Wednesday, May 30, 2012

my favorite things giveaway ~ nuun, accel and picky bars

I've talked before about all of the things I have implemented in my training and racing to become a better, smarter, stronger and faster runner.  It's a work in progress -- I am a work in progress -- and a journey, without a doubt.  No one single thing is solely responsible for making us good at our sport. Rather, it is a combination of things and we are smart to constantly look at what we are doing (and not doing) in order to find ways to improve and enhance our performance and our experiences.  I feel that way about all areas of life - I never want to get so stuck in my ways and stop growing as a person.  That's one reason I like running so much -- it keeps me moving.  It keeps my heart open and my mind open.  It keeps me young in more ways than one.

I wrote a post not long ago about how I've improved as a runner (you can click here to read it).  I talked about how I added regular speed work, paced my runs properly and with purpose, built my mileage conservatively and consistently, became dedicated to Pilates and strength training, started foam rolling every single day, and more.  I also mentioned that I FINALLY figured out my hydration and nutrition plan - before, during and after my runs.  What works for one runner may not work for the next - it is different for everyone and we all have to experiment to figure out what combination works for us - but there is no question that we all have to drink and we all have to eat.  This may sound like common sense (and it is) but if I had money for all of the runners I have met who say they "can't eat" before, during or after a run I would be a very rich lady.  I get it, too - because I honestly used to be just like them!  And I had miserable runs and races a LOT of the time as a result.  About a year ago I finally realized that if I wanted to improve my running I would HAVE to figure out the right hydration and nutrition plan for me.  I would have to get over the fact that I didn't feel like eating breakfast right before I ran.  I would have to eat and drink on a run even when it was the last thing I felt like doing.  And I would have to put something in my body SOON after a run in order to recover the fastest so I could keep up with my training.  I committed myself to figuring this out and thankfully, through a lot of trial and error, I am at a place where I feel good about it and I believe it is working for me.  It's not perfect - I am still open to trying new things and improving on it, but right now these are my favorite things...

In order to perform at our very best, we have to be properly hydrated.  I used to try drinks like Gatorade and Cytomax - they made me feel awful every single time.  I would get cramps.  I would feel nauseous.  It turns out that my body just did NOT need all that extra sugar (surprise, surprise!).  Then I tried drinking just water, which still works great for me when I'm running shorter distances and even for my longer runs (as long as I have my gels, which contain electrolytes, protein and sugar).  But I was still showing up for my runs not properly hydrated - and this is just not a good way to start a long run or a race - trust me!  Last year I discovered Nuun and this product has become a STAPLE for me and for my family.  Basically any time that I am not running - I am drinking Nuun.  I drink insane amounts of it for the day or two before my long run or race especially, to ensure that I am fully hydrated and that I have the proper balance of electrolytes going into my run.  I need not worry one single bit about dehydration when I lace up my shoes.  Nuun is awesome for a lot of reasons - it tastes great, it has no sugar, it is low calorie, it's convenient, and it has the perfect balance of electrolytes for endurance athletes.  It is absolutely 100% something I can count on.  And what's more exciting is that just last week Nuun introduced a brand new product called Nuun All Day - not only does it come in 4 new **amazing** flavors (I cannot wait to try the Blueberry Pomegranate), but it is all natural and is enhanced with vitamins and minerals.  I have a feeling this product will stay true to it's name - it is something I will drink ALL DAY pretty much every day.  It will make my water taste delicious and refreshing.  Let's face it - hydration is important even when we're not running peak mileage or training for an endurance event, but we may not need the level of electrolytes that the regular Nuun provides.  Nuun All Day is the perfect solution for those times (and I think my kids are going to love it, too).

Accel Gels.
For runs and races of more than 10 miles, my body needs more fuel to sustain my effort and perform at my very best.  It doesn't take too long for my muscles to get depleted of their glycogen stores, resulting in me feeling lousy and exhausted pretty quickly.  I think it is pretty safe to say I have tested every single gel on the market.  The one that works best for me actually came as bit of a surprise - Accel Gels.  The reason I was surprised by this is because it contains milk and my stomach is sensitive to dairy.  However, the milk provides protein which seems to be a magical thing for my muscles!  In addition to that, these gels are all natural and have a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, giving me the energy I need as quickly as possible.  They are not thick like most other gels I have tried - and they go down pretty easily thankfully.  I wouldn't say any of them are "delicious" but I buy the chocolate and vanilla by the case and they get the job done.

Picky Bars.
For a long time I was in denial about the importance of eating soon after a long run, a hard track workout or a race.  My stomach is often "testy" after such an effort and the very last thing I feel like doing is eating.  I learned in my RRCA coaching class that it is crucial for endurance athletes to eat within the first hour or two (and ideally, within the first 15 minutes!) of completing a workout.  I also learned that foods with a 4:1 carb to protein ration would be ideal, and that a mocha latte or chocolate milk would be perfect.  But could I stomach that?  Or would it be enough?  Last summer I started treating myself to a soy white mocha after all of my long runs.  I love them and I think they are a sweet reward and a smart choice right after my runs.  But, truth be told, they aren't *really* enough and when I am done with a race I usually don't find a barista at the finish line to serve me up my special recovery drink.  I need to EAT something.  As someone who eats a (mostly) vegan diet, it can be tricky for me to find foods that are high enough in protein.  Picky Bars changed that for me.  These bars are made from the finest all natural and organic ingredients, they don't contain any dairy or gluten, they taste great and they are made by athletes (Lauren Fleshmen and Steph Rothstein!) for athletes.   I keep them in my bag and in my car so that I always have one handy when I need it and can start recovering as soon as I finish my run.  They are awesome.

Thanks to these three products, my hydration and nutrition needs are completely taken care of.  I don't stress out about it because I know that I can count on them if I stick to my plan.

I love them so much that I want to give you the chance to win a sampling of some of my favorite things for hydrating and fueling.  Fall marathon training cycles are about to start - and it's a perfect time to figure out what works best for you!

The Prize:
One winner will win a package with the following ~
* 4 tubes of Nuun (including one tube of Nuun All Day!)
* An awesome blue Nuun 21 oz. water bottle
* 4 Picky Bars (one of each flavor - including the newest flavor - Smooth Caffeinator!)
* 2 Accel Gels (one chocolate, one vanilla)

(almost) the whole package - add one more picky bar and 2 accel gels to this!!
To enter please leave a comment telling me how you hydrate and fuel - before, during and after your runs.

And if you are feeling extra excited and eager to win, you can do one or all of the following (doing so will gain you one extra entry!):

* follow Pace of Me on Facebook and/or Twitter
* follow Nuun on Facebook and/or Twitter
* follow Pacific Health Lab (makers of Accel Gels) on Twitter
* follow Picky Bars on Facebook and/or Twitter

Disclaimer: I was not paid by Nuun, Pacific Health Labs or Picky Bars for this post.  I use their products and really like them!  Sweepstakes is open to US residents only.  One winner will be chosen at random.  Sweepstakes starts on Wednesday May 30, 2012 and ends on Tuesday June 5, 2012 at midnight EST.  The winner will be notified via blog post shortly after and will have one week to claim the prize.

a little of this, a little of that

It's been a few busy/crazy days since I've written and there is a lot to share.  I can tell you right now that this post will be a bit random, but also full of GOOD things.  Things that have happened in the last few days, as well as things that are on the horizon ... things I am REALLY looking forward to.

Holiday Weekend
This weekend marked the beginning of summer and my husband was out of commission, in bed feeling lousy.  I was solo parenting it with all three kids and I am so thankful for good friends who helped me keep everyone happy and busy and entertained.  We went swimming (a lot!), we went to the farmers market, we spent some time at a local carnival and we took naps (amen for naps!).  It was a pretty nice way to kick off summer.  It was hard on all of us (Robert especially) to have Daddy missing out, but I think the kids and I managed to make it fun anyway -- thanks to good friends and nice weather.  A few snapshots from our weekend:

farmers market: balloon animals & kettle corn!
abby & kaitlin - the sweetest of friends
giant snow cone on a hot hot day

Stroller Run
By Monday morning Robert was feeling well enough for me to head out for a run as long as I took the baby with me.  It was a hot and steamy morning, but I hadn't run since Friday and was rrrreally needing to get out there.  My good friend Amy came along with us and we ran 6 miles together.  It had been a while since Gus and I were on a run together - he is such a good running companion and I'm amazed at how patient he is.  Amy and I kept him entertained by pointing out the birds, dogs and bikers along the way.  He was adorable.

mama and the g man

A Milestone
When I got home from my run on Monday I entered it into my training log.  I knew I was approaching a big milestone - the first time I have EVER run 1,000 miles in one year.  When I looked at the number I was literally amazed - 999.44 miles since January 1st!  At that moment I knew that Tuesday morning's run would make it official.  I would cross 1,000 miles in less than 5 months.  Yesterday morning at 5:30am I met up with my buddies as usual - the ever so wonderful and always inspiring honey badgers.  I am so lucky to have these friends in my life...

the ladies (minus jojo who will be returning of course!) - me, amy, dora and terri
It was the perfect morning run (though ridiculously humid).  When were done Amy ran to her car and told me not to leave just yet - she had a surprise!  What kind of friends make you an awesome sign to honor your accomplishment at 6:30 in the morning??  Who high fives you, congratulates you with all sincerity and celebrates with you when you achieve something like this?  Only the best kinds of friends.  I am so grateful.

Amy took a piece of cardboard and some permanent markers and crafted the most awesome sign I have EVER seen.  I added her name to it before we took the picture - because this chick rocks so much that she actually crossed 1,000 miles a few weeks ago!  We decided that now each time one of us hits this milestone his or her name will be added to the sign.  It truly is a masterpiece.

trying to look like crazy honey badgers - watch out!
Taper Time
Last week I started reducing my mileage in preparation for my half marathon this Saturday.  I'm running the ZOOMA Annapolis half and couldn't be more excited about it!  As an ambassador for this race, I have gotten to meet some incredible women at our training runs and have really enjoyed being a part of something SO amazing.  This race will be about more than just me and my personal running goals, though I am really hoping to run my best and fastest 13.1 on Saturday.  Last week I logged just shy of 40 miles and this week I am taking it really easy.  I plan to take the next two days off from running, so that I'll have really fresh legs on Saturday for the race.  All of the honey badgers are running their first ultra on Saturday - the North Face Endurance Challenge!  I am so excited for and proud of each one of them.  They are all doing the 50k and I know they will rock it.  I wish I could be in two places at once so that I could cheer them on as they blaze the trails.

Run (and Train!) Like a Mother
A little over two years ago I read a book that I can honestly say changed my life.  Run Like a Mother - a book written by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell - inspired women across the world to take time for themselves, to believe in themselves, to dream and to do things they never thought possible -- all through this sport we love so much.  They united running moms from near and far when they published that book and they created an amazing online community via their blog and Facebook page.  No subject is taboo - everyone is open and honest and cheers for one another whole-heartedly.  This spring Sarah and Dimity published a second book called Train Like a Mother.  This book is equally as awesome as the first - filled with training tips and advice, as well as actual plans you can follow to reach your goals.  (You can read my review of the book by clicking here.)  The authors are real moms who are passionate about running - moms who have to balance their running with their families and their work and their relationships.  These women are truly awesome.  And they are coming here for the ZOOMA Annapolis race!  And I get to meet them and hang out with them -- tomorrow!  A bunch of the ladies from our run club (and some of the honey badgers, of course) are invited to attend an awesome event tomorrow night.  We will get to meet Sarah and Dimity and lots of other amazing running moms.  We will get to hear Sarah and Dimity read from their new book.  I cannot wait I cannot wait I cannot wait.  I am so excited to THANK them in person for all they have done for women who run, especially for MOTHERS who run.  I'm beyond excited and oh so very grateful.

Going to Camp
On Sunday morning I will be heading back to Maryland for a very special trip.  lululemon has invited me to my first ever "ambassador camp" - I am going to be sleeping in a bunk bed, riding a zip line, canoeing, camp-firing, doing yoga and digging deep inside myself for courage, strength and growth along with several other lululemon ambassadors from the DC region.  I am very excited and honored to be a part of this wonderful experience, and I can't wait to share it with you guys here next week!

That about sums things up for now.  Next up - my goals for my half marathon on Saturday.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I THINK I CAN.

Friday, May 25, 2012

holding myself accountable

If I decide not to run today, who will care?  If I am feeling blue and not in my groove on a run and I have EVERY URGE to call it quits and cut it short, what will that matter - to anyone??  I mean, really, if a 6 mile run turns into a 3 mile run -- WHO cares?  If I let life get in the way and suddenly a 40 mile week turns into a 20 mile week, what's the big deal?

I'll tell you....these kinds of questions zip and zoom through my head on a DAILY basis.  Especially when I am not training for a specific race.  The same answers come back to me though, every. single. time.

It matters to ME.

I care.

I am the one who I will disappoint if I don't get out the door or if I cut it short, give up or call it quits.

I am the one who holds MYSELF accountable.

It's a big job and not an easy one.  But over the years I have realized that I am just so much happier when running is a regular part of my life.  When I am dedicated to my training.  I am flexible - don't get me wrong on that - but there have been times when I have abandoned my love for the sport altogether because of life getting in the way or because I haven't made myself a priority, and what has suffered was way beyond my physical fitness.  My happiness suffered.  My sense of inner peace suffered.  My passion and my heart and my drive in all areas of my life -- suffered.

Running has become so closely tied to making me the best, most balanced, healthiest and happiest version of myself.  So when I consider not doing it, or when I think about cutting a run short because I am hating it in the moment, I remember how much of a difference it will make for me later and I push through those blah feelings and I fight for the reward of the run.  I tell myself that if I think I feel bad now - before the run - just think how awful I will feel later, once I have missed the opportunity to get it done.  Having to face the impact of my decision to not do it - that is something I completely DREAD.  And when I think about how GOOD I will feel once it's done, how grateful I will be for having committed to it, how STRONG I will feel having overcome the temptation of throwing in the towel - that feeling excites me and it motivates me to GET IT DONE.

The other day I had 6 miles to run on the treadmill.  I had spent the 45 minutes beforehand doing a killer core and full body strength training routine that finished up with more squats and lunges than I can remember.  My legs were like jelly as I stepped onto that treadmill.  I didn't want to run.  I was tired.  I thought about moving my schedule around for the week, switching things up so I wouldn't have to run at all that day.  I made a lot of excuses for myself and they all made tons of sense and were very reasonable and logical.  I decided that I would think on it as I ran, and made a deal with myself - run 3 miles and if you are still hating it at that point, end the run.  Miles 1 and 2 were absolutely brutal.  I felt like a slug and was convinced that the run would be ending soon, there was no way I would get 6 in feeling so blah.  But something magical happened about halfway through that third mile -- I started to feel GOOD.  I sped up the pace and got into my music and then, before I knew it, I had run 4 miles and then 5.  As the 6th mile came to an end I was floating, not wanting the run to end.  My way of thinking had completely reversed and instead of trying to figure out a way to run fewer miles, I was trying to come up with a way to run more miles than originally planned.  I smiled to myself - and to think you didn't want to run at all today!  I was so glad that I had pushed through my resistance, so happy that I didn't give up so easily.  So grateful that I fought for the feeling I had at the end of that run.

I left the gym a soggy, stinking mess but with a huge smile across my face.  My two little boys were with me - Gus in my arms and Will holding my hand as we left the gym.  I felt strong and proud and happy.  My kids had no way of knowing that I ran 6 miles that morning when I felt like running none, nobody did.  But in my heart this run just made such a big difference to me.  Instead of being disappointed in myself, I was facing my day feeling good about my choices, feeling strong and capable.

I hold myself accountable.  Accountable for my running.  Accountable for my happiness.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Race Report ~ The Honey Badger Playground Dash 2012

One way that we show people we love them is by taking interest in the things that they are passionate about.  Even if it's not something we totally "get" - we show our support by encouraging them to make the time for the things that they love, by doing it with them if and when we can (even though there are quite possibly a million other things we might rather be doing), by carving out time in our busy life and making sacrifices to ensure that they are able to engage in the activity they enjoy.  We do this because of our love - because we truly want the ones we love to be happy.  Because that matters to us.  Because they matter to us.

My kids see my husband and I doing this for one another all the time, and they especially see this with regards to my running.  The support my family gives me so that I can run is overwhelming to me at times.  I can't say it enough - I am beyond grateful.

A few weeks ago I came home from one of my early morning runs and was greeted at the door by my daughter Abby.  She was excited - she had an idea she couldn't wait to share with me.  Abby was going to put a race together for me and my running buddies (also known as "the honey badgers").  If you know me and you know the line of women both my husband and I come from, you understand that Abby comes by this type of thing very honestly.  We are all very into organization and we like parties.  It is just who we are.  Abby did not want to waste a second and was ready to roll up her sleeves and start figuring out the details right away.  I stood in the kitchen sweaty and spent from my run, but with a full heart as I watched my little girl pull out the calendar, some paper and some markers.  We chose a date and a time and she made a flyer that I could distribute to my running friends.

The "Honey Badger Playground Dash" was in the works.  Set for May 20th at 11am, the race would start at our house and finish at Abby's elementary school less than a quarter of a mile away.

the flyer
Abby was VERY into it - the best race director I have ever known.  She thought through all of the details and could not have been more excited when race day arrived.  We had a pretty good turn out - about half the honey badgers and their families, plus me and my family.

Abby at the Start
I was especially excited that my sister Jodi was able to come to the race.  This was her first race post surgery (she had ACL surgery not quite 3 weeks ago) and we were all so thankful and happy to share the experience with her.  Race day excitement was in the air and everyone was ready to do their best on the challenging course.

Before the race began, Will led a group in some stretches...

This looks extremely painful to me.  Chris was a good sport!
And then everyone lined up on the start line for a picture:

After the picture was taken, Robert walked to the finish with Abby and her best friend/co-director Kaitlin (my buddy Chris's daughter) so they would be ready for the post-race festivities when the runners arrived.  A few minutes later, I received a phone call from Robert that it was time for the runners to go.  I couldn't believe how quickly the lead runners shot out onto the course.  It was lightening speed.  I pushed Baby Gus in the stroller and hung in the back of the pack with my sister Jodi, Terri and Lisa.

The course went from my street onto the trail which was hilly and twisty.  There were chalk arrows showing us where to go and we were surprised to see some obstacles along the way.  At one point we were instructed to stop and DO A DANCE and then a few yards later we had to JUMP.  My favorite was about halfway through the course when we were read SHAKE YOUR BOOTY.

We came out of the woods and off the trail and it was a straight shot to the SVES playground - the site of the finish line.  Word on the street was that it was a close finish and that all the runners did their best and had a GREAT time.  The shining moment for me was watching my sister come across the Finish.  No crutches.  Just a huge smile and lots of cheering!

The post race festivities were unmatched.  A goody bag for each runner with a Picky Bar and a Blow Pop (what more does a runner need?!?) and plenty of nuun to quench everyone's thirst.

It was the BEST race I have ever run.  The distance was perfect - not too short or too long.  It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking.  It wasn't too crowded.  It was a race my whole family, and runners of all levels, could experience and enjoy.  The entry fee was free and you can't beat that.

I will DEFINITELY run the Honey Badger Playground Dash again.  Next year I hope to run with Gus by my side rather than pushing him in the stroller, but I'm happy to know that this is a stroller-friendly race just in case he's not ready for that.

The race director did an incredible job!  I am so proud of Abby, and so thankful for her for more reasons than I can possibly list!

It was an event I will never forget.  I don't think Abby can understand yet how much her doing this meant to me.  She is so caring and sweet and loving.  THAT SMILE on her face --- it says it all.  When I see that smile my heart flips and it flops and it feels like it will burst - and I just want to cry because I feel so happy.  Because I feel like I am surely the luckiest mom in the world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Easy Oatmeal Pancakes

When I was a little girl, I remember thinking that my mom's pancake breakfasts were the most delicious, most exciting meal that she would make for us.  As we got older my younger sister Alissa and I loved helping out with the preparation, watching for the batter to bubble and timing the flip just right to make them the perfect shade of golden brown.  We lived at our house in Bethany Beach, Delaware every summer and pancake breakfasts there were especially wonderful.  Our little townhouse was full of guests staying with us, all summer long.  We were laid back, carefree, barefoot and happy.

The memories I have of growing up at the beach every summer are priceless to me.  Those years have so much to do with making me the person I am today.  I was taught to appreciate the simple things, to adore time with the people I love, to be flexible and easy going and just live in the very moment at hand.  I can't think back to that time in my life without smiling and feeling completely grateful.  It is almost like warm sunshine washes over and through me whenever I think about it.  My lips automatically curl into a smile and I know that I am blessed and lucky.  I can close my eyes and take myself right back there, and taste all of the memories as if they were yesterday.  I feel the sand in my toes, the saltwater on my skin.  Hear the laughter of me and my sisters and our friends.  I am filled with the pure and simple joy that made up those summer days.  And I am thankful.

I think all of us have pieces from our childhood that we hope to recreate for our own children when we become parents.  Moments and traditions that helped shape us into the people we are today.  Memories of the ones we love, especially our parents and our siblings, that we want to pass down for future generations.  For me, SUMMER is like a big box full of everything I hold dear.  I want to open it up, dive in and just SAVOR every second of it.  I could LIVE in that box of Summer, and I would not tire of the season one bit I promise you.  The idea of an "endless summer" totally works for me - I am a summertime girl and there is just no time of year that suits me better.  Some day I will live at the beach.  I don't really care which one.  I just want to be close to the sea and the salt air and the sunshine.  Some day.

Anyway, this post is already all over the place.  Sorry about that.  I said it was about pancakes.  And it is!  I just digressed a little (or maybe a lot).  Because when I think of pancakes I think of my mother and when I think of my mother I think of the summer and our big pancake breakfasts and the fact that I want to be that kind of mom to my own kids.  To pass down the pancake breakfast tradition.  I'm not a fantastic cook - but pancakes - I can do those!  Thanks to my mother.

So four years ago when my son Will was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies to nearly every ingredient that is IN a pancake, my bubble was completely burst.  He can't have eggs or dairy (among lots of other things) and up until he was 3 years old he also couldn't have wheat or soy.  My husband and I were determined to figure out a way to make pancakes that our little guy could eat and that we all would enjoy.  We tried lots and lots of recipes and this one is so simple it almost can't even be called a recipe.  I make these pancakes frequently for my family and everyone loves them.


quick oats
soy milk
canola oil

There are no measurements, I realize that.  It is great - very hard to mess up - and also really easy for the kids to help out with.

To make the batter, I fill a microwavable glass bowl about half full with the oats.  Then I add soy milk to get a consistency that would make very thick oatmeal.  I put a little bit of sugar (just depends how sweet you want it) and a little splash of canola oil in the bowl and stir it all up.  Then I microwave the bowl for about a minute and a half.  The oatmeal should be thick - not soupy.

While the oatmeal is cooking, I heat up a skillet and put a tiny bit of canola oil in the pan.  Not a lot at all - just a little to coat the pan.  You could also probably use canola oil spray.  You just don't want the pancakes to stick to the pan.  Once the oatmeal is done, I plop spoonfuls of it onto the pan.  They aren't going to ooze and spread the way normal pancake batter does so you don't need to worry about them running together since the oatmeal is thick.  But you should leave maybe an inch or so between each pancake while they cook so you have room to flip them.

I smoosh them flat a little bit and let them cook for a few minutes before flipping them.  It depends how high you have the heat and how crispy you want them to be.  They are technically already cooked so again, you cannot mess these up!  I like them to be a golden brown and flip them usually after just a couple minutes on high heat.

I cook them for about the same amount of time on the other side, and then they are done.  It is insanely easy!

It is fun to play with this - I've added cinnamon, bananas, chocolate chips, blueberries.  I'm sure there's so much else you could try.  They also refrigerate really well and make great leftovers the next morning.  Another bonus!

My family enjoys these so much.  Everyone is happy when we have an oatmeal pancake breakfast.  Will loves them stacked with syrup drizzled on top, Gus loves them broken up into pieces.  Abby loves them completely plain and simple.  As a mom, I love that they are totally easy, somewhat nutritious and really delicious.

This pancake breakfast may be totally different from the one my mom made for me and my sisters when I was a young girl, but I know the impact on my kids is absolutely one and the same.  I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their laughter.

We make good memories around our breakfast table.  Memories that will help shape and define us.  It's so simple.  And so wonderful.

Monday, May 21, 2012

making changes, and running for the LOVE of running

Rock n Roll USA was just a little over 2 months ago and I'm finding that really hard to believe.  Time sure does FLY by.

Since recovering from that race, I've turned my focus toward shorter distances and have raced three times - setting PRs in both the 10 Miler and the 10k and coming really close in the 5k.  I've been averaging around 45-50 miles per week and my longest runs have been 14-16 miles.  Liberated from the rigors and the self-imposed pressure of marathon training for a little while (though I miss it and can't wait to get back to it!), it's been a lot of fun for me.  I've been running for the simple sake of doing something I love to do, and it has been more than wonderful.  The fact is though, I have been running a LOT and even though it's been tons of fun, I haven't really given myself - my legs - much of a break.

A couple of weeks ago I started noticing soreness in my calves and in my right foot.  I went to see Dr. Wong and brought my shoes in for him to take a look at them.  I've been spending a lot more time than usual in my 4mm drop Kinvaras (as opposed to the 8mm drop Triumphs I usually train in) and as a result my calves were getting tight which was causing the foot discomfort.  "Early stage plantar fasciitis" is what he told me.  Here is one thing I know for sure about running -- nearly ALL running injuries are preventable if we listen to our bodies and if we pay attention and are SMART.

This is one of the MANY reasons I love seeing Dr. Wong.  He helps me keep things in check.  After seeing him I switched out my shoes (the Triumphs were completely worn - it was time for a new pair), built an extra rest day into my schedule and spent more time each day rolling out my calves with the Tiger Tail stick and stretching them after runs.

And you know what?  I feel so much better now.  No more weirdness in my foot.  My calves feel totally normal again.  Injury paranoia makes me completely neurotic.  All runners feel pain and tightness - and I'm convinced that if we all stopped running at the first sign of that, nobody would run at all on this good green Earth.  The trick is telling the difference between the kind of pain that we should push through and move past, and the kind of pain we should definitely not ignore.  When something bugs me and won't go away, I take a close look at what I've been doing and ask myself some questions:

Have I been taking enough rest days?
Have I built my mileage properly?
What kind of speed work am I doing?  What have my paces been like?
What's the scoop with my shoes?
What does my stretching, foam rolling, strengthening routine look like?
Where do I need to make changes to what I am doing?

In the case of this Spring, I determined that it was time for new shoes and that I should pay better attention to my calves since I was asking so much more of them in the speed department with all these shorter races.

shoe love
I got some new kicks that I am really really loving.  The New Balance 1080 v2 are very similar to the Saucony Triumphs I was training in - a neutral cushioned shoe with an 8mm drop.  I loved my Triumphs, but =PR= as out of my size when I went in to buy them and I had been really curious about this shoe anyway so I think it was meant to be.

I took them out for a spin on Saturday.  16 miles that could not have gone better.  It was a perfectly executed long run and was just what I needed to feel strong and ready as I head into my taper for the half marathon I'm running on June 2nd (ZOOMA Annapolis).  I averaged an 8:24 pace and the last 5 miles were all sub-8 with the last and fastest mile run up hill in 7:39.  It was pretty much perfect.

I have never tapered for a half marathon -- every one I've ever run has fallen in the middle of marathon training so it hasn't really been necessary.  I've decided that this time around I'm going to build a real taper phase into my preparations and this week marks the beginning of that.  It makes me feel excited - I really want to show up on race day feeling more than ready to rock it.  And the taper, though it will probably drive me crazy in more ways than one, will be GOOD for me.

Early this morning the Honey Badgers and I went out for an easy 6 mile run in the rain.  It was pouring and we were literally soaked from head to toe.  It was the perfect run to start my taper ... out with friends just enjoying doing what I love to do, with people who GET that and share in it with me.

soaked and happy
When my alarm went off and I heard the rain falling, I knew that if my buddies weren't meeting me there was absolutely NO WAY I would have motivated myself to get out that door (or even out of my bed at all), especially now that I am in taper mode.  Before we started running we all laughed at ourselves and said we better just get it done.  We've run in worse weather before.  We made it this far, we may as well JUST RUN.

My memory of today's run will stick with me for a while I'm sure.  Yes, my fingers were pruning and my feet were squishy and wet in my shoes.  My hair was a rat's nest, tangled and gross under my hat.  Not an inch of me was dry.  But it was so fun.  It was simple and peaceful.  The trail was lush and green.  The rain cooled me off when I started to warm up under my jacket.  We were running for the pure JOY of running.  And I loved every minute of it.

When I got home Abby was sitting in the front door, holding onto her blanky and her doll and watching us through the glass as she waved to us.  As I walked up the front step and opened the door she said "wow mama, you are one wet honey badger" and I burst into laughter.  Coming home to my warm cuddly family after a run like that is priceless.  I love mornings like this, and this is why running is so worth it to me.  The racing, the PRs the accomplishments that are mine alone - that is all icing on the cake and makes running exciting and meaningful on lots of levels.  But running for the simple JOY of the way I feel while I'm doing it, and really how I feel once it's DONE - that is magical to me.  I will listen to my body and adapt as necessary to prevent myself from getting injured or burning out.  Because what it all comes down to is the fact that I LOVE TO RUN and I want to be doing this for all of my life.  I want to greet my grandchildren at the end of a run some day.  It is all a part of my dream.

welcome home, mama

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meeting Meb

"Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.”
- Meb 

Earlier this week, something I never thought would happen - HAPPENED.

I got to meet a living running legend.  Someone who inspires me to BELIEVE that anything is possible.  Someone who reminds me to never give up, not ever.

Me and Meb!!
Meb Keflezhigi is more than an incredible runner.  It's true, he has an AMAZING running career - he won the Silver Medal in the marathon in the 2004 Olympics, won the 2009 NYC Marathon and came in first place in the marathon this year at the Time Trials for the the US Olympic team and will be representing our country in London this August.  These are just SOME of the highlights from his running - the list is LONG.  He is just an absolutely incredible athlete.

A little over a year ago I won an autographed copy of his book, Run to Overcome, on my good friend Dorothy's blog, Mile Posts.  I was SO excited to win it and couldn't wait to start reading.  From the moment I picked it up I am not kidding when I tell you that I could not put it down.  Meb's story is as remarkable as all of his running accomplishments.  His success was not just handed to him - he has worked so hard and has overcome a lot of very difficult times in his life and his running to get where he is today.  (If you have not read the book yet, I highly recommend it.  You can read Dorothy's great review of it by clicking HERE.)

A few years ago when Dorothy was volunteering for a local race (the ACLI Capital Challenge in DC) she was asked to pick Meb and his brother Hawi up from the train station and take them to their hotel.  She told me all about it - and as she spoke I could literally feel her excitement.  Her story completely captivated me.  I was beyond happy for her - my friend's passion and gratitude just shined so brightly from the inside out (she makes me feel this way on a daily basis when we talk about running.  If you read her blog I am sure you can imagine what I mean).  Living vicariously through her was pretty awesome.  But to get to experience it for myself - meeting one of my running heroes in real life - that would surely top it.  I just didn't really imagine I would ever have the opportunity. 

So a couple of months ago when Dorothy told me that Meb was returning for the race, and asked me if I would want to assist her with the awards this year, I just about jumped out of my seat.  Ummmm, yes are you kidding I would absolutely love to wake up at 4:30am on and go into the city with you to help out with this race.  Whatever you need - I am your girl!

My husband took a half day off from work on Wednesday and did the solo parenting thing with all three kids so that I could spend my morning with one of my best friends and a running legend.  It was pretty much a magical morning that I will never - EVER - forget.

Dorothy, Meb, me and Hawi
Meb was just as KIND as he is INSPIRING.  We talked about my sister Jodi's surgery and he told me to please give her his best.  He knows what it's like to have to recover from injury.  I told him about my running buddy Chris, and how he is a new runner and just beginning to truly BELIEVE in himself.  Meb smiled - he truly loves hearing about other runners of ALL levels, not just the most elite people out there.  I told Meb how I love what he says about RUNNING TO WIN - that it is not about coming in first place, rather it is about getting the BEST out of YOURSELF.  I love this message.

“But I also realize that winning doesn't always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself. One of my greatest joys is inspiring other people to perform at their best.” 

I asked Meb to sign the inside of my favorite running hat, so that when I am wearing it I can look up and read his words and remember this day.

Winning = Being MY Best
I'm still floating, thinking about my morning with Meb and Dorothy.  Words can't really express how grateful I am for the experience.  I will carry it in my heart always.

Have you ever gotten to meet one of your running heroes?

Follow Meb here:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shower Pill Giveaway - Winners!

I am so excited to announce the winners of my Shower Pill giveaway!

Using the random.org True Number Generator, it has been determined that Missy from Sugar Coated Athlete and Caroline from Canadian Runner in Exile will each receive a 10-pack of Shower Pill Athletic Body Wipes!  Congrats ladies - you are going to love them.

Please send me an email to jessica.hofheimer@gmail.com to claim your prize.  You have one week to contact me before I pick a new winner.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered!

improving as a runner

My journey as a runner has been just that - A JOURNEY.

The first race I ever signed up for was a marathon, almost exactly 12 years ago.  I was 24 years old and spent the summer of 2000 training for my first marathon and had never even run a 5k before.  A high school friend recommended a book to me called How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon by Gordon Bakoulis Bloch.  I read it cover to cover several times and plotted out my training in my calendar.  The program was based on running minutes, not counting miles.  This worked extremely well for me as a new runner and to this day I highly recommend it as a great way for a new runner to start training.

I will never forget my first training run.  It was 20 minutes long and I literally felt like I was dying.  I was in Florida visiting my family and it was sunny, HOT and humid.  I had recently quit smoking (a habit I desperately wanted - no, needed - to break) and I was terribly out of shape.  My family was worried about me.  WHAT was I trying to do, training for a marathon!?  We look back on it now and laugh.  They all felt sorry for me and were concerned that I was attempting to do something WAY outside my limits.  They were right.  I was.

But I didn't give up and week after week I was able to run farther and faster.

That summer, I became a runner.

After 6 months of training, race day came and I crossed the finish line of my first marathon in Philadelphia in 5:21:20.  The marathon was TOUGH.  My running buddy got injured around Mile 14 and we walked the next 12 miles together.  It was bitterly cold and pretty miserable, but I was so proud when I crossed that finish line.  So grateful to have discovered my love for the sport of running.

Philly, 2000.  I am a marathoner!
My goal for that race was to FINISH it, and finish it I DID.  It didn't go as planned, but in my heart I knew I would run more marathons, and I believed that I was capable of a faster time.

My approach to training stayed pretty much the same over the next several years.  As a result, so did my race times.  I ran one pace, ALL the time (usually around a 10 minute mile, maybe slightly faster on occasion).  My pace for a 5k race was not very different from my pace for a 10 miler.  My marathon times were almost all over 5 hours, with the exception of two that were both 4:35s.  I consistently over trained and under hydrated, had no idea how to fuel properly or how to recover, found myself walking because of cramping and IT Band pain, felt mentally broken and basically doubted myself as a runner on a regular basis.  Sounds fun, right?

Despite all of that though, I LOVED to run and I was determined to figure out how to do it better.

In the spring of 2010, as part of my quest to learn all I could about how to be a better runner, I became a RRCA Certified Running Coach.  This was a defining moment for me.  It opened my eyes to all the things I had been doing wrong (which as it turns out, was basically everything).  I left that class feeling excited and hopeful about all the changes I could make, because I believed they would lead to better, faster, stronger and more joyful running.  And then, about a month later, I found out I was pregnant with my third child.  These changes would have to wait.

Last summer, a few months after Baby Gus was born, I began applying what I had learned.  It has been almost exactly one year since I returned to running with this new approach, and I have seen really wonderful results because of it.

I get asked frequently about how I've been able to make such dramatic improvements to all of my race times in just one year.  I think one thing that's important to note is that I didn't just change one or two or even three things.  It was a like a running-OVERHAUL for me.  I was doing so many things wrong, or not doing certain things at all - so that when I finally started switching things up there was just so much room for improvement.  I don't expect to make such huge jumps in my race times in one training cycle moving forward (though that would be nice!).  Now that I am doing (most) things properly, the changes that I can make are really smaller tweaks and adjustments that will hopefully bring about faster times.  Not one hour faster or even 20 minutes faster in one cycle, realistically, but I do still believe I can become a faster and stronger runner over the next few years if I continue to train smart and push myself in the right ways.

So, what are the new features of my training that I believe have made me a faster runner?  In no particular order, here they are ...

* I spend time on the foam roller daily.  Every single evening, whether I ran that day or not, I hop on my foam roller and use my Tiger Tail Stick.  Self massage and myofascial release is critical for me.  I usually roll out my quads, hamstrings, calves, feet and IT bands for about 20 minutes every night.  I will spend more time on extra sore or tight areas as needed.

* I visit my chiropractor regularly.  I consider Dr. Wong at United Wellness Center one of my training buddies, even though we have never gone for a run together.  He cares about my running, and has as much interest in helping me feel prepared for my next race as he does about my running longevity.  He is always thinking of the big picture and reminds me not to sacrifice it for a run in the short term.  I trust him and value his expertise tremendously.

* I listen to my body.  If I need an unplanned rest day, I take it.  If I'm feeling extra tight, or if I have very heavy legs and I need to run fewer miles in a week than I was hoping I would, so be it.  It's not always easy to do this, because mentally I could use a run every day, but I resist the urge when my body is telling me otherwise.

* Every run has a purpose.  And the pace is not the same for all runs!  I stick to my paces now, whereas before all my runs and races were done at one pace.  Long run pace is different from tempo run pace which is different from the pace I run on an "easy" days.  I use the McMillan Pace Calculator to determine my training paces, based on my goals and my most recent race times.  I try to honor my paces each time I lace up for a run.

* Speed work happens once (or twice) a week.  Before last year, I had never done a lick of speed work.  Tempo runs, intervals at the track and other forms of speed work are a regular part of my training regime now.  There is no doubt about it -- you have to run faster if you want to run faster!

* Higher miles.  I conservatively and carefully built my base mileage and then hit mileage that was higher than I had ever run before a few weeks before my target race.  Having more miles under my belt really helped me become more physically fit and also feel mentally prepared for my races.

* Strength training and Pilates.  I go to the gym twice a week to do strength training.  A lot of squats and lunges, hamstring curls, bench dips, mountain climbers and upper body work.  I also make Pilates a regular part of my routine, even if it's just 10 minutes a day.  It has made a HUGE difference for me.  I used to suffer from lower back pain and an out of whack SI joint that also caused IT pain.  Having a strong core and working on strengthening muscles other than the ones I use specifically for running has been a game changer for me.

* Nutrition and hydration.  I really had these things all wrong until last year.  I drink nuun to hydrate before and after my runs and races (I drink water while I am running).  I can honestly say that over the course of the past year I have not dealt with dehydration on a run.  It used to happen to me all the time.  Also, I made it my mission to figure out what worked for me as far as fueling properly before, during and after my runs.  I now know what works for me and have not "bonked" at all in my races this year.  I pretty much hit the wall in every marathon I ran prior to 2011, because I wasn't eating or hydrating right.  It makes a major difference in how you perform - and I truly believe there is no reason for us to experience the wall if we make it a priority to figure out the right plan for us and then STICK with it.  It's easy to dismiss the need for water/food on a run when you are feeling good, but you will pay for it later.

* I joined a training group.  Last summer I started training with the =PR= Distance Training Program in Reston.  It was the best decision I could have made!  The coaching staff is knowledgeable, supportive and encouraging.  I made lifelong friends who make getting up early on a cold rainy day, doable - and most of the time even FUN.  We meet as a group for our long run every Saturday morning and also go to the track once a week for speed work.  In addition to that, my buddies and I train a few other days a week early in the morning.  These guys have kept me motivated and have reminded me of why I love to run.  They push me when I'm not feeling it, they reel me in when I'm going to fast for the purpose of the run.  Sharing the experience with them is something I cherish - there is no doubt that there is strength in numbers.  I am forever grateful to my training partners.

* I went outside my comfort zone. A lot.  When I started training, I made a deal with myself: I was going to believe in myself.  And I wasn't going to give up when the going got tough, which I knew it would repeatedly.  I used to wimp out when the weather was bad, or give up when I had a bad day.  This past year I ran no matter what - in the rain, in the freezing cold, in the heat and humidity.  When it was icy out, I did 20 miles on the treadmill.  I stopped making excuses, because I knew that if I was going to see the benefits of my training I had to survive on those rough days.  I had to change my mindset if I was going to get stronger and if I was going to push through self doubt and negative thinking.

Improving as a runner takes guts.  It takes being smart.  It takes dedication and heart and passion and grit.  It is not easy.  But it is, without a doubt, WORTH IT.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

gotta be me

I tell my kids all the time -- BE TRUE TO YOU.

Listen to your heart.  Do what feels right and good.  You will know.

And if you need help, don't be afraid to ask.  I am here for you.  I will try to help you hear that voice in your heart, as best I can.

And if someone knocks you down when you are standing up for what you believe in -- Rise Up.  If they hurt you when you share a part of yourself, move forward.  Do not let others discourage you from being YOURSELF.  Do not let anyone stop you from following your dreams.

Taylor Swift has a song I really love.  It's called "Ours."  Say what you will about Taylor Swift, but I am a 36 year old mother of three who really likes her.  (I also like the White Stripes and the National and Dave Matthews and Eminem and Cold Play.  And Adele.  Oh and the Beatles.  I LOVE the Beatles.  Anyway, my point is I like a LOT of different kinds of music.  I love music.)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this song is about a teenage romance and it really has no relevance in my life at all (thank goodness), but there is a line in it that sticks with me, that I find myself singing over and over again my head:

And don't you worry your pretty little mind.
People throw rocks at things that shine.

We all deal with hurtful words from others, it is a part of life sadly.  I want my children to know that even in moments when they are flying high, feeling so good about their choices and the life they have built for themselves - there will be people saying and doing things that will hurt them.  Things that will make them second guess who they are and why they love what they love.  Why they do what they do.  I cannot protect them from that.  But I can encourage them to stay true to themselves, to weather the storms.  And I will surround them with my love, always.

This morning as I was driving Will to school we heard a song on Kids Place Live that had me smiling from ear to ear.  Will and I sang along and Gus bopped his head back and forth.  This song makes me SO happy.  I was even happier to hear my little guy singing it.  It's a rap song by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and it's called "Gotta Be Me."  Here are some of my favorite lyrics:

it's a beautiful thing
being yourself
and not trying to act like
everyone else

I'm a tell you the truth
and you gotta agree
man, I can't be you, nope
I gotta be me

Hey - sometimes when you play at school

another kids acts like you're not so cool
they laugh at your clothes or say something mean
and then your good day
feels like a bad dream
but hey - it happens to everyone
so don't let it stop you from havin' fun
you don't have to be like anyone else
but remember
that you got to love yourself

some people think
making you feel bad
will make them feel good
and that's just sad

but no matter what they do or say
it's just a game
and you don't have to play
if they call you weird
and you want them to stop
you can either say "no i'm not!"
or you can say
"yep I'm as weird as can be and you know what?
I love it --
I gotta be me!"

I love that this world is made up of people with all sorts of interests and backgrounds and passions and stories.  I love that we are all different and unique.  And I think those differences should be celebrated and it is my aim to do that within my little family and raise people who respect and admire others for being true to themselves even when they may not share the same interests or history.

I love to watch my kids shine the way that they do, in every aspect of the way that they live their lives.  When something makes them happy - they dive right in and are so truly themselves - not yet constrained by worry about what others might think of them.  I want to help them hang onto that.  I think sometimes it is hard enough to connect with our passions, to figure out what really makes us "tick" - the last thing we need is for the judgement of others to dissuade us from living a life we love, from being true to ourselves.

Monday, May 14, 2012

a beautiful day

Saturday morning I was ready to run my fastest ever 5k.  My training and my racing over these past seven weeks gave me every indication that I was ready to break 21 minutes in the 5k.  I had been doing my weekly tempo runs this fast (sometimes faster) week after week.  I knew I could do it.  It would NOT be easy, but it was absolutely within my reach.

My legs felt strong.  I was excited.  I had run this race twice before and though the course changed slightly, I believed with all of my heart that I could handle the added hills (both up and down) and that I would stay strong mentally as well as physically through them.

I woke up on Saturday morning and ran to the race start as a warm up.  My husband packed up the kids in the car and they drove there to meet me.  I LOVE having my family at a race.  Knowing they are there automatically puts a smile on my face and makes me feel more at ease.  I feel like I am not doing this just for me, but instead it is something our whole family can enjoy and take part in.

This was the perfect race for that.  The We've Got Your Back 5k in Reston is not just a race for solitary runners.  It is a race for families.  The start/finish area was busy with activities for children (glitter tattoos, crafts, games, and the "Fun Bus" - an old school bus that was painted with bright colors and hollowed out inside to become a mini fitness obstacle course for young children).  My kids had a blast before, during and after the race.

The Fun Bus!
It is also a race for people who have overcome back injuries and chronic back pain.  The cause is close to my heart, supporting spinal health and research.  As a Pilates teacher I work with people who suffer from back pain all the time.  Herniated disks, bulging disks, pinched nerves, SI joint pain, pelvic instability ... and so much more.  I myself have dealt with lower back pain since becoming a mother, and I can tell you it is horrible.  There have been times when I have been stuck on the couch with ice wrapped around my back, watching my kids play all around me because moving hurt too much.  It is awful.  Thank goodness my pain has never lasted more than a week or two at a time - but even just one day of it is terrible.  This is why when I found Pilates, I became dedicated to it.  Pilates changed my life and has made me so much more aware of how to best care for my body and especially my spinal health.  It changed my life so much that I wanted to become a teacher, so I could help others.  My sister Jodi had back surgery in 2003 (she had a herniated disk) and as you can imagine she too is very passionate about this cause.  She really wanted to be there on Saturday.  I wanted her to be there too.

This was by far the best I had ever warmed up before a 5k.  I ran two miles at a comfortable pace (mile 1 - 8:33, mile 2 - 8:11) and then I finished with another half mile right around 10k pace (a little slower, averaging 7:11).  When it was time to start the race I felt physically as ready as could be.

But mentally, something was off.  Was it race day nerves?  Maybe.  The fact that there were some seriously fast looking ladies standing at the start near me?  Yes, that got me.  When chicks show up to a local 5k race wearing underwear and compression socks a la Shalane and Kara, well that is a bit intimidating.  Inspiring, sure, yet also intimidating.

The gun went off and the first 3/4 of a mile was straight down a hill.  I knew I was running too fast.  Way too fast.  I glanced at my watch and saw a pace of 5:17 down that hill.  WHAT!?  What am I doing?!  My legs were moving so fast down that hill that I literally felt like I was flying.  This would have been exhilarating and awesome had I not had another two and a half miles to run.  Or had I been planning to run that fast (umm, no).  I came down to the bottom of the hill and turned right onto the trail and the road was flat again, my pace "slowed" to a 5:45.  I was breathing heavily.  My shoulders were tense.  I still felt very much out of control.  I told myself over and over again to run my own race, to slow down, to calm down and to settle in.  I got myself into better place by the time the first mile ended.  It was still way too fast though.  Mile 1 - 6:11.

At the end of the first mile we turned onto a road with steady up hill.  This was good news for me.  It would help me slow down.  I wanted to find my happy pace around a 6:45, but the fact is -- I am not happy at a 6:45.  That is still lung-burning pace!  Especially up a hill.  And then we took another turn into an office park which was basically ALL up hill.  I kept fighting up it.  When I looked at my watch at the end of the second mile I saw 7:15.  This was slower than I wanted to be running.  I still had a mile to go, time to make up for it.  I still wanted to break 21 and I could do it.  But I had to believe I could do it and that was the problem at this point.

The negative voice started to gain power over me.  Telling me I went out too fast.  That the first mile ruined me.  Why didn't I take control sooner?  Why was I so foolish?  How did I let this happen!?  I felt like a crazy person trying to push through those negative thoughts.  I just wanted to feel good, to feel happy.  To enjoy myself.  As I turned the corner to go UP that massive hill that I ran down in the beginning of the race, I knew I wasn't going to break 21 minutes and that it was really quite possible that I wouldn't even beat 21:18, my current PR.  I was feeling really angry with myself.  I was hating on 5ks.  Mile 3: 7:27.

On the side of the course there was a woman holding up a sign.  It said "YOU LOVE RUNNING!!"  I smiled when I saw it.  She is right.  Nobody is making me do this but ME.  And why am I doing it?  Because I love it. 


That was all I needed.  My final pace for the final stretch was 6:34.  My family was on the side of the road, cheering me into the finish.  This made me smile from the inside out as I approached that finish line.

Official time: 21:40.  I missed my PR by 22 seconds.  What I am PROUD of -- I ran this race 3 whole minutes faster than I ran it last year and almost 4 minutes faster than I did the year before.  Also, I was the 9th overall female and third place in my age group.  To be one of the top 10 females in a race like this - where the women who came in first and second finished in less than 18 minutes, and three of the top five overall finishers were women (yay!!!) - well, that is pretty much a dream come true for me.  THAT feels good.

I did not run the 5k race I am capable of.  I know that.  But I did push through some pretty dark thoughts, through moments where I literally felt like stopping and giving up the sport altogether (crazy, I know).  I did not give up.  And while each mile was slower than the last, I learned a TON about myself as a runner and as a person.

After my race was over, it was time for Abby and Will to race.  We had signed them up for the 1 Mile Fun Run and they could not have been more excited.  They had official race numbers, new "fast" running shoes (which Will proudly proclaimed would make him "faster than a car" when he tried them on) and more excitement in their little hearts than I can possibly describe.  The three of us lined up at the start, ready to go.

Thoughts of my 5k quickly melted away, and I was completely swept up in the joy of being with my children - participating in a running event TOGETHER.

three happy runners at the start
The plan was to stick together.  The kids did not want me to leave their side.  Will was even holding onto my leg as we waited for the race to begin.  He was especially nervous about having to run on his own.

So you can imagine my surprise when Will shot off like a dart, literally blazing a trail behind him leaving us in his dust from the start of the race.  I could see him powering up ahead, not relenting, and I was just completely shocked.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Amazed.  He just kept going and I could see his little head bouncing side to side as he ran.  I couldn't see his face, but I could imagine it.  I knew he was having the time of his life.

I have seen my little boy run before.  He SURGES, and then pulls back and walks or even stops altogether to catch his breath before going full speed again.  The kid doesn't have a middle ground.  He is either ALL IN, or he is not playing.  (This applies to all areas of his personality - he is the most determined and dedicated little person I have ever known.  It inspires me.  And terrifies me on occasion).

On Saturday, he was ALL IN.  He got caught up in the excitement and he discovered something wonderful about himself.


Abby was not enjoying the run nearly as much as Will was.  She is very observant of every single thing - the most sensitive person I have ever known in all my life.  I love this about her.  It is one of her sweetest qualities.  She is also a THINKER - has to analyze everything.  And talk about it.  She spoke to me the whole way - giving me every detail about how she was feeling.  Her chest hurt.  Her stomach hurt.  She really needed to stop.  She WANTED to enjoy the race, but, well, WHEN would it be over?  I encouraged her to keep going.  I told her how I understood what she was feeling, that she was doing a great job, that she was the strongest most beautiful runner I had ever seen, and that I was SO proud of her.

About halfway through the mile, she decided it was time for a break.  Robert was on the side of the road cheering with baby Gus so she hopped off and walked with him.  At that point I caught up with Will and ran him to his finish.  He was still racing his little heart out.  The look on his face, now that I could see it, was one of pure joy and solid determination.  It was also a look of surprise.  I ran next to him.  Told him he was amazing.  So strong!  So fast!  He was running up the hill (the same one I had to run up for my finish) and I knew what he was feeling.  Watching my little boy run was INCREDIBLE.  He cracked a smile at the sound of my voice, when I told him I could see the finish.  That he was almost there.

Will crossed the finish line of his first real road race mile in 7:57.  They gave him a medal and I wrapped my arms around him.  His heart was beating so fast, I could feel it pounding on his little chest.  Those big brown eyes looked up at me and with a huge smile on his face he said to me "Wow Mommy, I am fast!"  My kid FOUND HIS STRONG.

Mister Will, who has life threatening food allergies and has to inhale steroids every single day of the year for his asthma - RAN A RACE on Saturday.  I think he felt like he could do anything after accomplishing that.  Running is a gift, pure and simple.

Will decided that he is a runner on Saturday.  Yesterday morning he woke up and wanted to take me for a run on Mother's Day.  We ran 2.5 miles together.  It was one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.  I will cherish the memory forever and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to sharing this sport with him over the years to come.

After Will finished his race, we caught up with Robert, Abby and Gus.  They were still walking on the 1 mile course.  Abby was hanging her head.  I approached her and took her hand.  I asked her if she would finish the race with me.  She cried and nodded her head - yes.  We started to jog and she told me she really didn't want to run, that she couldn't do it.  I told her she didn't have to go fast, that she just had to go, to move.  She had come this far and we were together and we could even walk if she wanted to.  My little girl cried the whole way up that hill and across the finish line.  And I held her hand.  I wanted her to know the importance of finishing something that you started.  I knew that if she didn't finish, she would be sad about it later.

When we crossed the finish line, she smiled as I hugged her.  Later that day do you know what she told me as I tucked her in for bed?  She said "Mommy, you made me feel proud of myself today."  Until then, I wasn't sure if I had been too tough on her at the race, if I was caught up in my love for the sport and if maybe I had said the wrong things to motivate her.

All I want is for my children to feel proud of themselves.  To be confident and happy.  For them to feel GOOD about who they are.  I want them to believe in themselves.  To know that they can overcome difficult times - whether it be physical pain, emotional heartache, disappointment, whatever.  Life is full of rough patches.  I want my kids to be raised knowing that they are loved for who they are.  That they are strong enough to endure what comes their way.  That there is joy in persevering when all they feel like doing is shutting down and giving up.

As their mother, there is only so much I can do to protect my children from broken hearts and disappointments.  My first instinct is to want to put them in this little cocoon where I can shield them from anything bad or difficult, protect them from feeling pain or sadness.  To give them anything and everything their little hearts desire.  But I know that this not possible and I also know that it wouldn't be the best thing for them - AT ALL.  That's just not how life is.  I would be doing a disservice to them.  Instead, I will do what I can now to teach them to fight.  To teach them to believe in themselves.  To encourage them to follow their hearts.  To help them build their own wings so they can fly.

I am thankful to the sport of running for helping me with this.  This is one of the many ways that running helps me to be the best mother I can be.  It's not just about what running does for ME and my own peace of mind, my inner balance, my self confidence.  It's about what my running does for my children.  The example it sets.  They see me doing it and they know it is not easy for me.  They see the dedication.  They see the pain.  And they see the joy.  And this weekend, they not only saw it, but they FELT it for themselves.

I am so proud.  And so very grateful.

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