Support

Now that I have officially signed up for my very first marathon, I have had a few friends and coworkers ask me how and the heck I have gotten to this point. Three years ago I blindly set out for my very first 5K race. In less than six weeks I will cross the marathon finish line. How did I get here? Support. Lots and lots of support.

If I could give any advice to a new runner starting out, it would be to seek out people who support, encourage, and inspire you. I know that I would not be running today if it was not for the love and support of certain people in my life. Taking on a new goal can be intimidating, scary, and challenging, but if you have the right people in your corner it really can make all the difference. Having someone to ask questions to, vent to, rave about an awesome run to, or compare war stories with (hello, missing toenails!) makes the journey that much better.

Here are some people in my life who are helping me to the finish line:

My Husband Joe: He is my handsome Italian whom I love more than words could ever express. He is the first one who encouraged me to run with him. He often uses tough love, telling me to suck up the pain and push harder, but he is also there with the loudest praise when I succeed. If he is not racing with me, he is always there cheering me on.

My Best Friend Esther: Esther was a highschool track and cross-country star who still loves to run in her adult years. Last year she ran The Kalamazoo Marathon and totally rocked it! She is always there to give me encouragement and advice. A conversation does not go by without her asking me about my training and her telling me how proud she is of me.

Team Transformers: The support that I get from my run group, Team Transformers, is unparalleled. They are there by my side every Saturday morning as we tackle double-digit miles. Cramp in my leg? They will slow down with me. If I forget my fuel, they will offer me some of theirs. I am feeling mentally blocked, they will give me a pep talk. If I lose my key during a 10 mile run, they help me find it (and this is a true story!). I love every member of my run group! I feel that all runs are possible with them by my side.

Blogging Buddies: The plethora of knowledge that I have learned about my favorite hobby (running of course!) from fellow bloggers is amazing! If that wasn’t cool enough, the support and encouragement among running and health bloggers is the cherry on the sundae! I love that we can bounce ideas off one another and trade tips and advice. I also love the encouragement that I have received from each one of you and the inspiration that I draw off of your success stories and runner highs.

FitFluential Run Group: Thru this Facebook group I have discovered my favorite running headbands, the benefits of compression socks and chocolate milk, and how to properly recover after a race. The tips and tricks in this group are endless, but so is the support and love! There are virtual high-fives and “Great Jobs!” galore. A huge thank you to Jess at EatDrinkBreathSweat for introducing me to this awesome group. :-)

The Kalamazoo Running Community: I am blessed to live in a community that is MOVING! Getting off the couch and getting active is contagious in Kalamazoo, MI! 800 runners showed up to Run Camp this year to work towards a goal of a healthier life. Here is a great article on that called, Kalamazoo gets up off the couch and gets moving” . What I love the most is the support and encouragement that you find on the streets of Kalamazoo. “Nice job!” or “Looking good!” is commonly shouted out from one runner to another on the road. Lots of waves, smiles, and thumbs up are given. It’s like we are all in this together and having so much fun in the process.

There will be people in your life who might not understand your passion for running. They might even tell you that it is ‘bad for your knees’ or that it is ‘unnatural to run that many miles’. There will be people who might not understand your hard work or sacrifice. There will be people in your life who will give you a sideways glance if you say the word ‘fartlek’. That’s okay. Not everyone is going to understand your wild and crazy love affair with running, but make sure that you do find at least some people or a supportive group who do. It makes reaching for that goal or crossing that finish line a lot more fun and the journey a lot easier.

Where do your find support, advice, and encouragement when it comes to running and fitness?

Making It Official

It’s official. I am now registered for the Kalamazoo Marathon on May 6th.

Not freaking out at all. Nope. (Lies.)

Source.

Now that I forked over my money, I am all business and very serious about my running.

And if you have not seen the Hunger Games movie yet, GO! It did not disappoint.

Do you get a rush of excitement and nerves when you sign up for a new race?

Training For a Marathon Is No Joke

Um, what the hell happened to Spring? One minute it was winter. I was running in snow, wind, and ice…

And then all of a sudden it was straight up summer!

It is 9 o’clock at night and still 79 degrees…and we hit 89 degrees today people! IN MARCH! IN MICHIGAN! What is going on?!

Needless to say I have had to adjust my running routine just a bit. You know, dress in less and carry more water. But I am keeping on, keeping on!

Monday I ran five…

And last night I rocked out 10 miles….

I came home from my run last night, looked my husband square in the eye, and said:

“Training for a marathon is no joke.”

It is so rewarding. I am having more fun than I ever dreamed that I would be. And I am beginning to believe that 26.2 is attainable. Like hey, I might actually pull this baby off!

But I am also noticing that my body is feeling tired, heavy. It is taking me a good two or three miles each run to warm up. Until then my legs feel like lead. And my calves are always so tight! Thank God for my new BFF…

We spend a lot of lovely time together.

This week I have really began to notice how training is kind of taking over my life. It is dominating my schedule….

It is dominating my diet. I am constantly craving protein! Chicken, peanut butter, and eggs please!

It is dominating my thoughts. You would not believe how often I think about race day….I think about what I should wear, the weather that day, the ‘wall’. You know, all the things that I can control and can not control.

How else do I know that training for a marathon is no joke?

  • I will be going thru two pairs of running shoes this training season.
  • I am reading fewer books and watching less TV because I am spending most of my ‘free’ time out on the road.
  • I almost used body glide as deodorant. Thank goodness I took a second look.
  • I have never hydrated this much in my life. Ever.
  • I have not thought about a gym in months. The road has become my gym.
  • Pasta has become a main food group in my house.
  • I keep Bayer aspirin handy at all times (thank you knee pain).
  • I have spent more money on fuel (Gu, nuun, and sports beans) these last few months than wine.
  • Dude, I took a bath. In ice. By choice.
  • Random people I work with have made it a habit to ask me how many miles I ran last night and then shake their head in disbelief when I tell them.
  • Running ten miles sounds easy now.

I am coming into April and it is the most critical time in my training. The ‘no joke’ stage. I am ready. I am here to give it my all, 100%. Now if only we can rewind back to Spring so I can enjoy some nice 50 degree weather runs!

When have you noticed that you have come to the ‘no joke’ stage of your training? Are you having a unseasonabley warm Spring where you live?

17 Miles for March 17th

Good things are happening! I had an amazing weekend, and I hope that you all did too :-)

Quick Recap:

After being held down last week with the nasty crud-bug, I woke up Saturday feeling like a brand new woman. Rested and feeling healthy again, I was itching to run. I met up with my run group with the mindset of taking it easy and seeing how I felt, then just go from there.

A few miles in, I was feeling pretty darn good! I knew that despite taking almost all of last week off, I had 17 miles in me for sure.

The temps were in the high 50′s when we started out at 8am, but they rose quickly into the upper 70′s. I made sure to stay plenty hydrated, but boy was I warm! The first 12 miles were pretty good, but as the sun got higher in the sky I began to slowly deteriorate. My body rebelled! Mentally I was in the game, and I felt that I had the energy, but my legs did not want to function! They kept cramping up and my left knee screamed with pain. I was happy when I finished and after lots of stretching and my first ever ice bath, I felt a lot better.

This was a tough run for me. The last four miles were brutal. I told myself to focus and to stay in the game. I kept thinking of race day and how I would have to overcome the wall and fatigue to make it to the finish. Visualizing the marathon and my goal definitely helped me push myself to finish this run. Even though this was not my favorite run physically, I did like that my head and heart stayed in the game. It made me that more excited for May 6th!

After an ice bath (I am now a firm believer!) and a quick lunch, it was time for some St. Patty’s Day celebration. Joe and I met up with some friends for a mini pub crawl and a yummy dinner.

After being on my feet all day I was so ready for bed at 11 pm! Besides, I needed my rest because I had plans to visit my niece on Sunday in Ann Arbor.

Charlie is out of the hospital (yay!), but is staying close to her team of doctors at the Med Inn (a hotel connected to the hospital) because she is not quite out of the woods yet. She was in good spirits yesterday showing off her teeth :-)  

To top off my weekend, my team made it to the sweet sixteen! Go Spartans, go! This years March Madness has been exactly that - MADNESS! So many upsets and close games.  A big congrats to the Green and White for pulling out the W!

It was a really good weekend, but now I am putting my game face on for this week! I am so happy to be feeling better and I am hoping to get back in the swing of things with my training runs.

How did you spend your weekend? Did you drink any green beer or run any St. Patty’s day races?

Friday Favorites

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. I LOVE St. Patty’s day! The fact that it lands on a Saturday this year is icing on the cake. That means that I do not have to wait eight loooooong hours at work before I can get out and celebrate. Now I can kick off being Irish for the day the moment I wake up! Sweet:-)

The original plan for tomorrow was to kick it off with a 17 mile run, but I am still battling the crud-bug. Seriously, why the heck did I have to get sick now? Did this bug not get the memo that I am trying to train for a marathon here?

I am not gonna lie. I am kinda freaking out that I have been out of commission this week. I know that I am not going to lose my base by missing a few days of running, but it still nags at me nonetheless. I am hoping to get back out on the road tomorrow. Even if I am not able to do the full seventeen, I just want to run again!

Stay tuned.

But let’s get back to today shall we because it is FRIDAY! And that means it is time for my Favorites. Your so excited, I can tell ;-)  What am I loving this Friday? Well we can start with Halls throat drops, Advil, Sudafed, orange juice, and kleenex. They have all pretty much been my besties this week.

What else has gotten me thru the week:

  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner: This book sucked me in! Has anyone else read it? If you are a Hunger Games fan or if you liked The Host by Stephanie Meyer, I think that you would dig the Maze Runner. Here is a short synopsis from Goodreads-

“When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind….”

It’s a Young Adult book, so it was a very easy read. The chapters are short and the story is a page turner. I am already looking forward to getting my hands on the next book.

  • Hunger Games: Speaking of the Hunger Games, we are now officially one week out until the movie premiers. Seven days people and I get to see one of my favorite books that I read last year come to life. The thirteen year old girl inside of me can not wait. And did you check out this months cover of Glamour?! The thirteen year old boy in me thinks Jennifer Lawrence looks smoking hot on it….
  • The Kalamazoo Marathon Beer: I am already so in love with this race, and I have yet to run in it! That’s right, The Kalamazoo Marathon will have it’s very own official beer, The Big Finish Ale! Be still my beating heart. Running + Beer = Love.

Source.

  • RUNspiration: My blogging buddy Jim is running his very first marathon this weekend! I have been following along with his journey on Run Far and Prosper and he is so ready to rock this race on Sunday! He has trained smart, worked hard, and is now ready to go out there and earn that medal. His blog has inspired me on my own journey and I am so excited to read about him crushing 26.2 miles! Stop by and wish him some luck!

  • March Madness Baby!: How is your bracket going? Tonight my Sparty’s play and you better believe that I will be all decked out in green and white cheering them on from my couch.

What else am I digging this Friday? How about hitting 80 degrees in March, in Michigan! Busting out my Toms, sunglasses, and shorts has felt pretty awesome seeing how we are usually battling snow this time of year. I am also loving that it still light out after 7pm! Thank you Daylight Savings time, you are a friend of mine.

Now it’s your turn! What are you loving right now? Reading anything interesting? Which teams are you rooting for in the tourney? Who is RUNspiration this week?

Junk Miles

There are days when I do not feel like running or working out, but I do, and I am so glad that I made the effort. I end up feeling re-energized, accomplished, and just darn awesome when I am done. 

Well there is a first for everything (and I hate to say it), but last night I did regret my run.

Let me back up. Monday night I started to feel a little funky…run down, tired, a scratchy throat. I did not sleep well at all that night. When I woke up Tuesday I felt so weak. I dragged myself to work, but I could not shake the crud feeling. I had already planned to meet up with some of my running buddies that night for a 10 mile run. I knew that I did not feel well enough to run, but I pushed that thought aside. I told myself that maybe I would feel better if I could get out, get some fresh air, and move. Besides, it was b-e-a-utiful outside! I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine.

I showed up (hey, that is usually half the battle right?!) and told myself to push hard and get it done. Not even a mile into the run I began to have doubts. My legs felt like lead, my chest felt heavy, and I broke out into a cold sweat. I felt awful. I tried to push myself, but only few miles in (which felt like 13) I knew that I had to call it a day.

I finished with five miles. Five miles of cold sweats, hard breathing, body aches, and a dry mouth despite guzzling water from my carry along bottle. I did not love these miles. That’s not what bothers me. Every now and then I have a run that I do not love. What bothers me is that my body did not love these miles. I felt worse when I was done. Not better. I did not feel re-energized, accomplished, or darn awesome. I felt like shit.

So this is what ‘junk’ miles feels like, miles that are not helping my training. If anything this run hurt my training. My body felt tight, my gait felt off, and forget about that good form running I wanted to focus on. These are the kind of miles where it is easy to get injured.

In retrospect I should have listened to my body. My body was craving rest. I wore it down even more by pushing it too hard when I am obviously not feeling well. Today I feel even worse. Despite the 80 degree sunny weather (unheard of this time of year in Michigan!), despite the already planned meet up with all my run buddies, and despite the fact that my training schedule called for 6 miles, I stayed home. I put my fuzzy slippers on and curled up on the couch. I rested.

Why is it so hard for runners to do this?! I feel this paranoid feeling that I will get so far behind on my training if I miss a run. I know that this is not true. I know that I have plenty of time before the marathon and a few unscheduled rest days will do me good in the long run. When I am back to feeling better I will focus on quality runs. In the meantime junk miles will get me no where.

Do you run when sick? Where do you draw the line? What are your thoughts on junk miles? Do you think all miles are good, miles are miles mentality?

Running Strengths & Weaknesses

Not too long ago one of my favorite bloggers Meggie, from The Thinks I Can Think, wrote a post about strengths and weaknesses as an athlete or runner that really got me thinking.

Immediately a list of my weaknesses as a runner popped into my head:

  • Slow
  • Keeping up with Good Form
  • Lack of Sprinting/Track Workouts
  • Slow
  • Knee Pain
  • Lack of Cross-Training
  • Did I say slow?

Ok, well what about strengths? I thought for a minute and I could not really think of anything. Instead my mind kept drifting back to the notion that I am a slow runner and that was my major weakness.

A weakness that I am ok with, one that I embrace even. But I would not call running slow a strength, so for me I put it in the other category: weakness. I hemmed and hawed if belonged in that category, especially since I was really ok with my current pace for the time being (training for a marathon, my first, where I was more focused on starting and finishing healthy than coming in at a certain time). I know that I do want to increase my pace this summer when I train to PR the half marathon distance.

As I thought this over I shifted back to my running strengths. There had to be some right?! My mind was blank. Maybe it’s because I still feel like such a ‘new’ runner, like I have yet to own my strengths there. After letting Meggie know that I was drawing a blank she replied that maybe my strengths are my determination, perseverance, and consistency.

Wow. Those are pretty awesome strengths. Do I embody them? The more I thought the more I realized that I do.

Determination: The act or an instance of making a decision.
(Everyday I decide if I will run or not. Most days I do. It’s a natural decision for me. I decided that I will run the Kalamazoo Marathon on May 6th. I am determined to do it!)

Perseverance: Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
(If it’s snowing and blowing, I still get out and run. If I am having a bad day or would rather sleep in, I still get out and run. When struggling with a cold and should probably rest, I still get out and run-as this was the case tonight. I persevere.)

Consistency: Conformity with previous attitudes, behaviour, practice, etc.
(I schedule my runs and make sure that I fit them in each week. I make sure that I eat right, drink plenty of water, and get good rest. I show up. I am consistent in my training.)

What I love about each of these traits is when done together-being determined, persistent, and consistent- great things can happen in your training. You grow and get better. Once I owned these strengths, I began thinking of more things that I am fairly good at (but by no means and expert…just good at!) when it comes to running:

  • I have been doing awesome at negative splits.
  • I always make sure that I am hydrated.
  • I am always mindful not to go out to fast so that I can finish strong.
  • I am pretty awesome at rocking hills.
  • I love going the distance.
  • I am pretty good at dressing for the weather. I rarely get too hot or cold. (In Michigan, that is a tough thing to do!)
  • I can usually stay mentally in the game.

I think that focusing on what you are good at and evaluating what needs work is a good thing to do with each training season. And put it in writing! Jot down what you rock at. Reference it when you need a little confidence boost, like the night before a big race.

Then list your weaknesses and come up with a plan on how you want to improve. For example, I would like to get better at good form running. I have looked into a good form running clinic offered at my local running store (stay tuned!) and have seeked out tips and pointers from my coach. I have also made a conscious effort during one of my shorter runs during the week to focus on my form. I am hoping that good form will slowly but surely become habit and second nature.

I think with evaluating and taking stock now and again we continue to improve and grow. This is true with running, work, relationships, and personal growth. Thanks Meggie for helping me do this! I am going to celebrate some things that I am good at and push myself in areas that I know that I can improve upon.

What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are as a runner?

Sweet Sixteen

If you are wondering where I have been this past week, let me just say that it has been crazy-town here and I have been trying to stay afloat! I will spare you all of the details, but here is a quick recap:

  • My niece Charlie was home from the hospital for all of two days before she got a virus. She was rushed back to Mott’s Children’s Hospital via ambulance where she is still recovering.
  • I worked one of my busiest weeks ever at my job where I billed a record amount of jobs. (I do invoicing for a printing and color work company and the first week of the month is always the craziest. This month it was crazy on steroids.)
  • Joe and I are in the process of buying a house! We have been meeting with our realtor, mortgage broker, an inspector and appraiser trying to get everything squared away. I am not sure either Joe and I will be able to rest easy until we close on this house!

With all of this going on it was challenging to squeeze in my runs last week. Here is what I managed:

Monday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 9 miles
Saturday: 16 miles
Total: 29 miles

Not too shabby with all of life’s twist and turns, but I wish that I could have squeezed in a 6 mile run on Thursday. *sigh* Such is life!

Let’s talk about Saturday though, because 16 miles is my new personal distance record! This past summer when I did my long runs I pushed myself really hard and would often end up extremely fatigued in the last few miles and unable to function the rest of the day because I would be so sore. My run coaches this training session are emphasising  slowing down on our long runs and this has made a huge difference in how I feel!

I have been running my shorter mid-week runs around 10 minute miles. For the Saturday long run, my coach says to slow that pace by a minute. These long runs are supposed to be easy and done at a conversational pace. I have been following that advice this training cycle and it has made the miles enjoyable and do-able!

I start out each Saturday with overnight oats made with vanilla soy milk and a glass of water with a nuun tablet. I am also stopping every two miles on the course for a drink of water (I feel that this might seem a bit excessive, but Run Camp has water stops every two miles so I always feel the need to stop, if even for a quick sip.) This week I took one Gu pack at 4 miles, some sports beans at 8 miles, and half of a cliff bar at 12 miles. I am still in the experimental stage with my fuel, but this worked really well for me this week.

Overall I felt really good on this run. My legs felt strong for the first 12 miles or so and then a dull ache started in my problem knee. (I do wear a support strap around that knee for my longer runs.) It was nothing unbearable and it did not alter my pace at all.

Despite the very windy last few miles, I finished strong. After a long shower, I ate a quick lunch and headed out for a day full of shopping and errands. My knee pain went away and my legs felt fine. Sixteen mile success!

I definitely feel that my confidence is increasing with the miles. Each week I gain a little bit more and I think, “Maybe I will be able to pull of this marathon afterall!”

How often do you stop for water on your long runs? What is your favorite fuel?

A Happy Weekend Indeed

I have so much blogging and blog reading to catch up on! But right now I am celebrating two things:

  1. I ran a new personal distance record yesterday: 15 miles! It was an awesome run and I felt great during and after…whoo-hoo!
  2. Guess who is home from the hospital after three long months!
     ImageRight now I am snuggling this sweet pea! Charlie has lots of doctor appointments in the next month, but at least she can enjoy some time away from the hospital in the meantime.

I promise more details and catching up soon. Lots going on here! Hope that you all had a fabulous weekend filled with lots of running, laughter, and good company :-)

A Tale of Two Runs

I am very busy at work and have been trying to play catch up all day! *Deep Breath*  I wanted to check in real quick and tell you how training is going so far this week. Let’s call this the ‘Tale of Two Runs’ shall we.

Speedy Does It:

Monday night I set out for five miles and this is what happened:

I have been averaging 11 minute miles, but I was antsy to run all day on Monday and by the time I laced up my shoes after work I was ready to push myself.

I worked for this pace and it felt so good to look down at my watch when I had finished to see that my hard work paid off. I am so excited to add more speed work into my routine (especially after the marathon when I begin to train for my half marathon). Could I do this run with a 9:30 pace?! I think that I will put that goal out there!

She’s Going the Distance:

Last night I had 10 miles on the agenda, and I wanted a little company for this one. I met up with two of my running group buddies, Amy and Becky, and we set out a little before 6pm. 10 miles would be a mid-week run record for me.

We kept the pace slow, but steady (around 11 minute miles) and tackled lots of hills on our route. Taking on hills is real important to our training because the Kalamazoo Marathon course is full of them.

We kept a nice conversation going the whole time and before we knew it we were finished.

Two very different training runs in the book. Both felt solid and gave me a little confidence boost after last Saturday’s painful run.

I did not run today, but did cover a few miles of walking with the pup. Tomorrow I hope to have an easy run and then gear up for Saturday, or as I like to call it, Run Camp Nation day:-)

I know this post is kinda boring….no pics and just me rambling about my training runs. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. I owe ya something! How about a link to the cutest website EVER!?! 

It’s called Attack of the Cute and I promise that you will not be disappointed. Unless fuzzy cute animals are not your thing, and in that case I am not sure if we can be friends….

How is your training going this week? Are you a cat person or dog person? I love ALL animals, but I am a doggy person for sure ;-)