About Me

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What started as a little experiment in blogging has evolved into my renewed love for writing the raw, gritty truth. Running has always had so many parallels to life's ups and downs. As a new cancer survivor/fighter, running and writing has continued to be there for me in my quest to always move forward, always try to be better than yesterday. Find me: http://www.curetoday.com/community/kate or on facebook: running, cancer, and everything in between or on twitter: runliftbreathe

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Marathon Taper

The taper is something that should be looked at as a time of rest and relief. For marathons, it's the two-three weeks before race day where the mileage & work load does just that...tapers down so that by race week you are doing just enough to stay loose & not get antsy legs. This allows your body to recover and ready itself for the actual race day. Sounds great...

I despise the taper. For me, while I understand it's purpose, and I do follow it diligently in any of my races, it's my least favorite part of running training. It's like an ego blow for me mentally and physically.

Physically, with all the rest and recovery, I actually start to feel worse. Everything is even tighter than when I was at my peak mileage. I am so exhausted. I actually crawled into bed one night at 8:30...it was Saturday! I slept 10 hours and woke up feeling no different.

Mentally, every doubt in my head races around. Three weeks ago just before the taper during my last 20 miler, I'm high as a kite...I want to run the race tomorrow. I am so ready & just want it done.

Then, during the taper, all the insecurities surface...did I do enough? Did I challenge myself enough? Maybe I worked too hard. I should have been keeping up with my weight training. Why didn't I take up yoga on my rest days? I should have bought the other model of shoes. And why does it feel like running 3 miles is impossible, when running 20 had me floating on air?

But it never fails...I follow the taper, I toe up at the line race day, and it all pays off. I'm always ready.  For me, it's the thing I like least about training, but I want to know I did everything possible to set myself up for success...and that includes the taper...

Friday, November 1, 2013


In the running world, we all know what BQ means, boston qualifying time...what makes Boston so special & elite technically, is that you have to have a qualifying time to be able to apply to try to get in (unless you get a charity number, which means you raise x amount of $ for a particular charity). It still is not a guarantee based on how many people in your age group applied & what their qualifying times were. It is in a league of it's own.

I am not going to lie...I knew exactly what my "qualifying time" needed to be. I also knew that depending on how I was feeling, and how the race played out...I could easily end up happy just with a finish. Even when everything goes right in your training, race day could just not be your day, & you could end up having to adjust your goals.

When I crossed the finish, I looked at the Finish Clock Time (running clock time) and thought, "oh well, I just missed it...well, I gave it a good fight, & I have nothing to be ashamed of. Still a great race, great time, great finish"....When I literally stopped my Garmen and then, stopped running...everything hurt...my hip flexors felt like they were on fire, and my calves began to cramp up...honest to God, I could barely walk.

I found my husband, and I told him I just needed to get out of there...all I wanted to do was go home & plunge into boiling water to work out all the tightness & cramping I was immediately feeling. I remember, thinking that I was so happy I finished because then, I would never have to do THAT again. Clearly, half marathons and below were more my thing...I could do well & not take up too much time of my life training, I could definitely walk better after the finish...yes, the big joke at this race, how do you tell the halfers versus the fulls? The Halfs were all drinking beer and enjoying the live rock bands...the Marathoners were looking for bananas, more water, & the quickest exit out of there.

We made the big trek home (all of 20 minutes) with me cramping up with every move I made...(I so should have stayed and taken advantage of that massage tent)...I made it up the stairs, & literally, plunged into a bath as hot as I could stand. Shortly, after, I got dressed to head over to the two soccer games for my girls when I got the message...

A dear friend of mine who is practically the major of running if running were a town...she knew my exact time...& indeed those two sweet letters beside them...BQ. And just like that, I was feeling like a million bucks again. Gone were the cramps, the dehydration...all I had was hope.

That's why we all refer to it as Boston...everyone knows what you mean when you say "I'm doing Boston", "I'm trying to qualify" (for Boston), "I BQ'd"....it symbolizes something so sacred and special...it's hope wrapped up in two letters...

I will throw my hat into Boston 2015, and if luck goes my way, I will get a hard-earned number...and I will run with hope, joy, pride....and love...because there is nothing like a BQ, nothing that compares to Boston.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Post-race Blues

I've been dreading this...preparing for it, thinking about it, feeling it, acknowledging it, and now...trying to articulate it into words that you can relate to...I spent 16 weeks thinking about, training for, eating for, sleeping for, talking about that one race...the marathon. And when I finally reached that day, it was everything I had hoped and anticipated, the good and the difficult...it was glorious. I even got to enjoy the week after...and in my town, in the business & community in which I make my living...I even got an extra week to relish it because of all the words of praise, inquiries, and congratulations that I received.

Funny how before the race, I couldn't wait to do anything but run. Right after the race, I was flying so high I kept right on running. And now, reality hitting me and my achilles smack in the face...I have to take some time off. An aggressive strain if you will, has me off the roads (other than my coaching/hobbling around).

Now all I want to do is pick up and run. It's a constant battle with myself...do not run, rest. Do not run, pick up some weights. Do not run...yes, I even did some half-assed downward dogs before I heard the beep for the coffee pot.

I know because of everything that I have learned in exercise science and training & conditioning  of really any sport, that you cannot stay at that top level. If you have done your homework and trained appropriately, you will peak out at that day/season of competition & then, when it's over, you go back to base building. I know that. But, it's a tough pill to swallow. I did do everything right. I had an amazing 1st marathon...I might even throw my name into Boston 2015...but that's it for today. Back to the drawing board.

Now, without running, I feel without purpose. I had never experienced this type of post-race "blues" so to speak before...I could always just pick right up & move forward. Maybe it's the nature of the beast (26.2) or maybe it's the injury (I do hate not being able to do what I want to do)...I feel a sense of sadness if you will...because just like that...after 4 months of complete and utter focus...it's all over.

It kind of reminds me of the holiday season in someway...all that build up is so stressful and fun and exciting and overwhelming...and then, when it's over, what now?

Right now, I am sitting back watching what I hope will be the perfect peak for the Sox while icing my achilles...what happens tomorrow, only time will tell....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

50 Shades of Marathon

And just like that, my lust for running is reignited..

After 16 weeks of marathon training, I couldn't wait for it to be over...an aggressive Achilles strain along with the common battle scars had me in a lot of pain, and frankly, I wasn't sure I would be well enough to toe up to the start line. Fortunately, my mentor had steered me well, and we went with a very conservative training program.

After two weeks of taper torture, I felt more tired, sore, and yet freakishly relaxed about the race. After all, this could very well be my first start & finish of a marathon...just completing the training is trophy enough. And, at the same time, I was so frustrated from it all that I thought it might be time for a brief break-up....the drive was going, the love was gone...I felt left in pieces...

But like distance making the heart grow fonder...my two weeks of taper torture had me ravenous to run again...desperate...like if I didn't run, I might have nothing left of me...

On race day, during those 26.2 miles mostly alone...and with nothing in my ears but my own thoughts...it was life altering...or at least it felt that way at the time. I'm pretty sure I stared down every insecurity along with every bit of earned confidence...and in the end, despite saying I would never do that again when I could barely walk after the finish...something changed.

All week I've found myself reliving every mile, every moment for good and for bad...and every time, I come back with that same feeling...wow, that was amazing...painful, relaxing, clumsy, graceful, ugly, beautiful....and exhilarating....the type of thing that only those that have, will understand....

And I can't wait to do it all over again...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Runliftbreathe: Mental Toughness

Runliftbreathe: Mental Toughness: One week left of training...my last taper week...6 days until the marathon. This could be my first time standing at the start having been ab...

Mental Toughness

One week left of training...my last taper week...6 days until the marathon. This could be my first time standing at the start having been able to complete the 16 weeks of training to have the opportunity to run 26.2 miles...assuming I don't do something foolish between today & next Sunday. 

So many questions have been whirling around...mostly from other people. What are you going to wear? What's the route? What time does the race start? Do you have a goal time? How's your injury? And so on.

I don't know the answers to most of those questions. In fact, I figure I'll know only two of them the day before (what time the race is & what I am wearing) & other than that, I won't know until some time during the race.

 There's only one question I care about right now. Am I mentally tough enough?

I am a competitor, but my background is in team sports. I never had a problem carrying a team on my back playing college volleyball. I could rally the whole team & get them to play up & play better & push. As a college coach, if I didn't have a player that could do this, I could find a few players to train to be mentally tough & take that task on. 

This is a whole different game.

I know physically, I've got this race...even with my injury. I've done all the work. The hard part is over. 
The question that lies, am I mentally tough enough to carry myself for all 26.2 miles? I know I can run the mileage, but do I have what it takes to push through when it hurts & when I don't want to run anymore...when I would rather just jog/shuffle to the finish line...

A true athlete & competitor can probably do both & transition between individual & team sports at ease without ever losing any mental toughness. I don't know if that is me.

My role of mother is just an extension of what my entire athletic/coaching career was...team sport. Team Beland. Rallying the troops...taking care of the ones in need, motivating all the time, & pushing to move forward when necessary...This is motherhood, & we all do this. We are the captains of our team. But, in some ways, that's easy. To put the team's needs before your own....it's a selfless role but one that comes naturally especially to those that have played team sports. 

This race is definitely outside of my comfort zone because it's long enough that I know I will need to rely on more than just physical strength. There is no one on the bench pulling you aside to re-focus. No one threatening "Suicides" if you don't get your head in the game. No timeouts, no substitutions....just me.

So no, I don't know what I'm wearing. I have no idea of the route & no plans to look it up. Yes, my achilles hurts, don't know what it will feel like race day. I have no idea how long it will take me... I think the race starts at 8? I might look that one up. 

Am I tough enough to motivate, encourage, & push myself? I'll let you know next Sunday. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dirty Dozen

I've told you about the truths about running (some of those will overlap here), the truths about marathon training...and beyond...well, that deserves it's own list...the dirty dozen. I apologize in advance...it's not pretty, but those of you who have trained & competed in marathons, ultras, and other endurance competitions will be know what I'm talking about.

1. Chub Rub: yes, I know you've heard this one before. Trust me, it happens. If it hasn't, give it time...and it can appear just about anywhere: thighs, under the arms, where the sports bra rubs...and so on...use your Bodyglide diligently & rethink some of those cute Lululemon shorts...cute for training, school pickup and the grocery store...not so cute after a hot 20-miler where half of your skin has been rubbed off by those oh so adorable seams.

2. Monkey Butt: This relates to the chub rub but deserves it's own spot. I had heard of the urban legend of the monkey butt & thought my skinny-ass ultra friend was just telling tall tales that only people of her mileage  would ever know...until most recently after a hot, humid 20-miler. Vaseline is your friend. Use it. Don't believe me? Wait until that post run shower water hits...you'll wish you had listened.

3.  The 100 Club: Unless you are a running freak, 22 years old, or just so gifted in which case you probably wouldn't be reading this foolish blog, the first 100 steps you take each morning during your training are going to creak, squeak, and just plain hobble and hurt. You will stumble in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom because everything will be so tight. Running does not make you more flexible. Repeat. And welcome to the club.

4.  Hungry horrors:  I've had my share of long runs...years of them. Something about this distance toppled with the overall mileage...after my long run, I am an animal. Cannot. Stop. Eating. All day. I anticipated I might need an extra snack, afterall, according to my Garmin, most of my longest runs, I've burned approximately 2400 calories...I've probably eaten almost double on those days! Remember when you were in college and you binge drank, inhaled, & then, called the pizza place for the Burnout Special? Reliving the dream.

5. Body Type: While I bet there are plenty of people who actually lose weight when marathon training...I had so hoped I would be one of them...alas, you get what you get & you don't get upset. The skinny is going to get skinnier...the curvy is going to stay curvy but maybe tighten up in the already tight parts, the muscular...yes, you know the drill...is going to build more muscle. I use to run because it made me skinny...it did, really. But then, I got to be kind of decent at it and became a stronger runner. The days of skinny are gone...I'm trying to embrace these thighs...I'm going to need them to carry me all 26.2.

6.  R.I.P. :  Not that I was ever fast...but I could run okay. My half marathon pace was a 7:30 per mile, not too shabby for these washed-up, 39 year old legs. Right now, during my marathon training, running one mile at that pace feels impossible. Marathons are an altogether different beast. And so I held a funeral for what was my race pace prior to the marathon. It was nice knowing you. See you on the other side.

7.  Crankies:  My husband is probably praying right now that I never train for another marathon...he swears that as soon as I started training, I became cranky. Maybe he's right? Thing is trying to get in the training before the sun comes up, working full time, managing three very active children...and so on, yep, I might be a little cranky.

8.  Skeletor face:  This is the really unfair part of training. You're chronically tired & needing more sleep & more water...and while your thighs may be strong & solid, and you will lose some weight...it will never be in the places you want it most. So yes, in order to get that tight butt & strong thighs that will be able to carry the distance, the face goes.

9. Aloofness:  There will come a point in your training when you will finally be able to say, "Yes, I'm training for a marathon"...without throwing up in your mouth a little or saying it shyly. I've got three weeks left....the taper has already started with the long run...and yes, I can casually throw around my goals for after my marathon. Big deal right?! The race is the easy part...it's the 16 weeks of training that are brutal.

10. Thinking outside the Box:  Towards the end of the training, you will be so sick of running that the most random things will seem like fun...like taking a BodyStep class...or how about a little Zumba? I never thought I'd be sick of running...but I am right now. It makes everything I don't normally ever participate in sound appealing...maybe I'll join a women's soccer league or body build...or do strictly yoga....

11.  Puberty:  In the reverse...the hormones can go a little haywire...gone are the boobs, the hips seem even smaller...and really, another breakout? Nothing like an almost 40 year old wearing a training bra & smearing clearasil on her face...

12.  Super-hero powers:  Honest to God, I haven't even made it to the start line but with 3 weeks left, nothing scares me now. I feel fearless...like I can do it all. And maybe I could all along, but this 16 week journey helped realize a lot of things about myself. No matter what happens between now and D-day...nothing can hold me back.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Race Ready or Beach Ready

Everyone that is not a runner wants to be a runner because they think somehow running is going to magically transform their body...they think they will lose the extra weight, lower their body fat, magically be toned and firm, and fit into their skinny jeans.

You want the truth? Not going to happen. Not unless you are that 1% of the population that has to eat to keep weight on, firms up picking up 5lb dumbbells and still manages to have a 36D bra size...and if that is you, you're too busy getting ready for your next Sports Illustrated shoot and don't have time to read this silly blog!

In all seriousness though, there comes a time when you've been running long enough...you've experienced all kinds of training, ran all kinds of races...hit the wall, kicked some ass, and a lot of in between...you realize that there is a big difference between being a race ready runner and a beach ready runner. That's kind of the fork in the road where you have to figure out what your genetics are, what your goals are, & then, you choose.

I remember when I first started distance running, whenever I use to start to train for a race, magically as I built up the mileage, my legs would start to disappear. I know I didn't fuel properly, and my legs always felt fatigued.  Inevitably, I never ran a race at my full potential...I chronically hit that wall and could never keep my speed up the entire race. But, man was I skinny...my skinny jeans practically hung on me.

Fast forward to today, I am a much smarter runner. I feed myself well, some days too well. I understand and know how to properly fuel myself during a long distance training run or long distance race. I can run strong and steady...even paced. And today, amidst my marathon training, I am definitely not at my "skinniest." I'm not overweight by any means, but yes, I do fill those jeans out...top shelf someone once commented.

A part of me longs for those skinny, long legs...they did always look great with a tan...but deep down, I know, my strong, Quadzillas, are what will get me across the finish line. It may not be pretty, definitely not skinny, but hopefully, well-trained & well-fueled... they will have what it takes to give me a steady race with a strong finish.

And so, for me today...my goal is to be the best runner I can be...to be race ready...even if that means, ditching the skinny jeans until after this training is over.

Friday, August 23, 2013


You know how sometimes life will throw you one of those curveballs that knocks the wind out of you? I'm talking the kind that leaves you in a state where you physically have to remind yourself to breathe...images of those oh so yuppy signs come to mind, "Keep Calm and Carry On." Like we have any other choice?!

I remember running a race that had me so excited and so nervous, I pretty much got my heart rate in a frenzy the first mile. As I realized what was happening and knowing that I would never survive the other 8 miles descending from Franconia Notch with my heart rate going at its' max...it occurred to me, I was forgetting to breathe. It reminded me of some of the new runners I had just advised a few weeks prior on the breathing cycle of running when they felt they didn't have control...in through the nose, out through the mouth. I would say this as we went uphill or sped up or hit a peak mileage for them.

As simple as that. Just breathe. I said this over and over again to myself until finally my heart rate settled into a normal rate for me at a 7:20 pace per mile. And there, I just kept repeating.

I'm not sure what happened to me at the start of that race. It was a new race for me and maybe the whole excitement of it...or maybe the nervousness of being on a team and having them rely on me and my time for that leg of the relay....I don't know. All I know is that it could have gotten pretty ugly out there.

Just breathe. We can't control everything that comes our way, and we certainly can't control all the things that can happen during a run...even with the best preparation. Tomorrow, I head out for what will be an easy 13 miles...and I will savor every mile....because of running, I have learned that sometimes the only thing you can control is yourself...and when life, like running, knocks the wind out of you, sometimes the only thing you can do is breathe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Without Limits

Some might call it a fault others an asset...I don't like to be told I cannot do something...and I don't mean this in the Type A, overbearing, uptight way...I'm the farthest from that. But, when it comes to whether I can accomplish a task, a goal, a challenge...I refuse to back down, despite the odds against me.

Most recently, as I hobble around these past few days...I am wondering if it's biting me in the ass...or more literally, the achilles.  A few years back, a friend in a very non-controversial/very matter of fact manner commented that I was not built to be a runner. Clearly, I would never be fast with my broad shoulders and muscular build. While maybe his observation is not that far off, this comment was still hurtful and it fueled some major fire in various runs and races.

 Every time I am out on the road, I think of that comment...when I am dead exhausted, struggling out there, I remember what he said & I get angry & forge forward, running stronger, and faster. Every road race I've participated in, when the going gets tough, I hear that comment and it pushes me forward.

Which brings me to today...limping around the house, about more than halfway through my marathon training...at this point, I have already held a funeral for my speed. Now, I"m just hoping to finish the training, the race, and not rupture my achilles completely. And I am brought back to that comment...and it makes me  feel defeated...well,almost....but not quite....

Why? Because my own children come to mind. The reality is, I am 5'10 and my husband is 6'2...chances are, we just might not produce any Olympic gymnasts. My girls, however, are obsessed with gymnastics. They spend hours flipping their long legs over their heads....dreaming of Olympic gold while I have to bite my tongue from telling them genetically speaking, it's probably not going to happen. Maybe they will defy the odds...though deep down I know they have a better shot at being the next Misty May and Carrie Walsh (American beach volleyball queens)....it's not my dream to crush...why limit them?

 There is going to be a time when someone you know, love or are acquainted with is going to dream big. They will share this with you...it may be to run a marathon, start a business, or travel the world by boat...you have an opportunity. Do you want to be someone that puts limits on them? Or do you want to encourage growth?

I've decided that not only do I want to be that person that grows flowers instead of weeds for my children, but I want to be that person for myself. And so I continue the good fight...broad shoulders, tight achilles & all...I might go down, but I won't go down without a fight & I sure as hell won't let someone else limit my dreams.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In a perfect training week...

1. Yoga: I would get in some yoga after my runs. Running does not help with flexibility; it does quite the opposite actually. So knowing this, my hips & achilles scream to me every morning first thing as I stumble down the stairs that I should be adding in yoga to my weekly workouts. Instead what I am doing after my run is a half-assed downward dog while waiting for the coffee to brew before bounding up the stairs to get ready for work.

2. Planks & pushups: So effective for running strong & let's face it, looking good. I should get them done daily, really how hard is it? Unfortunately, lately I keep telling myself when I don't squeeze them in that I'll do them later that night after I put the kids to bed...which usually means I will think about doing them again that night but then, I settle down to have a glass of wine & get distracted by the various last minute bedtime requests (one more story, hug, fresh water, etc) that they get forgotten for another day.

3. Weight training 2x a week: And AT the gym....a day of kettlebells/TRX/interval training with another day of good old fashion, big girl weights/high reps total body workout. Throwing a couple of too light dumbbells in my living room while catching the news does not count!

4. Fuel:  Post run/workouts, fueling myself with anything that doesn't come out of my coffeepot & has some mix of protein/carbs...a nice recovery shake followed by a very healthy meal 1-2 hours later preferably some more protein with some fresh of the earth food. Shoving whatever is left in the fridge in my mouth while running out the door, driving in the car, or working on the computer....does not quite cut it. Nor does the fasting I manage to do all day until the evening hours when it's an all out eating buffet for me...and for the record, just because it says Trader Joe's on the label...does not make it good food...junk food is junk food...organic & natural or not...fancy crap is still crap.

5. Tunnel Vision: I would not be so obsessed with getting my run done that I would miss the opportunity to catch up with an old friend I haven't seen in 20 years. Yes, I admit, I did this...I was half asleep...and it was in the middle of an 18 miler up north...but still, once he said his name, I could have stopped the Garmin & paused for a minute to do a quick catch up. Instead, I tried to yell out my pleasantries as I continued to run...CAN NOT STOP....since when was I the girl that couldn't interrupt a run for a social hello?!

6. Forgiveness:  My family, friends, people I haven't seen in 20 years, & others I have been cranky, tired, & just plain boring with...will forgive me. I am aware that I'm not my normal easy breezy, you can interrupt me during a run, kind of mood...I am focused...and I know I am no fun right now. I've got a lot on my plate trying to balance this marathon training with my shortcomings (too many past injuries to list),a new job, my family & friends, and let's not forget, my gig as the lawn boy, maid, chef & overall family secretary/errand boy. It's a tough, tough balance. Most days I feel like I'm failing...but I appreciate the support & encouragement & when I finish, you will be the first people I thank for forgiving me when I was not always at my best.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


If there is one thing I have learned about marathon training, it is patience. There is no room for instant gratification when you devote 16 weeks of training for 26.2 miles. It has been a learning experience for me in so many ways but this one has by far been the hardest to surrender to and probably will be the biggest lesson of all.

Anything that is worth while doing well does take time right?  We devote one entire year or more to plan a wedding...and really it is just a party. But, we go over every little detail, set the timelines with dates and check them off accordingly. Even then, some of those details may get overlooked or need to be adjusted along the way. Patience is a necessity, otherwise, you end up on a show called Bridezillas or even worse, you're the only one not enjoying the actual wedding because you can't let go and give in.

I admit I am an all or nothing kind of gal...for good and for bad. That may be an inherited trait ...I swear it's something in my blood. I took surf lessons one summer & only a month into them, when a hurricane came rolling in, there I was trying to charge them. I practically drowned just trying to get out there...go big or go home.

 One look at my social life as an adult with three children, two jobs, one husband and a household to run...it's all or nothing. It's like I broke out of prison and am having one last romp with freedom, or I'm home sipping green tea, reading a book.

Up until a week ago, I was pushing it...training-wise...got to get it all in:  the long runs, the hill work, the tempo, the weights, the race pace runs...the worse that I felt, the more I felt the need to jam more in. I was like that hurricane I tried to surf in...all over the place, not getting anywhere, and setting myself up for disaster. Luckily, a dear friend/running mentor came along, took a look at the chaos I had myself caught up in and threw me a life raft.

We adjusted my program, and then, revisited the change a week later.  Really, what made me think I could keep up with that program when I had not completed a marathon before is beyond me...damn that all or nothing trait. Trust the program she said. It's designed for a reason. Focus on following the runs it calls for...keep to the pace for each particular run (so painful to run so slow on a long run)..it's designed that way for a reason. And stop obsessing over running the 26 miles before you actually run the 26.2 mile race. Be patient, and you will be ready.

I have to admit, it has helped. I am still a little tired  & definitely tight, but I am feeling more confident that my legs will be fresh and not burnt out by the time I line up for race day. Some days, I do have to remind myself...be patient, trust the program, trust myself. It's a hard thing to do. This is not an all or nothing race. This is a steady, well-paced endurance run. There is no room for charging big...this training, this race has all to do with being smart, being prepared, and being ready to make thought out adjustments when necessary...it's all about being patient.

 Preparation and patience...that is the key to success. Like life, this training has had some curve balls thrown at me...(heatwaves, respiratory infection, over training) but with some thought out adjustments, I continue to move forward. It may not be the pace I'm use to moving at, but that's part of the process. I can't move it any faster. I just have to ride it out, continue to plug away, and remember that it will all come together in the end.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Runner's Alley

Why you should shop in a running specialty store

I know why you haven't made the trip to the running specialty store...you think you're not a real runner. You imagine you're going to walk in and all the stick thin sub 6:00 minute a mile runners are going to giggle & then, direct you to the pizza shop next door. Clearly, you're lost and are just looking for directions to a good place for lunch, right? I know that because I was that person.

I cringe when I hear someone say, "well, I'm not a real runner." Why? Because I can relate to that all too well. There are days even now, that I still feel like an old washed-up college athlete trying to hang onto some kind of glory by posing as a runner...like some desperate testosterone driven high school football player who is now balding, in his 50's and still talking about the game winning pass to win the final game of the season & now charges Tough Mudder like it’s the Super Bowl.

I had created an image of all these silhouettes trying to help me figure out why I was having achilles problems & what shoes would best benefit me with my build, gait, and training. I thought they'd see my broad shoulders & bulging biceps & laugh & let me know that the power lifting contest was not in fact being held there, and that maybe the reason my achilles was so sore was because I was just not a real runner.

I was wrong. I have had the opportunity to work the past 5 months on the inside of what I thought was Oz where only the elite could hang out and run light swift circles past me on the yellow brick road. Let me tell you, these are some of the most knowledgable, the most warm & welcoming & intelligent, thoughtul group of people I have ever met. I have been around my share of athletes...and this group of athletes...runners...are some of the nicest, most humble people I have ever met. You would never know who runs the 5:30 pace marathon versus the 7:30 half marathon versus someone who runs recreationally and does not run races.
I never knew the ins and outs of a shoe...the many types of shoes for the many types of foot/mechanics/& build. Who knew that there were people who could actually assess a running gait, foot shape, & build and offer up something that might make running even more enjoyable. They are like shoe computers...and it doesn't stop there. They know everything there is about fueling, technical gear...and they are willing to offer up their knowledge & make suggestions because they are actually out there trying the different fuels...running in the different shoe brands...testing the products...and listening. They listen to all their customers, & they care.
Even though I have been a runner for some time now, I was a little nervous to not only shop here but then, to be an employee of such a place. 5 months is not a long time. But let me tell you something, I have learned so much from the employees of this store in 5 months...you'd think I just earned a degree in running gear & customer service. I have learned a whole lot of things I didn't know about breaking down that big wall of shoes. I have learned some new things about fueling. And, most importantly, I have learned to be a better listener.

The next time you need some new running shoes, go to your small specialty running store. Spend the time in there & let go of your own insecurities & ego, and you will get a plethora of information and encouragement from a great group of people. "Real" runners know that no matter the pace, build, mileage...it is all tough...tough mentally, tough physically... a love/hate relationship... a game & you never know when it's your day to win. "Real" runners know that just having the courage to lace up and head out is what makes you a runner...a "real" runner. So don't be afraid to pop into one of these running specialty stores…you just might love it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

If running is a metaphor for life...

If running is a metaphor for life….

Then, wow, is it kicking my ass today…talk about brutal. It was the usual early morning Thursday run…a long one…but on a lower mileage week, a mere 10 miles…awesome. I had worked in a couple rest days   already this week (thanks to the hotel wake-up call at 3am courtesy of “I have to pee Mom”). But today, I felt more rested this morning & ready to get to business.  I also had the  fortunate company of one of my running friends…the one who I aspire to be, knowing I’ll never come close to her talent. I could pick her brain & soak up all her knowledge from all the many marathons she has run (last one clocked in around 3 hours, 9 minutes.) She is badass & has a ton of experience.

And so off we go on another super humid morning…6am & it already felt like Florida. We head out & the chatting began…everything from what’s going on with the construction in the hood to how the kids’ are doing at x,y, & z….tips on my time goals for the fall marathon and then, bam, no reason at all…I just started feeling like hell.  We were not going fast at all, & I thought my stomach was going to drop out from beneath me, on top of the fact I was sweating buckets…bigger than my normal buckets. I looked at her & barely a glisten. What the hell is wrong with me?

Long story short, we do finish the run, but after it, I still didn’t feel well. Nauseous to the point I thought I might throw up or possibly stay on my porch steps for the rest of the morning. I can’t explain it…everything points to why I should have had at least a decent & comfortable run (other than the rainforest-like conditions).

Sometimes, there is no reason. Really…you are conditioned, you are hydrated, you have some fuel…& you just have a bad run. This is not an indication of what is to come…it’s just a part of the process. Running training has its’ peaks & lows & ebbs & curves throughout…some quite predictable & some leaving you doubting your training. It just is what it is.

So I had a less than stellar run. I can learn from it (coffee & wine not good hydration, snacks could always use some tweaking… more protein & less kid crap, & again, stretching & yoga would probably make everything feel better)….or I can dwell on it & doubt everything from my conditioning, my natural abilities versus my potential & just give up.

I choose to learn & move on. I have the good fortune of being surrounded by amazing athletes, runners, nutritionists, & trainers….all at my fingertips. So I turn to my team of people that keep me going, keep me informed, & keep me in check in general.  And then, I will file that run away as just another one down for the books.

I am chasing freedom & running from fear all the time. I think that’s kind of how life is. It doesn’t matter if you run or not. Sometimes you are not going at the pace you know you are capable of doing & sometimes you just feel like you are wasting your time. You might even want to give up. But you can’t. You have to keep moving forward…because let’s face it…like life, some days you win some & some days you lose some….but as long as you keep a positive attitude, assess mistakes & learn from them, &  most importantly, continue moving forward… one foot in front of the other…and repeat….

 Running training is like life…some days it will kick your ass & try to beat you down, but there will be other days, those days when you will have that moment, that sweet moment where it all falls into line…and all of it makes it worthwhile…the good, the bad, the journey along the way….one foot in front of the other.

Monday, July 29, 2013


They say you should do something that makes you feel uncomfortable every day. Do something that makes you nervous. Get outside your comfort zone.

What if doing that meant committing a year of your life? Getting up at 5:00 am. Saying no to that second drink...okay, sometimes more like third drink. Being so tired you crawl into bed right after you put your children to bed. Would you still do it?

It's not the commitment to running for me. I already have a marriage to it. But something about clicking that registration button when I sign up for a race. That's it. It's in stone. I have to train, at least attempt to...get in my hills, intervals, pace practice...long runs...no more flying or rather running by the seat of my pants. I'm committed. I have to show up and cowboy up. It makes me want to throw up.

Every click, every race...the distance doesn't matter...when I line up at the start just before the gun goes off, I feel like I'm going to lose my stomach.  Then, at some point during the race, when my glycogen stores start to empty, I think "Why do I do this, this is so uncomfortable? I hate this. Now I know I might vomit or my legs are going to snap. Volleyball never felt this bad, I should go back to it & screw this."

And then, I see the light..which differs depending on the race/distance/and how I"m feeling that day...but when I somehow pull it together to toughen up, pick it up, & forge through the pain, knowing it's about to end... I make it through and it does end....the pain...the uncomfortable pain ends, and I don't throw up or have my body snap in two. I am left with that kick ass feeling of accomplishing what felt like the impossible...I am filled with something that I cannot even describe with words...but those of you that race, you know what I'm talking about. And so, the love affair continues because soon, I will be baited for the next uncomfortable moment....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Running Buddies

Everybody needs to have some running friends....at least one or more people who will hold you accountable, encourage you, and challenge you to become a better runner.  This has been my savior over the harsh New England winter we just had & more recently, this brutal heat wave we are in the middle of.

I wasn't always an early morning runner...until I started running with a group of women in my neighborhood who get up consistently for runs at 5:30 & 6 am depending on the day because of people's work schedules. This amazing group of women had been doing this for years, & when one of them I was acquainted with invited me to join along, I was thrilled & secretly flattered. I knew these women were pretty fast and competed in everything from Reach the Beach to Pinelands Ultra marathon. Though I was a little nervous and didn't know if I was someone who would enjoy running with a group...I was hooked right from the start.

Since I started running with these women, I've challenged myself in more ways than I thought were possible...physically and mentally. I've ran in 8 degree weather which here with the Seacoast winter winds translates to face-numbing, lung-burning cold. Three of them have showed up on my doorstep during torrential rains. They've also forced me to get uncomfortable with races I swore I would never do...Reach the Beach (the whole running and not sleeping to me before seemed ludicrous, it's probably one of my favorite now)...and more recently, my first full marathon (I always had considered myself more suited for the shorter distances because of my build) but they've been right there with me, every step of the way.

Which brings me to yesterday's brutal 16 mile run on heavy tight legs. In anticipation for this run (which I assumed I would be on my own since it was a week day instead of a Saturday or Sunday)...four of my gals showed up at 5:30am ready to help me with the first half of my run. One of them stuck with me for the whole thing...(she's one of the Ultra gals in every sense of the word). On top of that, one of my friend's who was not going to be able to make it, loaned me her Garmin (I haven't bothered with one but have been considering breaking down & making the investment). She used the excuse that she didn't know how to use it & that I could figure it out & teach her. I know she really just wanted to support me in any way she could.

Without my running buddies, I easily could have forfeited this run. Having a support system is so important in running because let's face it, as physically challenging as running training is, I think more times than not, it comes down to the mental toughness...it's so easy to just bag it when you're feeling horrible or to find an excuse to do it later or another day when it's not 90 degrees and 100% humidity, but when you have friends that are dropping off their gear, showing up at your doorstep, and then, checking in with you later to see how the rest of the run went...you don't want to let them down. Without even knowing it, you are slowly building up some of your mental toughness...after all, if they believe in you, maybe you should believe in you.

Ultimately, with running friends like these, I can continue to build my physical strength and mental toughness for my upcoming marathon. And quite honestly, there comes that point when running training and life overlap with the high peaks and low lows...having someone waiting at your door to support you gives you the kind of confidence and strength that readies you for any physical or mental challenge that comes your way. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tips for your family during marathon training

1. Sleep:  It is critical for the spouse/significant other & children to get a good night's sleep because let's face it, if they are up sick, bedwetting, or just tossing and turning, we are going to pay for it. Nothing worse than an early morning run on little to no sleep because we are going to get up to do the run no matter what, & you don't want to see angry marathon mom after a long run with little rest. So please keep the sleepytime shitshows to a minimum.

2. Eat your own snacks:  Listen, we don't touch the Pirate Booty or the Coors light..especially in training  ...so do not go through the stash of Honey Stingers like it's Trick or Treat.Yes, they do taste good, but they are purely functional & too expensive for you to be tossing them back like gummy bears by the bag load. And by the way, the Nuun tablets are not some new flavored water product for you & the kids. Leave them be.

3. Pep talks: We know you are so sick of us talking about it...the runs, the fuel, the tightness, the wall (that would be the point during the 26.2 miles when we run out of glycogen stores, part of the training is to try to outsmart the wall)  there's so much to do to prepare the body for this race...like practicing how to fuel (refer to #2). But sometimes, as the highs & lows of training hit us, we do feel like we are screwed. When we say we had the worst run ever, & how in the heck am we going to make it through...take that as your cue to say "Honey, you have put together a plan, you are doing a great job, you will nail it."  And repeat....

4. All fun ends by 10:00 PM: Sounds prudish & rather lame...but trust me, this is for the best for all. We're happy to engage in a little cocktail hour & entertain friends & family, just make it early. You will be thankful we crawled into bed by 10 & were snoring by 10:10. Marathon training does not even come close to any other training we've done in the past. It is exhausting, & it is a huge commitment...when we're not doing it, we're thinking about it...constantly...so the exhaustion is as equally emotional as it it physical. Send us to bed & don't take it personally...& don't wake us up.

5. At the end, on race day, pat yourself on the back: We know what a sacrifice/strain this can be to the family... all those long runs throughout the training which means you are on kid duty...the early mornings which equates to a tired mom, tired wife, & tired maid...having to listen to us talk endlessly about whether Runguard is as good as Body Glide, how many chews are enough per 45 minutes, & my personal favorite, hearing us stumble down the stairs at 5am because we are so tight first thing in the morning we can really only make it down sideways or we kind of walk-fall down the stairs....but we remember, we are doing this for our family as much as we are doing it for ourselves... trying to set an example for our children, our family. It is almost as much your marathon as it is ours...so when we get to that finish line, it's every bit our finish as it is yours. After you tell us we nailed it, pat yourself on the back...you nailed it too:)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Long Run

1. The Pace: You are suppose to go at an easier (this translates to slower) pace than your speed and tempo workouts & especially your anticipated/race pace...this can be a slow, painful death depending on where you are in your training program. Ever see a turtle cross the road versus a squirrel? Both are screwed but at least the squirrel, in it's frantic race back & forth, goes out with a bang...

2. The Fuel: Anytime you are training for a longer race, think half marathon or marathon or more, you need to spend some time trying out different types of fuel to see what you like & what will not give you intestinal spasms...this can be an unnerving task...being out there & giving a new product a go...just might translate to having to go. You've got to do it, unless you have found the tried & true product that works for you...it's like Vegas, you win big or lose big, better now, than race day.

3. The Clothing: You should be dressing like it's 15-20 degrees warmer than it actually is. Your body will warm up & quickly. And word to the wise, the long run is not the time to try out some new shorts...if you question their wedgey-factor walking around, it's only going to get worse, especially when the long run chub rub kicks in.

4. Hydration Belts: Kind of geeky, yes...probably necessary though unless you have many willing friends & family willing to leave a water stop out for you along your route.

5. The Route: Speaking of...have an idea approximately what route you're going to run, but the ability to be flexible also...it doesn't have to be one long route totaling the mileage necessary..think outside the box, why not try running say a shorter loop of 8+ miles, and then, hit the trails to add on some minutes/miles to change it up, & then, reroute back out onto the pavement for the end of the run. This will keep it interesting, and allow for a possible bathroom break (remember, you will get over doing your business in the woods).

6. Your Business: Remember what I told you about distance running, don't know what it is about longer runs, but you will find youself trying to schedule your business breaks around your training & hopefully, getting those meetings in when you're not out on the road. But if you are, remember, you won't be the 1st nor the last to duck behind a patch of trees in desparation.

7. Post Run Fuel: Yes, you should try to eat & hydrate after your long run. Something with some carbs & sugars to replace those glycogen tanks is great, especially within 30 minutes after your run. This does not give you a free pass to the all I can eat & drink diet. I like a mix of unsweetened coconut milk with good old fashioned chocolate milk from a local farm. I follow this with a real meal/bigger snack maybe 1-2 hrs after...something that includes more protein is great. Meatball pizza would not count!

8. Blinders: Keep your blinders on. Try not to notice yourself in any window/car reflections. I don't know too many runners that look cute in the middle to end of their long run. And ignore all the young 20something year olds in their little hot shorts doing their bouncy 3 miles. Some day they will be on your side of the road chasing freedom too so no need to compare yourself.

9. Compression: Once you're done, give youself some time to finish sweating while getting a good stretch in & foam roll if you have one. While you probably won't do this too much on the hot summer days, some compression socks after your run is a good idea. It will keep the swelling down & just help those fatigued muscles recover. These will help especially if you've had several babies &/or genetics for varicose veins...unfortunately, running does not help those veins, but you'll get over it & it gives you a good excuse to walk around in fun patterned knee socks...veins & swelling not cute, school-girl like compression knee socks...adorable & functional!

10. Results: Remember to keep a log/journal of how you felt during your training. Looking through it while you are training will help prepare you for other upcoming long runs. Ie: note to self, X fuel sent me running into the woods sick to my stomach...or x clothing felt light & comfortable, should get more. And if your long run that day was more of a foe than a friend, there's always next time.
Unfortunately or fortunately, long runs can be friends and foes so try to be patient, trust your training, & enjoy the ride.

Dark & Twisty

I did two things I haven’t done in a long time. I ran by myself all week, & on one run, I ran WITH music. This week was the 1st week of my marathon training & so far, it was uneventful…no trumpets playing, the usual aches & pains, but overall, I felt good physically. Emotionally…well, that’s another story.

Was it what I lovingly refer to as the shitshow (three beautiful girls, ages 4-9) & the culmination of their roller coaster ride with the end of school that had me feeling down/off…& maybe just a little blue? Or was it the doubts in my own head regarding my own insecurities running & not running? As wordy as I can be, I am not good with my words. When I’m feeling out of sorts, I would rather run it off than talk about it, throw some iron around, or just do anything physical. So why wasn’t my running and training making me feel better?

So this week, I did the unthinkable, got my ass out of bed by myself 5x throughout the week all early morning to run/weight train. The past 3 years, I’ve done nothing but run and weight train with other people…whether it be the gals I get up early to run with, the training groups I coach, or just group weight training. I had forgot what it felt like to have no one but myself to hold myself accountable….& actually, I think I needed to do it so that I could see where I was in my running training right now. No comparing myself to anyone…just seeing what I had in me, out on my own.

The thing is, we all go through our insecurities out on the road…depending on whom you run with or train with. For some reason, our natural tendencies is to compare ourselves to what our friends/group/etc are doing, how they’re doing it, & if we’re keeping up. I had gotten into my own slump, comparing myself to my light, skinny, more experienced runner friends…dark & twisty thoughts like:  god, am I keeping up, why does this feel so hard for me today & they’re just gliding along effortlessly…I don’t feel like going this pace, I’m tired,  I feel like the Clydesdale amongst gazelles . Or  maybe I’m just less athletic/less fit & conditioned…maybe I should just hang this s*** up & go back to playing volleyball (as if my Achilles could handle that & like I have that kind of time, not too many leagues playing at 5am)…& I even hit bottom with thinking, maybe I’m just not a REAL runner.

I finished my last run for the week this am & did the other unthinkable for me…I ran with music. It was actually nice for a change. It got me out the door half asleep, & I felt warmed up mentally to tackle my pace run for the morning. With no one to set the pace but myself, I hit it & probably pushed it a little too hard but it felt good. With Pink’s greatest hits blaring in my ears, I found that this morning it was just what I needed to drown out the voices in my head that had me doubting my capabilities. Surprisingly, too….Pink being a little dark & twisty herself, had me tackling some of those feelings that have been chasing me these past few weeks. By the end of the run, I felt good again…back on track.

The thing is, I think we should all enjoy the company of running with a group; it is rewarding, fun & it can get your butt out the door, plus with the right group, it can be a place to vent & share the tougher moments in life.  I also still think it’s important to learn how to be “unplugged” when we run, otherwise, we might miss all those friendly hellos from fellow runners, not see the deer bounding away next to us out on the trails, or not hear the waves crash behind us when we stop on the beach mid-run for a Stinger/Gu break. But, there is a place in your training for those solo runs just as there is a place for some runs with music. You have to do what works for you, especially when you’re feeling dark & twisty…set your own pace, know what your strengths/weaknesses are, & remember, music or no music, solo or with a group, if you lace up, you are a REAL runner.

Born to Run

We are not born to run. I’m serious…the majority of us out there are NOT born to run. And yes, I have read the book & while it can capture you initially with all its’ kumbaya & peace, love & run free…I’m not buying it…& I’m the gal who’s motto is eat, pray, & run. I love to run and if you don’t know that by now, then, obviously I need to work on my communication skills. But in all seriousness, the majority of us do not have the body/build/genetics to run daily…& when I say daily, I mean some mileage, mixed in with some speed, every day without cross-training, weight training, and all the other things most of us need to do to be able to run and stay injury free.
Most of us have bodies that will break down, eventually. We are not made to run daily. Whether we have tight, rigid  muscles that make us more prone to injuries…or bigger builds, that translate to more weight of impact coming down, or a history that puts us more prone to overuse injuries. Now you can try to blame the shoe industry if you’re drinking the Kool-aid that book suggests…but really? Sure, I wish it were that easy… my shoes are to blame for my tight calves, tight Achilles, 5’10 & 155 lbs on an average week pounding on my poor over used feet…throw in some overtraining during my college years, oh, & being a collegiate volleyball player who had high expectations (at least in theory when you’re on scholarship)…plus some training fundamentals that revolved around  the theory “more is always better”…yep, it probably has to do with those shoes. I should ditch them, go barefoot, Vibram, or  minimalist shoes & all my problems will be solved. I was born to run, after all…that’s all I need to solve all my injuries, aches, & pains…
So listen, “Jesus” does exist in my town & he doesn’t run, he glides…& he is fast, really fast. He doesn’t need stability shoes, but he does wear running sneakers. I happen to know for a fact “Jesus” doesn’t  wear Vibrams, & he does on occasion, foam roll like the rest of us mere mortals. He was born to run. He has that build that you envision someone who can effortlessly glide at a 5:20 per mile pace would look like. He may be one of the few people I know that just may be born to run…but he still uses that foam roller. So the moral of the story, stop drinking the Kool-aid, get some good running shoes, x-train & foam roll & give “Jesus” a thumbs up when you see him…he will be the one gliding in his running sneakers.

Why Run?

I figure quite honestly if you think about it, there are only really two reasons why we run. We are either running away from something or chasing something down.  Any given day it could be either but for the most part, whatever your reason, it comes down to one of those two things.
I already told you how I became a distance runner…two babies, one year a part…then, throw a 3rd child into the mix and you can imagine, that yes, my love affair continued. Some days I was probably running away from my life…not that I don’t absolutely adore my three children & my husband, but let’s face it…being a stay-at-home mom in the throes of baby/toddler/preschool  stages, your daily goals become quite simplified. Yes! Today I managed to get all three dressed, fed, & I remembered to brush my teeth! Bonus, I even got a load of laundry in (the fact that it took me 2 days to get it dried & put away is irrelevant).  And, no, I have not in fact showered yet & am still in my sweaty running clothes.
Running was an escape from the fear that I would never be more than a professional butt wiper, snot extractor & sorter of little tiny socks that always seem to disappear & end up as singles.  That fear took my running to a new level…what if I never became anything more than that? And so out on the road, I would let it all go & escape that fear that I would never actually accomplish even keeping the house clean, getting the laundry put away & keep three people alive with only minimal scarring. I could fly & run fast…challenge myself & see how tough I really was…after all, I actually got 7 hours of sleep with only three interruptions during the night.
And then, there is running to chase something down. With time, and as my children have grown to be mildy more independent…I have more runs now where I am chasing the dream.  Sometimes it is when I am in training for a specific race wanting to hit a specific time…others times it can be pure vanity…nothing like a good run to define my hard-earned muscles prior to hitting the beach.  Chasing the dream is a beautiful thing. You feel alive…you feel like you are running for all the right reasons…trying to attain a goal for yourself…whether it be for your cardiovascular health, for those sculpted muscles…or sometimes, the best times…when you aren’t escaping anything or training for anything but you just are running towards that feeling that you get after you come back from a good run…that feeling of being alive, cleansed & ready to conquer anything…knowing if you don’t,  there’s always another day and another run awaiting you.

Reach the Beach

Imagine a group of slightly wild and a little off kilter... physically fit & athletically attractive in every body build possible...running 200 miles in 24 hours...imagine 2 vans for each team...pit stops to cheer on your runner...camp sites for when your van is off...lots of cheering props & possibly the occasional other beverage of choice...oh, and no sleep other than pulling your sleeping bag up to a tree for a nap.
This is Woodstock for athletes in a running format. And without all the illegal drugs & actual sex. Thank god, the 1st & possibly last time I participated on a Reach the Beach team I was an overtired, 37 year old married mother of 3 on a kick-ass fast team of other women trying to compete for a 1st place team for our local running specialty store. I remember thinking, wow, kind of like being in a candy store for the physically fit. You can't help but gawk behind your Natives at the physiques out there.
My first encounter with another van was when we, a group of 6 attractive & obnoxiously fit women, pulled into a pit stop to wait for our runner...it was like a frat party...10 other testosterone-driven manly men throwing a football around waiting for their runners to come by. "Coming in hot"...was their response to our van as we pulled up.
Maybe a little cheesy and inappropriate, but for some reason, it was kind of funny...kind of complimentary and appropriate for the event. Running races seem to be so quiet and serious, conservative....and solo. You're out there pushing yourself with some spectators here and there, maybe clapping, maybe some cheering...but for the most part, it's you racing the course. Here, everyone's pulling for each other to make it through the absurdity of the event, all the while, checking each other out appreciatively.
This event turns running into a team sport. The comraderie amongst not only your van-mates & team but with the other 500 teams out there...it's unlike anything else you will ever experience. It's a perfect mix of challenge, wild fun, & pure joy. Between the cheering & random conversations, to the passing around of Nuun tablets & extra water...it's really unlike anything else.
If this race had been around when I was in my 20's, it would have been kind of like a spring break but healthier on so many levels. Instead of waiting in line to do shots from a box, you're waiting in line for a crappy cup of coffee at 2am at a transition area. Cheering your friend on in a bikini contest versus cheering your friend on during her 9 mile descend in Franconia Notch...Going out for greasy pancakes at noon the next day to rehash all the nights events....going out for any meal at a place that has working plumbing to rehash the past 24 hours & wait out the results.
Like spring break, I never thought I would live through it & survive to tell all the hilarious encounters, close calls & crazy stories from those 24 hours. But unlike spring break, I would do it all over again...just to relive that feeling that this event embraces unlike any other...so if you are looking for that challenge...because make no mistake, this race is not for the weak, but you also want a wild adventure, this is the one to do....

Virgin Territory

Why is it that the 1st time we attempt to do something new and out of our comfort zone, we put huge expectations on it...as if it will completely alter our lives? And even worse, that somehow, we're going to be excellent at it and achieve better than mediocore goals?

This is what I do when I make first attempts at anything that involves strength, athleticism, & sports....I don't give a s*** about competing with anyone, but man, do I compete with myself...way too competitive, way too hard on myself too.

This is how I am feeling about what will hopefully be my first attempt at a full marathon...where I actually make it through the training & show up at the start. My first attempt to train for a full marathon got me no start & almost 9 months of no running (yes, I did cheat a bit & yes, I didn't take the doctors orders & be in a walking boot)...so why in the hell would I put such huge time expectations/goals on myself when I should be grateful to do it if I do survive the gruelling training and still make it to race day? Most days, I am grateful just to be running again because I know how brutal I am when I can't.

I was thinking all this last Thursday...July 4th on my 2 hour long run in the 90 degree heat up in the Lakes Region...yes, I might definitely have a few marbles loose for even thinking about doing that run out there, let alone succeeding...but this is what I learned on that awful, uncomfortable run.

Okay, it can't get any wose than this. This pretty much is what I am going to feel like come mile 20 when I hit that marathon wall...though I should be lucky to make it to mile 20...assuming I make it through this damn run, let alone that actual race. And if I make it through this absolutely ridiculous run, there is no way in hell, I am not going to make it through my training. Afterall, I am well aware of my short-comings, and I have a plan to find a way to work my way through them (less running, more balance).

And in between dunking my head in the lake at a boat launch and then, finishing up my last 5 miles, I realized...I am in fact a virgin...I've never ran 26.2 miles...ever...in a race, in a row, ever...so why am I putting all this pressure on myself? Yes, I have already wished that I was 40 years old...alas, I will be 39 in the fall...you runners know what that really means...in the back of my self-absorbed, overly confident, conceited head I had already figured out what time I needed for the big BQ and not being 40 meant I needed to be that much faster. What the hell am I thinking? I should be focused on the start and the finish...that in itself is an enormous accomplishment.

And let's face it...when you are a virgin and you finally set the date...you put all these preconceived notions about how wonderful it's going to be...& for some, it's just awful...for others, maybe a flicker of light...but for most, just a quick, minor milestone that you would probably no sooner forget.

So being a virgin...I'm taking all pressure off right now....I'm going to relax & not worry so damn much about it nor am I going to put all these high expectations on it especially since I know it will probably not be exactly how I imagine it to be...for good and for bad...and instead, I will try to enjoy the journey of my training & see where it takes me. And when I line up on the start...I will remind myself, you are a virgin...this is the first...no other will be quite the same (for good and for bad) so enjoy the ride....


Starting: 6/15/2013
Why is it that every new adventure has to have this gut wrenching moment when it begins? Why can't we just suddenely be emerged into the task we've set out at hand? There's always that moment of pulling the trigger...it happens all the time if you think about it.
Remember that conversation, "do we want to have children? are we ready to keep another person alive & mold them with all our idiosynchracies?" Kind of a life changer so I expect that feeling of wanting to vomit the moment I imagine being responsible for another human being for at least the next 21 years.
But what about the less live changing decisions... like I really am not loving the color of this room...do we paint it? We spend hours mulling over paint swatches, lurking in the paint department at the Depot. Why can't we just pick a color & start? Immerse ourselves in paint, just go for it.
Recently, I'm sitting in the abyss of "Holy c***!" I can't believe I signed up for the marathon. MInd you, I registered about almost 4 months ago & had already decided over a year ago that I would do this one.  Now that I am about to start my training...I want to throw up...just thinking about the task at hand. It is a cardio workout in itself...I start sweating, & I imagine all the horrible things that could go wrong. What if I get hurt during training? What if I realistically have taken on too much? What if I can't finsish the race? What if I poop myself during the race (who could forget that elite runner years ago at the Boston Marathon)...somehow, I don't think me pooping myself & forging forward would be quite as graceful.
Coming back from my last run before the training officially begins (as if the trumpets are going to alert everyone on day 1)...I confide to one of my runner friends that I am in fact doing a marathon. I swear her to secrecy like somehow word is going to spread like wildfire & everyone has nothing better to do than talk about me training for the marathon. Pretty egocentric, I know! So what am I afraid of? I express my doubts & how I don't feel ready but the training starts next week. Her reply was " Well, you just have to start."
‎You just have to start, period. No drama, no back & forth...no doubts. Just start. That's it. No need to over complicate things. And that's how running should always be. Whether you are running 26.2 miles or your 1st 5k...or your first run around the block. Just start.  And so the journey begins...no drama, no vomit, and hopefully, very little poop...

Truths about Running

1. Chub-Rub: You will get chub-rub...chubby thighs or not, your inner thighs over time & mileage will get a bit scuffed up...unless of course you are a Canadian hockey player, then maybe you can skip the Bodyglide. Otherwise, use it for any run over 10 miles or during the hot sticky weather.
2. Quite literally Number 2: You will get over your fear of pooping in public. Or in the woods, behind a tree, in the port-o-potty you're pretty sure a dead body is dumped in. It will happen. Get over it; your run will be much more enjoyable and efficient.
3. Running in public: No one is looking at you wondering why the hell you are out there in the first place. Why? Because runners are self-absorbed...we're too busy counting our cadence, thinking about our form, wondering if we'll ever make that PR (personal best record/race). Or we're too busy feeling self-conscious ourselves...or wishing we had put on that Bodyglide afterall.
4. Crossing the finish: If you run a race & run your hardest, you will pee...if only a little as your crossing the finish line. This is not gender-biased. Many a fast running males will admit to a little finish line pee. And those of us who've had babies, well, just plant a fresh pair of shorts for the post-race celebration.
5. Music vs. no music: I use to be a music person. I thought I couldn't run without it. Then, when you do & you take notice of everything around you & the discipline it takes to run a certain pace with only the thoughts in your head playing in your ears...that takes toughness. Want to be a better runner? Ditch the earbuds...plus they are a big no-no in races.
6. It hurts. No really, it hurts all the time in different & varying degrees. Early morning down the stairs...the occasional twinge moving laterally to chase down a kickball...& those 1st steps, yards, miles when you first head out for your run. It's not for the faint at heart.
7. Body type: Running won't change your body. You'll still have short legs, skinny legs, broad shoulders, big ass, no ass, tree-trunk legs, big boobs, no boobs...your genetics determine your body. Running will make you stronger, build muscle, & make you aerobically awesome...you want to change your body, add in weight training, good nutrition, & a plastic surgeon.
8. Training: It takes training to improve. That doesn't mean running fast all the time. That doesn't mean running slow & easy all the time. It takes different runs of varying mileage/speed/terrain to improve. And even then, you may be only as fast as your genetics predetermine you to be. Sucks, huh?
9. Clarity: You will do your best thinking when you are out on a long run. It's like finding God. You find yourself & all those answers you've been looking for somewhere down that long road with many miles behind you.
10. Lace'em up: Really all you need is to lace up and go. That's the beauty of it. You can have all the high tech gear you want, but if you don't head out, what's the point? If you have nothing but a pair of sneakers & you lace up and hit the road, you are a runner, a REAL runner. Happy trails:)

My Love Affair

I had never officially trained for a race....well, unless you count showing
up to local 5k and 10ks prior to the shots & many beers & margaritas
that would be consumed following a few random races I had hopped into. Make no
mistake, I wasn't your average non-runner...I was a washed up college volleyball
player who for a volleyball player could run.  I ran recreationally to stay in
shape and even turned down an offer to run track at my university my senior
year. But running fast 3 milers hardly made me a seasoned distance runner.

Then, I hit that fork in the road so to speak...I had just left a job I had
loved to stay home with my 1 year old & newborn...yes, two babies in one
year...you can imagine where this is going. So after the honeymoon of being home
with my own babies had worn off; reality hit...I felt I could go in any
direction. I was exhausted, out of shape, & probably had the blues. I
remember being at my gym (where I worked Saturdays just to escape the house)
thinking how am I going to make it? I could do drugs....nah, I'm too much of a
rule follower. I could get really, really fat...just forget my healthy habits
& sit around the house eating bon bons & watching soaps. I could start
drinking...heavily...after all, alcoholism runs in my family, I'd probably be
pretty good at it &I could numb myself safely...or..it was then, that I
literally looked up & noticed a flier for a brand new half marathon coming
to the area. That's it...I knew it immediately. That's my ticket to sanity.
I had not ran more than 3 miles in maybe 3 years. Even though I had a
personal training certification, I had no idea how to apply it to distance
running. Yes, I'm going to run 13.1 miles, and I am going to figure out how to
train myself to do it. Why not? Beats being a drunken fat housewife who watches
soaps all day.

And so that is how my love affair began. I trained myself...had no clue what
I was doing & had to do most of my runs on a treadmill at the gym while my
babies were in the gym nursery, but I did it...start to finish. I even managed
to run the race in just under an 8:00 minute a mile pace. More than that though,
I got a piece of myself back. The part of me that knew I deserved that time to
myself...that I needed that time. Also I rediscovered that person I forgot I was
when I became a mother...I was an athlete...someone who thrives on
competition...loves to push limits...& feels more beautiful and comfortable
in my skin when I'm sweaty and working my ass off...on the road, in the weight
room...just being me. Thanks to my love affair with distance running, I learned
how to love myself again.