Monday, August 20, 2012

catching my breath - going from one amazing thing to another

The past week has been so FULL.  Full of life.  Full of love.  Full of emotions and memories that will last me forever and ever.  I am altogether amazed and grateful for what has transpired in my days leading up to this moment, and I am equally stunned because I am only coming up for air just now, for the day after tomorrow the adventure continues as I head out west for the incredible Hood to Coast Relay with Nuun.

I can hardly believe it all.

Last week my sister Alissa came into town with her two very sweet boys, Miles and Levi.  Alissa is my younger sister (we are less than one year apart) and she is my soul mate in nearly every way imaginable.  I cannot fathom my life without her.  I have shared nearly every second of my life with her, she knows me inside and out.  We were both pregnant with our youngest sons at the same time and in fact we were due on the exact same date though our babies were born 9 days apart because her little guy decided to come early and mine was taking his sweet old time and came 5 days late!

Being together, and seeing our children together ... not a single moment of it is lost on us.  We soak it up and enjoy it immensely.  I'll admit it's not easy to have sisterly conversations with 5 kids swirling around us, and we look forward to the time (years from now!) when we can sit and say more than a few words to one another at a time, but we also know that these are precious times and we don't want to miss a thing or take it for granted.  Last week we made tie dye with the kids, played at my mom's house, and visited with one another every day until Wednesday night when it was time for me and Robert to go out of town.

My husband Robert and I will have been married 10 YEARS on August 31st, so my sister and my mother watched all three of our children for 4 days while the two of us went away to celebrate.  It was our first time away from all three kids - first time away from Baby Gus - and it was really and truly just what we needed right when we needed it.

We drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and stayed at a beautiful resort called The Sanderling in the charming town of Duck.  On our way down Wednesday night, we stopped in Virginia Beach at Robert's parents' house (about 4 hours away).  We woke up Thursday morning and I went for an easy 10 mile run along the ocean before hopping back into the car to continue our trip to Duck.  When we arrived, it was paradise instantly.  We both felt like honeymooners all over again.  Our marriage, and our spirits, were being rejuvenated by the salt air and sunshine and by the fact that the only people we had to worry about were ourselves and we were very easy to please.

As soon as we got there we sat and had a delicious lunch with awesome local beer, kicked up our feet and RELAXED.  The beach was divine.  The food was amazing.  The sunsets were lovely.  I moved my rest day this week to Friday so Thursday night we went out to a decadent restaurant and had some amazing wine and stayed up WAY past our bedtime.  It was funner than fun.

On Friday morning we started the day at Duck Donuts - the best donuts I have EVER tasted.  The line was long, but worth every second.  The donuts were warm and made to order.  Sinfully delicious.

We spent the rest of the day on the beach.  Reading magazines!  And talking! And swimming in the ocean together!  And NAPPING!  This may sound like typical beach behavior to you - but if you have kids then you know that beach days like this are more rare than snow in summer.  It was amazing.

That night we had another peaceful dinner at sunset and then the next morning we got up early for my 18 mile long run.  Before we had kids, when I would train for marathons Robert would often ride his bike along the trail with me.  We would talk about anything and everything and just enjoy being together.  This hasn't happened in over 8 years though - once we had kids it was no longer possible.  So he brought his bike on our vacation and while many husbands might prefer to sleep in past 5am while their wives run for close to three hours (and who could blame them!?), mine didn't think twice about it and wanted to come with me.  I can't tell you how much this means to me.  I am so very grateful for his love, support and companionship.

Those 18 miles were some of the BEST I have ever run.  It was awesome.  I went out easy and finished strong - running the last 7 miles at or faster than my 7:40 goal race pace.  My last mile was run in 7:26 and my average pace for the run was 8:03/mile.  I nailed it.

I loved having Robert on the trail with me - sharing this with me.  Telling me I looked strong and that I could keep going.

When we got back to the hotel we jumped in the ocean with our clothes on (best ice bath EVER) and then quickly rinsed off and put our suits on for another adventure.  We tried SUP (stand upright paddle boarding) for the first time!  I have been wanting to do this FOREVER and it did not disappoint.  It was like kayaking standing up - not exactly easy (a great core workout and serious leg and foot workout - maybe not the easiest thing to do right after running 18 miles but oh well!) - but it was so incredibly fun and beautiful!

We paddled through Pine Island - which is an incredible Audubon wildlife sanctuary in the Outer Banks.  A place so serene and magical.

I loved every minute of it.

When we were done - it was time to CHOW down.  So we found an awesome burrito place and ate like champions and had some incredibly good local beer.  Then it was nap time.  This was shaping up to be one of the best days ever - an awesome run, paddle boarding, some of my favorite food, a nap, time alone with the love of my life ... PERFECT.

That night we topped it off we some awesome pizza by the sunset and more good beer - a perfect end to a perfect day.  And yesterday we had to head home but before we left Robert once again accompanied me for my 10 mile recovery run.  We took a route along the ocean, meandering through neighborhoods with homes so big and beautiful it was incredible!  Coming home in the early evening was amazing - when we walked in the door all three kids immediately dropped what they were doing and raced into our arms.  When Gus saw me he shrieked and jumped in my arms and I have never felt him hug me so tight.  He pulled away and placed his hands on my cheeks and looked at me as if to say "is it really you!?!?" ... I will never ever forget that moment and will etch it into my heart for all time.  I loved every minute of my time away with Robert and am so thankful we had the chance to do that, but coming home to our children after being so rejuvenated, and being a FAMILY again was just so amazing. At this moment I am more thankful than I can possibly put into words.

It so happens that I am also a little bit overwhelmed though.  We came home last night and I started unpacking and doing laundry, because tomorrow night we will be all getting ready to leave again.  Robert and the kids will head to the beach for one last hoorah with his family and I will be on my own journey heading out to Seattle and Oregon to run the Hood to Coast Relay with Nuun.  I cannot believe this is really truly happening.  I get chills just thinking about the adventure that awaits me.  I haven't packed a thing yet but the list is well written and I will be spending the next 24 hours trying to get myself organized.  I feel strong and ready to rock my runs down that mountain.  I am EXCITED to meet the other women on my team, to learn more and more about Nuun and the people that make up this incredible company.  I can't wait to spend time in the Pacific Northwest.  It is going to be amazing.  I've come up for air and am just about ready to dive back in and soak up more of this wonderful thing called LIFE.  It's going to be amazing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

getting through it - another track workout

Without fail, every week when I get to the track for my Wednesday morning workout I am staring it in the face and DREADING it.  I begin my warm up and as I run in circles lap after lap I question whether or not I will get through the WHOLE thing.  My mind tries to make little deals with me - maybe I don't have to do ALL the sets on my plan - but my heart chimes in and knows that I can do it, that I will feel so good when it's done and that it WILL be worth it.

Yesterday was no exception.  I warmed up for 1.5 miles (6 laps) and the humidity sunk into my skin and saturated my lungs.  It was going to be another tough one.  The workouts are getting longer and harder as my training cycle progresses.

Yesterday, the plan was 6x1200 with 2:00 rest between each.  A 1200 is 3 laps around the track, or 3/4 of a mile.  When all was said and done I would have completed 4.5 miles of WORK, plus my warm up and cool down for a total of 8.25 miles.

I am training at paces for a 3:20 marathon this cycle, and the McMillan calculator suggests that I try to nail my 1200s somewhere between 4:41-5:00.

1 - 4:58.
Just under the wire.  I'll take it.

2 - 4:57.
Feeling stronger.  I can do this.

3 - 4:56.
Seems there is a pattern here.  Consistency matters in a track workout.

4 - 4:54.
Over the hump.  Only two more to go.  Endorphins and determination are taking over and I'm happy I'm sticking it out.  There's no way I'm not getting this done.

5 - 4:53.
I've got this.  I'm getting faster if only by a few seconds.
This - being out here and getting it done - MATTERS TO ME.

6 - 4:52.
I've earned my cool down.  I've earned my rest day.  I've earned the amazing feeling I have at this moment.  I'm proud and grateful to be done.

The cool down laps felt so effortless as I ran and chatted with my buddies.  We talked about how much we were dreading the workout when we got there, and how GOOD we felt now that it was done.  It's amazing what 4.5 miles of guts can do for your mood.  I left the track feeling happy -- and strong.  Ready to face whatever came my way throughout the day, and ready to face it with a smile and the knowledge that if I can get through that...I can probably get through just about anything.

Can you relate to that feeling of dread before a tough workout on the track or the trail?  What kinds of things do you tell yourself to help you get going and get through it?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pilates for Runners!

I would not be the runner, or the person, I am today if it were not for Pilates.  I am passionate about it because it has changed my life.  Because it has made me more self aware and stronger from the inside out.  Because dedicating myself to Pilates has allowed me to run with more efficiency, more comfort, more strength and more confidence.
Before being introduced to Pilates a few years ago, I would carry myself in an almost haphazard way.  Never paying any attention to my posture or to what muscles I was or wasn't using.  I would suffer from lower back pain frequently and be sidelined from normal activity - laying on the couch with ice on my back as my children played around me.  It was terrible.  I wanted to be more fit and strong and I loved to run, but I found that when I would run long distances and get further into my training, my body would tire and my form would collapse resulting in injury and chronic pain.  My core was not strong enough and as I got tired it all just felt apart.  I would slump over and my back and shoulders would ache.  With my shoulders hunched and my chest caved in, my breathing was then compromised and everything felt like such hard work.  My pace would slow often to a walk and I just felt like giving up and often did.  It was not fun.  Something had to change if I wanted to keep running and if I wanted to improve as a runner.  I needed to commit myself to having a stronger core, to being more self aware.
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Pilates has made such an impact in my life that I now teach it and am so passionate about sharing it with others and helping them to live and run pain free - feeling stronger than they ever thought possible.  Teaching my class at my sister Jodi's studio, Reston Pilates, is absolutely one of the most satisfying and rewarding things that I do each and every week.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with my students.

This coming Sunday morning, August 12th at 9:00AM, my very favorite running store Potomac River Running is hosting an awesome free event - "Pilates in the Pavilion" - a one hour outdoor Pilates class designed for runners and taught by runners - my sister Jodi and me!  I am so excited about it and hope that if you are local you will come and bring your friends!

Prepare to experience a GREAT core workout - abs, back, pelvis, hips, and shoulders.  Improve your strength and flexibility and enhance your running efficiency, speed, confidence, and prevent injury.  Pilates will help you move with ease, free from stress or strain on the muscles and joints.  Pilates teaches body awareness, mental focus, and encourages proper alignment. When we tire in the late stages of a long run or race, having a strong core and greater self awareness enables us to engage our core muscles and maintain good posture and form.

It is going to be a fantastic event!  =PR= is even going to raffle off a pair of the new Asics Gel Lyte 33 and they're also going to throw in a few other Asics goodies!

To sign up for this free event (and to enter the raffle), just click HERE.  You have to be present to win the raffle if your name is chosen.

I hope you will come to this awesome event - whether you are new to running or have been running for a long time this will be a great opportunity for you to experience Pilates with other runners and feel the difference it can make for you.  It is going to be a beautiful morning and the Reston Town Center is such a fun place - you can go for a quick run beforehand (that's what I plan to do!) and then after the class grab a yummy coffee or brunch with your family or friends.  I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 3, 2012

another wednesday at the track

Wednesday's track work out was KILLER.  In the best way.

When I woke up I was tired.  Mister Gus is having a tough time sleeping through the night lately and it is taking a toll on the whole family.  I'm not sure what's going on - maybe he is teething, or coming down with something, or just growing ... or maybe there is no reason at all for it?  Who knows, but it is really not fun to be up all night with a baby who only wants to sleep if he is in your arms or practically sitting on your face - he is absolutely peaceful under those circumstances and that is just not ideal for me.  I hope this ends soon!

Anyway, I got up for the day on Wednesday at 4:30am and got to the track a little before 5:30.  I had a hard workout in front of me and since I was so tired I was really unsure how it would unfold.  I told myself to just take it one step at a time, one set at a time, and that if my body was telling me today was not the day for this then I would stop.  Track workouts are quality workouts - if the quality wasn't going to be there then I wasn't meeting the purpose of the workout.  I would move it to another day if I had to.

The workout was planned as follows:
2 miles warm up
1x1600 (optional, depending on how I was feeling)
2 miles cool down

This is 8 miles total and 4 of them pretty major work.  I warmed up with my buddy Chris and was glad for the 2 whole miles of easy running.  I'm not kidding when I say I felt like I was still sleeping at least through the first mile!

But I had to get it done.  The second warm up mile woke me up and I was ready to go.

We started our watches for the first 1600 (1 mile - 4 laps around the track).  I glanced at my watch and noticed it hadn't started.  Ugh.  I felt strong as I ran though and finished a little bit ahead of Chris (he thinks about 10 seconds) and he completed his mile in 6:39, so I am going with somewhere around 6:30 for my time.  My target is somewhere between 6:34-6:46, so I was happy with it no matter what.

I reset my watch during the 2-3 minute recovery time and then was ready to get at it again.  I had two 800s next.  An 800 is a half mile or two laps around the track.  It's amazing how quick this feels after doing a 1600.  4 laps is a long way to go when you are running fast!

2x800 (target - 3:04-3:12)
3:09, 3:09

I nailed them and felt really good about it.  Only 4 more 400s and I *could* be done and ready to cool down after that - if I wanted to and if it was the right thing for me.  I told myself not to think about that optional 1600 at the tail end.  Just be in the moment I am in -- right here, right now.

4x400 (target - 1:28-1:33)
1:30, 1:32, 1:29, 1:31

I had put in a solid three miles of work at this point and was hitting my paces.  Almost everyone at the track (and there were a lot of people at the track that morning!) was done - either totally wrapped up or doing their cool down.  Even Chris decided he wasn't going to do the optional 1600.  It was so tempting to call it a day at that point, but my reasons were not convincing enough to me.  I felt strong.  My times were solid and consistent.  I wasn't dealing with an injury or feelings of burnout.  I had it in me.  At least to try.

I set my watch and started running the the first of my last 4 laps of speed work.  This was seriously hard.  I listened to my footsteps and my breath as I ran around and around and around.  I didn't look at my watch, not even one time.   Instead, I dialed into my effort and listened to my body, focused on the work I was doing.  I wanted it to be over, but tried not to entertain those thoughts to much.  This was just as hard mentally as it was physically.

When I completed the mile, I looked at my watch.  I had done it in 6:21.  A big and grateful smile swept across my face and I was relieved -- SO happy to be done.  So pleased that I finished strong and that my last mile was faster than my first.  I had a two mile cool down and was amazed at how easy the slower pace felt.  I had earned my rest day.  Yesterday I took the day off and I am realizing how much I love my rest day.  No more rest day grumpiness around here - I am quickly learning to embrace it!

This morning when we set out for 8 miles my legs felt fresh.  I know the hard work at the track is going to pay off.  As long as I keep running smart and recovering properly, I am going to see the benefits from this type of training.  The workouts are getting longer and more intimidating as the cycle progresses, but I just have to remember that I am training for this - that I am strong enough to tackle what's laid out ahead of me and that it is going to be worth it.

What are your favorite track workouts to do during marathon training?  Do you think speed work helps you with your marathon performance?  I think track workouts build my mental toughness as much as they make me physically stronger - do you agree?

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