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…
Hitting the pavement as the world sleeps
Sound of footsteps beside me
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.
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. 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!
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.
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…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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….
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.
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?”.
One day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that.
Sounds easier said than done, right?
I was tired of feeling tired all of the time. Tired of saying, “I’d like to”s.
I’d like to run again.
I’d like to lose weight.
I’d like to look fit.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
My runaissance has not had any boundaries; no finish line. Surrounded by those who inspire me on a daily basis, my spark has turned back into a raging fire. For years, my drive to succeed and be healthy sometimes felt more like a pile of smoldering ashes.
I’m not getting any younger. The days of becoming an elite runner may be behind me. Will this stop me? Probably not.
Some ask why? Why are you so competitive? Why not just run?
I reply, why not?
Why not show my children it’s never too late to try?
Why not see how far I can go?
Why not give it one last hurrah?
Recently, I watched the video below (by the way, this YouTube channel is amazing; you may become addicted to their vids). Check this out:
Wow, mind blown.
As mentioned, this message reminded me I may not even have scratched the surface yet of what I CAN do. I am willing to put in the work, even if it means waking up at 4 a.m. and working long days.
I am willing to risk failure in hopes of succeeding. I am willing to throw out lofty (but attainable) goals.
From the beginning of my return to running, my focus has not been trying to beat others. You may have seen me say I am chasing the old me. She was pretty fast and this may seem unattainable, but you can bet I am trying my hardest to catch her. Most of the time when I finish a race, a voice whispers, “maybe you can go a little faster.” Runner problems.
And I don’t feel this way just about running – this applies in my work life as well. Returning to the fitness industry has revitalized a passion for helping others. Sharing my story – the peaks and the valleys – has allowed me have the opportunity to encourage and guide others on their own journey. I love this. My mind is full of possibilities and dreams of where this can lead.
My soul is on fire.
Every morning when I wake up, I know there is someone else doing the same and possibly wanting the same success as I do; maybe even more. If I am not committed (some mistakenly call this obsessed) with getting better and doing more than everyone else, I may be left behind.
I hear footsteps every day.
Why someday? Why not today? I do not want to be left behind.
I feel forged by fire – stick around and see where my journey goes…
One more race recap and then we will get back to our regular programming!
Two weeks post Shamrock Half and I was ready to rock again. On my radar this time was the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC.
The entire weekend was quite an adventure! Before we get to starting line, let’s start on the day prior when I headed to the nation’s capital with several members of Team Running Dad.
We traveled down Rt 66 to catch the metro to pick up our packets at the race expo at the National Building Museum. The trip wasn’t too bad – as a bunch of folks from the mountains, we didn’t have too much trouble trying to navigate our way through public transportation. Upon our arrival, we decided to get our packets first then find lunch (although we had a few hangry guys!).
Packet pickup was very easy and we browsed the expo booths. Vendors were most we
see often at other races, but we saw our fearless SVR leader Vernon at the Ragnar tent. After a quick spin through the booths, we headed towards Gallery Place in search of nourishment.
Eventually, we found our way to food but unfortunately, we waited FOREVER for our orders. As we sat at the bar, we pilfered celery meant for Bloody Marys to satisfy our appetites. After what seemed like a very long time, we finally received (almost) all of our food (poor Josh). On the ride home, we acted a little less mature than our age – but some funny memories were definitely made.
We finalized our plans for race day, which included a VERY early a.m. departure (next year, not so early). As is common for me these days, I woke before my alarm and started to get ready. Today, I was racing for the first time in a Team Running Dad race kit. Prior
to the race, the team as a whole decided to wear pink shorts (yes, even the guys) in honor of NICU babies and for Alohi, the recent preemie granddaughter of teammate Mario. To complete the outfit, I also slapped on a RunningDad.com temporary tattoo once again.
Having to travel so far race morning, I did have a little anxiety about traffic and other logistics, but once again, the ride was smooth sailing. We arrived early (way too early), but found our parking spot and broke bread together in the car (thanks for the bread Josh!). After eating our breakfast, we went off on foot in search for the starting line as well as port ‘o pots.
The starting line of CUCB10 is right at the Washington Monument. We waited a little while in the chilly darkness in the bag check tent (until we got kicked out). As we went on our warm-up run around the reflecting pool, the sun was rising behind the Washington Monument. Wow, what a beautiful sight.
Not too long after, we headed to our respective corrals – the guys and I hugged Sara while she went into the red corral and we entered yellow. Once we were in, it suddenly seemed like a family reunion as other runners from back home found us. After hellos, high fives and final pre-race instructions from the starter, we were off!
My goal for the race was 1:05, which would be pushing my pace a little more than I was comfortable, but I set off for a 6:30 pace with teammate Alex and another running friend Duane. First mile wasn’t as crowded as I anticipated and went by rather quick – nearly on the dot at 6:31. The race course included three out-and-back sections where we could see and cheer each other on before heading to the lonely back half of the course. I picked up the pace as we headed towards the first out-and-back where I was hoping to see Mario and Jeremy. Each time, we either sent a thumbs up, an air fist bump or shouted some encouragement – thanks guys!
In the first half, I felt like I was having a tough time settling in at my goal pace. Miles kept ticking by a little faster than I was aiming for, but I was feeling strong. Around mile 6, I heard someone say my name and pass by – fellow Terrapin XC/Track alumni Jay (who is also seeking a BQ in 2017!). I kept him in my sights and kept chugging ahead. When I felt as though I was struggling or tense, I did sneak a peek over to the water and try to take in the sights of DC.
Around mile 9, I could feel fatigue entering my leg muscles, but kept charging on. Unexpectedly, another Maryland XC/Track alumni was around this section and gave me a little boost of much-needed energy. At this point, I could see the Washington Monument and knew the finish was near. I loved the signs counting down the distance to the finish (1 mile, 1200, 800, 400…). At the end, there is a slight incline and I reminded myself to give the same effort and tackle the last challenge. Heading up the hill, I noticed an older woman running right in front of me and I thought, wow, look at her! I was so focused on getting to the line and passed her without much of a glance. I didn’t realize until after the race, it was Joan Benoit Samuelson! Wow, so cool.
Heading towards the finish, I gave whatever I had left and crossed the line in 1:03:50. Goal achieved! Now to find my teammates which didn’t take long since they were still in the chute. And once again, I was ecstatic to hear Jeremy and Mario had PRs as well. We waited near the finish for Alex and Sara who also had great races – way to kick butt
2017 marked the 45th year of CUCB10. To celebrate, anyone beating the winning male and female times from 1973 received a mug stating, “I would have won this race in 1973!”.
After everyone was reunited, we linked up with a few other running friends, went back to the car to freshen up and find food (we eat a lot!). After a scenic route to the restaurant (sorry!!), we enjoyed a great Irish brunch and drinks!
Overall, another solid weekend. What a great crew – everyone is supportive and our collective positive energy makes each of us strive to be better. We are all looking forward to the next time we race together, but for now, we are anxiously awaiting to see what Mario, Jeremy and Alex do in Boston.
Thanks to Josh and John for driving and supporting the team over the weekend. We all appreciated you being there.