Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year Running Became an Unfinished Sentence

For the last few years, I manged to really wrap my running year up nicely. It was in a box, with neatly wrapped tissue paper inside around the piles of miles I ran in training. The box was wrapped in artsy paper, and finished with matching ribbon and a pretty big bow of PR's on top. My running year this year? It looks like a 3 year old tried to wrap a basketball with cardboard scraps and tin cans. You know what, it still looks pretty nifty under the tree all lit up at night though.

Coming off my biggest running year ever in 2015 (Sub-3, Sub-1:25, Sub-19, running a great friends first marathon with her as part of Saucony, and a million other running accomplishments along the way), it's a little nutty to look at running this year and think much of it. Some might say I was due for the downtime, which in many cases is true but not because I'm overtrained, injured, or burned out. Simply because I've been working hard, staying healthy and focusing so much on running for a few years- I was due for a shift. Frankly it's nice for it to be on my terms (for the most part), taking a break before it becomes forced.

To say it's been 100% easy to sit back and reflect on my running year though wouldn't be realistic. I'm a very numbers oriented person, and if I were to judge my 2016 running year by the numbers, it would be very tough to call it much of a success. I will not even hit 1500 miles which will by far be the lowest since 2012. I have no new marathon PR's, not even a half PR, nor a 5k. BUT, I also know that all those numbers don't tell the whole story.

The year started off pretty high. A few weeks in, I decided to hand the coaching reins over to James McKirdy. His business was just getting off the ground, but it felt like the right move for me. I quickly realized that I had found a coach I could rely on unlike my previous one that I had ditched back in the fall. We came up with a good plan for training/racing my way through the winter in preparation for Boston. I had kept a good base through the fall after Erie so I was setting myself up nicely come winter and spring.

Finish Line of Lake Effect Half Marathon a sub 1:27 which was run as a workout.
Home stretch en route to a huge 10k PR, race win and Freezeroo series win with a 38:37 on a windy winter Saturday.
A few stats from early in the year:
There was THIS half marathon where every goal went out the window and mental toughness was only thing I could focus on. Though the time was as much of a shit show as the weather was. Unknowingly 3 weeks pregnant as well. 
All of those numbers took place before April 13th(the day everything changed). So, the first 3-4 months of the year by running standards were pretty wildly successful- and something I'm proud of.

A few more numbers from the year...
So as I sit here right now, with a much different shape than I started the year in (quite literally)- I have no regrets about this year. I have no sadness or anger for my running, that simply wasn't. I didn't end the year with a bang, or even an airhorn. THAT'S OKAY! For years I wondered how I would handle this transition I am now in, for years I wondered if it would be harder on me- because running is so important to me. But, I've realized that it isn't.

NO that doesn't mean it's 100% easy to just flip the switch. It's not. Even if you want a kid (I did and do! {rubs belly and says hi to baby}), it doesn't mean all of your other goals and ambitions just disappear. I think it was a little harder for me this spring because I went from the best shape of my life to....not. But, to me this is something that is important to me more than running and something that will be a part of me much longer. So, on those days I wish I got another marathon in and see those people out there chasing PR's instead of families(or whatever)- I let myself feel a twinge of whatever emotion but then I think about all that I am gaining and move on with my day.

I am still a runner, even if I'm choosing not to make running a priority during my pregnancy.

I feel it's important for me to say that I do not look at pregnancy as an injury or a setback in running. In fact, I don't understand the thought process of people who feel that way especially if you're not a professional runner. Sure, the first time around this year derailed my goal marathon and then we had to deal with a loss so nothing to show for the race or the pregnancy. But I don't look at that loss as a setback in my running, I saw it as a setback in my life and what we want obviously- but I don't for one second wish it all never happened so I could have had my race even if I had known how things would have turned out. That doesn't mean running or the race didn't matter, but to me it wasn't even a competition for what mattered more.

When I started to get back into running it was tough, but it made me feel like I was doing something. I set goals, I dreamed of a fall marathon as my last hoorah and big PR attempt. I dreamed of a big training cycle, and long nights of foam rolling tired muscles. I got lost in a trance when certain songs would come on that I could visualize myself flying through a finish chute as if it were a cheesy motivational YouTube video. But those dreams were not the only thing occupying my mind.

Maybe we didn't get our storybook ending the first time around, but it did certainly tell me that I was ready for it and deep down I wanted that more than anything. I didn't pour myself into my training and return to running the way I normally would. I drank more beer than normal (I'm gonna file that under grief category), I didn't get OMG excited for workouts, I wasn't focusing on the little things I knew I needed to-and I didn't notice or seem to care. I wanted all the PR's and glory without doing what I knew it would take to get there- and that isn't me. That isn't how I do things.

So when we found out we were pregnant again, hindsight was clear as day and I realized that what I wanted was more than any training cycle or PR could give me (right now). So when I say that pregnancy is not an injury or some setback to your training- I mean that. No I haven't dealt with the post-pregnancy body things yet, and know that the return will be tough- but I'll have something wonderful to show for that.  There's nothing wrong with looking forward to running fast again and yogging without a bouncing belly but if you're so focused on what you're losing or NOT doing when you're pregnant you're not really seeing everything you're gaining (quite literally). Pregnancy, running pregnant, managing the shift in mindset (such as from chasing PR's to chasing gingerale and crackers), is tough I will not deny that; but I feel like if you're so negative about it during pregnancy how on earth are you going to handle it for the next 18 years or more after the kid is born?

{Steps off soap box}

Anyways, all that is meant to say is that I am still happy with my year of running. 2016 had a lot of negativity surrounding it in general in the world and I refuse to add to that if I can help it especially for something like my running. I'm also aware that my running in 2017 will most likely be pretty similar to 2016, with 22ish weeks of pregnancy to go followed by life with a newborn. So at the very least my running is taking a step-back for 2 years. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that much and running will be there well after.

Cheers to 2016, the year I finally broke my age old 10k PR and the year running gave me more perspective in the most unexpected of ways. A lot of things got left unfinished, but doesn't mean I cannot return to those down the road.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

1st Trimester

As I said in my last post, this blog isn't going to turn into 100% pregnancy writing- but it will be a common theme for a while. Seeing as, I'm cooking a kiddo for a few more months and it naturally will have a big effect on my daily life, not just my running.

Pregnancy has not been all sunshine and roses, even if you wanted/planned this it doesn't mean it still won't be hard. I think that is a common misconception I have seen before. A woman who gets pregnant and was trying and really wants a kid, gets shamed if she says anything other than she is just SO excited. Let me get this out there now that I don't agree with that at all. Moving on though, I wanted to wrap up my first trimester (we're 15 weeks today so already chugging along in the second). I tried to cover most bases, being open but also honest.


Nausea, fatigue- the common stuff. While many runners compare pregnancy to marathon training (there really are a lot of parallels) I have to say that the fatigue of pregnancy (for ME) is tougher because you cannot catch up on it. If I have a few bad nights of sleep during training + all the work, I know that if I get a few solid weekend nights I'm as good as new for the most part. These days, it doesn't matter if I get 5 or 10 hours of sleep a night, by the time bedtime (or couch time) rolls around the next day I'm toast. That isn't even including the multiple times I actually almost fell asleep in my lunch at work.

Besides that, some random symptoms have popped up; pregnancy induced bleeding gums (it's a thing, it's dumb and apparently nothing I can do about it), newly developed Gastric reflux (it's gross but manageable), nothing too crazy though. The vivid dreams have been CRAZY and most mornings I wake up wondering what was real and what wasn't. It's amazing to me what hormones do to your body.

Should probably add in baby brain/pregnancy brain/momnesia started to kick in early. Some days I feel straight up dumb and forgetful! This makes my nerdy compulsion for spreadsheets, to-do lists, and post-it notes even more important. We've laughed at it for the most part though!

Weight Gain

The first 8 weeks I didn't gain anything. Between 8-10 weeks I gained 4 pounds though, and held that through the end of the trimester. I outgrew a lot of my normal pants pretty quick, which I expected. When a lot of your clothes were bought during marathon training a small change in waistline will be felt quicker! I don't know why people put off wearing maternity clothes though, they're pretty dang comfortable.

But I also admit, the whole getting bigger and changing clothes thing hasn't affected me as much mentally as I thought it would. I'm sure that will change at some point, but for now I'm fascinated and excited about the expanding belly and am thoroughly comfortable in stretchy waist pants and ruched tops. I have an awesome sister who gave me a TON of maternity clothes so I feel like I have an entire new wardrobe which I won't complain about. I also bought a few more basics to get me started; Old Navy & Target have been awesome for those. So has this Belly Band combined with the rubber band trick.
I think this was 12 weeks. Most of that happened overnight!
As for running, since my gear is obviously mostly spandex things still fit for the most part. I have found the best running clothes right now are those with wider waistbands, it's simply more comfortable. (Pinnacle ShortsScoot Capri have been my go-to's). My go to sports bra has been the Rock-It Bra Top because it's not a set band/cup size (they size them S,M, L instead of 34B etc.) so there is a bit more wiggle room as I uhhhh grow.


I went through spurts with what I wanted to eat. For a few weeks it was anything processed, and by processed I mean...processed AF. Chef Boyardee, Easy Mac, anything quick and high in calories sounded amazing to me.

Then I went into the current stage which has been fruits(berries, oranges and grapefruit specifically), veggies/ranch, certain salads, and cereal. ALL THE CEREAL. I don't currently have any aversions, other than the smell of tuna. But if something doesn't sound good to me I don't want it. I normally love tacos and Mexican and had no appetite for that for a while now.


In general, I didn't do much. On average once a week. Quite frankly I was fine with it. Part of it was nerves, part of it was the fatigue....and part of it was...I've been going so hard with training for 4+ years right now that the break feels so refreshing. I know activity is good, and that it will help labor- but I'm also not going to push myself. I wrote out my 1st Trimester training log over on Salty Running.

It is worth noting that I did run a half marathon about a week after we found out about the baby. We were in North Carolina visiting family (during Hurricane Matthew) and I decided to still run the Volition America Half Marathon. It was disgusting wind and rain but could have been worse. (I really won't complain about this much....people lost their homes and lives- can we stop bitching about race weather all the time? Bad weather affects far more important things than your race).

Weather + being pregnant took the pressure off and I just ran by feel and  raced for place and to have fun. I chatted with some other runners, met some new people and generally enjoyed most of the race- I did kind of just want to be done the last few miles though. Me and baby(6 weeks) walked away with the win and a 1:29 half marathon, It wasn't effortless by any means but I was happy with it and finished with soaking wet hugs from Brian and his Aunt/Uncle who stood out there cheering for us.

The Anxiety of Pregnancy After Loss

I can and will write an entire post on this all together. This is tough. It's scary. It takes away some of the excitement. It consumes you. BUT, its manageable.

I am incredibly lucky to have a doctor who understood that and agreed we would keep a very close eye for baby sake, and my peace of mind. I went for ultrasounds at 5, 7 ,9 and 12 weeks with regular OB checkups at 8 and 10 weeks. Overkill, maybe? But when you have a maxed out deductible and a very anxious pregnant woman- you just do it.

I also made a point to have some regular contact with my therapist. I have no issues talking about that, she is someone I have seen on and off for years and has helped me through some of the most trying times. Most of our sessions didn't even end up being the OMG emotional ones- if anything it was simply nice to have an unbiased person to talk to about everything in life and not just growing a baby.

Beside professionals- I made sure to be in touch with close friends and family that understand where I'm at. It's not something you really get unless you've been through it. Brian and I also had to find our own ways to cope in the first few weeks- not everyone processes things the same. But at the end of the day we had each other, want the same thing and have the same fears and worries. We have amazing friends and family, and everyone has been so supportive and I cannot begin to express how that makes me feel.

Things We Did For Baby During 1st Trimester

  • I went on my first Black Friday adventure ever, and came away with an amazing crib for $99. It's still in the box and hasn't been touched since we picked it up, but at least we have it.
  • Started registries (because of timing with Holiday it was just easier to do it sooner rather than later).
  • Spreadsheet making. I'm a nerd, this will shock no one. But this has helped me wrap my head around everything we need, and where we are getting it. We're really lucky to both have sisters who are passing a lot of things down to us from their kiddos!
  • We shared the news! This took a little longer this time around, as we really wanted to make sure. It's such fun and exciting news and we loved being able to be open and talk and be excited with others about it. This kid is already so loved!
  • We checked up on baby, I bought an at home Fetal Heart Monitor. Honestly this was a no-brainer investment and really helped keep me at ease during the first trimester. Not to mention, it has been fun to check in and listen to little one. I would recommend this for any pregnant woman!
  • I've been really good about taking my Prenatal Vitamins every day- I know it's a simple thing but so important. I tried a few different ones before settling on these as the ones that I feel work best for me. I take it every night before bed with a small snack, it seems to settle better that way.
  • I've never been good at hydrating even during marathon training. It's so important right now though, so I've been really trying! Nuun All Day has been an easy way to get me to drink more but also get some extra electrolytes to make up for what I may be missing. 
  • I rested, and relaxed A LOT. The Fire TV Stick made this way easier, and binge watched all seasons of Revenge and got through about 4 seasons of Parenthood as well. I wanted to read more but it didn't happen, I did re-read Me Before You while we traveled to Charlotte in October. I bought a bunch more kindle books to hold me over for the winter, which will definitely get me motivated to start reading more again.

So that is essentially how things went for the first trimester! I feel like it flew by most of the time, and can't believe we are already 1/3 of the way there! We cannot wait to meet our little one, but know we have a lot to do in the mean time. Thank goodness my second trimester started with some fresh energy to help!

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Few Steps Back and 14 Weeks Forward.

This has been a year of constantly changing plans, more so than I can remember in any other year. While I've definitely changed my mind, thrown wrenches into the mix, and been subject to the uncontrollable aspects of life many times before- this time was just, different.

For the first few months of the year things were pretty well laid out in running and life. Training for Boston, planning on home improvements, steady one job work schedule, nothing nutty. Before we knew it, we were preparing for a baby, throwing race plans out the window, picking up second job (kids are expensive), and planning the year around a happy December due date. A few months later and we were back at square one, completely defeated and unsure of what the next steps should be. A few steps forward, a million steps back is about how it felt.

As time went on, I started running again and more importantly we started coming out of the fog and looking towards the happy future ahead. The goals got shuffled around, a goal marathon got added to the list and we planned on next year being the year for lots of big life stuff so this fall would be the last hoorah before taking time to focus on other priorities.

Funny as it all works out, a few weeks later we decided (or someone else decided for us) that our plan should be different yet again. As soon as I took those pretty sweet looking marathon shoes off the shelf, I was gladly hanging them back up.

When I posted about deciding not to run Philly everything I said was 100% true. I've been going so hard with training for years on end and mentally and physically I honestly didn't realize how ready for a break I was. After everything that happened in the spring, my head never really got back into running space the way I'm used to it being. I assumed it was just still grief, and general running motivation struggle (it happens). Looking back though, it's pretty obvious where my head and heart were even if I couldn't see it then. We hadn't realized how much we wanted that step (at this time) until it was taken from us.

So when we were all of a sudden facing a positive pregnancy test again, everything made so much more sense. In some ways it put me at ease, in that it explained why I was feeling the way that I was. In other ways it rocked me to my core with fear and personal trust issues. For today though, we are going to focus on the positives.

Here we are into the second trimester, and the excitement grows by the day. Sure there are moments we struggle and the fear creeps in, but we get through it. We've found ways to feel like we can keep a better eye (or ear) on whats going on, and we aren't letting things hold us back from being hopeful.

My days are still the same working two jobs, the evenings are a little more relaxing with some extra time in the recliner with Netflix and Fire TV. Our spare time is getting the house ready to sell, thinking about baby things, and the usual preparations for the busy holiday season as well.

So maybe this year didn't turn out the way we expected by any means. I may not have a marathon PR, or a baby due date in a few weeks. But we have a whole lot of perspective, and a few more months to prepare for a wonderful bundle of joy (and sleepless nights) come late spring.


{Note for future posts- Everything will not be pregnancy related, but clearly it's going to be a big part of my life for a while. I have some planned posts about how things are going, some running related and will probably update a few times over the next 26 weeks as well. I do also plan on doing a few separate posts on pregnancy after loss and some other related things- I feel it's something that isn't talked about enough and have had some wonderful(but tough) conversations and people reach out since we shared our experience, and the current news as well}

Monday, October 24, 2016

I'm Running Another Marathon, Wait No I'm Not.

"Get your head in the game" 

It's so commonly said but what we fail to realize at times is that your head can be in the game all it wants but if your heart isn't there you might as well be running without one of your shoes.

When I finally started to run again this year after our loss, I was excited because frankly I NEEDED something to be excited about. I wanted to want to train hard. I wanted to want to race hard. I wanted to want that PR and breakthrough race. I wanted to want something so big and full of pride after a year that hasn't left me with much.

That's the thing though, I wanted to want it all. But deep down, I don't want it...not right now. My heart isn't there and sometimes it just takes time and some proverbial life slaps across the face to see it.

So as quickly as I write about going big and training for a marathon again. I'm here to write again about NOT training for a marathon again. It's been a few weeks since I came to this conclusion and with the exception of a few fleeting thoughts of "what if", I haven't really faltered in knowing that this was right.

Because truth is, I don't believe you should run or train for a marathon unless you really want to. It's a time and energy commitment and it's a distance that demands respect. I'm also not at the point where I want to run a marathon for the sake of running one.  It's by far my favorite distance but the next time I toe the line for a 26.2 it's going to be about challenging myself and pushing my personal limits- and going for a time that is faster than I have done before. Mentally and physically I am not in a place to do that right now, and I don't have the desire to put in the work to get there at this moment.

This break isn't just about the marathon though. It's about training and schedules in general. I started running road races in 2009. I'd say it got a bit more serious in 2011 when I ran my first 3 marathons. 2012 was the first time I truly started "training" for races though, and since then I have had little to no downtime.

In the last 4 years I have ran 11 Marathons, 20 Half Marathons, 1 Half Ironman, and god knows how many shorter races. I have had some form of a training plan on my calendar for almost every week with a few exceptions. Even my recovery weeks I had a loose plan of what I wanted. Plans work for me, they help me and they calm me (as stupid as that sounds).

Right now though, a plan doesn't make sense or even sound good to me. I realized I was following a plan and doing what it said, because it said so and not because I wanted to. I have always been the athlete that wants to know WHY I am doing a workout and what I am supposed to get out of it. Somewhere in the last few months I realized I was no longer going into workouts to see what I can get out of it, but simply to check it off the list and have it be done. My head was always somewhere else, and that is when I say it's time to step away for a little bit. I'm lucky to have a coach that is 100% understanding and knows that this time away is important for me.

Reality is, I know that this is a really GOOD thing. I know that a break will make me better, and I know that running is not 100% my life nor do I ever want it to be. I wouldn't trade the last few years for anything. I was willing and able to make much of my time and energy about running and training. I was successful by my own standards because of that. I was simply able to make it more of a priority than I am willing to these days.

Zest, over at Salty Running wrote this piece that hit home- The Virtues of Casual Running. My mission over the next few months is to embrace casual running. Going out and running, for the sake of running and not because of some bigger goal. There was another piece by my good friend Cilantro about shifts in your running identity- I'd say that really describes the crossroads I'm at right now in a lot of ways. I'll say it again, this is a GOOD thing and I really plan on embracing all of this as much as I can. I have a lot of goals for the future and in running specifically. Big, scary, lofty, holy-shit running goals; but I have a bit of time right now to step back before I need to step up for those goals and I plan on fully taking advantage of that.

So where is my time going to go?

Time with Brian. Time with our crazy little ones. Time with family. Time with friends. Time with those who matter- because life's too short.

Working two jobs because I'm an overachiever who gets off on paying more than my minimum car payment and enjoys the ease of automatic deposits into my IRA.

Tackling projects around the house, getting ready to sell and move next year. Working on floor plans instead of personal training plans. Finally getting around to printing photos and changing out frames like we've been talking about forever. Actually finishing some little projects (I love DIY and crafts) that I have been meaning to but never got around to doing.

Oh yeah, I'm still going to do that running thing. Just without a goal race, or pressure, and probably lacking any form of routine. Exercising for health instead of a time goal- a good basic habit. I plan on going into more detail about this another day.

I'm still going to be around running. I plan on getting some volunteering in, and definitely getting my cheer on. Heather and I decided this would be a great year to get back down to NYC to spectate for an adventure. We went in 2013 and had a blast, I can only imagine it being just as fun this year- I mean, have you seen the pro field list? I also plan on getting a bit more involved in the running community in other ways, like mentoring and even the possibility of coaching. Just because I need a little space from a personal training plan doesn't mean I don't know how to put them together and wouldn't love helping others reach their goals.

I also plan on getting into writing a bit more. Both for personal use, as well as posts here and on Salty Running. Honestly it's such a good outlet and something I truly enjoy. With that, I'll also add I have about 50 books on my kindle list that I want to get working on-perfect timing as the weather starts to turn.

So, there's that. I was training for a marathon and now I'm not. Yes, I'm still a runner. But I think we all need a break from a training plan from time to time- no?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rotating the Goals on the Shelf

Sometimes I feel like I have this shelf full of goals and dreams. Like a physical shelf, full of things that represent my life and what I want. I also feel like I have spent the last few years furiously picking some up off the shelf and putting others back. Sometimes, we can work on multiple at a time and other things you need to accept that it just isn't the time. This year Brian and I were forced to do a lot of rearranging of our shelf. Sometimes we move things around not to work on feng shui, but because we have no choice to but to do so. Those are the moves that take time and processing to work through, and accept the changes. Sometimes those moves leave you paralyzed with fears and emotions, and can keep you from living your life fully.

It's scary but we're finally to a point where we feel more comfortable making plans (or accepting the fact that we cannot plan some things). Back in June, we had some talks and decisions to make. DO we try now? Do we wait? What do we want to see happen this fall now? What do we want to see next year?

A lot of things are happening next year, big life changing things (Selling our home, Buying/Moving into a new one...for starters). Among some other big things, it just makes it really hard to plan accordingly and very far in advance for things that are way down on the totem pole in comparison (such as, running).

What does that mean? Well, right now I'm not really sure what it means. I know that I won't be registering for Boston for a multitude of reasons (some are emotional, others are more logistical). I also don't know if I'll be registering for anything far in advance at all. I know I'll run in some capacity, and probably jump in local races that I can do with far less planning. I'm VERY okay with this, and who knows- as we get a better idea of what the year will look like I may find a way to work in some bigger races/plans. I may not though.

Right now this leaves me feeling like I want a "last hoorah" though. That sounds so dramatic, like I'll never run again which is far from the truth. Hell, I know myself well enough to know that I'll get in SOME goal for running next year I just don't know what/when. But, after we waded through everything this summer- I realized that I wanted to take advantage of the time this fall to go out with a bang. It's scary and hard and I'm trying not to overthink it- but I've got two goals on the calendar and with some grit and a lot of help I think I can get there. Brian has been incredibly supportive as always, and we agree that this is the time to do these things.

After Oak Tree, I had a renewed sense of motivation and confidence. It was far from a PR for me (well, it was a course PR), but there were a lot of little things from that day which showed me....I'm not so far from where I was. So, we decided it was time to actually get some goals on the calendar.

The first is actually the later of the goals, but the bigger one. A marathon. I doubt this is shocking to anyone. But I admit I really wasn't sure if I was going to or not. I LOVE marathons, I do them for me because I enjoy the distance and I truly love the process. But I will also be the  first to admit that when I do them, it is with my heart- because it really is my favorite. This is why I wasn't sure if I COULD do one this year, because honestly my heart is not totally there.

Back in June, I knew that if I were to run a marathon it would need to be later in the fall. It would need to give me enough time to get in PR shape or at least close. I already ran one for "fun" this year, and if I was going to run another I wanted to at least feel ready to RACE. I wanted to feel ready to go for it, to push, and grit through the miles- for better or for worse.

I had three races in my head. Memphis. CIM. Philly. All of which I have done in some capacity before, and were late enough to give me the time I needed. At the end of the day, Philly made the most sense. As of last week, I am officially registered. Our hotels have actually been booked for a while(always be prepared), and pretty much knew this was going to be the case. I simply needed the confidence, and the emotional readiness to commit.

We are really excited, and planning a fun filled marathon weekend. As it stands I know for sure a few of my biggest supporters are going to be there- something that makes me smile just thinking about. Philly is a great city, and we really enjoyed spending some time there for the half last year (and also some non-running related things in the city). I'm giddy thinking about the race, and already visualizing different aspects of it and how I want to see things pan out. Those are the moments that make training even better, I love the process but the process becomes easier when you can clearly see the goals ahead.

That also left me feeling like I wanted a half in October for a tune-up race. I originally thought about going back to Empire Half to run (and maybe try to win again), but when I realized we were out of town that weekend I started to search a bit more. IF I was going to race when we got to Charlotte, it needed to be close and start early. We are going to visit Brian's family and I did not want my running to interfere with anything. Lucky for me, there is a half marathon...10 minutes from his Uncles house and it starts at 7AM. So, I will be running the Volition America Half Marathon. I had not really heard of this race series before, but it's for a great cause and some folks have assured me it's actually a flat course for Charlotte (where as many are not in that area!).

So just like that, I'm setting goals again. It's frustrating and scary and emotional- but that is pretty much an accurate description of life. I'm also excited, motivated and ready to get back to the grind. Oddly, few things make me feel more stable than the instability of the marathon training gauntlet.

Bring on the marathon training, and ALLLLL of the food that comes with it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oak Tree Half Marathon 2016

The Oak tree Half marathon is one of my favorite races and probably always will be. It's close to my hometown, MANY of my friends run it, it mainly runs on back roads like ones I grew up on....and it falls on Labor day weekend. My birthday is always right around labor day, but in general I just love that weekend because it's in my head the beginning of a "new season".

The first time I ran the race was in 2011, it happened to fall smack dab on my birthday. I won the race that year with a 1:36 (which was a PR at the time). In 2012 I went back and ran 1:35 for 3rd place. Even though I love this race, I hadn't been back to it since then. It became a new tradition to always be at our cabin in the 1000 Islands for the weekend, and wasn't going to commute back 3 hours for a race.

This year though, it worked out to run again as Brian and I had to be around home for the weekend for a wedding and some family events. The race, also fell on my birthday again this year so it was kind of a no brainer. For my birthday, I wanted to run the race and spend the morning with my friends. I even convinced Heather to come out and run it as well.

The course is not an easy one, but it isn't impossible by any means. There are 2 main climbs, and a good chunk of the course is on dirt/gravel back roads. The race field is usually small but occasionally gets some faster runners. The course records are 1:23 for women and 1:08 for men, though the winning times are rarely that fast(see my 1:36 in 2011).

Heather came out the night before the race and spent the evening with Brian, myself, and Brian's family(they were in town from the wedding). It was low key back yard BBQ and good times relaxing.

In the morning, things went smoothly getting on the road and getting to the race about 45 minutes before the start while finishing my pre race drink in the car. It starts/finishes at the high school which makes for ample bathrooms- always a plus.  Heather and I did about a mile warm-up due to time and then headed to the start after saying bye to Brian. I opted not to wear my flats because I knew it would hurt with the gravel, and went with my Fastwitch instead (what I used for workouts, and marathon). I also, for the first time wore a crop top. I love sports bra running but have been looking for a crop for a while to see if I would like it. Found this one on Amazon and am really happy with it.

It was admittedly a beautiful morning. We were chilly when we got up (perfect!) and it was in the 50-60's for the race, with nice sunshine and blue sky. It was warming up quick but early start time definitely helps along with the breeze.

At the start I saw a bunch of good friends, including Dawn who I knew was about to wipe the floor with me on this course. There was another local runner who I knew was going to be in front of me, so in my head I knew that vying for podium meant third. I had a challenging few weeks physically and emotionally leading up to this so I wasn't 100% sure how it would go but was planning around 1:30-31, coach had agreed with that. I know I'm not in PR shape yet, and still returning to my pre-Boston form.

Miles 1-3 (6:37, 6:37, 6:40)

These are pavement miles, where you run into town and around the fountain and then back outside of town. I love this section because you get to see all of the other runners due to out and back nature of it and then also run through the scream tunnel of the 5k participants waiting to start. I wound up in 5th during these miles and was just focusing on running comfortably hard. The miles ticked off and I was surprised how good they felt.

Miles 4-7 (6:40, 6:43, 7:05, 7:00)

When you turn left onto Nations road is where the race really begins. At this point it's a long downhill on dirt/gravel, it's hard not to fly down but I maintained pretty good control and used it to sling shot around the corner at the bottom. I was running near a few people, we bobbed back and forth and I could see 4th/3rd places far in front of me. The race starts spreading out more and more each mile around this point.

Right after mile 5, you turn right to head up Roots Tavern. A long gradual which accounted for the slower 6th and 7th miles (which I knew would be the case). I focused on short strides and even effort, my heart rate jumped a ton for this section until I realized I needed to breathe and let it calm down. We were right in the sun, so I was glad I had my shades on and tried to tuck in any tree shadows when I could.

Part of 7 and 8 you pop back up on main road for a short period which was nice reprieve from the gravel and allowed me to pick things up a little bit and mentally shift gears.

Miles 8-10 (6:38, 6:36, 6:46)

8 is a nice downhill stretch (but back on gravel) and it allowed me to see 3rd and 4th place women ahead of in the distance again. About halfway down the hill I caught fourth place, just one more to go. A few guys and I picked up the pace going back and forth, I mentioned I was trying to catch the girl in 3rd (who, lucky for me was wearing BRIGHT yellow shirt which gave me something to focus on). Before 10 you start the slight uphill getting ready to curve back around to Nations road (the long downhill after mile 3). It was a strange feeling but I really had shifted gears into race mode and was like...I want to catch that girl. Much of the race leading up to that was, just run comfortably hard and save enough for Nations hill at the end.

Miles 11-12 (6:58, 7:35)

Helllooooo Nations hill. I love/hate this hill. It's gorgeous scenery but will mentally break you if you aren't ready to fight back against it. I didn't look at my watch, just trucked up (slowly) and bided my time until I could get to the top where we go back on main roads (and a gentle downhill to the finish). I could still see yellow shirt, but knew trying to push and catch her on the hill wouldn't be smart. I got a few cheers and "Happy Birthday's" from people I knew out on the course which made me smile- and also made a few runners around me say HBD too.

Mile 13, Finish (6:15, 5:33 for last bit)

As soon as I got on the road I just stared at yellow shirt back and ran hard until I could get close. Oddly this was the fastest of the day at that point but my heart rate was the lowest during this point. It took me nearly the entire mile to catch her, and finally did right as we got back towards the school. I snuck inside on her right and then turned into the school and onto the track for the finish. A few friends were out cheering, and the announcer knows me so I could hear him yelling for me. I also heard him mention the girl behind me so I had no idea if she was close or not. I hauled ass around the track and finished in 3rd with about 20 seconds to spare.

1:29:05 is my official time which is a 6ish minute PR for the course. Knowing what I know about this race, the course, and where I am at with my fitness given everything this year- I am really happy with how it all went. It's a LITTLE bit of sting because that is the exact pace I ran for my marathon last fall, and I know I couldn't hold that pace that long (right now). But at the same time, it's still progress from where I was a few months ago.

I caught up with Brian and Dawn(she ended up second!), while we waited for Heather to come through. She was running this as a hard workout but knew she was going to have a good day. When I saw her, I called up to my friend who was announcing and had him cheer her in for me on the loudspeaker (ha she probably looooved that).

After the race we did a slow 2 mile cool down chatting, and then got back to hang out for awards and birthday celebration with some of my friends. It was so nice to just relax a bit and chat with people I don't see nearly often enough.

Later that day Brian and I headed up to the cabin in the islands to spend time with my parents. We decided a few weeks beforehand that we would take Tuesday off work so we could spend a few days up there for some R&R. Much needed after working every day the month of August, and also not getting extended time with my parents (mom especially since she lives out of state right now) since early July!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bergen Road Race 2016

Almost two weeks ago now I ran my first "real race" since returning to running. Granted I did the 20k the weekend before, but I ran that as a workout and emotional band-aid-ripping.

Last year for this race I was in the middle of peak training for Erie Marathon, this year definitely a far cry from that at this point- BUTTTT before I get all negative nancy, I'm feeling pretty good with where I'm at all things considered.


I had a little bit of a stink attitude before the race, talking about how I didn't even think I could break 21 minutes in this weather and because I'm so out of shape yadda yadda. In reality, that was my insecurity coming out full force. God, sometimes I really need to be slapped and told not to take myself so seriously. Thank goodness Heather was there to cheer, and also bring me back down to earth a bit.

It was already really warm at 7:30 in the morning when I got into Bergen, add in the 80+% humidity and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I finished my Gen UCAN and then did about a 20 minute warm-up in my Zealot's and was soaked with sweat by the time I got back to my car. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible for the race, so I opted for sports bra, Bullet Shorts and Type A6 racing flats even though I was going to blind people with my stomach. It was worth it to feel maybe 5 degrees cooler.

The Race

This race is hard to NOT go out fast with the caliber of athletes that show up. It's even harder to not go out fast when you have only done one race/workout in months and don't have a good grasp on pacing or where your fitness level is at. With that said, I ran a 6:09 first mile and knew that wasn't going to last. Spoiler alert, but that's okay.
Mid race naps are always welcome.

I didn't look at my watch at all after that, because it didn't matter. I just focused on running hard and getting from turn to turn and passing people when I could. I encouraged a girl in the second mile and tried to pull her along with me.

While the course changed last year, the last mile has always been the same as long as I have been running the race. So I know it well, which is good and bad. On this day it was good because I knew where to hold back a little or push and also....when to just freaking go because being done sounded amazing. I passed quite a few people including 4-5 women in the last tenth of a mile- sometimes you just need to feel that competitive fire again to be reminded what you can do.
In finish chute: Photo courtesy of Heather!
I finished in 19:55. It's far from a personal best, but I was happy to be under 20 and also not run a personal worst for this race (though it was close). Strava told me I ran roughly 5:08 pace for the last bit of the race which made me feel good knowing I had a kick....and probably should have ran faster sooner. My heart rate was probably also a sign I should have ran harder- I'm going to say I simply don't have the mental will to push right now. But that's a topic for another day.

All in all it really was a good morning. I was so grateful that Heather came out to cheer and support me. We also ran into my good friend Dawn who I did a lot of Boston training with earlier this year.
Dawn, me, Heather
 Being part of the Bergen Elite running team was even better this year as we had even more runners than in the past. Our men's team won the open division and our women's team took second. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't pull my weight more but man we have so awesome fast ladies representing and leading the team!

After the race, Heather and I had breakfast and long talk- some of my favorite things! Always good to catch up and also unwind for a while with a good friend. I then raced home, to hop on a skype chat with Lindsey, Erica, and Michele. Basically my entire morning was spent around incredible women in person and afar. I was so excited to chat with the girls for Lindsey's I'll Have Another podcast. I was first on her podcast back in February (but released in April) and loved getting a chance to do it again for her 25th episode! If you haven't listened to her yet I urge you to give it a shot- she's so much fun and interviews some incredible people like one of my favorite Olympians Emily Infeld! As for our "roundtable" episode that we had this time, I was so lucky to have that time with the ladies. We talked Olympics, Doping, running safety, and also some incredibly personal stuff- go take a listen!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Running Update & Sauerkraut 20k

It's been a little while, so overdue for some running updates- and a random race report because, why not?

Getting back into running has been about as you'd expect. There are lots of WTF moments, but also those moments where I start to see a glimmer of my old self and can't help but smirk. There are times Brian, coach and friends get texts where they need to talk me off a ledge and times where I think they assume I'm vying for the 2020 Olympics because I'm so amped up and excited. For an admittedly very grey person (I rarely see things in black and white, this is a post for another day), I can be very all or nothing when it comes to my running. So, the last few weeks have been spent trying to find my grey area. That's where the balance is, where life and running coincide but neither dominates. This is something that has become so important to me the last few years, I don't want running to be my everything but I don't want it to be nothing either.

Finding my grey area has been going well though-but certainly have had my slip ups (Probably a few too many Shandy's). One thing that really helped me was going to Salty Running Camp in Ohio a few weeks ago. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these women and getting to spend a weekend with them running, eating, drinking and OH SO MUCH LAUGHING was just what the doctor ordered. Each person truly brings something different to the table, and each person reminded me in some way of all the good things in running and life. I am already looking forward to next years camp, you really should join us- I promise we will keep you entertained.
Salty Camp Shenanagins!
Back to training though... I've noticed my easy paces come down a little, my heart rate has been a little more steady, and adding in workouts isn't overly daunting. Although, workout paces ARE a little humbling compared to where I was- but I am doing my best to not compare because it really doesn't matter. I wouldn't change a thing from the last few months. Sure, the happy ending we wanted wasn't there- but that physical and mental break still had it's benefits for me. I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that.

Emotionally, I just have my moments- like anything. Some things trigger me to feel all the feels- and I have to do my best not to let it drag me down. I'm not avoiding feeling things, but I'm also not allowing them to consume me.

There is one thing I knew was going to present a challenge to me; pinning on a bib again. The last time I did that, I was 5 weeks pregnant on the starting line of one of the most iconic about feeling all the feels. Dramatic? Maybe, but doesn't change that it's how I feel.

When we decided I would start running again I knew that there would be some races I didn't want to miss. Bergen 5k was one of those races- unfortunately that is also a race that comes with a lot of pressure. It's our local chapter of USATF championship 5k event with a fast field and PR course. Admittedly, having that be the first bib I pin on since Boston scared the crap out of me(especially since I am nowhere near my competitive or PR shape). I wanted to use it as a time trial to see where I am at but worried the emotions would overshadow the race for me and hold me back. <-----This is me taking myself far too seriously.

I didn't think I really had another option before that though, until I saw a post on Facebook about the Sauerkraut 20k. It's only about a 45 minute drive, but a notably challenging course (specifically miles 6-8) and VERY low key. I ran this race in 2010 and 2011 and vaguely remember enough about it (Garmin logs helped fill in blanks). After looking at the plan for the weekend runs, I pitched the idea to coach (the day beforehand).  He agreed, as long as I was willing for it to be a workout, and not a race....which I was 100% on board with. It's low key race, and no pressure to perform at a certain level so backing off for some recovery mid-race wasn't going to be an issue. So, I bucked up the $45 knowing that it would be a good workout and a huge weight lifted emotionally for me.

My goal was to sneak in, run, and sneak out. That changed the moment I pulled in and saw two old friends, but I was SO glad to see them. Back when I started running road races I used to run with this group of guys all the time- they pushed me, encouraged me, and became like family. I don't live as close anymore so we only see each other a few times a year. In fact, both times I ran this race in the past they were there- so I should have expected to see them. Anyways, it made for a good morning and they reminded me to have FUN and just go run and see what happened. Get back to the basics of going out, running- and not taking it too seriously. You know, the things that made me fall in love with running in the first place.

So, I did my warm-up and then chatted at the start. This race has REALLY gotten smaller over the years. I ran it in 2010 and there were over 230 runners, the last time I ran it in 2011 there was 194. This year, just 89 runners for the 20k. Granted, it was just the kind of "race-workout" setting I needed- but still sad to see a very old race slowly dying out.

Plan: 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 1 mile tempo, half mile easy and the hard into the finish.

Actual: 4 miles at 7:15 average, 1 mile easy, 4 miles (6 and 8 very slow uphill, 7 and 9 fast downhill) at 7:14, 1 mile easy, 1 mile at 7:08, half mile easy and then 6:40ish pace to the finish for the last little less than a mile. Final time was 1:30:16

I settled into a groove and just hung out for a few miles. Having this be a workout was really good mentally because it broke it up for me. Run 4 miles comfortably hard and then you get to chill for a mile. The first five miles are gradual uphill anyways-nothing nuts but it gets you over time. Mile 6 and 8 are notable uphills, and I managed to pass the other woman on 6 to take the lead. I was using every water stop as a sip of water and dumping the rest on myself. The 72 degrees with 83% humidity definitely not ideal- but about average for this race (August, folks).

I bobbled back and forth with 2 guys the last few miles which helped- and turned on my race gear a little bit but not enough that I forgot the point of the workout. The last mile was spent maneuvering all of the 5k runners coming through- but it wasn't that bad. I crossed the finish line in the midst of a few others and went about my day cheering for other runners and friends, hanging out and then heading back to Rochester. It was JUST what I needed- low key, confidence boosting, and a hard effort.

Shoes. Bra.
Where does this leave me heading forward? Well, the biggest thing is continue plowing forward through whatever comes my way. Deal with the roller coaster, find the joy in running again, and hop on the training wagon in a few weeks. I am running the Bergen 5k this weekend and then will run a half marathon on my birthday Labor day weekend. Once we get through those- I can better figure out more of what this fall will hold in regards to running.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Returning to Running

I said before that I would talk about the return to running, and here it is. As much as some might scoff at me saying that I'm out of shape after 2 months off- it simply means I am not in a place where I feel comfortable (it's not about a number on the scale). I don't feel like myself, or even feel like a runner- honestly those things take time even when there aren't a lot of emotions involved.

It's not a secret that getting back into shape can be tough, and there isn't some quick-fix. My successes in life came from hard work, not quick fixes- something I remind myself of often. With that said, there are also a lot of emotions surrounding this. I want to run more again, but I also wish things were different- obviously. I also know though that routine is good for me, and so are plans or some semblance of plans. So Brian and I have a loose timeline of what we want to see happen for us and our life in the coming years(*insert snark about the best laid plans here*). I also have my own timeline for my career in the next few years. After those priorities, comes running. My running timeline is dictated by the others, and never the other way around- but I do have the time and desire to train again at the moment, so that is what I am going to do.

I originally said I would wait a few weeks to get myself in some semblance of running shape before starting a training plan with coach again. When the hormones started shifting though and I found myself unnecessarily stressing about it, I knew it was best to bring him in board sooner. One of the biggest things James does for me is remove any running stress, I trust him to guide me and work with me on what is best for me training. So, there is a plan in the calendar as it's been helpful to feel like I have some routine. The last 2 weeks of June I started to see some consistency and that mentally was helpful. I will log my training as normal, and publish training logs over on Salty Running where you can follow along if you choose.

As for goals, I have a few in mind. But for the time being most are going to be held a little closer to the chest until I really feel ready and at a point I can tackle those goals. Right now the main goal is getting consistency back with my running, build back to 5-6 days a week and eventually back up to my pre-Boston mileage. Beyond that I am working to get back into routine with strength training as well, I know it will help me come back stronger and faster, but also healthier/safer. Coach has given me some workouts to do but I also am getting back into regular work with mini-bands, as this is something that has helped me a ton in the past. Of course I'm spending some quality time with my favorite Addaday roller because, well....returning to running is tiring and makes you just as sore as the thick of marathon training.

Race wise, I have a few I am eyeing (5k-half) that will be used as time trials/tuneups to see how my training is progressing. I MAY run a fall marathon, but nothing is set in stone. If I do I already know which race it will be but not until later fall, and ONLY if I feel ready to race it for a PR. I ran one marathon this year for the hell of it, and the next time I toe that 26.2 start line I want to be able to use everything from pre-Boston and everything I build this summer to bring me to one killer race. I have no regrets about Boston, or this spring- but that doesn't mean I don't want to see big things happen this year still if I can make it happen.

Call it retail therapy, or call it the desire for even MORE data- but I bought myself a new running watch. My Garmin 910XT is awesome (and I will still use it), but I've really been enjoying my new 225(Great deal on Amazon for a refubed one). The optical wrist heart rate is nice (I hate chest straps for HRM), and gives me good feedback on how hard I'm really working. Coming back into training is tough to gauge what is easy pace. Even though I'm not coming back from injury, I still want to make sure I don't set myself back. I won't live and die by the heart rate but I do think it will be a good tool for feedback.

On the same note of wanting to ease back into things and not get hurt. I have been wearing some more supportive shoes lately, particularly the Zealot ISO 2. The Kinvara's are my go-to trainers but I admit the Zealots have definitely stepped up in the competition. They are similar, but offer a bit more cushion and support for pounding the pavement. I will write more about this another day though, I have lots of good Saucony things to talk about!

Lastly I'd say that focusing on my nutrition and general health is key for life but also getting back into running. I mentioned I started taking my Iron and Vitamin D Supplements again, which I know makes a difference. I also have been better about packing lunches and healthier snacks for work (especially on days I work both jobs). Sleep is the one area I definitely need improvement, but that has been a work in progress with new schedules and less time in the day to get things done.

So with all of that said we will see where things go. It won't be some breakthrough overall, but more generally a physical and mental reset...fresh start. I can't call it a comeback, because I don't ever want to think of pregnancy as a setback. Even though it didn't go how we wanted, I don't want to associate negative feelings with it.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Moving Forward

First and foremost I want to thank everyone for their support, Brian and I are incredibly lucky to have great people in our lives. We are also lucky to have the support network all over that we do, we know we're not alone and that is comforting. To all who took the time to call, text, email, comment, tweet, whatever- THANK YOU.

The last few weeks have been a reminder that life goes on. I don't mean that in a negative way or that we simply flick a switch and move on. I mean it as, the world doesn't stop spinning when bad things happen. Bills still come, work still piles up, other people still exist-and more things will continue to happen(good and bad). While there are times it feels we are standing still, it's almost a comfort that everything keeps moving. Because it forces us to keep moving, even if we slow down to wade through the emotions we have to keep moving. So, we're focused on that.

Everyone processes things differently. I tend to hop on the roller coaster with things like this, I'll be "fine" one minute and the next I'll be sitting in traffic crying to my steering wheel. Part of this is the grief and part of this is the changes in hormones going on. Overall though we are doing well, because we are doing it together.

When I'm sad, I talk about it. When I'm happy and want to make light of something, I'm gonna laugh and try to make whoever I am with at the time laugh as well. When I'm frustrated, I TRY and express it as a fact and not towards someone (for the most part, but I'm human). When I want to cry, I do and honestly it happens most at night when the dust settles after the day is done. I talk about it a decent amount, even when others are like "I'd be in a hole, how can you talk about it?". It has nothing to do with my strength. Most simply put, not saying "Voldemort" doesn't make the evil not exist it only breeds more fear(Thanks Hermione). For me, the more I can talk about what is going on- the less sadness/fear I feel when doing so. I don't want to be sad or afraid, because according to the doctor we have NO reason NOT to believe in our future with kids.

We are both exhausted, because emotions do that to you let alone life and everything else. I'd say that is one of the biggest things we are facing to be honest. We're tired, ALL.THE.TIME.

Physically there were definitely some things to work through for me though. The drastic change of pace from marathon training at the highest level (for me personally so far) to working out in a recliner watching Gilmore Girls and Grey's Anatomy reruns for 2 months had just as much if not more of an effect than pregnancy did on my body. My body composition definitely changed, I hadn't gained much weight but my weight did shift to certain areas. I fit back into normal clothes pretty quick but still wasn't my normal self. It has been far less about how I look and so much more about how I feel. It's hard not to feel like crap, feel drained, and feel like I took the time off with nothing to show for it. I know that is a mix of emotions about wishing I was still pregnant and also emotions from....getting back into shape is really freaking hard. I'd be lying if I said that any other way.

Granted I cannot control how long it takes my hormones to chill the F out, hopefully it happens soon. I'm stuck in an "in-between" phase I feel like (Not 100% back to normal but obviously not still feeling 100% pregnant).  I am working on the things that I can control though. I had stopped my supplements in order to just take my prenatal ones. I have since resumed my Iron and Vitamin D dailies, and I am trying to get extra sleep when I can. I know the combination of those will help my energy return to normal, or at least I hope.

Life is busy but that is a good thing for us. We are working on house projects and renovations to sell next year and move to the other side of Rochester. It's fun to work on these things, as we can do some together but we each have our side projects to work on too.

My schedule also changed a bit as I took on a part time job. This is not a new thing for me, for people who have read here for a while- running between jobs and carrying an odd schedule is second nature for me. After 9 months of one job though, finding a new routine with a second job has taken some time. We are finding what works for us though, to make sure extra work doesn't take away from our lives. Extra money is good, but not if I cannot have time for Brian, take care of myself, take care of the house and stay on track. We're a really good team about this though, and I'm lucky to have someone supportive of whatever I choose to do.

On that note, nothing is really a personal decision anymore its something we decide together. WE, OUR, something we really embrace a lot more. We're building our life, and we know what we want for the future and that starts with building us. As hard as this situation was, it brought us even closer than we already were. We learned how each handles the harder more emotional stuff, and how to best work together to get through things. We saw each other in crisis mode, and there is no one I would rather have holding my hand when things just plain old suck(or when things are good obviously). (I should save that for our vows one day. Note to self.)

This is honestly a whole topic in itself and another post to be written. I AM trying to return to running, I know that it is going to be a slow process. 2 months off (uninjured) doesn't sound like a lot but man, I've got some work to do. Right now the goal is simply to get back into a routine, find love for it again (my heart isn't quite there yet honestly), and work on putting one foot in front of the other. Do I have dreams of what I'd like to see when I'm "back", yes. But who knows where things will go for us, and our life and everything else is a bit more of a priority right now.

At the end of the day we've got SO much good in our lives. So we take the good with the bad and work on moving forward.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love, Mom.

My Little One,

I don't know if I can put this all into words, but I'll try my hardest. You deserve that, and I think it will help me too. I hope.

You appeared so quickly, far less than the expected 2 minutes we were instructed it would take. You were a surprise, but the best kind. Your dad and I were pretty quiet that first night as we both processed everything, but went to bed knowing that an amazing adventure awaited us. We both couldn't wait to be parents together, it was scary but we knew it would be so worth it.

Just a few short days later we headed off to Boston as a family of 2.5, though we were pretty much the only ones who knew. The race didn't matter to me anymore, at least not in the sense that it did a few weeks prior. You gave me a good explanation of why the last few weeks felt so off, and why my motivation was lacking. We enjoyed the weekend together, I loved showing you and your Dad around Boston.
Come Patriot's day, I was very conflicted. I wanted to run, but I wanted to do what was best for us. I started with a very loose plan, but come the halfway point I knew that the best thing for us would be to pull the plug. So I slowed down and we took it easy- something I will never regret. I crossed that finish line with my hand on my stomach, and said this was for you. The 2016 Boston Marathon was for you.

After returning home, you and I spent all of our time together. You got me to slow down, relax and take a much needed break from running. You wanted me to rest, and I did. We ate a lot of food, we grew together, and my body started growing with that. 

At 8 weeks, we heard your heartbeat. I think my heart skipped it's own beat in awe of how strong and amazing you sounded. You were growing perfectly, you looked like a little peanut and we had our first picture of you. We felt safe, and comforted knowing you were growing up fast. We went to bed early, we ate well (and often!), and we did everything we could for you.

We spent the weekend before you marked the eleventh week up at the cabin in The Thousand Islands. We shared that time with my parents, and we all talked about the things you would do as you grew up creating memories here- just like your Aunt Megan and I did. Your dad and I started making plans, talking about names, and sharing the news. Family and close friends knew about you, and soon everyone else would too. 

As we were about to end the first trimester, and since we had heard your heartbeat already, the risks had decreased drastically.We went to the doctor to check up on you and get some genetic testing, we could even know if you were a baby boy or girl soon from that! We were so excited for the next step, and went in with hope and love. 

It was a Tuesday morning, and everything changed in an instant.

We found out that your heart had stopped beating, and we instantly felt like ours had too.  I still looked, and felt pregnant, you were still there but at the same time you weren't. It was confusing and scary and incredibly sad. Your Dad and I cannot stop hearing those words and that is something that will take time to process but it's something we will go through together.

We're sad, and mad and we keep questioning every breath from the last few months. The cold fact is there was nothing we did wrong, though we will always wonder. Because we cared about you, and wanted to keep you safe. It's hard knowing your heart just wasn't strong enough, regardless of how much love we had for you. We know we're not alone and we know that many have suffered like us. We have hope for the future together with kids and we know that some will never have that- I promise not to take that for granted.

We were ready to share with the world, we had it planned and we couldn't have been more excited. At first I wondered if we got too excited, if we got too far ahead of ourselves but then I realized I wouldn't change a thing regardless of the outcome. I don't think it's possible to detach and not be hopeful just to try and preserve yourself in case something happens. Expecting the worst is not the way to live. Regardless of how we felt and who we told or what we did- it was still going to hurt. Putting a wall up doesn't make things easier, it just prevents people who love you from supporting you and being there. 

Your Dad and I spent a lot of time just sitting, talking and being together. We had each other and I cannot tell you how important that is. While I was the one carrying you, WE made you, and it was something WE both have to process. Together we also decided I would still join your Aunt Heather on our planned trip to Utah shortly after this all happened. We believed it would be good for me, even though being apart during this time would be tough for us. The days would be filled with adventure, and the nights we were only a phone call away from each other when things were harder (okay, the nights were really challenging).

The trip to Utah did indeed help, even if some wondered why or how I could go. I put on a happy face and allowed myself to experience things. Not because I wasn't sad, not because I wasn't hurting. But because sitting down and letting the silence take over would have consumed me. So instead, I focused my energy on taking care of myself, supporting one of my biggest supporters, and experiencing things that I could only have hoped to do with you one day. One of the mornings, it was just you and I listening to music as we drove up a dark winding canyon road in search of a good spot. We found that spot, and we sat while I cried watching the sunrise over a reservoir nestled in the mountains. While I knew I had a long way to go, I feel like that moment gave me a piece of hope and a sliver of acceptance.
I flew home late on a Monday night, I was beyond ready to be there with your Dad. It had been 6 days since we got the news and those words still felt like they were a broken record in my head that I couldn't turn off. On that 7th day we spent a few hours with people who helped us get the closure we needed.  My body hadn't yet realized what was going on, and simply waited until I was in a safe place with your Dad and some incredibly caring nurses and doctors. As hard as that last week with you was, I'm grateful I had that time to process and grieve at my own pace. While you're gone now, we know it will take time. Sad just takes time.

In your few months you saw and did more than some do in a lifetime. You ran a blizzard half marathon with me being your unknowing Trojan horse to the finish. You welcomed your cousin Max into the world with us. You took part in the 120th Boston marathon in a blazing time of 3:16 (it took me 6 tries to get a time like that, you did it in one!). You flew on a plane, went hiking in a canyon, and so many other things I could have only hoped to do again with you. Perhaps the most important thing that you experienced though, was love. You were so incredibly loved, and I cannot express that in any words that will do it justice. You were loved,  you showed your Dad and I even more love in each other and those around us.

I debated sharing this letter with anyone but you. But you were a part of my life, something your Dad and I were happy to have even though it ended too soon. I don't want to pretend you weren't there, because you were and probably always will be in some ways.

Love, Mom 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Almost two weeks ago I ran my third Boston Marathon. There was a time in my life I didn't know about Boston, I didn't know how far a marathon was, and a time after I knew those things- that I still never believed I'd get to achieve Boston. Maybe those facts make last Monday's race easier to just "let go" of. I ran a 3:16 marathon on a day I was trained for a 2:55. As much as people may not believe me- I really am okay with this. I was in control, and I made the choice that got me to that time.

My first Boston was undeniably the bright spot I needed at a hard time, and was incredibly proud of running to enjoy that experience. Last year, Boston was just as spectacularly epic but in a different way. I didn't need Boston this year, in that sense. I didn't need it to be a breakthrough that was long time coming, and I didn't need it to be some shining light in the dark. So when I got to the half and knew it wasn't the day to push, I was incredibly at ease with that decision. It didn't even feel like a decision.

My peak and taper were far from ideal this time around, after a great training cycle it was tough to see it crumble so late in the game. Three weeks out from the race I took two unplanned days off(personal stress & family loss), but rebounded with the best 24 mile run I've had in training. One week later I had a funeral and followed the next day with a planned half marathon workout turned nightmare. As much as the weather was to blame, my confidence never really came back from that. I focused on trying to get back on track mentally in taper, but a poorly timed bout of the stomach flu 7 days before the race about wiped any confidence I had left for Boston. My coach was awesome through all of this, helping me adjust and also not go insane. We took the repeated hits and just kept going as best we could.

Two days before we were set to leave, I simply found a way to file it under "it is what it is". I had such a strong training cycle with a new coach and I wasn't going to let this ruin all of that. It was still going to be a great weekend away with Brian, and another chance to run a race that so many would love to- I refused to take that for granted. I hadn't ruled out a PR race for myself, but I did not have my happiness tied to the outcome. It was a freeing feeling.

Brian and I spent the weekend bopping around Boston together, and it was so much fun. We did stuff associated with the race (Expo, finish line...the usual) but we also did a lot that wasn't- because life is so much more than running. Don't get me wrong, I love running and I love Boston but this weekend wasn't just about me running it was about US (and the best lobster roll I've ever had).

We stayed a bit outside the city but race morning was a breeze with an uber ride and then a few stops on the red line. I ran into Julia which was a great way to start the morning, as I got to share the morning with her last year too! Eventually I met up with Jessica, Michele and a few other new friends which just made the bus ride and time in Hopkinton that much better. No shortage of inspiration from these ladies, I hadn't seen Jess or Michele since Chicago but it felt like we never left.

Athletes village was the standard sitting on a towel in a field, with the best people watching you can imagine. I always get a huge kick out of everyone's throwaways. I had scrub pants this year and I was sad to leave them behind as they were super comfy.  While standing in bathroom line with Meg, I remember hearing them talking over the loud speaker reminding everyone to write emergency contact info on the back of their bib. I thought about it and was like- meh and went back to chatting. This will haunt me later.
About to board the bus to Hopkinton with these awesome women.
Eventually it was time to head to the start for those of us in the first wave. The good luck hugs went around the circle and then I made my way through the crowds. For the second year in a row, I got to walk with Norman as we made our way through start corrals. I ate another pack of Honey Stinger chews while we walked and chatted about running, life changes, and smiled our way to our respective starts.  I had no idea how I was feeling for the race, but spending the morning with awesome people and knowing I'd get to see Brian in a few hours was enough to tell me that it was going to be a good day (in general).

As I stood in my corral waiting to start, I heard my name and looked over to see Mike! I was so happy to see another friendly face! I've been friends with him and his wife Michelle for a few years now, so it was nice to catch up a little while we waited. It was Mike's first Boston and I was so excited for him- he worked his tail off to qualify and was now training for his first Ironman.

I noticed I was already warm, and made a mental note to double up on hydration throughout.

After the start, I had my watch set on overall time and overall average pace. I had originally made a 2:55 pace band, but left it in the hotel on purpose that morning. I kind of knew off the bat with the rising temps and recent issues that 2:55 wasn't going to happen, but possibly sub-3 if I played it smart. The miles ticked away, I smiled and settled into a groove. In the first 10k I remember hearing my name and whipped around a little too late to see who it was- but I waved to the nice woman (whoever you are, thank you!). I wasn't feeling awesome but I also wasn't feeling awful, so I made a deal with myself to make it to the half and readjust as need be. The sun was blazing and my sunglasses definitely helped but I wish I had brought my visor from the hotel too, live and learn.

Around the 15k I was getting the feeling that I should probably hit a bathroom, but didn't know when I would see one and didn't want to weave too far out of my way to get to one. So I bided my time and just took in the sights and sounds (hello, Wellesley) along the way. My gel wasn't sitting well and I decided that I probably wasn't going to be able to stomach any more of them, but I had drank a bottle of UCAN in the morning so I wasn't too worried about fuel. I continued to double up on water at each stop, I knew it was getting warmer and combating dehydration would be key.

I reached the half (1:29:33), and then I put all my energy into finding a bathroom. I had to wait about 30 seconds for one to be vacant, then got in and out pretty quick (and then back in). I did a little self assessment about how I was feeling and knew right then it was time to pull the plug.

Some people say they didn't think the conditions were that bad and ran fine- and that's okay. Everyone is different and I don't take offense when people say that. Because, you know what....last year that was me. While the conditions were far from ideal last year at Boston, I ran a (small) PR and conquered the course. This was not going to be one of those days.

For me, this wasn't even a question- I knew it was the right call to back off at the half as everything inside of me was screaming to just take it easy. The last few weeks had been a roller coaster with a messy peak/taper, which doesn't exactly help heading into a goal race. I was not feeling 100%, the conditions weren't working for me, and I didn't think it was worth it to push. I could push and make myself super uncomfortable for a non-PR and probably finish worse for the wear and with a less than stellar attitude. Or I could back off, run with others, soak in BOSTON and finish with pride and gratefulness. I chose the later.
Pretty consistent first half
and also pretty consistent (yet slower/easier) second half

So, I downshifted mentally and physically and took off down the road. Not too long after I saw a guy on the side of the road, I quickly realize it was Ryan and I stopped to see if he was ok. We took off running easy together, he too wasn't have the best day. He knew he would see his wife Jess around 20, so we just set a goal of getting there and seeing what happened. We ran together for a few miles, walked occasionally and I started taking Gatorade for the electrolytes. My spi-belt wasn't helping my stomach and I couldn't get comfortable with it AT ALL, so I ended up ditching it as I knew it was replaceable.

I also was watching everyone who was flying past us, not feeling negative about it but actually looking for friends. I was thinking of all those I knew and hoping they were having better days, that was a happy thought that helped me keep going. Almost like a "let me take one for the team" kind a feeling.

Eventually Ryan and I got separated, I felt bad that I couldn't find him but I knew he would see Jess soon. I was looking for her as I got to 19-20 but didn't know where she would be. Turns out, she saw me but I never saw her.

I was worrying about Brian and my family worrying (worrying about worrying, is that a thing?). Eventually I pulled to the side to ask a couple if I could use their  phone to text him and let him know I was okay. Well 20+ miles plus 70+ degrees = Laura spacing on the order of the first 3 numbers of her boyfriends cell phone. FABULOUS. The girl asked me if it was on the back of my bib (you know, like it should be) and I hung my head and muttered some choice words to myself. Note: next time just don't be too damn proud to write a number on your bib.

I was frustrated with myself for being a space cadet about a number but hopped in a bathroom again quick and then got back to the race. The last few miles, like any marathon really were a blur. The smell of beer through Boston College was stronger than ever. The cheers and the signs were much needed, and helped pass the time. I walked occasionally, but not too much. I kept telling myself to get to Brian, as I knew I'd see him in the last mile.

Somewhere in the last few I heard my name called out and looked over to see Rachel, this was MUCH needed! I stuck my tongue out and threw my hands up, we had talked a lot the few days prior so she knew it just wasn't my day based on the week leading up to it. But seeing her smiling face and hearing the cheers was such a bright spot.

A little while later I was GLUED to the left side watching for Brian. I wanted to see him. I needed to see him. The good news is, since I was watching so intently I also saw some other friends! I stuck my tongue out, waved and then kept going on my way. Finally I heard Brian before I saw him. I blew him a big kiss (and the guys in front of him thought it was for them) and made the turn onto Hereford with a fire lit. It was just what I needed.

I took a peek at my watch, and took off and made the best left turn and didn't stop until I was officially done. Marathon number 14, I won't forget you that's for sure. It wasn't some epic finish, there were no tears, in fact it was probably the least emotions (good or bad) I've had about a marathon in a while. I was content and proud to have another Boston done. I finished tired, and feeling as if I ran 26 miles. My one sided sunburn and minimal chafe marks were the only "battle wounds" as quality running socks and shoes that kept my feet unblistered and unbeaten. I call that a win.

Not every race will be a PR, this is just kind of a fact of running. Look, I won't sit here and say I wouldn't have liked the race to go differently. I won't say a PR wouldn't have been awesome. I won't say that it's a little sad not to see a killer training cycle with a new coach not come to fruition on race day. But, there is a time and a reason for everything and I can sleep just fine knowing that Boston 2016 wasn't the epic marathon PR. I didn't let the outcome of the race dictate how I viewed the training cycle, or the amazing weekend, or even the day in general. That is leaps and bounds of how I would have acted a few years ago about it- so with that I say it's pretty cool to see personal growth.

The training cycle wasn't a waste by any means. I have a great coach who I trust. I hit workouts I didn't think I could. I set a HUGE 10k PR, and a small 5 mile PR (even though I ran a tempo run right before the race). I ran my second fastest half marathon as a WORKOUT. I ran through all kinds of weather, and also battled the mental aspects of treadmill workouts. I did the work, and come race day I did what was best for me. So yeah, I'm pretty happy about that.

Onto the next adventure, and it's gonna be good.

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