A Case For The Treadmill

Excuse my absence.  Apparently having two little kids, coaching, and trying to keep life together is a full-time job.  I don’t know how parents of three kids even get out the door of their house!

Spring running is finally in full effect across the country.  After a late April snow dumped 20 inches on our yard, I was starting to feel like winter was never going to leave.  We had a bizarre winter in Michigan.  It was cold at times, but also warm.  It snowed, but it often melted and there were days in February and March where we had green grass in our yard.  Then April turned into a frigid, snowy mess.

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Mary likes watching the turkeys roam in our yard.

Between the crazy winter weather, and being a mom of a now 2 1/2 year old and 8 month old, it can be difficult to fit runs in.  Lucy was too young to run in the stroller, and the weather was too cold to push Mary.  Quite often, my only option was the treadmill when the girls napped or at night when they went to bed.  Thank goodness for Netflix.

A week ago Saturday, I toed the line for my first true race since having Lucy in September.  I felt pretty out of place at the start.  I had no idea what to expect.  I hadn’t run with a GPS in months.  I didn’t know what my pace would be or how it would feel.  I had nothing to base it on.

Plus, it was freezing and the wind was blowing like crazy.  Thanks, April.  Glad to see you go!

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When the gun went off, I just settled in and started running at what felt like a good, but sustainable pace for me.  Imagine my surprise when I looked down after the first mile and I was running well over a minute per mile faster than I expected.  I was running way too fast!  But when I checked in with myself I was feeling relatively good.  I tried slowing a little bit, but as we came to the halfway turnaround of the 10k, I realized I was nearly at the front of the pack of the race and also the first woman.

Mile after mile, I was running paces that were faster than I had ever run.  I felt pretty good until mile 4 when the Pop-Tart that I ate before the race started to make me feel pretty sick.  Who would have thought?!

I was beyond thrilled when I crossed the finish with a 10k PR.  I ended up 6th across the line and in first place overall for the women.  It was a much needed boost for this running mom.

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This was a special race for me, as it was also where I ran my first 5k, 27 years ago in honor of our neighbor who lost his battle with leukemia.  A few years later, his dad passed away and the race now is done in both of their memories.  They were also avid runners.  At my first race, I won 2nd in my age group by default as there were only two of us.

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From my first 5k

It was also the weekend of our town’s yearly festival.  Despite being super chilly, and super windy, the entire family had a great time.  I also need to add a huge congrats to Rock and Lucy who placed third in his age group on Lucy’s first ride in the BOB!  Stroller running is no easy feat.

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Running on the treadmill can be a bit tricky.  It will never truly replicate running outside.  Every treadmill varies.  They all feel and work in different ways that make them unique.  You may have noticed this when some models feel easier or more difficult to use.  There is also no added effect from wind or changes in terrain that challenge our muscles and endurance.

Pace is also a tricky factor with treadmills.  It is virtually impossible to run at your normal speed on the mill.  I always encourage runners to find the pace that feels right on the treadmill.  Don’t let the numbers dictate how fast you must go or frustrate you.  Just know that what feels right for you, is exactly what you need.

While a lot of people will say that the treadmill has little to no place in a training plan, that isn’t always an option.  Personally, I feel that you need to do what works best for you.  That can mean giving yourself permission to get your runs in on the treadmill.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this for 100% of your runs.  But again, you do what is right for you.

I’m finally enjoying warmer weather runs with my girls, and that presents its own set of challenges.  However, I certainly have the treadmill to thank for keeping me sane and fit this winter.  You might even say it made me a better runner.

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What are your thoughts on the treadmill?

 

Waiting For The Wall

Happy Monday!  Excuse my lack of presence. We were away for the past week on a family vacation in somewhat sunny Florida.  The weather was chilly most of the week.  However, yesterday when the time sprung forward one hour, all the kiddos who we were sharing a room with, decided to finally sleep in their own beds through the night.  It felt so good, I stayed in bed until the littlest one finally decided to get up.

Rock took Mary in the jogging stroller for an 8 mile ride to grab donuts (I love the way he thinks) and I met them there with the car to trade off.  As I started my run, it was almost 11:00am and the sun was beating pretty hard. It was only 73º, which would be a pleasant run in the summer.  But I haven’t been running in that heat for a long while and the last half of my run was straight into the sun on an unshaded path.  Curses for sleeping in!

Right from the start, I began preparing myself for this being a harder run compared to my others this past week. Despite some breezy days, the cool weather worked in my favor and I was running sub 8:00min/miles for eight miles a few days before.  However, I also know that you need to keep your pace on the slower side for most runs.  While my pace has been slowly getting faster and those sub 8:00’s felt relatively moderate, even those need to be slowed down from time to time.

I started Sunday’s run out and got it in my head that I would keep the pace at what felt “easy.”  I would ignore my GPS’s pace function and I would just do what I could.  I knew it was going to get hard at some point and I was going to aim for getting to six miles before I opted to walk for a bit.

I broke the run into half mile segments and checked each one off as I went and also checked in to see how I was feeling.  I used my music to push me through and I kept a calm conversation in my head.

Those last few miles were harder but as I approached each one, I was surprised that I was still feeling okay.  They weren’t quite as hard as I made them out to be and I used that as fuel to keep me going.

Isn’t it the worst when you head out for a run and haven’t mentally prepared yourself?  Have you ever started out feeling so great and having the best of intentions, only to get to the halfway point and you begin to struggle?  It is so hard to keep going when you are taken off guard.  It can mentally take the wind out of your sails.

I realized yesterday that I am still a bit traumatized from my last marathon.  There, I admit it.  I really want to run another marathon.  Nine months after I had Mary, I ran the Run For The Red Pocono’s Marathon.  I PR’ed by over 8 minutes and qualified for Boston with a 14 minute buffer.  I felt amazing!

A month later I ran Grandma’s Marathon.  It was supposed to be flat and fast; a welcome change from the final hills of the Poconos.  But the weather had other things in mind as the temps climbed into the 80ºs and black flags lined the course.  My body gave out.  But my mind gave out long before my legs did.

It was a very difficult experience.  It took all of those happy emotions from a month before and dug them in a deep, dark hole.  I knew and I still do know that I am capable of a great race.  But man, that was one painful experience on both a physical and mental level.  The marathon is a beast and when you have been beaten down, it can be hard to get back up.

I’m eyeing races and trying to find the one that is just right for me.  I will be back soon.  It is a great reminder that running is far more than just putting in the miles.  We have to train our brains to handle the highs and the lows.  Preparing for those difficult days is important.

Sure, you don’t want to be a Debby Downer before each run.  I am not recommending that you always prepare for the worst.  But it helps to know what obstacles might be in your way.  Think of how you might handle them.  When difficulties arise, use them as training tools for how you might approach them on race day.

It also never hurts to have donuts waiting for you when you arrive back home!

I didn’t hit the wall yesterday.  It was a pleasant surprise.  But it was also a great reminder that no two runs are alike and sometimes they can really throw you for a loop.

How do you prepare for these tough runs?

Year In Review

Happy New Year!  It’s been a bit over a week since I last posted.  I attribute that to a whole lot of fun activities going on over the holidays and to an early Christmas present from Mary in the form of the Norovirus.  The latter wiped me out for nearly a week.  What can I say?  We do encourage her to share as much as possible!

2017 was a really fun year for our family and also for my running.  It didn’t involve many races or racing goals, but there was plenty of mileage to be had anyway.  Here’s my quick recap and mileage.

January:  132 miles

I started this month out by jumping into training for the Boston Marathon.  We got hit almost daily with several inches of snow and I quickly realized that winter marathon training in Northern Michigan can be quite miserable.

February: 171 miles

I continued training for Boston, until we found out that we were expecting in October.  At this point, I decided that I would rather not train for a marathon while being pregnant and hope to qualify again another year.

March: 197 miles

Being pregnant certainly wasn’t going to stop me from running.  When we got to Florida, I spent 10 days running on the beach with Rock and enjoying some warm, snowless, weather.

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April: 159 miles

We headed out east to New York City for 2 months of work.  Mary got to skate at Wollman Rink in Central Park, where we used to work, and where Rock and I first met.  I got to enjoy running in the park, along the East River, and on Randall’s Island.  We also got some running together as a family up in Fishkill, NY.

May: 84 miles

May was a learning month for me.  When you are pregnant, your body requires far more electrolytes than it normally does.  I ran through what felt like a terrible calf cramp that ended up being a muscle tear.  This lead to some down time for healing.  When I finally got back out to run, I tripped over a brick and messed up my pelvis (thanks pregnancy hormones!).  It was June before I could even walk properly again.

June: 161 miles

This was a recovery month for me.  As I eased back in to running, I wasn’t certain if I would be able to do the only race I had planned for the year.  Fortunately, I played it smart and took my time.  Many days I broke my runs into two parts and this seemed to really help.

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July: 158 miles

I spent a week pushing Mary in the running stroller in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and the following week I was feeling well enough to do the Cherry Festival Half Marathon in Traverse City.  At 27 weeks pregnant, I was careful not to push myself too hard and was pleased by both the beautiful course, and my 1:53 finish.

August: 143 miles

I could tell my outdoor running was coming to an end as we enjoyed a week of family vacation up in Glen Arbor, MI.  However, as I took my runs inside and was feeling great, I was surprised when some early labor lead to modified bed rest.  Our fabulous doctors and nurses kept me and the baby healthy enough to just hang out at home.

September: 27 miles

Lucy Carroll Dudek arrived 4 1/2 weeks early and stole our hearts.  I was so scared about sharing my time between Mary and another sibling and couldn’t imagine how I would possibly love another child as much as my first.  The truth is though, that I love being a mom more than ever before.  These two girls bring so much love into our lives.

October: 160 miles

I took 18 days off after Lucy was born and then eased back in on the treadmill.  This was both easier on my body and also for a mom who now has a toddler and a newborn to take care of.

November: 192 miles

This month marked my first outdoor and double digit runs.  We tried the Winnetka Turkey Trot in Winnetka, IL and had a blast.  This was also Mary’s first time riding with me during a race and also her first kids race.  It was all a success!

December:  193 miles

Despite ending the year with a GI bug, the whole month marked some really great mileage and runs.  We had a fabulous Christmas and start to our New Year.  We are so blessed as a family and I thank you for following my adventures.

Total mileage: 1777 miles

What was a highlight of your running this year?

Food Is Food, Sweat Is Sweat-Enough With The Guilt

I’ve noticed a lot of posts on social media lately encouraging people to work out so they don’t feel guilty about eating meals during the holidays.  I certainly admit that I ran a Turkey Trot last week, knowing that I was going to enjoy a big feast later in the day.  But I also told my husband that we don’t use exercise as a replacement for overeating.  The two shouldn’t be a means to balance each other out.  Sometimes it may seem that way, but it shouldn’t really be the case.

Of course, many of us exercise to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight, or even to lose weight at times.  But exercise isn’t just a form of diet.  It is a healthy activity that also releases endorphins and makes us feel good about life and ourselves.
On Thanksgiving there were a lot of #burntheturkey #earntheturkey and it was driving me crazy.  You don’t have to earn your turkey.  Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to be spent with friends and family.  The same goes for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years and other holidays.  Exercise isn’t the ticket that allows you to enjoy turkey or any other meal.  You don’t have to earn that food through exercise, at any time.
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When we say that we earned a meal, it makes it seem like under other circumstances, we shouldn’t eat or enjoy such foods.  That is totally unfair!  Food is not only an essential part of life, but also a very important part of socializing and our cultures.
We should of course aim for a balance in our lives and strive to eat healthy most of the time.  We should also have times where we enjoy a little indulgence.  Dessert is delicious and so are hamburgers, french fries, or whatever your pleasure might be.  When we don’t allow ourselves to eat these things, we deprive our wants, and often go overboard when we have the opportunity.
Exercise on the other hand, shouldn’t be a punishment.  Sweat is not your fat crying.  That statement drives me nuts.  Enough with the fat nonsense!  Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and sweat is the output from your effort.  Nothing is crying.  Your body, in fact, is likely rejoicing.
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Aim for balance this holiday season.  Eat mostly healthy.  Watch your portions.  And exercise when you can because it is good for you.  But please don’t punish yourself because you overdo it at a meal.  Go ahead and enjoy some holiday appetizers, desserts, or drinks.
Pick an exercise that you enjoy.  Carve out time most days to get a workout in and enjoy that sweat.  Then take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror and smile!

Turkey Trots and Travels

Happy Monday!  What an awesome week we had around here.  I think it is going to take another week for us to recover from all of the fun and adventures.

Last Monday we hopped in the car and headed to Chicago.  As you may recall, I did my first outdoor run since August and got in a pretty stellar 10 miler.  My body was definitely feeling it the day after, but it was totally worth all of the aches and pains.

On Thanksgiving morning we headed over to Winnetka where we tried out a new Turkey Trot.  In the past, we have done the North Shore Turkey Trot.  But the prices of that race are rather hefty and the amenities are pretty lame.  On top of that, I never received my age group award from last year and RAM Racing pretty much told me to stop contacting them about it.  Lame!

So this year we opted for a 5k down the road from us.  I typically despise 5k’s because I am incapable of not getting too competitive and end up sprinting until I make myself sick.  However, this year was different because Mary joined us for her first race.  I pushed her for 3.1 miles and we averaged just under 9:00mins/mile.  I can’t complain about that as it was my first time pushing the stroller since July and the race started out on a crowded rail trail.  Strollers had to start at the back behind a large group of walkers.

The Winnetka Turkey Trot will likely be a repeat for us.  They offered indoor restrooms and a decent aid station at the halfway point.  The race was timed but there were no medals (no problem).  My main complaint would be that when we registered and paid, we were told that we would receive a shirt.  Later, we received an e-mail that basically said, “Hey! Good news, we are giving away hats instead.  But we know you guys also like shirts so you can buy those too.”  Honestly, I would prefer a fleece hat to run in over the cotton shirts they offered.  But don’t advertise one way, and then switch it up after we paid.

We also registered Mary for the kids race and I am happy to report that she had an absolute blast.  Kids did get a cotton shirt with their race registration and she was psyched to have a “racing shirt.”  Shortly after we finished our race, the kids lined up and did a 20 yard dash.  I thought I would have to hold her hand but she proudly took off on her own and crossed the finish line to receive her plastic medal.  She was super proud.  She also insisted on filling up my Simple Hydration Bottle with orange juice, because all runners need fuel for a race.

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After Mary picked up her medal, we loaded her back into the stroller and ran the 3 miles back to where we were staying.  It was a perfect way to start the day.

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We had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Mary had a blast running around with her cousins and some dogs.  Lucy had fun being passed amongst aunts.  We ate some delicious food, but also did a decent job of not over doing it. 

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The Friday after Thanksgiving was 60 degrees in Chicago.  Talk about perfect running weather!  Despite the fact that my quads were singing from the mileage over the past few days, I did head out for a sweaty 8 mile run.  It feels so good to be running outside again and at a rather decent pace.

We spent the rest of the day playing in the park with cousins and cheering on Rock’s high school hockey team at a tournament.  The team won 10-2 and Mary loved watching the games, especially because cousins were involved.

Now we are back home and I am happily getting into Christmas decorating mode.  I honestly just bide my time until Thanksgiving passes and then break out all of the fun holiday stuff.

I’m so excited that the holiday season is finally here.  I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and look forward to sharing some fun holiday season tips soon.  Did you get a Turkey Trot in or a Black Friday shopping marathon?

Does anyone else get psyched when you get warm weather in late November?

I Took The Leap (Run)

Happy Wednesday!  For my friends in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving Eve.  Regardless of where you are, I am thankful for all of you for following this blog, commenting, and making my life full of fun and excitement.

We are in the Chicagoland area for the week visiting family and friends.  We’ve already had a fun filled past few days visiting with cousins and friends.  Last night we took a train ride down into the city to our old neighborhood.  We met up with family and a running friend for dinner at one of our favorite sushi restaurants, Fin.  I can’t recommend this place too much.  First of all, it is BYOB, which is something I love about Chicago restaurants.  Second, the quality of sushi is among some of the best I have had anywhere and I have had the luxury of dining at some of the best places in NYC.  However, unlike NYC these rolls don’t come at Morimoto prices.  We had an embarrassing amount of rolls and appetizers for less than $60.

It was my first time having sushi since being pregnant last winter and it was worth the wait.

Mary on the other hand was waiting all week to take the train into the city.  She’d been talking about it for days and the experience didn’t disappoint.  I love Chicago train conductors.  They are super friendly to passengers, and especially to kids.  Mary ended up carrying our tickets in her pockets the rest of the night.

One thing I have not done since Lucy was born is run outside.  I’ve been sticking strictly to the treadmill since I was about 31 weeks pregnant.  It has been 10 weeks since Lucy arrived and I have been mostly just trying to fit in runs when the kids are sleeping or when it is convenient.  This has meant treadmill runs to Netflix in our basement.  I finished off Grace and Frankie and rolled it over to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Both of these shows lured me in and I have not minded running indoors.  Last week I even managed to log 52 miles.

To be honest, coming back from pregnancy can be difficult for a runner.  Our bodies expand and don’t always adjust very well.  We have a hormone called relaxin that prepares our bodies for birth and leaves our us pretty loosey goosey for quite awhile after.  It’s easier to roll ankles and move things out of whack.  Last time around I did a number on my pelvis by trying to do too much too early, making it even more painful to come back.

A few weeks ago I was jogging in our driveway, chasing after Mary on her bike.  I had to stop because things just weren’t feeling right.  The treadmill provides just a bit more support and even ground for coming back from injuries and pregnancy.  Because of that, I was hesitant to get outside and go for a run.

We have a Turkey Trot coming up on Thursday and a lack of indoor options while we are away this week.  Both of these were perfect excuses to get me outside for a run.  Let me tell you though, I was nervous!

However, on Monday I was in a car all day and ate way too many “car snacks” (aka crap).  I really wanted to break a sweat and get a good run in.

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So I threw on some cold weather running gear and decided to just go for it.  My plan was to do 7 miles, but I quickly realized I needed this run in more ways than one.  I forced myself to keep the pace where I felt comfortable and not let my dusty GPS dictate my pace.  I did use the GPS as a reference for mileage and occasionally checked it because I was curious to see what my comfortable pace was, but I didn’t let it set the pace.

I felt great.  My new Asics that felt weird on the treadmill, felt amazing on the pavement.  I quickly decided to change my 7 miler to 8 and soon started playing the numbers to see if 9 would be doable.  At some point I had to stop and text my husband because I knew in my heart that I really wanted to get a double digit run in, just to know that I could.

It was almost as if I started to run better as my body remembered how to do things.  Even with the Chicago winds, everything just felt so enjoyable.  I finished off 10 miles feeling great and ready to devour a ton of sushi later.

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Sometimes we just have to take that leap and trust our bodies.  One thing I always try to remind my runners about is that once you are a runner, you are always a runner.  Things happen in life that cause us to take breaks.  Perhaps we get injured, or we just need a change for a bit.  Regardless of what takes us away from running, it is always there waiting for us.  It takes a few runs to get back at it, but it usually doesn’t take nearly as long as you anticipate.  Running is always there.  Your body and your mind will remember and do their thing.

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Happy Thanksgiving.  Any Turkey Trots on the agenda for you?

Anyone else tend to go a little crazy when they order sushi?

The Days Fly By

Happy Monday!  We had a wild week around here filled with snow and frigid weather.  We lucked out and didn’t receive the foot of snow that was predicted, but I am not ready for winter to be here.  Whether I am or not, it appears that winter is here to stay.

I spent a day at work training clients and we also took some time to finally close up our cottage.  Perfect timing.  I wasn’t expecting the snow to arrive so soon and that would have made for a mess.  We still had our lawn furniture and picnic table sitting outside.

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We packed plenty of fun in this weekend.  Saturday started bright and early with pictures with my side of our family.  A few weeks ago we met with a local photographer to get some pictures taken with our girls.  They were so great that we decided to do a large family photo for my parents.  However, when the weather turned from cold to super cold, we thought we were out of luck.

Fortunately, our photographer was able to arrange for us to meet at the Grand Traverse Resort and do an indoor shoot. I can’t wait to see how the pictures turned out, as we used some really great areas of the resort as our backdrop.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend Wallhanger Photography!

It was also really fun to be there because the Beerd Run was getting ready to take off.  I had been interested in this event but opted out when we signed up for our photos.  This is a 5k that takes you around the resort and offers microbrew samplings at each mile marker.  There is beer and warm food offered at the end and each runner gets a knit beanie with a beard attached.  It sounded like a fun event, and judging from the people we saw hanging out in the lobby, it definitely was a great time.  Nothing is better than being able to use a warm lobby and indoor facilities before a race, especially in that weather.  Having quality microbrews on the course and afterwards is pretty great too.  Clearly, this is a recreational run, but if you saw my post on what makes a great race, this one certainly looked like it qualified!

After the shoot, Mary was famished and devoured a donut….or at least all of the chocolate that covered the donut.  Glad we kept that sweater clean until the shoot was done!

If you ever find yourself in the Traverse City area, I highly recommend a visit to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.  You will find a beautiful facility full of shops, restaurants, great hotel rooms, a fantastic spa, and a top of the line fitness facility.  If you enjoy swimming, golfing, or playing tennis, this is a great place for you.  Oh, and there is a Dylan’s Candy Bar too!

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We spent the afternoon taking a drive along the Old Mission Peninsula.  With views of both the East and West Bays or Lake Michigan, this is a stunning stroll.  The peninsula is packed with vineyards and wineries along with a few fantastic restaurants and breweries.

After Mary’s gymnastics class, a run for me, and a nap for the girls, we were off to Grayling where we tried out a new barbecue restaurant.  Ray’s is seated right along the Ausable River and has some pretty delicious bbq as well as a great selection of beer.  We loved the high ceilings and warm fireplace and Mary loved the giant moose on the wall.

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Pulled Pork salad was so good!

The rest of the weekend involved some cleaning time and a big family dinner on Sunday.  When the weather gets cold, I certainly love spending time in the kitchen.

We also got in the crafting mood and made a hand turkey on canvas.  Michael’s had a great deal on canvas (8 for $11) so I picked up a few for holiday arts and crafts projects.  This one came together with a little washable finger paint.  After a quick dry, Mary got to use marker pens (like you would use for bingo) to make the feathers.  I added a quick border and we now have a new Thanksgiving decoration.

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Next to Mary’s pumpkin we made for Halloween.

On the running front, I was able to log 45 miles last week.  I will call that a giant win for 9 weeks out from having Lucy!  Running is feeling good, although not yet quite back to the speed I would desire.  I was able to bump up the distance of a few of my runs this week and that felt like a huge success.

We are planning on doing a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day and I am looking forward to pushing Mary for that one.  5k’s are not my favorite as I feel they are a bit of a sprint and I tend to go a little crazy.  I’m relying on Mary to keep me in check for that one!

Do you have any Turkey Trotting plans?  Any weekend highlights?

Getting Back On Track, Wild Days, & Ice People

Ok, I do believe life is calming down a bit and it is time to get this blog back on track again.  Please excuse my absence.  With a toddler in the house, along with a now 8 week old, life is always an adventure.  Top that off with a busy fall season that brought Rock back out to NYC for a few weeks, and I honestly couldn’t find extra time to sit down and type up the number of posts I have jotted down and in my head.  We will get there!

Our family of four is starting to really come together.  Big sister is in love with her little sister and enjoys helping out.  When she isn’t busy trying to give Lucy a pacifier or a blanket, she can be found giving a bottle to her own babies or attempting to burp them.  It is so incredibly cute to watch.  I really adore seeing her imagination come to life.

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Daniel Tiger is all the rage in this house!

Work has been busy in several ways.  As I mentioned before, Rock had to spend a few weeks in NYC wrapping up our fall sports session.  I have been training clients at the gym one or two days a week and I also had several runners finish various marathons.  Congrats to everyone who finished Chicago, NYC, Toronto, Marine Corps and a few others.  Weather played a few tricks on us this fall, but that seems to be the trend lately.

Last weekend we got to witness a really cool event here in Michigan.  The Iceman Cometh is a 30 mile bike trek from Kalkaska to Traverse City, MI.  Not only does this wild race lead you down dirt roads and trails, but Northern Michigan weather plays an interesting variable.  Some years it is sunny and warm, others it snows.  This past year it decided to throw a few twists in by adding both snow and rain.

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It is so fun to see our small town grow by about 300% as cyclists pack the streets.  I had to leave early in the morning for a work meeting and I was loving the sight of so many bikes warming up all over town.  When I drove back home later that afternoon I passed a cyclist on the highway riding through a downpour.  This guy did the 30 mile trek through the woods and then worked his way home on the highway.  It was truly inspirational and definitely something crazy that Rock and I would do for an adventure.

Between this event and all of the marathon excitement over the past few weeks, I am definitely starting to contemplate my next race.  My doctor just ran Detroit and he now has that on my radar.  My friends just did Indy and that is certainly intriguing me.

For now, I am also just loving getting my mileage in on the treadmill while watching my latest Netflix binge, Grace and Frankie.  I do have to stop multiple times because I am laughing too hard to actually run.  I couldn’t manage to watch Stranger Things 2 while running.  I would have flown off of the mill about 5,000 times!  I had to save those episodes to watch with Rock, because if I watched them alone I wouldn’t have slept at night.

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What is your next race adventure?  Any Netflix suggestions?  I’m running out of episodes!

Criteria For A Great/Bad Race Experience

What is your criteria for a great or a horrible race experience?  I’m not talking about your performance, getting a PR, or crashing at an event.  Today I want to discuss what factors about a race make for a good experience or a terrible one.  This topic came up the other day as we were figuring out our Turkey Trot plans and I thought it was worth a post and wanted to hear your thoughts.

Great Experiences:

Aid Stations:  One of the best races, in my opinion, is the Chicago Marathon.  Race Director Carey Pinkowski has worked to cover all of his bases to ensure that every runner has a great time on the course.  Several years ago the weather was terribly hot and as the race went on, they ran out of water.  They also had a shortage of port-a-potties on the course one year.  Now he makes certain they have more than enough water and there is an abundance of facilities throughout the course.

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Chicago has so many aid stations and so many options that you almost feel like they are the cheerleaders of the course.  Even if there wasn’t a single spectator along those 26.2 miles, the amenities alone would have you covered.

Swag:  A great way to start a good experience is to hand out sweet swag at packet pickup.  Grandma’s Marathon had custom socks.  The Cherry Festival Half Marathon handed out wine glasses.  Give me something sweet before I even get to run and you win my heart over.

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Post Race Goodies:  Hand me just a water bottle at the end of a race and unless I got to run for a very low registration fee, I am going to be super disappointed.  One of the first races that my husband and I did together was the Hudson Valley 15k in Upstate New York.  The race finished in the parking lot of a restaurant.  There was an awesome spread of eggs, pasta, sausage, and garlic bread.  Feed a hungry runner and they will definitely leave happy.

Beautiful Courses:  Even if there isn’t a lot of support along a course, if the scenery is great, I will definitely enjoy myself.  Both the Charlevoix Marathon and Run For The Red Pocono Marathon are smaller and head into quiet areas where there are very few crowds.  However both races have gorgeous and very different views.  One rolls through the mountains and the other along Lake Michigan.

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Show Your Racers Some Love: The Chicago Spring Half Marathon has first aid support via bikes along the race course.  While coaching one year, I had multiple people ride by and ask how I was doing because I was 20+ weeks pregnant.  The Pocono Marathon had age group awards and I had to leave before they were handed out.  Within days, my award arrived at my door and was big and beautiful.

Bad Experiences:  

Where Did The Facilities Go?:  Runners have one thing in common.  We all have to go and we all want to hurry up and go.  Nothing is more infuriating than waiting in line for an hour and nearly missing your race because there aren’t enough restrooms.  Grandma’s Marathon in 2016 was one giant hot mess.  They actually had plenty of facilities but placed them in such a manner that half of them were unreachable.  It also happened the year before too!

Congestion:  You are going to see a theme here in the next few bullet points.  Several years ago I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k in Chicago.  When a race has almost as many participants as the Chicago Marathon, zero corrals, and 5k and 15k participants running the first two miles together, you are going to end up with some very pissed off runners.  I love the 15k distance, but don’t expect a PR at this event unless you shimmy yourself up to the front of the line.  The finish was slightly redeeming with chocolate everything.

Painful Packet Pickup:  While I lucked out and did’t have this experience, many of my runners had a horrible experience at the Hot Chocolate packet pickup one year when the computers went down and people were waiting in line for hours for their packets.  The Chicago Marathon again takes the cake for this one when you walk in and out of there in 5 minutes with your packet and shirt at the giant expo.  No one needs to be on their feet all day before they run.

Annoying Crew On The Course:  My first experience was actually at the Charlevoix Marathon when a volunteer nearly tripped me running across the course to hand someone water.  Next, it happened at the Hot Chocolate 15k when the aid stations created narrow tunnels to hand out marshmallows and other goodies.  Stand to the side and give people space.  If we want sugar on the course, we will come up to you!

Not Taking Care Of Your Runners:  Look out for a huge rant here.  Ram Racing (the same company that does the Hot Chocolate races) hosts the North Shore Turkey Trot 10k on Thanksgiving and it has become a family tradition.  Every year a large group friends and family meet to do this event.  I love to eat and this is the perfect way for me to break a sweat and feel a tad less guilty about my overindulgence later in the day.

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This is a pricey race for a 10k ($50+)  and you don’t get a whole lot in exchange.  As their signature, they do give you something cool at packet pick up.  In years past it has been a bright yellow fleece hoodie, turkey flannel pants, a crazy furry hat, and last year a black pullover.  I will hand them this.

However, amenities on the course have become sparse.  The first year there was coffee and hot chocolate before the event.  Runner’s World raved that you receive a small individual pie at the finish.

Last year there were no pies, no coffee, and no hot chocolate.  There are no medals at the end  and the only thing you can look forward to is someone handing you a bottle of water as you walk to your car.  (Note that I am okay with no medals at the finish of a 10k).

I personally am pretty bitter because two years ago I placed 2nd in my age group and was sent a great medal in the mail.  Last year I PR’ed the 10k and placed 3rd in my age group.  After I inquired about my age group award, I was told to wait a few weeks and it would arrive.  After a few months I e-mailed and was told there was a hold up in China with their medal distributor and to please be patient and not e-mail again.  Finally, I e-mailed 10 months after the race and never received a reply.  For a pricey 10k with sparse amenities, one nice piece of swag, and no age group award, I can’t justify doing another Ram Racing event.

This year we will be doing a much smaller event with our family and friends and keeping it chill.  But I am still going to be bitter about that age group award!

What are your criteria for a great/bad race experience?  Care to share your best and worst race experiences?

We Don’t Use The “F” Word In Our House

Full disclosure, before you think I’ve gone and become a tame mom, I still have moments of F-bombing.  I tend to do it under my breath these days, but the truth is, profanities still happen around here.  I have two kids, can you blame me?!

There was a word that was much more common in my daily vocabulary and I am doing my best to erase it ever since I became a mom.

I grew up as a competitive figure skater.  Like other sports and activities where lean bodies are ideal, as I moved up the ranks, this type of body and weight were encouraged.  Whether coaches and judges came right out and told you to lose weight, or gentle nudges were given, it was very obvious that this body was essential for success in the sport.

I spent a lot of time watching other skaters and comparing my body.  I sized myself up in the mirror at ballet.  I was athletic.  I had muscles.  This left me looking much larger than other girls with skinny little legs.

You hear people telling you that “muscle weighs more than fat” but when you hop on the scale and hear that other girls weigh “X” amount of pounds, you start to feel overweight.  Numbers run through your head and you compare yourself to others.

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The notion of diets came into my life at an early age.  Other girls were discussing them, family members were on various diets, and weight was at the forefront of my mind.  I even had a coach point out to me when I was 12 that I was developing because I was getting “fat” in my armpits.  At the time, I was tiny, but regardless it should have never even been discussed and was very inappropriate.

I spent all of my teenage years and much of my early adulthood obsessed with my weight, exercise, and foods that I should/shouldn’t eat.  While I was fortunate to never have an eating disorder, I definitely had a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image.

Friends in high school were annoyed by my constant whining that I was “fat.”  I was always looking for someone to tell me that I wasn’t.  Even if I didn’t believe them, I needed that reassurance.

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I may not be able to protect my girls from the pressures that awaits them in the outside world.  But I am going to do my part by showing them a healthy relationship with my body.  My weight might fluctuate. I may not feel my best at times, but I will certainly never utter the “fat” word in our house or anywhere else.  I will enjoy my food and encourage our family to enjoy a variety of healthy foods.  We will also enjoy every delicious and tasty bite we get to discover along the way.  Food is not meant to cause guilt and exercise is not meant to be punishment for what we eat.  Sweat is NOT your fat crying.  It is the awesome bi-product of moving your muscles.

I will also do the best I possibly can to not criticize myself.  This can be difficult, but young impressionable children do not need to see a role model or anyone else feeling dissatisfied with their bodies.  Confidence can carry a person a very long way and I truly believe we can pass this attitude on not only to our children, but also to the people we surround ourselves with in our lives.

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I have many female clients who refuse to use mirrors to correct their form or to ensure they are properly doing exercises because they do not want to see their reflection.  I cannot tell you how much this saddens me.  These amazing women are wonderful people.  We should somehow be far past this discomfort with seeing our image.  There is much more to ourselves besides a number on a scale.  Beauty goes far beyond pounds or pant sizes.

Learning to love ourselves isn’t always easy, and there are years of adolescence and puberty to wreak havoc on young minds.  Being body positive is a great way to set an example for young girls and boys. Even better, this positive attitude shares the love with yourself.

Regardless of whether you have children of your own, try to take a moment of pause before you criticize yourself or use the “f” word.  Consider what it does to your own confidence and to the people around you.  It is very likely that you are loved by many people and we often forget that when we put ourselves down, it hurts their feelings and confidence too.  Let’s work together to raise a new generation of body confident children and to lift ourselves up at the same time.

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How do you like to set an example for others?  Share your confidence building ideas!