Why I Blog…

I’ve been wanting to jump on here for awhile and just write away but time has been limited and I haven’t been able to properly organize and compile my thoughts and feelings…

The personal things/challenges that have happened in my life over the last few weeks has taught me some valuable lessons that I’ve wanted to share.

However, these personal matters involve people close to me and I value their privacy.  I’ve struggled trying to figure out how to write this without delving into too much detail and stepping over boundaries.

This morning I read The Athletarian’s blog post about her retirement from blogging.  Certain words that she wrote connected with me and after 6 miles of processing/organizing my thoughts, I’ve found a way to use her content to help me convey my personal message.  So strap in and lets roll…

The Athletarian wrote in her post that she used to be so dedicated to blogging but it started to consume her.  She wrote,

“I’d photograph everything, blog multiple times a week, respond to comments, spend time finding new blogs and leaving comments on them, obsessively watch my stats in Google Analytics, and the list goes on and on.”

I thought to myself, “WOW, that’s what I am doing wrong…that’s why my blog isn’t making it big time”….I don’t really do ANY of these things.  But then again, I just don’t care to.  Of course, I check my stats on WordPress occasionally after I post, but after a day or two, I never look at it.

However, I AM a little envious of bloggers who get all expenses paid for at certain races or events.  I’m still waiting for the day that Brooks sends me all the extra Launch 3s they have in stock with a letter saying, “Hey Fruitful Runner, we love your blog and find it so great/psychotic that you have purchased seven pairs of the Launch 3s in the last year so we just want to send you more…and pay for your hotel in Chicago and NYC this fall because we know your teacher salary isn’t amazing.”…..hey, a girl can dream!!! 

What I am trying to say is that, I would love for my blog to take off and I get so happy when people can relate and genuinely connect with the content. I’ve always said that if ONE person can be inspired from my Instagram or blog, that is enough to make me happy.

I started this blog because I enjoy writing and letting my thoughts just take off.  Three years later, that is still why I do it.  If my audience expands and grows, that is fabulous but if not, I will still keep writing away.  My posts are just as much for me as they are for you.  My Instagram is my virtual scrapbook/training log.  I frequently scroll back to see how I trained in past cycles.  Some pictures don’t have a long caption but the picture holds a thousand words to me.

Last summer, I posted a picture from the Vermont 100 on 100 relay race.

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It doesn’t look like much/you can barely see me, but that pictures holds a special place in my heart.  What you don’t know was how emotional and crazy this day and this run was.  My grandma was sick in the hospital but my mom and I thought we could still do the relay race and make it back in time to comfort her in her final hours.  In the middle of the relay, we got a call saying that she wasn’t doing well.  We decided to skip our last leg, planned for the my dad to meet us at the end of my second leg and rush us to Boston.  That second leg was a run I will never forget.  I was tired but hit sub 7s for those 8 miles.  I just kept my eyes in the clouds and begged my Grandma to keep fighting.  I promised her I’d run fast because I knew my tiredness was nothing compared to what she was facing.  I spent those 8 miles just talking to her and motivating her to keep going because I wanted to be there for her.  It is amazing what you can do when you aren’t focused on yourself and your own pain…when your competitive mind isn’t so selfish.

Here is where I will start to segue into my personal life and the lessons I’ve learning over that last couple of weeks.  I blog because my posts are my memories and if there is anything I have learned over the last couple of weeks, it is that making memories is so important in this crazy roller coaster called LIFE.

You will never regret spending extra time with family and friends but you WILL regret not doing so.  I am someone that is ALWAYS on the go.  I always want to improve myself and try to be involveed in everything.  My perseverance can send me straight into a stressed-out mess or leave me sidelined for a few days because my body couldn’t handle all the activities I decided to jump into.  But it also advances me in my career and my athletics and makes me happy and proud.

However, when Friday nights roll around, I just want to lay on the couch and catch my breath from the whirlwind of a week.  If a friend or family member asks me to get dinner or catch up, I am often torn between…’I really ought to spend time with them’ and ‘ohhh but this couch feels so nice!’….and I hate to say it, but the latter usually wins.

Well let me tell you something, life can throw a curve ball that you’ll never see coming.  These curve balls can come fast and rob you from a lot of things.  Even if you are not directly hit by the curve ball, you are still impacted.  In my case, I watched someone get thrown this curve ball.  I watched them not be able to do the things they loved.  I watched them have to watch others do things for them.  I watched the pain they went through everyday.  The physical pain they felt was nothing compared to the mental pain of seeing their life fade away.

We can’t control these curve balls. We can’t live in fear of these curve balls but we can’t live so freely in preparation of them.  But we can be MINDFUL.  We can say ‘I love you more’, stop in to say HI to someone more often, stress less and when we are feeling down….we can think of all the things we DO have.

I’ve spent the last week trying to help as much as possible.  Trying to visit more often and put other things on hold.  Trying to be patient and just listen.  I couldn’t make someone less sick but my presence could be valuable.  Giving my presence means giving up other things.  But it shouldn’t take a curve ball to be a better person.  I need to learn how to stop, step back and do a few extra things each day for someone else.

So to my future self who will scroll back and read this at some point. You are probably tired and did 100 things today and that to-do list is still going strong…but stop.

Do something for someone else before the day over.  Do something that will make someone else happy even if your tired.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 

 

Summer Goals – A Mix of the Past and the Present

Boston 2 Big Sur feels so long ago but occasionally, I like to just reminisce on the whole experience and the road that lead me there.

I think about all the strategies I used to pull me out of my down times. 

I think about all the doubt I had.

I think about how I will use this whole experience as a lesson. 

I think about how this will teach me to not overstress. 

But let’s be honest… I still stress….I still worry…. and the thought of Chicago and NYC training being right around the corner makes me cringe a bit.

…Not because I don’t want to train hard but because right now I feel something I haven’t felt in a while.  I feel GOOD. I don’t have to worry about a long run lingering over my head for a week.  I train the way I want. I run when I want.  I strength train when I want.  I go to hot yoga when I want. I rest when I want.

 

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Jumped into Murph with my friend

Lately, I have been doing two workouts a day just because I love not having a schedule and just doing a little bit of everything.  However, my body sent me a friendly reminder that I was starting to overdo it.  I listened, rested and was able to resume training with swapping hot yoga or strength with a massage or yin yoga.

I do love ‘Long Run Sunday’ and the excitement/fear/sense of accomplishment associated with the long run but I have been loving my new Sunday lineup…

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A short run around my hot yoga studio and end right in time (always a couple minutes late because you can never plan a run JUST right) for some vigorous flow.  I am not sure what sounds appealing about ending a run, walking into a 115 degree room and being suffocated by the heat…but I like the challenge and I try to remind myself that this tactic will help when I am struggling for air in the final mile(s) of a race….or maybe not and this whole thing really is crazy. But I enjoy the fun mix of everything.

This past Sunday, I ran in the Ribfest 5-miler with my running team and we placed third despite the heat and humidity.  You know that whole run/hot yoga tactic I just talked about??…yeahhhh..it didn’t work its magic when I was riding the mile 4 struggle bus in the race haha.

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I wish I could have contributed more to the team and clocked a time much closer to what I ran 3 years ago but I was proud with my 35:08. (I ran 32:24 in 2014!! WHO WAS I??)

My pace was respectable given my recent focus on just having fun with training but it did light a fire under me and got me thinking about some summer goals.  The past 3 years have been very marathon focused.  After a marathon, I would give myself a few weeks to rest/have fun with training but would quickly find another marathon to sign up for and would be back to marathon training.  With NYC and Chicago in the fall, a summer marathon is a definite NO.  The thought of not going back to San Francisco makes me a little sad but I am excited to set summer goals that are not just logging long runs and running a marathon.  Over the last 3 years I have improved greatly in the marathon and 26.2 will always be a favorite because of the dedication and mental strength it requires.  Although I have improved in the marathon over the last 3 years, I have slowed significantly in other distances.  I haven’t come close to my 10k PR of 37:31 that was set over 3 years ago and my half marathon PR of 1:26.34 seems unfathomable these days.

I’ve been scrolling back in my Instagram to see how I trained to get these times and the only significant and noticeable difference is that every run posted had an average pace of 7:10 – 7:30. Anything higher would have been considered slow.  NOTE** I only ran 3 times a week like I do now and did Crossfit and other forms of cross training on the other days.   If you just run everyday then YES…make sure you have easy runs.  For me, having the 3 days of running be key workouts was very important.  When I took the leap of faith into marathon training, the miles took priority of the quality and I drifted away from those key workouts.  However, I DID bring back some of these key workouts in the month before Boston this past year.  To save my hip from the miles, I decided to make my mid-distance run more of a shorter tempo run and found that my overall paces started to improve.  Instead of running 10 miles at an easy pace, I would do 5 or 6 miles at 7:00-7:20 pace (including warmup and cooldown) and I felt much stronger going into a 10k a couple weeks before Boston and then again IN Boston.

Another big difference was my final preparation before these shorter distance races.  I took the half marathon VERY seriously because at the time it WAS far for me and it WAS a big deal.  I tapered in the week leading up to every half and took extra rest days in the days prior to the race.  Ever since I started marthoning, I started to treat half marathons and 10ks difrerently.  I’ve developed a mindset of “It’s just a half so I don’t need to rest or taper.”  Every half marathon that I have run in the last three years, I have trained hard up until a day or two before the race and went into it as a workout or tune up.  Yes – a half marathon may seem short compared to the marathon but it is STILL 13 miles and if I want to run it fast and maintain a sub 7 pace, my legs need to be rested and ready to do so.  If I am not going to give my legs this rest then no matter how fit or well-trained I am, I will not get the times I used to when I tapered and prepared properly for the race.

As I start to draft some summer goals, I am planning to adopt some of my old training styles. I want to hit the track more frequently, include more tempo runs, and scale back my longs runs before I need to amp them up toward the end of August for my fall marathons. I want to have some goal 10ks and half marathons that I take seriously and taper properly.  August and September will be filled with miles so while I am free from a set schedule, I want to focus on having fun, building strength and pushing myself when I lace up.  And of course…I want to listen to my body and learn to chill out when the warning signs are being fired.

This can be especially hard in the summer because I have more free time..translation…more time to spend jumping into different workouts.  I love to workout in the morning and have the most energy at that time of day but when 4pm rolls around, I get another wave of energy.  I usually want to use this 4pm energy to get in an additional workout or a short run but I have learned through experience that if I make two-a-days a daily thing, my body will give me the overtraining warning signs.  I need to tackle the summer mindfully and make sure that I don’t go into ‘crazy mode’.

Here’s to a summer of enjoying the sun and time with family and friends, embracing the hot workouts, stepping up my speed work game and learning from my past whether it be from 3 months ago or from 3 years ago!

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“The past if your lesson, the present is your gift and the future is your motivation.”

Big Sur International Marathon 2017 Race Recap (Boston2BigSur)

Big Sur International Marathon and the final half of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge!

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If you know you are not going to finish this novel of a recap…at least read the last three paragraphs.

All I have to say is WOW. This weekend, this race and this place are absolutely incredible.  The second we landed, I knew I had made the right decision to come.  I was a nervous wreck the week leading up to the race.  Was I rested enough? Should I run? Should I just stretch? Should I do mobility? I questioned everything.  Once we landed in California and made our way to Monterey, the nerves subsided and the excitement kicked in.

My mom and I arrived in San Francisco late Thursday night and made our way to Monterey the following morning. We made a pit stop in San Jose to do some Cryotherapy in an amazing facility…I tried to get my mom to do a session but apparently being enclosed in a cylinder of extreme cold doesn’t sound appealing to some people. Haha.

In Monterey, we stayed in the Casa Munras hotel and I highly suggest this place to anyone planning on doing Big Sur. It is beautiful, spacious and has the cutest patio and restaurant area.  We immediately hit the pool for a little sun and relaxation before heading to the expo.  The expo was only a half mile walk which is another bonus to the hotel.  The expo was small and low key which is obviously drastically different than the elbow-throwing trek through the Boston Marathon expo…and helps my bank account.

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On Saturday morning, I went for a morning shakeout run.  I headed in the direction of the expo but really had no route mapped out.  I ran past the expo and found myself on a bike path that lead to the water.  The views literally stopped me in my tracks.  I didn’t want to run too long but I also didn’t want to stop running.  I couldn’t wait to take it all in on race day and just let the views fuel my race.

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The rest of the day was relaxing and low-key.  I sat by the pool for a bit and then did my foam roll/stretching business in the fitness center so I could keep busy without getting too much sun.  We were then off to an early dinner, I got in a solid Normatec session and then it was bed…2:45am was going to come very quick!

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Flat Mel and Real Mel were ready!

Race morning started at 2:45 am with enough time to make coffee, pack my breakfast and get out the door for the 4am bus departure.  The bus was completely dark and it was hard to believe it was morning and we were about the run a marathon.

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My fancy $11 Old Navy that I bought the day before was way to comfy to throw-away so I checked it instead. 

I ate my bagel on the bus (2 ½ hours before race time..getting better at this fueling business with a little help from Bethany #nochiaseeds) and chatted with the girl next to be who was from Turkey!  We arrived at 5am and walked through a wooded pathway to the ‘athlete’s village’ where their bagels, coffee, water and bananas.  I was worried about the whole sitting outside in the semi-chilly weather for a whole hour and a half but with good conversation with those around me, the time flew by and before I knew it, I was making my way to the start.  The marathon portion of the event is not very large (400-500) so there were no waves or corrals, we just went right to the start line and staggered ourselves based on approximate finishing time.  Even the start line was beautiful and we weren’t even in site of the water yet!

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Miles 1-6:  These miles are where I get the most nervous.  You don’t want to NOT feel good this early on so you are hyper-focused on everything.  I was running with the 3:25 pace group but decided to slow and let them pass because I really needed to focus on running MY race.  I wanted zero expectations and I didn’t want to be squeezed in a crowd of runners while I trying to take in the scenery. There were a good amount of runners wearing their Boston shirt and became a good conversation starter which made the first 3 miles pass by quickly.  I was enjoying the conversation for a while but was ready to stop wasting energy and wanted to listen to my music and tune everything out.

Mile 7-9: I have to say, these are sometimes the hardest miles for me.  You’ve been running for under/over an hour so your body is starting to feel it a…bit but you also still have AWHILE to go. My outer hip/IT band was giving me some mild discomfort so bits of doubt were beginning to seep in and I had to just keep warding them off.

Mile 10-12:  I pulled the ultimate rookie move…or maybe it’s a veteran move…or maybe just a careless move.  I did not look at the course map/elevation prior to the race.  I heard rumors of some Hurricane Point hill but didn’t think much of it.  Well friends, it is NO JOKE. You just keep going up.  At this point the 21 milers were in the race and there were a lot of walkers and continued to be a good mix of runners and walker from this point forward.  It made for a lot of dodging and going around people but it also gave me comfort.  If I ended up having to do the whole ‘walk/run’ thing then at least it would look normal and I would have plenty of people to walk with.

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Miles 13: DONE! The climb was over and we were making our way down…not for long though.  That halfway point is such a milestone for me.  I have raced many half marathons on tired legs or having raced a 10k the day before so I always tell myself that my legs don’t feel any better than that time I raced ______ half marathon.  Making this mental note really helps me fight through the middle portion of the race.

Mile 14-20: This segment felt similar to Boston and was surprisingly a mentally strong point.  I began to feel confident in my ability to finish and I just focused on chipping away at each mile. I wasn’t clocking amazing splits but I felt strong and had that gut feeling that no matter what happens, I’ll still be able to stick it out. Have I mentioned that the views were amazing?!?

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Mile 20 – 24: I really do love mile 20.  YOU ARE SO CLOSE.  I said those exact words to some woman who was running next to me when we passed the mile marker.  She grinned and said that it was her first marathon.  How exciting! I asked if she was trying to BQ and she said that it was a dream of hers.  Her qualifying time was 3:35 and we were well on track for that.  I don’t know why, but I was just SO excited for her.  I wanted to push her to the finish line.. even though she probably felt stronger than I did. Haha.  Regardless, it strangely gave me a sense of purpose.  I made it a point to stay with her and even at one point she saw me trailing back a bit and told me to stick with her.  I knew right then that we had to work as a team and I wasn’t going to let her go. The few downhills in this portion were just what we needed to keep the finishing momentum strong.

Mile 25-26.2: I thought the minor incline at the end of Chicago was cruel….but this was just nasty.  I may have let out some profanity and big huffs and puffs.  The guy next to me just laughed in agreement..more publicly appropriate.  We stayed together and fought hard up the hill and when the finish line was in sight, he turned and said, “Let’s go!”….and that is exactly what I did.  I had a strong finishing kick and from that point on I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.

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I made my way to Boston 2 Big Sur tent where we were treated like VIP with the jackets, food, beer and just great hospitality.

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I didn’t want to leave and have it be officially over but I was getting a cold and the hotel pool and blue skies were calling my name.  After a couple hours by the pool and a delicious lunch and ice cream trip downtown, my mom and I made our way to San Francisco to rest up for an early flight.

It’s all over now – Boston 2 Big Sur Marathon Challenge is complete. I started training for Boston 2 Big Sur in NOVEMBER.  Not hardcore training, but started working with a coach, transitioned to running every day and no CrossFit.  Since then, it has been an INSANE ride.   Injuries led to over-cross training, exhaustion and the combination just brought me to a really low point.  I was physically fighting hard..too hard..but mentally I was angry, sad and wanted so badly to give up.  I HAD to change my mindset.  I HAD to gain control over my training and my mental state of mind if I had any shot of making it to Boston. I HAD to stop being angry and genuinely believe there was a reason for this and the underlying reason will ultimately make me stronger.

..and it did.  I clocked my slowest marathon time at Big Sur and Boston was not much faster but not a single part of me was disappointed.  Finishing one race, let alone BOTH, was the greatest accomplishment.  I finished both Boston and Big Sur with the BIGGEST smile on my face and so proud of myself.

9 months ago I finished San Francisco marathon in TEARS.  I was so eager for a PR, started off too fast and blew up at mile 16.  I still ran faster than both of these marathons but the experiences was completely different.  Chicago was a better experiences but that 3:13 time inflated my ego a bit and all I could think about was chasing another PR.

Maybe I needed to be humbled.  Maybe I needed to a reminder that finishing a marathon is an amazing accomplishment.  An accomplishment that I could not FATHOM achieving 3 years ago.  Maybe my mental game needed to be strengthened. Whatever the reason may be, this training cycle did all of those. I learned to run with my heart, ignore the doubts and just live and train in the moment.  After Chicago, I tried to conform to the way others train and this cycle was a reminder that I am different than others and I need to embrace my strength and versatility.

Lastly, I need to thank my amazing Mom who did her best to keep me optimistic throughout the last 4 months.  When I lost hope, she gave me that little bit that I needed to keep going.  Of course, I was jealous when she was going out for long runs and I was headed to the pool but I was so proud and excited for her.  I wanted to run Boston for many reasons, but to share the experiences with her was probably the top reason.  She supported my decision to do Big Sur, agreed to come with me and set up the plane tickets last minute.   Big Sur Marathon weekend may have been the best marathon weekend thus far.  It was only 4 days but it was an amazing 4 days.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THAT YOU DO.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I CHERISH OUR RACE-CATIONS!

Boston Marathon 2017 Recap

“Limitations only exist if you let them”

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I GET to write this blog post.  Being able to type this title was something that I wasn’t sure I would get the opportunity to do.  Not only do I get to type those words but I get to post a finish line picture!  My heart is so full and I feel so blessed.  I not only ran the Boston Marathon but I felt GOOD.  If you were to tell me back in January or even the day before the race that the only real pain I would feel in the Boston Marathon was a scorching sun burn on my back..I would have laughed in your face.  This does not mean I am free from all labrum issues but this goes to show that my dreams will not be crushed from it.

The emotions during marathon weekend were a snapshot of the emotions throughout this entire training cycle.  A nonstop rotation between moments of extreme excitement and moments of fear.  Up until race day, my hip was tight and tender and there were moments my knee ached.  I’ve done enough marathons to know that taper pains are a real thing and they are SO mental but I still can’t seem to use this knowledge to keep me sane and panic-free.

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My mom and I drove into Boston Saturday morning to pick up our bibs and do all the expo things…aka…spend lots of money and rationalize the purchases by saying IT’S THE BOSTON MARATHON.  We met up with Bethany and I was finally able to meet the lovely Sarah (@lesky27).  I can see why Bethany and her became instant running buddies and great friends, she is so sweet and upbeat.  Just one of those people that can lift your spirits without even trying!  After a lovely day in Boston, we headed home only to be hit with a friendly reminder that marathon hydration and traffic are the WORST combination.

Easter Sunday was pretty low key.  Shakeout run, foam rolled, stretched, laid in the 80 degree weather for just enough time to bronze my skin so it wouldn’t blind all the spectators 😉  We had a nice pasta dinner at my parent’s house and then relaxed for the remaining of the night.

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Turkey, Beet, Avocado and Spinach Panini with Sweet Potatoe Chips and Nuun…love me some pre-race carbssss

Race Morning

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Just like last year, there is a local bus that departs at 6am and shuttles all the local runners to Hopkinton and then picks us up in Boston.  It was already in the 60s when heading to the bus at 530am so I knew we were in for a hot day.   I wouldn’t say I love running in the heat but I am a warm weather person and would MUCH rather heat over cold and rain so the temps didn’t concern me much. My mind was fixated on that super tight hip that kept messing with my confidence.  When I reached Hopkinton, I wandered around the athletes village soaking everything in and eventually found Bethany, Katie and Sarah who helped ease my nerves.  Our squad grew when we ran into a few other Instagram friends!

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The Race

I will recap the race by sections but to be honest, this race was so consistent.  When I think back, I just see myself chipping away at the miles.  Not pushing, not holding back, but just relaxed, consistent…and burning the entire time.

Miles 1-9: Truly unforgettable because Katie, Sarah, Bethany, Kristen (@mamabear_runs_marathons) and I ran in a pack.  The power of a running pack or even with a running buddy during a marathon is indescribable.  Looking in front and to the sides and seeing 4 strong women, all whom arrived in Boston with different training, setbacks and goals but running strong and consistent is an amazing feeling.  It makes you want to fight for them and not for yourself. Running is an individual sport but if you let it become a team sport, it can be so inspiring and a fun experience.  I didn’t anticipate our squad of 5 to stay together for the entire race but I knew I was going to do everything I physically could to keep cruising with them.

Mile 10-13:  Bethany, Sarah and Katie may have a different take on what happened at this point (haha sorry!) but I will tell my viewpoint.  One of my best friend’s sister said she would be cheering close to Natick center which is around mile 10 so apparently after a water stop I started getting excited to see a familiar face in the crowd and sped up because when I turned around, I could only see Kristen.  So here I am on the course, trying to look side to side to spot my friend but then whipping around to find the other girls all while trying to actually run a decent pace and breathe.  I tried to slow a bit but didn’t want to slow too much because this was the time to clock some decent miles before the hills hit and the pace would DEFINITELY slow.

Mile 14 – I WAS THE HAPPIEST PERSON WHEN I FELT BETHANY AND SARAH ON MY LEFT SHOULDER!!!! Yes!!  This was all I wanted.  I didn’t want to pull a last year Boston when I took off on them and that same guilt was starting to surface so seeing them put me at ease……and then Bethany had to tie her shoe!! haha. Those dang Adidas Boost shoelaces.

Mile 15-18 – I lost Bethany and Sarah and was hoping mile 14 would repeat itself and they would come up behind me and we would run step for step for the rest of the race but that never happened. womp womp.  I was really starting to burn up and the sun was beaming down on me.  Every water stop consisted of gatorade, water for drinking and water for my face.  I had friends that were supposed to be at mile 18 so that was all I could focus on.  I just needed to get to mile 18 and then I would get that surge of energy that comes when you see a familiar face in the crowds.  Mile 18 finally came and I searched high and low for my friends.

Mile 19 – Hmmmm…maybe they had their mile markers mistaken and were at mile 19.  Still no friends but miles move quickly when you are on the search for people in the crowds so that was a bonus.

Mile 20-22 – Oh Heartbreak Hill.  You are bittersweet. You are hard but when you are over, you provide an overwhelming sense of relief and energy.

Mile 22-25 – Seriously questioning whether I am on fire at this point.  The sun on my back was painfully strong.  Of course I would rather a sunburn over cramped legs but darn this was going to be one nasty burn.  I was beginning to fade from sheer heat exhaustion.  I had to remind myself that at this point last year, I felt equally as exhausted, if not worse.  This is not unfamiliar territory and it will pass.  These are the moments of grit and the moments that you often can’t remember when the race is over because you were just so tired.  I didn’t want to not remember these final miles.  I kept reminding myself to stay alert and try to embrace everything.  Don’t wish for it to be over because as soon as it is, I know I am going to wish I could relive these moments despite how painful they are.

Mile 25 – 26.2 – Just like the sign that someone was holding early on in the race..’Just keep running, just keep running’ . And then it happened….HEREFORD.  I was spacing off and didn’t expect it so it was a VERY NICE surprise to say the least. This point last year was a total blur and I regret that so much.  The fact that I couldn’t remember the best part of the race killed me so this time around, I promised myself to take it all in.  Yes, Boylston is LONG.  You see the finish and you can’t help but be like “ughthat’s far..” but I tried my hardest to look left, look right, look up and just take it all in.  To my surprise, my legs had that last bit of juice left to kick it in and finish with the biggest smile and hands in the air..exactly the way I wanted to finish.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I ran hobbled into some Intagram friends, and then spotted Sarah and Bethany! We didn’t finish as a squad but we held strong for a while and I was just so happy to be able to re-connect…almost as if we were together the whole time.  In the process of trying to locate my Dad, Sarah casually got ENGAGED!!!! I met Sarah 48 hours prior and here I am hugging her mom and screaming.

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The face you make when you consumed WAY too much Gu and Gatorade due to the heat.

I couldn’t celebrate for too long because I had to get back to the finish line to cheer on my Mom.  My dad had her splits and she was on track to finish well below what she thought she would (as always!!)

We weren’t able to catch her before the finish line but we spotted her in the finishers shoot.  At this point I completely embarrassed myself by jumping on the railings and screaming “MOM”….because no one other than my mom goes by Mom, right??  We finally caught her attention meanwhile those around me are deaf…and celebrated the race with a nice long walk to bus to grab our stuff and then to my dad’s car.  Nothing like a far walk to the car only to realize that we went wrong way at some point because we were standing above the car with no way to get down but retrace our steps and take a different route. Imagine having to tell 2 females who just ran a marathon that we have to turn around.. my poor dad.. but he is the best person ever and you can’t really stay mad at him for long.

We finally made it the car and I had the ride home to reflect on everything…and eat the biggest salad in an attempt to tame my stomach from all the Gatorade and GUs.

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I was so relieved and just so happy.  Relieved that the race I have been stressing about for months was over and a success.  Happy because I fought hard and finished equally as strong as those who had great training cycles.  I say that not in a bragging manner but to prove that we all have obstacles and setbacks and although they feel debilitating at the time and make you constantly question your ability to perform – come race day, it is anyone’s race.  I am not going to lie, this race was in my favor seeing as I spent January doing hot yoga instead of running and in the end the ability to perform in the heat was the ultimate task.  The point I am trying to make is that a setback or even multiple setbacks don’t always dictate the result of the race.  There are so many factors involved.  Your weakness on race day may be someone else’s strength and your strength may be someone else’s weakness.  Take the cards your dealt, swallow your pride and run with your heart.  Sometimes that is the best racing strategy.

Boston, you were exhilarating as always.  I am beyond grateful I got to run your streets again, finish strong and healthy enough to make my way to the start line of Big Sur!

 

I Can and I Will

I Can and I Will….my mantra over the last couple months that I’ve used to pull me out of my defeated days or when those negative thoughts crept in during runs.

But here I am! 9 days out from the Boston Marathon.  I almost don’t want to write this post because I am so close to making it to the start line that I envisioned every day I was stuck in the pool in January…I just want to put myself in a bubble from now until April 17th.

In November, I bought the Lauren Fleshman Believe journal as a way of pumping myself for the changes I was making to better my running.  I decided to hire a coach and take my training to the next level.  I wanted to stay dedicated to tracking not only my miles but the shoes I wore and the way the runs felt.  I was doing a pretty good job staying faithful to the journaling process…. until I was hit with my knee and then hip injury at the end of December.  Dealing with an injury is hard enough.. having to open a notebook just to write about how bad the run was or filling in 0s for mileage was just plain brutal.  Now that I am feeling good and have come SO far since January, I had an urge to want to go back and track my training on paper. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to recall exact details so I just printed out a blank calendar and filled in strictly mileage and anything I could remember about the run.  I actually have pretty vivid memories from many of my runs (maybe it is because I only run 3 days a week haha..not too much to remember).  I opened up my Garmin App was ready to fill in the calendars February – April only to see this…

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I obviously knew my milage increased as my injury was getting better but seeing the progress right in front of me hit me with a wave of happiness and pride. It hasn’t been easy but I am so glad I stuck with it.  There were many days in the course of these 3 months where I felt defeated.  Felt like the fight was pointless.  “Why am I doing this for a 3-4 hour race?”  This question crossed my mind on every single one of my defeated days.  I am not sure I ever came up with a concrete/logical answer.  But then again, runners are not very logical.  But we are fighters.  We fight through pain and then sign up to do it again.  We push ourselves to limits we never thought were possible.  Why? Because when we fight that fight and come out on the other side, the feeling is euphoric.  The tears we cry when we are injured and the unnecessary stress we endure are not pleasant.  Marathon training is just like the race – the struggle and pain is real and it hurts.. but we know that if we can keep fighting for a little longer, we will get there and the personal victory will be sweeter than ever.

If you read my blog, you know that I don’t use the conventional marathon training plan that most have.  So I guess it is only natural that this training cycle decided to go off track leaving me to crank out those long runs in a short amount of time.  Thankfully, this is not unknown territory.  My first marathon training went a little something like this..14, 16, 18, 15, 21, TAPER…something you would NEVER see in a book about training for a first marathon haha.  I’ll let the pictures below take you through the last couple months,  the chipping away at long runs with each passing week and the amazing women on my running team that are always there to keep me company.

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First long run 2/17/17
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14 miles 2/26/17
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16 miles 3/5/17
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18 miles 3/12/17
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New Bedford Half Marathon 3/19/2017
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21 Miles 3/25/2017

There are lots of smiling happening in these pictures because finishing the run I feared all week each week is such great feeling.  Despite the smiles, not all runs felt great.  The prolotherapy helped my hip A TON and I was able to make significant progress but I had runs where I could feel my hip or sometimes I even felt my OTHER hip due to compensation.  Those bad runs always got the best of me and I would worry that I was digressing but then I’d have a good run and be on cloud 9.  The phrase, ‘roller coaster of emotions’ was DEFINITELY me.  I did everything I could to reign it in most days.  The 21 miler after New Bedford Half marathon defintely beat me up mentally and physically.  I had to really take a step back and plan out the taper.  If I was going to end this cycle strong, I had to have faith in the completed long runs and take the taper weeks seriously.  I decided to make my runs a bit shorter but increase speed.  Quality over quantity.

I definitely played it right because these progression/tempo runs were actually really fun, empowering and just what my body needed.  I have a 10k race tomorrow that I will treat as a final tune up run and then it is just short shake outs, stretching and yoga!

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Nama(stay) healthy, strong and confident in these final 9 days!

The journey is not over yet!

To Grow You Must Struggle

“Strength and growth can come only from continuous effort and struggle.”

I came across this quote and could not agree with it more.  Struggling stinks and it hurts but it is the key to being a better version of your present self.  I usually think of struggle as those workouts that just take everything out of you and you need to fight extra hard to finish it out..and you’re usually throwing in curse words.  But right now, the struggle isn’t a workout, it is accepting the unknown future of Boston 2 Big Sur and placing my continuous effort elsewhere; the struggle is not having a plan; the struggle is mental.

 I spent the first half of January having the biggest pity party and being a grumpy persona and version of myself that I really don’t like..and I am sure those around me don’t particularly enjoy it either. That has finally changed –  I am embracing the lack of schedule and having fun with all the things I can do and all the strength I can gain from this setback. Spin class..sure why not!!! Swimming..sure this could be fun! I have freedom to try a bunch of new cross training activities in addition to crossfit (granted they don’t irritate the hip).

I am not a typical runner in the sense that I do so much more than run. My passion is spread out across Crossfit, running and yoga.  This can be exceptionally hard when marathon training and trying to balance everything but it is tremendously helpful when I have running setbacks or lulls.   When I am training for a marathon, I yearn to get back to Crossfit and lift heavy. I get so frustrated having to scale workouts so that my running isn’t affected.  I always say, “As soon as this marathon is done, I am focusing JUST on Crossfit and I am going to see how strong I can get!”…but then I finish a marathon and that marathon high has me leaping to my laptop and signing up for another.  And the cycle continues…..training begins, Crossfit is scaled and the words “after this marathon..” come out knowing darn well that my post marathon high will most likely prevail.  Well, here I am, for the time being I can only do crossfit and cross training so why not capitalize on this opportunity to finally focus on all my Crossfit weaknesses.  But of course, the psyche has a tendency to fixate on all the things the body can’t do.  You always want what you can’t have.  Well I am taking what I can have and running going with it. I’ve been getting in the pool and loving the random workouts I have been doing.  I have been embracing every Crossfit workout and giving it 110%.  I have improved my form on different movements.  I have come to peace with what may or may not happen in the Spring and just reminding myself that comebacks can be pretty darn sweet and almost worth the setback.

Let’s flashback to 2014.  

I focused more on counting macros, losing weight, body building, HIIT cardio workouts and did little running.  I sometimes like to pretend this stage of my life never happened but sometimes I am glad it did.  It serves as a constant reminder of  how you can be so blind to how out of control you are being.  So maybe my abs look pretty nice in this picture, my quality of life was the opposite  I stressed out about food, workouts and the reflection in the mirror.  Spending time out was less about the people around me and more about how my abs would look after.  ANYWAY…despite little running I managed a 1:29 half marathon at the Disney Princess Marathon. (Feb. 2014)

imageI got increasingly focused on running and decided that maybe I wanted to do a summer marathon.  I signed up for the 2014 San Francisco Marathon in July but did not get far into training before I was hit with a knee injury.  I pushed off going to the doctors which was not wise because I found out from PT that it was just a result of tight quads and within 2 visits I was able to hit the roads pain free….but had only 2 weeks until the marathon! haha..

San Fran Finish

At the expo I made a last minute decision to drop the half.  Part of me wanted to see what I was capable of but pushed my ego aside and realized that a first marathon is very special and I did not want it to be a crawl across the finish line.  It was the best decision because I had so much fun running those San Fran hills and was pretty darn sore after 13.1! Around this time, my boyfriend urged me to start crossfit so I embarked on my running and crossfit journey in the summer of 2014.  I had a phenomenal fall….I was loving crossfit and clocked some crazy half marathon times…and some nice checks! 1:26, 1:27 and 1:29 in a span of 45 days.

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Hartford Half Marathon 1:26
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Newburyport Half Marathon – 1:27
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Monson Memorial Half Marathon – 1:29
I took a bit of a break from running due to a mild injury and spent the rest of 2014 and the start of 2015 focusing on Crossfit. My mom and I had the Disney Princess Challenge in February so I did my best to incorporate as much running as I could while treating my injury. It all worked out and I made it to Disney injury free and had such a fun Winter competing in my first Crossfit (in-house) Open.  The warmer weather and watching the Boston Marathon got me back on the running grind and I decided to try again with this whole marathon business.  I registered for the 2015 San Franciso marathon.  This time I walked into the expo with no doubts and a solid training base.

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This Picture. This Day. This Race – THAT SMILE.  It was the best 26.2 I have ever run. I can honestly say that my first marathon was the best race of my life.  I have never felt more proud of myself. 2014 wasn’t my time and I am glad I didn’t force it.  I waited it out. Embraced the half marathon distance a little longer and came back when it was my time.

Maybe 2017 Boston 2 Big Sur isn’t my time. Maybe I have to wait it out.  But I can do big things in the meantime…and when it is my time…it will be fricken awesome.

So maybe I had an Instagram story of me in my MRI gown…whatever. Let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on the fact that the last two Crossfit workouts that I did were repeats of previous workouts to see my growth and where I am at. On Thursday I did one from 2 months ago and today I did one from when I took part in the 2015 Crossfit Open (scaled). I crushed my previous time/reps in both.  Each time I get in the pool, I am swimming longer, doing more sprints and getting acclimated with the sport.  I am seeing growth but most importantly, I am having fun.  I can’t always say those words when I am marathon training.

On the food and health front….I am obsessed with 3 things at the moment.  Vital Proteins, Kombucha and Bonafide Bone Broth.

Every morning before 6am crossfit, I blend up a scoop of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, a teaspoon of ghee, almond milk and coffee.

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It is foamy, delicious and gives me the perfect amount of nutrients and fuel to hold me over.  After crossfit is mayhem – I am getting ready for work in 5 minutes and only have time to inhale a banana and some hard boiled eggs/egg whites.

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If I do have time to actually have sold breakfast after crossfit…aka Saturday. I have been boiling up almond milk and blending it with cacao powder and Vital Proteins (I choose the collagen with Whey for post workout).  Tastes like hot chocolate and goes perfect with a rice cake with almond butter and chopped banana!

Kombucha….I actually love it and find it thirst quenching even though some will disagree entirely.  Last night I had a wild Friday night and stopped into Whole Foods.  It got even more wild when I passed a sample booth that had Kombucha…alcoholic Kombucha. He gave me two samples and then I got carded when I bought my two bottle…I told you it was wild night! 😉  If you are not a fan of regular Kombucha, there is something extra delicious about the alcoholic ones and surprisingly the sugar is only 4g for the entire bottle so the better taste isn’t coming from added sugars.

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Lastly, bone broth has been happening frequently around here.  It is another drink that is interesting and the taste may turn some people away but I like the savory component to it and will usually drink it with a vegetable stir fry to add some protein to my meal.  I also like to add turmeric and pepper for added benefits.  My favorite brand is Bonafide Bone Broth which can be found in the frozen section of Whole Foods.

Well that just about sums everything up! I am happy to be happy again and out of my little injury rut!…don’t forget…

“Often times it is the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self”

An Imperfect Runner

Can I just write another 2016 recap!?!? That would be so much more enjoyable than writing about my current life/running situation.

Oh well, life isn’t always PRs, great races, stellar training runs and good times.  If that was all I wrote about then I wouldn’t be a genuine blogger and I certainly would’t be the type of blog that I, personally, enjoy reading.  Some of my favorite bloggers and blog posts/instragram posts are from people who are authentic and talk about it ALL. They share about how they cope with an injury or other hardships, they talk about things that go wrong and they are not afraid to reveal their weaknesses.  These are the type of blogs I gravitate to because they are relatable and inspiring.  It either helps me stay opptimisic and less lonely when I am going through an injury or it makes me realize how lucky and grateful I should feel when I am healthy.

So where am I at right now?  Well, everyday seems to be different and I am just trying to figure out what is right for me at the moment.  I took this past week off (Sunday, January 1st – Saturday, January 7th).  A couple posts ago, I talked about how much I hate resting and need to do better with it but every once in a while, my mind and body connect and I realize, WOW I really need a break and then boom, just like that, I am ready to take a week off and just focus on my workload.  This happened last Saturday for me.  My vacation was coming to an end and I realized that I didn’t get much done in terms of housework and classwork.  I spent most of my vacation doing rehab, cross training and just stressing.  With only 2 more days left of vacation, I decided to just do the things I put off, not stress/think about my injury and and kick off a great rest week.  It was hard to watch everyone post about their FIRST RUN OF THE NEW YEAR, but I also knew that what I was doing was what I needed…and its always nice sleep in, get work done and prepare for school to start back up again.  The week off flew by and before I knew it, it was Friday.  I planned to do a short comeback run on Saturday morning to see how things were feeling.  I was very nervous because I knew that it could result in very frustrating self if, after a week off, I was still battling the same pain.  At the same time, I was mentally prepared for that risk/frustration and decided that if things didn’t work out then I would come to terms with Boston training being put on the back burner and just go back to the things I love and can do pain free.

Saturday rolled around and I set out for my run.  My goal was to just think and run as if it were like any other run and I wasn’t battling any aches and pains.  I felt great for the first mile..YAY! Mile 2 hit and I was still feeling pretty good but my hip flexor was more present than it was in the beginning.  Around 2.5, I could feel it more and more.  I decided to just call it at 3 because I am not about to fall back into the hole that I just spent a week trying to climb out of.

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It never reached a level of pain but I could feel it, so I guess there are positives and negatives to this run.  I ended may run and went right to Crossfit to do some mobility work and upper body.  But really, I just needed advice from my Crossfit coach …she always helps me sort out my thoughts/feelings/decisions.  I talked to her about my frustration and my desire to just break away from the running and just focus on Crossfit and hot yoga until I can feel my hip flexor improving.  As crazy at is sounds, that is always how I have dealt with aches and pains in past marathon cycles.  If something bothered me, I would cut 1 of the 3 weekly runs and do Crossfit in place of my run with some extra rowing/endurance work.  I made sure to not hinder the healing process by being cautious and alert when doing movements and steered clear from movements that triggered some discomfort.  The joy of Crossfit is that there are so many movements.  It is easy to modify a workout to cater to your body.  Ideally, you want to do the prescribed movements or modify a movement but keep the targeted body part the same.  But sometimes you just need to change the movement all together and that is OK. Sometimes it is just a matter of not doing the prescribed weight but keeping the movement the same.  With a great group of Crossfit coaches and 3 years under my belt, I can listen to my body and make the necessary adjustments. Despite having a not-so- perfect hip flexor (my Yoga teacher once told me to never talk badly about a muscle..I laughed but strangely adopted the motto!) , there are SO many things I can do pain free and I haven’t come across a Crossfit movement that irritates it yet. I don’t want to sit out and just focus on what I can’t do, when there is so much I can do.

What I am trying to express is that I need to stay happy, healthy  and active while I wait for my hip to feel better.  I do not want to be on a bike for hours feeling like a handicapped runner.  I want to do the things that I love and can still do!

At this point in the injury and training, I need to put myself in a good place because right now I am too negative and overwhelmed and that is not the way I want to be.  I was far too upset on Thursday evening because during school I decided to put on my knee compression sleeve (I bought and wore on the 2 runs back from my knee pain)  and within an hour of wearing it around my classroom, my hip flexor flared up…JUST WALKING AROUND MY CLASSROOM.  I now know what originally caused my hip flexor pain and can eliminate the root problem which is a step in the right direction.  But to have my hip flexor flare up from just walking around and after 4 days off really bothered me.  I went to my evening class and decided to catch up on filling in my Lauren Fleshman BELIEVE training journal (while listening to the professor, of course!). After filling in a week of cross training and rest while sitting with a bothered hip flexor and then flipping to a Check-In page…you bet it all just flowed right out.

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Let me just say, I am not depressed and you should not be worried about me! It was just one of those moments where everything bottles up and you hit that point where you need to let it all out.  I try always try my best to stay calm and positive when I am stressed about things and keep my feelings to myself because I know there is so much more to life than the little things I am stressing about.  I don’t want to be someone that lets running/working out rule their life..but keeping emotions to yourself usually means you have moments where you need to break.  I had a little of that on paper on Thursday night and then again yesterday after having a long talk with my Crossfit coach.  I had to just let it all out and when I was done, I felt like I was ready to change things around.  Sometimes you just got to hit that breaking point so you can see and realize the need for change.  When I was upset yesterday, I reminded myself of the type of runner I am.  I am an imperfect runner.  Sometimes I show up to start lines undertrained, sometimes I show up overtrained – sometimes I want to race, sometimes I am just ready to start and get it over with.  But no matter what, when that gun goes off..I am competitor. I run hard and I run to the best of my ability.

I needed to remind myself of this so I scrolled back in my Instagram and I came across my Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2014.

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I ran a 1:29 yet I barely ran in preparation for this race.  I was in a phase where I was focused on body building and figure competitions…a phase I like to pretend never happened!! I probably ran at most 6 miles leading up to this race but did a ton of HIIT work and lifting. I remember being SO nervous for this race because the half marathon distance was very long to me at the time and I had never run a half under-trained.  It was a HARD race. I remember feeling horrible around mile 8/9 but just fighting so darn hard and finishing so proud of myself.   I have run faster half times since this race but in the last year (and more), I have run about 5 half marathons and have not run faster than 1:30 despite being well-trained and being in the midst of marathon training.

No matter what my training has looked like, I am athlete. I work hard to keep my body healthy and strong.  I am a fighter in races and am capable of solid times despite an irregular training schedule.  I have said this in SO many previous blog posts and my Crossfit coach summed it up perfectly yesterday during our little heart-to-heart.  When I design my own training cycles, like for the last 5 marathons, they are not flawless.  I have moments where I just feel overtrained and my body screams at me but it is simply my body’s way of saying, “Hey, just chill for a day, the muscles need a little bit of a break so that something seriously bad doesn’t happen.”…so I listen, back off for a couple days and then regroup.  I haven’t had a serious injury in all my training cycles, have made it to the start line of every marathon and have consistently chipped away at new PRs.

So anyone can look at my previous training cycles and judge them.  They are not your typical marathon training cycles but I am not your typical runner.  That is totally fine with me.  Maybe I’ll never break sub 3… but I refuse to say that my style of training won’t allow for that.  Maybe my road to Boston 2 Big Sur is not ideal.  Maybe the vision I had for a training cycle changes for uncontrollable reasons. No matter what happens, I don’t want to lose the balance.  I don’t want to lose sight of the things I truly love.  And I certainly don’t want to feel like I am not capable of racing strong despite the obstacles and imperfections in my training.

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 BE YOU, DO YOU!