Category Archives: running

New 1/2 Marathon PR! Review and Recap

When I initially signed up for Worcester, I signed up for the full marathon…I was 6 months pregnant with Mr. Man at the time and in my deluded state thought that my return to racing would be so easy that a full was well within my grasp.  Come March, when my return to running really got serious, I opted to drop down to the ½ distance.  I dropped down, not because I wouldn’t be able to run the distance, but rather because I wouldn’t be able to run it well.  I am a perfectionist and I demand the best out of myself, so why run a full and settle for a sub-par time when I could race a ½marathon and more than likely set a PR?

One month out of Worcester I ran an unplanned ½ marathon inProvidence.  I went in running it with The Hubs as a “fun run”—the first leg of a new event being held in Rhode Island—The Triple Crown ½ Marathon Series.  I went into that race with no plan or goal—no pacing strategy.  I PR’ed that day; I did it in the ugliest of manners possible.  My pace was all over the place from the start, which was too fast.  I found myself at the halfway point saying to my husband words that I have never uttered during a run before—I can’t do it. NEVER have I used the words “I can’t” before in any run—let alone a race.   So while I managed to squeak out a 20-second PR, it was not a PR with which I was proud.

June 3 rolled around and in the days leading up toWorcesterI was nervous—nervous that I would either fail to reach my PR or maybe more so, nervous that my performance would be a dismal as the last and those words “I can’t” would again be spoken.  I was very prepared for this race—the race I trained for.  I had logged the miles; I had done the cross training; I had taken the rest days prescribed by my coach.  “I can’t” shouldn’t be a phrase that needed to be uttered, yet I was still afraid of saying them.

Saturday late afternoon, me and The Hubs packed up the kiddos and headed out to Pam’s house where I’d be spending the night since she is relatively close by race.  Saturday’s weather was abysmal.  The torrential downpours  were projected to last into the morning of the race, though be a slow light rain.  With the weather a relative question mark I knew my potential to PR was no longer in my hands.  I could run the best race I could the next day, but if the weather didn’t cooperate there was nothing that I could do about it.  That might have helped me sleep that night—letting go of that self doubt.

The morning of the race turned out to be perfect—beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds; perfect temperatures in the low 50’s, a slight breeze.  After meeting up with another of our running buddies, Christine, we opted to ditch the potty line and head to the start.  There were a total of 4-potties with a massive line—not nearly enough for the amount of people in the race.  Thankfully for me, I was able to ditch and know that it didn’t matter much because it was more than likely nerves and as soon as that gun sounded I’d be fine.  However, not having enough potties was definitely and issue for my friends, they had to stop on the race route and use the potty which ultimately was the deciding factor between a PR and not setting one.  Big fail on the race director’s part.

The race didn’t start on time—close to 10-minutes late, potentially due to the fact that there were so many people in the potty line.  For me that mean 10-more minutes of nerves and anxiety—I just want to run!!!!!!  Finally the gun was sounded and the racers were off; nerves went away and I ended up in a zone, so much so that I realized about ¼ of a mile into the race that I didn’t even wish my friends luck on their race.  The start was congested, as most races are, but with the road conditions (large pot holes) and parked cars my thoughts of PRin, despite the weather went on the back burner.  My goal was to simply run the best race I knew how and hope that it was enough.

The hills started almost right from the start, my goal was to focus on running them aggressively, yet holding enough back so that at the top my legs weren’t burning.  Mile 2 approached quickly and I was feeling strong.  By the time mile 3.5-4 came along I was ready for The Hill—I had viewed the course elevation chart a few times in the days leading up to the race and knew that it was fairly significant.  I simply put my head down and ran.  My pace slowed to a crawl (10:41 was what I remember seeing on my Garmin, Tim Gunn) but I was passing people.  My legs were on fire, but I started to bargain with myself—pass the girl in the pink shoes, get that guy wearing the black shirt…next thing I knew I was cresting the hill and on my way down the back side.

At the full/half split, the race volunteers were great, lots of signage indicating which direction you were to go and lots of course directors yelling and pointing half to the left, full to the right.  It was after the split that the course conditions started to get slightly more ridiculous.  I understand that not all courses can be closed courses but I would at least expect that there be a significant amount of cones clearly defining the running course from the cars speeding by.  There were a good number of police along the course at intersections which was great, however at one point I found myself on the wrong side of the course and needing to dart across two lanes of opposing traffic in order to make the turn on the course. The water stations were fairly regular, almost every 2-miles, but there were no gels being offered along the course (thankfully I never rely only on race course fuel so it didn’t affect me too much).

At one point I saw the sign for the 19-mile marker on the full and thought to myself, “thank god I’m not running the full today”…it’s not that I was hurting because I actually felt pretty great at that point.  My legs were on autopilot and my breathing was constant and not labored.  At that point I started to try and do some mental math to see how likely the PR was.  I couldn’t rely on watching my Tim Gunn Garmin pace due to the hills—the ups and downs were clearly showing that at one point I might be running a 9:30 but then at another point it might be a 7:30.  I knew based on some quick mental math that I was going to be close to a PR and that easing up was not an option.  I needed to continue to run the best I could and know that whatever the outcome I gave it my all that day.

With a little over 3-miles to go I saw a girl go down, and thankfully it was in front of emergency personnel because there was a stretch shortly after that were there was no one; no spectators, no police, no race course volunteers.  It was a little frightening to be honest.  To get my mind off of what I had just seen, the mental math started again.  Roughly 2 ½ miles left and it was close, close on the side of missing the PR.  I asked myself, “how bad do you want it?” and my inner response was “BAD—RUN and run hard.”  I started to chant inner mantras—“make it work,” “THIS it what tough looks like,” “nothing worth being proud of ever comes easy.”  Along with my inner mantras the perfect song came up on my iPhone—“Pump It” by BEPs.  I actually think I said, “Pump It” out loud when it came on because the guy in front of me kind of turned around and looked at me.  It was then that I decided to pick off every person that lay ahead of me.  One by one, I approached each person and passed them.  I had my eyes set on one guy that I had been following for about 4-miles and was going to “chick” him.  As I came up to his side he just stopped.  Stopped dead in his tracks—I was SO angry.  I looked at him as I passed him and said to him “come on—let’s go you’re almost there.”  He never caught back up.

My legs were flying and Tim Gunn was beeping at me that my pace was faster than the 8-minute miles that I had it set to alarm at.  My glances down to Tim Gunn to see my time kept my mental math going—I was close.  With the 13-mile marker quickly approaching I knew I was about to turn the corner to the final straightaway and see The Hubs and the kids.  This was what I was running towards—not the finish line, but my family.  I knew then that I had a PR, but I was running to my family, not the finish line.  I was running to show my children that “hard work, dedication” always paid off.  As I turned the corner, there was The Hubs with my kiddos along side Pam’s family.  I screamed and pointed at them and ran my butt off to cross that finish line.  THIS is what tough looks like!  I stopped Tim Gunn at 1:48:37—a PR by about 01:30-seconds and a 5th place age group finish!  To say I was elated would be an understatement—5 months post-partum and a new ½ marathon PR!!  I had sought out to run a sub 1:50 and I had accomplished that.  I felt amazing the entire race—my legs did not fail, nor did my lungs, nor did my mental game.  I grabbed my medal and walked towards where the family was waiting for me and saw Lil One running towards me with her arms outstretched cheering “MUMMY!!!!!”  I bent down and hugged her—she looked at me and said, “I’m so proud of you for running fast mumma!”  My heart melted—hard work, dedication.  She is the reason I run and in that moment, my success was her success.

We waited for Pam and Christine to finish not too long after and headed to the athlete recovery area, which could have been better.  There wasn’t much in terms of recovery food that was not prepackaged junk food—just some bananas.  I was at least hoping for some yogurt or oranges.  In the end, whileWorcesteris now my PR course, it’s more than likely not a course that I’d run again.  The police presence was great, but the lack of clear course markings or cones, some of the road conditions, the late race start, lack of potties, and issues with race packet pick-up and shirts (they ran out of size small—a size that I had clearly marked as being requested 1-year ago at registration) I will more than likely not be running it again.  It was a small local race and along with that comes associated glitches, but having run other small local ½ marathons with better overall experiences, it’s not a race I will likely scramble to include in my race schedule.

Next up—a couple weeks of rest followed up the start of marathon training.  It’s going to be a long summer of training, but again, hard work, dedication!!

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What the??!!

With a crazy creative 2-year old and a demanding hungry 1-month old my next blog post will have to continue to wait a little longer, until then:

An 8:50 pace?! What the??!! I’ll take it for my second run back…felt great (in my new blue shoes). I REALLY have a real post coming up…I swear!!

1-Month Old and My Legs Are Itchy!

Being the mom of two kiddos is just a little bit of work—especially when you are nursing your newborn and trying to potty train your 2-year old!  Between only a little sleep at night (still on the every 2 hour cycle with nursing) and non-stop running around chasing a high energy toddler while constantly nagging her to go sit on the potty, I have REALLY itchy legs that are dying to go on a run!  I should be waiting until my 6-week post partum appointment before heading out for any kind of a run, but in all honesty, physically I feel great in terms of recovery.  The thought of being out of running for 10-weeks is maddening to me.  I was hopeful that this weekend was going to be decent so that I could test my legs and fitness on a short, non-stress run of 2-3 miles.  However, as per my luck, we received 8-inches of snow.  While that would not normally deter me from going for a run, my lack of fitness and also the amount of gear I’d put on for a 2 or 3 mile shake out really just isn’t appealing.

Now that Baby Bro is 1-month old today, I am starting to reflect on my time as a running preggo.  I am beyond grateful that I was able to run for as long as I did.  When I found out I was (finally) pregnant again, I can’t lie about my concern for what that meant to my running.  Since I started running after the birth of Lil One, it had become so much a part of me.  I was nervous that I would be sitting on the sidelines for 9-months.  Thankfully, I had a supportive husband who recognized my need to not only maintain my running as long as possible, but also a supportive and understanding OB (who was also a runner).  After seeking out the advice of  some ladies who blogs that I follow who have had experience running during pregnancy, TMB and Heather, I came up with my own plan for running throughout my pregnancy.

My first trimester definitely saw a decrease in my mileage thanks to a combination of coming off both a marathon and half marathon.  Throw in a trip to HUMID Aruba (though I did run one morning while on vacation), and general 1st trimester tiredness and you can probably understand why my mileage was so low.  But by the time July and the 2nd trimester rolled around I was feeling much more energetic and ready to get my run on.  My average weekday run was in the 3-4 mile range with a “long run” on the weekend.  I’m not sure why I joke about “long” runs because they were in preparation for a ½ marathon in August.

My BFF, Beanie, was coming to town with her husband so that they could both run their first ½ marathons at the inaugural Providence Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon.  I had signed up for it before I was pregnant and decided that I wasn’t about to bag it, so instead of gunning for a PR as I had initially anticipated, I planned on running alongside Beanie in support.  I will admit that it was hard to give up on a PR dream and to run at a slower pace than what I was accustomed.  However, it was something that I was OK with doing because this race was about two things for me—1) to say I ran a half marathon pregnant, and 2) the most important reason, to be there and support my best friend!  We shared so many wonderful memories and experiences together, a half marathon (PG with her godson as a side note) would be added to those memories.  As it turned out, there was a monsoon that day which made for less than ideal race conditions.  Shoes weighed you down; puddles became dangerous because you didn’t know if they were a few inches deep or hid a giant pothole!  We ran side by side the whole race, except for the break where I told Beanie to go on—the preggo bladder couldn’t hold much more at the 10K mark on the course and a pit stop was needed.  I caught up with Beanie just in time for the race photographer to take an awesome photo of us—looking pretty fab and fierce, making it work in the rain if I do say so myself.

That ½ was supposed to be the last of my races during my pregnancy and I was supposed to start slowing down.  I realized that I still had more in me and I needed to keep running.  After another discussion with my OB, I was cleared to continue running into my 3rd trimester as long as I was being smart—I needed to listen to my body and not push through things I normally would push through.  If my breathing felt hard, I needed to slow down or stop.  If I had a cramp I needed to stop and stretch (not to be confused with a contraction which would have stopped my running altogether for the rest of the pregnancy).  Not pushing was a hard lesson to learn, especially when I felt like I had so much in me.  Seeing my running buddies go for long runs in preparation for the Chicago Marathon was hard.  Having my husband, who I usually pass easily, pass me as I completed an 8-mile run while he was finishing up a 12-mi marathon training run was down right demoralizing.  I admit it—I cried.  I yelled.  I pouted.  I felt SORRY for myself.  The competitive person within me couldn’t be silenced—I didn’t listen to her and push on, but I did listen to her and her words hurt. 

My running buddy Scary knows my competitive spirit and told me that if a) The Hubs was on board, and b) that my OB was on board, she would run the Amica ½ Marathon with me in Newport, RI—I’d be 28-weeks pregnant.  I was beyond grateful to her—she was willing to essentially throw away a race just so that I had someone to run with.  Scary is a certified personal trainer so she was the perfect person to run with me—she knew what to watch for and how to help me if I started to get uncomfortable.  The only thing that made that offer even better was the fact that my other best running buddy, K. also offered to run with me.  To have my two running-BFF’s out there supporting me was a gift that I will forever be thankful for!

Everything was on track for me in terms of training for the ½ marathon, and then the Chicago Marathon happened the week prior…and the pregnant marathoner.  To say that I was not nervous or concerned about the reception that I would receive the next week as I chugged along with my big giant pregnant belly would be a lie.  I was afraid that people would think I was careless or that I was doing it to be like the PG marathoner.  In reality, I had been signed up and training for this ½ well before the PG marathoner, and I had received medical clearance, and I was running with a trainer.  But when you are on the race course people don’t know that or understand that and it was a perception with which I would have to deal.  Come race day, the nervousness over what others would think went away as I realized I was with RUNNERS!  Runners support each other and encourage each other—even when you are total strangers.  I have pushed others on and been pushed by others during races because that’s what runners do.  As I ran along the course, both men and women cheered me and my Posse on—I was PROUD to be running while 28-weeks pregnant.  As the finish line approached, I saw The Hubs, Lil One, and my in-laws cheering for me and it was the final boost I needed to cross the line.  I was proud of myself and for going out there and doing what I knew I cold do—safely!  I didn’t push the pace; I ran what I felt I could run; I walked up a steep hill and stopped at water stops and for multiple potty breaks.  I finished; I beat my previous PG ½ marathon time; and I was proud of my accomplishment.  It was more of a mental accomplishment than a physical one for me—I beat myself.  I told the voice in my head that had been telling me I was weak the entire time I was running while pregnant to take a hike.  That day I was victorious!

After that race, I started to taper my runs back.  Long weekend runs started to be dropped, and my times for my mid-week runs started to slip, as did my mileage.  The month of November saw a 20-mile decrease for the month, and by December, I stopped running.

My last run was at about 35-weeks.  It coincided when we started renovations for our basement, where we keep the treadmill.  But it also was time for me to stop—I was getting home from work really late due to trying to wrap things up before I went out on maternity leave.  As a result of more time at work, I had less time at home with my daughter, and with the quickly approaching holidays I had more and more to-dos being added to my list before Baby Bro made his arrival.  Sure I didn’t run until I gave birth, but I ran as long as I could.  I remained true to myself and my need for running, but I also remained healthy, still gaining almost 30-pounds during my pregnancy. 

In looking back, I have realized that I’m pretty bada$$–there are people out there who don’t exercise at all, never mind, run 3 ½-marathons while pregnant.  Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you need to be immobile.  You have to be smart and listen to your body.  Most importantly, you need to listen  to your OB or midwife!!!!  If I had talked to my OB and she told me no way you BET I would have sucked it up and not run!!!  While maintaining m fitness level and running ability was important to me, the health and wellbeing of my unborn baby was MOST important.  I never would have doe something knowingly or willingly putting that baby in harms way.  That being said, if your medical staff and significant other is on board, then by all means, know that you can still be a bada$$ while pregnant.  I am so excited to share these experiences with Baby Bro when he gets older and can appreciate them!

In the meantime, I can’t wait to get back out there and start to run with my ERP (Elite Running Posse) ladies soon!!  Race season is approaching and I have me some pavement to pound!

Please note that I am NOT a medical professional and I do NOT advocate my training or running plan for others.  Please consult a medical professional before starting any exercise program—whether pregnant or not pregnant.  While this may have worked for me, it may not work for all people and you should be monitored according to your personal health history and circumstances.

Exactly As It Should Be

When The Hubs and I decided to start to try for our second baby we knew that more than likely we’d end up back at the reproductive endocrinologist (RE)—actually, I should say I knew we’d end up back there. I just had a feeling that things wouldn’t be as easy as everyone said. If I had a dollar for every comment made to me about how “it will be SO easy for you next time now that the pipes are working” I’d be retired right now.

At our first appointment back at the RE, I didn’t have high hopes. Our doctor, whom we loved with our first go around, didn’t even seem like the same doctor. She told us we’d do everything the same as the last time, only, the treatment she prescribed was totally different. They also had two files on me, and called me by the wrong patient name—not exactly instilling a huge amount of confidence in either of us. We did however decide to stick with it and the practice. I just needed to trust that other than the patient name mix up, they did know what they were doing; they got us pregnant the first time, this time they’d get us pregnant again.

After the same barrage of tests as with my daughter, and after 2 failed IUIs, I had decided I was emotionally taxed and I couldn’t handle what infertility was doing to me and my family anymore. Running was the only thing that I had that helped keep me relatively sane and not freak out on The Hubs or Lil One thanks to the medication they put you on to get your body to respond to the treatments. I was in the midst of marathon training and my long runs were perfect for me to tune the rest of the world out (even though I ran with my running buddies). Speed work and intervals after work on the treadmill helped to push out the mid-week aggression. But, once it came down to the 3rd IUI (intrauterine insemination), I decided that if try #3 didn’t work, we’d take a break and sort out what our next steps were. In all likelihood, our next step was to be nothing. I had a beautiful, healthy daughter maybe that was enough. After many times crying alone, I decided that sure it wasn’t my vision of what my “family” would look like, but maybe that is what was meant to be. I was “lucky” enough that one of my best running-mates, Scary, also suffered through some infertility issues herself so she was very sympathetic to my ordeal and was able to provide me with great insight while we’d go out for training runs (I was training for National Marathon and she was training for Boston).

Enter Marathon Monday (aka Boston Marathon Day). I was to head up to Newton and Chestnut Hill and meet Scary around the base of Heartbreak Hill. The plan was that I was going to jump in and run with her up to Boston College to support her, and attempt to kick her butt a little if she needed it. Turns out plan were about to change. That morning, when I peed on the little OPK stick (ovulation preditctor kit-think pregnancy test only it detects ovulation hormones instead of pregnancy hormones) it came back positive—that would mean a trip to the RE for an IUI. Really??!! I had never spectated at the Boston Marathon before, let alone help a dear friend towards the finish, and today of all days was when the stupid OPK decided to work for me? I was beyond upset. I broke down in hysterics because I had to go for a procedure that I knew wasn’t going to work, and in the process, potentially miss Scary, and if I did manage to see her, not be able to run with her up HBH as planned…and I couldn’t even let her know in advance!!

The IUI went as well as could be expected, and we even had enough time to get to Newton, but running with Scary was out of the question. There we stood me, The Hubs, and Lil One, cheering on runners as we watched the crowd for Scary…if I couldn’t run with her I at least needed for her to know I was there. As I saw her approach, I started jumping up and down screaming my head off. She looked at me, looked down at the flip flops on my feet, hesitated for a second or two with a look of confusion on her face. I hugged her, told her I was proud of her, and told her—“I’ll fill you in later—GO GO GO!” And with that, I sent Scary off to conquer HBH on her own. She had looked amazingly strong for that point in the marathon so I had confidence she could do it on her own.

As it turns out, things happen for a reason. I wasn’t supposed to run HBH with Scary—she KILLED it on her own, and finished Boston in a fantastic time on her own without my assistance. She was running in her dad’s memory for the Dana Farber Cancer team and while she was physically alone, she was running with her dad up that hill and I would have been a 3rd wheel—that was her time with her dad. And for me, as it turns out I think I needed that breakdown that day; I needed to be at one of my lowest points because it was that IUI—what was more than likely my final attempt, which worked. I found out 2-weeks later, the day after I ran a ½ marathon PR, that I was indeed pregnant. For me, Marathon Monday was about a journey more than 26.2 miles long. It was an emotional journey, one that would be with me forever in the face of my son. It’s something I hope to share with him some day—maybe when he is running the Boston Marathon himself…or the Olympic Marathon trials (Scary and I joked that if I had had a boy, I’d have to name him Ryan Hall since Ryan Hall ran Boston that day ha ha). Running would now be a bond that I shared with my son. I can’t wait to run with him!

What’s your thought—do things happen for a reason?  In hindsight have you felt like you needed to be at your lowest in order to have seen the good come out of a situation?  How has running helped your mindset during a difficult ordeal?

Lessons Learned Along the Way

I didn’t consider myself a “runner” for quite some time.  Before I got pregnant with my oldest, Lil One, I would run jog 3-ish miles three to four times a week and toss in the occasional 5k race.  My PR for the 5k prior to Lil One was somewhere in the 31-minute range—and that was pushing hard for me.  But I never considered myself “a runner.”

I decided after the birth of Lil One that I needed a goal, a goal that I alone had control over.  Coming off of about 3-years of infertility where I had zero control, I desperately needed an outlet—an outlet for all of that pent up need to control things.  I needed an outlet to push all of my inner anger towards the past 3 years.  Yes, I had a beautiful healthy little girl, but it still didn’t happen in the time frame, or the manner that I had planned on.  My goal was to become “a runner” and focuse on a half marathon.  The thought of 13.1-mi was daunting and downright frightening to me if I am being perfectly honest.  Here I was, the girl who quit track in high school because they wanted me to try being a hurdler; the girl who was running hard and almost puking after a 5k with a finish time of 31-minutes…I was going to train for 13.1 miles?  Coincidently, an acquaintance started a training group for a ½ marathon.  I decided to join figuring that I at least had someone to hold me accountable—one thing I hate the most in life is failing at something, especially failing at something publically.

With my husband’s support, we bought a treadmill for the basement as our anniversary gift that year.  I’d go down to the basement after Lil One was in bed, and do my training run.  I eventually found some decent speed I didn’t know I had and next thing I knew, I had met my goal of a ½ marathon, alongside my acquaintance friend in a time of 1:57:25.  Never in a million years did I think I’d sub-2 hour my first half marathon. 

From there, I really started to enjoy running.  I started to meet up with Scary (our nickname for my friend in our running group).  Scary was training for her first full marathon and I was planning on another ½ marathon.  Every week, as we’d add another mile to Scary’s training, Scary would drop another thought into my head that I should switch my ½ registration to the full marathon.  If I was already up to 18-miles why on earth would I settle for a ½ when I was clearly training for a full?  

 I realized after thinking about it, I was willing to settle for another ½ distance because I was afraid of failure at the full distance.  But I also realized that that had been what was holding me back my entire life in athletics—fear of failure.  So many things came easy to me that when I faced a real challenge, or a situation where I wouldn’t be the best, I found an excuse as to why I couldn’t or wouldn’t participate.  I was a mom now—what kind of an example would I be to my daughter if I chose the easy way out?  I wanted my daughter to grow up as a strong, confidant woman who was willing to face challenges head on but unless she had a role model that showed her how, she wouldn’t become that.  Nothing worth while in life ever comes easy—my daughter was proof of that to me.  Running, in a way, was no different.  If running a marathon were easy, everyone would do it.  It’s supposed to be hard; it’s supposed to scare you.  It’s a distance to be respected, but it was a distance that I decided I would conquer, no matter how ugly.

So, on a brisk November morning in 2010, I set out to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Philadelphia.  And 26.1 miles later, as I approached the finish line, I saw my best friend’s giant Jackie-O sunglasses, and heard my husband yelling “Go Momma!” as he held our daughter—it was the last push I needed to carry me over that finish line.  It was that moment as I crossed the finish line, in 4:27:54, which I finally called myself “a runner.”  In reality, I think you are a runner the moment you decide you are one.  Whether you run 3-miles, 26.2 miles, or even an ultra, if you say that you are a runner—you are.  I know that now and I want to make sure that my kids know that as they grow up. 

I want my kids to know the following:  Do not limit yourself; do not label yourself because you are so much more.  Believe in yourself and your abilities; realize that nothing comes easy; savor every moment of your journey because you learn so much about who you are in those moments of challenge and doubt.  Most importantly, love yourself no matter what the outcome—as long as you have given 100% the result doesn’t matter.