Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smoothie Heaven - Vega Energizing Smoothies

I love smoothies.  LOVE them.  Especially in the summer when we have so many delicious fresh and local fruits and vegetables to throw in them.  They taste amazing and give me a boost of energy to get through the day.  Whether it's before my run or after, I pretty much think any time is a good time for a smoothie.
I keep my recipes very simple and don't measure anything.  I take whatever is on hand - in the fridge, the freezer or on the counter (fresh peaches, bananas, blueberries and strawberries are my favorites) - and mix them up in my mini blender with some vanilla soy milk or orange juice.  It's quick and yummy and never ever disappoints.

Sometimes though, even grabbing all those ingredients and throwing them in a blender is too time consuming for this busy running mom of three.  Sometimes I miss out on my smoothie because I can't handle pulling even the simplest of ingredients together.  I know that sounds silly, but it's just the truth.

When I was introduced to Vega products a few weeks ago, I have to admit I wasn't really expecting to love them.  The idea behind the Energizing Smoothies is that you just mix them with a cold dairy-free beverage like soy milk, water or juice and shake them up (no blender required) and then they are ready to drink.  I honestly figured I would try that but that I would want to just add the powder to my regular smoothies in order to truly enjoy them.  That was okay with me - it's what I have done with other flavored protein powders I have tried for that same reason.  I am telling you though, the Vega smoothies are the best ones I have ever ever tasted.

Vega sent me five flavors to try.  I tried the Vanilla Almondilla first.  I put the powder in my Blender Bottle (which I bought at Target for about $9) - it is a plastic bottle with a little stainless steel whisk ball.  I mixed it with one cup of vanilla soy milk and shook it.  When I tasted it I was AMAZED.  It was not just tolerable or okay - it was hands down DELICIOUS!  I was sad I only had one packet of it.

I felt the same way about the Choc-a-Lot flavor when I mixed it with cold soy milk.  SO good.

Next I tried the Bodacious Berry.  This flavor was not for me.  I mixed it with cold water and I just did not love it.  It wasn't bad, but when compared to how good tasting the other two were, it was just not nearly as good.  If I were to have this flavor again I would just add it to one of my awesome fresh-fruit smoothie concoctions in my mini blender for an energizing boost to that.  I assumed I would feel the same way about the Oh Natural flavor, so when I used that one I added it to my smoothie and it was great.  On its own, I am pretty sure I would not have loved it.  I have a sweet tooth and that would just not be satisfying to me on its own.  The Tropical Tango flavor was SO good when I mixed it with a cup of cold orange juice though -- I would definitely have that one again.

Here is what Vega has to say about their Energizing Smoothies:

Energize your day with a convenient, on-the-go nutrient boost. Energizing Smoothie gives you the all-natural, plant-based goodness you expect from Vega—compete with protein, fiber and Omega-3—but unlike traditional smoothies, you only need water to shake and go. In four mouth-watering flavors: mixed tropical fruits, chocolate, vanilla almond and berries (plus an unflavored natural), Energizing Smoothie is so delicious it will make you forget how healthy it is.

One serving of Vega Energizing Smoothie features
  • Two servings of veggies
  • 10 g of complete, plant-based protein
  • 5 g of fiber
  • 1 g of Omega-3
Just add water, shake and go!

Formulated by Brendan Brazier, vegan professional Ironman triathlete and bestselling health author on plant-based nutrition, Vega Energizing Smoothie is alkaline-forming, free from dairy, gluten and soy, and contains no added sugar, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. Available in Bodacious Berry, Choc-a-lot, Oh Natural, Tropical Tango and Vanilla Almondilla flavors.

As someone who has a sensitive stomach and tries to stick to a plant based diet, this company is right up my alley.  I am so excited to try some of their other products for this very reason.  I'm really grateful that there are performance and recovery products out there that are vegan and gluten free but also high in protein because this is something I struggle with as a person and as a runner.  I am always on the hunt for products I can count on and now I know Vega will be at the top of this list.

Have you ever tried Vega Energizing Smoothies or recovery drinks?  Do you love smoothies as much as I do?

What are your favorite ingredients and recipes?  I am especially interested in those of you who add green veggies like kale and spinach to your smoothies and would love to hear your favorite recipes that include those ingredients!

Monday, July 30, 2012

thoughts & tips on building mileage safely

I am AMAZED by the human body.  How it adapts and grows stronger.  How something that used to be SO hard can become something we do on a daily or weekly basis.  It takes patience, dedication, persistence.  FAITH.  Hard work and self awareness.  If we honor our body, and if we listen to it,  if we do things gradually and consistently, we can reach new heights and become stronger than we ever dreamed.

An example of this as a runner is when we are building our mileage.  A 10 mile run in the beginning of marathon training for most runners feels like a huge challenge and accomplishment (and, in fact, it is!).  You look at it on your training schedule and think am I really going to be able to do that!? ... but then you trust in your training and you follow the progression and before you know it you are months into it you are knocking out 10 miles on a Tuesday and welcoming it with open arms.  You have adapted.  Physically, your body knows it can handle that distance without a problem.  Mentally, you have confidence because you know what a 20 miler feels like now and a 10 miler is much easier for you to wrap your brain around.  It's all relative and never ceases to amaze me.

When I came back to running after having my third baby 18 months ago, every single run was a huge challenge.  I am not exaggerating.  At first, one mile was terrifying and left me feeling as though I had been run over by a truck.  Then three miles felt like a marathon and I doubted whether or not I would ever feel like I was in my own body again.  Over time though I chipped away at it, slowly and carefully, and by the summer I was ready to actually begin marathon training.  I hit 30 miles in a week and it was a major milestone for me.  There were times (many times) that I felt my body fighting back - lots of aches and pains and so much soreness.  I needed to learn my body's language and figure out the difference between aches and pains that were okay to push through and the kind of pain that screamed at me and told me I better pull back or else I would find myself injured and back at square one.  In the beginning, it was really hard to tell the difference.  Now I am much better at it, though I still have moments when I am unsure and when that happens I pull back and visit my trusted chiropractor to take a closer look.

Last summer and fall when I was training for MCM, my mileage peaked at 45 miles and I could not believe it.  I was asking so much of my body and was grateful that I was able to not only handle that high mileage physically, but was able to manage the logistics of getting the runs in as a busy mom of three with a nursing infant.  I set a new PR in the marathon that fall, by almost one hour.  It was such a good feeling.  My hard work had paid off.  I had gradually and consistently built my mileage, peaked higher than I ever had in the history of all my training efforts.

MCM 2011, 3:41:56
When I began a new training cycle a few months later in preparations for Rock n Roll USA in March, I looked closely at the work I had done in the summer/fall.  I knew I had to make changes if I was going to improve as a runner.  Do the same thing all the time ... you will get the same results, right?  So I decided one thing I would attempt to do was to increase my mileage.  I felt my body could handle it, but made the plan and decided that along the way if at any time my body was NOT responding well to the higher mileage, I would come down and adjust.  The big picture - to remain HEALTHY and able to RUN - is always the most important thing.  One sure-fire way to get injured is to do too much too fast, to push well beyond our limits before our bodies are ready ... I did not want to be reckless with upping my mileage.  I took it one run at a time, one week at a time.  And went with it.  My body adapted and adjusted and it worked.

I trained for Rock n Roll USA and peaked at 64 miles.  I set a new PR in the marathon by about 7 minutes.

RnR USA 2012, 3:34:46
And now I find myself training for my 10th marathon, MCM again this fall.  I am so excited.  I haven't stopped dreaming and scheming.  My plan this time around is more aggressive than ever, but my main focus is the BIG PICTURE and I made a deal with myself to never not ever lose sight of that.

I ran over 65 miles last week and am on track to peak this cycle close to 80 miles.  This fact astonished me, but I am trusting in it because my body feels good and strong right now.  And I know that if I start to feel the signs of an injury or over training, I will immediately respond to them and change my plan.   There are a lot of ways to improve as a runner and increasing your mileage is not the only way!  For some, it is not even helpful because they hit a certain number and the body starts breaking down and rebelling and all is for naught.  I do not yet know what my threshold is.  I am giving my body time to adapt and easing into the higher mileage.  I am doing other things to get faster and stronger as well, it is not just the number of miles every week but the quality and purpose of those miles!

I wanted to write this post because I know a lot of my readers are training for races - whether it's a marathon or 10k or something in between - and as a result are increasing mileage and the toll being placed placing on our bodies.  When you run more miles in a week than you ever have before, you are entering unknown territory and you have got to be self aware and smart, otherwise you will get injured or burn out.  In endurance sports we hear this all the time - "GO OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE" - and I love that phrase and truly believe in it!  But is does not mean to do so recklessly or with abandon.  Testing our limits and going into uncharted waters is exhilarating and rewarding, but we do have to remain self aware and smart.  Incredibly intelligent and experienced athletes, coaches and scientists have done a lot of research for us and it is pretty much a proven fact that if we are reckless in running, we WILL get hurt.  99% of all running injuries are from over use - from ignoring what our bodies are telling us. When I heard this fact a light went on in my head -- this means that 99% of all running injuries are avoidable.  I'm not saying it's easy to avoid getting injured as a distance runner (far from it!) - it takes a lot of hard work and patience, determination and self awareness to stay on top of it - but it is also totally possible.

I've been thinking about some tips for how to increase mileage safely and wanted to list them here.  I would love your thoughts and advice if you have any more to add in the comments of this post!

Tips to remember as you are increasing your mileage:
  • How many miles to increase by each week - A *general* rule of thumb is the advice that you should not add more miles in one week than the total number of days you are running.  So, if you are running 5 days a week, never jump in mileage by more than 5 miles that week.  For example, if I ran 20 miles last week and am running 5 days this week, I will not increase my total mileage for the week to more than 25 miles.
  • Long run ratio - do not make your long run the bulk of your total mileage for the week.  When I became an RRCA running coach, I remember them telling us it is wise not to make your long run more than 40-50% of the total mileage you are running in that week.  Want to run 15 miles this week?  Don't do a 10 mile long run and two shorter runs!  Putting too many of your weekly miles into one long run will tax your body too much and will not give you the best improvements in your fitness.
  • Speed work ratio - if you are going to do speed work as part of your training, it is recommended that you do not make the total miles of actual speed work more than 10% of your total mileage for the week.  For example, if I am running 20 total miles this week and go to the track as one of those runs I will not do more than 2 miles of speed work at the track.
  • Listen to your body & respond! - if you start climbing in mileage and are consistently feeling worn down and not fresh for the next workout, you are overdoing it.  Take an extra rest day, drop your mileage for the week and reset your plan.  Remember the big picture!  Higher mileage does not mean you are better trained and prepared, in fact it could mean you are running yourself into the ground and sabotaging all of your efforts.  If your body is hating it at 45 miles a week, change your goal.  Don't push through and add on miles just to run more miles!
  • Don't worry about what everyone else is doing - We are all unique.  Just because your buddy can run 80 miles a week doesn't mean this is the right thing for you, right now or maybe even ever!  You must honor your own mileage just as you must honor your own pace.
  • Trust in the importance of gradual progression and keep track of what you are doing - Let's say Jane had 50 miles planned this week, after running 45 last week.  She runs 6 days a week so this was a safe and smart build.  But on Tuesday she went out for a 10 mile run and was feeling AMAZING so she decided to turn it into a 12 mile run.  And then a few days later that week she was at the track and felt like a superstar so she turned 6 miles into 9.  And one evening a friend was going out for an easy 3 and she was feeling strong so decided why not just go with her, she would "run slow."  At the end of the week for her long run she was supposed to do 15 but her buddies were going for 18 so she decided to hang with them and do more.  Before she knew it, Jane increased her mileage that week from 45 to 61 miles.  The next week she was feeling flat and heavy and her body was talking loud and clear with persistent aches and even some sharp pains.  Jane wasn't really keeping track of what she was doing and wondered why this was happening to her.  I know some of us want the freedom from a plan, and we just want to RUN and be happy and that is great in theory.  But here is something about runners - we are addicted to our sport.  It is very hard for us to resist a run, we sometimes even forget we are human and we want to ignore when our bodies are telling us we are running too much.  We have to honor the progression and be PATIENT.  We have to trust that we will get there gradually.  Adding miles on willy-nilly just because we are feeling great is dangerous.  I am not saying you should never add miles on when you are feeling awesome - that is fine and I do it!  But when I make a run longer than I initially planned to, I adjust my schedule.  I take miles off my runs later in the week.  I adapt carefully.  
  • Inspire yourself - BELIEVE in yourself!! - Look at how far you have come in your training and let your progress motivate and inspire you to keep at it!  Go back to the beginning - what was your life like before you first started running?  Were you heavier?  Were you slower?  Did shorter distances take your breath away and leave you panting and exhausted?  Were you depressed?  I personally would answer YES to all of these questions.  Whenever I am doubting myself and whether or not I can conquer new distances, I think about how far I have come and how grateful I am to be where I am.  I do not need to run more miles just for the sake of running more miles.  There is purpose to it - I love it and it makes me stronger.  If I find that I am doing too much and not loving it anymore, I know I need to peel back and run less.  The big picture is always the most important thing.  I want to be running and I want to love running for the rest of my life.  I want to be healthy and balanced.  I want to feel happy and strong.  THIS is why I run.  So if I overdo it and lose sight of the big picture ... what is the point really?
I would love to hear your thoughts on increasing mileage and what you have found works and doesn't work for you!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

a collection of thoughts

Every once in a while I sit down to write something here and I cannot focus my brain on just one topic.  Today is one of those days...

It has been a good week.  My two older kids were in a nature camp every morning and that left me and Baby Gus with three full hours of just-the-two-of-us time.  At first, he was not so thrilled with this.  He loves Abby and Will so much and thrives off of the attention and commotion that is CONSTANT when they are around.  Monday morning when he watched them skip off happily to sit under a big oak tree with several other campers, and realized he was stuck in his car seat in the minivan with Mama, he literally burst into tears.  And I could hardly blame him - it broke my heart!  My little buddy isn't even 18 months old and hardly says a decipherable word, but he understands SO much and he communicates incredibly well.  He was not happy about being left out of all the fun!!  All week I tried to get errands done that would be easier with one kid instead of three, and also tried to find time to do something for him that he would think was fun.  By the third day he was totally fine with seeing them off and looked forward to our mornings together.  Today it was blazing hot so we went to the book store for a little while to play indoors.  He was the only kid there and was so excited to have the train table all to himself.

He literally climbed up on the table to play.  Beyond cute.
While I was there a woman approached me and introduced herself.  She is a runner in the 10k training program I am coaching for the Reston Runners!  We have over 50 runners and the program kicked off on Monday night and I haven't yet gotten to know everyone.  I was so excited to talk with her and to hear about how her training is going and about her goals and passion for the sport.  She was actually the third participant this week who I have met and talked with about the program just while being out and about in Reston.  I love talking to each of these women and am so grateful to be a part of the program!  It is going to be amazing.

I cannot believe that July is coming to an end in just a few days.  I love summer!  I know it is hot, disgustingly so.  I know it is humid and the air is thick and sometimes so hard to trudge through.  But even still, I am a summer girl and I will be missing this season when it comes to an end (though I love love love the fall and will enjoy it and embrace it with open arms).  The end of summer this year brings a really exciting event for me - Hood to Coast with Nuun!  I have been dreaming of this relay for an entire year.  I can honestly tell you that this is a DREAM COME TRUE for me.  I have never run a relay before.  I love Nuun and rely on the product daily - especially for my long runs and recovery.  I am proud and grateful beyond words to run on this team in this amazing incredible relay!

A little while ago Nuun announced our leg assignments and I am going to be Runner #11 in Van 2 of Team Noon for AfterNuun Delight.  Can you follow that?  I'll try to explain.  Nuun chose enough runners to make 3 separate relay teams.  We are ALL part of AfterNuun Delight, but the three teams are Team Morning, Team Noon and Team Night.  Each team has 12 runners and two vans (6 runners in each van), and each runner has three runs to complete over the course of the 200 mile race (you can see the map and leg assignments here: http://www.hoodtocoast.com/course-maps).  We all have different runs assigned to us and will take turns running.  We will be running in the middle of the night, in the heat of the day and in the early morning - just depends on how things go!  Here is the lowdown on what is planned for Runner #11:
  • I will run a total of 16.22 miles
  • My first two runs are both rated "easy" (each of them are relatively flat with fairly low mileage - 4.82 and 4.18 miles respectively)
  • My last run is rated "hard" (it is 7.2 miles with a pretty steep ascent)
I cannot wait I cannot wait I CANNOT WAIT!  Since I have been in the thick of my marathon training I haven't been doing any HTC-specific training in preparation for this race.  My mileage is higher than it's ever been at this point in marathon training (I will log 64 miles this week (which is exactly what I peaked at last cycle), and am still quite a ways from my peak mileage week - I plan to hit close to 80 if all goes well) and I am feeling strong and hopeful that this training cycle is going to be an amazing one and that I will be well-prepared to tackle the relay.  I cannot wait to share this experience with the amazing women who are on my team!  It is going to be an adventure like none I have EVER experienced. 

And as luck would have it (and I DO feel lucky!), I will be running my second ever relay just one month after HTC when I lace up for the DC Ragnar Relay with an amazing team of runners in the DC community.  This is going to be an incredible experience as well!  My mileage for that race is just over 13 miles total.  I am going to learn A LOT about racing relays and fitting it into my training schedule and I am going to have so much fun and meet incredible people.  I feel so blessed!

My runs this week have been really amazing.  On Monday and Tuesday we ran easy at sunrise and then on Wednesday we hit the track for a killer work out.  It was 10 sets of 600 HARD with a 200 jog and two minutes recovery between each set.  I was running faster than I think I ever have around that track, but felt strong and in control and smart.  I nailed my paces and loved every second of it.  For my 600s I averaged 2:20 and was really consistent with the exception of the first couple being slower and one rogue superfast one (2:26, 2:25, 2:15, 2:18, 2:19, 2:21, 2:19, 2:19, 2:20, 2:20).  It was a stellar effort with solid results.  I am happy.

Thursday was my rest day and I am REALLY falling in love with that day.  I used to resent it and go crazy, but that is changing.  I love sleeping in after 4:45am.  It is amazing.

Today we ran 8 miles with 6 of them at goal race pace (7:40).  I am finding a rhythm there and getting really comfortable with the pace.  The workout doesn't feel like a tax on my body.  It feels like a firm pat on the back.  A reassurance that my goal is MY GOAL and that I can do this.  That I WILL do this.  I am really happy that I'm doing this workout once a week.  It is helping me to believe in myself.

Tomorrow is my long run and I have 18 miles planned.  I won't have my usual partner in crime Chris to keep me company, but I think it will be good for me to do this without him (as much as I will miss him).  Sometimes it's good to go out there on your own for a long run.  It builds mental strength and character.  I will look forward to my next run with my buddy though!

That's about all I have time for right now - Mr. Gus is waking from his nap and we want to head to the pool to cool off!  I hope everyone has a great weekend filled with love, laughter, sweat and naps.  That's what I want mine to include anyway :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

running and living the life i love

There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when motherhood overwhelmed and consumed me.  My days were solely focused on my little people - everything in my world revolved around them and I can honestly say I did not find nor make time for myself.  As a result, I dealt with a lot of inner turmoil and felt lost, lonely and depressed.  I fell into a horrible pattern of negative thinking and was always seeing the glass as half empty.  I was not myself.

I realized something was missing from my life.  And as strange as it may sound, that something was ME.

And this is when I started running again.  Running was my way of making time for myself.  It became my solitude, a place I could go to really connect with what was in my heart and let go of the things that stressed me out.  Running helped me find myself again.  It stirred the pot, and awakened me to my passions and to my purpose.

I do not think it is a coincidence at all that when I started committing myself to running, I started to live a happier and more authentic life.  Running helped me realize what I wanted that life to look like.  It has given me the courage to follow my heart and take chances - to live passionately.  I had to trust that just because I am doing something for me, that doesn't mean I am selfish or I can't still do as much as I need to for my family.  In fact in many ways, I feel like it empowers me to do MORE for them.

A happier mom is a better mom in my experience.

Since I started running again, I have done things that I am sure I would not have done otherwise.  For one, I started my own company, Sugar Cone.  I call it my little business that could.  It is a creative outlet and something I am proud of and truly love with all of my heart.  I am happy when I am creating ... drawing and painting and playing.  I feel alive and cannot help but smile from the inside out - it is good for my soul.  Who says a 36 year old woman can't get messy with glitter and glue and paper and paint?!?

In addition to that, running made me realize that I wanted to pay it forward and help others find their own happiness and strength through caring for their bodies.  Especially mothers.  I became a running coach and a Pilates teacher so that I could do this - and I am so happy that I made this decision.  Every single time I teach a class or work with someone on their running goals, I am grateful and happy.  I am passionate about it and I think this is why I am good at it.

Running taught me this --  PASSION and doing things well go hand in hand.

My running buddy Chris is a successful accountant.  The other day on our long run I asked him if he was passionate about his work - does he LOVE accounting?  He said yes.  At first, this answer basically astounded me because I cannot imagine being passionate about that, but when I asked him why, he said because he is good at it.  This got me thinking...it suddenly made a lot of sense to me and I haven't been able to get it off my mind.

We are passionate about the things we are good at and we are good at the things we are passionate about.

If you are passionate about something - make it a part of your life and begin planting the seeds NOW.  Knowing what you feel passionate about is a true blessing!  There are a lot of people in this world who have not yet discovered their passions, and many who never will.  And if you are talented or gifted at something - nurture it.  It could bring you great joy and satisfaction in your life if you let this talent grow.  Time is going to pass no matter what we choose to do with it!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

long run reflections: getting it done with a buddy

I've been running for a long time now (more than 12 years), yet still I get anxious before my long runs.  And my track workouts.  And then there's RACE DAY nerves.

Oh my goodness, I could write for who knows how long about those race day nerves.

The fact is, it's a combination of excitement and anxiety.  We work hard to become better runners.  It matters to us that it goes well.  We want to run the workout, or the race, that we believe we are capable of running.  It's never easy.  Never.  We know without question that we will be faced with adversity.  Maybe it's physical - we struggle with stomach issues or a cramp or heavy legs.  Or maybe it's all in our head, and we battle negative thoughts, we doubt our abilities, we want to quit.  Anything can happen, and will happen, but it is up to us to determine how we will react to it and how we will get through it.  Because the fact is, we WILL get through it.  We can get through it feeling strong and triumphant, or we can get to the other side of it feeling defeated and down.  I believe this is up to us.

Today I had 16 miles to run.  I've run several 16 milers over the last few months and have been hitting them right around an 8:05 average almost every single time.  The distance wasn't necessarily what was making me nervous heading into it - today's run was different because it was my intention to run those last 4 miles at my goal marathon pace (7:40).  That was going to be a challenge on all fronts - physically, mentally.  Even emotionally.

With overlapping vacations for both me and my running buddy Chris, it had been 4 weeks since we'd had one another to share the miles with.  I enjoy solo runs, I really do.  But I am telling you having someone to run with who will push you when you're not feeling it, or reign you in when you're moving faster than you should, or maybe even make you laugh when you're drifting into a negative space in your head - that is something so valuable.  I treasure my running partner more than he will ever know.  I believe in him and I know he believes in me.  We're in this together.

Before we set out today, as we walked to the trail head, Chris and I talked about our pace plan.  We agreed we would start slower, and work ourselves into a groove closer to an 8:00-8:15 pace, so that we would have enough energy in our tanks to crank it up to race pace for those last 4 miles.  We executed it exactly according to plan, and I am proud of both of us.

Miles 1-12: 8:46, 8:27, 8:07, 8:12, 8:11, 8:11, 8:04, 8:10, 8:12, 8:04, 7:57, 8:01

Along the way, we laughed.  We sang (it's true).  We talked about anything and everything.  At times he had me laughing so hard that I was sure we slowed ridiculously (we didn't).  Other times our conversation was so much fun that I sped up unknowingly and he had to tell me to slow down.  I had stomach issues and had to deal with them, but since we were together it just wasn't so terrible.  It was FUN.  I have really missed running with my buddy.

When it was time to crank it up to race pace, we stopped talking and dialed it in.

Miles 13-16: 7:41, 7:24, 7:26, 7:36

We drifted apart a little ways through the 14th mile.  I could feel him behind me and asked him if he was okay.  He said he was fine - but I should go ahead, I was running faster than race pace and we both knew that.  It was where I was though, and where I felt I needed to be.

You have to GO there if you want to GET there.

The last two miles felt like the end of a marathon.  My legs were getting tired - SO tired.  But I had to get to the other side of this run!  I had to get it done.  So I asked myself what I would do with tired legs if these were the last two miles of my marathon?  If I slowed down or I walked, it would only mean I am on my feet longer, and that would be miserable at this point.  It's not like doing that would make it hurt any less, or make me feel less tired!  So I told myself to JUST KEEP GOING.  I imagined my body like an efficient machine, I listened to my footsteps and I hung onto the cadence.  One foot in front of the other.  This is what it feels like to push through tired legs.  This is what it feels like to GO there.  I am going to have to work for this!  I am going to have to learn to push through feeling tired and crampy.  I am going to have to push through the negative thoughts and wanting to quit.  I am going to have to believe in myself, to believe that what I am setting out to do is something that I AM CAPABLE OF DOING.

Today's long run goes down in the books as one of the best ever.  Chris rocked it and finished very soon after I did.  I am so proud of my buddy - who one year ago was only just beginning his journey as a runner!  We had an awesome time together today and we are both going after big dreams this fall at MCM.  I'm so excited.  I know it won't be easy, but without a doubt it WILL be worth it and we will even have some fun along the way.

Do you run with a buddy for your long runs, too?  What do you think about long runs with race pace miles at the end?  What do you tell yourself when you feel like giving up and slowing down towards the end of a race or long run?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rest Day Happiness

Why I am embracing my rest days this summer ---
  • Sleeping in past 5:00AM feels luxurious and indulgent.  My kids are early risers - almost always starting their day around 6:00AM.  Before I made early morning running a regular part of my routine, I would be grumpy every day because they wouldn't let me "sleep in" and were always waking me up before I was ready.  Now that my body is used to rising before 5:00, sleeping until 6:00 feels like a TREAT!  And I love the way they wake me up, they climb in bed next to me with their warm little bodies and curl right up to say hello - I cherish it.  I feel so well rested getting that extra hour of sleep and starting my day with early morning hugs and kisses from my little ones makes me so happy.  I know before long they will be teenagers and I will have to drag them out of bed - so for now I will savor the quiet early mornings we have together.
  • In order to keep myself from feeling antsy for some "me time" halfway through my rest day, I plan a fun outing or activity for us in the morning - something we don't do every day.  Today we went to an awesome concert (Robbie Schaefer!  If you haven't heard his music before, you should check it out because he is really fantastic) at an outdoor theater that I love so much (Wolf Trap's Theater in the Woods).  The stage is nestled in the woods and is just a truly magical place - I went there as a child and have some wonderful memories.  I packed us a picnic lunch and after the concert we stayed and enjoyed lunch together and played in the grass.  We were ALL blissfully wiped out by the time we got home and were ready for some down time.  Now baby Gus is napping and the big kids are watching a movie and we can all have some down time before we having swimming this afternoon and evening!
front and center waiting for the show to start!
me and my sweet monkeys making a memory
with the awesomely talented and truly inspiring Robbie Schaefer!
  • I know without question that rest days are just as important to the success of my training as my hardest workouts are.  This is the time when my muscles have a chance to rebuild and recover and get stronger!  If I do not honor the purpose of my rest days, then my muscles will not be able to make the adaptations necessary for me to improve.  And I won't be as strong or fresh for the next big workout.  Tomorrow I am planning on a marathon goal pace run and on Saturday I have a 16 miler.  Taking today OFF - not only from running but from any type of structured exercise program - will give me the energy and motivation I need to make those important runs COUNT.  When I start to get antsy or impatient for a good sweat on my rest day, I always try to remember this.  Resting RIGHT matters.  Embrace the day just as you would any key workout!  Soak up the things you love about taking the day off - sleep in, cuddle more, play more with your kids!  I will appreciate it all so much more if I do that.
Today has really been such a great day so far.  Not only have I been having tons of fun with my little people, but this morning the amazing ladies at Run Like a Mother featured me on their web site!  To say that I am a fan of the RLAM community is a massive understatement.  To say that I am EXCITED to be this week's "Follow this Mother" hardly does justice to how grateful I feel about it!  You can read the article by clicking here.

So, how are you making your rest days COUNT?  Do you plan something extra fun or special for your day off?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

wednesday track workout

I'm not quite sure how to express how much I love Wednesday mornings in the summer.  It is my track workout day.  I am challenged beyond words both physically and mentally, yet I always leave there feeling cleansed, energized and completely blissed out.  I wake up before the sun and meet the most inspiring and dedicated runners and friends I know.  We run around in circles together - pushing ourselves and supporting one another as we gut it out and give it our very best.  Sharing the journey - all connected together - yet also so completely on our own.  Every time I run around that track I am determined to make it count.  To put the best of myself out there.  That doesn't mean running myself into the ground and feeling spent when I'm done.  It means learning how to run fast and in control of my effort - so that I can run steady and consistent for each interval.  I have grown so much as a runner in the last year, and I really believe a big part of that is because of time I have spent running around in circles.

It was one year ago that I first ever tried running on the track.  My sister Jodi and I were training for MCM and we would wake one another up every Wednesday morning before 5am - excited and grateful to be in it together.  Those mornings, watching the sun rise and listening to the soft sound of our feet on the track's surface, they are some of the most peaceful moments I have ever experienced as a runner.  This year, Jodi is recovering from the ACL surgery she had in the spring.  To say I have missed her is an understatement.  As fulfilling and wonderful as this training cycle has been so far, there is always an important element missing and it is sharing it with my sister.  Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I received a text from Jodi asking me to pick her up this morning on my way to the track.  She wanted to come and support us as we ran!!

Jodi REALLY misses running - it is a part of her that she has been forced to set aside so that she can heal properly. She said she is DREAMING about running as she sleeps - she longs for it with every piece of her being.  Her attitude is amazing to me - just because she can't run right now doesn't mean she isn't just as passionate about the sport as ever.  She doesn't want to hole herself up and disappear from the rest of us.  She is spending her time coaching and teaching and inspiring - and recovering.  Before too long she will be back on the trails and the track RUNNING.  For now, she is there to offer us whatever support she can.  I love her more than words can say and I am insanely proud of her.  I wish she wasn't going through this, but I have no doubt she is going to be stronger for it.  And wow will be celebrate the day she begins running again!

Today's workout was a BEAST.  I was intimidated by it when I saw it on paper, but told myself not to worry about it.  To tackle it one interval, one set at a time. 

4 SETS of the following (3 minutes of active recovery between each set):
1x800 HARD
1x400 easy run pace
1x400 HARD

We warmed up for a mile and a half and then it was GO time.  I am training at paces for a 3:20 marathon and my target times for the work were:

800s - 3:04-3:12
Hard 400s - 1:28-1:33

My actual times today were:
800s - 3:09, 3:04, 3:06, 3:07
Hard 400s: 1:29, 1:32, 1:34, 1:32

The fact that I was able to stay consistent shows me that the paces I'm aiming for are RIGHT for me.  Easy?  Oh my gosh, NO.  Killing me and defeating me? NO.  Outside what I am capable of?  NO!  I am ready for this goal.  I am stepping up to it.

I am staring it in the face and I am GOING to accomplish it.

It is not some pie-in-the-sky dream of mine.  It is founded on a firm belief that I CAN and I WILL do it.  The work I am doing and the results I am seeing support my conviction and I am not going to back down.  I'm just not.  I believe I can do it and I will do it.  I believe it with all of my heart.  I am fighting for it.

must learn to relax face! and shoulders. and lower my arms.
When we were done with the work we cooled down for another mile and half, getting a full 7 miles in this morning.  We decided Jodi looked too clean and smelled too good to be at the track.  So we gave her a giant, sweaty, stinky group hug to remind her how much she missed this part of summer running with the honey badgers!

now that's love. doesn't she look happy? and totally grossed out.
Wednesdays at the track always remind me of how LUCKY I am to be a runner.  When I am pushing myself like that -- targeting a goal that is HARD but within my reach if I just give it all I've got -- I feel so alive!  My heart is fuller than full.  I'm glad the work is done for today, but I know I'll be so excited when next Wednesday rolls around.

Do you do track workouts as part of your marathon training plan?  Do you love them as much as I do?  What are your goals for your next big race?!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A new mantra - BE HERE. BE NOW.

The other day I stumbled upon a key ring in a little shop.  It literally jumped out at me and I had to have it.  On one side it is says BE HERE.  On the other side, BE NOW.

I looked at it and held it in my hand and knew I had to have it.  Those words made me smile.  They instantly made me drop my shoulders and relax, loosen my grip on life.  They made me step back and a blurriness in my heart became clear.  You hear it all the time.  Seize the day.  Focus on this moment.  Be present.  These are not just wise words.  This is the truth.  The only moment that matters is this one.  HERE.  NOW.

Life is full with three kids, a husband, jobs and responsibilities, passions and dreams ... it is busy.  And it so is easy to look back and either long for the past or want to change it.  It is so tempting to want to slip into dreams of the future and get caught up in planning for what's ahead.  Or worse, worrying about it.  But THIS MOMENT.  Right now, here, THIS is what matters.  I am constantly in need of this reminder.  Constantly.

On Saturday morning I headed out for my last long run at the beach.  Last week was a recovery week in my training cycle, so my long run was "only" 14 miles whereas the weekend before I did 16.  The two mile decrease really makes a difference for me mentally.  I wanted to make this run count.  After two weekends in a row with 16 mile long runs in 100+ degree weather, I was looking forward to running few miles in cooler temperatures for a change.  By cooler temperatures I mean 85 degrees, which IS hot, but not so much when you compare it to 100 degrees!  My body has adapted to 85 degree weather and I felt my strength returning.  I knew I was capable of getting back to my target pace of somewhere around an 8:00/mile average.

I ran the first 7 miles of my run along the ocean.  The concrete surface of the boardwalk is not my favorite, but I love the ocean views.  I was happy to be there running one last time before heading home.  I ran a steady and controlled pace, knowing that I had a long way left to go.

my ocean view
Miles 1-7 on the ocean: 8:46, 8:17, 8:09, 8:16, 8:08, 8:09, 8:10

I planned my route so that the end of the seventh mile brought me up to my favorite park, Seashore (now known as First Landing) State Park.  The shade from the trees, the soft sand and dirt surface, the butterflies ...this place is trail running heaven.  I was so happy to be there in that moment.  Picking up my pace came naturally to me.  I started to think about the words on my key ring.  BE HERE.  BE NOW.  As my feet hit the ground there was a soft rhythm and the words just repeated over and over again in my head, in my heart.

Be here. Be now.
Be here. Be now.
Be here. Be now.

a place of serenity
For me, running is a process of self discovery, a journey inwards.  The sound of my footsteps and my breathing soothe me - if I just LET it.  It is honestly almost like a meditation in motion - moving into stillness.  I connect to the beauty that is all around me and I find a strength, a gratitude, a faith and a happiness inside of myself.  Complete contentment in that moment.  I move through what is bothering me, I clear the clutter in my brain.  And I arrive at this place inside of me that is truly peaceful.  It is more than just acceptance.  It is a celebration of who I am and what I love and what matters to me.

Runs like this - when I can completely let go of the muck of the past and the anxiety of the future  - runs like this are WHY I run.

Miles 8-14 in the park: 8:01, 8:08, 7:59, 7:56, 8:02, 7:40, 7:29

sweat soaked and happy
When the run was over, I wanted to carry that presence in my heart with me into my day.  To remain HERE and NOW as I drifted from runner to mom and wife.  I was drenched - completely soaked in sweat.  It was so symbolic to me - I felt cleansed from the inside out.  I sat on the front steps of the house before going inside to see my family and I knew that in minutes the day would explode into something completely different.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Nothing in this world matters more to me than my family.  Everything that I do, in some way circles back to wanting to be the best version of myself for them.  For my kids and for my husband.  I want to be strong for them.  I want to be happy for them.  I want to contribute my spirit and my passion and my love to making this family happy and whole.  I want to be patient and I want to be present.  Our days are filled with tantrums and break downs and tempers, just about on an hourly basis.  But more than that, more powerful and more frequent, there is SO MUCH LOVE happening - so much goodness.  I don't want to be so overwhelmed by the stuff that I don't enjoy about parenting and managing a family, that I am unable to enjoy all the AMAZING stuff about it that I love so completely.  I need to be present for the moments that matter.  To help my kids when they are losing it (and not lose myself at the same time!) and to savor the sweet moments of simple happiness that occur all around my day.

Moving my body helps me get there, it clears the cobwebs and the muck.  Movement somehow stills the waters and makes everything clear and peaceful in my heart again.  I am somehow renewed by a run.  Somehow refreshed and rebooted - coming out of it a better stronger happier more PRESENT version of myself.  At least until the next time I lace up my shoes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marathon Goal Pace Run: If you want to GET there, you have to GO there

I'll be honest, running in the record heat last week really had me doubting my fitness.  I was second guessing whether or not I could handle training for a 3:20 marathon.  Maybe I was dreaming too big?  Maybe I should adjust my goal and aim for a 3:25 instead?  Every run took tremendous effort and despite that, I wasn't even close to hitting the paces I was hitting just a week before.  Logic told me it was the heat, that my body needed time to acclimate to the (much) higher temperatures.  I surrendered and slowed down, running by feel instead of concerning myself with the times on my watch.  It took a lot of faith to do that - to let go of control over my paces and just run whatever pace FELT good.  It was the right decision though.  As a result, my body adjusted - I got the miles in uninjured and strong, and when the temperatures dropped this week the faster paces returned with a lot less effort.

This morning brought with it a special gift - 8 solo miles along the ocean.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the mental aspect of running.  How negative thoughts are inevitable, and how it is my reaction to them that really is what I need to learn to manage.

Yesterday I read one of the BEST posts I have ever read on the mental game of endurance sports.

CLICK HERE to read it.

The author, Elizabeth Waterstraat, is one of my very favorite bloggers who also happens to be an incredibly accomplished Ironman triathlete and a mother.  Every time I read her blog, I am inspired.  She is intelligent, funny and just so awesome.  Her post yesterday struck a chord with me and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  I think I've already read it ten times (or more).  I shared it on my Facebook page and I tweeted it.  I think every endurance athlete needs to read it!

So much of what Elizabeth says hit home with me (pretty much every word!).  But one particular sentence that I could not get out of my head on my run today was this:

If you want to GET there, you have to GO there.

My goal pace for my fall marathon is somewhere around a 7:40 mile.  That number scares me.  I can't be scared of that number if I plan to run 26.2 miles that fast!  I need to go there if I want to get there.  I need to believe I can do it, that I am built for it and that I am prepared for it.

Today I was supposed to run 8 "easy" miles.  According to the McMillan pace calculator, "easy" should be anywhere from a 7:42-8:41 pace.

Mile 1 - 8:36
Mile 2 - 8:03

This was feeling easy.  I decided I needed to go there, to that marathon goal pace range.  I needed to test the waters, to see if it would feel easy, or terrifying.

Mile 3 - 7:45
Mile 4 - 7:42

It felt easy.  It felt right.  I can do this.  I am not being unrealistic about my goal.

At this point I turned around to go home and that's when it hit me.  The wind.  It was awful, right in my face and STRONG on the ocean front.  I decided not to fight it.  I hung onto my effort level and my pace slowed.

Mile 5 - 7:57
Mile 6 - 7:52
Mile 7 - 7:54

I started to get annoyed with myself for not pushing the pace.  I asked myself - What will you do on race day if you are running against wind like this?  Will you give up on your goal, change your mind?  What will it feel like to try to push here, to make it NOT feel easy - so you can hit your pace and reach your goal?

To GET there, you have got to GO there.

I picked up my pace and pushed through the wind.  It wasn't easy, but it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  I dialed in and could have kept going.  I was determined.

Mile 8 - 7:21

I went there.  And I am going there.  And I WILL get there.

I've decided that every Friday is going to be a marathon goal pace run from here on out.  I need to test the waters, to get comfortable with the number.  To show myself that the pace is not so scary at all - it is, in fact, MY pace and I am ready for it.   I often throw race pace miles in at the end of my long runs and that gives me a lot of confidence and I will continue to do that.  But a Friday goal pace run - a run with the sole purpose of "going there so I can get there" - is going to be another valuable tool in my training this time around.  For mental reasons more than anything else.  Because I REALLY want to get there.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

a beautiful week

Week two at the beach has been altogether very different from week one.  Last week everyone was here on vacation - my husband, his sister and her husband, all the cousins.  The weather was HOT - most days 100 degrees or more - and the sun was shining as though it had something to prove.

This week has been much cooler, though still humid and in the 80s.  And it has been cloudy and raining off and on all week.  The ocean is rough and angry - we haven't had a single "beach day" yet.  Robert is back at home and we miss him.  All the cousins are still here but the grown ups are all working during the day except for me and Robert's mom, but of course we don't feel like we're not working with 5 kids to take care of!

On Monday I ran in the middle of the day through the park.  It was hot and the trails were the perfect place to get my miles in.  I ran through First Landing State Park (formerly known as Seashore State Park, which is the name I still use), a place I love more than I can possibly describe.  I counted 27 swallowtail butterflies on my run!  They must be migrating right now because I am seeing them everywhere I go.  At times on my run I literally had to dodge them - they were flying right at me!  It was so beautiful and exhilarating.  When I am in that park, I am happy.  I found a 50k trail race that runs two loops through this park in December.  I already talked to Robert and it is on my calendar for 2013.  If I could do it this year, I would, but we just have too much running related travel happening in the next few months (Hood to Coast, DC Ragnar, Annapolis half and then next spring, hopefully Boston!).  I really look forward to longer distances than the marathon some day, and to running on trails more than on the pavement.  The Seashore Nature Trail 50k will be my very first trail ultra.  I know it's a year and half away, but I am already dreaming about it.  It is one of those races that I know I have to and WILL do.  I am meant for it.
swallowtail butterfly visiting me as i stretched
On Tuesday morning I took baby Gus out for what was supposed to be an 8 mile easy paced run.  It was cloudy and not too hot out, so I took advantage of the weather and brought him with me for the first time in a long time.

this is the life
I took the route along the boardwalk because it had rained so much and there were puddles everywhere in the park, not to mention all the tree roots and rocks along the trail.  Gus enjoyed seeing all the seagulls and pelicans, the people walking and biking, the dogs and of course the ocean.  He chatted and sang to me as we ran along together.  I am sure we were both smiling.  At about 4 miles into the run he stopped chatting and I noticed he had completely dozed off.  Two hours before his usual nap time.  I guess the sound of my footsteps and the salty ocean breezes were just too relaxing for my little guy.

I decided to run a few extra miles than planned so he could sleep longer, because this was probably the only nap he would take all day and unless I ran for three hours he would still be getting less sleep than he normally does.

sweet dreaming to mommy's footfall lullaby
My 8 mile run became 11 miles before I knew it.  I was holding a very comfortable pace right under 9:00/mile.  It was supposed to be an "easy" run day (though pushing a stroller is never really easy) and Wednesday was planned for speed work so I really wanted to do my best to honor the purpose of the run.  But as I headed into the last mile, I looked up at the sky and saw very black clouds.  And then the rain started to fall.  At first just a drizzle.  Then a torrential downpour, loud thunder and yes, lightning.

And here I am a half mile from home with zero shelter and my little baby in a stroller.  Getting dumped on.

Needless to say, I picked up the pace.  I was sloshing through huge puddles, running as fast as I could.  I made it home in 7:42.  I think my pace for the second half of that last mile was under 7:00/mile - I was booking it.

Besides the fact that I was totally freaked out that we could get struck by lightning, it was actually really fun to run in the rain.  We made it home safely and I swooped Gus right out of the stroller and into my arms.  He had no idea what just happened and was still half asleep.

right as rain
Yesterday morning I went out for a solo run to pick up my speed a little.  Usually Wednesday is track day, but since I am here I decided to switch things up and make it a tempo run.  I warmed up for two easy miles and then kicked it into higher gear for three fast miles before cooling down with another two.  Last week I tried to do my track workout on the boardwalk and I was just in my head too much, trying to think about the intervals and the paces I wanted to hit.  This week I decided that maybe my track workouts are best left for the track and that there are lots of other ways to work on my speed while I'm at the beach.  A tempo run is GREAT speed work and as hard as I think tempo runs are, one thing I like about them is that I dial in my pace and I hang onto it for however many miles I commit to and I don't have to stop and think about anything.  Just run.  It works my mental game too because hanging onto that pace is as hard mentally as it is physically.  It is good training.

Today is my rest day and I have two beach runs left before we head home on Saturday night.  I've loved every moment of being here and I know that I will miss it so much.  Even though we haven't had a "beach day" all week, there is just something so soothing and relaxing about being NEAR the ocean.  Life simplifies and slows down for me.  I'm soaking it up and appreciating every last second of it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Running Long in the Heat

In June the temperatures began to rise.  We had some weekends with highs in the 90s - and I thought THAT was hot.  Despite the warmer weather, my body was adjusting and I was able to hold my goal pace for my workouts, including my long runs.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when week after week I was running 14 miles right around an 8:00/mile average pace, finishing faster than I started every time, even in that heat.  I remembered reading an article in the Washington Post that was published in late May, it was all about the science behind how our bodies adapt to the heat.  (It is a fascinating article - you can read it by clicking HERE.)  It said it would take "fit" people about 2 weeks to acclimatize to the heat.  I put myself into that category and thought Okay - two weeks - I can handle that.  By July I'll be feeling fine in the hot summer weather.


That would have been the case I think, except that temperatures have been WAY above average lately and especially over the course of the last week.  Yesterday the high in the Virginia Beach area was a staggering 11 degrees above the average for the day.  The heat index was something like 119 degrees.  WHAT?!!  That is insane.  90 degrees IS hot, but when you compare it to what we are dealing with now, it almost sounds like a cold front.

Last weekend I set out for my long (16 mile) run and tried to nail the same paces I had been hitting the week before when it was a full 10 degrees cooler.  The higher temperature combined with the fact that I wasn't able to leave the house as early in the morning as I usually do meant that I found myself running in really hot and sunny conditions.  I tried to fight it, and by halfway through my run I was slowing down no matter how hard I tried.  My pace dropped by more than 40 seconds per mile and I felt like I was cooking - I was overheating (chills and all) and was walking most of the last mile.  My average pace for the run was 8:50/mile (which is great, accept it is slower than I should be able to run and I also felt like death).  The last mile took me 11:44.  I felt completely beaten down by the run and by the heat and have never been so relieved to be DONE with a run as I was on that day.  It was a terrible feeling.

All week long I had to come to terms with the fact that this heat meant I would be running slower than I wanted to in order to be comfortable and safe.  Here I am on vacation, running along the beach on one of my favorite locations and every single run felt harder than it should.  It was frustrating - I wanted to ENJOY running here but instead I felt awful.  Until I realized that my body was once again having to adjust to the heat - because a 15 degree increase in temperatures is a BIG deal.  I accepted it and made some changes.  The biggest change I made - run slower.  Throw pace out the window and run by feel.  And it worked.

Yesterday morning I had 16 miles to run again.  I was determined to not let the heat beat me this time.  I wasn't going to push my pace.  The goal was to be SAFE.  To FEEL comfortable - as comfortable as one can possibly feel while running 16 miles in the middle of record heat.  I chose a route that had plenty of fountains so I could refill my water bottle and mapped out a run that would bring me some shade (not the easiest thing to find at the beach) during the latter half of my run when the sun would be stronger.

My first mile - 9:35.  Perfect.  I ran along the ocean and the morning clouds had still not lifted.  I was feeling good but did not let myself get carried away by that feeling.  There were 15 more miles to run and I wanted to feel this way for as long as possible.

Miles 2-10: 8:58, 8:47, 8:56, 8:49, 8:56, 8:44, 8:46, 9:00, 8:52

The start of Mile 10 brought me to my favorite park in Virginia Beach - First Landing State Park.  I LOVE running through this park and have logged more miles and made more memories here than I can count.  It is as near and dear a place to me as any other.  But I do not run through this park all that much in the summer because of one reason -- deer flies.  I have been bitten BAD by them in past summers.  I've literally gone on runs where one evil fly swarms around me and lands on me and bites me for miles and won't leave me alone - it is miserable!  I'd been in VA Beach for a whole week already this trip and hadn't yet braved the park for fear that I would be introduced to another deer fly.  But yesterday I decided it was the day to test it out, because it was over 100 degrees and that park is full of trees.  And trees provide shade.  And I needed SHADE.

a favorite place
I entered the park and saw other runners coming off the trails and asked them about the flies.  Nope - no flies today!  Ahhh, thank goodness.  I started running along the trails - dirt and sand and pine-needle covered - and could tell immediately that I was in the right place.  My legs were happy for the break from the concrete boardwalk.  The shade was so perfect and the trees more beautiful than I ever remembered.  It was hot for sure, but not nearly as brutal as the boardwalk was.  I kept my pace steady and finished the last 6 miles feeling strong and renewed.

happy at 16 miles
Miles 11-16: 8:59, 9:01, 8:53, 8:48, 8:45, 8:59

My average pace for the run was 8:56.  I was sweaty - I could hear my feet squishing in my shoes they were so wet from my sweat (gross).  I was HOT.  Hotter than I think I have EVER been.  I was muddy - in the best kind of way.  And I was happy.  I wasn't defeated by this run.  Yes, my pace was slower than it was last week - but I never felt like I had to walk, I never felt like I was overheating or asking more of my body than it could give me.  It was solid training and I didn't want to quit.  In the last mile I told myself - I am fit, I am strong.  Because of all the things this heat has done to me the worst has been that it has shaken my confidence in my fitness and that is just not acceptable.  I have worked hard to get to this point and I do not want the summer weather to derail my progress.  In order to hang onto it and improve upon it, I have got to flex my mental muscle and I have got to train smart.  Which means making adjustments due to the heat and also means continuing to believe in myself even when my pace slows.

I came home from this run and was floating.  I was so happy to have finished it feeling strong rather than defeated.  This morning I went out for an 8 mile recovery run and my legs are feeling good.  I am moving forward with this attitude, one foot in front of the other.

muddy feet
I have one more week of running in Virginia Beach and I am determined to enjoy it, to be safe and make it count, no matter how hot it gets here.  I know now what I have to do to insure that happens.

What I've come up with as my must-adhere-to tips for super hot weather runs:

* run as early as possible
* bring a water bottle and make sure there are plenty of places to refill it
* run slower, not worrying about pace -- run by feel, always checking in with yourself
* make sure to be hydrated -- before, during and after ALL runs and especially long runs
* run in the shade whenever possible
* run with a phone, in case of emergency
* flex the mental muscle -- remember this is excellent mental toughness training!

Do you have any tips to add to my list of hot weather summer run tips?  Did you run long in the heat this weekend?  How did it go?  What did you learn?

Friday, July 6, 2012

heat adjustment

It's HOT.

In case you haven't heard, or stepped outside, temperatures are in the triple digits and humidity is excessive.  It's disgusting.  And as much as I LOVE summer (I truly do, it is my favorite season without question), it's really not the most ideal situation to be running in.

For the last week I have basically tried to ignore this fact, wanting to will myself capable of soaring above even the highest temperatures.  I hydrated as usual (which is well, but not well enough in these temps - I have got to drink more).  I laced up my shoes and hit the pavement determined to nail my training paces just as I did before the temperatures rose.

From Friday of last week through Wednesday of this week I went on 6 runs, and all of them felt ridiculously hard - even the ones that were supposed to feel easy.  I felt like I was trapped in some kind of weird heat bubble, struggling to get out and fighting to hang onto a pace that my body just did not want to run.  Paces and distances that I normally ran comfortably, felt harder than my toughest marathon.  I looked at my watch in disbelief and asked myself -- why in the world am I working so hard to run a pace that normally feels so effortless?

It messed with me mentally and caused me to doubt my fitness.

So yesterday I took the day off - a planned rest day.  And today I went out for an 8 mile run and my goal was to enjoy myself.  To find my love for running again because over the last week it has been on some sort of vacation.  I wanted to dial myself back and reset my way of thinking.  To remind myself why I love to run and why being able to train is so important to me.  I needed to take a closer look at my priorities with regards to my running.  What I told myself - "it's not about how fast you can move, but about the fact that you MOVE at all."

I don't like to make excuses, but the fact is I am slowing down in this heat and that is what my body needs right now.  If I push through it, I will pay for it either by hating it or by getting hurt - neither of which I am willing to risk right now.

So today I went out there early - the sun was just rising over the ocean.

this never gets old
And I put one foot in front of the other.  I listened to my body and it didn't complain about the easy pace one bit.  I let my body dictate how fast I would move, and it was just fine.  I was along for the ride, soaking up the beauty that was all around me.  Appreciating the fact that my body was able to run 8 miles in this heat -- COMFORTABLY for a change.  I averaged an 8:53 pace, each mile faster than the last.  My last mile in 8:33 felt easy.  I finished feeling hopeful and strong.

This run brought with it a realization, a wake up call, that I have been needing for quite some time.  I believe in pushing our limits and finding out what we're capable of.  I'm one of those "go hard or go home" type people most days.  But we cannot always live outside our comfort zone!  In this heat, for me that means I will need to slow down to find a comfortable place so I can really recover and reset my perspective.  Just stepping outside is uncomfortable enough, so if I want to move and feel good, I need to slow down!  I need to trust in my training, to believe that running slower in the heat is not a bad thing, that it will not derail my fitness.  Once my body is adjusted to the heat the faster paces won't feel quite so hard, and when the cooler temperatures return in the fall I will be stronger having outlasted the heat.  But if I push too hard through the wrong kind of discomfort, I will burn out and QUICK.  I will get frustrated and maybe even injured.  And that is a price I am NOT willing to pay.

So here's to slower but consistent running during these brutally hot summer days.  Making easy runs actually feel easy.  Here's to listening to our bodies and doing what we love!

How do you deal with the summer heat?  Does your pace naturally slow like mine does?  How long does it usually take you to adjust to the heat and humidity?

Thursday, July 5, 2012


When I became a RRCA Certified Running Coach two years ago, I wasn't sure where it would take me.  My hope was that it would enhance my knowledge of the sport and that I would learn how to improve as a runner and maybe some day, when the time was right, I could share my passion, experience and knowledge with others who wanted to do the same.  I felt like it was a pivotal point in my journey as a runner, and I took so much more from the experience than I ever thought or dreamed I would.  In truth, it was only a weekend class, but the knowledge opened doors for me and I left it feeling excited about all that I had learned and was teeming with ideas about all I could do with that knowledge.  I couldn't wait to apply it to my running and to share it with others.

I took that class two years ago.  Since then I have run through my third pregnancy, running for the simple purpose of moving my body and staying healthy for both myself and the health of my growing baby.  I have run postpartum, fully familiar with that feeling of "starting over" with a body that felt completely out of whack and out of shape - every run a monumental struggle and triumph.  I trained for and ran personal bests in every single race distance from the 5k to the marathon (including 3 marathons, shaving more than an hour off my personal best in that distance and qualifying for Boston for the first time ever - a dream I never would have even dared to dream not long ago).  I have applied all that I learned and am continually seeking out and soaking up information on how to become a better runner - from books, articles, friends and other coaches as well as from my own experiences.  I am learning so much about myself as a runner, and about the sport itself.

My passion for running is a huge part of who I am.  I LOVE talking about it and sharing it with others and am so grateful to have the opportunity to guide, advise, motivate and support people through my coaching and teaching.  The joy and satisfaction I get from helping others is impossible to bottle up and describe.  It is one of the best feelings EVER.  I am so thankful to be able to make this such a big part of my life, because it fills my heart with such joy.

This summer marks the beginning of some truly exciting coaching opportunities for me!

=PR= Distance Training Program
Assistant Coach, Ashburn
Last summer I signed up with the =PR= DTP in Reston and it was hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made as a runner.  The team at =PR= is amazing - they are smart, experienced and passionate.  They are encouraging and supportive.  And I don't just mean the coaching staff - some of the participants in the program have become some of my best friends in running and in life.  I am so incredibly excited to be part of the coaching staff in Ashburn, alongside my sister Jodi and the super cool Coach Will!  Head Coach Meghan Ridgley is one of the most incredible runners and people I have ever known and I am both honored and thrilled to be working with her in this capacity.  The season kicked off a few weeks ago and we are already having a blast.  The W&OD Trail in Ashburn and Leesburg is GORGEOUS and the people who come each week are just amazing and inspiring in every way.


Youth in Motion
Age Group Lead, 5-6 year olds
Youth in Motion (YIM) is a non-profit, non-competetive summer running and fitness program for kids in Northern VA.  The idea behind it is to teach kids to ENJOY exercise - moving their bodies and taking care of themselves in a supportive, safe and FUN environment.  There are over 350 kids and their ages range from 3 years old to 14 years old.  The program has been recognized in the past as the best youth running program in the country by the RRCA.  I am having so much fun working with these kids!!  My own children are participating as well and they are still raving about their first session.  Being a coach in this program is already a major highlight of my summer!

Reston Runners 10 Weeks to a 10k
Program Designer and Coach
My town of Reston has a really wonderful running club called the Reston Runners.  Reston is blessed with amazing paths and trails - it is a PERFECT town for someone who loves to run.  When I moved here four years ago, I was beyond happy to discover such a welcoming and put-together running club.  They have weekly runs for all types of runners - new runners, trail runners, marathoners, ultra runners, walk/runners - you name it and there is something there for you.  Membership for an individual is completely affordable at $15/year ($25 for a family membership).  The club marks the trails and provides water for all of the weekend runs.  It is AWESOME.  I am so excited to be working with several other coaches to create a 10k training program.  I was tasked with the program design and put together two training plans - one for beginner runners and one for intermediate runners.  We are kicking off the program on July 23rd and it is 10 weeks long with the target race being the =PR= Perfect 10 right in Reston on September 30th.  We capped registration to 50 people and we will meet on Monday nights at Reston Pilates, which fits perfectly with the lululemon run club I am leading!  I am beyond excited about this.  And oh so grateful.

Individual Coaching Services
Working one-on-one with individuals to help them accomplish their running goals -- whether it's to begin a running program and run their first 5k or get faster at a certain distance or train for and race their first or their tenth marathon -- is SO incredibly awesome.  I am very excited to officially launch my services as a private running coach.  I design personal training programs for my clients based on their individual goals and lifestyle and give them the motivation, encouragement, support and guidance they need to get them where they want to be.  If you're interested, please visit my Coaching page to learn more about what I have to offer!

me with my first ever client and now good friend Paul after his first marathon!
My running dreams far exceed what happens on the track, on the trail and at a race.  I love the sport so much and it has brought more joy, satisfaction and happiness to my life than I can possibly express.  Becoming a running coach is a huge part of that dream for me.  I am so excited to be embarking on this new stage in my journey as a runner!!

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