Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 - The year of awesome

I tend to do a lot of reflecting as I near a big race. It usually happens after a meltdown moment and I had mine today. I was supposed to do my 14 miles yesterday and I listened to my hubby when he said there is no way I was attempting it. I woke up feeling sick and really rundown. I figured it wouldn't hurt to push it out until tomorrow in favor of quality. I headed out this morning and it was definitely cooler than it had been. I decided to go out 2.5 miles from the house and come back to warm up a bit and refuel. It became apparent about a mile from my house on the first leg I was still sick and I was calling the run at 5 miles. My body was getting colder and colder and I couldn't get warm. While I was disappointed in myself, I knew this was the right decision to ensure I was ready for Disney. Thankfully my coach helped to reassure me that this was not the end of the world and it would be ok. As I lay in bed resting, I am thinking how 2015 is shaping up to be even more amazing than 2014. 

2014 was pretty amazing but I have some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2015. From a running perspective, my plan is to run a total of five full marathons, a 50k, at least two half marathons, and a half Ironman.  A year ago, I would have laughed at that list saying there is no way I can accomplish this. The truth is that I certainly can accomplish this. 2015 is going to be a year of focusing on quality runs that help me get to a 2:15 half marathon. I know it will be tough but with the right training, I will meet this goal. It is going to require me being ok with being uncomfortable but I didn't get where I currently am by staying in my comfort zone. 

From a business perspective, I plan on growing my beachbody business. I truly believe in helping others reach their goals. I had people in my corner supporting me on my journey and now it's my time. It's great when a hobby and a passion collide. 

From a family perspective, I plan to be more present for my kids. While I am there for their activities it gets tough with my daily commute to work. This year tough decisions will be made to get rid of that commute. People may not understand but we will work on things as a family. And just to set the record straight, no one is splitting up and I'm not quitting my job. 

2015 has the potential for growth for me personally and professionally. I am going to search for these opportunities and embrace them rather than run the other way. I want my kids to see what is possible when you push yourself outside your comfort zone. To a great 2015. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lessons learned

I am a little more than 2 weeks out from my second marathon.  This round of training has been much different than my first round of marathon training.  I am by no means an expert in running or marathoning, but I have learned some valuable lessons in these last two rounds of training.  

 

Lesson 1:  injuries happen

Injuries are not just reserved for elite runners cranking out mile after mile each week.  They happen to all of us at some point in our running lives.  This round has been much easier on my body than the last round but I did have some bumps in the road along the way.  Listen to your body, don’t try to cram in missed training, and let yourself heal.  It can be hard when an injury takes you out for a few days but don’t rush back into it or you could do more damage to your body.

 

Lesson 2:  Stop comparing

I spent much of 2014 comparing my times to others and letting myself be discouraged that I wasn’t faster.  In reality, I should have been celebrating the PR’s I was nailing, the distances I was covering, and the miles my legs were taking me.  I couldn’t see those as victories because I wasn’t what most people consider “fast”.  I am now embracing my times and recognizing them for what they are:  strength, improvement, and growth.

Lesson 3:  Understand the struggles

Fueling has always been an issue for me.  I struggle with when to fuel, what to fuel with, and how much I really need.  Some of it has to do with things other runners have told me.  That goes back to lesson 2.  Stop worrying about others and do what works for you.  I struggled in Chicago because I lost some of my gel packs along the course.  I became desperate at the end and took every scrap of food I could find along the course from the bananas volunteers were handing out to pretzels being handed out by spectators.  I also resorted to drinking Gatorade which I stay away from in races because it causes major bloating.  I should have learned this as I went into last Friday’s 20 miler but I was stubborn.  I have one more long run before the marathon and this will be focused on covering the distance with the proper fueling.  I will fuel even if I am feeling good because if I push too far without it, there is no recovering from that and the last part of the run will suffer. 

Lesson 4:  Carbs are my friend

I am a runner that needs carbs.  I have tried restricting but realized my long runs suffered.  Some people have told me it isn’t necessary for running but I have found that for me they are.  I now fuel up on healthy carbs leading up to my long runs and it has made the difference.  What works for me may not work for others and that’s ok but I need to perfect my strategy to get results. 

Lesson 5:  Ask for help

When training for a marathon, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with training, work and family.  I found this was happening to me as I headed into peak training weeks.  Finally I had to ask for help and give myself permission to forget about things that didn’t really matter.  So, this year my hubby wrapped ALL the Christmas presents, I shopped online and I skipped the Christmas cards.  I started to feel guilty but I realized that it’s ok not to get to everything and Christmas will still happen as planned. 

Lesson 6:  Use the right training plan

It is super easy to find a plan in a book or on the internet and use it to run a race.  It can lead you to a successful finish in many cases.  In my case, a one size fits all approach didn’t work for me.  I tried a plan and it was geared at someone faster than I was.  I became burned out, tired and by the time I reached the start line I was over trained which led to a finish but one I fought hard for.  This time around I hired a running coach who developed a plan just for me based on my capabilities and paces.  It has made all the difference in the world for me.  I have found myself running distances more easily and being able to hold a more consistent pace.  I am hoping this is an indicator of a positive outcome for marathon number 2. 

Lesson 7:  Running is mental

The body is capable of amazing things.  It is often your head telling you to give up not your body.  Once I finished that first marathon, I find it easier to push through my training runs.  In fact, most of the time when running outdoors, I leave the music and running apps behind.  I run based on feel and have found that approach has allowed me to push myself when necessary and also when to hold back. 

I am sure this list will evolve as I continue to run more marathons because my love for distance running isn’t ending anytime soon.  I am a lifelong runner and am looking forward to my next adventures. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

My struggle


“Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.”  This is a line from a song aimed at the class of 2000 with a musical background and a guy with a deep voice dispensing advice to the recent graduates as they got ready to face the world.  I heard this song on the satellite radio about two weeks ago.   I hadn’t heard this song in quite some time but that one line struck me.  It made me think about all the magazines out there with headlines appealing to our insecurities as women.  As I thought about it more, I realized that I needed to share my struggles with food and self-esteem.  This is personal and not one I am sharing for accolades but as a way to help others. I know I am not alone in this either. 
As far back as I can remember I obsessed about what I ate.  There were magazines everywhere with headlines that might as well have said “your body is not good enough” or “you are not good enough”.  I thought it was normal as a female to constantly be on a quest to lose weight.  I don’t want to minimize the fact that men can and do face body image issue as well.  I just can’t speak about it from experience.  I was never a skinny kid. From the time I was in elementary school until the time I graduated high school, there were people who tormented me about my weight as if it was some kind of character flaw.  At 10 I remember trying to diet to lose 5 pounds and watched everything I ate. I remember being in middle school skipping breakfast and only drinking chocolate milk at lunch because I thought that would help me get skinny. It didn’t work because by the time I got home, I was so hungry I ate enough to make up for the skipped meals.  It was miserable.  I was miserable. 
In college, I took things to an extreme. I pretty much stopped eating at the end of my freshman year.  I would eat a few pretzels here and there.  Once a week I would indulge in an actual meal but other than that I forced myself to keep my food intake in check. I exercised as often as I could in between work and classes.  I quickly lost 40 pounds and looked much better but honestly I didn’t feel any better.  Within 6 months I was having surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  This was likely a result of the rapid weight loss.  I had this thought that if I was skinny, people would like me and I would be happy.  The truth is that happiness comes from within and the skinniest people in the world often have people that say cruel things about them. 
Towards the end of my sophomore year in college, I met the man who I would later marry.  I was terrified that he wouldn’t like the way I looked or would be staring at the extra layer of fat on my thighs or stomach.  It was terrifying.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth.  He liked me for me and not the shape of my body. This was so odd to me because in high school it was all about how you looked.  I just couldn’t understand why he liked me.  As time went on I gained the weight back and then some.  You know what,  John still loved me.  
Fast forward a few years.  John and I were engaged and were planning our wedding. I had tried on wedding dresses and found my dream dress.  Then one day the owner of the bridal shop called me and told me she was ordering me a plus size dress. I remember that I had just started eating a bagel with cream cheese for my breakfast when she called. After the call ended, I started crying and promptly fed my breakfast to the garbage disposal.  At that moment, I decided that my body wasn’t good enough so I started exercising again and watching everything I ate. I started to sneak diet pills as well.  I had a little hiding spot in our cupboard with the pills so John didn’t know. To this day I have never admitted to this but I am sure he knew. He just knew it wasn’t worth fighting that battle with me. 
By the time the wedding rolled around I was at my lowest weight ever.  Within two months of the wedding I was pregnant with our first child.  At that point, the panic started to creep in. With pregnancy comes weight gain.  I knew I had to eat properly to fuel my pregnancy but it scared me to death to gain weight.  I was so sick in the beginning that I could barely hold anything down.  After that cleared and regained my appetite, I started to eat again. I ate so much that by the time I delivered I had gained 70 pounds.  I got to the point that I would get on the scale backwards when I went to my OB appointments.  I lost most of the weight thanks to crazy eating after my daughter was born. 
Within two years, we were back in the same spot again but this time I was pregnant with twins.  I was concerned about how much I was going to gain with this pregnancy.   I was so sick during this pregnancy that I could barely eat for three months.  I spent time in the ER being treated for dehydration because of the morning sickness. When I did eat, it was often fast food.  With this pregnancy, I left the hospital under what I weighed before I got pregnant.  Sadly, I still couldn’t fit in those pre-pregnancy pants because my body had changed.  
For the next few years, I was back at my disordered eating habits.  I had gained a bunch of weight and was ashamed of how I looked. I felt like I wasn’t in control yet did nothing to regain that control.  My doctor would tell me how I needed to lose weight for my health. I dismissed her and told her I just couldn’t lose weight no matter what I did.  I told her I didn’t have time to exercise either. I was lying to myself and her.  I no longer took the diet pills because I was worried about what they were going to do to me.  I got to the point that I would rarely eat in front of people because I was afraid that people were going to judge me for eating.  For thinking I was too fat to be even thinking of eating.  So, I would pick at my food in front of others and eat in silence on my own.  It had to be so difficult to my husband to sit and watch. He never said anything because he knew approaching my eating and weight was likely going to start a war.  He loved me and how I looked but knew I had unhealthy habits and wanted me to regain control of my health.  
I would deflect compliments anytime someone said something nice to me.  If someone said a dress looked nice on me, I would focus on my flabby arms.
Then, things changed and I had my “aha” moment.  I decided I was going to run a marathon.  Yep, the overweight girl was going to run a marathon. I told my husband I was going to start running and he was like “ok”. I knew in his head he was thinking, “I’m sure this is going to last for all of 3 days before she gets bored.”  This time my resolve didn’t waver.  I started to eat breakfast again.  I started to eat less fast food.  I wasn’t obsessing about eating in front of others. I am not saying any of this was easy but it was necessary.  
I realized that my daughters were watching me.  They were at that impressionable age that my habits were likely to become their habits because it was all they knew.  I had to break the cycle.  I would deflect compliments and would focus on some other part of my body that looked all wrong.  I would come into a room and criticize the size of my belly or thighs.  And the whole time I had an audience.  I didn’t want my daughters to learn that their bodies were something to be ashamed of.  I didn’t want my kids to see that food was anything other than fuel.  
The other morning, my daughter decided she wasn’t hungry and went back to her room. I quickly redirected her to the kitchen where we had an honest discussion. I told her why food was important.  I also told her that I used to skip breakfast and I didn’t feel as good as I could on those days. I didn’t think she realized this because she was younger.  Her response to me was sobering.  She said, “Mom, I know you used to skip breakfast.  Why was it ok for you to do then, but it’s not ok for me”.  At that moment, I was put into place by my 13 year old. I explained to her I thought I could lose weight that way but skipping breakfast actually had the opposite impact. 
I started to change my attitude food and my body over the past 18 months. I realized that my body is pretty damn amazing and has done some pretty great things. I may not be a model or a size 2, but that doesn’t matter. I look at food as a fuel.  I need fuel for my training.  I no longer skip meals.  I eat the food I want in moderation.  If I want ice cream, I will eat it.  I no longer try to stick to crazy diets which eliminate entire food groups.  My doctor said I have no health conditions that make this necessary.   While I eat less carbs than I did in the past they are still an important source of fuel for my running.    I still have moments where I will look at my body and call it fat. My husband now gives me a look to bring me back around. For that I am grateful.  
My relationship with my husband is better than it has ever been.  I realized that happiness is an inside job.  Losing weight doesn’t equate to validation, love, happiness or acceptance.  Because I am happy with me, I am able to see all the good in myself and my relationships.  Let me tell you that is a beautiful thing.  Let me challenge you all to think about your attitude towards food and your body. Over the next 30 days resist the urge to talk negatively about yourself. When you feel yourself heading down that path, think of something positive your body has done for you.  Resist the urge to compliment people on looks alone.  Don’t bash other women on how they look.  And stop buying those beauty magazines unless you are reading them for the articles on good sex.  In that case I say good for you.  



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Recovery

Well it has been almost a week since my first marathon and I am back at it. There was one text message I sent after the marathon that said never again. Well by two days post marathon I had made some lofty goals and I am working towards them. Running has given me my life back and has shown me that I am capable of so much more than I ever expected. 

I hired a running coach to help me get to the start and finish line of my next marathon injury free. He is working on my  plan as we speak.  While the program I used was good, I was very burned out at the end. I was running 6 days a week and had little time for cross training which I felt was important for well rounded training. The plan I used wasn't geared to my abilities which made it hard for me to feel like I was progressing.  This plan will be made for me and will get me to that start line feeling confident.

I have decided that marathoning isn't over for me. In fact this is just the beginning.  I plan on running NYC, Chicago again, Kona, and my big huge goal which I want to achieve by 45 is Boston. It will take time for me to get my times down enough to qualify but I plan on making it happen. There is something so completely magical about a marathon that I can wait to do it again. I learned so much about myself during my time on the streets of Chicago. The absolute amazing power of the human spirit was unbelievable. Complete strangers outside for hours cheering people on, even the runners towards the back restored my faith in humanity as the world seems  to have made me cynical these days.  

Today I got out and ran 4 miles and it felt great. I was worried my body might revel today but it carried me through and reminded me of why I started in the first place. I contemplated my goals and whether to share them. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being open.  

For the next few weeks I'm going to take it easier. In three weeks I will start the next round of training as I prepare for WDW marathon weekend. This time my whole crew gets to be there with me.  I cannot wait! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Marathoner

One word. So many emotions.  Today I said I goodbye to Chicago after an epic weekend. I had been training for this weekend long before I was accepted into the marathon. My journey to be a marathoner started on May 5, 2013 when I woke up that morning deciding I wanted to run a marathon. I couldn't run a block at a time when I first started and after a 20 minute training session my legs were so sore, I don't know why I continued to push through because my body said no but my heart said keep going.  I kept my goals to myself for months. My hubby didn't know I was considering a marathon until about 6 months after I started running. Sunday, October 12, 2014 my goal almost 18 months in the was realized.

My hubby and I made the trek to Chicago early Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's marathon.  We took the train from Milwaukee to Chicago and of course on this trip into the city we were delayed about 15 minutes. I was antsy. I wanted to drop the stuff off at the hotel and head to the expo.  We arrived at our hotel by about 10:15 and lucky for us our room was ready. We decided on a hotel in a different part of town for this trip and let me tell you I am so glad we did. The Langham was a beautiful hotel with amazing staff. We will be back. After we dropped our stuff off, we headed to the shuttle pick up stop and were off to the expo. The expo was huge but was very crowded.  I picked up a few things and we headed back to the hotel so we could have some lunch.  After lunch I got my two mile shakeout run in on the hotel treadmill. I was going to run outside with my hubby but he forgot his running shorts so I decided to run inside as I don't know my way around town like John does. Saturday evening we had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had chicken and roasted sweet potatoes which was a great pre-race meal. We were both exhausted from the early morning wake up call and we were ready for bed by 8pm.  It was an off and on night of sleep for me.

I was up by about 4:45 am on race morning. I got myself and all my gear ready for the day. It's amazing how much stuff you need when running a race. The hotel had food and water out for the runners that morning which was a nice touch.  I grabbed a banana and water on my way out to the shuttle which the hotel provided to it's guests.  The amount of people out and about that morning was amazing. So much energy in the city at 6am. We made our way to the hospitality tent we had tickets for and I ate a little more while trying to calm my nerves before I headed to the corral. We saw coverage of the national anthem being sung and the start of the hand cycle division. I was glad that John was with me because shortly after seeing that I had my meltdown. I cried on John's shoulder so worried about whether or not I could really do this. He had complete confidence in my abilities but told me that I needed to listen to my body because he needed me healthy at the end of this. I pulled myself together and headed to the corral.

As I entered the corral, an eerie sense of calm washed over me. My mom and daughters texted me before the race wishing me good luck. I watched the video they made for me complete with a race sign. It melted my heart. It was close to 8:30 when my corral finally crossed the start line. I felt really good starting the race and was hoping that feeling would continue through the entire race.  I heard a familiar voice yelling to me and holding a sign for me shortly after I hit the two mile mark. It was good to see John but I was too far over to sneak a kiss before continuing on.


The next few miles went well. We ran through Lincoln park and I was cruising along feeling good.  I was nearing Wrigley Field and turned onto Addison. I thought of my friends and their little girl Addison at that moment. It brought a smile to my face and as I was making a turn there was John. Again, I wasn't able to sneak a kiss because it caught me so off guard. I continued on and was worried what was going to happen when I hit the 10 mile mark. That is the point in a half marathon I start to get a little challenged mentally. That didn't happen during this race. Before I knew it I hit the halfway mark.   My plan was to push it the second half of the race and I was staying consistent with pacing until mile 16. Then it started to get really tough. At mile 17 I was ready to give up. I still had 9.2 miles to go. I was so tired. I played lots of mind games at that point. I told myself I could quit as long as I went one more mile and that went on and on until mile 20.  I developed a blister on my foot at mile 18. Every step I took was becoming painful and I could feel the blister getting bigger and bigger.

When I hit mile 20, I told myself I had 6.2 to go. That was less than one of my short runs in recent weeks and this was doable. I had heard that a marathon often comes down to the last 6.2 miles and I totally believe that. I slowed down on these last 6.2 miles. I didn't care as my goal was to finish. When I stopped to walk there were a few times I texted John. He told me the trains weren't lining up with my timing and he missed me at a few locations so he was just going to meet me at the finish. I was a little bummed about that because seeing him during those last few miles might have helped to give me that little push I needed.  Sure, they placed all the photographers in the last few miles when I was struggling the most. When I saw them I forced myself to push it and put a smile on my face. That simple act helped a lot. Even though I wasn't feeling it, the smile instantly boosted my mood.

I reached for my final salted caramel gel at about mile 22 and realized it was gone. It must have slipped out of my belt somewhere along the course. I realized I had some sport beans left and had a few to get me through the next few miles. At that point in the race they were too sweet. I put them away and fueled with gatorade and bananas that were provided on course.  This wasn't ideal but I had no choice but to make it work. Soon I was making the turn onto Michigan avenue. I knew that this was a fairly straight shot to the finish line.  I was struggling and then "Don't stop believin" came on.  It brought a smile to my face.  Then, I saw the sign on the course that said "One mile to go".  I texted John and let him know where I was at.  My text said this:  one mile to go. holy shit, I might just do this. I kept pushing through. 800 meters to go.  I made the first of the final two turns into the finish.  I was hoping there were no photographers at that point because the tears were starting to flow.  I have an ugly crying face but I was all emotions at that point.  Then I see another sign.  400 meters to go.  I picked up the pace a bit more. Now, the final turn. The finish line was truly in sight. I was looking for John in the bleachers and didn't see him. My heart sank. He was going to miss this. Then I heard his voice and realized he was on the other side of the road.  I was almost there.  I crossed the finish line with my arms up in the air like I had won the whole damn race. As I think about, I did win that race. It wasn't about beating anyone else, it was about proving to myself that I could do this and that my friends is what I call a victory.

This race challenged my physically and mentally. There were highs and lows in this race. There were times when I wanted to give up.  I am so glad I didn't though.  I worked too hard for this to give up and in reality that isn't the kind of person I am.  I continue to push through when things get tough.

John met me and I hugged him and again cried on his shoulder when he called me a marathoner. They were some of the happiest tears I have cried. I was a marathoner.

Then I looked at my phone and saw all the love and support sent my way during the race, I cried again. My heart was so full and all I could feel was gratitude for all the wonderful people that have crossed my path. It means the world to know there are so many people backing and supporting you.  When you believe in yourself, others will see it and they will start believing in you too. If there is something you dream about, go chase it because it can be reality with hard work. There was no shortcut to my victory. It was hard work, sweat, and trust.  Now I rest the next few days and slowly start to build up my training because I am doing this all over in about 85 more days.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Race week!

Well, race week is officially here. I have spent the last few runs mentally preparing myself for Chicago. I have spent time reflecting on the six months leading up to this point. I had trained for and ran half marathons before so I figured marathon training would be much of the same with some extra miles. I was WRONG! Marathon training was so much different than I expected, While out on my training runs, I tried to think of how to describe it. Then it hit me. Marathon training for me was much like pregnancy.

When you first sign up for a marathon, it's nothing but excitement. Your still giddy from that drunken night when you entered your name into the lottery. I pictured a slightly tougher schedule than half marathon training but nothing I couldn't handle. I thought about where we were going to stay in Chicago, pre-race meals, the race day outfit. You know the important stuff.  Then I realized I needed to figure out which training plan to use. So, I read books on different marathon training options. Everyone has their own theory on what works best.

When training for a marathon, your mileage increases. Then all of a sudden parts of your body start hurting for unknown reasons. All of a sudden you turn one night in bed and wonder when you fought and clearly lost the fight with an alligator. There are times I would waddle around the house because my muscles were tight, my hip hurt or my foot hurt feeling like much like I did 7 months pregnant with twins. Then my hip started hurting a lot. If I took a few days off it would start to feel better but once I started to run again I was back to this pain. I wanted to give up and I started to despise running. When visiting my local running store for a new pair of shoes, he suggested they refit me since it had been 6 months since my last fitting. It turns out, my gait had shifted and the type of shoes I was wearing were no longer what I needed.   Fast forward a week in my new shoes and I felt like a new person! It all comes down to the shoes in life.

Oh, the emotions that come along with marathon training. I can usually keep myself composed but during both pregnancies, tissue or diaper commercials had the ability to make me cry. The same thing started happening as I got into my training. Tears of doubt, tears of joy, tears because my favorite running pants were missing for weeks, or tears because it was raining. You name it, I could go from normal to a hot mess in about ten seconds.

Pregnancy for me was as much about mental preparation as it was about coping with physical changes. I found the same thing to be the case with marathon training. I was preparing my body to take on a large physical challenge. There are times where your body is tired and can keep going but your mind tells you to stop. But you need to keep pushing through. When I was delivering our oldest, I pushed for 3 hours. There was a point where I was said, "she can just stay in there". Obviously the doctor didn't find it funny but when I had tough runs, I had to remind myself that if I was tough enough to push for 3 hours, I can run a marathon. It's about mentally picturing yourself crossing the finish line.  I have watched the course preview video three times already and have committed the final stretch headed into Grant Park into my mind for these final training days.  Darn it, here come the tears again.

While training for a marathon nutrition is important. You need to feed your body proper fuel if you expect it to perform. But sometimes, I just really wanted a cheeseburger. Sometimes, I felt like I was eating for two in order to keep my body properly fueled. The good thing here is that I didn't gain weight.  I actually lost a few pounds and my body fat percent dropped a bit.  It took me almost the whole training cycle but I think I finally have my fueling strategy down.

Then there is the exhaustion. Sleeping in was no longer an option, especially as the training runs got longer. I had to drag myself out of bed in the morning while it was still dark out to log those miles. All, while my hubby said how he was going to enjoy laying in bed for another hour or two. Sure, rub it in. When you start logging longer miles your body just gets tired. I am looking to reduced mileage this week and getting a little extra rest.

After you have a c-section they give you these fancy compression socks to wear. Yep, I hated those. They were these ugly white things that the nurses joked about being from Victoria's Secret. Not funny nurses.  I find myself wearing them during and after long runs and saying how they are the best thing ever invented. At least running ones come in fun colors. It's funny how your opinion changes. I am rocking my hot pink ones as I write this.

During my first pregnancy, I decided early on that I was never going to get pregnant again. I feel that way about this marathon thing too. Like it is never going to happen again. I told myself that during my first half marathon at about mile 8 that I was never going to do this again because it wasn't fun. See how that turned out for me huh? 6 more half marathons have been completed since that.

Despite all of the challenges training for a marathon brings, it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  I have shown my kids that nothing is out of reach if you work towards them. I realized that I am a lot tougher than I ever gave myself credit for.  My fellow runners are the best as they have shown me support and celebrated successes during my training. I may have lost some people along the way that couldn't be happy for me but that's ok too. Right now, I am going to enjoy the next week as I prepare for one of the most EPIC things I have ever done. I am going to soak in all the marathon has to offer on Sunday because you only run your first marathon once. I am so glad I took a chance and entered the lottery for Chicago.  Chicago is one of my favorite places and I have a lot of special memories from our visits to the city so it makes sense to run my first marathon there. Have a great night all!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summerfest Rock n Sole recap

On June 14th, I ran the Summerfest Rock’ N Sole in Milwaukee which was my 4th half marathon.  This was a half marathon I signed up for on a whim. I was on a mission to bring down my half marathon time. I tend to be a perfectionist and am always trying to improve myself so it was game on.  I felt like I was fairly well trained since the Cellcom Green Bay half marathon was only 4 weeks prior.  I kept my training consistent the three weeks before the race so I could perform at my best that day.  My dad and daughters decided to take part in the 5k that morning as well. Regardless of how well I did, I was just ecstatic about being able to run in Milwaukee which is one of my favorite places.  


I had an early wake-up call that morning as the race started at 7am.  I had to be really quiet so I didn’t wake my hubby as he had to work that afternoon and wouldn’t be home until after 11 that night. Being awakened that early would make for a really long day for him. Once I had myself ready, I had to get the kids ready. Have you ever tried to get kids out of bed at 4:30am on a Saturday? Well, I don’t recommend it. Thankfully I had all the race stuff out and the kids were instructed to have their race day clothes ready.  Somehow we made it out the door by 4:45am and my hubby never heard a peep! Victory!


My daughters and I before the race. 

It was a chilly morning for the middle of June. We got the car parked and we helped my mom and son get to the finish area.  We made our way to the start area and were fortunate that the Italian Community Center was open for runner so we could use a real bathroom with minimal wait times.  We had a few photos taken while waiting for the race to start and I left my dad and girls as the half marathon started 20 minutes before the 5k did.  I made my way to the corral it was one of the first times I was in the start corrals and wasn’t completely nervous.  About 5 minutes before the race started a bird pooped in my hair. It was disgusting but fortunately there was a saint named Margarita who came to my rescue. She had toilet paper in her pouch and I was able to clean myself off. She then kindly cleaned my hair so I didn’t have to smell that the whole race.  I was hoping that confident feeling and the bird incident wasn’t an indicator of my race performance.

The gun went off at 7am and it took me about 6 minutes to cross the timing mat of the start mat. I always try to keep a close eye on that because it helps me as I pass the timing clocks along the way to know if I am on track. The first mile was tough and my calves were super tight. I realized I hadn’t used my roller the night before like I normally do and was worried I was going to suffer because of it.  I tried to hold a consistent pace for the first part of the race to ensure I wouldn’t run out of steam at the end.  The first few miles were uneventful and right around the 5kpoint, we were on the Hoan Bridge.  The views from the bridge were amazing and the breeze off the lake felt wonderful.  I never realized how long the bridge was because I passed the 4 and 5 miles markers on the bridge. While I was nervous being on that bridge, I took comfort knowing that my father in law was one of the many ironworkers who working on building the bridge.  The end of the bridge is where the half marathon and quarter marathon course split.  The quarter marathoners were going to be making their way towards the finish.  

I was feeling pretty good yet at 5 miles in as we headed towards Lake Park and the east side. This part of Milwaukee is my absolute favorite. One of my first dates with my husband was a trip to Milwaukee with a drive along the lake looking at the beautiful homes along Lake Drive and a stop for a walk at Lake Park. My decision to run this race was decided when I knew I would be running through my favorite part of Milwaukee.  I loved running through Lake Park.  When I hit about mile 8, some nice volunteer told me I was doing a great job and I was almost there. Bless her heart but with 5.1 miles left, I didn’t really feel like I was almost there.  

Normally at the 10 mile mark, I really start to fade. This didn’t happen during this race. I am not sure if it was due to finally figuring out the sweet spot regarding fueling, the moderate temperatures or if my body was just feeling adjusted to this distance.  While I was paying close attention to the clocks each mile marker and doing the math in my head, I was trying not to get caught up in it. I was out there trying to run the best race I could that day.  

Before I knew it I saw the 12 mile marker and was headed on the backside of the Summerfest grounds along the lake.  I saw the clock and knew I had the potential to beat my best half marathon time. What I did now was start to pick out a target ahead of me and get ahead of them. As I was passing one girl she was clearly struggling so I gave her some words of encouragement as I passed her. What was really nice about this course was after the 12 mile mark there were signs letting you know how much you had to go. I found this to be encouraging to see the signs telling me it was only ½ mile to the finish and then ¼.  Then I knew after that ¼ mile sign I would be seeing the 13 mile sign. That is my favorite sign in a half marathon.  When I reached the ¼ mile to go sign I took my headphones out and tucked them under the strap of my shirt. I like to be able to hear the crowd and music as I approach the finish line. Then I saw the 13 mile sign. I honestly don’t remember if there was a clock on that sign or not.  I knew I  had a tenth of a mile to go and I was going to push as hard as I could across the finish line.  Shortly after the 13 mile mark, I heard my dad cheering me on. I rounded the curve and heard my youngest cheering me on.  She is truly my biggest fan.  Then I saw them and my dad was running towards them to see me finish.  Then I saw the race clock.  I knew the PR was mine and I am pretty sure there were tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line.  

As I made my way through the finish chute, I collected my medal and gathered some post run treats. I posed for the photographers on my way out and met up with my family.  I was so stinking excited at that moment.  I tried for one of those jumping shots but it was hard after running 13.1.  After the race we headed to my sister’s house to have lunch and most of all get me a shower.  I had bird poop to get out of my hair.  This race was the first half of the M2 challenge. I will finish the second half of the challenge in August for the Madison Mini.  Be good to me Madison, this girl is going for another PR!

 

 

My dad, daughters and I after the race.

Trying for the jump shot. 

My youngest and I.

The kids and I. 


Running with Meb!


About a month ago, on an unseasonably cool June morning, I had the opportunity to take part in a charity fun run with Boston Marathon winner Meb. The proceeds of the event were going to benefit MyTeam Triumph which is a wonderful organization.  This organization allows all individuals to realize their full potential.  Disabled athletes (Captains) to take part in athletic events through the use of specially designed racing equipment and able bodied athletes (angels) helping them safely cross the finish line.  If you have never witnessed this, it is a truly humbling experience.   My husband encouraged me to sign up since the proceeds were going to such a great organization. The event included the opportunity to meet Meb, run 2 miles withMeb and the rest of the group, photo ops and breakfast. I was running a half marathon the day after this event and I was honestly more nervous about a 2 mile run than I was the 13.1 the next day. Meb was fast, strong and a champion and I was just a mom trying to figure out this whole running thing.

When I arrived, Meb was there being interviewed by a local new station. I started making small talk with some of the other participants. When he finished his interview, he made his way over and talked to those of us taking part in the run. I had a photo taken with Meb which was pretty surreal.  Yes, he ran in that outfit. I guess that Wisconsin morning was a bit too cool for him.  

 

 


There were about 30 of us along with captains and angels fromMyTeam Triumph taking part that morning. We lined up at the start and were led down the path by a Green Bay Press Gazette truck complete with photographers on back. So, that is what it feels like to be an elite running at the front of the pack. I have to admit it was kind of nerve wracking being filmed and photographed like we were some kind of celebrities. Meb kept a comfortable pace which was a little faster than I am used to but I kept up for the majority of the run. I was slightly behind the rest of the pack for the last quarter mile but I caught up with Katie who is an angel from MyTeam Triumph and we finished the run together.  She was so sweet and she gave me a big hug at the end. I love being a runner because other runners are so supportive and friendly. This was one of those experiences you never forget and I get goosebumps just writing this recap.  


After the event I was on a complete high. It was amazing getting to meet new people.  In the end, I realized that I wasn’t that much different than Meb. We were both working towards something we were passionate about.  Success isn’t always about winning but is about giving it your all. While I will probably never win a race, I am a winner every time I lace up my shoes at a race and run my heart out regardless of where I place.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Madison Twilight 10k

So Memorial day weekend marked my first 10k of the 2014 running season. This was going to be a fun race as it took place in the evening which meant we didn't have to leave at 4am to get there in time.  My parents came with us and stayed with the kids while my hubby and I ran. Had they not come along with us this would have been my hubby's race to run as he enjoys the 10k distance.  I wasn't sure how I was going to do at this race because I had just run a half the weekend before. My plan for this race was to get another PR. My approach with running is that you need to set a challenge for yourself or you will settle for less than what you are capable of. 

We spent the day in Madison and started by visiting the race expo.  My kids were having a blast in the photo booth with my mom and dad while at the expo.  We spent time around the capital during the afternoon and even ran into John's cousin who gave us some helpful information which helped us in successfully completing this race. I wasn't sure how to properly eat during the day to make sure I was well prepared to run at 8 that night. I didn't want to eat too much before the race and end up being sluggish. I decided to err on the side of caution and eat lightly between lunch and the race and that seemed to work well for me.

Our youngest daughter was running the kids race that evening so my hubby got her to the start line while I was ready for her at the finish with my mom, son and daughter. It was a .6 mile run around the capital. I love when races offer kids races as it encourages physical fitness and gives them a sense of pride when they cross that finish line.

My hubby, daughter and I before the race

There she is coming in for her big finish



I think we know who the next half marathoner is


Our race started at 8pm and it was warm but not unbearable. While my hubby and I started out running together I left him take the lead about a half mile in. I didn't want to try to keep up with him and lose steam when I needed it most in the race. Madison is hilly and I knew there were some killer hills in the first half of the race. A little before we hit the first mile we hit a steep hill. I walked up the hill to save energy.  Not much after that we hit Observatory drive. This was the hill we were warned about. When I saw this hill, I was thinking "hell no" but I briskly walked up the hill. Even the best runners were going to have trouble with this hill.  In my opinion this was a make or break hill for those who were going for a PR.  While the hill was tough, the view from the top was spectacular. The sun was setting over the water and it was beautiful.  If I wasn't going for a PR, I would have stopped to take a photo but I knew that if I had any chance of getting a PR I was going to have to work for it.

I crossed the 5k timing mat at about 41 minutes in. I felt defeated at this point because I knew that keeping that pace meant that I didn't stand a chance. I kept pushing through and saw something interesting. I was passing lots of people in that second half of the race. People were running out of steam. Before I knew it I was past the 5 mile mark and was headed back towards the capital. I continued to pass people as I headed towards the finish. Then I saw the 6 mile mark and the finish line was getting close. I kicked it into high gear. I heard my family yelling for me as I was about to cross the line. I saw the clock and I did it. I got my PR! I ran the second half almost 4 minutes faster than the first half. My strategy to start out slow and walk the hills worked. This day was fabulous from start to finish and I will be returning to run this race again! 



My hubby nearing the finish line
Almost there! 

Crossing the finish line!


My hubby and I post race











Cellcom half marathon weekend

In mid-May it was time for me to run my third half marathon. The race took place in Green Bay and is close to home which meant no overnight stay to get to the start line in time.  This was nice because packing a family of 5 up for the weekend can add a little too much stress to the equation.  I had signed up for this race less than a week after I finished the princess half. My husband laughed at me when I told him I had registered because on the bus back to the hotel after running at Disney I said I wasn't going to do another half until August when I was scheduled to run the Madison Mini. This weekend was a bit different than other race weekends as I was walking the 5k on Saturday and then running the half on Sunday.  I had lost a lot of focus between my first half marathon and Disney so I was worried about this race. I trained hard, put in the work and when race day came I needed to trust my training.

I did the 5k with my daughter and sister in law. My daughter wanted to experience a 5k but wasn't ready to run the distance so I said I would walk the 5k with her and she recruited her aunt to join us. It was a nice day and the temperature was about as perfect as you could want. My husband was running the race as well so we sent him on his way to the front of the start area because I knew he was pushing for a PR in the 5k. It was a slow start but we were walking and having fun so we moved out of the way so those running could easily get around us. My daughter, who is 10, had never done this distance before so I wasn't sure what to expect from her. Before we knew it we hit the first mile mark and I high fived my daughter and we kept pushing on. Then we hit the two mile mark and we were approaching Lambeau field.  I had checked my phone and saw the alert that my husband had finished the race. He got his PR! After we got another quarter mile in, we were making the turn towards the stadium and knew we would be headed through the players tunnel and headed onto the field for a lap around the field.  My sister in law is a HUGE packers fan so I sent her and my daughter in ahead of me. I do have to say it was a cool experience to run through Lambeau Field even though I am not a football fan. We finished in about 51 minutes and had a blast.
Outside of Lambeau at about 2.25 miles into the race. 

The three of us before the race

On Saturday night I got all my race stuff ready. It was a long day as we had an all day tennis meet for our oldest daughter after we were done at the 5k. When she was done, I headed home to hydrate and properly fuel up for the next morning.
My race day outfit
 We arrived at Lambeau field about an hour before the race started and headed in to use a real bathroom.  While waiting in line I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in years. She was going to be running her first half marathon that day.  I was excited for her! My hubby went to the car and the kids and I headed to gear check.  As we went to gear check I felt some raindrops and knew that meant my mother in law was watching over me that day. I tried to calm my nerves but the start line always makes me a bit anxious. The gun went off and we were headed out. It was slow going at first but my strategy was to head out slow and take scheduled walk breaks from the beginning to keep me fresh.
About a quarter mile into the race

Waiting for the race to start

The first few miles went well and I was holding a steady pace. I was hoping for a PR that day and I knew if I kept that pace I would get my PR. The first few miles are a bit tough because sometimes I start out too fast and I pay for it at the end. My husband had taken the kids to mile 3.8 where there was an aid station so they could cheer me on. The kids were playing in the park so I didn't see them here but I did see my husband waiting for me. I stopped for a moment at that point, took a gu, drank a bit of water and gave my hubby a quick kiss before I continued on.

Not sure what is going on here but I think my husband was chasing me with the camera

The next few miles were pretty uneventful and was continuing at an steady pace. I took another energy gel at about mile 8 and shortly after that they were handing out freeze pops. This was a great treat because the sun had broken through the clouds and it was getting really warm out. At about mile 10 we hit a monster hill and I was thinking to myself "what the heck, they said the course was flat".  I walked the hill to conserve energy and as I was nearing the top I ran into my friend. I ran the next few miles with her and I was seriously zapped of energy. I had another energy gel but didn't take it and looking back that was a mistake. During my training I didn't practice my fueling strategy and this was a critical mistake as well. I was guessing at what was going to work for me and I miscalculated.  Since it takes me a bit longer than some to do a half marathon I need a little more energy than others do. This is just how my body works and need to recognize what works for some doesn't work for others. 

Next we hit mile 12 and shortly after we were making our way to the stadium. I was tired and hot at that point. I knew I was slowing down and wasn't sure if I was still on track to get my PR but I was still going to try. My family was in the stadium waiting for me but I didn't see them. We made our lap through Lambeau and headed out of the players tunnel and were headed back out of the stadium.  I knew the finish was close so I did all I could to get that PR.  I had taken my headphones out so I wasn't hearing the alerts every quarter mile telling me how far into the race I was which had me worried I wasn't going to get my PR.  


Coming through Lambeau
The finish line was in sight. I saw the clock and knew that that PR was mine. I gunned it across the finish line and completed half marathon number three. I felt pretty tough as I came across that finish line. I got my medal from a super sweet volunteer and it took all I had not to hug her and start crying. There is something so emotional about crossing the finish line that does it to me. Every. Single. Time. I got my gear and met my husband and kids. I knew I needed to sit down because I wasn't feeling so hot. I found a curb to sit on while my hubby got me Gatorade and my oldest let my parents and sister where they could find us. After sitting for a few minutes I got up so we could head out but felt really dizzy so I sat back down. My dad and sister got me fruit while my hubby went to get me water and more gatorade. After the fluids and fruit I was feeling much better.  I was slightly dehydrated and in hindsight I probably should have made my way to the medical tent but I am stubborn.  

All in all it was a great weekend and it is a race I would do again. Next year the 5k falls on my birthday so I have already told my family that is what we are doing for my birthday. 

My oldest and I after the race as I try to recover


My sister, dad, mom and I after the race

With my medal


My daughters and beautiful niece. My daughter wearing the Minnesota hat didn't want to be in the picture but my hubby decided she should be in it anyway.  Love that expression on her face



My hubby and I. 






Saturday, March 22, 2014

13.1 miles of magic ....

About a month ago, I was at Disney with my family as I prepared to run the 2014 Disney Princess Half marathon.  I was excited about this run since I registered for it back in July. At that point I had only been running for two months so registering for this race was a leap of faith. My family was easily convinced to tag along on this journey. Disney in February during one of the coldest winters. Yes, please. This race certainly didn't disappoint from the expo to the finish.

We left on a Wednesday on an evening flight and arrived in Orlando right before midnight. By the time we arrived at our hotel, it was 1:30 am. The kids were in very good spirits despite the long day. They were at Disney and excitement filled the hotel room when we walked in. The alarm was set for shortly after 7 so we could hit the race expo.  We were all moving slowly since we didn't get a lot of sleep but we made it out of the room, ate breakfast and were on the first bus to the expo.

The expo was big and what you would expect from Disney. Bib pickup was in one building and the expo itself was in another building.  As you approached the expo you were welcomed in style. I couldn't resist getting a picture with one of these guys.

I enjoyed walking around the expo and seeing all the fun things for runners. I was able to meet Jeff Galloway while at the expo as well which was a neat experience. I found some fun merchandise and ended up getting my Cinderella shoes from New Balance.  The next hardest decision I had to make was which running outfit to wear: the yellow sparkle skirt to represent Belle or the turquoise skirt and blue shirt to represent my new favorite princess Elsa.  I decided on Elsa but only after texting several people to get opinions on my outfits.

The day of the half marathon, my day  started at 2:45 am. I got myself ready to go and headed to the bus at the front of the hotel. It didn't take long for us to arrive at the race entrance. The amount of cars headed into Epcot at 3:15 am was unreal. My kids and hubby took one of the later busses to the race so they could get a little extra sleep.  I had purchased entry into the race retreat so I could relax and eat something before the race. It was a splurge but it was worth it to me as I avoided the crowds on race morning. I had a chance to meet Alice and crew before I made the long trek to the start line. I also sat in the kiddie corner with some other ladies watching Cinderella as we killed some time before the race.  When they tell you it is a 20 minute walk from where the bus drops you off to the start corrals they are not lying. It was a slow walk to the corrals but I wasn't worried about the time because I knew I wouldn't be starting at 5:30 am. 






Djs playing music to get the crowd going before the race

The start line


I was in corral J so we didn't take off until about 35 minutes after the start of the race. Fireworks were sent up in the air as they released each corral. My husband and kids were watching the live feed from the tent and I was texting my husband as I was waiting to start. It was nice to receive encouraging messages before I started the race. At about 6:05 am we were off and running. Well sort of running. It was thick with people so it was slow going. I think the first mile ended up being at about a 16 minute pace. I was at Disney and knew this one wasn't for time so I wasn't too upset. I was still optimistic I could beat my last time.

Shortly after mile 2, I could see the lead runner on the opposite side of the road headed back in. I was in awe at that kind of speed.

Before I knew it we were headed into the gate of Magic Kingdom. I was confused because I didn't think we hit Magic Kingdom for a few more miles. Then I remembered it was quite a trek from that point to the actual park. I kept pushing on.


I hit mile 3 and could hear music from the movie Cars as we were near the speedway. Who knew there was a speedway? Not this girl. It was fast paced and I felt like I was cruising along a little better now that there was a little more space to move. I had to get the picture by the mile 3 marker since Cars is my son's favorite movie. The sun still wasn't up for the day and it was neat to run through in the dark.


Soon I was nearing the Transportation and Ticket Center and knew my family would be there. All of a sudden I hear someone calling my name and I turn and look and there is my oldest. She figured calling mom probably wouldn't get my attention like calling my first name. I was so excited to see them.  I think the look on my face in the photos my husband took certainly show my surprise even though I knew they would be in this area. 

I made good time between this point and the Magic Kingdom. I was making up some of the time I lost in the beginning. We went on some service roads and before I knew it was was turning onto Main Street. Cinderella's castle was in sight. My husband told me that the almost didn't make it in time to see me run down Main Street. I am glad they made it though.


This was probably my favorite part of the race. There were a lot of spectators cheering us on and being in the Magic Kingdom was pretty amazing. I stopped to get a photo with the castle in the background.  I knew we would be running through the castle soon and that was the moment I couldn't wait for (ok that and crossing the finish line).  My family was there to cheer me on and I was again excited to see them. I just love how excited they are when they see me in a race. My youngest is very loud too and wants to make sure I hear her as I go by.


There were trumpeters as you approached the castle and it was pure magic. 



From here we went through the rest of the park and headed back out to the open roads. At about mile 7, the DJs were blasting "Let it go" and that really got the crowd going. There were lots of ladies singing and some were even dancing to the song. Hey, I guess you have to have fun when you are running at Disney right? I stopped for another photo because this is my daughter's favorite song and she sings it multiple times a day. Yes, she really does. 

It was pretty uneventful after this. There were a few groups there to cheer runners on as we went through the last part of the race. At about mile 9 I was getting tired. It isn't surprising because it was about 65 or 70 at that point and the humidity was almost 100%. I texted my husband when I hit the 15k point to let him know where I was. He sent me messages back encouraging me through the last few miles. I was starting to have some pain in my achillies and I was slowing down. The race course took us onto the highways going between the parks and we ended up running up the on ramp and onto the overpass. I called these the death ramps. They were long and brutal. Shortly after the ramps, I hit a medical tent and got some biofreeze and a tylenol. I was hurting with each step and quick stretches weren't helping.  I was hoping I could make it. At this point I started walking and no longer cared about my time. I just wanted to finish. In retrospect, I wore my Newton running shoes instead of my Brooks. The Newtons put a lot of extra pressure on my calf muscles and this was a big contributor to my pain.  They are great for shorter distances but anything over 6 miles, I need a different type of shoe. 

I saw the mile 12 marker and I was ecstatic. I didn't have too much farther to go and I would be running through EPCOT soon. I started to run again because the pain was subsiding and there was no way I wasn't going to run across the finish line. We came into EPCOT through a service entrance and started to make our way to the front of the park. There was the 20k sign, it wasn't too much further now.   I was giving myself pep talks in my head.  We ran out of EPCOT and shortly after that there was the gospel choir. I had heard about this group and I was so excited because I knew there were right before the 13 mile marker. I was getting emotional because it was a tough race for me and the timing of the choir made me a little teary eyed. 

Yay, the 13 mile marker was there. I was almost there. My new favorite princesses were on that mile marker. I am glad my hubby got a photo of the sign since I had put my camera away at that point. 

I rounded the corner and was about to finish!  I thought it would be less emotional the second time around but I was wrong. There is a great feeling in crossing the finish line no matter how many times you have done it.




My family quickly found me and had a rose for me. The best feeling after running a race (besides the medal) is hugging my hubby and kids. I am so incredibly blessed they are so supportive and excited for my accomplishments.  Even though the race got tough at the end, it was still an incredible experience. The support for the runners was exceptional and Disney really does these races right. 


As I loaded the pictures from our camera onto the computer I found the below beauty. When it flashed across the screen, I could help but tear up. My husband knew I would load the pictures onto the computer and wanted to surprise me with this. Well, I was certainly surprised and is one of my favorite photos. I just love the fact that it looks like they are the only ones in the park and the haziness by the castle. 

Will I run another race at Disney?  Hell yeah! Registration for the Walt Disney World Marathon opens next month. This girl is signing up for the full marathon! I am scared and overwhelmed at the thought of running 26.2 but not that long ago 13.1 scared me too! If you have an opportunity to run at Disney I highly recommend it. I cannot stop smiling as I think about the race.