A Look Back at 2017!

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“HERE WE GO 2017! Embrace the good times and let the bad times run their course so you can be a better and stronger athlete and person!”

This was the closing line of  my 2016 recap and it is frightening how this single line perfectly sums up 2017.  I DID embrace every single good moment there were a lot of them, I DID let the bad times run their course at times I thought the course was never ending and the combination of lows and highs made me a more humbled, reflective and stronger person than I was a year ago when I over-zealously wrote my 2016 recap about all my new PRs.

A year ago I was writing my 2016 recap while nursing a minor knee/IT band injury.  I remember being discouraged and upset but I was not prepared for what the rest of January had in store for me.  January sucked. 

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8 total miles

My knee injury manifested into a hip injury which then led to a mild labral tear diagnosis..a diagnosis that I let tear me down and defeat me.  I fought hard through Boston training (with the help of 4 prolotherapy injections) but mentally, I was the weakest I have ever been in a training cycle.  I felt limited and defined by the diagnosis and could not seem to get it out of my head.  In hindsight, I truly believe much of the discomfort was more in my head than in my hip.

The only time my mind felt at peace while running was halfway through the Boston Marathon when I was finally able to say to myself for the first time in 2017…“I AM GOING TO CROSS THE BOSTON FINISH LINE..I CAN FINALLY STOP WORRYING”.

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My body felt strong and pain free and my heart felt so happy. I was finally here and doing well.  Every single run before Boston was a worry-fest.  I overanalyzed every run, every ache and the constant obsession of how my body felt was more mentally exhausting than physically.

On the bus ride home from Boston I just starred out the window trying to process the last 4 months.  How do you have 4 months worth of frustrating runs (as short as 2 miles) and then a great 26.2 miles?? I didn’t have the answers but the one thing that kept coming up was that maybe my own fears were what held me back.

I was still registered for Big Sur for the Boston2Big Sur Challenge but held off buying my flight until after Boston.  Honestly, I stopped thinking about Big Sur altogether and convinced myself that there was no way I could make it happen.  Well 42 hours after Boston, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen with legs that felt pretty good and a mindset that was ready to stop letting fear win so my mom and I bought the damn tickets to California 11 days before the race.

I bought a Momentum bracelet in preparation for the race that said “Limitations only exist if you let them” and wore it the entire time I was in California.  I needed the constant reminder anytime my mind started to wander toward that negative place.  Big Sur was probably the most uncomfortable marathon and my legs were still pretty trashed from Boston but it still managed to make its way to the top of my marathon list!

 

I took time off after Big Sur to reset.  When I started back up again at the end of May, I was only doing short runs, daily strength training and more yoga.  I spent most of May and June just doing the things I love.  I raced shorter distances and had zero structure in my training.

July was an awkward month where I wanted to keep doing my own thing but also knew that if I was going to race Chicago, I needed to start adding more structure to my training.  I let the process happen organically and just added a longer warm up and cool down to my Thursday night 5ks and tacked on some additional Sunday miles.

August rolled around and training was amping up.  I used some of the creativity that I had in July for my August long runs.  I found local Sunday 5ks that I would run to, race and then run home or do a cool down with someone I knew at the race  This definitely made the long runs more fun and the mid-run 5k was a good reminder that my legs have the ability to speed up at mile 16 when given the chance.

At the end of August, I met with a hip specialist in Boston who focused on female athletes.   My hip wasn’t bothering me, but I still needed answers and closure to my injury.  She did a lot of movement tests, looked at my MRI and asked questions.  She said that labral tears are very common in females and many women are walking around with a labral tear and have absolutely no pain or are totally unaware of it.  Basically, just because it shows up on a MRI does not mean that it JUST happened or is the root cause of hip discomfort.  She said,  “If you were able to run two marathons in two weeks without pain, I don’t think this was a result of the minor labral tear in your MRI.”…I needed this.  I had very little hip discomfort going into the appointment so she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what my issue was in January was but we narrowed it down to maybe a small muscle pull or tendonitis. It may not seem like I left the appointment with much but mentally, I left with the closure I needed. 

September was the highest mileage week of the year.  My training for Chicago had peaked and was starting to calm down.  The race was getting close and the nerves were picking up but I knew this training cycle was very solid and my confidence was where it needed to be.

The 31 days in October can/will be summed up in two days…Chicago Marathon weekend.

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As I reflect on that weekend, I can’t help but smile.  I was a completely different person than I was during Boston Marathon weekend..I was confident and fearless.  Instead of being scared of race day pain, I was welcoming it.  I knew I would feel pain because I was ready and willing to push the boundaries to see what I was capable of doing.  I really felt like I was in PR shape and I STILL feel like I was in PR shape.  Unfortunately, I left Chicago with sun-kissed skin rather than a PR.  There were a couple days after the race where I would get down and frustrated with the outcome and the weather.  I found myself saying “damn you 2017 why are you out to get me”…but 2017 wasn’t out to get me.  It was just making me work a little harder.  It’s prepping me to be a better athlete in the long term. 

I kicked off November with the New York City Marathon!

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I would say that NYC marathons was THE BEST but I feel like I have said that after every marathon in 2017.  So this will be my segue into reflecting on 2017 and the year of 4 incredible marathons that, according to all my past race recaps, were all the best.

I do not recommend running 4 marathons in a year, especially when the year started off with a month-long injury.  There were many moments in 2017 where I said to myself, “GIRL WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”…but..right or wrong…I would do it all over again.  Those 4 weekends were some of the best weekends of the year and I covered 104.8 miles on foot through the streets of Boston, Big Sur, Chicago and NYC. I shared the road with some of my favorite Instagram friends and I learned so much about myself in the final the 24 miles that made up the last 6 of each one of those marathons.

I don’t regret my choice to run 4 marathons at all but sometimes I think I ran them as a BIG FU to my January. I ran them to prove to myself that I could.  I ran them to prove to others that I could.  I ran them because I could and I remember when I was stuck in a pool because I couldn’t. In my constant attempt to prove that I could, I sometimes outran my love of running.

When December rolled around, the thought of training for Boston caused my face to scrunch up in utter disgust.  I told myself that I would start training when I felt ready and if I never felt ready then I would drop Boston and push training back to my fall marathon (California International Marathon in December).  I ran my bucket list marathons in 2017 and I want 2018 to be more focused and goal oriented.  No more just running for fun to prove that I can simply because I lost confidence in my ability after my injury.

I am still pretty undecided but that itch and fire to train again is coming back.  The other day I chose to go do mile repeats in 10 degrees for no reason…that may be a sign.  If I chose to begin training soon, I want to tackle this cycle differently.  I want to set short term goals that will eventually lead me to Boston.  I don’t want to eat, sleep and breathe Boston for the next 4 months.  I want to focus on smaller races/goals and gradually build up with the ultimate goal of having a successful marathon performance.

Thank you 2017 for proving to me that success isn’t linear and life doesn’t always go as planned but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be worthwhile and wonderful.  There were moments that felt like rock bottom running related and due to the loss of a very special person and it was hard not to say WHY ME in those moments.  But I always eventually discovered the why.  Because I may have needed a reminder to stop and cherish the people I do have.  I needed to learn when to be patient and when to be resilient.  I needed to learn when to be selfish and when to be selfless.   I needed a year of learning and thankfully (I can say that now), that is exactly what I got.  I am packing up and taking all the lessons learned in 2017 with me into 2018 and putting them to use!

2018…let’s do this! You have nothing to prove…just be fearless, be confident and dream big

“Make your vision be so clear that your dreams become irrelevant.”

2017 New York City Marathon Race Recap

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Pure Happiness

I was on the fence about running the New York City marathon after Chicago but I went with it.. shocker…I just couldn’t turn down a Friday evening with a best friend from college who I haven’t seen for far too long and a 26.2 block party through New York City.

I posted on Facebook about my decision (or lack there of )and received a variety of responses but one in particular stood out…”Do what makes you happy.”….Running through the streets of beautiful cities makes me happy.  Traveling for races makes me happy.  Connecting with friends from Instagram makes me happy.  Catching up with old friends makes me happy. Running makes me happy.  The smile in the picture says it all.  Pure and genuine happiness and gratitude.

Over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about different goals and the directions I want to head as 2018 approaches.  I wanted to run NYC as a way of closing this marathon chapter (for now) with a bucket list race.

Race Weekend

I stayed with my friend from college on Friday night and did a Saturday morning shakeout run around Rye, New York while she went to grab us bagels and smoothies because she is the absolute best.  We dropped my car off at the train station and she drove me right into the city.  I hated saying goodbye because I could spend forever catching up with her and because I was not ready to tackle this giant city by myself! 

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The first thing I had to do at the expo was get my transportation to the start line figured out because I just assumed I could casually walk to Bryant park and jump on the bus like it was no big thing.  Nope.  I guess with 50,000 runners, it is more organized than that.  The lady at the runner support desk was amazing and assured me that I was not the only lunatic to mess this up.  She also commented on my predicted time..I think I put 3:10. I quickly and humbly replied that I must have been in a good/confident mood when I filled that out because that was not going to happen.  I mentioned that I was still recovering from Chicago.  She was so excited because she is currently deciding between Chicago and NYC next fall and her goal is to get a PR so she wanted to know which course would help her get that PR so we exchanged contact info so I could report back to her. (I told her Chicago if anyone else in the same boat!)

Race Morning

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A 4:45 wake-up for a 9:50 race is always scary because you have to figure out fueling and you have 5 lovely hours to spend with your nerves.  I brought a bag and had all intentions of checking it but was running late when I arrived to the athletes village so had to ditch it on the lawn.  RIP my wonderful Gap sweats, my chapstick and my $4 Erin Condren black pen…whoever ends up with my bag, please know that you have an amazing pen for grading papers and the most fashionable pair of sweatpants!

When I travel for big races, I don’t worry too much about getting to the start line because I know the second I walk out of the hotel, there are crowds of people walking in the same direction… and only on race morning is it 100% normal to fully trust strangers at 5am.  Well, NYC marathon is different…know where you are going because you can’t trust strangers.  People are staying ALL OVER THE CITY and taking different forms of transportation (bus, Uber, ferry) so there are not a ton of crowds walking in the same direction.

The bus line was VERY LONG…and the bus ride was even LONGER…GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU GET ON.  It is comical now thinking about all 30 of us sitting on the bus trying to keep our composure but are dying on inside because we have to pee so bad. The athletes village was within a quarter mile of us for a good 45 minutes but we couldn’t get off the bus until we were right in front of the drop off. Brutal. Now picture all 30 people sprinting off the bus… some rushing right to bag check so they could get to the bathroom sooner… and some throwing their dignity and class out the window and sprinting to any bush they could find.   I won’t tell you what group I was in but if you know me well enough you don’t have to think too hard.  READ: bathroom > dignity

By the time I got through bag check, it was already 8:45.  I had my bagel and banana on the bus around 6:45 and was hungry again so I jogged over to the athletes village, snagged a bagel from the Dunkin Donuts booth and shoved it in my mouth as I made my way to my corral for the last call.  Yes. Last call was at 9 for a 9:50 start.  We sat in our corral for about 15 minutes before we had to walk to the start line.  I met a ton of great women and we filled the time by creating a female barricade so we could all go to the bathroom one last time before the race went off. #girlpower #menhaveitsoeasy #thebeautyofrunning

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The gun finally went off and it was time to see what the next 3 hours had in store for me.  The race started off with a climb over the Verrazano Bridge. Based on all the blogs I read, a big piece of advice was to NOT go out too hard on the climb…and trust me I didn’t. I took my sweet time and just got comfortable with the pace.  The first mile ticked away at 8:27.   I was a bit shocked and thought to myself, I am either going to negative split the heck out of the race or I am going to rock a personal worst.  Mile 2 was 7:16 and now confirmed that neither of those two options were going to happen.  And that right there is pretty symbolic of how the entire race went.  I would have thoughts like ‘oh no! my calf feels tight and it is still early on’ and then 10 minutes later I totally forgot about it.  But of ALL the concerns I had, my left hamstring was NEVER one of them.  YupTHE HAMSTRING THAT ALMOST KEPT ME OUT OF THE RACE WAS NEVER 1 OF THE 4593 CONCERNS THAT CROSSED MY MIND OVER 26.2 MILES.  I sure am happy it was never a real issue but it really makes me question my sanity!

I stayed pretty consistent around the 7:30s and felt stronger than I had anticipated.  The first 10k passed by quickly and I really settled in and found a solid groove.  Whenever I had moments of doubt or negative thoughts creep in, I just told myself to make it to mile 16 where my parents were located.  It was the best mental strategy because rather than counting down from 26.2, I counted down from mile 16 and it was much more manageable.  I hit mile 16, ran down the Queensboro Bridge, rounded the corner onto First Ave and immediately saw them.  It lit me up and gave me so much energy!

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The next benchmark in the race was mile 19 because I knew I had a friend cheering on the Brooklyn Bridge.  She is just an Instagram friend but I knew she would be cheering her head off and her bubbly personality would be just what I needed…and sure enough, it was. I used her energy to power me through 19.  The infamous mile 20 approached and this is where things always get interesting.  This is where people randomly grab their cramped up leg or their face turns to pure agony rather than the usual mile 20 struggle face. After 9 marathons, you would think I’d be used to this part but I am not…it always breaks my heart even though I know they are fine and just experiencing a cramp.

I certainly wasn’t hitting the wall but my legs were getting that weird feeling like they could cramp at any point but were also still willing to grind out the final 6 miles.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is where it is SUPPOSED to hurt.  This where you embrace it, you keep fighting and like Deena Kastor said on a podcast I listened to the night before the race, this is where you DEFINE YOURSELF.  

We headed toward Central Park at mile 23 and although the end felt so close, there were still 3 more miles.  Mile 24 was definitely the most challenging mile with the gradual incline but my mental game was pretty strong because I knew my legs would hold up and I just needed to be able to fight through the pain.  I crossed at 3:22:22 and although it was slower than I had anticipated, I was so happy!   I got a little choked up because the day was just perfect.  Strong running, perfect weather and I really embraced every moment on there.

I had about 2 seconds to celebrate by myself before I realized that I had no idea where my parents were or how far away I was from my hotel and checkout was in an hour…even after spending $50 for late checkout!

Only in NYC do you JOG back to your hotel after a marathon.  City of nonstop rushing.  Thankfully, the front desk gave me an extra 30 minutes so I had the luxury of taking a shower while my parents questioned how they birthed such a messy human helped clean my room and pack my stuff.

We made it out with 15 minutes to spare and stopped for a celebratory meal and mimosa on our way to Grand Central.

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Fact – mimosas taste better after a marathon

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\So now what…

9 marathons completed over last 3 years, 3 of the World Majors and 4 in 2017.  There are so many more I would love to do but it is time to take a break from the distance.  The training is the easy part.  The maintenance, the recovery and the stress are the hardest parts.  I am proud of my accomplishments this year but there is no doubt that I have hit a plateau.  I could blame the heat in all my goal races this year but I am not going down that route.  The truth is, I have become a timid and fearful runner.  It may be due to the injury in the winter or the fact that the marathon is a slower and more conservative race.  It is a long distance and the idea of not finishing is always a possibility.  Before the marathon, I was very competitive in the half marathon distance.  I would still get those pre-race nerves but was never fearful of failing.  I want to go back to those those shorter distances where I trained hard but didn’t worry too much about mileage.  I pushed myself in all my workouts whether is be running workouts or strength training.  I wasn’t  worrying/training cautiously because of a 20 miler coming up or some big long run.  The 13-14 mile long runs were manageable and allowed me to be a faster and more diverse runner.  Plain and simple…I didn’t worry as much and that allowed me to push myself to become stronger and faster without getting minor injuries/setbacks.

I don’t have any concrete goals for the rest of 2017 or 2018 but I do want to find that fire and speed again.  To be completely honest, I think I’ve lingered around the marathon distance for so long because it is easier for me.  It sounds crazy but it is true.  The pain in a marathon is not nearly as painful as the pain in a 5k, 10k or half.  Yes, I am aware that this probably means I am not running it properly or hard enough but I will fine tune those things later down the road.  Right now, I want to have fun with my training, build strength and find some of the speed that I have lost.  Having a blank schedule and training plain and no upcoming races is the most refreshing feeling at the moment!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

To Run or Not to Run – NYC Marathon

I was scrolling through the internet looking for a picture that captures the current relationship between my legs and my brain.

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Yup.

Legs –  “PLEASE! NO MORE MARATHONS IN 2017. “

Mind – “OH BUT IT IS NYC MARATHON! YOU CAN’T TURN THIS DOWN!”

..also Mind – “Be smart!!!

…anddd also Mind – “Ugh that line so irritating. What IS smart.”

If you couldn’t tell from the snippet of inner dialogue that is nonstop over here, the decision to run NYC was not as easy as deciding to run Big Sur.  I have gone back and forth everyday since Chicago.  Just when I accepted the idea that NYC may not be in the cards for this year because recovery has been rough…I had a pretty good run that changed my entire mindset.  

The rough recovery after Chicago started almost immediately.  I was nauseous all afternoon after the race and my back and feet were killing.  The soreness in my legs hadn’t started yet but my back was immediately jacked up to the point where any sneeze, cough or burp would result in the most horrific/ugly pain face in public.

I continued to use my Normatec boots after walking around the city and was hoping to wake up with decent legs. Nope. My quads were destroyed.  We had an early flight and were home by 10am so I attempted a trip to the grocery store.

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This child and I had very similar experiences.

I spent the week foam rolling, getting deep tissue massages and just hoping and wishing for the soreness to be gone.  I wasn’t sore for very long after Boston and Big Sur so by day 4 of soreness I was like WHAT IS GOING ON!

I attempted a light strength training session on Saturday and felt confident that Sunday would be the day I attempt my first short run.  I slept in and was taking my sweet time making it out the door…until my Mom called asking me to bring something to the race that she was timing.  Naturally, my first reaction was, I might as well just jump into the 5k seeing as I will be there, it is supporting a great cause and my shakeout run was only going to be 3 miles anyway.  I headed to the start line and made my way to the back with all the young kids.  Do my legs remember how to do this???

In the first 5 minutes, I could feel that high hamstring ache that I thought I had put to rest back in September.  I ignored it because I pretty much knew this run wasn’t going to be pleasant from the second I put my sneakers on and because this ache has reared its annoying face many times before.  I finished that race and knew that my legs were not ready for more running yet so the following week I swam and did strength classes at Train for Life.  I tried out the new hybrid strength class for the first time on the Monday after the race.  It was not one of my best decisions because the soreness set in almost instantly.  The knots in my quads and hamstrings that I had spent the previous week working out had knotted back up.  Such a vicious cycle…..but I did like the class!!

Long story short, I tried to run a couple more times in the following week and they were all very slow and uncomfortable.  I went into the third week post Chicago ready to take NYC off the table.  I had set Tuesday’s run as the deciding factor but my legs were tired before I even got out the door from heavy strength sessions over the weekend.  Even though my heart was telling me to just call it, I gave myself ONE more attempt.  I took Wednesday completely off to give my tired legs some extra recovery and made Thursday’s run the real test.  I woke up Thursday to pouring rain which made me laugh at how much of a sign this all was.  I felt like the signs were SCREAMING at me and I was like ..

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I set out in the rain just waiting for it to feel terrible.  I was at the point where it seemed easier to have a crappy run, pull out from the race and move on. Simple as that. No more stress. But to my surprise – actually I am not surprised that everything became more complicated – the run was enjoyable and I felt pretty strong and bada** running in the rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to finally feel a little like myself again, but this meant that NYC was now fair game after spending a good amount of time wrapping my head around my decision to bail on it.

My optimism for NYC grew more on Sunday after a solid 9 mile run along the Cape Cod Marathon course while my friend ran her FIRST MARATHON!  The run felt pretty good and I had minimal ache in my high hamstring after.  I ran another few miles this past week and it felt even better than all my other decent runs.  The race is 3 days away and as of now, I am following my usual taper week schedule, still have my hotel room booked and my travel plans are becoming more detailed and concrete.  But if you were to ask me if I am running NYC, I am likely to respond, “Ohhhhh I dunnoooooo.”  I am pretty sure you could text me the morning of the race as I am heading to start line and my response will be the same.  I am not indecisive at all. No way. Not me.

I am a pretty superstitious person which makes blogging before a race very nerve-racking.   I am always afraid I am going to jinx myself the second I post it.  This post has been sitting in my drafts since Monday.  SO…I am going to end this blog post saying that I am excited, nervous and happy for what is in store for whatever I do this weekend.  I want to explore New York City on foot, feel the amazing energy from the crowd and meet up with college friends.  I have zero expectations and just hope to have a solid marathon.  NYC has always been on my bucket list for years and I was fortunate enough to have run a half marathon time in 2016 that guaranteed me a number for 2017 NYC Marathon.   I do not have a 2018 guaranteed entry time so I will not be eligible for NYC next year.

This opportunity is something I can’t seem to pass up.   I have spent the last few weeks really listening to my body and listening to the signs it has been giving.  I have been trying to decipher between typical tired marathon legs and a brewing injury.  Not an easy task EVER but especially difficult now because I am simultaneously tapering…and we all know taper pains are vicious and real/not actually real.  I did my best to take care of myself and ditch any running ‘plan’ after Chicago so I could focus on recovery.  Prepared or not, we all go into races blind and unsure of how it is going to unfold so here is to another race where all I can do is hope for the best!

It has been 3 great years focusing on the marathon and falling in love with the distance but I think 2018 will be a year of shorter distances and different goals.  I look back at some of my 10k and half marathon PRs and can’t fathom cranking out those times.  I want to prove to myself in 2018 that those times are possible again.  I can’t think of a better way to close put a bookmark in this marathon chapter of my running career than on the streets of New York City.

…but I am registered for Boston 2018 so if I DO follow through with that then disregard that last paragraph 😉

 

Mobility Monday

I can’t help but start this post with an ECard that is quite possibly the most inaccurate description of myself…

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If you know me or coach at any of the gyms that I train at, you KNOW and either hate or admire (thankfully my current wonderful coaches are the latter)  that I spend an obnoxious amount of time stretching, twisting my body in all sorts of disturbing shapes and jamming lacrosse balls in every crevice of my body.  I like to think that I look like some graceful yogi on the cover of Yoga Journal..

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But then I take picture of myself…

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…and laugh at how far off my vision is from reality.

Over the summer, I contemplated starting weekly ‘Mobility Monday’ blog posts that touched on mobility and recovery.  Each week would focus on a specific recovery tool or mobility movements that target specific body parts.  I am not a professional with this stuff but my list of daily stretches (from yoga moves to PT stretches) is a mile long and I have enough recovery tools to start my own physical therapy business out of our guest bedroom.

I didn’t end up going through with the Mobility Monday idea because I feared I would get too busy and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Monday blog posts and because I am not a professional haha.  But here I am on a Monday wanting to get a blog post up so I might as well tap into my drafts and post a little Mobility Monday.

“Started from the bottom now we here” 

I doubt Drake was talking about foot care, but he has got a point!  It all starts in OUR feet.  Tight calves? Tight Hamstrings?…the tightness could be contributed to tight feet!

For being intelligent and hard working individuals – runners have a tendency to put blinders on and fixate on the exact spot they feel an ache or pain when in reality, it all may stem from other areas.

We explode off our feet over hundreds of times in a run yet the second we hit the foam roller we gravitate toward the hammies, IT band and quads.  Don’t get me wrong, those are all super important areas to take care of but DON’T NEGLECT THE FEET.

Now some of you may be saying, “Well I don’t have plantar fasciitis so why do I need to put myself through the agony of a stiff lacrosse ball rolling over my tender feet?” …well, releasing your feet is far more than preventing/rehabing plantar fasciitis.  Stimulating your feet releases and stimulates other areas of the body.   

If you are not familiar with reflexology, it is the idea that one part of the body relates to another part of the body.  Reflex points on your hands, feet, face and ears are points on the body that correspond to different body organs and systems.  Applying pressure to various reflex points can have many beneficial impacts on overall health and tightness. (all learned from being an annoying acunpunture patient that doesn’t relax and just asks a ton of questions)

I will not dig too far into the research but if you have ever been to or talked to an experienced acupuncturist, you will notice that they don’t take all their needles and simply stick them into you hamstring just because you tell them you have a tight hamstring.  You will often find needles in and around your feet, hand and wrist as well as other meridians that are associated with your specific complaint.

I will admit, when I first went to my acupuncturist for some high hamstring pain a year ago, I was a bit annoyed that he didn’t poke my high hamstring with a ton of needles. There is that intense runner personality and stubbornness.  However, I vividly remember him placing a needle in a area between my ankle and foot and all of a sudden, there was this pressure in my glute area. It was eye opening to see the relationship.  I had to pick his brain after the appointment because this idea of channels and meridians was so intriguing and would shed some light on recovery and other steps for taking care of my body aside from being glued to a foam roller.

So now that you have a general sense of how important the feet are, lets talk about how we can stretch and release them.  Before I start, let me throw a quick pro and con at you.  The PRO – it is fairly easy and can be done while your brushing your teeth, watching TV or simply having a conversation in the kitchen.  The CON – it is not the most comfortable feeling in the world…hehe (blog version of a devilish laugh).

Toe Squat – Tuck your toes and just sit back onto your heals.  Try to hold this for 2-3 minutes.  It will definitely take time to train your feet to make it through 2-3 minutes and some days are more challenging then others.  Take breaks in those 2-3 minutes by rolling onto the tops of your feet.

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Lacrosse/Tennis/Acumobility Ball – I just roll a lacrosse ball or Acumobility ball (in photos) all over my feet and focus on tender areas and the arches.  I used a racquetball to do this in a Yin Yoga class and the instructor told the class to pretend the ball was a crayon and you were drawing all over the bottom of your feet.  It seemed like a strange analogy but it actually does make perfect sense.

I can assure you that the feeling is as glamorous as my post marathon feet.

Well that is all I got for Mobility Monday! I have no real education on this topic.  I am just a girl that attempts to be graceful in yoga but my runner hips don’t lie so I watch YouTube/Instagram mobility videos and pick the brains of different professionals that do work on me 🙂

Get your mobility game on!  In an attempt to get my tired Chicago legs ready for NYC, I need all the mobility I can get!

 

2017 Chicago Marathon Recap – Failure is Not Always the Opposite of Success

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Can you feel like you succeeded but also failed at the same time? 

..because I am pretty sure that is exactly how I feel about Chicago.

My mindset was the strongest part of the entire race. I never let negative thoughts take over and constantly reminded myself of the infamous Kara Goucher line, “Once you make the decision to not fail, your heart and body will follow.”  When my energy levels hit the wall, my mind stayed determined and focused.  I knew my PR pace was fading at mile 17 but I repetitively reminded myself that I wasn’t failing, I was learning. I was learning how to keep the pace strong when the goal was no longer part of the plan. I put my head down and chipped away at each mile and fed my mind all the confidence it needed.

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I didn’t fail at Chicago.  But I didn’t succeed.  I had my eyes set on a PR and this vision was new to me.  In all my past marathons, I just ran because I love the distance.  In my first 3 marathons, I was still so new to 26.2 miles and I was still exploring the territory.  I gradually let down my guards with each marathon resulting in consistently faster times and constant PRs.  I threw 2016 San Francisco Marathon spontaneously into the mix as my fourth marathon.  Although I wanted to attempt sub 3:15, I didn’t have much expectations because it was such a spur of the moment race.  I ended up taking a risk and started with the 3:15 pacers only to find myself diving head first into the wall at mile 18.  The problem wasn’t necessarily my legs inability to tackle the hills but my mind’s inability to stay composed when this scary feeling of complete fatigue took over.  I was experiencing the exact feeling I feared when I first started tackling this distance.  I lost complete control of my emotions and just cried my way to the finish.

SF Marathon was an utter failure but once again, I had no expectations so it didn’t sting much.  I easily shook off the experience and began to prepare for Chicago 2016 in the fall.  Ultimately, Chicago was the big picture and San Francisco was like a practice run that served as a crash course on how to NOT react when you hit the wall.  I still made silly mistakes in Chicago 2016, but raced my way to a 3:13 PR.  I was ecstatic and SURPRISED.  Going into the race, I just wanted another attempt at sub 3:15 now that hills were no longer in the picture.

Then there was Boston and Big Sur.  I don’t need to elaborate on those two much because I have done enough of that.  Let’s just say that snagging a medal at the end was the only pressure I placed on myself so despite running two of my slowest marathons (other than my first), it was still a success.

Chicago 2017 was the first marathon that I truly went into with a vision and a hunger for success.  My mind was stronger than ever and I believed and still believe that my body was just as ready to PR.  I was just ready.  When the gun went off, I felt great.  Bethany and I were hitting consistent 7:25s for the first 3 miles and we slowly crept to 7:20s with a couple 7:13/15.  I was weary of the pace but I knew we were being smart and I genuinely felt solid.  At the halfway point, I felt my mind wander to negative places but I reeled it back in quickly because when I scanned my body, there were no signals of crashing.

I had a little incident with my fueling which is why I think my mind started going negative.  I stupidly only brought one gel with me to take at the first 10k mark and intended on using the gel on the course for the remaining 10k splits…however I failed to look at where the fuel would be located on the course and what it was. I would say that it was a “rookie move” but rookies don’t even do that!!!  I had the course and the water stations memorized going into my first marathon.

When mile 12 was approaching, I was not seeing any fuel stations.  I started to worry, consequently switching my focus from consistent pacing to scanning the crowd/road for a gel.  When I race, I need to be in the zone to be successful and when I get taken out of the zone mentally, it impacts my mindset and my performance a bit.

I finally spotted a fuel station and was immediately relieved….until i saw that it was…CHEWS! yuck! Oh well..this is what I get for being stupid.  I took down the chews more easily than I anticipated and my stomach didn’t react negatively so I was able to get right back into the zone by mile 14.

Around 14-15, Bethany started to creep up and although we try to stay together, I felt that my pace was perfect for me at that point.  I was clocking 7:20-7:25 and it was a pace completely driven by my body.  If I have learned anything in training over the last couple of years, it is listen to your body and be in tune with what it is telling you.  I could feel that it was telling me, “This pace is just right at this point in the race and pushing for someone else was not how to run a smart race.”  It is hard to watch someone go on without you but I reminded myself that 1.) I need to trust MY process.  Being smart will pay off in the end and maybe we can meet back up later in the race.  2.)  BETHANY IS A STRONG RUNNER AND DESERVES A PR SO GO GET IT GIRL!

Around mile 17 is when the heat started to get to me and I could tell my pace was slowing but just tried to stay consistent around 7:30-45.  I was taking in lots of Gatorade and pouring water over my head.  At this point, I knew I lost my PR opportunity but I wasn’t about to lose my mental control like at San Francisco.  I reminded myself of how I went into the race and my readiness to fight hard. Although my original intentions were to fight for a PR, I asked for this fight and now I got it. PR or not, I better get fighting.

I kept doing mental body scans, something I learned in Chi Running, and despite feeling pretty zapped from the heat, my body wasn’t in pain.  I was certainly capable of finishing it out as strong as possible.

Mile 22 -26 was an all out 7:50 grind.  I was grabbing oranges and popscicles melted sugar-water from spectators just to keep my blood sugar up.  I am very sure that Jordan Hassay and Galen Rupp weren’t just grabbing random goodies off the side of the street in Chinatown..aka…this strategy is not something you will find in ANY marathon fueling plan.  But when the heat hits, I just have to do whatever I feel is necessary during the race.  Passing out is something I really worry about so I throw my fueling strategy out the window and just become a savage for electrolytes and carbs.  My stomach starts to really hate me at this point but I just ignore it.  I wish the camera man would also ignore it because it becomes a bloated and not-so-photogenic mess by the end.  But I’ll take a stomach ache over an unconscious self in the medical tent.

I eventually hit the 1 mile left sign and just put my head down and did what I could.  Getting from the 800m marker to the 400m marker felt like the longest part of the race!  Then the finish was in sight and I just took off as much as I could.

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When I finished, my Garmin congratulated me by saying, FASTEST MARATHON – 3:12…for a split second my exhausted brain believed that silly thing but the math teacher in me kicked in shortly after and was like nope, that can’t be right.  Sure enough, my mom texted me my time and a wave of disappointment passed through.  I met up with Bethany who ended up being within 45 seconds of me for the majority of the race and we hashed it all out.

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After spending the afternoon with her, I felt like the day was a success.  I posted about it being a success because my mental game was so strong despite all the unplanned/unfortunate factors that could have pulled it down. I felt more in tune with my racing body than ever before.  The consistent and fast splits in the first half felt good and although the heat caused me to slip, I still felt strong and solid.  I walked back to my hotel room feeling proud and happy.

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I don’t know what caused this all to change as the day progressed.  Maybe finding out that there were a lot of people who did snag a PR made me feel like the heat wasn’t an excuse.  Maybe I really did execute the race poorly despite feeling so strong.  The post race nausea made my body feel so bad and I think that drove my mind into a negative spiral.  I replayed the day over in my head and tried to dig to the bottom of this weird change in feeling.  How could I feel so successful earlier in the day and now the exact opposite?

Ultimately, I realized that this was the first marathon that I truly went into with an expectation.  I showed up confident and ready to push the boundary.  It may sound crazy that I have never set a goal for myself in all my previous 7 marathons but it is true.  I woke up Sunday morning feeling more than just READY…I was excited, scared, motivated, determined and hungry for success.

In the middle of the race I was thinking about confidence and what it means.  As a competitor, confidence is needed to push outside of your comfort zone and fight for a risky goal….but sometimes confidence is the reason you have to fight.  When you don’t have a challenging goal then the race isn’t as hard, the struggle isn’t as painful and the end result doesn’t weigh too heavy on your heart.

Maybe I went into the race over-confident and now I am dealing with the post-race sting of not meeting my expectations.  Falling short of something you want flat out stinks…but I am realizing now that my mindset and execution of the race, as risky as it was, is a sign that I am growing confident in my ability to take risks in this distance.  I am developing more concrete goals.  I am proud of how eager I was to get to the start and lay it all on the line.

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Reflecting on Chicago Training

 

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My Chicago Marathon mantra

My motto for Boston was “I can and I will” because simply finishing was something I doubted and I needed that constant reminder that I could and I would. 2 weeks later in Big Sur, my mottosniftd to “limitations only exist if you let them”… I spent so much time worrying for Boston but when I arrived and the gun went off, my worries faded and I was able to just run because I made it to the start line and ultimately that was all I wanted. Sometimes our greatest limitations are absent fears that our brain has created.

Chicago training was probably one of the most solid and consistent training cycles that I have ever done. In July, I focused a lot on speed, track work and 5ks.

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I wasn’t ready to tackle the heavy mileage and did not want to rush into marathon training. I may have tackled speed a bit too aggressively because my high hamstring got annoyed. That was my cue to lay off the track and hit the roads to start some mileage training. I started slowly and really focused on being smart this cycle. My only possible regret this cycle is maybe taking a little TOO smart and cautious.

I established a solid base and my first 20 miler was late August, giving me plenty of time to throw in a couple weekends of different long runs before my final 21-miler that I usually do 3 weeks out. In th past, I would have just filled the awkward middle 2 weekends with more 18-20 but I decided to switch it up and try different workouts this time around. I jumped in the Charles River Marathon with Nicole (@girlrunseverywhere) for a fun workout that was a 3 mile warmup, 10k @ 7:09 and 8 mile cool down. I have never done that type of workout and it was actually very hard but fun to maintain a decent pae while recovering.

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Both of my 20 milers had a 5k embedded in the middle of the run and despite everything I would say about “not racing”, when that gun went off, I picked up pace and my competitive side revealed itself. I often times shocked myself with how my body was able to respond when the 5k started and all of sudden the 14 miles that were already logged didn’t seem to phase me.

This training cycle was also the first cycle where I didn’t do CrossFit and supplemented my running with a mix of large group circuit work and small group personal training. I joined a gym that offers both styles and bought a package that allows me to do small group 2 days and unlimited large group strength and metabolic condition classes. The small groups are designed based on my request and needs. I have incorporated a lot of glute and hip movements, core and stability work and one legged movements into these small group sessions. Some of the workouts are not as intense as some of those brutal 10 minute CrossFit WODs but I think it is exactly what I need if I want to try and balance strength and marathoning training.

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Not only is my body correcting itself from muscle imbalances but I am also not putting my body through the CrossFit lifts that used to really break me down and sideline me for a couple days because of overtraining.

This cycle has not only been the most consistent cycle, it was the first cycle where I did not have to take any unnecessary rest days becuase of accidentally pushing myself too hard. Everything pretty much went as planned no matter how many time I feared it wouldn’t.

I am going into tomorrow’s race excited but very curious to see how these changes will play out. I don’t know if I am more fit than I was last year when I ran my current PR because many variables are different.  My average paces have been 10-20 sec slower but my long runs had speed incorporated in them.

So what’s better?
Consistently faster paces but little variety in terms of speed workouts and long run tempo miles? CrossFit workouts that push me to my limit but then leave me feeling overtrained at times? (Past cycles)
Or
Overall slower average paces but more runs that incorporate tempo and race pace? Strength workouts that are a mix of large group strength/ metabolic conditioning classes and less intense small group stability work? (This cycle)

I really don’t know and I wish I could say that I will find out tomorrow but we all know that there are many more variables that play into Marathon performance.

What I do know is that I am excited, confident and ready to run with every ounce of heart and determination!

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Goodbye 27!

Goodbye 27…here we go 28!

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Yikes! Already sounds frightening but I prefer even numbers over odd so I guess I have that going for me.

27 started off pretty awesome because my parents boought me Normatec Recovery boots for my birthday so my 26 year-old self was anxiously waiting for my birthday presents like my 6 year-old self.  I had Chicago marathon around the corner and wanted all the help/recovery I could get so September 26th couldn’t come soon enough.

This year, September 26th can come in slow motion because I am not ready for colder temps.  This 90 degree day has actually been the best birthday present!

In addition to kicking off last year’s birthday with some expensive fancy recovery boots, I also had a fabulous trip to Chicago and ran myself a nice and shiny PR.  I left Chicago with a medal, a PR and maybe a bit of an ego.

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I decided to find a coach and take my training to the next level.  So with my non-existent birthday money, I dropped Crossfit and put all my pennies toward someone who would draft up a training plan that ONLY involved running…not my typical style… but I still buckled in for the long road ahead of LOTS of running.  I scored a new 5k PR and my excitement of being coached and feeling super badass helped me get through the misery of running everyday and the jealousy felt when my friends talked about the 6am WOD.  Deep down, I knew this was not what I wanted but apparently being wise and smart wasn’t packaged up and given to me as a birthday present.

I eventually faced a little knee injury that at first, just bruised my ego and lessened my excitement for this whole ALL I DO IS RUN business but later manifested into a hip injury that left me feeling broke, useless and just plain sad.  I struggled a lot in the January/February time period and if you follow my blog/Instagram you probably are ready for me to GET OVER IT.

I try. I think I am.  I am 12 days out from Chicago and 40 days out from New York City so I will hit this topic at a later date because right now I am scared of jinxing myself by saying anything!

So I guess you could say that 27 was like riding one of those roller coasters at Six Flags – one that is scary, intense but manageable – when it ends, you look to your friend and say “Oh that wasn’t bad! Actually pretty fun”.  That was 27.  It was scary and sad during those times when I felt so broken and so defeated.

But I rode it out.  I made it to Boston.  I made it to Big Sur.  I learned some non-running related lessons.  I learned how to step back when you feel like you hit rock bottom and change your perspective.  Focus on the positive things and not the negative.  Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t.

Maybe I didn’t get ‘being wise’ as a 27th birthday present but I think I found it along the way.

I am pretty excited for 28.  I have a lot of things on my mind.  Things I want to do, things I want to share and things I want to try.  Right now my mind is fixated on a podcast and although it sounds crazy, intense and time-consuming…I know myself and I know that when I have a fire burning inside me, I will usually do it.

So here is a Goodbye to 27 and a Hello to 28!

Hello to all the amazing and memorable moments…

…..And hello to all the moments that will have me like…

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or like….  

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Things won’t be perfect but you just need to be patient and roll with it! 🙂