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!

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!

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…

 

 

Race Recaps – Two-for-Tuesday

Spring racing has been quite fun and May was no different. This past month featured two local races – the Apple Blossom 10K and the Loudoun Street Mile.

Race #1 – 10K: Sometimes it’s just not your day…

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is HUGE in Winchester – there are many events that span over the course of two weeks and the Apple Blossom 10K falls on the last Saturday of the festival. Since money is awarded the top finishers, the race usually brings in a few elite competitors from the region.

After solid races at Shamrock Half and Cherry Blossom 10, I set a new 10K goal of 38:00 which would be pushing the pace. Last year was my first time racing AB10 and I ran 47:40, so dropping a sub 40 would be great.

Race morning was cool and rainy. Team Running Dad planned to meet up for a warm up – and for once, all of us were racing! We gathered together and ran a warm up mile through the brisk, misty morning. Soon, it was race time and we tossed our warm up clothes to reveal our shockingly bright neon pink and green racing gear. It was time to go!

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Last year, the first mile was tough – lots of weaving in and out through the crowd. This year, I started near the front and the start was much easier. First split was a 6:23 – and about this time, I realized today was just not my day. My legs felt fatigued and tight; but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. My finish was 40:19 (drats!) which was off my goal, but hey, still a PR!

Highlights of the race:

  • Racing local is great – I loved the crowd support and hearing so many people cheering!
  • Family race – 4 out of 5 family members (husband, daughter and son) ran the 10k, including my 10 year old son (his first 10K) who surprised me. I was at one of the turnaround points and hear “Let’s go MOM!” and could not believe how close he was to me! He ended up running a 42:18. Husband and daughter also did well in their first 10ks!
  • Racing with Team Running Dad – the energy in this group is electric. We are competitive, supportive and, at times, immature, but we have a lot of fun. Very lucky to run with this crew.
  • My mom, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew were at the race! Since they live in PA, they aren’t able to see many races. Loved hearing them in the crowd.
  • Running near Josh and Duane in the beginning of the race and witnessing Josh grab a donut from someone cheering and proceed to eat while running.
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My son and I post-race

Race #2: The BEAST – mile race…

Historically a half-miler and miler, this should be my race – but it was WAY easier 20 years ago. Last year, I ran a 6:03 and was hoping to at least hit a 5:45 this year. My son has been hitting 5:45-5:50s in the past few months and he set a new goal of 5:30. We may or may not have made a little side bet on who was going to win this year…

Last week, I checked out what quarter mile splits I’d need to hit for a 5:20. I thought it was a bit of a reach, but I’m always up for a challenge. 1:22s… ok, why not try?

Race morning was perfect. I put on my new bumblebee shorts, Topo ST2s, Injinji socks, Goodr shades and grabbed my RaceDots. Picked up my race packet and ran to the start to meet my 32 running club kiddos who were also racing.

Wheeew, the butterflies were really in my stomach before the race. When you are used to running 5ks and halfs…the mile is a whole new ballgame. After I warmed up the kids, stretched a bit – it was time for my race..or so I thought. 15 minute delay. Bummer. I continued to keep on moving, chat with local running friends and my running club kids. Then, it was time to get on the line.

Best part of the race start was having a little cheering section – my running club kids were right there cheering for me and throwing me the thumbs up sign. All the feels – I was smiling inside and out; seeing their little faces calmed my nerves. Unfortunately, the starting gun malfunctioned (I think we had 3 tries) which made my nerves return a little each time. However, on the 4th attempt, the ladies were off.

First split: 1:19. Ok, a slight rise and then you’ll hit the downhill. 1:23.2 was next – a little off but we’ll take it. Starting the descent – didn’t check out my 3rd quarter but was 1:21. Time to fly. I was feeling strong and could see the finish line ahead. I picked up the pace and was able to catch another runner. Again, another great local crowd to cheer on the runners and they pulled me through the homestretch. Overall time, 5:21.8. I’ll take it!

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Down the stretch

Next up were the kids, girls first. I waited in anticipation for our orange shirts to come down the hill. So excited to see two of our girls in the top – and equally as excited to see two of our girls in the back of the pack…holding hands while running, helping each other finish. Love. My older niece who lives in PA entered the race and also ran a personal best!

Boys race next, including my son and my running partner/coach’s son. These two…wow – they’ve been running pretty equal times for years. As I saw the leaders come down the hill, I saw Connor in 2nd and Dylan in 3rd. Dylan started to sprint and the race literally came down to the wire. Dylan by a nose. Wow – watching them battle through the finish was amazing. I think this rivalry will continue for awhile and I’m very excited to watch them continue to improve. Also in the top 10 for the boys race were 2 other boys from our running club. Solid finishes.

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Dylan & Connor

Overall, about 17 out of my kids had personal records at the race. If they didn’t PR, they still ran a great race.

Last race of the day included Team Running Dad teammates Jeremy and Mario. Neither of them were very excited to race a mile, but I knew they’d still rock. The men’s race was pretty stacked – the lead group was pretty stacked but the TRD guys weren’t far behind. Both looked strong. Jeremy clocked a 4:58 and Mario – 5:18 (DARN! I was soooo close!).

So many other local runners kicked butt at this mile race – you all know who you are. Shoutout to the Thursday morning striders group!

May was a great month and now on to June. Next up, Virginia Wine Country Half. I ran this last year and said I’d never do it again. Never say never….

Workout Wednesday: Strides

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Your workout of the day includes strides….what are they? And why I am doing them?

Coach Jeremy chats today about the benefits of strides, how to incorporate them into your running plan and how they can make you feel badass.

Workout Wednesday: Strides

Don’t forget your #WW selfie!

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Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises 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? RUNaissance Mom 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.