What to Do for My 26.2

I ran 20 miles today! It was my longest run in 5 weeks and I didn’t have pain. Of course, I ran at an average of 8:04/mile pace (2 mins/mile slower than my original marathon goal pace), and these easy runs have been pain free for over a week now. Still, I was happy with 20 miles of feeling good.

I’ve been really torn about this marathon. My husband and I have flights/hotel/race already booked and paid for since a few months ago. I decided I’m definitely running, but what is the strategy? Do I run the race all out? Do I run it as a training run, knowing I can probably run faster in a few months when I get back to some decent training? This is the dilemma! You see, this training cycle has been unlike any other. I trained hard postpartum. So hard! I had a body and mind of steel. There was nothing that could get in my way. I’ve never felt so unstoppable. Even when I thought I wasn’t trained to run the times I was running, I knew my mind could carry me through. I was feeling tougher than ever.

Then in creeps this non-injury, injury. I took a week of basically nothing. Pretty much what I would do after a goal race. But there was no goal race. Then I started rebuilding. I did the week of almost nothing. Then the week of 30 miles. I was shocked to get 54 miles of pretty much pain free miles last week and 69 miles of pretty much pain free miles this week, including my first long run in 5 weeks (!!!!!) a 20 miler. I know I lost some fitness. My original goal was crazy fast. I know I’m not sharp enough to hit that pace now. But am I sharp enough to hit a respectable time (for me) still? I know the answer depends on my mental state. This mental state that felt unstoppable just weeks ago is now feeling so fragile. I ask runner friends almost daily to help reassure me. I know if this happened to anyone else, I would tell them their goals were still attainable. They could still PR, even if they didn’t hit that super crazy fast goal time. But when I’m talking to myself, it’s a whole different game. Do you understand this feeling?

All I know is, today I ran 20 miles pain free. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold. Maybe I will be sore. Maybe I won’t be able to run. Maybe I will feel perfect. Maybe this week I will feel horrible and maybe this week I will feel good enough to test some tempo miles for the first time in 5 weeks. I don’t know.

I have 2 options. Run CIM as a fun race, enjoying 26.2 miles as a training run in preparation for something bigger and better later this winter. Or I can run this goal race as intended, albeit slower, but with ALL the fierceness I can muster on race day. Tough call, and time will tell.

Race day is 3 weeks away! Ready or not, a decision will be made soon.

No Perfect Marathon Build Up

Does a marathon training block ever go as planned? I don’t think so, but even if it does, will the race play out perfectly? No! We are talking about the marathon, the event that grabs a part of your heart and fills it with love or stomps it into a million pieces. A marathon demands respect, not perfection.

I’ve had a few glimmers of hope over the past week. A run where the spring and power in my right leg felt normal again. A “long run” of 11 miles which is the farthest I’ve gone in a month (though my leg didn’t feel great the rest of the day). And a hilly trail 9.4 miles where I kept my breathing labored for almost an hour straight. It was the fastest running and most hills I’ve done since my big glute flareup and I had no pain. The run gave me hope that I can run my marathon, less than 4 weeks away now, as long as things keep improving or at least don’t get worse!

I’ve missed a good 3 weeks of training, plus 2 weeks before the big flareup where I couldn’t get my workouts or long runs done the way they were prescribed. My last 4 weeks have looked like this:

4 weeks ago: 59 miles, 1 workout (10×2 min hard, 2 min easy) + half marathon DNF due to flareup.

3 weeks ago: 12 miles, 4 days no running, then all easy miles

2 weeks ago: 33 miles, all easy runs

last week: 54 miles! 11 mile “long run”, 9.4 hilly (800ft gain) trail miles at 7:37 pace avg.

I was really surprised to end the week at 54 miles last week and feel better than I have in 6 weeks. I’m feeling hopeful about being on that start line in just under 4 weeks, and it would be great to have a solid marathon performance, even if it isn’t as fast as originally planned. No buildup is perfect and this setback definitely set me back more than I expected. I’m just going to give this marathon the respect it deserves.

Why I Run

Thoughts on an easy 4 miler. 11/4/16

I run because I can’t imagine life without it. I can’t imagine life without my family – my husband and kids, my parents and siblings – and in a similar way, I can’t imagine life without running. And I know we eventually lose people we love more than anything and our lives continue, but things are never really the same when they are gone. Losing running would bring a similar kind of grieving. Is this selfish? Does everyone understand? Do I expect everyone to understand?

I feel this truth in my core. Running is a part of me, and who I was born to be. It is something my life needs to feel whole.

6 Months Postpartum, Backtracking on Race Updates

I have to be honest, running is going well, but daily life feels like I’m almost drowning, barely staying afloat with not enough hours in the day. Every day I ask myself, “what HAS to be done today?” and that’s what happens while the rest falls to the next day. So naturally, blogging about my racing takes a backseat to my actual racing and training. But here I am, house a complete disaster, but foam rolling while trying to write a blog post about all the running and racing I’ve been doing the first 6 months postpartum. Both boys are sleeping and my girl is in school so let’s see what I can accomplish.

My last post covered my 5 *week* postpartum 5k and I was extremely pleased with that 18:49 and 2nd place finish. If you follow me on Instagram, you know since then I’ve competed in a track race, a 10k as part of a triathlon relay, a 5k, a half marathon, and a 10k and all were races that left me pumped up for days.  I’ll do little recaps of all of these races in the coming weeks, I hope, starting with the track.

Track Meet: I haven’t raced on the track in at least 14 years… since my 2nd year in college! I can’t believe that much time has passed. Even in college, I was plagued with injuries so I really haven’t raced on the track much in life. I’m very much a beginner and have a lot to learn if I decide to compete on a bigger level on the track in the future. Thankfully, this postpartum track meet was very low key, put on by my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds. I signed up to run the full mile (not 1600), the 3k (because how often do you get to race a 3k?) and the 4×400 meter relay. I was 3 months postpartum at the time (knocking on the door of 4 months postpartum) and was curious to see how I would run for a few reasons.

  • First, we arrived back in Pittsburgh at 1am the day before the meet from a 5 week west coast family vacation and I knew I would be tired (this vacation was not all fun and games as we had a 6 year old, 2 year old, and 2-3 month old baby traveling from Pennsylvania to Washington through Oregon and California, back to Washington then Pennsylvania by both car and plane. Some of this was for my husband’s work and part was just family fun. It was mostly great fun and manageable with a few rough spots of “Ahhhh… I’m alone in a new city with 3 kids, husband is gone all day+night and what on earth are we going to do?!” but it all worked out pretty well. (I’m comfortable breastfeeding in public and hanging out with all 3 kids in public without another adult. If that wasn’t the case, this trip could have been a nightmare!) :)
  • Next, We had been living in mostly 55 degree weather and were coming back to Pittsburgh’s heat and humidity. The track meet was scheduled to start at 6pm and temperature at start time was supposed to be 95+ degrees. Typically, I don’t do well in heat, and especially not for the first year postpartum.
  • As stated above, I was 3 months postpartum.
  • I haven’t raced a mile, 3k or 4×4 relay in a VERY long time!

I was (and still am) breastfeeding so I pumped milk until completely empty and packed that bottle right before we left for the meet. My husband and older two kids were also racing and the baby didn’t accept bottles from me at the time (he would take bottles just fine from others at that point, but that was something we had to work at as he didn’t love bottles initially). I put the bottle on ice even though my baby is particular about body temperature milk! It was too hot to leave the milk out for a few hours. I hoped he would accept the milk fine when the time came and he did. I ended up keeping it on ice until it was about 15 mins before I thought he’d want it then I let it sit in the heat of day in the stroller and he took it just fine. Whew!

I could have breastfed during the meet and I have breastfed at races, but with my husband and other kids running too I wanted to prep as much beforehand as possible. I wasn’t sure how much time would be between events and between the 4 members of my family racing different events, we ran almost every event of the track meet! I wanted to be around to cheer and take photos of the bigger kids so a bottle was a good choice for me that day. I also wanted to run my first race with as little milk inside me as possible and pumping right before leaving for the meet that was 2 miles away from my house was perfect.

The mile: I had seeded myself with a 5:10 mile and 11:00 3k a month earlier. I immediately regretted submitting those times. I felt like such an idiot expecting to run that fast postpartum, in the heat and felt so embarrassed that my time was listed there for everyone to see. At the same time, I actually thought there was a chance I could run sub 5:00. Does anyone else’s runner brain do that? I can feel 100% foolish about a race goal, yet feel 100% confident that I could do even better. Strange. Anyway, I started the mile in the back on the first lap and picked people off until the last lap with about 200 meters to go when I passed the last guy and won my heat in 5:13! I was elated to feel so good running fast and get close to my seeded time.

Racing the mile, last lap

Racing the mile, last lap

The 3k: Next was the 3k maybe an hour later, I really don’t remember how long I had between events. I was snacking on a Picky Bar and water between events. My kids ran the 100 and 200 in there somewhere and I was just listening for the announcer to call the events. I was slightly worried about what I would have left for the 3k while also being excited to get back out on the track and push through some pain. I felt ok in the 3k for the first 2 laps, then it was a struggle but I finished much under my time goal in 10:25 for about a 5th place finish in my heat, first female. After the race I asked my husband “did I look like I was…” and I was going to say “cruising” because I was in pain, but I felt like I had a good rhythm. He finished my sentence with “struggling”. Hahaha!!! He is the most supportive, yet realistic husband ever and I still laugh when I think of this interaction. Obviously I looked worse than I thought. :)

First time in starting blocks!

First time in starting blocks!

My husband ran the 5k immediately after my 3k so I think his warmup wasn’t perfect but what’s ever perfect when juggling 3 kids and racing, right?! He is very good about showing up last minute and performing and we proudly cheered him on as a family!

The 4×4: Finally, right after the 5k we did a family 4×400 meter relay and it was the most awesome thing ever! I was the first leg of our relay. I handed off the baton to my 6 year old daughter who handed off to our 2 year old son, who handed off to my husband! We were last place by so much but it was an amazing experience! My son even fell on the final straightaway and as he laid on the ground unsure of whether to cry or quit and run into the infield, everyone on the track and in the stands started clapping for him and he got up and finished. It was such a beautiful moment!

Family post relay!

Family post relay!

So, it was an exciting evening. I got home and fed the baby, ate dinner, and tried to go to sleep, though night races always leave me wired and my body was still on PST. The baby was sleeping like a champ at the time so I recovered well and kept up the training. My next race would be a 10k as part of a triathlon relay and I wanted to start to mentally prepare for hurting for a longer amount of time…

Pittsburgh Marathon 5k, 2nd Female, 18:49!

I am delighted to say I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k on Saturday in 18:49 and was second female! I’ve never participated in a race so soon postpartum, but Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is one of my favorite weekends and I couldn’t let it pass without participating in something as long as I was feeling healthy and running. The goal was to run fast, but not all out. Afterall, my baby turned 5 weeks old the day before the race. I told my coach it would be like a true time trial to show where I’m starting and if anything felt bad or weird at any point I would just jog/walk it in. It wasn’t meant to be a true race effort, just my first harder effort post baby and I was pretty excited.

pittsburgh marathon 5k finish

My good friend cheered her head off and captured this shot at the 3 mile mark!

*I should also note that I was lucky to have the least complicated labor this time around. It was vaginal, fairly quick (less than 3 hours of pain), and no ripping/tearing during delivery and very little swelling after. This helped my body feel normal much quicker. Coming back to running and especially harder efforts would not have been possible with another scenario so I got lucky.*

I didn’t run anything fast at all since having the baby until the race. My runs have all been easy pace ranging from 7:50/mile to 9:00/mile. I have been trying to just get in some miles and return cautiously. My coach told me I couldn’t even do strides on my training runs. I thought doing some strides might remind my legs they have speed before the race but he told me to just take it easy and I listened!

In the week leading up to the race, I chatted with 2 friends about time goals. I told them each I had this crazy thought that I would run sub 20 minutes, but that was only if everything was perfect. In reality, I thought I would run 21-22 minutes and that would be great! And I had these thoughts in my head, but I didn’t set a limit to what I could do. To be honest, in a dream world that I didn’t really believe, yet didn’t rule out either, I thought it would be cool to run 18:45, or 6:00/mile pace. This sort of came to me as I was running with my friend Kate and she was telling me she believed in me and reminded me to reflect on postpartum races and workouts of the past.

Race morning was just as hectic as every morning. I got up at 6am (8am race start time), quickly got partially dressed (everything but my sports bra/tank since I needed to feed the baby and pump). I ate breakfast, got my older son and daughter ready, fed the baby, pumped the rest of the milk out, finished getting ready and we left the house at 7am, 15 minutes behind schedule. We got downtown around 7:20 and waited in line for our bibs since I didn’t have time to get them at the expo the day before. Because the race day bib pickup lines were long, I didn’t start my warmup until 7:35. I probably jogged about 1/2 mile, did my first strides in FOREVER and felt super awkward on those.

Thankfully my in-laws came to town for the race so my husband and I could both do the 5k. I thought maybe I should feed the baby one more time before the race since I could already feel my chest getting heavier, but there was no time. I pulled on a second sports bra and knew baby and I would both be fine. We took off for the start line and left the in-laws to find a cheer spot with all 3 kids – sons in the double stroller and daughter on foot.

Crazy bouncing singlet! I'm 10lbs heavier than normal and can't fit into any of my racing stuff right now, but luckily purchased this oversized singlet from my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds, when I was pregnant and needed something to race in last fall. Now it's too big, but better than something that's too small and it was bouncing around like crazy the whole race!

Crazy bouncing singlet! I’m 10lbs heavier than normal and can’t fit into any of my racing stuff right now, but luckily purchased this oversized singlet to represent my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds, when I was pregnant and needed something to race in last fall. Now it’s too big (but better than something that’s too small) and it was rolling up and bouncing around like crazy the whole race!

There isn’t too much to report on the actual race. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to check my Garmin and know my splits during the race or not, but that was decided for me as there were clocks at the different mile markers. When I saw the 1 mile mark clock in the distance and it said 5:40 I was a little shocked. The first mile felt so comfortable, maybe like a tempo run, not a race, and by the time I hit one mile it read about 6:10. Mile 2 was less comfortable, but still felt pretty good! That mile was a bit faster, about 6:05 and I was just so pumped about how I was keeping this pace feeling so strong. The last mile was my fastest, sub 6:00 pace and I stayed strong through the finish line. I was so surprised that I pressed the “lap” button at first instead of “stop” but guessed my time was probably just over 18:50. (I later saw official results and found I was just UNDER 18:50, at 18:49 woohoo!)

My daughter took this photo in the finish area!

My daughter took this photo in the finish area!

I talked to a few friends as my husband and I went through the finish shoot then we reunited with our family. My daughter took a picture of us then my husband went for his cooldown while I quickly nursed the baby as my daughter was set to start the Kids Marathon in less than 30 minutes and we had to walk to the start line over 1/2 mile away. Of course she wanted to run most of the way there!

high five during kids marathon

My daughter giving a high five to Daddy during the race!

My daughter had an awesome time running the Kids Marathon. I ran with her as my cooldown. We spent a few hours hanging out in the finish line area. They have tons of kids activities during the day and the kids always have so much fun! A few hours later, my older son did the Toddler Trot. Of course my baby was screaming his head off because he was hungry right then so I was walking to the race area while trying to nurse the baby. #multitasking at it’s finest.

Pittsburgh Marathon toddler trot

My son and husband before the Toddler Trot

I was surprised to feel really good the next morning (Sunday) but I wanted to take it really easy to be smart. For my run, I went to the 15 mile mark of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, just 1/2 mile from my house, and ran back and forth over a 3 city block area, cheering for everyone who passed! It was the best way to spend the morning until I had to be home to feed the baby again. I love running the Pittsburgh Marathon (half) partly because the fans and cheer sections are so awesome! Since I’m always running the event, I’ve never been able to cheer even though it passes so close to my house. It was so nice to be on the other side this year and be part of the amazing Pittsburgh cheer sections!

A lot of people (myself included) asked me after the race “how did you do it?!” I’ve done some thinking about it and here are my answers.

  1. I was in killer marathon shape when I unexpectedly got pregnant. I was in the best shape of my life and was gearing up to run a whole marathon at the pace I ran the 5k this weekend. Since I ran through my whole pregnancy (though I only ran easy runs and did 20-30 miles a week with that being on the lower end as I got closer to my due date) I was able to maintain some fitness.
  2. I went into the race physically well rested. Although I’m getting up in the middle of the night and not sleeping as much as I’d like, I’m taking my physical activity really easy. I had 3 weeks completely off running, And have come back slowly with short, easy runs the next 2 weeks, and a day off 2 days before the race just to let my body completely rest.
  3. Big cheer section. I can’t thank all my friends enough for showing up on the course and cheering! I heard my name so many times and it made the run feel pretty effortless (as far as racing goes anyway!)
  4. Belief in what I can do. This should probably be #1 on the list. While I was shocked at how fast my time was, I knew deep down it was possible. I didn’t expect too much from myself, but also didn’t put a limit on what I could do. I spent the first 16 years of my running life putting limits on myself and only started seeing my potential when I learned to start letting that go (I’m still working on this aspect of my racing and life, but I’m leaps and bounds from where I was just a few years ago.

I talked to my coach this morning and got the go ahead to do 30 miles this week if everything feels good. I ended last week with just under 22 miles with one day completely off.

Thank you everyone for the encouragement and cheers and for following along! I really appreciate it!


Return to Running!

Back to running!

Back to running!

I am running again! To backtrack a bit, I ran all the way through my pregnancy, until the day I went to the hospital to give birth. I averaged about 20 miles a week toward the end and my runs were 1-2 minutes/mile slower than my normal easy days (which are already very slow/easy compared to my workout/race days).

One of my last runs before Baby Ryles was born, added bonus of having my big girl on the bike.

One of my last runs before Baby Ryles was born, added bonus of having my big girl on the bike.

So this post will outline what has worked for me in the past and what seems to be working for me in the present. I’m not saying this is right for everyone, but it’s a glimpse into my journey back to running. I would strongly urge everyone to listen to their body and not get caught up in “this person started earlier/later than me”. It’s definitely better to start cautiously slow than to come back too fast.

How to decide it’s time to start running again:

  • When your body feels normal again – After carrying a baby for 9 months, everything in the general stomach area feels a bit jumbled and out of place. It’s been making room for this giant thing growing inside and it takes a little while for everything to navigate back into place. For me, this usually takes a few weeks.
  • When you stop bleeding – Did you know a mother will bleed for usually 2-6 weeks after having a baby? I had no idea when I had my first child. I always figure my body is getting back to normal when the bleeding stops. With my first child, this was 4 weeks. With my second, it was 3.5 weeks, with my third, it was 3 weeks.
  • What does your doctor/midwife/healthcare professional say – While I do believe in finding a good healthcare professional, I know many women struggle with someone who is stuck in the past, thinking running isn’t good during pregnancy or for a long time after. I’ve always had a return to running plan (based on what I’m writing here) and I always tell it to my healthcare provider instead of waiting for them to tell me what THEY want me to do. And I’ve always gotten the green light. I try to take control because I’m the only one who truly knows how my body feels. And I personally wouldn’t run if I didn’t know my body was ready because a HEALTHY return to running is more important to me than a few extra days of running that will result in injury or other bodily harm.
  • When do you feel like it – If you are exhausted and struggling to make it through daily life and have no desire to run, it might not be a good time to start. If you are itching to get back out there and are feeling great, go for it! If you are itching to get out and run and you are feeling horrible, it’s probably still a good time to go for it! I know the first few runs for me are always very freeing and exciting because it reminds me of my “normal life” before this new addition and gives me a better sense of myself and that everything is going to be OK!

With my first child, I took 4 weeks completely off running. With my second, I took 3.5 weeks. With my third, I took exactly 3 weeks off. So what did I do before starting running? Well, I guess that’s pretty obvious – love on my new baby and try to figure out our “new normal”. Of course with kids things are always changing and just when you think you have some sort of pattern or schedule, the kid throws something new at you! But there was definitely plenty to do in those first 3 weeks and while I missed running, I was completely ok without it too!

I wasn’t completely away from a fitness routine while I wasn’t running. With all 3 of my kids, I sort of instinctively started doing really simple ab work from day 1 or 2 postpartum. When I say simple, I mean VERY basic. I would concentrate on my abs (truly sitting there and thinking about them activating for a moment) then focus on pulling them together, up and in and holding. The first day, I really couldn’t even locate my abs to be honest, but I still worked on trying to find them and going through the motion in my mind. The next day I could do it a little.

And I kept going from there. While loving on my little guy, or while playing with/reading to my other 2 kids I would continue working on engaging my abs. At 5 days postpartum, I did 10 minutes of mind/body balance yoga. At 1 week postpartum, I added in some balancing on the bosu ball (My balance is really horrible right now!), some clamshells, and bird/dog. I’ve continued on this routine about 4 times a week since.

In terms of running, I’ve been back to it a little over a week now. I have done between 2 and 3.3 miles a day, until last Saturday when I ran a “long run” of 5.2 miles with friends. And yesterday I did the same 5.2 mile loop with my friend Kate. I’m just running easy and although I’m pretty exhausted (from having a newborn and 2 energetic kids at home with little sleep!) the running feels great!

It’s definitely different this time. When I had my first child, I came back to running feeling like a stranger. My first run felt awkward. It was as if I was watching myself in a dream – I didn’t feel like a “real person” doing “real running”. I didn’t have any goals, I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have any running mom mentors or examples to follow. (This is just one reason why I think social media is awesome. As much as people, myself included, complain about the “comparison trap”, it’s so nice to have other examples to follow. You can learn from other people’s success and mistakes and know you aren’t alone.) After my 2nd child, I came back to running easier but it still felt foreign. I got back into workouts and built my mileage faster than after my first child, but I still came back slowly, cautiously, and smart. (I hit a big half marathon PR at 15 months postpartum, 1:15:59!)

This time around has been completely different. I started back running after 3 weeks off and from my first run, I felt like I hadn’t missed a beat. Well, I feel out of shape for sure, but mentally it seemed as though I had just run my normal trails the day before. I felt completely “with it” mentally and emotionally and it was such a great, and unexpected feeling.

Hotel bathroom selfie before heading out for one of my first postpartum runs.

Hotel bathroom selfie before heading out for one of my first postpartum runs.

As far as fitness goes, I have a long way back. As far as my body goes, same thing. I’ve noticed my balance is horrible. Just standing on one leg can lead me to topple over if I’m not paying attention. If one of my kids holds onto me for support while I’m squatting to tie my shoes, I’m going to fall down for sure. I’m not normally a person to get on a scale, and I don’t care how much I weigh, but I have a general idea of my weight because of doctor appointments and I’m about 12 pounds heavier than my normal racing weight right now. My body wiggles and jiggles everywhere except from my knees down, my elbows out, and my neck up. I don’t say that to sound insensitive. I told that to some girlfriends who lightheartedly joked with me that wiggles and jiggles are just “the norm” for them while running even when they are in shape. I think it’s important to mention since some women have a baby and expect to be back to their normal body ASAP. It just doesn’t work like that, especially not if you are getting back into shape in a healthy way.

The most painful wiggles and jiggles come from my much larger than normal breasts! Even though I pump until there’s nothing left immediately before my run (both for relief when running and also to build my supply for freedom to race and travel later), I still can’t believe what a huge difference I feel in my chest when running. I’m used to being a B cup and now I’m a full C/D cup. This added weight gives me shoulder and back discomfort. I know lots of women deal with this normally so I shouldn’t complain. I’m just saying I really feel your pain!

I also have a good 3-4 finger width ab separation (diastasis recti). I’ve had this problem after each baby and have been able to keep it under control doing exercises such as the ones in Steph’s post. I highly recommend this post! I will talk to my midwife at my 6 week appointment to make sure nothing crazy is going on this time and hope they pull back together with time (and lots of work!)

For now, I continue base building. Thanks for reading and following along! I hope the tips are helpful!!

2015 – What’s Next?

2015 has been quite the year for me in both my “real life” and running life. I started off the year with a half marathon PR 1:15:(59!)  in January on un-tapered legs in the middle of my marathon training cycle. I traveled a lot and finally learned to keep up with my intense workouts and training on vacation (even in Disney World, the Most Exhausting “Happiest Place on Earth”) and while we traveled through European countries for 24 days. My training came to a new level where I had 100% confidence in making the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. Workouts have gone better than ever, my training plans have been more enjoyable than any in the past, and it’s been fun to have a laser focus on my goals and stay motivated.

Even with some setbacks – an Achilles injury that squashed my plans of racing the Garry Bjorkland half marathon in June when my training was going so well and a marathon DNF in late March – I couldn’t stay down for long. I fixed the problems, jumped back on the horse and got back to work. It’s been a big year of growth for me that left me very excited about my next 10+ years of improving and hitting PR times.

This was also the first summer I hit my mileage and workout goals all summer through the heat and humidity. Not every workout was perfect, but all the workouts got done and left me feeling stronger. While I haven’t been using social media as frequently and have definitely been slacking on this blog, I was doing some major work behind the scenes and I want to thank everyone who has helped make that possible! I’ve felt a shield of invincibility around me, while still eating my humble pie daily.

So this naturally begs the question – what’s next?! Now… I’ve already had a friend jokingly accuse me of burying the lede but there is always a huge backstory and I definitely just gave you a short version of it! But, the thing that is next for me is: having baby #3! Whoa, right?! Whoa, whoa, whoa! The most exciting, strangest news you probably never expected, is true! Early this coming spring, I’ll be snuggling up with my third little sweetie. I’m 13 weeks pregnant now, and my husband, kids and I are very excited to share the news!

So, my racing days are over for the next few seasons, but I’ll be going out in a special way, running The Great Race 10k here in Pittsburgh tomorrow! It is my son’s 2nd birthday so the post-race celebration at my house will include party hats, cake & ice cream! In the past, I haven’t raced while pregnant (not that I think there’s anything wrong with it – I just have no desire to be competitive during pregnancy). The Great Race holds a special place in my heart as it was the first race I knew about in Pittsburgh (aside from the Pittsburgh Marathon and half marathon), it starts less than 3/4 mile from my house, and my water broke while running across the Great Race start line (2 days prior to race day) two years ago (you can’t make this stuff up).

So while I’ve been feeling extra exhausted and nauseous lately (that should be over any day now, right, right?!), I’m excited to run this special race and share the course with so many awesome people. The Pittsburgh running community is the best. We are lucky to live here!

Thanks for following along and I look forward to cheering for all of you while you go after your big running goals this fall, winter, and spring!

Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race

I ran the Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race on Saturday. I was debating doing a 5k Saturday and 10k Sunday since I haven’t done anything “fast” in awhile, but the trail race was calling my name (my husband was really excited about trail racing as well) so we chose the 13.1 on the trails. I ended up first female (3rd overall) and setting the female course record by 14 minutes. My husband won overall and set the course record as well.

Jeff and me post race.

Jeff and me post race.

I planned to do a few easy warmup miles, run at least part of it at a “tempo effort” (not knowing what the course would be like), then do a few miles cooldown. We ended up getting to the race later than anticipated so I probably only got about a mile warmup, then ran the race, and finished with just a bit over a mile cooldown because we were SO SORE! The course consisted of single track trails that were very hilly, muddy (think shoes being stuck in mud in many places, 2 creeks to run through, 2 grassy fields that were easily under an inch of water, lots of roots/trees to jump over, trees to duck under, you know, any obstacle you could imagine in the woods. It was totally awesome and a huge physical challenge.

Thanks JL Photography and Design for the photo!

Thanks JL Photography and Design for the photo!

While I was never running fast (ended up 30 mins slower than my last half marathon!) the course was very intense physically and mentally. The physical was explained above. The mental challenge came from the need to pay attention to every step I took to keep myself from falling. My husband always lovingly jokes “watch out, there’s a flat part coming up” because I tend to trip on nothing at all when running. Add some obstacles and I’m asking for trouble. Also, I tend to completely zone out during parts of my run. Sometimes on training runs I don’t remember parts of my course until I look at the data from my Garmin! There were very few steps of this race where I wasn’t intensely concentrating on where my next foot would land. No zoning out this time!

While this race was definitely the most challenging course I’ve run, it was great fun and a nice way to change things up a bit. I wish I would have worn trail shoes instead of my regular training shoes (Asics Gel Cumulus) so I wouldn’t have done so much sliding around. I got some nice prizes as shown below.

Shirt, plaque, visor, feetures socks, water bottle, 2 gift certificates, a box of power gel, and a power bar

Shirt, plaque, visor, feetures socks, water bottle, 2 gift certificates, a box of power gel, and a power bar

Feeling stronger every day and ramping my miles back up this week. I’m even thinking of adding another goal race to my calendar soon!

My next post will be on nutrition lately (since having my second child and running at a high level) and my pre-race nutrition that has been keeping my stomach happy! Thanks for following along!



What do you do when a goal race becomes a DNF? It took me a long time to write this post, not because my life has been crazy, but because that question has been haunting me, hurting me, making me take some time to heal emotionally. Physically, I’m fine. (Thank you to everyone for reaching out to me, making sure I am ok!) I am having a problem with my left hamstring, but that had nothing to do with the race. To make a long story short… on race day I just felt FLAT.

Pre-race selfie

Pre-race selfie

Yes, I went into race day confident, but not “too confident”. I had my share of awesome runs and some failed workouts. I think that’s actually the perfect recipe for a training cycle. Push training to that line where you can’t do everything as prescribed, but keep building and pushing and know that most runs went just how you wanted. During race week, I felt kind of blah, but that’s just how taper can be. On race morning I seemed to feel fine, but by 10 steps into the race, something just wasn’t right. My legs felt like trash. I was fighting my own body. I felt totally flat.

I’ve been running long enough to know that sometimes it takes 5, 7, 10 miles to feel good on a run. Sometimes you just need to work the junk out. But I was feeling worse each mile. At mile 13 I started thinking I should drop out. Not because I couldn’t finish. Not because of an injury. I was thinking of my main goal this year – to qualify for the Olympic Trials marathon and I *knew* it wasn’t happening that day. I have 2 shots this year, a spring and fall marathon. (I’m not a superhuman runner who can do more than one marathon every 5-6 months.) So in order to salvage my spring season, I dropped out at 15.5 miles with a plan to choose another full.

I ran off the course and straight to the ocean. I ripped off my singlet, socks and racing flats, looked out to the sea and cried for a good while. I was 3 miles from my hotel, shivering, and a big emotional mess. Some very kind lady on the beach let me use her cell phone to call my husband. Jeff and I walked toward each other on the sand and met in the middle. He comforted me better than anyone else could, but I was feeling very broken.

After some tears (and beers)

After some tears (and beers)

What I didn’t anticipate is the toll a DNF would play on me. DNF feels like a black mark on my record; a storm cloud hanging over me that won’t go away. If I wasn’t going for this goal, I wouldn’t dream of quitting (aside from injury) so why is this ok? Could I have started feeling better a few miles later and killed the last 8-10 miles? My mom always tells me to never give up, because things might turn around and something special might happen. While I think it was extremely unlikely in this case, we will never know.

The decision to drop has been weighing heavy on my heart and making running miserable for the first time in a very long time. So I made the decision to just run whatever I want for the time being (or don’t run at all). Whatever I feel like doing until I feel the urge to train like my normal hardcore self is fine. This time was originally supposed to be marathon recovery/down time and my body wants and needs that so I’ve been honoring it.

Thankfully, I’m blowing away the dark cloud a little more each day. Running isn’t a struggle mentally anymore. Three weeks later, it’s time to let it go! All I can do is move forward now. Running is SO IMPORTANT to me. It’s a huge chunk of who I am… but come on, it’s just running! I’m turning the page and getting pumped for my upcoming half marathons! I can’t wait to see so many friends at races this spring.

Some people are probably wondering if I have any idea what went wrong. Can my bad race day experience somehow benefit you? Do I know what mistakes I might have made leading me to feel like poop on race day? Oh, speaking of poop, my stomach felt awesome on race day and that was the one positive part of my personal race story. I think I figured out a good pre-race meal and I’ll talk about it in a future post. I know of 3 things that could have contributed to my horrible race and will put them out here for anyone who wants to know. Hopefully it can help someone! In no particular order:

  • Breastfeeding issues. I had been breastfeeding my little guy quite a bit this winter (3-5 times/day). We had a lot of sicknesses going around in my household so he was doing a lot of comfort nursing. I considered weaning him but he was very interested in continuing so I tried to cut back to just 2 feedings a day 3 weeks leading to the race. Then a week out from the race, I went to 1 feeding a day, and during race week I stayed at 1 feeding except one day where I didn’t breastfeed at all. I felt really hormonally out-of-whack. While I haven’t done much research on this, I think it would have been better to stick with what I was doing at least 2 months out from race day.
  • Taper issues. I tapered HARD for this race. I told myself as long as I got to the start line healthy, I would be good to go. I did a solid workout 3 weeks before race day and didn’t really put much effort into running after that. I didn’t follow my training plan at all. I just went out and did less mileage and hardly any quality work. I thought I would feel fresh on race day by doing this. That obviously wasn’t the case! I’ve thought back to the week I ran my half PR in January. I wasn’t tapered. I was getting over a week of high mileage and even my first double run of the training cycle 2 days before the race. And I had more than a 2 minute PR. I think a 3 week taper could very likely be too much for me.
  • Mental issues. I have a pretty solid mental game, but there are a few things that can “get to me”. I think many people have these things and it’s good to know them, accept them and find a way to fix or avoid them before race day. Instead of having lighthearted conversations and nervous running chatter with my husband (which is my mental power zone), I found myself talking with less positive people about less positive things. I don’t want to sound dramatic, no one was trying to sabotage my race. I was having conversations with innocent people who didn’t know they were bringing me down. I should have ended when I knew it wasn’t good for me but I didn’t. Instead I spent the next few hours (when I should have been sleeping) wide awake in bed trying to visualize my race and think positive thoughts to erase the bad thoughts that were entering my head. I was mentally exhausted on race morning.

I can’t say enough THANK YOUs to everyone who supported me, reached out to me, or gave me positive thoughts during the very difficult last few weeks! You all helped bring the running sunshine back in my life and I appreciate it!


Rock N Roll NOLA, Taking Chances

I ran the Rock N Roll New Orleans half marathon a month ago, on 1/25/15. I was 3rd female, (15th overall) and ran a PR of 1:15:59. I am overjoyed with this race because I took a chance, had confidence in myself and executed the race plan.

Proud to share the podium with these 2 sweet & speedy gals!

Proud to share the podium with these 2 sweet & speedy gals!

As far as a race recap goes, this could get really boring. I ran a pretty evenly split race, every mile between 5:40-5:50. I was in 3rd place (females) most of the race (mile 5 on), I ran most of the race alone, and nothing spectacular happened as far as racing was concerned or what anyone could see. But something very exciting was happening inside me. I was on a mission to run down my old PR of 1:18:05. I had a fire burning inside. I had a lot to prove to myself, and this was my big chance. All the races I’ve finished feeling like I had something left in the tank, all the races where my stomach (uh, intestines?) revolted, all the doubts I’ve faced from others and even myself… all of those things needed to be left behind to become the runner I know I am.

I had the common A,B,&C goals. My C goal was just to get a PR. I ran 5:57 pace at the EQT Pittsburgh 10 miler in November and finished with way too much in the tank, feeling awesome, yet horrible for feeling so awesome. 2 months later looking at RnR NOLA I knew that even on a bad day I could run that pace for 13.1 and could kick it in for a PR. My B goal was sub 1:17. I had a good base, my workouts were going pretty well other than the 3 weeks in December when I was down mileage and workouts with the flu, but on a good day, there was no reason I couldn’t run 1:16:xx. My A goal was to run sub 1:16. I wasn’t going to taper for this race since it’s in the middle of marathon training, and this goal honestly scared me a bit. Run 5:48/mile pace for an hour and fifteen minutes?! WHAT? Then, “wait, why not?”

Taking the turn in the EQT Pittsburgh 10 miler in November

So, I went to New Orleans with my husband (Jeff) who was also racing the half. We left the kids with the grandparents and I looked forward to a weekend of sleep (and fast running)! Well, I slept more than usual, but I also enjoyed the alone time with Jeff. I also had to drag my breast pump to NOLA as my little guy (who was 15 months old at the time) is still breastfeeding.

The Fam

The Fam, yes my son is a giant baby!

Jeff was a good sport, letting me play out race thoughts, scenarios, dreams over and over. Every time I said something about sub 1:16 being crazy, he simply said something like, “why is that crazy?” and then backed it up with some facts about how hard I’ve been working.

I settled on my race plan after a few discussions I had with Jeff. One was the night before the race when he said something to the effect of “I’d be much more impressed with you going out hard, dying, and having a really slow time, than running another 1:18 that you’re not proud of.” Touché.

So my plan was to go out hard, at my A goal pace and run a pretty evenly split race, with my fastest mile being mile 10, just to kick it back into gear for the end of the race. Would you believe I went out hard and ran a pretty evenly split race, and my fastest mile was indeed mile 10?  (I rarely look at my watch during the race but like to wear a GPS watch to check splits afterward and see where things went right or wrong!)

Pain face!

Pain face!

I didn’t check my watch at all until mile 11. At that point, I did the math (and I’m one of those people who gets MUCH WORSE at math when I’m running fast) but I could think clearly enough to know I was going to have a big PR. I was going to run 1:15:xx! And then I started to seriously consider, oh my goodness, the Olympic Trials Standard is 1:15:00! Can I do it? Oh wait, I think I have to close with like 2 x 5:20 something mile pace, probably not going to happen today. I fixed my eyes on the woman ahead of me and thought maybe I could catch her. I noticed I was gaining a bit. Then at mile 12 I looked at my watch again. I had a moment of weakness. I knew I wasn’t going to catch anyone. I knew I was already going to have a big PR. I didn’t need to keep going so hard. I relaxed a bit. That relaxing almost cost me my A goal! Thankfully, I pulled myself out of it, picked the pace back up.  Within minutes, I saw the finishing clock 1:15:40, 41, 42… I had made it this far, I was going to get that A goal! I starting sprinting my little heart out and I squeaked to the finish in 1:15:59!

The top 3 ladies were escorted to the stage for awards immediately (very cool!) and then brought to the VIP area. My feet started cramping on the walk and I had to smile, knowing I haven’t finished a race feeling this worn out in awhile. I couldn’t stop thinking about the race, my PR… it felt 100% believable and also 100% unbelievable. Did *I* really just do that?

I guess I want to end this post by saying, don’t be afraid to take chances! You could come up short and fall on your face. But you could also soar! It is very exciting when you succeed. But it’s incredibly FULFILLING knowing you were willing to risk a complete failure of a race to make that success happen.

I have a big spring coming up with lots of races that I’m pumped to be running! My goal marathon is the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach on 3/22. Then I’ll be doing Glass City Half Marathon and Pittsburgh Half Marathon later in the spring. More to come on those events!

Thanks for reading and following along!