Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Just Felt Like Running

As I spoke quite a bit about in my last training log, I have been contemplating doing another full sooner than later in hopes to secure me a spot in the 2018 Boston Marathon.  The rational coach side of me says I should probably give it at least another month or two to recover, start a new training cycle that I can complete in its entirety, and attempt a late Spring early Summer race.  But the stubborn, strong willed and impatient side of me is saying I have the miles, I have the fitness and I have the burning desire to give this another shot ASAP.

So conflicted with this decision and wanting to make a smart and healthy choice, I sought the advice of a few run coaches who also happen to be good friends of mine.  Their responses, however, were essentially the same things I have been telling/asking myself, leaving me just as if not more conflicted and confused as to what to do, lol!

So there I was last week, about six and half weeks from the race I didn't know if I should run, but really want to, figuring it was about time I make a decision.  So that's what I did and here is how it happened, along with my week of training of course....

MONDAY: Lift + Spin + Run
It may seem like I spend my whole Monday working out.  I do have a busy, fitness filled mid-morning, but I feel like it's a great way to get the week started.  The kids head to school a little before 9, Hunter has a class he teaches at 9 and I teach spinning at 9:15, so I am able to sneak in a quick little lift before my class while I am kid and husband free.  After spin class, Hunter and I are able to run together, which has become one of my favorite runs of the week.  He's not a huge fan of running, in fact he used to absolutely hate it.  But he's been trying to lose a few pounds and figured the cardio would help with that.  He keeps a pretty solid pace in the mid to upper 8's so it is always some great recovery miles for me.  I spent most of the rest of day flip flopping back on whether I should run the Celebration Marathon or not.  I checked their website to see if they still had open registration.  With a teeny, tiny small part of me hoping to see it was full and my decision made for me, I was more so incredibly relieved to see they still had over a 100 spots left.  Back to contemplating...

TUESDAY: 5 mile Progressive Run
Normally I spend my Tuesdays doing speed work, but not sure about what to do moving forward with training, I figured I would take it a little easy on Tuesday.  Also, if I decided to do a long run that week, it would most likely have to be on Thursday.  So pushing it on Tuesday may hinder what I would attempt to accomplish two days later.   The run went pretty well, nothing special or spectacular, just pretty routine and I was happy with that.  In the past, I would have been very frustrated with a so-so run.  I felt as if I had to get better and faster with every single week.  But this was a good "listen to your body" kind of run and I am more proud of myself for that than a super fast track workout.  A "knock it out of the park run" would probably have had me running to my computer to sign up for the race in January.  But I still wanted to wait and see how Thursday, if I decided to run then, would go for me.

WEDNESDAY: Strength Training
Tuesday evening, I pretty much made up my mind I would attempt an 18 miler on Thursday, and depending on how that would go, I would decide if I am signing up for the marathon in January.  I had ran a slow, easy paced 16 miler two weeks prior so I wasn't all that crazy for going for 18.  With that being said, I have really been enjoying my weight room workouts these past few weeks.  Once Space Coast was over, I was ready to get after it and move some big weights.  Not wanting to let go of that momentum but knowing I had a big run the next morning, I still pushed through a pretty tough workout on Wednesday.  Kettlebell swing, box jumps, hurdles, jump rope, slams, all the fun stuff.  I figured I had plenty of time the next day to workout the soreness in my legs as I ran for a few hours.

Thursday: LSR 18 miles
With an early morning wake up call to get my warm up miles on the treadmill, I went to bed a little earlier the night before.  Man was I sleeping like a champ when my 4am alarm went off.  Luckily only the slightest part of me wanted to shut it off and go back to bed, but I didn't.  I got up, got dressed and got going.  I knocked out about 3.5 super easy miles on the treadmill before heading over to the park to meet up with my Moms Run This Town mamas.  I did another easy 4.5 with them before they all had to leave to get their kids off to school and/or go to work.  The sun wasn't quite up yet so I figured it'd be a little safer to do another mile or two around the lighted, crowded park.

With the sun finally up and 10 of my 18 miles complete, I figured it was time I head over to the trail.  Up to this point, my pace had been pretty easy around 9ish.  Although that felt easy and I felt great, I didn't want to push it too much more until later in my run.  My plan was to take the pace down to the mid 8's once I hit the trail and hopefully push it to the finish with a sub 8 mile or two at the end.

It was certainly not as crazy hot as it had been for my previous long runs of the Summer and Fall, but it was warm and humid out there.  I was covered in sweat, it was even dripping from my visor.  Because I did not have enough time to prepare for my run (I like to get my pre-run goodies from Whole Foods), I had not fueled properly and feared that would be a factor.  I also was in need of new shoes (the ones I ordered were on back order at the time but luckily came in this week), so I was dealing with some foot and calf discomfort.  But surprisingly, nothing about that run seemed insurmountable.  I was able to push through, hit my paces and finish strong.  In the words of Forrest Gump, "I just felt like running" so that's what I did Thursday and I was happy with my performance and ready to make my decision about my race.

Friday: Upper Strength Training + Marathon Registration
With little time for a workout that day, I had to knock out a quick one at Planet Fitness before the kids got up.  I was not in the least bit sore or exhausted from the day before, in fact I found it a little odd how good I felt after running 18 miles less than 24 hours prior, lol!  Still, I did not work any part of my lower body and stuck to my "gun show" workout.  I headed into work and as I sat at my computer, I went ahead and did what I know I wanted to do not just all week but for the past several months...I signed up for the Celebration Marathon on March 29, 2017.

Saturday: Run + Swimming
With my long run done and my decision made, I was excited for a nice easy run on Saturday along with some laps in the pool.  The miles from the week had definitely caught up with me and my run felt like it took a little more effort than necessary, but got it done.  Then in the pool, my darn googles kept flooding, so having to stop and readjust made for a frustrating swim.  Certainly not the workout I had hoped for that day, but a solid workout nonetheless and it closed out a busy exciting week. Spent the rest of the weekend with my favorite boys getting ready for the holidays.

Later that weekend I told my husband, who had been doing his best to help me make and support my decision, that though I know I could not guarantee a BQ (there are always just too many variable on race day for that) but I was more mentally prepared for one than ever.  My mental game is where I have always struggled in the past.  I have always focused so much just the end goal, and an entitled goal at that, taking an "all or nothing" approach on race day.  Going balls to the wall at the start of the race a bit faster than the pace I assume I should be running thanks to an online calculator hasn't really worked for me (I know I should know all this and I do, but this along with my "entitled goal" is a more detailed story I'll save for another post).  Realizing there is a much better course of action along with recognizing what I am indeed capable of, I will take a much more educated and conservative approach to this race, in hopes to at least match or beat my current PR of 3:38:42.

So here's to another (brief) marathon training cycle and another shot at catching my unicorn!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Marathon Training Week 0

Last week was the first week since late May of this year that I was not training for anything specific.  Going into the week I felt like it could go either way.  I would either be relieved to not have any pressure of training or I would feel a little lost without it.  It was definitely a roller coaster of a week with a mixture of both of those feelings along with many more regarding training and my future races.

So here is a little recap of last week's "training" along with my thoughts on my upcoming schedule for 2017.

Monday: Spinning + Total Body
Thanks to racing, traveling and a hectic work schedule, I have been missing my spin crew.  So it was nice to get back into my normal teaching routine and they seemed excited to see me too ;-)  Before class, I always like to try to knock out a quick lift if timer permits.  Because I have been so caught up in the distance running, I have been going pretty light on the legs and been focusing a lot on core and upper.  Well last Monday, I thought it would be fun to hit the legs hard (bad idea lol) with some squats and dead lifts.  Felt good to get after it but my legs were not too happy with me as the week went on!

Tuesday: 5 super easy miles
My legs were pretty cooked from not just the lifting the day before but for the higher than usual mileage they had experienced over the previous few weeks.  I flipped flopped all morning between swimming laps or going for an easy run.  My body kept telling me to hop in the pool but when my break rolled around, so did some nice clouds and a breeze, my heart told me to go for a run.  So that's what I did and it was glorious!  It had been months since I have been able to enjoy some carefree miles in the rain.  It started overcast and breezy, turned to some sprinkles and by the time I was rounding for home, it was pouring down rain.  What an awesomely refreshing run it was!

Wednesday: Olympic Lifting + Plyos + Yoga
"Sure Hunter, I will lift with you!"  Famous last words.  I had planned on doing a light upper and rest the legs a bit that day, but when the hubster asked if I wanted to workout with him, I was like sure it'll be fun.  Ha!  We did some snatch grip dead lifts, jumped on and over things and of course threw heaving things, along with some upper body.  It was a great workout but man was I sore for daysssss!  After work, I taught my usual yoga class at LA Fitness.  I teach so much off the mat but I was able to sneak in a few poses during class for my own benefit too.

Thursday: Swim + 5m Run
Ok, so Thursday would be the day I would dedicate to the pool, except one thing, it also happened to be the most beautiful weather we have had in months!  There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the upper 50's.  How could I NOT run that day!?!  So I got in a few quick laps (around 1600m) and took the rest of my workout outside for a nice and easy run.  Despite how tired and sore they were, the gorgeous weather made me feel great out there and I was able to really pick up the pace towards the end of my run. 

Friday: Upper + Core
I had very limited time to get a workout in on Friday but was able to sneak in a quick one before work that morning.  I went over to Planet Fitness and knocked out some upper and core. 

Earlier that week, I was really enjoying the freedom with my training.  I had decided I was going to lift heavier, swim more and not worry if I got in a run or not.  But as the week went on, all I wanted to do was make sure I got in a run, lol.  Earlier in the week, I had made up my mind that I would NOT do another marathon next month, that I would wait until March.  But by the end of the week, training for Celebration (January 29th) was all I could think about.  I wanted to see how my "longish run" would go the next day and consider what I want to do moving forward.

Saturday: 7 hard-easy-walking-hard miles
With no plan or pressure for my Saturday run, my hope was to do anything between 6 and 10 miles.  I also brought my swim stuff in case I decided to cut the run real short and just hope in the pool.  But I figured if I was really feeling it that morning (which I didn't expect to but you never know), I would push it and have a routine  8-10 mile maintenance run.   I got going and felt pretty good.  There was some tightness in my left hamstring and my right shin was a little upset with me (I need new shoes) but over all I felt OK.  Just OK though, not great, not even that good, just OK.  I knocked out about 4 miles at a pretty steady pace and took a little break for some water and to readjust my ponytail.  Then a friend of mine hopped on the treadmill next to me who I haven't seen in a while, so I took it as a sign to walk and chat.  For the next few miles, I walked and ran at a super easy pace while we chatted.  Once he left, I picked up the pace and went hard to finish out the last mile and a half to take it to 7 for the day.  Although a part of me wished I produced a much better run that morning, I was grateful for the easy miles, I'm sure I really needed them.

The rest of the weekend was spent with my family.  We took the boys to see Santa, went to the park, the Magic game and hiking.  It was quite a busy weekend but so much fun getting to spend  time with my favorite people.

I am still conflicted as to what to do about the marathon in January.  I know my body is not fully recovered from the two I just ran, but I also feel like I already have the mileage and fitness base, so I know I could totally do it.  I guess it's just a matter of what goal am I trying to accomplish (which would ultimately be a BQ), how bad do I want it, how hard am I willing to work for it and how smart  and realistic am I being about it?  So not sure if that is to go for it now or give it a few extra months to recover and prepare!?!  With time running out, it's a decision I will have to make this week so to be continued...

Monday, December 5, 2016

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes: What I've Got to Change for a BQ

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  So I guess you could say for the past few years, I've been a bit insane.  With each of my several failed attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I have made very few significant changes in my training and lifestyle.  Yes, I have read countless books, articles and online forums.  I added in more speed work, periodized my strength training better and have attempted to clean up my diet.  But none of these changes have overhauled my training enough for it to provide me with the results I am looking for on race day.

So do I go crazytown and revamp my life?  I honestly do not believe I need to go to such drastic measures, nor do I want to.  I have proven to be a strong runner with the routine I have always known and trusted.  I have come a significantly long way shaving over an hour off of my first marathon time and only missing my BQ by a mere 2 minutes.  My routine fits my lifestyle with work and family and has kept me relatively healthy and injury free for many of years.

But with all that being said, obviously I am missing the boat on something because I keep coming up short.  The minor tweaks I have made along the way have just not been enough to secure me a BQ time.  So I think it's time to take a good, hard look at what needs to change for me to finally turn my Boston dream into a reality.

First thing's first, my marathon training background...

When I ran my first marathon, I had one and only goal which was simply to finish.  Before I began training, I had never raced anything more than a 5k and the most miles I had ever ran at one time was maybe 8.  So really had no idea what to expect.  I read Jeff Galloway's book, Marathon: You Can Do It, and used the "To Finish" program that had me running 3 days a week.  It seemed non-intimidating, it fit my schedule and I was able to still strength train on alternate days.  I stuck to the plan and finished my first marathon in 4:42.

I used the same exact plan for my second and third marathons where I finished in 4:07 then 3:53.  I learned about speedwork while training for my 4th marathon, but a freak injury to my foot (I'm pretty clumsy) ruined my chances for a BQ then.  My 5th marathon was just 10 weeks later.  I was still healing from my injury and recovering from my previous marathon, so I figured I shouldn't deviate from the plan I had always known.  I finished that one in 3:38, which it is still my current PR.

Heading into training for Chicago (my 6th marathon), I was still on a high from the PR I had in February.  I figured since I had come so close then, I should probably stick to the same plan and just push harder, plus I aged up so that 3:38 would be actually be a BQ now.  I was having a great race in Chicago until a hamstring cramp caused me to slow down and even walk much of the last 10k.  My average pace was the EXACT same as my previous marathon but because the course was almost a half a mile longer, I came in at 3:42, missing my BQ by 2 minutes!

7 weeks later I ran another full, but this one was just to finish.  It's a big event for my running group so I was more excited to see them run, plus I got an extra medal for running it three years in a row.  A part of me hoped to maybe pull off a BQ/PR that day, but I was realistic heading into it that my body and mind just wasn't up for the challenge that day.

So 6 years, 7 marathons and 5 failed BQ attempts later, I think maybe it's about time I make some changes...

Being Coach-able
I'm realizing that I am going to need some help designing a solid program and someone to coach me through it.  Although I have been running for almost two decades and am a (strength) coach myself, it doesn't mean that I have all the answers.  It also doesn't mean that I can push myself and hold myself accountable the way someone else can.  I feel like it's time to get this thing to the next level and I feel the only way I'm going to do that is by enlisting the help of a professional.

Stop Flying Solo
Thanks to my crazy work schedule, my husband's crazy work schedule and our two crazy kiddos, it's not always easy to squeeze in my own workout, let alone schedule it around other people.  There is a plethora of group runs in my area and several running buddies I can meet up with, but finding the time is such a challenge.  Of course I have come to realize that no great things can be done alone and it's time I make time to run with people.  Not only will running with stronger runners push me to run harder, but it will also give me motivation, inspiration and of course, accountability.  I am looking forward to many more group runs and running bonds being formed in my future!

Nutrition
I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle; a healthy, clean diet 80% of the time and moderate indulgences the other 20% of the time.  For someone who had a very unhealthy relationship with food for most of my adolescence and early adulthood (over and under eating), I find this to be a good balance for me both physically and emotionally.  With that being said, there is still certainly room for improvement..  I need to find a way to get in a better variety of healthy foods, especially protein sources, and be a little bit more cautious of my indulgences.  If only I could live off of chips and beer!  Hoping a more balanced, cleaner diet will not only help me with my racing weight but will also help my digestive system cooperate much better too (which was unfortunately a HUGE factor in a failed BQ attempt a few years ago)!

Strength & Conditioning
Probably my biggest strength is my strength training, I am a strength coach after all.  Over the years, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in my field that has helped not just the athletes I work with but myself as an athlete too.  So I definitely feel like I've got a good handle on that.  Where I often fall short is with my mobility and flexibility.  I pretty much always wait until something is ridiculously tight then finally address it.  So there will be much more foam rolling and yoga in my next training cycle.  Another thing I plan to incorporate much more of is swimming.  It's a great form of cross training for runners and my current PR is from when I did a lot of swimming during that training cycle, just saying.

Mindset
Probably the biggest factor that has continually held me back in my goal is my attitude.  I doubt myself and give up entirely way to easily.  At this point, I feel as if it is partly due to the fact that failure has (unfortunately) become my comfort zone.  I know what it's like to fail, but I have yet to experience the feeling of accomplishing my ultimate goal of a BQ.  It kinda sounds a little ridiculous but it's almost as if I am afraid of reaching my goal.  The goal itself is not frightening.  It's not crazy ambitious or out of my reach.  It's the aftermath of reaching my goal that scares me.  I've been chasing this one goal for what feels like eternity and I'm nervous about how it will all effect me if and when I finally accomplish it.  Will it have been worth it all?  Will it be enough for me?  Will I be able to do it again?  What will I obsess about then?

Obviously my irrational fear of accomplishing my goal along with the unwarranted doubts about my abilities and what I am capable of are definitely something I am going to have to work on heading in to my next training cycle and race.  Of course it's all going to boil down to preparation.  Knowing that I am prepared both physically and mentally will give me the confidence I need to dominate on race day.

I'm looking forward to what 2017 holds.  I'm ready to make some big changes so that I can accomplish some big things!

Monday, November 28, 2016

BQ or Bust...Spoiler Alert, I Chose BUST!

Sometimes it's more about the finish line than the finish time.  Unfortunately it has taken me several years and a lot of heartbreak to truly understand that.  It's so easy to get caught up in the competition of races and PR chasing that you lose sight of why you even bother lacing up.  My unsuccessful three year (and 5 race) journey to qualify for the Boston Marathon has been a true testament of that.  Most of the races during that time period, I crossed the finish line with my head down, grabbed my medal and sulked all the way back to my car and the drive home.

Simply put, I was a big brat whenever I didn't BQ.  And thanks to my "brattiness," I missed out on so much.  I missed out on the beauty and awesomeness these courses had to offer.  I missed out on the spirit of the runners around me and how exciting they all were for each other, including me.  I missed out on the fun after parties and the bonds that could've been formed with my fellow runners.  And most importantly, I missed out on the appreciation and respect for the full marathon distance I had just accomplished.  After all, despite no BQ, I was still a freaking marathoner.  But that just wasn't enough.

7 weeks ago I ran the Chicago Marathon.  I put my heart and soul into training during the hot summer months here in Florida.  Early mornings, weekend long runs, the speed work, the strength training, all of it was in hopes to finally secure my BQ.  It was a tough summer and I went into the race uncertain I would reach my goal, but I was going to give it my absolute all.  Which is what I did, but I still came up a few minutes short.  Close but still not enough, so it was on to the next one...or so I thought.

I had planned to run the Space Coast Marathon less than two months after Chicago as a Race Pacer, so I kept my mileage up after I got back.  When I learned I was on the reserve list for the half instead of the full, I decided to go ahead and sign up for it and race it.  I had all the training miles in the bank, so many of my friends would be there (including a bunch of Moms Run This Town mamas) and plus I would receive and extra medal for running it three years in a row.  So why not right!?!
Moms Run This Town pre-race
I took a very non strenuous and stress free approach to "training" for Space Coast, in hopes it would have me prepared but relaxed for race day.  Though I had the miles, I had not specifically trained for a particular time, so I wasn't sure what race day would have in store for me.  Since I feel goals are uber important for anything, I knew I needed to make some for this race.  Normally I would have up to 4 goals and I would try to stick to that game plan, in fact, I originally did that for Space Coast.  But during the week leading up to the race, my body and mind were just burnt out from all the miles and pressure over the past several months.  So I decided to take a different approach for this one...BQ or BUST.

I figured if I was feeling it, I would go balls to the wall and try to get that BQ.  But if at any point I realized it just wasn't in my cards, I would let go of any time goal and have myself a good ole time out on that course.  I was ready to give it my all but also to prepared to accept the fact that it just may not happen.  So it was all or nothing, and by "nothing" I simply meant time didn't matter as long as I was enjoying myself.

The first 9 miles of the race, I was able to follow my original plan.  I was hanging out somewhere between the 3:25 and 3:30 pace and feeling pretty good.  The sun was just starting to come up, the weather was nice and cool and my legs, though sluggish, where holding pretty strong.  Around mile 10, however, my legs started to feel incredibly heavy and they started to cramp up a bit.  I had a nice "cushion" with my time, so I was able to pull back a bit and still hang onto a pace that would guarantee me a BQ.
Starting to "not feel it" any more
The slower pace did absolutely nothing for my legs.  They began to feel worse and worse and I still had a whole lot of miles ahead of me.  The sun was up by this point and it was starting to get pretty warm and I knew it was only to get hotter and hotter.  I am very familiar with this course, I know how daunting that second half is and I could feel myself starting to check out.  So I went ahead and made the decision around mile 14 to just go with my BUST goal and it was the best decision I think I have ever made during a race.

At this point my head phones came out and I started making friends along the way.  I was high-fiving anyone and everyone coming through on the other side of the course (it's an out and back with the half marathoners too).  So many of my runner friends were out there and for once I got to see their smiling faces because I wasn't staring down at the ground in agony.  I got to run a bit with several friends who were pushing to PR that day (which they did whoop whoop), friends who were coming back from injuries, and even strangers who became friends.

Best of all, I got to run the last several miles and cross the finish line with a fellow Moms Run This Town mama, Cristina, who was having a rough day and could use the company to get through.  Though she thanked me so much for my support, it was her that totally made my marathon experience yesterday worthwhile.  I had wanted so bad to have a fun race, one that I not only could enjoy that day, but look back on and be proud of.  Her allowing me to be a part of her journey during that last 10k, supporting her and pushing her to finish is exactly what I needed.  It forced me to let go of any pressure I had on myself at that point and be able to help a fellow runner.  We laughed, we cried, we got to know each other along the way and we even stopped to take some liquor shots and some selfies out there.  Crossing the finish line with Cristina was one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do at a race and I am so grateful for that whole experience.
Cristina and I at mile 23ish (after our vodka and whiskey shots)
So unlike many of my other "failed" BQ attempts, yesterday I proudly crossed that finish line with my head held high next to my new friend.  I didn't just snatch my medal and walk to my car, rather I let them hang it on my neck, then I grabbed me a beer and skipped on over to the after party.  I reunited with many of my friends I saw along the course and I proudly told them my time and experience out there. I got to know some of my "friends" I only see briefly at races and made a bunch of new ones.  It was probably close to two hours before I made my way back to my car and I was filled with nothing but pride and excitement from the days events.
This story would have had a significantly different ending if the second half of the race went as well as the first, as far as running goes.  I would have FINALLY, after 5 attempts, been able to claim my spot in the Boston Marathon, and I could only imagine how I would be feeling today if I had made that happen.  But it didn't and I have absolutely NO regrets.  There will be other races and other chances to qualify.  Through all of my previous attempts, I learned so much about myself as an athlete.  But at yesterday's race, I learned so much about myself as a person...and for that, Space Coast was all I could have hoped for and more!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Marathon #7: Ready or Not, Here I Come

I have been training like crazy over the past several months and not just myself, I've been super busy working with our athletes at the Factory as well as getting my Strength2Run program off the ground!  It's been such a hectic couple of weeks since getting back from the Chicago Marathon, I almost completely forgot I was training for another marathon.  Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, I certainly have been running.  But I haven't had much time to really think about the race to be honest, and I have been slacking on my weekly training logs.

With my next marathon in just 6 days, I figured now is as good as time as any to get back to my journal entries.  So here is a recap of last week's training and what's to come for race week...

Monday: Upper Lift
Normally I teach spin on Monday's but we are conducting interviews for a new coach at our gym, so I had to be there.  So rather than spin, I taught our adult group that morning, had the interview then got in a little lunch time lift.  Hunter went for a run while I was lifting and I thought about going with him or having him wait since we've been running together most Monday's lately.  But my hamstring has been a little tweaky since Chicago so I figured it best to take it easy in hopes it feels better for Space Coast.  I did upper with some mobility work and foam rolling.

Tuesday: 7 @MGP
I suppose I could or should have done speed work on the treadmill like I do most Tuesday's on my lunch break.  But the weather was absolutely GORGEOUS, so I had to take advantage of that and get some miles in outside.  Plus with an iffy hamstring, I figured the easier pace would be better than pushing the limits with speed work.  70 degrees and overcast, the miles flew by and the hamstring held up ok, but became pretty tight as the day went on.

Wednesday: Upper + Mobility + Yoga
Another busy day with work so I snuck in a quick upper body lift with the hubster on our lunch break.  I did (finally) take some time to work on my hamstring with some mobility work and a lot of foam rolling for my quads (specifically VMO), adductors and little over into my IT band.  That along with the Yoga class I taught later that night really seemed to help with the hammy.  I was starting to think the hamstring thing may just be in my head, I am tapering after all so something has to go wrong, right!?!

Thursday: Easy 5
Another gorgeous weather day, so I again had to take my run outside.  Knowing I wouldn't have much time to get my race day essentials race week because of the holiday, I figured I would make the trip over to Fleet Feet and Whole Foods and run at Cranesroost Park near by.  It's a really nice paved trail around a lake that is about a mile around.  With the perfect weather and the Christmas decorations up, it was definitely a nice run.  Unfortunately all that work I did for my hamstring the day before didn't seem to stick and it was giving me a little trouble again.  I was getting a little frustrated and bummed out, but I was prepared for something like this to happen when I jumped right back into marathon training after Chicago.  Fortunately it is not a major issue that I can totally treat, and if I were not running a marathon in a few days, I wouldn't be in the slightest bit concerned about it.  And besides, I am not putting any major pressure on myself for Space Coast, so no reason to get too bummed about an annoying hammy.

Friday: Upper Lift + Core
It's important to taper strength training too in preparation for race day, so I'm really having to pull back in the weight room.  Friday was a lot of accessory lifting, aka The Gun Show, and some core work.  As a strength coach and athlete, my training focuses primarily on performance.  But I would be lying if I said I don't do it for the muscles too ;-) so it's fun to "waste" some time in the gym on shoulders, bis and tris every now and then.  Later that evening I spent quite a bit of time with The Stick to roll out my legs.  I really wanted to get a good run in the next day and a lot of that depended on how the hamstring would hold up.

Saturday: 10 miles + Taper Time!
Decided to do my last double digit run of the training cycle on the treadmill, so I was able to sleep in with the family, enjoy some coffee and head over the the gym a little later in the morning.  I woke up feeling a little tight in my hamstring and sore from all the rolling, so I was a little apprehensive how the run would go.  I started off at a pretty conservative pace and just as I suspected, my leg felt pretty tight.  After a couple of miles, however, it started to loosen up some, so I was able to push the pace a little.  At about 6.5 miles, I had virtually no issues with my leg and was able to pick up the pace even more.  I finished the 10 miles out pretty strong with an over all average pace of around 7:30.  I rolled the legs a little after the run and went on about my Saturday with little to no hamstring concerns!  I'm not convinced it's completely healed but that is definitely a great sign that it's getting much better and should hopefully hold up race day. (fingers crossed)

Sunday: REST Day
Sunday's are the only days we typically have no work and are able to spend the entire day as a family, so I have made it a point to make that my rest day to maximize my time with the hubby and kiddos.  We had a fun filled day of going to see the movie Trolls, visiting a friend and her sons at a new park, then food prepping and football for the rest of the evening.  A much needed day with my favorite people to recharge the batteries and head into a busy week of work, Thanksgiving and of course a marathon!

Goals for Race Day
Oh and speaking of that marathon, I just wanted to revisit my goals one last time now that it is officially race week.  Since I just ran Chicago last month, I have to be realistic about my goals for this race.  Also, Space Coast has always been a rough race for me, so I feel like I am going into it aware that it could be yet another tough one.  But with all that being said, I still need to have goals, so here they go...
A. Swing for the fences.  If I happen to be feeling it that day, why not freaking go for it and make that BQ finally happen at the race that has defeated me so many times before!?!
B. Push a little and clock what has become a consistent marathon time for me in the low 3:40's.
C. Run with a friend (or a stranger for that matter) who is trying to break 4 hours.
D. Just finish that damn thing with my head held high and a smile on my face.  2 marathons in 2 months is certainly something to be proud of!
Well, that's a wrap as I enter into race week.  I will try to recap before I head out Sunday to get my marathon on, but definitely be on the look out some time next week for a race recap!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Introducing Strength2Run: Online Strength Training Specifically for Runners

Whether you’re a novice runner or seasoned runner or even a competitive athlete, there is no greater feeling than hitting the trail or treadmill and of course, crossing the finish line.  But as runners we also know there is no greater disappointment than coming up short in your goal or worse, being sidelined due to an injury.  That is why many runners are starting to take their cross training much more seriously.  But when left to their own demise, many a runner is left uncertain as to where to begin and how to stay on tract with an effective strength and conditioning program.

That is why I have designed the Strength2Run coaching app, a personalized strength and conditioning program designed specifically to meet the needs and demands of runners, offered directly through your phone or mobile device!  With my knowledge and experience in strength coaching as well as running, I design individualized training programs to suit your needs, goals, current fitness level, equipment available and of course, your schedule.  You will get all the perks of a personal trainer (program design, accountability, motivation, etc.) but with workouts done on your own time!

By now, you may or may not already be aware of the many benefits a well rounded strength and conditioning program has to offer runners.  Here are some of those awesome benefits you can expect to experience through my programing:
  • Improved strength
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better form and running economy
  • Injury prevention
  • Improved body composition (weight loss, increase lean muscle)
  • Improved running pace...help you get that PR!
Working with me through my Strength2Run training app, you will get personalized training programming to coincide with your running, your very own coach (me) and all the great benefits of a personal trainer, all from the comfort of your own home or gym done on your own schedule.  Strength2Run provides the following:
  • Strength training program designed specifically for you
  • Initial phone consultation to discuss current fitness level, health history, goals, etc.
  • 2 workouts per week tailored to your goals and needs
  • Fitness tracking
  • Accountability and motivation
  • Nutritional support
  • Safe and effective programing, that keeps your run training and racing in mind
  • Basic run programming (5k to full marathon)
  • Monthly phone check-in
Why online coaching?  As I mentioned above, you get all the perks of having a trainer...specific programing, accountability, coaching, the list goes on, but with workouts you can do during your own schedule and at your own facility, home or even while traveling.  All through your phone or mobile device!  Not to mention it is much more cost effective than hiring a personal trainer at a gym (see below).
And through the app, you will get not just your workouts, but videos along with descriptions of each exercise, weight suggestions, reps, sets, rest and more!  You, of course, will be held accountable to completing your workouts with check ins and I will also be available for support through the app messenger as well as via email.

You get all the programing, accountability, coaching and support all for the low price of just $99 for one month of training.  And guess what, unlike gyms, personal trainers and other online programs, Strengh2Run offers month to month programing.  There is no sign up fee, no contract, no auto draft.  Receive coaching for as little as one month or for as like as you need!  (FYI: To train one on one with me in my gym, The Athlete Factory, you would expect to pay upwards of $80+ per session, with a minimum of a three month commitment, so my Strength2Run app is quite a deal to say the least!)

Ready to get started?  Simply visit my Strength2Run site to purchase your first month of training (payment made via PayPal) and be sure to click the "Become a Client" tab on the top right of your screen.  You will receive your link to download your app as well as welcome email from me to set up your initial phone consultation within 24 hours of payment.  Then we will be ready to roll, getting you stronger, faster and achieving your goals in no time!Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any additional questions.  I look forward to working with you soon!

Meet Coach Christina...
As graduate of East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology and a wide range professional certifications, I have worked with a variety of clientele from youth athletes to active adults since 2004. Currently, I along with my husband, own and operate a performance training facility in Central Florida where we work with competitive athletes youth to professional. Running has always been one of my biggest passions, so I have combined my knowledge and expertise for both running and strength and conditioning to design programs to meet the specific demands of runners.

Certifications
B.S. in Exercise Physiology
Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM)
Certified Personal Trainer (NASM)
YogaFit Level 1
Certified Spinning, Kickboxing and Boot Camp Instructor
Group Fitness Instructor (AFAA)


Experience
12 years experience in fitness industry
6 years fitness entrepreneurship
2+ years gym ownership
20 years running experience
Over 100 races from 5k's to full marathons, and triathlons

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

5 Reasons Why Every Runner Should Strength Train

Running is such a great form of exercise.  Not only does running offer many great physical benefits, but it has many great mental and emotional benefits as well.  Whether you’re a novice runner, a seasoned runner or even a competitive runner, there is no greater feeling than hitting the trail, treadmill and of course, crossing the finish line.  Running, however, because of its singular plane motion and repetition, can eventually start to take a toll on your body if you are not properly cross training.

Strength training is an often neglected form of cross training but one of the most crucial forms of exercises for runners.  Finding time to get runs and other forms of cardio in each week isn’t always easy, so runners often skip out on the weights, thinking they do not have enough time or it is not necessary.  But strength training should be a part of every runner’s training regimen.

To understand the importance of strength training for runners, here are some key benefits to keep in mind:

Increased Endurance: Strength training helps your body better deal with the stresses of running. Your muscles will be able to perform longer before getting fatigued, which will help you maintain your proper running form. Improving your strength will help you fight off hitting the wall during the late stages of a long-distance race.  (Also, the mental strength you get from pushing in the weight room certainly comes into play out on the course as well.)

Injury Prevention:  Being sidelined by a nagging injury can often be avoided through a proper strength and conditioning program.  Many running injuries, especially ankle, knee and hip-related issues, are a result of muscular imbalances and weak joints.  When you increase strength, you also improve joint stability (or mobility) in these crucial areas, leading to less aches and pains and more importantly, less injuries.

Increased Speed:  Strength training is an excellent way to get faster.  It will, of course, improve your overall form and endurance, but also your body's efficiency to use energy and oxygen.  By becoming not just stronger and but also more conditioned through strength training, you will see improvements in your overall pace, which is pretty fun, right!?! 

Better Recovery:  Because strength training makes your body more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy, you'll also be able to recover faster from those tough training runs.  And with your stronger muscles and joints, your body will better adapt to the stresses of running thus making your recovery a significantly less uncomfortable process.  (You won't be dreading the stairs quite as much after a long run.) 

Weight Management: The lean muscle mass built through strength training boosts metabolism, helping your body to burn calories more efficiently not just during exercise but also at rest.  Not only will this help to make you feel like a lean, mean calorie burning machine, improving your overall weight and body composition will help you to run at peak performance.

So now you understand why you should be strength training, are you certain you know how?  Whether you are a beginner or self-proclaimed gym rat, we could all use a little coaching, especially when it comes to designing a run-specific strength training program.  Coach Christina can help you will all of your strength training needs, contact her today to learn more about her Strength2Run mobile training app!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Now You Can Train With the CoachRunnerFitmom

It's pretty obvious from my blogging and InstaLife that I love me some running and fitness.  My daily posts about my training are not only there for me to reflect on and keep me accountable, but also hopefully serve as inspiration and motivation to some of my InstaFriends.

But what many may not know is that fitness is not just my passion, it is also my livelihood and has been for over a decade!  I have been a part of a wide variety of fitness endeavors from personal training to clinical exercise physiology to gym management.   Today, my husband (Hunter) and I own and operate a performance training facility here in Central Florida called The Athlete Factory.  In our facility, we train competitive athletes from youth to professional, as well as "weekend warriors."  This had been a dream of ours since we met back in our college day and has been such a crazy ride to make it come true!
Being involved in sports my whole life, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the filed.  I attended East Carolina University, where I received a degree in Exercise Physiology.  While there, I obtained my first ever certification as an aerobics instructor and began teaching classes my Junior year, and my senior year, I interned as an exercise physiologist (which is where I met my husband).  After college, I moved to Orlando to pursue a career in sports and fitness, and soon became a fitness manager at one of the area's premier health clubs.  Hunter, who was working at the same club, built an impressive clientele of many of the area's most elite athletes and soon landed a job in management as the sport performance team leader.

When our first son was born, I took some time off to stay home with my him, and worked part time with a few clients and taught group exercise classes.  About a year after our second son was born, Hunter, and I decided to open our own facility and I returned to work full time with him.  Already certified in personal training and a variety of group fitness genres from yoga to spinning, I added a Strength and Conditioning coach certification to my repertoire and began coaching athletes of all ages, sports and skill level.

I absolutely love getting to work with a wide variety of athletes in our facility, helping them achieve their performance goals, but I have also wanted to reach even more people, specifically in the running community where I feel most at home.  So I began blogging and posting about my own personal journey, as well as share some knowledge and expertise in hopes to educate, motivate and inspire others.  Over the past year or so, it has been brought to my attention by friends, followers and former colleagues, how much I could truly help fellow runners by combining my passion for running with my strength coaching background.

So I am pleased to announce, I am currently working on a program that will do just that!  A strength and conditioning program designed specifically for the needs and demands of runners.  And unlike other programs where you just download a cookie-cutter collection of exercises and left to your own demise, you will receive personalized program design (based on your goals, needs and current level of fitness), as well as coaching and accountability from yours truly.

And guess what, you do not even have to live anywhere near me to be able to train with me!  This program will all be done through an easy to use app that can be downloaded right to your mobile device.  Through the app, I will provide you with all the programming, a workout schedule, videos of all the exercises, 24/7 access to me through mobile messaging, accountability and much more!  In addition to the app, there will be an initial phone call to discuss your goals, availability, medical history and any other information that helps me set up the most effective plan for you.  Then there will be a monthly follow up call to ensure we are on the right path to get you where you want to go.

Program launch is projected for later this month and more information on program details, pricing and how to sign up will be coming in the very near future.  I will only have limited space, so if this is something you may be interested in, contact me ASAP so you will be the first to know when you can get started training with me!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Space Coast Marathon, I'm Coming For You (Sort of)



I'm not a very superstitious person.  I don't put much stock into good luck or bad fortune.  Of course I, like most runners, have my little rituals I like to do before a race, but I honestly do not feel as if they have much if any bearing on my performance.  So for the most part, I feel as if I control my own destiny.

With that being said, looking back at my experience with the Space Coast Marathon over the past several years, I may just be convinced this race is cursed.  Well for me at least. It seems like despite my best efforts, it just hasn't worked out for me each and every year I attempt this race.

And every year I swear I will NOT do this race again, yet here I am, 23 day until blast off (they like to play on to the whole space theme so I figured I'd roll with it).  So why am I running this "cursed" race again this year?  Well I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.  That and I get an extra medal for doing it three years in a row.  Bust most importantly, I am bound and determined to break this alleged curse and finally have a good Space Coast experience!

Before I get into how I plan to do that for this year's race, let me reflect on the last almost 4 years and why I have (somewhat) jokingly dubbed this race cursed...

2013
My youngest son was about 9 months old and my oldest was about to turn 2.  I had two kids in 14 months and had taken a little break from distance running during that time.  Though I was a new mom, had yet to lose all the baby weight and hadn't had a full night's sleep in close to two years, I was eager to get back into the marathon game.  I had done a few half marathons but nothing is quite like the full distance.

I came across this local race in August and thought it would be a good one for my first race back.  I drug my feet on signing up for it for a few reasons (a. money was tight with me out of work and b. I was procrastinating because I was nervous to run another full).  But I began my training any way, figuring I could sign up when I was confident I could do it.

I got pretty deep into my training with several double digit runs under my belt and was starting to get really excited for the race.  When I finally decided to go ahead and sign up.  I had my credit card out, the website opened up and I was about to register when I realized one major problem.  The race had sold out!  I was pretty bummed and angry at myself for not signing up sooner (lesson learned).  Luckily I found a race about two months later (The Celebration Marathon) that I was able to continue training for.

2014
The Celebration Marathon earlier that year went really for me.  I had a 35 minute PR and it propelled me into a running season of PR after PR.  By the end of the summer, I had cut minutes, yes minutes, off my over all pace.  I couldn't believe it and decided I wanted to do another marathon before the end of the year.

Not waiting til the last minute this time, I signed up for Space Coast and looked down a solid training program.  With each passing week, I was feeling stronger and faster and before I knew it, I was on pace to potentially qualify for the marathon of all marathons!  I just couldn't believe it but now that was all I could think about it.

By the time race day rolled around, it was BQ or bust.  I was feeling good and confident I would make it happen out on that course, no questions asked. 

But mother nature had other plans for me...what I thought to be nerves turned out to be a stomach bug I got from one of my sons and made for a rough day with me coming up 18+ minutes short on my goal. Though there was nothing I could've done differently, I my spirit was broken and I beat myself up over it for weeks.

2015
After such a rough experience the year before, I swore I would not run this race again.  But as the months went on and the disappointment wore off, I set my sights back on this race and decided to make it my redemption run.  It would be the only full marathon I would run that year and I would put all my time and energy into crushing this course and getting my BQ.

I studied all things distance running for months and hammered down what I thought to be a great program.  Things started off well and I was feeling myself getting faster and faster.  But with such a lofty goal in mind, I was pushing myself to the limits and not listening to my body.

About 6.5 weeks before the race, I suffered an injury to my heel bone that caused me to develop Achilles Tendonitis and Plantar Faciitis.  I had to take almost a whole month off of running and I was devastated!  I tried to keep up my fitness with swimming, biking when it wasn't painful, upper body lifting and yoga, but nothing could fully supplement distance running and I was pretty out of shape by the time I was cleared to run.

With just a few weeks til race day, I tried getting my mileage back up, but it was pretty humbling.  Though I was no longer in much pain, I had become so deconditioned I just couldn't handle the distance and pace I was working for.  I knew I would eventually build back up, but not in time for race day.  So I had to let go of any goal I had and just hope to finish that day.

Having no where enough training miles to run a full marathon, I gave it my best effort that day.  I actually started out pretty well but by the half way mark, I just knew it wasn't happening.  I took several walk breaks and eventually limped through to the finish line with my worst marathon time in years.  Though I was disappointed by the whole experience, I was certainly not defeated.  I had fought through adversity and finished and that was certainly something to be proud of.

2016 thus far
I had a kick ass Spring this year.  I had some great races, a PR in every distance I ran, and I even got to start pacing half marathons.  By the beginning of the summer, I was riding high and ready to tackle some big goals.

I was asked if I would be available to pace the 2016 Space Coast Marathon and though I was pretty much over this race, I jumped on the chance.  Around the same time, I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon, which I was hoping to BQ at.  I figured I would get my BQ in Chicago and then have a fun time helping fellow marathoners 7 weeks later at Space Coast.  Nothing to it, right!?!

Whelp, I missed my BQ by a few minutes up in Chicago and then learned I was put on the back up list of pacers for Space Coast (and they most likely will NOT need me).  I had pretty much planned my entire fall around running both of those races and had actually become pretty excited to go back to Space Coast.  So, I figured what the heck, I'll just go ahead and sign up for it and run it any way.  A bunch of my friends are going to be there and I get a special medal for running it three years in a row.  I'll just go have some fun with it, or will I?  Lest not forget the curse!

And my plans for 2016
Several people have asked me if I will try to BQ at Space Coast since I am not pacing it and I missed it in Chicago.  My simple answer, it's not my goal but it's worth a shot.  7 weeks between marathons is not enough time to recover from the first one and prepare for the next one.  Jumping right back into training is tough both physically and mentally.

The optimist in me wants to take all the pressure off and just have fun, with the rest of my training training and of course on race day.  But the competitor in me wants to keep pushing and fighting until I reach my ultimate goal.  I guess it's all about finding a good balance of hard work and dedication, but still listening to my body (so I don't get burnt out or worse, hurt) and knowing when to let go and have fun.  So with all that being said, here are my goals for Space Coast this year...
A. Swing for the fences.  If I happen to be feeling it that day, why not freaking go for it and make that BQ finally happen at the race that has defeated me so many times before!?!
B. Push a little and clock what has become a consistent marathon time for me in the low 3:40's.
C. Run with a friend (or a stranger for that matter) who is trying to break 4 hours.
D. Just finish that damn thing with my head held high and a smile on my face.  2 marathons in 2 months is certainly something to be proud of!
Regardless of what goal I accomplish that day, one thing is of the utmost importance...break the "Space Coast Curse."  Whether I BQ or walk half the race, I am NOT going to let Space Coast defeat me yet again.  It's all about attitude and I plan to keep mine positive from now until I cross the finish line, and beyond.

So yes, Space Coast, I AM coming for you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Letting Go of My Dream...For Now

The dust has finally settled from all that was Chicago.  I am back into my normal work and workout routine for the most part, I've caught up on sleep (well as much as one can with owning a gym and having two small children, hehe), and I am starting to feel [somewhat] human again.  And though I missed my goal, yet again, I am handling it all rather well if I do say so myself and am ready to move on.

Speaking of moving on, I am now left with some big decisions for the next several months to a year or so.  Having come up short on my three previous attempts to BQ, I knew heading into Chicago it was a real possibility I would have to look to other races to try yet again.  Of course I had hoped that wouldn't be the case, but (un)fortunately it was something I was already prepared for.  So here I am, again trying to figure out when, where and how to BQ.

But this last week and a half really had me thinking about my whole journey to BQ, how close I have come, how far I have missed it by, how badly I've wanted it, and how much I've wanted to quit at times.  I mean, I'm obviously not going to completely give up on it, I know it can and will happen one of these days.  After all, I have come pretty damn close twice.  But for the past three years, I've pretty much focused all of my running attention and energy on this one goal and to be honest, it's kind of sucked the fun out of it.  In my quest to BQ I've declined exciting opportunities, put some other goals on the back burner and have to admit, have lost a little bit of myself in the process.

So I think it's time to let goal of my goal for just a little while and get back to having some fun and finding new ways to challenge myself.  Running always has and always will be there for me and like I said, I will not give up on my ultimate goal.  But here are a few goals I have in mind for the next several months.

Run For The Bling
I've never been one to run a race simply for a medal.  Although it is definitely fun to get to hang another medal up above my treadmill, I typically choose my races based on what works best with my overall schedule.  I ain't as young as I used to be, so I've tried to be a little smarter about how often I race.  But in a couple of weeks, I'm going to contradict all that and run the Space Coast Marathon...just 7 weeks after I ran Chicago!  And why you might ask, because I want not just the 45th anniversary medal they're handing out this year but also the Big Bang medal I will get for running it three years in a row.  This race has always been a rough one for me, from injury to illness, so those medals will be my proof that I refuse to let that course defeat me.  After that, I may finally stop running the race I keep swearing I will never run again each year I do it!

Pace More
I had the honor and privilege to become an official race pacer this past Spring and it was all that I had hoped and dreamed of!  I also had the opportunity to unofficially pace a couple of friends through some races and that was such an amazing experience too.  From the first timers to the PR-hopefuls to those just wanting to have a good solid race, pacing is such an incredible opportunity to help such a wide variety of runners in their running journey!  I look forward to the opportunity of pacing much more events and friends this year!

Ultra-Awesome
After I ran my first marathon in 2010, I remember thinking, ok what's next? LOL  Of course having two kids in fourteen month's time temporarily derailed my distance running and then when I did get back into it, I became so focused on the BQ.  But I think it's about time I find out what's next and check an ultra off my bucket list.  Florida offers so many great trail races and I have my eye on a 50k early next year.  If not then, definitely by the end of 2017 I will finally get to call myself and ultra runner.

Swim Bike Run
My journey with endurance sports actually began with triathlons, long before I got into distance running.  I remember doing my first sprint tri when I was like maybe 23 years old and being absolutely hooked.  I couldn't wait to do more and even longer distances.  But when I decided to run my first marathon several years later, triathlons became less of a priority and soon biking and swimming became non-existent in my training.  When I got hurt this past Fall, the only thing I was able to do for over a month was swim and it totally rekindled my love for multi sport.  I did my first tri in almost 8 years this past summer, right before I began marathon training, and fell back in love.  I hated having to sale back on my swimming and biking the deeper I got into marathon training, but now that it is over, I look forward to getting back to it again.  Maybe an Olympic distance or even a 70.3 are in my future!

Convince My Husband to Run a Race
Let's be 100% clear here, my husband does not actually LIKE running.  At all.  He's always seen it as punishment and only does it as "cardio." (And probably to get me to stop nagging him)  But over the past several months, he has been pretty consistent with it and has even seen quite a bit of an improvement.  I almost had him convinced to run a half this past Spring, but he changed his mind and has rejected any mention of it since.  I do feel like I may be able to warm him back up to the idea this coming Spring.  And though he may hate every minute of it and never do another, it would mean so much to me to get to share something I enjoy so much with him and cross a finish line hand in hand.

Oh Yeah, and Maybe Try to BQ
Just because it is not my all-consuming focus, it is still my dream and it will not die that easily.  I am considering a couple of races early next year and/or maybe one in the Fall, that will still give me a chance to register for the 2018 Boston Marathon if I can make it happen. I recognize that I'm going to have to make some adjustments to my training and redirect my focus back to marathons, if and when I decide to give it another go.  But for now, I'm all about having some fun and finding new ways to challenge myself so that BQ may just have to wait.