Monday, December 3, 2012

A Little Off-Season Experiment..

And no, it doesn't have to do with how many Christmas cookies I can fit in my mouth at one time, thankyouverymuch.

I am that runner that always talks about strength training, but never does it. I'll go into the weight room, do about 4 bicep curls and a sit-up, and walk out. I just get way too overwhelmed, I don't have any structure, and frankly, I don't enjoy it. I've also talked about doing yoga, because God knows I need to stretch more. Turns out when you go from hitting "stop" on your Garmin to being in the shower in less than 30 seconds, you become VERY inflexible. Having a crazy busy life, I'd rather squeeze in 2 extra miles than stretch or spend that time in a yoga studio.

Insert Jess and Jo, who are are instructors at Barre N9ne, a barre studio local to me. They opened their original studio about 45 minutes from me, and although I went to a class and loved it, it was simply just too far to go regularly. When they opened a studio about 15 minutes from me, I decided to see what all the hype was about. I had read a lot about the studio, their mission, read Jess and Jo's success story, and thought I could really benefit from it. For more about Barre N9ne, click here.

For someone who considers herself in good shape, I got my ass kicked that first class. Yeah, I was the red-faced kid in the back of the class who couldn't complete one set without having to stop and take breaks. I left that class, and my arms were shaking just holding the steering wheel on the drive home. The next day I woke up with that hurt-so-good sore that I hadn't felt in awhile.

Being in the midst of training for my 50, I just didn't have the extra hours to fit in Barre N9ne as regularly as I wanted. I would go to class maybe twice and week, and loved it a little more each time. It was the class right before Stone Cat that I decided I was going to do a little off-season experiment. Keeping my running schedule of 5-6 days a week, but adding in the barre more regularly - committing to 3 classes a week, and seeing if I notice any differences in myself.

I am happy to report that just about a month into this experiment of mine, I slipped into a size 26 (size 2) jeans effortlessly the other day. I have more definition in my arms and abs, and my ass has definitely been whipped into shape. Literally. I don't weigh myself ever, as I have a very dark past with numbers, so I can't use that as a "success marker". I'm not saying the next time you see me, you'll fall over in awe, but to me, I can see the changes.

My genetics don't allow me to "be thin" - my mom was heavy when she was younger, and my dad was a heavy guy when he wasn't working out. I have to work really really hard to keep my weight down. Running has always been great in that sense, because it's such an awesome calorie torcher, and incredibly efficient. Spending time at Barre N9ne has allowed me to tighten everything up, and really "refine" my body. Admittedly, I wasn't someone who was in need of a total body transformation. However, I have realized over this past month that fatiguing, burning, and shaking at the barre is doing amazing things for my body.

I was worried about "giving up" my miles, which is why I decided to do this in the off-season. However, with a little creativity, I've still been able to keep my long runs, and then fit in Barre N9ne into my short run days. And I'm starting to see that it's really no sacrifice to give up those miles; challenging my muscles, strengthening, lengthening, and stretching those muscles is a GOOD thing. I'm buring a ton of calories combining the two disciplines, and I get that high after an hour of burning at the studio that I would after a 6 mile run.

I'm going to keep this experiment up, and see what happens over the next couple of months. And then, as I transition into marathon mode again (I registered for Sugarloaf Marathon - that deserves it's own post!), I want to make a concerted effort to stay at the Barre.

Keep your eye out for a few posts about incorporating the Barre as endurance athletes; I've made some really great observations that I would love to share with all of you.

In the meantime, I hope everyone's enjoying the start of the Christmas Season!

Caitlyn and I put up our tree last weekend!! 

Happy Training friends!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Season Closer.. Philadelphia Marathon Race Report..

This is so overdue, and I only apologize a little bit; I've been too busy making cake-pops and drinking wine to write. And if that's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Ahhhhhhhhhh, Philadelphia.

I took an incredible lackadaisical approach to this race; I felt that after the 50, I could pretty much conquer the world. Pffffffffffttt.. 26.2? I can do that in my sleep. About 48 hours before the race, reality bitch-slapped me. As much as this race wouldn't be a PR kinda race, I also needed to respect the distance. I also had a funky knee thing going on, that had limited by miles after Stone Cat. I needed to put down the wine bottle, pick up the water and Ibuprofen, and stop being a princess.

Sara and I ran a short shake-out around her house on Saturday (no knee pain!), and then headed to good ole Philly. We almost had to set-up a lemonade stand outside the car to pay for the tolls between the GW Bridge and the NJ Turnpike, but we decided scrounging around the car for coins was way more fun.

After we debated the race start time (I thought 8am.. I was *only* an hour off) and devoured the-best-oatmeal-sandwich-cookie-EVER from Whole Foods (I told you, lackadaisical..) we were lights out by 830pm.

Race morning was chilly, but we ended up driving there and parking less than .25 miles from the start. Here's a hint: if you grab a couple runners at your hotel who are the ridiculously long taxi line, they'll pay for your parking, AND you score good race karma. It's a win/win all around!

Okay, moving on to the actual race... 

If I had to make one complaint about this race, it's that the streets at the beginning are too narrow to accommodate the amount of runners. The marathoners and half-marathoners run together for the first 13 miles, and there are some sharp turns that can be dangerous if you're not paying attention. Case-in-point, we saw a girl sitting on a curb with a gash in her forehead and blood running out of her nose. When you have wall to wall people, it's really hard to see where that curb starts. Just a "heads-up" for anyone who would be using this as a "PR' race. BE CAREFUL!

The race for us was so much fun, but H-A-R-D. Way harder than it should have been, given the pace we were running, and our respective PR marathon times. This course is great, in that it's constantly keeps you engaged. The aforementioned turns, a great mix of hills, and a big out-and-back at the end to keep you distracted. Thank God, because we both had to dig for this one. I can't speak for her, but I was tired. I definitely managed to smile, laugh, and have a good time, but there were a few times when I went head down and just listened to the feet hitting the pavement around me.

I did have some knee pain, but it was easily contained by Ibuprofen that I scored from some guy and his wife who lived on course (didn't pack 'em..). I was fueled by my trusty Clif Bloks (purchased at expo the night before the race - didn't pack 'em..). There were no salt tablets, because surprise surprise, I forgot to bring those too. I paid a little for that, but luckily the temperatures were low to keep the effect minimal.

This was an emotional finish for us; Sara as her last "hurrah" before the baby, and me as a top-off to the 2012 season. My ultra training and her pregnancy coincided beautifully; we were both running slower than usual this year, and therefore were able to train/race a lot together.  We've had some great adventures this year, and this race capped it off perfectly.

I'm not sure what's next for me, although I do have my eye on a couple different races.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and is enjoying the off-season!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Marathon #12...

Tomorrow I toe the line for Marathon #12..

Oddly enough, my two Philadelphia Marathon finish times are only ONE second apart.  The first time I ran this race, I got hypothermia (finish time: 3:56:22). The second time, I ran on a partially torn quad (finish time: 3:56:21). I've never come to this race, and been able to TRULY enjoy the course and the experience. Tomorrow, however, there will be no worrying about keeping up with pacers, no worrying about elbowing through the crowds, and no worrying about finishing at some point during my third hour of running.

This race is truly a victory lap on my 2012 season. It has been a year that has forced me to redefine my running, to step outside everything I've ever known about "racing", and brought me back to truly enjoying the sport. Every race I've run this year has been a PW (personal worst) when viewed by clock time, yet I've enjoyed being a runner this year more than ever before.

Maybe it's because running was taken away from me; maybe it's because running hasn't been "fun" for the last couple of years, or maybe I'm just getting old and losing my competitive edge. Ha, riiiiiiighhhht. I am so thankful for this year that has brought me back to the basics, forced me to NOT care about who might see I ran a 4:39 marathon when they look at race results, and to learn how to train without getting injured.

For the first time since I can remember, I have no races on the 2013 calendar. By this time of the year, I usually have at least a couple races on the schedule, and am already building training plans. This year, though, my entire goal was to get through the 50-miler. I had no clue how my leg would hold up, how I would recover, whether or not I would enjoy it enough to run another, and so it didn't make sense to waste money on registration fees.

My hope for tomorrow is to finish uninjured, and with a huge smile on my face. From there, I'll run a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, and then hit a giant reset button.

Of course I have races that I'm bouncing around in my head, but I'm not going to pull the trigger on anything for a few weeks. After tomorrow, it's time to heal, reflect, and be thankful for all my body has done for me this year. And THEN I'll start thinking about ways to beat the crap out of it again - ha!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stone Cat 50-Miler Race Report, Part II

Third Loop

When I picked up Sara for the third loop, I started to melt. I think I held everything together for the first 25 miles because I knew I had no choice - I was out there alone, and there wasn't anyone to whine/cry/complain to. About 2 miles into that third loop, I had my only real "low" moment of the day. I was tired, we had already covered 28 miles, yet I still had 22 miles to go. I started to cry, and Sara just let me be. She talked to distract me, I read the note Caitlyn wrote for me, and I slowly came out of it. I reminded myself of why I was doing this, and that I had come way too far to mess this up now.

We shuffled our way past the 32.5 aid station, and I knew I only had 5 miles until what became known as the "victory lap". I got a little too confident, and took my eyes off the leaf covered "rooty" trails for a hot second. And then it happened  THUD.  I felt HARD on my left hip, and knocked the wind out of myself. I did the 10 point check to make sure I wasn't injured, and although I was fine, I was rattled. Sara encouraged me to get up and start walking, so I didn't seize up. She gave me the motivation I needed to immediately take a deep breath, and just move past it. I was now running to see my "crew" again, and head out for that final victory lap!!

Jess and Jo re-filled my Camelbak, I grabbed more Healthy Bites, and Jess also threw some gummy bears at me. In all the commotion, I forgot to grab my last pack of Clif-Bloks.

Still Smiling... 
Fourth Loop

I was giddy heading back into the woods - incredibly tired, but so damn happy. Once I was back on that trail, I KNEW I would finish. Realizing I was out of Clif-Bloks at mile 40, I was going to have to switch to gummy bears and coke to carry me through. It worked like a charm; thanks Haribou! It was SO MUCH FUN to say "this is the last time I'll run up this hill", "this is the last time I'll trip over this damn root!", etc. We had so much fun these last miles. I got a silly smile on my face about 28 different times when I thought "oh my God, I'm ACTUALLY doing this!". All of that hard work, so many miles, so much sacrifice, and I was DOING it!! My hips were tight, left shin angry from all of my tripping, and hand throbbing from the fall, but I was so ecstatic. Watching the miles count up through the 40's was simply surreal; something that's just so hard to put into words. With 5 miles to go, we ran into Scott and Lisa, and all worked together for those last miles. It honestly couldn't have been more perfect.

10 hours, and 38 minutes after the dark start of a GO GO GO, I crossed the finish line of my first 50 mile race. I smiled, I cried, and I wanted to just collapse. I was exhausted and sore, but it is a moment that I will not soon forget.

Final Steps.. 
Nothing beats finishing with good friends...
my new finisher shirt! 
And a special thanks to these girls (and their men!), who were instrumental in keeping me positive all day long. They also kept everyone updated on twitter and Facebook. These girls stood out in the cold, all afternoon, and said all of the right words at the most perfect times. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys!

Somehow I never got a picture with Sara, but I don't think the role she played on Saturday needs any explanation. Without her, I know I wouldn't have had as strong of a race. It takes a damn special person to go out and run 25 miles, at almost 7 months pregnant, just to help a first time ultra-runner cross that finish line. Thank you Sara, for everything. I'm so lucky.

The night before the LA Marathon - those are Census headbands that came in our race packets. 
Yep, that picture is an accurate description of us; no shortage of good times when we're together.

So there it is, my tale of 50 miles. It was hard. It was amazing. It was so much more than I thought it would be. As I sit here 4 days later, I'm still deliriously happy. I'm so proud of myself for committing to this race, especially when everyone said "you just had surgery, there's no way you can do that!".

The take home message is this: If you put in hard work, and a whole lot of heart, the sky is the limit. If I can run 50 miles, I promise that each of you reading this can achieve anything you want. Dream big my friends.

And finally, I couldn't write this report without including the reason for everything I do, and by far my biggest fan!

Thank you to everyone for all of the calls, texts, tweets, messages. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people.

Now onto the next adventure - Sara and I are tackling the Philadelphia Marathon next weekend, as her final hurrah before the baby comes! 10 days to go!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Day I Became An Ultramarathoner (Stone Cat 50-Miler Race Report, Part I)

Yikes, this has been hard to write. I want to capture the day *just right*, and be able to describe in print just what an amazing day yesterday happened to be.

This race was a long time in the making; I spent many months putting in a ridiculous amount of sweat, blood, and tears to ensure I finished this 50-miler upright and in good spirits. As they say, it takes an army. I have an incredible support system who motivates me every single day to get out there and be my best. Those people are the ones who were instrumental in getting me to that starting line.

I'm going to break this into pieces, instead of a 60,000 word essay which would bore you all to tears.

The Morning

I was woken up by my 3 alarms (yes, I'm OCD with alarms; I have an irrational fear of over-sleeping for important events).

Grabbed alllllllllllllll of my stuff (and there was a lot of it), and headed to Ipswich

I was a disaster; stomach in knots and complete butterflies everywhere. I had done a 30+ mile training run, but there was about a 19 mile gap from my longest training run, and the 50 mile race distance. That is a long freaking way of "unknown".

It was awesome to show up at the gym and see familiar faces; it helped distract me from my brain, which was on total overdrive. It was pitch black outside, and I knew we were running with headlamps until the sun rose. It was something I haven't done a lot of, and the trails are hard enough for a clutz like me to navigate in the broad daylight, nevermind the dark.

Headlamps are so sexy.. 
As we shuffled out to the start line, I felt for the notes that I had friends write; I knew I would need those during my low points in the race for the extra motivation to fight for the finish..

Moments before the gun went off (more like the person yelling GO GO GO, but either way..), I turned to Sara for some words of encouragement  I knew all I had to do was get through those first 2 loops solo, and then I would have her by my side for the final 25 miles. With 2 100 mile races, and many many 50 mile races under her belt, I knew she was the best person to be taking me home for my first 50 miler.

The First Two Loops

God that start was tough. It was so dark, and there were so many headlamps bobbing around a small trail. It was absolutely surreal..

As we were heading into the woods
My goal INSTANTLY turned to staying upright; it was slippery, the first part was narrow, and it was going to be a long day. There was no need for me to gain a few minutes, only to fall on my face and ruin momentum early in the game.

I found a veteran ultrarunnner within the first 5 minutes, and stayed on her hip. She carried me for the first 30ish minutes, and then we said our good-byes. She was shooting for a 12.5 hour finish, and while I would have been happy with ANY finish, I knew I had trained to be faster than that.

After I left her, it got really lonely; this was a HUGE deviation from road races that I wasn't expecting. I'm used to spectators along the course, and being surrounded by people throughout the miles. With only a couple hundred runners between the marathon and 50-miler, combined with being in the trails, I spent a LOT of time alone with my thoughts.

Plodding along through the first aid station (they were at miles 4.2 and 7.5ish), I realized I needed to come up with a solid plan, and implement it immediately. I was just kinda floating along, walking when I saw people walking, running when others were doing the same. No real game plan, and I knew I was setting myself up for a complete implosion if I continued this way. I needed direction.

During training, I've read no less than 48 different ways to execute a 50-miler; they all have some variation of a walk/run plan. I decided on a 4 minute run/2 minute walk plan, and would stick to it until I picked up Sara at mile 25. While I knew this might slow me down a bit, I need to preserve my emotional stability for as long as possible. Control what I could control.

I was using my little Timex to do the run/walk, and resetting it to zero after each hour. It made the time and miles seem so much more manageable than when I was just shuffling around the woods with no plan. My Garmin 405 was constantly running, but the numbers on that watch were way more scary, so I focused on each 6 minute "set" on my Timex. Before I knew it, I was coming up to the school to check-in, and to start loop 2.

why yes, I was using my headlamp as a tourniquet..
I pulled in, grabbed more nutrition, had some words with Sara, and headed back out to the woods.

This loop was much like the first; I stuck to my 4/2 plan, but this time would open up to 5-6 minutes of running if I happened to be on a flat/rolling area. I walked every steep hill, no matter whether or not the watch said to run or walk. My time running was definitely faster than the first loop, and I did a very fast walk for the 2-minute "walk breaks".

After I went through the 7.5 mile aid station, I knew these were the last miles of the entire day I would have to run alone. I also knew that JoJess, Scott, and Miguel would be there, cheering their faces off. This, in and of itself, powered me to get to that check-in station with a huge smile on my face. I saw Scott and Lisa on their way back out, shouted encouragement, and went to grab my running partner!!!

I found a groove this loop, ran happy, and my time was considerably faster than the first loop. I felt strong, and had growing confidence that I would ACTUALLY finish this race well under the time limit!

I've gotten a lot of questions about aid stations and nutrition, so here is what worked REALLY well for me.  I spent very little time at any aid stations, treating them like any other marathon aid station. I grabbed coke/water, drank it, and left. I never came to a complete stop, and not once during the entire race did I "stop" completely unless I was changing a shirt, re-filling my pack, etc. I also stuck to Clif Bloks and Healthy Bites ONLY. One block/bite every other mile, for the entire 50 miles (although I did have to switch to gummy bears the last 10 miles; more on that later). I took a salt tab on the hour, and also took 1 Ibuprofen every 8-10 miles. I drank Gatorade from my pack during every walk break, therefore never going more than 4 minutes without taking fluid. 

.... to be continued

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Last Weekend..

This weekend is the very last one before I lace 'em up and toe the line for the Stone Cat 50. My Healthy Bites arrived in plenty of time, and are waiting patiently to be placed in my drop bag.

I did my last double digit run with Lisa yesterday; it was a gorgeous day of awesome fall trail running in New England. Great way to close out Stone Cat training!

So lucky to have these trails less than 4 miles from my house! 

Today Caitlyn asked to go for a run, so we hit the trails, just the two of us. I was smart enough to grab my camera, and document this awesome time with her.. 

Now all that stands between me and that starting line is Hurricane Sandy.. Good news is she'll be long gone by Saturday, and we should have beautiful weather for the race! 

6 days to go!!!! 

Happy Training! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cheetah-Fast, Pain like Bee Stings, and Ice Cream Sundaes.. Caitlyn's 5K PR Race Report..

This race report is a collaboration between Chris, Caitlyn, and myself; I bring you the report of Caitlyn's 5K PR at The Landmark 5K in Hamilton, MA. 

Race morning brought lots of sun, but also a bit of a chill; a perfect day for a race! Chris suggested Caitlyn wear her warm-up pants, to keep her legs from getting too cold. Caitlyn insisted on wearing just her shorts, because "what "real" runner wears warm-up pants to RACE? C'mon daddy!" It was also non-negotiable that she wear her brand new technical race tee shirt over her long sleeve,  because all the teenagers were. And if you ask Caitlyn, "teenagers are so cool".

As most runners headed out for their warm-up, Caitlyn got warm by dancing to all of her favorite Top 40 tunes. Bring on the Biebs baby, it's an obviously correlation to a PR! Caitlyn's favorite warm-up song was Gangnam Style; she said she "rocked it"!

Caitlyn's splits ended up at 10:31, 11:18, 11:21, and 68 seconds. She flew through the first 6 minutes of her race before she took first walk break. The second mile brought slightly rolling hills, and she conserved energy by walking up the hills. It was about halfway when Caitlyn looked at Chris with her "serious face" and said "I'm going to get a PR today!".

He nodded, and confirmed that if she kept it up, she would definitely PR for sure!

It was somewhere in the last mile when Caitlyn said her legs were hurting; when I asked her how bad they hurt, she said they felt like "she had gotten stung by a bee a thousand times".  Chris provided her encouragement  saying she was doing great, and this was the toughest part of any race.  Heather (Chris' wife/Caitlyn's Step-mom)  met them with a half mile to go, and they all ran the rest of the race together. In typical Caitlyn fashion, she put down a kick! I asked her just how fast she said she ran at the end, and she said "like a cheetah kind of fast".

After the race she was all smiles with her shiny PR of 34:16 (helllloooo runners-high)! As most of us runners do, she eyed the food table, asking Chris if she could have a cookie. Let's be honest, you can't deny anyone a cookie after a hard fought PR effort; Chris told her she could grab whatever she wanted! He also reminded Caitlyn just how proud of her he was, and how impressive it was that she fought through to the finish. Caitlyn was very proud of her winnings.. A free ice cream sundae at the local ice cream stand. And, well, ice cream sundaes make any of us smile!

According to Caitlyn, her favorite part of the race was finishing, because she "felt so happy, and proud I got a PR".

During this race, Caitlyn showed some mental strength that she's never displayed before in a race. She really focused, and when it got hard, she pushed through all the way to the finish. She always shows a competitive spirit in these races, asking throughout the miles if there are people behind her; she always wants to ensure she's beating people! When asked, she claims someday she's going to beat her dad (who, by the way, holds a 5K PR of 15:28....). I won't burst that bubble for her quite yet.

Watching Caitlyn grow to truly love running is just so much fun. She has grown up surrounded by runners, yet not one of us has ever pushed her into the sport. She really enjoys running these 5Ks, and is counting down the days until she can join the cross-country team in third grade! Thus far, we've seen a great balance of passion, competitiveness, and truly loving to run, win or lose. How fast she runs isn't important to any of us; what IS important is that she is allowed to develop a love of a sport/skill/hobby that we have with running.

Congrats again to Caitlyn; we love you!

*all photos courtesy of Krissy K*

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fast or Slow, Everyone Needs Some 26.2 In Their Life.. (A Race-Ish Report)

I apologize for lack of pictures lately - my phone committed suicide, and my new iPhone isn't coming in until the end of the month - so sorry for the wordy/picture-less posts lately!... 

When I signed up for Stone Cat, I swore off all speedwork. I decided after 2 years of crap running plus surgery, I needed to get back to the basics. I needed to remember why I love to run so much, and truly enjoy training. As I enter my taper for my 50-miler, I look back at this training cycle with a gigantic smile on my face. I have accomplished everything I set out to do in the past 4-5 months.

This weekend was my last big weekend before taper - I wanted to get in 28-30 miles yesterday, and 10-12 today. Realizing the Hartford Marathon fit in perfect with my plans, I went ahead and signed up. I also asked Sara to run part of the race with me, to keep me in check, and to keep me from "racing" and subsequently ruining Stone Cat. This turned out to be way harder than I thought it would be.

Toeing the line yesterday, I was on my way to a 65-70 mile week, and I thought running slow would be incredibly easy. I wanted nothing more than time on feet, practice nutrition, and to have FUN. I started off with a few girls that were running their first marathon, which always brings an infectious positive attitude. They asked me to run with them for the first few miles, so they didn't go out too fast. We ran, chatted, laughed, and shared stories about how we all got into running. So much fun.

Sara met me at mile 5; she's 6.5 months pregnant, and her goal was to get in 20 miles yesterday. She's freaking amazing, and so inspirational. Her knowledge of ultras has been instrumental to me during this training cycle, and having her there yesterday to remind me NOT to race was so perfect.

The next 15 or so miles were spent by me saying "this is SO HARD", referring to having to hold back, and not pick off every person in sight. However, it was also spent talking to so many different people, cheering for everyone on the out-and-back portion, laughing at all the signs (one of my favorites was "running marathons is like mouthwash - if it's burning, you know it's working!") that people were holding out. We high fived as many little kids as we could, and we just.... had an incredible time.

I felt so good; granted, we were moving slowly, but I felt awesome. It really feels like all of the hard work I've put into my training is really starting to show. It was somewhere after mile 20 that I decided we were going to run sub 4:40. Why? Who knows. There is ZERO significance to 4:40, and it's about an hour off of my PR. It was silly, but I needed something to aim for in the last 10K. It was about mile 25 where we realized if I was getting under 4:40, I was going to have to MOVE.

So I went. Sara yelled at me to just GO, and lay it out there the last mile. I haven't run a fast mile since that 5K I did last December, but my God it was fun to run fast. I flew past so many people, pumping my arms, snot dripping down my face, the whole nine yards.

And wouldn't you know, there was a race photographer just before the 26 mile mark, who I'm SURE now owns the sexiest picture of me ever. I've decided I'm going to blow up that inevitably awesome picture of fabulousness with the caption of "THIS is what a sub 4:40 marathon finish looks like". And put it right next to the picture of me finishing my 3:42 PR marathon, where I'm smiling and giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Yesterday's mile 26 photo is waaaayyyy more sexy, and way more snot-filled
According to the Garmin, I ran that last .75 in a sub- 7:30min/mile pace, which is probably the fastest I've ever run at mile 25/26 of a run. Woop!

Yesterday was the most perfect way to end my last big training weekend. We ran a ridiculously fun marathon (which, by the way, has a CANDY TABLE at mile 24.. Ummm, race directors everywhere need to adopt this immediately), Sara ran 21.5 miles, and as soon as we finished, I had a text saying Caitlyn CRUSHED her 5K PR. She threw down a 34:18 yesterday with her dad. I really need to start working on speed again after Stone Cat; I cannot let Caitlyn start beating me until she's at least 10!

It's no secret I love the marathon distance; I've had a LOT of races where I've laid it on the line, given it everything I've had, and left my soul on the race course. Yesterday was NOT that day, but it gave me a whole new love for the distance, and the respect for every.single.person that crosses the finish line of a marathon.

Everyone needs a little 26.2 in their life....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From Last To First, And Molding Me As A Runner..

"this is so hard... my legs hurt so badly, and I don't think it's possible to sweat anymore than I am right now.. I can barely feel my feet hitting the pavement, but I can hear them clomping like I'm a 6'4" man. I can't see straight, and my God this hurts".. - Brewery Exchange 5K '00 36:11 (11:15 pace)

"Just keep moving.. One foot in front of the other.. I won't end up last today, just keep moving forward.. I might break 11:30 pace today, if I can just fight through the burn.". - Tufts 10K '00 1:10:13 (11:18 pace)

These were races done when I was 21 years old, and had no idea what was wrong with me. I couldn't figure out how I was an above average swimmer most of my life, but just plain sucked at running. I can't find the result online, but in the summer of '00, I finished dead last at a 10K race. As in the sweeper; behind EVERYONE. Yes I had the ambulance driving behind me, and they were picking up the cones as I passed. My then boyfriend had won the race; we joked that we were the bookends to the race, but in my mind, I didn't understand how I could be working so damn hard to not see any success. I felt humiliated and defeated .

I had picked up running a couple years before, needing a way to move after I stopped swimming. Running was cheap, and I had just started dating a super fast runner. He made it look so easy, yet I was working so hard Legs and lungs on fire, sweat dripping off of me, pouring my heart and soul into every step. I would be thrilled if I broke a 12 min/mile on any single run. I would run w/ my college roommates or friends, and was always the one holding people back. I was always the one fighting for air, and willing the burn in my legs to stop for just one moment during a run. After almost every run, I would come home and nap. I talked myself into believing it's just what college kids do. In the recesses of my mind, I knew that probably wasn't the case.

After the Tufts 10K in '00, I decided to pop into my primary care to see if there was anything wrong. While my Hematocrit and Hemoglobin were low when they pulled my CBC (complete blood count), it was my low Ferritin count that took my MD by surprise. My number was not only low, it was through the basement. He was shocked I was finishing runs, never-mind at a pace that wasn't a slow walk. We worked together through supplementing, etc to get my iron levels back to normal. It took a solid 6 months, but then on June 23, 2001, something magical happened.

I toed the line at the Marion Village 5K, where I had just a year prior I finished the race in a blistering 32:45. I was deemed healthy again, and thought it would be fun to see what I could do. The gun sounded, and I.... flew... I've never honestly experienced anything like it. My feet felt like then were dancing along the pavement, my breathing rhythmic, and a giant smile plastered across my face. I don't remember the exact split of my first mile, but it was under 7:00. I wish I could put the feeling into words, but it's something I've held onto for the past 11+ years. I crossed that finish line, one year later, with a time of 21:18. A 6:51 min/mile pace. And holy crap, I finished FIRST in my age group. In one year, I had taken over 10 minutes off of my 5K time. I will never, ever forget that day, and just how special it felt.

Its that experience, and those years, that have molded me into the runner I am now; I will NEVER say no to an offer to run, no matter how "slow" someone claims to be. I've been there, and I know what it feels like. It's remembering how hard I fought every day that I ran, not just on race day. And it's remembering that no matter how hard it was, I went back at it every single day. I did it because despite how damn hard running was, and how badly it hurt, I loved it.

And all these years later, that love has only grown..

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One Month to Go, and Making the Cut-Off..

One month from today, I'll be toeing the line of the Stone Cat 50 Mile Trail Race. I'm just going to re-read that sentence until it stops making me nauseous, and then I'll declare myself ready. Yeeps.

From a strict mileage perspective, I feel prepared. I have executed an asinine amount of runs over 20 miles, as well as a 30+ miler. I have one more 28-30 mile run next weekend, and then I just let my body absorb all the work. I am not injured (knock some SERIOUS solid wood), and I feel strong. But my God am I slow..

Which brings me to the cut-off. Being a solid middle of the packer, I never have to worry about cut-offs in a race. Not being all "mightier than thou"; I have just never gone into a marathon worrying that I won't make the 6 hour time limit. This ultra trail running stuff is allllllllllll new territory for me. As I mentioned, I've run silly amounts of miles, but there hasn't been any speed-work. I've done it deliberately; with my surgery, and reaching higher mileage weeks, I knew I couldn't have it all. I sacrificed speed-work to avoid injury this training cycle. It worked (are you still knocking wood?), but when you run a bazillion slow miles, it gets to be all your body knows. Slow.

The Stone Cat course is a 12.5 mile loop which you repeat 4 times (for all of us that aren't so great at math, that equals 50. You're welcome). The race starts at 6:15am, and you must start your last loop by 3:15pm. Again, for all of us non-math majors, that gives runners 9 hours to run the first 37.5 miles, which is a 14:24 pace (min/mile). If I were reading this on someone else's blog who has run a marathon in the low 3:40's, I would laugh. And maybe you are too; but I'm scared to death.

For anyone who's done some trail running, you know that your pace slows dramatically from the pavement to the woods. And God KNOWS what I'm going to feel like at 34/35/36/37 miles; I may feel like Usain Bolt while rockin' 16 minute miles.

The goal of this race has been something dramatically different than any race I've done in the past (yes, including my first marathon) - to finish upright and preferably without too much damage. I'm trying to think of this cut-off as a friendly reminder that the volunteers and race staff don't want to have a sleep-over in the woods of Ipswich because I decided to tun a 50 miler in 20 hours.

In 31 days, I will have my very first 50-miler under my belt, and WILL collect my finisher's jacket. Even if that means attempting a 7 minute mile at mile 36 to make the cut-off. Maybe I should think about ordering some rocket-launcher shoes.. Hmmmmmm...

Happy Training!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thirty Miles...

I grumbled as the alarm went off at 330am, but knowing that I would be thankful to have my run done by 1030ish. Bleary-eyed, I made my way down to meet Sara under the pitch black, misty skies.

We quietly said our hellos, I stuffed my pack with nutrition, and off we went. I was about to embark on my very first 30 mile run.

The plan was to do one loop of the half marathon course, Sara would deliver me to the race start, and then I would do a second loop of the course, plus 4 miles at the end. I was in charge of the course map (bad plan), and as such, we ended up doing an extra half mile out and back due to a missed turn. We were chatting, laughing, and both feeling good. We kept the pace conservative, as Sara is 6 months pregnant, and I didn't want to blow up during the second half of the run.

At about mile 8ish, we realized that due to my course mis-calculation, there was no way in hell I was making it to the start line on time. I remained firm that I needed the run to be my top priority, and when I hit the start of the race was really irrelevant. I did fuzzy math and figured I'd only miss the start by a couple minutes, which wasn't the case.

As we were making our way towards mile 13, the racers began to come at us in droves. We did our best to hold pace, and I tried desperately not to get anxious; I needed to remember the big picture goal of the day. I took a deep breath, and simply cheered on all the others coming the other direction.

I hit the start of the course when the race clock read 17:XX, and I was of course, dead last (duh). They had packed up the starting line, but I crossed the mat to make it official (I later found out that there was no "net time", it just calculated your time from the gun start to when you crossed the finish line). This was when I knew I was going to have to really make an effort to not chase the race; picking up the pace at the halfway mark of my run would be nothing short of stupid. I would gain nothing, and potentially ruin my entire day.

After a ton of pity claps, and "you can do it!" from the spectators who were left around the start, I started picking off some of the 10k walkers, and about mile 3, found the last racers of the half marathon. I made it a point not to chase the racers as then came into my view, and only a few times had to consciously pull myself back. I was using Healthy Bites mixed in with Clif Bloks as nutrition, with Gatorade and water. It was working beautifully, and my stomach was the happiest it's been on a run in awhile. I loved having the water stops of the race as support, as I could have them help me remove/put things in my Camelbak. The deeper I got into the run, the more confident I became that I would actually finish this run in a good frame of mine. Thrilled.

I smiled when my watched (the new Garmin, which arrived on Thursday. Woop woop for a DOCUMENTED 30-miler!) flipped past 26.2 miles. I had about a mile to go in the "race", and had found Jessica who was chatting to keep me distracted. My body was tired and achy, but simultaneously felt strong. I started to prepare myself mentally for the finish line, when everyone else would be done for the day, drinking their recovery wine, and I needed to continue on.

The transition from the end of the race to my solo miles was a lot less challenging than I had anticipated. I'm assuming it's because I was in such a good mental place. I cracked up when I crossed the finish line of the half marathon and saw the time on the clock. I grabbed a cup of water, and convinced my legs to keep moving forward. A few strange looks from spectators, and I was on my way to do a little out and back to finish out the day.

From there on, I ran for the 30 on the Garmin. I shuffled up the uphills, and tried not to beat up my quads on the downhills. When my car finally came into view, I tried to "push" to the finish. I'm sure I hit 8:30 pace for a hot second.

And just like that, my first 30 mile training run was complete. Most importantly, I nailed my #1 goal of the day - I finished exhausted, sore, achy, AND in a mentally sound place.

My recovery included a big ass glass of sangria Saturday night for my mom's birthday, and it was awesome.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Picture Post - Years of Running...

There were the early years...

Yep, the ONLY race I've ever won.. 
Boston Marathon, 8 months after having Caitlyn..

Twin Cities Marathon, which is probably one of my most favorite races on the planet..

Then there was my PR marathon in 2009...
God, I was so damn happy.. 
And the year that Sara and I ran Boston on Patriots Day at 6am, before the ACTUAL race. These are the things you must do if you don't qualify for the race itself.

There was the LA Marathon, which was insane amounts of fun..

On of my favorite marathon weekends, hands down
Big Sur, which I couldn't find any pictures of. I don't think that was accidental ;)

And of course, Chicago 2011...

While I might not be breaking any world records, I sure do have an awesome time running. Some of my favorite memories are marathon weekends away, running in new cities/states, with great friends.

Happy Training Friends..

Friday, September 14, 2012

I Took a Vacation Day To Run My Own Marathon...

I'm still working on the design of the finisher medal (note: singular), but I'm thinking it'll strongly resemble a wine bottle.

Please allow me to take you on the journey of my first ever solo training marathon.

I had 24 miles on my schedule this week as my long run. Due to Caitlyn scheduling, I had to do it today. I was leery of the timing as I just completed 24 miles this past Sunday up at Pumpkinman, but had no choice. Then when I was mapping out my route last night I thought "hey - why do 24 tomorrow when I can do the full 26.2?". Logical, no? Doing that would also bring my 7 day total mileage to something that started with an 8, and ends with a 0. I know this is only because of the close proximity of super long runs, but I'll take it; I've never seen that number before!  And with that the route was set, cue card made, and to bed I went!

I got up at the hour of ungodly thirty, and went through the motions. I've struggled with nutrition always, so I'm always changing up blocks/gels/beans/etc hoping I'll find the magic potion. Grabbed a fistful of nutrition, $5, my handheld and headed out.

I repeated "stupid slow" and "let the run come to you" no less than 10 times the first mile. I wanted to make sure I had my legs at the end, and that I didn't start chasing the carrot. I glanced down at my Garmin Timex at the mile 1 mark and thought "man I do stupid slow well, they should give out award for THAT.".

My legs usually decide to join the party around mile 4 or 5, so I was waiting to pick them up around the fire station. Two terrible things happend as I past the fire station: (1) my legs were smoking butts and drinking Octoberfest, and (2) there were no firemen outside. Grump. My stomach was also crampy, but there was no way their could have been anything left in it by this point! I used nature's bathroom anyway, took a gel, and moved on.

I continued my feeble attempts to spin the cobwebs out, and when I got somewhere around mile 13/14ish, I pulled over. I had a come to Jesus speech with myself that went something like this "you've done this distance before. Just because you're alone and it's harder doesn't mean you can give up. No, you can not use that $5 to get a cab home. No, you cannot hitchike home. So whatever it takes, you're finishing this damn run. Doesn't matter if it takes 5 hours". And with that, I stormed off, mad at myself.

It's funny how the negotiations between your mind and body don't only happen during races. There was a lot of "if you can run the next 15 minutes straight without complaining, you can pick up the expensive bottle of wine tonight". "the fire station is only 2 miles away. You don't want to WALK by a fire station, that's just embarrassing". "the really fast runner chick lives around here, and you don't want HER to see you walking do you?". And the reason I was doing this? While my legs were tired as hell, they weren't in pain or feeling awful. It was all in my head (and my stomach); it was damn hilly and damn hard to run this long solo. Plain and simple. And I have GOT to learn how to fight through that. If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Once I hit 20, and I was on one of my favorite roads, the demons started to give up the fight. While I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, I knew I was going to finish the run. And I did. The crosswalk in front of my house provides me with the best finish line ever.

There was no fanfare, no spectators,no timing clock or finisher medals. As I stopped my Garmin Timex, a small smile spread across my face. I just ran my first training marathon. It was hard, exhausting, and many times I felt like quitting. Instead, I continued to put one foot in front of the other, and fought for every last mile.

Happy Training!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Marathon Training Through A Friend's Eyes..

Spreadsheets were exchanged, comments were made, emails of "Oh my God how am I going to do this?!?" came through my inbox regularly. I smiled as I replied "you're going to be amazed at what you can accomplish". I am not a coach, just a sounding board to a good friend mapping out training for her first marathon.

Through late June and July, Jess marched up through double digit runs, hitting her PDR (personal distance record) with every long run. I read all of her posts with tears in my eyes, remembering MY very first marathon training cycle. I felt every one of her "OMGs" and "I can't believe I'm doing this!", and lived all of her "but 26.2 miles still seems so far away".

On August 21st, she ran her first 20-miler. I remember the beginning of this post, and getting the chills:

20 milers



...holy crap, we actually hit super-ridiculous double-digits this morning.

We celebrated together, through an exchange of about 74000 emails, texts, and tweets. It brought me back to the day I finished my first 20 miler, and not being able to wipe the smile off my face the entire day. I knew what she was going through, and I was so excited to be able to watch her have a very similar experience.

As she charged towards 22 miles, we exchanged many messages about tips and tricks. The one important  message I relayed to Jess was one that I've chanted so many times during a long run:

"Let the run come to you"

So simple, but sometimes so hard to do. At times we get caught up forcing a long run, and manufacturing it to get it just right. Not wanting to have the slightest of errors, we end up "chasing the run" to no avail. I suggested Jess open her mind, and let the run come to her. And with that, she made her first attempt at 22 miles this morning.

She not only ran her first 22 miler of her life, she demolished it. Her words, not mine. And I am so damn proud.

Having this experience with a friend is something pretty damn incredible. Being able to experience all the "firsts", the heartache, and all of the celebrations is awesome. Being able to share all of the knowledge and lessons learned over the past years, and knowing that it might help someone else is such a rewarding feeling.We've talked fueling, lost toenails, socks, and even bra chafage. We've shared the stories of long run hunger, as well as the frustrations of that run that we couldn't get just right.

In 3.5 weeks, Jess will be toeing the line of the Chicago Marathon, which is a race that I absolutely love. It's really the perfect place to experience her very first 26.2 mile distance, and to say I'm excited would be an understatement.

The last few weeks before your first marathon tests your nerves, anxiety and patience. The amount of emotions you can feel in such a short time is pretty surreal. And before you know it, you're waking up race morning, and standing at a line with 40,000 of your closest friends.

Jess - soak up every moment of this experience; you only get to train for your first marathon once. I'm so damn proud of everything you've accomplished, and I cannot WAIT to see that picture of you crossing the finish line in Chicago.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Tale of Two 20+ milers

And only a week apart.

The month of August was simply crazy. I came painfully close to a 200 mile total for the month, had to do the mom/work/train shuffle, and transition from the end of summer to the beginning of fall in our household (oh wait everyone transitions from summer to fall this time of year? Weird.). And then some personal life strife got thrown in right at the end of the month, just to see if I would wave the white flag. I didn't. And here's proof - Caitlyn and I at a end of summer bonfire.

With that, I take you to last week's 22 miler; I was emotionally fragile, and in no mental state to attempt the distance solo. I begged Lisa for company, knowing full well she'd be giving up a peaceful Saturday morning run for a 3+ hour therapy session. She happily agreed (I know, I'm thankful too!), and what.a.disaster. it turned out to be. When you go into a long run already mentally defeated, it's so damn hard to turn it around when the miles get tough. I was the whiniest runner on Earth by about mile oh, say THREE. Throw is complete breakdown at mile 16 that went something like this: "thats it, I'm going home. I suck at running, I suck at life, I don't want to be here anymore, I'm done with this". Complete with ugly sobs and snot everywhere. You're so jealous you weren't there, aren't you? Long story short(ish), Lisa gave me some tough love, we trudged on, and finished before sunset. I fought hard for every step of that run, and was both physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the run.

Today, I decided to head up to Pumpkinman Triathlon, do my long run, and then cheer my heart out for friends. It was finally cool-ish, with low humidity. I was nervous about both coming off last week, and also the prospect of running the distance solo. I shook out the demons, and prepped my body and mind the best I could. However, as I was leaving the house, I swiped my Garmin off the table and it fell on the floor. Yeah, we've all done it 1000 times, but when I picked it up, I had the white screen of death. Nothing. Nada. Completely dead. Super. I cursed for a few minutes, realizing that I was going to have to use the trusty Timex for an uber long run.  It would be a unicorn run; one that's imaginary because there's not an accompanying Garmin file. Please tell me I'm not the only lunatic that thinks this way?

After some good luck hugs and some "hey, I know you because you're my Facebook/Twitter friend and you're really fast and why aren't you as excited to see me as I am to see you" maneuvers, I hit the road. I just went. There was no use in looking at my watch, other than for fueling purposes. It wasn't going to tell me my pace, my distance, my heart rate, or whether I was the fairest of them all. It was merely a stopwatch. So I just ran. My legs felt decent, breathing came easy, and I felt relaxed. Instead of chasing the run, I just let the run come to me.

Before I knew it, I had hit three hours, and I didn't want to stop running. I can't remember the last time this happened actually on a run over 20 miles, and it felt damn good. I had nowhere to be, no real time restrictions, and I wanted to keep going. So I did. I ran for well up into the 20's, and stopped only when the 2nd and 3rd place men had turned onto the road I was sauntering down. And there was no running in circles just to get the Garmin to flip to a certain number. There was no celebratory fist pump (don't lie, I know you do them too) at the end of the run, or a big sigh of relief that you feel when you hit the finish line of any run. I simply stopped running. I stepped off the course, walked to my car, changed into my flip flops, and got back on the course to cheer. It's a unicorn run, baby.

It's again a reminder that while running is a whole lot of leg power, it's also a whole lot of head and heart. And while today's unicorn run really rocked, I know there was a place for my sucktastic run last week too.

Happy Training!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A soul-crusher, a spirit lifter... and a mocktail party??

First things first - for everyone running the ZOOMA Half Marathon and 10K on September 22nd (contact me if you have any questions about registration!), there will be a "mocktail" party the eve of the race. Now, I love to get boozy just as much as the next girl, but since it's the night before a race, we'll be toasting with HINT water, and making some HINT mocktails. It's a gorgeous venue, and you'd be straight silly not to join us! Bring the whole family - races, spectators, bell-ringers are all welcome! Check out all the deets here. Hope to see lots of my friends there!

Okay, back to crushing souls and lifting spirits. I woke up Monday morning with an adorable summer cold. You know, the one that starts with sneezing fits, and then takes a quick turn into snotsville? Yep, that happened. The good news is that the cold seems to be confined just to my head, so it could be a lot worse. I went on with my planned miles, and just slowed it down as needed (I friends, have set the benchmark this week for how slow one can actually run while still calling it "running"; I dare anyone to challenge me on this).


Yesterday I went out for my first long run of the weekend; I needed to do a road run, as time didn't allow for me to drive to the woods and run. I took a full 32oz of fluid with me, as I knew it would be hot out, and I would need extra liquid to make up for the snot and sweat I was losing. The first 12 miles felt surprisingly decent; I just plodded along, doing my thang. I was definitely taking in more fluid, and my snot rocket per mile ratio was astounding. It was somewhere about mile 16ish when everything started unraveling; I felt like crap, my legs felt like lead, I was incredibly hot, and my body just wanted to be done. I tried every mind trick in the book, and then I just tried quieting my mind. Nothing was working. In comes the negotiation phase that every runner has gone through (don't lie to me and tell me you've never done this): "If you can run just ONE mile, I'll give you a 30 second walk break". "If you get me home, I promise lots of watermelon and ice cold water".. You know the drill. Then I ran out of fluid at mile 17, as I was in a spot w/ no shade and felt like my skin was going to burst into flames. Miles 17-20 felt like they took a decade to complete. Somehow I managed to still be coherent when my Garmin clicked over to 20 miles. My tweet when I came back in the house was "I think I left my soul somewhere around mile 17.. Good God that was a hard run.. BUT I finished.. And now I shall die (hows your dramatic?). I think it was a combo of my cold, the heat, and frankly, not having a gigantic base to build off of. Either way, I checked that run off the list, and I don't intend to repeat that anytime soon.

My second long run was on tap this morning, a 12 miler. I went to bed at 8:15 last night (yes, 8:15!), after pounding some cold medicine, and some Gatorade. I slept about 9.5 hours and woke up feeling pretty good. The legs were tired (duh), but I went through the motions. If I had stopped to think about it, I'm sure I could have come up with 64 reasons why to put off my run. I chose a loop that goes by 3 firehouses (because seriously, how can you have a bad run when you're running by an abundance of firefighters??) and headed out. I flipped the Garmin to the inside of my wrist, and make the executive decision to not look at it; it's not like it was going to magically tell me I was running 8 min/miles after running 20 miles yesterday. For some bizarro reason, the legs were onboard this morning. I wouldn't call them zippy, but they definitely did their part. They whined a little when I had to add on the silly little 2 mile loop to get 12, but they hung in there. It was such a stark difference from yesterday's run, and I finished the run feeling pretty strong (it's all relative....).

Despite having a less than ideal 20 miler yesterday, I'm proud of myself for getting through these runs. I'm craving some social long runs, as I've been doing way too many of these solo; however I do think that for me, it's been good to have to tough these out without anyone to use as a crutch.

And for us New Englanders, I have a feeling that this fall, we're all going to feel like rockstars after toughing it out through this heat and humidity!

Happy Training!

Monday, August 13, 2012

For the Love of Long Runs..

Anyone that's ever asked me what my favorite part of training is, always gets the same answer: "long runs". I first started incorporating them when training for my first marathon in 2004.Throughout the course of that training cycle, I fell in love with a new "personal distance record" every week. I loved learning how to fuel, learning a new level of mental toughness, and embracing the solitude.

Over the past 8 years, my long runs have become the standard part of every week where I can go and solve the worlds problems. Not to say that I don't love doing these runs with friends; solving the worlds problems can be hilarious when amongst your closest friends for hours on end. Whether alone, or falling in step with a running partner, there is something about a long run that makes you feel so alive. 

I was having an email conversation with a good friend who's running her first marathon (Chicago!) this fall. She's up against her first 18 miler tomorrow, and I had sent her along some encouragement going into the run. Her response was this: "I'm honestly NOT stressed about the run. I am constantly shocked by how much I've been looking forward to the long run days and how well I've felt during them, even. It's just incredible what the body will do if you quiet your mind and just go for it." 

And that couldn't be more true. When I was out awaiting my surgery (and then recovering) it was what I missed the most about running. Even now, a little less than 4 months post-surgery, I get creative with my schedule so I can accomodate a long run. Yes, even if that means having to take the day before and day after off. Very anti my "run-like-hell" strategy, I know. 

Friday was my birthday (what? you did not know this? Gasp!), and I wanted to celebrate my 33rd with a 33km run. Yes, I thought about a 33-miler, but then I also thought about my leg spontaneously combusting. Right, so back to 33km.  I headed out to the trails just as the sun was rising - I brought my GPS boyfriend (we've had a spotty relationship since surgery, as he likes to tell me I'm grossly out of shape), but set the screen to display HR only. I gave myself ample time, so that I knew no matter what, I wasn't going to feel rushed.  I took a deep breath, and headed off into the woods. 

I had one of those runs that just went by too fast. No no no, the RUN wasn't fast, but it felt like it ended too soon. And that's with the 93% humidity (nope, not a typo) soaking every piece of fabric, every strand of hair, and what felt like every part of my skin. Yet I didn't really notice; I was busy bounding rocks, and dodging trees. Dancing around sticks, and over bridges, I'm pretty sure I was the happiest girl around. 

And when it was over, I just smiled. Not once over the course of those hours was I tempted to look at my pace; I didn't care. When I got annoyed with the 8 million deer flies, or had a moment of "I'm tired", I just let myself have the moment, and then moved on.

When I thought about my run on the drive home, I started to panic that I've lost my competitiveness. Things such as "why the hell didn't I care about pace", and "I can't believe I didn't think about throwing in a few miles at marathon pace" start creeping into my mind. And almost instantly, I shut it down. There will be a time and place over the next 12 months for track work, tempo runs, and running at "oh my God I'm going to vomit on myself" pace.  

Until that time comes, I'm going to enjoy exactly what I'm doing: running. And especially these long runs. 

Happy Training! 

View from the early miles.. How can you not love doing this??

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Yankee Homecoming, with a twist..

One of my favorite races is coming up on Tuesday - The Yankee Homecoming 10-miler. I've run it the past 2 years, and will again toe the line on Tuesday. This year, unlike past years, will have a different flavor; I plan on run/walking the 10 miler with a good friend who has never run the distance before.

I've gone back and forth about a million times regarding what I want this run to look like; I know I've mentioned in here before that I wanted it to be my first real test of my running post surgery. I have to be brutally honest with myself - I'm not ready for any type of real speed. I have been working incredibly hard on my endurance, and I actually ran 2 hours and 35 minutes this morning. However, it's been really slow, and with a focus on getting my confidence back. I would be kidding myself, and setting myself up for disappointment, if I toed that line with any kind of a time goal.

I'm choosing to be smart (I know, wonders never cease), and I'm really looking forward to the run. It's always an incredible feeling to run alongside someone in their first effort at a distance. It'll be awesome to cheer on all the other runners around us, while we make our way around the course. For once, I'll be able to truly appreciate the course, instead of being so head down and focused, and cursing every little incline with the scorching sun in my face.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn't slightly disappointed that I'm not ready to lay down marathon pace for 10-miles. However, I AM proud of my progress - I'm being intelligent, and with that, comes sacrifice. Yet, it also comes with long term success. For so long, I've been so focused on the next day/week/month. Since my surgery, I've been much better about thinking about keeping myself injury free for as long as I possibly can. With that, insert Tuesday night's run.

In other non-running related news, I married off my last sister on Friday night. Here is a picture from the bachelorette party, and my favorite of me and Caitlyn from the wedding.

Happy Training!

Bumblebee bowling sucks - yup, I went there. 
I promise we kept a serious face during the ceremony

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Weight Debate

What you were thinking when you saw this post come up in your google reader: What? Yet ANOTHER person posting about weight, what they eat, and how they feel "fat" even though they don't come close to the definition? Oh, super.

This post isn't about me, my weight, or any body issues I may/may not have. Its to understand (through your feedback) how different we are as people: endurance athletes, couch-to-5K'ers, dancers, bowlers (okay, maybe that's a stretch) view weight, and how, as individuals, we measure it.

I'll go first, since, well it's my blog and my hair-brained idea. I don't own a scale, and I don't weigh myself. I never ever have. Even when I was pregnant, I would stand on the scale backwards, and threaten the nurse's life if she uttered a number. I have an incredibly addictive personality (wait? did you just gasp? I know, I find it shocking too); I have a hard time doing things in moderation. Not to say that I can't or don't, but it's a challenge for me. And I know if I got a scale, I would become obsessed. It would be a competition with myself to see how low the number could get, I would stress out about it, and that number would dictate whether or not I have a good day. For me, the scale isn't healthy, so I simply don't make it a part of my life.

Which leads me to my first set of questions: do you use a scale, and if you do, how often? How are you able to remove the emotional tie to the number on the scale?

While I have made it 32 years without a scale, that doesn't mean I run around and shove my face with M&M's on a daily basis (although good God that sounds awesome). By not having any numbers attached to my body per se, I have become VERY in tune with how I feel, how clothes fit, etc. I can tell when I've been cycling more than running, or swimming a lot, just by the difference in how my clothes fit.

If you DON'T use a scale, how do you measure your weight?

As I've been making my comeback, I've relied on cross-training to keep me fit and uninjured. My running days are still far and away my favorite days, but I've been very diligent to not run more than 1-2 consecutive days without putting in a spin/elliptical/swim day in there. With that said, I always feel most fit when I'm running high mileage. I 'spose that makes sense, in that you're torching a ton of calories every day, in each session that you're out pounding the pavement. Lately, it's been hard to associate me with the word "fit", because although I'm getting in those sweat sessions, it's not what my mind associates with being "in shape". And for all those who just eye rolled your laptop screens, I'm aware it's not rationale, it's purely emotional.

Do you have a certain activity that makes you feel the most "in shape"?

Finally, recovery. It's importance is so incredibly overlooked by so many athletes, and it's crucial to our success. However, so many athletes (myself included) struggle with executing recovery properly. As in DOING IT. I used to be one of the biggest offenders of this. A day off would entail a "30-45 minute easy run", instead of actually taking the day off. This has led to over-training a few different times in my athletic life, and I'd like to think I've learned from it. From several people I've spoken with, it can be so easily associated with food/weight. "If I'm not working out today, I should probably just eat whats necessary for basic survival, right?" used to run through my head on every recovery day.  It took a lot of educating myself, as well as self-discipline to shift this mindset, and view recovery as a positive thing.

Do you struggle with eating/how much to eat on recovery days?

I'll freely admit that I'm a work in progress; I most definitely still have days where all I want to wear is a tarp, and there are most certainly days where all the money in the world couldn't get me into a bikini. I'm pretty sure we all have our own journey when it comes to body image, and the tools we use to keep ourselves feeling our very best. I'm curious to hear about everyone's individual journey...

Happy Training!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Committed, and it feels so good..

*For anyone who hasn't signed up for the Zooma Cape Cod Half-Marathon/10K already, I have a promo code to save you some cash! Enter CCAMB12 at checkout, and save $10 off the Half, or $5 off the 10K. There's a price increase this week, so it's the perfect time to register! Excited to see lots of familiar races at the race! You should also start following the Zooma blog for great weekly give-a-ways! *

I'm committed, and it feels good. Registration for the Stone Cat 50-miler happened last Friday, and the buzz was that it would sell out day of. Which in the running community translates to "you better get in the second it opens, so you don't get left behind". Yeah, we're a type A bunch of athletes. Apparently, they had over 650 people trying to get into the race (between the marathon and 50 mile distances, it's a total of 250 slots), which crashed the website. I hit some major technical snags, but was able to secure myself a spot for the 50 miler. Yes, F-I-F-T-Y miles.
This was not a knee-jerk decision - if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I've had LOTS of races/distances/events rolling around in my head. At some point last week, I had the proverbial "light bulb" moment.

While the 70.3 this year would be "fun", my heart just simply wouldn't be in the training. And I'm not going to commit to something that I can't put 100% of myself into. Whether right or wrong, I love working out once a day (or the occasional double run Tuesday). I love that I can get lost in my workout for that day, and then when I get home, I can immerse myself in being a mom, or my work, etc. I don't have to think about when I'm going to get in that second workout, or how I'm going to manage it around gymnastics, date-night, a late conference call, or watching the Kardashians.

That's not to say that training for an ultra is easy by any stretch. I have put together a training schedule which has back to back Saturday/Sunday 20+ mile runs. My schedule peaks at 70-75 mile weeks, which will be a new high for me. However, my training schedule also has me training on 5 days a week, with 2 complete rest days. This alone minimizes the impact on the rest of my life, outside of being an athlete.

For me, that's what is important right now. Running and racing makes me deliriously happy, but Caitlyn will only be a 6/7 year old once. There's a finite period of time she is going to want to go skip rocks, ride bikes, or go to the swings with me. It won't be forever that her face lights up at gymnastics as she does her first backbend, and I'm there to see it.

I want to make it clear that I KNOW there are a lot of people out there who are able to train for long distance triathlons, and make it all happen. Not only that, but they absolutely love doing it. I admire that, and I look forward to the day that I can be commited to that type of schedule. In the short term, it's just not in the cards, and I am 100% at peace with that.

Life is so so so good right now. I've been quietly dabbling back into running the last couple of days, and in combination with other fabulous things in life, I feel like I'm whole again.

Happy Training!