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! ūüėČ  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!

2016 #BESTNINE

 

Happy New Year!
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Accurate picture of what some of you may have looked like last night so don’t even laugh!¬†

After a not-so positive previous blog post, I am super¬†excited to get rolling on this one because it is the opposite of depressing and negative. ¬†2016 was amazing for SO many reasons and I can’t wait to share!

I discovered my love for marathon running in 2015 and was hoping it would not be just a 2015 thing. ¬†I am so fortunate and grateful that my passion for the distance not only carried over into 2016 but was taken to another level of competitiveness. ¬†Running the Boston Marathon has been a running goal that I have had for years. ¬†This year was the first time in 4 years that I was not glued to computer screen on Patriot’s day and was on the Boston roads running the incredible race. ¬†Finishing the race was an accomplishment in itself but setting a PR, having to fight through some rough conditions and seeing familiar faces in the crowds to pull me through those rough patches made it even more exceptional. ¬†I started the race in athletes village with Bethany and Katie and finished with a new PR, my parents at the finish line and word that my brother was the First American. ¬†It really doesn’t get much better than that.

So on Instagram¬†I saw people posting nine photos with the hashtag¬†#2016bestnine. ¬†I wasn’t sure how it¬†was generated so I took it into my own hands and generated one myself by scrolling back on¬†my Instagram and deciding on MY favorite 9 photos of the year and created a collage haha. ¬†I later found out that Instagram generates the best nine based on ‘Likes’ (that should have been¬†obvious since the IG world is all about LIKES) ūüėā. ¬†SO,¬†I will show you what the Instagram world views as my¬†best nine¬†and then¬†MY¬†best nine.¬†¬†It was actually cool to see both and how a photo that didn’t even cross my mind as a top actually had an impact on those around me.

INSTAGRAM BEST NINE

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Instagram, I would have to agree with you on most of these.  I am going to talk about the pictures Instagram chose as a top 9 that did not make it into my top 9.

The pre-marathon FLAT MEL¬†(middle 2)¬†–¬†I am not sure if I should take it personal that you prefer my outfits when they are¬†on hotel room floors rather than on my body ūüėā but I am just going to use those two pictures to justify all my clothing purchases because apparently they are helping me with my Instagram game! ¬†But seriously, I would have never picked my pre-race FLAT MEL pictures as my favorite but when they popped up on my #bestnine, I realized that Instagram has a point. ¬†One of the best parts of a marathon is that nervous but exciting feeling you have the night before a¬†race. The¬†moment¬†you lay out your pre-race outfit and fuel is a pretty special feeling – it is that final piece of preparation after months of hard work. ¬†It solidifies your readiness.

My first day of school picture (bottom left) –¬†(insert Mean Girls quote)…..”So you think I am pretty!” …Just Kidding.¬†Maybe the first day of school picture just means summer vacation has officially ended and that is a bitter moment so it did not make the cut as a favorite for that reason¬†but¬†I would¬†agree that the start of every new school year is special. ¬†I get the opportunity to make an impact on 70 new students. ¬†It is another year of students that push my buttons but ultimately teach me the importance of patience and help me better myself.

Thanksgiving 5k PR¬†(bottom middle) –¬†I did not chose this one because the 5k distance has really slipped down the list of interests over the last two years. ¬†However, I did write a sub-19 5k PR for 2017 goals so I really should have been more proud of this moment. ¬†More importantly, this was the first race¬†that I did under a coach. ¬†Granted we were only about 3 weeks in and just slowly building up, but it was nice to PR and see even just the 3 weeks of training pay off. ¬†It fueled me and made me feel like this coaching plan was the right decision and made me excited for the next 6 months with McKirdy Trained.

The Random 6¬†mile Night Run¬†(bottom right) – This one took me by absolute surprise. Maybe it’s the beautiful Saucony Kinvaras or maybe the reflection makes it look super insightful and reflective. ¬†Regardless, thank you Instagram for liking me at my best moments and liking me at my slow and steady moments!

 MY BEST NINE!!!!!

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I will save the¬†THREE that overlap for the end because they overlap for a reason…they are so close to my heart¬†and hold so much value!

Disney Princess¬†Challenge¬†(top left)-¬†I do not know why you Instgramers did not chose this¬†one!! Come on, our skirts are so darn cute!!!! Disney will always be at the top of my list because it is week of spending time with my Mom, doing what we love, running around the parks like kids again and relaxing by the pool. ¬†Unfortunately, we are not doing the challenge in 2017 due to Boston 2 Big Sur expenses…and my dad HAD to buy¬†a new mini van just as we were thinking of jumping the gun and making a spur of the moment last minute trip ūüėā! ¬†There is no doubt that I will become a little depressed come February when @runDisney posts a ton of pictures but I know we will have a wonderful trip to Big Sur and she is running Boston!!!

Crossfit Competition¬†(top middle)-¬†I knew this wouldn’t be an Instagram favorite because not many runners are into Crossfit but it was for me. ¬†Not necessarily the competition itself but what Crossfit has brought into my life. ¬†I have gained lifelong friends through Crossfit and it has always been that place I can go when I need a break from running. My coach is incredible – she yells at me,¬†she pushes me¬†but lets me have a melt down on her shoulder when you have¬†those moments in training when you’re overwhelmed, overtired and everything is hard. ¬†There is no doubt that sometimes I fail at balancing Crossfit and running and that can hinder my performances in both arenas but overall, I think each sport makes me stronger in the other. ¬†I have been taking a break from Crossfit workouts to focus on Boston 2 Big Sur but I still go to the box to do my running strength exercises and just to annoy my friends while¬†they workout. ūüėČ. I also chose this photo because I see strength. ¬†I will never look like the¬†elite runners. ¬†That is not my body type. But that is OK because¬†I know that my strength is what helps me prevail in races and makes me an all-around athlete rather than just a runner.

Union College 5 Year Reunion¬†(top right)¬†–¬†My 4 years at¬†college were some of the greatest years of my life. ¬†I still have moments when I get down and miss those 4 years. ¬†I miss having my best friends live right down the hall. ¬†I miss when life was just about learning. ¬†I miss my lacrosse career. Oh man, I miss a lot about my collegiate career, I am tearing up typing this. ¬†BUT, life is about growing and growing is what I have done. ¬†Going back for my 5 year reunion was refreshing. ¬†There is nothing better than being reunited with some of my best friends and living the college life for 48 hours. ¬†After 5 years of growing up, adulting and learning to love just curling up with a good book or a good movie on a Friday night, 48 hours of college was¬†all I could handle! ¬†Union College is¬†my roots and gave me the greatest things in life – an education, unforgettable¬†memories and the most amazing group of friends.

18 Ithaca Summer Miles¬†(bottom left)-¬†Ithaca runs are always memorable because they are beautiful and¬†so¬†challenging. ¬†This particular run was just beautiful and less challenging as usual. ¬†I remember the miles just passing by as I took in the scenery. ¬†Later that day, I had to drive to Buffalo for one of my best friend’s wedding. ¬†A day full of friends, family and beautiful runs is always memorable.

The Stud¬†–¬†Oh yes, can’t forget about that stud on the left ūüėé I’ll keep this short – you make life fun, you keep me calm when running makes me anxious, you may not always understand my passion for running but you try and your lack of passion for running keeps me grounded. Boy, you¬†are the the yin to my yang.

My Mom’s 2016 Marathon (bottom right) –¬†MY 61 YEAR OLD¬†MOM¬†QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON!! She is incredible. ¬†I don’t even care that I shared her age because it is¬†nothing¬†to be ashamed of. ¬†She accomplishes more than most people half¬†her age can accomplish. ¬†She has been raking in age group cash money ever since she hit the 60 year old age categoryūüėŹ! ¬†For a brief moment, I was going to do this marathon but it was so close after Boston and I had a Crossfit Competition planned the day before. ¬†I decided last minute to do the half despite¬†being super sore from the competition. ¬†The half was¬†rough and as soon as I was done, I jumped in the car and went to cheer on my mom. ¬†When I saw her at mile 20, I only planned on running a few minutes with her but when she saw me she said, “Your staying with me until the end right?” ūüė≥ …how in the world do you say no to that. ¬†My legs would have to be falling off before I say no to helping my mom finish a marathon. ¬†She was tired, miserable and a tad bit cranky (as anyone would be at mile 20) so I let her air out all her crankiness and negative comments when I tried to push her. ¬†It was probably one of the best 6 miles I have ever run because you can’t NOT¬†laugh at the craziness people say in the final 6 miles of a marathon. ¬†“I THINK I AM ON TRACK TO¬†QUALIFY FOR BOSTON!”…2 minutes later¬†..”UGH I DON’T EVEN WANT TO QUALIFY FOR BOSTON, I DON’T EVEN CARE!”…2 minutes later (looks at her watch)…“I THINK I CAN QUALIFY FOR BOSTON!”….Yes Mom, You WILL qualify¬†but for someone who claims she can’t breath, you are wasting a lot of energy discussing this ūüėā.

TOP 3 PHOTOS!!!!

My top 3 photos (or the 3 that overlapped in both #bestnine) are the finish line pictures at¬†all 3 of my 2016 marathon finishes. Regardless of time, place or experience…a marathon finish should always be a top moment. ¬†You are either on cloud 9 after a killer performance or you are heartbroken with the way the race went after months of training for¬†something that slipped away within hours. ¬†No matter what the immediate reaction is or how the race played out, you are happy and you are proud. ¬†Happy with your time¬†or happy that is over. Proud that you PR’d or proud that you mentally and physically fought the¬†unfortunate obstacles that unexpectedly decided to show up on race day. ¬†Boston and Chicago were definitely what I described first and San Francisco was the latter. ¬†San Francisco hurt. ¬†Thankfully, I had no real expectations and did not train long for it so I did not feel like all my training was a waste but it was a rough experience. ¬†I cried, regrouped, cried, regrouped and said every mantra in the book. ¬†It’s a low and uncomfortable place to be but I am so glad I had that struggle. ¬†I held on for so darn long and kept trucking along despite wanting to give up. ¬†You need to struggle and hit a real deep low to discover new strength. ¬†Another reason I love the marathon!¬†

Those three pictures also display the amazing people I have supporting me!

  • My parents at the finish of Boston while my brother was being interviewed with his girlfriend by his side followed by a big family lunch. ¬†When you are in the moment, there is so much to take in, your brain is still exhausted from 26.2 of being on your mental game and you don’t always fully embrace the moments. ¬†But when you look back, it is so vivid and engrained in your memory because it was so special. I will never forget that post Boston lunch. ¬†I was so proud of myself and so proud of my brother. ¬†My parents were happy for the both of us and it was all over their face. ¬†They want us to excel in our races just as much as we want to. When we hurt, they hurt. When one has a great race and the other doesn’t, it is hard to manage both emotions. ¬†But to be in Copley Plaza enjoying lunch after we both had great races is a rare and pretty great¬†moment.
  • BETHANY!!!!! Ah. ¬†I think I said it all in the Chicago recap. ¬†This girl has been my training partner from afar. ¬†She makes marathons so fun. ¬†When the race unfolds the way it is¬†planned to and we get to run side by side for 26.2 miles, it is incredible. ¬†Two people with two completely different training schedule, living in two different areas come together, run 26.2 miles side by side, push each other without really ever saying more than 4 sentences throughout the entire race…that’s a special bond!
  • San Francisco….it is a solo shot but it was taken by my friend from college, Abby, ¬†who made that marathon weekend so awesome! ¬†I remember just breaking down when I saw the finish line and then I heard my name, looked to side, and there she was..¬†her crazy, cute self in a SF baseball hat yelling her head off. ¬†It was perfect.

 

I could keep this blog post going because these posts are my favorite but I’ll end it here. ¬†Have a wonderful 2017 everyone! ¬†While most of the world is kicking off the new year with all the running¬†goals and fitness ambitions, I am starting the new year off with a rest week because if there is one thing that I continue to struggle with, it is listening to my body and learning to rest. ¬†I decided to spend vacation doing a ton of cross training and snuck back into Crossfit workouts when I should have been resting¬†my knee¬†so now I am paying for it. ¬†I decided January 1st would be a good time to use the “new year, new you” to encourage me to be smarter and wiser and do the one thing I struggle most with…rest! ¬†So I mean it when I say I could keep this blog post going¬†all day ūüėČ

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!

Taking Injuries One (Slow) Step at a Time

The time has finally come….Winter Vacation¬†is here!!!and now almost over, what!?!¬† I have been putting off blogging until break because the few weeks leading up to this week off were insane and the insanity turned into stress and panic mode. ¬†If I were to explain the month of December in the most dramatic way possible, it would look like me hanging to a rope and the rope was fraying with each passing day until it was a thin thread and I just needed that¬†tiny piece to stay intact until Friday the 23rd at 11:25am when¬†the school bell would ring¬†for winter break!

Aside from that depressing analogy, December was full of wonderful moments that were simply overlooked¬†by two very large collegiate projects due, many¬†math department documents that needed to be worked on,¬†and my job as a¬†teacher. ¬†It felt like there were not enough hours in the day to get everything done. ¬†This is the part where a bystander would say, just get work done¬†after-school and don’t go home to run and workout.ūüėĎ ¬†

Yes, that would seem like the logical answer for solving all my¬†problems. ¬† But I’ll take¬†the stress to fit in time to do the one thing I love most. ¬†Running and working out are the 1-2 hours in the day that are sacred to me. ¬†They keep me balanced and sane. ¬†It is in those hours that¬†I can relax, calm down and devise a¬†plan for handling my workload. ¬†The adrenaline energizes¬†me and gives me the clarity I need to go home and tackle the long checklist of tasks.

After a paragraph describing my love and need for running, I will tell you that there was a week in December where the weather got the best of me and runs were becoming dreadful and getting out the door was becoming a challenge. ¬† During the¬†week of the 12th, the weather was either in the single digits or there was a snow storm. ¬†I spent Wednesday¬†evening¬†driving around to find a clear track or just a flat space to do 400s, Thursday I had to change to a rest day¬†due to a night class and early morning low temps. Friday rolled around and I was eager for the weekend but was¬†not¬†eager to finish the school day with a 60 minute run in single digit temps. ¬†I dreaded this run¬†all day. ¬†I didn’t even go home after school because I knew it would just procrastinate the process of getting out the door. ¬†After the bell rang, I put on every layer of clothing I packed (pretty much my entire closet) and got going. ¬†To my surprise, it wasn’t unbearable and the miles were passing quickly. ¬†My negative attitude changed¬†and I told myself to use this run as a future reminder that most dreaded runs are¬†not as bad as they¬†seem once you just get going. This positivity slowly slipped away as I was turning onto my street and was minutes away from finishing the run. ¬†My knee suddenly had¬†an aching pain on the inside. ¬†I was a bit worried but was more overjoyed that the dreaded run was over. ¬†My happiness of being done trumped the fear I had with knee.

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I woke up Saturday morning to unplowed and icy roads and realized that my speed work was going to have to be pushed to Sunday. ¬†I thought Sunday’s 45 minute run would be manageable for Saturday in the snow. ¬†It was slow and the snow was about 5 inches deep but I kept chugging along. ¬†I almost called it quits at about 25-30 minutes but I plow truck came through so I figured clear roads would get me through the¬†final stretch. ¬†That’s when I felt my knee again. ¬†I tried to shake it off but it wasn’t happening. ¬†Luckily I was just doing quarter mile laps around my Crossfit gym so I wasn’t far and just walked back. ¬†I was frustrated and felt defeated.

It was a week of trying so hard to make this running plan¬†happen despite wanting to just skip runs and go to Crossfit. ¬†I stayed true to my schedule and kept persevering only to be handed¬†a lovely injury. ¬†@Katiefitscript said it perfectly in her post¬†about her hamstring issue – it is so frustrating when you just want to compete and train at the highest level and your body isn’t letting you do what you want. ¬†That could not be more spot on. ¬†I am not someone that goes out for a 4 mile run and is like,¬†yay done for¬†the day, what a good¬†workout. I want the intensity, the sweat and the adrenaline. ¬†That is what fuels my love for Crossfit. ¬†A workout may be only 6 minutes but that 6 minutes is hell. ¬†This love and need for adrenaline, speed and strength is what leaves me feeling fatigued and tired in other training cycles. ¬†Part of the reason for getting a coach to train for¬†Boston 2 Big Sur was to have structure and guidance. ¬†I needed to learn how to find comfort in¬†the intense/painful workouts. ¬†But really, I needed to find comfort in just going slow and short.

Fast forward through some car cry sessions, lots of strength work and Crossfit sessions, 2 weeks after I first felt my knee…

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Yay!!! I am happy but still remaining weary and patient. ¬†In the 3 runs that I have had knee pain, it flared up after about 35 minutes and this run was only 33 minutes so I haven’t ventured into danger zone yet. ¬†Right now, I just need to get my confidence up and need a good running day. ¬†I went to ART after this run¬†and she did a phenomenal job releasing all tightness around my knee. ¬†I do not have a doctors apt. until the 3rd but I am hoping that this is all a result of tightness surrounding the knee and some ART work and a slow buildup will help get me back on track.

It is safe to say that injuries SUCK.  They not only derail your training but they mess with the mind more than they mess with the body.  You are upset but trying to put on a strong front because deep down, you know that a little knee pain after 35 minutes of running is far from depressing relative to the issues that most people deal with.  But the selfish and pity-party side of you wants to curl up in a ball, cry and say WHY ME (even though its not just you!).  Tina Muir has said it multiple times on her podcast and from past and current experiences, I 100% agree Рinjuries keep us grounded and they give us additional knowledge that we need to improve our running.  I have been working with mini-bands and weighted ankle weights for the last few months to help strengthen my hips.  These short but effective drills have caused past hamstring issues to subside by improving muscle imbalances.  My knee injury taught me that I need to focus on strengthening my quads and the muscles surrounding my knee cap by incorporating wall sits into my strength.

Poor¬†biomechanics and muscular imbalances that become clear with each injury help¬†with future injury prevention and provide us with tools to make us stronger and more effective runners. ¬†However, the humbleness that comes with each injury is far more powerful than the muscular insight. ¬†That troubling week of running leading up to my knee pain was frustrating and I had moments of just wanting to throw in the towel and stick to strength and Crossfit. ¬†I questioned my ability to tackle the demands of my¬†training plan even though I felt the strongest I have ever felt as as runner. ¬†The weather was beating me down and I was starting to crumble. ¬†This injury gave me the chance to spend two weeks doing strength, Crossfit and cross training indoors and away from the cold. Yet during those moments, I would have given anything to be able to step outside, all bundled up and run. ¬†Marathon training is mentally and physically draining¬†and that is the exact reason why I love it. ¬†It tests my ability to ward off negative thoughts, remain positive and stay grounded and grateful. ¬†These qualities and lessons learned (hopefully) transpire¬†into my personal life and make me a better and stronger person for when life’s obstacles are far bigger and taxing¬†than running injuries.

To lighten up this blog post, I will just give everyone a friendly reminder of what Christmas in the 90’s looked like for a family of runners…yay for watches that start and stop!!!

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It is a bit¬†sad that this generation of runners will never know what it’s like to make your parents drive around and clock the distance of your running route. Haha ūüėā

¬†Have a fabulous New Year’s Eve and stay tuned for a much more positive and fun New Year’s post reflecting¬†on all the incredible moments in 2016. It will be a long one because this year was incredible! ūüėĀ

Thankful for a Thanksgiving 5k PR and a Family Affair 10k

I am thankful for much more than a PR but I guess that was the start of a great Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving break so I thought I would start with that! img_0842

It’s only a 2-second PR but I will take it. ¬†Stuff the Pantry 5k was¬†an all around great race (festive and charitable) with a solid pack of women fighting hard. ¬†I was supposed to run this race easy and save my energy for the 10k I had planned on Saturday butttttt I may not have listened to the plan for a couple of reasons.¬†¬†I just mentally felt ready to race Thursday morning and was excited to feel the rush and the fatigue that comes with digging deep in a race. ¬†I just felt confident and ready and I wanted capitalize on this feeling.

There are many times I show up to local races just not in a race mood. ¬†The competitive side kicks in¬†as soon as the gun goes off and I manage to pull it together and put up a decent time but the fight was never really there. ¬†Thursday morning the mental game was on and I wanted to prove to myself that when the mental aspect is on point, I am capable of fighting for a time that may not even seem possible. ¬†The gun went off and I took off with 3 other women. ¬†The pace felt fast but manageable. ¬†I remained relaxed and just tucked in with the pack. ¬†At mile 2, my super speedy teammate (If you are reading this from Facebook, HI!!) took off and I just told myself to go with her. ¬†It was¬†fast, but I was ready to just hang on and see where it would take me. ¬† I wasn’t totally sure where the other two females from our 4 pack were¬†until one of them surged in front of me at about 2.75. ¬†At that point, I just told myself that I came ready to fight, I have already put up a good fight, GET GOING…so I took off and in the push, I realized I could potentially fight for¬†first but with a second between us, my teammate had a well-deserving win! It was a race where everything fell together perfectly. The leading females set a solid pace that was manageable but I definitely¬†had to work, my mental game was in fight mode rather than, “mhmm maybe I’ll just run kinda fast and settle for 4th”, and my legs were ready and willing to go along with it all! ūüôā …kind of an important piece.

I may have also disobeyed my schedule because Fleet Feet gift cards were prizes and Thanksgiving was also my mom’s birthday!!….In case the 6 bottles of Ithaca wine wasn’t enough, I wanted to have a gift card ready to throw in ūüėČ

Moving forward, I wanted to prove to my coach that I don’t¬†always¬†break the rules when I run races so I promised to not race the 10k on Sunday and keep it the progression run that we now had planned. ¬†My intentions were genuine, but darn…progression runs are not easy to gauge and do not mix well in a race when the first mile is usually the fastest.¬†haha. ¬†

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The progression run wasn’t super¬†specific but I have a feeling 7:02.4 to 7:01.5 was¬†not the progression coach had in mind. ¬†In the midst of semi-failing in the progressing aspect, I was getting overheated so I planned to ditch my undershirt at a specific spot around mile 3-4 so I think I was getting over-excited to shed some layers and¬†unconsciously sped up. And of course, in the process of ripping my shirt off, I hit the pause button on my watch and didn’t realize for almost a quarter mile so everything was thrown off. ¬†It was actually¬†comical how hard I tried to follow directions but was failing in every way. ¬†haha. ¬†I even chatted with Beth (@babfitrunlife) the morning of the race to get her advice on how I should tackle it and we agreed on a strategy. ¬†By the second split I just had to laugh because I knew¬†Bethany was¬†going to be like MEL WHAT DID YOU DO???..THAT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT! haha. ¬†Oh well. It was such a fun race and one where my brother, my mom and I were all on the course and my dad was at the finish.

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..these¬†races are not as often as they used to be but they are the best races! ūüôā

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In addition to being a little family affair, there was also a solid South Hadley Cross Country Alumni showing!

Adding to all this Thanksgiving running stuff, GapFit is killing it with running attire and I took full advantage of the 50% off Black Friday sales…

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GapFit leggings are the¬†best and my mom can attest to that after I bought her a pair for her birthday and found myself back at Gap 24 hours later getting her another pair. ¬†So YES, the Fleet Feet gift card stayed in my possession because I found something else to complement the wine. ¬†The Neon vest was another GapFit purchase and was intended to be worn during dark, early morning and evening runs but I couldn’t help throwing it on for 4 easy miles when I saw how well it matched¬†my Kinvaras!

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My Boston 2016 jacket does not match as nicely but it always feels nice to throw it¬†on and be reminded of the accomplishment – especially during last¬†Sunday’s longer run in the wind. ¬†I can’t wait to see what the 2017 colors will be!!

Lastly, my favorite pre-run snack or breakfast has been a Frothy butter coffee with Collagen Peptides (blend up coffee, Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides) and almond butter & banana toast.  Quick, easy and full amino acids, energy, fats and carbs!

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and took a moment in the midst of the all the Turkey Trotting to be grateful for having the ability to run!

Starting Fresh..with a Coach!

Last weekend, I returned to my absolute favorite place to run…

img_0809ITHACA, NY

I was so excited to hit the hills and just get lost in the scenery. Some of my all-time favorite trainings runs have taken place on the Ithaca roads and I was definitely in need of a one those good runs. 60 minutes later.. I got exactly that! It left me feeling thrilled, refreshed and ready to take on week 4 of training.  Despite a 10 min first mile up hill, my legs felt great and my mind was in a peaceful running place.  I was able to reflect on this training cycle, finished the run with 7 miles under my belt and a better outlook on the upcoming training week and the next 5 months.

So lets back track as to why I was in need of a good run.  After Chicago, I was on that running high.  The wheels in my brain were turning and for the first time in a LONG time, I wanted to focus on JUST running and was eager to find my full potential in the marathon.  I always want to improve my running but I have never wanted to give up my Crossfit.  For the last 2 years, I have been willing to settle with average times for the sake of keeping Crossfit in my schedule.

Well, here I was contemplating taking my running to another level and found myself researching running coaches. ¬†My initial searches steered toward runners with a Crossfit background. I contacted one coach but it pretty clear that this was not a coach with enough running background to take me to where I wanted to go…this was just a Crossfit coach that can run. ¬†This is where my subconscious feelings¬†surfaced and I knew that¬†if I truly wanted to find my potential, I needed to come to terms that Crossfit and running do not mix in a marathon training cycle that would adequately prepare me for what I had in mind for Boston and Big Sur. ¬†It was a realization I knew was true after having a real difficult time trying to balance¬†it all in my¬†Boston training cycle last winter. My coaching search continued and I was immediately drawn toward McKirdy Trained¬†because of the raw honesty. ¬†This¬†is what I need. I will push the limits and over-train if given free rein to do so. ¬†I need someone to pull me in and teach me that it is OK to just run short and¬†slow some days. ¬†A couple of days later I made the jump and fully committed to 6 months of training with McKirdy Trained. ¬†I knew I had a long 6 months ahead of me so I asked to start the following week. ¬†I need more time to digest this next step¬†and¬†come mentally prepared and fully ready to start a training cycle that will be entirely different from what I am used to.

A week later, I received my first week of training and was thrilled.  The first week was short and easy miles.  Something I rarely do!  It was a bit challenging to force myself to slow my pace but it felt good knowing it was for the better and in my best interest as I continue recovering.

img_0665So lets talk about week 3. ¬†Still easy runs and just a tad longer. ¬†Monday was a rest day so I started on Tuesday. ¬†I went out in the morning hoping for a nice sunrise run but I failed to look at the weather report and my outfit choice made for a¬†freezing cold and miserable run. ¬†Thankfully I only had 30 minute on the schedule so I only had to hate my outfit choice for 30 minutes. ¬†Thursday’s 45 minute was also not very enjoyable and unlike Tuesday’s run, I felt like¬†someone put 1o843 layers on my body and sandbags in my sneakers. ¬†In a less dramatic description – I felt tired and my legs felt heavy.¬†I couldn’t help but think/dread that I still had 3 more days of running before rest day and my legs already felt dead. ¬†I tried to stay positive and reminded myself that Friday was a holiday so I could sleep in, get some rest, have a nice stretch before getting out for my run which usually helps my mental¬†and physical game.

img_0718It did. ¬† But dang, 4 miles still felt long.¬†What is wrong with me. ¬†Saturday was just a 20 min warmup and since I was in Ithaca, I went to a gym and did it on the treadmill followed by some strength. Nothing to complain about but I was panicked for Sunday’s 50 minutes. ¬†The sheer thought¬†of being¬†panicked for a 50 minute run made me feel even more uneasy. 50 minutes is usually a short run for me! ¬†I was not only confused but also embarrassed and ashamed. ¬†I have barely hit 16 miles this week…why is this SO hard. ¬†I finally reached out to my brother’s girlfriend (they are both elite runners). ¬†Her response was everything I needed to hear. ¬†She told me that the numbers mean nothing. ¬†My body is adjusting to running 5 days a week as opposed to 3 days a week. ¬†I went from having no back-to-back running days to¬†4 in a row. ¬†This is a complete schedule change and my body needs time to adjust. ¬†She was so right. ¬†I was focusing on the numbers and not trusting the process. ¬†My body needs to move backwards in pace and mileage in order to move forward. It may not be high mileage at the moment but¬†it is a big change in my training structure and that has a major impact on the body. ¬†Her words and feedback were exactly what I needed to help relax my mind and mentally prepare for the 50 minute run I had planned. ¬†With a more refreshed mental outlook, I was ready to do what I love and embrace the beautiful Ithaca roads. It was a mild, sunny and beautiful day. ¬†I climbed up the first mile and reached the top feeling all sorts of happiness.

img_0772When I saw this view, I couldn’t help but think about the climb and how it reflects this entire running journey. ¬†Every run in Ithaca starts with¬†embracing the unavoidable, painful first mile hill in order to reach the insanely beautiful views. In this training cycle, I am going to have to embrace the painful workouts and the rough runs in order to grow into an even stronger runner. ¬†The transpiring of these thoughts are easier to embrace and believe¬†when I am just running easy, carefree, and staring off into the Ithaca views. ¬†However, it is a mindset and a mantra I need revert to and repeat when times to get tough in order to improve my mental game.

To help ensure that I utilize this mindset during the hard times, I made sure to write it down in my newly received¬†Lauren Fleshman “BELIEVE” training journal.img_0797 ¬†I dove right in and put my goals down on paper. ¬†I love¬†how this journal incorporates the¬†reasons and¬†steps. Reaching goals is more than just following a¬†plan – it’s about being stronger than your negative thoughts. ¬†My steps toward reaching my 2017 goals are much more¬†than just running. ¬†It is about toeing every start line feeling fearless and confident regardless of who is lined up next to me or how a run went earlier in the week. ¬†Not every run will be easy and enjoyable. ¬†The¬†times when¬†you want nothing more than to just throw in the towel but keep your goals in the forefront of your mind and fight – these are the times that¬†grow your mind and body and separate you from the competition.¬†I want to make sure the rough times¬†never impact my confidence and I never lose sight on why I love this sport. Most importantly, I never want to forget how lucky I am to just have the ability to lace up and go. ¬†The¬†‘steps’¬†are far more important than accomplishing the¬†‘goals’.¬†

So here is to changing things up, embracing the ups and down, trusting the process and loving my body for taking me through this journey ūüôā

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Chicago Marathon Race Recap!

“When the wall hits, you climb¬†over that wall.”

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..and climb we did!

Chicago Marathon – you were amazing. ¬†The crowds, the runners, the volunteers, the view, the flatness…everything was perfect. A great races will always feel good, but they¬†feel even better when you go into them with fears and can use the achievement as a reminder to yourself that bumps in the road are just bumps – they are not dead-ends – keep fighting to get over them and use the setbacks¬†to propel you forward.

“The course is is flat and fast! It’s a PR for sure!”

I heard this sentence numerous times, and although intentions were good and meant to be inspirational, I could not help but feel more and more overwhelemed and worried every time I heard it.

What if I don’t PR? Is it¬†embarrassing¬†to not PR in Chicago? Oh, the pressure.

I ran a 5k two years ago that was hyped up as the ‘fastest 5k course’ and was¬†basically a¬†PR ready to happen. ¬†Naturally, I thought that meant you can just start off in a sprint. ¬†Funny thing about that is, a 5k is still THREE MILES, not a nice little lap around the track. ¬†I may be able to run 26.2 miles but that does¬†not¬†mean three miles feels like an 800. If my sarcasm hasn’t sold you on what happened, let me help you out by saying…I DIED….like at mile 1. So I had 2 lovely miles of hating myself for that decision and basically feeling humiliated by my initial¬†thought process and now the fact that I was¬†getting passed left and right. ¬†So yes, the phrase “It is so fast!!”…does not bring back the best of memories. ¬†I also like to think that my muscular body and strong¬†legs give me advantage on¬†hillier courses.

Fears aside, I arrived in Chicago ready to race, embrace the challenges, and fight to stay with the lovely Bethany (@babfitrun). We discussed our race plan on Saturday and I was ready and willing to take on the challenging pace because I wanted, more than anything, to replicate Philly where we pushed each other and did not stop fighting for the sake of the other person.  Running for yourself is one thing, running for someone else is something far greater and is an indescribable experience.  And that 3:15 is something I was not letting go of and was going to continue to fight for regardless of how San Francisco went.

I gave myself plenty of time the morning of the race to get ready, eat and stretch. ¬†In my last post, I touched on the importance of keeping everything as rush-free as possible so that you are not stressing and wearing down your mental game before the race. ¬†Going along with my plan to keep everything stress-free, the first thing on my morning to-do list was to treat myself to some high-class dining for breakfast…

img_0529…so I took my oatmeal in the hotel hallway and sat down on the floor ūüôā ¬†My fancy breakfast came to an end along with my kindness of being quiet so my boyfriend¬†could continue sleeping. ¬†It was time for the most important part of the race…THE OUTFIT.

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After I put on my super cute outfit that was planned to match¬†Bethany,¬†played a fun¬†game of ‘Twister’ in an attempt¬†to apply my KT tape to my backside, and made sure to snap pictures for¬†my parents, Snapchat story and Instagram story, I was ready to catch an Uber and make my way to Bethany’s hotel.

img_0555In the midst of stretching and taking¬†more pictures, we talked about how amazing Philly was and how ready we were to do it all again. ¬†We are never sure how it is going to unfold once our legs get moving but we never speak those thoughts. ¬†What makes our friendship so special is our ability to push each other and keep each other confident. ¬†We do not train the same but we trust that our training is what works for us and trust that no matter what the other person is doing, we will show up on equal terms – two strong, motivated and determined girls ready to fight for ourselves and for other person.img_0534We made our way to the start line and had plenty of time to hit the bathrooms and chat with other runners. ¬†You know it is going to be a great race when you talk to multiple people who casually say, “this is my 10th Chicago!”..making even more excited to run the streets.

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¬†The gun went off and we were on our way to embark on the 26.2 journey. ¬†There is so much uncertainty of how the remaining 3 + hours are going to play out and this uncertainty¬†is what makes the marathon so intriguing – it’s scary, concerning, exciting, beautiful, fun, awful all at the same time. ¬†It is 26.2 miles of staying in constant check of your body and mind and consistently self-regulating.

A few days prior to the race, I listened to my favorite Running to the Top podcast with Tina Muir¬†¬†while doing some yin-yoga and the speaker said that the best advice she had ever received was, “You just take negative thoughts throw them in the fire. ¬†You just gotta keep throwing these negative thoughts out of your head and into that fire for it to burn.¬† I know there is nothing poetic¬†and fancy about that statement when you read the words but when you think deeply¬†about the meaning and the action, it truly is so powerful. ¬†Negative thoughts can make or break a race. ¬†In order to excel in the marathon¬†and life in general, you need to have strategy for how you will bounce back when you feel yourself getting knocked down. ¬†This was my strategy on Sunday. ¬†I was not going to succumb to any of those thoughts. ¬†Every time I heard myself saying something doubtful or negative, I literally was like “NOPE. ¬†Crumple up…into the fire….GOODBYE”.

When I did the Boston and San Francisco Recap, I grouped the miles in the sections based on feelings and how/when things unraveled because in both races, I did find myself unraveling. ¬†In Boston, I was able to hold it together a bit more than San Francisco. ¬†Chicago was different. ¬†I felt like it was a consistent 26.2 miles. We stayed relatively¬†composed and consistent just about the entire time. ¬†Our GPS watches were not very accurate with our pace so there were times where we weren’t completely sure if we were too fast or too slow, but we did out best to go by feel in those moments.

I will do my best to group the miles, but these are¬†loose grouping because there really were no points that stood out. ¬†Miles passed, doubt came and went, and we just kept pounding the pavement. ¬†We both admitted to feeling moments where we weren’t sure we could hang with the other person but what it came down do was¬†sacrifice. ¬†I was willing to risk hitting the wall to stay with Bethany. ¬†Attempting to PR involves risk-taking. ¬†I took that risk in San Francisco and was smacked in the face¬†by the hills. ¬†In Chicago, I took that risk and it paid off. ¬†Miles passed by and I never really felt¬†myself letting go. In fact, there were moments I had to tell myself to GO.¬†You’re not hurting, you feel better than at any other marathon, you’re prepared for this..why are you holding back? If you want it, you NEED¬†to get out of this comfort zone and step it up.

Miles 1 – 13: Things felt good. ¬†I had minor little aches that ignited some fear but I brushed them off and kept going. ¬†The City was beautiful, I was doing what I love, I was keeping my mental game on point, and was doing consistent ‘body scans’ to make sure nothing was tensing up. ¬†(A tactic I read from the book ChiRunning) ¬†I would consider these¬†miles, the ‘vigilant‘ miles. You just got to hit your splits and can’t really think/plan too much¬†because it is still too early to make moves.

Miles 13 – 18: ¬†My stomach was beginning to act up and I was getting nervous about potentially having to stop. ¬†I was bummed that I was running into this issue again but I just told myself to ignore it and keep pushing. ¬†Bethany and I caught up to the 3:15 pacers which was exciting because we started behind them meaning we were running a sub 3:15 gun time. ¬†At mile 17/18, I told Bethany that I did not want to pass the pacers until mile 20. As soon as that statement came out, I felt a bit ashamed. I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t feeling ready to pass them, it was because I feared that San Francisco would repeat itself. ¬†This¬†wasn’t¬†San Francisco and I needed to run without being tainted by that¬†experience.

Mile 19 –¬†Well that didn’t last long.¬†I was so sick of being elbowed by the people in the pace group so I sprinted out of that pack and in front. ¬†Bethany – despite being¬†confused and probably despising¬†this abrupt change in speed – followed!

Mile 20 – 23: ¬†These miles were spent talking myself up. ¬†You need to start to go. ¬†6 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles…this is nothing.

Mile 23 – 26: ¬†I went. ¬†Feeling pretty good at mile 23 with no cramps is something a marathoner does not experience very often. ¬†I knew that this was a rare occasion and if I didn’t capitalize on it now, I would 100% regret it.

26 – 26.2 –¬†A HILL. REALLY!? ¬†I surged, grunted, surged, yelled and did just about every other embarrassing thing I could do approaching that finish line….Needless to say, I will not be buying the race photos.

The finish line was incredible.  I DID A 3:13.52!!! I was shooting for a 3:15 so this was just unbelievable.  Making this even more unbelievable was seeing Bethany cruise in seconds later for a 4 minute PR.  Everyone is deserving of a PR but she deserved this more than anyone I know. She spent winter, embracing the snow and embarking on long, cold runs..only to be confronted with heat at Boston causing her to run conservatively.  Admirably, she took that day with pride and fought on.  She spent the summer, fall and the 26.2 miles through Chicago fighting for something she earned on April 18th and she got it!

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Race photos and I just do not get along.  I really do smile and wave!

I feel blessed¬†more than I do proud. ¬†I could not¬†have achieved this time without having Bethany¬†by my side pushing me to keep and hold the pace. ¬†Celebrating the final product and the entire experience was so fun and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Chicago Marathon 2016 – you were unforgettable! ūüôā