Monthly Archives: March 2014

Potomac River Run Half Marathon Training: Week 1

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It’s about that time again! This past week I started training for another race- The Potomac River Run Half Marathon. I am actually very excited for this, because the only time I trained specifically for a half marathon was before my very first one back in 2007. Every other time I have run a half (except while I was pregnant), it has been part of my marathon training. I am looking forward to training for a half marathon and pushing myself to see what I can do. My goal race is on May 4th, so this is a short training cycle- only 6 weeks long. I feel like this is okay because I’m still feeling strong from my marathon training and I’ve recovered quickly. I’m doing a modified version of the Run Less, Run Faster half marathon training plan since that type of plan has worked so well for me before. So I’ll be continuing to do my 3 key runs a week at specific paces (speedwork, tempo and long run), with cross training, strength training or easy runs in between. My training paces are based on my most recent 5K last weekend, where I PRed with a time of 22:07. This means I’m training faster than ever before, which scares me (in a good way!) Here are the paces I’ll be working towards achieving in my key runs. I can’t hit them perfectly right now, but I hope to get closer as my training progresses.

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 9.50.09 PMAnd here is my plan, including how the first week went.

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Monday: 2 miles in 20:07 (10:03 average pace). A few of my co-workers and I started up an after school running/walking club with our staff. We meet on Mondays and Wednesdays and I usually do a couple easy miles with the group. Monday is a rest/cross training day, but it felt good to do a little recovery run after my hard 5K effort the day before. I ran with my friend Amanda, who is also training for a half marathon.

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Tuesday: XT – At Home Strength Circuit (10-8-6-4-2). I didn’t have a lot of time on Tuesday to cross-train so I kept it quick and simple with a little strength circuit. I did push ups, squats, tricep dips, and sit ups- starting with 10 of each exercise, then repeated the circuit doing 8 of each, then 6, then 4, and finally 2. I tried to move and transition quickly to keep my heart rate up and it was fun and challenging!

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Wednesday: AM- Key Run #1 – Speedwork. 4 miles in 32:08 (8:02 average pace.) PM – 2 miles in 20:05 (10:02 average pace). 6 miles total. I actually ran twice on this day, which I’m pretty sure is a first for me. In the morning I did my first real speedwork since before the marathon. On my plan was a warmup, 8 x 400 with 400 meter recovery between, then cooldown. My goal pace was 6:28. I wasn’t expecting my car to be a rock solid block of ice when I left for the gym this morning so I lost some time cleaning it off. I only had time to do 6 intervals, but I did them all at 6:27 pace and it felt challenging but awesome. I had running club that afternoon, and since I ran in the morning I kept it short and sweet and just ran 2 easy miles with my friend Amanda again.

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Thursday: XT- Walking (30:00). After picking up little Kevin from daycare, I met my hubby at the middle school where he coaches baseball. He was running on the track after practice so we joined him and walked while he did his speedwork (he’s training for a 5K). It was a nice afternoon and we really enjoyed getting some fresh air rather than going straight home, making dinner and going to bed. It’s always fun to mix it up and be a little spontaneous 🙂

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Friday: Key Run #2 – Tempo Run. 5 miles in 39:18 (7:52 pace). This workout was supposed to be 5 miles at long tempo pace (7:42), but I knew that would be tough to achieve since it was my first time attempting it and I was running after a long day at work. I decided to go out at that pace and see how long I could hold on, so I can measure my progress against the next time this workout comes up on my training plan. I ended up running 3.1 miles @ 7:35 average pace. After that I needed to take a break and walk for a few minutes (untimed), then ran the last two miles slower. It was NOT easy and I almost puked toward the end, but I got it done! I am excited to see how much longer I can go next time and hopefully won’t need a break. Bonuses to this run: I got to do it in shorts and a tank top! I witnessed a hawk swooping down to pick up a squirrel (so cool), and my brother-in-law drove by at the end and cheered me on. When I started running many years ago I ran at an 11 minute/mile pace. I never dreamed I’d be able to do a tempo run at a sub-8 minute pace. This reminded me that I need to BELIEVE I can do hard things!!!

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Saturday: XT – Yoga: Hip Openers (9:00). Normally on Saturdays I like to take Body Pump or Body Flow, but we were away for the weekend visiting family so I did a short yoga video on Youtube instead. I saw this one on Mile Posts a while back and bookmarked it to try some day. Even though it was only 9 minutes it was challenging at times and made my hips and legs feel amazing after my tough tempo run the day before.

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Sunday: Key Run #3 – Long Run. 8 miles in 1:06:39 (8:20 average pace). It rained ALL weekend while we were in Pennsylvania visiting family and was freezing outside. Normally I don’t mind running in the rain, but it was 32 degrees and pouring so I opted to do my run on my dad’s treadmill. I was also already sick with a bad cold and congestion and didn’t want to make it worse. The run actually went by pretty fast and I felt good. My goal was to do it at half marathon pace + 30 seconds (8:22/mile) and I was able to do it at an 8:20 pace. After marathon training for months, I am loving that my “long run” is only 8 miles!

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Week 1 Total:

  • Run: 21 miles
  • Cross Training & Strength Training: 1 at-home strength circuit, walking, and yoga

I am feeling the itch to get back to some of my classes at the gym, but this week was insanely busy so it didn’t happen. I don’t think it will happen this upcoming week either, because I have a 15K race this Saturday. Normally I run on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but with my race I’ll be running on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday instead. The classes that work with my schedule are on those same days so it just isn’t going to work. I’ll do at home cross training instead and then get back to it the following week. I’m really excited for my 15K because it will be a good gauge of my current fitness level and will give me an idea of what to work towards in the half marathon.

Last time around I posted a motivational thought for the week and really enjoyed doing that, so I’m going to continue with it! This quote gave me great perspective on the ups and downs of running and training. Love it!

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Stafford Runway Runaway 5K

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Well, I sure wasn’t expecting the result I got yesterday at the Stafford Runway Runaway 5K. I signed up for this race a few months ago, thinking it would be 5 weeks after the Myrtle Beach Marathon so I might be recovered enough to really race it. This course is pancake flat and takes place on the runway of the Stafford Airport, so I was originally going to go for a PR. But then everything happened at Myrtle Beach and I decided to try another marathon a few weeks later. After that I changed my mindset toward this race from PRing to just having fun, because I didn’t think I’d be able to do much “racing” only 2 weeks after a marathon. I told myself I’d run at a comfortably hard pace and just see how I felt.

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We got to the race around 7:20 and found my friend Amanda, who was running it too. It was pretty cold that morning so after picking up our timing chips we headed inside the small airport building to keep warm before the 8 a.m. start.

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This was the first year for this race and it had a surprisingly good turnout! There were about 400 runners there ready to race on the runway. Shortly before 8:00 Amanda and I left the warmth and went to the start line. We weren’t planning to run together because she was using this race to get a 5K baseline time, and I was just curious to see what I could do. We wished each other good luck and then we were off!

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The course started off with us going around a few bends, then a long out and back segment, followed by a shorter out and back segment to the finish line.

 

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I was feeling great right away, and running a sub-7 minute pace almost effortlessly. I knew that I would never be able to maintain that pace though. I think I have positive splitted every single 5K I’ve ever run because I ALWAYS go out too fast. This time I didn’t want to do that, so I made myself slow down a bit once I got onto the long out and back segment. It wasn’t hard to do this because we were running into a pretty strong wind.

  • Mile 1 – 7:23

When I saw my first mile split I thought about what I should do next. I knew that my 5K PR was 22:29, which was a 7:14 pace. I wasn’t sure if I could run the next two miles fast enough to get my pace down to where it needed to be to PR. I did a quick check to see how my body was feeling, and decided to go for it since I was feeling really strong. I hit the first turn-around point at around mile 1.5 and started running with the wind at my back, which felt so much better. I picked up the pace and was ready to RACE.

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It felt awesome to be running on an empty runway. I didn’t know how I’d feel about the course because there’s not much to see and it’s super flat, but I ended up really enjoying it. About halfway down the runway I saw Amanda which gave me a little extra boost of energy. I also hit mile 2, and realized that in order to PR I’d have to run the last 1.1 miles at a 7:14 pace or faster. I was feeling the fast miles in my not-quite-recovered-yet legs and I wasn’t sure if I could.

  • Mile 2 – 7:06
My boys are my biggest fans!

My boys are my biggest fans!

At the 2.5 mile mark we rounded the big bend to do the smaller out and back portion. I ran past Kevin and the baby who were cheering for me like always. He looked surprised when he noticed what time was on the clock and how fast I was running.

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Even though this out-and-back portion was shorter it felt really long, and we were back to running into the wind. I thought I would never get to the turn around point! I tried to hang onto my pace and watched the time on my Garmin tick by. I knew it was going to be really close. I finally did the final turn around and headed toward the finish line. When I hit mile 3  I knew I had it.

  • Mile 3 – 7:03

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I used up every last ounce of energy in my body to sprint the final .1 miles, and crossed the finish line with a HUGE smile on my face when I saw the clock.

  • The last .1 – 0:35 (6:39 pace)
Right after finishing!

Right after finishing!

Kevin ran up to me screaming and asking, “How did you do that?!” I was in disbelief and said I honestly don’t know. I was as surprised as he was!

  • Finish time – 22:07. 7:07 average pace. A new PR by 22 seconds!

After I finished we went over to the finish line to wait for Amanda.

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She came through a couple minutes later, finishing in 28:13- only 5 seconds from her PR. I thought that was awesome because she hasn’t raced since we did the OBX Marathon and it’s been a long, tough winter for running!

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When results were posted I found out I had won first in my age group and was SUPER excited! After we got some water and bananas, we went back inside to rest for a bit and wait for awards.

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We hung out for a little bit then went back outside for awards and to meet two women from a local Moms Run This Town running club that I had been talking to on Facebook. They were super nice and our conversation got me excited to do some group runs with them in the future

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Accepting my award!

For getting first place in the Women’s 20-29 age group I won a gift certificate to our local running store- which is awesome because I need to get some new things for the spring training season!

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I was so happy after this race. Clearly, I race VERY well when I put no pressure on myself! This has definitely been a trend recently. In races where I don’t wear a watch or go in with no real expectations, I have either PRed or had an amazing race experience (Exhibits A, B, and C– and those are just examples from the last 5 months!) For maybe the first time ever, I actually raced a 5K in a smart way and had negative splits. I felt strong the entire time, both physically and mentally. I can’t believe I ran a marathon PR AND a 5K PR within 2 weeks! Who am I?

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If that is what I can do on tired, marathon-recovering legs, I wonder what I can do with some more training!!! I saw this quote the other day and I really do think it’s true- not just for running but everything in life. I am learning this more and more each day.

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Another PR is in the books 🙂

Mom & Baby: 18 Months

What the heck- didn’t I just write Kevin’s 17 month update? I swear the weeks have been passing extra fast lately, and it’s starting to make me uncomfortable! I need time to slow down. This little boy is growing up right before my eyes. He’s now officially in the second half of age one… on his way to turning two. I can’t believe it!

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Baby

I was hoping to have Kevin’s official weight and height stats for this update, but when I came down with the terrible, horrible, never-ending stomach bug I had to reschedule his 18 month appointment. We actually won’t be going until he’s almost 19 months!

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I know he has gotten taller again this month because he can now reach (and open) doors. This has made us re-evaluate and update our baby-proofing. When we baby-proofed before it was with an infant who was learning to be mobile. Now that he’s a toddler he’s into a lot more and is really good at figuring out how to outsmart us. He definitely keeps us on our toes!

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Caught red-handed!

Here are the monthly comparison shots: 1 month to 18 months.

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I weighed him on our scale at home and it said he was 25 pounds, which is actually a little less than he was last month. His appetite has been all over the place though, so I’m not really that surprised. He hasn’t been eating as much but has still been super active. I’m not sure if his appetite/weight loss is him starting to get picky, teething (he got two new teeth this month), or a result of when he got my stomach bug, but he just started eating a bit more lately. Hopefully it stays that way!

Undressing himself after a nap

Undressing himself after a nap in Myrtle Beach

His favorite foods are any and all fruit (banana, oranges, grapes, apples, blueberries, you name it!). Dairy continues to be his all time favorite, and he will throw a fit if you mention the words milk or cheese and don’t give him any. He didn’t like eggs last month but now he loves them again. He also really likes tortellini and quinoa. He has gotten really good at using a fork and a spoon!

Still loving the green smoothies!

Still loving the green smoothies!

Kevin is still nursing at night, but only on the right side now. At the beginning of the month I really thought we were done, because he would fight it and didn’t seem interested. But then all of a sudden things changed and he started wanting it again. It doesn’t last long and he doesn’t really fall asleep while nursing anymore. Now when he decides he’s done he will just sit up, say “night night” and “bye bye” and point to his crib. He will give me a hug and a kiss, I’ll lay him down with his “babies” and he goes right to sleep. It’s a really bittersweet feeling.

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He continues to learn a ton of new words! This month he learned how to say shoes, done, no, hot, help, bite, puppy (he thinks all animals are puppies right now), nose, mmmhmm (he says this for yes), Dado (he calls his dad this sometimes) and Dexter (the name of my in-law’s dog). He still loves blowing kisses, but now he will actually say “mwah!” when he does it. It’s so cute! He also said his first 2 word phrase on the day he turned 18 months- “no mommy.” And now it’s his favorite thing to say. Ohhhh boy!

This month he learned how to sign for help. He has been super independent lately and wants to do everything himself, which has led to many bad meltdowns because he gets frustrated if he can’t figure something out. Since teaching him how to sign “help” he’s been much happier, and then he watches us do it so he can learn for himself. He still knows and uses more, all done, milk, drink, please, eat, bath, cheese, yes, and no regularly and we don’t need to prompt him anymore- he just does them on his own.

He has learned a bunch of new body parts this month. He can find his nose, mouth, ears, head, belly, belly button, hair, and his ‘private parts’ (LOL) when asked.

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One of the coolest tricks he learned this month (thanks to his daddy) was how to go get him a beer from the fridge. My husband is very proud of this!

Like I said earlier, Kevin got two new teeth this month, which brings his total to 14. Both of his top canine teeth broke through his gums on the same exact day. Ouch. He took it like a champ for the most part but did have some trouble sleeping. I could tell he was in pain because he was more clingy and whiny than usual, and his whole hand was in his mouth most of the time. We gave him lots of cold teethers, numbing gel and soft food to help him. Like the last time he was teething back in December (all 4 molars within a month), it did cause him to want to bite anything and everything he could find, including us. We’ve had to take a few trips to the time-out chair because of it. We are working on it!

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Even though we’ve had a couple biting incidents, I swear he is the sweetest little boy. He cares about everyone and is always trying to give hugs and kisses, especially if he sees someone upset or sad. He already loves the ladies too, ahhh!

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When we put lotion on him at bedtime he loves to rub it on me too. He also rubs our back and our arms when we cuddle. He’s just the sweetest and I hope that never changes!

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Sleep has been okay this month. Teething and sickness have disrupted his sleep at times and caused him to wake up at night and during naps. He still takes two naps, one around 9 that lasts about an hour and one around 1 that lasts an hour and a half to two hours. We’ve tried cutting the morning nap down but he just still seems to need it at this point. We are okay with that and just keeping an eye on the signs that he may be ready to drop it.

Napping on the way home from work after he fought it during the day

Napping on the way home from work after he fought it during the day

He loves daycare, his Nanny (what he calls his babysitter), his friends, and everything they do there. She stimulates them so much with books, music, art, and different sensory activities. He has learned so much since he started going there in early December.

Sensory play with Cool Whip at daycare!

Sensory play with Cool Whip at daycare!

When I picked him up at daycare the other day and asked him if he wanted to go home he actually told me no! I can’t be upset about that though, it’s so nice to know he’s happy during the day when I am at work.

He put on his backpack and said bye bye because he wanted to go to Nanny's on a snow day!

He put on his backpack and said bye bye because he wanted to go to Nanny’s on a snow day!

Kevin loves playing with his kitchen, blocks, shape sorter and anything that involves building, stacking, putting things inside containers and taking them out. He loves taking care of his various “babies” (stuffed animals).

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He’s obsessed with cars and trucks and anything with wheels that he can play with. He also loves his T-ball set which makes his daddy- who coaches middle school baseball- very happy! Weirdly, he really likes playing with cleaning stuff. He will pretend to sweet with a broom or wipe things off with a paper towel. I guess he wants to be just like mommy 🙂

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He actually loves trucks so much that he can hear the trash and recycle trucks coming from all the way across the neighborhood and will wait by the door until they come. Sometimes he waits there on days when there’s no trash pick-up and constantly asks for the “beep beep” (truck) which is so cute and sad at the same time. The truck drivers have gotten to know him though and will beep and wave at him when they drive by. It makes his whole day 🙂

We were blessed with more snow days this month, which is great for staying home with my boy but not really for playing outside! We did spend some time in the snow but most days it was just way too cool to be outside for any substantial amount of time.

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Winter can be tough because Kevin loves the outdoors so much, and we try to take him out often. Luckily we were also blessed with some random warm days in the middle of the polar vortex craziness. I’m definitely looking forward to spring and nicer weather!

Playing outside at daycare

Playing outside at daycare

Even though he loves playing outside he doesn’t really like to get dirty yet. I caught this hilarious picture on my phone when Kevin was at the playground and fell down where the ground was sort of wet. His hands were all dirty and he just did not know what to do with himself!

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Body

WOW- my body sure has been through a lot this month. It started off by shutting down during mile 21 of the Myrtle Beach Marathon, and then figuring out what was going on afterwards and recovering took some time. I felt really beaten down for a while and it took a little bit to feel normal again. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I attempt another marathon- PRing by 4 minutes and finally finishing under 4 hours. I ran an absolutely perfect race and felt amazing the whole time. Recovery from it wasn’t difficult either, and I felt fine only a couple of days later. I don’t know how my body could do a whole 360 like that in the span of just one month, but it was a lot to deal with! I definitely gave it some well deserved R & R after all of that!

Getting the kiss I was supposed to get at the finish line

Getting the kiss I was supposed to get at the finish line

In other body news, my cycle was thrown off after my DNF in Myrtle Beach last month too. I don’t think I mentioned this because it’s pretty TMI, but my period started the night after I couldn’t finish the race. It was a week early, which was weird since I’ve been regular like clockwork for 5 months now. I’m not on birth control right now so I try to stay pretty in-tune with what is going on with my body and track it myself. That is part of the reason why I went to the doctor, to make sure everything was okay since the type of bleeding I was experiencing was very different than my normal cycle. Long story short, all was fine and I probably just threw my cycle off due to sickness and stress on the body. It came back the following month right on schedule so everything should be good!

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Mind

My mental and emotional state during Kevin’s 18 month of life was a roller coaster. It started in a very negative, disappointing way when I was unable to finish the marathon I had trained so hard for. After that happened I battled with feelings of failure and my confidence for a little while, until I decided to try again and found amazing success. After finally accomplishing a goal I have worked so hard for, I realized that I am stronger than I think and I CAN do anything I want to do. I now feel at peace and have never believed in myself more on all levels- as a mother, a runner, a wife, a teacher… the whole experience has helped me realize my true potential. Sounds cheesy but it’s true!

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One other thing that really helped me emotionally was having so many days to spend at home with Kevin. During this month we had 4 snow days, 2 two-hour delays and a day off for President’s Day. I truly LOVE being at home with him, and if I can’t be a stay-at-home mom, then being a teacher with holiday and summer breaks, plus unexpected snow days has to be the next best thing.

Nothing better than spending the day with this face!

Nothing better than spending the day with this face!

Even though teaching can be an insanely stressful job, those perks make it worth it. Plus, like I said last month, I really do enjoy my job for the most part this year. It seems as though I’ll be continuing in this position next year too, so I feel a lot of weight lifted and don’t worry as much about the future. Life is so good right now!

A rare snow day for all 3 of us!

A rare snow day for all 3 of us!

I love you so much sweet boy! Can’t wait to see what the next month brings!

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Previous Mom & Baby posts:

Recovery & What’s Next

So, it’s been over a week since I PRed in my marathon. I spent this past week doing not much of anything besides walking, rolling out my super tight and knotty calves and giving myself a well deserved break.

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Then right when I started to get the itch to run again, I was hit with the worst stomach bug I think I’ve ever had early on Friday morning. It lasted 3 very long days, and my poor baby caught it too. I’ll spare you the details, but just trust me when I say it was horrible. I’m finally on the mend and was able to go for a slow 2.5 mile run/walk with my boys yesterday afternoon. It felt so good to get some fresh air! My nausea came back that evening, but today I have felt pretty normal. We also happened to have yet another snow day so I was thankful to be feeling well enough to enjoy it with little K!

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Felt so good to get outside and use my legs again!

Now that the marathon is over and I finally feel at peace with the 26.2 distance, I’ve been thinking about what’s next for me and my running. Since I haven’t been doing much of anything this week I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the running journey I’ve been on since having Kevin. I have spent the last year and a half working HARD to regain my fitness and speed after he was born in September 2012. Since I ran until the day my water broke and I was cleared to exercise again at 4 weeks postpartum, I jumped back into training pretty quickly and it’s been quite the roller coaster ride since then. There have been some incredible highs and some disappointing lows, and I have learned SO MUCH about myself through it all.

In those 18 months I have:

  • Completed 6 5Ks (and set a new PR).
  • Completed a super fun obstacle race with my husband.
  • Completed 2 10Ks (and set a new PR)
  • Completed a 15K and a 10 miler (and set new PRs in both).
  • Completed 3 half marathons.
  • Completed two marathons (and set a new PR).
  • Had a DNF in another marathon.
  • Dealt with a reoccurring knee injury due to a few nasty falls, and a foot injury, and recovered from both.

Needless to say, I crammed a lot into the past year and a half! I surprised myself by PRing at almost every distance since having my baby. Once I realized I was getting faster post-baby I wanted to see how many new PRs I could set, and now there’s just one distance left- the half marathon. I set my half marathon PR of 1:48:55 over 3 years ago, and I know I can beat it now. My goal half marathon is on May 4th (the Potomac River Run Half), and I’m going to spend the next 7 weeks preparing for it. But after that, it’s time for a little break. I am not talking about a complete break from running or anything like that, but I am ready to cut back a bit on the intense training.

I LOVED my training plan for this past marathon (and other past races) and have raved about it many times- the Run Less, Run Faster program continues to really work for me, and this is what I plan to use to prepare for my goal half marathon. But it was VERY intense with specific goal paces for every single workout. The speed and tempo runs definitely helped me get faster and the cross-training and strength-training in between was so good for my body and overall strength. I really want to continue incorporating these elements into my running even when I’m not “training” for anything specific. But I also want to run with friends again, with the stroller, with my husband… for fun, and not with a specific pace or goal in mind for that workout. I want to go to classes at the gym when I feel like it, and not go if I don’t feel like it. I just want to run for the joy of it.

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As a Type-A perfectionist I’m always striving to improve myself in all aspects of my life- as a mother, wife, runner, teacher, friend, sister, daughter, blogger, etc. Life has changed a lot for me over the past 2 years, between pregnancy and then having a baby and learning how to be a mom. One thing that has always been constant and a source of comfort during these changing times is running (and my amazing husband- but that’s a blog post for another day!). Being a mother is always my top priority, but it has always been important for me to keep my identity as a runner too. Running was my first love, and I can’t let it go.

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Post-run smoothies with my boy

I’ve had some people ask me how and why I spend so much of my precious time running and if I ever feel guilty for it now that I have a family. There are times that I do feel guilty, but I try to remind myself that when you are a mom, you give all of yourself to your family and it can be easy to push the things that make YOU happy to the side. I know that I am a better mother because I run, which is why I make time for it. I get up super early to run before my son and husband wake up, or I leave after he goes to bed so that we wouldn’t miss out on time together. I plan my weekend runs during his nap times, or take him out in the stroller even if it means adapting what’s on my training plan. I have an amazing husband who is supportive of all of my goals and pushes me to go for them. I’m proud of the work I have put into my running and what I’ve achieved. But at the same time, I am looking forward to taking some of the edge off. I’m excited to run the miles I want to, when I want to, with whoever I want to, not worrying about pace or distance or a PR. I’m looking forward to doing shorter races and fun runs with family and friends. It’s been a beautiful ride and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Marathon #9 – The Lower Potomac River Marathon

Marathon #9 is officially in the books, and will forever be a very special race to me. It is my proof that hard work does pay off, and it showed me how important it is to face your fears and try again after failing. I finally ran the sub-4 marathon I’ve been working toward for years, and it felt AMAZING!

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In order to start telling this story I need to back up a few weeks. The decision to try 26.2 again was not an easy one and there were a lot of factors I had to consider: Is there another race I can do soon that is in a new state (since I’m trying to do all 50)? Do I have it in me mentally to try again? How about physically? Am I healthy enough? I’ll start at the beginning. I will warn you though, this is a long one!

Saturday, February 15th (the evening of my DNF): After a rough and emotional day, the thought of trying again crosses my mind. Kevin catches me browsing Running in the USA, and says he knew it wouldn’t be long before I started looking. He told me he would support any decision I made. I found a couple that would work (the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Maryland on March 9th and Rock & Roll DC on March 15th), but knew I didn’t want to rush into a decision. I also wanted to figure out if anything was going on with my body medically before I jumped back into such a demanding race distance and running in general.

Tuesday, February 18th: I go to the doctor to get some blood work and other testing done, to rule out anything being wrong medically (anemia, thyroid, pregnancy, etc.)

Friday, February 21st: All my test results come back normal/negative. I started to think more about running another marathon. While exploring the race websites, I went into the registration page for the Lower Potomac River Marathon but Active said registration had been closed. My heart sank. I emailed the race director to ask if they were full, just to keep my options open in case I decided to go for it.

Saturday, February 22nd: I run for the first time since my DNF. I gave myself a week off because I still felt pretty beat up, but by this point I was feeling pretty much back to normal. Plus my test results all came back normal so I felt comfortable running again. I went out with both Kevins for a 3 mile family run and felt amazing! I decided to try to do a longer run the next day to see how I felt when running longer distances. I knew this would be a big factor in determining whether or not I would try another marathon. The race director emailed me back and said they closed online registration but I could still mail it in if I wanted to. I decided that I would see how my run went the next day and make a decision after that.

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Sunday, February 23rd: I head out to run and wear my Camelbak, in case I end up feeling good and wanting to run longer. The first 3 miles were terrible. TERRIBLE! I actually stopped to walk at mile 3 and was contemplating calling Kevin to come get me. I told myself this was a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, that I shouldn’t force myself to do something I wasn’t enjoying. But then something changed. This is where it starts to get a little strange… at this moment a little voice in my head told me to give it one more chance. So I started running again, and it felt amazing. I ran 10 more miles and felt like I floated the entire time. I took that as a sign- maybe I should give the marathon another try, just like I gave today’s run a second chance. Maybe it could turn out to be better than I ever imagined.  I decided to go for it.

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I swear this shirt is lucky- I’ve never had a bad run while wearing it, which is why I wore it on race day too!

Monday, February 24th: I mail in my registration and start mentally preparing myself for another marathon. It was actually kind of perfect because this race was 3 weeks after Myrtle Beach, when I would be tapering. I could call my 21.37 miles in Myrtle Beach my final “training run” and cut back from there. I started to get excited.

Friday, February 28th: I noticed that the check I sent to register for the race hadn’t come out of my account yet, so I checked the website to see what was going on. My heart sank again when I saw that they posted that it had reached capacity (200 runners- a small race!) a couple of days before. I figured that since my check hadn’t been cashed I didn’t get it. I was disappointed, and started contemplating running the Rock & Roll DC race the following weekend instead. But it never felt “right” to me, and I haven’t had the best experiences with Rock & Roll races. I wondered if I should take that I didn’t get in as another sign that it wasn’t meant to be, and just accept it.

Saturday, March 1st: I go out for an 8 miler, just in case there’s a slim chance I could still be accepted into the Lower Potomac River Marathon, as my final “long” run. I still haven’t heard from the race director, so I am hopeful.

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Sunday, March 2nd: The race director emails me back and says I am IN! My check has been deposited. We book a hotel room and I start to realize this is really happening!

And that brings me to race weekend. Whew! Told you it was a roller coaster ride! Going into this race I had a lot of anxiety and fear. What if it happens again? What if my body can’t handle it? Because of this I decided to keep my decision quiet, and only told a few people going into it. This did help alleviate some of the stress and pressure, and I spent a lot of time trying to relax and focus on positive visualization. I tried to see it as just another long run.

We arrived in Piney Point, Maryland where the race was taking place around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. It was only about an hour and a half drive from home, which was really nice. Piney Point is a small, quaint, beachy town along the Chesapeake Bay. As we drove into where we needed to pick up my packet we went through part of the course, and I immediately knew I was going to love it. It was partially along the water, and partially on a rural country “highway.” We decided to drive the whole course before going to packet pick-up and it was absolutely beautiful. Seeing where I would be running the next day made me feel calmer, because I could really visualize myself running the course.

Just an example of some of the beautiful views along the course!

Just an example of some of the beautiful views along the course!

The packet pick-up was super informal and easy. Like I said, this race maxes out at 200 runners, so there was a really intimate and casual feel to everything, which I loved. After we got my bib we spent some time outside in the sun since it was a beautiful, warm day. Kevin loved being able to run around after being in the carseat for a little while.

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After spending some time outside we headed to our hotel to check in and unpack. On the way there I texted a few close family and friends to let them know I was running a marathon the next day and to send me some positive energy and strength.

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We had dinner at a pizza chain restaurant called Ledo Pizza. I chose it because they had a ‘vegan’ pizza and I can’t do dairy the day before a race or long run. I have had my fair share of vegetarian and vegan pizzas and most of them have not been anything special, but I was pretty impressed with this one! It had a lot of flavor from the sauce, jalapeños and lemon olive oil that was drizzled on top. It also was topped with avocado. YUM!

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After dinner we went back to the hotel, gave Kevin a bath and got him to sleep in the Pack & Play that we brought with us. Since that night was Daylight Savings and we were going to lose an hour of sleep, we made sure to get to bed early. It wasn’t hard to do this since we put Kevin to bed around 7:30 and the room was already dark. We hung out for a while and then passed out around 9:00.

The next morning after 7 solid hours of sleep (damn you Daylight Savings- it should’ve been 8!), I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to start my pre-race routine: coffee, peanut butter and honey sandwich, get dressed, bathroom time, prepare camelbak and put shot bloks and chews into baggies. Thankfully little Kevin slept like a rock, unlike in Myrtle Beach when he woke up a lot and I wasn’t able to sleep much before the race. That was just the first of many things that went right on race day 🙂

My boys woke up around 6:00 and had some breakfast. They got dressed and ready to go and we all headed out the door at 6:30. The start area was about 20 minutes away and I wanted to have time to go to the bathroom one more time before it all started. Kevin dropped me off and then went to park. I got emotional when I kissed him goodbye, just like in Myrtle Beach. He told me it was just another long run, and that he knew I was going to have a great day. I went inside the building where all the runners were to keep warm and use the bathroom (it was about 45 degrees at this point.)

Kevin hanging out in the bathtub at 6 a.m.

Kevin hanging out in the bathtub at 6 a.m.

I ended up peeing twice before heading to the start line. I am so paranoid about having to pee during a race, and I knew that since this was a small one porta-potties would be few and far between! I also decided to wear my Camelbak for this race (first time ever!) since I wanted access to water whenever I needed it, rather than at the water stops every 2 miles. I ended up LOVING this decision and I think it made a world of difference for me.

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At 7:15 on the dot the race started with the sound of a gong.  There is no chip timing for this race, so I went toward the front of the very small pack just to keep as close to the clock time as possible. I didn’t want a repeat of the time I finished a marathon in 4:00:04! Every second counts.

It was go time.

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Miles 1-8 took us across the bridge onto St. George’s Island. We ran out and back along one road and then out and back along another road as the sun was coming up. We were right by the water which was absolutely beautiful, and the miles were passing super fast.

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I tried to start out more conservatively than I did in Myrtle Beach, because I wanted to ensure that I would make it to the finish line this time. I knew my main goal for this race was to finish since I didn’t get to last time, and getting under 4 hours would be icing on the cake. With the pressure off, I naturally started out running between 8:35-8:45 minute miles which felt good and even slow at times. I made it a point to not be obsessed with my watch and just run by effort. I ate my first half pack of margarita shot bloks at 25 minutes into the race and another half pack 25 minutes later.

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  • Mile 1 – 8:37
  • Mile 2 – 8:39
  • Mile 3 – 8:41
  • Mile 4 – 8:44
  • Mile 5 – 8:40
  • Mile 6 – 8:49
  • Mile 7 – 8:41
  • Mile 8 – 8:44
Across the bridge to St. George's Island

Across the bridge to St. George’s Island

We crossed back over the bridge around mile 8 and I was excited because I knew I would see Kevin and the baby soon. They were waiting near the start line since we would be passing that area again. I heard Kevin yell my name from all the way down the road and I couldn’t stop smiling. Between the pretty scenery, the flat course, and seeing my two guys, running felt effortless and it was almost like I was floating through. I felt so happy.

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After leaving him we turned left to go down another little out and back segment of the course. I decided to start eating my shot bloks every 20 minutes rather than 25 because it felt like I was burning through it quickly. I just wanted to ensure that I was giving my body a steady stream of glucose. From then until the end of the race I ate my shot bloks every 20 minutes like clockwork and drank water when I felt like I needed it. I LOVED having access to my Camelbak and I think I found the sweet spot of hydration and fueling- not too much and not too little. I never felt a drop in energy and my blood sugar remained stable the entire time. During the next few miles I took in the scenery around me and enjoyed running by the water for the last time before the remainder of the course, which was out and back along a rural country “highway.”

  • Mile 9 – 8:46
  • Mile 10 – 8:48
  • Mile 11 – 8:56

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I saw Kevin and baby again once I got back onto the main road. I was just before mile 12 and again, seeing them gave me an awesome boost of adrenaline. I started to mentally prepare myself for the second half of the race- 7 miles out and 7 miles back. I also knew that the second half was more hilly than the first. Luckily, I wasn’t very worried because I was still feeling great and I knew I’d get to see Kevin multiple times. Since the race was small the course was not closed to cars, so Kevin was able to drive along, park on side streets, and see me every couple of miles. Knowing this gave me peace of mind and I knew it would help me get through those late-teen miles (17-19) that have always historically been tough for me.

  • Mile 12 – 8:52
  • Mile 13 – 8:55

I passed the halfway point at exactly 1:55:00. I knew that the hills were coming and that I’d most likely positive split, but that was okay because I had built up quite a cushion to still get under 4 hours. I knew a lot could happen in the next 13 miles, but I was still hopeful to come in under my goal. I was actually feeling much better and stronger at this point than I was at Myrtle Beach, so I knew I was in good shape!

The hills are coming!

The hills are coming!

Around mile 15 I started coming up behind a man who was wearing a purple shirt that said “Running for Team Hope- Pancreatic Cancer Organization”. All throughout the race other runners had been super friendly and we had been conversing as we passed and ran next to one another, so I started talking to him. I told him I thought it was awesome that he was running for Pancreatic Cancer because my mom died from it. He told me his fiancee’s father had recently passed away from it (in April- just like my mom), and we talked about how it is very under-funded yet has one of the highest death rates of all the cancers. Seeing him gave me a huge boost and helped me remember that I am so lucky to be able to do things like run, and that there are many people who aren’t able to do the same. He ran ahead and I kept going at my pace, but now with my mom at the forefront of my mind. For the first of many times during this race, I got emotional.

  • Mile 14 – 8:52
  • Mile 15 – 9:01
  • Mile 16 – 9:05
Mile 16

Mile 16

I saw Kevin again right as I passed mile 16. For a couple miles it had felt like we had been running slightly uphill (and against the wind) which is why I had slowed down a bit, but this mile is where the real hills started.  They were actually a lot worse than I thought they would be. I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking this because the people around me agreed. It was not easy, and my pace definitely slowed a bit during these last 3 miles before the turn-around. I wasn’t worried because I had a good time cushion and I knew I’d make some of the time up on the way back. I was more than ready to turn around and go mostly DOWNHILL!

  • Mile 17 – 9:26
  • Mile 18 – 9:23
  • Mile 19 – 9:21

The turn-around point was a little bit past mile 19. With most of the big inclines behind me, I focused on the final stretch. At this point I realized that I didn’t get to that mentally hard place in the late-teen miles, even though I waited for it to come. It never did. I just kept moving forward and kept my mind positive and focused on my goal. It also helped that the wind was at my back now 🙂 I saw Kevin shortly after turning around while running up yet another hill. I told him I was almost at 20 and feeling awesome. Did I mention I LOVED seeing him so many times? Small races are the best!

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I hit mile 20 at 2:58 and realized that I had 1 hour and 2 minutes to run the final 6.2 miles, which was exactly a 10 minute pace. Even though I knew that was totally doable, I also knew a lot can happen over the course of 6 miles, so I just kept moving forward. I didn’t want to exert extra energy and get too anxious by doing too much math, so I tried to relax. The whole race I had been trying to focus on keeping good form and posture, swinging my arms backwards to propel me forward rather than crossing in front of my body (you can see in pictures that I still do cross my body sometimes- I’m working on it!), and taking shorter steps so that my feet land under my body rather than in front of it, minimizing heel striking and too much over-pronation. I really feel this helped me run more efficiently and conserve energy.

I got emotional again when I crossed the 21.37 mile point. This is exactly where I had to stop during the Myrtle Beach Marathon. How I felt in that moment was completely different than how I felt the day of my DNF. I felt on top of the world. I was so thankful that I had gathered the courage to give it another try, and that it was going so well. At this point I also knew that the rest of the race was net downhill and/or flat, so the hardest miles were behind me. I just had to keep moving forward and finish it out strong. I saw Kevin again around this time and he told me he was going to head to the finish line, but I told him I wanted to see him one more time. I wanted a boost for the final couple miles and also thought I might want to give him my Camelbak at that point.

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  • Mile 20 – 9:09
  • Mile 21 – 9:03
  • Mile 22 – 9:04
  • Mile 23 – 9:11

I saw Kevin again at mile 23 and I handed him my Camelbak. He gave me one last pep talk as I ran by and told me he’d see me at the finish line. At this point I started to really feel the effects of running non-stop for almost 4 hours. I couldn’t believe I was in the 23rd mile, and I felt like the race had gone by so fast. I think it did because I really tried to stay focused on the mile I was in and not think ahead to how much I had left to go. But at this point the sun was out, I was feeling tired, and I was ready to cross that finish line.

All of a sudden I saw the guy in the purple Pancreatic Cancer shirt from earlier running a little bit ahead of me. I picked up my pace in order to catch up with him. I knew he was just who I needed to see right now. I wanted to talk to him and draw some strength from the cause he was running for that was so close to my heart.

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Me in the back with him ahead of me

When I caught up to him I told him I was so happy to see him because I needed a boost. He asked me questions about my mom and asked what her name was. He told me that he donated his own money to the Pancreatic Cancer Organization for every mile he ran, and in a race he donated even more per mile. He dedicates his races to people who are suffering from or have passed away from Pancreatic Cancer, and he told me he wanted to run his next one in 3 weeks for my mom. Cue the waterworks.

I ran about 2 miles with him and we went back and forth between talking and silently running next to each other. I found out his name was Kevin, just like my husband and son (REALLY!? What are the odds, seriously), and has been through a lot of struggle in his life. This was his 61st marathon, and he also had a DNF a few weeks before like I did. I could not believe all that I had in common with him, and I truly feel like he was an angel sent to me from my mom as a sign that she’s still with me. Cue the tears, again. A little bit past mile 25 he told me he needed to slow down, and I had already slowed down quite a bit during the 2 miles I ran with him, so he told me to go for it and finish strong. I thanked him and told him I would see him at the finish line.

  • Mile 24 – 9:32
  • Mile 25 – 9:32

It wasn’t until midway through the 25th mile that I realized I was going to do it. I was getting my sub-4 hour marathon, finally. I made the final turn to head into the finish line and saw that the clock said 3:55. I have been waiting to see a finish line clock with a 3 in the front for YEARS!

  • Mile 26 – 9:05

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In the final stretch I heard someone cheering for me from behind and realized that my new friend Kevin had caught up with me and we were going to end up finishing together. That combined with breaking 4 hours made me lose it. I sobbed my way through the finish line.

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  • The last .3 miles – 8:24 pace!
  • Finish Time – 3:56:08 / 9:01 average pace

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I swear I have never heard my husband yell and cheer so loudly (even during a Steelers game, and that’s saying a lot!) He ran over and hugged me and I cried all over him. He told me he knew I was going to do it and that he was so proud of me.

Half of my favorite support crew

Half of my favorite support crew

After getting my medal and some water, I introduced Kevin to my new friend and explained how we met during the race. We talked for a few minutes and then he had to go, but I’ll never ever forget him. Kevin and I have talked about him since then and are still amazed by the coincidences and how he was there in the right places at the right times- I truly believe it was meant to be that way and that somehow it was a message from my mom.

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Eventually I hobbled inside to stretch, sit down, and eat a banana. My legs immediately got stiff but other than that I really felt great. It was so unlike any other marathon I have ever run before.

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Once we were ready to head home I let everyone know that I had made a second attempt at the marathon and had finished under 4 hours, and the support was overwhelming. I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family that love me and encourage me no matter what.

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The race itself and the PR weren’t the only things that were awesome either. Afterwards I had no real pain, and was just a little sore- mainly in my calves, no black toenails, no blisters, no chafing, no sunburn, no dehydration and no post-marathon headache. Perfection. I finally had a marathon where everything came together and I ran a smart race. So many lessons learned.

Once the race was over I spent some time reflecting on my two recent marathon experiences. I realized just how great I felt in this race compared to a few weeks earlier in Myrtle Beach. At the time in Myrtle Beach I had thought I felt good during the race up until the point when my body shut down, but in comparing the two races I realized that I really didn’t. I didn’t feel nearly as strong, calm and awesome as I did in this marathon. I had convinced myself that I felt fine, but there definitely were warning signs that something wasn’t right. In Myrtle Beach, fighting the wind for the first 5 miles and the lingering effects of my sickness earlier that week took more out of me than I realized at the time. Thinking back, I started having difficulty stomaching my shot bloks before the halfway point even hit, and they were hard to get down. I drank my water super fast and was still thirsty. My legs felt weaker than they should have and my mind was foggier. Even though I ran a strong pace up until mile 20ish, I NEVER felt as good as I did during the Lower Potomac River Marathon. This time I was in a much better place, physically and mentally, and I felt like I was super in-tune with my body. I fueled and hydrated perfectly and focused on keeping good form. And most importantly, I think the no-pressure attitude I had going into it helped me stay calm and actually enjoy myself and this crazy thing called running that I LOVE.

I finally feel at peace with my running and the marathon distance. My confidence has been restored and I know that not only can I run marathons, but I can run them faster than I ever thought I could. I have closure now that I have completed my “unfinished business,” and I am looking forward to training for some shorter races for a while. I now have a happy ending to my long story, and I couldn’t be more proud! I’ll be back to beat that new PR though, don’t worry 🙂

6.5 post 8

Redemption!

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I DID IT! This morning I ran the Lower Potomac River Marathon and finished in 3:56:08, 3 weeks after my DNF in Myrtle Beach! I was so happy to be crying tears of joy at the finish line this time. All of my hard work has paid off and I finally finished what I started. I can’t wait to blog about this whole experience. It was not easy to decide whether or not I should try again, but I am so, so glad I did. This race was truly amazing from start to finish and I have so much to say! For now, I am going to spend some time relaxing and celebrating this sub-4 hour marathon that has been 6 years in the making!

Day in the Life with a 17 Month Old (A Picture an Hour!)

It is time for my monthly Day in the Life post! I really liked doing a picture an hour last month so I decided to do it again. For month 16 I documented one of the days over the weekend, so this time I chose a weekday, just to give a glimpse into our lives while working full-time with a toddler. Here is how Friday, March 7th went, when Kevin was 17 (actually almost 18 months) old!

6:00 a.m. I’m awake and at the gym, two miles into my run. I kept it short, sweet and simple, like most of my runs have been lately. My husband is awake at home getting ready for work and making breakfast.

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7:00 a.m. I’m back at home, showered, dressed, and drinking my yummy green smoothie that my hubby made for me. We woke the baby up about a half hour before to get him ready to go. He also had his own green smoothie to hold him over until he has breakfast at daycare. My husband takes him to daycare in the mornings, and they usually leave around 7. After they leave I finish getting myself ready, pack my lunch, and leave around 7:30.

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Putting on his shoes (also Kevin’s newest word!)

8:00 a.m. I am on my way to work but make a stop at the chiropractor. On Friday mornings they are open from 7-9 a.m. which I really appreciate! I love starting my day with an adjustment, and I’ve been having some shoulder and lower back pain recently that he helped me with (note to self: be more careful when picking up and carrying a 30 pound toddler).

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9:00 a.m. At work and finished with my morning duty. I am a reading specialist so usually I have 10 groups of kindergarten and first grade students that I work with daily, but today I have a couple meetings that are going to take a large chunk of my day. My first one is first thing at 9:00 a.m. We wait and wait and wait for the parent to arrive… and they never do. Sadly, that is typical at my school.

meeting

10:00 a.m. Meeting is over and I get busy working with my students. My school is overcrowded so my ‘classroom’ is a trailer outside that I share with 3 other reading teachers. At 10:00 I was heading inside with one of my groups and going to pick up another one!

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11:00 a.m. My planning period and lunchtime. I head to my school’s book room to choose books to read with my students next week, then I do my lesson plans.

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12:00 p.m. At noon I was just finishing up my lunch (I had this chickpea salad on whole wheat bread- kind of like mock chicken salad) with carrots and hummus. After eating super fast I rush back inside to pick up more students.

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1:00 & 2:00 p.m. And I’m back in a meeting. JOY! I’d so much rather be with the kids than sitting in meetings, although this was an important one about a student who is very special to me. It was a super long meeting, so my 1:00 and 2:00 picture is the same- sitting around a table, talking about assessment results and data, having difficult discussions, etc.

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3:00 p.m. Out of the meeting that went longer than expected and the day is almost over! I finish up some more plans, eat a Larabar for my afternoon snack before heading out for dismissal and afternoon duty.

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4:00 p.m. Out of work and ready for the weekend! I head out to begin my long commute home.

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5:00 p.m. Still in the car… but this time I have my boy with me! I pick him up from daycare because I get out of work an hour earlier than my husband. Kevin is such a happy boy- you’d never know his top 2 canine teeth just broke through at the same time yesterday! He is sleepy though because he didn’t nap as long as usual at daycare, and he ends up falling asleep for a little bit in the car while I sit in Friday traffic.

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6:00 p.m. We have been home for a little more than half an hour at this point and Daddy just arrived home! Kevin is always super excited to see him walk through the door. We all sit down to eat dinner- Black Bean and Rice Salad that I made the night before. It’s even better leftover! I was really happy I didn’t have to spend a lot of time making dinner. I am always drained by the time Friday night rolls around.

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7:00 p.m. Bath time for baby! He is obsessed with baths and since the beginning it’s always been daddy’s job to give them to him. I think it’s really nice that they have something special that they do together every day. After bath we do the rest of his nighttime routine: lotion, diaper, PJs, hugs & kisses, put his “babies” to bed, and nurse for about 5 minutes. When he’s done nursing he sits up, points to his crib and says “night night.” I put him in there and he falls right asleep.

He loves his cookie monster washcloth!

He loves his cookie monster washcloth!

8:00 p.m. Baby’s down, which means it’s time to take care of some household chores. Kevin heads out for his run- he’s training to try to beat me in a 5K in May and has recently become motivated to run again as a result 🙂 While he’s gone I clean up the living room, do the dishes, clean and sweep the kitchen, and fold laundry.

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9:00 p.m. Time to relax! We watch last night’s Grey’s Anatomy while I get distracted by how ugly the cords dangling from the TV are. We just mounted it since Kevin has recently discovered that he can push it over, and still have to hide the wires. It drives me crazy!

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10:00 p.m. I spend some time on the computer typing up this blog post and scrolling through Facebook.

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11:00 p.m. Bedtime! Much later than usual since it’s not a “school night,” but since we wake Kevin up in the morning during the week we let him sleep longer on the weekends. He usually wakes up around 7:30, so I’ll still be getting over 8 solid hours of sleep. BLISS! I am so happy he is a good sleeper and do not miss those sleepless newborn days at all! 🙂

For a glimpse into what Kevin’s day at daycare was like, here is the sheet we get daily from his babysitter.

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LOL at poop “everywhere!”

Previous “Day in the Life” posts: