Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Week 4: Chicago Marathon Training

Um, that cannot be right, I'm already 4 weeks into my training for the Chicago Marathon!?!  It's crazy how quickly time flies, especially when you're having fun.  Though I have a HUGE goal for this marathon and want to do everything possible to make it happen, I also want this to be a fun and relatively stress free training cycle.  And so far so good.  Despite having some Achilles issues the past few weeks and the heat and humidity being insane, things have been going well, mostly because of my attitude.  Attitude is everything and I will not let the small stuff and/or the stuff that I cannot control ruin my training and race day experience.

Back to the training...this was a big week for me.  It was my first long run, I got some new inserts for my shoes to help with my Achilles/Plantar issues and I got to pace a 5k (yes, pace a 5k) for an extremely important cause.  So here is he recap of week 4...

Monday: Spinning and weights are the name of the game on Mondays.  This past Monday, I had forgotten my cycle shoes (they were in my car that was in the shop), so I had to teach in my running shoes.  I'm not a fan of having to use the cages, I prefer my clips, and just as I suspected, the change in foot position flared up the Achilles.  Luckily, with plenty of stretching and rolling, my ankle felt much better.  I was able to get  a few weights in but I had to rush off to work, it's a busy day at The Athlete Factory!

Tuesday: Track, ahem Treadmill Tuesday for some speed work.  Though I want to throw my phone across the room and shatter it into pieces when the alarm goes off, ok maybe a little dramatic but I would much rather get a little extra sleep and/or get some work done.  But once I get going, I'm good.  And of course I feel so awesome when it's done.  Went a little light on my speed work this week because every time I push it, I could feel my Achilles scream at me.  I feel like there is a fine line between honoring my body and pushing it.  So I'm doing my best to listen to my body and train smart.  Like I've said, I've got some big goals, but I can guarantee you they won't happen if I'm hurt.  Got to train smart!

Wednesday: I spent a lot of time stretching and foam rolling on Wednesday and did mostly upper in the weight room.  I went to Fleet Feet that day to get fitted for some inserts.  The lady at the store was so awesome and helpful.  I tried several pairs, took them for a test run around the store and settled on what I'm hoping to be the answer to my Achilles and plantar issues  It was back to work for a bit then off to teach yoga.  Though I teach one class a week, I really do not get to practice yoga as much as I would like.  My goal for the coming weeks, and for this training cycle, is get back to more classes.  I feel much stronger and healthier with a regular yoga practice.

Thursday: I had to flip my schedule around to be available to pace a race on Saturday, so my long run had to be Thursday.  It was my first official "long run" of the training cycle and I had a lot of nerves and excitement leading up to it.  My expectations were not terribly high for this one because A. it was my first long run since the half I paced a month before, B. it is insanely hot and humid outside and I knew that would be a factor, and C. My Achilles and plantar issues were still questionable.  The run started off pretty slow.  The humidity definitely got to me in the beginning and it took several miles to find my stride.  By the turn around, though, I had settled into a good pace, albeit still a little slower, but more consistent.  The last few miles were in the sun with little to no shade or breeze, so they were a little tough.  I ended up taking a couple of walk breaks in the last few miles to hydrate and loosen up my calf.  But I pushed through the final mile to finish strong.  Average pace ended up being around 8:35.  In the past, I would have been incredibly disappointed and beat myself up for the rest of the weekend.  But this time around, I am doing my best to stay positive and keep focused.  I have several more long runs in my future so I will need to make some adjustments to have better runs and ultimately a great race.
On a positive note about my long run, I got to test out my new hydration vest by The Orange Mud and I absolutely LOVE it.  (Click here to read my review)

Friday: Recovering from my long run, I decided to do a light upper body and core workout over at Planet Fitness.  It's sled day at The Athlete Factory (I will have to make a post just to explain the awesomeness of that one of these days) so though I wasn't working out there, I got my fitness on coaching and moving around 45lb plates.  Then Hunter and I grabbed some lunch, picked the kids up early to ride the SunRail and then spent a relaxing evening a home.  It was an early wake up call for this pacer!

Saturday: After the tragic shooting at Pulse night club earlier this month, so many people felt compelled to do something to help out.  From giving blood to donating money and time, to showing up to various vigils, our community really came together to show support.  Final Mile Race Management wanted to involve the running community and decided to set up a 5k.  In two short weeks, the race director, fellow runners, sponsors and volunteers came together to organize and fund an event that raised over $100,000 for those affected by the shooting.  Thousands of runners at the actual event and virtually participated in the Orlando United 5k this past Saturday and it was truly one of the most inspiring and emotional events I have ever been a part of.  The running community is like no other and that light shined so brightly this weekend.  The love, acceptance and respect for one another out there was truly a beautiful thing to witness.  I was so honored to get to be a pacer for this event and got to meet a lot of really awesome people.  In a time of such a tragedy it is amazing to see people come together to love and support one another.  Love truly does conquer hate!

Sunday: Finally a rest day.  We decided we wanted to take the kids to the beach so packed everything up, drove down there and discovered a random storm was coming through.  So we turn around and came back to the pool.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky at our house so it was a super fun afternoon for the fam at the pool.  Then it was back to the grind.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Product Review: The Orange Mud Hydration Vest

We all know the importance of proper hydration, especially during the hot summer months.  I've always been diligent about bring water and electrolytes along with during my long training runs, but unfortunately have never been a fan of how I have been able to do some.  From belts to handheld bottles, I have yet to find anything that seems to fit right, not drive me insane and of course hold enough hydration for me.  That is until now.

After seeing several of my Instagram "friends" post runfies with these water bottle backpacks, I decided to do a little research to see exactly what it is they were wearing and if it would be worth a shot.  I discovered that these backpacks were actually hydration vests made by The Orange Mud company.  I had a little bit of a sticker shock at first, and wondered if it was worth the price.   Like I said above, all the other belts and packs I have tried over the years were rather uncomfortable and/or did not hold enough water for my longer runs.  And since I have wasted quite a bit of money on said apparatuses, I was pretty leery to purchase yet another item that could potentially be equally disappointing.

I read through the product descriptions, skimmed through the reviews asked a couple of friends who use them their opinion, and I was sold.  With my training for the Chicago Marathon in full swing, I was desperate to find a product that would keep me well hydrated during this hot Florida summer and this seemed to be the answer.  Before I knew it, I had the credit card out and ordered the HydraQuiver Vest Pack.

From the second I placed the order, the communication from the company was top notch.  I received a confirmation email as well as a Facebook direct message from Orange Mud.  The very next day, I received messages letting me know my item was ready to be shipped, along with a tracking number and when I could expect my vest.  I also received an email with information and an instructional video on caring for and how to use the pack.

In just a matter of days, my package arrived and, as I always am when running stuff comes in the mail, was as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning!  As soon as I opened the packaging and removed the vest, I could told why the higher cost, it was really high quality.  Very durable, but lightweight, great padding where it needed it most, plenty of pockets, multiple adjustable straps to get a good fit, and a nice big water bottle.  I couldn't wait to test this puppy out and see if it lived up to the hype, but I had a feeling it would!

I had a 14 miler scheduled for this week and I figured that would be the perfect time to take it for a test run.  I cleaned the bottle the night before and filled it up with my Nuun hydration tablets and water in the morning.  I put a couple of Honeystinger gels in one of the large front pockets and my GoPro (gotta get that runfie) in the other.  In one of the shoulder pockets I put my key.  I made a couple of quick adjustments to the straps and was off for my run.

About a mile or so in, I had to readjust the side straps, but the chest strap was a great fit.  After that, I was good to go.  Unlike many of the other belts and packs the ride up my hips, bounce and rotate around my waist and slosh around on my back, the snug vest stayed right in place.  Despite wearing a vest I was not used to wearing in insanely hot temps and high humidity, the breathable material and great fit had me forgetting all about it at times.  Well at least until I needed something.

I was able to reach back whenever need be, grab my bottle and take a few sips of much needed Nuun water.  When I needed my gel, it was right there in my chest pocket.  And when it was time to snap a photo of it all, my GoPro was easily accessible!

So to sum it all up. here is a quick little recap of the vest...

Great fit, easily adjustable
Good sized water bottle (I purchased single barrel but they also offer a double)
Very easy to clean
Plenty of pockets for gels, phone, keys, etc.
High quality materials and stitching, very durable
Free and fast shipping
Plenty of communication and helpful information from the company

I did hit the back of my head a couple of times on the top of the water bottle while looking up
Forgot to put some glide on my chest so I experienced a little bit of chaffing (lesson learned)
It was a little pricey, but it is totally worth it
Wish it had more color options (only comes in Orange and Black or Grey)
No local retailer, had to be ordered online, but again, free and fast delivery so can't complain

All in all it was a great purchase that will certainly get much use.  I am so very grateful for this product and know it is going to help me during these hot summer training runs as I prepare for Chicago.  If you are in the market for a new hydration belt or back, I highly recommend checking out an Orange Mud hydration vest!

Oh, and I almost forgot.  About my run... Well, it was a little slower than I would have liked but I am grateful to have pushed through and gotten the miles in.  I have been battling a bit of an Achilles issuesfrom an injury last fall and also decided to pull back a little bit because of the heat.  But despite those two concerns, it actually went fairly well.  It's definitely going to be a loooooong hot summer of training, but thankfully I have a new hydration vest to help with that!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yoga For Athletic Performance

Yoga isn't just about stretching, breathing and relaxation, although those aspects are incredibly beneficial to athletes and well, anyone for that matter.  But yoga has much more to offer athletes at any age, level and sport.  Across the world, countless athletes are engaging in regular yoga practice to help improve their athletic performance.  Anyone from youth, novice, collegiate and professional athletes are seeing the benefits of yoga translate to improved training and increased performance, giving them the competitive edge.  Below is a list of some great benefits of incorporating yoga into your training regime and how it can improve athletic performance.

Injury Prevention
Regardless of the sport, all athletes put a lot of repetitive stress on their bodies, and over time, this stress can cause muscular imbalances.  When muscles become tight due this imbalance, they become more susceptible to injury, not just to the muscle but the surrounding tissues as well.  So it’s to the benefit of any athlete to have more pliability and flexibility to prevent injuries.  Yoga is designed to work the muscles around the joints for stability as well as to gain full mobility and rotation in the joints, making an athlete more fluid with their movement, thus preventing injury.

Improved Body Awareness
There is quite a bit of focus on balance during yoga.  Improving our balance helps improve our proprioception.  Proprioception is the awareness of our body in its position in space, as well as the direction and speed of its movement.  During yoga, we continually gain an understanding of our bodies and how we move in relation to other parts of our body and our environment.  This understanding of anatomy and body mechanics not only improves our balance, but also helps with reaction time and aids in injury prevention.

Improved Core Strength
A strong core not only protects our spine but also provides a solid foundation for the functional movements used in the weight room and on the playing field.  Through focusing on breath, movement and poses, yoga helps strengthen these core muscles, which of course helps improve overall strength and power.

Increased Power
Proper form is key in the weight room and during any athletic event.   Power, strength, and speed are directly related to proper body-mechanics.  When our body is properly aligned, we can transmit force much more efficiently and perform better across the board.  Yoga places so much emphasis on optimal body alignment, thus helping increase power and force production during training, practice and of course during competition.

Improved Endurance
Regardless of whether you are a marathoner or football player, stamina plays an important role in all types of sports and athletic events.  Yoga has been known to help improve circulation as well as increase respiratory capacity, which translates to improved endurance.  Having long lasting energy is important to finishing healthy and strong, whether that is crossing the finish line or outperforming your opponent in the fourth quarter!

How to Incorporate Yoga Into Your Training Regimen
Because yoga uses your own body weight and no external load, it can essentially be performed every day.  I often suggest to beginners to start with a simple DVD at home or in a gentle yoga class at a studio.  (Of course always be sure to consult your physician and coach prior to engaging in any new physical activity).  Due to school, sports practice, work and training, many of our athletes who train in our facility are not left with much time to practice yoga.  So we incorporate various poses and sequences into their workouts to focus on key areas for athletic performance.  If time is an issue for you, consider doing a few poses during your warm up and cool down.  Even if it is just 1-2 times per week, incorporating yoga into your training regimen will offer benefits listed above, helping you to perform at the top of your game!

If you have any additional questions on yoga for performance or run training, contact Coach Christina today.  Also, be sure to follow along her journey and stay up today on her latest blog posts on her Instagram page.


Week 3 Recap of Chicago Marathon Training

Last week was my third week of Chicago Marathon training and has left me both nervous and excited of the months to come.  This was also my first official week of recapping my training.  I took the last two weeks to put together my journey to this point and how I am preparing for this, my sixth marathon.  I'm definitely excited to take some time each week to reflect on this journey.

So here we go...

Week 3 of Chicago Marathon Training

Monday: Normally I teach spinning on Monday and do some weights and core before and after class.  But Hunter and I had an business meeting we needed to take that morning, so I subbed out my spin class and saved my workout for lunch time.  When I was finally free, I headed over to Planet Fitness to get a quick full body workout.  Everything was going well until my Achilles started bothering me during the posterior lunges.  I had injured it last Fall, and have not had any problems with it until about two weeks ago when it started bothering me a little after a sled workout.   So I have been a little conservative lately not to re-injure it.  As soon as it flared up that day, I decided to pull back on those and any other leg exercises for the rest of the workout.  By the evening, my calf and Achilles were both pretty tight and I was getting a little worried.

Tuesday: My alarm goes off just before 5am so I can head downstairs for my speed work.  Fortunately all the stretching and rest I had done for my calf and Achilles the night before seemed to have helped and was not experiencing any discomfort. I was able to push through 5 miles of speed work and felt pretty strong.  I spent a good amount of the rest of the day stretching so it wouldn't get too tight on me again.

Wednesday: Summer time at The Athlete Factory, the performance gym my husband and I own and operate, is very busy and hectic.  Obviously we appreciate the business, and it is certainly fun when the gym is rocking with all of our athletes getting after it.  But it definitely makes it a tricky time of year for Hunter and I to get in our own workouts.  Wednesday was proof of that and was another late afternoon lunch time lift.  Though it may not be my ideal time of day to workout, I prefer early mornings, I am grateful I am able to still make it happen during the busy day.  I got in a good little upper body lift and it was back to work.  After coaching at the gym, I picked up the kiddos and we headed over to LA Fitness so I can teach the evening yoga class.  Before class, I spent several moments stretching and rolling my calf.  It wsooooooooo tight.  This made me realize this is going to be quite a battle for me this training cycle.  I am going to have to be very vigilant about this issue not to let it get out of control like it did last Fall.

Thursday: An early morning easy 5 miler for me.  It was supposed to be a tempo run with some 10k race pace miles.  But with my tight calf and sore Achilles, I figured it would be best to go a little slower and get in the miles that I can.  I held around an 8 min mile pace for 5 miles and luckily, my Achilles didn't seem to bother me too much, but the soreness is definitely there.  More stretching and foam rolling then it was time to get the day started!

Friday: This is usually my "accessory day" where I work shoulders, biceps, triceps and of course core.  I had a pretty good little workout, my arms were definitely feeling it.  I threw in some calf and soleus stretches as well as some ankle mobility exercises.  I had 8 planned the next morning so I definitely wanted to stay on top of any tightness, soreness or pain before the longer runs.  After that, I had a super fun day, having lunch with the hubster then taking the kiddos to the pool.

Saturday: We had a little too much fun at the pool the night before so our family decided we could really use some extra sleep.  I ended up missing my trail run group, which stinks because I miss my girls, but I was glad for a little extra and much needed rest.  Waking up every day before 5am definitely gets old.  Also, with my Achilles concern, I figured the treadmill may be a little "safer" than the trail.  Hunter went to get his workout in and work, so me and the kids headed over to LA Fitness so I could run.  It started off well, Achilles was definitely a little tight but not painful.  But when I pushed it a little more with the speed, I could feel some discomfort, so I would pull back.  I settled into a comfortable pace to finish out the 8 miles.  Though it was slower than I would have liked at around 7:41min/mile, I was happy to be running relatively pain free.  After my run, I did a lot of stretching, foam rolling and some more ankle mobility exercises.  Then it was time to spend the rest of the weekend with the family and celebrate Father's Day!

Sunday: When I went to bed Saturday evening, there really wasn't much pain and when I woke up Sunday, it seemed to be nonexistent.  All the stretching and rolling really seem to be helping and I hope that continues to be the case.  Sunday's are my off days and it was also Father's Day, so we had a fun filled day planned out for daddy.  After our busy exciting day, we settled in at home and watched game 7 of the NBA Finals, way to go Cavs, and got ready for our busy week ahead.

Final Thoughts on Week 3
This Achilles thing is seemingly going to be a constant battle, but if I can stay on top of it, it hopefully will not be a major issue that hinders my performance.

Summer time is definitely a challenging time to get my workouts in, but skipping them is not an option so just gotta make it work when I can!

I could use some work on my mental and not head to dark places at the slightest discomfort.

It is going to be a warm summer of training, which will hopefully make me stronger both physically and mentally come race day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marathon Training Has Begun (Super Exciting Announcement Inluded!)

My first official week of Chicago Marathon training is complete, eeek!  I am super excited to get this training rolling and see where it takes me come October.  This will be my 6th marathon and 4th attempt at a Boston qualifying time (you can read more about my marathon journey in my previous post).  So yes, I am a little nervous and just hoping for a happy and healthy training cycle.  But since I have done a handful of marathons before, I am feeling more and more comfortable and confident going into my training.

The first week went well and I look forward to recapping my training each week.  But before I begin with recaps, I thought I would discuss a little more on my training and how I am preparing.   So here are some of the key factors I am focusing on for Chicago...

In the past, I would typically make just one goal for race day.  For my first marathon, it was just to finish.  For my second it was simply to finish faster than my first.  My third, was the first time I realized I could BQ and unfortunately for that particular marathon, my mentality was BQ or bust.  My fourth started off with that mentality of my third, but an injury caused me to just want to finish (and boy did that sure humble me).  By my fifth marathon, I had finally realized the importance of having a few goals for race day, because you just never know what that day will bring.  I was fortunate enough for my most recent marathon to accomplish my second goal for the day, but unfortunately it was not enough for a BQ.  So with all that being said, here are my goals for Chicago:
Goal A: BQ with a sub 3:30
Goal B: BQ with a sub 3:35
Goal C: PR with a sub 3:38
Goal D: Finish that b*tch if it kills me!
"If plan A doesn't work, don't worry, the alphabet has 25 more letters!" -Claire Cook

Game Plan
From my first marathon to this current one, and most likely everyone after that, I follow a training program pretty much to a T.  I like having a plan to follow, it keeps me motivated and accountable.  Though I have a great solid plan mapped out for me, it is not crazy strict.  There are my key runs, including speed work and long runs, with a little wiggle room on my other runs.  This way, for me marathon training doesn't become insanely stressful like it has in the past and feel like a full time job.  I have read several books on marathon training and have looked into many different programs from Galloway to Hansons.  I have followed a couple of different ones through the years and have since taken certain things from each to formulate my own program that works best with me abilities, goals, philosophies and of course available time.

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Speaking of available time...like I said above, I never want marathon training to feel like a full time job.  I have one of those and I rather like it.  (Of course it would be pretty awesome if running were my job.)  I also have a family and somewhat of a social life that are very important to me too.  As much as I absolutely LOVE running and how badly I want to BQ, I have to keep a happy balance in my life with my goals and my other responsibilities and passions.  Yes, sacrifices have to be made when it comes to getting my training in.  But for me, it is very important to keep my priorities in order and have a good balance with my training and my life.

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony" -Thomas Merton

I like food, a lot.  For the most part, especially during the week days, I eat relatively clean.  Monday-Friday, most of my food is measured and fits into my macros.  When the weekend rolls around, I like to let my hair down a bit and enjoy the finer things in life, of course with in reason.  I made the mistake during my first marathon to think that since I was burning so many calories during my running, I could eat whatever I wanted.  Boy was I wrong and had the extra pounds to show for it!  Also, my poor diet negatively effected my training, performance and recovery.  Now I eat a much cleaner diet, even on my cheat days.  I now recognize that food is fuel.  Yes, I still do run to eat (and drink beer), but more importantly, I eat (clean) to run (better).  It's all about balance!

"Your body is a finely tuned vehicle, give it good fuel and it will take you places." -Unknown

With two small children and owning a gym, sleep has become a luxury in our household over the years.  It's amazing how much my husband and I can still function off of so little sleep.  It's like all those years with 6-8 hours of sleep was wasted time, lol!  Between work, family and training, it is tough to squeeze in an extra hour or two of sleep, but it is necessary for performance and recovery.  The night before a long run, I try to get to bed a little early to hopefully get an extra hour or so of sleep.  The morning after a long run, I try to sleep in, if my internal alarm clock and/or kiddos let me do so.  It's the best I can do but it's better than nothing.  I recognize the importance of sleep and try my best with it, but like I said, it is a luxury in our house!

"Sleep is the golden chain that ties our health and bodies together." -Thomas Dekker

No great things can be done alone.  Even though running is technically an individual event and not a team sport, it is so important to have a great support system of fellow runners.  In the past, I often trained alone.  The trail would get very lonely and there were times were I gave up rather easily out there.  More recently though, and especially now for this upcoming marathon, I have gathered my tribe.  We have similar paces and goals, and are there to push, encourage and motivate one another.  In fact, we are all training for the same event, so we can not only help each other through training but also come race day!

TEAM- Together Everyone Achieves More!

In the past, I have taken an all or nothing approach to training.  I was so focused on one goal and if it seemed like that wouldn't happen, I was be absolutely devastated.  Having experienced three "failed" attempts to BQ, I am much more aware that some times, despite our efforts, things just don't go our way.  I am much better equipped now to handle whatever may come race day.  But I also have more motivation and drive now than ever.  I want that BQ so bad.  I am laser focused, working hard and visualizing my success!

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." -Winston Churchill

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasdekk204715.html
Cross Training
I am passionate about all things fitness.  As much as I like running, I like biking, swimming, weight lifting and yoga too.  Finding time for it all can be a little tricky, but I feel as if I have settled into a pretty good routine with my running and cross training.  During my early years of running, I did little to no strength and conditioning.  Since then, I have learned the importance of weight, core and mobility training and have made them staples in my training program.  The implementation of a solid strength and conditioning program has taken my marathon time from 4:42 to 3:38 and hopefully a sub 3:30 for this next marathon!

"If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat." -Herschel Walker

And Now for That Big Announcement...
As a performance coach and gym owner, strength and conditioning training is my livelihood and a huge passion of mine.  I have seen first hand how much strength training can change a runner's body and performance as well as aid in recovery and injury prevention.  That is why I am super excited to announce a new program I am currently working on designed specifically for runners, named RunStrong.  This coaching program will offer various services to runners of all levels, abilities and goals and provide the following benefits:
  • Increase strength
  • Improve body composition (decrease fat and increase lean muscle)
  • Improve overall conditioning
  • Increase flexibility
  • Enhance mobility
  • All of which will make runners more efficient, stronger and faster athletes!
More information to come soon, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, you can contact Coach Christina via email and be sure to follow her on Instagram to stay up to date with program announcements!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Let's Hope 4th Time's a Charm!

This coming October, I will join thousands of fellow runners from all over the country and world to run the streets of Chi town.  This will be make marathon number 6 for me and my 4th attempt to qualify for Boston. 
When I started my journey almost 20 years ago, I never thought I would ever run a full marathon let alone qualify for the mecca of all marathons.  In fact, running did not come naturally to me and my early years were very difficult and inconsistent.  Eventually though, I became more committed to my training and set out to run my first full marathon in 2010.  The entire experience from the training to the race, completely changed my life.  It gave me so much courage and confidence to take on anything that may come my way.  When I crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in 4 hours and 45 minutes, I was on top of the world, beaming with pride!

I knew I would do another, and hoped to PR, but the thought of it being significantly faster, like a 4 hour marathon, seemed almost impossible.  And any attempt to do so would soon be put on hold since my husband and found out we would be having our first son just weeks after the race.  Then six months after his birth, we found out we were having our second son.  (That’s two kids in 14 months in case you’re wondering).

Needless to say, as a novice runner and new mom, distance running was put on hold for a few years.  So by the time I set out to run my second marathon over three years later, I felt like I was starting over!  I had no major goals for the Celebration Marathon in 2014 other than just to finish and hopefully a little faster than my first one.  I was in total shock when I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes.  Three years and two kids later, I PR’ed my marathon by 35 whole minutes!  Despite my improvement, there was still no thought of ever achieving a Boston qualifying time.

Later that same year, I got the urge to run another marathon and came across one over near the coast.  I signed up and began training for the Space Coast Marathon.  About two-thirds through my training, I was finishing up a long run and noticed how much faster I had gotten since my previous races and training runs.  I came home and Googled what time/pace I would need for Boston and almost couldn’t believe my eyes when it seemed like I was on track to potentially qualify if I could keep it up.  At that point I set out a goal to make it happen and became so obsessed with qualifying for Boston.

Training continued go great for me, I got faster and felt stronger with each training run and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would qualify at this, my third marathon.  Race came and so did a stomach bug for my two young children, but I was fortunate not to get it too, or so I thought.  The day before the race, I was feeling pretty queasy but chalked it up to race day jitters and by that evening, I was actually feeling much better.  But the morning of the race, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Again, assuming it was just nerves, I lined up with my pace group and took off.  Within a few miles though, I realized it was NOT going to be a good day for me!  I tried to push through but it was brutal.  When I finally crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 53 minutes, I was devastated. 
Though I could not have done anything to prevent a stomach bug, I continued to beat myself up over my poor performance and took it all so hard.  I decided to focus all my efforts over the next year training for the same race and to qualify this time around.  It would be my redemption race. 
So I poured my heart and soul into training, reading everything I could get my hands on, locking down my nutrition and hammering down what I thought to be the perfect program.   Training started off great but about half way through, I was feeling both mentally and physically exhausted because of the unneeded pressure I was putting on myself.  Then, about two months before the race, one of my biggest fears came true, I got injured.  I hit the crap (pardon my French) out of my heel on our coffee table, which caused a massive bruise on my heel and foot.  My Achilles then became terribly tight but I continued to push myself through my training runs despite the tightness and pain.  Next thing I knew, I had developed Achilles Tendonitis as well as Plantar Fasciitis, on top of a deep calcaneal bone bruise.  6 weeks off from running in the middle of marathon training meant bye bye BQ and potentially even running the race at all.

I took the rest period as an opportunity to reflect on my attitude and training mistakes.  It also gave me the opportunity to spend some time in the pool reconnecting with my love for swimming.  I was fortunate enough to heal up nicely and returned to light running about a month before the race.  I hadn’t logged nowhere near enough training miles, I had lost a lot of my endurance and was just mentally not prepared to run a full marathon.  But I pretty am damn stubborn and still wanted to give it a shot.

I knew I wouldn’t BQ and I wasn’t even expecting a PR.  My goal was to run, walk or even crawl if need be across that finish line of my 5th marathon.  A small little part of me thought I could maybe just maybe pull of my BQ after all.  The race actually started off great.  I was feeling it for the first 10 miles and was even on target to reach a solid PR.  But my lack of training, the heat and of course my injury that was flaring up soon got to me and I found myself walking a good amount of the second half of the race.  I vowed before I even began running that day though, to accept whatever came my way.  To just be happy and proud to cross that finish line.  4 hours and 11 minutes I limped cross that finish line with my head held high, my arms thrown up in the air in victory and tears of both pain and pride streaming down my face.

It was NOT the race I had been preparing for almost an entire year of my life for.  It was not even the finish time I had hoped for after my injury.  But I couldn’t have been more proud of myself not just for pushing through and finishing the race, but for doing so with a positive attitude.

Now, when I had gotten hurt a few months before, I had immediately hopped on the computer to find my next race that I would without a doubt accomplish my goal at.  While laid up on the couch, icing my leg and sulking over my injury, I pulled out my credit card and signed up for the Run with Donna Marathon just a few months away.  So after the Space Coast Marathon, I had to jump right back into to training for my next marathon.  I know now that probably wasn’t the best idea but I just couldn’t let go of a 2017 BQ.

Training for Donna was hit or miss.  On a positive note, my injuries seemed to have healed, but thanks to the time off because of them, I wasn't in any conditioning to be training for back to back marathons.  I did have a couple of great long runs where I felt confident I could go out and BQ, then I would have one that left me questioning distance running all together.  

Having no clue what to expect race day, this was the first time (and certainly not the last) I set 3 separate goals for myself.  A. BQ with my original goal time of sub 3:30, B. Sub 3:45, or C. Just finish.  Yes, quite a spread for goals, but I knew I had to be realistic out there deal with whatever came my way.  Because of my BQ or bust attitude for my last two races, I had not had a great marathon experience in years.  So I vowed for my 5th marathon to just do the best I can but most importantly have fun, soak it all in and enjoy the experience.

That's exactly what I did and I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 38 minutes, missing my BQ by 3 minutes.  Yes, a small part of me was disappointed, but an even bigger part of me was ecstatic for coming back strong after my injury and getting a huge PR!  It showed me what I am capable.  After two devastating marathons in a little over a year, I needed this race to show me that I can and eventually will make my BQ dreams happen.

I have learned so much about running, myself and life during my three attempts to BQ over the last two years.  I have been humbled, motivated, encouraged and inspired.  I have learned that nothing is ever given, everything is earned through hard work, determination and self belief.  I now know what I am capable, but I also realize it won't come easy and unfortunately, despite all my efforts, sometimes things just won't go my way.  I have to accept the things that I cannot control and push through physically AND mentally the things that I can to achieve my goals.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous to embark on this journey and make yet another attempt to BQ.  The thought of coming up short yet again terrifies me.  But it also fuels the fire I need to push myself each and every training run and of course on race day.  I am confident that I have it in me, I believe that now more than I ever have.  Now I am ready and willing to give it my all and finally turn that dream into a reality this October!

Fingers crossed...4th Time Is a Charm!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

To My Non-Runner Friends, I Am Sorry

Though I have been a runner for as long as I can remember, I haven't always been this consumed with passionate about the sport.  In fact there was a time in my life where I didn't consider myself a "real runner" (ridiculous, I know) and was I a little embarrassed to even talk about it all.  That soon changed though.  And of course since it was all before the internet (well actually not quite that long, but looooong before social media wast a thing), it was difficult to inform everyone of every step I took.  Oh and then there was that one, actually two times I became a mom, so I was a bit more apt to brag about my little ones sleeping for 4 straight hours at night than how many miles I ran that week!

Despite running now being one of my biggest passions and even part of my livelihood, there were several times throughout my life people did not even know I ran.  Now that it's pretty much all I do and talk about, most of my friends are runners.  But I have managed to pick up some non-runner friends along the way.  Crazy, I know!  I actually have people in my life who do not run (or even exercise), and that is perfectly OK with me, and them too, for that matter.  From former coworkers to my mommy friends, I am very appreciative of everyone in my life, even if they have no desire to join me for a Sunday-Runday.  They have their own passions and joys in life that do not necessarily align with mine, and we do our best to make time for, respect and appreciate one another.  Of course with that being said, since they do not share my (sometimes often crazy) obsession with distance running, I feel as if I do need to make some apologies for my (sometimes often obnoxious) behavior.

So without any further ado, let me take this opportunity to go ahead and apologize for a few things that may happen to annoy some of my non-runner friends and family...
I am sorry it may seem like all I ever want to is run or talk about running.
I am sorry for skipping girls' night, I had a long run the next morning and needed to get to bed early.

I am sorry MY idea of a fun girls' night is a pub run.

I am sorry I ate ALL the appetizers at your party not leaving anything for anyone else, I had a long run that morning and was starving.

I am sorry I am socially awkward with virtually any topic other than running and fitness.

I am sorry all I talk about is running and fitness.

I am sorry I always look (and probably smell, ew) like I am coming or going to the gym.

I am sorry that my "dressy casual' attire consists solely of yoga pants and flip flops.

Oh and about those toes of mine, I will go get a pedicure...after my race!

I am sorry my social media pages are flooded with race photos, group run pics and inspirational running and fitness quotes.

I am sorry for yawning all during brunch, I had (you guessed it) a long run that morning.
I am sorry I am always categorizing everyone in my life into two groups: my "runner friends" and everyone else.
I am sorry I always talk about my runner friends as if they are your besties too, even though you have never met.
I am sorry I always give your kids running and fitness related gifts for their birthdays.
And yes the running socks from Secret Santa were in deed from me.
I am sorry I missed your holiday party this year, I had an out of town race that weekend.
And on that note [to my husband] I am sorry we had to reschedule your birthday, our anniversary and Valentine's day this year because they fell on race weekends. 
I am sorry I have to look up to see if there is a race to any place anyone ever suggests visiting, #racecation!
I am sorry I absolutely still have to run while on vacation, I don't mind waking up before everyone though, I will just be tired and hungry all day.
I am sorry I am always trying to convince everyone to run a 5k with me, it's only 3.1 miles, c'mon it'll be fun.
I am sorry for trying to convince everyone running is fun.
I am sorry for those few that I have convinced to run a distance race, I work on convincing you to run an even further one!
And last but not least...I am sorry I am not always present, but I do still love you all...I just love running a little bit more.  Totally kidding...or am I????