Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Sprigs Banjees Wrist Wallet

Running apparel these days is often equipped with pockets - but not always - and many times not enough pockets to store everything you might need while out on a run.  When I was given an opportunity to review the Sprigs Banjees Wrist Wallet I was excited to test it out.  It seemed like a great, original idea - a "running wallet" - a simple and secure way to carry small items with you.  Your key, an extra gel packet, lip balm, your ID, money or a credit card for example.  In addition to that, they look cute and let's face it this kind of matters to me.

Sprigs Banjees Wrist Wallet
I checked out the Sprigs company and their web site and was really inspired by their story and amazed by all of the fabric and color choices available to me!  The Banjees Wrist Wallet comes in two sizes and is available in so many different colors and patterns.  There are also several fabric options to choose from - organic cotton, recycled post-consumer content and a polyester/spandex blend.  All of them are created and designed with the active lifestyle in mind.  There is something for everyone!

I chose the organic cotton in a hot pink tye die that is reversible with a solid hot pink on the other side.  It was very comfortable and easy to get on and off.  It held my house key and some money with no problem and I hardly noticed it was there while I was wearing it.

hot pink side

I love the feel of the fabric and the vibrancy of the colors.  I love that it is reversible.  I love that the design is simple and that it is something I can wash easily.  I will be honest and tell you that it was a little big for my wrist, but since I was wearing a long sleeve shirt this was not a problem.  I think in the warmer months it would be loose on my wrist which may or may not bother me.  It definitely wouldn't fall off or anything, but would probably swivel around.  The zipper was tricky for me with chilly hands, but I think I would stick to storing things in it that I would really need before and after my run, not so much during the run (a gel would easily fit, I tried that, but getting it out quickly on a training run or during a race would be hard for me).  Over all though I would say this is a really great product and I am sure I will be using mine a lot!!

good to go!
A little bit more about Sprigs and about the Banjees Wrist Wallet (adapted from the company's web site):

  • About the company: Sprigs was founded in 1998 and their mission is to "enhance your life by melding style and function into products of unique design."  They want to "free you from the tyranny of the ordinary."  All of their products are created out of their own experiences and needs.  They really try to put themselves in their customers' shoes and come up with creative, unique solutions to common problems.
  • Why did they create the Banjees Wrist Wallet?  "We love the outdoors, we love exercise and we love not being locked out of our home after a nice run.  But carrying keys in your pocket isn’t always an option. And when it is an option, sometimes keys flopping around in your pocket is down-right uncomfortable. So we went looking for a quality, comfortable wrist wallet that could fit more than just one key and maybe a credit card. We found lots of outdated fanny packs, and lots of Velcro closures.  We were left with only one choice: design our own wrist wallet."
  • What makes the Banjees Wrist Wallet the best running wallet?  They are wicking, stretchy and comfortable.  They come in more styles than any other wrist wallet.  They are machine washable.
Want to learn more about Sprigs and about Banjees Wrist Wallets?
-- Visit the company web site at http://www.sprigs.com
-- Watch these demo videos here: http://youtu.be/m9tCLe9e0Q0 and here: http://youtu.be/tKgz0ex_pjk
-- Find the company on both Facebook and Twitter!

Interested in purchasing one of your own or one for a friend or family member?
It would make a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer!  Enter the coupon code PaceOfMe20 for 10% off of orders up to $29.99 or 20% off of orders over $30.  The code expires 12/18/12 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

it's not redemption, it's celebration

Last week we went to Virginia Beach to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband's family.  It was just what all of us needed.  Time with one another and with loved ones we don't see often enough, relaxing and laughing and catching up.  Time outside - in the fresh cool air, by the sea and on the trails.  Time to just unplug and reconnect with ourselves and with one another.

My family is on the brink of a lot of change right now - my husband started a new job yesterday, for the first time since before we had children.  It is a wonderful change and a needed change, but change can be so hard and it can be scary, even when you believe at your very core that it is for the best.  Making changes requires a lot of courage and so much faith and I also believe it requires teamwork and togetherness.  Just like anything else in life that is worth anything, it is hard.

I was so happy on Wednesday morning when my mother-in-law agreed to watch all three of our kids so that Robert could accompany me for my 10 mile run.  He hopped on his bike and we entered First Landing State Park.  For the first few miles I was running an easy, conversational pace as he biked alongside me and we talked about nothing and everything.  I love when we can do this - it takes us both back to times we spent together before we had children and getting to do this together is such a rare treat now that we have such a busy life!

The park trail was just beautiful - crisp fall leaves all over the packed sand trail, crinkling under my feet.  Clear blue skies above and cypress trees cradling us on both sides of the trail.  I am in heaven when I am in that park.  Running on the trails relaxes me instantly and my worries melt away.

Robert sped up in front of me and I decided to turn the run into a tempo, picking up my pace to about 6:50 for a few miles.  It was FUN.  Hard work - chasing him on his bike and holding my pace steady and fast - but tons of fun.  I was so happy that my legs were feeling so good.  My heart was soaring.

This was my first attempt at any sort of speed work since MCM - I have wanted to be careful about how hard I push myself before Rehobeth in 2 weeks.  Running marathons 6 weeks apart with the intent of racing the second one faster than the first one (when you already PR'd in the first one) is tricky business -- it is for me, at least.  I want to be smart and strategic about how I approach this.  I deal with self doubt on a regular basis, especially when I'm pushing myself and testing new limits.   What I'm doing right now is risky, but in my heart I believe I can do it and do it well.  Wednesday's run was a great reminder that I am on the right track.  10.5 miles with 4 at tempo pace and an overall average pace of 7:42.

I have not lost my fitness.  I have not lost my mental strength.  I have not lost my stamina.  Everything I have worked for is still there, and in many ways I feel stronger now than I did when I started the taper for MCM.  This is hard for me to believe, but it is the truth.

Saturday morning I hit the trail at 7am for 20 solo miles.  I took it one mile at a time and told myself to just be in the moment.  To soak up this beautiful park that I love so much.  To enjoy the gorgeous morning - the cold salt air and the wind and the sound of the leaves.  I imagined myself running Rehobeth in this way, with this grateful and present mindset.  It is going to be a small marathon in one of my favorite beach towns.  I am going to love being there.  It is going to be a wonderful day.  It just can't not be!

This was a long run that I simply did not want to end.  My pace felt effortless.  I was gliding across the trails, my body naturally adjusting itself over the tree roots and rocks as I ran over them.  I was smiling from deep inside my heart, knowing I was just where I needed to be - feeling just how I needed to feel.

I practiced my race day nutrition and carried my water bottle just like I will in Rehobeth.  When the wind whipped (and it did!), I eased up and didn't fight it.  I felt in control and aware.  It was pretty much perfect.

I picked my pace up for the second half of the run - the first half most of my miles were in the 7:50s and the second half most of them were in the 7:30s.  I finished STRONG with a fast last mile in 7:07.  I had energy to spare.  I could have kept going.

20 miles two weeks before Rehobeth with an average pace of 7:43.  This is for sure the strongest I have ever felt on a long run.  73 miles completed for the week - I have crested the "peak" of my 6 week training cycle - and now I taper again.

This overall training cycle - the big picture, from when I started training for MCM - has been so much more than wonderful.  I have stood up to my fears, looked my doubts in the face, found a way to keep my love and gratitude for this sport and all that it brings into my life even when everything hurts and feels so hard or it would be so much easier to just NOT do it -- front and center.  My body has gained strength, my legs have gained speed, my heart has gained courage.

Rehobeth will not be some sort of "redemption marathon" for me.  It will be a celebration.  It will be 26.2 miles of heart-on-my-sleeve amazingness.

I really can't wait.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Training Update - 3 weeks until Rehobeth

The last three weeks have flown by since I ran Marine Corps Marathon on October 28th.  In some ways I can't believe it has only been three weeks since that race ... yet in so many other ways it feels like it's been an eternity.  While I was really happy with the way I handled that race, and with my new PR of 3:25, I also came out of it really believing that I have a stronger marathon in me right now and that if I recovered well and handled things right I could potentially race another marathon before the end of 2012.

I thought about it long and hard, consulted some very good friends and did some research. I chose the Rehobeth Marathon which is on December 8th, 6 weeks after MCM.  I have raced marathons 6 weeks apart before (in the fall of 2011) and it worked out very well for me.  So given the way my body was feeling after MCM, and how well trained I believe I am, I decided I would go for it and make my way towards Rehobeth.  I made a deal with myself though that if my body gives me any signs that this will jeopardize my big picture or my spring running goals (ahem, BOSTON!), that I would reevaluate and make new plans.  I am going to Rehobeth to race this marathon and to try and do better than I did at MCM.  I know anything can happen in the marathon, but if that is not likely to be a possibility at all - if my legs are not feeling strong or recovered or if I am mentally off - I'm not doing it.  It's not worth it.  I had a really strong race at MCM even though it wasn't ultimately what I trained for all cycle.  I need to remember that and be proud of what I accomplished.

So how have the first three of the six weeks between my marathons gone?  They have been really good.  I took a full 5 days off from running or any exercise.  That felt like forever, but I really believed it was the right thing to do even though my legs felt good.  The runs were slow and easy and the mileage was low - I felt like I was holding myself back, which was encouraging.  I ran 10 miles one week out and felt strong.  The second week was more of the same ... easy paced runs, very comfortable, and low mileage.  By 2 weeks out I attempted a 14 mile long run.  I felt like I was running effortlessly and my pace averaged a 7:45.  It was oh so much more than good.

At the start of the third week I went to see Dr. Wong for the first time since my marathon.  How do I tell you about Dr. Wong?!?  To put it simply, he is someone I trust completely.  A chiropractor, a body worker, an athlete, a friend, a professional.  He has never once steered me wrong since the very first time I met him.  When I was returning to running after my third pregnancy, he helped me find my faith in myself, my courage and my determination.  He assured me that I was not broken when I felt like my body was falling apart and failing me.  He helped me learn to listen to and honor my body as the miles increased and as my effort level skyrocketed.  He believes in me and he respects me.  He never ever sugarcoats things.  He sees it as his job to keep me safe - which sometimes means protecting me from my own crazy self! - while helping me make progress towards my goals and self improvement.

Last week when I saw him I asked him what he thought about me racing Rehobeth.  He was apprehensive and conservative, which at first I will admit I didn't like!  We talked about it a lot though, and I respect and understand his perspective and am so grateful to have him to consult.  Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like this on their "team!"  He reminded me to go back to the basics with my training and to be very diligent about recovery after my tougher runs - wear compression, foam roll consistently, take ice baths, eat or drink something with protein soon after my hard efforts so my muscles could start repairing quicker.  He really truly wants me to succeed, but wants me to stay self aware and to remember the big picture - which is always most important to me.  I am going to see him once a week between now and my race.  He will help me keep things in check as I progress towards this goal.  I am so lucky to have him!

My long run this past weekend was awesome - 17 strong and blissful miles and I felt like I could keep going.  This week is the "peak" of my training and I will come in around 70 miles before tapering back down for two weeks.  I am not planning on any track workouts - the only speed work I will do will be some marathon pace miles and possibly a tempo here or there.  I want to maintain my fitness and keep myself mentally strong and confident.  I want to minimize any risk of injury or burnout.  I want to get to the start line of Rehobeth feeling fresh and ready to race. 

Taking it one day at a time, one run at a time, I believe I can get there feeling ready to set out to do what I want to do that day. 

Have you ever RACED marathons back-to-back? How did the weeks between go for you? Have you ever set out to do something like this and then altered your short term goal in light of the bigger picture?

Friday, November 16, 2012

=PR= Distance Training Programs

About 4 months after I had my third baby in 2011, I was ready to begin training for my 7th marathon.  Though I was a fairly experienced runner (having learned from nearly every mistake in the book) and a certified running coach at the time, I really felt that having a coach of my own and training with a group would be extremely helpful to me.  I believed that I could train for and run a marathon in less than 4 hours (my personal best was a 4:35), even though at the same time I knew that this was a tremendously ballsy goal to have as a nursing mom of three.  The fact is, I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and to have the support and encouragement of others along the way.  In addition to that, I knew that I wanted to learn what it felt like to be coached as a runner, since I am a running coach and believe that is an important perspective to have when working with clients.

I had heard really great things about the training programs offered through my favorite local running store, Potomac River Running.  The head coach of the =PR= Distance Training Program (DTP) happened to be someone who was in my coaching class when I became certified, so I knew her and I understood and agreed with her approach to and philosophy on training and racing.  It seemed like a perfect fit for me.

I signed up and I am telling you - I never looked back.  Joining the =PR= training programs changed my running and to be honest, changed my life.

I made the most amazing friends.  Friends who are my friends for LIFE.  I learned, and am still learning, so incredibly much about this sport that I love so passionately.  I have grown as a runner, and more importantly I have grown as a person.

a wintery track night with the girls
That summer and fall, I took my marathon time from a 4:35 down to a 3:41.  I signed up again in the winter and brought my time down further to a 3:34, qualifying for Boston for the first time in my life - a dream I truly never imagined I would even shoot for.  This fall I ran a 3:25 and in a few weeks I am gearing up to run even faster if all goes as planned.  I have set new personal bests in every distance since joining the =PR= training programs, and I truly believe I still have more ahead of me.  I have no doubt about it, actually.  This whole experience, this whole process, has opened my eyes to the fact that we are ALL capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.  We really, truly are.  And I am not just talking about running faster times.

It is about SO MUCH MORE than that.

The Distance Training Programs are gearing up for the spring marathon season and registration is open now.  I am really excited because this winter I will be an assistant coach for the DTP in Reston with an awesome team of coaches - including my sister Jodi!  This makes me smile ear-to-ear because there is really nothing I love more than helping others discover what they are made of through the sport of running, and sharing in their journey with them.  I cannot wait for training to start in a couple of weeks!

If you are interested in learning more about these awesome programs or if you want to sign up (which I highly encourage you to do!), you can find all of that on the web site HERE.  We are having a kick-off meeting on Sunday, November 25th so now is a good time to sign up!

Have you ever joined a coached training group?  Ever tried one of the =PR= training programs?  What are your training plans for this winter season?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Run Club!!

A little more than a year ago I was so excited to become an ambassador for lululemon athletica.  It has really been an amazing experience for me.  As a result of this part of my journey in running and life, I have met the MOST wonderful people who truly encourage and inspire me in a multitude of ways.

One of my responsibilities - and really privileges - as an ambassador for this incredible company is that I lead a run club every week.  Most lululemon run clubs meet at the local store, but the store I work with is in a giant shopping mall (i.e., not anywhere near a trail or safe place to run) so instead we meet at the Pilates studio I teach at (Reston Pilates - which also happens to be owned by my sister Jodi!).  It is really perfect because Pilates is such a fantastic thing for runners (and really, for anyone!) in that it promotes flexibility, corrects imbalances and builds strength - and it is gentle enough to do every day.  We meet on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and start every session with a quick 15-20 minute mat class before hopping on the W&OD trail (which happens to be my favorite trail and is basically right out the door of the studio) for a run.

run club - it's always a good time
How much, how far or how fast we run really varies from week to week depending on who shows up and what they're up for.  We usually have a really great mix of new runners, walkers, walk/runners, seasoned marathoners and everything in between.  No matter what, we always have a solid group of people who want to run at a comfortable, conversational pace and enjoy the fresh air and company while moving their bodies.  I am so lucky to be a part of this.

We are also getting together on Monday nights!  We meet at the studio around 6pm - decked out with headlamps and wearing layers because of the cooler weather - and usually run for about an hour at whatever pace people are up for.  I teach a one hour Pilates mat class every Monday night at 7:30pm so it is just the perfect warm up before the class.  I love it oh so much!!

me & amy after an evening run!
If you live in the area I would love for you to come join us any time!  You don't need to RSVP, its completely free and you don't even really need to be a runner!  It is tons of fun and just a great way to meet people and get some exercise.

Have you ever joined a group run like this?  Have you ever thought about starting a run club?  I encourage you do one or the other - it is tons of fun!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Believe I Am - Beyond Running

One of my favorite things about the Believe I Am journal is that it encourages me to look closely at my WHOLE self - to see the sum of all of my parts and to seek balance amongst my body, my mind and my soul.  It calls me to set goals in areas of my life beyond running (if I want), and to look closely at what is in my heart.  It gives me a platform to work on anything at all, really.

At first when I saw the "Goals" page I was just very focused on what that meant for my running.  It is a running journal, after all.  I want to be faster, stronger, tougher.  But when I looked more closely at it, I found myself getting emotional and this made perfect sense to me - my running is connected to all aspects of my life, and my reasons for doing it go way beyond just a time on the clock or even staying physically in good shape.

Running opens me up to myself, it shows me who I really am.  And I will admit, I don't always feel awesome about myself and the job I am doing in life.  There are so many things that I want to improve on to be a better me.  This is not to say that I am not nice to myself or just so critical of or down on myself all the time -  I believe it's important to be open to change and to want to change, but to do so in a way that is full of self love, self acceptance and forgiveness.

hello, self
I am a work in progress, and I honestly believe that I always will be - I hope I always will be.  I hope I feel this way for all of my life.  I don't want to ever get stiff or stagnant or cold or stuck - in a physical sense, in an emotional sense, or in a spiritual sense.  Youth for me is about so much more than age.  It is a state of mind, a peaceful heart, an OPEN heart.  A joyful heart.  I want to be forever learning and growing and changing, yet to have my roots firmly planted and to know who I am.  To always be real with myself.

This journal opened my eyes to some things ... I am not facing my real self - my whole self - as much as I want to be.  I am not pouring myself as passionately into all the things I care about, as I am into some of the things I care about.  Maybe it's because life can be so overwhelming.  With three little kids and a husband, a busy household to manage, my own solitary pursuits and passions and those of the ones I love - there is just a lot going on.  Whatever the reason, I have a lot of stuff to work on that really matters to me.  I talk a big game about dreams and going after them in so many areas of my life - career and running, especially - so why not take that same attitude towards other areas of my life that are equally - and if not more - important to me!?!

If I want to live my life to the very fullest I have got to look closely at what matters to me, to recognize where I need to change and to do my best each and every day - one day at a time - to make choices that will lead me in the direction of my dreams.  With passion and intention and with self awareness.

And this doesn't just mean running dreams.

like my pants are on fire
One day at a time, one step at a time, I am trying to focus on the things that are most important to me: trying to be a better mother, a more loving and present wife, a good friend and sister.  Balancing my own individual and personal needs and desires (which include running and taking care of myself) with those of the ones I love.

I love my Believe I Am journal because it is so much more than just a training log.  It is a workbook of sorts, a place where I can spill my thoughts and come face to face with what matters most to me, figure out WHY it is important to me and chart a course towards achieving and maybe even surpassing my dreams.  In ALL areas of my life.  With running, with my family, with my career and my passions, with my mental and emotional and physical health.

The goal setting page of this journal is where a lot of this began to happen for me.  We are given three "flowers" to set and work through our goals on.  The center of the flower is the goal, the petals are the steps you need to take to achieve them and the leaves are the reasons for your goals.

I set three goals for myself:

Believe I Am: WORTH IT
This simple exercise opened me up to much of what is in my heart.  It is helping me to be so much more self aware, to see so clearly what is important to me and why.  It is very honestly helping me to set a path towards being the best version of myself and to believing in myself.

There is no end to this journey, and that is part of what makes life so beautiful.  Opportunities exist all around us to seek more joy and love and passion in our lives.  It is my hope that I will live a long, long time and that I will forever be grateful for where I am, yet forever growing.

Do you set goals for yourself outside of running and chart your course towards achieving them?  Have you ever used a Believe I Am journal before? 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

catching up - another marathon soon

When you take a whole week off from blogging, sitting back down at the computer can be kind of overwhelming.  I feel like there are a million and one things I want to spill about here and catch up on.  The most relevant of which is the fact that I am running another marathon in a little over 4 weeks.

#11 - here i come!
I was really happy with the way that I raced MCM - coming across the finish line with a 9 minute PR on a very tough day was something to be extremely proud of and grateful for.  I dealt with the day the best way that I could - taking the hills and the winds carefully and in control and then staying mentally strong and steadfast when my stomach decided to change everything on me with 8 miles to go.  The thing is though, in the days following that race a lot of thoughts began to swirl through my head.  My body did not feel as though it had just run my fastest ever marathon.  My legs were recovering so well and my heart was yearning for another chance.  A chance to run the race I trained so hard for all cycle.  I had conversations with myself and with close friends and my husband (I'm sure I drove everyone nuts!) - wondering would it be silly to try to run another 26.2 before my spring marathon?  Would it be foolish?  Would it be ridiculously impatient?  Would I be sacrificing my *big picture* running goals (to stay injury free, to take care of my body and to remain passionate about running for years and years and YEARS) for another shot at racing a fall marathon?

I evaluated my reasons and I scanned by body - as well as my heart - trying to decide whether or not this was a good idea for me.  And as I did this, things became increasingly clear to me - I owe it to myself to try.  I believe I can do it and that I can do it well.  I would need some time to recover and I would need to handle the time between races intelligently and patiently.  I looked for marathons that were still open and that were within driving distance, and right away I saw the Rehobeth Marathon and knew instantly that this was THE race for me.

SO, why Rehobeth?
* It is 6 weeks after MCM.  I have run marathons 6 weeks apart before and I set a huge PR for the second race (this was last fall, when I ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon and then MCM exactly 6 weeks later).  6 weeks is enough time for my body to recover and restore and be ready to rock another marathon.  If it were much closer I would be worried that I wouldn't be ready for a PR race, if it were too much farther out I would risk losing my "mojo" and feeling burned out.

* When I was a baby, my parents bought a townhouse in Bethany Beach, which is about 15-20 minutes from Rehobeth.  Every summer between the ages of 2-23, we would pack up the car and drive to the beach and live there - all summer long.  I don't really know how to explain to you how special this place is to me.  It is HOME in so many ways.  I cannot wait to run a race there.

* We have lifelong friends who live there, which means a few awesome things: we get to spend time with people we love dearly (my husband and kids are all coming with me!), I will have the support of loved ones there, and we also have a free place to stay!
* It is a small race and this has a lot of appeal for me.  I love big races - the excitement and the support they involve - but the idea of running a smaller race entices me so much, too.  The simplicity of an out-and-back course on a pretty trail with no huge crowds just sounds so nice and peaceful.  Plus, it will make it very easy to find my family and friends before, during and after the race.

* The course is supposed to be flat and fast - no monster hills to climb this time.  I think it will be an ideal place to run a strong fast race!

It's been a little less than 2 weeks since MCM and I am feeling strong and recovered.  I'm using the 2nd edition of the Pfitzinger book Advanced Marathoning to help guide me with my training right now.  It is a great book and I highly recommend it - I have turned to it many times over the course of the last year or so, though I have never followed any one of the plans exactly, there is tons of advice and insight.  In the back of the book there is a section on running multiple marathons with great advice, inspiring and informative stories and sample training plans based on how many weeks you have between marathons.

thank you, Pfitzinger
Last week and this week I have been easing back into running, almost like a reverse taper (24 total miles last week, around 45 this week).  I'm not pushing my pace at all right now - all of the runs feel easy though some are faster than others.  I haven't attempted any speed work or tempo runs at all, and don't plan to until some time next week.  This is a really cool plan and something totally different for me.  At times I question it - I worry I am not doing enough miles or that I am running them too slow and will lose all my fitness - but as soon as thoughts like that pop into my head I replace them with the knowledge, the gut feeling and the trust I have that I am doing this RIGHT.  I truly believe that if I discipline myself and honor the plan and the paces, I will be setting myself up for success.  Don't get me wrong - I know there are NO guarantees with the marathon and that anything can happen no matter how *perfectly* I train or think I train, but I feel that if I do too much and push myself too far I will risk getting injured and not even making it to the start line.  I have run enough marathons to know my body and to know what limits I should push and what limits I should not try to break through.  This whole thing has been an incredible part of my journey as a runner and as a person.  I am taking it one day at a time and am keeping the big picture clear - front and center.

Have you ever run back-to-back marathons before?  Have you ever read Pfitzinger's book or followed any of his training plans?  I'd love to hear your advice and insights!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

MCM 2012 Recap - a day that could not be bad

Sunday morning as I stepped up to the start line of my 10th marathon, I knew in my heart that it could not be a bad day.  No matter how things went down, I was going to hold my head up high and be grateful for the privilege to run my 10th marathon.


I am truly grateful for the GIFT of running.  For my healthy body.  For my strong heart.  For the wonderful friends it has brought into my life.  I am grateful to have such a passion - one that is not only essential to my well being and to my inner balance, but one that is also good for my physical health.  No matter how much I struggled that day, and I was sure to struggle, I would come out on top.  I would come out a stronger, happier, more alive version of myself.  This is one of the most valuable lessons of the marathon.  It is about the journey, not the destination.  It is about how you appreciate the highs and grow through the lows.  It's about how you handle the toughest moments and celebrate your victories no matter how tiny they may seem in that moment.  It's about the people in your heart - the people who you love and who love you - your "pack."  It's about so much more than crossing a finish line with a certain time on the clock.

I'll be honest though, I wasn't arriving at the start line that day feeling my very best at all.  I was off emotionally - really off - and trying to collect myself, clear my head of the things that were bugging me, and cheer myself up before the race even started.  Needless to say that wasn't how I wanted to be feeling going into a 26.2 mile race I had trained so hard for.  But it was what it was and right away I knew that the only person who was in control of me was me.  So I stood there with my good friends so near to me and I reminded myself:

This is who I am.
This will not - and in fact cannot - go badly.
This is my passion and a privilege.

And then it was time to go.

The first 8 miles of this race are pretty much all hills.  I didn't tell myself to run a particular pace on them.  My plan was to have it feel easy through the hills and really through the first 10 miles.  It just needed to feel SO easy.  I didn't look at my watch much at all.  I wanted to dial into myself, to not lose myself, and for it to feel effortless.  I was just "going for a run" at that point - no racing, no pushing, no hurting.  As I ran along it was just how I wanted it to be - I felt like I was holding myself back.  I felt completely in control.  I was having fun and soaking it all in.

Miles 1-10:
7:37, 7:50, 7:19, 7:06, 7:28, 7:20, 7:46, 7:18, 7:24, 7:10

Miles 9 and 10 bring us into and through Georgetown, which is a really special part of the city for me.  This was my 4th time running MCM and this is absolutely always a favorite part of the race for me.  I have a lot of great life memories in and around Georgetown (I went to high school there, I lived and worked there, my husband proposed to me there...) and it always just brings a smile to my face when I arrive there.  From here we loop around by the Kennedy Center and then make our way towards Haines Point, which is a very dreaded part of the course for most people because it can be extremely windy even on the nicest of days.  Suffice it to say, the day before a hurricane the winds were INSANE on Haines Point this year.  Once I realized just how strong they were, I decided that I would not fight it.  I was not going to spend a ton of energy pushing against the wind.  I decided I would rather slow down and let it feel easy than suffer so soon in the race.  Ducking behind people when I could, I eased up and did not worry about my pace. I would need the energy for later, when things would likely be even tougher than this.

Miles 11-17 (Haines Point)
7:28, 7:28, 7:29, 7:41, 7:43, 7:37, 7:26

Mile 17ish
When I finally turned out of Haines Point I was relieved - I could turn my jets on in just two more miles.  I was excited because my legs felt amazing.  I had survived a really tough 7 miles and my pace hadn't slowed all that much through there even though I wasn't pushing to hold it. About halfway through the 18th mile though a wave of nausea washed over me.  It was the strangest feeling - one I had never before experienced while running.  I was very aware of it but it went away as quickly as it came so I decided not to worry about it.

And then, about 10 seconds later, I knew I was in trouble.  I needed a bathroom IMMEDIATELY.  There was a water stop ahead and I was so grateful because that meant there would be porta potties and I could make it quick.  But there were no bathrooms to be found.  None.  I stopped running and walked, feeling so worried but knowing there was nothing I could do except move forward.  My awesome friend Maddie was spectating the course and had hopped in with me to see how I was doing.  I told her I was really worried - I really COULD NOT RUN in the situation I was in.  She helped me stay focused and I tried to run again.  Nope, not happening.  Finally I just got desperate.  I crossed the 18 mile marker and saw a tree off to the side of the road.  I cannot believe I did this - but I literally ran behind that tree on the downtown mall of DC and took care of business in broad day light in the middle of the marathon.  I have no idea if anyone could see me, but I didn't care.  I knew I lost time but I tried not to worry about it.  I hoped my stomach would feel better and tried to find my pace again.  The next few miles were a major struggle for me.  My stomach did not feel better, in many ways it felt worse, but it was okay enough to keep running.  My pace didn't feel natural and my breathing was way off and LOUD.  I got back into the 7s for miles 20-21 over the not-so-fun bridge but towards the end of the bridge I felt really off again.  My stomach was really unhappy with me.  I couldn't believe it but as I neared the end of the bridge I literally stopped - dead in my tracks.  I stood there and said out loud to myself:

Hold it together, J.

Do not give up.


Collect yourself.

You have a marathon to finish today.

Miles 18-22
7:52, 8:41, 7:49, 7:50, 8:07

I willed myself, out loud, to keep going.  I told myself that if I needed a bathroom again, I would deal with it.  I mean heck I had already done pretty much the most embarrassing thing possible on the downtown mall, how much worse could it be!?!  I would take it one step at a time and deal with it if and when I had to.

I came into Crystal City and heard the cheering of my lululemon wonderfuls.  The sound of their energy and music and support from up ahead brought tears to my eyes in the best way possible.  I had been looking forward to this moment - to seeing them and hearing them and feeling them.  It was an amazing moment.  Their awesomeness lifted my spirits and helped me find my wings again.  They helped me remember why I was there.  Because I love it.  Because I am strong.  Because I am passionate.  Because I am blessed.  Because I am not a quitter.

Mile 23:

Mile 23 Rejuvenation ~ Photo by Bobby Gill
I felt like I soared through there, and when that mile was completed I only had 3 more to go.  And then my stomach lurched on me again.  I scanned my body and knew my legs had so much more in them than they were giving.  My legs felt amazing.  They were not cramping or exhausted at all.  The trouble was with my stomach.  It felt so very off.  I felt like I was jogging the last three miles of the race, and though I knew I was coming through triumphant and strong with a new PR on a tough day, it was a strange feeling to finish with so much more to give in so many ways.  I have now had GI issues at mile 17/18 for three out of my last four marathons!  It is embarrassing but it is a reality for me.  One that I have to figure out how to correct.  Soon.

As I ran those last 3.2 miles, I began to reflect on the day already - on the race and on how I had handled all of it.  I felt proud of myself - there were so many moments during those last 8 miles when I really could have thrown in the towel.  Goodness knows so much of me wanted to quit - GI issues are zero fun to deal with and losing so much time because of it was mentally SO HARD for me to deal with.  I wanted to hold my head up high though.  I told myself - just keep running - who cares how fast or how slow you have to go - just keep running.

Miles 24-26.2
8:22, 8:28, 8:40

When I crossed the finish and made it up past the medals, I saw Dorothy right away.  She gave me a huge hug and told me she was so proud of me.  It could not be a bad day, no matter how hard it was.  I PR'd on a tough day - I toughed it out - and I should be proud.  And I was.

friends in running & in life
No marathon is ever easy.  They are ALL hard.  Harder than hard.  But no matter how you do - no matter what the time on the clock is when you cross the finish line - you are triumphant.  You come out of it a stronger person.  You learn things about yourself and about your character.

On Sunday I learned that I can endure pretty much anything.  That perspective matters more than you realize most days.  Reality is always going to be whatever it is going to be, but we make choices every day about how we see it and about how we deal with it.

I am proud of the way that I handled things on Sunday.  I finished the race in 3:25:20.  This was a 9 minute PR for me and 16 minutes faster than I ran the same course one year ago.  It was my 10th marathon.  I was the 115th female to cross the finish and 13th in my age group.

I am grateful for and proud of those stats, but MUCH more than that I am beyond grateful for my journey in life, and for the fact that running marathons is a part of the path I am choosing to take.

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