Tips For First Time Racers

Ah, Spring was in the air this weekend and it felt fantastic.  I don’t know about you, but I woke up with a little it more pep in my step.  When I took Mary for a walk yesterday, I just felt like a different person.

This is the time of year when my training clients start working on building up their race schedules.  And this is also the time of year when I started hearing from runners about writing training schedules for spring, summer, and fall races.

As a running coach, I receive many inquiries about races mixed with a lot of hesitation.  First time racers are often the most excited and reluctant to dive in to their racing debut.  I absolutely understand this.  It can be scary and overwhelming.

In many ways, signing up for a first race reminds of me walking into a new gym for the first time.  We often have many of the same questions.  What will the atmosphere be like?  Will they immediately know that I don’t belong here?  What if I get started and then am totally lost?  What if I collapse and can’t make it through?

These are legit concerns.  However, I can assure you that in almost any race you choose to partake in, you will be one of many first time racers.  99% of races are both welcoming and meant to be for first timers.  Below are some tips to help you with first time racing.

First, decide on a distance:  If you are new to running and racing, I would recommend trying a 5k (3.1 miles).  This is a manageable distance for almost any level of runner.  Most 5k’s even have a walking option and allow ample time for walkers.

Not feeling the 5k?  No problem.  There are plenty of other distances.  Just because you have never run or never raced doesn’t mean you can’t do another distance.  In fact, I have coached dozens of first time runners who jumped right into the marathon distance.  Just be aware that you will need to allow yourself ample time to train.  First time runners and marathoners will want to plan on some extra training time to prepare themselves.

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Do your research and find a race that suits your style:  Just like runners, races come in all shapes and sizes.  There are road races and trail races.  You can find a fun race like a color run or something more intense like a mud run.  Some races are flat while others pride themselves on butt kicking hills.  Courses can be an out and back (meaning you will see the same views twice) or a winding loop.  Races can hold just a few hundred runners while big events like major marathons welcome  tens of thousands of runners.

Take some time and decide what will feel best for you.  Some people like to start with smaller, less overwhelming events.  Others prefer to feel like they are one of many thousand, where they will blend in a bit more.  Perhaps you want to run solo or maybe you want to do a relay.

Websites like Running In The USA  archive races by state, date, and race type.  You are certain to find something to suit your style there.

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Find a plan:  The best way to enjoy race day is to feel prepared.  For almost any race distance, this doesn’t mean you have to give up your entire life for several months.  If your goal is to simply finish, you can find a plan that will accommodate your style.  Take the time to follow a plan and I can assure you that your experience will be far better than had you not prepared.

Get there early:  Arrive early.  Find the porta-potties and use them.  Look for the start and listen for any announcements.  Make sure you look at a race map ahead of time.  I have a great friend who is a fantastic runner and he is notorious for getting off course during races.  Lucky for him, he is super speedy and often still places or wins!

I also recommend finding the appropriate corral for your pace.  One of the best things you can take advantage of for first time racing is the pacers.  Find the runners carrying flags with times listed.  Jump in with your projected finish time and you will have a lot of assistance and likely meet a bunch of new friends.

Don’t try anything new:  If you want to know from experience how I can pick out first time racers, there are a few things I notice.  As a general rule, you should not change anything up on race day.  Wear the same clothes you trained in (shoes, socks, shirt, and shorts/pants).

At Grandma’s Marathon last year they gave out race socks.  I saw several people who wore those socks on race day.  Almost any experienced runner would know that this is a recipe for massive blisters.  Another dangerous thing to do is wear the race shirt you are given with your packet.  Gentleman, I have seen many, many a bloody nipple(s) on those runners who try their shirts out on race day.  The best guarantee that you won’t chafe or bleed is to wear what you know works for you.

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Have fun and know that everyone was a first time runner/racer at some point.  Running is one of the most inclusive activities I have ever experienced.  It is very rare to meet a runner who isn’t thrilled to see someone new join the bunch.  It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are.  We don’t care if you are doing 3 miles or an ultra.  We just love having you join our team!

What is your best advice for first time racing?

Treat Your Body Well, Run Stronger

Life in NYC can be absolutely exhausting.  The first day we arrived here at noon and by the time I went to bed I had accumulated over 27,000 steps.  Between walking the city, getting my daily runs in, and teaching classes, it all adds up very quickly.

Tuesday it rained and I ended up taking two naps and opting out of running altogether.  This is totally unlike me.  I felt guilty.  But my body was exhausted and I needed the rest.  I knew it was worth it on Wednesday when I completed seven strong, hilly miles around Central Park.

As I had heading home after my run, I overheard a mom chatting with her young preteen daughter.  She was explaining that her daughter was exhausted and she should aim to start getting six hours of sleep.  Six hours?!  As an adult that sounds like far too few hours for a functioning day.  Children and young adults need even more rest time!

All of this talk about rest and taking time off seemed like a perfect opportunity to discuss treating our bodies well.  All of us, especially runners and athletes, tend to push our bodies and minds.  As important as it is to get your training runs in, it is just as vital to take recovery seriously.

Sleep:  I might not be a Patriot’s fan, but there is no denying that everything Tom Brady does is clearly working.  Tom is very serious about his sleep time and it clearly shows.  Not only has he stayed healthy and strong for years, but let’s face it, he looks pretty good too.  Sleep is necessary for recovery and keeping our bodies healthy.

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Try aiming for 15-30 more minutes of sleep each night for a week or two and you will notice that you feel a little stronger on your runs.

Take your days off seriously:  Rest days are recovery days.  It is important to push our bodies when we work out.  It is also equally important to take days off to allow our muscles to repair.  When we continually push ourselves too much and for too long, we run the risk of injury.

This doesn’t mean you need to spend the entire day on the couch.  Enjoy some active recovery.  Go for a bike ride with friends or family.  Take a light yoga or stretching class.  Enjoy a walk in your favorite park. All of these will help flush out lactic acid and leave your muscles ready for new adventures.

Skip the pills and eat them instead:  There is a lot of evidence showing that anti-inflammatories can be detrimental to athletes.  These pills can help alleviate aches, but they also mask the pain and allow us to continue pushing through injuries.  They don’t necessarily help heal what might be ailing us.

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Try eating a diet full of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.  Bright red and green fruits and vegetables are powerful healers.  Cherries and tart cherry juice have been proven to help aid in heart health and repairing muscles.

Eating protein with each meal can also help repair tissues.  Don’t eat meat?  No problem!  Add rice and beans, quinoa, or tofu.

Get a massage or give yourself one:  I am the worst culprit of this one.  I wait and wait until my body is screaming before I go to my amazing massage therapist.  He works wonders.  However, if I practiced what I preach, I would spend a solid 5 minutes each day stretching, foam rolling, and taking care of my body.

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It only takes a few minutes, but rolling over some foam or a lacrosse ball can help relax tight muscles and get rid of those pesky knots and kinks.

Give yourself a little extra:  Sometimes you need that rainy Tuesday off.  If your body is telling you to rest, give it that extra time.   Take a look at your plan or chat with your coach about making adjustments.  Some training runs are more important than others.  But nothing is ever really set in stone.  Things can be moved around if you need a little extra time off.

What do you do to help keep your body healthy and rested?

Wind As Your Training Tool

One thing that is never in doubt when we visit Florida, Chicago, or NYC, is the crazy winds.  During Rock’s first visit to Florida, I took him on a run that was so windy, our ears actually ached afterwards.

I will admit that I am not usually a huge fan of the wind.  As a girl with curly hair,  it makes me look like a hot mess.  As a runner, it really kills my pace and sometimes even my enjoyment!

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How I want to think I look.

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How I really look!

 

The key to running in the wind is to learn to make it work for you, or find a way to work around it.

I once read that during any run, you need to know that your pace will slow when you run into the wind.  While your pace will speed up once you have your back to the wind, you will never be able to make up any lost time from when your pace slowed.  Lesson to be learned, is that you just need to be patient and work with what you’ve got.

Here are a few pointers to make running with the wind work for you:

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Use resistance training to work on form.  One thing I noticed on a particularly breezy day was that you really need to focus on the drive of your knees.  Efficient form makes running into the wind a lot less frustrating.  Take the time to use this resistance as a lesson in working on driving your legs forward more efficiently.  Powerful strides using both the knees and glutes will make your running much stronger.

Keep your shoulders and hands relaxed.  A slight lean is fine but never hunch over.  While you want to look ahead, it can be useful on hills and with wind to look forward and down little in front of you to push through.

Choose the least annoying route.  Mentally, it is much easier to running with the wind for the second half of a run.  If you have the chance to alter a route, take a look at the weather before you head out.  Aim to run into the wind for your first half and then head home with the wind at your back.  Knowing that the second half of your run will be easier will make everything a little bit more bearable.

Planning ahead is always helpful.  It can be very frustrating to not realize you are running with the wind, only to turn around and get smacked in the face!

Arrange for a drop off.  I’m not going to lie.  On a particularly windy day, there is no shame in having someone drive you a few miles out and then run the entire route with the wind at your back.

In fact, I had the most wonderful 10 mile run on the beach in Florida with 15-20 mile gusts.  My GPS said that this pregnant runner was knocking out times similar to when I was in marathon shape.  I knew that the wind was giving me a giant cheat, but it was still a nice mental boost.

Turn up the tunes or find another way to ignore its existence.  Sometimes you have no choice but to just deal with the wind.  We can complain all we want, but if you want to get a workout in, you might just have to deal with it.  Turn up the tunes, tuck your chin, and just power through.   You will be so glad you did once it is over!  And you will also likely be so glad it is over too!

How do you like to deal with windy runs?

Life Lately

Thank you so much for all of the well wishes on the news that we are expecting this fall.  We are really excited.  Mary is getting excited too.  She has added some new reading material to her bookshelf in preparation.

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This winter was a rough one for us weather wise.  We got hit by some big snow storms that really kept me from running outside.  In fairness, I could have sucked it up and gotten out there.  But as I mentioned, our rural roads did make winter running really difficult.  Despite that, and being pregnant, I was able to get in some pretty good mileage so far this year: January 132 miles, February 171 miles, and March 197 miles.  I am pretty happy with this for now.

 

April1.4I took the past week off from blogging because I picked up a lot of extra hours at work in anticipation of not being there for a little while this spring.  Between personal training, health coaching, and working the fitness desk, I logged a great 40 hour week.  I was exhausted by the end, but I really do enjoy what I have been doing and am grateful they allow me to split my time between jobs.

Speaking of which, we loaded the car on Friday and made the trek east to New York.  It was an adventurous ride with a toddler, but thanks to an Etch-A-Sketch and a new Kindle Fire, it wasn’t too terrible.  Am I the only parent who thinks Daniel Tiger is a miracle worker (until I get the theme song stuck in my head)?!

Mary and I got out on Saturday for a 9 mile run around Randall’s Island. She napped the entire time.  However, on Sunday she joined me for six miles around the island and stayed awake the entire time.  She loves pointing out and waving to all of the dogs and says hello to everyone she passes.  She seems to really enjoy it here!

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Sporting my Simple Hydration Run Team gear.  Mary likes to think she is on the team 😉

Sunday also marked the last day of ice at the rink in Central Park.  If you have followed me for awhile, you know that this is where Rock and I met almost 15 years ago.  We have worked there since then and it was really awesome to bring Mary to go skating.  The weather was absolutely perfect; sunny and 60 degrees.

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Tomorrow marks the beginning of classes in Central Park.  We are looking forward to Mary joining us in our adventures.  I think she is going to love it.

Congrats to all of the Shamrock Shufflers and anyone else who raced this weekend.   How did your races and weekends go?

Opting Out Of Running The Boston Marathon This Year

Nearly a year ago I made my comeback to the marathon, nine months after having our first child.  It was a great feat and something that I was incredibly proud of.  Having qualified before, but not getting the chance to actually run Boston, I was thrilled to register this past September.

I secured my spot, reserved a room, and roped my mom into coming along to watch Mary while I ran another 26.2 miles.

I began training in late December and to be very honest, my heart just wasn’t in it for several reasons.  One reason was that Northern Michigan kept getting pounded by snow.  I would wake up most Saturdays to several new inches of fluff to trudge through.  Living in a rural area, most roads don’t get plowed until later in the day.  Some roads aren’t even plowed on a daily basis.  During one frustrating 12 mile run, I kept going back and forth down one short road because it was mostly clear and my usual route was blocked.  It was super frustrating.  I have decided that the hardest part of training for Boston is dealing with the winter running conditions!

This year’s marathon also falls on Easter weekend.  I wasn’t loving the idea of being away from Rock during a special family holiday.  It feels like we should be together and wake up to treats for Mary from the Easter Bunny.

The main reason my heart has’t been into training is because we have been wanting to continue to build our family.  We love being parents and we have been blessed with the most wonderful 19 month old.  I am thrilled to say that  I have chosen to opt out of running Boston because we are expecting a new member to our family early next fall.

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While we are very excited by this new addition, I want to acknowledge that this can be difficult for some people to read.  Starting or continuing a family is not always easy.  In fact, there were many years and months in the past when I would start reading a favorite blog and feel my heart racing, knowing a pregnancy announcement was forthcoming.  It wasn’t from lack of excitement for friends.  It can just be very frustrating when you too are hoping/wishing for a family of your own and feeling like things might not work out.

I hope that our news can serve as hope for anyone, that patience and love can bring great things.  The best advice I can possibly offer, especially for runners, is to find yourself a great team.  Seek a doctor and other professionals who respect what you love and enjoy.

As for Boston, I do understand that many runners complete marathons while pregnant.  I myself have done several half marathons and logged many miles in my first pregnancy.  I have a fantastic new doctor in Michigan who is also a runner and was willing to consider allowing me to run this race.  However, with my heart not being into training and simply wanting to enjoy being pregnant, I am going to wait for a later time to try to qualify again and run Boston.  My hope is that someday in the future, I will be able to go with my whole family and make it a special trip for all of us together.

Meanwhile, I will continue running as I have been.  For now, I have been able to log about 40-50 miles per week; just at a much slower pace.  We have also made special plans to spend Easter weekend at one of our favorite places, as a family.  Here’s hoping that the bunny remembers how much I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Eggs!

 

Balance Exercises For Stronger Running

I have been focusing with my clients on balance a lot lately.  There are some incredible benefits to adding balance exercises to your daily routine.

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For older adults, we should be working consistently on keeping our legs strong.  As we age we become more and more susceptible to falls, which lead to broken and injured hips.  Injuries to our hips are often one of the leading causes to adults become sedate and far less active.  Hip injuries in older populations can become very debilitating.

Women are especially prone to falls and hip injuries.

Balance exercises can be beneficial for all of these reasons but they also go beyond just older populations.  Athletes can greatly benefit from working on improving balance.

When we focus on exercises that throw us off of our center of gravity, we improve on the areas where we have imbalances in muscle strength.  By working on these areas of weakness we are building strength from deep within our bodies.

Runners and athletes who make an effort to focus on balance will find improved muscle strength and may experience fewer injuries, especially ones due to overuse.

Bosu balls and balance trainers are great options for these exercises.  Simply working on standing unassisted on a Bosu ball is a great start.  In fact, after spending a few seconds wobbling around on the ball, you will start to notice your glutes, quads, calves, and ankles twitching.  This is an indicator that things are working!  Deep down in your tissue, those weakest muscles are working hard to keep you upright and you are making them stronger.

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I love using the Bosu for balance exercises and added difficulty with planks and pushups.

Don’t have access to these devices?  Some of the best balance exercises can be done at home on your own.

Start by practicing to balance on one leg.  Bend your free leg and lift it to approximately hip length.  Work towards holding this position for up to 30 seconds.  Once you can do this, try progressing to then extending the leg behind your body and reaching your hand towards the floor.  Always do these exercises on both sides.

 

Yoga is a great practice for balance.  Tree pose can be done at home.  Try holding a tree pose while you chat on the phone.  Alternate between legs and aim for a 30 second hold.

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Once you have mastered these moves, you can work to make them even more difficult.  Try closing one or both eyes as you hold these balancing positions.

Any of these exercises will strengthen your core and lower body and make you a stronger athlete!

Do you do any balance or other strength training exercises?

Having Too Much Fun To Blog

Happy Monday!  I had plans to keep this place updated over the past week and a half.  But we took our annual trip to Florida with the family and I was just too busy.  In years past, I would get a lot of great blogging in.  With the lovely warm weather temps and a return to outdoor running, I am usually inspired to post.

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I did catch a nice rainy run.  One of my favorites!

But with a 19 month old toddler playing in the sun and the sand, priorities quickly change.  Instead of taking our time to get out the door and getting double digit runs in, we were out early to get a workout in before the beach was ready for play time.

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I used to sit at the pool for hours reading new books that I saved just for vacation.  This year I enjoyed a solid hour of reading during Mary’s naptime.  Shoutout to Ton of Worms for her excellent recommendation of Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool.  While this might be a book for younger readers, I couldn’t get enough, and found myself dreaming about the story during my morning runs.

Early afternoons were saved for pool and beach time.  This year Mary is walking and loved playing with her wagon and digging toys.  It was a welcome change from last year when she just wanted to eat the sand!

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There was a ton of food enjoyed over the last week and a half.  We did a lot of outlet shopping too.  However, this has changed as well. I used to come down to score a new wardrobe every spring.  This year Mary was the big winner.  I did leave with a sweat pair of Asics Kayanos (my shoe of choice) for $55.  So maybe I was the big winner after all!

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We did discover that the best way to get a toddler to sit peacefully through an entire dinner is to entertain them with hibachi.

We spent a chilly afternoon touring downtown St. Augustine.  I used to stroll the shops and sights as a little girl and it is so fun to see our little one doing the same things.

We also went to the Fountain of Youth.  If you are ever in St. Augustine, this is my most highly recommended place to visit.  While it might sound like a cheesy tourist site, there is so much more to explore here.   You can sample from the exact fountain that Ponce de Leon first discovered, check out a planetarium, and watch a blacksmith in action.  There is also the preserved ruins of a Timucuan historical preservation that existed on the grounds for over 4,000 years.  Mary was a huge fan of the many peacocks wandering the 15 acres.

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Our trip to Florida was a lovely reprieve from the extremely snowy winter.  We had a great time as a family and even managed to log 78 miles of running on the beach.  And now it is back to reality……

Playing Winter Tourists At Home

Two weekends ago we had a guest for a few days.  I was a little bummed because earlier in the week we had amazing spring-like temperatures.  A few days of that weather melted all three feet of snow we had in our yard.  It was awesome.  I even got out for an 8 mile run in shorts and a tank.

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Friday morning I woke up to thunder and the sound of rain.  I was thrilled.  I assumed that any remaining snow was gone.  Was  I ever wrong.  I opened the curtain to our bedroom window and may have shouted a profanity or two.  The entire yard was covered in snow.  What the heck?!

Our guest arrived to a winter wonderland.  Yuck!  Sure it was nice to have for awhile, but I am ready for spring to come and stay!

Saturday after Mary’s nap we drove over to Traverse City and wandered around downtown on Front Street.  I will admit that there is something really picturesque about Traverse City when the snow is out.  Street lights are wrapped with holiday lights and the snow dusts the trees that line the sidewalks.

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It is just as beautiful, if not more so, when summer arrives.  With the warmer temperatures you see plenty of tourists and shops are buzzing.

Traverse City is a special place in Northern Michigan.   While you might picture the northern Midwest serving Friday fish fry’s (and you won’t go without finding one here), this mini city prides itself in serving quality farm to table foods.  From sushi, to salads, wood fired pizzas and even French cuisine, you can find it in this town.  The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula’s have the perfect land and climate for vineyards, and hops farms are also now abundant in the area.  You will find so many delicious wineries and breweries in the to enjoy. 

We spent our afternoon wandering through shops and picking up some fun gifts and winter sales items.

A trip to Front Street is never complete without stopping at Cherry Republic.  You will find just about any cherry product you could possibly ever imagine here in the “Cherry Capital of the World.”  Rock and I love wandering through the shop and sampling all of the cherry deliciousness.  I am a huge fan of the chocolate covered cherries and we discovered a delicious barbecue sauce and horseradish.  Mary found a perfect cherry ball pit and slide to play in.  Needless to say, we managed to stay there for quite some time.

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Next we drove over to the Grand Traverse Commons.  If you are a fan of history, architecture, shopping, or even ghosts, you will love this place.  This is the former site of the Michigan Psychiatric Hospital.  It closed several decades ago and sat in disrepair while locals fought it’s demolition.  Years later it has been refurbished without losing it’s original character.  Inside and around the grounds you will find shops, restaurants, apartments, condos, wineries and breweries.  We were bummed that our favorite taco shop was closed while we were there but we did enjoy wandering through all of the shops.

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The halls are lined with old photographs and this terribly un-PC postcard that somewhat amused me.

We ended our evening at Red Mesa Grill for some delicious, while not quite authentic, Mexican food.  The burrito might not have been my favorite typical Mexican fare, but I was really impressed by the slowly roasted pork inside.  It was a pleasant surprise.

Sometimes it can be fun to tour your hometown and see it from a different perspective.  While I wasn’t loving  the cooler weather,  it certainly set the tone for a picturesque visit for the day.

Have you ever visited Traverse City or any other places in Michigan?

Good Races vs. Bad Races

Last week the weather was amazing and it had me in a great mood for running.  In fact, I got outside for a fantastic 8 miles in shorts on a warm, sunny day.  Friday morning I woke up to another few inches of snow and it ruined my running inspiration.  So today I am not chatting about my best races or my worst races….I just can’t get into the racing mood quite yet.  Instead, let’s talk about what makes for a really great or a really bad race.

Bad Races:

Lack of Facilities:  Nothing will put you in a bad mood right from the start than feeling pressed to find a port-a-potty.  Last year at Grandma’s Marathon, we arrived an hour before the start and spent the whole time waiting in line to go once!  There were actually plenty of facilities but they placed them in a bizarre “U” shape that locked many of them out.  Runners were furious and many missed their start corrals (including myself).  As I mentioned before, it wouldn’t be a heinous crime if it hadn’t been an issue the year before.

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Totally Inaccurate Courses:  A few years back, we suckered a bunch of family members into running a 15k trail race with us.  Not only was the course advertised to be in Chicago and then later wasn’t, but the course was off by several miles!  We were supposed to run 3 loops to make 9.3 miles but after the second loop I was already at 8.5 miles.  I ended up quitting at 2 loops and feeling like a failure.  Only later did I see that most of the runners did the same thing and some were awarded prizes!  The only thing making the situation worse was a lack of advertised beer and no apologies for the crappy course.

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Nonexistent Prizes:  Last year I ran the RAM Racing Northshore Turkey Trot.  I actually had a 10k PR and felt incredibly proud of my performance.  Even better, I placed 3rd in my age group.  I contacted the race officials and was told that I would receive my medal within 4-6 weeks.  In January I contacted them again and was told that the medals were delayed and not to contact again, that they would arrive at some point.

As someone who runs a sports program and hands out medals for various events each year, I know that medals are neither expensive nor difficult to purchase.  For a 10k, this race is actually on the pricier side.  To wait over 3 months to receive an age group award is a major bummer.

The GREAT:

Awesome Amenities:  I loved that the Run For The Red Poconos Marathon not only had plenty of port-a-potties at their start, but they also had an indoor location with restrooms near the start.  The finish was lined with plenty of support and people ready to assist you.

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I didn’t take a pic of that but enjoy my big old maternity throw aways that made me so happy at the start.

Awesome From Start To Finish:  For a complete race experience, to me there is nothing better than what you will find at the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.  From the buzz (and plenty of facilities) at the start, to the crowd support along the entire course, you will have a blast the entire time.  Aid stations nearly ever 2 miles keeps you fueled and hydrated (and lubed).  When you finish the race you will be handed a sizeable medal and a big glass of local beer.  It seriously doesn’t get much better.

Post Race Refreshments:  One of our first races a few years ago was the Hudson Valley 15k.  One thing that was super impressive was the home cooked spread at the finish line.  Eggs, breakfast items, potatoes, and pasta were waiting at the finish catered by a local restaurant.  Everyone gathered in a tent to enjoy the spread and receive local food treats for age group prizes.

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I once placed first in my age group and won a bag of chips and salsa!

Make It A Local Party:  A race doesn’t have to be big to be awesome.  One of my favorite races was in Alden, Michigan set along the coast of crystal clear Torch Lake.  Check in the morning of and receive your tickets for post race drawings.  The race runs along local roads and even a few dirt paths.  As you finish right downtown, the local men’s club hosts their annual rummage sale fundraiser.  Scour the unique finds before gathering on a lawn nearby where prizes were handmade by a local artisan.

What were your best and worst race experiences?  Do you prefer big or small races?

Being Fit Doesn’t Always Mean “Skinny”

I spend a lot of time on various health and wellness blogs.  As a running coach, personal trainer, and health coach, I make it my business to read a lot of different articles on healthy living.  One thing I love seeing in the past few years is that social media is starting to (slowly) understand that we need to stop worrying about the word “fat.”  Fat as a food source is not a bad thing.  On a physical level, it is so amazing to see that we are starting to embrace real bodies.

Did you see that there is a model in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue who has stretch marks?  I absolutely love and applaud Lane Bryant for not airbrushing this model.  She is a beautiful woman with a very real body.

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The reality is that most of us deal with or have dealt with body issues at some point in our lives.  Some people can’t gain weight, and others struggle to stop gaining.  While some people hate exercising, others find themselves compulsively visiting the gym.  The odds are that if you asked almost anyone if they love their bodies, there is something each person would want to change.  This is a very difficult issue for most of us.

What I love about the Lane Bryant ad is the decision not to cover up what some people might consider flaws.  We all have our flaws.  Most of us are aware of these “imperfections.”  The reality is, this woman is a very attractive person who makes a living posing for pictures.  She is also real.

As a health coach, a mom, and a blogger, I have a very hard time embracing the whole “skinny” notion.  I often come across blog posts or articles discussing how you too can be skinny, and it honestly makes my skin crawl.  The quickest way for me to close a blog or skip a post is an article or heading about how to become skinny.

I work out a lot.  I enjoy working out.  I was a competitive athlete all of my life in a sport that embraced “skinny: and encouraged it’s athletes to remain a certain weight/size.  I have made fitness my life and my way of making a living.   But I also enjoy food; much of which is even what you might consider unhealthy food.  I’m not ashamed of that.  After years of struggling with my body image, I am happy to be able to enjoy dessert and a run and keep it balanced.

I also work daily with some incredible people who struggle to find the joy in exercise.  It can be difficult for them to find a balance in what they choose to eat or how much they eat.  This is very real.  When these people find a healthier way of life and take the time to work out, it is a very incredible achievement.  To make anyone think that you need to be “skinny” to be happy is a very wrong and unhealthy message.

And while we are on this topic, I need to wonder what exactly is skinny?  Many of us might look on that cover of Sports Illustrated and see the model in a tiny bikini and think that is skinny.  I myself might look in the mirror at my running muscles sometimes and cringe, wishing those were thinner.  Skinny is a pretty relative and unfair term for us to be aiming to achieve.

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Healthy is a way of life.  It is a way to approach balanced eating and activities.  Being healthy does not mean that you fit into size 2 jeans or a size small top.  Skinny is not an attainable or quantifiable term.  However, you can make daily steps to live a healthier life.  And please do keep in mind that just because you can fit into a tiny pair of jeans, does not mean that you are healthy.  Being healthy is a process of fueling your body with good food and exercise.

We can all aim to eat smaller meals and add more fruits and vegetables into our diets.  It would be a great goal to be active most days of the week.  Each of us should be trying to exercise for at least 30 minutes several days each week.  I can’t guarantee that you will end up on the cover of a magazine, but you certainly will feel better and be much healthier.  Doesn’t that sound great?!