Lost at the Finish Line

 

The end of the year is creeping up on us and wow, what a year. Back around June, I did a goal inventory and haven’t looked back since…until today.

2017 Race-Related Goals:

  • Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. In May 2017, I ran 5:21. CHECK!
  • 5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
  • Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
  • Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. CHECK! 3:25 AND a BQ!
  • Ultra – The thought was a maybe. Now it’s just a few days away…

Other 2017 Goals:

  • Train my husband for his first half: CHECK! He also did a 2nd which I helped pace him for a sub 2 hour finish.
  • Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK!
  • Personal Trainer Certification. CHECK!
  • Coaching Certification. CHECK!

Which leads me to….

Fellow runners and readers, you may understand or you really may think I am crazy.

Do you ever feel a little lost once you complete a task? You’ve worked so hard for an extended period of time, focused on doing whatever it takes to be a success, and finally crossed the finish line. You are ecstatic. Yet, soon after, you are looking for a new challenge.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Just a couple days out before the 50 miles and I’m already thinking, what’s next? Where do I go from here? Do I want to run longer? Go faster? Try something new? I have been so focused on checking off the boxes and not looking ahead for the next carrot.

Fresh red carrot hanging on white background

Chasing goals is exciting; keeps me dreaming and raising the bar. The line we cross when we tackle a goal is not the finish, but a new starting line.

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What do I want to try to do? Honestly, I am unsure right now.

I’m not too worried; after all, I have 50 miles to think about the possibilities. 🙂

I do have a goal formulating in my mind, but I’m not quite ready to share yet. Stay tuned….

Tell me: Have you reached your 2017 goals? Set any new goals for 2018?

Ultra Partners In Crime

Even after witnessing the wild weather which occurred during JFK 50 last year, the seed was planted about possibly running an ultra. Last December, I was out at a winery celebrating a friend’s birthday when the topic arose (obviously alcohol-induced). At this point, it still sounded crazy and I still wasn’t quite sure I’d really consider entering.

Fast forward to the spring. Through several group runs and races, Sara and I became great friends (as did our families). Ads for JFK kept popping up on social media. Mario signed up for his 2nd, then Jeremy for his 3rd. Would I really try to run 50 miles? So far, I had only completed 1 marathon. Was I really considering doing almost double? Unsure how the conversation came about, all I remember is a message between Sara and me: “I’ll do it if you do it” (and no, this time the conversation was not fueled with any wine). That night, we filled out the form and hit submit. We were in.

Over the next few months, I think we both bobbled between excitement and “what the hell did we sign up for?”. Knowing we would have each other to run with I think made the task seem a little less overwhelming. Over the summer, I racked up miles training for my marathon and Sara worked on building a base as well. Now, if you read my post on crewing Yeti, you’ll know Sara joined Josh for 43 miles! Unsure how many she ran vs walked, but she still did 43 miles. Amazing. After Yeti, I knew she would have no problem with JFK.

Once Yeti was over, we started to look towards our race. We planned to head up to the course and tackle the trail portion one Saturday morning. I emailed the race director with a few questions and looked up the maps since we had never been to the area before. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we were already a bit discombobulated, haha! Out of the car and we weren’t sure where the trail started – sheesh, what are we in for? We asked another runner in the lot and felt better after he said he had no idea since it was his first time there as well. Blind leading the blind is not a great way to start. Another duo of runners were gearing up and thankfully they pointed us in the right direction. And, off we went!

The two of us were having so much fun, running through the trails, chattering away. We came to a road, crossed and kept going up the asphalt. We continued up this looooong incline forever, switching off between walking and running until we reached the top. And came to a dead end. Crud, what now? I remembered reading a post about a runner who asked where to go at the top, thankfully had cell service and was able to pull up the information on my phone. We circumvented the tower and started back on the trail….until we came to an intersection. Now, the two of us are no girl scouts, so we had to make a decision of which way to go. I again tried to use my phone and we headed to the left. Chattering away again as we ran through the woods – we kept saying, this is so much fun! And then, we ran into the other runners….coming toward us from the opposite direction. Navigators, we are not. So, we turned around and followed them back the way we just came and settled back into our pace. Happy to say, the rest of the run was great! We ended up with 15 great miles and headed to refuel at Panera.

Our first trail adventure…

We decided to head back out again, this time adding on more miles on the C&O. One of our goals was to run the trail correctly this time. Once again, we parked in the lot and we started off to the trail…or so we thought. Somehow we ended up in tent city! Laughing at our awful orienteering skills (Sara – unsure if we are cut out for Barkley!), we quickly found the trail and were underway. When we crossed the road this time, we found the trail we missed on the last run (woohoo!). The trail became fairly rocky and we ended up speedwalking much of the first couple miles. About halfway through, Sara tripped and came up with minor scrapes but that girl kept on trucking! So glad Sara is an easy person to be around; always positive, never panics and is just as determined as I am.

Once we finished the trail and came to the Weverton lot, we met John who was going to run on the C&O with us. We changed out of our trail shoes, fueled, and set off again with John this time. The sun was out and it was a little unseasonably warm for late October. We kept hydrated and ran onto the C&O through Harper’s Ferry. What should be a beautiful running route, especially during the fall, ends up being a tad boring after the miles of trail. We realized on this part of our run when coming to a complete stop; you shouldn’t try to go back to running right away. Definitely need to ease in; walk a bit before taking off. We ended up doing a marathon and John did 12. Another great training run.

Marathon training run

We hit the trail one more time this past weekend and we are glad we did. Since our last run, many more leaves had fallen off the trees which make the trail a little more challenging. We are happy to share with you this time, we did not get lost at all.  About halfway through, I was running along chatting and then WHAM! I was flat on my face. Brushed myself off and we continued on; no injuries. A few more miles and our last training run was finished. Almost 3 hours and 13.5 miles later, we came out of the trail and began walking towards the car as if we had just jogged a mile.

As we headed back to pick up my car at the start, we decided to check out where the race begins and the course leading up to the trail. As we drove down the street, we once again were reminded of the intensity of this race. The road leading to the Appalachian Trail is one long giant hill! Unsure if was a good or bad idea to go see what the start has in store for us. Oh, what an adventure this will be.

Now it is race week. Did we get in enough long runs; enough miles? Not as many as I would have liked to, but there are only so many hours in the day. I know we will finish – even if we are crawling or Sara carries me on her back. We are still excited and still wondering, “what the heck did I sign up for?”. 50 miles is FAR!

Tune in next week for my race recap – hopefully I’ll be able to type after 50 miles!

 

 

Update: did you read yesterday’s post about fear? After publishing, I worked with 2 clients who both decided to move forward, not be frozen by fear and go after their goals! Exciting!

Frozen by Fear

Each week, someone will chat with me about goals they’d like to achieve whether related to weight loss, running/fitness, career or personal goals. Many times, I can sense a hesitancy; something holding them back from proceeding with 100% effort. The end result they are looking to achieve would definitely make them happier, more fulfilled; yet fully committing to the journey creates an uncomfortable feeling….fear.

Fear of change. Fear of feeling like a disappointment. Fear of failing. Fear of the unknown.

Fear can be found creeping in every area of our lives – careers, families, relationships, extracurricular activities, our health, attitudes towards ourselves and others, etc. Sometimes due to our fears, we become slaves to habits, patterns and actions which do not serve us and may actually hurt us.

The fuzzy gray zone of the unknown stops many people in their tracks – should I stay in the less than ideal, somewhat comfortable area I know so well? Or should I push my boundaries, struggle a bit, be uncomfortable to hopefully reap big rewards?

There are no guarantees. We can plan our hearts out, work hard every day, do everything we can to succeed and still, we can end up with a different result than we anticipated.

Is your fear stopping you from living your life to its full potential? One day will you look back and think, “What might have I achieved if I didn’t let fear get in the way?”

What can you do? Feel the fear and do it any way. Yes, you will have to decide whether the struggle will be worth the possible prize waiting for you on the other side of fear.

Whether or not we believe we are in control of our destiny, we are certainly in control of our choices. Don’t let fear paralyze your actions. After all, YOLO!

How does this relate to me right now? I definitely have fear approaching this 50 miler. Yes, racing is not life-altering, but it’s the current fear I am experiencing. I have trained and trained for months. Run hundreds of miles, made a plan, studied the course and yet, I may fail. Running 50 miles is going to hurt. My brain is going to fight me; want me to give up. I fear giving in. I fear feeling extreme discomfort.

Outside of the upcoming race, I also have fear of returning to the old me. I feel I need to keep moving forward; always looking for the next goal to stay focused. I fear injury and needing recovery time. I fear letting others down. Like you, I have many fears. Some I am attacking full speed and others I am still tip toeing around; dipping my little toe in the dark, unchartered waters. If I don’t try, how will I know what is possible?

Once again, I encourage you to do what makes you happy – whatever that is. If needed, take a step back to see the big picture. Maybe write down goals you’d like to accomplish – where do you want to see yourself a year from now? 5 years from now? How can you get there? Who can help you?

Whatever the goal is, I want you to buckle up, brace yourself and take the first step. Don’t let fear decide your future or kill your dreams. Remember, fear is only temporary – regret is forever.  Be brave heading towards the unknown. You may reach the other side and be surprised by what awaits you.

And if you fail, at least you tried – you probably learned something about yourself along the way. Go try again.

 

Redefining Perspectives

I’m stepping aside from my blog series about ultras for a moment to chat about something that has been weighing on my mind.

While most of my posts discuss race recaps and running fun, there is also a negative side I didn’t expect to experience from losing weight and returning to the racing scene. Obviously, I like to share positive and inspirational posts, but sometimes I feel being truthful and open is refreshing. Also, my words just may hit home with someone else. After a conversation this morning with fitness friends, I realized I needed to put my thoughts down on “paper”.

Most of you reading this probably have only known the “me” of the last 10 years or so. When you met me, I was sedentary, overweight and not overly confident. Some of you may only know the “me” of the last 2 years, when I hit the running scene again after 15 years.

Yes, these two versions of Becky are vastly different.

At this point, I feel more like me than I have since I was in college. I feel alive, energetic, healthy, outgoing and inspired to help others. Sharing my passion for fitness and running helps me to keep putting one step in front of the other. I feel reignited.

Now, the dark side I’ve experienced. There’s a word that’s been floating around that makes me cringe. Upsets me. A word that makes something so positive in my life seem so negative.

Obsession: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.

I run 5 days a week and take 2 days of rest. I run early in the morning so I don’t interfere with family, work and other extracurricular activities. If I’m sick or really injured, I will rest. Because I may run what some may consider extreme distances, I may be considered obsessed. Because I run through most any weather, I may be considered obsessed. Because a core group of my friends are runners, I may be considered obsessed.

I prefer dedicated. Passionate. Committed. Lucky to work in a field I love.

Running is what keeps me sane. Running alone, or with friends, allows me to escape for just a fraction of my day. A short period of time to get away from the day in and day out stresses of life that will be awaiting me once I cross back over the threshold.

This is my therapy. My time to clear whatever is on my mind; mull over big decisions or plan out my day.

As I said in my last blog post, some of you will understand the need to push your boundaries. Some will not. Either way is okay; just don’t pass judgment on those who aren’t the same as you. For each of us, there are different feelings, different emotions which trigger how we view each other. Some will ask “why?” and some will say “why not?”. I have a need to pursue the challenges set before me. I am unable to leave a box unchecked without trying. You may see obstacles differently than me.

Friends, family, we are not obsessed. Are we preoccupied with an unreasonable idea? I don’t believe so. Yes, maybe we are not normal. We say yes when others say no. We rise when others sleep. We do what others may not. We have a drive; a need to determine our limits and then break through. We are always on a quest to see how far we can possibly go.

For those of you have been with me along my journey, yes, I know I am different. After college, priorities changed and I did not consider myself high on the priority list. Now, I want to be the best I can – for not only myself, but for my family, for my kids to know to never give up. That anything is possible, whether you are 20, 30, 60 or beyond. Why let others make the rules? Go and be you.

And, if you truly feel obsessed? Come run with me; we’ll enjoy a therapy session together 🙂

An Evening Among Those Who Dare To Go The Distance

Last week, I shared a little introduction to ultramarathons and also the perspective of crewing an ultra.

Now, we will chat a little about one of the more extreme ultras – the Barkley marathons.

Nicknamed “The Race That Eats Its Young”, the Barkley is a 100+ mile race through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. Barkley is a little bit of an enigma wrapped into a puzzle interwoven into one wild race. Everything from how to apply for entry, when the race will begin, and what the course will be is held under lock and key by Lazarus Lake, the race director. Since 1986, many runners have tried to complete Barkley, yet only 15 runners have finished within the 60 hour time limit. Over the winter, I watched this documentary of Barkley.

First thought, these people are insane. Second, eccentric Lazarus Lake was extremely entertaining. Third, yes, these people are definitely crazy. But yet, I couldn’t stop watching.

When race time rolled around this spring, I was intrigued to follow the runners (including NOVA runner Michael Wardian) attempt whatever the Barkley would entail for 2017. After 3 loops (which in the Barkley world is considered a “fun run”), only 2 runners remained – John Kelly (3rd Barkley attempt) and Gary Robbins (2nd Barkley attempt). I won’t spoil what happens…

Ethan Newberry, The Ginger Runner, followed and documented Gary Robbins during his 2016 and 2017 Barkley attempts. Once his project Where Dreams Go To Die was complete, Ethan & Gary went on a 15 city tour to share this emotional, powerful and inspirational journey. Lucky for me, one stop was in DC. A few of us decided we could go, I bought my ticket and quickly found out the event was sold out before anyone else could purchase. I hit up social media to find extra tickets and thanks to a retweet from Michael Wardian, we scored! On to DC!

Arriving at the theater, I found it quite interesting to look around and see who else was interested seeing a documentary about an ultra marathon. Definitely lots of bearded folks. Walking down into the theater, we ran into another local running friend Juan – didn’t know he was coming. We found seats, sat back with popcorn and beer and waited for the show to begin.
 

Amazing. Simply amazing. Watching the planning which goes into an ultra – the training, deciding and gathering your gear and fuel, communicating with your support crew – there’s a lot to consider. Every runners understands the highs and lows when you are out on the course; Barkley takes it to the extreme. The drive, the passion and the will to not only continue, but to succeed, is admirable.

After the movie, we were treated to a Q&A panel by Ethan, Gary and a special guest, the 15th Barkley finisher and MD resident, John Kelly. Very cool.

Listening to the questions from the audience presented to the panel, I felt like I shared at least an iota of the same personality they have. I also realized some people just don’t get it (and that’s okay). Some people won’t understand; they will ask why? Why would you do this? This distance? This extreme?

I still say, why not? Why not see what you are capable of? Why not see how far you can push?

‘Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.’ – Joubert Botha

Will I ever consider even applying for a Barkley type event? Maybe, maybe not. In the past few years, I have definitely learned to “never say never”.

The first running steps I took were training for a 5k, then I pushed a little more, then just a bit more and eventually worked my way to a marathon. And now, I’m 11 days away from my first ultra.

Am I scared? Of course. Am I nervous? Heck yes. But the fear and the overwhelming idea of running 50 miles will not hold me back. I will not give up.

I’m still writing my story, one chapter at a time, one mile at a time. It’s not over yet…

You are going to run how far?

Today kicks off my November series discussing the crazy world of ultramarathon running – from crewing to training to racing!

Part 1 is long…kick back and relax!


To be honest, being out of the running world for so long, I somehow missed hearing about the ultra world. To me, if people wanted to run long, they ran marathons. When I first started running with Jeremy, he told me about his awful 1st time experience at the JFK 50 miler in 2015. He described how he felt, how he had come to terms with quitting after the marathon mark (technically making him an ultra runner) and how he continued on thanks to some running friends. Listening to his story, it certainly didn’t seem like he’d do it again. Yet, a couple months later, he shared how he signed up again. 2016 JFK went a little smoother; which seemed to cause him to seek out a new, crazier challenge – the Yeti 100. Here I was, still thinking it was crazy people ran 50 miles, now 100? Who are these crazy running friends I’ve met?

So, you can read here how Jeremy and Josh talked each other into not only entering the Yeti 100, but attempting to finish under 24 hours to be rewarded with one of these fabulous belt buckles. 

Race was on the calendar and of course, the rest of us jumped on board to help crew/pace J+J, not quite knowing all what we got ourselves into.

The Virginia Creeper trail is 33 miles from point to point and the race would go out, back and out again. Seven aid stations were set between Abingdon and White Top and we decided to travel to each one for as long as our runners needed; giving additional aid and someone to run alongside them providing company, maybe distraction from the discomfort and a mental pick-me-up as needed. Sara created a spreadsheet to help the rest of us have some sort of idea of when each of us could jump in and how many miles we would run, based on the run/walk strategy created by Sanders and Ilnicki.

Packet pickup – sweet!


Showing up at the starting line in the dark with all the other runners, support crew and friends was very exciting. I felt like we were part of a crazy cult. A few words were spoken by the race director and off they went (and so did we!).

We were all worried before the race we wouldn’t have cell service for GPS; thankfully this didn’t pose a problem. We easily navigated from stop to stop (most of the time) to await our runners. Each stop, we listened to our runners’ needs – we were ready and waiting with food, water, extra clothes/shoes, headlamps, jackets, etc.


One of the important tips I would tell an ultra crew it to make sure you eat, sleep and drink as well. In the 24-30 hours we were out on the course, I think maybe the most rest any of us got was 1 hour. Yes, we aren’t running nearly as far as the racers, but the ultra still takes a toll on you. We had been surviving on bars, PB&J and other snacks, but Mario, Sara and I knew we needed some real food before we jumped in as pacers. The options between two of the aid stations didn’t bode well for running after eating – fast food and gas stations. However, we found a Kroger and ran in to see what ready-made healthier food we could find. We headed towards the deli and AHA! The sight and smell of a rotisserie chicken caught my eye (and nose!). I think Mario and Sara thought I was crazy, but they quickly agreed the chicken sounded better than a pre-made sandwich which had been sitting in a cooler all day. We added a few snacks to our order and out to the car we went! 


Lisa and Mario hiking down from one of the trestles.

Looking good!


We pulled up to mile 33, crossed the bridge and noshed on our food as we awaited the guys to complete their first point to point. Some runners had already dropped out, or were considering to drop out at this time. The guys had been way ahead pace, and I knew we were concerned they were going too fast up front. However, they looked strong coming into the turnaround point. No pacers were allowed to join until right around mile 42, so Jeremy and Josh stayed together until then. At this time, the weather was pretty warm – the guys were sweaty and I was hoping they were hydrating well.  First pacers, Vernon and Mario jumped in from Alvarado to Damascus, a 7 mile jaunt. As we waited by the caboose, we saw Mario approaching with Jeremy – unfortunately Josh and Vernon were not with them. Thankfully, we had a pacer assigned to each, so we keep moving forward with the plan. We heard Josh was hurting and hoped to see him along the way.

I was slated to hit the trail with Jeremy around mile 56. I confess, I did not look at what elevation we would be gaining in the planned 10 mile run when I agreed to this pacing slot. Jeremy came down the trail with Jen; we refilled his water and checked his other supplies and off we went. The trail was beautiful; the surface was softer than I expected and the natural surroundings were just stunning. Unsure how Jeremy’s mental state would be at this point (especially hearing about his 50 mile experiences), I was quite surprised. He was in the game. Funny to hear him still processing the fact he was running 100 miles. For the ascent to White Top, we started off with switching off running and walking – and as we went further, we definitely started to be walking more. I encouraged Jeremy to eat and drink. He was hydrating well but he was starting to walk a little crooked. He tried to eat a waffle, but his stomach was not wanting food. I started to worry a little as we continued our trek as day turned into night. We talked about getting some liquid calories if he wasn’t able to take in much solids and climbed the last couple of miles.

When we came to White Top (mile 66), he was definitely still feeling a bit off but downed a mug of soup. After more Nuun refills and adding another layer, we headed out of White Top. Literally, it was all downhill from here. I kid you not, there must have been something magical in that soup because Jeremy was on fire! The combination of calories and a descent gave him the ability to run and run much faster! Seeing bobbing headlamps coming at you and exchanging words of encouragement to others helped the miles click by. All the way down to mile 69, Jeremy was still in a great mental state. He was tired and hurting, but was so positive to everyone in the race – I think the reciprocal positive energy kept him moving forward. We cruised into mile 69 where Lisa would take over. I could not believe we had been running together for over 3 hours – it was so peaceful and therapeutic, I just felt in the zone and had no idea of elapsed time.

At this point, I switched teams. Mario and I jumped in my car and headed back to White Top to see Josh and Sara. When they arrived, Josh was in bad shape. Shivering. Tired. Hurting. As he struggled to add layers, he was having difficulty so I jumped in to assist as Sara helped him with other tasks. And then the tears came. As a friend, I felt heartbreak. As a runner, I understood the mental anguish and the physical exhaustion (somewhat since I definitely have never pushed myself this far…yet!). As part of the aid crew, I worried about his well being. Seeing him hurt, I hurt. Internally, I struggled thinking maybe I should say, “Josh, you’ve made it 66 miles. You are an ultra runner. It’s okay to quit.” But, I didn’t. I knew he would know if it was time to quit. He sipped down some broth and just like I had seen about an hour or so before, a magical change!! Sara and Josh took off down the hill and when we saw them at the next stop, he was doing great!

Mario and I drove between stations, aiding as needed and catching a few Z’s (I did not – Mario fell asleep so quickly and snored so loudly). The exhaustion were starting to get to us. We missed Sara and Josh at one station and we quickly drove to the next. In my somewhat tired state of mind, I ended up at the wrong station. Crap. What to do? We quickly made a decision and I think I took a year off Mario’s life with my NASCAR-style driving on curvy country roads. We sailed into Taylors Landing with fingers crossed they’d be here. THANK GOODNESS! There they were, at the tent – eating and resting. Whew, minor crisis averted. Off Mario and I went to the next stop and then onto Damascus. At this point, it was about 2:40 in the morning. We had cell service again and had a few updates on Jeremy. He was plugging away still and expected to reach his goal of sub 24 hours – AWESOME!


At this point, we realized we would have enough time to make it to the finish line to see Jeremy cross and then make it back to Alvarado for Josh and Sara. A quick coffee stop for Mario and we met up with Lisa and Vernon at the finish line. Yeti is not your typical finish line. No big blow up arch, throngs of people, after race parties. No, just a couple dozen people waiting in the dark; anticipating bobbing lights coming down the dark path. We didn’t have to wait long. Jeremy and Jen came around the corner. So freaking exciting. He crossed, got a hug from Jason the race director, received his TWO belt buckles and sadly, that was that. Check off the box. 100 miles in the books. Wow.

Unfortunately, at this point, I needed to get ready to head back home and Jeremy needed to go relax/chill/shower/sleep, so the crew split up to get Jeremy home and get back out to see Josh finish (in a little over 25 hours!).

Before I finish with a few thoughts from the other crew members, I wanted to share a few tips if you are considering being part of an ultra team:

– Make sure you are part of the plan prior to the race. Know what is expected from you. Pack food for yourself and extra clothes.
– Be ready for the plan to change on the fly. Remember: the goal is to get your runner safely to the finish line. Focus on them and their needs. Communicate clearly to everyone involved of any changes.
– If you can, take a power nap. You will be exhausted and a few minutes of shut eye can help work wonders.
– Have fun! Yes, it was a long day. Yes, I was tired. But, so many fun memories were made.
– Celebrate with your runner! What an accomplishment!

Without further adieu, here are a few comments from the crew:

Mario – “Good experience. I recommend anyone thinking about doing an ultra to crew first, so you can see what is like to run an ultra and what to expect when your time comes. I will do it again any time.”

Vernon – “What is it like to pace a runner for 100 miles?  I thought the runner would be the one tired, hungry, exhausted?  Little did I expect that all of those would apply to me, they person occasionally running/walking and just riding around in a car chasing our runners.  But with that said it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever been part of.  Watching 2 guys run 100 miles was truly inspiring.  From the highs to the lows these guys pushed on and finished!  An accomplishment a small percentage of the population can say they have. If you ever decided to pace I recommend the following.  Plenty of layers of clothes, plenty of food, lots of good spirit, and the mindset that you won’t sleep.  You will go through many of the same highs and lows the runners are experiencing.  But the reward will be amazing!”

Sara’s Story (Josh’s wife):

“Being a pacer for Josh was one of the best experiences, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! When Josh signed up for Yeti, I knew right away I wanted to pace. The week leading up to the race, thoughts started flooding my head with the responsibilities of a pacer – can I physically do it and would I be able to watch him struggle, and not encourage him to stop? I actually googled tips – the dos and don’ts for pacing an ultramarathon. Some takeaways were – Do you know you can handle the distance, checking in on nutrition and hydration, don’t talk the runner’s ear off, offer moral support, don’t complain…

Tip – Review the course map! I learned the day before the race, that I had signed myself up to pace Josh going up Whitetop, gaining ~ 3,000ft in elevation. My stomach was in knots.. Could I do this?

The morning of the race was a whirlwind, the race started around 7:30 a.m., and Jeremy and Josh were off on their journey. No time to waste or worry, for the first 41.9 miles the guys could not have a pacer.  We had 2 vehicles driving to each waypoint to crew the guys. At every stop, I would carry a bag full of Josh’s preferred snacks, med kit essentials, shoes and clothes. After mile 41.9 they would pick-up pacers until the end of the race. Mile 56 is when I would be joining Josh, at this point I knew he was in rough shape, it took him about 80 minutes to run 4 miles. And, Jeremy had gone ahead with his pacer.

As I waited for Josh, I started to strategize what I needed to do – head lamp, sandwich bag full of potato chips and water to fill his bottles. When I met up with him at Taylor Valley, it was dusk. He stopped briefly to sip on some broth, then we were off. All of a sudden it was dark, I was able to get a recap of his day and state of mind – no bueno. He picks on me now, but I honestly repeated a handful of phrases for the entirely of 43 miles – “you’re doing great, excellent job, proud of you, and I love you!” My thought was don’t talk too much but those phrases will let him know I was okay. At this point you can tell we were climbing, he couldn’t even run. I kept thinking one foot in front of the other. We basically walked the 10 miles up to Whitetop, and it was freezing! And, I had to use the restroom but it was too far away. We were suppose to switch pacers at this point but I wanted to stay with him. Josh hit a tough point, it was hard for me to swallow. Miraculously, he stood up and off we went. And, I didn’t get to use the bathroom! I kept it to myself, I was shocked he was moving onward.

Josh found his inner strength, and we picked up the pace going down the hill. I was pumped! The next 33 miles was a remarkable accomplishment for Josh. Eventually, he would lose some of the momentum he found leaving Whitetop and his body started to become tired. He stubbed his toes a million times and fell twice. I kept reminding him how cool this experience was, in the woods of VA, running in the dark of the night together to chase the 100 miles. Over the course of the night into morning, I wouldn’t let him rest much at the waypoints in fear his body would totally cramp up. When we hit Mile 80 in Damascus around 3 a.m., I started to become sore and tired, but refused to stop pacing. We carried on, it was a 7 mile jaunt to the next way point. We ran, stopped, walked and repeat. He fell asleep on me twice!! I just kept on reminding him, he could sleep at the finish line 🙂 We made it to Alvarado then to Watauga Trestle – the last point before the finish. The sun was coming up, it was breathtaking – absolutely beautiful. Josh started to change gears and we were running again knowing the end was near. We passed about 8 runners. When we closed in on the finished line, we booked it down the hill, and all I remember is stepping aside and watching Josh cross the line. It was incredible.” Read Josh’s story here.

Next up, is a recap of a great ultra event I was able to attend with Josh and Jeremy – stay tuned!

 

Happy 1 Year!

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One year ago today, Runaissance Mom was created. At the time, I wanted a single location to share information since many of you were messaging me asking similar questions. Writing a blog was never a plan of mine; I disliked writing essays and papers during high school & college and not once did I ever think I’d pen blogs or share my inner thoughts with the world. Being so open with all of you has been both scary and therapeutic, but also a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed putting my goals on paper for you to see and reliving races through my recaps.

So, one year and many milestones later, what’s next? 2 months from now, I’ll be tackling the JFK 50 Mile with my friend Sara. When I have talked about doing this challenge, I’ve had people question, “Are you a glutton for punishment?” and “What possesses you to run for so long?” All I can answer is “Why not?”

Why not try to see how far you can go? Why not jump into what could be a life-changing adventure?

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We aren’t trying to set any records or finishing in a fast time; we just want to have an experience. Being out in nature, walking and running along the Appalachian Trail and the C&O during the autumn months is sure to be beautiful.

Yes, 50 miles is a long way (about the same distance from Winchester to Reston). I imagine we will experience every emotion through our travels – excitement, anxiety, pain, worry and a sense of accomplishment when we reach that finish line. I am lucky to have someone willing to attempt such a crazy idea with me. We’ve only been friends for about a year, but I know we work well together and will keep each other good company along the way. I can’t wait to write the race recap!

Thank you for sharing the last year with me. Who knows what the future holds, but I look forward to telling you all about the crazy challenges I say yes to!

2017 Erie Marathon at Presque Isle Recap!

Microwave some popcorn, sit back and get ready for a novel!

Let’s rewind to the Monday prior to the race – woke up with a sore throat. Really?! I rarely get sick or deal with allergies and of course it would happen race week. Then Tuesday, I woke up with poison ivy! I guess when I was taking photos of friends at Chick-fil-a Dash for Diabetes, I must have leaned against a tree with ivy on it. Crap. Now I could barely breathe and was itchy.

Hopefully a little BQ luck!

On top of all of that, reduced mileage for a taper and my body wasn’t feeling all that great. Ran a solo 10K in the rain Wednesday morning and felt okay. Wednesday eve, added a little streak of blue for Boston luck.

Thursday, met up with Shane for an easy 4 and ended up running into a few other running friends along the way.

Friday around 9 a.m., the nerves started. I was running a marathon in 2 days – yikes! Still wasn’t feeling 100% and was running out of time.

Before I continue, I need to go back a few months. When I first said I would run Erie, Mario said he was thinking of coming along to run with me. A couple months later, he showed up to a group run and presented me with a piece of paper – proof of race registration!

So, Saturday morning, woke up ready to roll. John, Mario and I piled in Mario’s car and we were off on our 5 hour journey.

 

We stopped a few times along the way and arrived at Presque Isle just as packet pickup and the expo began. The process was quick and the expo was very small as expected.

 

We walked over to the lake shore, took a photo and the drove the course. Flat, shaded and beautiful.

Next, we headed back to check in at the hotel and got ready for a shakeout run. Since the hotel was around a lot of shopping, we headed back to Presque Isle to run. I was feeling a little better, but still felt a few niggles here and there. Tried to just get myself into race mode. After our run, back again to hotel and took a dip in the hot tub. Felt great!!

Off to a pasta dinner – of course so many runners there, and Boston jackets all over!

With a 4 a.m. alarm set, I was in bed at 8 p.m. after a nice rubdown. I thought I would have a tough time falling asleep, but was asleep fairly quickly. Unfortunately, woke up around 2:45 a.m. My eyelids flew open and my neck was stiff. Great. I tossed and turned for the last hour, uncomfortable and ready to get out of bed. Finally, 4 a.m.

Dressed, ate my pre-race breakfast, gathered my things and we were out the door.

Legend sleeves, Racedots, Goodrs, Injinjis and Topos ready to go!

 

We parked just in time for the shuttle buses to arrive and jumped on board. It was DARK! We got flashlights in our race bags and now we understood why. No lights in the bathrooms, around the pavilion or starting line.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Just about 50 degrees and no wind. After a few trips to the Portapotties, the sun began to rise and it was time to head to the starting line.

The starting line was fairly crowded, yet a couple runners in front of us were from Loudoun County; not too far from Winchester. We had a few last minute race instructions, the anthem was played and then we were off!

Getting off the line was slow going; congested through a narrow path. Mario and I had to weave through and around runners until we caught back up with one another maybe 200 meters off the start.

Now Mario is a sub 3 hour marathoner and here he is running my pace. During one of the early miles, he jokingly yawned at the pace and then mentioned how this would be his slowest 10K ever. Thanks Mario.

We locked in pretty well at a good clip. Felt easy; wasn’t breathing hard and was enjoying the tree-lined path and lake to our left. Around mile 7, we hit one of the only (tiny) hills we would see twice on the course. We passed a man playing the accordion and several very energetic spectators.

Guys in Speedos!

The Erie marathon has a water stop at every mile, which is great not only for hydrating but for helping those miles go by. In addition, local sports teams man the stops and everyone votes on who was the best. One had a moonbounce and yet another around mile 10 featured young men in Speedos!

Still feeling great, we were headed to the halfway mark. I knew I’d see John soon. Around mile 12, I heard people yelling for a Becky with signs. I thought to myself, “I’m going to pretend they are cheering for me.” As we got closer, Mario yells, “Look who it is!!” Our running friends who are family, the Ilnickis. They surprised me by driving all the way up just to cheer us on! Wow.

Seeing the Ilnickis!

Mario turned to me and said, “There’s some motivation for you.” Uh yeah. So much so that I dropped two fast miles in a row accidentally. I knew I’d see them after I passed the halfway mark again, so made sure I was close to the side for high 5’s and I even blew a kiss.

Off we continued; still plugging away at pace and feeling great. Fueled for 3rd time and kept hydrated. Around 19, I started feeling a couple of twinges in my calves. Crap. Up until now, was feeling absolutely on point…and then the cramps set in.

If you’ve never experienced these before, the only way I can explain what I felt was along the lines of something crawling under my skin, up and down my calves. Then, extreme tightening and straightening of my lower leg. Ugh. I stopped and stretched, drank more, etc. Whatever I could do. Poor Mario was concerned but did such a great job keeping me moving. At each stop, he’d grab extra drinks for me and would run holding them until I needed more.

This continued for 5 miles. Mario kept looking at his watch. I knew he was trying to calculate our pace and what we needed to do. I also knew what we needed to do and his constant watch checking was stressing me out. Finally, I said, stop looking at your watch!  I was angry and frustrated with the situation but never felt like giving up or felt like I wasn’t going to qualify. I knew I’d make it to the finish one way or another. Mind over matter. I knew I wanted this BAD.

At mile 25, I gave it all I had. It felt awful and it felt slow. Calves were still seizing up and I was so close to the finish line. Mario was hooting and hollering; so excited that we were going to finish soon. Somehow I ran the last mile in a 7:44 even though it felt like the longest and slowest mile ever.

BQ baby!

We crossed with a clock time of 3:26:05 (chip time 3:25:24) – I qualified for Boston and PR’d by almost 20 minutes. Wow. Surreal.

I was so excited to tell my family, my friends and my coach my results yet I had no service at the park. Finally was able to get the word out to all who had been impatiently waiting. So many people played a role in helping me achieve this goal and I was ecstatic to share my success. It truly has been an adventure filled with highs and lows.

Looking back at race photos sure makes me smile. Having Mario run this race with me will always be a great memory. Thank you Mario – for your time, encouragement and support every step of the way!

Cheers!

 

 

Thanks to John for the pre-race massage and encouragement, Ilnickis for surprising me, Jeremy for coaching and running with me, TRD for all the training support, and all of you friends and family who sent lots of well wishes. I thought of so many of you along the way.

Today, I get to submit my registration for the Boston Marathon! I will definitely keep you updated on Boston as well as the next adventure…what’s next?! I’ll share one tidbit with you – it involves this pretty lady!

What’s next??

Erie…BQ or Bust?

 

 

Less than one year ago, I ran my first marathon. At this time, I said I’d only run one. It was painful. Difficult. Rough. Long.
Yet, I wanted more. Boston. Why not?
Over 700 miles run…over 80 days of 4 a.m. wake up calls.
Dark, cloudy mornings…
Rain, wind, and thunder…
Oppressive heat and humidity…
Hills (oh the hills!), speed work, tempo runs…
Finding the time…
Blood, sweat and tears…
Fear…
Doubts.

Sunrises
Shooting stars
Hitting the pavement as the world sleeps
Sound of footsteps beside me
Laughter
SVR track workouts
Stupid, “punny” jokes
RIT group runs
Feelings of success after nailing a workout
Confidence
Focused.

You all have given me a plethora of positive memories to carry with me over 26.2 miles. When I begin to hurt, when the defeating voice pops into my head, I will think of the fun I’ve had over this training cycle.
I will….
  • remember running around Handley as you ran your first track workout.
  • remember running and listening about the infamous fowl attack.
  • think of running from Winchester to Woodstock with you.
  • think of sharing a glass of wine and pizza with you after a tough run.
  • remember running 14 miles through the streets while kicking a ball with you.
  • think “the floor is lava!” and want to jump onto the nearest ledge.
  • remember sharing in your successes and in your failures.
I do believe things happen and people are brought into your life for a reason. Being surrounded by those who challenge and push me to my limits (and beyond) has changed what I once thought possible.
Do I have what it takes?
One shot, one opportunity to seize everything I’ve ever wanted in one moment. Will I capture it, or just let it slip?
I’m not foolish; this will not be easy. No matter how well the training goes, the race itself is a blank slate. Anything can happen.
The mental battle will rage, my muscles will fatigue, I will have to push through.
Even if I do not BQ, how could I fail? Overall, I’ve won.
To all who comment on my workouts, my social media posts, and cheer me on from the sidelines, thank you.
To those who have taken one step with me along the way, thank you. Getting to run with you at group runs – whether you are in the front or the back of the pack – you’ve inspired me to keep going.
To my teammates, who have seen me at the crack of dawn, no makeup on, sweating, dirty and on the verge of puking (or passing out), thank you for never leaving my side.
To my coach, thank you for the guidance, having the ability to know when to pull me back, push me ahead, speak the truth (“it’ll hurt in the marathon too”) or say nothing at all. It’s been a training cycle full of highs and lows, but we made it to the end.
To my family and husband who have supported my crazy goals, thank you. Thank you for the breakfasts, dinners, and whatever else has been needed so I can train.
Although I will be 300 miles away, you all will be with me every step of the way.
Am I ready? Yes, more than ever. My time is now.
This week has been tough. Allergies, poison ivy, heavy workload; obstacles. The marathon is a monster. Anything can happen Sunday. Besides qualifying, having fun is one of my big goals – I want this to be a memorable experience.
I’ll see you on the other side of the finish line!

Workout Wednesday: Short Circuit!


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Have little time to fit in running AND a strength workout?

Maximize time and perform this circuit routine for an quick, intense full body workout. While improving cardio, you will also increase the calorie burn, develop strength and enhance flexibility which all can contribute to faster and healthier running.

No need for fancy equipment since we will be using bodyweight. Buuuuut, you have to promise to work hard through the entire workout! 

Start with a 400 meter jog or run between each set of exercises. Do each exercise for 30 seconds. Progress up to 800 meter jog or run, and 60 seconds of each exercise.

Warm Up

Jog/Run 400 meters

  • Squats
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Push Ups
  • Windshield Wipers

Jog/Run 400 meters

  • Walking Lunges
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Downward Dog Pushups
  • Flutter Kicks

Jog/Run 400 meters

  • Burpees
  • Alternating Step Ups (ledge/park bench/bleacher)
  • Tricep Push Ups
  • Plank w/Knee

Jog/Run 400 meters

Cool Down

There you go! A mile of running with a full body workout and still plenty of time to go get ice cream, or, I mean, enjoy the rest of your day with your family and friends…and ice cream.

 

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Great shots by Angela Hawk Photography

Workout Wednesday: Hips Don’t Lie

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Runners, and many other athletes, can benefit from adding this short routine into their workout routine. Most runners suffer from weak, tight and under-developed hip muscles and believe me, your hips will not lie – they will let you know when they are struggling. Weak hips can attribute to a myriad of injuries including sciatica, IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, piriformis issues and more.

Think of the hips as the fulcrums of leg levers driving our bodies forward. If your hips are tight, your legs are not going to be able to provide optimal power and speed. Concentrate on your form as you perform each exercise; not only strengthening but being mindful of the movement pattern.

“It’s all in the hips. It’s all in the hips.” – Chubbs, Happy Gilmore

Hip strengthening and mobility exercises should be a part of your weekly plan, whether you are injured or not. You can easily perform these exercises before your next run (or during your next Netflix binge watching sesh). Make the time, so you won’t lose time due to injury.

All exercises will be performed 10 times on each leg.

  • Clamshells
  • Reverse Clamshells
  • Leg Raises
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Side Hurdles (front & back)
  • Bent Leg Swings
  • Leg Swings (front/back)
  • Leg Swings (side/side)

 

You will see we need to work on Jeremy’s hip mobility a little (I’m not immune either, need to do this routine more often!).

Get to it!

Better. Faster. Stronger.

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Better. Faster. Stronger. No, not lyrics by Kanye, but the benefits you can gain through plyometrics.

Bouncing off Jeremy’s post last week about a jump rope workout (see what I did there?), I thought I would delve more into the world of why distance runners should add jump training into their routine.

When we put one foot in front of the other, our leg muscles engage in what is referred to as a Stretch-Shortening Cycle – an eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle) immediately followed by a concentric contraction (shortening of the same muscle). A muscle which is stretched right before an explosive movement will contract more forcefully and more rapidly.

Think about a rubber band. If I wanted to shoot the rubber band at someone, what do I do first?

For maximum performance, I’d pull back (stretch) on the band to build up energy. When I release, the stored energy will take action and (hopefully) hit the target. Our muscles are the same. During the stretch phase, our muscles store energy and then release – hopefully quickly and forcefully – to propel us forward.

Simply put, running is a form of jumping – a series of single leg hops, over and over again. In a marathon, men average about 57,640 strides whereas women average about 63,000 strides – those hops sure add up! Isolating the jumping element through plyometrics is a great way to boost running performance without needing to increase your mileage as well as make each of those strides count.

Proper form is key – not only for injury prevention but for maximum benefit.  You should have a solid base foundation of cardio and strength before adding plyos to your routine. If you are working through one of the Runner In Training Enhanced Run+Strength plans, explosive training is added to your program after we’ve built up your overall endurance and strength and can be strategically prescribed leading up to prepare you for your big race.

Plyometric Exercises for Runners:

Bounding: this exercise is also great for stretching the hamstrings. Bounding is performed by exaggerating your running form and jumping with each step for about 25 meters. Repeat 2-3 times.

Squat Jumps: Powerhouse. Explosive and effective exercise to power up those glutes!

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Toes should be pointed straight ahead. Bend down into squat position and explode upward with your arms stretched above your head. When you land, land softly with your knees bent as you lower back into the squat position. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

Switch Lunge Jump: You can’t get much more running-specific than a jump lunge. Switch jumps target all those running muscles in an explosive fashion.

Begin in a lunge position, weight equally distributed on both legs. Jump and reverse the position of your legs, lowering back down into a lunge position. Drive your arms just as you would while running. Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps (each leg).

Single Leg Lateral Jumps: C’mon coach – running is forward! Why do I need to jump side to side? Moving laterally, we are engaging different muscles which can help us not only with our athleticism but with injury prevention. Strength, stability, balance, control – simple and effective.

Find a line or use tape to create a line on the floor. Jump over the line back and forth. Minimize ground contact time – land softly and take off quickly. Do 2 sets of 12-15 hops (each side).

Burpees: Brilliant move – full body exercise and also boosts your cardio.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, jump feet back into a plank position. Do a push-up. Jump feet back to hands, stand up and jump as high as you can. Repeat. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

Bench Taps: Quick turnover!

Stand in front of a step with both feet on the ground. Rapidly alternate tapping the top of the step with each foot, springing off the ground each time. Drive your arms in your running motion. Do 2 sets of 20 taps (each foot).

 

Plyometric training can be a powerful tool for improving your running economy. So, if you are ready, go on now – jump up, jump up and get down!

I’m back!

Holy smokes, I haven’t posted a blog in almost a month! A lot has been going on, so let’s have a #FlashbackFriday recap.

June didn’t include much racing, but lots of crazy hill training, closing out running club and putting finishing touches on an exciting project.

This 3rd session of running club was fun and yes, a little challenging with 40 kiddos! So thankful for all my volunteers who run with us at practices. Each session I coach, I learn a little something new and am always inspired by these young runners. Below is a message I received from one of my runner’s parents:

“You have truly given my son a sport he loves! We have tried t-ball, baseball and basketball. All of which he didn’t complain about going, but we could tell he wasn’t into it at all. This is the first time he has ever been excited to go to practice or do a race! In fact, immediately after the Apple Blossom race, his first words were, “When is my next race?!” This running club has helped him find his sport! Thanks to you and running club, I know he will have many more races he is looking forward to in his future.”

Yes, my heart burst. The joy I receive in helping to foster a love for running in others is unfathomable. Watching someone reaching their goals or overcome an obstacle they didn’t think is possible is truly amazing. Which makes me want to tell you about that project I’ve been working on…

If you haven’t heard by now, my running coach/partner and I launched a new business this month – Runner In Training, LLC! Jeremy and I have been running together for nearly a year and have seen much improvement by combining running and strength workouts. Many times during our early bird runs, we’d chat about the possibility of combining our strengths and offering other runners a comprehensive training program. Since we have similar ambitious personalities, the dream didn’t stay just a dream for long. Once we started sharing ideas, the business was full speed ahead and we can’t wait to share all we have in store over the months to come!

RITSite

Side note: We are about to have our 2nd group run tomorrow, so if you are in the area, please join us. Check out the details here:

On the 4th of July, I raced at the Liberty 5K here in Winchester. What a fun race. There were approximately 300 runners, great awards, fun door prizes and a lot of red, white & blue. Prior to the race, I didn’t really set a time goal. Since I am deep into marathon training, shifting into 5K race pace gear was a bit different. I went out hard at a 6 flat with teammate Alex ahead of me by about 50 meters for the first half of the race. Alex and I run track workouts and long runs often side by side so I kept telling myself there was no reason I couldn’t catch him. Around mile 2, I finally passed him up a hill and felt bad for just a second since it was his birthday (Sorry Alex!). The course is a bit challenging with a few late race hills which didn’t phase me too much after all the hill work the previous month. Surprised myself with an 18:45 – a new PR. My favorite part of the race: after I finished, I ran back down to the last hill to encourage other runners and help them push all the way to the finish line as well as cheering on the kids in the mile.

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Check out the new racing kit!

What else has happened since I talked to you last? Well….although I have my degree in Kinesiology, I never had any certifications. I am proud to say after a lot of studying and a tough exam, I received my National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Training certification! In the near future, I am hoping to add another certification to my name but will tell you more about that one in a future post.

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Update on chasing the unicorn …. Wow, as soon as I wrote that, butterflies started dancing in my stomach. At this point, I am under the 60 day mark for my BQ attempt. Training has been going extremely well. Since the Erie marathon is in early September, there is a chance of warmer temps, so I’ve been trying to adapt to running in higher heat and humidity. One of my major goals in this training cycle has been to stay healthy and injury-free and I’m happy to say I haven’t had any issues. I’ve been averaging 45-60 mile weeks with a lot of variety – track, fartleks, hill repeats, LSD (not as slow as Coach would like I think) and am feeling strong. Training has been a lot of fun and I am thankful for my running crew who is very encouraging and continues to push me every week. 

 

Erie

Sorry so long but I had a lot to say! Hope all of you are enjoying the summer!

Workout Wednesday: Core

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Alright runners, let’s do a new core workout today. I apologize if I make you do more reps than I promised….ok, maybe not. #sorrynotsorry #youllthankmelater

Core v.2: 5 Cubed

Today, we will do 5 exercises – about 25 repetitions. On each 5th rep, do 5 pulses.

  • Basic Crunch
  • Side Hip Raises
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Toe Touch Crunches
  • Side Crunches

I even did a quick video this morning so you can workout right along with me! No excuses!

My neighbors were walking by smiling; probably think I’m crazy. Annnnd, they’d be right! 🙂

Happy Wednesday all!!

How Do I Make My Water Count?

How Do I Make My Water Count?

Since choosing a healthier lifestyle and becoming a competitive runner once again, I find the area of hydration and fueling intriguing. When you are planning on being out on a course for 3+ hours (or 12 or how about 24? Yes, we are crazy), determining what you should eat and drink pre-race, during and post-race is important. In recent months, I’ve been frequently reading articles, listening to podcasts and most likely driving my running partner crazy sharing what I learn.

I have always had a tough time drinking enough water. As a young child and even as a college athlete, I struggled with water intake – I didn’t like the taste (or lack of?). Instead, after practices and races, I would choose sports drinks over H2O. Yes, those artificially-colored and sugar-laden beverages marketed towards athletes were my drink of choice.

When I first started training for a marathon last summer, I started experimenting with different beverages during and after my long runs. After one of the first longer runs (maybe 14 miles), I popped in to a nearby convenience store to grab a well-known sports drink. Trying to rehydrate after a particularly warm run, I thirstily guzzled down the ice cold, sweet and brightly hued liquid. Soon after, my stomach hated me. I felt terrible for hours. Never again.

During most of the training, I chose water, but I always craved something a little sweet post run. After learning about nuun at a local race and seeing a few running friends mention the product, I decided to give it a try. Honestly, in the beginning, I was not a fan of the taste. However, I quickly found flavors I did enjoy and began drinking after long training runs. Best part – I felt rehydrated; I didn’t feel the drink was sitting and sloshing in my stomach and I recovered well.

Per the nuun site, nuun “is an electrolyte enhanced drink tablet designed for an on-the-go lifestyle. Packed with electrolytes, light flavor, and made from clean ingredients, nuun is the perfect sports drink for any of the activities you do. Drop a nuun tablet into 16oz of water and you’re good to go.” Easy peasy.

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Also, I dig their Mission:
“To inspire a healthier, happier, more active lifestyle so that everyone can achieve life’s next personal best”.
Love.

Nuun has definitely helped me progress towards my goal of increasing my water intake not only for training purposes, but throughout the day as well.

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A variety of flavors!

How do I make my water count? Before my morning run or pre-race, I toss a tab of nuun Energy into my bottle to start hydrating with a hit of caffeine. During the day, I prefer nuun Active or nuun Vitamins. Recently, a new product, nuun Performance was launched and I hope to sample very soon.

When the company started looking for 2017 brand ambassadors, I quickly applied since I had become such a fan of the product.

So, why else do I choose nuun over other electrolyte-replacement drinks?

nuun believes in a #LiveClean Standard – they want to replenish active people and the planet; so the company believes in producing a:

  • Clean product: clean ingredients, vegan, gluten-free, non-gmo
  • Clean planet: minimize carbon footprint with minimal waste and production energy
  • Clean sport: nuun values the essence of clean sport and have pledged to play by the rules and hold themselves to standards of integrity of sport
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Sharing my nuun love post-run

Have you tried nuun before? What are your thoughts?

Oh my gosh Becky, look at her….quads?!?

workoutwednesday

Although my marathon training plan includes a mixed bag of runs – long, easy, speed training, hills – there is one that generates maximum force. Hills!

When you think of a hill workout, I’m sure you think of a workout like this one.

Run up hill, jog down, repeat.

Uphill-road

And, I’ve done those….but….

Coach’s prescribed workout for me yesterday consisted of 10 x 1 minute downhill repeats. Jog up and barrel back down.

Sounds easy – just let gravity do its job right? Not.

Hellloooo quads!

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My upcoming marathon is pancake flat. So, why do I even bother with hills?

Currently, I am in the strength period of my training plan which includes a variety of hill-based runs. Running hills help build strength, increase VO2Max and of course, tackle hills more easily.

What happens when you run downhill? The muscles in your legs elongate and actually generate more force than when running uphill or on level ground. Running hard downhill also produces more impact on our bodies – joints, bones and muscles. Training on hills helps the body to adapt to the force, repair itself and in turn, become stronger.

Strengthening the muscles used on downhills easily translates into faster paces on any type of terrain.

As you descend down the hill, it is important to work on quickening your cadence and shortening your stride to have better control over form. Stay off your heels and don’t brake!

Planning on running Boston 2018? Add this workout into your regimen to ready your legs to tackle the 4-mile downhill in the beginning of the race.

Tips:

  • Add in the downhill workout early in your training plan.
  • Choose a hill that’s less than a 10% grade. 
  • If you can get on a softer surface, do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to hit the pavement.
  • Start with 5 downhill repeats and work your way up to 10.
  • Use rocks or chalk to help you count your reps!

Result? A great workout, fun stats and killer quads!

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Thanks Coach!

Sign up today for more information and upcoming events!RIT_TRIANGLE_woWeb

 

 

 

Goal Inventory & Teaser!!

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It seems like just yesterday I was creating and posting my goals for 2017.

Here we are, already about halfway through the year and honestly, I haven’t looked back at my goals post since I published. So today, I decided to take a glance to see how I am doing.

Race-Related Goals:

  • Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. Last week, 5:21. CHECK!
  • 5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
  • Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
  • Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. In progress…  Training well underway for Erie at Presque Isle Marathon on September 10 and I am definitely chasing that unicorn.
  • Ultra? The thought was a maybe. However, all signed up for JFK 50 with Sara! In progress…

Other Goals:

  • Train my husband for his first half: CHECK!
  • Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK! Also in progress, PT certification.

As I stumble upon exciting new experiences offered to me, I now hesitate for only a second before jumping in with both feet. Why not?

Unsure if I purposely found more opportunities or the opportunities found me! Since late last year, I’ve continued to grow in several areas – who knew I would willingly tell my story in front of a group (and like it!)?

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project (I obviously do not have enough on my plate). On one early morning run, a business idea appeared in my mind. (Side note: anyone else find clarity while running? I find my best ideas and thoughts occur on runs).

Next thought – can this idea work? This little spark soon turned into a raging fire to determine how to put this plan into action. Like any unchartered path, there have been obstacles, excitement about the unknown, and a little self-doubt. However, I’ve been lucky to not have to blaze this trail alone.

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The time is coming to let you all in on the secret.

With some collaborative sweat equity, a simple idea developed into more than I anticipated. I am so excited to share the plans which have been in the making for months and I hope you all will be excited as well.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss the big announcement!

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As for now, I need to go update those goals…

 

 

Guest Post: Sierra’s Journey

“Feeling healthy and feeling good about yourself is NOT a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.”

In honor of May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked my daughter Sierra to rehash a social media post she shared late last year about her own journey into better physical and mental health.

From Sierra:

At first, I was very hesitant to share my story of how fitness has positively affected my life because I am not very good at opening up to people but I was encouraged to share my story.

My sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had always noticed when I worked out more often, exercise helped my symptoms. During this time, I was involved in competitive cheerleading and track & field, and I always felt my best after a rigorous practice. The summer before my freshman year of college, I was working out harder than ever. I was constantly in the gym and I felt amazing.

Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived to college, my schedule and habits changed and I completely stopped working out. I continued to be somewhat sedentary and ate unhealthily through my freshman and sophomore years. After two years of not working out and eating whatever I wanted, I had gained 20 lbs. When I realized how much weight I had gained and saw how great of shape Becky was in after a year of getting back into fitness and eating healthier, I became eager to make a change in my life. I was so afraid to begin though. At first, I didn’t know if I would even remember how to workout. I had also become very intimidated by the gym and was afraid to go. I felt as though I would be judged if I went.

In May of 2016, I started running and attending the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes Becky taught at HIIT Like A Girl and eating healthier. Running was the main aspect that really sparked my fire. I had been a sprinter in high school and had never run more than 2 miles at one time. I also thought long distance running looked like torture and had no interest in trying it….until last May.

In the beginning, I started out by running/walking 3 miles a few days a week. Eventually, I was able to run the whole 3 miles. Then, I ran my first 5k on July 4th (Liberty 5k). Running a race felt so incredible and I was happy to finish in under 30 minutes!

When I came back to school for the fall semester, I decided I wanted to try and go back to the gym to start lifting weights. I began going with a friend who knew more about weightlifting which made me feel more comfortable having someone to workout with.

Since last May, my life has changed greatly for the better. Fitness has brought so much more confidence, motivation and positivism into my life. Dealing with anxiety and depression has always made it so hard for me to become and remain motivated. I’ve always had to work extra hard to get myself going every day, and even though I’ve been pretty successful in my life, I had struggled tremendously with getting myself there. I used to have the most difficult time getting myself out of bed before noon. I would often miss class or show up late because I just couldn’t get the motivation to go.

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Now, I wake up much earlier (usually around 8 am) and I even have been getting up at 5:45 am for sunrise yoga on Thursday mornings at my college gym. I find when I start my day out with yoga, I feel so much more relaxed. I also run 3-4 times a week and workout to HIIT videos on YouTube. Not only have I run multiple 5ks, but I have also run an 8k and a two 10ks within a year of starting to run. I would like to run a half marathon by the end of the year, which I would have never thought was a possible goal for me before. In addition, I lost the weight I had gained since freshman year. Goodbye Freshman 15!

It’s truly an unbelievable feeling being able to conquer longer distances and achieve personal records. I also sit down and eat breakfast almost every morning before beginning my day now. I was never really a breakfast type of person before but now I always make sure I have time to eat breakfast because it helps with my energy level.

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I barely missed any class this past semester and the class that I did miss was not due to mental illness. Now, I have the motivation to get through each day with a positive mindset. I’m constantly busy due to school, work, sorority, and working out. I don’t even have much time to watch TV, but I haven’t felt stressed like I would have before. I am so much happier and have set a goal for 2017 of continuing to better myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I want to improve myself in all aspects so that I can become the best version of myself. I would not be where I am right now if I had not started running last year. I am so incredibly blessed to have the ability to be able run and workout, and I want to continue to do so as long as I can. As for the future, I plan to continue learning as much as I can about fitness and nutrition so that I can continue a healthy lifestyle and help other people.

My advice to others?

Starting to work out can be intimidating, but it can be extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from a mental illness. If you’re just starting out and nervous, even a run/walk for 30 minutes 3 days a week can be helpful. I’m not saying exercise will completely cure mental illness, but exercise is a natural form of medication I strongly believe in. I still have bad days but even on my worst days, getting a workout in or going on a run can make a big difference for me.

For anyone who may be struggling with a mental illness, I just want to say I know how it can be stressful and sometimes you feel like there’s no way out, but YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. Keep pushing yourself to find ways to put more positivity in your life; fill your life with positive people who you can lean on when times are rough.

You are stronger than you think and you will get through it.”

Thanks for sharing Sierra!

Workout Wednesday – Agility & DIY Ladder

Some may argue distance runners may not benefit from SARQ — Speed, Agility, Reactivity and Quickness—training, but I disagree.

SARQ training can benefit runners a variety of ways.

Key Benefits of Agility Work:

  • Provides a great dynamic warm-up.
  • Helps to improve coordination and body awareness.
  • Agility drills use more muscles than linear running – engaging more muscles requires more oxygen which increases the amount of energy that is expended = more calories burned!
  • Movement variability. While running, we are performing the same repetitive movement patterns. During agility, you can move in a variety of planes to strengthen your joints, ligaments and tendons which can help stabilize your muscles and help with injury prevention.
  • Use as a tool to work on form and cadence.
  • FUN. Doing the same workouts day in and day out can become monotonous. Adding in new types of engaging workouts can be challenging as well as exciting.

Do I think you need to spend a lot of time doing agility drills? Not at all; but every now and then it’s fun to shake up your routine.

Today’s workout utilizes an agility ladder. Ladders come with a cost so a few DIY options:

  • Easy version: chalk. Draw two parallel lines 15 ft in length and about 19 inches apart. Draw connecting lines every about every 15 inches.
  • Duct Tape (double layers).  Same as above.
  • Duct Tape & Paint Stirrers.  I tried this method below. First try was a bit rough, and I would recommend longer sticks and larger boxes.

Check out the video for the basic idea (thanks to my 10 year old for helping!).

Now that you have your ladder, let’s get to work!

For photo purposes, I made my guinea pig Coach Jeremy do the workout after one of our 4:45 a.m. runs. Between pre-dawn runs, ab workouts and now agility drills, I am pretty sure his neighbors think we are lunatics.

It was close, but he did a little better than this guy:

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Agility v.1: Basic Ladder Drills

Forward High Knees: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Run forward, driving knees up and placing 2 feet in each square before moving on.

Hmm, looks like the master has become the student. I have some work to do (I will give him a little leeway since his brain was probably still half asleep)!

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Lateral High Knees: Start at one of the ladder, with the “rungs” on your left. Move laterally performing high knees; placing 2 feet in each square before moving on. Change directions.

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Single Leg Hopscotch: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Both feet jump outside each square, then alternate one foot inside each square while moving forward.

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In/Out Hops: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Move your feet inside and outside each square while jumping forward.

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Lateral Switch Jumps:  Start at one of the ladder, facing the ladder side and “rungs” vertically in front of you. Move laterally while switching feet in/out of each square from side. Change directions.

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Overall, job well done by Running Dad Jeremy (no tears shed or pants pooped).

Now it’s your turn! This week you can get one entry for posting a picture of your agility ladder as well as a photo of you doing one of the drills!

Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday WWPhotoContestexercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!

Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RunningDad.com and I are challenging you during the month of May.
Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!

(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!

Rules:
1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.

Book Review: How Bad Do You Want It?

“You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week, or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” — Mark Allen

A few months ago, I discussed the mental battle many of us feel when running whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. A friend read my post and mentioned I should read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald. 9781937715410

So, during a cold winter weekend, I downloaded a copy and curled up on the couch to gather some knowledge about the mental game. I knew this book would speak to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the negative emotional effect.

I’ll admit the beginning of the book was tough for me to read. To be brutally honest, I was pissed off. Sometimes reading the truth and admitting previous self defeat really sucks.

In college, I felt like that athlete who “pulled up lame”. I was tired. I had lost interest. My passion for running was at a low. I’ll confess I claimed a fake injury once or twice during a race when I couldn’t hang. So many life changes had occurred when I was in college and some days I felt I was just a lost ship at sea. Or maybe I just stopped trying.

For years, my goal was to use my running talent to earn a college scholarship. Looking back, once I achieved this major feat, I don’t recall setting a new goal. No goal to win the 800m at ACCs or qualify for NCAAs. Did I stop dreaming? Was I just happy to settle and have college athletics be my final destination? Unsure.

I’ve strayed – back to the story.

This book is a collection of stories about athletes who share their experiences; their battles and the coping mechanisms they have used to conquer the beast within themselves. I especially enjoyed reading about a runner named Jenny and her disaster of a race at 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Later, you find out her married name – Jenny Simpson – who was just in the most recent Olympics.

Upon finishing this particular chapter, I thought, “thank goodness”. I am not the only one. This fierce battle between mind and matter even happens to the best of the best.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into the area where running is HARD is difficult for everyone. During a typical 5K, you have at least 3,000 steps to conjure up many thoughts – good or bad. And the bad tends to scream much louder than the good.

Since finishing the book, I have utilized a couple key tips while racing.

Embrace the hurt. Accept the fact that some of your run/race may be tough.

One of our local 5ks ends with a windy, gradual uphill about a half mile long. During the race, I knew it would be in front of me soon. I told myself, accept the challenge; yes – it will hurt. But you WILL run the hill and you will be finished soon. Fitzgerald mentions bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.

Preparing yourself for the inevitable helps.

Also, reading and being reminded your brain is going to try to quit before your body is ready to give up. Studies show although you mentally feel you cannot take another step, your muscles are not at maximum effort yet. Mind over matter or matter over mind??

I encourage you to read this book if you’ve ever engaged in this mental war while running. You can admit you do – it’s more common than you think.

Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational jogger, I’m sure your mind has tried to make you quit before your body was ready. Arm yourself with a few coping tools and next time, you’ll be prepared to power through!

Now years later, my passion has been reignited and I’m back to racing. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to give it my all.

From here on out, and especially when I toe the line chasing that BQ, I will I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?”.

The answer?

Bad…very, very bad.

Workout Wednesday – Static & Dynamic Strength

My turn for Workout Wednesday!

During strength training, our muscles can produce force in three different ways. In the lifting phase of an exercise, the muscle is shortened, which is called the concentric action. When lowering the load and lengthening the muscle, this action is referred to as the eccentric action. If you have strength trained before, you are most likely familiar with these two dynamic actions.

Normally, many of us do not tend to focus on the static contraction.

This third action which causes our muscles to produce force are called isometric contractions. In an isometric contraction, no length in the muscle is created. Incorporating isometric exercises into your training can lead to gains muscle strength, flexibility and improved balance.

Today’s workout pairs all 3 contractions in a modified Tabata-style workout and we add in a little cardio as well.

Remember to warm up at least 5-10 minutes before starting. You will need light dumbbells and a mat.

Each exercise will be completed twice for 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest Static/Dynamic/Static/Dynamic before moving to the next set.

Workout will take approximately 25 minutes.

 

Group A:

  1. Static Squat/Squat (i.e. Static Squat/Squats/Static Squat/Squats)
  2. Low Push Up Hold/Push Up (i.e. Push Up Hold/Push Up/Push Up Hold/Push Ups and so on; pushups can be modified on knees)
  3. Static Lunge/Alternating Lunges

CARDIO: Jumping Jacks (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST

Group B:

  1. V-Sit/Chest Fly/V-Sit + Chest Fly (on floor; this one has 3 parts)
  2. Wall Sit/Squat Jumps
  3. Tricep Dip Hold/Tricep Dips

CARDIO: Skater Jumps (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST

 

Group C:

  1. Superman Hold/Superman Raises
  2. Side Plank Hold/Side Plank Hip Dips (Do Left, then Right; can be in modified position)
  3. Downward Dog Hold/Downward Dog Press

CARDIO: Jack + Alternating Kick (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST

 

Remember, the first exercise is a static hold, second is dynamic/moving (ie squat hold; up & down squats).

All of these strength and cardio exercises can be found online if you aren’t sure what to do. If you have questions, please feel free to ask!

Enjoy!

Benefits of HIIT For Runners

Stepping outside my comfort zone – chatting with you about what I feel are the benefits of HIIT for Runners!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at our local running store, Runner’s Retreat, about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Runners. While I greatly enjoy instructing HIIT classes, generally speaking in front of a group of people just about scares me to death!

When I’m nervous, I tend to talk about as fast as I run, so I decided to record my presentation and share my feelings on how HIIT has helped me become a better runner. This way, if you were there and couldn’t figure out what in the world I was trying to say, or you weren’t able to attend – you can hear it all now.

Bear with me, stepping outside my comfort zone here!

In case you missed my key benefits, HIIT training can help:

  • Improve muscular strength in multiple planes
  • Increase performance potential and help prevent injuries.
  • Improve muscular stability to increase your ability to efficiently transfer energy.
  • Increase lactate threshold – work at a higher intensity longer before reaching fatigue.
  • Provide an awesome metabolic benefit – continue to burn calories and fat after your workout for an extended period of time.

And from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, here is an example workout for you to try!

Exercises are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest time between exercises. Total time for the entire workout is approximately 7 minutes.

The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times.

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Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions!

Until next time,

Becky