Chicago Marathon Training: Week 5

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Week 5 of training is in the books. There was some good, some great, some bad, and some ugly! A well-rounded week of training:) Here are all the details!

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The black is what I had planned, the purple is what I actually did.

  • Monday: Rest + Yoga. Gotta love Mondays!
  • Tuesday: Speedwork – 3 x 1600 (6:44, 6:42, 6:44)  I was on top of the world after this amazing track workout. This was my happy (and very sweaty) face after running my fastest 3 x 1 mile workout ever! I was pretty tight and sore to start even despite my rest day and yoga the previous day, so I extended my warmup a bit and ran 1.5 miles rather than just 1. This really helped loosen me up and I felt much better afterwards. I ran mile splits of 6:44, 6:42, 6:44 with half mile recovery between each plus a half mile cooldown at the end. Excuse my language but WTF, I have no idea how I’m pulling these paces out lately but it’s happening! My fastest mile splits to date, and even at 6:00 PM during the brutal heat and humidity of summertime. As always, I was so thankful for the ladies in my Moms Run This Town group, for their endless cheers and encouragement on our Track Tuesdays!

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 3 miles @ 9:04 + Upper Fix. The stroller brigade took over the town today! I love running with these strong ladies, seeing them all push so much weight and having fun with their kiddos! I ran 3 easy miles with my friend who I haven’t been able to run with in a while. We were both pregnant at the same time so it was fun to get our little ones together to play again too. I am loving my Wednesday morning stroller runs with these ladies.

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  • Thursday: Tempo Run – 1 easy, 3 @ 7:35, 2 easy. On this day I had a tempo run on the schedule. I was hoping to repeat the workout I did a few weeks ago: 1 mile easy, 5 @ tempo, 1 easy. I was feeling motivated and ready to take on the challenge. However, my body had other plans. By the time I dropped the kids off at daycare and got outside it was a little past 8 AM. The temperatures and humidity were supposedly lower than earlier that week, but it didn’t feel like it to me and I struggled. I chose a flat route over shade and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I hung on to my tempo pace for 3 miles and then made the decision to stop there rather than go for 5 tempo miles. My heart rate was just getting too high, I was overheating, and it felt like too much stress on my body. I finished by running 2 easy miles, and I couldn’t help feeling a little angry. Most of my days lately are okay, some are even good. But I still have times where I fall back into anger. I kept thinking about this time last year, when I had the freedom to go out before sunrise to knock out my hard workouts. It was so much easier and I felt a lot stronger when I was able to get my runs done early in the morning. This year I don’t have that as a single mom and it bothers me, because it feels like yet another sacrifice I am making when running is the only thing I do for myself. After letting myself be angry for a few minutes I decided I needed to get over it and be proud of the 3 tempo miles I did run. I saw a turtle on the side of the road which made me happy (LOL) then I finished by walking down to the river to sit and relax. Pity party over. I know I’ll get it next time.

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  • Friday: Easy Run – 2 miles (with double stroller) @ 9:25 + Lower Fix. On Friday I went to a local park with my boys to do some exploring and a little run. We walked (and little Kevin helped push the stroller) 1.5 miles around a little trail on an island, looking at the plants and the animals and the water. Afterwards I finally convinced Kevin to get back in the stroller so that I could run 2 easy miles. We went home after a few threenager meltdowns and one epic wrestling match to get him into the carseat (is this stage over yet?!) and it was a fight to get him to take a nap. Once both boys were asleep I did Lower Fix for some strength training, showered, and took a nap too! Whew! It was quite a day.

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  • Saturday: Easy Run – 3 miles (with double stroller) @ 9:32. Both boys were up before 6:00 AM. I knew it was going to be a hot day with a heat advisory, so after breakfast we went outside for a run and some playground time before the heat got to be too much. I did 3 easy miles with the stroller on a local running path, and was able to read motivational messages that our Moms Run This Town chapter leader wrote along the way for those of us who were running today. She wrote 10 miles worth of messages, which I thought was so amazing! Little Kev was begging to get out and run so I let him out for the last half mile before we walked over to the playground. We also ran into some friends who were finishing their 11 miles. I was glad we got out when we did because the rest of the day had a heat index of over 100 degrees!

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 15 miles @ 9:00. Ouch! This one hurt a bit for a few reasons! I met some friends for my long run at 6 AM. It was humid and warm from the start and we were dripping with sweat within a few minutes. My friend Andria and I ran the length of the Fredericksburg Battlefield (9 miles) and then went down to another nearby trail for a few more. Right before mile 11 I got stung by something that felt like it hit me at 100 mph. I finished the run with my left side very tingly and swollen. I took a picture of it right after (as you can see below) but it continued to swell and got MUCH bigger than that later on. My hand did too, and I had to move my watch to the other arm. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant because I haven’t been stung by anything in like 20 years. I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance (hello, 10 marathons and two drug-free births!) but this stupid sting hurt like hell! I couldn’t believe it! I took some Benadryl when I went home and eventually the swelling went down, but I think there might be part of a stinger left in there still because even today (Monday) it’s turned into a huge welt and really itchy. On a positive note, I ran all 15 miles with only Tailwind for the first time and I loved it! I used a raspberry caffeinated sample that I got from a friend and felt entirely fueled and hydrated the entire time. I did bring my chews with me but didn’t need them at all. I just ordered the sample pack of the other flavors to try (including non-caffeinated) before I buy a bigger bag of one of them. My time for this run did include some walking breaks, but I stopped my watch a couple times to deal with the sting/swelling. I am proud of myself for getting my miles in however I could despite the tough conditions! At the end I looked like I had been swimming in a pool. As you can see in the bottom left picture, I was soaked. Yuck. A shower and cold post-run smoothie never felt so good!

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Week 5 Totals

  • Run: 35 miles (8 miles w/ double stroller)
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix, Lower Fix, Yoga, lots of stretching and foam rolling. Woo hoo!

My successes this week were that I really got my nutrition in check. For a while I didn’t have the energy or motivation to eat much at all, let alone eat well. I would just pick off the kids plates and eat what they didn’t finish, or just eat something quick and easy. This week I got back to my meal planning/prep and it felt so good. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the delicious food I made, but I will be writing a separate food post soon with all the yummy recipes!

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My challenges this week were definitely the weather. The heat and humidity were so unbelievable at times. Summer running is tricky because it can be hard to see yourself progressing under such difficult conditions. I just have to trust and believe that this summer training is doing it’s job to make me stronger and that it will all pay off this fall! My goals for the upcoming week are to continue to do the best I can despite this crazy heat wave that is hitting most of the country.

My thought of the week. This could not be more true. I’m so thankful for running and how it helps to balance all the other things happening in my life. It definitely helps me remember what it feels like to be”me” in a time when everything else is unknown and changing.

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Ready for week 6! This is going by so fast!

Previous Chicago Marathon Training updates

PS. I try to post daily updates on my runs on my blog’s Facebook page, so follow me there if you want updates in “real” time:)

Firecracker 5K

I’m really excited to write a recap of this race, even though it happened almost 3 weeks ago! On the 4th of July I ran the Firecracker 5K in my hometown in Pennsylvania, while there visiting family and friends for the long holiday weekend.

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I was nervous to run this race because I have been focusing on longer distances for over a year now. After having Kyler, I started training for the Richmond Half in November where I got a 5 minute PR, then the Myrtle Beach Marathon in March where I got a 13 minute PR. Then I took it easier for a while before getting back into marathon training again. It had been two years since I really pushed myself in a short and fast race. In fact, my previous 5K PR was set at another 4th of July race in 2014, shortly before getting pregnant again. I ran a 21:55, super fast for me, and I thought it would be a LONG time since I was able to break that – if ever!

One issue I have always had with short races (or all races, really) is going out too fast. I’ve been working hard on fixing this with progression runs, and fast finishes on some easy and long runs. This has helped train me both physically and mentally to start slower and finish fast and strong. I have found that it’s easier to do this during training though, and takes a TON of patience and discipline to do this during an actual race with adrenaline pumping!

I knew I needed to maintain a pace faster than 7:04 to get a new PR, but I wasn’t really sure if that was possible. After a pep talk from a running buddy and a trip to the port-a-potty I finally felt ready to run. My plan was to start at a 7:00 pace and try to drop it each mile. However, I knew the route well and I knew there was going to be a couple of good sized hills on the out-and-back course. I was up for the challenge!

As I waiting at the start line I got the best surprise – I saw my dad and his girlfriend on the sidelines! I had mentioned the race to him, and while he always supports my running he has only come out to a few races. I was so excited to see him and it really helped to settle my nerves.

After an amazing singing of the National Anthem we were off! I made sure to smile for my favorite race  photographer, my dad:)

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I settled nicely into a comfortable 7:00 pace. It didn’t feel like I was working hard at all and I was so tempted to push it, but tried my best to be patient. I like to imagine myself banking the energy for later in the race when I know I’ll need it. When you are used to training for longer distances, a 5K can seem deceivingly short and easy. It is NOT easy! The short and fast races hurt, but they hurt more if you go too fast at the beginning. I tried to remind myself of that during the first mile. There was also a hill here, which slowed me down some too. I told myself I had plenty of time left and not to worry about the pace quite yet. I ended up with an exact split of 7:00 for my first mile.

  • Mile 1 – 7:00 

During the second mile we ran downhill, then slightly uphill, then turned around to run slightly downhill, then uphill again. Whew! I started to increase my effort here and push more on the uphills, then let gravity help me back down. I passed the retirement home where I worked for 6 years in high school and on college breaks, as well as lots of spectators, including some that I recognized. That helped take my mind off of the hills and my faster pace.

  • Mile 2 – 6:56

After seeing my mile 2 split, I knew I would PR if I could just maintain that pace. I ran up the last part of the big uphill and then made my way back down. The rest of the course was downhill or flat, which helped a ton, but it was getting warm and was very humid and I was feeling it! Once I crested the hill I started to increase my effort level more. I really wanted to finish strong, but that last mile in a 5K is TOUGH! It feels like it lasts forever! I kept pushing and telling myself it would be over soon. My mile 3 split popped up and I was shocked – 6:44 was my fastest mile ever in a race, and I did it at the end of a 5K!

  • Mile 3 – 6:44

As  I neared the finish line I saw my dad again. I also saw the time on the clock which was just over 21 minutes. I was so shocked and couldn’t believe I actually ran that fast!

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  • Final .10 – 6:16 pace
  • Finish Time – 21:14 (6:50/mile)

I was so proud of myself for the smart race I ran. It boosted my confidence a ton and showed me that those fast finish workouts and all my training is paying off, even in shorter distances. I couldn’t believe that I beat my PR from two years before by 40 seconds!

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One of things I love about races in the Philadelphia region is that they usually have amazing post-race refreshments like soft pretzels and water ice. OMG. I was in heaven.

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When I was growing up here I was pretty much the most non-athletic person ever, so it felt really good to come home and run my fastest 5K ever on streets that hold so many memories for me. I ended up being the 6th woman overall but 4th in my age group. There were some super fast ladies running!

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The rest of my holiday was spent relaxing by the pool, eating delicious food and drinking yummy drinks with some of my best friends in the entire world. It was definitely a day that made my mind, body, and soul happy:)

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 4

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I promised myself I would keep up with my marathon training posts so here I am! I’m very proud:) Week 4 of training was a good one because it was a glorious cutback week! After going hard for three weeks it was very needed and I took full advantage of it. All of my runs were “easy” with no speedwork/harder efforts, I got to run with friends three times, and my long run was only 8 miles. Here are all the details!

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The black is what I planned, the purple is what I actually did.

  • Monday: Rest + Yoga. Mondays have become my rest days once again and I love it. I want to also make it a yoga day, since I’ve been doing my long runs on Sundays lately. On this day I had a blast at the pool with my littlest boy (bigger boy was at the beach for the week with his grandparents), baked a ton of chocolate chip zucchini bread, worked on some training plans, and did a 30 minute yoga for runners practice that left me feeling relaxed and loose. It was the perfect Monday!

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  • Tuesday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 9:11.  I was very thankful that it was a cutback week for me on this day, because I didn’t feel well at all and couldn’t have handled a real track workout. I had been out in the sun for two days straight and I guess I didn’t realize how dehydrated I was. I ran a few miles and met up with the ladies for Track Tuesday but my head was pounding so I went home to hydrate and rest up. I think some of it was also related to allergies, since they’ve been really bad this week too. But I definitely learned my lesson! I LOVED the huge turnout we had at the track though. Such a motivating and inspiring group of ladies!

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with single stroller) – 3 miles @ 8:59. I woke up feeling much better, so I met up with my Moms Run This Town friends for an easy run plus some playground time. Since my oldest was out of town I was able to run with my old friend, the single BOB stroller! Loved getting to spend one on one time with my littlest and push less weight:) It did feel a little strange pushing it though since the handlebar isn’t as wide and I kept stepping on the wheels for some reason!

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  • Thursday: Easy Run – 5 miles @ 8:58 + Upper Fix. Not an ideal day to get a late start on running, but that’s what happens when I stay out too late wine tasting with friends! I managed to squeeze this run in before the heat advisory started at noon but it was still tough because it felt like 90+ degrees. My time doesn’t include the breaks I took after mile 3 and 4 to rest in the shade and let my body cool down some. I don’t mess around with heat like this… I will take breaks when I need to! Later on I did Upper Fix for some strength training.

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  • Friday: Rest + Chiropractor Visit. I took today as a rest day because I was spending the day at the pool and going to the chiropractor. I have been feeling some tightness/pulling on my right side again just like last time I was marathon training. The chiropractor confirmed that my right SI joint was out of alignment again and fixed it up for me. I think this is going to be something persistent I just have to deal with and stay on top of proactively. I felt much better afterwards!

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  • Saturday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 8:45 + Lower Fix. Who gets up early to run followed by a big party complete with all of our favorite indulgences? A big group of BAMRs (bad ass mother runners), that’s who! :) This morning my local MRTT group held a “Pick Your Poison” fun run. We all got together to run whatever distance we needed to and brought something yummy to share. We had everything from donuts to mimosas to chips and salsa to deviled eggs to muffins… basically everyone brought their ‘poison,’ something they love to treat themselves to after a run. It was awesome and so much fun. I was doing my long run the following day and got in late the night before after going out with friends (again… so much fun friend time lately and I LOVE IT!), so I kept my run short and sweet at 4 miles. Later on in the day I did Lower Fix for some strength training. Days like this one really make me smile and feel thankful for the people in my life that I have met through this crazy hobby and passion of mine!

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 8 miles @ 8:26. I took my time getting out to run this morning! Since it was a cutback week and my kids were with their dad, I let myself wake up without an alarm this morning. The kids usually get me up around 5 AM so it felt really good! I ran 8 miles on one of my favorite paths and was surprised at how comfortable the pace felt. I am definitely feeling stronger these days. I’m also not someone who ever listens to music anymore when I run, but something about this new Katy Perry song just speaks to me and motivates me so much! I played it at the end of my run for a little extra boost and I loved it. If you haven’t seen the Summer Olympics video that goes along with it, you have to check it out! So inspiring!

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Week 4 Totals

  • Run: 24 miles (only 3 with stroller since this is my “off” week with the kids where I have them less often).
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix, Lower Fix, Yoga, lots of stretching and foam rolling. Yeah! Proud of myself for that!

My successes this week were fully allowing myself to take it easy and enjoy my cutback week. In training, I design my plans to push hard for 2-3 weeks and then cutback hard for a week. This works for me and gives me a chance to recover from hard training both mentally and physically. I am also very proud that I was able to get in 2 days of strength, 1 day of yoga, and foam rolling almost every day. In addition to that I made sure to get enough sleep (even napped a few days!), and stuck to my meal plans/nutrition. My challenges were the tightness in my leg that made me nervous, but I’m glad I was able to see the chiropractor and have a plan to stay on top of it.

My thought of the week: I keep going back to Katy Perry’s new song and the Summer Olympics video that goes along with it. Wow. It is so motivating and inspirational. I got a little emotional watching it too. I think this is going to be my marathon training anthem from now on. I cannot wait for the games to begin in Rio!

I am ready to get back into training – week 5, here I come!

Previous Chicago Marathon Training updates

PS. I try to post daily updates on my runs on my blog’s Facebook page, so follow me there if you want updates in “real” time:)

Chicago Marathon Training: Weeks 1-3

Hello out there! I am sooooo behind in blogging! I have lots to say and share, and believe it or not, most of it is actually good. Things have really improved in my life over the last month or so. There is a lot to update on regarding life, the kids, my separation, etc. but I want this post to be focused on something that is very exciting and bringing me a lot of happiness right now. I started training for the Chicago Marathon!!! I am actually just starting week 4 of training. Oops! Told you I am behind!

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Ever since I started this blog over 5 years ago, I have documented my marathon training week by week. I actually look back at those posts often. I love seeing the progression and improvement over the course of the training cycle and the years. I want to make sure to do the same for this marathon training journey, especially since I have big goals for myself this time around. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon this fall. That would mean dropping my time from 3:43 (Myrtle Beach in March) to sub 3:35. That’s a pretty big jump, but I’m ready and willing to take on the challenge. I have tons of motivation, I’m feeling strong, and I have an extremely supportive circle of friends and family behind me.

Going into this training cycle, I did write myself a plan but I’ve been shifting days around as I need to and adapting some as I go depending on how my body feels and scheduling. Since this is going to be marathon #11 I feel more confident when it comes to knowing what I need to do and what works for me. My plan includes two harder runs per week (speedwork and tempo run), one long run, a bunch of easy runs, two days of strength training, one day of yoga, one rest day. Every 4th week or so is a cutback week. Before my “official” training started I made sure to ease myself into doing harder workouts by starting to hit the track once a week about a month beforehand. I also started adding to my long runs, making sure to hit 10 miles a few times, and slowly increased my weekly mileage from what I was doing during my off-cycle. I really feel this helped prepare me to hit the ground running (literally!) once my training plan started, feeling strong and ready to take on the more challenging workouts.

In addition, this is the first time I have trained for a marathon as a single mom. That in itself has been a huge challenge. I definitely don’t have the freedom and flexibility that I had before when it comes to running. I miss running in the morning and many times need to run in the middle of the day or evenings, which is tough during the summer. I have to run more with the stroller. I have to ask people for help more often, which I’m not used to having to do. However, I’m making it work so far and I’m proud of that. Best of all, I am feeling great and more like “me” every day.

Since I have 3 weeks to catch up on this post is going to be a long one. I promise to do better at keeping up with it weekly from now on! Here are all the details!

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The black is what I had planned, the purple is what I actually did

Week 1

  • Monday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 4 miles @ 8:19 pace. Mondays have usually been a rest day for me, but during the first two weeks of training I was also finishing the Runner’s World Summer Run Streak (at least a mile a day from Memorial Day to the 4th of July). Because of that I was doing easy runs rather than taking a rest day. On this day I met up with my friends from my Moms Run This Town group. I stayed with two friends for the run, one who was also pushing a double, and we talked the whole time. I barely looked at my watch until I realized toward the end that we were averaging around a 8:20 pace… With the strollers! What?! I couldn’t believe how comfortable it felt, especially because it was pretty warm at that point and I was pushing 55 pounds of kids plus the stroller itself! My splits were 8:27, 8:22, 8:20, 8:09. Felt amazing! The kids had a ton of fun playing together afterwards too. 

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  • Tuesday: Tempo Run – 2 easy, 2 @ 7:25, 2 easy.  My first tempo run since February! The workout was 2 miles easy, 2 miles @ tempo pace, 2 miles easy. I was hoping this baby tempo run would help ease me back into this type of harder run but it still kicked my butt! My goal was to do the two middle miles between 7:20-7:30 pace. I met the MRTT ladies at the track and did my first 2 easy miles with them before heading out to the road for my tempo miles. I managed to hit my goal with splits of 7:26 and 7:24, but it was tough. It didn’t help that it was raining, humid, hot, NOT flat like the track, and 6:00 PM (I really miss my morning runs!)… Lots of factors at play, but I did it. I did need to take a little breather before my cool down miles, but I knew next time would be better.

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 2 miles @ 9:12 + Upper Fix. I headed out with my boys in the double stroller for two easy miles followed by some playground time. Kevin was not satisfied with my pace and kept telling me to go faster, haha! I tried to keep it easy to save my legs for the next day’s speedwork. Later on while the boys were napping I did Upper Fix. I’m going to be trying very hard to fit in 2 days of strength during this training cycle like I did for Myrtle Beach.

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  • Thursday: Speedwork – 3 x 1600 (6:58, 6:53, 6:53). I was a little disappointed to wake up to thunder, lightning and heavy rain this morning since I had a date with the track. The kids went to daycare for a bit (they are going to go once a week since I’m paying for it anyway and I could use a day of sanity!) I tried to wait out the storm but it wasn’t letting up and I had to be somewhere at 11:00. So I dragged myself to the treadmill to do my mile repeats. 6 miles later my treadmill and myself were both covered in sweat, as you can see in the picture 😅 I did a 1 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile (6:58, 6:53, 6:53) with half mile recovery between each then a mile cooldown. GOT IT DONE, and it actually didn’t feel terrible! The Pitbull Pandora Station helped :)

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  • Friday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 1 mile @ 9:14 + Lower Fix. I love incorporating running into our summer days! Today was simple. We ran to the library, went to story time, picked out some books, walked back and stopped at the playground on the way. Afterwards when the kids took their (very short) naps, I squeezed in Lower Fix for some strength training.

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  • Saturday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 3 miles @ 9:09. On this morning I met up with some MRTT ladies to do a little send-off run with our friend Liz who is moving. I had the boys in the stroller, so I just did a loop on one of our favorite paths in Fredericksburg with the ladies, then we had some playground time.

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 13.1 miles @ 8:25. This morning Kevin offered to stay with the kids so I could run, so I got up super early to do my long run with my friend Steve. He is super fast and has already qualified for Boston (meaning he ran under 3:10!!!!). Needless to say, when we run together he slows WAY down for me. He’s training for a marathon that is a few weeks after mine, so he wanted to run 11 miles, I wanted to run 12, then we overshot our distance and ended up with 13.1! Oops! I was super happy with this run. It was a big loop and not flat at all, yet the pace felt good and I was able to talk the entire time comfortably.

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Week 1 Totals

  • Run: 35.1 miles (10 with stroller – more than I’d like but since I have the kids every other weekend some weeks have to be heavier stroller weeks than others).
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix & Lower Fix

Week 2

  • Monday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 2 miles @ 8:55 pace. Started the week with a couple easy stroller miles with one cute baby and one cranky threenager! Haha!

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  • Tuesday: Speedwork – 4 x 800 (3:15, 3:16, 3:15, 3:17). Conditions were tough at Track Tuesday, but the company was amazing! It was VERY hot and humid, but we all got great workouts in. I had 4 x 800 on my plan with a goal to run them in 3:17 (6:34 pace). After feeling the heat and humidity during my warm-up mile I knew it was going to be tough, but I wanted to give it all that I had. I ended up hitting all my splits, with times of 3:15, 3:16, 3:15, and 3:17! I needed an extra recovery lap between interval #3 and #4 and also took a mini-break before my cool-down mile, but overall I finished feeling very strong and proud. The best part of this weekly meet-up is the support and encouragement we all provide each other, even when we are doing our own things. It feels awesome to have a squad cheering for you every lap. I love these ladies!

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 3 miles @ 9:00 + Upper Fix. Great morning run with the stroller brigade! The cooler temperature and breeze felt awesome and was a nice change from what the weather has been like recently. Afterwards we had some playground time. So sweet to see all the kids playing together (and the little boys practicing their “going potty in the wild” skills!)

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  • Thursday: Tempo Run – 1 easy, 5 @ 7:34, 1 easy. Beautiful and peaceful solo tempo run through the Fredericksburg Battlefield, thanks to the kids being at daycare. I did 1 mile easy, 5 tempo, 1 easy. What a difference it made running earlier in the morning. I got progressively faster with each tempo mile (7:42, 7:41, 7:36, 7:30, 7:25) and ended with an average pace of 7:34 for my middle 5. Originally I planned to go for 7:45 to 8:00 pace for my middle miles, but I felt great so I went with it. I have really missed my AM runs and I am so thankful for this one today! It really made me feel like ME!

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  • Friday: Easy Run – 3 miles @ 8:50 + Lower Fix. I was headed home to Pennsylvania solo for the long holiday weekend on this day, and before I left I squeezed in the Lower Fix workout. Then on my drive north I pulled over to get a run in too. I went to a park that I used to run in all the time when I lived in this town a few years ago. The views are pretty and it was a nice change of scenery!

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  • Saturday: Long Run – 10 miles @ 8:56. Since I was home in Pennsylvania without my kids I had more time/freedom than usual, so I decided to do my long run on Kelly Drive and run into Philadelphia. I ran down the Schuykill River Trail to the Art Museum and back. It brought back amazing memories of my first half and full marathons here, which are the two that got me hooked back in 2007 and 2008. My tattoo on my ankle is even from the Philadelphia Marathon logo design. I sure have come a long way since then! I did 10 nice and easy miles- not the 14 I wanted due to having WAY too much fun and a late night out with friends, but that’s okay. It was totally worth it.

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  • Sunday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 8:55 + Yoga. I called this run “Tour de OCNJ.” I went to Ocean City, New Jersey with my family for the day and couldn’t resist going for a run while we were there. I got to see a little of everything, including the bench we bought for my mom (she passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2004 and this was her favorite place), the new pedestrian walkway on the bridge, the boardwalk and finished on the beach. So many amazing memories of this place growing up. It felt special coming back and running there! I also did yoga that evening once we got home and it felt so good.

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Week 2 Totals

  • Run: 34 miles (5 with the stroller)
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix, Lower Fix, Yoga

Week 3

  • Monday: Firecracker 5K – 3.1 miles @ 6:51 pace + 2 mile warm-up @ 8:55. I started week 3 by celebrating the 4th of July with a 5K in my hometown! I still have to write a full recap of this race and once I do I’ll link it here, but spoiler alert – I broke my old PR from two years ago by 40 seconds. I tried hard to pace myself to not start too fast and be patient, and ended up running a smart race with each mile faster than the last. Those fast finish workouts are paying off! I finished in 21:14 officially, which is an average pace of 6:51. WHAT!!!! I was so excited! I loved running in my hometown, and really loved the Philadelphia post-race refreshments of soft pretzels and water ice. My dad even surprised me by coming out to cheer for me.

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  • Tuesday: Easy Run – 3 miles @ 9:23. Quick, rainy and humid recovery run before I got my boys back from their dad. I missed them so much! I officially finished the Runner’s World Summer Run Streak the day before (Memorial Day to the 4th of July), but I wanted to squeeze another morning run in while I could.

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  • Wednesday: Rest Day. Finally a rest day! And it felt amazing! My sister came to visit the boys before she moves across the country to Oregon. We did about 3+ miles of walking but that’s it.
  • Thursday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 8:45. OMG. So hot. It felt like 96 degrees here at 8 AM. I was dripping when I finished this run! But I’m very thankful for my sister who offered to stay with the boys before she left to go back home. It would have felt 100x worse with the stroller, and it helped me get through the rest of the day which was a tough one with the kids.

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  • Friday: Speedwork – 1600, 1200, 800, 400 (6:54, 5:03, 3:20, 1:36). Since I raced on Monday, I counted that as my ‘tempo’ run and gave myself a few days of easy running/rest afterwards. I knew I was doing my long run on Sunday, so I decided to do my speedwork on Friday to make sure I spaced the harder efforts out enough. The kids went to daycare, so I went to the track and did a mile cutdown workout. It was pretty hot so I just tried to make each interval faster as they got shorter rather than go for specific paces, but then they almost all ended up within my goal ranges anyway. Woo hoo! I did a 1 mile warmup, then 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m with a short rest break then 400m slow running between each one. Finished with a .75 mile cooldown. I even did the second half of the workout in my sports bra which is a first for me! Usually I only do that on the treadmill. Also, please note the map and the detour I had to take to the porta potty. Mommy bladder can’t hang (especially during speedwork)! Just keeping it real:) Later that evening I actually did Upper Fix as well, which was a little much in addition to the speedwork, but I had to get it in since I hadn’t done any strength training yet this week.

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  • Saturday: Recovery Run – 3 miles @ 9:17 + Lower Fix. After a really great couple of weeks, I started feeling kinda down for a few days due to the current events in the country, hormones (so much worse after two babies), sleep deprivation, some family stuff and a bad summer cold/allergies… Just a really terrible combination! On this day, Kyler got me up this morning before 5 AM and I wanted to cry. Instead, I put on some bright neon clothes, pounded some coffee and got busy. I got in Lower Fix, with the help of Kyler who was biting my shirt since he woke up from his nap halfway through (as you can see in the picture). Then my boys went to see their grandparents who are in town, and I went for a nice shady run on one of my favorite paths. Someone went out and wrote inspirational messages of peace and love along the entire 3 mile loop. It was amazing! I felt so much better now and ready to tackle whatever life throws at me. A three hour nap helped too!

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 14 miles @ 8:38. My kids were still visiting family, so I was able to run 14 morning miles at one of my favorite places here in Virginia. It’s where I go when I want a quiet place to just run and think. It was one of those runs where you start with a ton on your mind, feeling heavy and stressed, and then as the miles tick by it all gets released. Thoughts get sorted through, problems get solved, worries lifted. Those are the best kinds of runs. I finished feeling happy and free and light, and my pace the last 3 miles reflected that. I was able to finish with my fastest miles – 8:25, 7:56 and 7:32. It was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful morning and I felt very strong. Now I am SO ready for my cutback week!

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Week 3 Totals

  • Run: 34.1 miles (0 with the stroller! That’s a miracle, haha!)
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix & Lower Fix. I missed yoga this week, but did it the following day to kick off week 4).

My successes this week were getting my runs in with a smile on my face (mostly). Seriously, looking at these three weeks of training and all the photos makes me so happy. How lucky am I?! I was able to do what I love (run) with so many people that I love, in places that I love, feeling strong and great. What an awesome way to kick off my training. My challenges over these last few weeks were sleep and nutrition – two factors that are so, SO important and that I need to make more of a priority. These are definitely my goals for the weeks to come because I know I won’t get very far without them.

My thought of the week is a lesson I am still learning even with 10 marathons under my belt. The body truly does achieve what the mind believes, and I continue to surprise myself every day with what I can accomplish!

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And that sums up my training so far! I’m so excited to see where the next 13 weeks take me. But first, a glorious cutback week. Ahhh, love it!

PS. I try to post daily updates on my runs on my blog’s Facebook page, so follow me there if you want updates in “real” time:)

Kyler’s 1st Birthday

As of May 22nd, my baby boy is officially 1! It is definitely very bittersweet to think about. On the one hand, I love watching him grow and develop new skills, and seeing his little personality emerge. But on the other hand, I’m 99% sure he is my last baby, and part of me wants him to stay this little forever.

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As his birthday approached I also felt really sad, because our family situation is not at all how I envisioned it being a year after Kyler’s birth, or ever. When my marriage suddenly fell apart this past January, I had hoped we could keep things civil enough to still do things like birthdays together even after separating/divorcing. However, I quickly realized that was not going to be possible – at least not right now. The last 4 months of Kyler’s first year of life already have a black cloud over them. I feel like they have just been a blur because of everything else that has been going on. I did not want to spend his birthday celebration around people who make me angry and sad. I wanted to spend it with the people who love us unconditionally and who have been supportive no matter what. So Kevin and I had separate birthday parties for Kyler. He actually took them for the first time overnight on Friday, had a party with his friends and family on Saturday, and then I got them back early on Sunday morning. I knew it would be a very hard weekend for me since I hate being away from my kids, especially for an extended time like that. So I invited some of my friends and family down from Pennsylvania (and even all the way from Oregon!) to spend the weekend with me, and we had a nice, small party for Kyler on Sunday – his actual birthday!

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The pre-party crew that arrived on Saturday!

I am so thankful that I had a house full of my closest friends and family to help me celebrate my sweet and happy baby boy’s birthday. It truly made all the difference in helping me stay positive and focus on the people who love and support me rather than the people who don’t. I wanted to share some photos from the party that were taken by my dad. We kept it sweet and simple. I ordered food from Wegmans, my friend Cynthia made cupcakes, and I did a little “Oh the Places You’ll Go” theme, incorporating the bright colors that are in Dr. Seuss books, quotes, and even a copy of the book that everyone signed and wrote wishes in for Kyler. I made his smash cake myself and reused a lot of decorations I already had from little Kevin’s past birthday parties. Simple and easy!

Here are some photos from our special day!

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I cannot thank my family and friends for making the trip down to see us. It was a very special day, and a great way to kick off the second year of my sweet boy’s life! I will be writing a full update on both Kyler and myself at 12 months and what’s going on in our lives now, hopefully over the weekend.

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Happy Birthday Kyler James! I love you!

Historic Half Wing Women

When you become a runner, first it’s all about you, your progress, your goals. But then you realize there’s a whole big community out there consisting of other runners. People who share the same passion as you that other people just don’t understand. You find yourself growing closer to them because of this connection that you have as runners, and suddenly running is about more than just you. You begin to have a desire to support others, and become invested in their journeys and the progress they make. It’s a beautiful thing!

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One day I had a random idea to recruit some friends of mine to be ‘wing women’ for a big local half marathon that takes place in my area called the Historic Half. I had a vision of us wearing costume wings, positioning ourselves on the toughest parts of the course, and helping our girls get up the hills and to the finish line. I posted about this idea of mine on two local Moms Run This Town groups and got a great response from both the people who were running the race and the people who weren’t, but wanted to volunteer. And so my “Wing Woman” idea came to life!

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I even made us special bibs!

I have run the Historic Half a few times before and continue to run parts of the course all the time since it’s not far from where I live. Because I was so familiar with it, I knew exactly where the hardest parts were and where the runners would need the most support. This race is a little evil in that the first 10 miles are mostly flat with some hills, followed by 2 miles of huge/steep hills, and ending with a flat final mile to the finish line.  It is a beast of a race and course and requires a slightly different strategy than other half marathons, because you really need to make sure you conserve energy for those last and hardest 3 miles of the race. Knowing this, we planned to have a group of ladies waiting at the first hill, infamously known as “Hospital Hill” – which is a long, slow climb. Another group (including myself) would be at the hill that followed, which was shorter, steeper and in my opinion even harder since you’re pretty done at that point in the race!

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Our crew gathered bright and early in Fredericksburg sporting our sparkly wings. We arrived as the race started so we got to see all the runners off as they passed by. As we waited for more people to show up, some of our ladies headed down to the hills so that they would be able to catch runners who were doing the 5 mile race. We didn’t want to leave anyone hanging.

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Once everyone had arrived, we hurried over to the base of the second and final hill of the course. We watched and cheered for the 5 mile runners, and saw the first half marathon finishers come through making it look effortless. Not too long after that, we started seeing our ladies come through!

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We had posted about what we were doing ahead of time, so our friends in the group knew where to find us and to call out to us if they wanted a ‘wing woman’ to run with them up the hill. It started off a little slow, but soon enough there were so many that it was hard to keep up with the demand! We easily ran with at least 30-40 people that day.

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Every woman that we jumped in and ran with was so happy and appreciative. Their faces went from looking pained and tired to lighting up when they saw their Moms Run This Town tribe there for them. I was also excited to be able to support two runners that I’ve been coaching since December. I almost missed my first one, Pandita, because I was running another person up, but caught her right as she neared the top and told her to turn the corner, get to the finish line and get her sub 1:50 half marathon goal. She finished in 1:49:55.

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Shortly after I saw Dina, who was looking strong and confident. When I jumped in with her she asked me to run her all the way to the finish line (another mile away) and I couldn’t say no. She has been working on her fast finishes and this race was no exception. She went from not thinking she was going to make her sub-2 hour half marathon goal, to finishing in 1:58:23. To say I am proud of these two incredible, hard-working women is an understatement!

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At the end of the day, I had run 7 happy, amazing miles of hills with friends that are very special to me. It was such a great morning. Afterwards, we heard from many people who said that seeing us wing women was one of the biggest highlights of their races. I was so glad that we could help and that I could give back a little to this wonderful community who has been supporting me a ton over the past few months.

I think we are going to need to make this wing woman concept a tradition at all the local races!

Mother’s Day 5K

Mother’s Day this year was… different. That’s for sure. It was definitely not relaxing. There was no pampering, breakfast in bed or sleeping in. I did get a card, a bottle of wine and some chocolate, which I was not expecting. But other than that, it was really just like any other day lately. Busy, crazy, fun, amazing, exhausting… all rolled into one!

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It’s no secret that I’ve been forced into this role as a single mom when I did not want to be.  But rather than feel sorry for myself and compare my Mother’s Day to others that I saw all over social media, I decided to take initiative and plan a memorable, awesome day with my boys. After all, isn’t that what this holiday is truly all about? Spending time with and enjoying the little ones that made you a mommy?

The night before, I signed up for a small local Mother’s Day 5K that I knew some of my friends in my local Moms Run This Town group were running. I have never raced with my double BOB stroller before, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Running + my boys = happiness to me.

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Since I was running with the stroller, I didn’t have very high expectations for the race. I knew whatever time I finished in would be a new kind of PR for me, a double stroller PR:) Plus, I had a feeling Kevin would want to get out of the stroller and run with me at some point.  I figured I’d push myself hard until he asked to get out and then take it from there.

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I had never done a race organized by this group before, but I have run in the area many, many times. I knew the course would be on a paved path next to the road, which was wide but still pretty tight while running with a stroller around others. I really didn’t want to start all the way in the back of the pack. There is kind of an unwritten rule (and actually written in some races) that stroller runners are supposed to start behind everyone else, and I totally understand why that is. But I really didn’t want to have to weave around people with a giant stroller when I could start closer to the front and not be in anyone’s way. So I positioned myself up front and pushed hard as soon as the starting gun went off.

The race began with a nice uphill out of the park, where a photographer was perfectly positioned to capture how hard it felt!

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After that we did a short out-and-back segment, that had another nice hill. Since I knew the course, I knew that would be the hardest part of the race. The rest of it would be relatively flat with a few small hills. My first mile came in at 8:11 pace, which I was very happy with since I was hoping to stay around 8:20 average. As I predicted, starting up front was a lot better because I wasn’t in anyone’s way and didn’t have to weave. It was perfect!

I started to feel the weight of the stroller during the second mile, even though it was mostly flat. It was also warming up quickly which made it feel that much harder. My second mile came in at 8:20, and right as it beeped Kevin asked to get out and run with me. YES PLEASE! I was more than ready for a little break.

The thing about running with a 3 1/2 year old is that they get distracted. A lot. They don’t run in straight lines. At all. So our mile together was a lot of stopping and starting, looking at the river next to us, looking at the squirrels and birds, almost running into other people (sorry!). But ultimately I LOVED running with my boy. He even totally wiped out at one point and just got back up and kept going. He’s the best.

He hopped back in the stroller to ride for about a minute or two, then decided he wanted to run through the finish line all by himself. He jumped back out and booked it to the end. We crossed just under 30 minutes, an average pace of 9:31!

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Running through the finish line with both of my boys was an amazing feeling. It made me so thankful and proud to be their mommy and get to spend the day with them in this way.

 

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After we crossed a volunteer looked at our bib and told us we’d have to wait to get a medal later. Apparently since I had signed up within 24 hours of the race I wasn’t guaranteed one, and they wanted to wait to see how many were left at the end. Kevin was really disappointed and got very sad that he didn’t get a medal. A man nearby noticed and came over to us to give Kevin his medal. I almost burst into tears. It was so sweet and thoughtful, and Kevin just lit up with pride when he gave it to him.

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Words cannot describe how much I love these two!

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After the race, we cooled down with some playground time and lunch. It truly was the perfect solo Mother’s Day. Kyler had fun crawling around and Kevin showed his muscles off to everyone at the park:)

Life is far from easy right now. In fact, it’s the hardest it’s ever been. But these two help me keep everything in perspective. They are the reason for everything I do and I love them so much!