Monthly Archives: April 2014

Potomac River Run Half Marathon Training: Week 5

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This week was MUCH better than the last, thankfully! I am making my way out of my running slump and feeling almost back to my old self. Just in time too, because my goal half marathon is less than a week away- eek!!!

Here is my plan with including how week 5 went.

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Monday: Detox Run. 3 miles in 27:51 (9:17 average pace).    Nothing feels better than sweating out an indulgent weekend on Monday morning. Even if it does hurt a little bit! I wanted to make sure I ran on this day because it was Boston Marathon day. I was so glad I did.

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Tuesday: XT – Body Pump (1:00:00). Made it to 5 a.m. Body Pump! And it felt amazing! I was super sore for a couple days afterwards, which shows how badly I need to strength train consistently again!

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Wednesday: Rest/Stick Rolling. I was supposed to run on this day, but my body was just not feeling it. I wanted to give myself another day to take it easy before starting push myself again. Instead I did a little stick rolling in the evening before bed. My quads were super tight so I focused there mostly.

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Thursday: Key Run #1 – Speedwork. 5 miles in 39:37 (7:55 average pace). This run helped me realize that I was on my way out of my running slump! After taking it easy my last two runs I was ready to attempt some fast running again, but I did modify the 5 x 1000 meters that I had planned. Instead I did 5 x 800, all at 6:40 pace with 400 meter recovery between. I’m glad I did 800s because it was enough to push and challenge me, but wasn’t too much to make me feel like I failed yet again. It was just what I needed to give me more confidence for my upcoming half marathon.

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Friday: Key Run #2 – Tempo Run. 6 miles in 49:57 (8:19 average pace). Since I had pushed my run back a day I had to do two of them back to back, which I knew would be tough since they were both hard efforts. I had so many reasons on this day. I was going to go in the morning but I slept through my alarm. I packed my things so I could run after work but then was exhausted after a long week. I told myself I would feel better afterwards and got dressed, then the skies opened up and it started raining with thunder and lightning. I really wanted to go home and call it a day but instead I decided to drive home and go to the gym. It took me an hour in traffic and by then I was even more unmotivated. I went inside anyway and the thought crossed my mind to just take it easy and skip the tempo run since it had been a long day. Finally I decided to stop making excuses and do my damn run. And It. Was. Amazing. 2 miles easy, 3 miles @ 7:28 pace, 1 easy. I felt like I officially got my groove back!

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Saturday: Rest/Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Festivities! My day was spent traveling to New Jersey, helping to throw one of my best friends a bridal shower, then going out for her bachelorette party that evening. There was no official exercise happening, but WHEW. It was quite an adventure, and I was sore the next day like I had done a long workout!

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Sunday: Key Run #3 – Long Run. 8 miles in 1:12:26 (9:03 average pace). I waited until the evening to do my “long” run for a few reasons. #1- I had to drive back home from NJ, #2- I wanted to spend time with my boys once I got home after being away from them, and #3- I felt like crap. I waited until 7:30 PM and still had horrible heartburn the whole time. A bachelorette party that was full of food, drinks, dancing and little sleep does not make for a great run, but I got it done!

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Week 5 Total:

  • Run: 22 miles
  • Cross Training & Strength Training: 1 Body Pump class, stick rolling, dancing!

I can’t believe my goal half marathon is this Sunday! I’m starting get really excited about it. My goal is obviously to PR, which would require maintaining less than an 8:18 pace. The course is relatively flat and the race is small. I think I can do it, especially considering I recently ran a 15K (9.3 miles) at 7:59 pace and a very hilly 10 miler at 8:07 pace. I’m going to spend this week preparing myself mentally to push myself and give it all I have. Can’t wait to see what I can do!

This week’s motivation. This is why running a marathon will change your life. It’s about so much more than just running!

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Previous Weekly Recaps

How to Get Out of a Running Slump

I’m an open book on this blog. I try to keep my posts very honest, and I have always believed that it’s important to share when things are going well and also when they’re not in order to paint a true picture of my life. Running, and life in general, is a roller coaster. If all we ever had was good runs we would never learn those important lessons about how to overcome, how to reflect and how to get stronger. We need the bad runs to put our successes and achievements into perspective.

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I mentioned in my last post about the running slump I’ve been in lately, which really is nothing new to me. I usually experience one of these in every training cycle. During these times I feel more tired, unmotivated, heavy, and just burnt out. It can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Along the way I have learned some tips for how to deal with this type of issue, and come out of it happy, healthy, and stronger because of it.

Here’s how to get back in your running groove!

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1. Reflect. The first step is to do some reflecting to figure out why you might be having a hard time. Are you overtraining? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you stressed out at home or work? Have you recently been sick or are you coming down with something? Has the weather changed to be warmer or colder? How is your diet? Are you eating too much? Too little? If you are a female, is it your time of the month? The answers to these questions are very important and can provide clues into why you are feeling the way that you are. Once you figure out the cause(s), you can start taking the steps necessary to fix them.

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2. Remember that every run teaches you something. When things get tough, I try to remind myself that every run, good or bad, has something to teach me. Keeping this in mind gives me a different perspective on the ups and downs of running and training. Even after 10 years of running I still learn lessons from each run. Lately I have learned that I absolutely cannot eat dairy the night before a race or important training run- especially not a ton of pizza. I have learned that for me, running 3 miles with a stroller takes the same effort as running 6 without. I have learned that there is a difference between pushing yourself and pushing your body past it’s physical limits. Recently I have relearned how important it is to let your body acclimate to running in warmer temperatures before expecting a lot out of it. Whether the lesson is big or small, they all help us grow and improve as runners.

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3. Focus on the positive. Sometimes I have runs that are so bad they make me question why I do this. Sometimes I feel like the slowest, worst runner out there. To battle these thoughts, I try to focus on the positive and remember what I have accomplished.  I think about past races and happy memories of running with friends and family. I think about the people I’ve helped get into running and progress as runners. I think about the runs I’ve had that make me feel like I am on top of the world. I think about all the new PRs I have gotten recently, and how I continue to get stronger and faster even after having a baby. This helps me realize how far I’ve come, and that what I am experiencing is just a little bump in the journey.

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4. Mix things up. In order to get out of a running slump, try doing the opposite of what you are currently doing. If you are feeling burnt out and overtrained, take it easy for a while. Some people will argue that a running slump during training is the time to push yourself harder in order to get out of it and learn to run on tired legs. I disagree. Running is a hobby that should be enjoyed. Do we have runs that we don’t like very much? Yes, but at the end of the day, most runners do what they do for the endorphins, the stress relief, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end. If you are finding yourself struggling through your training runs, unable to hit your paces, and feeling unmotivated, it might be time to take a step back and give your body a break. This is what I did last week. I took it easy for about a week until I felt like my body was ready to jump in again, and it worked like a charm. On the flip side, maybe you are in a running slump because you are bored and need a new challenge. In that case, switch things up and try something new. You could register for a race that is a new distance to give your runs more purpose and something different to train for. You could try running with someone new, do a little speedwork at the track or try fartleks, step out of your comfort zone and take a new class at the gym, try yoga- the possibilities are endless!

5. Look for Runspiration. One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling down or defeated is to look for some motivational “runspiration.” It is everywhere- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, books, blogs, etc. You can find inspirational quotes, movies, blog posts and more! I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to runspiration, and I also get daily running quotes emailed to me from Runners World. These types of things really help to inspire me and remind me why I love running so much.

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6. Run naked. While I was pregnant and my pace began to steadily climb, I decided to ditch my Garmin and “run naked.” I am the first to admit that I can be pretty Garmin obsessed at times. I love numbers, data and analyzing it all, but sometimes I get so caught up in all of that that I forget to enjoy myself. If you are finding yourself feeling frustrated with your pace or burnt out, try running without a watch sometime. It is unbelievably freeing, and I have found it allows me to connect better with my surroundings and also with how my body is feeling. This is something I plan to do more when the temperatures start to rise this summer, because I know I will need to inevitable slow my pace and there’s no need to upset myself over that.

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7. Try a new route. This is one of my favorite tricks. Besides a good running buddy, nothing excites me more before a run than trying a new route. I am a Map My Run junkie, and I am always trying to figure out new places to run to keep things interesting. I like routes that stimulate my mind and my body at the same time, and I am not opposed to driving to another town or area for a long run if it makes me feel excited or motivated. Map My Run has a searchable database of running routes that people have created too. Check it out!

I searched "Washington, D.C." and got more than 32,000 routes!

I searched “Washington, D.C.” and got more than 32,000 routes!

8. Make a new music playlist. I don’t listen to music much anymore when I run, but we all know how motivating it can be- especially if you are in a running slump. New or inspirational music can put a pep in your step for sure! RRCA certified coaches are not supposed to endorse running with headphones, but I think if done safely (not in the dark or while running on busy roads, etc.) and used in moderation, music can be a great tool to help you through the “bumps” in our running journeys. I say use in moderation because I was formerly addicted to running with music and literally would not run if my phone or iPod was dead. Running without music strengthens your mind and allows you to be more in tune with your body, so it’s good to practice running without it too!

This used to be me.

This used to be me.

What are some of your favorite tricks to help you get back in your running groove? I’m always looking for new ones! Have you tried any of these and did they work? Share in the comments!

Potomac River Run Half Marathon Training: Week 4

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Week 4 is in the books and unfortunately it definitely wasn’t my best. I hit a major running slump this week and am still fighting my way out of it. However, if I have learned anything this past year it’s that it is SO important to listen to what your body is telling you. This week my body was telling me that it needed a little break from the intensity and the paces I was trying so hard to hit, so I listened.

Here is my plan with including how week 4 went.

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Monday: Stroller Run. 3 miles in 27:32 (9:11 average pace). I was on Spring Break this week so I took advantage of having free time during the day and went for a run with my boy in the stroller around 11 a.m. It was about 80 degrees outside and humid, yet super windy at the same time. All that combined with pushing a stroller up and down all the hills near my house was enough to make me exhausted after only 3 miles!

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Tuesday: XT – Yoga & Planks (20:00). I did a 15 minute yoga for runners video and then a few planks at night before bed. I was hoping to go to Body Pump in the morning but could not drag myself out of my warm bed. It was Spring “Break” after all 🙂

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Wednesday: Key Run #1 – Speedwork. 5 miles in 40:24 (8:05 average pace). This is where things started to go downhill. My speedwork called for a 1 mile warm up, 2 x 3200 meters with 400 meter recovery, then a cool down. I decided to do it on the treadmill because it was too early and dark to go to the track, and it’s too hilly in my area to do this type of speedwork outside. I was shooting for a 7:10-7:15 pace for my 3200 meters (2 miles)- faster than short tempo pace but slower than my regular 1600 meter pace, which is 6:52. While doing my warm up I realized this was going to be tough because I was having stomach issues. I managed to do my first 3200 meters at a 7:13 average pace, then had to take a break to go to the bathroom because I wasn’t feeling good. I really wanted to just stop after that but I went back and did another 1600 meters at 7:10 pace, then cooled down and called it a day. So I didn’t quite complete the entire speedwork I was supposed to do and finished a mile short, but I’m just glad I made it through without having a bathroom emergency! Oh the TMI life of us runners 🙂

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Thursday: XT – Walking (20:00). Again, I had intentions of going to Body Pump at 5 a.m. but my body was just exhausted. Instead I opted to give myself more sleep and went for a walk with baby in the wagon later on. FYI- Pulling that wagon with a heavy child in it up hills is not easy!

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Friday: Key Run #2 – Tempo Run. 5 miles in 41:22 (8:16 average pace). And the running slump continued... These 5 miles at mid-tempo pace (7:38) turned into 3 miles at 7:55 pace followed by two slow miles with a couple untimed walking breaks. I did this workout 3 weeks ago much better than I did on this day. I felt really discouraged afterwards, but I tried to remind myself that I usually hit a rough patch in every training cycle. This was the wake up call that helped me realize I probably just need a little bit of a break from hard training. When my body talks to me like this, I try to listen!

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Saturday: Key Run #3 – Long Run. 12 miles in 1:58:56 (9:55 average pace). At the last minute I decided to do my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday, so I could run with two friends. I planned a route around Fredericksburg that went along part of the Historic Half route, including the dreaded Hospital Hill. I did 4 miles solo and then 8 more with my friends, and it was just what I needed to get out of my running slump: a no pressure, fun run! We dominated those Fredericksburg hills!

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Sunday: Rest/Easter.  I obviously did not have any “real” cross training or workout on this day, but I was kept very busy with Easter activities. We were moving from the time we woke up until when we went to sleep, and had a great day!

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Week 4 Total:

  • Run: 25 miles
  • Cross Training & Strength Training: yoga, planks, walking, Easter egg hunting 🙂

I’m currently (still) working on getting out of this running slump and accepting that these things happen during training. I’ve had many bad runs and gone on to run awesome races, so I know that this week won’t make or break me. With that being said though, I am VERY ready to do this half marathon and take a step back from this type of intense training. I am forever grateful for it because it made me so much faster and stronger, but I can’t wait to go out and just run without having to focus so much on which pace I am trying to hit. When I thought about it, I realized I’ve actually been in “training mode” since last June (almost a year!). Between training for the OBX Marathon, then the Myrtle Beach Marathon, then the Lower Potomac River Marathon after I had a DNF in Myrtle, and now training for my half marathon… all with only a few weeks of recovery between it all- it’s a LOT! I’m ready to not follow a plan for a little while!

This week’s motivation is perfect and couldn’t come at a better time. What a great way to think about this running journey that we are all on!

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Previous Weekly Recaps

Mom & Baby: 19 Months

19 months. I am painfully aware of how quickly the days and months are passing lately. I know I say that every time I write one of these updates, but I am noticing more and more how much my baby is growing up right before my eyes. It makes me so happy to see him learning and doing new things daily, but it also makes me a little sad too. Where did my baby go?

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Baby

I finally had Kevin’s 18 month appointment a few days before he turned 19 months (due to the stomach bug we got when his appointment was supposed to be), so I was able to get his official stats! At the time of his appointment he was 34.5 inches tall (97th percentile), 26 pounds 2 ounces (60th percentile), and had a head circumference of 49 centimeters (90th percentile). Basically, he’s long and lean like many of my family members.

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Here are the monthly comparison shots: 1 month to 19 months.

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His favorite foods this month are more of the same: green smoothies, banana, oranges, all dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), pancakes, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, avocado, and roasted chickpeas. This month he also became obsessed with dipping foods. He loves to dip pasta into marinara sauce, veggies into hummus, and anything and everything into ketchup. He LOVES ketchup! See the photo below for proof.

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Kevin is still nursing at night on the right side only. He’s become more attached at night and isn’t as eager to go in his crib like he was last month. Every time I think we’re getting closer to fully weaning, he goes through a stage where he is needy and wants to nurse more. I’m fine continuing, but at this point I really feel okay with stopping whenever he’s ready.

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He continues to learn a ton of new words and phrases. He now says up, down, wawa (water), dado (we think this is ta-da because he says it when he’s proud of something he did), shoes, cheese, and please in addition to the 30+ other words he knows. He knows a few phrases, including “no mommy,” “hi mommy,” “go bye bye,” and “no mine” (we are trying to teach him when things are not his, so this means ‘not mine’).

This month he FINALLY learned how to sign thank you. We have been working on it for a while. He will do it when prompted, and hopefully in a couple more months he’ll be able to do it appropriately on his own. He still knows and uses more, all done, milk, drink, please, eat, bath, cheese, and help regularly and we don’t need to prompt him anymore- he just does them on his own.

This is the sign for, "Not now, mom! I'm on the phone" :)

This is the sign for, “Not now, mom! I’m on the phone” 🙂

He loves showing us his different body parts, and this month he learned almost all of them. He still gets confused with ears and eyes sometimes, but other than that he’s pretty good! He’s since learned where his heart is too. It is super cute 🙂

We got him a little potty this month, only because he kept following us into the bathroom when we went and would say, “Pee pee? Pee pee?” and seemed very interested. We just put it in the bathroom to see what he would do, and sometimes he will sit on it when we’re in there together. One time he pulled at his pants while we were in there so I put him on it to see what would happen, but he just got off and walked away, then peed on the floor. LOL. A couple days later though at daycare he saw another boy who is potty training go and then wanted to do it too. He actually peed in the potty! I was so shocked, but it hasn’t happened again since which is fine. I know it will probably be at least another year before he’s potty trained.

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Kevin got his other two canine teeth this month, which brings his total to 16. Just like his top canines, the bottom two broke through his gums on the same day. Poor baby. He’s getting better and more used to the teething process, but it does make him a little bit unhappy and clingy. And it makes his nose run like a faucet too! I’ll be so glad when the 2 year molars are in and we’re done with teething!

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Sleep has been much better this month after the stomach bug we all got. He continues to sleep 11-12 hours a night in his crib and takes 2 naps during the day. We’ve been trying to figure out if he’s ready to drop the morning nap because sometimes he will fight it and not sleep, or only sleep for a little bit. But there are also days where he NEEDS it and can’t function if he only takes one nap. We’re working with our daycare provider to experiment with it. I was very excited to hear that he actually has been napping in a big boy bed for a week or so. We haven’t made that transition at night time yet and I don’t know when we will, but I’m hoping since he’s familiar with that type of bed it will be easier!

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Speaking of his daycare, he continues to absolutely love going there and spending time with his “nanny” and his friends. He is close in age to two other boys and it is so cute seeing them play and interact with each other. The one boy below (that he’s fist bumping with) is only 2 weeks younger than him.

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Kevin’s favorite toys this month are his cars and trucks, blocks, puzzles, and anything he can climb on. He is OBSESSED with climbing, and now that he’s getting taller, he can get on top of more things in our house which makes me nervous. Time to baby proof for the 3rd time I guess! This month he also had his first experience with Play-Doh, and shockingly didn’t even try to eat it! He really loves the app “Elmo Calls” too. He thinks it’s hilarious to FaceTime with Elmo.

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Kevin is very independent and wants to do things for himself all the time, like put on his shoes, take them off, and put them away. He also knows how to clean up his toys (which is awesome!). He loves pretending to sweep the floor and wipe things down if I give him a paper towel. He loves helping mommy brush his teeth too. So responsible 🙂

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He absolutely loves music and dancing. He loves to bring us the remote and dance, to show us he wants us to put on the music channel.

He also loves all animals. This is his spring “school picture” with a real, live bunny! Pretty sure it was the best day of his life! A surefire way to make him happy and laugh is to watch videos of puppies and other animals on youtube. Puppies are his absolute favorite though. He can hear one barking from a mile away and will ask, “Puppy? Puppy? Puppy?” until he sees it. He also loves watching videos of babies too. Other than that, he doesn’t really have an attention span to watch any type of TV show or movie yet.

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Now that the weather is getting nicer we have been spending a lot of time outside. He will stand by the front door and say, “Bye bye? Bye bye? Bye bye?” until we take him out. We’ve been going on lots of walks with the stroller and wagon around the neighborhood and to the playground. He also likes hunting for sticks, leaves, flowers, and pine cones!

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The only problem with going outside is that he completely melts down when it’s time to come back in. This is actually true for most times we have a transition- leaving a store, going inside, going in his car seat, etc. I know it’s just a phase but I hate being the mom that is carrying her child across the parking lot while he’s kicking and screaming. But I always get the sympathetic look from other moms who have been there, so that helps.

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Besides the occasional tantrum, he really is so loving and sweet. He loves giving hugs and kisses, and says hi to everyone we meet. He takes very good care of his ‘babies’ (stuffed animals), and gets sad and upset if he sees someone crying.

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He is becoming more and more attached to his daddy, which is so amazing to watch. I can tell he wants to be just like him because he will try to copy the things that he does. They have a special bond and I love it.

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His favorite routine is bath time with Daddy. He knows the sign for bath, and will go over to my husband and start doing it when it’s getting close to bedtime. I really like that the two of them have something that they do together that is just theirs,  and I know they do too.

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Body

Physically I had another great month and was able to run two more PRs (a 5K and a 15K), in addition to my marathon PR last month. I am feeling stronger and running faster than I ever have before, which is actually interesting because I weigh 4-5 pounds more than I did this time last year. I know this is 100% due to my nutrition, because I’ve been eating like I’m running 40-50 miles a week when I’m really running half that.

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Kevin (my husband) and I are making it our mission over the next few months to start cleaning it up a bit and getting back to our ‘feel good’ weight. I need my clothes to start fitting a bit better. But I am super proud of my body for being able to run fast even while carrying extra weight, and it makes me wonder what I could do if I got back down to my normal weight! I guess time will tell!

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Mind

I am in a very good place mentally and emotionally. There is so much going on in terms of work, running, taking care of the house, being a wife and a mother- but I’m balancing it all well right now and only get really stressed out every once in a while- a big change from even a few months ago! Things are really great and I am loving it.

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We were able to take a spontaneous trip home to PA this month when rain cancelled our weekend plans. I was so happy to be able to do this, because it had been 2 months since we’d last made the trip, and we weren’t going to be able to go again for another 2 months- WAY too long! It was really nice to relax and hang out with my dad and sister without anything big planned. I love being home in Pennsylvania, it just makes my heart so happy!

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Kevin with his Poppy (my dad)

Last week was my spring break, which was so unbelievably nice. We were busy every day trying to make the most of the time we have together. I love engaging and playing with him, but I also love sitting back and just observing him. It’s amazing how much he has learned and what he is able to do. I’m so excited to be able to spend all summer together and already have a ton of ideas planned for us.

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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:

10 Years Ago Today – April 18, 2004

10 years ago today I was 17 years old and came home from work to see a bunch of family members standing in my driveway. My uncle walked over to me as I got out of my car and told me that my mom had just lost her short and intense battle with pancreatic cancer.  I stood there silent as everyone hugged me. Then my dad came out of the house and I immediately broke down when I saw him. He told me she was gone and that my sister was on her way home from a friends house. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. He asked if I wanted to come inside and see her before they came to take her away. I knew right away I couldn’t do it. I remember looking around at everyone who was crying and staring at me and I felt an overwhelming feeling of needing to get away. I could not be there any longer- I had to leave. I got in my car while hysterically crying and started driving. Not the most safe thing to do, I know. My dad knew I needed to leave and let me go. I called my best friend Christy and as soon as she picked up the phone and heard me she knew. I drove to her house and shortly after my other best friend Sandy came over. We sat together and cried. I didn’t know what else to do. Eventually I went back home to a house that felt (and still does feel) empty and like something was missing.

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We knew it was coming, as she had come home from the hospital and been put on hospice a week or so before. The hospice nurse told us to go ahead and say our goodbyes, because she would probably be unresponsive soon and was sedated with pain meds. Sadly, I don’t have very clear memories of our last conversation, except that it was short and full of tears. I remember her apologizing for not being able to see me graduate, get married, have kids. She told me she loved me and she knew I would be okay. That’s how she was though, selfless and never thinking about herself- always about others. She was not only an amazing mother to my younger sister and I, she also worked full time and volunteered at our local fire department as a fire fighter and she drove the fire trucks. She’s everything I hope to be as a wife, mother, and woman.

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I remember everything that happened 10 years ago today and how I felt so vividly like it just happened yesterday. But some of the details leading up to that day are foggier. It all went downhill so quickly, with only about 10 months from diagnosis to death. I kept a private blog back then with detailed accounts of every day, but still to this day can’t bring myself to read it because the memories of my mom towards the end are so painful. I don’t want to remember her that way, and I want to protect myself and my fragile heart- so I just avoid it and pretend like it doesn’t exist.

A letter I wrote myself in February 2004 for a school assignment. We were supposed to open it on the last day of high school.

A letter I wrote myself in February 2004 for a school assignment. We were supposed to open it on the last day of high school.

Since then I’ve done a lot of the same thing in terms of actually dealing with the emotions I have around losing my mom so quickly. After graduating high school two months later, I left for college summer session in late June and didn’t talk about it. Instead I drowned my sorrows and numbed my pain with too much alcohol and food, until I drank too much and it would all come pouring out in drunk tears. Luckily, I had some friends who came with me from high school to college who understood and helped me through when I was a mess. I dreaded coming home because the memories associated with where I grew up were too painful to handle, so a lot of times I chose not to. I went to summer session at my college 3 years in a row and then studied abroad in Australia for 5 months. I couldn’t have gotten any farther away by moving to the other side of the world. After graduating college I moved to Virginia to teach, and that is where I still am. When I look back on all of this now it’s really clear to me what I was doing although I didn’t realize the time. I was a poster child for avoidance. 

During this time I spent a lot of time writing about how I felt. I’ve always been better at expressing myself through writing and find it very therapeutic, which is part of it reason why I blog. Throughout all of this I also found running, and I think that has been the key to finally helping me process and deal with losing my mom. I worked through a lot of emotions and did a lot of reflecting while I ran, and still do to this day. There were times when I would literally be running and crying at the same time. It actually happened this morning when I was running and thinking about this 10 year anniversary. At my RRCA class my teacher made the comment that, “We are all running from something”, and I think that’s true. I was running from the pain and emotions that I had and didn’t want to face, but in the process I found something else. I found peace and clarity and acceptance. I’ve had moments while running where I feel her with me, like in my last marathon. Truly magical moments where her presence is undeniable. It is amazing. Those moments are what I live for. I am always looking for more ‘signs’ that she is with me, especially as more and more time passes between the last time I saw her and now. I just want to stay connected to her and remember her as best I can.

Finishing my last marathon with my new friend- a man running for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Finishing my last marathon with my new friend- a man running for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Losing my mom so young has shaped me in so many ways and is a big reason why I am the way I am today. People who meet me at first say I can be quiet and guarded until they get to know me better. That’s how I was when I first moved here and was making new friends, when I started dating and when I met my husband. The truth is, I am that way because I’m afraid to let people into a heart that’s already been broken. Along with this comes tremendous anxiety as well, because I am terrified of losing other people that I love. It has definitely shaped me as a wife and mother too, because I know that every day is a precious gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Today while rocking Kevin before his nap I let him sleep on me for longer than usual before putting him in his crib, and just soaked the moment in. I can’t even imagine how my mom must have felt, knowing she was going to die and leave behind two daughters who were only 17 and 14 years old. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to my baby.

Lighting a candle for her at our wedding

Lighting a candle for her at our wedding

This post is basically a long dump of a lot of emotions, but I really wanted to capture my feelings on this 10th anniversary. Sometimes I feel like it’s been 10 years and I should be more “over” it by now. But I don’t think if will ever be. I’ve come a long way but I still have work to do. I still feel guilty about a lot of things. I feel guilt towards how I treated her at times when I was a selfish teenager and even at some points when she was sick, guilt that I didn’t want to see her once she had passed away, guilt that I left my family and wasn’t there when we needed to be together. By writing this post I am trying to face my feelings and overcome some of the avoidance I have had about this important aspect of my life, so I can move on and focus more on the positive.

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I also spent time today looking at a scrapbook I made for her when I was 17 that I have avoided looking at for years. It was filled with her obituaries, the eulogy I read at her funeral, poems and pictures, tons of cards and letters from friends and family, notes from her, and even a letter I wrote to my future self. It was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. Nothing will ever fill the void she left, but by thinking of all the great memories we made together, how her influence affects the mother I am today, and knowing she’s still with me through it all is definitely comforting and is allowing me to start to heal.

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Along with focusing on the positive, my sister and I have decided to celebrate our mom’s life and remember her on this 10th anniversary by running the PurpleStride 5K, which benefits the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The statistics for pancreatic cancer are sadly very grim. It is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and is anticipated to become the 2nd by 2020. It has a five-year survival rate of just 6%, and 73% of patients will die within the first year of diagnosis (this included our mom). Despite these statistics, pancreatic cancer is the most under-funded and least-studied of all major cancer killers, with only 2% of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget dedicated to researching it. This is why we are hoping to spread the word and raise some money to help fund pancreatic cancer research.

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If you are interested in donating to this cause in memory of our mom and to help fund pancreatic cancer research, ANYTHING, even $5, helps. We would also love for others who live in the surrounding area to join us at the race, which is on May 31st in Wilmington, Delaware. You can run, walk or even just spectate to show your support. If you decide to run or walk with us, join our team Strides for Staci, and your registration fee will become a donation towards us. You can register or donate here.

The tattoos Lauren and I got for my mom- "love" written in her handwriting from a note she had written.

The tattoos Lauren and I got for my mom- “love” written in her handwriting from a note she had written.

Potomac River Run Half Marathon Training: Week 3

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Week 3 is done and just like that I’m halfway through my (short) training plan. This was another weird week because we were away in Richmond the whole weekend, so I had to fit in all my key runs before then. I knew I wouldn’t have time to run in Richmond before or after my class, and I also didn’t really want to because it would still have been dark in the morning and I wasn’t familiar with the city at all. I knew I’d be exhausted in the evenings too and not want to run. This meant I ran on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and cross-trained on the other days. Since I did my runs earlier than usual and after a race on Saturday where I put in hard effort, my legs felt dead for most of the week. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back on track with my normal routine!

Here is my plan with including how week 3 went.

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Monday: Key Run #1 – Speedwork. 5 miles in 39:20 (7:52 average pace). I had mile repeats on the training plan for my speedwork. I was planning to go to the gym in the morning to do it, but I slept horribly so I didn’t. Instead I went straight there after school to get my workout done. I did a 1 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile @ 6:53 pace with 400 meter recovery between, then a half mile cool down. This was a tough workout plus I really struggle with running in the afternoon/evenings. I really had to fight for this one and didn’t think I would be able to do all 3 at goal pace, but I did and I didn’t puke! Then my face stayed red for about 2 hours afterwards 🙂

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Tuesday: XT – Walk & Strength Circuit (16:00). I had to fast and get bloodwork for my thyroid in the morning so I couldn’t make it to Body Pump like I wanted to. After work I went for a 10 minute walk with my husband and little Kev. Later that night I wanted to get in a little strength training, so I did a circuit that included push-ups, squats, dips and sit-ups. I started with 10 of each, then 8, then 6, then 4, then 2. I did the same thing a couple weeks before but this time I tried to do it fast and transition from one exercise to the next quickly. It took 6 1/2 minutes total.

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Wednesday: Key Run #2 – Tempo Run. 7 miles in 58:50 (8:24 average pace). My tempo run this week was an interesting one. I had to do 1 mile easy, 2 miles @ mid-tempo pace (7:38), 1 easy, 2 more at mid-tempo pace, and 1 easy- 7 miles total. I knew it was going to be tough but I wasn’t prepared for how heavy my legs would feel. I did the first 2 tempo miles in 7:49 & 7:49, and the second set in 7:54 & 8:06. I was just trying to hang on at that point! I did this run outside instead of on the treadmill, which meant it was also on hills making it harder to maintain my speed. It’s crazy how I ran a 7:59 pace for the 15K last weekend and today those same paces felt super difficult. But even though I didn’t hit my goal paces I’m still really proud of my effort. I really gave it all I had. Plus, it felt great to run 7 miles before work.

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Thursday: XT – Body Pump (1:00:00). FINALLY made it back to a body pump class- and at 5 a.m. too! I can definitely tell it’s been a while and I lost a lot of strength. But I’m hoping to go more consistently now and build it back up again. I was definitely sore afterwards (in a good way)!

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Friday: Key Run #3 – Long Run. 10 miles in 1:25:09. 10 miles before work- DONE! I wanted to try to squeeze my long run in this morning because we were going away all weekend like I said. My goal pace was supposed to be around 8:12 and I wasn’t able to hit that, due to it being pretty warm and humid out- 65 degrees at 4:30 a.m.! I overdressed and wore a long sleeved shirt, and ran out of water early, so it was not easy. As soon as I got back I drank a ton of water and my green smoothie to refuel. I definitely felt proud of my efforts even though I didn’t make my goal pace.

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Saturday: Rest. We left to drive to Richmond at 6:30 a.m. and I sat it class from 8:00 to 6 p.m. We went straight to dinner and then back to the hotel to sleep. So the only exercising I did this day was my brain. It worked hard ALL day long!

Sunday: XT – Walking (25:00). Our hotel was a little over a mile from where our class took place so I walked there on Sunday morning. It felt great outside and it gave me a chance to see a little bit of the city. We were hoping to go to a short run as a family when we got back home that evening but it ended up being too late and we were hungry and tired, so we didn’t.

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Week 3 Total:

  • Run: 22 miles
  • Cross Training & Strength Training: 1 strength training circuit, 1 Body Pump class, walking

I’m glad that I was able to fit in some strength training this week and get back to Body Pump, which was my goal. However, since attending the RRCA Coaching Certification Course I’m thinking about modifying a few things in my training plan. I want to try to incorporate at least one day of running-specific cross training (cycling, elliptical, stair stepper, etc.) in addition to the other activities like Body Pump, yoga and/or walking that I like to do. These activities are good for my overall fitness but I learned they don’t necessarily improve my running. I also want to do more short, easy running between my harder key runs- adding in 1 or 2 a week. You can read my reflections from the course here for more of an explanation about why I am making these changes. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to make it all fit together and work, but we’ll see. It’s going to take a little trial and error to figure it out.

This week’s motivation. Coming to this realization over the past year has totally changed my running. Training your mind is as important as training your body!

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Previous Weekly Recaps

RRCA Coaching Certification Course Reflections

Wow. I just got home from a weekend full of talking and learning about running at the RRCA Coaching Certification Course. My brain feels like it might explode from information overload and I am still processing it all, but it was an amazing experience. To be surrounded by like-minded people discussing and becoming more knowledgable about a topic we are all passionate about- it really doesn’t get much better than that!

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The course was in Richmond, Virginia, which is only about an hour south of where we live. We decided to get a hotel and stay overnight though, because I would be in class from 8 – 5:00ish both days and my husband wanted to do some brewery touring and sightseeing while he was on baby duty. We headed down early Saturday morning and I could not wait to get started!

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The course covers a wide variety of running related topics and prepares us to work with beginner to advanced runners who are training for all distances and/or to meet personal goals. We learned about the history of coaching, types of runners and their training needs, exercise physiology, types of running and how to build periodized programs, running form, nutrition, the ‘business’ side of coaching, sports psychology, how to deal with injuries, heat, and altitude, and created and individualized program for a case study runner. Whew! Talk about information overload.

A lot of what we learned reinforced things that I already knew, but I did learn a ton of new things as well. I also learned some things that I have been doing that could be keeping me from reaching my full potential. I am not fully certified yet (I still need to take the online test and get CPR/First Aid certified), but I wanted to share some of the interesting tidbits that stuck out in my mind from the weekend.

  • The specificity of training. In the words of our instructor, “The system you stress is the system that improves. Specific stress leads to a specific results. To run fast you need to run fast. To run far you need to run far.” Sounds simple and it is, but this clicked for me. The job of a coach is to put this specificity and purpose into your client’s programs to help them become proficient at whatever it is they are working to achieve. The examples he gave us were, just like shooting free throws in basketball won’t help your golf swing, running at an 8:20 mile pace will get you proficient at running an 8:20 pace, not 8:00 or 9:00, and running 200 meter repeats will not help you get proficient at running a marathon. This specificity in terms of the types of running and training paces they should be doing is important to keep in mind as we build plans based on our client’s goals.
  • Cross training is called “cross training” for a reason. It is training at a slant to your primary activity and should provide equivalent stress to the body. Activities that mimic running form and improve cardiovascular ability (elliptical, bike, stair stepper, pool running, etc.) are the ones that will truly help you progress as a runner. Things like yoga, pilates, weight training, kickboxing, Cross-Fit, etc., are great for flexibility, strength and overall fitness but are not necessarily running-specific cross training. They can be categorized as ‘fitness activities.’ This was eye-opening to me because I admit, lately I go to Body Pump or do yoga on my cross training days and call it a day. While they are definitely not ‘bad’ for me, I know that I would benefit from adding a little running-specific cross training to my routine.
  • Strides. Do them. Incorporate strides into your workouts 2-3 times a week to activate and exercise your fast twitch muscle fibers. More about this later!
  • Exercise physiology. Super scientific stuff but I found it fascinating.  The human body is an amazing machine. For example, I learned that you build up more mitochondria (your body’s “energy factories”) faster and create better oxygen and blood flow while running at a conversational pace, which shows the importance of taking recovery/easy running days. This challenged the way I am currently training with the Run Less, Run Faster training program- only 3 high-intensity runs a week- which means these benefits are still happening inside my body but at a much slower rate. As a result of learning this I’m going to incorporate some easy running between my key runs.
  • “We’re all running from something…” Interesting concept to think about and I do believe it’s true.
  • Sports psychology. I really enjoyed this portion of the course about the mental aspect of running and training. This is the area that took so long for me to develop personally. We learned that there are 5 areas to focus on relaxing and keeping positive while running or racing: breathing, face, body, words, and images/visualization. It’s important to be aware of these 5 areas so you can support your runners and help them relieve their tension points- whether they need to be reminded to breathe in the clean air and breathe out the toxins and stress, relax their jaw or hands, or they need to hear a positive mantra at a difficult time.
  • Running in heat. I want to do a full post on running in warm temperatures as we get closer to summer, but one fact that stood out to me is that ideal marathon performance occurs at 55 degrees. You can expect your performance and speed to degrade 7% if the temperature on race day dips down to 35 degrees or goes up to 75 degrees. At 85 degrees you can expect a 10% degradation. Just a reminder to adjust your goals based on certain conditions in order to stay safe.
  • Running is a sport of failure. This one really hit home for me, especially given my recent marathon DNF. Runners fail at achieving their goals more often than most other sports. But failure does not define us- what does is the way we react to it, adapt, and overcome it. I have learned this through my journey as a runner and it has crossed over into the rest of my life as well. It is such an important lesson to learn.

I only wish that we had more time to dig deeper into the material and learn from the expertise of our instructor, Randy Accetta– a 2:19 marathoner who competed in the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials and has a lot of experience coaching runners at all levels. Additionally, our course was filled with 40 different people with varying experiences: newer runners, ultra marathoners, running shoe store owners, race directors, bloggers and mother runners like me, a Masters runner who trained with some of the most famous coaches in the world, a woman who won a marathon and went on to compete in the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, and more amazing people that I know I am forgetting. While there were interactive portions of the course I wish we had more time to talk with and learn from each other- many of whom were already coaching people in some way. Of course, you can only learn about such a broad topic in only 2 days and I totally understand that- but I left wanting more!

Source- Randy Accetta's Facebook page

Source: Randy Accetta’s Facebook page

My next step is completing my certification by taking the test and getting CPR and First Aid certified. Then I will be able to officially get started helping people achieve their goals! I am so excited for what’s to come, and I know it’s going to be an amazing journey. My learning is far from over!