact that if I was able to hold on, I could place in the top 3 overall females (trust me when I tell you that this is something I truly never imagined I would ever experience).

It was hard for me to pull back too much because of the excitement and the adrenaline.  Going into the second mile there were four females.  One of them was pretty far ahead of me and I wasn't so sure I could catch her.  Another was very close, sometimes so close I could touch her.  The other was right next to me.  For the next two miles I went back and forth with that woman, she would pull ahead of me and then we would take a turn and I would pull ahead of her.  We would go up a hill and she would inch ahead of me, down it and there I was ahead of her.  It was so fun!!  I kept telling myself to just run my own race and not worry about what she was doing, but I wanted to beat her.  I really did.  I'm not ashamed to say it.  I wanted it bad.

Mile 2: 6:51
Mile 3: 7:00

By the time we finished the third mile I was feeling strong, as though I had settled into my own pace.  About half way through the fourth mile (I think) we hit THE HILL.  This hill was a whopper.  When I picture it in my head now it looks like a mountain.  I'm sure it wasn't that big, but it was long and I was fighting to maintain my speed up it.  The only good thing about that hill I have to say is that this hill is where I pulled away from the 4th woman and secured my spot in the top three females.  I felt victorious when I reached the top.

Mile 4: 7:03

As I headed into Mile 5 I really wanted to catch the girl in front of me.  She was a steady and strong runner and I wanted to catch her so badly.  I got so close at times, but she kept her lead.  There were more hills and turns and I was holding my pace, but she was too and I wasn't gaining enough ground to catch her.

Mile 5: 7:03

We came near a water stop and I tried to will her to stop to get a drink, so I could just pass her and take second.  Maybe if I use THE FORCE I can convince her that she is tired and thirsty and she really doesn't care about placing in the race?  Thinking about this now totally cracks me up.  How competitive am I?  I'm kind of embarrassed to be admitting this on the internet.  Well, anyway, my mind powers did not work and the girl stayed ahead of me.  We ran up more hills (including another doozy as we came to the end of the 6th mile) and around some more turns and she was STILL in front of me. 

Mile 6: 7:12

For the last and final .2 (which was actually .3 on my watch), I pushed with all I could muster, crossing the finish line in 43:46.

I was the 3rd female to finish, and the 7th overall finisher.  My average pace was a 6:58 and it was a PR by 9 minutes (my old PR was a 52:58, set about one year ago).  I was proud.

I finished 10 seconds behind the 2nd place female, who was a super nice girl as it turns out.  The first place female beat me by about 30 seconds (she was also so nice).  I stuck around for the prizes and was really excited to get a $100 gift certificate to Pacers running store -- new shoes here I come!

This race was one of the toughest I have ever run.  I NEVER imagined that I would be the third fastest woman in any race!  It was so amazing to come home to my family and tell them the news - they were all so cute and excited and so proud of me.  We spent the rest of the day at the tee ball field (Go Hot Rods!!) and hanging out with family.  My sister and her girls were here for a quick visit and I loved that my house was filled with cousins laughing and playing and making memories together.

I am a runner.  I am a wife.  I am a mommy.  And an aunt and a sister and a daughter and a friend. These things make me who I am.  Some days I feel like one of these roles takes precedence over the others and there is an imbalance, I am good at one or two but failing at the others.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday I was able to be all of these things as best as I could.  It was a good day.  And I am grateful.

Friday, April 27, 2012

a last minute 10k

My plan after the marathon last month was to spend the Spring training for and racing shorter distances.  I had a 10 miler last week and am signed up for a 5k in May and a half marathon in June.  So far, so good.

I'm loving the more relaxed training schedule, the head lamp free early morning runs with my buddies and the weekly tempo runs on the trail.  I miss the track but I think it is good to take a break from it - come summer I will be ridiculously excited to get back there.

I have some new personal records to set this Spring, before I head into marathon training mode again.  I want to do the work to get faster at shorter distances.  I think pushing through the pain and discomfort of a 5k and a 10k will make me tougher when it comes time for the marathon.  I prefer long distances over short - the sting in my lungs, the burn in my legs, the heavy breathing of a speedy race are not my favorite running moments to be honest.  I do them because they make me stronger.  They teach me what I'm made of.  I come across that finish line with an empty tank.

Earlier this week I was selected for the nuun Hood to Coast Relay team.  I am BEYOND excited about it!  I still cannot wipe the smile off my face every time I think about it (which is kinda a lot).  One of the pieces of information that Hood to Coast requests from all runners with our team registration is our 10k split time.  The last time I ran a 10k was almost a year ago and my running has changed a LOT since then.  It was a very hot and humid day on a hilly and sunny course and I felt GREAT about my performance, crossing the finish line in 52:58.  It was a 3 minute PR for me at the time and I could not have been happier or more excited!

Since that day almost exactly one year ago, I've grown so much stronger.  I am a smarter and faster runner than I ever have been in all of my life.  I want to know how much faster I can run a 10k.  I want to know what I am capable of in that distance.  I can look at pace calculators all day, but the only true way to know is to get out there and RACE it.  Put it all out on the line.

So the other day I searched for a local race and found a 10k not far from home tomorrow morning - the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children 10k.  It does not look like an easy course - everything I've read about it says it's insanely hilly.  I decided that doesn't matter though - I am going to go out there and do my best anyway and push up those hills, whatever it takes.  The race is tomorrow morning and supports a really wonderful cause -- raising money to support advocacy for children who are neglected and suffer from abuse.  As a mother of three, you better believe I will run hard for that cause no matter what the course is like!

Based on my 1:12:02 time in the 10 miler last week, the McMillan pace calculator predicts that I should be able to run a 10k in about 43:00, just under a 7:00/mile pace.  That is 10 minutes faster than my current PR.  I'll be honest, the thought of that freaks me out a little bit!!  But I'm kind of getting used to that feeling - I need to own that pace, to believe that I can do it.  Getting out there and testing myself, pushing my limits, pushing through the self doubt and the questioning - then proving to myself that I am even stronger than I thought -- THAT is what this is about.  The McMillan calculator isn't perfect - it is just a resource and a tool I like to use - one that inspires me to go for it.  It helps me come up with a pace strategy, too - knowing that I should be able to average around a 7:00 mile will help me reign things in if I'm much faster than that at the start and will help me know I can push if I'm much slower than that too.

Those hills tomorrow are calling my name, loud and clear.  I'm not exactly sure how it will all pan out, what the time on the clock will read when I cross the finish line tomorrow morning.  But I do know this for certain - I will do my very best and I will CELEBRATE the fact that I am a stronger, fitter and more grateful runner than I have ever been in all my life.

What are your racing plans this weekend?  How do you figure out what pace to run different distances?  Do you use a pace calculator like McMillan?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

deciding to be happy

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
-Abraham Lincoln

I spent an hour visiting my sister Jodi today.  Being around her just makes me happy.  She always knows how to find the bright side, even in the darkest and most miserable of times.  Even when the last thing she feels like doing is smiling.

I don't think it comes easily to her, in fact I know it doesn't.  She works at it and is determined to find a glimmer of hope, something to hang on to -- and THIS is what inspires me.  She fights for the bright side.

My sister is having surgery in less than a week.  At this point she is still in a brace and has pain (she tore her ACL and meniscus while skiing a few weeks ago) but she is walking/hobbling around and the discomfort is manageable.  By no means is life normal for her at this point - she is still moving slowly, not able to work as much as she wants/needs to, and gets tired SO easily.  After her surgery she is going to be back at square one again - in even more pain and with a long journey of recovery ahead of her.  It is going to be tough.

But you know what?  Today she told me that yes, she is mad about it all and just wants her life back.  As a Pilates teacher and a runner, having a knee injury like this pretty much cuts her off from her life lines.  And it stinks.  I can't imagine how I would deal with it - surely not as graciously as she is!  BUT she said that she knows that she is surrounded by goodness and blessings and that she has SO much to be grateful for, even with this bum knee.  And that is what she is going to hang on to right now.  Because the alternative -- well, there are so many alternatives that could be so much worse than where she is at this very moment.  It could be so much worse.

When things don't go the way we want them to, we are entitled to be angry.  To feel sad.  To yell and scream and complain and cry and vent.  That's fair and normal - and healthy even!  To a certain extent.  But we cannot let those feelings consume us.  We have got to move on from them.  Because being miserable will only make us more miserable.

We are in charge of our own perspectives and attitudes.  We have to make up our minds to be happy.  To make the most of it and find the bright side.  Even if we have to fight for it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Running in the Rain

There are many things that come our way on race day that we have ZERO control over.  And the weather is one of the biggest of these.  There is nothing we can do about Mother Nature - we could get a 90 degree day in April in Boston, or a freezing cold day in DC in October.  Or a torrential down pour in New Jersey in April.  It happens and that is just how it goes.

I used to check the weather before my training runs, and if rain was predicted -- I would dread it.  Sometimes I would run on the treadmill instead to avoid a miserable wet run.  Or I would move my run to a different day, one with a better forecast.  Then race day would come and I would panic about the weather if it wasn't *perfect* because I didn't have experience dealing with it.

This past year all of that changed for me.  I wanted to become a better runner and if I was committed to doing that, I knew I needed to toughen up and face the weather -- WHATEVER it was (unless it was ice, I draw the line at ICE).  It would make me more prepared for what might come my way on Race Day.

After many runs in the rain and the cold, and in the heat and the humidity - I am no longer afraid to run in the rain - I actually love it.  I am not afraid to run in the cold - I MUCH prefer it over the heat.  I have faced strong winds and fought against them - I don't love running into the wind, but I am getting better at it.  Rainy runs build character - and they make us stronger and tougher.  If we wake up on race day and it is raining and cold, we can rest assured that we know how to handle it - because we already have.  We've been there, done that.

rainy runs make me happy
I've figured out how to make my rainy runs and races as comfortable as possible for myself - even enjoyable.  I never regret getting myself out there, once it's done.  I feel more accomplished than ever when I make it through tough conditions like that.

Here are some tips for a rainy run or race:

Keep the rain out of your eyes.  Wear a hat with a brim, and maybe even also sunglasses. Doing this will help you see better because the rain will be off your face, and it will also keep you from tensing your facial muscles because you won't be squinting to keep the rain out of your eyes.

Lube up!  Body Glide is your friend for any run, and especially for a wet one.  Wet socks create friction, which means more likelihood for blisters.

Stay dry until you start.  If you can get under shelter before you start running, DO.  You don't want to begin the run or race already soaking wet if you can help it.  If you have to stand in the rain before running, wear something disposable and waterproof beforehand and take it off right before you start running.  A large trash bag works.  Or, if you have an old rain coat you don't need anymore, wear it to the Start and then toss it.  Most races collect discarded clothing and donate it to charity.

* Wear the right clothes.  Just because it's raining doesn't mean you are going to be freezing necessarily.  You can still overdress and get hot in the rain!  A waterproof jacket is helpful for training runs and track workouts in the rain.  Wear layers and dress for the temperature.

Plan ahead for the end of your run.  Have dry, warm clothes and a towel ready for yourself at the finish or in your car.  A dry top, bottoms and socks and shoes will ALL come in handy.  When you get home, take the liners out of your shoes to let them dry out. If it's a chilly day, light a fire in the fireplace and set your shoes by the fire to dry out as you sip hot cocoa or a delicious latte for recovery!

Bring your buddies with you if you can.  It's always more fun and more motivating to face weather like that with your buddies.  There are times when I know that if it weren't for them, I may not have made it to the track on a week night or out my front door before sunrise in weather like that.

*  Prepare yourself mentally and REMEMBER-- it could ALWAYS be worse! Cool, wet weather is leaps and bounds better than a heat wave like what everyone experienced in Boston last week.  You will not overheat in the cool rain.  Find the bright side.  If nothing else, this run or race will make you STRONGER.

If it is really dumping down, change your expectations of your performance. There will always be other races and opportunities to run a faster time. Be PROUD of yourself for getting out there and running - especially in those conditions! Most people probably woke up that day, looked outside and decided to sleep in.  Running on a rainy day takes GUTS and toughens you up. If it isn't the day for your fastest race, then think of it as solid training.  There is always something to be gained from every running experience, and SUCCESS doesn't always show up on the time on the clock.  Strength can be measured in a multitude of ways.

it's raining it's pouring and this mama's running
On that note, I have a 10 mile run planned for tomorrow morning at 5:30 and there is a 70% chance of rain!  Team Honey Badger doesn't care about that, though - so I've already laid out my clothes for the morning and will be getting it done in the rain.  Believe it or not, I'm really looking forward to it.  Rainy runs have a way of making me happy!

What about you - do you like running in the rain?  What tips would you add to this list?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh Happy Day - I am running Hood to Coast with Nuun!

A little over an hour ago I got the most exciting news I have received in a LONG, LONG time.

I have been dreaming of this opportunity.
Hoping and wishing and praying.

Trying to tell myself that if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be.
I would apply again next year.

But guess what -- It IS meant to be!

sooo happy!!
I have been selected to run on Nuun's Hood to Coast Relay team with an incredible group of women!!

I am so honored, grateful, excited
and just completely FLOATING over this news.

Somebody pinch me, please!

Nuun had a BIG task in picking 30 women and 6 alternates out of I have no idea how many amazing applicants.  I am just so happy to be among them and cannot wait to run down that mountain with them in August.

You can read the official Nuun announcement HERE.

It is SURE to be one of the most amazing adventures of my life.
The fact that I get to be a part of this is just more incredible to me than I can possibly describe.

Once I wrap my brain around it more I promise to be better at expressing my gratitude!  I am just over the moon excited right now!!

Nuun - thank you so much for choosing me to be a part of your team.
I cannot wait to run my heart out and spread the Nuun love down that mountain.

To my family - especially Robert and Jodi - thank you so much for helping me to make this dream come true.  And most of all, for believing in me.
I love you!

And to all of my readers - thank you for all of your support and encouragement, always.  I am so thankful to be sharing my journey with you here.

Hood to Coast - HERE I COME!!

The Saucony Kinvara 3

In December of last year I fell in love.

The object of my affection was my new pair of shoes - the Saucony Kinvara 2.  I wanted to start working my way into a more minimal shoe as I began training for the Rock n Roll USA marathon. A shoe that I could wear for speed work at the track, for tempo runs and for shorter races.  I wanted a "fast shoe" - something light and with a lower heel drop.  Something that would help encourage more of a mid foot strike.  A shoe that would aid in improving my form and efficiency.  I had read so many stories about runners who got injured because they switched to a minimal shoe too quickly and I wanted to be careful not to join their ranks.  I wanted to show up to the start line injury free and was concerned that running in a more minimal shoe would cause me more harm than good if I wasn’t smart.

The Kinvara 2 was the perfect shoe for me - it had the 4mm drop I was looking for (compared to the 10-12mm drop of the more traditional running shoe I was in) but provided more cushion and support than most of the other minimal shoes on the market.  From the second I put those shoes on my feet, I was in love.  My feet felt right at home.  It was a match made in heaven.

From the moment I started running in them I understood how people got injured in minimal shoes so frequently - it is hard not to wear them all the time because they just feel SO good.  I tried to remember the big picture and was careful about how I built my mileage in these shoes.  I kept track of my mileage and wore them at first just to the track once a week.  As the season progressed I spent more and more time in my Kinvaras and toward the end of the training cycle I found myself in them for more than 30 miles a week, wearing my traditional running shoes (the Asics Cumulus, at the time) only for long runs and recovery runs.  My traditional running shoes started to feel like big boats to me - heavy and clunky and pillowy.  I really could not imagine wearing such a heavy shoe for my marathon.  The decision was made - the Kinvara was going to be my marathon shoe.  It was an excellent decision.

When I found out that Saucony was updating the shoe and making some changes, I was EXCITED but also nervous.  How could they improve a shoe I loved SO much?  What if the changes didn’t work for me - would I be back at square one searching for the perfect shoe all over again?  Everything I had read told me I had nothing to worry about - that the changes were all thoughtful improvements that would only result in me loving the shoe even more.  I couldn’t wait to find out for myself.

You can only imagine how excited I was when I was asked to try out a pair of the new Kinvara 3s a few weeks ago, before they are available to the general public in May.  I was BEYOND thrilled.  When the box arrived the mail last week, I could not wait to put those shoes on my feet.

I ran in them a few times last week and then raced in them over the weekend - setting a new PR in the 10 mile distance.  These shoes do NOT disappoint.  Not even close.  Saucony did all they said they did - they took a GREAT shoe and made it even BETTER.

Here’s what I love most about the new Kinvara 3s:

They are more durable - Saucony made changes to the bottom of the shoe, adding more rubber to the mid foot and toe-off areas.  They will last longer and hold up to more mileage as a result.

They look cool - The Kinvara 3 comes in an awesome variety of super bright, happy colors.  I would love a pair in every color combination, please.

More flexible and lighter up top - The upper of the shoe uses a technology Saucony calls “FlexFilm.”  The material is light and sleek and flexible.  SO comfortable.

There really isn’t anything I don’t love about this shoe.  It is everything I love about the 2 -- and MORE.  The Saucony Kinvara 3 is my new fast shoe.  Every single time I put them on my feet I am going to run my best and FIND MY STRONG.

Here are some great links where you can learn more about this awesome shoe:

Saucony explains the Kinvara 3

Believe in the Run: Saucony Kinvara 3 Review “Three is the Magic Number”

Running Shoes Guru: Saucony Kinvara 3 Preview

A Runner’s Blog: Saucony Kinvara 3

Average Guy Hits the Road: The People’s Shoe

* Disclaimer: The shoes were complimentary, but the opinions expressed are my own. *

Monday, April 23, 2012

Worth it

Yesterday was Racing Day!  I ran the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler for the second time in my life.  It is for sure one of my very favorite local races - perfectly executed and expertly organized, a gorgeous and challenging course, just the right size (less than 5,000 runners) and easy for me to get to and from without a problem.  I loved every minute of the experience.

Last year I ran this race in 1:39:28.  I was 10 weeks postpartum and it was my 35th birthday.  My dream was to be able to run every step of the way and not have to walk at all.  I smiled the entire way, so thankful to be there - to be running and to be celebrating my life and all the blessings it is filled with.

After having Baby Gus I worked hard to get to the point where I could run 10 miles without stopping, at whatever pace.  Every single run was a struggle and a triumph.  My body ached all over.  I felt like giving up every single day.  I wondered if it was worth it and questioned myself constantly.  I kept on going though, and made it to the Start Line of that race feeling strong.  The GW Parkway Classic was my first race since becoming a mother of three, and I really can't tell you how thankful I was to be at a race again.  I was in my element.  Shining from the inside out.  Smiling from ear to ear.

It was, without a doubt, WORTH IT.

crossing the finish line of the 2011 GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler
What I realized that day a little over one year ago, is how truly running is a part of who I am.

Running makes me happy.  It makes me strong.  I really don't care how fast or how slow I am moving, as long as I am moving.  I love being a part of a race.  Toeing the line with so many other people who love to run.  Being a part of something bigger than myself.  I am my best ME when I am running.

A race is like icing on a cake.  I can't wait to dive in and enjoy it.  I am GIDDY on race day.  It is exciting.  Every race is a celebration!!

Last year I remember thinking to myself after I finished that race - I will come back next year and I will feel ready to RACEI will keep fighting for what I believe in.  I am not going to give up.  I am a better mother, a better wife, a happier person when I make running a priority in my life.  If I give up, I will lose a part of myself.  I have to keep fighting.  I cannot give up.

The glory and elation that I feel when I cross that Finish Line is so worth it.  I overcome my fears and face my inner demons.  Feelings of self doubt and uncertainty -- I conquer them when I am racing.  I connect with what I love deeply about myself and my life and the world around me.  I am filled with hope and I am inspired to dream.  I want to GO.  To keep moving forward and to open myself up to all the possibilities in life.  Running inspires me.  It makes me happy.

Though I'd been thinking about this race for a while, when I woke up yesterday morning I was not feeling very sure of myself.  We had been out late (for us - 11pm - party animals, I tell you!) the night before and I was just not feeling prepared to race.  I laid everything out prior to going to bed, but I was so worried that I would forget something.  In the car on the way to Old Town I was hungry and was searching my bag for the two Picky Bars I had packed for myself.  But I could not find them for the life of me (hours later I found them in a side pocket of my bag - annoying).  I hadn't eaten breakfast yet and this was going to be my pre-race fuel.  Ugh.  Instead I ate some Power Bar gel blasts I found packed in my bag from my last race.  This is something I had never done before and with my finicky stomach I was worried how that would impact my performance.  I needed calories though so I ate several anyway, hoping for the best.  As a result I made three trips to the bathroom before the race started and my stomach felt off the whole time I was running, but thankfully during the race I didn't have to stop for any emergencies.  (This is a big deal for me as I seem to struggle so frequently with GI issues when I'm running.  I really need to get down to the bottom of this!)

When we got to the race start and it was time to find my corral, all of a sudden my mind went BLANK about pacing strategy.  My PR going into this race was a 1:18:52.  I knew that I could beat that, but I also really believed I could run a 1:15.  My "dream big" goal for this race was a 1:11.  I decided that I would just listen to my body, push myself somewhat comfortably through the first half of the race and then reevaluate how things were going at that point.

The gun went off and the first mile was basically all down hill.  I went way faster than I planned.

Mile 1 - 6:45

Oooops.  I started to pull back and tried to settle into some sort of groove.  This race is FULL of rolling hills.  It's almost like you're on some sort of ride!  I love it.  The views of the Potomac River are breathtaking and the trees that line the Parkway are so green and lush.  The road is not crowded - it is just the right amount of runners.  The route is serene and pretty and I just love it.  I concentrated on my breathing, enjoyed the scenery around me and let myself just BE.

Mile 2 - 7:02
Mile 3 - 7:18
Mile 4 - 7:18
Around Mile 2 (photo thanks to Cheryl Hendry Young)
My stomach was bothering me and I was starting to worry about as I approached the halfway point.  This was when I wanted to start kicking into a new gear, and push myself a little faster.  But I worried about my stomach and decided to hold my pace steady.  I would think about pushing later in the race if my stomach calmed down.  As I approached the end of Mile 5 I saw a row of bathrooms and considered stopping.  I passed by them and almost turned around.  It was risky not to stop.  My stomach sort of felt "on the verge" of getting cranky, but since it wasn't at that point yet and I only had a few more miles to run I decided to take my chances.  I ran the next several miles telling myself to just be comfortable.  I was happy with my pace and just wanted to hold onto it.

Mile 5 - 7:28
Mile 6 - 7:04
Mile 7 - 7:19
Mile 8 - 7:18
Mile 9 - 7:20

I was feeling good and there was only a mile left to run.  At that point I decided to kick it into high gear, and just run as fast as I could to the Finish.  I passed a lot of people in that final mile and I am telling you this - it felt good to do that!

Mile 10 - 6:34

As I approached the Finish Line of this race, I almost cried.  My mantra through that final mile was THIS is who I AM.

THIS is who I am.

I am a runner.  I am a mother.  I am a wife.  I am a sister.  I am a daughter.  I am a friend.

I am a fighter.  I am a dreamer.

I am joyful.
I am grateful.
I am happy.
I am passionate.
I am dedicated.
I am faithful.
I am strong.

photo thanks to Heather Vieira

THIS is who I am.

And I am proud of that.

Yesterday I ran the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler more than 27 minutes faster than I did one year ago.  I ran a PR in the 10 mile distance by almost 7 minutes.  My time was 1:12:02 and my average pace was 7:13/mile.  I was the 12th woman out of 1,059 women in my age group (30-39) and the 36th female out of 2,688 total women.

Running teaches me so much about myself, and about what it means to be true to who you are.  To give YOURSELF a fighting chance.  To nurture your dreams, no matter how big or small they may be.  If you had told me one year ago that I would be back at this race, running it the way I did yesterday, I am sure I would not have believed you.  You would have had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  As I sit here today and write this, my smile is larger than life.  My eyes are wide.  My heart wants to leap out of my chest.  Because I truly believe that there is no limit to what we are capable of.

BELIEVE in yourself.  If there is something that makes you happy, or something that you think will make you happy - GO GET IT.  That is what I am chasing when I am chasing my running dreams.  I am chasing my happiness.  My JOY.  For me and for my children and for everyone that I love.  It is NEVER too late to start, so do not let that stop you.  Go - GO!  Find out what you are made of.  Give it a chance.  Fight for it.  And don't give up.

I promise you, it WILL be worth it.  Because YOU are worth it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

random Friday thoughts

It's been a busy day.  Crazy, in fact.  It started out with Abby throwing a major temper tantrum just as it was time to take her to school.  She is a strong-willed child and this morning she did not want to cooperate when it was time to go.  It was only made worse by the fact that she didn't get a good night's sleep last night.  When I dropped her off both of us were unhappy and it was not the way I wanted to send her off to school.  About a half hour later I swung back by the school with a note for her.  I just couldn't stand the thought of her being sad all day at school.  I hope my note helped cheer her up.

Parenting is hard.  Some days I feel like a complete failure at it.  It seems there is always someone who is unhappy and I'm constantly trying to keep the peace around here.  Some days are easier than others ... today is a rest day for me and maybe that's one reason why I'm having a harder time?  Running helps me make sure that I take some time out of the chaos to collect myself and find some solace, some balance.  I know rest days are important and I honor them because of that, but I am thinking I need to find a way to still take time for myself - even if it's just 30 minutes - to relax and do something peaceful for ME.  So I can reset myself and feel stronger for my little people and the things I need to do to be the best mother I can be.  To take a deep breath.

I'm sorry right now if this post is all over the place.  I have a few random thoughts to share ... 

First of all, I have a race this weekend!  I'm running the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler in Alexandria, VA on Sunday morning.  It is a beautiful race - one of my very favorites.  Last year this race was my first race after having Baby Gus.  He was not quite 10 weeks old and the race fell on my 35th birthday.  It was a wonderful day!  My goal was to RUN the whole thing, at whatever pace felt comfortable.  I ran it in just around a 10:00/mile pace and smiled the whole way.  This year I intend to completely blow that out of the water and race my heart out.  The forecast is supposed to be perfect running weather - cool, cloudy and drizzly.  This mama is ready to race.  My current 10 Miler PR is a 1:18 and I am shooting for under 1:15.  I think I am capable of a 1:11 though and am going to go for that.  I really cannot wait to run fast.

Speaking of running fast, this Monday I did a tempo run and I'm already seeing improvement with my speed.  Two weeks ago I did the three tempo miles is 7:00, 7:11 and 7:16.  This week they came in at 7:03, 7:17 and 6:40.  Not really consistent yet, but I actually felt so much better and stronger and more confident this week than I have since making tempos a weekly thing.  I think this is going to bode well for me in these next couple of months as I run some shorter races.

For my shorter races this spring I am wearing some new kicks!  I have been a huge fan of the Saucony Kinvara 2 since December of last year.  It is my **favorite** racing shoe - my fast shoe.  I wore them for my marathon last month and I was so glad that I did.  Saucony is updating the shoe and will be releasing the Kinvara 3 next month.  I can't tell you how excited I was when I found out that I would get to test them out before the release date!  Earlier this week I received the Kinvara 3 and I am in love.  I will be racing in them this weekend and next week I will post a review of the shoe for you guys.  So exciting.  These shoes are awesome.

In other news, my sister Jodi's ACL surgery is scheduled for May 2nd!  She is hanging in there and doing her best to stay positive and look at the bright side.  It's not easy, but if anyone can do this it is her.  Baby Gus and I have been visiting her every day - I'm really excited for when we can hang out on the trails again but for now any time we have together will suffice.  I am so proud of my sister for being so strong.

My day is still in crazy mode -- I have to run upstairs to wake up the baby so we can go pick up Will and then Abby from school.  When we get home I just want to BE with my kids and enjoy their company.  The weekend is just about here and we need some quality time together.  Between the tee ball games and other obligations and errands and of course, my race - I just want to be with my husband and children and soak up these special moments together.

I hope you guys all have a fantastic weekend!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

adapting and adjusting

After every big race I try to take a step back to give myself some time to recover and to reflect on how my training and racing went.  I look closely at my training plan - what speed work I was doing, what paces I was targeting and what I was actual running, my nutrition and hydration strategies and how they were or weren't working for me.  How many miles I was running each week and what my peak mileage came in at for that cycle.  Whether or not there was variety in the types of workouts I was doing - hills, intervals at the track, tempo runs ... long runs with race pace miles and also recovery runs done at the proper pace.  Did every run have a purpose - and was I true to that purpose each time I laced up my shoes to get out there?  These kinds of things tick through my head as I try to think of new ways to approach my training, and as I look ahead to the next goals I want to accomplish.

My last marathon training cycle was a big one for me.  In the fall when I was training for MCM, I peaked at 50 miles - more miles than I had ever run in one week in all my life!  It was a major victory for me and I was so proud and amazed.  I ran MCM in 3:41:56 - a huge PR for me.  But I wanted to improve and knew I could do more.  After looking closely at my MCM training, I decided there were two areas I would bring my focus to as I headed into RnR training - increased weekly miles and a faster long run pace with more marathon race pace miles.  I would do this only so long as my body was responding well to it, though - I did not want to get injured and if my body started telling me I was doing too much, I would pull back.

I built my mileage slowly and conservatively.  I ran 6 days a week, once per day (I have still yet to do a double day in my running life - but that will be changing soon as I head into my next marathon training cycle).  I ran several 50 mile (or more) weeks over the winter, and my peak mileage week during RnR training was 64 miles.  THIS was HUGE!  Months earlier 50 miles in one week was a giant accomplishment, and now here I was doing that regularly with no problem.  Wow.

It is pretty much incredible to me how the body will adapt.  And how the mind adjusts along the way.  This is how we learn to believe in ourselves and how our dreams can become reality - we step outside that comfort zone.  We go to that edge and we take a chance.  If we stay in our comfortable place where there are no risks -- then there will likely not be rewards.  And we have to constantly be aware of where we are along our path, because we can so easily get comfortable and complacent again.  If we want to grow and find the true depth of our strength and our capabilities, we have to dig deeper and we have to go farther into those places that scares us.  I believe that with all of my heart on so many levels in life, not just with running.

I remember at the beginning of RnR training, when I built my training plan and saw those 60+ mile weeks on the schedule.  My stomach got butterflies and I was scared, terrified even.  What if my body couldn't handle all those miles?  What if I got injured and ruined my chances of running the marathon, much less a PR and a BQ?  How would I balance running all those miles with three kids in the winter months, plus my business and my volunteering responsibilities and all the chores and duties as a stay at home mom on top of it (agh, laundry!)?  I took a deep breath and decided I would take it one step at a time, one day at a time.  I trusted it would all be okay, and that if it was meant to be -- it would happen.  If not, I would at the very least come out of it learning something new about myself.  In many ways, I couldn't really lose.

Each week as the miles added up I found that my body was handling it.  It was intense, but it was also intensely FUN and REWARDING.  I was excited.  I was grateful.  I was getting faster and stronger and more faithful.  It was also tiring though, and I was ready for a break once I crossed the Finish Line at RnR a little over a month ago.

My plan after the marathon was to take the rest of March to recover and then use April and May to improve my fitness at shorter distances before I start preparing for my fall marathon in June.  I built a training plan for myself and I'm enjoying it SO much.  The funny (and amazing) thing about it though, is that I ran 53.5 miles last week.  I am NOT training for a marathon and this is my weekly mileage?!?  This is such a classic example of adaptation.  I'm in my (new) comfort zone right now and it makes me happy to be here.  I love that 50 mile weeks are my new standard mileage.

Don't worry though - it's not all completely comfortable.  My focus right now is on getting faster at shorter distances, so each week I have a tempo run that kicks my butt and a long run (up to 16 miles so far) that is challenging me a ton.  I've got three races this Spring - my 10 miler this Sunday, a 5k in May and a half marathon in June.  I want to PR in all three of them, so that means pushing myself and going outside of my comfort zone on race day.  It scares me, but I won't know if I don't try.

How do you tweak things after a training cycle?  What goals do you have for the Spring and are you taking yourself outside your comfort zone to get there?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Boston Decision: what it *might* mean for me

Running the Boston Marathon is a dream for a lot of runners, and I am no exception.  For 11 of the past 12 years of my life though, it was a dream that I can honestly say I didn't believe would ever come true.  Up until a little less than a year ago, I was a 4:35 marathoner who thought that one day I could become a 4:00 marathoner at best.  I would joke that if I was able to hang onto that fitness and not get any slower with age, maybe when I was in my 60s I could qualify for Boston.

This past year that kind of thinking went out the window for me.  I began to work harder than I ever had in my life.  I made big changes to the way I approached my training and racing.  I started to BELIEVE in myself.  I wanted to know what I was capable of and I found out that I was made of way more than I ever even would have imagined possible.

At the beginning of last summer, I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon.  Going into the training cycle I believed that with a lot of hard work and dedication I could lower my marathon time down to 4 hours.  This would have been a 35 minute PR for me, and was a bold goal to set.  I knew it was ballsy, but I am telling you I believed it right down to my very core.  As I trained though I discovered that I was capable of a faster marathon than even 4 hours.  My times in every distance were dropping drastically.  My fitness and my confidence were improving tremendously.  As the summer came to a close, I believed I could make my Boston dream a reality.

In order to qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon, I had to run a 3:45:59 by September 12, 2011.  After that date I would have to wait another year for the 2013 Boston Marathon, and my qualifying time would be made harder by almost 6 whole minutes - I would have to run a 3:39:59 at MCM in October.  And qualifying for Boston doesn't mean that you get to run Boston.  The way it works is that the people with the fastest qualifying times get in first, so the more you qualify by the better your chances are of getting a spot.  But there are no guarantees.

I made a hasty decision to try to run a 3:45 before the 2012 cut off.  Within less than a week of deciding this, I found myself at the starting line of the Lehigh Valley Marathon in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2011.  I hadn't tapered.  I hadn't even full trained.  But I took the risk and went for it.  It was a brutal marathon.  Hot, humid, hilly and very little course support.  I was on track until about Mile 18 when I began dealing with awful stomach issues.  I crossed the Finish Line with a 25 minute PR in 4:09, but didn't come anywhere close to achieving my BQ.  (You can read the full race report HERE).

About 6 weeks later I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  I ran a strong race and fought to the finish, running my best marathon at the time.  In order to qualify for Boston I would need to run it in 3:40 or less.  I crossed the Finish Line in 3:41:56, with a tremendous PR but shy of my BQ by less than 2 minutes.  It was bittersweet.  I wasn't going to give up though.  I knew I could do better.  (You can read this race report HERE).

Finishing at MCM 2011
This past winter I worked even harder.  My determination to run my fastest marathon and get that BQ was stronger than strong.  I wanted it BAD.  I wanted to do it because I believed I could do it.  I ran the Rock n Roll USA Marathon on March 17th and I DID IT.  My time was 3:34:46 and I qualified for Boston by more than 5 minutes (race report HERE).

Finishing RnR USA 2012
I was so happy to run such a strong race that day, and to get that BQ I'd been working so hard for.  But my dreams didn't stop there.  My dreams don't end with qualifying for Boston.  In many ways, it feels like it is just the beginning for me.  I'm excited to discover the depths of my capabilities - not only as a runner, but as a person.  I learn something about myself every time I lace up my shoes for a run, whether it's a 5k, a tempo run or a marathon.  Every. single. time.

I want to run Boston some day, I really really do.  And I KNOW that I will.  My hope is that it will be for the 2013 race, but there simply are no guarantees about that.  When they decided to allow the 2012 runners to defer to 2013 because of the heat yesterday, I admit that at first I didn't really understand the policy change.  It seemed to me to be a dangerous precedent they were setting for a variety of reasons - and on so many levels I still feel that way.  What will they do if this weather shows up again next year?  How do they handle people who aren't being honest and are taking advantage of the system - deferring because they are injured, not because of the heat?  But it is what it is and I can't worry about how it may or may not impact me personally when it comes time to sign up.  It's possible that lives were saved yesterday because of this decision! - who can argue with that?

The fact is, I'm going to keep striving to be a better, stronger and faster runner.  I'm going to keep running marathons and I'm going to keep improving for as long as I can.  I'm going to qualify for Boston again -- not because it's about Boston but because it's about being the best me that I can be.  Running Boston will be a dream come true for me -- when the time is right.  I'm going to trust in that, and keep moving forward.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

16 Miles with the Single Stroller ~ Finding My Strong

Spring has arrived and that means a lot of things are starting to happen around here.  Everything is starting to turn green and the world is looking more colorful.  Blossoms on trees, azaleas in full bloom.  Temperatures are getting warmer and the days just feel brighter.  Everyone is more active - the trails and streets are busier than they have been in months with runners and bikers and families out getting exercise together.  I am welcoming Spring with open arms - this time of year makes me happy.

It seems I have an extra spring in my step in the Spring, and it's a good thing I do because life is getting busier for my family of five now that the season is under way.  We have tee ball practices and games, Daisy troop meetings and birthday parties to attend every weekend - not to mention the regular errands and chores that are a part of life around here.  And while it's all in the name of fun, I have to admit that my head spins sometimes when I look at our weekend schedule.  It is a lot to keep up with and if I want to continue to make my running a priority (which I do, because it gives me the energy and confidence I need to stay on top of everything), I have to be creative and I have to be flexible.

This week, that meant doing my 16 mile long run on Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning.  It also meant I would run while pushing Baby Gus in the stroller, for more miles than I had ever attempted before (until yesterday, my longest stroller run was 10 miles - and that was A LOT for me).

me and baby g
Stroller running is hard - heck, RUNNING is hard.  But doing it while pushing a 25 pound human in a stroller takes it to a whole new level.  My goal for the run was to stay at a comfortable and consistent pace, and I didn't know what that number would be and wasn't going to put pressure on myself about it.  I just wanted to run the whole time and to cover more miles than I ever dreamed I would with a stroller.

After I fed Gus lunch and took Will to school, I met up with my buddy Chris for our 16 mile run.  It was right around noon - just in time for Baby G's nap.  The sun was bright and the temperature was warm, in the 70's.  We got going right away and it wasn't long before we settled into a groove.

Miles 1-8:
8:51, 8:21, 8:35, 8:39, 8:41, 8:58, 8:46, 8:45

The pace felt comfortable to me.  I won't say easy, because to be honest nothing about this run was "easy."  We were running into a pretty strong wind and I tried hard to be thankful for it.  The sun was so bright and the temp so warm that the air would have felt still if the wind hadn't been around to keep us cool.  But it was hard to push against it.  Chris, being the gentleman and awesome friend that he is, repeatedly offered to take the stroller and help me out.  But I was determined to do it on my own, I just really had something to prove to myself.

At about Mile 8 Gus woke up from his nap.  He was happy and excited to be out with me, enjoying the sights and the sounds on the trail.  My little guy doesn't exactly talk yet (he is 14 months old) - but he had SO much to say as we ran yesterday.  The sounds he was making were JOYFUL and I was so happy and grateful to be with him.  Chatting with him and hearing him sing made me run faster.

Miles 9-12:
8:32, 8:25, 8:20, 8:15

The next two miles were hilly, and though I refused to walk up or down them, they really slowed me down and put a damper on my spirits.  Every gust of wind felt like a wall.  Every hill felt like a mountain.  But I kept going, even though a huge part of me just really, honestly and truly wanted to stop and walk.  Or just go home.

Miles 13-15
9:22, 9:18, 8:48

As we started in on the last mile, I began to feel stronger and more determined than ever.  I thought about my dear friend Dorothy, who so many of you know from reading her amazing blog, Mile Posts.  For those of you who don't know Dorothy, she is a mom of three who pushes her kids in the stroller (sometimes all three of them at once!) for most of her training runs.  She inspires runners of all levels and abilities to be their best, to DREAM BIG and to FIND THEIR STRONG.  She also happens to be one of my best friends.  Yesterday before my run, I saw the video that Saucony made about her for their Find Your Strong Project.  As I watched it, I cried.  I cried tears of joy.  Because I am proud of my friend.  Because I am so thankful that her story is being told.  Because she has helped me learn to believe in myself and to give my dreams a fighting chance.  Because I could relate to her - to what she says about not wanting to quit because she wants to teach her kids not to quit.

I thought about how far I've come in the last year.  How everything I've accomplished has been EARNED.  How hard I have fought to regain my strength.  To find balance in my life.  To find courage to do things I never would have even dared to dream not long ago.

Nothing has come easily.  Nothing.  But it has all been worth it.

I ran that last mile - Mile 16 of the longest single stroller run of my life (so far) - in 8:01.  It was the fastest mile of my run.  I pushed up a hill the last half mile of the run and when the road flattened out and my watch clicked into the 17th mile, my pace read 6:23.  I was digging deep and running fast at the end of a long, hard run.


Gus was happy as can be when we finished our run.  I promised him that when we got home it would be HIS turn to run around, and Mommy's turn to sit down for a little while.

best running buddy. ever.
I ran for more than 2 hours yesterday afternoon while my two older kids were in school.  That is a lot of time.  Time I could have spent doing a million other things.  Like laundry.  Or paying bills.  Or running errands.  Or just taking a nap while the baby slept, for goodness sake!!  The list could go on and on.  The fact is, there are always other things I could be doing.  The list will always be there.  I've learned that if I want to run, I have to make the time to do it.  Because when I do, I always feel stronger on the other side of it.

I have a feeling this mama will be pushing the stroller a lot this Spring.  Finding my STRONG.

16 miles with the single stroller in 2:18:43.  Average pace: 8:40 min/mi.

Have you seen Dorothy's video yet?  If not, click below! How do you FIND YOUR STRONG?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the going got tough

Tough times never last.  But tough people do.
- Robert H. Schuller

One week ago today I received a text from my sister Jodi.  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  I froze in disbelief, hoping it was some kind of (really bad) April Fool's joke or something.  Except it wasn't April 1st.  And my sister just doesn't kid around about stuff like this...

She'd been skiing in Park City, UT all week with her family for Spring Break.  They were having an AMAZING time.  In one moment she was zooming down the slopes, and in the next she found herself falling and hearing a loud "POP!" in her knee and then unable to get herself up out of the snow -- excruciating pain and shock.  WHAT just happened?  It could not be good.

They did x-rays right away to determine that (thankfully) no bones were broken.  They told her most likely she tore ligaments in her left knee.  Most likely her ACL. 

She came home Friday and this week has dealt with extreme swelling, more discomfort and horrible pain.  She's been basically immobile, which will drive anyone crazy - especially someone like her who is so active and busy all the time.  She has seen doctors and had an MRI, confirming that her ACL is in bad shape (as in completely detached), and that the damage is only repairable with reconstructive surgery.  There is also a chance her meniscus needs surgery, but we won't know the level of repair it requires until they actually go in to fix things.  Not matter what - it is going to be a long slow road to recovery.

This is SAD news.  It completely stinks and is unfair.  I hate that my sister is going through this, that we don't know exactly how long it will be before she can walk - much less RUN - again.  All week long I've been hoping that maybe, just maybe, the doctors were wrong.  That in a few days her knee would feel back to normal again.  Can we say denial?  Ugh.

I've been trying to think of ways to cheer her up and make everything better.  I've been praying about it, trying to understand the reasons that God would have to make this a part of her story.   I know I can't see it now, but I just have to believe that this is going to serve some larger purpose in the big grand scheme of things.  Part of what I feel in my heart is that it is going to make her stronger.  It is going to teach her so much about what she is capable of.  It is going to remind her to believe in herself.  And I also believe that her battle to recovery is going to inspire others who face their own struggles.  She is going to show us all how strong we can be.  I just know it.

My sister is a FIGHTER.  She is not going to let this define her or let it keep her down.  She isn't going to let it stop her from dreaming, or from chasing those dreams when the time is right.  I know that every day she is going to have to work SO hard to keep her spirits up and to be patient with the process.  Tough times are like that - they are TOUGH.  Nothing about overcoming things like this is easy.  But if anyone can do it, it's my sister.

Earlier this week I did a tempo run on the trail one morning before sunrise.  It was cold and my legs were tired and heavy from my 14 miler at sub-8:00 pace the day before.  As I ran I thought about my sister, and how right now more than ever I know she wants me to run my very best.  To put it all out on the line and hold nothing back.  I don't really love tempo runs while I'm doing them.  They are HARD. The whole time I'm running my body is screaming at me - it is anything but comfortable.  My lungs burn, my body tenses and plays tricks on my mind.  I have to be tough to get through them.  I have to outlast the pain.  I have to trust that it is part of the process, and that I will get through it.  On the other side of a tempo run I ALWAYS feel better.  Amazing, in fact.  My body feels stronger and I come out of it with a renewed faith in myself.  I recognize how hard it was, how crappy I felt, but I am proud that I stuck it out.  That I didn't give up when on so many levels, I wanted to.

My goal was to run 3 tempo miles at a pace between 7:00-7:15.  I warmed up with one easy paced mile and then switched gears.  Switched to my FAST.

Mile 1: 7:01
Mile 2: 7:03
Mile 3: 7:15

I nailed the first two miles.  About half way through the last mile, my stomach started to cramp.  I was mad and annoyed that this was happening to me, because I have to deal with it on just about every single early morning run.  I stopped and dealt with it and then jumped right back into my speed.  This is the same thing that happened to me at RnR, and I fought through it then.  Determination is not easy to come by.  I could have easily just stopped and walked it out, deciding to just run two tempo paced miles instead.  But I didn't want to because I am a fighter.  Because I CAN push through it.

I owe that to myself.  And right now, I feel like I owe it to my sister, too.   I'm not going to give up when the going gets tough.  And neither will she.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

a happy birthday

When I was a little girl, I spent countless hours dreaming about what my life would look like as a grown up.  I acted it out as Mommy to my baby dolls.  I played many (and I do mean MANY) renditions of "house" with my sister and our friends.  My Barbies and their world were still rocking the convertible and the fancy mansion with a pool (until my sister filled it with orange juice and turned the Barbies all GREEN - oh I was so mad) well into my preteen years.  I remember my father bringing home extra office supplies so my sister and I could use them in our imaginary business - pretending to be important.

My dreams of what adulthood would be like changed a lot over the years.  I wanted to be President.  An actress on Broadway.  An artist.  An architect.  A teacher.  

While many of my dreams didn't stay the same over the years, one thing remained constant.  One day I hoped I would be a wife and a mother.  I wanted a family.

Yesterday I turned 36 years old.  My life is more full than I ever could have hoped for.  In all of my wildest, most daring and creative dreams as a child and young woman, I can honestly tell you that I never could have imagined my life the way it is now.

These little people I am mother to, well, they astound me every day.  They make my heart leap.  I am so thankful to be their mom.

It hasn't always been an easy road, but here I am at 36 years old and feeling very happy and so very thankful for the blessings in my life.  Each and every day is a blessing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

14 miles - just what i needed

Today is the last day of my kids' Spring Break.  I have to be honest - it has been a LONG 10 days for this mama.

Instead of spending the first half of our week in North Carolina visiting my oldest sister and her family, we were mostly stuck indoors with my poor little five year old boy who had a terrible case of the flu.  My little buddy Will wanted to play outside and enjoy the fresh air, but he had very little energy and his fever just wouldn't quit.  It was tricky to balance his needs with those of his two siblings who were both healthy and itching for activities.  I kept my inner balance (some might call it *sanity*) by running with my buddies every morning before sunrise.  Thank goodness for that.

I don't want to sound like I didn't enjoy the time with my kids.  Trust me, I DID.  I loved all the extra cuddling, the creative play we engaged in together, the family meals and the absence of all the hustle and bustle that eats up so much of our days during the school year.  It's just that by the time the week came to a close, I was completely overwhelmed by everyone's needs and the nonstop demands they were all placing on me.  I felt like everyone was needing something from me 5 seconds ago and I couldn't keep up.  I didn't feel good enough.  I didn't feel like myself.  I was emptied of me.  And it made me sad.

Sometimes I imagine myself as a cup.  When my cup is full, I have so much to give to everyone I love.  But when it gets emptied, I feel depleted - I don't have very much emotional energy, creativity, patience or self awareness.  Running helps me refill my cup, fill it up with me.  When I am running I can completely connect to the essence of who I am, and fill that cup up so that when I come home I can be there for everyone again.  Last week was just a really tough week - we all have weeks like that sometimes.  I needed a good long run to refill my cup.

My husband recognizes this in me and though I know it is hard for him, he lovingly gives me the time I need to go out on my own to run.  Yesterday he gave me 2 hours.  I was so grateful.  I left the house and started running right away, right from my front door.  Usually I take my time and walk to the trail head, but yesterday I just wanted to get going.  I couldn't wait.

It felt so good to run.  So good to let it all out on that trail.  To let my legs carry me.  They were strong and they were powerful.  I was moving faster than I normally do for a long run, but I didn't care.  It felt good, so I took it one mile at a time.

Mile 1: 7:42
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:54
Mile 4: 7:44
Mile 5: 7:40
Mile 6: 7:55
Mile 7: 7:57

I realized at about 2 miles in that I didn't bring anything with me -- no water, no nutrition.  No Road ID.  The fact that I forgot all of this stuff was just another sign to me of how off-kilter I'd been feeling.  How badly I needed this run.  I never forget this stuff!  I considered turning around to go back for it, but knew that if I went back to the house it would be the end of my run.  If the kids saw me they would not want to let me go again.  So I just powered through.

The first seven miles were beautiful and the fast pace felt effortless.  The smile was returning to my face.  The heaviness in my heart was lifting.  My cup was filling.

When I turned around after Mile 7, I was greeted with some pretty strong wind.  I pushed harder against it.  It felt good to fight.

Mile 8: 8:09
Mile 9: 7:59
Mile 10: 7:42

My lips were getting dry and chapped from the wind and the sun.  I could feel the dehydration.  I stopped at a water fountain to take a few sips of water.  Water has never tasted so good on a run.  I honestly could have stayed at that water fountain for an hour, it tasted so good.  But I had 4 more miles to run and I had to get home.  I would just do my best.

Mile 11: 7:43
Mile 12: 7:58

At the start of the 13th mile, my body started to tell me enough was enough.  The wind was fierce and the sun was hot.  I was thirsty and my legs were tired.  I didn't want to give up.  I kept pushing, kept fighting.  These last two miles were all up hill for me, along the twisty paths not far from where I live.  I gave it my all and climbed the hills even though I felt like I was moving at the pace of a snail. 

Mile 13: 8:22
Mile 14: 8:59

I finished the run with an average pace of 7:57/mile - feeling STRONG, even though the last two miles were my slowest.

Sometimes a "strong finish" has nothing to do with how fast you are going, but with the fact that you were relentless in your pursuit of your dream.  That you didn't give up when the going got TOUGH.  That is how I want to define myself.  As someone who doesn't quit.

I walked in the door feeling like ME again.  Feeling strong and clear headed.  My cup was full again.  And I have running to thank for that.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cherry Blossom Yoga DC

Yesterday was the Cherry Blossom Yoga Festival in DC.  lululemon sponsors this amazing event - a free community yoga class right on the grass on the National Mall, in front of the Washington Monument.

It was an absolutely beautiful day - sunny and cool.  Perfect for a run.  Perfect for outdoor yoga with hundreds of other people.  I had never attended this event before but was so excited to go.  I love yoga but it's been a long time since I've made it a regular part of my routine.  I miss it.  It was so nice to return to the mat yesterday.

We decided to make it a run club outing.  Several of us met up at the studio in Reston and carpooled to Rosslyn where we met another one of our runners.  Then we ran across the Key Bridge into Georgetown.

Katye running into DC
When we got to Georgetown (about  3/4 of a mile later) we stopped at the lululemon store there to meet up with the Georgetown run club, led by my fellow run ambassador (and also Fitfluential Ambassador!) Heather Calcote.  I had never met Heather in person before, so I was so excited to get to know her.  I've only recently discovered her blog (Dietician on the Run) and I'm really excited to plan more fun events and runs with her in the future.  Once we all gathered together Heather led us on a beautiful route along the Potomac and straight to the Mall.  It was a little less than 3 miles of running from there - so pretty.  A perfect warm up before yoga.

i love these ladies!!
The practice was led by the amazing Alison Adams - an incredibly beautiful and inspiring woman who I have come to really admire since meeting her this past fall when I joined the lululemon team of ambassadors at the Tysons Corner store.  Alison is a mother of two and she is so kind, so refreshing and so much fun.  It is pretty much impossible to not smile when you are around her!  I hadn't yet had a chance to take one of her classes (she teaches at Down Dog Yoga) so I was really excited to have the opportunity. The vibe of the morning was so awesome - hundreds of people coming together on a beautiful day to celebrate community, life, love and our own place in this amazing world.

Alison guided us through the asanas with such a happy, grateful tone.  I can't tell you how good it felt to share this connection with so many other people, practicing yoga in our Nation's Capital.  I loved every minute of this special morning.

My body hadn't moved this way in a while.  Wheel.  Pigeon (oh, how I love Pigeon!).  Warrior.  I felt strong and happy.  My body thanked me for the change in pace, for the change in scenery.

My feet were happy to have a little break, too.  The sunshine and fresh air on my skin simply felt amazing. 

happy feet
After about an hour of yoga we laced up our shoes and ran back to the car.  Just a little less than 7 miles done for the day and yoga smack dab in the middle.  This was my idea of the perfect morning.  Yoga is soooo good for the runner's body.  I think I will be making more time for it.  Yesterday showed me how much I truly miss it.

Have you ever been to Cherry Blossom Yoga in DC?  Did you go yesterday?  Do you love yoga too?  What is your favorite posture?

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