Monday, February 29, 2016

Why We NEED Rest Days

Contrary to what many of my friends and family think, I do not workout 7 days a week, 365 days a year!  I make sure to have a rest day every week and I never miss it.  It's typically Sunday (Saturday if I have a race Sunday) and I do not touch a weight or lace up my running shoes that day.  Since having kids, my rest days have evolved and are quite a bit more active nowadays.  But no regimented exercise for me on my day of rest.  This day is so important because it gives my body and mind the much needed rest from the previous week of exercise and prepares it for the week to come. 

Every now and then our body tells us we need to slow down and take an additional rest day and that is perfectly ok!  There are several physiological as well as psychological reasons why we should schedule regular rest days.  Here are few great reasons why it's so important, and why you shouldn't beat yourself up if you have to take an extra day here and there if you're body is begging for it.

1. Let Your Muscles (Re)grow
When we engage in strenuous physical activity our muscles break down.  It's during that time that our muscles repair themselves, becoming stronger and more efficient.  Your muscles need that time to rebuild, without it they will continue to tear.  This continuous break down of your muscles leads to several issues (as stated below) but most importantly it will negatively effect the improvements to your strength  you are working so hard for.  This is also why it is important not to train the same muscle groups on consecutive days (when it comes to weight lifting).  So don't worry, taking a day off and/or alternating muscles groups will help your progress rather than hinder it.

2. Prevents Fatigue
We exercise so that can look good, be stronger but more importantly to feel good.  Exercise, along with proper nutrition and sleep, help boost our energy levels and our mood.  But there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  When we over-train and neglect rest, our bodies become fatigued.  This causes us to lose energy, have trouble sleeping and it even effects our mood.  It becomes a vicious cycle because when we are fatigued, we will not have the energy to workout.  Without the energy to workout, we will not meet our goals and of course our mood will be negatively effected by that as well.  Listen to your body, take rest days and your body will thank you for it with the energy it needs to keep going in the gym, out on the trail and in life!

3. Prevent Mental Exhaustion
Your mind can get just as burnt out as your body.  Life is all about balance.  We have to be able to physically and mentally enjoy what we do otherwise it will soon feel more like a daunting task than enjoyable activity.  Taking proper rest not only helps you physically, but emotionally as well.  It helps prevent boredom, rekindle your hunger for exercise (you know you miss it when it's gone ;-)), and of course recharge your psyche.  Not to mention when you are physically tired, your brain cannot function at full capacity, so rest days are win-win for body and mind.

4. Keep Your Immune System Strong
Over-training has been known to weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to fatigue and illness.  When you engage in consistent strenuous activity, your body's immune system is there to help make the necessary repairs to your muscles and joints.  Without proper rest, your immune system can not keep up with the demands you are putting on your body.  Without an efficient immune system, you are more likely to become ill and then you will have no choice but to take additional rest days to re-cooperate.  Do not wait until you're already sick to take rest days, be sure to take them weekly in order to prevent a hit to your immune system.

5. Injury Prevention
From running to weight lifting, and everything in between, rest days help prevent the overuse of muscles and joints.  Without allowing the proper rest, this overuse will eventually make you more susceptible to injury.  There is only so much our muscles and joints can take at any given time before they begin to wear down.  It is important you not only allow yourself regularly scheduled rest days, but also that you are listening to your body when it is telling you that you have had enough. Pushing ourselves through extreme fatigue and pain will only set us back in the long run because we will become injured and, of course, have no choice but to rest then, whether we like it or not.

The key to rest days is to schedule in your regular workout routine.  Chose a day of the week where it will fit best and commit to it.  If an opportunity arises for a race, workout or strenuous physical activity, plan in advance and reschedule your rest day, but don't skip it that week.  Also, it is tremendously important that you listen to your body.  Some times it will be begging you to slow down and take an extra day or two of rest.  Trust me here, a few days off will certainly not set you back in your goals.  In fact, the much needed rest will have you coming back stronger than before and ready to go out and crush it!

For additional training information, tips as well as Coach Christina's own personal fitness and running journey, be sure to check her out on INSTAGRAM.  And for more information on training with Coach Christina, be sure to check out STRENGTH2RUN.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

No Rest For the Wicked

Well, it's only been a little over a week since my big exciting marathon and now it's time for my next half.  I had actually planned this half way before I chose the marathon.  Sommer Sports was running a deal late last summer where if you jumped on the computer to register quick enough, you could purchase some of their races for as little as a dollar!  I happened to be one of those lucky few who grabbed the Orange Blossom Half Marathon for dirt cheap.  Then of course the injury happened later that Fall, I signed up for Donna and well you know the rest.  So now I find myself in a situation of running virtually back to back races like I have been a handful of times before.  So I can handle it...I hope!

With that being said, let me recap these past two weeks actually.

So obviously the Monday post marathon was NOT spent teaching spinning or working out.  It did involve jumping right back to work though.  It was a good and a bad thing.  Bad because I did not really get much rest but in a way good because I spend so much time on my feet, it actually kind of helped loosen up my legs.  Life goes on, so as tired as I was, I had to suck it up and push through.  The next day, I was feeling much better and thought I'd try a light swim.  The universe must have disagreed with me because when I got to the pool, it was insanely packed.  Since I'm crunched for time, I ended up soaking in the hot tub then headed back to work.  Wednesday I managed to squeeze in a quick upper body work.  My legs were really starting to feel the effects of my marathon just days before, so even getting around to do my arm exercises was somewhat difficult.  But it felt good to get in a quick pump.

Thursday of post marathon week, I figured I would brave my first run.  Despite some serious calf tightness and a little flare up to my Achilles, it went far better than I had expected.  I felt like I was flying and had to tell myself to slow down several times because of the calf pain.  I didn't want to over do it.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and I got in a super fast 3 miles.

Friday was a quick lift with the hubster.  We did mostly upper body but I did incorporate some kettlebell swings to get the lower body going.  Again, the only issue was the calves.  Later that night, I attended hot yoga and it was as if the instructor designed the class specifically for me!  We focused a lot on posterior chain, especially the lower legs!  I think it was a combination of rest, listening to my body when working out and the amazing yoga class that had me just about back to my old self by Saturday morning.  On Saturday, I ran a conservative 5 miles and got in a 1200m swim. and of course some foam rolling.  Later that night, Hunter and I finally celebrated our Valentine's Day.

Sunday was rest day and then of course Monday was back to spinning and lifting.  This was my first attempt to lift legs in close to 3 weeks and boy did I feel it the next several days!  I will say as much as I love distance running, getting after it in the weight room has my heart and I am really looking forward to growing.  Tuesday, was my first speed workout in a while too and it was freaking awesome.  I was a little apprehensive how it would go because of the heavy legs the day before and the fact that they probably are still somewhat fatigued from the marathon the week before.  But I was able to do some of my fastest 400's ever so that is wonderful!  Calf and Achilles felt pretty good, required some stretching and rolling but nothing too serious, so I was pretty excited about that.  Also, as you can see below, even though I still have a ways to go, I am finally getting my abs back from all the crazy carb loading and post race indulgences, not to mention the holiday weight gain I was still trying to work off!  It's an ongoing process for me and a constant battle.  But hard work and dedication does pay off, so I'm trying to stick with it and will hopefully be back in shape for bikini season.

Wednesday, I was hoping to attend the monthly pub run that night, but since I have been feeling some issues with allergies and/or a cold coming on, I figured it was best to skip out.  I did get in a little lift that afternoon at our gym.  I wanted to focus mostly on upper body and core, but it had felt like eternity since I got to do some plyos.  So I incorporated some box jumps into my workout.  I also gave an exercise we have been putting our athletes through these past few weeks a try.  It involved a twist on our traditional valside knee tucks where I also use a band and do triple threat knee tucks.  It was definitely a burner and I will be doing this one again!

On Thursday, I wanted to get in a 5 mile tempo run then a 1200m swim.  I figured since my speed work had been so great on Tuesday, the tempo run should be effortless.  Well, Thursday morning, I woke up with a scratchy throat and an itchy nose.  You guessed it, allergies in full effect!  I popped my Allegra hoping to nip it in the but by my lunch break, when I would get my workout it, I was struggling.  I did manage my 5 miles and my swim, but it was not as easy as I had hoped for.  Later Thursday night, Hunter and I got to sneak out for another date night!  Two date nights in a matter of months is unheard of for us, but twice in one week is crazy insane.  But when some good friends of ours offered us club seats to the Magic v. Golden St. game (aka the Steph Curry show), we couldn't turn them down.  Unfortunately our Magic got beat down but it was still a fun time out!

Friday, I wasn't worse off but I certainly wasn't any better.  With a race the next morning, I knew I should take it easy.  So I knocked out a quick, but potent upper and core workout at our gym.

It's hard to go light, it's just not in my nature, but I am also learning to listen to my body better these days.  As the day went on, my allergies were really starting to kick my butt.  I had full on laryngitis, I was coughing up a storm and fatigue was sinking in.  I went to bed early Friday night in hopes to be rested and ready to go for my half on Saturday...

When I woke up Saturday morning at 4am, I wasn't sure if I should get back in bed or hop in the car and head to the race.  I was definitely NOT 100% but didn't feel terrible, so I chose the latter.   The temp was pretty chilly at the start of the race but it turned out to be pretty nice.  The course was much more difficult than I had anticipated with several hills, clay roads and even a dirt trail.  I was coughing and sneezing the whole way through, but still managed to squeeze out a baby PR with a finish time of 1:40:59 (my former PR was 1:41:49), and I placed 2nd in my division!

Later Saturday afternoon, we took the boys down to Fort Mellon Park in Sanford.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and they really enjoyed the playground there.  It was a dual purpose heading down there because a few of my MRTT friends were running in the Dawn to Dusk Challenge around the park.  They were doing the one mile loop as many times as they could in the 12 hour period!  All of my buddies who participated ended up doing over 33 miles each and one of the over 40!  Seriously considering joining them next year.  After cheering on the ladies, we strolled the riverfront, dined at the German cafe down there, then headed up.  I think it's safe to say, our who family was pretty warn out from the day.

Taking the day off today to rest, re-cooperate, hopefully get my voice back, but most importantly enjoy some quality time with my favorite boys.  Happy Sunday!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Back To Back Races: The Good, The Bad, The Crazy

6 Days Apart: Space Coast Marathon & MOAT Off-Road Half Marathon
Last Sunday, I ran a marathon and this Saturday, I will run a half marathon.  I have done this a couple of times in my running "career" and each time I do it, I am reminded why I don't do it very often, lol.  Now, I am by no means an elite runner, but I am definitely out there pushing it each time I race.  And by the time it's all said and done, man oh man do I feel it!  But with that being said, there is also something fun and exciting about multiple distance races in a short period of time.  In fact, there are even groups specifically for runners who enjoy filling up their weekends with half and full marathons.  Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs are two groups I am aware of and I am sure there are others.  Since I know I am not the only crazy runner out there, I thought I would share, in my opinion, the pros and cons of running back to back races as well as some tips to survive both (or several) race weekends.

No Taper Madness
With such a quick turn around from one race to the next, one does not have much time to focus on a proper taper.  We all know how crazy tapering can be for a distance runner, so in a way, it may be kind of nice not to go through the 2-3 weeks of "taper madness."  The decrease in mileage and intensity, however, certainly helps prepare our bodies for the big event.  O the plus side is our mind is already in race mode, hopefully our legs follow suit!  My advice when there is no time to properly taper, do the best you can to rest up and scale back that week or two between events.  Kind of like an abbreviated version of a taper, better than nothing!  Also, be sure to listen to your body.  If your legs, head or heart aren't feeling it, a day or two off before your next event would probably do you more good than harm.

Goals (aka PR's)?
I talk A LOT about setting goals in my blogging, but sometimes I suggest throwing them out the window.  This is one of those times.  Back to back races can not just take a toll on you physically, but it can burn you out mentally as well.  Since we are not professional runners here, it's important we remember why we do these events.  The answer is typically because their fun and it's our passion.  Of course it is nice to PR and don't sell yourself short if it feels like a good possibility out on the course.  But after you just ran a half or full distance and are about to run another, you have no idea how your body (and psyche) will react to another weekend of high mileage in a high energy (and competitive) atmosphere.  So my suggestion would be to just go out and have fun, see what you can do, make some friends out there and enjoy the journey!  The is, after all, why most of us run anyway.

Bring on the Bling
If you're like me and most of the other runners out there who do this for fun, we also do it for the bling.  Let's face it, we like big shiny rewards for our efforts, hehe!  An obvious plus to doing multiple races is receiving multiple medals.  So you may acquire some blisters, exhaustion and soreness along the way, you will certainly have some pretty new medals to show for your hard work and badassery!

Eat All the Food
Again, I make mention of proper nutrition and moderation in my blog, but another fun thing about multiple races are the post races goodies.  Of course I do not suggest a week or two of a pure pizza and beer diet (I would be in heaven if I could do that), but enjoying some good eats not only serves as a reward but also helps to replenish all those calories burned out on the course(s).  My advice is to have a cheat day after each race where you can enjoy some of your favorite indulgences.  Do try your best to keep portions in check during these cheat days and once they are over, do your best to get back on track with your healthy nutrition.  Also, don't forget to stay hydrated with beer, I mean water and electrolyte drinks!

Find Out What You're Made Of
You never know your limits until you push yourself to them, and running long distances back to back will certainly push you to the limit!  Like I said above, there is definitely something exciting about multiple high mileage weekends.  Running a half or full is a big deal in itself, so to do more than one in a matter of days is a big freaking deal!  It takes guts, grit and maybe a little insanity.  But you will feel such an amazing sense of accomplishment when it's all said and done.  You will learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of.  And if you happen to do exceptionally well at one or both races, well then all the more reason to be even more proud!

Learn From Your Experiences
Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn and running is no exception.  The more races you run, the more opportunities you have to gain knowledge, confidence and experience that can help to better prepare you for each subsequent event.  You learn more and more about what works for you for everything from training to nutrition and hydration to recovery to even your mental game, and everything in between.  Back to back races, though taxing physically and mentally, give you real time race experiences and of course opportunities to learn and grow as a runner.

Have Fun!
I know I sound like a broken record pointing out the obvious that we are not elite athletes here.  We are weekend warriors doing this for fun, fitness and friends.  Of course we would be lying if we said we don't like to push ourselves, we are crazy distance runners after all.  But all in all, we are doing this for ourselves and nothing more.  So keep that in mind.  Be proud of how hard you are working.  Feel special that you are doing something challenging, unconventional and only for the crazy brave.  But most importantly, enjoy it all.  We are so lucky for the gift our bodies give to us, so don't take it for granted, soak it all in and have some dadgum fun!

Rest and Recovery
Last but certainly not least, once it is all said and done...GET SOME REST!  Holy Guacamole you deserve it!  Sleep, eat, drink water, foal roll, ice bath, massage, yoga, lay in bed.  Whatever it takes and whatever you can make time for, do it.  Your body and mind will thank you for it.

If you need more tips on training and recovery, contact Coach Christina today.  Be sure to follow her running and fitness journey on her INSTAGRAM page.  Happy running everyone!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Strength Training For Runners

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, because of its many benefits, 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:

1.    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 proper running form, improving efficiency and endurance.

2.    Injury Prevention:  Many running injuries, especially knee and hip-related issues, are a result of muscle imbalances or weaknesses.  When muscles get tight, they become weak and are more susceptible to injury.  Strengthening your muscles, especially the muscles of the core and lower body, will help correct these imbalances leading to less aches and pains and more importantly, less injuries.

3.    Increased Speed:  Strength training is an excellent way to get faster.  Strength training will, of course, improve your overall strength, but also improve your body’s efficiency to use energy and oxygen.  By becoming more conditioned, you will be able to improve your overall pace..

4.    Weight Management: Strength training builds lean muscle mass and lean muscle mass boosts metabolism.  Our bodies adapt quickly to steady state cardiovascular training, causing us to plateau.  Including strength training along with cardio in your workout routine is essential for weight loss as well as weight management.

Below is a list of exercises that are very beneficial for runners.  These exercises offer a great foundation to any strength training program because they improve core and functional strength for total body conditioning.  Most of these exercises can be done with little to no equipment in the comfort of your own home.  Keep in mind as your body becomes stronger, you will need to progress these exercises to continually challenge yourself.  To see the benefits of strength training, you will need to do these and other strength exercises 2-3 times per week.  Alternating running days with strength training days is the best way to allow your muscles time to rebuild between strength training sessions while keeping up with your running schedule.  As a reminder, never begin an exercise program without first consulting your physician.  If you feel any pain during these or any other exercises, be sure to stop the exercise and talk to your doctor.

To perform a plank, begin in a prone position with your legs straight and your elbows tucked underneath your body.  Lift your body up to hover over the ground, evenly distributing your weight from your elbows to your toes.  Pull your belly button into your spine and keep your back flat.  Begin by holding 20-30 seconds for 2-3 sets and progress to longer holds as you become stronger.

Bird Dog
Start in an all-fours position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.  Inhale and lift your right arm parallel to the floor and extend your left leg behind you, also parallel to the floor.  Pull your abs in to keep your back flat.  Exhale and lower arm and leg to start position, inhale and perform on opposite side.  Do 10 repetitions (5 per side alternating) for 2-3 sets.

Push Up
Begin on all-fours, then straighten your legs out coming on to your toes and place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.  Contract your abs to keep your back flat and slowly lower your chest down towards the floor, bending your elbows to 90 degrees.  Avoid modifying the push up by coming onto your knees because that will recruit less core muscles making it a less effective exercise.  If this movement is difficult to execute on the floor, incline your upper body by using a stair, low table or even a counter top or the wall.  Do 10 repetitions for 2-3 sets.

Lying flat on your back, place your feet hip distance apart.  Lift your toes up so that just your heels are on the ground.  Press your low back firmly into the floor, contract your glutes and lift your hips up.  Hold at the top of the bridge for a 3 second count, lower glutes back down and repeat.  Engage your inner thigh muscles so that your legs can remain parallel to one another throughout the entire exercise.  Do 10 repetitions, 2-3 sets.

Sagittal Lunge (Front Lunge)
Begin in a standing position with your feet together.  Step your right foot out in front of you, reaching your arms forward.  Bend both knees to 90 degrees, lowing your back knee as close to if not all the way to the ground.  Be sure to keep your front knee above your ankle, driving your knee too far forward puts stress on the knee joint.  Step right foot back together with your left foot.  Perform 10 repetitions per leg, 2-3 sets.

Frontal Lunge (Side Lunge)
Begin in the standing position.  Step your right foot out wider than your hips, with feet parallel to one another, toes facing forward.  Bend just your right knee, driving your right hip down and back.  Reach your arms in front of you.  Again, be sure to keep your knee above your ankle.  Push off the right foot and bring the feet back together.  Perform 10 repetitions per leg, 2-3 sets.

Transverse Lunge
Begin with feet together.  Step your right foot out and back, making a perpendicular line with your heels.  Bend your right knee only, driving your right hip down and back.  Reach your hands in front of you, above your right thigh.  Rotate your right foot back forward bring your feet back together.  Perform 10 repetitions per leg, 2-3 sets.

Body Weight Row with TRX
Using a TRX or similar suspension system, grab a hold of the hand grip and align your body at an angle (the lower your body is to the floor, the more challenging the exercise becomes).  Begin with our arms straight in front of your chest and pull your body up towards the handles, bending your elbows close to your sides.  Keep your back flat, abs engaged and hold for 3 seconds, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Release back to start position and repeat for 10 repetitions, 2-3 sets.

Roll Out with TRX
Begin in a standing position with your hands on the grips at in front of your body.  Contract your abs, extend your arms in front of you and lean your body forward, all while keeping your back flat.  Slowly draw your straight arms back towards your body, returning to your start position standing up tall.  Do 10 repetitions, 2-3 sets.

For information on how to take your runner to the next level through strength and conditioning, contact Coach Christina at 407-960-4705 or visit  Be sure to like CWSC Performance on Facebook for upcoming events and promotions and follow Coach Christina on her Instagram page.

Monday, February 22, 2016

26.2 With Donna

It seems like I had been training for years for this one race!  It was certainly a long journey but all totally worth it.  I actually signed up for this particular race as a knee-jerk reaction after getting hurt in last Fall.  I had my sights set on a BQ at the Space Coast Marathon Thanksgiving weekend, but when a deep calcaneal bone bruise lead to Achilles Tendinitis as well as Plantar Fasciitis, I was left sidelined for over a month!  I knew it would be impossible to reach my goal even if I could run Space Coast, so I immediately hopped on the computer and found the next race I could do in the area that was a BQ race.  I came across 26.2 with Donna, and before I even knew much more about it, I was grabbing my credit card and hitting submit.  I was going to heal up and BQ at this race, simple as that.  Haha, I wish!  Well, Space Coast came around and even though I hadn't really been able to train, I still gave it a shot.  4 hours and 11 minutes later, I limped through the finish line and my body and mind were SPENT!  At that point, knowing I had just weeks until my next marathon, I made a difficult but necessary decision to go ahead and let go of my goal to BQ (for now) and just have a fun, stress free time during training and of course throughout the race.  BEST.DECISION.EVER!  This was hands down, the least stressful, most enjoyable marathon experience I have had since MCM in 2010!

I will get into a little more about my race experience but first, let me start off with a little information about the race itself.  26.2 With Donna is a non-profit organization that offers several events in the Northeast Florida area throughout the year, with the marathon weekend drawing their largest crowds.  Since it's inaugural race in 2008, 26.2 With Donna has donated over $4 million towards its vision to finish breast cancer.  Funds go to the Mayo Clinic for top breast cancer research and to The Donna Foundation to provide financial assistance to those with breast cancer.  So going into it, I knew it was for a good cause and it would be very touching experience, but little did I know how amazing and inspirational it would truly be!

I have talked a lot about my injury and training in previous posts, as well as the goals I had in mind for this race.  So as the weekend approached, I made the commitment to myself to just relax, have fun and soak it all in.  Saturday came around and it was time to leave for the expo.  The website and several people I have spoken to have claimed it to be one of the best expos in the industry.  Having been to a huge expo experience like Marine Corps as well as a local, inaugural one like the Celebration Marathon, I would have to admit the Donna Expo fell somewhere in between.  Access and parking to the expo were great, especially since parking was free.  There were several great vendors there with tons of freebies as well as great products to purchase, but unfortunately but 2pm Saturday afternoon, over a handful of vendors had already left for the day.  I know it was a long weekend for them, but it was a little disappointing, as well as rather disrespectful (IMO) to not stay until the end.  But luckily there was still plenty to see and do and packet pick up was seamless.  There was a very friendly gentleman at the entrance directing us to where we needed to go.  We first got our bib then our shirt and bag.  There were even extra bags so my husband got one.  This came in big handy since we had our two young sons with us and they wanted EVERY freebie at the expo.  My sons scored cowbells, signs to make, pens, coloring books, sunglasses, coozies, etc., so they were so excited!  With everything we needed and them some for race day, we headed out to our hotel.

I chose the Sawgrass Marriott because it was a host hotel and from what I understood, to be a stones throw away from the race start.  Pulling up to the hotel, we immediately knew we had chosen great accommodations and that they were ready and excited for Donna participants.  The valets had Donna jackets on, there was a massive banner hanging in the lobby and there was no mistaking they had rolled out the, ahem, pink carpet for the Race To Finish Breast Cancer.  We settled into our room, left to grab a bite to eat, then came back so I could everything I needed for the next morning.  The weather report kept fluctuating so I kept going back and forth on what to wear.  I decided the night before to go with shorts and even took my "Flat Christina" photo of them before going to bed.

The alarm went off at 6:07 (which is actually over an hour later than I usually get to get up, so woohoo for extra sleep).  And when I checked the temp, it had dropped even more.  38 degrees for race start, so back into my suitcase went my shorts and out came the pants.  Outfit was on and everything I needed to get going was in my nifty new draw string bag.  I kissed my babies on their sleeping foreheads, high fived and kissed my husband who had awoken, and off I went.  Well not before he took a quick pre-race pic of me.

It turns out the hotel was not quite as close to the start as we had thought.  It was about a mile and a half a way.  I chalked it up to a good little warm up, plus I met some really nice ladies who had came in from Texas to run the half.  It is always nice to meet new runner friends, it kinda helps take the edge off with some mindless chatter getting to know each other.  When we finally got to the pre-race area, it seemed a little disorganized and lackluster.  There were the several quintessential port-a-potties lined up as well as some vendors and VIP tents.  But it took me several minutes and finally having to ask someone where to find bag, which was actually located in a different area from all the pre-race tents and activities.  A little strange, but I found it nonetheless and the process of checking my bag was super simple, so no big worries.  I did however, cut it a little close and had to dash over to the restroom.  And since EVERYONE has to use the restroom before these things, the lines were insane.  And of course took forever.  I was still in line when the national anthem was being sang and I feared I would miss the start of the race.  As soon as I did my business, they were announcing it was go time.

I had to practically sprint to get as close to the front as I could but just could not catch up to my pace group before they made my "coral" stop.  The starting area was so narrow and since I hadn't gotten up to where I needed to be, I had no idea that the crowd I had been herded into was planning on doing mostly walking.  So once it was go time, I spent most of the first quarter to half mile elbowing through crowds of walkers and light joggers.  I finally broke away from that pack and found myself with the 4:15 group.  I figured the 3:45 couldn't be that much further and that was my very hopeful goal for the race.  So I sped up a little to see if I could eventually catch them within the next few miles.  Shortly after passing the 4:15 pacer, I found the 4 hour pacing, so I was moving along well.  By mile 3, however, I had yet to find them but soon realized I was going way to fast.  My TomTom indicated I was averaging around 7:25 minute miles and even though I felt amazing, I knew I couldn't sustain.  I pulled back a little and hoped to soon find the pacer to settle in with them.  Like I said I felt great, so I just kept rolling.  The course support through those first several miles was amazing.  People lined the streets with signs, cowbells, cheers, high fives and and friendly smiles.  I also noticed several runners wearing "SURVIVOR" or "I'M RUNNING FOR..." bibs and it made me realize just how many people breast cancer effects and how awesome these runners are out here showing their support or even more so how much many of them have overcome!

Around mile 6, I saw that the 3:45 and the 3:30 were practically neck and neck.  I had yet to feel any need to slow my pace down, so I caught the 3:30 and thought, hey this was my original goal, let's freaking go for it!  I pulled out my headphones, introduced myself to the pacer and the lone runner keeping up with her and for the next few miles we were cruising along great!  The scenery was beautiful, people where lining up along the streets to cheer us on, the temperature had warmed up just enough with a great breeze and I was no longer running, I was coasting!

By mile 10, I was averaging around 7:45 minute miles, chatting up a storm with the pacer like we were on a leisurely stroll and I thought to myself, "don't jinx it, you have a ways to go, but keep it up and you are going to do this Christina, you are going to BQ!"  That is, of course when things took a little turn.  The pacer informed me before that before the half marathon mark, there would be a different pacer to carry us through the finish.  No biggie right?  Well the catch was, there would be a lapse in a pacer, for some odd reason.  She didn't offer an explanation as to why, or when and where I would find said pacer but assured me to keep doing what I was doing and I would be fine.

I bid farewell to the pacer before the turn around and just kept plugging along.  The sun was fully up and the weather was shaping up to be absolutely beautiful.  I managed to take my jacket off and toss it, but did so just a little too soon, because I soon caught quite a headwind!  Luckily, around the same time, I was able to catch some beautiful glimpses of the ocean and of course continued to hear the great cheers from the amazing crowd.

Around mile 14, they had us going through some neighborhoods for a few miles.  There was nothing incredibly exciting about these neighborhoods and though multiple families had come out to cheer us own, these next several miles became very daunting for me.  I had slowed some but managed to keep a good pace in hopes to eventually find this alleged pacer.  But by the time I hit the 17 mile mark and was finally heading out of this unimpressive portion of the course, I was starting to hit that proverbial wall.

By mile 18, the course really got exciting again.  We were heading through the downtown areas once more and there was that great crowd support I was missing.  Unfortunately my pace and body where starting to deteriorate then.  I had committed to myself before starting the race that I wanted to have fun no matter what.  If at any point I questioned why I even do these, if I hated myself for doing this or if it even became painful, I promised myself I would slow down or even walk.  After mile 18, my calf was cramping terribly and I was starting to get frustrated, so I had to honor my commitment and slow down and even walk at water stations.  But I managed to pick right back up, put a smile back on my face and push through.

I will finish my recap of the race in just a minute....

Meanwhile, back at the hotel...

My husband was getting our sons ready to come see me finish.  They were coloring signs, eating donuts and having a good ole time.  I was following me on the RaceJoy app, so he had a pretty good idea when I should be finishing up.  So he headed out with our 3 and 4 year old sons to catch the shuttle at the starting line.  Little did he know (like I had to learn earlier that morning) how much further the starting line was than we had anticipated.  And if you have ever tried to get preschool kids to cooperate and move when you are crunched for time, then you know how stressful it can be.  Fortunately, they managed to catch the shuttle and get down to the finish line area with what the app indicated, 4 minutes to spare!  Once down at the post race area, there was no clear direction where he needed to go.  He asked several people but no one seemed to be able to help.  Eventually they just kept walking (poor him and our kiddos) and soon found it and was ready to see me finish!  And luckily for them, unfortunate for me, I had slowed down enough that they had even a few more minutes to spare.

Ok, now back to the race itself.  By mile 20, I was back into a good stride, all be it much slower than I had started.  Normally this is when things really start to go bad for me.  But this time, despite my insanely tight calf, I felt good, slow, but good.  I knew I only had 10k to go and I should do that just fine.  I wouldn't PR my 10k, I wasn't going to make my Boston time, but I could do a 10k.  So I turned my music up a little louder and pushed on through.

Shortly after mile 22 is where the bridge came in to play.  For the past 20+ miles, the course had been so nice and flat.  Now all of a sudden I am looking up at this bridge with people running on it and I'm realizing I would soon be joining them.  The ramp to the bridge was a pretty steep and once we made it up the ramp, we just kept going up and up.  I just kept reminding myself that I was so close and that what comes up must come down.  But this is where I REALLY started slowing down.  As much as I was slowing down though, I refused to stop.  I just kept fighting through the calf pain, the cramps, the fact that I was hot, my feet were pounding, oh you know basically all the effects of running a marathon.   It's supposed to be hard and uncomfortable, but not insurmountable.

When my watched beeped to inform me I was at mile 25, I am certain tears of pure joy began streaming down my face.  I was at the top of a rather high bridge looking over the beautiful inter-coastal water way.  Crowds of people lined each side of the bridge jumping up and down and screaming you are almost there, and for once they were actually right!  As I ran past the crowd I realized they had sorority letters on their shirt and they happened to be Zeta Tau Alpha's!  I was a Zeta at East Carolina, so I was beyond excited to see my "sisters!"  Of course I gave as many of them as I could high fives, and I'm sure they thought I was insane, hehe.   After that awesome experience, the bridge started to decline, thank goodness.  That's when I turned on my "booster jets" as my son, Nolan, likes to call them, and just stared to run like the wind.

I wasn't even paying attention to my watch at this point, I just kept running.  Judging by the larger crowd and how excited they all were, I knew the finish line must be coming up.  I turned a corner, ran under an underpass and there it was, about a 100 yards in front of me.  Since I had given up on my BQ several miles back but knew I would get my sub 3:45 goal, I hadn't really paid much attention to my time for the last few miles.  But I always like to finish as strong as possible, so I kicked it into high gear and began my full out sprint to the finish.

I was keeping my eye out for my family the whole time I was dead sprinting those last few yards.  As soon as I crossed that finish line I saw them and went straight to them.  I didn't get my medal, grab a water or even turn off my watch.  I just wanted to embrace my husband and babies.  I was crying my eyes out with so much exhaustion but mostly pride.  My husband just kept telling me how awesome I did and how proud he was of me, and that's when I asked him what my official time was...3:38:27!

At that moment in time, not a single ounce of me was in the least bit disappointed that I had missed a BQ by only 3 minutes and 27 seconds.  I had a huge PR, beat my goal of a sub 3:45, and by coming that close, I proved to myself that it is possible and WILL happen.  I gave that race my all, blew my goal out of the water and took over an hour off my first marathon time.  So as far as I was concerned, I came up short in nothing!  [Of course I would be lying if I said that it eventually didn't sink in how close I came and my mind travels to certain times I could have pushed just a little harder and I would have made it happen.  But I will use all that as motivation to push harder the next time.]

I finally went to grab my medal then Hunter snapped several pictures of me with the boys.  They were so excited for me and I was beyond elated to see their sweet smiling faces.  We started our walk to the after party and we had to walk along a narrow path of grass and trees that ran parallel to where I'm assuming runners where coming through.  We were not really certain where to go but figured if we just kept following the crowd, we would find it (kind of the theme for my husband's day).  We got to the race after party and it was very well organized with a lot of neat things going on from music to food to plenty of areas to sit and relax.  We needed to get back to the hotel to be out of our room and still had a drive a head of us home, so after picking up my bag, we headed over to the shuttles.

There were plenty of shuttles, so fortunately there was no wait and we got right on one.  The ride wasn't too long, but the walk back from the start was even farther than I remembered that morning.  By this point my legs where so wobbly and I was holding a 40+ pound 3 year old (who said HE was tired, lol), so it seemed like eternity before we made it back to our hotel.  But we finally made it, showered, check out and it the road soon there after.  I was certainly on a runners high for the next several days!

All in all it was an amazing race and one I would highly recommend to any one from first timers to people looking to PR.  Here are just a few quick pros and cons that I will leave you with in case you are now considering the 26.2 With Donna in 2017...

  • It's for a great cause and the experience is incredibly inspiring and motivating.
  • Entry cost is pretty average, definitely not Disney-expensive.  You can even run for free through their fundraising entry (see their site for details).
  • They had great communication leading up to the event with plenty of helpful information.
  • The race expo had free parking and was easy to get to.
  • Packet pick up was well organized.
  • Our guest hotel was awesome sauce!
  • Great course support for the majority of the race.
  • Excellent course that was mostly flat throughout.
  • Kicking after party with great music and plenty of food!
  • The expo wasn't as crazy awesome as I had anticipated.
  • Getting to and from the start line before and after the race was a little frustrating.
  • The starting line area was lackluster, way too narrow and not very organized.
  • Very disappointed in the pace group situation.
  • The middle miles through the neighborhoods were a little bland as far as scenery and lack of crowd support.
  • After the finish, no one rushed up with my medal, by the time I got to the medal, the unimpressed, seemingly bored young ladies handing them out were not really helpful nor friendly when figuring out which medal was mine. (There was a half and relay too)
  • Getting over to the after party with my family was a little confusing.
  • If you're into obnoxiously big, ornate medals, you would be let down by the smaller finish medal.
The pros by far outweigh any of the cons and I would most certainly run this one again as well as recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Next year's race is on 2/17/2017, and I'm already marking my calendar!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Top 9 Marathon Recovery Essentials

Months of training, hours of running, all for one shiny medal, well that an a totally awesome accomplishment to be super proud of!  Marathon training has come and gone and so has the big what now?  All kinds of physically and emotionally feelings may come over you in the hours, days and even weeks following the big race.  You may want to jump right into another race or never run again, but one thing is certain: proper recovery is key.  Unfortunately it is often neglected and many runners find themselves in a bad place physically and mentally after a race (been there done that).  So here are 9 of my most helpful recovery tools, I hope some of these can help you too.

3 of my 9 Essentials: Compression, Foam Roll and Water
1. Rest
PK (pre-kids as my husband and I like to call it) I would come home from a long run and veg out on the couch, eating whatever I wanted, watching whatever I wanted on the TV and just relax.  Gone are those days, but trust me, having my babies at the finish line is a way better trade off.   Now, finishing a race typically involves me carrying one of our kids for the several mile hike back to the car, coming home to laundry, dishes, meal prepping and playing hide-and-go-seek.  Finding time for that crucial post-race rest can be a little tricky, but still absolutely necessary.  So for me, I hit the hay pretty early the night of the race and make sure to clear my schedule for the next morning to catch a couple extra ZZZ's (well that is if my kids decide to sleep through the night).  I also try squeeze in extra hours throughout the week by going to bed at least 20-30 minutes early each night.  Much of my job is spent on my feet, and of course when I get home, I'm still standing while making dinner and tending to the kiddos, but I do make an effort to sit down for rest periodically throughout the day.  In a perfect world, we would all get to recover the way I used to.  But let's face it, how many of us still get to be that lucky now that we're grown ups?  We all have to return to work and families, life doesn't stop because we ran a marathon.  But despite of all our responsibilities, it is still very important we do not neglect the importance of rest and sleep following our big run.  So if you can't veg out for days, squeeze in rest as often as you can throughout the week.

2. Food
I LOVE food!  Anyone who knows me, knows how much food I can put away at any given time.  But for some odd reason (maybe all that course GU and Gatorade), the hours following a race I cannot eat or drink a thing!  So typically no Michelob Ultra and Dunkin Donut holes for me at the post race party.  But nutrition and hydration are super important after running all that time, so in the hour or so following a run, I definitely make sure to drink down a high protein recovery shake.  A favorite of mine is Vega Sport Performance Protein.  It's super yummy and not filled with a bunch of junk that can cause gastric issues (which can be very common for runners post race).  After I start to feel better and my appetite returns, it's game on!  Bring on the food!  Of course as much as I would like to go crazy though, I definitely do my best to still make (somewhat) healthy choices as well as keep my portions in check.  Also, to help keep me from going crazy with post race indulgences, I have a 24-hour rule.  The rest of the day and half of the next following the race I enjoy post race treats but when that time is up, I try to clean my diet back up and get back on track.  We often take proper nutrition for granted.  It is vital for proper recovery to eat a healthy, clean diet.  So reward yourself for your hard work, but don't sabotage your recovery with days upon days of poor eating.

3. Water
Drink more water than you could ever possibly imagine drinking.  Once you felt as if you have had enough, drink so more.  Don't wait until you can see your veins and your head is throbbing to drink more water, keep drinking (and visiting the potty) in the days following your race.  Water helps to replenish so much in your body.  Being hydrated will help with muscle recovery, keep your digestive system in check, provide mental clarity, and over all just help you feel better.  If you're not a huge fan of plain old water, add some lemon or cucumber for a little flavor.  You can also boost your hydration with products like Nuun or Cocogo.  Avoid alcoholic beverages as well as sugary drinks like soda and juice.  Good old fashioned water will be your best friend post run so bottoms up!

4. Compression Wear
Those snazzy looking compression socks are not just to tie your outfit together on race day.  I have found they actually serve a great purpose post run as well.  Your muscles have been through a lot, not to mention what you have put your cardiovascular system through.  Lower leg compression wear helps your body recovery not only by providing support to your tired calves and shins, but some research has also shown benefit with increases in blood flow and lymph removal during the recovery period.  Of course the verdict is still out if it is just a placebo effect and us runners are just jumping on the latest fad, but if we find benefit (real or perceived) than I suppose it's worth a shot!  Hands down my favorite compression wear is Tiux Compression Socks, and you will be sure to find me rocking my super cute socks during and after my race.

5. Ice
I have never been brave (or crazy) enough to try an ice bath, but I have submerged my legs in a cold plunge a time or two.  Like compression wear, I have read conflicting research on ice baths, but again if you find the benefit, then I say go for it.  I do however, apply ice to certain regions that seem to be inflamed post run.  Having suffered an Achilles injury last fall, that is one of the first areas that gets an ice pack.  After this last run, my opposite calf apparently hates me now, so you better believe it is getting iced up too.  Ice is great for acute injuries and inflammation, so be sure to apply ice, or go for that ice bath as soon as possible post race.  Typically within 24-48 hours following the race you will receive the most benefits from icing.

6. Peppermint Oil
I don't know much about essential oils but I have come across peppermint oil and am now a firm believer in how it helps aid in my recovery.  Rubbing some peppermint oil on my sore muscles serves many purposes for me.  I am able to self massage that area, the oil seems to help "open up" my tight muscles, and the smell is very relaxing and refreshing.  Again, I am no expert on these oils, but since discovering peppermint oil, it have become a staple in my recovery.

7. Foam Rolling
Oh it hurts so good.  Digging into those tight, sore muscles post race may seem agonizing, but it is a necessary evil.  Those over worked, super tight muscle fibers need to be loosened up and using a foam roller or another tool like The Stick is one of the best ways to get the job down.  If you have the luxury of getting a full body deep tissue massage, all the better!  But for me, and probably most of us, we will have to stick to the DIY approach.  Spend about 20-30 seconds rolling out tight areas (common areas are quads, abductors, IT band and glutes) and be sure to focus your breathing to help you through it.

8. Leave It Out On the Course
You may have heard of the "Marathon Blues."  It may hit you like a ton of bricks the day or so following the race or be more a gradual process in the weeks to follow, but it happens to us all to some degree.  We spend months training for one morning of running and when it comes and goes, despite how we finish, we are left with a sense of emptiness.  The could've-should've-would've's set in as well as the so-what's-next!?!  First and foremost, try your best to leave it all out on the course.  Yes, we learn and grow from each experience, but recognizing we cannot change the past is vital to moving on.  So take some mental (or written if you journal) on things you learned for next time, but know what's done is done from this last one.  Next, as lost as you may feel now that you do not have training runs scheduled and no race to stress about, enjoy some time running and working out for the fun of it!  Reconnect with why you began doing this all in the first place, and hey, even take a few days off, I always do.
9. On to the Next One (Well, Kinda)
I know, I know, I said take some time to rest and also not to dwell on your last race.  But who are we kidding, you know you're going to be wondering when and how you will PR!  Of course I am by no means suggesting you find another marathon in the immediate future.  You are going to want to give your body (and mind) several months to rest up after that much distance.  So what I like to do after marathons is pick some shorter distance races to work towards like 10k's and eventually a half, before jumping back into marathon training again.  Give yourself a break from the longer distance and see what you can do in some mid distance races for a while.  Another thing I like to do post marathon is run a few events with new runners.  Last year I ran with a friend for her first ever 5k and this Spring I will be crossing the finish line with another friend at her first ever half marathon!  PR's are fun, but it's also great to get to be there for other runners.  And I guess it's just the coach in me, but there is nothing like being there to help push and motivate new runners, especially when they are your friends and you know how much it means to them!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Eeek...It's Marathon Week!

It's Friday morning and I'm now counting down the hours to my marathon this Sunday.  It all seems so surreal that I am about to run 26.2 miles!  I don't think the excitement or anxiety has fully hit me yet, I guess that has to do with how busy I remain with work and kids, the fact that I've done this four times before and also because I have no expectations or big goals this time around.  Don't get me wrong, I want to do well.  And man oh man, what I wouldn't give to cross that finish line with a BQ like I had originally hoped.  But for this 5th marathon, despite being all healed up, pretty prepared and mentally and physically in better shape than I've been in a while, I still feel indifferent about my goals for this race.  I've said it in previous posts, I feel I just jumped into this one too quickly.  Training has been up and down, some runs point to a BQ while others had me questioning distance running all together.  But there is nothing I can do at this point other than to just lace up, give it my all and leave it all out on the course. 

I will be posting on Monday a full race recap but here is how this final week of marathon training has been...

Monday: Taught my usual spin class but in stead of weights this day, I decided to do some laps in the pool.  I accidentally left my watch at home so I had to count my own laps, gasp!  It wasn't bad at all, it was kind of nice not fumbling with a watch.  Swimming went really well except my shoulders where on fire the next day!  Once the marathon is over, I will be spending more and more in time in the pool in preperation for my triathlon in May. (I'm looking forward to writing about that experience.)

Tuesday: Last week, I mentioned joining Planet Fitness because it's super close to my work and I needed a place to use a treadmill.  I headed over there on my lunch break and knocked out 5 super easy miles on the dreadmill.  The weather was so gorgeous and since I'm still doing the Isntagram yoga challenge, I decided to take it outside for some sprints and my yoga flow.

Wednesday: Wanting and needing to go lighter on the weights so that I won't be too sore leading up to the weights, I headed back to Planet Fitness and knocked out a quick upper body circuit.  PF was pretty dead that time of day so I was able to get in and out rather quickly.  I did, however, go a little hard than I probably should have because my poor arms are still so sore.  I LOVE lifting, almost as much as running...almost.  In fact, if I had to chose between the two (for whatever reason), it sure would be a hard decision because they are both so equally important in my life.  Nothing beats that runners high but it sure feels pretty freaking amazing to go hard in that weight room.  I guess I'm lucky to get to experience the best of both worlds and the two go hand in hand.  This Spring and Summer, though, when I'm not doing distances longer than half's and 10k's, I am really looking forward to spending more time getting stronger and leaner (stay tuned for my next fitness endeavor)

Thursday:  Last run before the big race (unless I can squeeze a 1-2 mile shake out run Saturday, not likely though).  Did a super easy 5k including some walking just to be conservative.  Then I hit the pool for a 1200m swim.  Also sent a little time foam rolling, I will certainly be doing that today and Saturday as well.
Jumping for joy, training is DONE!
Today:  It's currently only 5:30am here as I write this post and with my husband at work, I'm trying to get some work done while the kids are still asleep.  I will head into work myself soon too (after I drop the kiddos off at school) and try to squeeze in some foam rolling and mobility work this afternoon.

Yoga Challenge move from Thursday, I will be doing more of these movements along with foam rolling today.
Now is that time where I just have to try and relax and trust my training.  I have done all I can to prepare for something I have already done four times before.  So I know I can do it, it's just a matter of how well I can do it.  But I would have to say my biggest goal for this weekend has nothing to do with time.  This will be the first time since Marine Corps Marathon in 2010 where I traveled to a race, went to a big expo and really just have no expectations other than to finish.  This will also be the first time my kids get to experience this with me and see what mommy loves to do.  They did come to see me finish Space Coast two years ago but they were so young and that was such a bad race for me that that whole experience was just bad all around for everyone.  I am looking forward to the expo, to spending the night in the beach with my family, to having my boys there when I cross the finish line and to just soak up every minute of the whole weekend.  Be sure to check back Monday (or Tuesday) for my whole experience!

Getting sweet kisses from my boys Wednesday night, I cannot wait for them to hug and kiss me after I cross the finish line!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

8 Tapering Essentials

I'm in the final countdown for marathon number 5 which means full out taper madness.  I am by no means a pro at this, even with 4 full marathons, several half marathons, countless mid-distance races and even a few triathlons under my belt, but I have certainly become much more comfortable and confident in the days leading up the the big event.  Don't get me wrong, the nerves still can get the best of me, but fortunately not quite as bad as they did in the past.  This of course, is thanks to experience as well as becoming more proficient at tapering.  Having learned from my mistakes as well as kept what I found to have been successful, I am continually getting more and more relaxed and ready for the race rather than freaked out like I often did in the past.  Although I do believe the tapering process will differ not just for every person but also for every race, there are definitely some key essentials that can be helpful for anyone in taper mode.  So here are some things that continue to be helpful for me and hopefully for you and your next race as well.

1. Taper Cross Training Too
Regardless of your training program, one thing is certain, you will need to decrease your mileage and intensity in the last few weeks leading up to your big event.  You do this to ensure you have fresh legs and are not over trained come race day.  If you're like me and a big fan of hitting the weights, swimming, spinning, etc., you will want to apply these same principles to your cross training.  Those last couple of weeks before your half or full marathon is not the time to max out or try a new intense workout routine.  Your muscles need time to regenerate post workout and this can take several days.  While your muscles are working hard to rebuild, you may experience soreness, feel tired and have decreased range of motion, all of which can effect your running from form to stamina.  Now, I am a huge fan of going hard in the weight room and continue to do so all throughout marathon training.  But as my event approaches, I start to scale back, especially with lower body exercises to ward off soreness as well as decrease the risk of injury.  You certainly don't want to be insanely sore, or worse, hurt come race day!

2. Loosen Up
Being sore and tight on the day of your race can not only lead to sub par performance but can also hinder your recovery.  Tight muscles often lead to weak muscles, so it is important that you are proactive about keeping your muscles loose and your joints limber.  Foam rolling, dynamic stretching and yoga are staples in my marathon training, especially as race day approaches.  Do not wait until you are stiff and sore to work out tight muscles, but sure to engage in some form of fascial release on a regular basis all throughout training and even more so as the race approaches.  Investing in a foam roller is a great place to start, you can even do it in the comfort of your own home.  It will also be your best friend post race when those muscles are pretty unhappy with you.

3. Eat All the Food (But Nothing New)
We have all heard about carb-loading and increasing your caloric intake leading up to the race.  This can, however, be a little misleading.  I've made the mistake in the past as seeing this as an opportunity to eat everything in sight to prepare for race day.  Pizza, chips, beer, anything I figured could pre-fuel my body for the big event, I devoured.  Yes, your body will need some additional carbs, salt and calories to run for that amount of time, but it will need it in a healthy way.  Unhealthy, processed foods will give you extra calories and carbs, no doubt, but these foods lack the essential nutrients to support your race day needs.  They can reek havoc on your digestive system, cause gastric issues and effect your energy levels.  Be sure to stick with real, whole foods such as lean proteins, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.  Increase your carb in take with good carbs such sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal and bananas.  Add a little extra salt (I prefer pink Himalayan salt) to your food the day or so before your race to help with electrolytes.  And be sure to drink extra water, you will want to be well hydrated heading into the event.  Also, the last few days leading to the race is not the time to introduce new foods into your diet.  You do not want to risk any sort of reaction from new cuisine that can effect your body on race day!

4. Boost Your Immune System
It happens, I can attest to that.  You put in months of training, you are ready to go out and crush your race and then BAM, you wake up under the weather!  Sometimes it is just inevitable, we get a cold, or the flu or a stomach bug, etc.  We have been putting our bodies through so much stress over the past few months that we end up being more susceptible to catching whatever may be "going around" as the saying goes.   But just like stretching, you do not want to wait until it is a problem to do something about it.  Be proactive when it comes to your immune system.  Here are a couple of ways I like to help build up my immune system.
  • Eating a clean healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Catching some rays to get my Vitamin D (running outside is typically how I get them)
  • Taking a regular probiotic
  • Supplementing with immune boosters such as Elderberry and Echinacea
  • Washing my hands and counter tops regularly 

5. Bubble Wrap Yourself
As tempting as this may sound, it is obviously just not possible, hehe.  But as a precautionary, it may not be a bad idea to refrain from any new activities as well as ones that you may be used to but could post a potential threat to your body.  I know this may sound a little silly and actually pretty obvious, but it is a good reminder to not get too creative with your workouts and extracurricular activities right before your marathon.  You will have plenty of time for adventures post race, so schedule your activities wisely beforehand.  I guess your sky diving and swimming with the sharks will just have to wait a bit.

6. Visualize Your Success
Whether this your first long distance event that you're just hoping to finish within a certain time frame, or you have a done this before and have a major PR in mind, it is important to not only have a goal, but to visualize yourself accomplishing it.  The saying goes "The body achieves what the mind believes."  Your nerves will be all over the place leading up to the race.  You don't want them to get the best of you so it is important to keep your eye on the prize.  Having a strong mental game will not only keep those nerves at bay but will also be what you need to turn your dream into a reality.  Close your eyes and visualize yourself crossing that finish line.  What does it sound like?  Who will be there?  What does it feel like?  Imagine all of those things leading up the race and focus on how great it will feel.  Hold onto those feelings all throughout the race as well, especially when it becomes daunting, and trust me it will at times.  But having that vision of what your own personal "victory" feels like will be what you need to get you through.

7. Get Some ZZZ's
Easier said that done, but very important.  Sleep not only helps rest your body but your mind as well.  When we lack sleep, and we are just not ourselves physically or mentally, it can effect everything from our mood to our immune system.  All of which are important for being effective on race day.  Finding time in our busy lives for some extra hours of sleep can be very tricky (especially if you're like me and have small children who stay wake periodically throughout the night).  But what you can consider doing is going to be 15-30 minutes early each night the week or so leading up to the race, and try sleeping in a day or two as well.  The extra minutes of sleep will add up to a few hours and will hopefully help you feel rested come race day.

8. Trust Your Training
You've spent the past several months of your life preparing for this one day.  The early wake up calls, countless miles and hours of cross training.  You've studied programs, read articles and talked to seasoned runners to gain knowledge, insight and motivation to do this.  At this point, you have done all you can to prepare.  You've done your miles, you put in the work, you are ready, whether you think you are not, you can and will do this.  You just have to believe that and trust in yourself and your training.  Committing to and training for a distance race is an accomplishment in itself.  It takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice as well as stepping out of your comfort zone.  You have done what you once thought to be impossible by simply signing up for the race and then tackling all the training that is involved to prepare for it.  Knowing that you have already accomplished such an amazing feat before you even toe the line should give you the confidence to see you to the finish.  When you start to doubt yourself before hand or even out on the course, think back to all the miles you have already done, all the long runs you have completed and how you have survived it all.  You have done this before cumulatively in your training leading up to this event, and you can do it now on race day.  Don't for a second doubt yourself and your abilities, you have come this far and it's time to go out and finish strong!

Good luck and happy running!